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The official blog of the National Center for Public Policy Research, covering news, current events and public policy from a conservative, free-market and pro-Constitution perspective.

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No Caviar in Our Teeth

A good post today on the Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness blog about proposals by Charles Krauthammer and Gregg Easterbrook in favor of raising gasoline taxes.

I agree with all of it.


Gas Prices Are About More Than Saudi Arabia

Correspondent Edward Kitsch recommends this fine article by former Delaware Governor Pete DuPont of the National Center for Policy Analysis in today's Wall Street Journal putting all the "gasoline prices are rising" news media stories in perspective.

An excerpt: spite of what you read in the paper -- outrageous gasoline prices entered into Google gets you 15,000 links -- its current inflation-adjusted price of $2 a gallon is about its median price over its 85-year existence, and with the exception of the 1980s spike, it has been steadily declining over the decades.

Better still, improving technology has increased the number of miles one can drive on a gallon of gasoline, to 22 in 2000 from about 13.5 in the early 1970s . So the cost of gasoline per mile driven has fallen nearly in half, from more than 13 cents to a bit more than seven cents. Meanwhile median income for a family of four (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased to more than $63,000 today from less than $46,000 in the 1970s.
The article contains a lot more of interest.

As a side note, the next time I hear a broadcast media report that gas prices are higher I think I might scream. The fact that gas prices have increased led the local radio news stories in DC today -- despite the fact that they've been reporting this story for over a week!

It would be different if they added new information to the story each day, but they don't.. It is always the same thing: Gas prices are over $2! People don't like it! And then they invariably talk about OPEC, as if OPEC production levels were only factor involved in the pricing of gasoline.

As Pete DuPont's article shows, there's a lot we Americans could do if we really care to reduce the price of gas at the pump. This isn't all about Saudi Arabia.


Kissy-Face Detente Aside, Ivan, We Enjoy Beating You

National Center Executive Director David Almasi is a fan of the article "Wimpy U.S. Olympic Committee Tells Athens-Bound Athletes: Curb Your Enthusiasm" by James Lileks.

A few quotes follow, but we recommend the whole thing:

The United States Olympic Committee has requested that our athletes curb their enthusiasm, since we are, you know, uh, hated...

Earlier this year the U.S. Olympic soccer team was having a qualifying match in Mexico; they were up against Canada; and they won. The United States won, whereupon the crowd started chanting "Osama! Osama!"

Seventeen Mexicans died in the Sept. 11 attacks. Twenty-four Canadians died in the Sept. 11 attacks. You remember that big apology from Vicente Fox, don't you? No?

The Olympics are supposed to be above politics, but that's nonsense... When the United States beat the Soviets at hockey in 1980, the political overtones were explicit: Kissy-face detente aside, Ivan, we enjoy beating you. We really do...

Sudan, which is ethnically cleansing its Christian blacks, could hoist its flag. China, whose treatment of Tibet birthed a million indignant bumper stickers, can run around with the flag held high. Russia can flatten Grozny, and its athletes can be assured of huzzahs and applause.

It's not that these governments are better than the United States. What counts is that they are not the United States...
Blogging fans will recognize that James Lileks is more than a columnist. He also runs a truly exquisite blog. I don't use the word "exquisite" (defined by Webster's as: "carefully selected or sought out; hence, of distinguishing and surpassing quality; exceedingly nice; delightfully excellent; giving rare satisfaction; as, exquisite workmanship") lightly.

My favorite Lileks posts are the ones about Gnat. Oh, and do buy the dang book. I did. It's great.


Right in the Middle of the Karbala Fighting

I received a quick e-mail from Joe Roche Sunday evening.

He could not write a long note, but he did give a clue as to his recent activities, saying "my battalion was right in the middle of the Karbala fighting."

He also recommended "a link from the NYTimes that is really surprising because it is right on the nose!"

(I don't know if he meant that as an editorial comment about the general quality of the New York Times' reporting, or if he was simply showing his enthusiasm over this particular article).

He also recommended this ABC News Online report.

Joe also had time to add a paragraph about care packages before signing off:

We're receiving more and more packages every day. We add them to our convoys to deployed units, so all the soldiers are getting things. I really hope somehow the thanks is sent out. I know some soldiers are trying to write to some of the people. It is really hard though. Mostly, the addresses get lost when we tear into the boxes and spread things out.
I think we can tell how much the boxes are appreciated simply from the phrase "tear into the boxes."

Anyone who is thinking about sending a care package to these troops can get information about it here; there also are many other ways one can send support to our troops deployed abroad.



J'accuse, They Said, Ironically

The British left-wing newspaper the Guardian apparently thinks Americans give a damn about the opinion of effete Old Europe filmgoers.

A story titled "J'accuse" to this effect carries an astonishing sub-headline asserting that an Cannes film festival award to Michael Moore's anti-Bush film "may have changed the course of history."

How many divisions does the Cannes film festival have?

The article calls the award to Moore's film "...a spectacular rebuke to Republican and corporate America, a stunning exocet of scorn launched from the epicentre of old Europe."

They are a little full of themselves. This award represents a bunch of movie people from Europe restating something they say all the time: They don't like us, they don't like our values, and the really don't like us when we stand up for our values.

American moviemakers mostly don't like America. We sure as heck don't expect anything different from the French.

But before I end this, a note about the irony of the piece's headline:" J'accuse." For those who don't know history (let's include the Guardian here), this is a title of a famous newspaper piece condemning one of very many examples of French anti-semitism. Yet the Guardian uses the term against the USA's foreign policy -- which it despises in part because it believes we're too pro-Israel.


Enviro Guru Says: Adopt Nuclear Power or Suffer Gaian Dystopia

I'm getting a kick out of May 24 articles in the British newspaper the Independent.

It seems that the prominent Greenie James Lovelock has called upon his fellow members of the environmental left to abandon their opposition to nuclear power. Lovelock believes that global warming fears are understated and fears of nuclear power are exaggerated.

I'm enjoying the fact that a leading environmentalist is echoing something we've said many times before: If you truly believe carbon dioxide emissions are causing the planet to warm and that this warming would have dire results, you presently have two choices: nuclear power or shutting down much of the world's economic activity.

On this latter, narrow point, Lovelock apparently agrees with us. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, according to the Independent, don't.

We, of course, believe that the theory that human beings are causing dangerous global warming is vastly overstated, but we like nuclear power's environmentally-friendly attributes nonetheless.

Lovelock, by the way, is a self-described "outstanding scientist" and "pioneer in the development of environmental awareness." He is credited by himself and others with creating the "Gaia Theory," the notion that, as Lovelock puts it on his website, "the planet Earth [is] a self-regulated living being."

The notion has been adapted by neo-paganists and New Agers, some of whom now worship "Gaia," regarding the planet Earth as a "goddess."


Why Don't Mafia Dons Run Blogs?

The news media was all over the allegation that someone in the White House made public the fact that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV's wife is affiliated with the CIA. But does the news media cooperate in the investigation to find out who did it?

Time magazine, NBC and Newsday won't.

The Washington Post reports that the Washington Post won't say. (Yes, you read that right. The Post talked to itself and didn't get a reply.)

More farce from the Post, which recently strongly implied that it didn't know the cause of death of one of its most famous columnists, Mary McGrory, when pretty much the entire newsroom had to know. The Post does this sort of thing all the time.

But back to the free pass on crime: Would a blogger be free to refuse to cooperate in a law enforcement investigation of an illegal action that he covered in his blog?

If no, then why should the establishment press be treated as though its journalists are above the law?

If yes, then Mafia Dons, drug dealers and other miscreants may soon start blogs. I would if I were one.


Just Do The Right Thing

Some interesting poll data from the Sunday Washington Post. An excerpt:

More than a third of Americans say they don't trust President Bush 'at all' as a source of information about the environment, according to a new survey of attitudes about the environment by the Global Strategy Group for the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences. Kerry fares somewhat better, with 24 percent saying they don't trust him on the issue.

But before Kerry's campaign tries to make hay out of that finding, consider the flip side: Although 26 percent of Americans say they trust the president 'a lot' for environmental information, only 12 percent say they feel that way about Kerry.
The lesson for politicians? Don't bother approaching environmental issues from a political perspective. It won't help you anyway. Just do your issue homework, and then do the right thing.


Hey Roland, Wanna Buy the Brooklyn Bridge?

National Center executive director David W. Almasi is critical of "The Day After Tomorrow" director's muse:

In an interview with SCI FI Wire, "The Day After Tomorrow" director Roland Emmerich admits he previously pledged never to make another disaster movie, but "when you find something that you can give people [a] message, but still make it an exciting movie... you kind of get very, very, kind of excited about something." What got Emmerich so excited? He read the book The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber.

Yes, it's that Art Bell. Bell used to host "Coast to Coast AM" from his trailer located near Area 51 in Nevada, pumping out stories about aliens, monsters and government conspiracies to insomniacs nationwide. And, according to reviews of the book posted on Amazon, the factual basis of his book -- Emmerich's muse -- leaves much to be desired.

Interestingly, many reviews, though written years ago, suggest the book is more movie fodder than textbook.

It certainly doesn't sound like something to which Al Gore should be hitching his political reputation, but he seems to be doing so.

Here's what Amazon's layman critics said:
The Hanged Man from Fairfax: "I bought this expecting some science, some facts, some hard information. Instead, I got 'lost' civilizations, fuzzy facts, and (this was probably Strieber's contribution) a passable bit of science fiction. Pass on the book and stick to Weekly World News."

Charles D. Johnston from Atlanta, Georgia: "This book takes yelling 'Fire!' in a crowd to a new level. Using a combination of vague references to unknown writers, clearly slanted style, and half-science, this book is clearly commercial in intent and seeks to capitalize on the 'sky is falling' mentality that was so evident before Y2K. The authors are more interested in making money than real science..."

Jerald R. Lovell from Clinton Township, Michigan: "It's distressing to know that Barnum was right about one being born each minute... Anyone with the slightest knowledge of weather knows the scenario of ten feet of ice and all that other glop is impossible under the laws of physics... The book has its value, though, in that it does show the Dark Ages, where superstition reigned and truth hid, are never that far away. The authors should go back to tossing burnt sheep bones and reading tea leaves, and not masquarade as scientific seers... What a commentary on our educational system! I weep for the future."

A reader from Denver, Colorado: "...Superstorm is not even good science fiction. It is laughable, speculative, junk science and urban legends all thrown together..."

A reader from Ohio: "Great fun to read... but scientifically it's all hot gas."

A reader from Wooster, Ohio: "Before I read this book I had never heard of Art Bell or Whitley Strieber. Therefore, as a scientist, I read this book with an open mind... In my opinion, Strieber and Bell have hijacked the topic of potential weather-related global cataclysm, and used it as a vehicle to persuade the reader that advanced civilizations once existed on our planet and were lost in a violent climatic upheaval. They present legitimate scientific observations and as-yet unexplained phenomena (much of it unrelated to the topic of global climate) and casually link them to some of the more fantastic claims of pseudoscience. This book is worth reading for entertainment, but the reader should definitely keep in mind the saying 'you shouldn't believe everything you read.' The bottom line is this book is long on pseudoscience and speculations (more than a few of them outrageous) and short on substantial scientific information."

rb_748 from Brooklyn, New York: "This book contains all the hallmarks of the worst pseudoscience: no references or clear citations, misnomers galore..."

Jim Green from Torquay, Devon, United Kingdom: "This book reads like a poorly-edited screenplay for a crummy disaster movie. If it's that kind of entertainment you want, then fine. If, however, you're after a credible treatment of an important issue, then steer clear of these authors. The style is sloppy and repetitive, and it seems sensationalism is valued over serious research. A quote from p. 216 says it all: 'The two of us are amateurs.'"

Joel Foss from Lakewood, California: "If you're like a lot of readers, and you've been watching the news headlines about north pole ice melting, and increasingly harsh weather conditions, then you're looking for a book on global warming and it's possible effects. You're looking for a book that will tell you what scientists are saying; what tests they're doing; what indications they're looking at. You're looking for a book that will educate you a little without putting you to sleep. Well, THIS AIN'T THE BOOK! The author is a radio talk show host, not a science writer, and the book is about as educational as... a radio talk show! There is no attempt to explain; only to scare the reader..."

A reader from Rochester, New York: "Bell once again rehashes kindergarten-level scientific mumbo-jumbo to exploit current topics of interest, in order to capitalize on his fame and make a few extra bucks. Save your money and buy a book with some science content."

A reader from Olympia, Washington: "Baloney does not stick to paper very well. Not since Joseph Goebbels and the 'big lie' has there been such a gaseous expulsion of fairy tales masquerading as science..."

A reader from San Jose, California: "This authors mix wild and implausible speculation with pseudo-science to produce a book that, if anybody read it, would set the environmentalists back ten years. We just have to hope that few fall into the trap of reading it, like I did."

A reader from Troy, New York: "I enjoy a good 'wacko' theory book as much as the next person, but this book is a travesty. Arguments and assertions are made and never followed up. Veiled hints are made but never proven. Planetary cycles are alluded to but never stated succinctly. The writing is slack and there is no intellectual rigor..."

Dan Allison from Sunset Beach, Florida: "These two are QUITE the piece of work. America's most irresponsible broadcaster has teamed up with a guy whose career as a horror novelist was in the dumpster before he grabbed onto the UFO thing. The result is fear-mongering pseudoscience... Listen to their 'Coast to Coast AM' radio broadcast. Strieber is incessantly blaming capitalism for problems that, frankly, do not even exist. His calls for 'government action' are barely-disguised paeans for government control, collectivism, and restrictions on individual freedom. Bell, while slightly more conservative, will put ANY crackpot on the radio -- aliens, time travelers, you name it..."

Gary L. Scott from Aloha, Oregon: "The Coming Global Superstorm is science fiction pap. Light on fact and heavy on speculation extrapolated from junk science mixed with just enough facts to add some credibility to the book. Bell and Strieber have collected mountains of urban legends, folk tales and junk science, mixed it together and created yet another great book for the doomsday crowd."


New Media/Old Media

We took a shortened version of the May 12 letter Spc. Joe Roche sent us from the front and sent it to newspapers nationwide. According to Google, the piece has been printed by at least one newspaper so far, the The Biloxi Sun Herald.



The Wedding Party

The blog on blogs, The Truth Laid Bear, posts this question from a reader on its main page: "'I don't think the blogosphere has thrown up nearly enough stylists of true distinction, incidentally. Do you?'"

The Bear answers "Kaus! Kaus! Kaus!" as in Mickey Kaus.

I suggest the post entitled "The Wedding Party" from Belmont Club is an answer by itself.


I Prefer My Sauce to Be Nonpolitical, Thank You Very Much

Something odd is going on over at Taco Bell. Maybe it is a joke by a Taco Bell employee who needs to be replaced. Or maybe the corporation is disfunctional.

I know one thing: I'm not putting any of my kids' college savings into their parent company's stock unless there is a reasonable explanation.

Here's the background. Alerted by the Ramblings' Journal blog, run by Project 21 member Michael King, who received a pointer from talk radio's incomparable Neal Boortz, I visited the website.

There the company informs the public that it is sponsoring a contest to find humorous sayings it can print on sauce packages. According to the main website and a May 19 Taco Bell press release, the solicited sayings must meet four requirements. They must be: simple, left of center, provide insight on the little things in life, and not exceed 70 characters.

Left of center?

Odd point number one is that a company with the customer base of Taco Bell (and its fellow subsidiaries of corporate parent Yum! Brands, Inc., which are KFC, Long John Silvers, A&W and Pizza Hut) would decide that its sauce packets are the place for left-wing political statements. Odd point number two is that the company would issue a press release alerting a nation that is 41 percent conservative that they are part of the vast left-wing conspiracy.

Odd point number three, though, is that the sample sayings Taco Bell provides aren't political at all (examples: "My other taco is a Chalupa," "Polly want a taco?"). So that raises the possibility that at least some significant personages at Taco Bell don't actually know what the phrase "left of center" means.

I telephoned Taco Bell for the scoop. That's a crusade in itself! The phone numbers one can glean from the website don't reach human operators. I tried the phone number for people who have a million dollars to invest as new Taco Bell franchisees, figuring that line at least would reach a live person. No such luck -- it just rings unanswered. The parent company's website wasn't helpful, either. Finally I got the idea to check the parent company's required filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, figuring they probably do share their phone number with the SEC. Yes! I downloaded their last filing, and found a phone number in it. Voila! A human answered and I was transferred to Yum! Brands' public relations, which in turn gave me the phone number for the Taco Bell press office.

I have not quite hit the informational jackpot, however, as the Taco Bell press office said it would have to call me back.

So there it sits. Are Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silvers, A&W and Pizza Hut about to face a massive boycott (it won't be necessary to organize one; if Yum! Brands has decided to shill for the left its own sauce packets will spread the word enough to get a boycott going), or is the corporation simply a victim of a mischievous or ignorant employee who desperately needs more oversight?

Or maybe I am the ignorant one. Does "left of center" mean something non-political, when one is speaking of sauce?

I told Taco Bell's press person that I do not have a firm deadline for my opinion writing, but that I hoped to be able to hear back from them today. The ball is now in their court. Watch this blog for more details. If they call back, I'll share what they say. If they don't, I'll call them again.

ADDENDUM: Taco Bell called back. Nice folks. Very friendly. They mean the term "left-of-center" as "quirky," "off the beaten path" -- that sort of thing. What's more, they've been using the phrase "left-of-center" in public documents for three years now, yet the first time (that they know of) that anyone took it as a political statement was yesterday, when someone at the Wall Street Journal called them to ask about it.

So we shouldn't expect to see any calls for socialized medicine on Taco Bell sauce packets anytime soon...

I admit their choice of terms perplexes me, but I concede that I'm not the best judge of what terms are generally thought to be political and which are not. I've been living in the Washington DC area for over a quarter century. Here, everything is political. Everything but Taco Bell, that is.


Green Tax Break

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D) has proposed starting a week-long 'green' tax break twice a year in Pennsylvania. Under the proposal, consumers purchasing appliances carrying the EPA's "Energy Star" designation would not have to pay state sales taxes during those two weeks.


Believe Me, Brother

A tiny part of the latest installment in the Iraq the Model blog:

"Believe me brother when I say that the majority of Sadr city people are grateful for the Americans. We didn't fire a bullet at them when they entered our city. We gave them the reception of liberators and they are. Why would we fight them now!?"


To The Point

Dr. Jack Wheeler, an old friend who has a remarkably keen understanding of international cultural trends, makes some interesting, even encouraging, observations about the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal en route to a larger point about the value of the blogging community.

A sample to whet your appetite:

"How many times... have you heard that Al Jazeera's satellite TV reports on whatever we are doing in Iraq are 'enraging the Arab world'? It turns out that vast numbers of Arabs in Iraq and elsewhere despise Al Jazeera as SNN -- the Sunni News Network, a worthless propaganda channel promoting Sunni imperialism."
If you read more, you won't be disappointed.


Is It Just Me?

A question from husband David:

Is it just me, or has the mainstream media completely lost its grip on reality?

  • International terrorism is at a 35 year low; we've toppled a repressive, aggressive totalitarian regime; we put the architect of the Achille Lauro hijacking (in which American Leon Klinghoffer was killed) out of commission permanently; we've so frightened Libya that it has renounced terrorism and given up its weapons of mass destruction; AND we've shifted the frontlines of the war with terrorists from United States soil to Iraq - and they still say that the Iraq war is a distraction from the real war on terrorism.

  • Those of us who defend the choice to drive SUVs and other large vehicles but choose to drive fuel-efficient cars are called "anti-environment" while those who want to take that choice away but actually own large gas guzzlers are called "pro-environment."

  • If a handful of low-level subordinates out of several million working for you commit crimes, you should resign in disgrace. If you commit a crime yourself - say, by lying before a federal grand jury - you should stay.

  • President Bush has overseen the largest expansion of Medicare since its inception and the sharpest rise in federal spending since LBJ's Great Society. He left Judge Roy Moore twisting in the wind and added new regulations where they previously didn't exist... And he is said to be following an extreme right wing agenda that is polarizing the nation.

  • Evading the military to preserve one's "political viability" is considered a non-issue, while serving in the National Guard is called "draft dodging."

  • If you're an Iraqi terrorist at Abu Ghraib prison and you're humiliated because nude photographs have been taken of you, your ordeal warrants repeated page one newspaper coverage. If you're a female American soldier humiliated because nude photographs have been taken of you at the same prison facility, your experience warrants a tiny one-paragraph story buried in the few papers that care.

  • President Bush is said to lack intelligence. But at the same time, he's been accused of cooking up the Iraq War with his buddies in Texas and deliberately misleading the public and Congress to gain approval for the war. Which is he: dullard or evil genius? He can't be both.

  • Journalists dutifully reported Ted Kennedy's remarks equating U.S. management of Abu Ghraib prison with that of Saddam Hussein, but didn't mention that the acts of sexual humiliation by U.S. troops at the prison were only slightly more humiliating than acts that occurred after a younger, more vigorous Teddy had a few drinks.

  • The media led calls for Trent Lott to resign after he praised former segregationist Strom Thurmond, but the media was relatively silent when Senator Chris Dodd praised Robert Byrd, a former member of the KKK who has used the "n" word on network television in recent years.

  • When evidence of possible criminal acts by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee were leaked to the press, the leakers, not the Senators, were considered the problem. But when evidence of possible criminal acts by U.S. soldiers at Iraq's Abu Ghraid prison were leaked to the press, the soldiers, not the leakers, were considered the problem.

  • As French officials were receiving accolades for insisting that Saddam Hussein was innocent until proven guilty, no one bothered to mention that they were advocating better treatment for Hussein than they give their own citizens. Under the French system of justice, one is considered guilty until proven innocent.

  • Europeans have called Americans "arrogant" and even equated our leaders with Adolph Hitler. Yet the news media singles out the Bush Administration's New Europe/Old Europe formulation for the poor state of U.S./European relations.

  • When the U.S. takes actions that will cost it hundreds of billions of dollars and perhaps thousands of lives, it is said to be pursuing an economically-driven agenda. When others take action from which they stand to make billions of dollars, it is said to be a principled stand.

  • When Janet Reno took responsibility for Waco, the mainstream media praised her. When Rumsfeld apologized for the prison abuses, the media called for his head.

  • Tuesday

    I Guess Marshmallow Fluff is Out

    Call me wacky, but I don't think The Rough Woodsman blog is really talking about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches here.



    Dr. Pat Michaels takes apart the science in the movie "The Day After Tomorrow" in Sunday's Washington Post.

    Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.


    The Benefit of Brown: Providing Opportunity

    Today is the 50th Anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The black conservative group Project 21 has issued some publications and statements marking the event. Some excerpts:

    "The Supreme Court only opened the door to the dream. It is up to each individual to decide whether or not he will walk through that door... No matter the cost of one's personal sacrifice in the short run, it is worth it for every black person in America to walk through the door.'" - Project 21 member John Meredith

    "Our ancestors died in slavery, dreaming of the day when their descendents would be able to read, write and compete in this country on a level with the best of white children. That day has come, and far too many squander those opportunities." - Project 21 member Mychal Massie

    "By tearing down racial barriers to education, Brown let all children take advantage of the best in American learning. Once they applied themselves, black children could compete fairly in the job market. With added skills and wealth, the remaining racial barriers soon fell. There was an immediate improvement in black education. In 1960, the percentage of blacks with a high school diploma or more was just 20.1 percent. Those with at least college degree was only 3.1 percent. Both figures were less than half of the proportion of their white counterparts. By 2000, 78.5 percent of blacks had a high school education or better, and 16.5 percent had at least a college degree. White numbers rose to 84.5 percent and 26.1 percent, respectively. In 1990, black college graduates had an unemployment rate of only 1.9 percent." - David Almasi


    Short, But Full of Events

    I know I recommended posts from the Iraq the Model blog just the other day, but I am going to recommend another post already anyway.