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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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Where is Putin Taking Russia?

Mark McDonald of Knight Ridder provides an unhappy assessment:

"We're in a downward spiral, and it's a tragedy," said Alexei Kondaurov, a former KGB general who's now a millionaire businessman and an opposition member of the Duma, Russia's lower house of Parliament. "I have no illusions about who rules Russia and what goes on here. All my forecasts are negative."

Nikolai Zlobin, an analyst with the Center for Defense Information, a global-security research center based in Washington, thinks "the United States no longer regards Russia as a democratic country ... and Putin is no longer perceived as a democrat in the Western sense of the word."
(I can't believe I just quoted both a former KGB general and the Center for Defense Information -- in both cases, probably a first for me.)


Interesting Concept, But It Will Never Catch On

Why isn't Al Gore's name on this e-mail?

Hat tip: Slashdot.


Malpractice Crisis is Real

This USA Today editorial says:

Chris Heffner, a neurosurgeon in southern Illinois, stopped treating head-trauma patients when his annual malpractice insurance premium doubled to $265,000. With only two neurosurgeons in the area, brain-trauma victims now have to be airlifted to St. Louis...

The malpractice crisis is real, though concentrated in high-risk specialties. One in seven obstetricians/gynecologists have stopped delivering babies, and three-quarters have been sued at least once, a 2003 survey found. Physicians have faced double-digit-plus premium increases for years.

We all pay for this broken system. High premiums force physicians and hospitals to raise fees. Doctors engage in defensive medicine, performing unnecessary tests that might protect them in a lawsuit. That costs at least $60 billion a year, notes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And patients can have a harder time getting care, even in urgent circumstances.

Reform measures passed the House of Representatives last year but failed in the Senate. It's an uphill battle as trial lawyers allied with Democrats duel the insurance and medical industries, which favor Republicans...


Child Free

I know I just linked to Eric Berlin yesterday, so I probably should not do it again so soon, but he has an eye-popping post up about people who seemingly hate children.

He's not kidding, either. I visited the website he mentioned and the very first post I saw urged donations to charities aiding animals hurt by the tsunami: "...if you're tired of the hoopla about the children you can send something to help the nonhuman victims."

Or this post, the point of which seems to be that adults should be rude to well-behaved children on commercial airlines.

A repeated theme seems to be frustration with friends who have kids and then don't have as much time to "hang out" with them. (Tragic, really.)

Eric has more examples.

I could go on about how hostile and self-centered (and in some instances, scary) these people seem, but I suspect I'd be overstating the obvious.

Ebay was advertising on this site when I was there, though I doubt Ebay even realizes it. Probably part of a package ad buy. The ad seemed incongruous, though, Ebay being a good place to get bargains to help raise kids... You know, the kids who will grow up to join the military to defend the freedoms of these yahoos, and pay the Social Security taxes necessary to feed them as they slide ever further into their dotage...


Regret The Error: Rich Guys Look Alike...

Regret the Error has found a funny error in the Wall Street Journal.


Arguments Against Social Security Privatization Demolished

Eric Berlin quotes and then demolishes a New York Times op-ed against Social Security privatization.

Sample comments from a piece that deserves to be read by everyone:

If you, as an individual, put a certain amount of money into the Social Security fund, and later in life you receive benefits whose value is less than that contribution... how is that good?
If the stock market has provided better returns than treasury bills since damn near the beginning of time, which I believe is the case, then I can live with the idea of "no guarantee."
Which do you think is more likely to be transparent: A private company beholden to its customers and stockholders, or a government program that you can't get out of no matter what?
Man, do I hate comparisons between casinos and the stock market. It's so easy, and so wrong. The stock market trends upwards every year and has since its creation. If you, as a young person, put money in a fund that tracks the S&P 500 (diversification! risk management! 500 stocks at once!), you will, when you retire, have more money in your possession when you retire 25 years later. If you go to the casino every week for those 25 years, you will be broke.
Read the whole thing.

Addendum: Hmmm.... I see that Paulie at The Commons at Paulie World tried to do a trackback to this post and it did not work. Maybe my trackback system isn't operating properly... Thanks for trying, though, Paulie. Tells me I have a problem, even though I haven't a clue why.


Ryan Sager: Law and the Armstrong Williams Case

I've been reading various bloggers' takes on the Armstrong Williams case (La Shawn Barber, Ramblings' Journal, Booker Rising, Michelle Malkin, Croooow Blog, Tapscott's Copy Desk, Joust the Facts, She Who Will Be Obeyed! and many, many others), but I didn't see anyone address the issue I was wondering about: What does the law actually say about the legality of the kind of payments the Department of Education made?

That's is, until I saw Ryan Sager's blog, Miscellaneous Objections. Check it out if you are past the outrage stage and what to learn what the law actually says.

It seems to me the law itself is the paramount issue. If this is legal, and folks don't think it should be (as I don't), the law should be changed. If it isn't legal and it happened anyway, why and how can it be stopped? It is easy enough to say Armstrong should not have quietly taken the payments, but he's still just one person. If he stops, that doesn't stop the practice by anyone else, now and in the future.

As a side note, Mark Tapscott's coverage of this includes some very useful information and a number of links about filing FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests without paying legal fees. Some folks might want to bookmark it.

Oh, and as another side note, since The National Center for Public Policy Research sponsors Project 21, the national leadership group of black conservatives: The National Center/Project 21 has never received, nor applied for, federal funding nor funding from any state.


Trackbacks Enabled?

Thanks to Diggers Realm, which I learned about from The Sparse Matrix, I learned how to add a trackback feature to this blog for the first time ever.

At least, I think I have... I'll try a test. If you don't see a trackback below this post, I failed.


Penn State: Deer Hunting Mecca

When I saw this post on Sic Semper Tyrannis, I thought: What, no Penn State?

Penn State indeed.


Flopping Aces: Putin the Dictator

Flopping Aces has a very thought-provoking and informative post up today about the future of Russia under Vladimir Putin.

Curt has excerpts from and links to pieces by historian Niall Ferguson and bloggers at The Moderate Voice, One Step at a Time, and Untimely Thoughts.


Jobs Market Responds to Lower Tax Rates

A little something to read for those liberals who claim there is nothing wrong with Social Security that couldn't be repaired by repealing President Bush's tax cuts. The tax cuts improved the economy, which helps Social Security.

It just doesn't help it enough.


Shelia Jackson Lee in Fine Shape

U.S. Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee apparently claims to be 140 years old.


Yet More Evidence, Blogged

Do read The Diplomad if you aren't convinced we should leave the U.N.


Wacky Warning Labels

Some very funny warning labels, brought to you by trial lawyers Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch.


Staples - Sinclair - Media Matters: Opinion Roundup

The Staples - Sinclair - Media Matters story continues...

When we last visited our cast of characters, Staples was adamant that it is non-political and has not decided to cease advertising on Sinclair news. Media Matters was adamant that Staples had made an ad decision "based in part on the activism generated by," and claimed "Staples, Inc. officials reviewed, edited, and approved the Media Matters press release of January 4, 2005, in both draft and final form." And Sinclair (see below) was not taking any of this lying down.

My opinion: Whatever happened earlier, I now very much doubt Staples has a political agenda. That was the core issue with me, and failing some unexpected development in this story, I consider that aspect settled.

As a matter of interest, I am curious about the Media Matters claim that Staples officials (plural!) approved their January 4 press release. I'd like to know more, and wonder: Why is Media Matters being so vague about this? Name names, why don'tja?

Oh, and if I were running SinclairAction (there's a dubious proposition) I would not still have this

on my website as of January 8.

Pending further developments in this case, which may or may not be forthcoming, here's a roundup of recent statements and commentary:

Sinclair speaks:

Sinclair Broadcast Group makes it clear it means business.

Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: SBGI) is pleased to note that in a press release issued on January 6, 2005 and as posted on their website (, office supply retailer Staples, Inc. states that it intends to continue to advertise on Sinclair television stations and has no policy against advertising in Sinclair news programming... The clarification of Staples' media buying process as it relates to Sinclair directly contradicts statements made by several organizations with what appear to be far-left leaning political agendas who have engaged in an ongoing Internet-based campaign of harassment against Sinclair. Notwithstanding the clear message from Staples, these organizations continue to claim that their actions have caused Staples to discontinue advertising on Sinclair stations. Obviously these claims are not accurate.
And ups the ante:
Although Sinclair respects the rights of these organizations to voice their opinions, we find inappropriate that their tactics include advocating their constituency to contact our advertisers in a blatant attempt to use economic pressure to censor the speech of Sinclair. Moreover, the continued misrepresentation of the facts surrounding any company's advertising practices regarding Sinclair stations constitutes "trade defamation" which would entitle Sinclair to seek damages in a court of law. Sinclair will aggressively pursue any organization or any individual which engages in such defamation, including individuals who lend their names to mass e-mail campaigns spreading such misinformation.
Mainstream press confirms Friday what we posted Thursday (but then, we don't have their resources):
CBS, among others, is reporting Staples will continue to advertise on Sinclair, including Sinclair news broadcasts.
Bloggers and websites have the fun discussions:
WEBCommentary says: Do NOT boycott Staples.

Balloon Juice has a recap and a good debate in comments.

Mr. Blonde's Garage uses Google cache on SinclairAction, while Media Matters ally Oliver Willis debates him in the comments section.

Bloggledygook begins: "Well, looks like the Staples Affair just doesn't want to quit. David Brock posts a letter to Staples CEO Ron Sargent more or less accusing him of lying..."

Considerettes has lots to say.

Patterico still has questions. reporter Susan Jones has been covering the story daily, as has Talon News and The Redhunter.
A correspondent shares a recent e-mail from Staples:

Harold M. Molter of Auburn, MI writes to share the response he received when he sent an email to Staples:
Thank you for sharing your feedback with us. Our media buying process with Sinclair Broadcasting stations has recently been misrepresented by an organization with no affiliation to Staples. Staples regularly drops and adds specific programs from our media buying schedule, as we evaluate and adjust how to best reach our customers. We do not let political agendas drive our media buying decisions.

Staples does not support any political party. We advertise with a variety of media outlets, but do not necessarily share the same views of these organizations or what they report. As we have done for a number of years, Staples will continue to advertise on Sinclair Broadcasting stations.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your feedback.

A gracious note, considering that Staples has probably had more feedback than it ever wanted this week.

Folks, I hope the Staples - Sinclair - Media Matters story is winding down. If not, I will post updates here, but this blog is going to return to covering other issues.


Staples - Sinclair: Media Matters Strikes Back

Curiouser and curiouser. Media Matters has posted a letter to Staples CEO Ron Sargent on its website saying "Staples, Inc. officials reviewed, edited, and approved the Media Matters press release of January 4, 2005, in both draft and final form."

This is the Media Matters press release that begins:

Media Matters for America today announced that Staples, Inc. will no longer advertise on local news programming on Sinclair Broadcast Group TV stations nationwide. Citing an effort to be responsive to customer concerns about Sinclair's injection of partisan conservative politics into its nightly newscasts, Staples, Inc. attributed its decision in part to the response the company received from customers visiting the website...
I just a moment ago telephoned Paul Capelli of Staples for his reaction. I spoke with his assistant, who said he was on the other line. I hope to hear back from him soon.


No Sinclair Boycott, Staples Says -- Media Matters Report "Misrepresented" Facts, Company Spokeman Says

As promised, here is a more detailed description of my conversation this evening with Staples spokesman Paul Capelli. I wrote it as a press statement and we are releasing it as one. (It is only fair, as we issued a press statement yesterday critical of Staples.)

No Boycott of Sinclair, Staples Says; Staples Says Media Matters Misrepresented Situation, Says Staples is a "Victim"

Office supply retailer Staples, Inc. is denying allegations made by a left-wing activist group that Staples is withdrawing advertising from news programs run by Sinclair Broadcasting as a result of the political content of the newscasts.

Staples Spokesman Paul Capelli told the National Center in a January 6 phone call that the organization Media Matters had "misrepresented" the facts about Staples' advertising policy regarding Sinclair. Capelli referred to Staples as a "victim" of this misrepresentation, saying Staples is "nonpolitical."

In a January 4 press release, Media Matters had said: "Citing an effort to be responsive to customer concerns about Sinclair's injection of partisan conservative politics into its nightly newscasts, Staples, Inc. attributed its decision [to cease advertising on Sinclair news January 10] in part to the response the company received from customers visiting the website."

Numerous mainstream news outlets ran stories saying Staples had decided to halt advertising on Sinclair news shows, and Internet websites such as the Drudge Report, blogs, and talk radio picked up the story. Some were highly critical of Staples, believing it had taken sides with the left against a broadcaster perceived as conservative.

Capelli, however, told The National Center that Staples stopped advertising on Sinclair news on January 10 because a previously scheduled ad campaign targeted to the Christmas season had ended. A new ad campaign, consisting of a different combination of ad buys, on a "back to work" theme had previously been scheduled to replace the ad campaign utilizing Sinclair news.

The Media Matters press release supplied this statement as its support of its report about Staples' plans: "Staples, Inc. recently replied via email to consumers who registered concerns about Sinclair newscasts, stating: 'As a result of Staples' ongoing review of its advertising media buy activity, Staples will no longer be airing advertising on any Sinclair station's local news programs as of Jan 10, 2005.'"

The Boston Globe reported on January 6 that Media Matters President David Brock told them Media Matters confirmed the information in the e-mail its activists received from Staples before issuing the press release. The Globe article does not make clear, however, what information Media Matters confirmed -- the fact that the Sinclair news ad buy was ending January 10, or the reason it is ending.

Capelli said Staples expects to spend at least as much on Sinclair ad buys in 2005 as in 2004, and perhaps more. He explicitly confirmed that Sinclair news programming would not be excluded from their 2005 plans.

Politics, Capelli said, has nothing to do with Staples' advertising decisions. The company tries had to be responsive to customer concerns, Capelli said, but is wholly nonpolitical.

Late January 6, the following statement still appeared on the website of Media Matters: "Citing an effort to be responsive to customer concerns over Sinclair's injection of partisanship into its nightly newscasts, Staples, Inc., announced it will no longer advertise on local news programming on Sinclair stations nationwide."

The National Center challenges Media Matters to provide conclusive evidence the statement on its website is true.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative, free market organization, briefly ceased purchases from Staples following an initial news report in the Washington Post leading it to believe Staples' had decided to boycott conservative programming. The National Center no longer believes the facts of this case warrant a conservative boycott of Staples.

Additional updates to this story, including any response The National Center receives from Staples, will be made available on The National Center's blog.

For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 or or visit The National Center's website at
I do look forward to seeing how Media Matters responds. Can it provide evidence that Staples actually is ending its current advertising campaing on Sinclair news in part because of on customer concerns about "partisanship"? I'll need to see the evidence to believe it.

Addendum: This is my take on what happened here. I suspect Staples originally was too clever by half. It sent emails to lefties that said that its current ad on Sinclair news would end 1/10 -- apparently phrased to maximize the likelihood that the lefties would be happy with the email without Staples actually having to do what the leftie wanted.

Probably seemed like good customer relations at the time.

The plan blew up when Media Matters put out a press release declaring victory, and the right started asking questions.

Staples could no longer have it both ways, but it gamely tried to by saying both that it was not political and that it respects its customers' wishes (hence the news stories Wednesday). Didn't work.

Now, just to regain the repution it had as nonpolitical just a few days ago, Staples has had to publicly divorce itself from the lefties it unwittingly married. Meanwhile, Media Matters is exposed for declaring victory without actually (as far as we can tell) having any proof Staples ever did anything it wasn't planning to do with its ad buys.

That's my take on it, anyway. Perhaps new information -- such as proof from Media Matters that Staples explictly said it boycotting Sinclair news out of concern that Sinclair news might be excessively partisan -- will yet develop.

Addendum 2 1:36 PM January 7: Media Matters strikes back here.


Staples' Sinclair Boycott Story Updated

We've updated the Staples-Sinclair story post here.

The latest update we posted says:

Addendum 2 6:41 PM: Paul Capelli of Staples just returned my call. I am posting this quick to get out the basic message, and will elaborate ASAP with an additional update with details.

Basically, it was a good call. Staples believes the facts have been misrepresented by Staples is NOT, according to Paul Capelli, boycotting or declining to purchase future advertising from Sinclair Broadcasting or from Sinclair News.

I wanted to get this online, but will post soon with more details...

Addendum: See above for more on the Paul Capelli conversation.


Social Security Blogging

Deinonychus Antirrhopus has some thoughtful posts on Social Security reform.

If you visit, read the comments, too. Some are excellent.


Good Reading

If you have not visited Varifrank to read Today, I was "Unprofessional"..., you are missing a good post.

This Varifrank post is noteworthy, too.

As is this about the sudden death of a co-worker.

Hat tip: The Anchoress, another blog new to me that is really good.