We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

Friday, March 31, 2006

Liberal Hypocrisy

In "Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy," Hoover Fellow Peter Schweizer reveals the glaring contradictions between the public stances and real-life behavior of prominent liberals including Michael Moore, Ted Kennedy, Al Franken, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Ralph Nader – among others.

"Hypocrisy has proved to be a wonderful weapon for liberals in their war against conservatives," Schweizer writes in the November issue of NewsMax Magazine.

"Yet for all the talk about conservative hypocrisy, there has been very little investigation into the prevalence of hypocrisy on the left."

After two years of research into liberal hypocrisy, Schweizer said, "what I discovered was just stunning."
Schweizer's well-annotated book, published by Doubleday, has just been released and its sure to turn several well-known liberals red with anger.

Among the eye-opening revelations of "Do As I Say":

Filmmaker Michael Moore insists that corporations are evil and claims he doesn't invest in the stock market due to moral principle. But Moore's IRS forms, viewed by Schweizer, show that over the past five years he has owned shares in such corporate giants as Halliburton, Merck, Pfizer, Sunoco, Tenet Healthcare, Ford, General Electric and McDonald's.

Staunch union supporter Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has received the Cesar Chavez Award from the United Farmworkers Union. But the $25 million Northern California vineyard she and her husband own is a non-union shop.

The hypocrisy doesn't end there. Pelosi has received more money from the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union than any other member of Congress in recent election cycles. But the Pelosis own a large stake in an exclusive hotel in Rutherford, Calif. It has more than 250 employees. But none of them are in a union, according to Schweizer, author of "The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty" and a regular contributor to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other periodicals.

The Pelosis are also partners in a restaurant chain called Piatti, which has 900 employees. The chain is – that's right, a non-union shop.

Ralph Nader is another liberal who claims that unions are essential to protect worker rights. But when an editor of one of his publications tried to form a union to ameliorate miserable working conditions, the editor was fired and the locks changed on the office door.

Self-described socialist Noam Chomsky has described the Pentagon as "the most vile institution on the face of the earth" and lashed out against tax havens and trusts that benefit only the rich. But Chomsky has been paid millions of dollars by the Pentagon over the last 40 years, and he used a venerable law firm to set up his irrevocable trust to shield his assets from the IRS.

Air America radio host Al Franken says conservatives are racist because they lack diversity and oppose affirmative action. But fewer than 1 percent of the people he has hired over the past 15 years have been African-American.

Ted Kennedy has fought for the estate tax and spoken out against tax shelters. But he has repeatedly benefited from an intricate web of trusts and private foundations that have shielded most of his family's fortune from the IRS. One Kennedy family trust wasn't even set up in the U.S., but in Fiji. Another family member, environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr., has said that it is not moral to profit from natural resources. But he receives an annual check from the family's large holdings in the oil industry.

Barbra Streisand has talked about the necessity of unions to protect a "living wage." But she prefers to do her filming and postproduction work in Canada, where she can pay less than American union wages.

Bill and Hillary Clinton have spoken in favor of the estate tax, and in 2000 Bill vetoed a bill seeking to end it. But the Clintons have set up a contract trust that allows them to substantially reduce the amount of inheritance tax their estate will pay when they die.

Hillary, for her part, has written and spoken extensively about the right of children to make major decisions regarding their own lives, including having abortions without parental notification. But she barred 13-year-old daughter Chelsea from getting her ears pierced and forbid the teen from watching MTV or HBO.

Billionaire Bush-basher George Soros says the wealthy should pay higher, more progressive tax rates. But he holds the bulk of his money in tax-free overseas accounts in Curacao, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
Schweizer writes: "Liberals claim to support affirmative action but don't practice it. They support higher taxes but set up complicated tax shelters to avoid paying them. They claim to be ardent environmentalists but abandon their cause when it impinges on their own property rights.

"The reality is that liberals like to preach in moral platitudes. They like to condemn ordinary Americans and Republicans for a whole host of things - racism, lack of concern for the poor, polluting the environment, and greed.

"But when it comes to applying those same standards to themselves, liberals are found to be shockingly guilty of hypocrisy.

"The media and the American people need to hold them accountable."

If We Really WERE More Like Western Europe

The left in this country pines away at the thought that we should be more like our western European "Allies" (you know, the guys that sold Saddam all that military equipment during the UN Sanction period and is selling Iran all the capability to build nuclear weapons, not to mention reaping millions in the oil-for-food program while Iraqi children starved). They tell us that the Euro's are much "more civilized", "more enlightened", "more progressive" than us neanderthals here in middle-class America.

Well the truth is that they are definitely more unemployed; and the situation is only going to get worse. Reuters yesterday reported that “at least one million people marched in French cities and unions staged a one-day national strike.”

Unions and student groups rounded up the million-slacker march to a three-million-slacker march.

Now this is what’s going on. One or three million people, in a country with 10% general and 23% youth unemployment, protest that hiring of “young” workers (in French parlance, you’re a young worker until you’re 26) would be made easier by allowing employers to let go of deadwood under 26 within the first two years of employment.

“You can’t treat people like slaves. Giving all the power to the bosses is going too far,” howled one Gregoire de Oliviera, “a 21-year-old student protesting in Paris,” at a Reuters correspondent.

Which is an interesting if involuntary testimony to the French mindset. Because slaves rarely were “let go,” with or without explanation. In fact, the bane of slavery consisted in taking away people’s freedoms, one of which was the freedom to leave employment. Slaveholders, to the contrary, did what they could to keep their uncompensated workforce in place, without accounting for productivity.

Which is exactly what those educated students appear to be striking for. A world where there is no pressure to develop the maturity that comes with realizing one’s place in the competitive global marketplace. A world where productivity and ambition count for nothing compared to maintaining the status quo.

On an Internet message board, a German student in Grenoble, France, seemed understanding. French youth was protesting injustice, fighting against the old people’s tendency to protect what’s theirs: “It’s the highly educated young people on the streets. These are certainly not a burden to society but its future.”

All right. But the future of a culture whose educated youth proclaims to be unwilling to compete despite its age-related advantages of low labor cost, less sick and downtime, more flexibility and an up-to-date-education to me looks like a rainy day in November.

And in a global economy, what entreprenuar wouldn't prefer to enjoy a sunny day in Bombay instead?

The inimitable Larry Kudlow had this to say about the recent labor trouble in France: “In France, you see, companies don’t grow because it’s too costly to hire while it’s against the law to fire. Hence, since they rarely add jobs, French businesses under-perform, under-produce, and under-employ. Think of it: It’s awfully tough to increase output without a growing workforce to produce it. […]

“Indeed, at the heart of the French problem is a statist-run socialist economy that is massively overtaxed and overregulated. France’s public government sector, for instance, accounts for more than 50 percent of GDP. In other words, private business in France is in the minority.

Added to this, France’s top personal tax rate is 48 percent, with a VAT of nearly 20 percent. So that means French laborers face a combined 68 percent tax rate on consumption and investment. No wonder France has created less than 3 million jobs over the past twenty years, compared to 31 million in the United States. Economic growth in ‘cowboy capitalist’ America has exceeded that of France’s worker paradise by nearly 50 percent.”

If the left is so enamored with the european model, they should just follow Johnny Depp across the ocean and participate instead of trying to import it here and shove it down our throats. I'll take 12 million illegal aliens who want to work hard and participate in the evil, capitalistic-American dream any time.

Democrats Oppose a Level Playing Field

A "loophole" in the unconstitutional McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" bill allowed billionaires (5 in particular) to send millions of dollars to 527 groups like Moveon.org in order to influence elections and get "their" candidates elected. This law essential puts the wealthy elite at a clear advantage over us "peasants" when it comes to running for office or simply conducting the campaign process.

Now the House is set to take up a bill that limits fundraising by nonprofit groups called 527s that spent hundreds of millions of dollars in 2004. The bill would require them to register as political committees and abide by contribution limits. Democrats, who in 2004 relied on 527s as a key source of financing, oppose it.

What a surprise!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Is Time Running Out?

Junk Science - the deliberate manipulation of data for the purpose of supporting one's own premise

From IBD:
Posted 3/29/2006

Climate Change: If what Time magazine says about global warming is to be believed, you may not have to renew your subscription. Plague, pestilence and Al Gore can't be far behind.

In this week's cover story, Time blames everything — from "the atmospheric bomb that was Cyclone Larry," which recently struck Australia's northeast coast, to "curtains of fire and dust (that) turned the skies of Indonesia orange," to "sections of ice the size of small states (that) calve from the disintegrating Arctic and Antarctic" — on man-made global warming.

In fact, the article reads like the script from the apocalyptic movie, "The Day After Tomorrow."
"By Any Measure, Earth Is At . . . The Tipping Point," Time says in a scare headline, adding just below: "The climate is crashing, and global warming is to blame."

For the record, none of these statements is true. But at least Time is not alone in an escalating flurry of apocalyptic prophecies.

As rival Newsweek points out, there's a boom in gloom and doom, and most of it is centered on global warming. Besides the Time opus, which is typical of journalism's one-sided treatment of the subject, new books and documentaries abound. Even the Ad Council has gotten into the act, with a multimillion dollar TV propaganda campaign on behalf of unproven science.

Not to be left out, CBS' "60 Minutes" recently trotted out James Hansen, a NASA scientist being hailed as the "world's leading researcher on global warming." In addition to describing his vision of the apocalypse, he had the chutzpah to complain — on prime-time national television — about the Bush administration's "restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public."

Two years ago, Hansen wrote in Scientific American that an "emphasis on extreme scenarios" had been "appropriate" when "the public and decision makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue." Yet the extreme scenarios continue apace.

What "60 Minutes" did not say is that Hansen acted as a consultant to Al Gore's slide-show presentations on global warming earlier this year, that he endorsed John Kerry for president and that he received a $250,000 grant from the charitable foundation headed by Teresa Heinz Kerry. Must have slipped their minds.

It wouldn't be so bad if Hansen were right. But the man credited with beginning the global warming hysteria has been spectacularly wrong in his own predictions. As author Michael Crichton recently noted, Hansen's prediction to a congressional panel in 1988 of a 0.35 degree Celsius rise in temperatures over the next decade turned out to overshoot the actual gain — 0.11 degree — by 219%.

Clearly, such doomsday prophets have an agenda. But do they have the facts? A much publicized study released March 2 by scientists at the University of Colorado said Antarctica is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice each year.

Sounds like a lot, but it's a mere ice cube compared with Antarctica's 7 million cubic miles of glacial ice. And how much would the seas rise when this 36-cubic-mile chunk of ice joined Earth's 320 million cubic miles of ocean? The study says a whopping 0.4 millimeters, or 0.0115 inch, per year.

About 20,000 years ago — slightly before the first SUV — global sea levels were 400 feet lower than they are now. In other words, the seas were rising long before the dreaded Industrial Revolution.

We're also told that the Larsen B ice shelf on the western side of Antarctica is collapsing. Yes, it is warming. But that's been the case for decades. Besides, it comprises just 2% of the continent; the rest of the continent is cooling.

A research team from the University of Missouri recently analyzed data from the European Space Agency's radar satellites ERS-1 and ERS-2 and calculated that between 1992 and 2003, the East Antarctic ice sheet gained about 45 billion tons of ice, thickening at an average rate of 1.8 centimeters a year.

In short, don't buy that ocean-front property in Arizona just yet. And be sure to renew your subscription.

Natural Gas, Unnatural Policy

From IBD:
Posted 3/29/2006

Energy Development: As vast reserves of natural gas remain unexploited in the U.S. and offshore, we may soon be buying gas from Canada bought from Russia. Is America's energy policy stuck on stupid or what?

While some prattle on about the need for energy independence and others are busily gathering wood chips and switch grass, Canada is planning to do what oil companies are routinely accused of doing — making a tidy profit off U.S. dependence on foreign energy and lack of domestic supply.

Canada's government recently approved a $1.5 billion joint venture between Petro-Canada and Gazprom, the Russian energy giant. The deal calls for Gazprom to build a plant near St. Petersburg in Russia to liquefy Russian natural gas and then ship it to Canada. Canada, in turn, will reconvert the gas and ship it to U.S. consumers through existing pipeline networks.

The announcement comes at a time when we are sitting on abundant natural gas supplies beneath federally protected areas in Alaska, the Mountain West and the waters of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The American Petroleum Institute (API) estimates that these areas hold 635 trillion feet of the stuff — enough to meet total U.S. demand for 28 years or heat 75 million American homes for the next century.

So why are we not exploiting this vast domestic resource? Good question.

Jack Gerard, president and chief executive of the American Chemistry Council, has repeatedly attacked the schizophrenia of a policy that encourages American industry and utilities to use more natural gas on environmental grounds while prohibiting domestic exploration on the same grounds.

This policy, according to Gerard, has a devastating impact on the economy. When gas prices rise, he says, "large companies and small businesses alike must close plants, lay off workers, relocate overseas or raise prices for the goods consumers use every day." Consumers, workers and competitiveness all suffer.

In many industries, natural gas is not only a source of energy, but also a raw material. The policy's "ripple effects," says Gerard, include the loss of 2.9 million jobs in manufacturing over the last five years, including 182,000 in forest products and 100,000 in chemicals.

In 2004 alone, 70 chemical plants were shuttered, according to API. And BusinessWeek found that of the 120 chemical plants being built worldwide last year with price tags of $1 billion or more, only one was under construction in the U.S. while 50 were going up in energy-hungry China.

Andrew Liveris, president and CEO of Dow Chemical Co., (
DOW) told members of two House subcommittees last November that Dow is building a $4 billion plant in Oman that will employ 1,000 in high-paying R&D, engineering and operations jobs.

Until about three years ago, Liveris added, the new plant and those 1,000 jobs were going to be located in Freeport, Texas. But the high domestic cost of natural gas caused the project to be moved.

For his part, Gerard of the Chemical Council told a Senate subcommittee in February that it was "frustrating to see proposals in Congress that would extend the off-limits signs in the OCS out to 150 to 250 miles off Florida's coast even as Cuba is hiring Chinese energy interests to explore for energy in waters that are barely 50 miles off Florida."

Let's face it: Our dependence on foreign sources of energy is largely self-inflicted. Isn't it time for Congress to step on the gas?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Saddam Tapes: Another Intel Failure

A story you won't here on CNN, CBS, NBC or ABC:

From IBD:
Posted 3/28/2006

Intelligence: Bit by bit, the secret documents captured after the fall of Saddam Hussein are revealing shocking things about the Iraqi dictator's regime. One of the big questions is: Why didn't we know all this before?

We've tried hard not to join the boo-chorus that's used the war in Iraq to trash the Central Intelligence Agency. Many of its officers do extraordinary work under nearly impossible conditions. They are silent heroes whose efforts, sadly, too often go unrewarded and unrecognized.

But the CIA, unfortunately, is a bureaucracy too. And in that respect, it has much to answer for. The 48,000 boxes of documents taken back from Iraq and left to gather dust are a case in point.

The documents that have been retrieved and translated — largely by private scholars and even bloggers — ironically show the CIA was pretty much right in its assessment of Saddam, despite being brutally criticized.

To wit:

Saddam had WMD before the war, likely shipped them to other countries and planned to build them again. He was a real threat.

Saddam had links to al-Qaida that included: meetings in 1995 between Iraqi officials and the terrorist group;

Saddam's knowing acquiescence to the formation of Ansar al-Islam, an al-Qaida offshoot, in northern Iraq; and the entry of key al-Qaida operatives Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi into Iraq in 1999.

Saddam trained terrorists — possibly even al-Qaida terrorists, though this hasn't been proven — at a facility at Salman Pak that included a real commercial jet for hijacking practice.

Russia, Germany and France helped bolster Saddam's regime and arm it, despite U.N. sanctions on Iraq on which they signed off.

These are all significant facts — and should by themselves dispel doubts Americans have about going to war with Iraq. Yet, it took a document dump in recent weeks to learn of them. That dump, moreover, took place only because a handful of journalists and bloggers relentlessly pushed the CIA. The mainstream media have largely ignored it all, focusing instead on spurious claims of "civil war."

This is a big failure of our intelligence agencies. We now spend roughly $44 billion a year to spy on our enemies. Yet in recent years the CIA's main products seem to be: (1) a series of spectacular leaks from agency operatives intended to damage a sitting president during a time of war and (2) a glaring failure to make the case for taking out Saddam — and convincing the public the case is a strong one.

Errors, of course, are inevitable. But why did our spy agencies sit on so much information — information that could have been used to cinch the case for war? Perhaps Intelligence Director John Negroponte feared revelations about Russia, France and Germany would kill their cooperation on Iran. Or maybe CIA bureaucrats, in the throes of a badly needed shakeup administered by its new director, Porter Goss, are trying to sabotage the agency. We don't know.

What we do know, however, is that we might not have had so many fruitless debates about Iraq if the CIA hadn't sat on all this intelligence as long as it did.

Lack Of Intelligence

If your as disgusted about this as I am, call Spectors office and let him know what you think of his antics.

From IBD:
Posted 3/28/2006

War Powers: Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has begun a crusade against President Bush over the wiretapping of suspected terrorists. It's hard to see the benefit — beyond Specter's own ego.

Thanks to a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian, legislation regarding spying on terrorist communications in the U.S. will not be within the exclusive purview of the Senate's Select Intelligence Committee, chaired by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who's generally been supportive of the White House.

The Judiciary panel, chaired by Pennsylvania liberal Republican Specter, gets an even bigger piece of the action.

President Bush personally saved Specter's skin in 2004 by campaigning for him in Pennsylvania against a powerful underdog challenge from Pat Toomey, a congressman at the time and now the president of the Club for Growth. But Specter's way of returning the favor is to accuse the president of trampling on the Constitution by going all out against terrorism.

"I want to put the administration on notice," Specter roared earlier this month at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on hurricane relief funds. "I may be looking for an amendment to limit funding for the electronic surveillance program, which is the power of the purse, if we can't get an answer (on the program's details) in any other way." Specter is a member of the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

"I hope we don't do something like cut off the ability of our NSA to intercept calls from al-Qaida," retorted Specter's fellow Republican Sen. Christopher Bond of Missouri, one of many Republicans unhappy with Specter's agitation against Bush.

Specter wants to change the law to allow the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review the NSA program's constitutionality on a regular basis.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recently noted that our allies in the war on terror themselves recognize that wartime powers can coexist with democratic liberties. Speaking in London earlier this month, Gonzales said, "It is noteworthy that the practice of obtaining electronic surveillance without a judicial warrant has long been accepted in Europe as something that can be accomplished with proper respect for liberty and privacy interests.

"France, for example, allows public prosecutors to order wiretapping without judicial warrant if they believe doing so would be useful for determining whether a terrorist offense has occurred," Gonzales noted. "Here in the U.K., the Home Secretary has the same power, subject to careful checks."

Does Specter actually want to make it harder to track terrorists here than it is to do in France?

During Specter's tough re-election campaign against Toomey, many Republicans feared what it would mean for Specter to become Judiciary Committee chairman. They thought he would derail President Bush's Supreme Court nominees.

Little did they realize that in a pathetic show of grandstanding, it would be the war on terror Specter would seek to undermine.

Reagan's Lions

From IBD:
Posted 3/28/2006

Leadership: A generation born in the final days of the Cold War may not appreciate how, during the Reagan era, a few strong individuals rose to assure victory. Caspar Weinberger, who died Tuesday, was one of them.

'Cap" came into Ronald Reagan's circle early. A San Francisco lawyer and former assemblyman who had long before distinguished himself by serving on Gen. Douglas MacArthur's intelligence staff, Weinberger was picked by Gov. Reagan as California's finance director.

So successful was he in straightening out the state's budgetary mess that President Richard Nixon brought him to Washington as director of the Federal Trade Commission and later director of the Office of Management and Budget. Still later, he became secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. Weinberger, by then known as "Cap the Knife" for his swift spending cuts, returned to the private sector during the Ford administration.

When Reagan became president, he announced he had one strategy for ending the Cold War with Soviet communism: "Win it." That meant a military buildup so massive that Moscow would deplete its treasury trying to keep up. It also envisioned a novel, space-based defense system. The strategy was unpopular with conventional thinkers in government and media. Reagan needed a like-minded visionary to run the Pentagon. His first choice: Weinberger.

Cap performed exactly as ordered. He restored a military whose esprit was allowed to wilt in the Carter years. He instantly saw the opportunity to forge anew a strategic alliance with Great Britain, then led by political soul mate Margaret Thatcher.

Historians increasingly recognize the success of the Reagan-Weinberger strategy. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it has not been hard to find a retired Soviet army general who credits that strategy for the West's final victory.

For all his faith in military might deployed for the right reasons, Weinberger never displayed the arrogance or megalomania so often shown by high officials. His worldview of secured peace flowed directly from his gentlemanly comportment.

Weinberger's passing came within hours of that of another lion of the Reagan era. Lyn Nofziger, a veteran newsman, signed on as Reagan's top press aide when the former actor first ran for governor.

Among the first to see the Golden State governor as presidential timbre, Nofziger — a rumpled, beloved figure straight out of "The Front Page" — groomed Reagan as a political persona. Allergic to bureaucracy, he eventually left the White House. But he was as indispensable to Reagan's rise as Weinberger was to Reagan's legacy.

The hundreds of millions freed from Soviet tyranny owe their liberty to Ronald Reagan — and by extension to Cap and Lyn. R.I.P.

Golden Gate Fatwa

From IBD:
Posted 3/28/2006

Diversity: San Francisco is unquestionably one of our loveliest cities and, we would have thought, among the most accepting. Which is why we were so surprised to hear it has told evangelical Christians to stay away.

As absurd as that sounds, it's official policy now that the Board of Supervisors has adopted a resolution condemning a group of 25,000 young people who gathered there last week for a peaceful two-day rally.

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Board deemed the "Battle Cry for a Generation" rally an "act of provocation" and accused the group of being "anti-gay," "anti-choice" and aiming to "negatively influence the politics of America's most tolerant and progressive city."

Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who wrote the resolution, reacted as if the city was under siege. "Even if it is done by a Barnum & Bailey crowd with a tent and some snake oil, I think we need to pay attention to it," he told the Chronicle. "We should not fall asleep at the wheel."

"Loud," "obnoxious" and "disgusting" is how Mark Leno, a state Assemblyman from the area, described the young Christians. They "should get out of San Francisco."

Having received such a warm welcome, the group plans to come back next year. But it might need a little help.
Maybe the good folks at the American Civil Liberties Union can lend a hand. If those defenders of freedom could justify neo-Nazis' right to march in predominantly Jewish Skokie, Ill., as they famously did back in 1978, certainly they could bring themselves to defend the "fascist mega-pep rally" (as some protesters called it) that the young Christians have in mind.

Last time we checked, the First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly applied to all Americans, not just those favored by the mullahs of Baghdad by the Bay.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Finance Reform for Who?

Thanks to McCain-Feingold, it is now fundamentally impossible for the average citizen to run for Federal Office. Our government has been taken over by the Party of Big Government which as you can see from McCain (R) and Feingold (D), is not about party lines but is about fundamental ideology as to the role of the federal government in our lives. This argument goes all the way back to the creation of the constitution where Adams (the party of big government) and Jefferson (the party of state's rights) battled almost to their last breaths.

Since Woodrow Wilson - a communist at worst, who engineered the ratification of the 17th Amendment, the Party of Big Government has been winning. The 17th Amendment took away the check and balance the states had on their Senators and enabled a virtual takeover of the country by the wealthy elite who could now buy influence without fear that the Senators they were buying off would be replaced after one term by their respective State Governments.

The following is classic Buckley:

Funding Democracy

Our democratic society trips along and we become accustomed to practices which, if viewed for the first time, would strike us as extraordinary, maybe infamous. Like the hardening correlation in politics between money and success. A recent enactment of this is: Hillary vs. Gore.

Here is how it goes. Mrs. Clinton has amassed a great deal of money ostensibly to finance her race for re-election in New York state. She holds the Senate seat once held by my brother, best remembered as "the sainted junior senator from New York."; In early spring of 1976, facing a re- election contest in November, he had about $200,000 in financial commitments. Hillary has $17.1 million.

Normal people ask, Why on Earth does she need that much money to fight a re-election campaign in New York? She is (1) the incumbent, (2) hugely well known, (3) facing an opponent who is mostly a stagehand of the two-party system -- somebody has to run on the Republican ticket to oppose the incumbent, enter Jeanine Pirro.

Well of course the money is being amassed with something entirely different in mind. Mrs. Clinton wants to run for president in 2008. That is a costly enterprise. Political savant Robert Novak summarizes, "Her current fund-raising tour is aimed at bringing in an additional $40 million."

The final objective is to achieve the presidency. The immediate objective is to achieve the nomination, and this requires confronting and beating other contenders, most prominent among them Sen. John Kerry and former Vice President Al Gore. Backers of Mr. Gore are saying that he can raise more money even than Mrs. Clinton. Gore is, in one sense, the senior figure, as the Democrat who last held senior office, and no doubt he will draw on establishment Democratic donors to put together a fighting fund.

Donors would seem to have been responding generously to the Hillary campaign, but there are complaints from loyalists. If you spent the night in the White House in the Lincoln Bedroom when Bill Clinton was president, what do you owe to Mrs. Clinton when she runs for president?

When Bill was still president and Hillary entered politics, 40 percent of sleepovers in the White House contributed to her campaign. But only 20 percent of those sleepovers have contributed to Hillary's current campaign. On this disparity University of Virginia political scholar Larry Sabato has commented. "FOBs," he informs us -- Friends of Bill -- "are not necessarily FOHs." He adds, "Think of the two of them -- who's the one who collects friends? Bill."

One needs almost a transfusion of orthodoxy to ask what would seem the obvious question, for fear of being cast aside as an incurable naif. Still, let's ask it: Why do people finance campaigns so heavily? Discard the money, which can be thought of as ideological sentimentalism. Some people will subscribe money to any conspicuous Democrat running for high office, and indeed for complementary Republicans.

Why did Chevy Chase donate $4,200 to Hillary? The gift was noticed in the New York Post, which ran a list of top contributors. "The biggest giver was Chevy Chase, the coolest man in the city for a brief period in guess-which-decade," a reporter commented. Chevy Chase does not expect to be named ambassador to the Czech Republic; he is just paying dues as a member of the Democratic tribe.

But what of the big-time gifts in soft money? George Soros has become a historic figure in American politics by passing out $24 million toward the election of John Kerry. Perhaps just as $4,200 from Chevy Chase tells us not very much, $24 million from an eccentric billionaire tells us not very much. But $40 million in anticipatory funding of a campaign raises questions of democratic principle.

Are we supposed to resign ourselves that the next Democratic candidate for president will be Gore or Hillary, depending on which of the two raises more money? And what are the donors tacitly expecting in return for their contributions?

A few years ago we attempted financial reform, and more or less gave up, on the grounds that reform was inconsistent with individual liberties. Chevy Chase could be held down to $4,200, but George Soros, observing one or two traffic lights, can't be held down at all. It all conduces to a queasy suspicion that the democratic ideal is up for sale.

ON THE RIGHT by William F. Buckley Jr.

Religion Of Peace?

For me, the war against fundamentalist Islam, is our greatest concern. While the left puts up "straw men" such as global warming and nationalized health care, we are in a fight for our lives with a religion that in some (?) sects, outrightly rejects the right for any non-believers to exist. Should they win, neither global warming nor health care will be an issue because those of us to "convert" rather than die will be living in 13th century conditions where neither CO2-spewing industries or medical treatment beyond leeching will be "allowed" to exist.

From IBD:
Posted 3/27/2006

War On Terror: In the wake of the cartoon jihad and mosque-on-mosque violence in Iraq, most Americans now think Islam has more violent believers than any other faith. Yet many still view it as a "peaceful religion."
Psychologists might call this cognitive dissonance — a state of mind where rational people essentially lie to themselves. But in this case, it's understandable. In our politically correct culture, criticizing any religion, even one that plots our destruction, is still taboo. And no one wants to suggest the terrorists are driven by their holy text.

Which explains a Washington Post-ABC News poll showing that Americans are becoming more aware of the broader threat (58% associate terrorists with Islam), but are still convinced terrorists are radicalizing Islam and not the other way around (54% don't think Islam itself encourages violence).

The new poll, however, still doesn't sit well with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group dedicated to improving public perceptions of Islam. It has denounced increasingly negative views as "Islamophobic" and vowed to redouble its "education" efforts.

Good. What better time for CAIR and other Muslim leaders to step up, cut through the politically correct fog and provide factual answers to the questions that give so many non-Muslims pause?

Generally speaking, those questions focus on whether the Quran does indeed promote violence against non-Muslims, and how many of the terrorists' ideas — about the violent jihad, the self-immolation, the kidnappings, even the beheadings — come right out of the text? But even more specifically:

Is Islam the only religion with a doctrine, theology and legal system that mandates warfare against unbelievers?

Is it true that 26 chapters of the Quran deal with jihad, a fight able-bodied believers are obligated to join (Surah 2:216), and that the text orders Muslims to "instill terror into the hearts of the unbeliever" and to "smite above their necks" (8:12)?

Is the "test" of loyalty to Allah not good acts or faith in general, but martyrdom that results from fighting unbelievers (47:4) — the only assurance of salvation in Islam (4:74; 9:111)?

Are the sins of any Muslim who becomes a martyr forgiven by the very act of being slain while slaying the unbelievers (4:96)?

And is it really true that martyrs are rewarded with virgins, among other carnal delights, in Paradise (38:51, 55:56; 55:76; 56:22)?

Are those unable to do jihad — such as women or the elderly — required to give "asylum and aid" to those who do fight unbelievers in the cause of Allah (8:74)?

Does Islam advocate expansion by force? And is the final command of jihad, as revealed to Muhammad in the Quran, to conquer the world in the name of Islam (9:29)?

Is Islam the only religion that does not teach the Golden Rule (48:29)? Does the Quran instead teach violence and hatred against non-Muslims, specifically Jews and Christians (5:50)?

There are other questions, but these should do for a start. If the answers are "yes," then at least Americans will know there's no such thing as moderate Islam, even as they trust that there are moderate Muslims who do not act out on its violent commands.

Losing Our Way

Note: My Grandmother on my father's side was a Russian immigrant who came here legally, learned to speak, read and write english and became a citizen. My mother was an Italian immigrant who came here legally, learned to speak read and write english and became a citizen. My father-in-law was a Cuban immigrant who came here legally, learned to read, write and speak english and became a citizen.

From IBD:
Posted 3/27/2006

Immigration: Addressing a naturalization ceremony Monday, President Bush tried to place his party back in the Lincolnian tradition. But mass protests and bombastic congressional debate may obstruct the effort.

'No one should play on people's fears or try to pit neighbors against each other," Bush told the foreign-born migrants who became citizens lawfully. "No one should pretend that immigrants are threats to America's identity because immigrants have shaped America's identity."

Abraham Lincoln also saw the human face of the issue. Those who came across our borders then also met fierce political resistance. But Lincoln saw them as a "replenishing stream." They were "flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration."

Bush continued to echo the Republicans' most celebrated figure: "No one should claim that immigrants are a burden on our economy because the work and enterprise of immigrants help sustain our economy. We should not give in to pessimism."

So begins a two-week period in which the House and Senate squabble over immigration. It might be fun to remind them that "the men who wrote that Declaration" included among the many complaints lodged against King George III that he had restricted immigration to the new land.

In those times, of course, politicians addressed the economy with more humility. People who were willing to support themselves with hard work were encouraged to seek opportunity on our soil.

The labor market, by and large, regulated itself. More to the point, it was considered self-evident that people could enter into productive labor contracts without political interference. We've traveled far from those first principles.

Modern immigration law has become encrusted with regulations and quotas — all politically motivated, all with scant consideration for the demands of the marketplace, all failing in one way or another. When the natural flow of the labor market comes into conflict with political designs, the result is widespread lawbreaking.

So do lawmakers stop to figure out how to get back into harmony with the marketplace? Or do they demagogue about all the hard-working people they've made "illegal"?

Unfortunately, as Bush sees clearly, too many Republicans have taken the line of least resistance. They've drafted legislation that would make felons of housecleaners and farm workers — and have written their legislation so sloppily that they would criminalize humanitarian acts that "assist" foreign workers.

Some GOP lawmakers even want to imprison business owners who hire noncitizens. Since when did conservative governance call for conscripting businesses to carry out social policy?

When liberal Democrats try that as, for example, a cheap way to universalize health care, Republicans are the first to seize on dangerously ambiguous verbiage embedded in their proposals.

Bad legislation, even in the formative stages, brings unintended consequences. We saw the reaction last weekend, when hundreds of thousands of the 12 million opportunity seekers who came here illegally poured into the streets in Los Angeles, San Diego and Dallas.

Their protests may well backfire, as citizens recoil from the brazen display of so many Mexican flags and properly demand that such workers assimilate into our culture. And, indeed, the issue may now be impossible to de-politicize.

It points up the wisdom of "the men who wrote that Declaration." At least they were smart enough to let the marketplace decide.

One Plus One Equals Russia

From IBD:
Posted 3/27/2006

Foreign Relations: Does the administration's reluctance to talk about captured Iraqi tapes and documents stem from concerns that they'll embarrass allies whose help we seek in the war on terror and in dealing with Iran?

We've learned a lot from the relatively few tapes and documents captured in Operation Iraqi Freedom that have so far found their way into the public domain.

We know, for example, that Saddam Hussein did in fact have active WMD programs, that he was in league with al-Qaida and that he was deceiving U.N. inspectors. And coupled with information revealed by two of Saddam's top generals, we also know our friends the Russians helped spirit these WMD out of Iraq into Syria.

So it hardly comes as a surprise to us that a Pentagon analysis of captured Iraqi intelligence documents shows a Russian ambassador was passing data on U.S. military plans to Saddam before and during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

These revelations show that the administration was right all along on Iraq. But it hasn't exactly been shouting that from the rooftops. Perhaps the reason is that the unreleased tapes and documents may shed further light on how France, Germany and Russia aided Saddam's tyranny and why Russia in particular has been less than helpful on Iran.

The reluctance of Europe and Russia to sanction Operation Iraqi Freedom was due to the extensive financial and military dealings between them and Saddam Hussein. At the outbreak of hostilities, the French held $4 billion in unpaid Iraqi debts, and the French oil company TotalFinaElf had large contracts to develop Iraqi oil fields.

France, of course, built the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad that Israel, thankfully, took out in 1981. By 1989 an estimated half of French arms production was going to Iraq. It was an Iraqi French-built Mirage fighter that fired a French-made Exocet missile that hit the USS Stark on May 17, 1987, killing 37 American sailors.

The Germans were busy too. W. Seth Carus, a senior research professor at the National Defense University, noted after Operation Desert Storm: "Everything that showed up in Iraq — chemical, biological, nuclear — had a German element in it."

Saddam's "Supergun," the long-range, nuclear-capable cannon that almost became operational, was produced by firms from seven European countries. And need we revisit the Oil-For-Food bribes of European and Russian officials?

And then there's the Russia of former KGB officer Vladimir Putin, who on March 3 welcomed a high-ranking Hamas delegation to Moscow as Russia was completing a $1.2 billion nuclear reactor at Bushehr in Iran and selling Tehran the equipment to defend its nuclear installations.
Before the liberation of Iraq, Russia held $8 billion in Iraqi debt, largely from arms sales, and the Russian oil giant Lukoil had lucrative oil contracts. According to the Stockholm International Peace Institute, from 1973 to 1990 Russia provided Iraq with the lion's share of its weaponry, followed by France (see chart).

Russia is aggressively courting Hamas and Iran — the two most destabilizing forces in the Middle East after al-Qaida and Hezbollah. As with Iraq, Russia is once again the arsenal of tyranny.

In December 2005, Russia announced it would supply Iran $700 million worth of TOR-M1 (SA-15) short-range surface-to-air missiles and is negotiating a deal for longer-range SA-10s. Coupled with radars and computers, they would form a nationwide air defense system designed to prevent a repeat of Israel's 1981 strike.

As journalist Kenneth Timmerman reports, Russian military intelligence teams regularly travel to Tehran, as they once did to Baghdad, for consultations with Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Iranian sources say they're advising Iran on how to prepare for sanctions.

Efforts at the United Nations to come down hard on Iran have stalled, and the main culprit, as with Iraq, is Russia. It may be time to remember President Bush's maxim: Those who are not with us are against us.

The Bear Is Back

From IBD:
Posted 3/24/2006

Intelligence: Some revelations in the documents captured after the fall of Saddam Hussein have surprised us. Others have not. Included in the latter category are details about double-dealing by Russia.

As it turns out, Russia enjoys playing a double game, publicly reassuring the West it wants to play a supportive role in world diplomacy, then retreating behind the scenes to — and there's no polite way to say this — sabotage our efforts. Some might even call it back-stabbing.

Take the Pentagon's revelation Friday that Russia gave Saddam Hussein intelligence on the U.S. Nothing surprising here, except it did so in 2003, just as we were poised to go to war with Iraq.

Worse, Russia apparently had sources "inside the U.S. command" who enabled Russia to give Iraq extensive, detailed information on U.S. deployments, troop movements and battlefield strength — essentially our whole battle plan. (If so, these sources are guilty of a capital crime.)

This, most certainly, isn't the action of a friend or ally. It may well have contributed to Saddam's decision to retreat and resort to a home-grown Saddamite insurgency to fight the U.S. — an insurgency that has cost 2,300 American lives.

We wish it had stopped there, but it didn't. As we noted here in late 2004, Russia had forged close ties with Saddam's regime — just as it is forging close ties now with Iran by providing it with nuclear know-how.

Russian Spetsnaz, or special ops, troops roamed Iraq in the weeks leading up to the war, helping Saddam remove all traces of his WMD program. WMD were sent across the border into neighboring Syria and Syria's then-puppet state, Lebanon, according to John A. Shaw, former U.S. deputy undersecretary of defense.

As late as September 2002, documents show, Russia was still training members of Iraq's dreaded spy agency, the Mukhabarat, in Moscow and elsewhere. The Kremlin made up lists of assassins for Iraq to use in the West, and offered to get visas for Iraqi spies.

Many of these activities, by the way, were violations of the U.N. sanctions on Iraq then in place. Not that it matters, but remember this the next time Russia lectures us about adhering to "international law" or speaks of the U.N.'s importance.

Why would Russia do this? Part of it, no doubt, was a desire to restore some respectability and clout to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the biggest reason was simple avarice.

Earlier in 2002, Russia signed a gargantuan $60 billion trade deal with Saddam. It also had billions of follow-on business developing some of Saddam's oil fields. Add to that the $8 billion or so owed by Iraq to Russia from past loans, and Russia had every reason in the world to help Saddam.

Those who assume a "new" democratic Russia has changed its spots to become a boon ally to the U.S. will have to disabuse themselves of such notions. The "new" Russia looks a lot like the old Stalinist one, just a bit better when it comes to PR.

Russia still embraces Syria, invites terrorist Hamas leaders to Moscow, sells advanced weaponry to rogue states like Iran, and undermines democracy movements in East Europe.

All this should be kept in mind as we try to defang Iran's nuclear threat with a plan that depends heavily on Russian goodwill. Frankly, based on the latest revelations, we don't see any.

Withholding Evidence

From IBD:
Posted 3/27/2006

Legal Reform: A jury awards $26.2 million to a New Jersey man who crashed into the back of a flatbed truck. Yes, there is something wrong with this picture.

The supersized monetary award is absurd, of course. But what's really out of whack is the fact that the jury wasn't allowed to hear all the evidence.

As we see it, Michael Boyle is responsible for the wreck. The former iron worker was headed home from New York City on Route 46 in Little Falls, N.J., in January 2002, when he crashed into the rear of a flatbed Ford.
As we understand it, he was driving about 60 miles an hour at night with his lights off and made no attempt to brake before making impact. Those factors led to a charge of unsafe driving and an eventual plea of guilty.

Yet this information, as relevant as it may seem, was kept from the jury by New Jersey Superior Court Judge Christine Miniman in a product liability civil case that Boyle brought against Ford Motor Co. and the maker of the truck's under-ride guard,

No surprise, then, that the jury ruled in Boyle's favor.

Under-ride guards are placed on trucks such as one Boyle hit in order to keep vehicles from becoming entangled in the event of a rear-end collision. Boyle's lawyer argued that the guard his client hit broke off on impact, allowing his car to slide under the truck, sheering off the hood and passenger compartment and leaving Boyle with massive head injuries.

We regret Boyle was so badly hurt. But he alone is to blame. If he indeed had his lights off, and if he failed to hit the brakes, and if he was traveling at 60 mph — which we assume was over the speed limit, since he pleaded guilty to the unsafe driving charge — then Boyle's at fault.

To keep such information from jurors and allow them to blame the defendants makes a mockery of the justice system.

The jury's colossal award is likely to be reduced on appeal. But the case will nonetheless have an impact beyond the plaintiff and the defendants. Liability lawsuits, two-thirds of which are frivolous, cost the economy nearly $250 billion a year, and cases such as Boyle's only encourage more.

Lawyers will keep filing suits, judges will do little to separate the legitimate from the frivolous and legislatures full of lawyers will continue to resist fixing a tort system that is obviously broken.

Meanwhile, the price of nearly everything goes up to help pay for the judgments (let alone fight them), innovation suffers as lawyers claim new products are a company's admission that previous products are faulty, and too many companies are plunged into bankruptcy, hurting workers and shareholders.

Give credit to the lawmakers who understand the stakes and are toiling for reform. Their task is not an easy one, but it is well worth the effort.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Is 'Oprah' Bad For The Brain?

From Newsmax:

'Oprah' may be bad for the brain, according to a surprising new study of the effects of TV viewing on brain function.

Done by researchers at New York's Brooklyn College, the study found that elderly women who watch daytime soap operas and talk shows are more likely to suffer from cognitive impairment than women who don't watch them.

There's definitely "something going on with those two types of television programming," said study co-author Joshua Fogel, an assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

In the study, Fogel and a colleague looked at data from a 1996 study of healthy women in Baltimore aged 70-79.

The researchers asked the women about their favorite types of TV shows, offering a list of 14 options including news, soap operas, comedies and game shows. The women were also given tests for memory, decision-making ability and other cognitive skills.

Of the 289 older women without dementia in the study, those who rated talk shows and soaps as their favorites did more poorly on tests of memory, attention and mental quickness than women who preferred other types of shows.

They also showed more clinical impairment. Those who favored soaps were more than seven times more likely to show signs of impairment on one of the tests, while talk show fans were more than 13 times more likely to show impairment.

Fogel said he doesn't know whether the programs somehow contribute to cognitive decline or whether women in the early stages of decline gravitate toward those shows.

The study doesn't mean that 'Oprah' is bad for you, Fogel said, but fondness for the show may signal a possible problem.

The findings appear in the Southern Medical Journal.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Can Greed be Good?

At Christmas time, my mother-in-law claimed that the word greed best described the 1980's because of all the activity in the stock market. When I questioned her about the 1990's, when the market set annual all time highs and people were taking out second mortgages to invest more money in the NASDAQ, she had no answer (how good the 90's be about greed? Bill Clinton was in office and Bill Clinton's not greedy, not like Reagan).

The following is from John Stossel, co-anchor of ABC's 20/20 and author of the book Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media:

The wailing about "corporate greed" goes on endlessly. Protesters sneer at the "selfishness" of capitalism.

From the press we learn there are two worlds: the nonprofit one, where everything warm, caring and devoted to the "public good" happens; and the for-profit one, where opportunists cruelly exploit the weak. In the movies, the person most likely to be portrayed as a murderer, child molester or destroyer of the environment is not a Nazi or member of Al Qaida; it's a businessman. According to a study by media watchers Lichter, Lichter and Amundson, business people represent 12% of all TV characters but commit 32% of crimes and 44% of murders.

Reporters equate capitalism with greed. They look down on it as bourgeois and point out that free markets produce dramatic inequality. When Ralph Nadar says that America has an "Apartheid Economy" where "corporate greed" exposes poor consumers to "frauds and hazardous products" reporters nod in agreement.

Let's calm down here a moment.

I too am repulsed by greed. I hate the wretched excess of the avaricious. People whose materialism knows no bounds and those who try to get ahead by stepping on others deserve condemnation. But what do we mean by greed? I make a lot of money and I've never turned down a pay raise. Does that make me greedy?

The truth is that greed, when exercised in the private sector is useful. Yes, the inequality can be gross; some business executives make a hundred times what their subordinates make. But there's usually a reason for it. Those manager's decisions make a huge difference and they can create more wealth than other workers create. A company's directors don't pay the executive big bucks out of generosity. They pay it because they think he/she can make shareholders (and them) the most money. If big bucks are what it takes to get those services, then they'll hand over the big bucks.

It's hard to believe that a manager's contributions could be worth so much more than the rank and file, but they often are. Presumably, John Sweeney is worth $200,000 to the AFL-CIO. Ford Motor Company wouldn't be worth anything were it not for Henry Fords innovative use of the assembly line. I envy my own boss' compensation. Disney CEO Michael Eisner has taken home over a billion dollars. That seems ridiculous and yet, after Eisner took charge Disney's net worth climbed from $2 billion to as I write this $42 billion. Forty two billion is $41 billion more than Eisner got paid. Not every CEO's contributions are valuable - there are clueless and venal boards of directors who shoved money to their friends. But they are generally the exceptions.

Governments do not enlarge the pie. When government doles out $1 million to a favored group, the rest of us do have $1 million less. If a country's rulers can use the power of government to feed their greed, then greed is nasty indeed. In Haiti, Jean-Claude Duvaliers tax collectors funded his shopping sprees. His wife had the nerve to tell Barbara Walters, "I don't believe the money was badly spent".

In the Philippines, Imelda Marcos spent her loot on thousands of shoes. She needed them, she said, because she had to change clothes a lot. This kind of greed does take pie away from the poor. But only governments can do that, because only governments can use force.

Capitalists like Bill Gates may be just as greedy as Imelda and Duvalier, but to get rich, they have to do things for us because they can't use force. To get our money, they have to persuade us, entice us to buy - willingly. If the transaction doesn't benefit both of us, it just doesn't happen. This is why everyone wins under capitalism. Unless someone cheats.

Cornelius Vanderbilt and his fellow tycoon John D. Rockefeller were often called "robber barons". Newspapers said they were evil and ran cartoons showing Vanderbilt as a leech sucking the blood of the poor. Rockefeller was depicted as a snake. What the newspapers printed, eventually stuck - we still think of Vanderbilt and Rockefeller as "robber barons". But they were neither robbers nor barons. They weren't robbers because they didn't steal from anyone and they weren't barons, they were both born poor.

Vanderbilt got rich by pleasing people. He invented ways to make travel and shipping things easier. He used bigger, faster ships and served food on board. People liked that and, the extra volume of business he generated allowed him to lower costs. He cut the New York - Hartford fare from $8 to $1. That gave consumers more than any consumer-advocacy group ever did.

It's telling that the "robber baron", name calling didn't come from consumers. It was competing businessmen who complained and persuaded the media to join in.

Rockefeller got rich selling oil. First competitors and then the government called him a monopolist, but he wasn't - he had competition. No one was forced to buy his oil. Rockefeller enticed people to buy it by selling it for less. That's what his competition hated. He found cheaper ways to get the oil out of the ground and to the gas pump. This made life better for millions. Working-class people who used to go to bed when it got dark could suddenly afford fuel for their lanterns so they could stay up at night and spend more time with their families.

Rockefeller's greed may even have saved the whales because when he lowered the price of oil, he lowered the demand for whale oil. The mass slaughter of whales for this purpose was substantially eliminated. But you probably won't hear about his contributions in a grade school environmental science class.

Rockefeller and Vanderbilts goal might have just been to get rich. But to do that, they had to give us what we wanted.

Anybody heard anything good about Wal Mart lately?

After The Crash

From IBD:
Posted 3/23/2006

National Defense: The federal government has taken a look at the computer security of its various agencies and departments, and guess which ones failed? That's right: those charged with keeping Americans safe.

Naturally, the agency that graded out with a Potomac best of 100% in protecting its information technology system is also one of the most useless federal agencies — in a government filled with useless and counterproductive functions — the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

But then, what else should we expect from the bureaucracies of a leviathan government that typically focuses on the wrong thing?

Getting F's in the evaluation conducted last year by the Government Accountability Office were the Homeland Security and Defense departments. This is nothing new for either. Homeland Security has failed its evaluation three years in a row; Defense has flunked the last two.

Also failing were Agriculture, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, State and Veterans Affairs. The Justice Department, which might be of some use in protecting the country, got a D.

Overall, the federal government performed much like a student in our failing public school system, earning an unacceptable D+.

If any departments should protect themselves from terrorists, unfriendly governments, common identity thieves, run-of-the-mill hackers and hackers with a purpose, they should be Defense and Homeland Security, which is actually charged with guarding the country's digital infrastructure.

Yet they've left themselves open to tampering that could threaten our security on a widespread basis. Lax protection not only makes it easier for the wrong people to get sensitive information. There's also the frightening possibility that essential computer operations within Defense and/or Homeland Security would be thrown into disarray if the U.S. suffers another terrorist attack. That doesn't inspire much confidence.

As is often the problem, Washington has lost focus. Too many resources that should be applied to keeping us safe are instead devoted to marginal activities. It may be comforting to some that the Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor Department and the Office of Personnel Management each received an A+. But their missions aren't critical to security. If Washington is to protect us as it should, it must get its priorities in order.

Ruth's Wake-Up Call

From IBD:
Posted 3/23/2006

Law: When Ruth Bader Ginsburg isn't dozing off, she's telling South Africans that U.S. courts should base decisions on foreign precedent. Well, Canada has a mandatory retirement age for its judges. Maybe we should too.

During recent oral arguments over political redistricting in Texas, Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, according to The Associated Press, took a nap. "The subject matter was extremely technical," AP reported, "and near the end the argument Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dozed in her chair." By Bloomberg News' reckoning, the snooze lasted a quarter of an hour.

Sometimes legal arguments can be dry and esoteric. But perhaps the reason Ginsberg didn't find this debate over the redrawing of U.S. congressional district lines exciting was the absence of foreign precedent to draw upon.

In a speech last month at the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Ginsburg argued that if judges can consult law review articles and such in the U.S., then "why not the analysis of a question similar to the one we confront contained in an opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the German Constitutional Court or the European Court of Human Rights?"

Well, John Roberts had an answer to that when he was asked during his chief justice confirmation hearing about the proper role of foreign law in U.S. Supreme Court decisions. From his comments, it was clear that he, unlike Ginsburg, understands that "We the people" means we the people.

"If we're relying on a German judge about what our Constitution means, no president accountable to the people appointed that judge and no Senate accountable to the people confirmed that judge," Roberts said. "And yet, he's playing a role in shaping the law that binds the people of this country."

Roberts also noted that foreign legal rulings are not bound by domestic legal precedent, and that "you can find anything you want. If you don't find it in the decisions of France or Italy, it's in the decisions of Somalia or Japan or Indonesia or wherever."

We wonder how Americans feel having their rights determined by the opinion of a Somali court. For that matter, what would Ginsburg think if a federal judge used a ruling from a Taliban court in a case involving women's rights?

In her South African speech, Ginsburg said the March 2005 Roper v. Simmons decision, in which a 5-4 majority ruled against executing murderers who were 17 or younger at the time the crime was committed, was "perhaps the fullest expression to date on the propriety and utility of looking to the 'opinions of (human)kind.' "

Forget the opinion of the people of South Dakota or Georgia or Pennsylvania, as expressed through their elected legislators. Respect the opinions of "humankind" as expressed in foreign courts.

Ginsburg also offered the best definition of judicial activism we've ever heard when she said: "U.S. jurists honor the Framers' intent 'to create a more perfect union,' I believe, if they read the Constitution as belonging to a globalist 21st century, not as fixed forever by 18th century understandings."

Hey, what did Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin know anyway about the wisdom that can be found in a Somali court?

For our part, we think our Constitution and laws belong to the American people, to be changed through and by our elected legislatures. If Justice Ginsburg thinks otherwise, she should dream on.

Cream-Puff Justice

From IBD:
Posted 3/23/2006

Terror: When an admitted al-Qaida operative pleads guilty to conspiracy to murder thousands of innocents, it's obvious he deserves the death penalty — except to extremist federal judges like Leonie Brinkema.

Zacarias Moussaoui, widely called the 20th hijacker of 9-11, was arrested for immigration violations by the FBI less than a month before the attacks, after suspicions arose about his attending a Minnesota flight school. Last year, he admitted to conspiring with al-Qaida in the plot.

The case against him is solid as a rock: The 9-11 attacks could have been stopped if Moussaoui had confessed instead of lying to the FBI after his arrest.

Yet U.S. District Judge Brinkema is mulling whether to dismiss the U.S. government's request to impose the death sentence. The reason? A technicality: A government lawyer e-mailed trial transcripts to seven potential witnesses, violating a court order.

That attorney, Carla Martin, works for the Transportation Security Administration and has reportedly been subpoenaed to appear before Brinkema's court on Monday.

Brinkema claims Martin's misconduct "affects the integrity of the criminal justice system." But if the judge forbids the death penalty, ending the case and by default letting Moussaoui receive the lesser sentence of life in prison, it will be Brinkema who has blemished our criminal justice system. Americans — and our enemies — will have seen our courts let a mass murderer off the hook.

Who, after all, is more deserving of capital punishment than the likes of Moussaoui, who smiled in court during accounts of the four jets plowing into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon?

Brinkema used a different excuse to save Moussaoui from execution in 2003, after the government violated her wishes to let Moussaoui's attorneys interview captured al-Qaida leaders who they believed would clear him. A higher court wisely overruled her.

Furthermore, in this case there's a clear remedy: Moussaoui's lawyers can address any and all problems caused by Martin's e-mails during questioning of the witnesses. Then it can be left up to the jury whether Moussaoui should die for his crimes.

But Brinkema is not known for letting ordinary Americans decide things for themselves. Placed on the federal bench by Bill Clinton in 1993, she is also responsible for extreme rulings regarding Internet pornography.

In her 1998 Urofsky ruling, she contended it was unconstitutional to bar state employees from spending time at work on their computers viewing pornography. She was unanimously overturned by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals the next year.

Her Loudoun ruling the same year prevented a local library from blocking sexual explicit Web sites on its computers — even to protect employees from sexual harassment. The library chose to remove all computers instead of appealing.

Brinkema's extremism teaches a clear lesson: Even at the lower- court level it's vitally important to appoint judges who enforce the law, not make it.

Can GM Be Saved?

While I agree with most of the opinion below, there are a couple of items that also weigh in. First, both GM and Ford have had a model for success since 1985 when "The Machine That Changed the World" was first published concerning Toyota's operating principles.

Both companies chose to ignore the facts (kind of like today's liberals) and take the path of least resistance ultimately shaking down their supply base during the 1990's to "lower their operating costs".

Regarding the UAW, while I agree that it is ridiculous for an unskilled worker to make $33 per hour to put six bolts in a door, it was GM and Ford who chose to accept these stupid contracts instead of taking a strike and forcing the issue when they could still negotiate from a position of strength.

Finally, the Federal Government has a hand in this as well. The Labor department, another unconstituional branch of government overreach, continues to uphold obsolete laws forcing GM and Ford to accept ridiculous demands from the UAW because their options beyond a strike were sorely limited i.e. they couldn't simply close an organized plant and move it elsewhere to hire non-union workers without going through Congressional Inquisitions led by liberal congreement like Conyers and Dingell both of whom are in the pocket of Big Labor.

From IBD:

Posted 3/23/2006
Competition: Losing market share and hemorrhaging cash, General Motors did what any company faced with so few favorable choices would do — it punted. Nothing wrong with that, but it's still not out of the woods.
By offering to "buy out" 130,000 GM and Delphi workers for as much as $140,000 each, GM hopes to cut future payroll and benefit costs enough to generate decent profits. That, in turn, should help provide badly needed cash to reinvest in production plants. It has to be done.

Last year, GM lost $10.6 billion — $2 billion more than first reported — due mostly to its bankrupt Delphi parts unit, which is spewing red ink. Few analysts expect anything other than more losses this year and next for the auto giant, which has watched its share of the U.S. market shrink from more than 50% in the 1950s to just over 24% today. By its own estimate, it's losing $25 million a day.

The big problem is these losses aren't cyclical. They're structural. So anything short of major changes at GM won't help.

As GM loses market share and sheds workers, more nimble foreign competitors like Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai are gaining market share and hiring. GM is losing the fight because its pension and health care costs — legacies of past bad deals with the United Auto Workers — are soaring. At the same time, with its corporate bonds junk-rated and share price off nearly 60% over the last year, its cost of capital is too high to compete.
Through its JOBS Bank program, GM today pays out nearly $800 million a year to people who have been laid off, but still get nearly full pay and benefits. That's a great deal for union members, but a rotten deal for GM, its shareholders and its customers.

Add to that GM's $75 billion in health care liabilities and tens of billions owed in pension payouts, and it becomes unclear whether GM is an automaker or a welfare agency.

GM's problems didn't happen overnight; they were a long time in the making. The dimensions of the mess that current managers inherited have become clear only in the last few years. This may be why they've been so slow to innovate — why, for example, they're still wedded to selling big, gas-guzzling SUVs and haven't adjusted to the new reality of hybrid cars and $60-a-barrel oil.

GM managers deserve criticism for failing to address the problems when they were still manageable. But the real villain is the UAW. It has squeezed the company and other U.S. autoworkers dry, leaving them profitless shells of their former selves.

A recent UAW study crowed that union members earn $33.66 an hour in benefits, but non-union workers just $23.64. Maybe someone should explain to them that's why GM, which employed 520,000 workers in the late 1970s, today employs only about 130,000. And why foreign carmakers build plants and hire workers in the non-union South. The UAW, by bankrupting GM and Ford, is fast putting itself out of business.

And what's the UAW's solution to a problem it helped cause? Let the taxpayers pay for it all by nationalizing health care. Such a plan might just save GM and Ford, but it would bankrupt the rest of us.

No, sadly, GM has the same problem the U.S. government faces with its exploding Social Security and Medicare liabilities: It promised people too much, and now it can't come up with the money.

That's another reason why the GM situation bears close attention. It might yield clues about what to do when Social Security and Medicare go belly-up.

Democrats Hoping For Repeat Of 1994 By Retaking House

Posted 3/23/2006

The public is rarely happy with Congress, but Americans have rarely been this disgusted.
Recent polling by Gallup shows just 27% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, a level not seen since Newt Gingrich and his cohorts shocked the political world and swept into power.

Democrats, who lost their 40-year grip on the House in 1994, have hope that Republicans will pay the price for voter dissatisfaction in 2006. And the low opinion of Capitol Hill is just one of the reasons they think the stars are aligned in their favor.

Back in '94, Democrats faced a tide of public opinion against President Clinton and his failed national health care plan that opponents derided as "Hillarycare."

Now President Bush's job rating, though better than Congress', is below 40%. Democrats think his failed Social Security plan mirrors the Clinton health care push.

Not Exactly 1994 Redux
There's no doubt that these uncomfortable parallels and the Iraq War have Republicans nervous. Political analysts say the GOP should be. But they also see key differences that make a Democratic takeover of the House unlikely.

Though voters are fed up with Congress, and Republicans are in charge, the approval rating for both parties is in the dumps.

A Harris Poll found that only 27% of Americans like the job Republicans are doing, but just 25% give Democrats a positive rating.

While Democrats try to tar Republicans with the "culture of corruption" label, the George Washington University Battleground poll found most voters blame both parties.

Republican pollster Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group says both parties are "sitting in a pool of gasoline." Democrats trying to ignite voter anger "are just as likely to blow themselves up," he said.

Even as voters disapprove of Congress, they tend to support their own representatives. In 1994, the anti-Washington mood turned into an anti-incumbent backlash. That hasn't happened in 2006, Goeas says. The Battleground poll found 63% of voters think their own member of Congress is doing a good job.

Incumbents Protected
Voting out a House incumbent has become a rarity. Since 1998, 98.5% of incumbents have won their re-election bids.

Most races haven't even been close. In 2004, 96% of all House races were decided by at least 10 percentage points, making it one of the least competitive elections in history, according to the Center for Voting and Democracy.

A major reason is that the time-honored tradition of gerrymander has become more sophisticated. State legislatures use computers to draw congressional district lines that are lopsidedly Republican or Democratic.
The power of incumbents has political analysts paying close attention to the number of open seats left by retiring members.

"In 1994, the numbers (of open seats) were considerable," said Stephen Hess, professor of media and politics at George Washington University.

That year, 28 Democrats retired from the House. This year, 17 Republicans are retiring.

"So far they're not terribly out of line" with typical years, though more retirements could still be announced, Hess said.

Dems Face High Hurdles
The Cook Political Report sees 24 Republican seats and 11 Democratic seats in play this year. That leaves Democrats little room for error to pick up the 15 seats they need to win back the House.

Michael Barone, the first analyst to predict the 1994 Republican takeover, wrote recently that those numbers make a Democratic takeover unlikely.

When Democrats and Republicans had sweeping victories in 1974 and 1994, respectively, "the winning parties only captured about half the seats they targeted," he wrote in U.S. News.

Prior to 1994, Barone long believed that the Democratic majority was at risk. Liberal Democrats elected in Republican areas in 1974 would eventually retire or be voted out of office. Powerful Southern Democrats would retire and give way to Republicans. Lastly, Barone was impressed by the quality of candidates recruited by Gingrich and his leadership team.

Those forces came together in 1994. The Republican Contract With America also played a role.

"The analysts would say very few people actually knew what was in the contract," Goeas said. But he believes it was essential for candidates to have a positive agenda, instead of talking about what the Democrats were doing wrong.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have struggled to build a consensus around a 2006 agenda.

But Hess isn't so sure Democrats need their own contract. "If they're fed up enough, voters will throw the rascals out," he said.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Dragon Could Soon Stumble

China’s not the cheapest anymore. According to William Fung, Managing Director of the US$7 billion Li & Fung Group, rising costs have found their way into prices. Energy costs are higher, but a double-digit rise in labor costs, as well as a stronger yuan, has led to 2% to 3% increase in prices for exports.

Bangladesh, Cambodia and India are expected to benefit from China’s inflation. But this news is potentially much bigger.

A rise in Chinese prices could be disastrous for a company like Wal-Mart, which depends on cheap goods from China to maintain its razor-thin 3.6% profit margins. On the flipside, Latin and South America could become a more attractive manufacturing source. This would be especially good news for countries like Nicaragua where the fledgling democracy is under attack by Hugo Chavez who is spending millions of Venezuelan Oil dollars to instill a communist regime in this years elections. Every "good" job created makes it tougher for the commies to make the charge that capitalism doesn't work.

It could even mean that US manufacturing becomes more competitive. And that would be the best news the trade deficit has heard in years.

Of course, the whole trade deficit thing is a bit of a double-edged sword. If China’s export economy slows due to inflation, it will cut into the countries trade surplus, which will, in turn, affect its purchases of US Treasuries.

If we accept that China’s central bank has had a hand in keeping interest rates low, reduced demand for US bonds could help resolve Greenspan’s conundrum. And rising rates are the market’s biggest fear right now.

Bernanke and the rest of the Fed governors seem content to continue hiking interest rates, even though it may take as long 6 months for rate hikes to work their way into the economy. Throw in a fundamental drag on bond prices, and interest rates could be in for an unexpected spike higher.

US investors have been intensely focused on inflation. It’s as if inflation is the only realistic threat to historically low interest rates. A “back door” catalyst for interest rates, like a slowdown in China’s economy, would undoubtedly take a lot of investors by surprise. The last thing we need to see is a stampede to the exit doors of the bond market.

Over the last six months or so, I’ve talked a lot about the weaknesses of China’s economy, and why the consequences of China’s economic policies could be severe for the world.

China already suffers from overcapacity in many sectors. And a rise in costs will only add to the overcapacity problem. Because I highly doubt that China’s central planners will allow massive layoffs if/when the economy slows.

That, in turn, will only raise the odds that China will start dumping its surplus on the global marketplace.

Or suppose China does take the free-market route and let workers get laid off? Demand falls, commodity prices across the board fall (including oil) and the emerging market miracle we’ve seen abruptly ends. Think about the crushing blow to all the oil dictators who have been banking on $60 per barrel oil from now to the future.

Then, not only do rates rise on emerging market debt, the financial markets lose a strong source of support in petrodollars.

Greenspan often talked about how derivatives and globalization have spread risk around the globe. That’s usually taken as a good thing. But it also exposes a deep dependency.

A slowdown in China’s economy could be destabilizing for every economy in the world. The US would however be best positioned to deal with this without a major recession.

We'll wait and see, but watch your international holdings if you've moved a substantial amount of money into them in search of higher returns.

How do you bet

The Natural Resource Defense Coalition www.nrdc.org has come out with it's latest Global Warming Terror alert designed to scare us back to the 18th century of horse and buggies and burning our own feces for heat. Their claim, carbon dioxide emmissions are creating a blanket over the atmosphere that, somehow allows the suns heat to enter our atmosphere but then doesn't allow it to escape......sort of a roach motel I guess.

Regardless, the message is clear, America sucks, America is to blame and unless you buy a Prius and give up your manufacturing job, burn candles and save your feces for fuel, we're all doomed. No where on the website is it explained why they changed their tune from back in the 70's when that same CO2 blanket was supposed to allow heat to escape the atmosphere but somehow not let the sun's heat back in, causing an ice age.

Also missing from their website, is any explanation as to the contribution of the sun toward global or lack thereof. As a public service, I offer the following:

Sun more active than for a millennium
09:00 02 November 2003
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition
Jenny Hogan

The Sun is more active now than it has been for a millennium. The realisation, which comes from a reconstruction of sunspots stretching back 1150 years, comes just as the Sun has thrown a tantrum. Over the last week, giant plumes of have material burst out from our star's surface and streamed into space, causing geomagnetic storms on Earth.

The dark patches on the surface of the Sun that we call sunspots are a symptom of fierce magnetic activity inside. Ilya Usoskin, a geophysicist who worked with colleagues from the University of Oulu in Finland and the Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, has found that there have been more sunspots since the 1940s than for the past 1150 years.

Sunspot observations stretch back to the early 17th century, when the telescope was invented. To extend the data farther back in time, Usoskin's team used a physical model to calculate past sunspot numbers from levels of a radioactive isotope preserved in ice cores taken from Greenland and Antarctica.

Global warming
Ice cores provide a record of the concentration of beryllium-10 in the atmosphere. This is produced when high-energy particles from space bombard the atmosphere, but when the Sun is active its magnetic field protects the Earth from these particles and levels of beryllium-10 are lower.

There was already tantalising evidence that beryllium-10 is scarcer now than for a very long time, says Mike Lockwood, from the UK's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford.

But he told New Scientist that when he saw the data converted to sunspot numbers he thought, "why the hell didn't I do this?" It makes the conclusion very stark, he says. "We are living with a very unusual sun at the moment."

The findings may stoke the controversy over the contribution of the Sun to global warming. Usoskin and his team are reluctant to be dragged into the debate, but their work will probably be seized upon by those who claim that temperature rises over the past century are the result of changes in the Sun's output (New Scientist, print edition, 12 April 2003). The link between the Sun's magnetic activity and the Earth's climate is, however, unclear.

Journal reference: Physical Review Letters (in press)

Draw your own conclusions...

American Advantage

From IBD:

Employment: While French youths are rioting over a proposal that would actually help them get work, U.S. college graduates are about to enter a hot job market. Could it be that the French system is a failure? An anti-market, welfare state has not served France - or any other nation for that matter - well. As we noted on this page Tuesday, the French economy has grown a paltry 1.6% a year since 2001.

That's stagnation.

Economic output in France, as well as Germany and Italy, has fallen far behind that of the U.S. across the last two decades. Since the end of World War II, a soft, cradle-to-grave socialism has been nurtured across Europe while American capitalism has been dismissed as antiquated and just plain mean. Its cruel vagaries had no place in the enlightened parlors and rule-making halls of modern, bureaucratic Europe. Being unencumbered by the grip of cold, unfeeling capitalism, the French have been able fabricate rights, among them the lifetime right to a job.

As a result, firing incompetents and underperformers in France is nearly impossible. That restriction, of course, puts French companies at a disadvantage. Their incentive to hire is undercut because they know that if they hire the wrong person, they cannot fire him or her and replace that worker with someone better. So rather than take a chance at being stuck with a poor worker, they don't hire at all. The inevitable effect of a private sector that can't meet its employment needs is an economy that is chained to the deck.

Consequently, the jobless rate in France is 10%, more than twice as high as America's 4.8%. It's even higher among workers younger than 26, an unbelievable 23%. In the industrial suburbs of Paris and other cities, filled with disaffected Muslim youths, joblessness soars to 50% or more. Give credit to French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin for proposing a change in the law that would let employers fire workers who are younger than 26 without reason during the first two years of their employment. That would break the logjam and give employers an incentive to hire the young.

But there's a bellowing - and perhaps spoiled - core of young people in France, hundreds of thousands of them, who refuse to see the economic sense of the proposal. Their response has been to riot in protest of the very thing that will help them.

Meanwhile, 1.4 million U.S. college graduates have their minds on things other than tantrums. American students will be competing for spots in the best job market since 2001 when they finish school in the coming weeks, according to job consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas. American companies are planning to hire about 15% more new college graduates than they did last year.

Why the big difference? The U.S. system is based on the realities of economics, not the delusions of socialist policymakers who dream up nonexistent rights and believe that labor and risk should not be required to achieve comfort and security.