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InsiderOnline Blog: July 2004

Is Privatize a Bad Word?

Kerry got a lot of applause for this line: "As President, I will not privatize Social Security. I will not cut benefits."

That doesn't seem to jibe with Cato's assessment:

Overall, Social Security is facing unfunded liabilities in excess of $26 trillion. Trying to fill a gap that size by increasing taxes would cripple the American economy and place an intolerable burden on younger workers. Unless the system is reformed, therefore, benefit cuts are inevitable.

So, whatever will our politicians do? It appears Kerry has cut out all the options besides a tax hike, though he doesn't mention it by name. Two Congressmen are working on a bill, which would privatize some Social Security and work toward saving the system. This Heritage study offers a simple breakdown of six proposed reform plans, what the Chief Actuary thinks of them, and how they compare to the current system. Stay tuned to see what the President and Republican platform say on this matter.

Posted on 07/30/04 03:24 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Turns Out I'm Not Equal.

Imagine my suprise when John Kerry told me last night that "we ... must finish the march toward full equality for all women in our country." I didn't realize I still needed to be marching. The women in the audience screamed with such pleading, rapturous looks on their faces, it was unsettling. It was a live picture of Carrie Lukas' critique of modern feminism, Dependency Divas.

The feminist agenda is inconsistent with independence for women. In short, it is an agenda that replaces dependence on men with dependence on government.

The women who purport to be the most independent, and call conservative women mere cookie-bakers, are actually convinced that who sits in the President's office dictates the success of all womankind in America. Puh-lease. Read the Curious Case of Gender Equality from the Howard Center or this tidbit on a female-only pay raise for more on how the feminist movement has marched right over the equality line.

Well, back to work alongside my male co-workers, with my college degree and my upward mobility. Somehow, I don't feel like I need to be marching anywhere, at least not with today's feminists.

Posted on 07/30/04 10:37 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Free Markets Outpace Telecom Regulators

Braden Cox of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has high hopes for telecom regulation, or lack thereof, in the future. Cox writes that the bi-partisan National Council of State Legislators, at its annual meeting, endorsed a suprisingly market-based approach to telecom regulation, as U.S. telecom markets continue to outgrow the Telecom Act of 1996 and the Communications Act of 1934.

The telecommunications policy committee report acknowledges that current regulation has hurt infrastructure development. It recognizes that the innovation and convergence of technologies creates cross platform competition, and that it was the market that created this competition, not the 1996 Act. The NCSL advocates a policy framework that “allows consumers and the marketplace to determine winners and losers” instead of government regulation. 

The report still advocates for a significant role for the states in telecom policy, and for a federal act regulating all providers of telecommunications (i.e. cable and VoIP) in the name of regulatory parity, but even on these issues it seems to call for “similar and minimal” regulation.

Isn't it amazing that it's news when our own American legislators recognize the power of free markets? And it never ceases to amaze me that politicians are arrogant enough to think think they can "plan" an entire economy. The Telecom Act of 1996 is a perfect example of what the government can't do -- keep up with the market. It took less than a decade for telecommunications to morph into a creature not even recognizable to the Telecom Act. What do you think the chances are they'll learn from it?

More on telecom deregulation here and here.

Posted on 07/29/04 04:59 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Wish You Were Here!

More evidence of the need for postal reform?

Talk about snail mail: A woman vacationing in New Jersey 37 years ago popped a postcard into the mail and it just arrived at her mother's house in Pennsylvania. Dorothy Orth, of Seelyville in northeastern Pennsylvania, baffled her daughter when she called Saturday to thank her for the card.
     "What card?" Janet Richards, of Port Jervis, N.Y., asked.
When her mother said it was from Asbury Park, N.J., she remembered.
     "I sent that postcard in August 1967, when my husband, Larry, and I were on our fifth wedding anniversary," she said. Orth received it July 17, almost 37 years later. The postcard was behind a machine that was recently moved, according to postal officials.

Posted on 07/29/04 10:44 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Something to Keep in Mind...

While you're watching the Dem-Fest in Boston and learning about their "Strong at Home, Respected in the World" platform. An NTU study calculates the probable cost of Kerry's campaign promises. Though Kerry has offered five cost-cutting ideas, the savings amount to about $30 billion, while new spending proposals amount to roughly $226 billion in his first year alone.

The highlights of the study:

  • A projected $226.125 billion increase in spending -- in the first year of a Kerry Presidency alone.
  • A projected $734.62 billion increase in the national debt over five years.
  • Nearly $115 billion in social welfare, foreign aid, energy, and environmental handouts over a first Kerry term.


Posted on 07/28/04 09:18 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Throwing Money Away

As I was contemplating last week whether or not to lug a load of recycling out to the curb or just chuck it in with the regular trash, I thought of this collection of wisdom from the The Heartland Institute on the ridiculous wastefulness that is recycling.

Among Heartland's observations:

New York City, for example, is cutting funding for police, schools, and transit services as it struggles to close a budget deficit of $2.7 billion. The city is already spending a premium of $77 million over the cost of landfilling to collect and process 15 percent of its household trash for recycling. To reach its arbitrary goal of 25 percent, the city estimates it would have to spend another $100 million. City officials don't believe that level is economically sustainable.

Maybe someone should do a study on the correlation of crime rates and curbside recycling or low test scores and curbside recycling. In my hometown, all three were plentiful. Hmmm... For more on what recycling really does, read Recycling Rubbish.

Posted on 07/26/04 02:11 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

They Have Guns In San Francisco? Well, Maybe Just the Criminals.

This just doesn't sound right to me but it is San Francisco.

A man who wrestled a burglar's gun away and shot him with it as he fled has been jailed on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.

According to police, after the man wrestled the gun out of the burglar's hands and the burglar was making his clean get-away, the situation ceased to be a matter of self-defense and the victim had no right to shoot. But whether or not you buy that, you've got to wonder why there's no mention in the article of a charge against, oh I don't know... THE BURGLAR! But we are assured that he's in critical but stable condition and that the burgled man is being cooperative with law enforcement. Whew!

Seems to me the law-abiding always get the mean end of the barrel on gun issues these days, especially gun control, which according to this study has stripped good citizens of self-defense in Canada, Australia and Britain while giving criminals a citizenry of sitting ducks. The results?

The government just reported that gun crime in England and Wales nearly doubled in the four years from 1998-99 to 2002-03. The serious violent crime rate soared by 64 percent, and overall violent crime by 118 percent. Australia saw its violent crime rates soar after its 1996 Port Arthur gun-control measures banned most firearms. Violent crime rates averaged 32 percent higher in the six years after the law was passed (from 1997 to 2002) ... armed robbery rates increased 74 percent. (In Canada) the overall crime rate is more than half again higher than in the United States and has risen as the American crime rate has fallen.

In other gun stuff, check out Alphecca, a blog with great gun talk and CCRKBA for news on gun rights and gun fights (as in public policy and court battles, not good old-fashioned duels).

Posted on 07/23/04 01:12 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Renovation at

SPN is in the middle of Web site renovation and is looking for comments. I don't reckon they'll have much trouble getting some. If there's one thing policy people can do, it's comment on just about anything. But here's what they'll have to offer in future.

Check it out and see what you think. SPN offers lots of good tools for policy folks, like the Toolkit, with hints on fundraising, legal matters, planning.

I trust that policy papers on the SPN Web site redesign will be well-researched and thoroughly footnoted. Have at it.

Posted on 07/23/04 10:47 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

The Next Great Injustice

Oh no, "food deserts!" 

True or false: American journalists and sociologists believe there are too many Super Wal-Marts in the world. And the answer is... false!

It seems those who have been bemoaning the hyper-efficient superstores for years are now bemoaning the fact that there isn't one in every cornfield in the country.

For those not aware of this current "crisis," a "food desert" is an area that is not readily served by a large grocery chain. The AP story tells of people in small rural communities who either must drive long distances to grocery stores or are "forced" (AP’s term) to purchase food from convenience stores where prices are higher and the selection of fresh meat and vegetables is almost nil.

I can't say that the Insider database boasts any studies on this particular crisis right now. But I can't wait for the time when some economic genius decides that just the thing we need to fix the "deserts" is government-run grocery stores in every rural mile. Stay tuned for the logical acrobatics required to explain why a cost-efficient superstore with goods at low prices is not good enough for the country, but an inefficient "oasis" run by the government and subsidized (of course) with taxpayer money is A-OK. The AP will find a way. (via The Locker Room).

Posted on 07/23/04 10:09 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Conservative Merger

Citizens for a Sound Economy and Empower America announced this morning that they're merging into one conservative superpower, which will be called Freedom Works. CSE President Matt Kibbe had this to say about it in a press release:

Dick Armey, Jack Kemp, and C. Boyden Gray will our Co-Chairmen.  I will serve as President and CEO.  The combination brings together the grassroots power and political organization skills of CSE, coupled with Empower's strong policy presence inside the beltway.

FreedomWorks brings together some of the leading legislative entrepreneurs from both the Reagan tax revolution and the Republican takeover/Contract with America in the 1990s.  Together, we will be at the forefront of the next conservative, free market revolution, involving big ideas like personal retirement accounts, and innovative tactics driven by grassroots organization.  If we do our job,  this will lead to permanent change, an ownership society, and an on-going defense of individual liberty envisioned by Jefferson and Madison.

Posted on 07/22/04 12:35 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Just got a copy of The Supremacists in the mail, Phyllis Schlafly's new book in which she takes a switch to misbehaving judges. A once-over shows it to be a history of judicial activism in many areas -- rewriting the Constitution, banning public recognition of God, imposing taxes, involvement in elections.

She cites the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision as the beginning of judicial activism, instead of the traditional Marbury vs. Madison, which articulated the power of judicial review. Scott was a slave who traveled to a free territory and sued for his freedom.

(The Court) dismissed Dred Scott's complaint, saying that he didn't even have the right to be a plaintiff in a lawsuit: blacks 'had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.' ... The Court declared unconstitutional the federal law ... forbidding slavery in most of the Western territories ... Dred Scott is a good example of the Court trying to decide issues that were not necessary to its decision, and the Court ended up causing gross injustices.

President Lincoln defied the ruling, treating blacks as citizens, because he didn't believe in the court's power to make public policy, though he did agree it had a right to decide Scott's individual case. So how do we move back from where judges have taken us? Schlafly offers 10 solutions, including reforming Senate rules, legislate limitations to courts' jurisdiction, legislation that prohibits importation of foreign law, and using the impeachment power.

There has actually been a bill introduced in the House, which would strip the federal courts of some power, including the power of messing with DOMA.

I've heard some say that the judicial activism issue might be the thread that binds the conservative movement together in the future, when we're drifting apart on many issues. After all, social conservative or libertarian, we can all agree to hate the 9th Circuit, right?

Posted on 07/20/04 04:34 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

The Studiers Become the Studied

Here's an interesting study, by two researchers from Stanford and the University of Chicago, that calculates media bias based on how many times media outlets quote various think tanks. Then it compares the media outlets' citations to citations by members of Congress across the political spectrum. The results? You won't be surprised.

All of the news outlets except Fox News’ Special Report received a score to the left of the average member of Congress. Moreover, by one of our measures all but three of these media outlets (Special Report, the Drudge Report, and ABC’s World News Tonight) were closer to the average Democrat in Congress than to the median member of the House of Representatives. One of our measures found that the Drudge Report is the most centrist of all media outlets in our sample. Our other measure found that Fox News’ Special Report is the most centrist.

Somehow I don't think this guy agrees with the assessment.


Posted on 07/19/04 05:34 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

The Little Think Tank That Could

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University got a little front-page love from the Wall Street Journal Friday. In 2001, 14 of 23 of the federal regulations the Bush administration nixed were from a "hit list" put together by Mercatus, which specializes in regulatory studies.

And Mercatus not only cuts down on regulations, it's got liberals running to start their own regulatory think tanks. You gotta love this line of the Journal piece:

Lisa Heinzerling, a Georgetown University law professor ... helped organize a liberal think tank called the Center for Progressive Regulation to counter Mercatus's influence.

You know you've done your job when you have to be countered. You've also gotta love the Center for Progressive Regulation's mission statement:

CPR supports regulatory action to protect health, safety and the environment, and rejects the conservative view that government's only function is to increase the economic efficiency of private markets.

Heh. Check out Mercatus' regulatory studies and the RegRadar to find out what's making the CPR folks short of breath.

Posted on 07/19/04 02:55 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

The Movement Mourns

The conservative movement said goodbye to two leaders last week. Constantine Menges died of cancer last Sunday and Laurence Hayek, son of F.A. Hayek, died Thursday at the age of 70.

Menges was a senior intelligence adviser to President Reagan, and the architect of the Grenada mission. He was in the business of rolling back Communism before many thought it could or should be done. The Washington Times wrote:

Constantine's goal in life was to devise strategies for defeating tyrannies, just as V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky had devised strategies to create them. He was a professional revolutionary on the side of freedom.

He was also a Hudson Institute senior fellow. Check here for his most recent work.

In remembrance of Laurence Hayek, HayekLinks has rounded up an exhaustive list of Web resources on F.A. Hayek.

Posted on 07/19/04 12:05 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Make Your Vacation Conservative

What would a beach trip be without F.A. Hayek and William F. Buckley? Sure, you'd have to fill your beach cooler with SPF 50 sunblock -- the intellectual cornerstones of conservatism aren't known for their tawny summer complexions.

But they make great reading. The State Policy Network News suggests settling down with a few intellectual giants during your summer lull so you can come back ready to battle bad policies and promote great ones in the fall. The SPN Great Books List includes books on free-market philosophy, non-profit management, fundraising, marketing, and a Reagan collection.

The Heritage Foundation compiled a similar list in 2001. Happy reading and if you want my advice, pick Buckley first for beach volleyball.

Posted on 07/16/04 03:14 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Cato: "A La Carte" Cable in Bad Taste

Adam Thierer of Cato told the Federal Communications Commission what was what Monday at a hearing on "a la carte" cable pricing. His assessment? Unappetizing. The idea being floated is that the federal government should mandate that cable companies allow each consumer to pick exactly which channels he wants to pay for. Animal rights activists could eliminate TNN's bass anglers, college guys could wipe Lifetime out of their lives forever.

Sounds nice until you start to wonder whether a sweeping new federal regulation is needed to personalize your channel-surfing. Thierer says no. He says cable companies got where they are today by bundling channels. It's a successful, market-tested strategy that shouldn't be wiped out because a few people don't like it. He also says "a la carte" would be a major logistical hassle, offer fewer choices at higher prices, and raise ad rates.

But most importantly, Thierer asks the question most of the federal government is incapable of asking: "By what right?"

If enough citizens complained about the bundled laces in shoes or bundled tires on cars or the sports sections bundled in their local newspapers, would that be enough to justify government action to remedy such a non-crisis? The same principle holds for the case of MVPDs and video programming services. Just because a certain number of consumers don’t like a particular business model does not give the government license to upend an industry’s private business arrangements and substitute a grand industrial policy scheme in the name of "consumer choice."

Posted on 07/16/04 02:12 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Whose Domain Is This, Anyway?

A new study from the Goldwater Institute in Arizona tackles the state government's abuse of eminent domain and offers 12 market-based alternatives to taking over property. In Arizona and other states, eminent domain has become less about developing public infrastructure and more about developing tax revenue.

Taking a property owner's brake shop or barber shop because it is too small, too old, too ugly, or another party has a "better" use for the land violates fundamental constitutional principles, creates uncertainty about property rights, and can deter individuals from opening or expanding their businesses.

Hmmm, by the "too small, too old, too ugly" standard, my cat should have been government property long ago. A Google News search for "eminent domain" reveals that the problem isn't just in Arizona. Some of the headlines: Eminent domain reform rests with governor in N.Y., Growth leads to more eminent domain cases in Florida, and Homeowners fight eminent domain decision in Connecticut -- and that's just a handful of news stories from this week.

A few organizations work solely on this problem. Castle Coalition offers an Eminent Domain Survival Kit. Defenders of Property Rights and Institute for Justice also have information. The National Center for Public Policy Research published Shattered Dreams: 100 Stories of Government Abuse, which you can download. Check out the eminent domain section. From small businessmen to little old ladies, the government will rip off anyone! Sad stories.

There is a bill in the House Ways and Means Committee that would give people who lose property through eminent domain a little break from the IRS. The new bill would allow those who are forced to sell to the government to pay no capital gains tax. According to present law (I.R.S. Code 1033) they pay no capital gains tax only if they reinvest in certain types of real estate within three years. The new law would allow citizens to do whatever they want with the money, including start new businesses, venture capital investment, or build real estate.

Posted on 07/15/04 03:05 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

A Court That Won't Legislate?

The Arkansas Policy Foundation reports a big win for the state's taxpayers this week. A 10-year battle over school funding had teachers' unions and the other usual suspects asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to correct the state's "inadequate and inequitable" funding system by mandating more programs and expenditures.

"They're trying to use the court to get what they can't get through the legislature," said Greg Kaza, executive director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, which filed an amicus brief in the case.

But the court handed the plaintiffs a forceful 'no' with a civics lesson attached:

It is not this court's role under our system of government, as created by the Arkansas Constitution, and under the fundamental principle of separation of powers, as set out in Article 4, § 2 of that document, to legislate, to implement legislation, or to serve as a watchdog agency, when there is no matter to be presently decided... the judicial branch cannot arrogate to itself control of the legislative branch. Our role is to hear appeals and decide cases where we have original jurisdiction.

I guess California and Massachusetts missed that memo. Learn more about the case's background here. For news in the public interest law field, browse InsiderOnline's legal action database.

Posted on 07/15/04 11:48 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Slam It, Smoke It, Shoot It!

Speaking of fundraising, The Independence Institute in Colorado has found a pretty rockin' way to do it -- the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Party sounds like one I'd RSVP for. Billed as the "most politically incorrect fundraising event of the year," the day includes a clay pigeon shoot, lunch, cigars and whiskey. And if you can't make it to the event, Independence offers a pretty rockin' T-shirt, here.

In related news, a liberal group in Colorado will hold a fundraiser the same day at the same shooting range. Its members will be given the chance to shake their heads, condescend and issue fake citations to good, law-abiding conservatives. Oh, the finger-wagging fun has just begun! That should bring in plenty of money!

I'll keep my eye out for interesting fundraisers around the conservative movement to mention here. If you're planning one that's a little outside-the-box, let me know at

Posted on 07/13/04 07:06 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

What Makes Us Tick

Ann Klucsarits, director of development at The Heritage Foundation, lays out some guidelines for getting funds in 10 Steps to Persuasive Proposals. You'd be surprised how little things can make a difference:

A few years ago, The Heritage Foundation received a grant from a foundation, and the gift was much larger than we had expected. When we called to thank the program officer, we asked why the foundation had increased its support. It was not because our project was deemed more effective or that our proposal was more persuasive. The reason was simply that we had turned our proposal in on time, complete with all the attachments, and many other requestors had not. So, in the end, the foundation rejected a number of proposals and had more money to give to fewer organizations—and we benefited.

There's a little more to it than that of course, but getting the easy stuff right always improves your chances. For more on fundraising, check out this feature by The Heritage Foundation's John Von Kannon.

Both writers suggest a few helpful Web sites: 

Happy fundraising!

Posted on 07/13/04 10:57 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Full Court Press

Tony Mauro, a Supreme Court correspondent for Legal Times and American Lawyer Media, offered some insight on reading the press covering the court. He tipped his hat at today's event to blogger Howard Bashman, whose blog How Appealing is dedicated to -- you guessed it -- appellate litigation.

"He's a journalist in every sense of the word. He's the one we turn to first to find out breaking news."

Mauro also pointed out that in the fuss over the Cheney ruling in June, the press largely missed the importance of the Blakely v. Washington case, which brought into question years of federal sentencing and turned out to be the important ruling of the day. Mauro said he wrote later that Blakely simply wasn't on anyone's radar screen before the ruling. He confessed today:

"All that means is that it wasn't on the reporter's radar screen and that the reporter's playing catch-up."

Another pressism to watch out for: when a conservative justice begins to rule more liberally, he's referred to by the press as "evolving," but when a liberal justice rules more conservatively, he's "getting cranky and old," Mauro said.

Posted on 07/12/04 03:31 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

A Court of Many Colors

After hearing from three reporters and three legal scholars dedicated to studying the Supreme Court, the one thing I know for certain about this court is that it's hard to know much for certain about it.

Law professor Walter Dellinger said "they have a lack of deference to almost anyone else," while journalist Tony Mauro said the court "is not so ideological that it is willing to ignore procedural niceties" to rule as it wants. But sometimes it uses procedural niceties as it sees fit to avoid ruling on the merits of a case, as most of the panelists agreed it did in the Pledge of Allegiance case.

But despite its occasional ducking and punting, the court is not timid, according to Dellinger, who said it "places itself at the center of the constitutional universe," and legal scholar Miguel Estrada who said, "this is a court who is deeply unanimous -- they all think they should be governing the country." Law professor Douglas Kmiec, however, said that "the court has no desire to govern the country singlehandedly."

Hmmm, can I get a ruling on this? Hear the many different opinions on this court and its rulings here and let it be a reminder to you never to make friends with anyone with nine personalities.

Posted on 07/12/04 02:55 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

The Supreme Court Rules...

...And The Heritage Foundation gathers a few folks to talk about exactly what the rulings mean. Edwin Meese III and Miguel Estrada will be among those answering questions left by the court this year:

What do the detention and anti-terrorism rulings mean, and what will it take for the Administration to comply with the various holdings? The Pledge of Allegiance is safe for now, but can it survive the same challenge from a parent with full custody? Will the growth of “527” advocacy organizations render the decision in the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act case irrelevant? Did federalism suffer a setback?

More on this when I get back from the event, but in the meantime, you can watch it live over the Web cam. In other court-related news, Roger Pilon looks at how dramatic reinterpretations of the Constitution by the Supreme Court allowed for the huge federal expansion of the New Deal, here.

The rewriting of the Constitution, without benefit of amendment, goes far toward explaining how political forces bent on expanding government have been able to do so in the face of a document written plainly to prevent that. If we are to restore constitutional government, however, we ourselves must take the first step, for those “political forces” include a large portion of a people who have asked for, and even demanded, all the government we have today, constitutional restraints aside.

Posted on 07/12/04 09:59 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

The Tax Man Cometh

David Hogberg of the Public Interest Institute in Iowa is predicting a state tax increase in 2005. He thinks they'll go after cigarettes (hmmm, do I smell a theme?). He suggests nipping it in the bud during the election season instead of trying to fight it during the legislative session.  

This is a battle Michigan has already fought and lost. The Mackinac Center points out the error in the idea that tobacco taxes only affect smokers, here:

Among other things, making Michigan the second highest-taxed state in the nation could cause the 5,000 jobs to disappear. It would also encourage smokers to shop in neighboring states. In Ohio, for example, the tax is 55 cents a pack. High taxes could also open the way for criminals – even terrorists – to profit from smuggling cigarettes from lightly-taxed states.

Sorry about the smoking jag. I knew it marked the absolute end of civil treatment for smokers when even NASCAR gave up Winston as a primary sponsor. And it looks like NASCAR has been sliding left ever since. Turns out, the organization is still backing Jesse Jackson and Dale Jr. told FOX last week that he went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 with his crew. Ugh.

Posted on 07/09/04 05:13 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Let's Talk About ETS, Baby.

That's Environmental Tobacco Smoke -- secondhand smoke to most of us. My old college town, Athens, Ga., approved a measure this week that will ban smoking indoors in bars and restaurants during the day, but allow it from 11 p.m. on.

Now, I'm amazed that the county commission exercised this much restraint (and I use the term loosely) by avoiding the total ban. The Atlanta Journal Constitution, in all its wisdom, has already tut-tutted the council for not going far enough and assures us:

Fortunately, advocates for a total ban on smoking in Athens say they won't give up the fight.

Whew, I'm sure that makes us all breathe easier, except for those of us to whom the expansion of government control is far more annoying than a couple wisps of secondhand smoke. Traci Lawrence, quoted in the Athens paper, is with the AJC on this:

"We were exceedingly disappointed that the Athens-Clarke County Commission failed to protect the health of the community,'' said Traci Lawrence, tobacco use prevention coordinator for the Northeast Health District, which includes Athens. ''A total ban is the only way to protect the health of the community.''

Clearly Lawrence has never tried other methods of protection -- moving to the non-smoking section, patronizing non-smoking establishments, eating outside. And she's not at all concerned about protecting the community's personal liberties from government and the anti-smoking brigade, but luckily some think tankers are.

Michael Fumento, a Hudson Institute scholar, tells why Second-Hand Smoke is Harmful to Science, citing several studies that buck conventional ETS wisdom, like this one:

Research professor James Enstrom of UCLA and professor Geoffrey Kabat... reported in the British Medical Journal that their thirty-nine-year study of 35,561 Californians who had never smoked showed no "causal relationship between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and tobacco-related mortality," adding, however "a small effect" can't be ruled out.

Steven Milloy's Web site is also great for debunking the latest public health crusades. Milloy is an adjunt scholar at the Cato Institute and author of Junk Science Judo.

Anecdotally, I have yet to know directly or indirectly anyone who died of disease caused by second-hand smoke inhalation, which wouldn't be remarkable except that my grandfather was a tobacco farmer, my mother actually picked the leaves and hung them in the barn, and I grew up in a little place known as Tobacco Road, four blocks from a Liggett & Meyers factory that puffed the sweet smell of tobacco leaves into my bedroom window every summer while I played with Legos. I'm still young, so I guess that could change, but it won't change the fact that the Athens government and many others don't mind a bit taking away civil liberties to protect us from a dubious health threat.

Posted on 07/09/04 02:42 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Think Tank Veteran Checking Congress' Commitment

Think tank veteran Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), former director of the James Madison Institute, has brought the Conservative Check Card to Congress. The wallet-sized card, produced by the Republican Study Committee, lists six traditional conservative principles on the back:

  • Less Government
  • Lower Taxes
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Individual Freedom
  • Stronger Families
  • Domestic Tranquility/National Defense

The idea is to have every conservative staffer and Congressman carry the card and check legislation against the six principles. Feeney designed the cards and first used them when he was speaker of the Florida House in 2000. Sounds good, but I wonder... do those come with overdraft protection?

Posted on 07/09/04 10:32 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Painful Punitive Damages

The Senate is considering the Class Action Fairness Bill this week, and talk of class-action reform has already gotten a little ink thanks to trial lawyer John Edwards' appearance in the presidential race.

The Cato Institute has a new study on why out-of-hand litigation is causing a problem, but it's not a federal problem. Michael Krauss and Bob Levey instead offer state-based solutions:

States should serve as experimental laboratories of competing tort systems.

The Washington Legal Foundation produced a case study of lawsuit abuse in a tobacco case, which resulted in $145 billion in damages.

Posted on 07/08/04 07:42 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Muffin Meetings

A new center-right coalition has started meeting in Brussels, the third Thursday of each month at the Centre for New Europe. In London, conservatives meet up every third Tuesday at the Adam Smith Institute.They call them "Muffin Meetings" because they serve muffins to guests. Conservative friends are welcome to drop by for muffins (no word on the flavor) when in town. Both meetings start at 10 a.m.

If you're not jet-setting anytime soon, check here for center-right coalition meetings in your state.


Posted on 07/07/04 05:55 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

School Choice Climbing Colorado Mountain

The Colorado Supreme Court last week halted a school choice plan set to go into effect this school year. According to an Institute for Justice press release:

The Court in a sharply divided 4-3 decision determined that since the Opportunity Contract program was to be funded in part with local tax dollars, local districts must have control over the instruction paid for with those dollars.

But Colorado think tank the Independence Institute and the Institute for Justice, which defended the school choice program, are optimistic about its future. The 4-3 vote came from a court stacked with liberals, the decision provides a roadmap for drawing up new legislation in January, and the Colorado legislature may pick up a few pro-school choice votes in elections this fall.

Check here and here for recent studies on school choice around the country. For newcomers to the school choice debate, there's The ABCs of School Choice from the Friedman Foundation.

Posted on 07/06/04 05:14 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Southern Strategy for the Senate

Some thoughts on the John Edwards veep pick from North Carolina think tanker John Hood, who thinks Edwards' silky drawl and silkier hair will help Dems with more than the Presidential race:

In the first case, there are five Democrat-held open seats in the south on the ballot this year: in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana. While Georgia may well be a lost cause, the others are winnable for Democrats, contrary to the partisan spin coming from some GOP quarters. Edwards on the ticket, and on the ground in these states often through November, certainly will boost Democrats' chances here, again by exciting African Americans (Kerry hasn't shown an ability to do that) and taking the Northeast-liberal tinge off the ticket a bit for culturally conservative but economic distressed whites.

But will Edwards' protectionist politics play with those Southern economic distressed whites? The Republican primary for U.S. Senate in South Carolina suggests not, according to Jack Kemp:

In a runoff election between pro-trade Congressman Jim DeMint and protectionist former Gov. David Beasley, DeMint ran away with the election at the ballot box. DeMint's win was particularly satisfying because even though South Carolina has lost textile-industry jobs due to plant relocations, it shows politicians and the media once again underestimated the intelligence and savvy of the voting public to understand the benefits of free trade.

Posted on 07/06/04 02:34 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Green Politics and Pink Slips

The word is that McCain and Lieberman are determined to bring their Climate Stewardship Act up again during this Congress, maybe as an amendment to class-action reform legislation this week.

The CSA is billed on Lieberman's site as "a 'cap and trade' system that would harness market forces to help cut greenhouse gas emissions."

Unfortunately, it would also cut 600,000 jobs, according to this study by Charles River Associates. Check out how your state would fare in the state-by-state breakdown.

Jay Lehr and Joseph L. Bast of the Heartland Institute say 'fie' (they really say 'fie') to such studies here:

We do not need sophisticated econometric or global climate models to tell us that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will cost jobs and income and have no impact on Earth's climate.

And this Marshall Institute study explains why letting unreliable climate models dictate policy can be a risky business.


Posted on 07/06/04 12:20 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

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