Tidbits
News you may have missed...

Got an item about liberal lunacy? Conservative success? Send it in to ESR's Tidbits section!

See...China is becoming a freer society

A bishop in the underground Catholic Church in China has been arrested, according to a U.S.-based advocacy group.

Bishop Zhang Weizhu of Xianxian, in Hebei province near Beijing, was detained on May 31 while traveling to his village, the Cardinal Kung Foundation said in a statement.

The statement said no other details were available about Zhang's arrest.

The group also said the Chinese government had refused to renew the passport of Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pin-mei. The advocacy group is named for the 96-year-old cardinal.

Kung, the bishop of Shanghai, was imprisoned in China for more than 32 years and now lives in exile in the United States. He recently submitted his passport to the Chinese Consulate in New York for renewal.

But the consulate confiscated the document, said organization spokesman Joseph Kung.

The underground Roman Catholic church remains loyal to the Vatican and rejects the state-approved Catholic church, autonomous from Rome, that was set up by the government in the 1950s.

Like Cardinal Kung, many clerics of the underground church have been imprisoned for refusing to participate in the official Catholic church.

Maybe Americans need less government, not plainer government

The campaign against government gobbledygook was announced by Vice President Al Gore on June 1. Whoops, better make that active voice: Vice President Al Gore announced the campaign against government gobbledygook on June 1.

Starting Oct. 1, the active, not passive, voice is in. So are common, everyday words; pronouns such as "you," and short sentences. Clutter, redundancy and unnecessary technical terms are out.

The change, ordered by U.S. President Bill Clinton, applies to all new federal documents, other than regulations, that explain how to get a benefit or service or how to comply with an agency requirement. By New Year's Day, federal regulations will fall under the plain English knife.

The change is designed to help ordinary citizens and small businesses.

"By using plain language, we send a clear message about what the government is doing, what it requires and what services it offers," Clinton wrote in announcing his directive. "Plain language saves the government and the private sector time, effort and money."

And Gore, who has led the administration's campaign to reinvent government, told a group of small business owners from around the country: "Short is better than long. Active is better than passive. ... Clarity helps advance understanding."

Government rules that took 72 words to explain will be chopped to around six, Gore said. Unfamiliar phrases will be simplified: for example, "means of egress" becomes "exit routes."

He said a number of agencies, notably the Small Business Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration, already have made great progress rewriting their rules into plain English.

This is not the first time official Washington has tried to clean up its language. During the Reagan administration, the late Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige launched a campaign to get the Commerce Department's 32 000 employees to write in plain English and avoid the vague phrases often favored by bureaucrats.

The Securities and Exchange Commission began developing a plain English rule several years ago with the mutual fund industry, and the SEC adopted a rule in January requiring that key sections of mutual fund prospectuses and similar financial documents be written simply and clearly.

The push to improve investors' understanding will cost U.S. companies an estimated $56 million.

"I applaud the administration for directing federal employees to write in plain language," SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt Jr. said. "I'm sure the American public will be grateful when they read clear, well-written government documents."

California votes to eliminate bilingual education, but votes against pay check protection

California voters on June 2 rejected a proposal to weaken the political clout of labor unions and eliminated the state's 30-year-old system of bilingual education.

Proposition 226 -- dubbed "paycheck protection" by sponsors -- drew opposition from union leaders, who saw it leading a national campaign to require them to obtain a member's permission before spending dues on politics.

Proposition 227, the brainchild of software millionaire Ron Unz, will essentially replace the state's bilingual education program with an English immersion program after one year of transition classes. Parents can ask that their children get bilingual education but only under limited conditions.

Supporters of the measure included the state Republican Party (over the objections of party leaders) and Jaime Escalante, the East Los Angeles teacher whose innovative methods were the subject of the movie "Stand and Deliver." Opponents included the California Teachers Association, President Clinton, and all four candidates for governor.

The AFL-CIO ran $11 million worth of TV ads that questioned the motives of Proposition 226's backers and hysterically warned of dire consequences for everything from Medicare to food safety if labor's political advocacy was hampered. Unfortunately, a little over of half of voters agreed.

Canadian youth to bare unfair load

Young Canadians are taking a bigger tax hit, but getting less in return than the baby boom generation, says a C.D. Howe Institute report. And the report predicts the situation will get much worse for youth unless governments act now to pay down debt before using budget surpluses on new spending or short-term vote-getting tax cuts.

Dealing with debt today will substantially decrease the net tax burden in the long run on the generations following the boomers, says the report, released June 4, which is called Taxes, Transfers and Generations in Canada: Who Gains and Who Loses from the Demographic Transition.

“If they don’t take care of the debt then the onus or burden will be on a younger generation later,” warned co-author Philip Oreopoulos, an economics graduate of the University of California at Berkeley.

“I don’t want to sound anti-elderly,” he said in an interview, adding: “It’s a tough trade-off.”

He and Universite de Montreal economist Franois Vaillancourt did what they call “generational accounting” in their report to determine the long-term implications of demographics on fiscal policies in the era of the aging baby boomer.

According to demographic projections, the number of Canadians past retirement age (65 and older) will rise from the current 19 per cent of the working-age population to 27 per cent in 2020, 36 per cent in 2030 and almost 39 per cent in 2040.

If surpluses are used to raise spending or cut taxes, young Canadians can expect a whopping lifetime tax burden as high as 55 per cent, the paper warns.

“A policy that assumes government will increase spending to keep its budget roughly in balance cannot be sustained without imposing substantially higher net tax rates in the future.”

Under the report’s most favourable scenario, a person born in 1940 must expect to pay 32 per cent of their labour income in net taxes.

A child born in 1995 can expect to pay 38 per cent in taxes, says the report, adding the trend cannot continue indefinitely.

“They’re paying more than they’re getting back,” Oreopoulos said.

The crunch time will come in 2015, as the first boomers begin retiring.

At that time, there will be “so much pressure on legislators to maintain current health care and income security for the elderly that governments may have to raise taxes or resort again to deficit financing,” the report says.

People of Hong Kong honor memory of Tiananmen Square

On June 4 the people of Hong Kong did what their compatriots in mainland China could not: They honoured the dead of Tiananmen.

Braving lightning and pouring rain that night, more than 40 000 people huddled under umbrellas in Hong Kong's Victoria Park to mark the ninth anniversary of the student protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

When Great Britain returned Hong Kong to China nearly a year ago, the city became a "special administrative region" within China, enjoying privileges and liberties not extended to the mainland. The soggy candlelight vigil here was the only open ceremony in China to commemorate the students who died during the June 4, 1989, military crackdown.

In Beijing and throughout the mainland, two dozen dissidents were detained as police prevented demonstrations. In Tiananmen Square, police closely patrolled the area, carrying two-way radios and binoculars, and soldiers armed with rifles drilled nearby.

People at the Hong Kong vigil were conscious of their role in preserving the memory of Tiananmen.

"It's very important for us to be here," said Harry Shun, a 50-year-old trader for a chemical business. "There's not another place in China with this kind of freedom."

For a few fleeting minutes, China's most famous political exiles - Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan - addressed the Hong Kong crowd. The Chinese government recently released both men for medical treatment in the United States as a goodwill gesture to President Bill Clinton, who had lobbied on their behalf.

In a live telephone hook-up from New York City, Wang, one of the leaders of the Tiananmen protests, told the Hong Kong crowd he was impressed by their numbers.

"I know Hong Kong people are concerned about the democratic movement in China," Wang said. "Please keep fighting, because what you are doing will push China to move toward democracy."

Canadians want laws to be meaner and greener...we aren't doing our jobs

A 30-nation poll of 35 000 people, co-ordinated by Canada's Environics International Ltd., shows that two-thirds of people in this country and a similar number around the world want governments to enact tougher environmental laws.

Of the 30 countries assessed in the poll, only Finland and Nigeria did not have a majority of people respond in favour of toughened environmental protections.

The poll, which was conducted with at least 1 000 people in each of the nations surveyed, showed that a majority of people in 28 countries - from 54 per cent in India to 91 per cent in Greece - want governments to toughen their existing environmental legislation.
It also showed:

A majority of people in 22 countries would prefer that their governments assume worst-case scenarios about environmental problems and take immediate action to curb them.

Seventy-five per cent of people in most countries said they had a "great deal" or a "fair amount" of concern for the condition of the environment.

A majority of people in 19 countries believed industry was not working hard to clean up the environment, with 67 per cent of Canadians expressing this view.

Canada's environmental commissioner recently blasted the federal government on its environmental record, including its failure to meet commitments made at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and backing off on more recent commitments made at the summit on global warming in Kyoto, Japan, last December.

Environics president Doug Miller said both industry and politicians will ignore the public's new environmental concerns at their peril.

"Smart leaders in business and government recognize when these societal shifts are real and substantial and change with it.

"And if they choose not to change...they can be swept away and their company's good name can be swept away in a month."

Miller said his poll and others show the world is now beginning to ride a green wave like the one that existed in the late 1980s after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

"I confidently predict that we'll be back within four years in Canada to a point where environment is a major top of mind concern again," he said.

But today's environmental movement is being driven by different concerns and is manifesting itself in a more profound way than it did a decade ago, he added.

"There are two levels to what's driving this. One is the general concern over the environment and the new one is climate change."

He said a $15 million industrial ad campaign to undermine last year's Kyoto conference on global warming has backfired and people are now more concerned over the issue than ever.

The 30 countries included in the polling - the largest ever conducted on the environment - contain more than two-thirds of the world's population.

Conducted by different polling companies in each country, the results were based on the same questions and are considered to be accurate to within 3 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

School choice gets $200 million boost

Private investors announced June 9 that they will contribute at least $200 million in partial scholarships to help more than 65 000 public school children in selected cities attend private schools.

Investment banker Ted Forstmann and Wal-Mart discount store heir John Walton each will contribute $100 million, and Hollywood mogul Michael Ovitz is expected to commit another $50 million, and they'll seek more money from others.

Forstmann, who is leading the effort, said he had bipartisan support in Washington and from the mayors of the cities in which he plans to launch the scholarship program.

He identified the cities as New York, Jersey City, New Jersey, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.

The effort is a boost to supporters of school "choice" in the politically charged debate over whether public school students should be able to receive financial help if they choose private schools.

American Federation of Teachers President Sandra Feldman does not oppose the plan but says she doesn't believe it will help solve the problems of the public schools.

Wait, I thought there were no problems with state education?

"I have no problem with people giving their own money," said Feldman, "unless they pose it as a solution to the problems of public schools in America."

How kind.

Forstmann says his program ultimately will improve public education because it will make public school educators realize they have to change, and make parents aware that they don't have to accept schools as they are.

Forstmann said pilot programs testing similar scholarships in Washington and New York have been successful. In Washington, more than 7 000 students applied for 1 000 positions, he said.

His organization, the New York-based non-profit Children's Scholarship Fund, will offer students roughly $2 000 to $3 000 per school year, or about 60 percent to 70 percent of tuition at urban parochial schools -- that is, schools run by a church.

The program would require a student's family to pay the rest of the tuition so that both parents and children have a stake in the student's education.

Scholarship recipients will be chosen by lottery, but they must gain private school admission to be eligible. The program will award scholarships to students from kindergarten to eighth grade. But once they win the lottery, they can get scholarship aid throughout high school.

Forstmann said his plan doesn't give preference to parochial schools, but he noted that such schools already have the ability to provide inexpensive yet high quality education in urban settings.

He predicted other private schools would start if his project gains momentum.

See...China is becoming a freer society II

A former Chinese population control administrator says she felt like "a monster" during the 14 years she watched what she called China's brutal enforcement of its "one child per couple" policy.

Beijing says the policy is necessary for population control and that forced abortions and sterilizations are prohibited.

But on June 10, lawmakers on Capitol Hill heard graphic testimony and saw a shocking video, both of which strongly counter China's official line on its role in family planning.

Gao Xiao Duan told Congressional lawmakers her office paid informants to report on unauthorized pregnancies of neighbors. Women who violated China's policy on pregnancy could be seized during a nighttime raid, or have their homes destroyed, as the government forced the offenders to submit to abortions, Gao said.

"I did so many brutal things," Gao told the House International Relations human rights subcommittee. "All those ... years I was a monster in the daytime, injuring others by carrying out the Chinese Communist authorities' barbaric planned birth policy."

Gao said she "could not live such a dual life anymore." She quit her job in Fujian province's Yongwe township this year, fled China, and arrived in the United States in April, she said.

Human rights activist and China critic Harry Wu helped get Gao out of her homeland.

Gao showed lawmakers documents and a videotape she smuggled out of China. The items, she said, were evidence of China's brutal enforcement of its one-child policy. The videotape, played the lawmakers, showed an aborted fetus, a detention cell with bars, an operating room and a computer records center.

The videotape also told the story of a woman suspected of illegally having a baby and hiding it. The woman claimed the government forced her to be sterilized, and that her husband then beat her and left her, saying: "What good is a chicken who cannot lay an egg?"

The homeless need what?

If you're like me, you think the biggest problem that the homeless have is that...well, they're homeless. Not the United Way, Industry Canada, and the City of Toronto.

They think giving homeless people access to email is the number one priority.

"I’m interested all right," a homeless Toronto woman said when asked her opinion about Voice to Screen, an inner-city initiative that will give the homeless e-mail and access to the Internet.

"I’m interested in getting more money from the rich and making them pay for the poor," she said before recoiling from questions and curling into a fetal position on the sidewalk.

The e-mail program, funded jointly by Industry Canada, the city of Toronto and the United Way, will allow the homeless to log on to the Internet, learn how to surf Websites for places to live or work and send or receive electronic mail for a small fee.

But in parks and on street corners around the three community centres that launched the initiative, the homeless remained unconvinced that logging on to cyberspace would make any difference in their day-to-day struggle to survive.

Tom Allen, the co-ordinator of a Toronto program that gives 1 700 homeless people free voice-mail, says the Internet program is for those "who are on the economic fringe."

Anne Golden, the local president of the United Way, called it "an extraordinary innovation that will have an impact.

"They don’t have a phone number, remember," she said. "By having an e-mail address, they can communicate with others who have e-mail access. This is going to grow and grow and grow," she said.

"We’re moving yet another barrier. It’s a step toward inclusion in the community."

Canada's Reformers stay out of gold-plated MP pension plan

The Reform Party announced June 11 that an overwhelming majority of its MPs eligible to opt back into the gold-plated pension plan will not do so. This includes the entire caucus leadership team of Preston Manning, Deborah Grey, Randy White, Chuck Strahl, Jay Hill and Ken Epp.

"In 1995, 51 Reformers, 5 Liberals and 4 Bloc Quebecois opted out of the gold-plated MP pension plan. All members of the NDP and the PCs chose to remain in," said Opposition Leader Preston Manning. "As did 172 Liberal MPs."

"Fighting against the gold-plated MP pension plan is an important symbol for Reform," said Deputy Leader Deborah Grey, who personally turned down $1.4-million when she opted out. "It's what sets us apart from the other parties and it is one of the first things we'll change when there's a Reform Government."

MPs who chose to remain outside the gold-plated plan will now be eligible for a one-time severance pay-out, that is convertible into an RRSP.

"I'm happy to see that there's now an option other than the all or nothing offered by the Liberals," said Opposition House Leader Randy White. "This one-time payment is an important first step towards achieving the one-to-one pension plan that Reform has been fighting for since we came to Ottawa in 1993."

On the subject of increases to an MP's salary and accommodation allowance, White said a Reform government would have followed the recommendations of the Blais Commission.

"The Blais Commission recommended an alternative pension plan, no salary increases and full transparency in the way MPs are paid. It also said that Members of Parliament shouldn't be voting on their own pay packages," said White. "Reform agrees with these recommendations and will continue to push for them in the House of Commons."

Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds school vouchers

In the most important ruling ever on school choice, the Wisconsin Supreme Court on June 11 upheld the nation's first school choice program against legal challenge.

"A bright new day just dawned for youngsters from low-income families," declared Clint Bolick, the Institute for Justice's litigation director, which represented Milwaukee families defending the program. "The constitutional cloud over school choice is giving way to sunshine."

Bolick predicted the teacher unions and other opponents will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. "We welcome an appeal," Bolick said. "Giving parents a choice does not violate the Constitution."

Institute for Justice President Chip Mellor said, "Today's decision will help school choice spread like wildfire across the nation. The Court's careful analysis of the Constitutional issues provides powerful insight that voucher program are fully compatible with the principles of the First Amendment."

The program allows up to 15 000 low-income children use their state education funds in private or religious schools. The opponents challenged it as a violation of religious establishment provisions of the First Amendment and U.S. Constitutions.

By a 4-2 vote, the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected those claims. Four other state supreme courts-Ohio, Vermont, Arizona and Maine-face similar questions. The Institute for Justice is litigating in all of these cases.

"This ruling begins to make good on the promise of equal educational opportunities for all children," Bolick declared.

Gingrich booed during commencement address at UCSD

About 40 graduates turned their backs on House Speaker Newt Gingrich and walked out as he delivered the commencement address at the University of California, San Diego on June 14.

The Sunday walkout culminated protests by students who opposed the decision to have the Georgia Republican speak and demanded a say in the selection process.

Gingrich was gracious about the dissent, saying he participated in a few protests in his days as a student and recognized the value of differing opinions.

He approached the podium amid both boos and cheers. The crowd on the university's athletic field was estimated by UCSD officials at 8 000.

"I suspect that here today, virtually all of you clearly not all of you, but virtually all of you are very happy, and your parents are happy because you made it," Gingrich said.

Last year's UCSD graduation speaker was President Clinton, who used the occasion to launch a yearlong discussion of race relations. Gingrich's speech covered science, technology, political leadership and federal funding for research.

Some protesters tied Gingrich's visit to what they said is a crisis in minority representation and declining admissions on the heels of Proposition 209, the 1996 measure that dismantled many California affirmative action programs.

Those who walked out remained at the rear, staying mostly quiet until just before Gingrich concluded. They then marched off, at times shouting, "No University Without Diversity."

UCSD students had some input over speakers until last year, when the school abandoned a practice of having separate commencements for its undergraduate colleges and graduate divisions, in order to have Clinton speak to everyone.

UCSD Chancellor Robert Dynes has said he made a mistake by not seeking student input and noted that they will be involved in the decision next year.

Bozell launches Internet news operation

Contending that the national television networks have ignored "scandals oozing from the Clinton White House," conservative L. Brent Bozell III is launching his own news operation on the Internet.

Bozell, chairman of the conservative media watchdog group Media Research Center, said Tuesday that his Conservative News Service will be an online operation reporting news that is "under-reported or ignored by the network media."

Newspapers have done a good job "reporting the seemingly endless string of scandals oozing from the Clinton White House," Bozell said. "I cannot say the same for television news. Night after night, important stories are barely covered, if mentioned at all."

He said citizens are left in the dark because most Americans get their news from television.

"The only story, Clinton scandal, that has been reported comprehensively is the Monica Lewinsky story, because it's sex," he said, speaking of the former White House intern who is being investigated about whether she had an affair with the president and then was encouraged to lie about it.

With a staff of four reporters and two editors, the Conservative News Service will operate on $1.7 million in donations this year.

In addition to its own stories, the service will carry those by mainstream media outlets, and it will not have a solely "conservative spin," Bozell said. "We're going to be fair."

Too bad more Canadians -- politicians and the public alike -- didn't think this way

Canada’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was a shallow promise developed by politicians with romantic notions of cleaning up the world, Alberta’s energy minister said June 17.

Cutting emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2010 will devastate the economy, Steve West said.

In a speech to geologists, West launched an attack on the Kyoto agreement signed last December by 160 countries including Canada.

"I’m not making light of Kyoto - I’m saying the process is flawed," West said.

"I have never seen such a shallow process in my life, where a gathering got together and romantically for political correctness put together stats and figures which haven’t been balanced with any studies."

West also said the American energy industry is gearing up to fight the agreement.

"The basic reason why the United States does not want it ratified is because it is not achievable without a massive cut to their economy," he said.

West apologized for his generation wasting energy by building inefficient housing, using unnecessary electricity and driving gas-guzzling vehicles.

"But dammit, I’m not giving up my vehicles, I’m not going to give up my standard of living."

Canadians should be aware they may soon have to spend more on gasoline and electricity, as well as purchase more energy-efficient insulation and water heaters and computerized light switches.

"We have to tell Canadians what the costs are and what their role is going to be in Kyoto," West said.

He pointed out Canada is the culprit for only two per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, while China produces 18 per cent and it’s one of the many developing nations that have not signed the agreement.

Phoenix airport renamed after Goldwater...then not...

The City Council renamed its major airport June 16 in tribute to the late Barry Goldwater, the conservative icon known as "Mr. Arizona."

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport became Goldwater Sky Harbor International Airport on a 6-3 vote.

"I think it's great that from now on when people fly into Arizona, they're going to say 'I'm flying into Goldwater,"' said one backer, Attorney General Grant Woods.

The idea was proposed by Mayor Skip Rimsza, who said Goldwater's love of flying made renaming the airport a logical choice. The five-term senator and 1964 presidential candidate died May 29 at age 89.

Rimsza initially wanted to call it Phoenix Goldwater International Airport, but changed the proposal after too many people said they liked the name Sky Harbor.

Susan Goldwater said her husband would have been delighted to have his name attached to the airport, which he could see from his mountaintop home.

"I listened on the radio on the way in and people were saying he wouldn't like (the name change). That is flat out not true," she said. "I do believe he would be very pleased."

Well, the rename didn't last long. On June 19 Rimsza bowed to pressure from people who liked the original name better and postponed the final decision on the airport's name until September. 2.

"We have heard the pleas from people. People who love Barry Goldwater. But people who want us to hear their ideas," Rimsza wrote in a memo to the city council. "We can do that."

Rimsza wrote that he plans to vote again to change the airport's name to honor Goldwater.

"Everything I know and feel tells me this is the right thing to do," Rimsza wrote. "I'll never do anything less than that."

Opponents of the name change say they have nothing against Goldwater, whose crusty conservatism brought him both widespread admiration and frequent criticism in Arizona. Instead, they suggest that other features be named after Goldwater, such as Squaw Peak, whose name many American Indians consider a racial slur.

Greenspan urges free-market view of mergers

Sometimes I forget that U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan used to be one of the good guys...the really good guys. Recent comments by Greenspan cheered me that he hadn't completely forgotten his laissez-faire past.

On June 16 Greenspan said it is too soon to determine the economic impact of the recent wave of multibillion-dollar mergers but he asked the U.S. Congress to be cautious in substituting government regulations for free-market forces.

Greenspan was the leadoff witness as the Senate Judiciary Committee heard from the government's top antitrust officials in a hearing seeking to determine how the recent spate of mergers in banking and other industries would affect American consumers and the economy overall.

"The United States is currently experiencing its fifth major corporate consolidation of this century," Greenspan told the committee. "When trying to understand and deciding how to react to this development, I would hope that we appropriately account for the complexity and dynamism of modern free markets."

Greenspan noted the first merger wave occurred at the turn of the century, followed by other waves in the late 1920s, the late 1960s and the late 1980s.

The first two merger waves produced significant increases in economic concentration in the manufacturing sector, Greenspan said. He added that there was no sign recent rounds of mergers have had much effect in further consolidating manufacturing companies, reflecting that they are occurring in a U.S. economy that is already at an advanced stage of development.

"The effects of the present merger wave on concentration have yet to be determined, but there is little reason to expect their influence will differ substantially from the merger wave of the early 1980s, which produced at most a slight increase in manufacturing concentration," Greenspan said.

Some members of Congress have expressed concerns that a number of big bank mergers could force U.S. consumers to pay higher bank fees because of reduced competition.

But Greenspan said while the wave of bank mergers had reduced the level of banks nationally, the number competing in any given region of the country remained about the same.

But he said the local banking competitors now "tend to be the same competitors in an increasing number of markets."

Asked about the economic impact, Greenspan said there would clearly be job losses as banks consolidate branches, but he said a growing U.S. economy should be able to handle the displaced workers. He noted that 300 000 workers lose their jobs each week but despite this fact, the unemployment rate stands at a 28-year low of 4.3 per cent.

U.S. House of Representatives votes to dump tax code...we'll see how long that lasts

The U.S. House of Representatives managed to pass a bill scrapping the current tax code and replacing it with a simpler, yet unspecified, one. The final vote June 17 was 219-209.

The Senate is unlikely to take up the House bill or any similar legislation, sentencing it to a quick death in Congress. If the Senate does take up the legislation, President Bill Clinton said the day of its passing he will work to defeat the bill. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin said the legislation could have a "severe adverse impact" on the economy.

The House legislation, sponsored by Reps. Steve Largent (R-Okla.) and Bill Paxon (R-N.Y), calls for replacing the current tax code by July 4, 2002, and then sunsetting the current tax code six months later, by Dec. 31, 2002.

Largent told House members his goal is to encourage debate on how to replace the current system over the next four years.

Speaking at a rally outside the U.S. Capitol, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) assailed the current tax code. "What we have today is a monstrosity," Gingrich said. "You can get different answers in different regions of the country. The IRS can't enforce it fairly, and the truth is that no tax expert in the country actually understands the entire code."

Shockingly, Democrats assailed the Republicans' plan. Friend of all taxes and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) denounced the bill, saying, "I think it's shameful that we should play on the hopes of the American people. People used to say we had to live with death and taxes. Republicans said, 'No, we can eliminate taxes.' Pretty soon they may eliminate death."

House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.) described the House legislation as a "sunset-the-code" bill that "sets in place a timetable by which the Congress and the president will create a new code."

Ontario MPP wants student cigarettes smokers sent to addiction counseling - or - proving that even members of parties that Gord Gekko votes for have an equal chance at idiocy

Ontario (a province in Canada for foreign readers) students could be suspended and sent for addiction counseling if they're caught with an unlit cigarette under a bill that has been approved in principle.

"Excuse me? An addiction program for someone who's carrying a pack of cigarettes I think is a bit beyond the bounds," New Democrat (left-wing socialists for foreign readers) Gilles Bisson said.

Bisson said the proposed legislation would turn principals into police by giving them the authority to conduct searches for cigarettes, drugs and alcohol.

But Conservative backbencher Terence Young defended his private member's bill, arguing it addresses the increasing problem of addiction among young people.

"We have a very serious problem on our hands and it's time that we face the fact that our drug culture is an entrenched part of our youth culture," he said.

"Drug and alcohol use among youth is at its highest level since 1980," Young said, citing statistics from the Addiction Research Foundation.

"While the popularity of drugs and alcohol are growing, so are the societal costs, including academic failure and family breakdown," he added.

Young's bill, which passed second reading on June 18, would require a principal to exclude pupils from classes and activities if they are found with alcohol, drugs or tobacco, whether lighted or not.

The pupil could also be suspended.

Students would then be required to attend an addiction counselling program before they are allowed to return to classes.

Fortunately, a spokesman Education Minister Dave Johnson said that the government is a "long way" from endorsing the bill.

Another unbiased liberal...yeah right

The author of a controversial magazine article claiming Independent Counsel Ken Starr admitted leaking information to the press had the gunsights of the media turned on him last month.

Steven Brill, publisher of a new magazine on the media, told The Washington Post he should have disclosed in that article his past campaign contributions to President Bill Clinton and other Democrats.

A check of Federal Election Commission records shows Brill gave $1 000 to the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1995, more than $9 000 to various Democratic candidates for Senate and House since 1992 and $2 000 to the National Cable Television Association's PAC in 1996. There are no donations to Republicans.

Although Brill told The Washington Post he stopped making political donations after deciding to launch "Brill's Content," he admits, "I should have disclosed it."

The controversial article which appeared in the magazine's debut edition accuses Starr of "leaking the most damaging details of the investigation to a willing, eager press corps."

In excerpts from a 90-minute interview with Brill, Starr was quoted as saying he spoke privately with reporters "on some occasions," but his deputy, Jackie Bennett, had more extensive discussions with journalists.

Many of the sources quoted in Brill's article, including Starr, have stepped forward to say Brill misrepresented their comments.

"The OIC [Office of Independent Counsel] does not release grand jury material directly or indirectly, on-the-record or off-the-record ... the OIC does not release [and never has released] information provided by witnesses during witness interviews, except as authorized by law. Mr. Brill's statements to the contrary are false," Starr said in a prepared statement Monday.

TIME Managing Editor Walter Isaacson, Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff, Washington Post reporter Susan Schmidt and NBC reporter David Bloom all have told The Washington Post that they, their publications or their comments to Brill were misrepresented in the article.

Shocking!

NWI report unmasks possible lawbreaking at EPA; Department of Justice investigates

From the National Centre for Public Policy Research

Dr. Bonner Cohen, editor of EPA Watch and Washington Editor for Earth Times, reviewed the findings of a National Wilderness Institute report he wrote, "The People v. Carol Browner: EPA on Trial," released at a Washington press conference with Congressional participation in May. Following the report's release the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility announced that it "has initiated an inquiry into the matters described." The Landmark Legal Foundation has also referred the report to the Department of Justice's Criminal Division for possible action.

On June 8 a group of 19 EPA employees from six EPA offices signed a joint letter endorsing the general conclusions of the report, saying they were willing to "risk their careers" by going public about alleged lawbreaking and irresponsible behavior at the EPA. Says the letter, in part: "Within the EPA, employees are harassed, even fired, for protesting illegal or irresponsible behavior by managers who jeopardize the proper enforcement of the law... At the EPA, retaliation against whistleblowers occurs at every management level. At times, it involved the highest levels of administration including the offices of Regional Administrators and the Office of Administrator Carol Browner." The report documents the following patterns of behavior by EPA officials: 1) corrupting agency ethics rules to silence whistle blowers, 2) creating and submitting backdated documents to federal court, 3) asking career scientists to lobby Congress in violation of federal law, 4) overseeing the creation of a tax-exempt group to circumvent state and local governments in violation of existing agreements, and 5) abusing the rights of citizens by violating the Congressional Review Act and establishing unwritten and unpublicized regulations.

justice n [ME, fr. OF, fr. L justitia, fr. justus] 1: pro-filtering group gets filtered 2: getting what you deserve

The American Family Association, one of the most vocal conservative organizations on Internet decency, announced that they are the subject of one popular Internet filtering program. AFA has organized protests against Disney, Levi-Strauss, Pepsi and ABC for their support of homosexual activists, leading the Learning Company, makers of CyberPatrol software, to add the organization to the Cyber NOT list, which is filtered out on their software products.

AFA has learned that it has been categorized in the "intolerance" listing, along with such web sites as the David Duke Report and WhitePower.com. Susan Getgood, spokesperson for the Learning Company said, "The material found on the Web site met the criteria of intolerance." AFA has an opportunity to appeal, but doubts that it will. "When I put the pencil to the expenditure of flying to [the appeal hearing,] I just couldn't do it," said Buddy Smith, AFA spokesman.

AFA has also been a strong supporter of requiring schools and libraries to install filtering software on their computers, but this incident may provide some perspective that demonstrates that filtering works in a variety of ways and against a wide range of targets - including filtering advocates themselves.

As one commentator, David Goldman of HateWatch, said, "the whole notion that parents should abdicate responsibility to government agencies or filtering software is ludicrous," stressing that parents and teachers should be the primary guides for children's Internet viewing.

Competition will always find a way to survive

The Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association has changed the rules for tournament games involving players under 10 so that no score is kept, yielding no winners or losers. Trophies are not allowed unless everyone on every team gets one. Head Coach Dean Conway calls this a "non-results-oriented initiative," but some of the kids have apparently been keeping score in their heads, contrary to the spirit of the game. Paige Beauregard of Belchertown explained, "I'd like to know the score so I can get better." A coach commented on the association's informal score policy, "In non-results-oriented tourneys, score is not kept for all to see, but only for tourney officials to view, to make sure games aren't too one-sided."

Why tenure should be ended

As noted in his job application for a post as professor of eighteenth-century literature, Manfred Mickleson's dissertation, "informed by feminist theory, queer theory, cultural materialism, eco-criticism, and postcolonial studies," focuses on "masculine authority and feminine desire in eighteenth-century pirate literature." Mickleson received six invitations to be interviewed at the annual convention of the Modern Language Association, despite the fact that both he and his resume were made up by academic hoaxers.

Reform-minded conservative wins Colombian presidency

A former Bogota mayor who promised to end rampant political corruption was elected Colombia's next president on June 21. Andres Pastrana was embraced by voters who spurned a key player in the scandal-tainted administration of President Ernesto Samper.

Pastrana, in his second straight bid for Colombia's highest office, had 50.5 percent against 46.4 percent for Horacio Serpa of the governing Liberal Party with 97 percent of the vote counted, official results showed.

"I believe that Colombia has really voted for a change," Pastrana, of the opposition Conservative Party, said in a television interview when results showed him ahead.

Public anger with Samper's tenure apparently helped Pastrana, who was narrowly defeated by the incumbent in 1994.

Serpa, a veteran politician, was interior minister for most of Samper's administration, defending the incumbent in a corruption scandal that battered Colombia's international image and economy.

Samper, criticized for alleged links to drug traffickers, bought the support of regional political bosses by doling out hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds. Meanwhile, unemployment soared to 14.5 percent and the deficit more than doubled.

The expert on substance abuse speaks

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) said June 21 he believes Republicans will change their stance on opposing both anti-smoking legislation and a Patients' Bill of Rights as the November elections approach.

"I think the last thing that the Republican Party wants is to go into the election as the pro-tobacco and the anti-health care party, and that's where their leaders are leading them," Kennedy said on CBS' "Face The Nation."

He said pared down anti-tobacco proposals that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) have indicated they may offer will be seen for what they are -- in the interest of big tobacco.

"We all know what's going on. The tobacco industry is interested in some kind of watered down bill. They're more interested in the political lives of those senators rather than the lives of children that are really at risk," said Kennedy.

He said the defeat of the anti-tobacco legislation sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) does not mean that the fight over the bill is over. Rather, said Kennedy, it is the beginning of the legislative process in which such bills are repeatedly brought to the Senate floor.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told CNN's "Late Edition" that she already has an alternate anti-tobacco bill in the works.

"Sen. [Orrin] Hatch and I have one. We hope to present it sometime this week," she said.

Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.) also appearing on "Late Edition," said he hopes it will be a scaled back version.

"It shouldn't be like the tax and spend bill that we just defeated," said Hutchinson.

Kennedy said he expects the same kind of fight when he brings his Patients' Bill of Rights, aimed at overseeing Health Maintenance Organizations, to the Senate floor for a vote.

"We know that, at the outset, you're going to have the same kind of fight on this as we had on big tobacco. Make no mistake about it. And the insurance industries will be out there and they'll be having the same kind of battle," said Kennedy.

He said he's confident of the health bill's eventual Senate passage "by bringing it up and bringing it up and bringing it up closer and closer to the election."

Canada's populist conservatives "smear" aboriginals by demanding equality

The Reform party is deliberately conducting a public smear campaign against native people, the head of Canada's largest aboriginal group said last month.

When Reform members say they want native people treated equally with everyone else, they're ignoring longstanding agreements between native people and other levels of government, said Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

"We are not equal, nor should we be treated as such," Fontaine said June 23 on the opening day of the three-day national conference of the Assembly of First Nations.

"We have unique responsibilities...and relationships with our land and our governments that must be upheld."

Apparently selling missile technology to China wasn't enough

U.S. President Bill Clinton vetoed legislation that would have automatically imposed sanctions on any foreign government or business that supplied ballistic missile technology to Iran.
The veto late on June 23 of the Iran Missile Proliferation Act came less than a week after Clinton expressed hope for "a genuine reconciliation with Iran" if it complied with international standards of conduct.

The administration already has eased travel to the United States for Iranians and is supporting cultural and academic exchanges.

Under the 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, the president has the option of imposing sanctions on foreign companies that invest at least $20 million annually in Iran's oil and gas sectors.

The bill he vetoed would have required "sweeping application of sanctions according to inflexible and indiscriminate criteria," Clinton said in a statement. Sanctions could be wrongly triggered against individuals and businesses worldwide and would be disproportionate, penalizing minor violations the same as major ones, he said.

But Clinton said he was particularly concerned about the bill's impact on the U.S. effort to work with Russia to stem the flow of technology from Russia to Iran's missile program.

Some members of Congress said they would push to override the veto, citing concern over moves by Russia and China to supply Iran with missile technology.

"This proliferation cannot and must not be ignored. It is a direct threat to peace in the Middle East," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "This carefully crafted legislation will strengthen the president's hand in dealing with proliferators."

House International Relations Chairman Ben Gilman, R-N.Y., asked GOP leaders to immediately schedule an override vote, saying the veto is "deeply distressing" in light of the assistance Iran has gotten from Russia on missile production.

White House press secretary Mike McCurry said earlier that Clinton felt Congress was trying to "micromanage" U.S. foreign policy and put "hopeless shackles on the presidency" with the legislation.

Clinton proves determination to continue racial politics

The Clinton administration announced a new formula on July 24 to determine which minority-owned businesses receive preferences for federal contracts.

The change will affect industries where a large government survey found that minority companies' share of federal business is smaller than their market share.

For example, minority businesses in the electronic equipment industry would be eligible. Minority companies have 7.6 percent of the electronics market but get just 1.2 percent of federal contracts in the field.

Companies in the industries that fit the profile will get a price break of up to 10 percent in calculating the low bidder for government contracts.

It is designed to satisfy a Supreme Court edict allowing preferences only to remedy past discrimination. The government's prior practice of reserving some federal contracts for minority firms was thrown out by the justices three years ago.

The change is not subject to congressional approval and will be phased in by Jan. 1. The White House expects the policy will survive legal challenges.

Canadians to protest incoming gun law

Last time, more than 20 000 people showed up to tell the federal government that their proposals for additional gun controls were way off target. Exactly four years to the day, Fed Up II, another major Parliament Hill rally, will reiterate that message.

The protest will see a number of groups representing firearms owners, civil rights advocates and other Canadians opposed to Bill C-68 and its provisions for gun registration and licencing.

There are any number of reasons why C-68 is flawed law, both morally and legally, but chief among them are new search and seizure provisions which will erode fundamental privacy rights, the seizure of tens of thousands of firearms, and the fact that violent crimes rarely include firearms. An estimated C$133 million (US$1 = C$1.40) has been already spent without even one firearms registered yet! It was supposed to be done for C$85 million.

The protest will take place on September 22, 1998, just one week (October 1, 1998) before the full implementation of Bill C-68 is to take place.

If you'll be in the Ottawa area on September 22, get involved! Email Fed Up II organizer Al Dorans at aldorans@magma.ca for more information or visit http://www.fedupcanada.org.

Expected costs for the rally will be around $45 000 which still has to raised through your donations. Currently, there are three deposit options available:

  1. An interbranch payment at any branch of the CIBC; Transit - 986; Account #1697331; Attention Terri Muus.
  2. Mail directly to CIBC, 1518 Merivale Road, Nepean, Ontario, K2G 3J6. Attention: Terri Muus.
  3. Deposit directly at CIBC, Cityview Plaza or CIBC, Merivale Mall, Nepean, Ontario, K2G 3J6 Attention: Terri Muus.

The snail mail address is George Penfold, 101 Anwatin Road, Nepean, Ontario K2H 6J4.

Forget what you're worth says Arizona school board

According to the The Education Intelligence Agency's Communique of June 23, 1998, teacher Andrew Creighton-Harank stirred up some trouble in the Kyrene School District in Arizona when he made an appointment with the school board and asked for a $15 000 raise.

According to a story in the Arizona Republic, Creighton-Harank is recognized as an exceptional teacher and has a large number of parents among his supporters. Not surprisingly, the district turned down his request. Creighton-Harank then submitted his resignation. "It's going to happen," he said. "I am going to work with children and make $50 000 a year."

The powers-that-be were less than taken with Creighton-Harank's approach. "People felt he shouldn't be out for himself," said Kyrene Education Association President Debbie Dinyes. Jack Peterson, executive director of the Arizona School Board Association, felt the same way. "That would be very anti- union to negotiate on your own," he said.

Privatize all of British Columbia's forests, says company head

Virtually all aspects of the forest industry should be placed in the hands of the private sector, says the head of MacMillan Bloedel.

This would solve the unending battle over softwood lumber exports to the United States, Tom Stephens, president of the forest company said in a 12-page discussion paper circulated to industry insiders.

Under his proposal, planning, management, development, harvesting and manufacturing activities would be concentrated in the hands of the forest companies.

That means the system would be responsive to market conditions and undermine the Americans’ contention that the B.C. government subsidizes its industry, he said in the document.

The United States announced that same week plans to challenge the province’s recent reduction of stumpage fees under the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber agreement, a five-year deal that imposes a quota to restrict B.C. exports.

The Macmillan Bloedel solution would put a significant portion of British Columbia’s annual allowable cut up for unrestricted auction so that stumpage fees, the royalties the province collects for timber cut on Crown land, would be more clearly tied to the free market.

At present, stumpage is set by the government.

Under the new proposal, it would be tied to the value of the logs.

"I see this as a first and essential step in eliminating quota under the softwood lumber agreement," Stephens wrote.

Forests Minister David Zirnhelt said, however, the proposal could further undermine the already tenuous job security in the industry.

"Our reference will be what’s good for employment and what’s good for communities," he said.

The discussion paper, sent to industry insiders in mid June, said the proposed reform of stumpage fees and forest licence tenure would "permit unrestricted access of B.C. forest products into U.S. and global markets."

To do that, the current tenure system, which is supposed to tie timber cutting rights to employment, would have to be dismantled. U.S. Supreme Court rules line-item veto unconstitutional

The line-item veto is unconstitutional the Supreme Court decided June 24, ruling that the law violates constitutional language requiring every bill be presented to the president for approval or veto only.

The 6-3 ruling striking down the executive power, has far-reaching implications for the budget process in Washington. The 1996 line-item veto law allowed the president to pencil out specific spending items approved by the Congress.

The ruling was a defeat for the Clinton Administration which asked the high court to reverse a lower court ruling.

During oral arguments in April, Solicitor General Seth Waxman argued that the line-item veto does not violate the separation of powers between Congress and the president.

"This is not an example of a president repealing a provision of a law that Congress has enacted ... but exercising a discretionary authority that Congress has given him," Waxman said.

Louis Cohen, a lawyer for an Idaho potato growers' group that challenged the law, said the effect of using the line-item veto is to produce "a truncated statute that Congress didn't pass."

Waxman argued the potato growers and New York City, which also challenged the law, lacked legal standing because they were not directly affected by vetoes carried out last year by President Bill Clinton.

Last June, the justices ruled that six members of Congress who challenged the veto law also lacked standing to sue.

Opponents charge the law tips the constitutional balance of power toward the presidency and away from Congress. Supporters of the law argue it's merely a check on wasteful spending.

Clinton exercised the veto 82 times last year before a federal judge in Washington ruled the law unconstitutional in February. Once a bill becomes law, the president's sole duty is to carry it out, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan said.

"The Line-Item Veto Act is hardly revolutionary," Waxman said in court papers. "The act simply gives the president a measure of discretion over the expenditure of appropriated funds."

But New York City's lawyers called the line-item veto a "too-clever device" that seeks to give the president the authority to repeal laws by himself.

Under the Constitution, "cancellation is an action that only Congress has the power ... to take," the city's attorneys said in court briefs.

New York City sued to restore a provision that would have let the city and New York state raise taxes on hospitals and use the money to attract federal Medicaid payments.

The Snake River Potato Growers sued over Clinton's veto of a tax measure that would have allowed agricultural processors to defer capital gains taxes when they sell such facilities to farmers' cooperatives.

Exxon sued for trying to prevent oil spills

When it comes to the federal government, it seems you are damned if you do and damned if you don¹t. At least that¹s the way it seems to some businesses that are trying to comply with the law.

According to the Anchorage Daily News (May 30), after the Exxon Valdez ran aground and dumped 11 millions gallons of oil into Alaska¹s Prince William Sound, Exxon restricted any employee with a history of drug or alcohol abuse from 1 500 safety-sensitive jobs. Alcohol use had been linked to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, although the ship¹s captain was later cleared by a jury of charges that he was intoxicated on the job.

The Daily News says Exxon was congratulated for its new policy by both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, but does that mean the federal government approves of the policy?

Apparently not, because the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission now is suing Exxon, saying that the new policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Exxon goes on trial for attempting to prevent another oil spill on August 3.

NJ coalition beats back national ID plan...for now

Demonstrating the power of grassroots activism, a coalition of Right/Left organizations turned back New Jersey's Gov. Christie Todd Whitman's "AccessNJ" driver's license proposal June 30 in both the State Assembly and Senate after a massive media and legislative blitz over the weekend by conservative activists. With the Democrats stating their opposition to the measure, a Republican caucus vote showed the proposal to be significantly short in both houses early Monday morning.

Headed by the League of American Families and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, the coalition included the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, the Conservative Caucus of NJ, and the New Jersey Family Policy Council.

The AccessNJ proposal would have created a 10-year "smart card" drivers license that would have been required for all government programs and services, as well as authorizing banks, hospitals, schools, libraries, credit card and insurance companies to electronically store information on the drivers licence as well. Coalition groups opposed this measure as an invasion of personal privacy because of the lack of guarantees by administration officials how the information would be used and by whom.

Dr. Seriah Rein of Concerned Women for America said, "This is not an AccessNJ card; this is an access our privacy card."

ACLU-NJ Staff Attorney David Rocah also attacked the proposal: "Even if the license works as officials claim, every transaction done with the smart card will leave an electronic trial showing who did what and when. Computers will record each time the card is used to pay a toll, cash a check, make a purchase, check out a book, get insurance authorization to see your doctor, or any time you need proof of identification. And, unlike the databases that currently exist, all of these new databases will be able to be combined, because they will all share the same means of identifying the individual involved - your Social Security number."

Coalition organizations also noted the speed with which the proposal flew through both houses of the state legislature. Hearings were held June 22nd, only days after the bills were introduced. Assembly and Senate Committees passed the bills on to the floor last week, with floor votes scheduled June 30.

John Tomacki, President of the League of American Families and architect of the conservative opposition to the proposal, said: "Over the last several weeks, the New Jersey legislature has been concentrating its attention on the $18 billion budget. But this controversial electronic 'smart card' has moved in 18 days from introduction to a vote like a stealth bomber. This is no longer a question of Big Brother in Washington DC invading your privacy, but Big Mother in Trenton controlling your personal information."

Coalition members pointed out that the AccessNJ proposal comes at a peculiar time. Under federal guidelines issued by the federal Department of Transportation last month, federal agencies will not accept state drivers licenses as valid identification unless the state conforms to the federal identification guidelines.

Len Deo, President of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, pointed out that "the federal proposal will require individuals to show a federally approved identification document for air travel, the federally required New Hires database, medical care and firearms registration."

The $25 million AccessNJ card would have met the proposed federal identification regulations. With its temporary defeat, the battle by privacy advocates in New Jersey may serve as the model for activists in other states to follow to combat similar proposals pending in other states.




Current Issue

Archive Main | 1998

Musings - ESR's blog

E-mail ESR


Loading

Send a link to this page!

 


Home

1996-2013, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.