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web posted September 27, 1999


Announcing the 1999-2000 Individual Choices and Liberty Seminar at l'Université du Québec à Hull chaired by Prof. Alain Albert and Pierre Lemieux

Papers by Hugh High, University of Cape Town (South Africa), Dwight Lee, University of Georgia (USA), Bertrand Lemennicier, Université de Paris (France), Tomas J. Philipson and Casey Mulligan, University of Chicago (USA), Richard Wagner, George Mason University (USA), Alan Woodfield, University of Canterbury (New Zealand), and others.

For information on this monthly seminar starting in November 1999, to be put on the seminar's mailing list, or to participate, please visit the (bilingual) seminar's Web site, at http://www.uqah.uquebec.ca/lemieux/

Leftist Schroeder's party suffers another defeat in Saxony vote

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder declared the Social Democrats' humiliating third-place showing in Saxony state elections "a bitter defeat" on September 20 but promised to stick to an unpopular economic austerity plan.

The vote the day before in eastern Saxony state was the fifth electoral defeat in September for the chancellor, who just a year after sweeping to power has lost broad support over plans to cut Germany's generous social welfare benefits.

Despite the Social Democrats' worst election showing since the end of World War II, Schroeder pledged to continue reforms he insists are necessary to stimulate growth.

"There's no alternative to it," Schroeder said, before a meeting of the party's leadership. He also ruled out a government reshuffle.

The Christian Democrats, led by the enormously popular Saxony governor Kurt Biedenkopf, won a convincing 57 percent of the vote. Official results gave Schroeder's party just under 11 percent, a six-point plunge from the last election in 1994.

The ex-communist Party of Democratic Socialism, which had attacked the austerity plans, surged ahead of the Social Democrats with 22 percent, gaining six points to consolidate its strength in the economically struggling east.

The Social Democrats' disastrous slide, also evident in four state and local elections earlier this month, have raised questions about the stability of Schroeder's center-left coalition with the small, environmentalist Greens.

A poll taken before the vote said 62 percent of Germans expect the government to collapse if the coalition parties continue to lose in state elections. The Dimap poll of 1,100 people gave no margin of error.

The conservative Christian Democrats, in power in Saxony since German unification in 1990, retained their absolute majority in the state legislature.

While that had been expected, the Social Democrats' losses were worse than polls had predicted. "The voters have punished us," said state legislator Thomas Joerg.

Franz Muentefering, the Social Democrats' national manager, conceded defeat, but he insisted the budget cuts are "unavoidable."

Schroeder has defended the austerity plan as a way to boost investment, fight unemployment and lighten a federal debt pumped up to the equivalent of $800 billion by massive aid to former communist East Germany.

But critics, including many on the left wing of his own party, say the cuts are too harsh and that Schroeder has failed to explain the benefits of sacrifice to the nation. Most controversial is a plan to limit pension increases.

Many traditional Social Democratic voters have stayed home during the recent elections to protest Schroeder's attempt to move the party toward the political center.

Biedenkopf won a third term as governor with the vote, thanks to voters who credit the 69-year-old economics professor with the state's post-communist revival.

The Social Democrat challenger, Karl-Heinz Kunckel, blamed "federal politics" for his defeat and said he would step down as the party's state chairman.

Study: Network TV may not have racial 'whitewash'

A new study suggests that prime-time TV's reflection of cultural diversity may not be a whitewash.

Four of the top six networks will have a higher percentage of blacks as regular characters in comedies and dramas this fall than there is in the general population, said a report by TN Media, which advises companies on TV advertising.

Still, all networks do a poor job in representing Hispanics and other minorities, according to the study issued on September 21.

The NAACP is considering a boycott of network television because of a lack of minority representation on TV. The organization began investigating the issue when it discovered the new shows on networks this fall were overwhelmingly white.

Hispanic groups have similar complaints, and are in the midst of a two-week "brownout" urging their followers not to watch TV.

The new study said 18 percent of CBS's characters this fall are black; the figure is 14 percent at ABC. Blacks now represent about 13 percent of the nation's population.

Eight percent of NBC's characters are black, and FOX was at 7 percent.

The two developing networks, which both air shows that specifically appeal to a black audience, do much better. On UPN, 45 percent of the characters are black and 23 percent are black on the WB.

The six-network average is 16 percent.

"The networks seem to be fairly representative," said TN Media's Steve Sternberg.

It's not clear how much the percentages changed after the NAACP made diversity a public issue. With the situation pointed out to the networks, several shows in production began adding minority characters.

A spokesman for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said the organization is equally concerned about the lack of minority executives, writers and production people at the networks.

"Certainly we're glad that there are a number of minority characters on camera," said the NAACP's John White, "but we're still saying this is more than a matter of who's on screen."

Only 3 percent of the prime-time characters on the networks are minorities other than blacks, the report said. Hispanics alone make up 9 percent of the population.

Sternberg argued that the idea that blacks were much better represented onscreen during the 1970s and 1980s is not true. And he disagreed with the notion that networks don't cater to blacks because advertisers are only interested in young, upscale whites.

"Everyone appealing to the same audience hurts us all, viewers and advertisers alike," he said. "It limits our choices, further polarizes the audience and contributes to network ratings erosion."

TN Media's study of viewing habits indicated that CBS is the most popular network among black viewers, as it is now with all viewers. Blacks watch nearly 72 hours of television, on average, each week, while whites watch 50 hours.

Almost half of all Hispanic television viewing is to Spanish language television, the report said.

Socialist NDP end Conservative government in Manitoba

New Democrat Gary Doer has seized power in Manitoba, ending the reign of Canada's longest-serving premier.

Doer ended a three-election losing streak against Progressive Conservative Premier Gary Filmon on September 21 and gave the province its first NDP government in 11 years.

Filmon, attempting to match the feat of Tory premier Duff Roblin, who won four consecutive terms in Manitoba in the 1950s and '60s, immediately announced he will step down as party leader. He said he's made no decision on whether or not to resign his seat in the legislature.

But the NDP victory was a nail-biter. A majority government wasn't declared until nearly 2 1/2 hours after polls closed.

In a handful of ridings the lead switched back and forth throughout the night. One was decided by just three votes and another by 19, prompting automatic recounts.

The NDP took 31 seats to 25 for the Tories and one for the Liberals.

The NDP last governed Manitoba under Howard Pawley from 1986 to 1988, ringing up large budget deficits before the government fell in a non-confidence vote. Doer was a key cabinet minister in that regime.

"What a night. What a province. We did it together," Doer told a delirious crowd of supporters in Winnipeg.

"Manitobans have spoken and we have listened."

Underscoring his campaign theme of political integrity, Doer insisted that the new NDP government will honour its commitments.

Filmon was ousted even though the provincial economy is one of the strongest in the country.

"Like all good things they come to an end," Filmon told supporters in downtown Winnipeg. "The people have spoken. And I trust the people. I accept their judgment and I respect their desire for change."

Despite 11 years in power and the bad taste of a 1995 vote-rigging scandal, the Tory vote remained virtually unchanged from the last campaign. But the story was the collapse of the Liberal support, which dropped by more than 10 percentage points and moved almost entirely to the NDP.

The Tory defeat in Manitoba comes after a string of party victories in Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia earlier this year. The week before, the right wing Saskatchewan Party reduced NDP Premier Roy Romanow to a minority government.

When the election was called five weeks ago, the Tories held 31 seats to 23 for the NDP and two for the Liberals. One of the legislature's 57 seats was vacant.

Filmon, 57, tried to focus the campaign on his government's stewardship of the Manitoba economy. Unemployment is at a record low, the province is prospering and the budget has been balanced for five straight years.

Filmon offered a $1 billion reward to voters for their years of belt tightening. He pledged to cut their taxes by $500 million and increase spending on health care and education by the same amount.

"There's no question we can do this," Filmon had said of his platform. "I still think we're being very cautious."

But Doer, 51, repeatedly questioned the viability of the Tory promise. He attempted to both discredit Filmon in light of the scheme to secretly fund independent candidates in an attempt to take votes away from the NDP, and ease voter fears that electing the NDP would mark a return to the tax-and-spend days of the party's last premier, Howard Pawley.

Doer ran under the banner of "Today's NDP," an attempt to portray himself as a new-style social democrat in the mold of Britain's Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The NDP promised a modest $200 million in spending to cut post-secondary tuitions by 10 per cent, trim property taxes and end hospital over-crowding - or "hallway medicine" as Doer dubbed it - by opening more hospital beds and hiring nurses.

He also pledged to keep balanced-budget legislation.

"We are only coming forward with promises we can keep within the budget that was produced by the government four months ago, instead of massive promises we can't keep," Doer said.

"We know people are cynical about honesty from the government."

Political scientist Paul Thomas said Filmon's $1 billion promise may have played into Doer's hands because the government said in its budget just a few months ago that there was no money for hospitals and other needs.

It also portrayed the Conservatives - not the NDP - as the campaign's big spenders, he said.

"You put a number like 1 billion out there and it scares a lot of people," said Thomas of the University of Manitoba. "It really provided a peg on which to attack Filmon's integrity and trust."

U.S. Justice Department Sues Tobacco Companies

The Justice Department sued the tobacco industry on September 22 to recover billions of dollars taxpayers have spent on smoking-related health care, accusing cigarette-makers of a "coordinated campaign of fraud and deceit."

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. alleges the cigarette companies conspired since the 1950s to defraud and mislead the American public and to conceal information about the effects of smoking.

"Smoking is the nation's largest preventable cause of death and disease, and American taxpayers should not have to bear the responsibility for the staggering costs," Attorney General Janet Reno said. "For more than 45 years, the cigarette companies conducted their business without regard to the truth, the law, or the health of the American people."

The suit names Philip Morris Inc.; Philip Morris Companies; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; American Tobacco Co.; Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.; British-American Tobacco P.L.C.; British-American Tobacco (Investments) Ltd.; Lorillard Tobacco Co. Inc.; Liggett and Myers Inc.; The Council for Tobacco Research U.S.A. Inc.; and the Tobacco Institute Inc.

In the complaint, the U.S. government alleges that "for the past 43 years, the companies that manufacture and sell tobacco have waged an intentional, coordinated campaign of fraud and deceit." The long-anticipated lawsuit alleges the companies engaged in a conspiracy in violation of the federal law against civil racketeering.

President Clinton, himself a cigar smoker, issued a written statement declaring that "the Justice Department is taking the right course of action. It is time for America's taxpayers to have their day in court."

Reno announced the department is formally closing, without charges, a nearly 5-year-old criminal investigation of whether tobacco companies lied to Congress or regulatory agencies about the addictive nature of tobacco.

"We are moving forward," Reno, joined by acting Assistant Attorney General David Ogden, told a news conference today.

"We filed a (civil) lawsuit that seeks to recover from the tobacco companies the billions of dollars that American taxpayers spend each year on tobacco-related illnesses," she said. "On behalf of the taxpayers, we are asking the tobacco companies to pay their fair share."

"As our complaint also asserts," Reno said, "the cigarette-makers have also realized since 1953 that the truth represents a mortal threat to their business. ... At every turn, they denied that smoking causes disease and denied that it is addictive."

Citing internal company documents, Odgen traced the alleged conspiracy to a meeting of cigarette company chief executives at the Plaza Hotel in New York in January 1954. They "agreed there to wage a long-term public relations campaign based on fraud and based on deception," Ogden said.

"For decades, they repeatedly and consistently denied that smoking cigarettes causes disease despite their knowledge that it does, ... denied that cigarettes are addictive even though they have long known and deliberately exploited the addictive properties of nicotine," Ogden said.

Ogden said the government spends more than $20 billion a year treating smoking-related illness, but could not estimate how much money the lawsuit might recover. He said they could only recover amounts they could prove resulted from illegal conduct but that there is no limit under the federal civil racketeering statute on how far back in time they could go to try to force the companies to disgorge any ill-gotten gains.

"The federal government now spends an estimated $22 billion each year on smoking-related illnesses," the association said. "More than half of it is paid by Medicare. For too long, these costs have been unfairly borne by U.S. taxpayers. Tobacco companies must be held accountable for the death, disease and economic burdens caused by their products."

Tobacco industry spokesmen have questioned whether the government has authority to bring such a lawsuit, particularly given more than three decades of federal government warning to the public about the health dangers of smoking.

"From a legal standpoint, it's just pure politics," said Michael York, a lawyer for Philip Morris, the nation's largest cigarette-maker. "When we look back we'll find the best legal minds in the Justice Department thought the facts and law didn't support it. It's hypocrisy to think the tobacco companies misled the federal government about the risks of smoking."

The idea of suing the tobacco companies to recover an estimated $25 billion spent by federal civilian and military health insurance programs on smoking-related illnesses was a surprise element in Clinton's State of the Union speech last January.

It followed an expensive settlement by the cigarette-makers with most state governments last year, based on their outlays for health insurance. The industry agreed to pay the states more than $240 billion over 25 years.

The civil lawsuit follows a stalled Justice Department criminal investigation that the department began scaling back this spring. This summer, several deadlines for filing criminal charges passed without action.

Department officials have been debating whether any of the evidence gathered during the criminal investigation could be used by the task force preparing the civil lawsuit. One official said department lawyers have decided to try to use that data in the civil suit but believed they needed permission from the U.S. District Court which supervises the grand jury which obtained it. It was not clear whether that permission has been obtained.

More Than 150 Cities In Europe Ban Cars For A Day

French ministers cycled to work, Paris shopkeepers were furious, Rome's roads remained typically snarled and Geneva traffic shrank on September 22 as a one-day ban on cars in European city centers won a mixed response.

More than 150 cities from Paris to Palermo defied the wrath of their car-crazy inhabitants by banning cars from town centers for the day, with European Union Commissioners in Brussels throwing their weight behind the anti-pollution drive. The normally fume-filled, horn-blaring streets of central Paris were quiet and empty -- and the Metro was packed -- as residents found alternative ways of getting to work.

It's relaxing not to have all that noise hurting your ears all day long," said Jean-Claude, a waiter in Paris's garment district.

Government ministers entered into the spirit of the ban, shrugging off a light drizzle to cycle or walk to their weekly cabinet meeting. Some still drove -- but only electrically powered cars which were immune from the ban.

Rome was a different story. Two main shopping streets and the area around the Coliseum were closed to traffic. But in between, the central Piazza Venezia square -- a mad whirligig of traffic at the best of times -- was open to cars. Traffic was as chaotic as usual in much of the city.

It's a terrorist act because nothing works here," shopkeeper Sandro Pirri told Reuters Television. Look at these buses, can they take all these people?"

Buses and the tourist favorite -- pony and traps -- were free Wednesday in Rome. Naples, Turin, Palermo, Genoa and Florence were also banning cars from some of their streets.

The Environment Ministry said the initiative had halved traffic in Naples. In Marsala in Sicily, bicycles were provided free to convince commuters to ditch their cars.

Geneva, the western Swiss city jutting into France, and five nearby towns also took part in the exercise, making bus services free for the day. Police said traffic was down considerably.

It was Italy's first car-free" day and an impressive 99 towns and cities signed up to the scheme. For France, it was the second national carless city day," with 66 municipalities taking part compared to only 34 last year.

Paris closed about 250 streets in its center -- between Concorde in the west and Bastille in the east, Boulevard St Germain to the south and the Grand Boulevards to the north -- and police reported a clear drop in traffic.

It's just to give people a clear conscience, but it's not enough," said a man cycling to work in Paris.

In Brussels, where there was no ban in effect, European Commission president Romano Prodi and Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom cycled to work.

I like biking. This isn't just showing off today," Wallstrom told reporters at the launch of the On your bike for a greener Europe" campaign.

But, as cars swarmed past them, there was little sign that the citizens of Brussels had taken on board the idea of car-free days, launched by French Environment Minister Dominique Voynet.

The idea is not to punish drivers but to make them think. Most car trips in the city are less than 3-km long. Is it really worth it to take a car when it means being stuck in traffic?" Voynet told the daily Le Parisien in an interview.

A ministry poll said 64 percent of French people felt traffic levels had become unbearable. A separate survey by the French Federation of Automobile Clubs said that 68 percent would be unhappy if traffic was banned in their neighborhood.

Many Paris shopkeepers seemed very unhappy, fearing that the car ban would push their sales down.

It's completely idiotic. On TV, it looks good. But for us, it means fewer sales while our costs remain the same," fumed a fabric merchant.

Clinton vetoes tax cut

After weeks of partisan jockeying over taxes, on September 23 Bill Clinton vetoed the $792 billion tax cut pushed by Republicans and called on Congress to approve "tax relief we can afford" by year's end.

The president vetoed the bill at a wooden desk on a stage before a small audience gathered in the White House Rose Garden. It was the 26th veto of his presidency.

Clinton said he rejected the tax bill because it would "turn us back to the failed policies of the past" at a time when the nation is enjoying economic prosperity.

He said he will seek to work with GOP leaders on an alternative tax plan "that reflects the priorities of both parties and the values of the American people."

"That would be a good bill I would happily sign," he said.

But on Capitol Hill, the battle lines were clearly drawn. Rep. Bill Archer, R-Texas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said that by vetoing the bill, Clinton "has given himself a license to spend, and spend he will."

"President Clinton has once again put the needs of Washington above the needs of the American people, and that's too bad," Archer asserted. "Americans should know that the big blank check in Washington is drawn on their checkbook, and they will get stuck with the bill."

The tax bill would have used part of a projected 10-year budget surplus to reduce all federal income tax rates by a single percentage point, cut capital-gains taxes, phase out estate taxes and the alternative minimum tax and ease the "marriage penalty" paid by many two-income couples. On nearly party-line votes, it passed in the House, 221-206, and in the Senate, 50-49, falling far short of the two-thirds majority needed to overturn a veto. Clinton said such an ambitious tax cut reflected misplaced priorities -- salvaging Social Security and Medicare should come first, he insisted. He also said it would absorb so much of the projected budget surpluses that federal programs from national parks to education could suffer deep, debilitating cuts. He has instead proposed cutting taxes by up to $300 billion, and called on Congress to come up with a more reasonable alternative.

"The bill is too big, too bloated, places too big a burden on America's economy," Clinton said. "I ask Congress not to go home until we have worked together once again. We can work together to pass tax relief we can afford."

As the package coursed through the legislative process, Clinton traveled the country arguing that the tax cut reflected misplaced priorities -- salvaging Social Security and Medicare should come first. He also said it would absorb so much of the projected budget surpluses that federal programs from national parks to education could suffer deep, debilitating cuts. He has instead proposed cutting taxes by up to $300 million.

In a recent letter to Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois., denied the tax cut would hurt entitlement programs and raised the prospect that surpluses would be used to "pay for other Washington spending."

Moynihan endorses Bradley, says Gore 'can't be elected'

Saying Vice President Al Gore "can't be elected," Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-New York) on September 23 endorsed Gore's rival, former Sen. Bill Bradley, for the Democratic presidential nomination.

At an appearance with Bradley in New York, Moynihan became a key endorsee of Bradley's campaign, boosting Bradley's chances in a state where he already has strong support in the polls. Bradley once served as senator from adjacent New Jersey, spent time with Moynihan on the Senate Finance Committee and played professional basketball for the New York Knicks.

Asked why he preferred Bradley over Gore, Moynihan responded simply, "Nothing is the matter with Gore, but he can't be elected."

Moynihan called Bradley "a man with heart and courage and stamina."

"You can't govern, as Woodrow Wilson said, without those qualities. He has shown them all his life in one way or another," he said.

An appreciative Bradley acknowledged that his campaign is "up against an establishment," but he said that Moynihan's endorsement was "important. I think people will take notice."

Moynihan is the third senator to endorse Bradley, joining colleagues Paul Wellstone of Minnesota and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska. Gore has been endorsed by more than 100 members of Congress.

Gore, in New York to address a conference on business investment in South Africa, took no questions from reporters. But his spokesman, Chris Lehane, said: "We look forward to the day when Senator Moynihan will join Congressman (Charles) Rangel and countless other New York Democrats in working on behalf of Vice President Gore's campaign for the presidency after he gets the nomination."

At campaign headquarters, Gore communications director Kiki Moore suggested Moynihan's imprimatur would make little difference. "I'm sure President Bob Kerrey appreciated (Moynihan's) support in 1992."

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