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Friday, March 31, 2006

The Blogfather Speaks at "Painting the Map Red" Panel at Heritage With Fred Barnes, Bob Beckel

Hugh Hewitt spoke yesterday here at The Heritage Foundation on a panel with Fred Barnes and Bob Beckel of FOX News discussing the former's latest book, "Painting the Map Red: The Fight to Create a Permanent Republican Majority."

Mary Katharine Ham has a couple of fine posts on who said what during a lively panel that will be broadcast sometime in April by C-SPAN. Go here and here. Hugh has some thoughts on the panel as well, which you can peruse here and you can read a chapter from the book here.

Focus of the discussion was on the principles and programs most likely to dominate the political scene in 2006.

The photo above was taken by Andrew Blasko, one of my colleagues here at The Heritage Foundation, and proprietor of the fine Photo by Blasko blog. Andrew is a former AP reporter who also has one of the finest collections of jazz you will find in the nation's capitol.

Paul Harvey Praises Hagelin's "Home Invasion" ... Again

This is a shameless plug for my soon-to-be-former-boss, Rebecca Hagelin, The Heritage Foundation's Vice-President for Communications & Marketing.

She is the tireless author of the critically acclaimed "Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That Has Gone Stark Raving Mad," a must-read for anybody who cares about the future of the family and other issues in the culture war.

Why am I telling you this? Because earlier today, the world's most familiar voice - that of radio legend Paul Harvey - was heard praising "Home Invasion" as only he can and encouraging folks to tell their congressmen and senators about the book.

What is notable about it, though, is less what he said - he loves the book and thinks everybody should read it - but the fact this was the second time in only a few months Harvey has done so. Being praised once by Harvey is rare, but twice is beyond rare.

"Home Invasion" is indeed essential reading and not just for those who believe the family is threatened as never before by so many of the culturally desolate trends and destructive policies in our society. Rebecca does a masterful job of explaining why preserving the traditional family is essential to every good thing we all seek for our lives and nation.

Rebecca is traveling the nation speaking to schools, churches and civic organizations helping parents and kids understand how to reclaim their homes and communities from the toxic culture.

Earlier this week she was a speaker at the Senate Values Action Team Meeting hosted by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-KS, and at the Vision America conference on the culture wars.

For more information on Rebecca's speaking schedule, or to order your own copy of Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That’s Gone Stark Raving Mad, log on to http://www.homeinvasion.org/

To listen to Paul Harvey's most recent broadcast, log on to http://www.paulharvey.com/ and click on this Thursday’s noon broadcast.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

New Media Words of Wisdom

"It used to be the brand empowered the byline. Now, it's the byline that empowers the brand." --- Hugh Hewitt, during an appearance earlier today here at The Heritage Foundation.

Stop What You Are Doing and Read Peggy Noonan's Column Today

It is about the issue that ought to be at the heart of the immigration debate and so many more debates of our day. Go here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

GAO Study Found Gaping Holes in Clinton Anti-Terrorism Prep, Massive Walls of Red Tape

PoliPundit's DJ Drummond is a blogger after my own heart because he (or she?) recognizes the vital truth that the most important information in government reports is often hidden in plain sight.

And that's why Drummond was able to dig out of a 1997 Government Accountability Office report some very important but previously unknown facts about how horrifyingly unprepared was the U.S. government for a 9/11-style terrorist attack during the Clinton years.

For example, guess who would have been in charge had 9/11 happenned on the Clinton watch? Would you believe Secretary of State Madeline Albright? Here's Drummond's summary on the point:

"The Report explains that terrorist incidents would be addressed by the assignment of a 'lead agency' in each case. For Domestic events, the FBI is the lead agency, and for foreign events, the State Department takes charge. Got that? The Embassy bombings would warrant a diplomatic protest and 9/11 would mean hoping for extradition after a grand jury heard the case. A less pragmatic response is hard to imagine."

And speaking of who would have been in charge, it might not have much mattered because they wouldn't have been able to penetrate the bureaucracy established by the Clinton government's anti-terrorism preparation:

"The Report has a flow chart of command authority on page 21. It’s worth noting that there are six layers of people between those making a decision and those who would carry it out, and that this Report puts the National Security Agency, CIA, Secret Service, ATF, and Customs at bottom rung of the ladder, with no authority of their own in a crisis or direct access to the President or the National Security Advisor, who is not even listed on the chart as a source or recipient of information in a terrorist crisis.

"In addition, none of the Working Groups, regardless of their experience or skills, is given direct access to the NSC or the White House, but are required to submit their advice through a bureaucratic channel (page 23)."

There is so much more in Drummond's analysis, so let me just give you his summary:

"The Report is a masterpiece of bureaucratic falderol and political garbage. Nowhere is terrorism plainly recognized for what it is, an act of war against the United States which demands an immediate and effective deterrence, and failing that unlimited response potential.

"When pirates raided U.S. freighters, President Jefferson sent in Marines to Tripoli. When Mexican bandits raided American territory, President Polk sent the Army in. With that in mind, Bush’s response to 9/11 was not only effective and constitutional, but historically consistent, morally sound and necessary. This Report shows us that Clinton/Gore were neither serious nor competent to address the peril."

Thank the Lord those people weren't in the White House when 9/11 actually came.

Go here for Drummond's full post.

Senate To Consider Coburn/Obama "Show Us the Money" Amendment to Put Government Spending on Public Database

It's gotten little attention in the mainstream media but a potentially landmark measure authored by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, and Sen. Barrack Obama, D-IL, was taken up by the Senate today. Call it the "Show Us the Money" amendment for Uncle Sam.

The measure is Amendment 3175, which is one of a bunch of amendments to the Lobbying Reform Bill now being considered by the Senate. Odds are very good that every Member of the Senate will have the opportunity to vote for or against the Coburn/Obama amendment.

The Coburn/OBama amendment directs the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to establish a publicly available database of the more than $300 billion the federal government spends each year via contracts and grants to more than 30,000 groups, businesses and organizations.

Making public data about the recipients of that $300 billion chunk of the federal budget and how they spend the tax dollars would remove the biggest roadblock to public accountability that makes Pork Barrel spending possible - You can't track pork barrel if you don't who gets the money.

The database would include " the name of each entity receiving federal funds, the amount of federal funds the entity has received annually by program, and the location of the entity," according to Roland Foster, a Coburn aide.

Foster also said the amendment "would be an important tool to make federal funding more accountable and transparent. It would also help to reduce fraud, abuse and misallocation of federal funds by requiring greater accounting of federal expenditures."

A major problem for those seeking to track where federal tax dollars go and then insure the funds are spent as required by Congress is addressed by the Coburn/Obama amendment by assigning a unique identifier to all entities receiving federal funds.

The amendment thus requires of federal agencies a level of disclosure and public accountability similar to that already required by Congress of private businesses, non-profits and other non-government instutitions.

Foster said the spending database would be similar to one already in existence at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP) system, which "is a searchable database of federally funded biomedical research projects conducted at universities, hospitals, and other research institutions."

Foster said CRISP is maintained by the Office of Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health, and contains spending data on grants going back to 1972.

UPDATE: Lott Kills "Show Us the Money" Amendment

That was quick! Sen. Trent Lott, R-MS, raised a Rule 22 Point of Order which resulted in the Coburn/Obama amendment being killed. I have no idea what a Rule 22 Point of Order refers to but I will soon and will post it here ASAP.

In the meantime, it seems like Lott has forgotten the power of the blogs. A reminder is due.

UPDATE II: Lott Thinks "Show Us the Money" Not Relevant to Ethics Reform

The Senate's Rule 22 refers to the germaneness - i.e. relevance - of a proposed amendment. Translated from the Washington legislatese in which senators and congressmen so often hide, this means Lott thinks making sure the public can see who is getting more than $300 billion of their tax dollars has nothing to do with congressional ethics.

Put another way, Lott just told taxpayers to butt out.

UPDATE III: Lott Plays Taxpayers for Fools, Coburn Votes No

To cap off his day on Capitol Hill, Lott voted for the Lobbying Reform bill that contains his version of earmark reform. Coburn said the Lott earmark provision was a meaningless gesture and so voted against the entire bill. He was joined by only seven other senators.

Tim Chapman at Townhall.com's Capitol Report has more details, including text of Coburn statement.

Lott's actions today illustrate what is surely among the most fundamental problems preventing genuine reform in Washington - Hardly anybody in either chamber of Congress or either party fears being defeated in November.

Remember that Contract with America "revolution" that was supposed to start when the GOP took over Congress for the first time in 40 years back in 1994? It was lost the moment then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the new GOP leadership decided to forget their promise to implement congressional term limits.

A Fine Tribute to Lyn Nofziger From a Fellow Journalist; Imagine the Fun He Would Have With the Date of His Services

The following was written by Thomas Cheplick, a journalist in San Francisco. It is posted here with permission of the author:

"I knew Lyn Nofziger for two years starting in 2004 working with him intimately on numerous book proposals, articles, research tasks, and obtaining the occasional food snack.

"Lyn was born in Bakersfield, California on June 8th, 1924 when California was still farm country. He was part of the greatest generation, though he disdained that title. He thought all generations had their great parts and their poor parts. On this regard, he was very wrong.

"Lyn was one of the great men of the greatest generation, the generation that did not get to enjoy the 1920s but had to suffer through the 1930s and then fight and defeat fanatical Germans and Japanese.

"When Lyn was born in 1924, America was then only 138 years old. The country had just come off of the panic and deprivation of World War I. Lyn did not come from a rich family; he came from a big family.

"He grew up first in Bakersfield and then in the San Fernando Valley on the outskirts of Los Angeles. There must have been something in Southern California's water back then because it was Lyn's generation of Southern Californians (Richard Nixon, Michael Deaver, et al) who stormed Washington, DC and brought the concept of 'limited government' back into vogue.

"It's interesting to note that Lyn's uncle, Ed Nofziger, was the famous 1930's animal cartoonist who later went on to become a prominent pacifist and liberal.

"What many people liked and some disliked about Lyn was his steel. Some interns interpreted his devil-may-care honesty as simply a sign that Lyn did not suffer fools gladly. But it wasn't that.

"Someone who does not suffer fools gladly is not inclined to be forgiving or compassionate. Lyn was forgiving, he was compassionate, and above all he always had your back. 'You can do stupid things that I may not like but I'll still be there' seemed to me to be his motto.

"Needless to say (and after reading a couple books on Reagan's rise to the White House), that ethos probably was why Lyn was out-maneuvered by some of his Reagan compatriots in the early 1980s. He had the backs or protected people he should not have.

"What I most admired about him though was his independence. And he was independent. He started out as a journalist and maybe that is where he got that bold confidence. He always said and wrote that he was a conservative first, a Republican second.

"He loved dearly those two core tenets of conservatism: freedom and patriotism. Indeed, his love for freedom was so great, it was why sometimes he was seen on the side of the dreaded ACLU and against a constitutional amendment out-lawing gay marriage.

"It is also important to know about Lyn that he was not a publicity-hound. He did not seek to generate publicity about himself. A lot of his good friends are today's most powerful Washington officials, but he was never a showboat about those connections. He didn't care what power they had.

"Such was his modesty that many people nowadays think Lyn was one of Ronald Reagan's many strategists, just another suit in the closet. Not true.

* It was Lyn who created and manned all the Reagan Political Action Committees that nearly brought Gerald Ford to his knees in the 1976 primary and ensured Reagan's ultimate triumph in the Republican 1980 presidential primary.

* It was both Reagan and Lyn who in the 1970s finessed the Republican party into a more right-wing force, using the Reagan PAC money to finance the defeat of many big-government Republican incumbents.

They were so successful that at one point Ford's Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney blamed all of Gerald Ford's Republican base problems on Lyn). Indeed, it was Lyn who trained and brought on board one of the Republican Party's greatest strategists, Lee Atwater.

* It was Lyn who nursed the master Republican tactician Ed Rollins.

* It was Lyn who guided and hired Mitch Daniels, President Bush's former Director of the Office of Budget and Management and now Governor of Indiana.

* It was Lyn who helped Reagan win that second debate with Mondale in 1984. (Lyn did not help Reagan with the first one. The forgettable one, which Mondale won.)

* It was Lyn who got the one-stop shop for conservative ideals, The Heritage Foundation's first big donor, the Coors family. You can read about the epsiode in his book titled appropriately enough, 'Nofziger.'

"Many people just do not see how crucial he was to the Republican party's successes today. But he was so crucial. As Gerald Strober, co-author of the massive 'The Reagan Presidency: An Oral History of the Era,' said:

"'Lyn is one of the most underrated people who ever served Ronald Reagan. He was his first press person. Nofziger was the guy. The guy most responsible for Reagan's successes … he had a very good sense of Ronald Reagan's strengths and weakness.

"'Affable, shrewd. A kind of throwback. I! f you look at the last few elections, the top-dog political handlers have been self absorbed. Nofziger is different. A throwback. The old-time political operative with a very good sense of his candidate and himself. Don't know if we will ever see the likes of him again.'

"We won't. Lyn Nofziger was special. I will miss him dearly."

So will we all.

UPDATE: Services Set for Saturday

Services for Lyn will be held Saturday, April 1. Lyn would chuckle with delight and tell us he will be back because of that date for his internment

It would be wonderful to see legions of Washington-area conservatives turning out to pay tribute to one of our most unsung yet deserving heroes.

Here are the details:

At 11:00 a.m. there will be an assembly at Murphy's Funeral Home, 1102 West Broad Street, Falls Church. The procession will move to National Memorial Park, 7400 Lee Highway, Arlington, at 11:30 a.m. for a graveside committal service.

A memorial service will be held at 1:00 p.m. at St. Mary's Episcopal Church at 2609 N. Glebe Road in Arlington, Virginia. Reception will follow services in the church fellowship hall.

Senate Ends Anonymous Holds on Legislation, Nominees; Anti-Earmarks Provision Removed

Another time-honored congressional tradition bit the dust yesterday and it's good riddance to the anonymous "holds" whereby a single senator could keep legislation or nominations he or she opposed bottled in legislative purgatory.

The measure to abolish holds was introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-IA, and was approved on an 84-13 vote during consideration of an ethics reform package.

Captain's Quarters' Ed Morrissey explains the significance of the vote:

"More than that, an end to the anonymous hold means that Senators will now be held accountable for their obstructionism. An anonymous act in a public debate suggests either a lack of testicular fortitude for one's position, or some sort of corruption in play. In either case, as both Grassley and Wyden note, one cannot engage in negotiation when the aggrieved party will not identify himself, essentially giving each Senator veto power over any bill that comes to the Senate floor."

That is the good news.

The bad news is that a provision putting limits on earmarks is not part of the ethics reform measure. More on that later today.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Lyn Nofziger, the Truest and Toughest of the Reaganauts, R.I.P.

Even when it has been expected for many weeks or months, the death of somebody you've known, worked with, admired and loved is always a shock no matter when the news arrives. A little while ago, I learned of the passing of Lyn Nofziger, who died earlier this afternoon after a long battle with cancer.

It's just not possible to try to put into words at such a moment what Lyn represented, either to America or to hundreds of us who worked with and for him during the Reagan years. He was the truest and the toughest of the Reaganauts.

And so much more. For many of us, Lyn was also father, confidante and friend and we would walk through fire for the man. Even now years later, tears are being shed all over America by those who knew and loved him.

It's just not possible to say more at this moment.

May God rest Lyn's immortal soul and comfort his wife, Bonnie, in her hour of loss as only He can.

UPDATE: Post, AP, WTimes, NYTimes Obits

The Washington Post's Martin Weil does a wonderful job of capturing the key role Lyn played in Reagan's rise from Sacremento to the White House, as well as Lyn's irreverence, hard-nosed honesty and love for the truth:

"An offbeat figure who wore Mickey Mouse ties with the knot pulled down, Mr. Nofziger won a reputation as a shrewd, two-fisted political battler, who blended loyalty, cantankerousness and pungent phrasemaking. He was known as one of the key staff members involved in Reagan's rise from the California governor's chair to the pinnacle of American power."

The Washington Times' Ralph Hallow notes another important fact about Lyn - his loss of parts of two fingers to shrapnel during the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach.

The first version I read of the AP obit failed to report that Lyn's 1988 conviction for illegally lobbying the White House after he left it in 1982 was overturned by a federal appeals court that ruled the prosecution had failed to prove Lyn knew he was breaking a law and did it anyway. That is another way of saying he was innocent - just as he insisted all along.

But a friend just emailed to say another version she read does include the overturning decision, so apparently at least one editor failed to run the complete AP obit. Here's the full obit, including the sentence about the conviction being overturned.

Then there is this John Broder obit in The New York Times that makes the incredibly ill-informed statement that Lyn was "never part of the president's innermost circle" and suggests that Lyn's report of Reagan's "Honey, I forgot to duck" quip in the chaotic moments following John Hinkley's attempted assassination was "possibly apocraphyl."

Broder obviously didn't know Lyn because if Lyn said Reagan said it, then you could be certain that Reagan said it. The truth is Lyn relayed that quip and much else in an impromptu news conference he called precisely because other Reagan aides were trying to tell people Reagan was not seriously wounded. It was Lyn who stepped forward and reassured America that, while the President was in fact seriously wounded, Reagan was still Reagan.

And that, more than anything else, was what Lyn always wanted most to be able to say about his friend, "Ronnie."

UPDATE II: AP Corrects the Error

John Solomon of the AP Washington Bureau (and a superb investigative reporter, by the way) just emailed to reassure that the error has been corrected on the wire.

UPDATE III: David Keene's Moving Tribute

As my sweet friend and Reaganut comrade Claire Dorrell explains, it makes you cry again. David Keene was there with Lyn for Reagan for so many years.

"Wisdom of Crowds" Author Says Newspapers Still Have Time, Assets to Save Their Future

James Surowiecki wrote the New Media essential read, "The Wisdom of Crowds," which is one of three titles I recommend to anybody who wants or needs to understand the communication revolution in our midst. The other three are here, here and here.

Surowiecki has an excellent column in The New Yorker that ought to be required reading for all newspaper owners, shareholders, publishers, editors and reporters (but especially the first two). Newspapers are having a hard time with lost circulation and advertising revenues, as well as editorial staffs that are often stretched beyond the breaking point.

But the right response to the inevitable doom scenario isn't the fervent cost-cutting and profit-taking that increasingly characterizes the newspaper industry's dominant business model, according to Surowiecki:

"Settling for a tolerable short-term future, newspapers could end up writing themselves out of the long-term one. Yet it’s also clear that this moment of supposed doom represents a sizable opportunity for newspapers, a chance to reinvigorate their product and, eventually, improve the economics of their business."

And how to do that? Hey, it's the same for newspapers as any other industry in need of reinvention:

"Seizing that opportunity is going to require new investment, not penny-pinching. Established media - radio, the movies, television - haven’t vanished when new forms have come along. They’ve adapted by playing to their distinctive strengths.

"For most newspapers, this will mean abandoning things that are ubiquitous on the Internet, like stock tables and wire stories, and investing in content they can own, like serious local coverage and in-depth reporting."

For more Surowiecki, go here.

Survey Shows Biggest Increase in Born-Agains Since Early 90s; A 21st Century Great Awakening?

Here's a new piece of data that could prove to be the sleeper fact of the 2006 elections - 45 percent or nearly half of all adult Americans profess beliefs that qualify them as "Born-Again" Christians.

The 45 percent is the highest ever in the 25 years The Barna Group has tracked religious belief and practice data in America and the biggest single year increase since 1991-92. Only 31 percent of Americans professed Born Again beliefs in 1983, the first year of Barna's surveyed work on the question.

Barna says the increase is being powered by a significant increase in Born-Again conversions among Baby Boomers:

"The increase is largely attributable to a 16-point rise among Baby Boomers since the beginning of the 1990s. With 53% of Boomers currently meeting the Born Again criteria used by The Barna Group, that generation has now surpassed the percentage of Born Again adults within the preceding pair of generations, among whom 48% fit the standard. Slightly more than one-third of the younger generations – the Baby Busters and Mosaics – fit the criteria."

The current percentage of Baby Busters and Mosaics who qualify as Born-Again Christians mirrors the percentage of the Boomer generation at comparable ages.

The swelling ranks of Born Again Christians could be a key to the 2006 congressional elections as such people tend to vote for more conservative and Republican candidates by about a two-to-one margin.

The steady growth of Born-Again converts among Baby Boomers may also help explain the big increase in conservative and evangelical voters in the last election. Here's how The Washington Post described that increase:

"According to surveys of voters leaving the polls, Bush won 79 percent of the 26.5 million evangelical votes and 52 percent of the 31 million Catholic votes. Turnout soared in conservative areas such as Ohio's Warren County, where Bush picked up 18,000 more votes than in 2000, and local activists said churches were the reason."

The Barna data may also have some surprising implications for Republican strategists seeking to increase support among minorities because the survey found women are significantly more likely to be Born-Again than men and that African-Americans are the ethnic group most likely to be Born-Again, while Hispanics were only half as likely.

The Barna Group telephone survey of 1003 randomly selected adults of 18 years of age or older and living within the continental United States was conducted during January 2006 and has a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent.

The criteria used by Barna to determine if a respondent qualifies as a Born-Again includes whether they profess to have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today.

In addition, Barna includes those "who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as 'born again.'"

Go here for the full Barna report.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Charges Dropped Against Abdul Rahman! Praise the Lord!!

ABC News has the story. Now, let us pray that Rahman will be protected against Islamic vigilantes who almost certainly will attempt to carry out the death sentence Sharia requires against all who convert to the Christian faith or a non-Muslim religion like Hinduism.

Much more here at Michelle Malkin, who deserves great credit for her tremendous energy in pushing this issue to the forefront of the Blogosphere and the Mainstream Media.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Sad if true.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

"High -Powered" Internet News Audience Continues Growth; We Are Future of News and Information

This is why we will win:

"A consistent finding of the Pew Internet Project has been that home broadband users log
onto the internet more frequently and do a wider scope of online activities on the average
day than dial-up users.

"Since some broadband users are heavier users of the internet than others, we define as 'high-powered' internet users those who do more online on the typical day than other home high-speed users.

"These high-powered broadband users are those who reported doing 4 or more things online 'yesterday' (as compared the median 3 activities for all broadband users from the list of 10 online pursuits asked about in December 2005).

"Additionally, they are early adopters of broadband to the home and, as sophisticated demanders of online news, high-powered users are likely to shape how the online news market evolves. These high-powered broadband users comprise 40% of the entire population of home broadband users and 44% of all internet users who get news on the typical day.

"They are better educated and have higher incomes than other Americans, and, as noted, they are part of an information-elite that shapes how delivery of news and information will evolve
(emphasis added).

"Among these high-powered users:

* 71% of high-powered users get news online on the average day - three times the rate of other high-speed users;

* 59% get news on the average day from local TV;

* 53% get news on the typical day from radio;

* 52% get news on the average day from national TV newscasts;

* 43% get news on the average day from the local paper;

* 21% get news on the average day from a national newspaper."

This is from the latest Pew Internet and American Life Project survey of home broadband users. Note that italicized and underlined sentence above. The ranks of heavy broadband Internet users are growing rapidly and they are the most active shapers of how news and information are to be delivered online in the future. Bloggers tend to be in the front ranks of these people.

Put another way, the Blogosphere is a leading force in shaping the future of news. That is a major reason why current issues like the Online Freedom Protection Act and the campaign against China's Internet censorship are so important. If we win those today, we will have far more freedom tomorrow. Lose today and we will tomorrow as well.

Halleluyah! I am Headed Back to the Newsroom!!

Can you tell I am excited? To be honest, I have never been so excited about a job in my entire career as I am about becoming Editorial Page Editor of The Washington Examiner and a member of Clarity Media Group's National Editorial Board.

In addition to overseeing the editorial pages of the three Washington-area editions of the Examiner, I will also have a role in The Baltimore Examiner, which begins publication in a few days.

And if that's not enough to make my mouth water (and believe me it is!), I will also have a hand in crafting future editorial products as a member of the National Editorial Board and in building the online editions of the Examiner that will ultimately become the organization's major publishing asset.

Tapscott's Copy Desk and Tapscott Behind the Wheel go on, though my posting may be limited for a while as I settle in and learn the ropes at the Examiner. There is a media revolution going on and I get to be right smack dab in the middle of it.

I am so excited I can hardly contain myself people!!!

Of course, leaving The Heritage Foundation where I have been for the past six and a half years is bittersweet. I have been blessed with so many incredible opportunities here at Heritage as Director of the Center for Media and Public Policy.

Through the Media Center's Database 101/201 Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting (CARR) Boot Camps at the National Press Club, we've trained more than 200 journalists and bloggers in using statistical analysis to uncover news that would otherwise go unreported.

We've also organized issue seminars that attracted journalists from virtually every major daily newspaper in the country, including one on entitlement reform last October at the National Press Club that was co-hosted by the Media Center with the Brookings Institution and the National Press Foundation.

In a very real sense, I am most proud of that October event because it is almost unprecedented to see two major think tanks of differing ideological perspectives working together with one of the most highly respected professional journalism organizations in the world, NPF, on an issue that almost certainly will soon dominate American public policy for decades to come.

Having the opportunity to testify before the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives on the need for greater transparency in government and reform of the Freedom of Information Act was also a tremendous honor.

The cause of transparency and FOIA reform has drawn support from across the political spectrum and I must say that through the experience of working on this issue I have gained a wealth of new and immensely valued friends on the Right and Left.

And being inducted into the National FOI Hall of Fame last week was humbling and simply amazing. I keep telling Paul McMasters, who oversees the Hall at the Freedom Forum, that I "am still amazed" ever since he first informed me of my selection because I am.

It's been an amazing six-plus years indeed and I thank the Lord every day for how He has blessed me through the years at The Heritage Foundation.

But look what's ahead! I have no doubt that the next six years are going to be even more fun and exciting.

Here's the official announcement published in today's editions of The Washington Examiner:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Washington Examiner has appointed Mark Tapscott as Editorial Page Editor and a member of Clarity Media's National Editorial Board.

“Washington is a three-newspaper town again for the first time in decades and I look forward to publishing an editorial page that consistently brings a steady voice of calm reason to the issues Washingtonians care most about,” Tapscott said.

Tapscott comes to the Examiner from The Heritage Foundation where in 1999 he started an innovative Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting (CARR) boot camp program that has trained more than 200 journalists in using statistical analysis to uncover news.

He has been Director of the foundation's Center for Media and Public Policy and the foundation's Guardabassi Fellow since 2001. He is an active member of the National Press Club and has been lauded by the National Press Foundation for his contributions to journalism education.

Tapscott has testified before Congress for strengthening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and is a widely published advocate of greater transparency in government, protection of First Amendment freedoms and encouraging citizens journalism.

He was inducted into the National FOIA Hall of Fame March 16 during the National FOI Day Conference at the Freedom Forum in Arlington.

He is also editor of two blogs, Tapscott's Copy Desk and Tapscott Behind the Wheel.

Before joining Heritage, Tapscott was Managing Editor of The Journal Newspapers' Montgomery County edition where his staff won 31 awards from the Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association for excellence in reporting between 1997 and 1999.

Tapscott's journalism career began in 1985 at The Washington Times where he variously served as an investigative reporter, Business and National Editor and Assistant Managing Editor for Night News.

Prior to becoming a journalist, Tapscott was a Reagan administration appointee at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and before that was press secretary for two Republican House Members and a U.S. Senator.

He will continue writing the weekly Behind the Wheel automotive reviews that have appeared under his byline since 1985. Tapscott is a resident of Sykesville, Maryland.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Earlier today I deleted the code for a Pollhost survey from the template for Tapscott's Copy Desk. Everything from just below the Blogger symbol to the site meter link went poof! I've poured over the code in a copy of the template from before the Pollhost survey was first posted and I can't figure out what's different.

Anybody have any suggestions?

Rally To Save Afghani Christian From Those Who Want "To Cut Him Into Little Pieces" For His Faith

Cam Edwards at RedState.org has initial details of a rally at the Afghanistan Embassy in D.C. on behalf of Abdul Rahman Friday at noon. I'll be there, will you?

UPDATE: Democracy Without Freedom?

The answer is no, according to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at The Counterterrorism Blog. Democracy simply cannot exist without freedom of speech, thought, press, assembly and religion:

"But voting rights will not serve as an effective counterbalance to extremism if voting is simply superimposed over the current Middle Eastern political systems, with their lack of basic political freedoms.

"The most crucial freedoms for creating true democracy in the Middle East are freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion - and of these, the lack of freedom of religion in the region is the most dramatic."

Go here for the rest of a vitally important post.

Gartenstein-Ross pinpoints the crucial significance of the "Apostasy Problem" if the U.S. is indeed serious about pursuing the democratization of the Middle East. Put another way, Islamism can never be considered a "religion of peace" so long as it maintains its historic injunction on its faithful to kill all "unbelievers."

UPDATE II: Successful Rally

A morning meeting in connection with my pending move over The Washington Examiner went a little longer than I expected (my fault - I enjoy listening to smart people talk), so I was unable to make it to Rahman rally.

But Mary Katharine Ham was. And here. I'll post more links from attendees as they appear.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Senate Approves Spending Revenue Government Hasn't Received

Imagine if you could get money from your bank based on your belief that your boss is going to give you a big fat raise two years from now. That's just about exactly what a narrow majority of the U.S. Senate voted to do last week.

The vote came on an amendment offered by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-NM, to authorize congressional appropriators to tap up to $500 million in revenues that may be collected by the federal government if drilling is allowed in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.

Read that sentence again - Domenici asked the Senate to approve letting members of the Senate Appropriations Committee spend tax dollars today the government may receive at some time in the future.

It's not even clear that any of the tax dollars Domenici wanted to give the appropriators will ever actually be collected by the government because ANWR proposals have failed repeatedly in recent years, despite the fact both chambers of Congress and the White House are under Republican c control.

Here's how a Senate staffer who requested anonymity described the event:

"Every person in Leadership (Frist, McConnell, Santorum, Hutchison and Kyl) and every member of the Budget Committee except for Ensign voted for Domenici’s amendment to allow the appropriators to tap the ANWR revenue by $500M for the Approps committee ... Another interesting aspect of this is that ANWR revenue will not come into the Treasury for the first several years but Domenici will spend $150M this year. A true example of mortgaging the future."

The staffer noted some buyers remorse among aides to senators who supported the Domenici amendment:

"In speaking with other staff of Budget Committee members, they did not understand the amendment and when I explained it to them today. They now wish their bosses had voted against it. It passed 51-49. One vote would have saved One Half a Billion Dollars."

Yet more proof that there likely can never be too much transparency about what our elected politicians are doing in the nation's capital.

That is why the best investment possible by public advocacy groups on the Right and Left like the National Taxpayers Union and Citizens Against Government Waste and OMB Watch is to hire bloggers to live-blog Congress every minute it is session.

Here's How to Save the Daily Newspaper

In his latest TCS Daily column, Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds takes up the question of the future - if any - of the daily newspaper and proposes a plan very much like my own for saving an institution with roots that reach back to the Reformation.

Reynolds makes two key recommendations, starting with getting rid of the paper and the rest of the antiquated equipment associated with it:

"First, I think I'd skip the 'paper' part. I've visited a lot of newspaper offices, and many of them proudly display the printing presses that produce their product, just as older newsmen often glory in the title of 'ink-stained wretch.'

"But their product isn't paper (in fact, for those of us who recycle, the paper is a drawback, not a plus, at least until it's time to pack things for a move). Their product is information. Paper is just an increasingly obsolete delivery platform. It's expensive, and on the way out. Get rid of it, or start a new 'paper' without it."

Chunking the paper and presses - along with all those clapped out delivery trucks and the circulation department - will free up lots of money to make the single most important investment any business must make and that is in the human capital that produces the product.

"Second, I'd put some of the money I saved by abandoning delivery trucks, printing presses, and the like into hiring reporters and writers, who have been the object of a lot of cost-cutting over the past couple of decades."

But merely hiring a bunch of folks with the old skills won't get it. Journalism is changing and so must journalists:

"And I'd expect a broader range of competency: My reporters would also all be photographers, equipped with digital cameras, and videographers, shooting clips of video that could be placed on the website along with their stories.

"This isn't asking too much, really. The world is full of people who can write and take pictures. I've heard editors at existing newspapers who doubt that their reporters could do this sort of thing, but if so, they need better reporters. I'd tell them to learn, or seek employment elsewhere. It's not that hard."

Harsh? Not really because Reynolds is simply speaking of the reality that faces all of us in the job market every day. Just like the unions in other industries that fought change tooth and nail, the Newspaper Guild isn't likely to cheer these moves.

"This sort of approach might create union problems, which often forbid reporters from doing the job of photographers or vice versa; I'd tell the unions to go visit the Buggy Whip Museum and ponder the fate of work rules in that industry. (See examples of what I'm talking about in the video department here and - from my local newspaper, complete with commercials - here)."

Will many or any of the existing daily newspaper organizations follow this path? Some already are, but it is difficult to over-estimate the inertia and outright resistance within the Mainstream Media to these realities.

Which is why I often am reminded of a particular line in the lyrics to The Rolling Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown." You know, the one about daddy still perfecting ceiling wax (Or is that "sealing wax"?).

Go here for Reynolds' full column.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Who Will Save Abdul Rahman From Those Seeking to "Cut Him Into Little Pieces" for His Christian Faith?

Abdul Rahman came to know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior 16 years ago and converted from the Muslim faith of his youth growing up in Afghanistan and that remains the faith of his family, friends and nation. As a result, he lost his family, his children and standing in his community.

Now, he may also soon lose his life for his faith in Jesus because it is a crime under the Muslim law of Sharia to profess anything other than the Islamic religion. Muslims claim their religion is one of peace, but the fact is that it is a capital crime to be a Christian in a nation subjected to Sharia.

That is why one of Rahman's fellow Afghans recently told the media that "we will cut him into little pieces."

Michelle Malkin is following this story with her usual intensity and has lots of links here, here and here. Also, don't miss LaShawn Barber on the Bible and the story of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

It is true that the Church has grown most intensely from ground watered with the blood of martyrs, especially during the Roman persecutions and during the Reformation, as detailed in John Foxe's classic "Book of Martyrs."

Bloggers like Malkin and Barber have been all over this story, but President Bush said nothing about Rahman during his news conference this morning. But then none of the mainstream media reporters there asked him about it, either.

Where is Bush? Where are the the mainstream media? Where are the men and women of faith in Congress? Where is Secretary of State Rice?

Where are the "moderates" of the Muslim world and their allies in the West who tell us over and over that Islam is a religion of peace? Where is CAIR? Where are the Saudis who claim no one is persecuted for their beliefs in that Wahabbist haven?

Where are Hollywood and the Glitterati? Where are Barbara Streisand? Where is Cindy Sheehan? George Clooney? Sean Penn? All the rest of the intellectual elite of the entertainment world who think it their inherent right to instruct the rest of us on the virtues of tolerating everything from porn to persecution? Everything except the simple faith of one Christian man standing by himself in a Muslim nation.

lWhere are Barry Lynn and Americans United for Separation of Church and State? Where are the leaders of the liberal mainline Protestant Denominations and the National Council of Churches?

The silence of these people is truly deafening.

And where are the Evangelical and Fundamentalist leaders challenging their flocks to candlelight vigils, protests and prayers on behalf of Rahman? Will America's Christians stand by like Saul of Tarsus to hold the coats of those slaughtering this brave man of Afghanistan?

Powerline's John Hinderacker also points to another, larger point about this controversy that ought to strike a particular chord in the heart of our President:

"This is, I think, a watershed moment. The American people will bear a great deal of sacrifice, but only on behalf of principle. If, after our liberation of Afghanistan, a man may still be executed for being a Christian - or a Jew, although to my knowledge that case hasn't arisen -there is no logical basis on which our government can continue to request the ultimate sacrifice from its most devoted supporters."

UPDATE: Superb NRO Editorial

The happy crowd at NRO comes up with a doozy that says it all, especially the concluding sentence. Go here. Then cheer.

Knight Ridder Sale Could be McClatchy's Chance to Ditch the Print, Go All Online All the Time

Technology advances almost always involve the junking of old ways of doing things and their replacement with more efficient ways. The news business is no different, as seen in such transformations as the replacement of typewriters by computer systems. No more typewriter maintenance contracts.

Now the news business is on the threshold of another replacement of one technology with another as newspapers move from a hard copy paper platform that is expensive and geographically limited to a digital platform that eliminates the most expensive piece of equipment - the printing press - and requires no more trees to be chopped down and made into newsprint.

Those massive rolls of newsprint and the whirring machines they feed that print newspapers are exceeded only in personnel costs on the typical newspaper operation, so getting rid of the first two ought to free up tremendous amounts of capital to be invested in new technologies and perhaps even in expanding the editorial staff.

Paul Chesser of the Carolina Journal has an excellent piece on The American Spectator's web site this week that explains why McClatchy Newspapers' purchase of Knight Ridder could be the opportunity for a major publisher to make the switch in a dramatic fashion.

Notes Chesser:

"Acclaimed as one of the few exceptionally run newspaper chains in America, McClatchy is positioned to turn a community into one served solely through electronic news delivery. It's time to see if a text media provider in a given city can thrive without daily paper throwers."

Among the reasons Chesser cites are the facts McClatchy already possesses demonstrated online savvy, getting rid of printing and paper costs could be the difference between profitability and elimination for at least some of the 12 Knight Ridder papers reportedly slated for elimination and the time has come to be rid forever of the antiquated circulation system that depends upon route delivery.

Will McClatchy seize the moment? Chesser offers this bit of wisdom from CBS anchor Bob Schieffer:

"'If the railroads had realized that they were in the transportation business, they'd own all the airlines today. Unfortunately, they thought they were in the railroad business, and that's what we have to keep in mind here. We're in the information business.'"

Chesser's case for choosing one of the 12 cities served by a newspaper slated for sale or closure makes excellent sense, though instead of the State College, Pa., or Rock Hill, SC, he suggests, I would go to Philadelphia.

Why? Because Philly is in the process of making the entire city a WiFi zone and it is the home of two of the most honored names in American newspapers, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News.

If Philly's dailies can be saved by moving online, there is hope for newspapers everywhere. And think about this: Dumping the printing presses, newsprint and delivery drivers could free up more than enough money to rebuild two editorial staffs into digital junkyard dogs that could turn the City of Brotherly Love upside down.

Monday, March 20, 2006

TCD is Back Up as Blogger Seems to Have Solved its Latest Gremlin

For those of you wondering, something has been down at Blogger today and I am only now able to login and start posting again here at Tapscott's Copy Desk. Unfortunately, I still can't get access to Tapscott Behind the Wheel.

I'll be back shortly. It's now 3:30 p.m. in D.C. as this is posted.

Gergen versus Zito on Status of Iraq

Former Reagan and Clinton White House advisor David Gergen was on Washington, D.C.'s WTOP all-news radio station this morning talking about how the insurgency in Iraq is inflicting more damage today than ever before.

As soon as WTOP.com posts a link to the interview, I'll get it up here because it is a classic illustration of the Establishment intellectualoid pol repeating the fashionable line about the failure of the U.S. effort in Iraq.

For a more realistic assessment of the situation on the ground in Iraq, check this column from Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Salena Zito. Rather than talking to other Establishmentarians at Harvard and around D.C., Zito in contrast to Gergen actually talked to people in the thick of the struggle.

Go here for the Zito column.


Blogger problems yesterday prevented my being able to post the link to the Gergen interview on WTOP in which he made the following statement:

"The insurgents are inflicting more damage than ever before. Cheney said yesterday [the insurgents] must be desperate. The evidence moves just the other way. We are in a very tough situation there. And we ought to be realistic about it and it's going to be hard to succeed. It looks like we are heading towards something that's less than a total success and it could be a disaster."

If the insurgents are inflicting more damage than ever before, why are U.S. casualties down and the effectiveness of the Iraqi military and police forces on the increase? Gergen's comments are classic "talking head expert" hemming and hawing while echoing the fashionable Establishment line on.

Gergen even managed during the WTOP intervuew to throw in a statement comparing the difficulties now faced by the U.S. military in confronting Iraqi insurgents with the quagmire that was Vietnam. How do you spell "Out of touch" these days?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Where's Tapscott?

Posting will be light today as I will be at the National Press Club all day teaching a class of National Journalism Center folks in the Database 101/201 Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting Boot Camp series hosted by The Heritage Foundation's Center for Media and Public Policy.

Be sure and check back because I will soon have an important announcement regarding my future in this space. I'm so excited I could burst! Can you tell? :-)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Gutless Faculty, Students at University of Illinois Fire Campus Editor for Publishing Cartoons

Yet another illustration - this time at the University of Illinois - that the First Amendment's protection of free speech and the free press means nothing on many American campuses.

Acton H. Gordon, now former editor of the student-run Daily Illini, was fired by the board of directors, which includes faculty members and students. The official excuse for the firing was that Gordon published cartoons that originally appeared in a Danish newspaper containing controversial caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed without first consulting with other members of the newspaper staff about "inflammatory material."

Gordon denies that allegation, saying he talked with his predecessor in the editor's job, as well as others in the university community. Chuck Prochaska, the Daily Illini's now-former editorial page editor, declined to be reinstated after being suspended for his role in the publication. He said he and Gordon wanted to get the cartoon in print quickly because they were newsworthy.

Riots that claimed numerous Muslim lives in countries from Southwest Asia to Europe followed publication of the cartoons in Denmark. Many European and U.S. dailies have declined to publish the cartoons, saying they are intentionally offensive to Muslims.

Gordon called his firing a blow against free speech on college campuses, according to a report on CNN.com.

"'If I can be fired, what will other students think who maybe want to challenge the status quo?' said Gorton, who had briefly addressed a board meeting the previous night. 'This is a bad precedent.'"

Gordon's experience highlights the need for liberals who profess to support the First Amendment to make up their minds - Do they actually support freedom of speech, press and thought or do they give priority to the multiculturalist assertion of an unqualified right of individuals from ethnic minorities to not be offended.

Jarvis to MSM: You've Been a "Closed and Privileged Priesthood" for Too Long

Somebody calling themselves "journalist" posted a comment on Jeff Jarvis's BuzzMachine in defense of the Mainstream Media and trotted out all the usual arguments for standing athwart media history and yelling "Stop!"

Big mistake. Jarvis takes the arguments one-by-one in a masterful exegesis. Here is Jarvis on the argument that the MSM is all that stands between civilization and a return to the isolation and ignorance of the Feudal Age:

"Instead of arguing that the world must stay as it was, instead of being satisfied informing the world the old way, your way, why not imagine the new, better, and bigger ways there are to inform society today?

"Why not imagine the ways that you can use the internet to connect more people to more information than ever before? Why not? Because, I suspect, you fear it cuts you out of the role of the gatekeeper.

"But gatekeepers are fixtures of feudal societies. The internet tears down the castle walls. You can’t win with this feudal metaphor trick, not when you’ve been a member of the closed and privileged priesthood for too long."

That's just one part of a lengthy response by Jarvis that provides a superb description of how and why old media just cannot survive the digital age without becoming something very different.

Go here for the complete Jarvis. By the way, for those who don't know, Jarvis is a veteran of the MSM himself, one of the few who grasped the potential of the Internet long ago and embraced it with enthusiasm.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

SUNSHINE WEEK: House Judiciary Committee to Hold Hearing on Pence Media Shield Law

Just as he promised last fall during his Distinguished Journalist Lecture at The Heritage Foundation, Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN, said today he has secured agreement from the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing on his bill providing a national media shield law.

Here's the text of Pence's news release on the coming hearing:

"As part of Sunshine Week, U.S. Congressman Mike Pence announced today that the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Free Flow of Information Act during this session of Congress. A date for the hearing is still to be determined.

"'The Constitution of the United States reads, in part, 'Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom ...of the press.' This freedom represents a bedrock of our democracy by ensuring a free flow of information to the public. But sadly this freedom is under attack.

"'Over the last few years, more than a dozen reporters have been issued subpoenas and questioned about confidential sources. In response to this alarming trend, last year I introduced the Free Flow of Information Act, a bill designed to protect a reporter's right to keep sources confidential.

"'I am pleased to announce that the House Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, will be holding a committee hearing on the issue of a federal media shield law.

"'I can't think of a more appropriate time to announce a hearing on this bill than during national Sunshine Week, a week focused on the importance of preserving a free and independent press and the public's right to know.

"'I commend House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) on his willingness to address this important First Amendment issue and look forward to a vigorous debate on the issue of a federal media shield in the House.'

"Background: Many journalists have been threatened with criminal charges for refusing to reveal confidential sources and with Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine and Judith Miller of The New York Times recently losing their appeals, it is imperative to pass the media shield law and give reporters the same protections that are afforded other professions such as clergy, attorneys and physicians.

The Free Flow of Information Act closely follows existing Department of Justice guidelines for issuing subpoenas to members of the news media and provides protection against compelled disclosure of confidential sources by making the guidelines mandatory.

In doing so, this legislation strikes a balance between the public's need for information and the fair administration of justice."

For more information on the Pence proposal, go here and here. Pence is Chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus in Congress. You can read Pence's blog here.

SUNSHINE WEEK: Captured Iraq Documents to be Released; Now WMD Debate Can Procede With Full Facts

It's Sunshine Week so it is especially appropriate that we learn today from The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes that President Bush has decided to let the sun shine on a treasure trove of heretofore concealed documents that may provide important new facts about Saddam Hussein's program to develop Weapons of Mass Destruction and his deadly regime's support of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

U.S. military forces captured millions of documents in 2003 that had been produced by the Hussein regime during its long reign of terror in Iraq.

For reasons that have mystified me from the beginning, the Bush administration chose to keep the vast majority of those documents out of public view and seemed not to care about the glacial speed of the intelligency community's translation process.

Among the most serious consequences of that lack of public access was that it meant everybody on both side of the debate about Hussein, WMDs and terrorists support was working on the basis of massively incomplete knowledge. To reach a conclusion one way or the other was thus premature, to say the least.

Magazine journalist Hayes - as well as Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-MI - has been among the most consistent and insistent of voices seeking the release of the documents.

He was able to obtain a few of the documents previously and from those crumbs showed the critical need to get all the facts that are likely contained in the Hussein materials.

Now Bush has decided it's time to let the sun shine in, Hayes reports:

"President George W. Bush has made clear in recent weeks his displeasure with the delays in getting the information out to the American public. On February 16, one day after ABC News broadcast excerpts of recordings featuring Saddam Hussein and his war cabinet, Bush met with congressional Republicans and several senior national security officials and said three times that the documents should be released.

"'This stuff ought to be out,' he told National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley. 'Put this stuff out.' It seems Bush will soon get his wish.

"Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), who has been steadfast in his resolve to see these documents released, said today that 'this is a bold decision in favor of openness that will go a long way towards improving our understanding of prewar Iraq . . . By placing these documents online and allowing the public the opportunity to review them, we can cut years off the time it will take to gain knowledge from this potential treasure trove of information.'"

Ever the careful journalist, Hayes is quite cautious about drawing premature conclusions about what may be found in the documents:

"No one can say with any certainty what will come from the document release. Intelligence officials with knowledge of the exploitation process estimate that less than 4 percent of the overall document collection has been fully exploited. It's reasonable to assume that documents in the collection will provide support to both supporters of the war in Iraq and critics."

There may also yet be hangups in the release process, but the basic decision has been made by the President, according to Hayes. Go here for the rest of the story.

Question: Will this be the least reported sunshine story of Sunshine Week?

HT: Little Green Footballs

Monday, March 13, 2006

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A Taxonomy of Earmarks, or The Intelligent Taxpayer's Guide to Identifying A Bridge to Nowhere

Mention "earmarks" and most people likely think of a smoke-filled backroom where a group of greedy politicians in Congress divvy up a pile of federal tax dollars to help their favorite special interests.

That image used to be fairly accurate but the porkers in Congress have gotten far more sophisticated in recent years. They've come up with nearly a dozen new ways to slip an earmark into legislation or a federal spending program that escape notice by anybody who isn't a Capitol Hill insider or a rocket scientist of legislative language.

But Dr. Ron Utt of The Heritage Foundation thinks everybody ought to be able to recognize an earmark for what it is, so he he has written a concise, easy-to-understand description of each of these new earmarks.

Before we look at the new ones, Utt defines traditional earmarks are those that are "generally found in parts of appropriations bills and in parts of the highway reauthorization bills that are enacted once every six years. For the most part, they appear in neat lists that enumerate exaact sums of money to be provided to tangible projects in specific locations.

"Typical of these is the infamous 'Bridge to Nowhere' that appeared in [the 2005 transportation bill) ... Also included in the list of 6,371 earmarks are similar types of locationally specific projects like the High Knob Horse Trail in Virginia, the National Packard Museum in Ohio, the American Tobacco Trail in North Carolina and the Sapelo Island Visitor Center in Georgia."

Thanks in great part to the Blogosphere, however, the old way of ladling out pork doesn't work so well now, so the politicians have come up with much more sophisticated ways of doing it, according to Utt. These include the following:

Transfer of federal land to private sector:

Uncle Sam owns more than 700 million acres, with much of it in the South and the West. Those lands often contain valuable resources but proposals to sell federal lands invariably spark protests. But that doesn't stop Congress, according to Utt:

"Despite near consistent opposition to land sale proposals that would benefit the broad public, Congress sometimes votes to give valuable parcels away to politically influential developers or to communities in their state or district that, in turn, sell or transfer the land to for-profit developers.

"Although federal spending remains unaffected by these transfers, the government loses valuable assets and the opportunity to raise more revenues for programs, tax relief and/or deficit reduction."

Research grants:

Traditionally, important basic research is funded by Congress via competitive bidding among qualified institutions for specific grants. Nowadays, it's easier to just do an earmark, according to Utt:

"Congress has increasingly intervened to insure that less qualified academic institutions in their states and districts get a share of federal research dollars. And increasingly they are absolving the grantee from the pesky requirement that they actually perform research on specific topics of interest to the federal government."

Utt notes as examples of such research grants the highway bill's earmarks designating Richmond, Virginia, as one of 51 cities that are to be investigated as potential grant recipients for Intelligent Transportation Infrastructure development, even though Richmond is "one of the least congested metropolitan areas of the country."

Product/Service Purchase Requirements:

Another way of getting around requirements for competitive bidding on federal contracts is for Congress to simply direct an agency to buy a specific product or service from a particular company "regardless of whether the government has a need for the product or the product performed satisfactorily in comparison with products of its competitors," Utt noted.

Example: Five years ago, Congress required the FAA to buy and install airport baggage screening machines made by a specific company. "The FAA had previously been reulctant to buy and install the company's machines because the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector-General concluded the machine's performance was substandard in detecting weapons and bombs. Under the new law, the FAA was required to buy one of this company's machines for ever machine it purchased from a competitor."

Earmarked federal loans and guarantees:

Tax dollars can be earmarked and so can federal loans and loan guarantees. Utt notes the energy bill approved by Congress last year contained a bunch of such earmarks, including "a number of costly examples in which direct loans, loan guarantees, tax credits and/or grants are made available for the construction of energy production plants in certain specific locations."

Those specific locations included an "Integrated Coal/Renewable Energy System in the 'Upper Great Plains,' a Clean Coal Technology Plant near Healy, Alaska, a Western Coal Gasification Plant in a western state at 'at altitude greater than 4,000 feeet above sea level' and new research facilities at Southern Illinois University, the University of Kentucky and Purdue University to derive fuels from Illinois Basin Coal."

Legislation that directly profits Members of Congress and/or Members' families:

Hard to believe a Member of Congress would just help himself or herself to a bunch of tax dollars, but Utt demonstrates that is what often happens in Congress:

"Because there is no requirement or tradition for a Member of Congress to recuse himself or herself from involvement in legislation that provides them or their relatives with direct financial benefits, Members will often be called upon to vote on legislation that will provide them or their relatives with significant financial benefits.

"While the more typical connection would be between legislation and its influence on the value of a Member's investment portfolio, in some cases the connection is even more direct. In 2002, for example, nine Members of Congress received a total of $243,605 in federal farm subsidies and between 1995 and 2002 the same nine received a total of $2,177,491."

And they voted in 2002 to extend the subsidies another five years and to make them substantially more generous, Utt reported.

Private communication from Congress to a department/agency:

Congressmen send letters to federal agency officials every day, especially not long after a bill is approved. Those letters often "suggest" to a Cabinet Secretary or agency head that "a portion of funds so provided in the recent legislation be spent on a series of projects that are described in the letter. Although such letter requests have no force of law, department heads know that it is in their interests to accommodate the request of the congressional committees that control their budget," according to Utt.

Utt describes other methods of getting earmarks into legislation, including the "notwithstanding any law, regulation or grant assurance ..." provision of the highway bill that allowed Rialto Municipal Airport in Rialto, California, to avoid having to repay the $14 million it had received to improve and expand the airport.

But it didn't end there, as Utt explains:

"Instead, Rialto decided to shut down the airport and sell the land acquired with federal money to a private developer. Because this was an improper use of the federal grant money, the FAA demanded its return ... Instead, as the legislation allows, Rialto can sell the land for development, keep 55 percent of the proceeds for itself and reinvest the remaining 45 percent in a nearby airport."

I gathered the above mateial from an advance draft copy of Utt's paper. The final version should be published by Heritage later this week and will be available on the Heritage web site. I'll post the URL as soon as it is available.

The paper also provides an in-depth look at the various earmark reform proposals being considered by Congress and suggests ways in which all of them can be strengthened. Utt was the Reagan administration's "privatization czar" and is a veteran Washington analyst. You can read more about him here.

SUNSHINE WEEK: What Happens When the Government's Numbers Don't Add Up?

It gets precious little public notice, but every day federal bureaucrats collect mountains of data about people, the economy, social morays, education, taxes and thousands of other topics and issues. Where does all that data go?

Into official databases that policy makers at every level of authority then use in analyzing government programs and proposals. The results of those analyses often determine the kind of policies and programs taxpayers end up funding.

But what if the numbers used by policy makers don't add up? What if the policies they recommend don't work? What if the policy makers refuse to share their numbers with the rest of us?

This may shock some but federal agencies often can't even share their data with other federal agencies, much less with taxpayers and the general public. The result is too often that the public is left in the dark about why government keeps doing something that clearly isn't working.

Government keeping its data behind closed doors is a growing problem with immense implications in national security, homeland security and domestic policy that will be examined by an ideologically diverse panel of experts featured in the first-ever Sunshine Week event at The Heritage Foundation in the nation's capitol.

"What if the Answers Don't Add Up: Transparency and Government Data" will be held Tuesday, March 14, at 2:00 at Heritage. The panel will feature three speakers:

Dr. Kirk Johnson
Senior Policy Analyst
Center for Data Analysis
The Heritage Foundation
Discussing education data

Dr. Heather Boushey
The Center for Economic and Policy Research
Discussing social science data

Dr. David Mulhausen
Senior Policy Analyst
Center for Data Analysis
The Heritage Foundation
Discussing crime data

The event at Heritage is co-hosted by Mark Tapscott, Director of Heritage's Center for Media and Public Policy, and the American Society of Newspaper Editors and other participating organizations in Sunshine Week.

Go here for more information on Sunshine Week, which includes a week of event, speeches and panels focusing on the importance of maintaining and increasing government accountability through the Freedom of Information Act and other laws and regulations designed to insure democratic transparency in public policy.

Bloggers and others in the Washington, D.C. region are encouraged to attend the event, which is open to the public.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Carnival of Cars is Up! at Tapscott Behind the Wheel

It's Friday so it must be time for a new Carnival of Cars over at Tapscott Behind the Wheel. And indeed it is and there is. Go here. Come on, you know you want to. It'll be fun, even if your car means no more to you emotionally than your cake mixer, I promise.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Lazy Reporters or Partisan Tools?

To such disparate publications as the Seattle Times, National Journal's Congress Daily and The Wall Street Journal, the Campaign for a Cleaner Congress is simply a "watchdog group," a "non-partisan" group or some other innocuous, good-government sounding variation on the theme.

In fact, as RedState.org's Blanton documents here, CCC is a front group for a bunch of hyper-partisan Democrat operatives drawn from congressional staffs, the Clinton White House, the Democratic National Committee and assorted Democratic 527s and related advocacy groups:

"CCC's Secretary-Treasurer is one Amy Prichard, the former Political Director for the DNC and a campaign director for the DCCC. The CCC's board members are all former Clinton staffers, DNC staffers, and other lefty political types. Oh, Dennis Hopper's wife Victoria, a prolific Kerry fundraiser, is also on the board.

"CCC also has two staffers. Sandra Salstrom, who was a staff member for Grassroots Democrats, a 527 Committee 'dedicated to strengthening the infrastructure and financial resources necessary to deliver Democratic victories, and Mike Casey, a former spokesman for former Senator Don Reigle (D-MI) and for the DCCC."

So did the reporters who described CCC in such bland terms purposely deceive readers about the nature of the group or were they just too lazy to figure it out? This goes beyond mere liberal bias. And it is infuriating to those of us who love the profession of journalism and want to see it thrive.

And they still wonder why their credibility is in the toilet?

Online Freedom of Speech Protection Act Making Progress in House; Tim Chapman Live-Blogging Markup

Things are looking good for the Online Freedom of Speech Protection Act that is likely the most important piece of legislation for bloggers since maybe ever. Tim Chapman of Townhall.com's Capitol Report is live-blogging the House committee markup session on the measure today here.


Paul Teller at the Republican Study Committee says the bill has been reported out and could go to the floor for a vote by the full House as early as next week. In the meantime, it is important that legislators know as much as possible about public sentiment. You can mail Paul at Paul.Teller@mail.house.gov and Jamie Notman with Rep. Jeb Hensarling (jamie.notman@mail.house.gov) to express your views.


Mike Krempasky of RedState.org and the Daily Kos folks over on the left side of the Blogosphere have joined forces to support the Online Freedom of Speech Protection Act, sending a great letter to every Member of Congress. Read it here.

And Mary Katharine Ham has more on the day's events here.