Saturday, June 30, 2007

Allison Aldrich: .357—Don’t Leave Home Without It
Friday, June 29, 2007

Flowers and beads grace one of the 33 stones placed near a makeshift memorial in front of Burruss Hall on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., in this April 20, 2007, file photo. Virginia Tech will replace the temporary memorials on the campus lawn with 32 engraved stones for those killed by a student gunman, officials announced Thursday, June 7, 2007. The temporary memorials, large stones, were placed in a semicircle near the administration building by student group Hokies United immediately after the April 16 shootings by student Seung-Hui Cho. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, file)

I never doubted the value of my little bottle of pepper spray.

As a Washington, D.C., intern last summer, I spent countless hours on the public subway system and walked to my car at the station late at night many times. I was aware it was a station where five attempted sexual assaults had previously occurred.

Each time I made that walk, I would discreetly grasp my pepper spray—a present from my parents—and hope that I wouldn’t be making the trek to the parking garage with any of the degenerates I’d seen on the train. I didn’t realize the worthlessness of that bottle until I thought I might actually have to use it. A suspicious-acting man driving an old, beat-up car followed me through the empty parking lot until I reached my own car. It was then that I realized my complete vulnerability, a feeling that was solidified for me after attending my first year at Virginia Tech.

The false sense of security that a college campus provides is what allows women to lower their guard, unwittingly putting themselves at greater risk. Sure, we hear the horrors caused by date-rape drugs and too much drinking, but who is on guard at the bus stop, on a mid-day jog around campus, or even just in the classroom?

The answer? Nobody.

Nobody was on guard that terrible morning in April at Virginia Tech, myself included. Most universities in Virginia, including Tech, require students to check their firearms with local police or campus security. This policy didn’t stop the gunman. Nobody could defend themselves, and nobody was safe from his rampage. What’s worse is that Virginia Tech administrators previously applauded the defeated efforts by the Virginia General Assembly to allow Tech students to carry concealed weapons on campus.

Following the most recent attempt to pass a bill in early 2006, Tech Spokesman Larry Hincker self-righteously responded in a January 31st article in the Roanoke Times that, “I’m sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly’s actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on campus.”

Although a tragedy of that magnitude will hopefully be avoided in the future, we should not overlook the fact that students, particularly young women, face daily risks on college campuses.

How should young women protect themselves? For that matter, how should any innocent citizen avoid being a victim? According to the Metropolitan Police Department, you should stay alert and “wear clothing and shoes that give you freedom of movement.” Those are well-intentioned ideas, but for those of us not interning at Sports Authority, sneakers and running shorts are usually not included in our daily dress-code.

So assuming I can’t run away fast enough in heels or move to a well-lit area (perhaps under one of the lamps in the deserted parking lot?), the options they provide during an attack include screaming and blowing a whistle. I am not surprised “call the police” doesn’t show up on the list, as their eight-and-a-half minute response-rate would seem about as long as waiting for Christmas morning when you were little.

What if the assailant has a weapon? According to the police, you may then have no option but to submit. Well, may I suggest an addition to the list?

Option 6: shoot him.

For years guns have been banned in both the District of Columbia and on many campuses nationwide. As a 20-year-old intern and student, I have never felt more marginalized. Whether it is walking to my car at the station, trekking across campus from the 24-hour library, or, in light of recent events, even going to class, the inability to protect myself is ever-present. To put a fine point on it, I am often in fear of my life.

Both of my parents work in law-enforcement, and I have spent countless hours at the shooting range and attending classes for a gun-carrying permit. It is unfortunate that the only place I have ever been allowed to carry a gun is at our mountain cabin—and that’s only to protect myself from bears!

The ownership of a gun requires much responsibility. Numerous laws have been established to keep guns out of the hands of violent or otherwise unstable individuals. However, to outlaw guns for law-abiding citizens who have no other reasonable way to protect themselves is asking all of us to jeopardize our feelings of security, our safety, and, ultimately, our lives. That is not a gamble I’m willing to take.

As long as the Left dictates where and when I can feel safe, allow me to suggest alternative option #6. Perhaps the liberal “do-gooders” who support gun-bans would be so kind as to volunteer to escort me everywhere I go to ward of potential attacks. But in reality, the left doesn’t care about defending the rights of a free people. If they did, administrators at Virginia Tech and D.C. bureaucrats would never have taken steps to strip us of our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Allison Aldrich is a junior political science and English major at Virginia Tech and a Summer 2007 intern at the Young America’s Foundation headquarters in her hometown, Herndon, Virginia.

Film Review: "Ratatouille"

Voilà! A Rat for All Seasonings

Remy the epicure rat and Linguini the kitchen worker in a scene from the animated Pixar film written and directed by Brad Bird.

The New York Times
Published: June 29, 2007

The moral of “Ratatouille” is delivered by a critic: a gaunt, unsmiling fellow named Anton Ego who composes his acidic notices in a coffin-shaped room and who speaks in the parched baritone of Peter O’Toole. “Not everyone can be a great artist,” Mr. Ego muses. “But a great artist can come from anywhere.”

Quite so. Written and directed by Brad Bird and displaying the usual meticulousness associated with the Pixar brand, “Ratatouille” is a nearly flawless piece of popular art, as well as one of the most persuasive portraits of an artist ever committed to film. It provides the kind of deep, transporting pleasure, at once simple and sophisticated, that movies at their best have always promised.

Its sensibility, implicit in Mr. Ego’s aphorism, is both exuberantly democratic and unabashedly elitist, defending good taste and aesthetic accomplishment not as snobbish entitlements but as universal ideals. Like “The Incredibles,” Mr. Bird’s earlier film for Pixar, “Ratatouille” celebrates the passionate, sometimes aggressive pursuit of excellence, an impulse it also exemplifies.

The hero (and perhaps Mr. Bird’s alter ego) is Remy (Patton Oswalt), a young rat who lives somewhere in the French countryside and conceives a passion for fine cooking. Raised by garbage-eaters, he is drawn toward a more exalted notion of food by the sensitivity of his own palate and by the example of Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett), a famous chef who insists — more in the manner of Julia Child than of his real-life haute cuisine counterparts — that “anyone can cook.”

What Remy discovers is that anyone, including his uncultured brother, can be taught to appreciate intense and unusual flavors. (How to translate the reactions of the nose and tongue by means of sound and image is a more daunting challenge, one that the filmmakers, including Michael Giacchino, author of the marvelous musical score, meet with effortless ingenuity.)
Remy’s budding culinary vocation sets him on a lonely course, separating him from his clannish, philistine family and sending him off, like so many young men from the provinces before him, to seek his fortune in Paris. That city, from cobblestones to rooftops, is brilliantly imagined by the animators.

And, as usual in a Pixar movie, a whole new realm of physical texture and sensory detail has been conquered for animation. “Finding Nemo” found warmth in the cold-blooded, scaly creatures of the deep; “Cars” brought inert metal to life. At first glance, “Ratatouille” may look less groundbreaking, since talking furry rodents are hardly a novelty in cartoons. But the innovations are nonetheless there, in the fine grain of every image: in the matted look of wet rat fur and the bright scratches in the patina of well-used copper pots, in the beads of moisture on the surface of cut vegetables and the sauce-stained fabric of cooks’ aprons.

Individually, the rats are appealing enough, but the sight of dozens of them swarming through pantries and kitchens is appropriately icky, and Mr. Bird acknowledges that interspecies understanding may have its limits.

Perhaps because animation, especially the modern computer-assisted variety, is the work of so many hands and the product of so much invested capital, we are used to identifying animated movies with their corporate authors: Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar and so on. But while the visual effects in “Ratatouille” show a recognizable company stamp, the sensibility that governs the story is unmistakably Mr. Bird’s. A veteran of “The Simpsons” and a journeyman writer for movies and television, he has emerged as an original and provocative voice in American filmmaking.

He is also, at least implicitly, a severe critic of the laziness and mediocrity that characterize so much popular culture. He criticizes partly by example, by avoiding the usual kid-movie clichés and demonstrating that a clear, accessible story can also be thoughtful and unpredictable. “Ratatouille” features no annoying sidekick and no obtrusive celebrity voice-work, and while Remy is cute, he can also be prickly, demanding and insecure.

Moreover, his basic moral conflict — between family obligation and individual ambition — is handled with unusual subtlety and complexity, so that the reassurances and resolutions of the movie’s end feel earned rather than predetermined.

And while the film buzzes with eye-pleasing action and incident — wild chases, hairbreadth escapes, the frenzied choreography of a busy kitchen — it does not try to overwhelm its audience with excessive noise and sensation. Instead Mr. Bird integrates story and spectacle with the light, sure touch that Vincente Minnelli brought to his best musicals and interweaves the tale of Remy’s career with beguiling subplots and curious characters.

Since no Parisian restaurant will let a rat work in its kitchen, Remy strikes a deal with a hapless low-level worker named Linguini (Lou Romano), who executes Remy’s recipes by means of an ingenious (and hilarious) form of under-the-toque puppetry. Linguini’s second mentor is Colette (Janeane Garofalo), a tough sous-chef who unwittingly becomes the rodent’s rival for Linguini’s allegiance. Even minor figures — assistant cooks, waiters, a hapless health inspector — show remarkable individuality.

At stake in “Ratatouille” is not only Remy’s ambition but also the hallowed legacy of Gusteau, whose ghost occasionally floats before Remy’s eyes and whose restaurant is in decline. Part of the problem is Gusteau’s successor, Skinner (Ian Holm), who is using the master’s name and reputation to market a line of mass-produced frozen dinners.

Against him, Remy and Mr. Bird take a stand in defense of an artisanal approach that values both tradition and individual talent: classic recipes renewed by bold, creative execution. The movie’s grand climax, and the source of its title, is the preparation of a rustic dish made of common vegetables — a dish made with ardor and inspiration and placed, as it happens, before a critic.

And what, faced with such a ratatouille, is a critic supposed to say? Sometimes the best response is the simplest. Sometimes “thank you” is enough.


Opens Friday nationwide.

Directed by Brad Bird; written by Mr. Bird, based on a story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco and Mr. Bird; director of photography/lighting, Sharon Calahan; director of photography/camera, Robert Anderson; supervising animators, Dylan Brown and Mark Walsh; edited by Darren Holmes; music by Michael Giacchino; production designer, Harley Jessup; produced by Brad Lewis; released by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios. Running time: 110 minutes. This film is rated G.

WITH THE VOICES OF: Patton Oswalt (Remy), Ian Holm (Skinner), Lou Romano (Linguini), Brian Dennehy (Django), Peter Sohn (Emile), Brad Garrett (Auguste Gusteau), Janeane Garofalo (Colette) and Peter O’Toole (Anton Ego).

Jeter Sees It's Time That He Speaks Up

Derek Jeter, who singled in two runs Thursday, said he believed a championship was possible. “If you don’t feel that way,” he said, “that’s when you’re in trouble.”

The New York Times
Published: June 30, 2007

Derek Jeter of the Yankees adheres strictly to the baseball code that anything that is said or seen in the clubhouse should stay in the clubhouse. Jeter stresses that he sees no merit in discussing what the Yankees say or do after reporters leave the clubhouse and the doors close.

As the Yankees have struggled for the first three months of the season, Jeter has heard theories about how they can emerge from their slumber. The players should have a meeting. The players should critique or motivate one another. The players should do something. Maybe, Jeter said, the Yankees already have done it.

“They think they know who is saying this and who is saying that,” Jeter said of the team’s critics. “They think somebody should say this or say that. In reality, people have no idea what’s going on.”

Jeter acknowledged, grudgingly, that there was something going on. There are daily discussions happening on a team that has underachieved, and Jeter initiates many of them. While Jeter, the team’s captain, did not specify whom he had spoken to or what the topics had been, he said that he spoke “to people constantly” to cajole or counsel.

Jeter has never been on a club that has been this dreadful this late in the season. Now in his 12th full season, Jeter has been in the playoffs for 11 consecutive years and has helped the Yankees win four World Series titles. But this is a different team and a different time.

When Jeter was asked if the Yankees’ malaise had caused him to be more vocal than at any time since becoming captain in 2003, he said, “Ah, umm, yeah, probably, I would think.”

It took Jeter a few seconds and a few stammers to reveal that sliver of insight. Jeter has noticed that the losing has affected some players, so, in his subtle way, he has been chattier.

“You got people that are going through things they’ve never been faced with before,” Jeter said. “So, yeah, it’s probably safe to say that I’ve done more of that.”

Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ closer, and Jorge Posada, the catcher and Jeter’s closest friend on the team, said Jeter has indeed had more discussions with teammates.

Rivera said those conversations, even if they lasted a minute, could prod or support a player and perhaps help the Yankees emerge from their funk. Before last night’s 2-1 victory against Oakland, they had lost seven of their last eight games and were 36-39.

“As the captain, you want people to know they can sit down and talk to you,” Rivera said. “We need that.”

Posada, who has joined Jeter and Alex Rodriguez as the only Yankees who have performed exceptionally all season, said Jeter’s job as captain had been tougher because the Yankees had been so inept.

“He’s got to be more vocal,” Posada said. “When things aren’t going right, he’s the guy we follow.”

Actions, not words, are what the Yankees need most these days. Jeter provided some of the former Thursday night in Baltimore. With the Yankees and the Orioles tied, 6-6, in the eighth inning and the rain falling hard at Camden Yards, Jeter slapped a two-run single against Chris Ray.

Once Jeter scooted to second on the throw home, he clapped his hands and kicked his right leg up like a Rockette. Jeter said he was animated because he was happy, but he was relieved, too, even if the Yankees have not yet snatched a victory. The game was suspended because of the rain and will be resumed on July 27.

“We didn’t give up,” Jeter said.

The Yankees have not given up, although, because of their disappearing offense and ragged play, it has looked that way. Johnny Damon has wondered aloud what Boston’s clinching number was in the American League East, a sobering question for the Yankees to be pondering before July. Jeter did not speculate about that number. He says the Yankees have played consistently for only about two weeks this season, but that he still believes in them.

“If you don’t feel that way,” Jeter said, “that’s when you’re in trouble.”

Then Jeter veered into a detailed description of how the Yankees should prepare, which might hint at what he tells teammates.

“The thing that you have to try to remember when you come here every day is that you have to feel as though you can win,” Jeter said. “I feel we have the team. That’s what makes it frustrating. If it’s not frustrating, you’re pretty much saying you don’t have the capability. I think we have the capability.”

When Jeter was asked if the Yankees could win a championship, he quickly said yes. Jeter added that he was confident that would happen, optimistic words he desperately hopes are mirrored by actions.

Alarmist global warming claims melt under scientific scrutiny

June 30, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times

In his new book, The Assault on Reason, Al Gore pleads, "We must stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo-studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth." Gore repeatedly asks that science and reason displace cynical political posturing as the central focus of public discourse.

If Gore really means what he writes, he has an opportunity to make a difference by leading by example on the issue of global warming.

A cooperative and productive discussion of global warming must be open and honest regarding the science. Global warming threats ought to be studied and mitigated, and they should not be deliberately exaggerated as a means of building support for a desired political position.

Many of the assertions Gore makes in his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," have been refuted by science, both before and after he made them. Gore can show sincerity in his plea for scientific honesty by publicly acknowledging where science has rebutted his claims.

For example, Gore claims that Himalayan glaciers are shrinking and global warming is to blame. Yet the September 2006 issue of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate reported, "Glaciers are growing in the Himalayan Mountains, confounding global warming alarmists who recently claimed the glaciers were shrinking and that global warming was to blame."

Gore claims the snowcap atop Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro is shrinking and that global warming is to blame. Yet according to the November 23, 2003, issue of Nature magazine, "Although it's tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain's foothills is the more likely culprit. Without the forests' humidity, previously moisture-laden winds blew dry. No longer replenished with water, the ice is evaporating in the strong equatorial sunshine."

Gore claims global warming is causing more tornadoes. Yet the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in February that there has been no scientific link established between global warming and tornadoes.

Gore claims global warming is causing more frequent and severe hurricanes. However, hurricane expert Chris Landsea published a study on May 1 documenting that hurricane activity is no higher now than in decades past. Hurricane expert William Gray reported just a few days earlier, on April 27, that the number of major hurricanes making landfall on the U.S. Atlantic coast has declined in the past 40 years. Hurricane scientists reported in the April 18 Geophysical Research Letters that global warming enhances wind shear, which will prevent a significant increase in future hurricane activity.

Gore claims global warming is causing an expansion of African deserts. However, the Sept. 16, 2002, issue of New Scientist reports, "Africa's deserts are in 'spectacular' retreat . . . making farming viable again in what were some of the most arid parts of Africa."

Gore argues Greenland is in rapid meltdown, and that this threatens to raise sea levels by 20 feet. But according to a 2005 study in the Journal of Glaciology, "the Greenland ice sheet is thinning at the margins and growing inland, with a small overall mass gain." In late 2006, researchers at the Danish Meteorological Institute reported that the past two decades were the coldest for Greenland since the 1910s.

Gore claims the Antarctic ice sheet is melting because of global warming. Yet the Jan. 14, 2002, issue of Nature magazine reported Antarctica as a whole has been dramatically cooling for decades. More recently, scientists reported in the September 2006 issue of the British journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series A: Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences, that satellite measurements of the Antarctic ice sheet showed significant growth between 1992 and 2003. And the U.N. Climate Change panel reported in February 2007 that Antarctica is unlikely to lose any ice mass during the remainder of the century.

Each of these cases provides an opportunity for Gore to lead by example in his call for an end to the distortion of science. Will he rise to the occasion? Only time will tell.

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment policy at the Heartland Institute.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Kathryn Jean Lopez: The People’s Host

Revolutionary radio.

June 29, 2007, 8:30 a.m.

“Power to the Peeeooople!!!!!”

The phrase must sound like fingernails on a chalkboard to anyone from the White House who listens to Laura Ingraham’s nationally syndicated radio show. We know someone there listens because White House press secretary Tony Snow, an old Ingraham friend, has braved the show more than once, including in a blowout exchange deep into the debate over the Senate immigration bill that died Thursday on the Senate floor.

Fingernails on a chalkboard, too, to Mississippi senator Trent Lott, who announced, Dianne Feinstein-like, “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.” No, senator: Talk radio is listening to America. (Only 22 percent favored the immigration bill he was whipping for). You should try it, Senator. It could help solve some of your problems (19-percent approval rating).

Power to the People is the title of Ingraham’s upcoming bestseller, out this fall from Regnery. It’s also a phrase all too familiar to regular listeners to her radio show. It’s also the perfect rallying cry for the revolution Ingraham is at the forefront of. Witness the immigration debate.

The Grand Compromise immigration bill was announced pre-Memorial Day in the Senate by, among others, an emotional South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, who sought to throw everything you ever learned from Bill, the bill on the Capitol steps from Schoolhouse Rock on Saturday mornings, out the window. If you watched the senators’ press conference, you saw Graham talking about how excited he was that he was in closed-door rooms meeting with people about legislation and talking about America and that’s why the immigration deal was so great. “This is what my ninth-grade teacher told me government is all about and I finally got to experience it.”

But Laura Ingraham’s understanding of the federal government tracks closer to what the Founders had in mind — representative government and all. And so the former Supreme Court law clerk read the bill and linked to it on her website and had real debates about it — with Snow, with Linda Chavez (who had backed up the president’s contention that there was hostility toward Hispanics fueling opposition to the amnesty bill), with the Manhattan Institute’s Tamar Jacoby. On the Senate floor this past Wednesday, Alabama Republican senator Jeff Sessions, another hero who saved America from this damaging bill, said: “The radio talk-show hosts know more about the bill than most of the senators, if you want to know the truth.” He had Laura Ingraham, for one, down.

In a talented field of intelligent conservative male audience getters who include the incomparable Rush Limbaugh, eminently confident Sean Hannity, playfully cerebral Bill Bennett, and the stalwart Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham puts to rest the lie that conservatism is some misogynistic boys club. She can compete with the best of them and while mixing it up on all matters of national security and pop culture with her bright and entertaining producers Matt Fox, A. J. Rice, and Joe Vollono, she also brings a fearlessly feminine flair to the conservative talk-radio airwaves.

The June 14 debate between Ingraham and Tony Snow was a revealing one. Here two formidable cancer survivors were duking it out on a key and fundamental issue of the day, both bringing to it a sense that life is too short to not have important debates — on details and substance — if you’re in the political world. We who devote our lives to public policy owe the people who tune in, click on, and trust us that we use our power that way.

Feminists rarely give conservative women the time of day but if they did, they’d have Laura Ingraham into their hall of fame. (Laura shouldn’t hold her breath, though; she’s a recent convert to Catholicism so has doubled her associations with misogyny in the Ms. world.) But she’s doing fine without the accolades. She has something more important: a voice and an audience. Brave, honest, unrelenting — and way cool. Using her power for good. And listening to the peeeooople!!! Who, as it happens, are also listening to her, big-time.

Just ask Senator Lott. I hear he’s heard from some people in recent weeks.

Deroy Murdock: SkiPO

Michael Moore’s SiCKO misses facts.

June 29, 2007 10:45 AM

Moore flashes the loser sign after being called a disingenuous filmmaker by US Senator John McCain from the floor of the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Michael Moore’s new movie, SiCKO, should be called “SKiPO,” since it skips over so many vital facts en route to government medicine.

An engaging and surprisingly funny Moore explores a grim topic: America’s problematic health-care system. Moore effectively diagnoses one of its key ailments. HMOs and other managed-care companies often earn billions by just saying, “No” to victims of grave illnesses. Moore introduces us to real men, women, and children who this industry has failed.

Bankrupted by cancer- and coronary-related medical bills, Donna and Larry Smith move into their grown daughter’s home storage room. An Oregon man accidentally saws off two fingertips and must re-construct either his middle finger for $60,000 or his ring finger for only $12,000. Tracy Pierce waits for his insurer to approve a promising bone-marrow transplant to treat his kidney disease. The company refuses, and he soon dies, widowing his bride, Julie, and leaving Tracy Jr., 13, fatherless.

These are the bitter fruits of America’s private, third-party-payer system. Not quite socialist, not quite capitalist, it creates endless distortions as review boards and other gatekeepers essentially hide doctors from patients.

Moore and other universal-health advocates would exacerbate this problem by making Uncle Sam the ultimate third-party payer.

While promoting this prescription, Moore overlooks many facts that would balance his otherwise well-crafted film. For now, its leftward tilt makes the Leaning Tower of Pisa look like the Washington Monument.

* Milton Friedman observed, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Sadly, there’s no such thing as free health care, either.

Universal health care’s finances must come from somewhere. “Somewhere” turns out to be taxpayers’ pockets.

Britons, Canadians, and Frenchmen purchase their “free” coverage through their taxes. In America, 44.7 percent of health expenditures came from tax-funded government spending in 2004, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In Canada, that figure was 69.8 percent; while in France it was 78.4. Fully 86.3 percent of British health spending was taxpayer-funded.

These countries also endure high overall tax burdens, largely due to government medicine. In 2005, OECD reports, taxes as a share of GDP stood at 41.2 percent in Canada, 41.9 percent in Britain, and 50.9 percent in France. America has it relatively easy, with just 31.7 percent of GDP devoured by taxes.

Of course, for many Americans, the trade off is lower taxes vs. higher payments for health insurance. This cost varies according to employment contracts, health circumstances, and more. Still, “free” medicine is as beautiful and realistic as a unicorn.

* Moore claims 50 million Americans lack health insurance. The Moving Picture Institute’s Stuart Browning challenges that oft-repeated “fact.” In a case of dueling documentaries, Browning’s nine-minute film, Uninsured in America, deconstructs the more common “45 million uninsured” soundbite and finds that 9 million of these people earn over $75,000 annually and can buy coverage but don’t. Some 18 million are healthy, 18-34-year-old “young invincibles” whose priorities exclude insurance.

“If I’m out eating, I want to eat good food,” Faye Chao, 26 and uninsured, told Browning. “There’ve been times I’ve been in New York, and I’m spending at least $800 a month just going out.”

These Americans also turn to local clinics for treatment when necessary.

For instance, Chandra Nalaani, 27 and uninsured, visited San Francisco’s Lyon-Martin Women’s Health Services.

“I got an annual exam,” Nalaani said. “They tested me for a bunch of things…In my case, because I wasn’t making much, it was free.”

Of the uninsured, 14 million fail to enroll in Medicaid and other low-income health programs for which they are eligible.

Even if these numbers somewhat overlap, Browning estimates that just eight million Americans chronically lack coverage. Moore’s 50-million-man standing army of the uninsured thus is a Potemkin force.

* While Moore glows like a Jack-O-Lantern about the wonders of the British National Health Service, Gordon Brown sees massive room for improvement. Just days before becoming Great Britain’s brand-new Prime Minister, Brown told Labour Party colleagues on June 24:

From everything I have seen going around the country, and from everything I’ve heard, we need to do better, and the NHS will be my immediate priority. We need to and will do better at insuring access for patients at the hours that suit them. We’ll be better at getting basics of good hygiene and cleanliness right. Better also at helping people to manage their own health. Better at ensuring patients are treated with dignity at all times in the NHS. Better at providing the wider range of services now needed by a growing elderly population. And while implementing our essential reforms, better at listening to and valuing our staff.

* Moore’s insinuation aside, HMOs are not solely the brainchild of that oft-flogged bete noir, Richard Milhous Nixon. In fact, the HMO Act of 1973’s sponsor was none other than Senator Edward Moore Kennedy (D., Mass.). In 1978, as the Institute for Health Freedom recalled, Kennedy sang HMOs’ praises:

As the author of the first HMO bill ever to pass the Senate, I find this spreading support for HMOs truly gratifying…HMOs have proven themselves again and again to be effective and efficient mechanisms for delivering health care of the highest quality.

HMOphobes, including today’s Ted Kennedy, somehow fail to mention that HMOs once were the Left’s answer to America’s earlier medical challenges.

* SiCKO dramatically features a man stitching shut a deep cut on his own leg. Though he lacked insurance, this was unnecessary.

“Every American hospital is required to provide emergency care to all comers, regardless of ability to pay,” says Cato Institute healthcare analyst Michael Cannon. The 1986 federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act makes such services mandatory for anyone arriving within 250 yards of a U.S. emergency room.

Thus, a trauma surgeon would have sutured this man’s wound. Yes, the hospital either would have absorbed this procedure’s cost or spread it across the bills of the insured (another cause of medical inflation). These cross-subsidies notwithstanding, he would have received professional treatment.

* Moore shows Michiganders driving into Canada for “free” medical attention. What he leaves unseen are the Canadians who come to America for treatment. Canada, along with only Cuba and North Korea, forbids its citizens from paying doctors for private medical treatment. In a kind of therapeutic Underground Railroad, Vancouver’s Timely Medical Alternatives, Inc. helps Canadians avoid lengthy medical waiting lists by arranging for their treatment in American hospitals. It says its clients can be operated on within seven days through its U.S. partners rather than six to ten months under Canadian government medicine.

“Five or six years ago, seven out of ten Canadian provinces, representing roughly 95 percent of the population, had contracts with American companies for cancer care provided in the United States,” says the Manhattan Institute’s Dr. David Gratzer, a Toronto physician. “Today, some patients from over-subscribed Canadian urban medical centers are sent eight hours away to underused rural medical facilities for cancer care, much like someone going from Manhattan to Buffalo for chemotherapy.”

* Another drawback of high-tax-funded “free” government medicine is its limited modern technology. Cato’s Michael Cannon and Michael Tanner found that in 2000, there were 13.6 CT Scanners in America per million people. There were 8.2 million such devices per million Canadians and 6.5 per million Britons. Lithotriptors use sound waves to pulverize kidney stones and gall stones. While America had 1.5 of them per-million citizens, Canada and Britain had, respectively, 0.4 and 0.2.

The paucity of such equipment creates lines and delays. Vancouver’s Fraser Institute estimated a median wait in 2006 of 4.3 weeks for a CT scan and 10.3 weeks for an MRI.

SiCKO’s most revealing footage captures Moore’s pilgrimage to Karl Marx’s grave in London’s Highgate Cemetery. Single-payer countries “live in a world of ‘we,’ not ‘me,’” Moore says. “We’ll never fix anything until we get that one basic thing right.” Moore deserves credit for being so amazingly candid about his ideas’ truly socialist roots.

Still, a major conundrum haunts this clamor for the kind of government medicine that would make Marx misty.

While workers theoretically would own the means of medication under universal care, in reality, politicians would be in charge. The same liberals who denounce FEMA and Walter Reed Army Medical Center (a single-payer showcase) for their embarrassing incompetence want Uncle Sam to conduct bypass surgeries, deliver babies, and perform vasectomies.

How puzzling. America has just one federal government. Sometimes the sensitive, caring, weepy Democrats run things; Sometimes the cold, racist, iron-hearted Republicans rule. Universal health care would mean that American medicine — from the Left’s perspective — now would be in the scheming hands of those who “lied us into war” and gleefully drowned poor blacks in New Orleans’ attics after Katrina. If Hillary Clinton had nationalized health care in 1993, American hospitals and clinics would be controlled today by Dr. Dick “Double-Barrel” Cheney and his boss, Chimpy McHitler, M.D.

If that doesn’t shiver the timbers of government-medicine supporters, they should visualize Dr. Rudy Giuliani with a scalpel in one hand and the universal health-care budget in the other.

Unless America scraps elections and simply yields power permanently to bleeding-heart Democrats, Michael Moore’s fans should remember that every two to four years, universal health care could fall into the clutches of cruel Republicans.

Government-medicine boosters could rue the day their collectivist dream came true.

— Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution.

Peggy Noonan: On Letting Go

How we become American.

The Wall Street Journal

Friday, June 29, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Happy Fourth of July. To mark this Wednesday's holiday, I share a small moment that happened a year ago in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I was at a wake for an old family friend named Anthony Coppola, a retired security guard who'd been my uncle Johnny's best friend from childhood. All the old neighborhood people were there from Clinton Avenue and from other streets in Brooklyn, and Anthony's sisters Tessie and Angie and Gloria invited a priest in to say some prayers. About a hundred of us sat in chairs in a little side chapel in the funeral home.

The priest, a jolly young man with a full face and thick black hair, said he was new in the parish, from South America. He made a humorous, offhand reference to the fact that he was talking to longtime Americans who'd been here for ages. This made the friends and family of Anthony Coppola look at each other and smile. We were Italian, Irish, everything else. Our parents had been the first Americans born here, or our grandparents had. We had all grown up with two things, a burly conviction that we were American and an inner knowledge that we were also something else. I think we experienced this as a plus, a double gift, though I don't remember anyone saying that. When Anthony's mother or her friend, my grandmother, talked about Italy or Ireland, they called it "the old country." Which suggested there was a new one, and that we were new in it.

But this young priest, this new immigrant, he looked at us and thought we were from the Mayflower. As far as he was concerned--as far as he could tell--we were old Yankee stock. We were the establishment. As the pitcher in "Bang the Drum Slowly" says, "This handed me a laugh."

This is the way it goes in America. You start as the Outsider and wind up the Insider, or at least being viewed as such by the newest Outsiders. We are a nation of still-startling social fluidity. Anyone can become "American," but they have to want to first.

It has had me thinking a lot about how people become American.


I don't know that when my grandfather Patrick Byrne and his sisters, Etta and Mary Jane, who had lived on a hardscrabble little farm in Donegal, on the west coast of Ireland, felt about America when they got here. I don't know if they were "loyal to America." I think they were loyal to their decision to come to America. In for a penny, in for a pound. They had made their decision. Now they had to prove to themselves it was the right one. I remember asking Etta what she'd heard about America before she got here. She said, "The streets were paved with gold." All the immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th century used that phrase.

When I was in college in the 1970s, I got a semester abroad my junior year, and I took a boat from England to Ireland and made my way back to Donegal. This was approximately 55 years after my grandfather and his sisters had left. There I met an old man who'd been my grandfather's boyhood friend. He lived by himself in a shack on a hill and was grateful the cousins I'd found had sent me to him. He told me he'd been there the day my grandfather, then a young man, left. He said the lorry came down the lane and stopped for my grandfather, and that his father said goodbye. He said, "Go now, and never come back to hungry Ireland again."

My grandfather had his struggles here but never again went home. He'd cast his lot. That's an important point in the immigrant experience, when you cast your lot, when you make your decision. It makes you let go of something. And it makes you hold on to something. The thing you hold on to is the new country. In succeeding generations of your family the holding on becomes a habit and then a patriotism, a love. You realize America is more than the place where the streets were paved with gold. It has history, meaning, tradition. Suddenly that's what you treasure.

A problem with newer immigrants now is that for some it's no longer necessary to make The Decision. They don't always have to cast their lot. There are so many ways not to let go of the old country now, from choosing to believe that America is only about money, to technology that encourages you to stay in constant touch with the land you left, to TV stations that broadcast in the old language. If you're an immigrant now, you don't have to let go. Which means you don't have to fully join, to enmesh. Your psychic investment in America doesn't have to be full. It can be provisional, temporary. Or underdeveloped, or not developed at all.

And this may have implications down the road, and I suspect people whose families have been here a long time are concerned about it. It's one of the reasons so many Americans want a pause, a stopping of the flow, a time for the new ones to settle down and settle in. It's why they oppose the mischief of the Masters of the Universe, as they're being called, in Washington, who make believe they cannot close our borders while they claim they can competently micromanage all other aspects of immigration.


It happens that I know how my grandfather's sister Mary Jane became an American. She left a paper trail. She kept a common-place book, a sort of diary with clippings and mementos. She kept it throughout the 1920s, when she was still new here. I found it after she'd died. It's a big brown book with cardboard covers and delicate pages. In the front, in the first half, there are newspaper clippings about events in Ireland, and sentimental poems. "I am going back to Glenties . . ."

But about halfway through, the content changes. There is a newspaper clipping about something called "Thanksgiving." There are newspaper photos of parades down Fifth Avenue. And suddenly, near the end, there are patriotic poems. One had this refrain: "So it's home again and home again, America for me./ My heart is turning home again, and there I long to be./ In the land of youth and freedom beyond the ocean bars/ Where the air is full of sunlight, and the flag is full of stars."

Years later, when I worked for Ronald Reagan, those words found their way into one of his speeches, a nod from me to someone who'd made her decision, cast her lot, and changed my life.

I think I remember the last time I told that story. I think it was to a young Mexican-American woman who was a speechwriter for Bill Clinton. I think she completely understood.

God bless our beloved country on the 231st anniversary of its birth.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on

Car bomb is al-Qa'eda's greeting to Brown

By Con Coughlin
Last Updated: 1:01pm BST 29/06/2007

The car bomb was parked near Piccadilly Circus.

The failed attempt to bomb a London nightclub shows that Islamic terror groups not only continue to pose a serious threat to our national security, but retain the ability to carry out attacks that will attract maximum publicity.

The July 7 attacks on London’s transportation system in 2005 were timed to coincide with former Labour prime minister Tony Blair hosting the G8 summit of world leaders at Gleneagles in Scotland.

The wave of suicide bomb attacks killed 52 people and injured hundreds more, and forced Mr Blair to break off his talks on important issues such as climate change and African debt relief to return to London to oversee the government’s security response.

This latest bomb plot, which bears the terror imprint of an al-Qa’eda operation, was clearly timed to coincide with Gordon Brown’s appointment as Britain’s new prime minister this week. During the ten years he previously spent as Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr Brown kept a low profile on issues relating to Islamic terrorism and the global war against terrorism.

If the car bomb, which was placed outside one of London’s most popular nightclubs, had successfully detonated it would have caused widespread devastation and loss of life, and would have forced Mr Brown to demonstrate whether he has the strength of character and leadership qualities that are required when the country suffers a major terrorist attack.

Even though British security officials were able to defuse the device before it caused widespread carnage in London’s West End, the incident has brought home to Mr Brown and his new government the very real threat militant Islamic groups continue to pose both to the capital and the country at large.

Although Scotland Yard are being reticent about the likely identity of the terror group responsible for plotting the attack, the crude nature of the explosive device - made of gas cylinders and nails - is typical of the type of device used on an almost daily basis in Iraq by Islamic terror groups.

Francis to glide into Hall of Fame

By Luke DeCock, Staff Writer
News & Observer
June 29, 2007

Ron Francis went through his career as one of the most underappreciated players of his generation. He was also one of the most productive.
When the Hockey Hall of Fame selected him for membership Thursday, it honored the latter while correcting, once and for all, the former.

Francis, 44, will be inducted Nov. 12 in one of the Hall's strongest classes, joining Mark Messier, Scott Stevens, Al MacInnis and longtime league executive Jim Gregory.

The native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, played 16 of his 23 seasons for the Carolina Hurricanes franchise, leading them to the Stanley Cup finals as captain in 2002. Francis was at home in North Raleigh when he got the news.

"Obviously, it was a very special phone call I received today," Francis said. "As a kid growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, I dreamed of playing in the NHL and holding the Stanley Cup over my head. But never did I expect to accomplish this."

The team's former captain and most popular player, Francis delivered a jolt of credibility to the Hurricanes a year after they moved to North Carolina by becoming the first marquee free agent to sign with the team in the summer of 1998.

"Coming to Carolina back when I did, a lot of people looked at me funny, but it was everything I hoped it would be," Francis said. "It's a wonderful area with a lot to offer."

Ron Francis (center) proudly holds the 2002 Wales trophy, awarded to the Eastern Conference champions.

The team honored Francis in January 2006 by raising his No. 10 jersey to the rafters at the RBC Center. He has now gained the ultimate acclaim from the hockey world.

Francis will become the Hurricanes' second Hall of Fame member. Broadcaster Chuck Kaiton was inducted into the Hall's media wing in 2004. Paul Coffey, who also was inducted in 2004, played parts of three seasons for the Hartford/Carolina franchise.

Francis' NHL statistics are impeccable. He ranks second -- Wayne Gretzky is first -- in assists with 1,249, third in games played with 1,731 and fourth in points with 1,798. Only Gordie Howe and Francis posted 22 consecutive seasons with 50 or more points.

"You bring up Ronnie's name and what comes to mind is a complete player," MacInnis said. "He was one of a handful of players where a coach would look down the bench and you could put him in any situation at any time."

He also won the Lady Byng Trophy three times for sportsmanship and gentlemanly play, the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward and the King Clancy Trophy honoring community service during his career.

He began his career in 1981 with the Hartford Whalers, the franchise that later became the Hurricanes. He spent 10 seasons with Hartford before a midseason trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991. He won the Stanley Cup twice with the Penguins, in 1991 and 1992.

"Ronnie left a lasting impact on the Penguins organization," said current Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, a member of the Hall of Fame and a teammate of Francis' in Pittsburgh.

"Not only because of his exceptional talent and ability to play both ends of the ice, but because of his dedication, his professionalism and his dignity."

Francis remains the Hartford/Carolina career leader in games played (1,186), goals (382), assists (793), points (1,175), hat tricks (nine) and power-play goals (132). He led the Hurricanes to the playoffs three times as captain, literally butting heads with Stevens in 2001 when Stevens knocked him out of the playoffs with a concussion.

Francis got his revenge a year later, beating Stevens to the net to score the goal that eliminated the New Jersey Devils.

"His unselfishness on the ice is what you respect the most," Stevens said. "He was one of the smartest players I ever played against."

Francis ended his career on the ice with the Toronto Maple Leafs, seeking one last shot at the Cup with a deadline deal in 2004. He now works in the Hurricanes' front office.

"No one's surprised, but once it happens, you just feel proud to be a small part of his career," Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said.

Staff writer Luke DeCock can be reached at 829-8947 or

Inviting target

Black rifles have fans, critics

Andrew Park, The New York Times

Smith & Wesson Black Rifle

In February, Jim Zumbo, a burly, 66-year-old outdoors writer, got a phone call at his home near Cody, Wyo., from the rock star -- and outspoken Second Amendment champion -- Ted Nugent. "You messed up, man," Zumbo says Nugent told him. "Big time." Two days earlier, Zumbo, a leading hunting journalist, outraged Nugent and many other gun owners when he suggested in a blog post that increasingly popular semiautomatic guns known as "black rifles" be banned from hunting. Zumbo, stunned that hunters were using the rifles for sport, also suggested giving the guns, prized for their matte black metal finishes, molded plastic parts and combat-ready looks, a new name: "terrorist rifles."

Gun enthusiasts' backlash against Zumbo was swift. He parted company with his employer, Outdoor Life magazine. Zumbo says on his Web site that he was "terminated"; the magazine says that it and Zumbo agreed he would resign.

But a week after hearing from Nugent, who has a devoted following among gun owners, Zumbo visited him in Waco, Texas, to make amends. For his part, Nugent was prepared to give Zumbo a lesson on the utility and ubiquity of black rifles.

Jim Zumbo

"These guns are everywhere," Nugent explained excitedly in a recent phone interview. "I personally don't know anybody who doesn't have two in his truck."

Despite their menacing appearance -- and in some cases, because of it -- black rifles are now the guns of choice for many hunters, target shooters and would-be home defenders. Owners praise their accuracy, ease of use and versatility, as well as their potential to be customized with an array of gadgets. While the gun industry's overall sales have plateaued and its profits have faded over the past decade, black rifles are selling briskly, says Eric Wold, an analyst in New York for Merriman Curhan Ford.

Moreover, manufacturers say, for every dollar spent on black rifles, gun buyers spend at least another customizing the guns from an arsenal of accessories. All of this has combined to make black rifles a lone bright spot for long-suffering American gunsmiths.

Ban threat spurs sales

Yet Zumbo is not alone in finding the popularity of black rifles and the trade in them to be disquieting.

Gun-control advocates say black rifles are simply assault weapons under a different name -- and just as dangerous as they were when Congress banned some of them in 1994. The ban did not eliminate black rifles; manufacturers were able to make minor changes to comply with the law and kept selling them. (The ban expired in 2004.)

"What you have are guns essentially designed for close combat," says Dennis Hennigan, legal director of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, who notes that a Beretta black rifle was among the weapons obtained by men suspected of plotting a terrorist attack on Fort Dix, N.J. "If your mission is to kill a lot of people very quickly, they're very well suited for that task."

But efforts to ban black rifles seem to have only fueled their rise, analysts say. And though some major gun makers were reluctant to defy the spirit of the 1994 ban, dozens of small companies emerged, and their sales surged. (It didn't hurt that many gun owners feared greater restrictions down the road, a fear that manufacturers were more than willing to exploit.)

"Whenever there's a push like this, business increases as people buy a firearm while they can," says Mark Westrom, president of ArmaLite Inc., a maker of black rifles in Geneseo, Ill. "If you want to sell something to Americans, just tell them they can't have it."

The most popular black rifle has been in production since the early 1960s. In response to the Army's need for a lightweight infantry rifle, ArmaLite had developed the AR-15, which could switch between semiautomatic (only one round per pull of the trigger) and fully automatic firing (continuous firing when the trigger is pulled). The Colt Firearms Co. bought the rights to the gun, and the military soon adopted it, calling it the M-16. From Vietnam through the Persian Gulf War, the M-16 was the most common combat weapon, and it remains in use by many American forces.

Because of restrictions on the sale of automatic weapons, civilians could buy the AR-15 only in a semiautomatic version.

Small makers prosper

But if the spirit of the law was a blow to black rifles, the letter of it allowed them to live on and thrive. Colt focused on supplying weapons to the military and law enforcement. But competitors already were copying the rifle because the original patents granted to ArmaLite had expired. All they had to do was rejigger their designs to reduce the number of offending features.

Demand for black rifles, meanwhile, began to grow. A new generation of hunters, many of whom had fired M-16s in the military, adopted them for shooting predators on rural property and stalking small game. The .223-caliber ammunition they used was inexpensive and easily found. The guns began to get a reputation for being durable despite their light weight; they also loaded automatically (unlike bolt-action hunting rifles); and their recoil was gentle enough for even novice shooters and children to withstand. Once the AR-15 was deemed accurate enough for use in high-powered rifle competitions, it soon became standard issue for target shooters.

And with the basic design of black rifles open to industrywide adaptations, gun makers began adding their own innovations and accessories to refine and improve the AR-15's performance. By 2004, when the assault weapons ban expired, black rifles had emerged as a major category in firearms. But while Colt's sales had shrunk in the intervening years, output exploded for black-rifle specialists like Bushmaster, Rock River Arms and DPMS.

"The little guys perfected the platform," says Michael Bane, a gun blogger and writer who is the host of "Shooting Gallery," a program on cable TV's Outdoor Channel. "They had the 10 years of the ban to get their chops down."

But for most of those 10 years, these small manufacturers managed to fly under the radar of many gun owners, including Zumbo, a self-described traditionalist who says he had seen only one black rifle during a lifetime of hunting.

"I had absolutely zero idea of the number of people who are into these types of firearms," he says.

Not so for Nugent, who stocked up on black rifles before the ban took effect and estimates he owns about two dozen.

If the boom in black rifles began in spite of the federal assault-weapons ban, it has accelerated in the 2 1/2 years since the ban expired. Manufacturers have been freed to revive once-prohibited features such as collapsible stocks, flash suppressors and large-capacity magazines.

A military influence

Analysts say images from the Iraq war showing American soldiers armed with black rifles also have helped sales, as have concerns about domestic safety after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

"People on the street want to use what the people in the military and law enforcement are using," says Amit Dayal, an analyst at Rodman & Renshaw in New York.

Based only on the volume of accessories sold -- such as high-powered scopes and flashlights -- Bane estimates as many as 750,000 black rifles, including about 400,000 AR-15s, change hands each year. Brownells, a company in Montezuma, Iowa, a big seller of firearms parts and accessories, says AR-15 gear has become its best-selling product category.

Market keeps growing

Because all but a few gun manufacturers are closely held private companies, overall sales figures for the black-rifle industry are hard to come by. But companies are required to report their overall rifle production to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and, based on that, many of the small manufacturers that have specialized in the guns are "on the verge of being big," Bane says.

One, Stag Arms of New Britain, Conn., opened in 2004 and is producing 2,500 to 3,000 a month, said the company's president and owner, Mark Malkowski. That would be 30,000 to 36,000 a year, roughly the same number Colt was producing in the late 1990s.

Buoyant demand has enticed a number of established gunsmiths into the market, too. Smith & Wesson, known for its revolvers, has made black rifles a strategic priority in its turnaround. It introduced its first model in early 2006. It was so popular that the company had to supplement manufacturing, which had been outsourced, to meet demand.

"It's our hope that we would be the share leader in the category," says Leland A. Nichols, Smith & Wesson's chief operating officer. He said that in the company's own surveys of consumers, its brand outpolled all other black-rifle makers before it even had a product on the market.

Remington Model 7615 Tactical

A similar story is unfolding at the Madison, N.C.-based Remington Arms Co., long one of the strongest brands in hunting rifles. The company started its first line of black rifles this year. In April, Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm that recently made a deal to buy Chrysler, agreed to acquire Remington for $370 million, adding it to the gun maker Bushmaster in the fund's portfolio and raising the possibility of collaboration between the two companies.

"A month ago, black guns were not a business opportunity," says Al Russo, a spokesman for Remington, citing the growth potential that the Cerberus deal offers. "Now they are."

Opponents remain

Despite their popularity, black rifles remain a target for advocates of gun control. Seven states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as several major cities, including New York and Chicago, have enacted bans on certain firearms they have deemed assault weapons, including some black rifles.

In February, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., introduced a renewal of the federal ban on assault weapons that would greatly expand the measure. But few expect the bill to gain any traction.

"It's highly unlikely that any legislation to move an assault weapons ban is going to happen," says Kristen Rand, legislative director at the Violence Policy Center, a gun-control lobbying group. "That's the sad reality on the Hill right now."

Rand says it is hard to know how often black rifles are used in crime. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has not reported such statistics to the public since 2001. But based on anecdotal evidence, Rand says, criminals are favoring imported semiautomatics such as AK-47s and SKS rifles, which are cheaper to obtain than AR-15s.

"We were never claiming that every buyer of an assault weapon is a criminal or is a potential mass killer," says the Brady Center's Hennigan. "But the consumers of the assault weapons are going to include a higher percentage of violent criminals than other guns."

Ted Nugent

Gun-rights advocates scoff, saying that a .223-caliber bullet that comes out of a black rifle is the same as one fired from other guns. Nugent scoffs as well.

"It's just a neat tool," he says. "Black rifles are cool. Case closed. The more the better."

Zumbo, chastened by the outcry that his black-rifle comments set off, says he hopes to resume writing about hunting and to revive his popular cable TV show, which was put on hiatus when it lost sponsors after the blog post. He says his time at Nugent's ranch reminded him that gun owners have to reject banning any firearm, lest it open the door to banning them all. He also says that, like it or not, black rifles are mainstream.

"Having met the people who shoot these things, they were regular folks; they weren't sinister people who were bent on causing harm, they weren't hostile people," he says. "They were interested in the guns because they were fun to shoot."

June 28, 2007

The Edwards campaign is apparently still running low on donations, so this week they went back to their top fundraiser: me.

I doubled the ratings of the lowest-rated cable news show on Tuesday by agreeing to go on for a full hour to promote my new paperback version of "Godless" — a mistake I won't make again. As I was walking to the set, minutes before airtime, it was casually mentioned to me that Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, might call in.

For the first time in recorded history, the show's host did not interrupt a guest, but let Elizabeth Edwards ramble on and on, allowing her to browbeat me for being mean to her husband. (This delicate flower is very sensitive to rough words, having hired the Edwards' campaign staffer who wrote this: "What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit"?)

Say, did any TV host ever surprise Al Franken, Bill Maher or Arianna Huffington with a call by the wife of someone they've made nasty remarks about? How about a call to John Edwards from the wife of a doctor he bankrupted with his junk-science lawsuits?

I think I may have tuned out at some point, so I can only speak to the first 45 minutes of Elizabeth Edwards' harangue, but it mostly consisted of utterly dishonest renditions of things I had said on my "Good Morning America" interview this week and a column I wrote four years ago. (You can't rush Edwards' "rapid response team"!) She claimed I had launched unprovoked attacks on the Edwards' dead son and called for a terrorist attack on her husband.

These are bald-faced lies, and the mainstream media knows they are lies. Yet they were repeated ad nauseam on Wednesday by The Associated Press, the AOL pop-up window, CNN, NBC and — stunningly — the host of the lowest-rated cable show himself, who personally told me he knew the truth.

So for those of you who haven't read any of my five best-selling books: Liberals are driven by Satan and lie constantly.

Here is my full sentence on "Good Morning America," which the media deceptively truncated, referring to a joke I told about Edwards six months ago that made liberals cry: "But about the same time, you know, Bill Maher was not joking and saying he wished Dick Cheney had been killed in a terrorist attack — so I've learned my lesson: If I'm going to say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot."

The usual nut Web sites posted a zillion denunciations of my appearance on "Good Morning America" immediately after I appeared Monday morning. But it didn't occur to any of them to simply lie about what I had said. No, it took them nearly 36 hours to concoct a version of that quote that included the Edwards part, but not the Maher part, or what English language speakers call: "the point."

By tomorrow it will be: "Ann Coulter tried to kill John Edwards on 'Good Morning America'!"

Judging by his fundraising efforts so far, I gather most of you don't know who John Edwards is — unless you're an overpriced hair dresser. He's the trial lawyer who pretended in court to channel the spirit of a handicapped fetus in front of illiterate jurors to scam tens of millions of dollars off of innocent doctors. According to The New York Times, Edwards told one jury: "She speaks to you through me ... And I have to tell you right now — I didn't plan to talk about this — right now I feel her. I feel her presence. She's inside me, and she's talking to you."

Let me also quote from campaign consultant Bob Shrum's book "No Excuses":

"(Kerry) was even queasier about Edwards after they met. Edwards had told Kerry he was going to share a story with him that he'd never told anyone else — that after his son Wade had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home, laid there and hugged his body, and promised that he'd do all he could to make life better for people, to live up to Wade's ideals of service. Kerry was stunned, not moved, because, as he told me later, Edwards had recounted the same exact story to him, almost in the exact same words, a year or two before — and with the same preface, that he'd never shared the memory with anyone else. Kerry said he found it chilling, and he decided he couldn't pick Edwards unless he met with him again."

Apparently every time Edwards began a story about his dead son with "I've never told anyone this before," everyone on the campaign could lip-sync the story with him.

As a commentator, I bring facts like these to the attention of the American people in a lively way. Thus, for example, in a column about the Democratic candidates for president written in 2003, I pointed out that the Democrats refused to discuss the economy or the war, but had recently "discovered a surprise campaign issue: It turns out that several of them have had a death in the family."

(The full column is available at, and

Among several examples of Democrats talking about a death in the family on the campaign trail was this one:

John Edwards injects his son's fatal car accident into his campaign by demanding that everyone notice how he refuses to inject his son's fatal car accident into his campaign.

Edwards has talked about his son's death in a 1996 car accident on "Good Morning America," in dozens of profiles and in his new book. ("It was and is the most important fact of my life.") His 1998 Senate campaign ads featured film footage of Edwards at a learning lab he founded in honor of his son, titled "The Wade Edwards Learning Lab." He wears his son's Outward Bound pin on his suit lapel. He was going to wear it on his sleeve, until someone suggested that might be a little too "on the nose."

If you want points for not using your son's death politically, don't you have to take down all those "Ask me about my son's death in a horrific car accident" bumper stickers? Edwards is like a politician who keeps announcing that he will not use his opponent's criminal record for partisan political advantage.

Manifestly, I was not making fun of their son's death; I was making fun of John Edwards' incredibly creepy habit of invoking his son's tragic death to advance his political career — a practice so repellant, it even made John Kerry queasy.

I'm a little tired of losers trying to raise campaign cash or TV ratings off of my coattails, particularly when they use their afflictions or bereavement schedules to try to silence the opposition. From now on, I'm attacking only serious presidential candidates, like Dennis Kucinich.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007


By June Skinner Sawyers
Copyright 2006

The author picks her top 100 songs from Mr. Springsteen's officially published catalog. The italicized songs fall into her (...And Sixty More Category)...good but not good enough. My picks are in bold...and I didn't feel the need to pick another sixty songs that didn't quite make the cut. Feel free to quibble...I'm interested to see what anyone else has to say.- jtf

Blinded By The Light
Growin' Up
For You
Spirit In The Night

Lost In The Flood

Blinded By The Light
Growin' Up
For You
Spirit In The Night
It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City

4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)

The E Street Shuffle
Kitty's Back
Incident On 57th Street
New York City Serenade

The E Street Shuffle
4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Kitty's Back
Incident On 57th Street
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
New York City Serenade

BORN RUN (1975)
Thunder Road
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Born To Run

She's The One
Meeting Across The River

Thunder Road
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Born To Run
She's The One
Meeting Across The River

Adam Raised A Cain
Racing In The Street
The Promised Land
Prove It All Night
Darkness On The Edge Of Town

Candy's Room

Adam Raised A Cain
Candy's Room
Racing In The Street
The Promised Land
Streets Of Fire
Prove It All Night
Darkness On The Edge Of Town

THE RIVER (1980)
Independence Day
I Wanna Marry You
The River
Point Blank
Fade Away
Stolen Car
The Price You Pay
Drive All Night
Wreck On The Highway

Sherry Darling
Hungry Heart
Cadillac Ranch

The Ties That Bind
Two Hearts
Independence Day
Out In The Street
I Wanna Marry You
The River
Point Blank
Cadillac Ranch
Stolen Car
The Price You Pay
Wreck On The Highway

Atlantic City
Mansion On The Hill
Johnny 99
Highway Patrolman
State Trooper
Open All Night
My Father's House
Reason To Believe

Used Cars

Atlantic City
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Downbound Train
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Land Of Hope And Dreams (Live)

Robert Rector: Spinning the Real Costs of Illegals

June 27, 2007

Robert Rector

Monday's column from the Administration's Karl Zinsmeister and Edward Lazear ("Lead Weight or Gold Mine: What are the True Costs of Immigration?" June 25, RCP) is a study in misdirection and misstatement. Since they devote much of their piece to attacking my research, I'd like to set the record straight.

Let's start with a brief review of what my research into the fiscal cost of low-skill households has actually found:

* Low-skill individuals (i.e., those without a high school degree) receive far more in benefits and services than they pay in taxes.
* The net fiscal cost of the families headed by low-skill immigrants is not markedly different from the cost of families headed by low-skill non-immigrants.

* Low-skill immigrants receive, on average, three dollars in government benefits for each dollar of taxes paid. This imbalance generates a net cost of $89 billion per year on U.S. taxpayers. Over a lifetime the typical low-skill immigrant household costs taxpayers $1.2 million dollars.

* Immigrants are disproportionately low-skilled. One-third of all immigrants and more than half (50 to 60 percent) of illegal immigrants lack a high school degree.

* In contrast to low- and moderate-skill immigrants, immigrants with college education will pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

My conclusion: Immigration policy should seek to increase the number of high-skill immigrants entering the country and sharply decrease the number of low-skill, fiscally dependent immigrants.

Future taxpayer costs will only rise under policies that increase the number of low-skill immigrants entering the U.S., their length of stay in the country, or their access to government benefits and services. Unfortunately, this is exactly what the Senate immigration bill does. The cost of amnesty alone will reach $2.6 trillion once the recipients reach retirement age.

To defend this exorbitantly expensive legislation, Zinsmeister and Lazear must resort to inaccurate or misleading assertions. For example, they claim that, under the Senate immigration bill, amnesty recipients will receive little or no welfare.

While the Senate bill would delay most amnesty recipients' access to welfare until some 10 to 13 years after enactment, any of their children born here would have immediate access to all welfare programs, guaranteed for a lifetime.

Moreover, the initial limitation on receipt of means-tested welfare will have only a small effect on governmental costs. The average adult amnesty recipient can be expected to live more than 50 years after receiving his Z visa. Most, then will be fully eligible for welfare during the last 35 to 40 years of their lives. And use of welfare during these years will be heavy.

Zinsmeister and Lazear argue that amnesty recipients must earn access to welfare "the old fashioned way," as if that creates some great protection for taxpayers. Unfortunately, low-skill immigrant families who access the welfare system "the old fashioned way" receive, on average, $10, 500 per year in means-tested welfare benefits, a half-million dollars over a lifetime.

Suggesting that amnesty recipients will be net tax contributors, Zinsmeister and Lazear go so far as to claim they will actually increase the revenue available to support Social Security and Medicare. But this is true for high-skill immigrants only. The majority of those who would receive amnesty are low-skill workers, and another 25 percent have only a high school degree. Experience shows that these immigrant groups will be a net burden to taxpayers over the entire course of their lives.

That reality destroys the authors' suggestion that amnesty will help keep Social Security afloat. In the not too distant future, the Social Security trust fund will be in deficit. Government will have to use general revenues to help pay promised benefits. Since amnesty recipients and their families will consume more government revenues that they contribute, they will undermine the financial support for U.S. retirees even before they reach retirement age themselves.

Zinsmeister and Lazear claim the Senate bill will "sharply improve" the fiscal balance sheet by switching to a merit-based system that will increase the proportion of high-skilled workers among future immigrants.

But the merit system is actually designed to confer citizenship on low-skill "temporary guest workers" rather than bring professionals from abroad. The point system for selecting green card holders is far from merit-based. For example, green card applicants get lots of points if they are working in "high demand" occupations, which include janitor, waitress, sales clerk, fast food worker, freight handler, laborer, grounds keeper, food preparation worker, maid, and house cleaner. With a recommendation from her employer, a high school dropout working in a McDonald's will outscore an applicant with a Ph.D. trying to enter the country from abroad.

Nor do the authors mention that the bill will triple the annual rate of family-chain migration to 440,000 annually, bringing in up to 5.9 million over the next decade. Family-chain immigrants are predominately low-skilled: 60 percent have only a high school degree or less; 38 percent lack a high school degree.

The column falsely asserts that "low-skill immigrants are actually comparatively self-sufficient compared to low skill native households." Actually, wages, tax payments, and reliance on welfare are quite similar for the two groups. Low-skill non-immigrants differ from immigrants primarily because they are more likely to be elderly and therefore less likely to be employed.

The authors accurately note that the children of low-skill immigrants do better than their parents. With higher education levels, they will receive fewer welfare benefits and pay more in taxes. But despite this progress, the children of immigrant dropouts will remain a net drain on taxpayers.

Why so? Because the educational attainments of low-skill immigrants' offspring aren't as elevated as Zinsmeister and Lazear imply. They correctly trumpet that the "children of immigrant parents are 12 percent more likely to obtain a college degree than other natives."
They fail to note that the relevant group, children of low-skill immigrants, have below average educational attainments. For example, the children of Hispanic dropout parents are three times more likely to drop out of high school, and 75 percent less likely to have a college degree, than the general population.

The descendents of immigrant dropouts do not become net tax contributors until the third generation. This means that the net fiscal impact of low-skill immigrants will remain negative for 50 to 60 years after their arrival in the U.S.

The main fiscal impact of S.1348 occurs through (1) the grant of amnesty, which gives 12 million predominantly low-skilled, illegal immigrants access to Social Security, Medicare and welfare benefits, and (2) a dramatic increase in chain immigration, also dominated by the low-skilled.
Zinsmeister's and Lazear's talk about tax-generating, college-educated immigrants is a red herring, designed to obscure the obvious fiscal consequences of the legislation. Touting "merit-based" provisions that assure only a steady flow of "high tech" waitresses, janitors and fast food workers reveals how indefensible the bill actually is.

High-school dropouts are extremely expensive. It doesn't matter whether they come from Ohio, Tennessee or Mexico. It does matter that the Senate immigration bill would increase the flow of poorly educated immigrants into the U.S. and give millions of poorly educated aliens already here access to government benefits. The bill for U.S. taxpayers will be gargantuan.

Robert Rector is a Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.