Think tanks wrap-up

Sept. 5, 2002 at 10:02 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering brief opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks.

Institute for Public Accuracy

(The IPA is a nationwide consortium of policy researchers that seeks to broaden public discourse by gaining media access for experts whose perspectives are often overshadowed by major think tanks and other influential institutions.)

WASHINGTON -- Sept. 11 Events Calling for "No More Victims"

Many communities throughout the United States and the world are planning events to honor the people who were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. The following organizers of events are seeking to help create a world with "no more victims."

-- David Potorti, who lost his brother James at the World Trade Center.

"Victims of terrorism and war -- from Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Philippines and Japan -- will join family members of Sept. 11 victims for a joint speaking tour in the days immediately before and after Sept. 11, 2002.

The 'No More Victims' tour, co-sponsored by September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and the American Friends Service Committee, hopes to place the human dimension of the 9-11 attacks and of war at the center of the national debate over the 'war against terrorism' ... By putting a human face on the casualties of terrorism and war, we hope to demonstrate the price of responding to violence with violence. The true cost of the U.S. war on terror, in human terms, is reflected in the experiences of these people, leading them to seek alternatives."

-- Medea Benjamin, a founder of United for Peace, a coalition of groups.

"In over 100 U.S. cities, as well as nearly a dozen foreign countries, people are honoring those who died on Sept. 11 by calling for no more innocent victims."

Pacific Research Institute

(PRI promotes individual freedom and personal responsibility as the cornerstones of a civil society, best achieved through a free-market economy, limited government and private initiative. PRI researches and analyzes critical issues facing California and the nation, and crafts strategies for policy reform.)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Capital Ideas: Bad Ideas

By K. Lloyd Billingsley

Ideas rule the world, as Victor Hugo noted. Some have stood the test of time, which, unfortunately, has no power to prevent bad ideas from appearing. Neither does professional status.

One of the summer's major news stories has been the brutal murders of Danielle van Dam and Samantha Runnion. While the families of the victims are distressed enough, they should know that it is becoming fashionable to say that those who commit such crimes are not responsible for their actions.

"Pedophilia is not a voluntary choice." That is the view of Dr. Fred Berlin, founder of the sexual disorders clinic at Johns Hopkins University. If not a voluntary choice, then what?

Says Dr. Berlin: "People discover that they are inflicted with this abnormality."

By this logic, no individual made a choice to abduct, abuse and murder Danielle van Dam or Samantha Runnion. Rather, the perpetrators were simply afflicted with an abnormality capable of imparting the deviousness required to gain the confidence of vulnerable children, the will to abduct and sexually abuse them, the violence to murder them, and the stealth to conceal the crime and take evasive action.

Dr. Berlin is working from the medical model of human behavior. In this view, people are not independent moral agents making choices between right and wrong. Rather, it's all a question of afflictions and syndromes. These, not voluntary moral choices, prompt some people to act in certain ways.

Consider also the view of clinical psychologist and Brown University professor Paula J. Caplan:

"For a start, there is no such thing as 'intelligence.' 'Intelligence' is what is called a construct, not corresponding to something real and easily identified, like a table, but rather a concept whose meaning depends on who is defining it, and why."

This amazing statement would come as a surprise to Pascal, Madame Curie, Einstein, and Sidney Hook. While intelligence tests may be inexact, to say that intelligence itself is a mere construct, a matter of opinion and manipulation, is to back-flip out of rational discourse. Intelligence is real and cannot be eliminated by dismissive quotation marks and passive voice verbs, hallmarks of politically correct argument.

Intelligence "is called" a construct only by those of the deconstructionist cult, which holds that just about everything, including truth and morality, has no real existence but is simply constructed by white males to oppress women and minorities.

Note that these bad ideas did not emerge from obscurity but from those purporting to engage in science at prestigious universities. But bad ideas seldom remain quarantined in the faculty lounge.

Those in public policy, law enforcement, and particularly the judicial system, should evaluate ideas on their merits, not based on the reputation of the campus from which they emerge. The press should also be more skeptical, and ask the hard questions.

The trouble with the modern world, as Jean Cocteau said, is that stupidity has begun to think. That accounts for the procession of bad ideas from the academy. This makes the restatement of the obvious the first duty of honest people, as George Orwell wrote.

For a start, pedophiles are dangerous criminals, not victims of an affliction. Intelligence is real, not a construct. Use it wisely.

(K. Lloyd Billingsley is the editorial director of the Pacific Research Institute.)

The National Center for Public Policy Research

(NCPPR is a communications and research foundation dedicated to providing free market solutions to today's public policy problems, based on the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility. NCPPR was founded to provide the conservative movement with a versatile, energetic organization capable of responding quickly and decisively to late-breaking issues, based on thorough research.)

CHICAGO -- Ten Second Response: Congress Considers Expanding Daschle's South Dakota Forest Provisions to Nation

By Gretchen Randall, Director

-- Background: The U.S. House Resources Committee held a hearing on Sept. 5 to consider several bills that would permit thinning of forests nationwide without interruption from environmental lawsuits. One bill, The National Forest Fire Prevention Act (H.R. 5214), introduced by Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) uses much of the same wording as the amendment Sen. Daschle (D-SD) used to exempt South Dakota forests from environmental regulations and the lawsuits that delay fire prevention efforts. As President Bush said in a recent speech while visiting Oregon and seeing the wildfire devastation there, "If it's good enough for that part of South Dakota, it's good enough for Oregon."

-- Ten Second Response: Why shouldn't all the nation's forests get the same treatment as those in the Senate Majority Leader's home state of South Dakota?

-- Thirty Second Response: About 50 percent of all thinning projects planned to reduce

fuel in our forests were delayed by environmental lawsuits last year. This bill would prohibit delays that have stopped efforts to reduce the massive fuel buildup that is feeding monster forest fires. If the exemptions from burdensome regulations are okay for South Dakota, why not for all of America's forests?

-- Discussion: The National Forest Fire Prevention Act would allow the National Forest Service to conduct sound forest management that includes environmentally sound logging to reduce dangerous fuel loads now threatening America's wildlands. The bill gives the Secretary of Agriculture the power to reduce infest infestation or timber stands that are a fire hazard -- regardless of environmental laws. The Secretary's actions will not be subject to any judicial review by any court of the U.S. The bill can be accessed at

More than 20 congressmen are co-sponsors of H.R. 5214. Below are some of their comments about the bill:

-- Rep. Rehberg: "I introduced legislation to extend Daschle's South Dakota specific forest plant to the rest of America-- freeing all national forest land at risk of catastrophic fire from the shackles of burdensome regulations and lawsuits."

-- Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY): "Not one more family should see their home burn before Senator Daschle acknowledges that what is good for the people of South Dakota is good for the citizens of the American West."

-- Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA): "Mr. Daschle, wildfires are everyone's problem.

They harm communities. They harm species. And they harm our forests."

(Gretchen Randall is the director of the John P. McGovern, M.D. Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs at the National Center for Public Policy Research.

The Independent Institute

(II is an independent public policy research organization whose goal is to transcend the political and partisan interests that influence debate about public policy. II aims to redefine the debate over public issues, and foster new and effective directions for government reform, by adhering to the highest standards of independent scholarly inquiry, without regard to political or social biases.)

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Nation Trembles as Congress Reassembles

By Robert Higgs

The gang that Mark Twain called "America's only native criminal class" has returned to Washington. Get ready for a lot of bad news. So long as Congress remains in session, everyone's life, liberty, and property will be in heightened jeopardy.

In a government of divided powers, our national legislature is the most craven and irresponsible branch. Congress attracts a special breed of men and women. They are ambitious to get and to keep their offices. They are willing to do almost anything, so long as it is dishonorable, to remain in their positions.

Think of Congress as a glorified brothel, and ask yourself what kind of people work in a brothel. When they are not out hustling money for their campaign funds, they are dreaming up ways to claim credit they do not deserve and to shift the blame they do deserve.

In any event, they're back at work now, and they've a lot to do. Well, actually they have only one thing to do; they always have just one thing to do, and that's to get themselves reelected. The next election will take place on November 5, so there's not much time left for these harlots to do what they do best. Look for them to work overtime.

For the next two months, we'll all be bombarded by salvos of TV advertising paid for by the people who give money to the members of Congress so that after those members have been reelected, they'll give the taxpayers' money to their supporters, who will realize a ten-thousand-percent rate of return on their investment.

These TV ads will show Congressman Smedley, smiling like a freshly painted clown, standing arm in arm with the handsome Mrs. Smedley and the couple's four well-scrubbed teenage brats, all of whom will be flashing the same wholesome, toothy, moronic smiles. What a fine family they must be! Against a background consisting of a gently waving U.S. flag and a patriotic sound track, the message will be thrust at the viewer: vote for Smedley; his scumbag opponent would screw you even worse.

Meanwhile, these worthy public servants have to keep themselves busy in Washington for a few weeks before they can evacuate the D.C. swamps and rush back to Peoria to embrace the geezers in nursing homes and to kiss ass in corporate offices and union halls. In particular, they must occupy themselves now in drawing up plans for a gigantic new federal bureau, the Department of Homeland Security. It won't be easy, so don't be surprised if they don't get it done before the election.

The problem, you see, is that Congress divides its "business" into a multitude of fiefdoms ruled by committee chairmen and chair madams. In each area, these robber barons hold nearly all the power in their grubby hands. Because Congress divides the power in this way, the interest groups that want to feast at taxpayer expense have to get past the relevant barons first, and for that privilege they must pay. Congress is nothing if not an organization built on the principle of quid pro quo.

Right now, congressional oversight of the more than twenty agencies slated to be combined in the new Department of Homeland Security is divided, according to a White House count, among 88 committees and subcommittees. Spending for the new agency's component parts now gains its approval from 10 of the 13 appropriations subcommittees.

So, a great many members of Congress now possess a valuable piece of the action. Do you think they are eager to give up the very powers they wield to extract dough and deference from petitioners who seek what only they can give? Not bloody likely. Already, more than 50 hearings have taken place on homeland security matters.

To make matters even more complicated, President Bush is insisting that he be given authority to hire, fire, and set pay rates for the estimated 170,000 employees of the new department, thereby robbing the barons of their patronage and cutting into the power of the public-employee unions.

Senator Joseph Lieberman has let it be known that the president is asking much too much, and Senator Robert Byrd, the evil procedural genius of the upper house, is pawing the earth and expressing grave reservations about the administration's DHS proposal.

Besides the DHS job, which probably won't get done on time, Congress intends to explore how much damage it can do by monkeying with employee-pension arrangements, a terrorism-insurance subsidy, a massive prescription-drug giveaway, and federal aid to so-called faith-based providers of government largess.

You want to talk about something faith-based? Then talk about the beliefs of people who suppose that anything good can come out of Congress's fiddling with such matters. Why not be honest and call the post-election session that looms not the lame-duck session but the lamebrain session.

All this, of course, is but democracy in action, so eat it up, all you democrats. But if you are going to select representatives to the ruling crowd by means of what H. L. Mencken called "advance auctions of stolen goods," don't be surprised if you wake up and find yourself subject to people who make ordinary pickpockets look, by comparison, nearly noble.

(Robert Higgs is the senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute, editor of The Independent Review, and author of many scholarly and popular articles on Congress.)

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