Odds & Ends: Springtime for Castro; Ag Dept
From the June 2001 CEI UpDate
AIDING AND ABETTING
“Rachel Carson and the environmentalists she inspired have succeeded in getting DDT banned in country after country, for which they have received the accolades of many, not least their own accolades. But, in terms of the actual consequences of that crusade, there has not been a mass murderer executed in the past half-century who has been responsible for as many deaths of human beings as the sainted Rachel Carson. The banning of DDT has led to a huge resurgence of malaria in the Third World, with deaths rising into the millions.”
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO A TWO-STORY DUPLEX
The United Nations is furious at the United States. No surprise there, given how it kicked us off the U.N. Human Rights Commission while allowing Lybia, Syria, and Cuba to stay. But what is it this time? Failure to pay dues? U.S. demands that diplomats pay their parking fines in New York? Nope. The U.N. is upset that the American government won’t sign on to a U.N. claim that housing is a fundamental human right. According to the Washington Times, our sensible State Department rep, Michael Southwick, notes that “an economy, good government, the rule of law, democracy—those are the kinds of things that create housing.” Sounds right to us. What we wonder is, if housing is a right endowed by nature, then who is naturally obligated to provide it?
TRIAL LAWYERS, ON YOUR MARKS, GET SET, GO!
Great Britain’s Department of Trade and Industry’s annual Home and Leisure Accident Surveillance System report is out, with some scary numbers to consider. Based on 1999 data, it seems that tea cosy injuries in the U.K. have nearly doubled, from 20 to 37. Place mat injuries inched up, too. There is some good news, however: Sponge and loofah accidents are down nearly 25 percent. Whew!
FINALLY SOMETHING WE AGREE WITH AL ABOUT
That’s Al Franken, not Gore. No big difference. Still, we were heartened to read what Al told Salon.com after Barbra Streisand issued her spring memo lambasting Democratic party leaders as wusses: “You know, I think Hollywood celebrities have a big role to play. For example, on the environment, not too many people realize this, but Hollywood celebrities make up just .00000000001 percent of the world’s population … and consume nearly 36 percent of its resources. Seventeen acres of rain forest are consumed every day by Barbra Streisand alone.”
BARRY GETS INTO THE ACT
“Here’s my question: You know how scientists claim that global warming is causing the oceans to rise, and if something isn’t done, eventually North America will be covered by water as far inland as Mason City, Iowa, the result being that—among other disasters—the nation’s entire pig population could be stung to death by jellyfish? Well, what if the real problem is not that the oceans are rising? What if, in fact, the continents are sinking under the weight of all these new fruitcakes, which are the densest objects on Earth, other than World Wrestling Federation fans?”
~ Dave Barry
FRONT ROW, MR. DICTATOR!
The Producers is Broadway’s hottest show in years, and tickets are nearly impossible to come by. Unless The Producers’ producer fancies you. The New York Times Magazine recently noted that producer Rocco Landesman holds 12 house seats and six “emergency seats” in case someone special shows up. “If you’re Bill Clinton,” Landesman said, “we’ve got tickets.” Same with Caribbean Criminal Fidel Castro. Who wouldn’t make the cut? George W. Bush.
GEORGE ORWELL, CALL YOUR AGENT
The New York Times reported in May that a large group of angry Upper East Siders protested plans by officials of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to build a new 23-story research tower in their neighborhood. “The more people there, the more hazardous waste,” one resident (an opthalmologist, no less!) told the paper. “There will be a cancer hospital creating cancer in the environment, a cancer hospital metastasizing into a residential area.” There you have it. We can’t build cancer centers because people think they will cause cancer.
An Agriculture Department plan to invest government money in private start-up firms has been a spectacular bust, with Congress recently turning off the spigot. According to the Associated Press, “Investments totaling $40.3 million have brought just $1.2 million in returns since 1993.” Not a good track record. Naturally, the program’s overseers blame—get this—not enough money for their woes. Said the board chairman for the government investment company: “Venture capital is hard to get, and when you say it’s for agriculture, they don’t walk, they run from you. … If it had been funded properly and we had flexibility, we could have done a better job.” Not surprisingly, the “not enough money” argument was also advanced by the black-hole recipients of the government generosity. “[Congress] killed it by not funding it,” said Ken Leahy, president of a company that received hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a canola-oil spray for construction projects. “It was a great idea.”
THE SATANIC PILFERING
The Koran apparently says little on the subject of intellectual property rights. Or so one might think by studying the actions of Saddam Hussein, who has swiped the work of a Canadian artist to adorn the cover of his new book, Zabibah and the King (what, you didn’t know Saddam wrote books?). The artist, Jonathon Bower of Prince Edward Island, has contacted attorneys to see about pursuing a copyright violation claim against the Iraqi strongman. Still, he’s pessimistic: “There is surely a very long list of people with more significant grievances than I have against Saddam Hussein and they can’t do anything.” Just ask the Kuwaitis.
BORN TO BE A POLITICIAN
The Name of the Month award goes to a Republican state representative in Iowa said to be considering a run for governor in 2002: Steve Sukup.
HEALTHY TAX COMPETITION
Another Hawkeye state politico, former congressman and gubernatorial candidate Jim Ross Lightfoot (R), is in the news for hightailing it from the land of Sukup and Company. Lightfoot has moved to Florida, citing Iowa’s high taxes. According to the Des Moines Register, Lightfoot claims, “Not paying Iowa income taxes has given me an extra $15,000 per year to spend or save as I see fit.”
MOVIN’ ON UP THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE
You’d think drugs and crime would top the list of concerns held by public-housing residents around the country. But not according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has been administering a New Age wellness program to minister to poor folks’ feng shui. According to The New York Post, the $860,000 federal program “taught public-housing tenants to burn incense, carry lucky gemstones, and wear feel-good colors like apricot to reduce stress.” Sadly, the Bad Karma Bush Administration recently moved to kill the program.
MAYBE SHE SHOULD SUE THE SWAN
Reuters reports that a woman in Ireland “whose wrist was broken after a swan knocked her to the ground and battered her in a Dublin park has lost a $32,600 injury action against the state. … [The woman] said park commissioners should have put up signs warning the public about ‘the mischievous propensity and uncertain temperament’ of swans.”
JOEL KLEIN WRIT SMALL
Bill Gates’ 4.5 acre compound he built for a home near Seattle rubs a lot of people the wrong way. It’s just too big for their tastes. The mayor of Medina, Washington, has declared a six-month building moratorium, and new buildings will be limited to 13,500 square feet. What was the public interest justification for these regulations? According to the mayor, “Someone has to put a stop to these houses.” Let us guess. This “someone” would be you?
GET A JOB
Michigan resident David Jaye applied for unemployment in late May. Happens every day, right? Not exactly. The job Jaye lost was serving in the Michigan state senate. He was ousted by his colleagues after Jaye was arrested in April for assaulting his fiancee.
And this time they’re serious. Council chiefs in the Kenyan town of Eldoret are set to outlaw the practice of blowing one’s nose in public without a handkerchief. Also targeted are bicyclists who ring their bells excessively.
ALL THE RANT THAT’S FIT TO PRINT
We thought the Bush tax cut fairly weak—$1.35 trillion over 10 years seems paltry to us, and doesn’t seem to do much of substance—but if anything has surprised us, it has been the vitriol poured on by the president’s political opponents. Consider, for example, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who calls the tax package “white collar crime, pure and simple. We should call in the Securities and Exchange Commission, and send the whole crew—Democrats like Senator John Breaux and Senator Max Baucus as well as their Republican partners in crime—to a minimum-security installation somewhere unpleasant.”
NOTHING! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
With a resume boasting Wellesley and Yale Law, we figured Hillary Rodham Clinton at least to be smart. Maybe we gave the newly minted solon too much credit. Clinton was quoted in a Washington Post story about Senate negotiations on the tax package: “As the minutes went by and the hours, it became abundantly clear that this has nothing to do with economic policy. This is nothing but a big tax cut.” That’s right. Tax cuts have nothing to do with economic policy. We think Sen. Hillary may have fallen under the spell of Paul Krugman.
Miss out on the Battle in Seattle during the World Trade Organization meetings in late 1999? Not to worry, there’s always “State of Emergency.” That’s the new video game from Rockstar Games designed for Sony PlayStation 2. It’s based on the violent demonstrations in the Pacific Northwest widely seen as a protest against “globalization.” The AP reports, “A player can overturn vehicles, incite rumbles between rival groups, and attack bystanders. Extra points can be made by punching out … [a trade organization police] officer in riot gear, knocking him to the ground, and jumping on him.”
BE OUR GUEST
Chapel Hill resident Betty Buller Whitehead’s letter to the editor in the Raleigh (NC) News & Observer: “I did not vote for George W. Bush. I do not want a rebate on my taxes. I want the deficit reduced. I plan to endorse my check when it is received and return it to the U.S. Treasury. I urge my fellow citizens to do the same.”