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InsiderOnline Blog: February 2005

Fast Times in Atlanta

Things'll be slow around here the next couple days because I'll be out of town, and I'm not all decked out like Glenn Reynolds with all the crazy-tiny-portable-life-on-a-laptop gadgets. Sigh.

I shall be in Atlanta visiting our friends at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and the charter school they've started-- Tech High.

The story of Tech High is really great-- GPPF just decided it had had enough of just talking about how successful charter schools could be, so they started one. It has attracted mostly inner-city Atlanta kids for a math/science/technology curriculum. It boasts small classes, a Marine for a principal, high expectations, and a strict dress code.

While they were at it, GPPF made Tech High a testing ground for conservative health care reforms by giving all of its employees HSAs, funding them, and still saving a great deal of money over what they would have paid in a traditional program, according to GPPF Executive Vice President Kelly McCutchen. It should be great to see all these conservative ideas in action in one place. Report when I get back. 

In the meantime, tons of studies to entertain you.

Posted on 02/25/05 05:56 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

More on Kelo v. New London

Liz Moser of Institute for Justice sends over the link to photos from Tuesday's date with the Supreme Court.

She also has a great round-up of coverage of the case:

WaPo, NPR, CNN, ABC, and KARE 11 (Minn.) - Great video

Posted on 02/24/05 01:29 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Update on Eminent Domain

Liz Moser of IJ sends an update about Kelo:

Thank you for being part of an exciting 24 hours for property rights!  We appreciate your rally planning and are thrilled about the news coverage and property rights stories that have been told around the country, as we argued Kelo v. New London today in the U.S. Supreme Court.  It's hard to tell where the Justices stand on the issues from what is said in the argument, but the hearing went very well and we are thrilled that the Court finally heard this case.  We will send out a transcript of the argument as soon as it becomes available.

Serendipitously, in another IJ case: Today, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the home of Norwood, Ohio couple Carl and Joy Gamble and rental property of Joe Horney must be protected until the Ohio courts consider their case.  This is a great victory for IJ, property rights, and most of all for our clients who have been fighting to defend their homes.  More information is below and on our web site at

Posted on 02/22/05 05:12 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

I Thought We Were All Just Getting Along.

I've been thinking of writing about the alleged impending split between libertarians and social conservatives, which Ryan Sager and Ramesh Ponnuru have been arguing about this week. Amy Ridenour beats me to the punch with a thoughtful post and the benefit of her years of experience.

Nonetheless, I'll add my young, green thoughts to the mix. My prescription is about the same as Amy's-- chill pill, folks. As one of the conservatives in the audience at CPAC who didn't boo libertarians, I'm with Amy in thinking that relations are a lot better than those boos suggest. On the last day of CPAC, for instance, I sat at The Heritage Foundation's booth with a libertarian colleague, across the aisle from The Objectivist Center's booth, and next to Americans for Tax Reform. There are certainly differences between these groups, but there was no booing or throwing of objects (which could have been very bad, as the Objectivists always have a hefty edition of "Atlas Shrugged" handy). It was almost as if we were a coalition...

As a conservative, and a social conservative in most regards, I'm thankful for libertarians. As far as I'm concerned, people who love free markets, guns, and America are welcome in a coalition with me. Perhaps I'm more apt to embrace libertarians because I spend a lot of time with our real opponents-- my liberal, sometimes-dang-near-socialist friends. Debating (and I use the term loosely)20-something socialists will teach you to LOVE talking to a libertarian.

I also think the street-cred of "libertarianism" as opposed to "social conservatism" does a lot to attract young, counter-culture types to the center-right coalition who might otherwise be lost to loony leftism. That's a win for all us liberty-lovers. I know when I focus on the libertarian aspects of free markets, lower taxes and other conservative positions, I'm able to talk to folks who wouldn't go near me if I used the word "conservative" to characterize them. "Libertarian" overcomes a lot of stereotypes young people have of conservatives, and it's always made for more productive political conversations in my experience. That seems like a good thing to me.

So, consider this my bear hug for both social conservatives and libertarians. We need each other, and I think we'll stick together. At least from my perspective, out in the CPAC audience, there was a lot more getting along and good debate than booing.

Posted on 02/22/05 04:50 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Hands Off My Property!

U. S. Supreme Court argument for the property rights case, Kelo v. City of New London, Conn is today. Property rights advocates all over the nation held rallies and candlelight vigils last night.

This case is certainly rally-worthy. It's featured in the upcoming print version of The Insider, and a ruling is expected before June. Here's why it's a big deal (from Institute for Justice's Web site):

     According to the Connecticut Supreme Court, the mere fact that your city is strapped for cash justifies condemning your home. After all, richer people could be living there and paying more taxes. Office buildings could be built there, employ more people than you employ at your house, and pay more taxes. Taking your home is for the good of the city—it's "economic development."

     Using eminent domain for "economic development" alone is a new phenomenon.  Usually governments try to at least claim that the area is a "slum" or "blighted," but Connecticut has dispensed with that pretense and admits outright that if another business could make a profit on your land, the government can take it. The U.S. Constitution specifically prohibits this kind of taking, limiting the power of eminent domain to "public use." The Connecticut Supreme Court decided that "public use" just means that it could have some benefit to the public, like more tax money in City coffers.

     The Connecticut Supreme Court's reasoning effectively reads the Constitution's protections out of existence. Whose land wouldn't produce more taxes if it were an office building instead of a home?  Allowing condemnation for "economic development" just allows cities and developers to pick whatever land they want, without regard to the people who live or work there. 


Check here for continuous updates on the case.



Posted on 02/22/05 03:45 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

I'm Back and So is Edwards.

I'm back from my CPAC hiatus. But during my time away from, John Edwards made his debut as head of the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.

The John Locke Foundation blog offers many reasons (aside from the glaringly obvious "he's John Edwards" part) why this is not a good idea, for UNC, North Carolina, or those in poverty. 

Posted on 02/22/05 12:24 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

I'm Not Here...

I'm over at Townhall C-Log, where I'm blogging CPAC. Please check in for updates, which I will try to cross-post here. There's tons going on today, including a speech from Ann Coulter, which should be interesting. But, dang it if I didn't forget my talking doll for her to autograph.

In the meantime, there are many, many new studies in the database, for all your conservative research needs. Look around and enjoy! Oh, and you can check in with the alway-informative Policy Weblogger and the other folks on the Blogroll below.

Posted on 02/18/05 10:38 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Tracking the Backtrackers

The New York Times, using NTU stats, takes a look at how 1994's Revolutionaries became big-spenders.

Posted on 02/15/05 12:21 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Grassroots Government

The Heritage Foundation’s Mark Tapscott thinks Grassroots Government is the way to curb federal spending.

Amy Ridenour of the National Center blog agrees, and adds some ideas.

Featured in the upcoming print version of The Insider will be an excerpt from William Eggers’ book on just this very subject—Government 2.0.

The digital revolution is transforming government and politics, slashing bureaucracies; improving services; producing innovative solutions to some of our nation's thorniest problems; changing the terms of the Left/Right political debate; and offering ordinary people access to a degree of information and individual influence until recently accessible only to the most powerful citizens, finally redeeming the Founding Fathers' original vision for our democracy, and transforming American life and society in the process. (emphasis mine)

Posted on 02/11/05 02:19 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

A Way to Willingly Give Money to the Government,


And, Policy Weblogger adds some accounts from the heartland to the talk about cutting farm subsidies.

Posted on 02/10/05 03:48 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Boy, Is Our Face Red.

John Cole (a family friend and great cartoonist) puts it well on the Social Security issue.

See more of his cartoons, here and here.

Posted on 02/08/05 01:06 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Counting It Up

On the President's budget...

Citizens Against Government Waste tells Congress to suck it up.

NTU offers the good, bad, and the ugly, all in one press release.

Cato makes the point that "A little less is still a lot."

Posted on 02/08/05 12:55 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Budget Talk

Dan Mitchell sifted through the budget yesterday and found much to be thankful for.

The Administration’s budget, while not perfect, is a good first step for fiscal discipline. It eliminates or reduces some 150 federal programs, slows discretionary spending, and actually reduces non-defense discretionary spending. It also begins to address problems in entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicaid...

 The discipline displayed in this budget should be applauded.

And since Bush is talking about cutting farm subsidies down, it's worth taking a look at a Backgrounder from last year on the subject. FDR's farm subsidies for Great Depression farmers have been "shifted to large Fortune 500 companies operating with 21st-century technology in a booming economy."

And check out the charts,here and here and here, to see who's getting subsidies.

John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance's $2.3 million farm subsidy payment was by far the largest among these companies. The farm subsidies granted to these Fortune 500 companies since 1995 are--on average--70 times larger than those granted to the median farmer.

Table 3 lists the nine Members of Congress who received farm subsidies in 2002. Since 1995, these lawmakers have received subsidies averaging 46 times those received by the median farmer. Five of the nine lawmakers also sit on the House or Senate agriculture committees overseeing these programs.

And, of course, these guys:

  • David Rockefeller, the former chairman of Chase Manhattan and grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, who received 99 times more subsidies than the median farmer;
  • Scottie Pippen, professional basketball star, who received 39 times more subsidies than the median farmer;
  • Ted Turner, the 25th wealthiest man in America, who received 38 times more subsidies than the median farmer; and
  • Kenneth Lay, the ousted Enron CEO and multi-millionaire, who received 3 times more subsidies than the median farmer.

Yeah, I think we could do without this.

Posted on 02/08/05 10:08 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

A Couple for the Gipper

Amy Ridenour pointed to a couple of great Ronald Reagan tributes on Sunday, which would have been the President's 94th birthday.

And on an unrelated but important note, Policy Weblogger is keeping the record straight on Social Security reform, as usual.

Posted on 02/07/05 04:08 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

When in Doubt, Round Up

Still working on other things, but a quick round-up of SOTU reax:

The Adam Smith Institute addresses the Social Security plan from across the pond.

National Center looks at pre-buttals from both sides.

Chad Adams talks about freedom from fear.

No Left Turns has a round-up of its own, and a report of Bush's behind-the-scenes razzing of George Stephanopoulus. Very funny.

Claremont calls it "straight talk from an honest man."

Larry Kudlow comments on the 4% figure for personal saving accounts.

The C-Log has pics and commentary.

And The Inkwell comments on the Manchurian responders.

Back later...




Posted on 02/03/05 11:59 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Looking Elsewhere...

Taking time off from the blog today to do other work, but please don't miss Policy Weblogger, who's always on a roll. And search the blogroll below for other great, conservative bloggers. Enjoy!


Posted on 02/02/05 04:18 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Better Late Than Never

My column on the Rather caper got lost in the files down at, so it's a little late in coming, but it's always fun to read about Dan's undoing, right?

And, because the guys from Ratherbiased, Wizbang, and Powerline were here at Heritage this week, it seems more relevant than it would have been. So, thanks for the news hook, guys. Y'all enjoy.

Posted on 02/01/05 03:47 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Colorblind, Shmolorblind.

Claremont's Local Liberty blog points out a perfectly ludicrous quote from an assistant professor at Stanford:

I worry about these trends, because they may indicate that our youth are beginning to take on an attitude of color unconsciousness, a kind of colorblindness that allows them to ignore racial diversity...

He's responding to a survey of college students conducted by UCLA that shows college freshmen "are less preoccupied with race and diversity." That's right, a college professor is gravely concerned because these kids don't judge by color of skin but by content of character. Aaarrgghh, the outrage!

Matthew Peterson of Local Liberty asks:

He and his cohorts no doubt reject the famed dissenting words of Justice Harlan in Plessy V. Ferguson, when Harlan proclaimed that "our Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among its citizens?"

As Edward J. Erler said in the Summer, 2004 edition of the Claremont Review of Books, " has become orthodoxy among liberal constitutionalists to argue that adherence to the idea of a colorblind Constitution was a mistake."

Can' Thank goodness I got out of college with some sense left over.

Posted on 02/01/05 03:25 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Don't Forget Chris Rock!

Policy Weblogger has to set the media straight on Social Security reform.... again. Kind of like he had to do, here and here.

Today the AP says no one thinks Social Security is bad deal for African-Americans except Heritage. As Weblogger points out, they forgot a whole list of other folks. But even the trusty Weblogger missed one-- Chris Rock!

"You start getting social security at age 65, meanwhile the average black man dies at 54! Black people should get Social Security at 29! Black people don't live that long - hypertension, high blood pressure, NYPD!"

Also, one of the Locker Roomies wants credit for creating the human capital necessary to keep the system going.

...Parents get no compensation from Social Security, nor from the wider economy, for the investments they make in their children. Instead, Social Security pays the same benefits, and often more, to people who avoid the burdens of parenthood. So long as Social Security effectively penalizes people for having the very children the system requires, it contributes to a downward spiral of falling birthrates leading to higher and higher tax rates.

Posted on 02/01/05 11:02 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Go On, Be Selfish.

And treat yourself to a celebration of the Ayn Rand Centenary, an occasion perfect for guilt-free capitalism and cake.

Cox and Forkum give the First Lady of Objectivism a lovely tribute, here. (h/t Andrew Roth)

If you're in the UK, the Adam Smith Institute is holding a centenary event Wednesday. Why be interested in Rand?

Rand is interesting because of the fundamental challenge she poses to collectivism: saying that what people create is theirs, and any attempt to tax it or regulate its use is immoral. Well, maybe: but there is no doubt that the political debate of today could use a dose of her radicalism.

The Objectivist Center is of course holding an event Wednesday, and their whole front page is devoted to the occasion right now.

Posted on 02/01/05 10:21 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

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