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InsiderOnline Blog: September 2004

Darn Activist Birds

The mainstream press in Georgia is reporting that the changing nesting habits of the state bird (brown thrasher) prove-- prove I tell you!-- the existence of global warming. The National Wildlife Federation sounded the alarm and local news picked it up, according to Harold Brown of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

In a global-warming editorial, one newspaper noted the thrasher is returning from winter migration 21 days earlier than it did 20 years ago.

Problem is, all the alarmists are ignoring the changing nesting habits of a handful of other Georgia birds doing exactly the opposite.

In contrast to this suspicious behavior of the brown thrasher, other species have been nesting progressively farther south for more than half a century; not as if our climate is becoming warmer, but as if it is cooling.

Confirmation comes from the annual North American Breeding Bird Survey, conducted every year across the country by the U.S. Geological Survey. In Pike County near Griffin, the survey has found an average of 21 robins per year since 1994, one third more than the count of brown thrashers. During those years, two robins per year were counted in Wrightsville, well into the Coastal Plain. So, although robins have always migrated north across Middle Georgia in late winter, in recent decades they have been nesting there during summer, and even farther south. In August, I saw robins in Statesboro, where my brother said they nested in his yard.

The song swallow, barn swallow and other northern forest birds have been seen moving farther south as well. The conclusion? Either the brown thrasher is not exactly the smoking gun the media believes it to be or the state bird was not picked for its smarts. Brown offers a solution:

It would pain me to think that the bird we have elected to represent our state is dumb enough to hurry North earlier each spring because it supposes the world is getting warmer, when another splendid flock is headed South. I would lead a campaign to vote ’em out and elect the chicken: It has stayed put for 200 years, and whoever heard of southern fried brown thrasher?

Or, the robins are part of a vast, Rovian right-wing conspiracy. Developing...

Posted on 09/28/04 03:28 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

A Little Blogosphere Love

For the Policy Weblogger, whose faith-based health care post got an Instapundit link!

A new plan offered by the Franciscan-sponsored OSF Health for federal employees "specifically excludes payment for contraceptives, abortion, sterilization and artificial insemination," making it the first FEHBP plan to conform to Catholic tenets, or those of any specific religious or ethical orientation.

Confused? Never fear, the Weblogger is always handy with an explanation:

In many ways, faith-based plans are akin to 'ethical' mutual funds. These funds, which can be, among others, Catholic- or environmentalist-oriented, invest only in assets and debt that meet stringent ethical guidelines. Environmentalist funds, for example, avoid oil companies, paper producers, and fast food (to be honest, we're not sure what they invest in). The Ave Maria mutual funds, popular among Catholics, tout that their shareholders "don't have to sacrifice financial performance for their pro-life and pro-family beliefs." Given the cross-subsidies inherent in health insurance, we fail to see how ethically-oriented health insurance is much different.


Posted on 09/28/04 09:59 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Get Out Your Rolodexes

My co-worker informs me that no one uses those anymore but me, but the message remains the same. Cato has added a new director of information policy studies, Jim Harper. From the press release:

Harper is the editor of the Web-based privacy policy think tank, and a former counsel to committees in both the U.S. House and Senate.

In his new position, he will continue his research and writing on privacy and promote free-market perspectives on similar information policy issues, such as cyber-security, online consumer protection, commercial communications, and credit reporting, as well as intellectual property, Internet governance, new technologies, and many others. Harper will work closely with Adam Thierer, Cato’s director of telecommunications studies.

But best of all, both Harper and Thierer both are blogging at Technology Liberation Front. Man, who knew being a techno-geek came with such a cool blog name. By the way, I use techno-geek as a term of endearment and admiration and I'm totally jealous of the tough-sounding blog name. As an English/Journalism major, I don't think I could swing Mary Katharine's Iambic Pentameter Liberation Front. Not very in-your-face.

Posted on 09/24/04 11:40 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

One for the Ol' Calendar

The Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University will hold a conference entitled Justice and Global Politics on October 21-23. Fourteen distinguished philosophers, political scientists, economists, and academic lawyers form major universities around the country will present papers. The sessions are free and open to the public. No registration is required. All sessions will be held in the Gallery in McFall Center at Bowling Green State University.

You may contact Center Program Manager Nicolas Maloberti ( if you would like additional information about this event. You can also learn more by visiting their website at

For a constantly updated conservative events calendar, don't ask me! Because knows much more about it than I do and they do a great job of keeping it all straight.

Posted on 09/24/04 11:39 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Competition Warms My Heart

 A good piece from Reason on competitive (the statists' least favorite word) sourcing.

Upon entering office, President Bush embarked on an aggressive reform of the federal government. The Presidents Management Agenda identifies five pillars to bring more efficiency and effectiveness to the federal government. One pillar, competitive sourcing, has been more controversial than the others. Fearing competition for their jobs, public employee unions have launched an all-out assault on competitive sourcing. Yet, many of the attacks, critiques, and statements by opponents have not been accurate. Typically, they misinform and continually mischaracterize competitive sourcing.

This is a look at six myths about competitive sourcing. As for Bush, he has his overspending faults, but this little, inside-the-federal-agencies stuff warms my heart.

Posted on 09/23/04 11:39 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Institute for Justice Fights for Justice

What else? IJ is off making the statists angry again, always trying to cut back the power of the government. Here's what they did for regular folks up against Leviathan in August:

First, they tell the government in Ohio that you can't just call land "blighted" in order to take it away from private citizens. Government: "Who knew?"

Then, they tried to get the Florida courts to let children go to school. Government: "We're still trying to reconcile this with our truancy law; we'll get back to you."

And finally, they ask Oklahoma to open up the state casket market to fair competition instead of just funeral directors. Government: "Overcharging grieving taxpayers is in the best interest of the state."

More IJ on the case next month.

Posted on 09/22/04 12:23 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

A Good Blog for Reading

As opposed to what? I don't know, but I do know it's good for reading. The John Locke Foundation, a think tank in my native North Carolina, has a group blog called the Locker Room. Good conservative policy wonking, media watching, and no shortage of goofy pictures. What more do you want from a blog?

Posted on 09/21/04 01:57 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

The Malkin Files

The debate over Michelle Malkin's In Defense of Internment continues to roil over at Malkin's blog. Malkin links to her critics and addresses concerns on a pretty regular basis, very lively. I, for one, enjoyed the photo essay of her appearance at UC-Berkely, center of all that is tolerant and accepting, right?

Posted on 09/20/04 01:50 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Kicking Back

Blogging will be scant next week, as I'm off to Topsail Island in North Carolina for some fun in the, hurricane weather. Whatever kind of weather, I will be on vacation. Unfortunately, I won't be liveblogging a hurricane should one hit because my rental agreement requires that I evacuate. Something about liability...

In the meantime, y'all have a great week. There will be occasional updates, and I've added many new studies to the database, so take a look around.

Posted on 09/18/04 12:30 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

The Cinema: In the Face of Evil

Yesterday afternoon we attended a special pre-screening of In the Face of Evil, a new movie written and directed by Stephen Bannon and based on Peter Schweizer’s book Reagan’s War. Tagged “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid,” the film chronicles the century-old battle against what it presents a single beast: the pursuit of power for it’s own sake.

While President Reagan’s triumph over Communism is a central part of the film, Bannon insists that the film is about today; he has appended a controversial coda that portrays the battle against what he calls “Islamic fascism” as a continuation of Reagan’s struggle. Bannon hopes Senate candidates will take the “Reagan challenge” and show his film side-by-side with Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.

Bannon has dug up some amazing original footage of Reagan that spans some forty years. Additionally, clips of a 1964 Johnson for President ad and an exchange in which President Ford denies that Russia dominates Eastern Europe to an incredulous Max Frankel are worth the price of admission on their own.

In the Face of Evil is scheduled for theatrical release beginning October 1. See Art Moore’s review.

Posted on 09/17/04 08:49 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

The Last Train to Taxville

The Independence Institute reports that even the Colorado newspapers are beginning to agree with the Institute's evaluation of the taxpayer-sapping rail plan-- like all urban light rail plans, FasTracks would take a WHOLE LOT of money to NOT solve the traffic problem. Plus, it's inexcuseably spelled, with the big "T" in the middle (sorry FreedomWorks!). From the Independence e-mail newsletter:

The Rocky Mountain News has joined well-respected folks like Republican Colorado State Treasurer Mike Coffman and Democratic Boulder County Commissioner Paul Danish, as well as municipalities like Glendale in opposing RTD's 67 percent tax increase called FasTracks.

Other cities have beaten back massive tax proposals for rail expansion. A great example is Kansas City where Councilwoman Saundra McFadden-Weaver successfully led the fight against it. Her battle cry was simple: This hurts working people and minorities most of all.

Independence is also hosting an event featuring McFadden-Weaver September 20th, at 5:30 pm at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library in Denver. The Goldwater Institute also has choice words on the rail issue.

In other, unrelated news, Independence has posted pictures of its Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms fundraiser online. Grover Norquist with a shotgun, stogie, and snifter? The Left will capitualte at the mere sight!

Posted on 09/15/04 03:59 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Study Proves I'm Not Rich or Elite

AEI's "Dem de la Creme" takes a look at how the party of the common man and the rich man have flip-flopped, so to speak.

The extent to which the parties have flipped positions on the little-guy/rich-guy divide is illustrated by research from the Ipsos-Reid polling firm. Comparing counties that voted strongly for George W. Bush to those that voted strongly for Al Gore in the 2000 election, the study shows that in pro-Bush counties only 7 percent of voters earned at least $100,000, while 38 percent had household incomes below $30,000. In the pro-Gore counties, fully 14 percent pulled in $100,000 or more, while 29 percent earned less than $30,000.

This piece offers plenty of other evidence that not all conservatives (as all my liberal friends like to assert) are children of privilege. Sometimes I feel like I should bring my modest bank statement to every debate in order to dispel the myth. But I've abandoned burnishing my middle-class credentials for the most part because, despite my income, I'm inevitably accused of the unpardonable sin of "wanting to get rich." Oh, the horror!

Posted on 09/15/04 03:01 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Belaboring the Labor Unions

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation goes after a Washington state branch of the AFL-CIO for acting like it doesn't spend money on influencing elections. They filed complaints with the Attorney General and the IRS.

The Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) is the state affiliate of the AFL-CIO. It spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence elections, promote candidates and sponsor initiates. For example, the WSLC organized what they call "the largest single-day election mobilization in the union movement's history."

On September 2, 2004, while President Bush, accepted the Republican nomination, WSLC officers and staff and union members went door-to-door with WSLC materials to discuss their opposition to specific candidates for state and federal office. WSLC President Rick Bender even urged affiliated unions to close their offices early for staff to participate in the effort.

EFF has compiled 300 pages of documentation that prove the WSLC exists to influence elections. These efforts include phone banks, written communications, website and email promotions, door-to-door visits by trained volunteers and other voter mobilization efforts. These activities are perfectly legal, as long as they are disclosed to the public.

Yet, each year, the Washington State Labor Council tells the Internal Revenue Service that it spends ZERO on expenditures "intended to influence the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of anyone to a Federal, state, or local public office."



Posted on 09/15/04 02:19 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Hold On To Your Hybrids!

The September 2004 issue of PERC Reports is now on the Web, the PDF version and individual HTML articles. The Property and Environment Research Center's monthly magazine offers market-based solutions to environmental problems. This month, the magazine takes on the enviro-claim that we're running out of oil.

The logic behind mineral-resource pessimism is simple. It goes like this: Oil is a finite resource, incapable of being reproduced in human time frames. Any usage reduces the stock, and geometric demand growth, such as the 1.9 percent annual increase in oil demand predicted for the next two decades (U.S. EIA 2004a, 167), will rapidly deplete remaining supplies. Fixed supply plus rising demand equals depletion and increasing economic scarcity

"But look at the data," expansionists respond. The resource base for different minerals has expanded tremendously over time to meet growing demand-and at steady, and even falling, prices when adjusted for inflation. Resource availability has been positively, not negatively, correlated to consumption when human ingenuity has been allowed free rein.

Robert Bradley Jr. offers plenty of other hard facts to serve up to any alarmists you may run into, including this anecdote:

The expansionist position is often associated with Julian Simon, who in 1990 won the most famous wager in the history of economics. He bet Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, and others that the inflationadjusted price of mineral resources would be less in 1990 than in 1980, and it was. A similar bet undertaken today would likely be a winner, too.

I've often wondered why environmentalists are so upset about us "running out of oil." They hate for us to use oil (what with the emissions and destruction and depletion and various other -tions), so if we start to run short, the price skyrockets, people use less oil because it's more expensive, dreaded emissions go down, and the world devotes more resources to developing alternative energy sources. Voila! The market creates exactly what the enviros want. Just imagine the brow-furrowing you would get from an environmentalist when presented with that argument!

Other articles in the issue:

... topics ranging from recycling in Guatemala to the "anticommons" in fishing management. There's an article about the downside of restoring wetlands -- did you ever think about the mosquitoes they nurture? Our regulars weigh in, too, Linda Platts with "The Greening of Home Depot" and other signs of "Greener Pastures," and Dan Benjamin recounting how California began to regulate groundwater transfers, and why.

Posted on 09/15/04 01:40 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Fraser Infiltrates Reuters

Could it be that Rathergate is ushering in a new era of journalistic honesty? It's probably too much to hope for, but this is a step in the right direction. The Corner notes that Reuters is reporting on the sad shape of Canadian health care and even citing a study from the conservative Fraser Institute!

Posted on 09/14/04 04:32 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Because I Can't Help Myself

From piling on Dan Rather, that is. Of course, Powerline and Instapundit are leading the way on this but here are some thoughts from other think-tank bloggers who have joined the pile:

The Ashbrook Center's No Left Turns has a round-up of Rather-posts.

The Lockerroom offers a little forgery help from Clippy.

The InkWell has a run-down and critique of the WaPo's coverage.

As for me, I just found out this morning that the Doonesbury cartoonist is offering a $10,000 reward for eye-witness accounts of Bush at drills in Alabama. OK, let me give it a shot using CBS-caliber authentication techniques. I was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1980. Now, that puts me in the same town as the drills in question separated by a negligible period of eight years or so. In fact, if we count the time I was in the womb, I can put myself in Montgomery as early as late 1979-- clearly the same decade as the period in question.

Now, my critics would claim that it's impossible for me to have seen Bush participating in drills in 1972 because I didn't yet exist. Silly critics. I say there is a preponderance of evidence that there was a Mary Katharine in Alabama in 1972 who may have had eyes with which to see Bush at drills and who may have in fact seen him. All right, so where's my $10K?

I have this from an unimpeachable source (me) and other people in Montgomery at the time (my parents). Not only that, but at the time of my appearance in Montgomery, my parents were working for Democrat Gov. Fob James, so my testimony cannot be besmirched by any possible partisan, Republican entanglements (and we all know those are the only kind that count). 

Now I leave it to you, partisan political operatives in jammies, to prove me wrong. If you can conclusively disprove me, I shall update this post promptly. I dare you to assail the truth!

Posted on 09/13/04 12:48 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Diving into Disrepute

In commemoration of CBS's bumbling treatment of quite possibly forged documents on Bush's National Guard service, I'd like to mention a handful of  folks I'd trust for news over Dan Rather's network. My high school newspaper is not included because I figured that went without saying. Nobody can beat the Pirates' Hook for thorough, unforged coverage of the homecoming parade.

C: Claremont Institute blog, Capital Research Center, Cato Institute

B: Buckeye Institute blog, Beacon Hill Institute, The Bruges Group

S: State Policy Network, Small Business Survival Committee

There you go-- good, reliable sources and the acronym is still intact.

Posted on 09/10/04 11:25 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Fulfilling the Lazy Quota

Say it ain't so! La Shawn Barber links to a makes-you-want-to-growl-you're-so-angry instance of political correctness gone haywire. A business woman has been barred from advertising for "hard-working" employees because it discriminates against.... the lazy!

For more on the downside of the diversity craze, check out this Insider feature. I better cut this post short. Putting any more work into it might make the less-industrious feel bad.

Posted on 09/09/04 03:28 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Like Michael Moore, Only Less Slovenly

And a lot more conservative. There are a few conservative feature films on the horizon, believe it or not. First is one from the good guys at, whose full-length film should be out in 2005. But for now, they've got a short film called Brainwashing 101, available for streaming online or for purchase.

I haven't watched it yet because my college professors taught me not to be influenced by anyone but them. As such, I'll be sending it to them, so they can tell me what to think about it. In the meantime, however, you brave, free-thinking conservative souls out there can watch it and judge academia for yourselves. Here's a short summary:

A provocative look at how universities use tools such as "speech codes" to force political views upon students. The film shines a light on political correctness, academic bias, student censorship--even administrative cover-ups of death threats--at three schools: Bucknell University, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly).

And if your weekend nights aren't full yet, look out for "In the Face of Evil," which should be on big screens in select cities starting Oct. 1. It's about America's opposition to totalitarianism, fascism and communism throughout the 20th century, and the clear vision of Ronald Reagan in the face of those threats throughout his life. I love the trailer. One quote in the trailer from Reagan:

"There is no argument over the choice between war and peace. But there is only one guaranteed way you can have peace and have it in the next century. Surrender."

And you gotta love a film that doesn't shy away from calling communism evil, really puts these threats into the proper context and equates them with the terrorist threat we face today. I'm sure the Left will love this. I see a Best Documentary Oscar nomination, what about you guys?

Posted on 09/09/04 02:52 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

More of Me for You to Read

In the interest of shameless self-promotion, I'll point you to a column I wrote this week, "Because I'm a Girl," which chronicles my brave bar room duel (ala Zell) with a liberal man accustomed to underestimating women.

I'm happy to report it's gotten a couple blog props, here and here, which is a great compliment, bloggers generally being the most perceptive readers and fairest critics. Except of course, for the bloggers, who didn't like me so much. Just kidding, I'm glad to be picked on by the folks over at Salon, especially when they have me rubbing shoulders with Jonah Goldberg and Michelle Malkin. Hat tip to Heritage's astute Policy Weblogger, who sent these links my way.

Anyway, for anyone who finds their way to this site via any of these links, welcome and please feel free to explore. The blog generally deals with new research and general news of the conservative movement, and there's a huge searchable database full of years of conservative research. Y'all come back now, ya hear! 

Posted on 09/09/04 12:41 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Testing Teachability

The Manhattan Institute created a Teachability Index from 16 social, economic and demographic characteristics, which measures the difficulty of educating students. It finds that student disadvantages have declined 8.7 percent since 1970 (spending has, of course, gone up and performance down) Hmmm, so what's the solution?

The study also evaluates the performance of schools in each state once the difficulty of teaching that state’s student population is taken into account. By empirically measuring the difficulty of educating each state’s student population, this study offers the first fair comparison of the test score performances of state school systems. States with school choice or strong accountability testing performed significantly better once differences in student disadvantages are taken into account.

Emphasis mine.

Posted on 09/08/04 03:48 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Fixing State Budgets 101

The Yankee Institute and the Friedman Foundation offer a quick education on how school choice could not only cure what's ailing student performance, but make a big dent in state budget crises as well. How? Let us count the ways.

    • The National Center for Education Statistics estimates the average per pupil spending in more cost efficient religious and independent schools at $4,600 -- a $2,000 savings when compared with per pupil spending at America's public schools.
    • In spite of the fact that that public schools' per pupil expenditure has increased 22.8 percent in constant dollars over the last two decades, the average score of today's high school pupils on most standardized tests is lower than it was in 1977.
    • Of the top ten states with the highest percentage increase in per pupil expenditures over the last twenty years, not one also appeared in the top ten for academic achievement.
    • Public school staffing is notoriously bloated, especially in the cities. In Washington, D.C., for example, only half the people on the District of Columbia Public School payroll are teachers.
    • [Teachers'] union-crafted work rules and promotion criteria are typically blind to such productivity related issues as competence, dedication, and innovation.

This school-spending problem is one the Thomas Jefferson Institute stumbled on in its annual budget analysis of Fairfax County in Virginia:

'Net overspending' has totaled $321,652,852 and the total overspending by the county during this period was only 16.8 percent of the total, or $54,125,080, while the school system accounted for 83.2 percent, or $267,527,772. (emphasis mine)

Posted on 09/07/04 03:52 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Think Tank Blog Hits the Big Time

As in, quoted in the President's acceptance speech. Not too shabby, Amy Ridenour!


Posted on 09/03/04 02:02 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Reflecting on Zell

Other think-tank blogs react to Zell's blast-from-the-past speaking style:

Club for Growth gives him the honor of quote of the day. The John Locke Foundation in N.C. points out John Edwards' inability to wrangle a settlement between the two Democratic parties Zell sees. Peter Schramm of No Left Turns notes that, no matter how much is made by the press of Zell's anger, his 16-year-old son had this reaction: "That was the coolest thing I ever heard."

Posted on 09/02/04 02:36 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Speaking of FOX...

Amy Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research blog excerpts a bit from a New Republic piece critiquing Fox's coverage of the convention, and finds the critique ain't all that critical. The non-FOX fan is finding the coverage to be more fair and balanced that he had anticipated. Ridenour also does a remarkable job of linking FOX news coverage to the future of conservatism in America. Don't ask me how she did it, but the results are interesting.


Posted on 09/02/04 02:19 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Someone Get a Memo Out!

I've found the perfect protestor repellent for RNC attendees wishing not to be heckled and pelted by peaceniks.

FOX News Channel Ring Tones!  They've got Fox Report, Hannity & Colmes and the O'Reilly Factor among others. I say every conservative with a Blackberry or cell phone (read: every single one) in NYC downloads these babies just in case of emergency. Just a taste of the O'Reilly theme in all its polyphonic glory is sure to send even the bravest protestor biking back to Central Park with his fingers in his ears. Just remember, don't fire until you see the beads of their dreadlocks.

All right, vast right wing conspiracy, get the word out. Go! 

UPDATE: Combined with this news, the ringtone repellent should really drive them batty.

Posted on 09/01/04 05:13 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

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