SUNDAY,JUNE 28, 1998
OPEN TO ALL WOLVERINES IN GOOD STANDING, STATE, DIVISION AND BRIGADE COMMANDERS AND FAMILIES
SEND AGENDA TOPICS TO STATE HEADQUARTERS
It has been suggested that we bring a dish to pass for a 2:00 sit down luncheon. The hall has already been rented and this time we have it for all day with no cut-off time in the evening.
For directions on how to get there, please speak with your Brigade Commander.
Referring to published reports of Gingrich's remarks, Albright spokesman James P. Rubin also criticized what seemed to be a "willingness to provoke the Israel government" to disagree with the Clinton administration.
"If true," Rubin said, "those would be rather stunning comments that would undermine the efforts we're trying to make to advance American's national interest."
But, Rubin said, "We are not aware of whether they're true or not."
Gingrich has led a Republican charge on U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East. His main complaint is that Albright and other senior officials were pressuring Israel to yield territory to the Palestinian Authority.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rebuffed administration proposals for a pullback from 13 percent of the West Bank, contending it would jeopardize Israel's security. As a result, U.S. efforts to reopen Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are stalemated.
Gingrich, R-Ga., and several other members of Congress have publicly supported Netanyahu's stance. The House speaker has singled out Albright for biting criticism.
Last week, for instance, he said: "When I see an American diplomat suggest to Israeli generals that our understanding of their security needs on the West Bank is better than their understanding -- I'm looking at somebody who's been in fancy hotels too long and out of touch with reality."
On May 12, Gingrich accused President Clinton of blackmailing the Israeli government on behalf of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Albright of being "the agent for the Palestinians."
After Albright had briefed members of Congress on U.S. policy, Gingrich also criticized her for giving the Palestinians what he said was a false impression of what they could gain from Israel.
And in a speech Tuesday in the Israeli Knesset, Gingrich supported the widespread Israeli view that Jerusalem was "the united and eternal capital of Israel," thereby rejecting Palestinian claims to part of the city as the capital of a Palestinian state.
Rubin declined to deal with the administration's position on Jerusalem, saying the city's future was an issue for Israel and the Palestinians to work out in negotiations. "He's entitled to his views," the spokesman said.
But he assailed Gingrich, both for his reported advice to the Netanyahu government to take on the Clinton administration and for the speaker's jabs at Albright.
"That was a reflection of things that reportedly went on between Speaker Gingrich and Prime Minister Netanyahu in his office," Rubin said. "Where and when is unclear to us, but according to a normally reliable account, there were some suggestions by Speaker Gingrich that it would be a good idea to confront his own government and we found those, if true, quite troubling."
Then, without qualification, the spokesman assailed Gingrich for his remarks about Albright.
"I found particularly appalling and outrageous his suggestion that the secretary of state of the United States was an agent for the Palestinians," he said. "The secretary of state is pursuing policies, at the direction of the president, that are designed to advance the national interests of the American people. She is an agent for the American people, and any suggestion that she's an agent for anyone else is extremely provocative, unjustified and outrageous suggestion."
White House spokesman Mike McCurry called Gingrich's remarks unfortunate.
The speaker "has injected a high degree of partisanship into his comments," McCurry said. "His suggestion that the secretary of state is loyal to anyone but the people of the United States of America is offensive, and highly offensive."
On the other hand, Rubin said Gingrich's visit to Israel "went reasonably well." Referring to the speaker's calling off a visit to a proposed site in Jerusalem for a new U.S. embassy, the spokesman said "there were a lot of things that could have happened that didn't happen."
At that time, Representative McCarthy announced that she will be introducing, in the next few weeks, a comprehensive piece of legislation that will address all areas of concern about children's access to firearms.
This legislation will be introduced in mid-June. Please call your Representative and demand that he/she denounce this draconian legislation.
The Gun Violence Prevention Act--Brady II
Brady II is a comprehensive approach to enacting gun confiscation.
Brady II will stem the flow of guns and ammunition by:
a) Requiring the licensing of handgun owners and the registration of all handgun transfers, including private sales;
b) Limiting handgun purchases to one per month;
c) Strengthening the dealer licensing system so that "kitchen table" dealers will be put out of business;
d) Requiring that ammunition be sold only through licensed dealers, and that it only be sold to license holders; and
e) Requiring that licensed dealers sell only at their place of business--thereby reducing the number of guns sold at gun shows.
Brady II will deter possession of guns by high-risk persons by:
a) Adding new categories of prohibited buyers--convicted spouse and child abusers;
b) Prohibiting transfer of handguns to and possession by minors under the age of 21 and maybe up to 24;
c) Imposing criminal penalties on gun owners who leave guns accessible to children under the age of 16;
d) Making it more difficult for convicted felons to legally own a gun;
e) Requiring an arsenal license for those who are stockpiling guns and ammunition.
Brady II will prevent unintentional shootings by:
a) Requiring safety training as a condition of receiving a license;
b) Holding parents responsible for proper storage of their weapons--and holding them liable when they do not; and
c) Requiring gun manufacturers to install certain safety features in every gun--including load indicators and magazine safeties.
Brady II will restrict the distribution of guns and ammunition designed for crime by:
a) Prohibiting the low-quality, easily concealable handguns known as Saturday Night Specials, the gun most often used in crime; and
b) Halting the sale and manufacture of non-sporting ammunition, like the "Dragon's breath" bullet, and large caliber bullets.
Brady II will strengthen enforcement of existing federal laws by:
a) Allowing gun violence victims to sue gun law violators in federal court for damages caused by gun dealers selling guns to prohibited buyers;
b) Requiring registration of handgun transfers so that traces of guns used in crime will no longer result in dead ends;
c) Closing the loophole that allows the unregulated sale of firearm parts; and
d) Requiring common carriers to check a dealer's license before delivery.
Licenses (or permits, as they are often called) are issued by governments for purposes of regulating the transfer or possession of a handgun or firearm. License or permit holders may be issued a simple permit or a card, similar to a driver's license, which contains a picture ID and other identifying data, including address and date-of-birth. The license may be generally applicable to all handguns or firearms or may be limited to a specific gun. Licenses may be issued for life or for a limited period ((e.g. 2 years (both subject to revocation)).
Licensing requirements may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. They may include such things as age limitations; proof of residency (which stops buyers and gunrunners from going interstate); fingerprint identification; a firearms safety test or course; and a criminal and/or mental health background check(s). The length of time required to obtain a license may vary.
Licensing also makes it possible to regulate private or secondary transfers of handguns or firearms. The licensing requirement of Brady II ensures that even private purchasers will be subject to a background check, and that those who sell handguns to unlicensed individuals are breaking federal law. Gun owners, will be required to record any subsequent sale of the gun. Under Brady II, any person selling a handgun without recording and reporting the sale will be subject to prosecution.
Registration is just the first step towards confiscation. Today, eleven states provide for the registration of handguns or firearms:
These laws may prevent law-abiding citizens from having access to guns and there could be an attempt to disarm residents in these states or the united States with full registration if the president declares it.
Registration applies to a specific handgun or firearm. Registration will require owners of handguns or firearms register them by serial number and description with local and/or state police. Registration, will not be limited to the registering of handgun or firearm transfers. Under this stricter approach, handguns or firearms are registered when they are sold or otherwise transferred. Information on the sale or transfer, including the name and address of the purchaser, is sent to local or state police by the dealer (if done through a gun store) or by the individual seller.
The required registration of all handgun transfers, together with full licensing, will make it possible to identify and prosecute those who illegally sell or transfer guns to criminals, youth and other prohibited purchasers.
Requiring the registration of secondary transfers allows for faster tracing of weapons used in crimes and puts "straw purchasers" and illegal gun dealers at risk of criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits for selling guns to prohibited purchasers.
Brady II raises the fee (presently $200 for 3 years) for Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs) to $1,000 per year--an increase that would reduce substantially the number of FFLs while giving the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) the additional resources needed to adequately regulate gun dealers. Today there are only 240 ATF inspectors to monitor the activities of more than 280,000 federally-licensed gun dealers.
Brady II also imposes stricter requirements on gun dealers. Dealers would be required to: 1) make all sales from their licensed business premise, stopping the sales from car trunks and "kitchen tables;" and 2) carry liability insurance to cover damages resulting from the wrongful or negligent transfer of a handgun.
Brady II will reduce citizens from buying or possessing firearms. It will require the buyer of a handgun to get a license, pass a safety test, and record any subsequent sale, but that's no different or burdensome than what we ask of those who want to drive a car. This will keep guns out of the hands of children, convicted felons and those who have a history of domestic violence.
Look at what we have done over the past twenty-five years to reduce automobile deaths. We tightened up the licensing requirements for drivers. We built safer cars and safer highways. And we prosecuted drunk drivers. As a result, the auto fatality rate dropped by 36 percent. And we can do the same thing with firearms. We can license gun purchasers, we can build safer guns, and we can vigorously prosecute those who illegally sell guns to children and criminals. And that will save lives.
These minimum standards do not stop states from maintaining or establishing stricter standards or requirements.
This is how each state measures up, according to Handgun Control, Inc.
Each state was carefully rated both for the existence of five types of legislation that protect children from guns, and also for the comprehensiveness and effectiveness of that legislation. The five types of legislation include:
1) Carrying Concealed Weapons law
2) Juvenile Handgun Possession law
3) Juvenile Handgun Sale/Transfer Prohibition law
4) Child access prevention law
5) "Local Rights" law, or "Preemption"
Alabama -- D
Alaska -- D-minus
Arizona -- D
Arkansas -- D
California -- B
Colorado -- C
Connecticut -- B
Delaware - C
Florida -- C-minus
Georgia -- D
Hawaii -- B-minus
Idaho -- D
Illinois -- B
Indiana -- D
Iowa -- B-minus
Kansas -- B-minus
Kentucky -- F
Louisiana -- F
Maine -- D
Maryland -- B-minus
Massachusetts -- B+
Michigan -- D+
Minnesota -- C
Mississippi -- D
Missouri -- C
Montana -- F
Nebraska -- B-minus
Nevada -- D+
New Hampshire -- D+
New Jersey -- B
New Mexico -- C
New York - C
North Carolina -- C-minus
North Dakota -- D
Ohio -- C
Oklahoma -- D
Oregon - D
Pennsylvania -- D
Rhode Island -- C
South Carolina -- D+
South Dakota -- D
Tennessee -- D+
Texas -- D
Utah -- D
Vermont -- D-minus
Virginia -- C
Washington -- C-minus
West Virginia -- D
Wisconsin - C+
Wyoming -- F
More information will be available at the website, http://www.handguncontrol.org
For the past two years, students have been given school physicals that include "brief, visual inspection of the genital area" of kindergarten children. The exams were performed by school nurses under the school district's contract with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).
According to Rebekah Sutherland, a candidate for South Carolina State Superintendent of Education, "The parents had to sign many papers at the kindergarten orientation. They were hurried, and no explanations were given.
Virtually all the parents gave consent without knowing that genital exams would be given to all children." One parent commented that this kind of testing "should be handled by a trained physician in a hospital, clinic or doctor's office, not in the public schools."
The exams are authorized under the Goals 2000 goal #1, "School Readiness," and by the state document, Putting Children and Families First. "Time lines for implementing each of the national goals are included in this document," says Sutherland, "yet most legislators have never read it. Our Governor, David Beasley, has worked to implement Goals 2000. However, the Republican platform in South Carolina states:
'Along with our national Republican leadership, we re pudiate the new national goals, termed Goals 2000, and join the call for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education.'"
A report distributed to state school superintendents from the DHEC last year included a cover letter that stated: "This report confirms the need to establishthe School Health Nurse Program with state funding to assure that ALL school districts and ALL CHILDREN in South Carolina receive preventive health services. "
A letter to the editor of the Aiken Standard newspaper summed up the position of many parents on the genital exams by stating: "This is outrageous behavior by a public school system." he authors advised parents to raise such questions as: "Who will be the 'medical expert' to perform the school medical exams? What will happen when a parent is falsely accused of molestation? Why is the school looking at kindergartners? Is there an agenda to broaden the examination in a few years?"
Millions of parents were shocked again yesterday when they learned that another high school, this one in Oregon, was the site of another attack by a troubled teen using guns. In this latest assault on decency, 2 more kids were killed and 28 were wounded, while dozens more lives were shattered. Another group of anguished parents will have to bury their children, and not surprisingly, government hacks and congressional lawmakers are again scratching their heads, trying to figure out where it all went wrong. Well, for the answer to this crisis you can look no further than your neighborhood liberal educator or congressman.
That's right; liberals are responsible for this attack, as well as a series of others which have been occurring recently at the nations public schools exactly the kind of places where our kids should be the safest.
But they're not safe at school anymore, and it is frightfully apparent that our entire approach to education in this country has failed miserably. Conservatives were echoing this fact a long time ago, long before our public schools became war zones complete with snipers, assault troops, drug dealers, thugs, and gangs. Liberals, on the other hand, continue to this day to cling to the status quo, still refusing to stand up to the elitist ignorance that embodies the whole of the education establishment. I hope you liberals are proud of what you have created.
Already the mainstream press is mouthing their scripted outrage, which consists of nothing more substantial than wailing about the availability of guns. Already liberal politicians [on both sides of the fence] are waxing indignant about the need for stricter laws governing the sale, distribution and tracking of firearms. Already witnesses to the carnage are repeating this insanity.
The argument is the same and it goes like this: It's the guns! If we just get rid of them, everything will be fine! Never mind that this has always ignored the obvious fact that inanimate objects are not what our problems are in the public schools. It's the fact that we have boatloads of troubled kids who have never been properly taught the stringent differences between right and wrong. How's that for "conflict resolution?"
We do not have a gun crisis in this country, we have a child behavior crisis.
Does anyone still remember a time when public schools didn't have armed guards and metal detectors? Does anyone still remember when kids were not permitted to engage in rampant and violent misbehavior in classrooms, or show open contempt and disrespect for authority? In those days, parents supported educators who practiced these principles. In those days, parents and teachers shared responsibility for educating kids, and they shared common values of morality, responsibility and respect.
In those days, a rap across the mouth or a paddle to your behind was more than enough to correct errant behavior. So, was knowing you'd get it again from your Dad when you got home. In those days, it was an embarrassment for parents to have a child in public school with a reputation for causing trouble; today, many parents use the despicable behavior of their kids as punchlines at the office. Back then, there was no such thing as political correctness, so there wasn't any impediment to a parent exercising their right to discipline their kids at home or in public. In fact, it was expected.
I long for the days when Johnny and Timmy worked out their problems during a three-punch fistfight. At least in those days, kids didn't go to school to blow each other away like terrorists! And other than a practical joke, most kids would have never dreamed of harming a teacher because of punishment received.
There have been a half a dozen shooting incidents at our schools in less than a year. The death toll from these attacks stands at over twenty, with dozens more wounded. As an American, I'm outraged and embarrassed by this. As a parent, I'm scared to death. More than anything else, however, I'm sick of liberal idiots telling me how to raise and educate my kids, and I'm betting that millions more parents feel exactly the same.
Consequently, its high time Americans stop letting these people blame their policy mistakes on other things or other people. In fact, its time to ignore them altogether while we work frantically to replace their ideas about education with the ideas of twenty and thirty years ago. We know those worked much better than anything else on the table these days.
Finally, its also time to stop letting politicians, both in Washington, DC and on the state level, waltz into our local school districts claiming that they know best how to run a school and educate our children. I submit that by now its obvious they do not.
Folks, if more parents and other concerned people dont start implementing some changes, were going to lose entire generations of children to ignorance or, worse, a premature violent death. Personally, I love my kids too much to let this happen to them.
John McCain, as a Navy pilot shot down over Hanoi, took a five-year beating from his Vietnamese jailers for refusing to break.
Sen. John McCain, 61, is being battered now by fellow Republicans, this time for ideological deviations usually associated with exponents of big government, and only with words.
The words sometimes sting, but the sticks and stones were far, far worse.
Without mentioning the senior senator from Arizona by name, Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri socked it to him recently for Mr. McCain's authorship of the tobacco settlement that the Senate is now debating.
"They may call it a 'tobacco bill,' but only in Washington do bad choices by free people become an excuse for a massive tax hike," Mr. Ashcroft told the South Carolina Republican convention the other day.
Calling the McCain bill the "biggest tax increase since Bill Clinton took office and the biggest government expansion since the president's national health care plan," Mr. Ashcroft noted it would create 17 new commissions, agencies and boards and, worst of all, "was written by Republicans."
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, recently called Mr. McCain's tobacco bill "pathetic."
Getting whacked by fellow Republicans has its compenations. Mr. McCain, who once got bad press clippings for his association with the "Keating Five," began getting good clippings for being the kind of Republican maverick most of the Washington reporters and commentators love.
To the consternation of his fellow conservatives, he not only authored the tobacco bill but:
Teamed up with Democrats to draft and push for a campaign finance reform bill opposed by most other Republicans, including the Republican leadership in both houses of Congress. Said the United States should pay its dues to the United Nations. Supported the International Monetary Fund and wanted extra funding for it.
The reporters, commentators and other liberals smiled upon him.
"A maverick of high principle on Capitol Hill," read a Financial Times headline over a story about him.
"He is a solid conservative with the stature of one who is principled and respected, and that includes respect from his adversaries on the center and left," said Bob Carolla, communications director of the liberal Americans for Democratic Action.
For Mr. McCain, "principled respect" is the result of positions that annoy his political allies. Although consistently pro-life on the abortion question, for example, he drew objections from the National Right to Life Committee for his campaign finance reform bill. The committee said the bill would cripple its ability to advertise its opposition to abortion.
All the while, he has been toying with the possibility of a presidential run in 2000, in a party that calls itself conservative.
But, then, why not? He has conservative credentials that rival those of Bob Dole. Mr. McCain put in long hours campaigning for Mr. Dole in 1996.
The American Conservative Union gives Mr. McCain a lifetime average voting rating of 87 percent. ACU gave Mr. Dole, the former Senate majority leader, a lifetime average of 82 percent.
On the flip side, the liberal Americans for Democratic Action gives him a career average of 9 percent. The highest he ever scored with ADA was in 1992, when he got a 20 percent. The average ADA rating for Democrats in the Senate is 81 percent.
Yet his enthusiastic co-sponsorship, with Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill was a mystery to many Republicans and fellow conservatives. They said it would let the Democrats keep their advantage with labor unions while denying Republicans corporate and interest-group help.
One reason for Mr. McCain's ideological divergence from the Republican norm may be that, as others have suggested, he is a prisoner once again -- this time held captive by political virtue and fame, by sympathetic press, and by having been bitten by the presidential bug.
"I suspect he was playing to the media, which loved his campaign finance stuff," said ACU Chairman David A. Keene. "He has an aura of being a fighter and a hero, and the media could say he is standing up to his colleagues."
Virtue, say his friends, befits a man who would be president and who has reasons of his own for atonement.
So it was a "virtuous" Mr. McCain who refused to talk with tobacco lobbyists, including former Republican National Chairman Haley Barbour, and who stood up to his party leaders on campaign reform.
Virtue has its rewards, as the accolades received from admirers across the aisle demonstrate. Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, called him "the Bionic Man" for his perseverance on the tobacco bill.
After Mr. McCain, who is chairman of the Commerce Committee, got that committee to approve his tobacco bill by 19-1, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat, praised him for what he somewhat indelicately described as a "presidential performance." Laughter came from the back of the room.
Fellow Republicans also have given him warm pats on the back. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas lauded his "leadership role in what looked like an impossible task."
Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, a conservative who had elevated his friend Mr. McCain to national chairman of the 1996 Gramm presidential nomination campaign, disagrees with him on campaign reform, tobacco and some other things. Yet, citing the Arizonan's principles, credibility and good heart, Mr. Gramm says he would be hard pressed to support anyone else if "John" seeks the Republican nomination in 2000.
He has played the maverick naturally, if not always comfortably, most of his life, from the time of his low-academic, high hell-raising performance at the U.S. Naval Academy to his refusal to accept early release -- before other Americans who had been held longer than he -- from his communist captors in Vietnam. They had granted him what they imagined was a privilege because his father was an admiral. To their humiliation and consternation, he refused. He paid for it with more torture, some of it hideous.
The maverick's knife often slashes at his own party from the right: He was the only Republican to oppose the landmark 1966 Telecommunications Act that was intended to deregulate the industry. He said it didn't go far enough to spur competition. He has criticized some appropriations legislation as "pork-barrel spending" by his own party.
An admiring profile in The New York Times noted that Mr. McCain "has not shrunk from scolding his fellow Republicans, including the Senate leader, Trent Lott of Mississippi, who appointed him to lead the tobacco negotiations."
Mr. McCain's reservations about Mr. Lott's majority leadership role are driven, he said, by worries about Mr. Lott's tendency to force through "unnecessary spending" for his home state of Mississippi.
On the free-market side, he opposes federal subsidies for ethanol production, despite the importance of those subsidies to farmers in Iowa, the site of the first major presidential nomination caucuses in 2000.
While not disputing critics who say he supported "nanny state" paternalism on tobacco, he argues that virtue trumps principle in this case because, "in the view of every public health group and every living surgeon general, there has to be this kind of settlement to stop kids from smoking."
Says an aide to a senior Republican senator: "Some of his conservative colleagues, including my boss, have become increasingly frustrated by his non-conservative statements and positions."
Last Thursday, a skinny 15-year-old whose self-described hobbies included "sugared cereal [and] throwing rocks at cars," fired 51 shots into a crowded high school cafeteria in Oregon. Two students died, and 22 were wounded. The suspect, Kipland P. Kinkel, also was accused of killing his parents.
TV broadcasts and newspapers were full of the story. The New York Times ran it for three straight days on the front page. President Clinton used his Saturday radio address to decry the "changing culture that desensitizes our children to violence." He asserted that these schoolhouse shootings "are more than isolated incidents."
So they seem. Since last October, 14 teachers and students have been murdered.
Let's stipulate that these killings are sickening and that it would be an enormous benefit to humanity to prevent the shooting of a schoolchild from ever happening again. But let's also put these murders into perspective.
First, the truth about violence in America is that it is falling, not rising. In fact, the single biggest story since the fall of the Berlin Wall is the decline in serious crime -- a true man-bites-dog tale. After climbing at a seemingly inexorable pace since the 1970s, crime has dropped -- suddenly and broadly, and for reasons that still are unexplained. From 1993 to 1996, the number of murders fell 20 percent, and just four days before the Oregon shootings, the FBI announced preliminary figures for 1997 that found both murders and robbery down another 9 percent and overall crime off for the sixth straight year. Murders in New York City fell a stunning 22 percent in 1997; in Los Angeles, 20 percent.
"It's hard to think of a social trend of greater significance," wrote Gordon Witkin of U.S. News & World Report in a cover story last week. He's right. As crime rates have declined, cities -- most significantly, New York, where the murder rate is lower than in Kansas City and Charlotte -- have revived. Burglary and car-theft rates are now higher in Britain and Sweden than in America.
Government, at last, is beginning to accomplish its most important function, which is to protect us so we can pursue happiness in our daily lives.
Second, while the killing of any young person is appalling, a sense of proportion is necessary. The United States has 38 million children between the ages of 10 and 17 and 20,000 secondary schools.
In 1994, there were no school shootings in which more than one person was killed; last year, there were four; this year, two. In 1995 (the latest statistics), 319 kids aged 10 to 14 were murdered; the homicide rate for seniors aged 70 to 74 is 50 percent higher.
Again, the real story about kids is the opposite of the portrait of chaos and anguish painted in the press. A new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that young people are "getting happier" while "older Americans, by contrast, indicated little change in their degree of happiness."
You have to wonder about the claims of pop psychologists and of the president himself when he says, as he did Saturday, that the rising tide of murders and mayhem on TV, in movies and on video games is turning kids into killers. Indeed, U.S. News noted that "juvenile murder arrests declined . . . 14 percent from 1994 to 1995 and another 14 percent from 1995 to 1996." Clinton is going to have to think of a phenomenon other than video gore on which to blame the shootings.
Here's one idea: the inordinate play these stories get in the press. Children like Kipland Kinkel are bombs waiting for detonation, and the media, by blaring their exploits on the front pages and the nightly news, may be helping to light the fuse. I'm not in favor of suppression, but I am opposed to obsession, which is what we have now.
Why? Well, one answer may be a crime shortage. At a Harvard symposium recently, one panelist pointed out that local TV news shows have to import violent footage now that local criminals aren't turning out enough products (there were only 43 murders in Boston last year, the fewest since 1961).
Another reason is a news shortage. In an era of peace and prosperity, the press finds little to excite the imagination -- and prey on the fears -- of its audience.
In such an atmosphere, one choice for the press would be to examine larger, long-range problems, such as how to fix Social Security, or why crime rates are falling. Another is to blow individual incidents in small towns in Oregon into national crises.
This is an especially irresponsible approach because most people practice a kind of social synecdoche -- they believe that the part equals the whole, that a single shooting (or even four in a year) can mean that child murderers are rampant and some new solution is required. The press consistently fails to put events into context, even when statistics show what's happening in the aggregate.
So, what's the meaning of the schoolhouse murders? Frankly, not much. The meaning of the hysteria over them...now, that's worth looking into.
The writer is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Domestic cigarette smugglers have long made Washington state a favorite target, attracted by smokers trying to escape paying the nation's second-highest excise tax.
Officials there now report an influx of illegally imported Chinese cigarettes, which some say is a sign of things to come nationwide if the Senate bill that would raise prices by $1.10 per pack becomes law.
"In the past year or so, our Department of Finance has been seizing Chinese cigarettes and they're still trying to figure out where they're coming from," said John Hough, Washington's senior assistant attorney general. "They've been packaged to look like American brands, complete with the surgeon general's warning label."
Based on the experience of high-tax states, smokers already are engaged in a quiet campaign of civil disobedience the scale of which has been unseen since people flocked to speakeasies during Prohibition.
The youth-smoking bill before the Senate includes hundreds of pages that cover everything from regulating the nicotine content in cigarettes to banning Joe Camel. But efforts to curb smoking likely will be decided based on the willingness of smokers -- adults and children alike -- to break the law to buy cheap smokes.
Public health advocates, like the American Cancer Society, say price increases work, noting that adult smoking in Canada dropped 38 percent and youth smoking declined by 60 percent between 1981 and 1992, when rising taxes almost doubled the price of cigarettes.
Critics of the tobacco bill say raising cigarette taxes to discourage smoking is not worth the price, citing the latest estimates that states already lose $1 billion to domestic cigarette smuggling.
If the Senate tobacco bill passes and the Food and Drug Administration eventually orders a reduction in cigarettes' nicotine levels, raising prices would further fuel a black market, said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch.
"If you reduce the nicotine content, then people are going to want to buy the contraband, which has no standards at all," the Utah Republican said at a hearing last month. "And so you lend even more support to the racketeers and criminals and Mafia and everybody else to get into the business."
That's what happened in Canada and is happening in some states with high cigarette taxes, the General Accounting Office reported last week. Citing a Washington Department of Health study, the GAO estimated that $674 billion in state tax revenues was lost nationwide to cigarette smuggling in fiscal 1995, ending June 30, 1996.
"It's been a fairly consistent pattern across the nation that states with high excise taxes see a dropoff in sales while surrounding states with lower taxes report collecting higher revenues," Mr. Hough said.
In Washington alone, smuggling cost tax collectors $51 million in fiscal 1995. Now, state revenue officials estimate that the bill is $110 million per year.
Locally, Washington, D.C.'s 65-cent excise tax cost it $7 million in lost revenues in 1995, and Maryland's 36-cent tax cost that state $17 million, the GAO reported.
But the biggest tobacco-producing states --which have among the lowest cigarette taxes --either lost no money to smuggling or received windfalls, according to the GAO analysis.
No smuggling losses were reported in fiscal 1995 in either Virginia or North Carolina, where taxes were 2.5 cents and 5 cents per pack, respectively. Kentucky, which had a 3-cent tax, gained $5 million in tax revenues as a result of cigarette smuggling.
Those three states are the major suppliers of bootleg cigarettes to high-tax states, said Gary Black, a tobacco stock analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein in New York.
The problem is expected to grow worse, after several states implemented large excise-tax increases. Alaska, for example, boosted its levy to $1 per pack last year, up from 29 cents in fiscal 1995.
The search for cheap smokes explains why U.S. cigarette imports from Canada soared 11 times to 550 million packs between 1990 and 1993, when taxes were increased. Taking advantage of duty-free Canadian exports to the United States, smugglers bought up cigarettes on a Native American reservation straddling the border in New York, then shipped them back to Ontario and sold them through contraband networks.
The result was that the Canadian border town of Cornwall became overrun by criminals who were able to sell smuggled cartons of cigarettes for $18 apiece to smokers who didn't want to pay the excise tax, which drove the price to $50, said the town's former mayor, Ron Martelle.
"At the height of the crisis, law enforcement agencies estimated that at least 50,000 cartons of cigarettes crossed the St. Lawrence River into Canada every day," he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "For me and my fellow residents of Cornwall, it was a time of anger and fear; anger because our once peaceful community had been stolen from us, fear because it had become so violent."
He described a period of terror, when rival gangs exchanged gunfire across the river, a shopping mall was destroyed, his life was threatened, and police placed him and his family in hiding.
Mr. Martelle, now a private investigator and sometime consultant to the tobacco industry, helped lead efforts that resulted in sharp reductions in cigarette taxes.
But David Sweanor, legal counsel to the Canadian Non-Smokers Rights Association, told the Judiciary Committee that smuggling on the scale that Mr. Martelle and the GAO report cannot happen without cooperation from cigarette makers.
"The Canadian operations of the tobacco companies simply started exporting vast quantities of Canadian brand cigarettes ... into places like upstate New York to come back into the country," he said.
Mr. Sweanor said the United States has a legal market of about 500 million Canadian cigarettes per year, serving mostly Canadian tourists in places like Florida. But he said Canadian tobacco companies exported about 20 billion cigarettes into the United States at the height of the smuggling frenzy.
To avoid feeding a black market in the United States, the Clinton administration supports the tobacco bill written by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican, which would license and regulate everyone in the cigarette distribution chain. The bill would require licensed tobacco makers and wholesalers to restrict their sales to other licensed sellers and require that packages be marked for intended domestic and export markets.
But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, scoffed at the notion that cigarette smugglers would be dissuaded by licensing requirements.
"We can't do it for drugs," she said. "How are we going to do it for cigarettes?"
DAVIS MOUNTAINS, Texas - Cow Heaven. Dead Man. Little Hell.
Even the pasture names on the Seven Springs Ranch reflect the rugged desert country where mountain lions and antelope roam among Black Angus cattle.
Quiet envelopes the landscape. For hours at a time, a leather-faced cowboy on horseback might not hear anything louder than the breeze blowing by his ears or the soft clink of his spurs.
"We like the seclusion," said John Davis, a cowhand who lives on the Seven Springs with his wife and two sons. "It's not that we don't like people. We just want this for a way of life."
Mr. Davis, 43, is among a growing number of people who fear that the German Luftwaffe and U.S. Air Force is about to shake, rattle and shatter their countrified world with regular high-speed, low-altitude jet training missions.
If the Air Force gets its way, American and German Air Force pilots will be allowed to roar out of Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, N.M., and speed through the mountain landscape at 520 mph. They can fly as low as 100 feet above the ground.
Air Force officials say low-altitude training missions help pilots learn how to avoid radar-guided and heat-seeking air defense systems and increase their ability to conduct surprise attacks.
"As unpopular as it is, we are out there explaining the operational necessity of our proposal and the relationship we have with the German Air Force," said Col. Ron Oholendt, chief of the U.S. Air Force's airspace management division.
German Air Force pilots began training at Holloman under a 1990 agreement between President George Bush and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The Clinton administration continued the agreement through the 1990s.
Expansion of the German pilot training program, tentatively scheduled for the year 2000, makes additional West Texas airspace even more important, Col. Oholendt said.
The Air Force proposal calls for an average of five to seven low-altitude flights a day on the new route, which would be open until 11 p.m. The "sorties" would come at irregular times and could include more than one fighter plane.
Mr. Davis and his family live in a Seven Springs Ranch house underneath the proposed flight path.
"So I'm under a horse and putting a shoe on him and he's a little skittish," Mr. Davis said, conjuring up a hypothetical situation. "This [the flights] is a variable I didn't count on.
"I want one of them paintball guns so at least they'll have something to clean up when they get home."
Col. Oholendt said Air Force rules forbid pilots from flying directly over homes and other places where people live and work, but that assurance doesn't give much comfort to Kaare Remme.
Mr. Remme owns the Seven Springs, a far-flung network of Davis Mountain peaks and valleys in Jeff Davis, Reeves and Pecos counties. He and several other West Texas landowners have sued the U.S. Air Force and the Luftwaffe to stop the flights. They say the noisy sorties will hurt land values, stifle hunting and tourism, stampede horses and cattle, crack adobe walls and increase the possibility of military air crashes.
The lawsuit alleges that the Air Force proposal violates the Third Amendment to the Constitution, which says, "No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."
Mr. Remme and his fellow plaintiffs contend in the lawsuit that the airspace expansion plan would constitute "the daily occupation of Plaintiffs' private property . . . without prior consent of Plaintiffs."
The clash between Big Bend-area landowners and the Air Force is not unique. Throughout the United States and the world, civilian groups and military authorities are skirmishing over low-altitude training.
Farmers and ranchers in another part of West Texas have formed the Heritage Environmental Preservation Association to oppose new bomber training programs at Dyess Air Force Base near Abilene.
Military advocates of low-altitude flights suffered a major public relations setback last February when a U.S. Marine jet flew too low through the Italian Alps and clipped the suspension cables to a ski lift gondola. The gondola crashed to the ground, killing 20 people.
"If these flights are so wonderful, why don't they do them in Germany?" Mr. Davis wondered.
Low-altitude flights became unpopular in Germany when disaster struck in 1988. A U.S. jet got lost in fog during a low-altitude training mission and crashed in the town of Remscheid. The pilot and six people on the ground were killed. Dozens of homes were set afire.
"We ranchers would have to fight fires for days after an event like that," said Mr. Remme, the Seven Springs owner.
In the 10 years since the Remscheid accident, Germany has moved most of its low-altitude training to Canada's Goose Bay air base in Labrador and Holloman in New Mexico. Severe restrictions have been placed on the flights over Germany, and some members of the German Parliament are pushing for an outright ban.
At the same time, U.S. and German pilots fly missions together in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Many of those missions originate at U.S. bases in Germany. It's only fair that German pilots get training as "guests" in the United States, Col. Oholendt said.
Air Force officials have projected that one jet would crash every 73 years if the new low-altitude route is opened over the Big Bend.
Mr. Remme puts the Air Force plan for expanding its airspace in the same category with other plans that have created environmental controversies in far West Texas: the spreading of sewage sludge from the northeast at a site near Sierra Blanca, Texas, and the proposed low-level nuclear waste repository near Sierra Blanca.
"There's not enough people out here to vote against what's happening to us," he said. "One day Texas will look back with incredulity at what was done to this region."
Mr. Remme says the Air Force has refused to conduct a flyover that would demonstrate the effect of a low-altitude flight for a select group of Texas politicians and landowners.
"They don't want us to know what the real impact would be," he said.
Col. Oholendt said a flyover lower than 500 feet must be at least 3,000 feet away from people to comply with Air Force rules.
"Their insistence that we go directly over them brought about a postponement of the demonstration," he said.
Still, Col. Oholendt acknowledged that pilots may accidentally fly over cowboys in a pasture or inadvertently buzz hunters in a blind.
"But we know a majority of the physical objects in our path and we can make arrangements to avoid a certain area when we know a big hunt is going on there," he said.
Jay Miller, an aviation historian at the C.R. Smith Museum in Fort Worth, said it's difficult to describe what it's like to stand 100 feet below a German Tornado fighter traveling at 500 mph.
"A pretty accurate assessment would be to go out to D/FW [International] Airport and stand a quarter mile from end of the runway and let a 747 take off over you," Mr. Miller said.
The Tornado engine, he said, is "inordinately loud."
"I'm sympathetic to the ranchers out there," he said. "It's nothing that will be catastrophic, but it will destroy the peace and tranquility they have out there."
Mr. Remme, however, paints a much bleaker picture of potential damage to the area's ranching industry. Startled cattle, specifically placed on pastures ready for grazing, could be stampeded to overgrazed pastures, he said.
Nervous bulls and cows might not get together as often, affecting pregnancy rates. Cows could lose weight and become separated from their calves after a flight.
"Then, you got babies not gettin' fed and mothers gettin' overheated in the middle of the day," Mr. Remme said.
Startled horses could throw a cowboy, leaving him injured and alone in a remote area.
Ranchers also fear that eco-tourists and hunters, both important sources of revenue for the Big Bend economy, will abandon the area rather than put up with the flights.
Col. Oholendt, the Air Force officer charged with securing the airspace, said he has seen no data to substantiate the assertion that low-altitude flights could decrease land values or harm range management.
"Many of these fears are without analytical grounds," he said.
Mr. Remme and many other ranchers use airplanes and helicopters in their cattle operations.
"I just hope I don't meet one of those guys at about 100 feet," he said.
The Air Force has not yet responded to the ranchers' lawsuit, which asks for an injunction against the flights until a federal judge thoroughly reviews applicable environmental protection laws.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which controls airspace in the United States, also must sign off on the new route before German and American pilots begin using it.
Military officials say the FAA rarely rejects such a request.
Mr. Remme says the Air Force has "self-approved" its West Texas airspace expansion and is pinning his hopes on the federal lawsuit to halt the flights before they start.
Some critics - the Air Force is not among them - have suggested that Mr. Remme and his supporters should be more supportive of the U.S. military and its allies, but he rejects that notion.
"A patriot is a person who loves and defends his country," Mr. Remme said. "I believe we defend our country when we prevent our military from running it."
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