A coalition of state and national politicians is trying to impose a federal tax of up to 5% on almost every outdoor-related product you'll ever buy -- including cameras, film, bird seed, hiking boots, mountain bikes, skis, and all-terrain vehicles.
"Watch out: Politicians and environmentalists are trying to hit us with a tax that's as big as all outdoors," warned David Bergland, national chairman of the Libertarian Party. "If we don't stop it, every outdoor sport and activity will cost more."
A coalition -- dubbed Teaming for Wildlife -- is now lobbying Congress to impose a so-called "conservation" tax on a wide range of sports and nature-related goods, with the money being funneled back to the states to finance wildlife habitat.
Included on their list of taxable items: Every product that has even the remotest connection to the outdoors, including birdbaths, guide books, tents, binoculars, and all-terrain vehicles. The tax would add up to $100 to the price of individual products, and would cost Americans upwards of $350 million.
The tax is supported by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, a dozen state governors, Trout Unlimited, and numerous environmental groups.
The proposed tax may be "green," but it has Libertarians seeing red.
"The problem with this tax -- in addition to the fact that Americans are already massively overtaxed -- is that even if you never set foot outdoors, you'll end up paying more," said Bergland.
"If you look beyond the green rhetoric, you'll see that this isn't really a tax on the outdoors; it's just another tax, plain and simple. For example, if you buy a backpack to carry your books to school, you'll get taxed. If you buy a camera to take pictures of your children, you'll get taxed. If you buy hiking boots to walk to the grocery store, you'll get taxed," he said. "This isn't about the outdoors; it's about taxes."
For Americans who are genuinely concerned about protecting wildlife, Bergland said Libertarians have a proposal that is simpler and cheaper than a new outdoors tax.
"Let those people with a passion for wildlife protection freely and enthusiastically contribute to programs and organizations that effectively accomplish that goal," he suggested. "There are a number of private conservation organizations that do excellent work for the environment -- without the waste, coercion, and inefficiency of the government.
"In addition, let parks, resorts, camping grounds, and nature preserves -- where tourism or recreational activity has an adverse impact on the environment -- charge appropriate fees to cover the cost of wildlife preservation," he said. "This would mean that the people who cause harm to wildlife habitat would help to pay to restore it, rather than relying on a new, expensive, one-size-fits-all tax."
The bottom line, said Bergland: "Libertarians are in favor of conservation -- and that's why we're so eager to help American families conserve their paychecks against new taxes. And Libertarians support green policies -- but not when the only green involved is the color of the money that politicians want to take from you."
Together, we have passed the preemption law that ended local bans on leagal possession of guns and ammunition. Then we passed the Range Protection Law, which I was proud to lead in the Senate. That law is now protecting shooting ranges from harassment and shutdown attempts by new neighbors who don't understand how much the shooting sports add to quality of life in rural Wisconsin.
Then, we passed the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Constitutional Amendment though the legislature. I authored the amendment to ensure our children have the same right to hunt, shoot and defend their families that we enjoy. If we can pass this amendment in November 98, we will end the erosion of gun owner rights by state and local governments in Wisconsin... forever.
When we have locked in our rights, we can turn to ensuring that law-abiding gun owners have as much ability to defend themselves legally as criminals enjoy illegally.
But, before we can build on our past victories, I need your help to return to the Senate. Senator Chuck Chvala, the Democratic leader from Madison, has announced that I am one of his top two targes for defeat. We defeated his every attempt to stop preemption, range protection, and the RKBA. He knows that defeating us will bring back the days when he was in control and gun owners were on the defensive.
Remember those days? We would wait to see how badly the ultra-liberals from Madison decided to gut our rights. Then, we'd be expected to thank them for not taking all our rights. They will fight hard to defeat me to put law-abiding gun owners back on the defensive. We can't afford to let them win.
There is too much at stake.
If you will help me now, we can defeat Chuck Chvala's plan and return in January to continue our fight to return to citizens their right to self-defense. The groundwork is laid. We are ready to introduce the Personal Protection Act (CCW) on the first day of session in January and lead the fight for passage. I am committed to allowing law-abiding citizens their right to self decfence with a concealed weapon. Your contribution of $1000, $500, $100, $50 or whatever you can afford today will help me come back to get the job done.
This is the most critical time in our lifetimes for ensuring the right of our citizens to defend themselves. Our success (or failure) in the next three months will determine whether we can defend our children and grandchildren today and whether they will be able to defend their children tomorrow. If we don't all do everything we can today, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
Your contribution will give me the ammunition I need to defend myself form the all out attack I am shure to receive. I know I can count on you to give me the means to defend myself.
State Senator (Wisconsin)
Friends of Dave Zien
P.O. BOX 114
Cadott, WI 54727-0114
The U.N.'s emerging International Criminal Court could indict President Clinton as a "war criminal" for ordering the bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan, says investigative journalist Cliff Kincaid, president of America's Survival. "By invoking Article 51 of the U.N. Charter in justifying the strike, Clinton has implicitly acknowledged the U.N.'s right to judge the U.S. action and hold him accountable," Kincaid said. "Clinton needs lawyers now more than ever. The strike on Sudan appears to be a blatant violation of the 'international law' that Clinton and the U.N. claim to respect." Although Article 51 of the U.N. Charter gives nations the right of self-defense, Kincaid pointed out that Clinton hasn't even tried to explain how these Sudanese factory was a threat to the U.S. or how Sudan was linked to the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa.
Sudan's president has branded Clinton as a "war criminal" and his regime is preparing a criminal indictment of him. "U.S. objections to the Sudanese regime should not blind us to the complete lack of direct evidence that has been presented so far by the Clinton Administration to justify this attack," Kincaid said. The attack injured at least 10 Sudanese citizens, caused at least $100 million in damage, and left more than 300 factory workers unemployed.
Clinton said the plan was "associated" with terrorist Osama bin Laden, and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger claimed that bin Laden helped finance the facility. But U.S. Wall Street Journal reports that the owner is a Saudi Arabian banker with no known ties to Islamic extremists. Under U.S. pressure, bin Laden was forced to leave the Sudan in 1996.
Clinton said that the plant "was involved in production of materials for chemical weapons," a claim echoed by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. But U.S. officials told the Times that they're not sure the materials, discovered in a soil sample, were actually produced at the plant. They said the materials may only have been stored or moved through there.
Visitors to the site found no evidence of chemical weapons-related activity. However, they did find a wide variety of medicines. A former British manager of the plan said it was not equipped to manufacture chemical weapons. Faced with evidence of the civilian nature of the facility in Sudan, the Clinton Administration has now claimed that the plant was linked to the Iraqi chemical weapons program. "If that is the case," Kincaid said, "why didn't we bomb Iraq, where actual VX gas has already been discovered? In fact, the U.S. has recently been caught secretly discouraging U.N. inspections of Iraqi chemical weapons sites, while publicly insisting that Iraq is a serious danger. So the administration's anti-terrorism policy is phony. Arms inspector Scott Ritter's resignation provides further evidence of this." Kincaid urged Congress, which will soon be considering Clinton's impeachment, to investigate the strike on Sudan, to determine if it was conducted as part of a "Wag the Dog" diversion from his political troubles. "If, as seems likely, Clinton lied about it, he should be held accountable," Kincaid said. It would be highly ironic if Clinton, who once touted the benefits of an International Criminal Court, should find himself in the dock."
Before the governor's race, Fieger was best known as the controversial lawyer for assisted suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian. Now his public statements and shady past are giving him more notoriety.
In what may be an act of political suicide, the self-proclaimed atheist Fieger told the Detroit News that Orthodox Rabbis "are closer to Nazis than they think." In the Washington Post, Fieger said Jesus is just some "goofball that got nailed to the cross," and Pope John Paul II, "is some (expletive) who's wearing a hat three feet tall."
Tate, himself a former congressman from Washington State, compares this to when Republican leaders disavowed the party from former Louisiana candidate for governor David Duke.
"Today we call on the leadership of the Democratic Party, from the President on down, to repudiate Fieger's hate-filled words and to speak out and end their strange and troublesome silence," said Tate. "We call on them to do what Republican leaders and the Bush Administration did in 1991 when they publicly repudiated David Duke," he said.
In addition to the controversial public statements, Fieger has had serious personal problems. In 1987, he was convicted of drunken driving after trying to fight the charge for three years, according to multiple news reports.
Fieger's wife, Keenie filed for divorce in 1990 and 1995, and then asked the court in 1995 to issue an emergency order of protection, claiming in a signed statement that Geoffrey tried to strangle her and then punched her in the back.
As an attorney, the Michigan Attorneys Grievance Commission reportedly censured Fieger for judge shopping during the 1996 Kevorkian case. Fieger also owes about $2,000 in back taxes on two of his four homes. He owns three in Detroit and one vacation home in the Caribbean, according to World magazine.
Despite these skeletons, top Michigan Democrats came out in support of Fieger the day after he won the primary. Representatives David Bonior, John Dingell, John Conyers and Debbie Stabenow along with Senator Carl Levin all threw their support behind Fieger.
In his letter to President Clinton, Tate wrote, "not one condemnation or repudiation has been forthcoming from yourself (Clinton), General Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Gov. Roy Romer or anyone else."
Tate also sent letters to Romer and Democratic Governor's Association executive director Katherine Whelan.
Tate believes Fieger does not speak for most Democrats. "But unless Democratic leaders fully and publicly repudiate him and disavow the extreme things he has said, then they will have become the party of anti-religious bigotry," said Tate.
The message from leaders to members -- most of whom returned yesterday from recess -- was clear: September will be appropriations month, like it or not.
The schedule will be ever more compacted, and GOP leaders pledged to ward off delays and drag down fights about policy measures being pushed by Democrats.
But Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., made clear yesterday he will not make it easy for Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss. Daschle vowed to "persist and persist" in efforts to act on managed care, campaign finance and the minimum wage. He would not rule out forcing some fights on spending bills. "What could be more important to the American people" than those three issues, Daschle asked rhetorically.
With practically no debate, members cleared the fiscal 1999 military construction bill (HR4059), historically an easy measure to pass. But 12 others remain, and there are veto threats on seven. The Senate has passed eight spending bills and the House has passed eleven. Seven measures await House-Senate conference action.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said he would like to have eight of the 12 remaining spending bills out of conference and ready for final votes by Sept. 18. "Then we can try to work with the administration on remaining bills, try to work problems out," Stevens said.
Stevens said he wants the Senate to finish the foreign operations bill possibly by today (50 amendments were left to be addressed last night) and finish the Interior spending bill and the District of Columbia spending bill next week.
The Senate bill (S2334) includes $18 billion for the agency, the same amount requested by the administration. An unnumbered House bill includes only $3.4 billion for the IMF. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert L. Livingston, R-La., who earlier this summer supported the $18 billion level, now appears disinclined to report a bill out of his committee with more than $3.4 billion -- a level preferred by other House Republican leaders, namely Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas. House markup is expected on Sept. 10.
Senate GOP bill manager Mitch McConnell, Ky., said the Asian states are experiencing "the most turbulent economic conditions since World War II" and need economic support. But he said the IMF also needs to "be more accountable" and not act as a "bunch of foreign bureaucrats happy to take our money."
The financial crisis in Russia and the sharp drop Monday in the U.S. stock market influenced debate yesterday. "We are dependent on a global economy," said Patrick J. Leahy, Vt., the Democratic bill manager. "If you don't believe that, look at the news and wake up."
Stevens said the $18 billion level would "send a signal that the international community will attempt to prevent the collapse" of economies in Asia and Russia. "I can't see how anything less than $18 billion will make a difference," he said.
Lott said the vote revealed less than adequate strength for the treaty, which he and other GOP leaders, including Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, R-N.C., oppose because of doubts about enforceability. While Specter won the vote, it was far short of the two-thirds majority required for Senate ratification of the treaty. President Clinton submitted the treaty to the Senate last September.
He said he may try to include funding in the Commerce-Justice-State bill (HR4276) in conference or the Treasury-Postal bill (S2312). Stevens said he would give "serious consideration" to allowing embassy construction funding to be considered emergency funding and not subject to budget caps. But he said a final decision has not been made.
Stevens said there are 19 voting days left to act on spending bills and that he is certain that some form of a short-term continuing resolution will be necessary for the beginning of October. Lott has said he expects to schedule votes on Mondays and Fridays to help move the bills, but he also has said a CR will be needed.
Not lost in the scheduling and resolve of GOP leaders to move bills is the scenario of partial government shutdowns like those of 1995-96, which yielded a political victory for Clinton and an acknowledged disaster for Hill Republicans.
Yet to be seen is whether the administration's leverage and negotiating ability will be affected by the fallout of Clinton's admission to an inappropriate affair with a former White House intern or by an expected report from Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr detailing possibly impeachable offenses.
"The people are highly anxious, and I am deeply worried," prime Minister Keizo Obuchi told an emergency Cabinet meeting, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka.
A leading Japanese lawmaker warned that Monday's flight of North Korea's Taepo Dong-1 missile could have led to war. Officials conceded that Japan is defenseless against missile attacks.
Moreover, the new weapon gives North Korea the ability to strike Tokyo and the southern island of Okinawa, where the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan are stationed.
Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said the test could push Japan to cooperate with U.S. efforts to develop a defense against ballistic missiles. "We will take up the North Korean missile incident as a reference matter when we discuss [theater missile defense]," a proposed anti-missile system, Mr. Komura said.
Despite the North Korean missile test, President Clinton will not accelerate a decision on a national missile-defense system, a top White House national security adviser said yesterday. Robert Bell, special assistant to the president for national security affairs, said the North Korean communist regime still faces technological hurdles before it could deploy a missile capable of hitting American soil.
Mr. Bell was reacting to demands in Congress that Mr. Clinton make it a top priority to deploy a national missile-defense system and theater anti-missile systems to protect American troops abroad. The renewed calls came after North Korea's launch on Monday of the Taepo Dong-1.
By 2002, North Korea plans to test a longer-range missile, the Taepo Dong-2, with a maximum range of 3,700 miles. The North Korean missile shredded the sense of security in largely pacifist Japan. It now is painfully aware that it is vulnerable to erratic Pyongyang's suspected stockpiles of nuclear, chemical or biological warheads.Japan had been warned a test was imminent but had no means to track the flight, which was monitored by U.S. spy satellites, ships and surveillance aircraft.
Japan sent three destroyers to search for the missile that crashed into the Pacific off its eastern coast after flying more than 1,000 miles in six minutes. The missile, which can travel about 1,200 miles, doubles the range of North Korea's Nodong missile, a modified version of the Soviet-era Scud. If the missile was fired intentionally over Japan, "it could have led to a state of war," said Yoshiro Mori, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Mr. Mori told Japanese reporters that the act marked a "betrayal" by North Korea, given Japan's efforts to help with its food crisis. Japan retaliated yesterday by halting food aid to starving North Koreans "for the time being," Mr. Nonaka said.
Rep. Benjamin Gilman, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said yesterday in New York, "It makes no sense to shoot a missile at your biggest donor." The New York Republican said North Korea risked nearly $100 million in aid by belligerent actions. "We have to stop appeasing North Korea and ... we may have to do a complete policy scrub of our North Korea policies to see if they are truly advancing our nation's interests," said Mr. Gilman.
But Japanese officials said stronger measures such as economic sanctions against Pyongyang are unlikely. "At this point in time, we feel we need to keep our channels of communication open," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Sadaaki Numata.
On Monday, Japan refused to sign a $1 billion commitment toward funding a 1994 nuclear deal with Pyongyang. Under the nuclear framework accord, North Korea froze its suspected nuclear weapons program in exchange for Western promises to construct twin nuclear power reactors and provide some fuel oil. The missile test has hardened opposition in Congress to the approval of $30 million for the delivery of fuel oil. Pyongyang has threatened to restart its nuclear weapons program if the fuel is not supplied on schedule by Oct. 21.
Another day of talks with the North was slated to begin in New York yesterday but was canceled when the Koreans failed to show up. "North Korea has successfully blackmailed both the United States and Japan, first with the threat of nuclear weapons and now with missiles," said Hideaki Kase, a Japanese commentator and author on defense issues. North Korea concedes it depends on missile exports to earn what some analysts estimate is up to $1 billion annually from nations such as Iran, Libya, Pakistan and Syria. Observers representing some of its customers reportedly were on hand when the new missile was launched Monday. It remains unclear whether the test was completely successful. Some analysts speculated that a faulty guidance system may have caused it to fly over Japan. But analysts agreed that it marked a major jump in North Korea's technological prowess. Unlike the Nodong missile, a single rocket with a range of just 600 miles, the Taepo Dong-1 had at least two and possibly three stages. Its booster fell into the Sea of Japan while the second stage and perhaps third shot over Japan's main island of Honshu, a defense agency spokesman said.
The technology will permit North Korea to build even longer-range missiles in the future that are capable of reaching the United States, analysts said. The missile test came days before North Korea's reclusive leader, Kim Jong-il, was set to become president, completing the communist world's first dynastic succession. The post has been vacant since his father, Kim Il-sung, died more than four years ago.
Mr. Gilman suggested that the North Korean military was taking a stronger role in the government, and may have sent Monday's missile over Japan "as a present" to Kim Jong-il, who next week will be formally enthroned as the head of government.
To subscribe to the Weekly Update, put out weekly by Michigan Militia Corps 5th Division command, simply send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the phrase "subscribe militia" in the BODY of the message. The Weekly Update is archived at the Michigan Militia Corps web page at: http://militia.gen.mi.us