Ear to the sidewalk: Issue 3

Jennifer Biddison
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Posted: Mar 22, 2006 12:06 AM

Congress may be out of session this week, but that doesn’t mean the policy world has stopped turning. Here are just a few things you should know about but may not find in the media headlines.

Prize Fight: Horowitz v. Churchill

How many times have you wished that David Horowitz would just give University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill a good punch in the nose? Well, that battle is about to begin – at least in the form of a war of words.

Churchill, most infamous for comparing 9/11 victims to Nazis, has agreed to debate the father of the Academic Bill of Rights in an upcoming debate series hosted by the Young America’s Foundation (YAF).

In a recent interview, Horowitz noted that CU’s president had to step down over Churchill’s remarks, but "Churchill is still on the faculty there because you cannot fire professors, no matter what they do." But where school administrators’ hands are tied, Horowitz’s are not. He recently published The Professors to hold Churchill and 100 of his "dangerous" academic peers accountable for their actions and words.

The first of the match-ups will be held April 6 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Other dates and locations will be announced soon on YAF’s new website.

Care about Your Cable Bill?

Around the Townhall.com office these days, most mentions of "nets" are part of our NCAA basketball trash-talking (or groaning, in my case). In the larger policy world, however, I’m hearing a number of conservative groups warning about the dangers of "net neutrality."

"Network neutrality" means Internet Service Providers (ISPs) shouldn’t discriminate between types of web content. Sounds good – after all, no one wants certain sites blocked without their permission. But it turns out that when you turn this pretty picture over, there’s a tangled web of regulations and disincentives attached (which you can learn all about from FreedomWorks and The Heritage Foundation). 

On top of that, market forces already keep Internet operators away from censorship – who would be stupid enough to block sites, unless they wanted to lose customers immediately? I can’t tell you how many Townhall readers have changed ISPs because their ISPs’ well-intentioned-but-faulty spam blockers were keeping them from receiving their daily Opinion Alert.

Unfortunately, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is considering telecom reform legislation that will add net neutrality and other new regulations to the cable industry, as well as adding price controls and even a "franchise fee increase" (a gentle way of describing a tax hike). According to a coalition of conservative groups, these barriers will decrease competition, increase cable bills, and hurt consumers in the long run. 

As Jason Wright noted in a recent Townhall.com op-ed, Congress’s decision to get out of the way of the telecommunications industry in 1996 was the catalyst behind the "explosive growth and innovation in the American technology sector [that we’ve seen] in the past decade." CFIF president Jeff Mazzella says it more bluntly: "Government regulation means less Internet innovation!"

You can encourage Congress to stay out of the way by signing this letter to Congress.

Will Democracy Work in the Middle East?

While the media and politicians spin tales of doom and destruction, you and I have the opportunity to participate in an important conference on how to make Middle East democracy a reality.

On April 5-6, I’ll be joining leaders and experts such as Michael Novak, Ralph Peters, Paul Marshall, Daniel Pipes and Michael Medved in Grove City, PA for “Mr. Jefferson Goes to the Middle East,” a historic conference sponsored by Grove City College.

Only an hour from Pittsburgh, I'll be treated to such gems as:

  • Michael Medved, nationally-syndicated talk show host, on "Israeli and Palestinian Elections: Two Models of Middle Eastern Democracy"
  • Michelle Bernard, president of Independent Women’s Forum, on "Women’s Participation in the Democratic Processes in Iraq and Afghanistan"
  • Ralph Peters, author of Beyond Baghdad, on "The Age of Faith & Terror: Religion as the Missing Strategic Factor"

I’d love for you to join me in a few weeks. The price is right ($75/day with banquets, $25/day without), and the opportunities for learning and networking are enormous.
 
Goldman Sachs Picks Environmentalists over Shareholders

When you invest your money in a company, you expect it to be used to grow the business and make you money, not to line the pockets of liberals.

The chairman of investment company Goldman Sachs doesn’t seem to understand this. According to the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), Henry Paulson is allowing his personal politics and volunteer interests to overshadow his commitment to his shareholders and employees.

Goldman Sachs recently donated 680,000 acres of land in Chile to a group connected to the Nature Conservancy, which Paulson also chairs. In addition, Goldman adopted an environmental policy last fall that parallels the agenda of the environmental nonprofit.

Outraged by this apparent conflict of interest, NLPC has filed a shareholder proposal for consideration at the Goldman Sachs annual meeting next week. The proposal asks for the Board to determine whether Paulson has violated the company’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics.

In a letter to free-market shareholders, Steven Milloy and Tom Borelli of the Free Enterprise Action Fund agree with NLPC:

Goldman’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics generally prohibits personal interests, including those involving family members, from interfering with firm interests. Goldman’s actions should instead rely on sound business, economic and scientific analyses, and not the personal, social and political interests of executives. Such conflicts of interest may reduce shareholder value.

Incidentally, the Free Enterprise Action Fund allows those of us on the Right a place at the table of these shareholder meetings to keep liberals from using corporations to push through agendas too extreme to make it through Congress.

Getting America Right Hits NYT Best Sellers List

I had the pleasure of being with Townhall.com Chairman Doug Wilson last week when he got the news: Getting America Right, the book he coauthored with Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner, had made the New York Times Best Sellers list. We had already watched hourly as the book climbed the Amazon charts (eventually reaching #15 overall in books, #6 in nonfiction books, and #2 in political books), and now our first book was officially a bestseller offline as well. Thanks to those of you who have helped to make this important book a success.

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Stay tuned for next week's column, when I'll tell you how attempts to protect cute (and not-so-cute) animals could deprive you of your ability to use your backyard.