Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Prefab fury

Literacy-impaired liberals are getting help from the Web site, which offers angry Democrats prefabricated letters-to-the-editor — letters that newspapers all over the country seem eager to publish, syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin writes at her Web site (

The blogger said that’s “fake ‘grass-roots’ letter writers” have flooded newspapers with letters denouncing Republican plans to change Senate rules to end Democratic filibusters of President Bush‘s judicial nominees.

“So far, we’ve submitted 11,388 letters to 1,292 newspapers,” boasts. And editors keep printing the letters, which declare that the proposed Senate rules change “is about radical Republicans grasping for absolute power so they can appoint Supreme Court justices who favor corporate interests and an extreme-right agenda.”

The prefab letters urge senators “to stand up for the centuries of checks and balances that have made this country great.”

Using the Nexis database, Mrs. Malkin found that letter (sent by different “writers”) in the Herald News of Passaic County, N.J., on April 14; in the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on April 15; and in the Palm Beach Post on April 16.

This is a standard tactic for, which last year waged a similar letter-writing campaign on behalf of Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

‘Positive’ rights

The weekend before last, “Yale’s chapter of the American Constitutional Society sponsored a conference at Yale Law School titled ‘The Constitution in 2020,’” John Hinderaker writes at the Weekly Standard Web site (

“The stated purpose of the conference, at which some of America’s best-known liberal law professors appeared, was to work toward a ‘progressive’ consensus as to what the Constitution should provide for by the year 2020, and a strategy for how liberal lawyers and judges might bring such a constitutional regime into being. …

“The tone was set in the ‘opening dialogue’ between professors Bruce Ackerman and Cass Sunstein. Power Line [blog] sent one of our East Coast correspondents to sit in on the discussion. The conversation left no doubt about the ‘rights’ that, according to these eminent liberals, should be constitutionally enshrined by the year 2020,” Mr. Hinderaker said.

“The touchstone is Franklin Roosevelt‘s ‘Second Bill of Rights,’ which would recognize a right to ‘a useful and remunerative job’; sufficient earnings to provide ‘adequate’ food, clothing, and recreation; a ‘decent’ home; a ‘good education’; and ‘adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.’

“The essence of the progressive constitutional project is to recognize ‘positive’ rights, not just ‘negative’ rights, so that citizens are not only guaranteed freedom from specified forms of government interference, but also are guaranteed the receipt of specified economic benefits.

“The bottom line is that Congress would no longer have the discretion to decline to enact liberal policies. The triumph of the left would be constitutionally mandated.”

Colorado showdown

Colorado voters will decide in November whether they want to give up $3.1 billion in constitutionally required tax refunds to better fund state services.

The Colorado House took final legislative action Monday to put the issue before the voters under the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the Denver Post reported.

Republican Gov. Bill Owens and Democratic legislative leaders agreed earlier to ask voters to allow the state to keep $3.1 billion more in revenue over the next five years than it is allowed to under the law.

A bipartisan coalition of business and civic leaders immediately announced the launch of Coloradans for Responsible Reform, a campaign to support the referendum.

State lawmakers have cut about $1.1 billion over the past four years to balance the state budget and are facing an estimated $561 million more in the next five years.

National and local taxpayer groups are vowing to oppose the measure. The average taxpayer would give up about $300 in tax refunds over the first four years, according to figures compiled by economists for the legislature.

The racing media

The news media have started applying the horse-race style of campaign coverage to daily reporting on government, leading to adversarial reporting that can obscure the truth just to create conflict, President Bush‘s chief political strategist said Monday.

Speaking at a forum at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., Karl Rove said the influx of media outlets and the shrinking shelf life of news in a 24-hour news cycle are to blame.

“We are substituting the shrill and rapid call of the track announcer for calm judgment, fact and substance,” Mr. Rove told the crowd of roughly 600 students and local residents.

Naming specific reporters and news organizations, Mr. Rove said the media unfairly created the impression that President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, introduced early in his first term, was stalled in Congress at every step before its passage.

But the legislation was passed by the House and Senate with wide margins and was signed by Mr. Bush less than a year after it was introduced, Mr. Rove said. He said the news media have taken a similar approach to the current debate over Social Security.

Petition challenged

A Michigan anti-affirmative petition drive is being challenged by two groups that say people were duped into signing the petitions.

The two groups, Operation King’s Dream and By Any Means Necessary, are trying to keep the initiative off the November 2006 ballot, the Ann Arbor News reported yesterday.

Group leaders say those who signed the petitions were told it was a pro-affirmative action measure.

Luke Massie with Operation King’s Dream said his group sampled 500 signatures the state selected for verification. “Of the people we reached, a very substantial majority thought it was for affirmative action,” Mr. Massie said.

The challenge has been filed with the State Board of Canvassers, and a ruling is expected next month, United Press International reports.

Jennifer Gratz with the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which is backing the ballot initiative, said the petition was clear and its language was upheld in court.

Students ‘insecure’

Most U.S. college students don’t think they’ll be able to collect Social Security benefits when they retire, a poll released yesterday indicated.

Social Security’s solvency is a top issue among the country’s college students, ranking just below war, according to the study by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.

Seven out of 10 respondents said they worried the national retirement plan would not pay out benefits by the time they retire.

Students also support a plan to invest Social Security taxes in private accounts, as President Bush and Republicans have advocated, the survey results indicated. More than 50 percent of undergraduates said they would support such a change.

The study was based on telephone interviews conducted March 21 to April 4 with 1,206 college undergraduates and has an error margin of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3295 or

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