- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ARCTIC BLASTS

Almost 300,000 people have asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to halt oil and gas activities in the U.S. Arctic region and to permanently protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay from drilling.

The requests were in response to a new offshore drilling plan pushed through by the George W. Bush administration during its last days that calls for opening most of Alaska’s Arctic Ocean region and 5.6 million acres of Bristol Bay to oil and gas development.

The public comment period - extended to 180 days by Mr. Salazar when he took office in February - ended Monday.

“The American public has unequivocally said that Bush’s aggressive plans for oil and gas development have no place in America’s Arctic and Bristol Bay,” said Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League. “Secretary Salazar pledged to make wise decisions based on sound information. We urge him to continue the process he has begun and come up with a rigorous plan that ensures the survival of these two national treasures.”

More than 400 scientists from the United States and 20 other countries also have sent a letter to the Obama administration, saying Mr. Bush’s plan was created without sufficient scientific understanding of environmental consequences and without full consultation with indigenous residents.

“We still have a chance to do it right in the Arctic,” said Jeffrey Short, Pacific science director for Oceana and former National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration research chemist. “All we’re really asking is that we look before we leap.”

GINGRICH ON HEALTH

“We do need basic health reforms,” writes former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on Monday. “But their focus should be on maximizing patient choice and freeing health care providers.

“If we embrace reforms such as expanding Health Savings Accounts, patients and their doctors will, through billions of decentralized decisions, determine the percentage of [gross domestic product] that should be spent on health care.

“We could also expand choice and competition by repealing laws that prevent patients from buying health insurance across state lines … The government should make public information collected through Medicare that will allow consumers to see where they can get the cheapest and most effective treatments.

“No American should suffer pain, disease or worse because of a lack of health care. We already spend huge sums to help those of modest means through Medicaid and other programs. Reform those programs to create a true health care safety net. Back it up with state high-risk pools to ensure health coverage for everyone.”

ACORN DEFENDED

“For many years the combined forces of the far right and the Republican Party have sought to ruin ACORN, the largest organization of poor and working families in America,” writes liberal columnist Joe Conason at Salon.com. “Owing to the idiocy of a few ACORN employees, notoriously caught in a videotape ‘sting’ sponsored by a conservative Web site and publicized by Fox News, that campaign has scored significant victories on Capitol Hill and in the media.

“Both the Senate and the House have voted over the past few days to curtail any federal funding of ACORN’s activities. While that congressional action probably won’t destroy the group, whose funding does not mainly depend on government largesse, the ban inflicts severe damage on its reputation.

“In the atmosphere of frenzy created by the BigGovernment videos - which feature a young man and an even younger woman who pretend to be a prostitute and a pimp seeking ‘advice’ from ACORN about starting a teenage brothel - it is hardly shocking that both Democrats and Republicans would put as much distance as possible between themselves and the sleazy outfit depicted on-screen …

“Yet ACORN’s troubles should be considered in the context of a history of honorable service to the dispossessed and impoverished. No doubt it was fun to dupe a few morons into providing tax advice to a ‘pimp and ho,’ but what ACORN actually does, every day, is help struggling families with the Earned Income Tax Credit (whose benefits were expanded by both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton).

“And while the idea of getting housing assistance for a brothel was clever, what ACORN really does, every day, is help those same working families avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes.”

ACORN SLAMMED

“ACORN backers say - as they have always without fail said whenever ACORN faces an employee-related scandal - that the workers were just a few bad apples,” writes Matthew Vadum in the conservative American Spectator.

“There are useful idiots and then there’s Joe Conason who ought to know better. He’s just whining now because the right has finally learned the power of political theater.

“Even as evidence mounts that ACORN is a criminal organization, the longtime Bill Clinton apologist brushes aside legitimate concerns about the group in a column on Salon.com …

“This is a common misconception on the left where the group is viewed as having roughly the same moral rectitude as the late Mother Teresa. It is thought of as unassailable because it is believed to be doing good. The fact that it is so regularly attacked by conservatives and Republicans causes the left to cheer even louder for ACORN.

“But the evidence shows that ACORN does not mean well, and that any good the group may happen to do for people is purely incidental …

“Expect Conason’s free form spin-doctoring to continue because ACORN is extremely valuable to the left. The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund correctly calls ACORN the ‘shock troops’ of the Democratic Party.”

FRANKEN FINDINGS

Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota Democrat, has been on Capitol Hill for fewer than three months, but 41 percent of his state’s voters think he is doing a good or excellent job, according to a Rasmussen Reports survey released Monday.

The poll finds that 31 percent of overall Minnesota voters say Mr. Franken - who narrowly defeated Republican incumbent Norm Coleman in a lengthy statewide recount - is performing his new job poorly.

Seventy-nine percent of Minnesota Democrats say their new senator is doing a good or excellent job, while 56 percent of Republicans say he is performing poorly. Voters not affiliated with either party are closely divided: 34 percent give Mr. Franken positive ratings while 34 percent rated him poorly.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Franken’s fellow Democrat from Minnesota, fares much better, as 56 percent of the state’s voters give her good or excellent ratings while only 19 percent rate her performance as poor, Rasmussen says.

The poll of 500 Minnesotans was conducted last week, with a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

BLOOMBERG REDUX

A poll released Monday shows incumbent New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg with the support of 50 percent of the city’s registered voters compared with 39 percent for his Democratic challenger, New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson. Ten percent said they are unsure who to vote for, according to the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

In a Marist July survey, 48 percent reported they backed Mr. Bloomberg, an independent, while 35 percent supported Mr. Thompson. Seventeen percent were unsure.

Registered Republicans are overwhelmingly on Mr. Bloomberg’s side, with 80 percent backing the mayor’s re-election bid compared with 17 percent for Mr. Thompson, the poll says. Democrats, meanwhile, are divided with 43 percent supporting Mr. Bloomberg and 46 percent backing his main challenger.

The poll of 792 New York City registered voters was conducted Sept. 15-17 over the phone. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Sean Lengell can be reached at slengell@ washingtontimes.com.

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