Hey Big Spender
How much will it cost businesses to prepare computers for Y2K? Publicly traded companies are now required to report these costs to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and this quarter's filings show large Y2K budgets. Aetna U.S. Healthcare, for example, will spend $110 million after taxes in 1998 and $85 million in 1999. Sears, Roebuck and Co. announced that half of its information systems are Year 2000 compliant and the rest will be ready by mid-1999. So far the company has spent $67 million on computer repairs and expects to spend as much as $143 million. These data show that big business takes Y2K seriously. John A. Tuccillo, consulting economist for the National Association of Realtors, said, "There will be noticeable and significant effects, including a restriction in transnational credit, but it won't be overwhelming for our economy."
Mr. Livingston, we presume
Social conservatives are getting the blame for the Republican Party's failure to expand its congressional majorities. Moderates, who are prepared to relinquish any principle in order to win approval from the establishment, now claim that only they can lead. Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) is the most likely successor of Newt Gingrich as House Speaker. He was off to a good start when he told ABC's This Week program that the people want more honesty from their leaders. He said he would introduce a bill to repeal the Johnson administration's policy of putting Social Security off-budget. This might increase the deficit on paper, but it would be an honest budget. But here's what Republicans must do to recover from their near-disaster on Nov. 3.
- They should create an agenda that every faction of the party can endorse. This would include tax cuts and a reduction in the size of government. This should include a "no more pork" pledge. How can Republicans be trusted when they loaded up the last budget bill with so much spending that it resembled a "swine bill of rights"?
- To address social issues, Republican governors should convene a meeting of religious and humanitarian leaders. Governors could give special attention and encouragement to those pregnancy help centers that answer the question "who's going to take care of me and my baby if I don't have an abortion?" Many women are not aware of such centers or of compassionate alternatives to abortion because the press mostly ignores them. Abortion could be significantly reduced just by making such resources more widely known. Then, when the public knows the help is there, it might be persuaded to tighten legal restrictions against "convenience" abortions.
- While shellshocked House Republicans wonder what became of their "revolution," the Supreme Court has allowed the real revolution to proceed. By a vote of 8-1, the court refused to block Wisconsin's program that allows poor children to attend the private or religious school of their parent's choice. Republicans should continue to support private scholarship efforts that offer poor people a choice of where to send their children to school. As initial data show, choice improves grades and behavior. The pressure will then build for universal choice in education, with tax dollars following the child. School choice will break the country's last big monopoly and restore quality education for all.
Ronald Reagan's secret was not only his ideas: He restored the people's faith in themselves. When more people realize they can make it on their own if government will get out of the way, the real Republican revolution-which is now just revolting-will have been won. That is the message and the agenda that new Republican leadership must pursue.
-Cal Thomas, © 1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate
Time to 'fess up
When nude pictures of radio host Laura Schlessinger appeared on the Internet, she denied they were real and sued the pornographers who bought them from her ex-boyfriend. After a California judge denied her request to force the 23-year-old photos off the Web, she came clean on her national radio show. She called her former beau "morally reprehensible" and said her life had changed because of her conversion to Judaism. "In my 20s, I was my own moral authority," Mrs. Schlessinger told listeners. "The inadequacy of that way of life is painfully obvious today. At the same time, my early experiences have taught me how much better it is to live by an objective and absolute standard of right and wrong, preferably a standard set by God." Mrs. Schlessinger, 51, calls herself "Dr. Laura" and advises callers on morality and family relationships. She recently published a bestseller on the Ten Commandments. Former talk show host Bill Balance, who snapped the shots, claims Mrs. Schlessinger was married when they were dating. She said she had filed for divorce and never hid their relationship. "I am mystified as to why, 23 years later, this 80-year-old man would do such a morally reprehensible thing," she commented. Seattle cyberporn king Seth Warshavsky, whose company made the pictures public, says the photos expose her as a hypocrite. "What makes them so interesting is that Dr. Laura has set herself up as some sort of stern archetype of virtue who mercilessly attacks callers if they reveal an extramarital affair," he said. Many fans wrote to her expressing relief that their own past actions are "buried in merciful oblivion," Schlessinger noted. "Would that I could say the same,'' she sighed.
Striptease for kids
One of Manhattan's topless bars beat New York City's tough new zoning laws by admitting children to their sex shows. "You could take your 15-year-old son to see the movie Striptease. Why can't you take him to see a striptease?" asked Mark Alonso, the bar's attorney. Believe it or not, a state supreme court justice decided in the club's favor. Judge Stephen Crane held that Ten's World Class Cabaret "cannot be defined as an adult eating and drinking establishment if it does not exclude minors." New York City's mayor vowed to appeal. "This is, like, nuts," Mayor Rudolph Giuliani groaned. He called the court decision "one of the jerkiest rulings" he had ever seen. "These are sick, perverted places. What do you want kids in there for?" Mr. Giuliani said the judge ignored the intent of the law, which prohibits sex shops and bars from operating within 500 feet of homes, day-care centers, churches, schools, or one another. Liquor laws prohibit children from entering without a parent. Since opening its doors to kids last year, Ten's has had only one minor customer. The patron, a 14-year-old boy, was a South American tourist. "I would suggest that if a parent was bringing a kid into a place like that, we should question whether the parent should have custody of the kid," Mr. Giuliani said.
Nothing but 'Net
The ongoing Microsoft antitrust trial will determine more than just what brand names are attached to what software. The result will change the direction of the Internet. The issue at stake: Does embedding the Internet Explorer (IE) browser in Windows 98 stifle competition in the online world? The Justice Department charges that the world's biggest software company played an assortment of dirty tricks on the way to the top. Microsoft argues it is defending its right to innovate. The marriage of IE into Win98 is the finishing touch. Since the Windows family owns the operating system world, Microsoft may win the right to dictate standards and positioning on the Net. By putting IE on every desktop, Microsoft gains a massive revenue channel for ads and content deals. Since large number of Net users never change their browser's home page, Microsoft can point them to a carefully selected group of sites from the screen that pops up when the browser launches.
Federal judges say no
It's just a matter of time before the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether states have the right to put a stop to partial-birth abortions. Last week, federal courts shot down laws banning partial-birth abortions in Kentucky and Wisconsin. In Kentucky, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II said the law is "unconstitutional and invalid." He prohibited any prosecution of abortionists who perform the procedures. Meanwhile, a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the state of Wisconsin from enforcing its ban. During a partial-birth abortion, the abortionist begins delivery of a live unborn child feet-first, all the way up to the neck. Then he punctures the base of the skull with a pair of scissors and inserts a catheter to suck out the brain and collapse the skull. Then he finishes delivery of the dead child. Twenty-eight states have passed laws banning procedures that kill unborn children in the birth canal, but most were blocked under similar circumstances. Voters in Washington and Colorado rejected partial-birth abortion bans in this month's elections. Meanwhile, pro-abortion forces sought to punish a pro-life judge. A college girl convicted in a credit-card fraud scheme (see WORLD, Oct. 24) is suing the Cleveland judge who refused to release her from prison to go get an abortion. Yuriko Kawaguchi says Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cleary and several other county officials violated her constitutional rights. The 21-year-old former Berkeley student, now about six months pregnant, no longer wants an abortion but still wants Judge Cleary to pay. "It's important that female inmates do have a choice," Miss Kawaguchi said at an ACLU press conference. Judge Cleary's attorney, Thomas H. Terry III, called the suit "a publicity stunt by the ACLU to raise funds."
Be nice, or else
American military forces steamed for the Persian Gulf once again, in a well-worn feint designed to bring Saddam Hussein back to the world of big, wide bargaining tables and polite company. The White House is counting on a military threat to intimidate the Baghdad bully into resuming United Nations weapons inspections at key Iraqi sites. Some plan. Similar threats were issued when Mr. Hussein first sent the inspectors packing in October 1997. And again in February 1998. Troop buildup notwithstanding, Mr. Hussein's opposition handed him a trump card anyway: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan indicated he might undertake the "comprehensive review" of Iraqi sanctions Baghdad wants; and, fearful of a U.S. strike, UN personnel in Baghdad-including the weapons inspection team-cleared out of town.
Unease and unrest even as peace deal is ratified
Israel's government narrowly ratified the peace agreement with Palestinians, setting the stage for withdrawal from West Bank territory and an expansion of Palestinian autonomy. Immediately following the vote, cabinet members turned their attention to the deepening crisis in the Persian Gulf, authorizing gas mask distribution centers to open last week in anticipation of an Iraqi poison gas attack. Iraq fired dozens of Scud missiles at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War. Those attacks killed one, wounded many others, and sent Tel Aviv residents into hiding. The reappearance of gas masks added to a general atmosphere of dread since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed the agreement with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat last month at a Clinton-brokered summit in Wye, Md. Two Jewish settlers were shot in Hebron, inside Palestinian control, shortly after the agreement was ratified. Inside Israel, opposition to the Wye agreement from ultranationalist parties continued. And in local Jerusalem elections, ultra-Orthodox parties made surprising gains in city council seats, ousting members of the predominant Labor and Likud parties and perhaps spelling general discontent with the ruling parties. Ultra-Orthodox Jews make up one-third of the city's population of 600,000 but will control half the seats on city council. Party leaders also want to restrict proselytizing by other religious adherents, including Christians.
World in brief
Looking for the visible hand
Free-wheeling, free-market Japan is turning to the government to solve its economic troubles. Japan's Liberal Democratic Party outlined plans last week for a "stimulus" package that could total a record $147 billion in government spending. The centerpiece calls for $81 billion in public works-related spending through March. Next year, however, the government plans a $33 billion income-tax cut. The package is a bid to prevent Japan's economy from shrinking for a third consecutive year. Have anything to declare?
U.S. customs inspectors seized 1,600 pounds of cocaine from aboard a C-130 Colombian air force plane that landed in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Colombian Air Force Cmdr. Gen. Jose Manuel Sandoval said the air force wasn't systematically involved in drug trafficking, even if some of its members were, and he offered to resign. Free to go
Despite objections from the survivors of the 1994 slaughter in Rwanda, the government announced plans to release for lack of evidence 31,000 people imprisoned on genocide charges. An association of genocide survivors argued that among those who will be freed are perpetrators of the genocide whose files were lost. Rwanda has jailed about 130,000 people on suspicion of killing or helping to kill more than 500,000 minority Tutsis and Hutus. So far, more than 330 people have been tried in connection with the genocide, and 116 have been sentenced to death.