Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Star makers, heartbreakers," Sept. 2, 2000

Gore slips past the Independent Council again; slips by Bush with a sizeable convention bounce
On a roll?
Some weeks, everything just seems to go your way. On Aug. 23, Attorney General Janet Reno announced she would not appoint a special counsel to investigate Al Gore's notorious Buddhist temple fundraiser in 1996. Several key figures have already gone to jail for that incident, but Ms. Reno decided-for the third time-to ignore the recommendation of her own staff with regard to an outside probe of the vice president. Such an investigation would have stunned Mr. Gore's presidential campaign, just when it seemed to be turning around the Bush juggernaut. A half dozen polls released last week showed Mr. Gore erasing a 15-point deficit to pull into a statistical dead heat with his Republican opponent. The boost in the polls came on the heels of Mr. Gore's acceptance speech in Los Angeles, in which he tried to make a virtue of his reputation for being a boring policy wonk. The speech was completely bereft of stirring phrases or memorable lines. Instead, it offered a laundry list of promises to key demographic groups: universal health care, universal pre-school, revitalized government-only Social Security, prescription drug benefits for retirees, "better" classrooms, smaller class sizes, more teacher training, new police, new prosecutors, doubled medical research budget, and so forth. He never said just how much all this federal largesse would cost, though he roundly criticized Republicans for spending the entire budget surplus on "risky" tax cuts for the wealthy. "They're for the powerful, we're for the people," he charged, to wild applause. But the biggest applause line of the speech came much earlier, when Mr. Gore announced-just after mentioning the name of Bill Clinton for the first and last time-that, "I stand here tonight as my own man." Even so, Mr. Gore's distinguishing characteristic is somewhat dubious: his ability, despite mountains of controlling legal authority, to avoid the appointment of an independent counsel. Free Newt Gingrich: The Taming of the Republican Revolution
Tax-and-spend Republicans
Think Democrats are the only big spenders in Washington? Think again. A report from the libertarian Cato Institute shows that the GOP-controlled Congress has increased spending at rates not seen in decades-increasing spending on some of President Clinton's pet programs beyond even White House requests. Just how far have the Republicans drifted from their "Contract with America" days? In 1995, the incoming GOP majority pledged to revolutionize the federal budget, promising to eliminate more than 200 federal programs. Today, according to Cato's Stephen Moore and Stephen Slivinski, most of those programs have survived and many have bigger budgets than they had six years ago. The budget for the Commerce Department-about which House Budget Committee chairman John Kasich famously declared, "Stick a fork in it; it's history"-has increased 45 percent since 1995. Taxpayers also now must give 11 percent more to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 17 percent more to the Education Department, and a whopping 248 percent more to AmeriCorps than they did in 1995. Tax-and-spend Republicans plan to increase overall non-defense spending by $33 billion, or 11 percent, from 1999 to 2001. Even that figure assumes that Capitol Hill and the White House will stay within the limits of a budget resolution that Congress approved in April. Mr. Moore and Mr. Slivinski aren't optimistic: "As the election gets closer, Congress and the White House are almost certain to add billions more to a budget crammed with special-interest spending for just about every constituency in Washington-from farmers, to environmentalists, to road builders, to teachers' unions and universities." Not since the late 1970s, when Democrats controlled both the White House and Congress, has spending grown at such a high rate. "Any hint of fiscal discipline by either party is gone," Stan Collender, director of the Federal Budget Consulting Group, told USA Today. 'Snail' becomes U.S. cargo
Colombian kingpin
The Snail could not outrun American justice. Alberto Orlandez Gamboa, the alleged leader of one of South America's most powerful drug cartels, appeared in U.S. District Court in New York last week after the United States successfully extradited him from Colombia. Nicknamed "Caracol" ("The Snail"), Mr. Gamboa faces charges of conspiracy, drug smuggling, and money laundering. U.S. authorities claim his cartel smuggled an estimated 8 tons of cocaine from Colombia to the United States. If convicted, he could serve 10 years to life in prison. In approving Mr. Gamboa's extradition, Colombian President Andres Pastrana and his cabinet defied the death threats of a band of drug dealers. The dealers took out a newspaper ad in Cali-a city in cocaine-producing southern Colombia-threatening to assassinate judges and government officials who took part in the decision. "We won't allow the immoral American drug addicts to try us," said the ad. VISITOR CENTERS VS. FIRE-FIGHTING FUNDS MONEY TO BURN The White House earlier this year redirected money from fire prevention to land acquisition in the Interior Department's annual budget request, according to a report last week in The Washington Times. Sources on Capitol Hill and at the Interior Department told the Times that the federal agency requested $322 million for fire prevention but received only $305 million; meanwhile, a $15 million request for land acquisition ballooned to $49 million. Les Rosenkrance, former director of the National Interagency Fire Center, said White House priorities were "land acquisition and a lot of other things, like building a visitor center at a new monument." The report came as fires continued to ravage large parts of the American West. The army has now diverted 2,100 active-duty soldiers from normal training to firefighting duties. Nationwide, 79 fires are burning on 1.4 million acres in Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. Filipino computer-virus suspect freed
Hacker haven?
The Philippines Justice Department dropped all charges against the man who allegedly released the Love Bug virus that mucked up countless computers around the world. Investigators had charged Onel de Guzman, a former student at the Philippines' AMA Computer College, with theft and violation of a law that normally covers credit card fraud. But the Justice Department ruled that the credit card law does not apply to computer hacking and that investigators did not present adequate evidence to support the theft charge. Mr. De Guzman may also escape extradition to the United States, since the U.S.-Philippine extradition treaty (like most others) provides extradition only for activities that the extraditing country itself also criminalizes. Some technology-watchers suspect countries without computer-hacking laws could become safe havens for would-be attackers. Democrat investigator rips Gore's involvement in INS citizenship scandal
Reinventing immigration
A new book by the chief investigative counsel for the House Judiciary Committee charges that Vice President Al Gore, in collusion with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, "reinvented government" to allow 1 million immigrants to become citizens in 1996, believing they would express their gratitude by voting for Clinton-Gore. Many had criminal records that normally would bar them from citizenship. Furthermore, writes David P. Schippers in Sell Out (Regnery), based on his examination of immigrants' files, 20 percent of those with violent records in their native country were found to have committed crimes after they became Americans. Mr. Schippers, a Democrat, writes, "We received from the GAO [General Accounting Office] a few e-mails indicating Vice President Gore's role in the plan.... He was responsible for keeping the pressure on, to make sure the aliens were pushed through by Sept. 1, the last day to register for the presidential election." Mr. Schippers alleges that the immigration scheme evolved from a meeting between West Coast Latino leaders and former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros. He writes that the Latinos wanted to speed up the immigration process. The White House, says Mr. Schippers, quickly saw the political potential: "Documents show that President Clinton asked Doug Farbrother of the National Performance Review (NPR) staff to look into removing barriers to citizenship not only in Los Angeles, but also in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Miami-major cities in four swing states. In a memo to the president, Farbrother ... stated that 'we can reduce-but not eliminate-the risk of controversy over our motives by appointing one of our proven NPR reinventors as deputy INS commissioner.... As part of the official INS management team, our reinventor would have more direct influence and the INS staff would be less likely to go public with complaints than they would over the interference of an outsider.' The memo observed that 'reinventors' should be put in many other agencies, as well, to replace leaders who 'don't get it.'" Mr. Schippers writes, "In a March 26 e-mail to the vice president, Farbrother reported that [Deputy INS Commissioner] Chris Sale had indeed 'delegated hiring authority to the five cities and increased their budgets 20 percent.' But, he [Farbrother] wrote, 'I still don't think the city directors have enough freedom to do the job.' Two days later, Farbrother told the vice president by e-mail, 'Unless we blast INS headquarters loose from their grip on the frontline managers, we are going to have too many people still waiting for citizenship in November.' He added, 'I can't make Doris Meissner delegate broad authority to her field managers. Can you?' Gore answered, 'We'll explore it. Thanks.' By the end of March, Doris Meissner capitulated." No wonder the White House resisted investigators' requests for copies of its e-mails. Mr. Schippers tells me the FBI did its job by reporting the criminal records of many of the fast-tracked immigrants, but he adds the evidence he's seen shows that this information was ignored for the sake of creating new voters for Clinton-Gore. As a result, thousands of criminals are now citizens of the United States. An investigation by the Inspector General's office at the Justice Department, while mostly a whitewash of the immigration scheme, cryptically concluded a few weeks ago that the motives of the White House were "mixed." Jim Kennedy, a spokesman for the Gore campaign, called to inform me that "Schippers' publishing deadline apparently came before the release of the GAO Justice Department report." He claims that report concluded "no inappropriate political ends were being served by the Citizen USA program."
-Cal Thomas
© 2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate Feminists bounce Monica out of job
On second thought...
Give Mosemarie Boyd, president and CEO of American Women Presidents, credit: She may not be driven by public-relations calculations, but she's a quick learner. "Due to concern about the credibility of the organization, we decided it was better to withdraw the offer," said an embarrassed Ms. Boyd of her short-lived job offer to former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. On Aug. 22, the group that advocates women's political leadership announced it had asked Ms. Lewinsky to become its spokeswoman, with the title of corporate vice president: "After 2.5 years of public interrogation and national humiliation, we believe it is time for America to forgive Monica." Hours later, the deal was off. Politics trumped forgiveness, Reuters reported: "Some women's groups apparently expressed concern that giving Lewinsky a high-visibility role could jeopardize the prospects for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore, who has sought to distance himself from President Bill Clinton." Telemarketing regulations proposed
Don't touch that dial
Why do they always call at dinnertime? Telemarketing is perhaps the Western world's least favorite marketing practice. Everything from long-distance service to stock scams are pitched this way-and apparently enough people accept the deals to keep the industry afloat. Making telemarketers go away isn't easy. People are supposed to be able to ask pitchmen to put them on the "don't call" lists. The Federal Trade Commission makes many companies keep such records of people who don't want to be bothered. Each violating call can result in an $11,000 civil penalty, but the rules are hard to enforce. Right now the agency is conducting a year long review of its regulations, and some changes may be ahead. One lawmaker proposed a law stopping two of the most notorious parts of telemarketing. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) introduced legislation banning telemarketers from blocking themselves from caller ID boxes or from calling at all from 5 to 7 p.m. local time. Now the Direct Marketing Association maintains a national opt-out list of people who write in (to P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014) and ask to be registered with the Telephone Preference Service. But that effort can take several months to work and must be renewed after five years-and many marketers don't even use the list. -Chris Stamper Graceland event broadcast over the Internet
The king's procession
Elvis is still dead, but his fan base carries on. Annual vigils held at Presley's Memphis estate every August can attract up to 50,000 people. This year, the Graceland event was wired with cameras for a "vigilcast," broadcast live last month over the Internet. The keepers of The King's image say such an online event was no waste. Elvis Presley Enterprises representatives say surveys show about half of Presley's fans are under age 35-the sort of people to watch the annual candlelight procession past his grave on their monitors. Presley's estate also let loose a less somber look at the superstar by re-releasing a 1970 concert film called Elvis, That's the Way It Is. Not to be outdone, the Las Vegas Hilton commemorated its late cash cow by showcasing an Elvis impersonator on the same stage where the original played show after show. Meanwhile, his former cronies are fighting over the legendary term "Memphis Mafia." Presley's entourage got the nickname because of their black mohair suits and dark sunglasses. Now five of them claim ownership of the name and say they are prepared to sue anyone who uses it without permission. Ratings head south for the new TNN
From down home to low-down
Once upon a time, there was The Nashville Network. Now it's just "TNN." What once was "America's Country Home" is now a dumping ground of lowbrow entertainment. When the World Wrestling Federation moves its programs over from USA network next month, the metamorphosis will be complete. What happened was that TNN changed owners in the late 1990s when CBS took over ownership of TNN from Grand Ole Opry owner Gaylord Entertainment. CBS replaced much of the country music with extreme sports and Dukes of Hazzard reruns. "Nashville" is hardly seen these days, as today's TNN would rather leave its old identity behind. It now hosts warmed-over Dallas reruns, championship bull riding, and something called 18 Wheels of Justice (about a federal agent who goes undercover as a trucker to chase G. Gordon Liddy). Pro wrestling may be a lifesaver for the cable channel, because ratings are down. TNN's overall ratings in the second three months of 2000 were off 21 percent from last year. A celebration of immaturity has usurped-but for many viewers hasn't replaced-a hokey, but entertaining, bit of pop culture.

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