Dispatches > The Buzz

QuickTakes

Issue: "Power struggle," May 26, 2001

CLINTON LEGACY WATCH: Bill Clinton left behind a legacy of suffering, says Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, but "it has nothing to do with his moral failings." Rather: "It has everything to do with his policy failings." On President Clinton's watch, Alan Greenspan cranked up interest rates with hardly a peep of reaction. As the economy slowed drastically, Mr. Clinton never pushed for rate cuts. Meanwhile, the country was blindsided by an energy crisis. Mr. O'Reilly blames the former president for letting OPEC raise prices while keeping Americans from building new refineries. Meanwhile, California's energy embarrassment quietly loomed. "In his last days as president, Mr. Clinton signed a number of environmental orders but never once warned anybody about the growing scarcity of energy. To say he was pandering to the greens is a gross understatement." LOOK FOR THE FREE-MARKET LABEL: Most people today work in better, safer conditions than ever before in history, according to a Federal Reserve report. But it isn't because of government regulations and unions. The Fed cited all-time lows in death and accident rates, along with more comfortable work environments and improved wages, as evidence of vast improvement since the Industrial Revolution. Why? Authors W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm argue that market competition and the New Economy's emphasis on high-tech help make our lives better. "Just as the 'invisible hand' of free enterprise leads profit-seeking companies to vie for labor and customers," they write, "it works to meet employees' desire for better working conditions." Rather than giving credit where it is due, writes economist Bruce Bartlett, people like to complain about working conditions as capitalism's failure. "Instead of laboring in dirty factories," he writes, "doing arduous and even dangerous work, most workers today sit in air-conditioned offices, working with their brains instead of their brawn." A LOT OF ALITERACY: Is America a nation of aliterates, people who know how to read but choose not to? Washington Post writer Linton Weeks cited an NDP Group survey that found people who read a half-hour or more per day declined during the 1990s-from over 50 percent in 1991 to 45 percent in 1999. "Non-readers abound," he says. "Ask Politically Incorrect talk show host Bill Maher, who once boasted in print that he hadn't read a book in years. Or Noel Gallagher of the rock band Oasis, who has been quoted as saying he'd never read a book. You can walk through whole neighborhoods of houses in the country that do not contain books or magazines-unless you count catalogues." IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT: When TV news covers the environment, the tone is a staccato of gloom and doom. Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center writes, "the impending doom of global warming" is a "dominant storyline" of recent coverage. An MRC study found that reportage of such scenarios outweighed skepticism by a six-to-one ratio from Inauguration Day (Jan. 20) to Earth Day (April 22). "In three months of evening news coverage, 86 percent of network reporters or sources expressed the view that global warming was a dire threat," Mr. Bozell writes. Coverage of President Bush's opposition to the Kyoto environmental treaty wasn't quite as tilted, with 69 percent of the coverage supporting the treaty and 31 percent supporting the president. SIDELINED: Ted Turner has been ousted at AOL Time Warner and is separated from Jane Fonda, but he now has sympathy from Rupert Murdoch. The News Corp. magnate told CNBC he feels "very sorry for him" now that Mr. Turner has left the public eye: "It was his mistake for selling out." Mr. Murdoch also noted that his former adversary disparaged him when the Fox News Channel launched: "Now that he's out of work, he seems to have mellowed in that position." PUBLIC NUISANCE: Can't push gun control through Congress? Try the courts. That's exactly what's been happening, explains columnist Jacob Sullum, who points out that since 1998 over 30 cities and counties have brought lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Mr. Sullum finds "reason to hope that the tide has turned against this brazen campaign to impose gun control through the courts." Judges in six of the cases have tossed out the suits. In cases in Philadelphia and Chicago, judges rejected the claim that manufacturers created a "public nuisance" by selling too many guns. Also, Mr. Sullum says a unanimous decision by the New York State Court of Appeals "effectively overturned a 1999 verdict in which a jury held gun makers liable for the sort of 'negligent marketing' alleged in the government-sponsored suits"-that they didn't take steps to keep firearms away from criminals.

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