Dispatches > The Buzz


Issue: "Keep the faith," June 23, 2001

SOUNDBITE NATION: "Every day here in the New York City area, I wake up and face the Rudy Giuliani soap opera," complains Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. Those outside the Big Apple aren't inundated with the continuing story of the mayor, his failed marriage to Donna Hanover, and his girlfriend Judith Nathan. Recent headlines include Ms. Hanover's elimination as official hostess of Gracie Mansion, the axing of her chief of staff, and the revocation of her Yankees tickets. The O'Reilly Factor host complains that public scandals are easy stories to cover, but major crises go underreported. "The media love explaining why Rudy and Donna dislike each other," he says. "But not why Senator Tom Daschle wants more tax money for education, despite the fact that the Department of Education flunked its last three audits and perhaps a billion tax dollars have gone missing. Did you know that? I'm glad I told you." OLLIE, BY GOLLY: Congressman Oliver North? The Washington Times' Ralph Hallow reports that the GOP is trying to place the retired Marine Corps lieutenant into a Virginia seat held by Democrat Rick Boucher. Mr. North won that district in his failed 1994 Senate campaign and leaders hope he can still energize voters. Without the opposition from within that he faced from then Republican Sen. John Warner, supporters look to a run with optimism. "Ollie would be a fantastic candidate," Republican National Chairman and Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III told the paper. "He can raise money like few other people, he has star quality, and people love him." MODEL LEGISLATION: California's state legislature passed a gun licensing program that requires a thumbprint plus background and proficiency tests before purchase. It's a big waste that could endanger innocent people, complains Yale Law School researcher John Lott in National Review Online. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Handgun Control, Inc., and the Million Mom March back the proposal, which could be the prototype for anti-gun bills around the country. Hawaii already has licensing, Mr. Lott writes, and "there has not even been a single case where police claim licensing and registration have been instrumental in identifying the criminal." Mr. Lott also says no academic study has shown that background checks reduce gun violence. He says the law will waste time, reduce police manpower, and create plenty of red tape: "The California legislation is also filled with pages detailing everything from when grandparents are allowed to temporarily loan a gun to their grandchildren, to the politically correct gun myths that licensees must regurgitate on the licensing exam, to requiring that mandatory testing be done in only English or Spanish." NICOTINE FIT: Richard Boeken won the largest verdict ever in an individual lawsuit against a tobacco company: $3 billion from Marlboro maker Philip Morris. Columnist Jacob Sullum says he shouldn't have gotten it, noting that the 56-year-old securities broker with lung cancer started smoking in 1957-but said he only discovered the health risks in 1994. He called the huge wad of cash "a howl of outrage rather than a reasoned judgment." Mr. Sullum argued that for Mr. Boeken not to notice smoking's risks for nearly four decades, he must have ignored everything from billboards to bumper stickers to the warning labels on his own cigarette packs: "The scandal in this case is not the old, familiar story of the tobacco industry's dishonesty. It's the utter failure of these jurors to set aside their emotions and reach a verdict based on a careful evaluation of the evidence." 15 YEARS AND COUNTING: Social Security starts running out of gas in 15 years. That's what Pete du Pont predicts in The Wall Street Journal: "By 2030 there will be just 2.1 workers paying in for every one retiree." The former Delaware governor explains simply that the system works when a sufficient number of workers are available to cover the costs. Once the number of retirees explodes, as baby boomers hit Social Security age, the burden will fall upon a smaller tax base. The only solutions are massive tax increases or more national debt. Mr. du Pont says the only real way out is to shift over to personally managed retirement accounts. The market pays better than the government anyway. "If you owned a retirement account to which you had contributed all your working life, you would have tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in real assets-bonds, stocks and other forms of wealth-to pass on," he writes. "That's not an option with Social Security."

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