The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Bush Names Recognized Scholar As Regulatory Czar

I was at an NFIB function when I received word that the President had officially nominated Susan Dudley, Director of the Regualtory Studies program at the Mercatus Center to be the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the OMB. Essentially, OIRA's Director is the arbiter of all things regulatory within the federal executive branch - the nation's Reg Czar.

Susan is an old friend and colleague - and the perfect person at the present time to direct OIRA. OIRA's most recent Director, Dr. John Graham, put OIRA on a solid course, ensuring that the twin bedrock principles of sound public policy (benefit-cost analysis and comparitive risk assessment) underpinned OIRA's mission. Susan can carry on that legacy, ensuring the OIRA's draft guidelines on comparitive risk assessment are fully implemented, and invigorating such tools as regulatory budgeting within OIRA's function.

Whoever heads OIRA must understand the full-measure of the regulatory state - the pervasiveness of federal regulations in our daily lives, the cost of those regulations per person, the cost of paperwork - and how those costs ought to be compared to the benefits such regulations may or may not create.

Susan Dudley is not only one of a very few people in the United States who understands this - but she is also one of those very few who can carry that understanding into public policy implementation.

There will be more on the Liberty Blog about this nomination as things progress. Congratulations, Susan! Best of luck on the confirmation process!

- Andrew Langer

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Victory In Battle, But The War Wages On...

We won a hard-earned victory yesterday in the war over eminent domain power. The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously found in favor of the property owners in the Norwood case. More details on this will follow - but in the interim, I got a request from my friends at the Castle Coalition. They need your help...


I emailed earlier with a request to help turn the tide in a poll being conducted by the Cincinnati Enquirer about the landmark Ohio Supreme Court decision issued yesterday. We're starting to narrow the gap, but we need you to keep voting! We're still far from showing the massive outrage against the abuse of eminent domain we know exists across the country. Don't allow cities and developers to use this poll to justify land grabs in the future.

If you've voted, please vote again. If you haven't, please do so now.

Tell them you AGREE here:

We thank you all.


Steven D. Anderson Castle Coalition Coordinator Institute for Justice

---end quoted material---

Will do, Steve. Congrats on the victory!

- Andrew Langer

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Reponse from Thomas Lee Elifritz

Well, one would have thought that given his entreaties that he wanted to stop interacting with me on Usenet, Thomas Lee Eliftiz would have simply left well-enough alone - or at least he would have responded to my post here on the Liberty Blog.

But rather than do that, and (I assume) because he knows I'm loathe to post to Usenet again without a very compelling reason for doing so, he responded to me there. I further assume he did this because someone named "Phil Hays" accused me of being a liar when I mistakenly stated that I was finished posting to usenet, and Elifritz wanted to drag me back there and thus put me in the position of having to defend my decision to come back.

The epithet "liar" is one that gets thrown out a lot on Usenet - with increasing frequency, in fact. For my purposes, when I would say that someone lied, it was because the following definition applied:

- someone stated that something was incorrect;
- that person knew that the statement was incorrect before he or she stated it;
- that person made that statement with the intention to misrepresent the facts.

In other words, that person lied, under the classic understanding of what a lie is.

Now, I'd been accused of being a liar before (a professional liar, a shill, etc). But to this day, nobody has _ever_ proved me to have lied online.

Anyhow, with that being said, here is Mr. Elifritz' response, purporting to defend his actions in calling me the "n-word":

From: Thomas Lee Elifritz
Newsgroups: sci.environment,,sci.physics,
Subject: My Response to Andrew Langer's Blog
Message-ID: QwAxg.3055$nL.2469@fe06.lga
NNTP-Posting-Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2006 19:34:24 MST
Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2006 21:32:58 -0500

Hi Andrew, thanks for the free advertising. I just knew that would work.
The mere thought of you returning to the usenet permanently was just too
horrible to bear. Let me tell you how it is. I live on an Island in the
Atlantic Ocean. In the old days, sometimes I was the only 'white nigga'
within 100 miles. Them homies called me 'whitey', in fact, they still
call me 'whitey', and you know what, nobody cares. We're out there in
the bush and on the water, and under the water, day in and day out, and
we have to scream at the top of our lungs just to be heard, over the
wind, the waves and the music. Once a week, when we'd go to the village
to go to church or pay our respects to the elderly, and maybe buy a
little food, we'd very often have to be reminded, usually by little
children, to 'clean it up'. You'll just have to take my word for it,
that the only racism I embrace, is that of anti-science bigotry.

I'm not proud to be an anti-science bigot, in fact, I'm ashamed to be an
American in an anti-science America. I'll take Bahamian Baptism over
Southern Baptism or Christian Fundamentalism any day of the week.

You really need to get out of your cubicle and into the real world.
You're a professional liar, Andrew, it's time to face up to the truth.

There is one thing I've learned living in the Atlantic : Truth Rules.

Andrew Langer :

Nature Boy :
----end quoted material---

1) If the thought of my returning to Usenet permanently was "too horrible to bear" then you should probably have left well-enough alone, not continued to post about me, and certainly not posted an ill-conceived explanation for your inexcusable choice of words;

2) The fact that you did so, in my opinion, undercuts your claims that you didn't want me to return to Usenet - either you want me to engage you there, or you don't. If you don't, then don't continue to instigate with me there;

3) There is no reasonable explanation for using that particular racial epithet. First of all, you didn't call me "nigga" (white, science, or otherwise). You called me "nigger". Even if we were to agree that there were a difference between the two words, you didn't use the former. You used the latter.

That is deplorable, regardless of your irrelevant personal history with the word. The fact that you spent time in and out of the water, were called "whitey", deigned to give blacks in your community a bit of your paternalistic time and largess, these do not excuse your use of the word in the forum of sci.environment in 2006.

The fact that you attempt to defend your use of the word, don't see anything wrong with it, and believe you are somehow entitled to use it, similarly undercuts your denials that you don't embrace racism. In fact, the subtle change in your rhetoric, from "nigger" to "nigga" evinces an attempt to soften what you said, a seeming recognition that what you said was wrong.

So take the next step and admit it.

4) When used today, such words are aimed at provoking a response - generally a negative one. We call that "race baiting". And, in point of fact, you admit that you were "race baiting" by using that term when you said in first defending your use of the term, "It got rid of Andrew Langer in a hurry, The thought of him returning to the usenet permanently, literally put the fear of God in me again." (Elifritz in message PZ9xg.128$Eo7.67@fe07.lga, again undercutting his claims).

5) What I'm really thinking is about sharing your particular choice of words with a few scientists who happen to be African-Americans, to see what they think about your defense, your claims of America being anti-science, and whether or not the right insult to hurl at someone who you believe to be anti-science would be to call them a "science nigger" (your term, not mine).

But let me ask you: what do you think an African-American would say about your using that term in 2006?

6) As for my "getting out of my cubicle and into the real world", I live in the real world everyday. I work on behalf of very real people living in the real world. I'm out talking to members in their businesses, I'm hearing from them on a constant basis--my reason for doing what I do professionally is to help make their lives better.

So, unlike your paternalistic visits to "the village", I'm spending every day, day-in and day-out, neck deep in the real lives of real people eking out livings in this country.

Finally, you call me a "professional liar"? Well, nobody has ever proved me to be a liar online - so you're offering up nothing more than conjecture. On would think that in the 8 or so years I was posting to Usenet, and in the 13 months that I've been blogging, just one of the people who had made this claim (Don Ferry, Scott Nudds, Devin McAndrews/Chive Mynde, or the Queen Kook herself) would have caught me in an out-and-out lie. Never happened.

On the other hand, we know that you're a racist, despite your lame protestations to the contrary. Not only a racist, but an unapologetic, unrepentant racist, on par with America's Dixiecrats, segregationists, and historic race baiters.

My, you must be so proud.

- Andrew Langer

Monday, July 24, 2006

Why I Stopped Posting To Usenet....

As the regular readers of the Liberty Blog know, I used to do a lot of writing on the text-based side of the internet called "Usenet" - mostly on environmental issues, generally about the intersection of environmental policy and individual rights, as well as common-sense approaches to environmental policy. A lot of discussion about libertarianism, too.

Well, we all know about the "Queen Kook" (who shall remain nameless at this time), perhaps my biggest fan, who up until late last month continued to spew venom about me online. But I haven't talked about some of the other "fans" I'd gained (and yes, I use that term facetiously).

As I said, the tenor and tone and general lack of any sort of civility in discussion ultimately made me decide that spending my free time on Usenet was probably not a good thing to do. I had made some good friendships online, and had great discussions with people, from which I learned a great deal. But those moments, and those discussions, had grown few and far between.

Taken in turn with a few episodes on par with what Jeff Goldstein recently experienced on his "Protein Blog" (check out for a summary), and I decided enough was enough.

I still occasionally read Usenet - sometimes I look to see if anyone's mentioned me or the Liberty Blog, and it happened that yesterday I came across a post:

It was written by a guy named "Donald Ferry" one of my original fans. Donald, well, Don's got issues. I don't want to dwell on his background, but suffice it to say that once I learned more about him, the more I decided that he had to be treated differently. Let me put it to you this way - Don spent some time in Southeast Asia in the late 60s, early 70s, and it left him, well, missing a few puzzle pieces upstairs.

The point is, Donald has some very real reasons why he doesn't quite understand English - I honestly feel badly for him. The problem is, Donald tends to write as though he does understand everything, and he tends to get things very wrong as a result.

The post that Donald was commenting on was my recent one on Evolution - a post clearly poking at the extreme creationist newsletter I received, and demonstrating (quite plainly, I thought), that I am a firm believer in evolution.

Now, one of the things I'm never happy about is being misrepresented - especially when that misrepresentation is purposeful (ie, a lie). In this case, I chalked it up to Don Ferry's "special circumstances" - but because it was "out there", I felt a correction was in order. So I broke a 13-month hiatus from posting to Usenet, expecting it to be a one-time thing. My correction is here:

I had hoped that would be the end of it. But within minutes some (insert colorful negative metaphor here) named "Thomas Lee Elifritz" pops in with a truly obnoxious and uncalled-for remark - including a somewhat homophobic insult that I won't repeat here. Now, as clear as I can tell, I'd only had one or two interactions with Mr. Elifritz in my previous participation in Usenet, and that was when he placed me on a "crank list", despite the fact that he and I had never interacted online.

I wrote him off then, and let him know that I hadn't given him any thought in the last three years. Rather than leave that alone, he continued to prod.

So I gave back, calmly and cool-ly, including posting a link to the article from the Hill on the transpartisan summit (illustrating that I am, indeed, interested in having meaningful discussions with people I have widely divergent viewpoints). Rather than resigning, he continued to prod, leading up to these gems this morning (from this post: ):

"There is no debate science nigger."
"But here you are again, posting on the usenet. Notice any contradiction there science nigger?"
"Right, science - it's a vast commie conspiracy, isn't it nigger?"
" I know you're a motherf--king science nigger. "

(emphasis added - and text edited for family viewing)

As someone who believes in equality, who believes in freedom, who believes in civility and civil society, I cannot condone such phrases - they are patently outrageous and their use is indefensible. Even if he wasn't using them as "racial" epithets, they're nevertheless dehumanizing, insulting, simply beyond the pale - in fact, even if he wanted to try and defend the statements as somehow an attack on me as being anti-science (which I am not -- as the son of a PhD environmental scientist and an epidemiologist I've spent too many hours learning from my parents to be anything of the sort), that penultimate statement doesn't reference science at all.

In the end, I repost them for two reasons. First, to demonstrate why I stopped posting to Usenet - it's people like Thomas Lee Elifritz who are working to debase society, to end civil discourse, and to prevent real solutions to real problems from taking shape. They are impediments to problem solving, and should be scorned and shunned by all.

Second, I post them to demonstrate just how bereft of intellectual validity such extremists are. They are wholly incapable of engaging in real discussions. Moreover, like so-called progressives who preach the destruction of classically-liberal, freedom-loving institutions and nations, statements like those show their true colors: their racism, their insensitivity, the overall hypocrisy of their positions.

The only difference between Thomas Lee Elifritz and any other outspoken elitist preaching a paternalistic, I know what's better for you and am going to make your choices for you, keeping the world's poor and ignorant in squalid darkness for their own sakes, statist philosophy is that at least Mr. Elifritz wears his insensitive, racist, paternalistic persona on his sleeve.

I have no use for such people. There is no constructive dialogue to be had with them.

But if you wish to find Mr. Elifritz and let him know what you think of his remarks, his modus operandi generally, or his ultimate goals, you can find him as follows:

- Andrew Langer

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Lasting Legacy for The New SBA Chief

I've got a backlog of things to post in the next few days - the podcast of my testimony, some of the pics from the testimony, pics from a debate I attended between Fred Smith and Leo Hindery on corporate social responsibility, put on by the Center for American Progress.

But it came to my attention that an article I was interviewed for by Jeff Gangemi of Business Week was published online at the end of the week. Here it is:

Small Biz

By Jeffrey Gangemi

The New SBA Chief's Honeymoon Period

The small business community offers Steven Preston advice on what to tackle first as he starts his job as head of the Small Business Administration

Steven Preston, a former executive vice-president at ServiceMaster (SVM )—a conglomeration of franchised-based lawn care businesses—and a former investment banker at Lehman Brothers (LEH ), was recently sworn in as the new administrator of the United States Small Business Administration. He succeeds Hector Barreto, who resigned on April 25. Preston was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent, despite grumbling within the small business community about his lack of related experience (see, 6/29/06, "Mr. Small Biz?").

By all accounts, Preston has a tough road ahead of him. The SBA, whose main role in the federal government is to grant guaranteed loans to U.S. small-business owners, has faced budget cuts of up to 40% in the past five years (see, 1/27/06, "Is the SBA Hurting Small Business?").


Some opponents of the agency have called for the its disbanding, arguing that its programs often stunt growth and that the private sector would be at least as effective in granting needed loans to small businesses—and require less waiting and red tape (see, 12/19/06, "A Talk with a Small Biz Heretic"). Preston is upbeat about his post, which he assumed on July 10. During his confirmation hearing, he emphasized the importance of sophisticated financial management, operational responsiveness, and a customer service culture at the SBA. "None of this happens by accident. It requires dogged focus to move the ball forward each and every day," Preston said in a statement. asked three leaders in the small business community how they would they advise Preston to rebuild the SBA. Here's what each had to say.

Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, an entrepreneurship and education foundation, says Preston should examine the SBA's core competencies, then redefine its purpose. "I'd first clarify my mission," says Schramm, who calls the SBA a lending organization for small businesses, not a financier of dynamic entrepreneurship. "The presumption [when the SBA considers a loan recipient] is that they're local, low-growth enterprises, they're lifestyle businesses. That's not the same thing as an entrepreneur. The SBA has nothing to do with it and shouldn't. It's for small and low-growth businesses."

Schramm's second piece of advice to Preston is to start a sweeping program to improve the human capital within his organization. Today, Schramm says, the SBA's small business counselors lack firsthand experience from the trenches and are often bureaucrats who have transferred from other government posts.


"People who go to work for the government don't go there after a successful career in small business. Maybe their first job was at the post office, then they did an interagency transfer, and before they knew it, they were a 'small-business counselor.'" That inexperience doesn't serve the country's small-business owners, he believes. "If we're helping people develop plans for their business, our advice ought to be tested by practical experience," says Schramm.

The example of small-business counseling organization Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is instructive, says Schramm. "I'd encourage Preston to hire people who are experts in running their own businesses, mimicking the idea of SCORE." Schramm proposes a reform of the SBA's hiring practices where it wouldn't accept transfers from other branches of government, and requiring that 50% of the employee base be 55 and older, with experience running a business.

Another important task for the SBA is to recognize its limitations—it's not the only lending organization for small businesses and may not best serve every entrepreneur or small business. "I'd encourage Preston to make an alliance with all the banks that are recently discovering small business," says Schramm.

Loan advisors could then be trained to recognize when to recommend an SBA-backed loan and when to refer a client elsewhere. "If [an entrepreneur] needs the money quickly and the differential cost is low, then why not refer them?," asks Schramm.

Giovanni Coratolo, the executive director of the Council on Small Business at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, works closely with the SBA. His first piece of advice, like Schramm's, is for Preston to focus on human capital. "They've been embattled with last year's natural disasters, and morale is probably at an all-time minimum," says Coratolo. Besides hiring more good people, Coratolo says it's just as important to make sure the SBA's existing employees are invigorated with "new spirit, new enthusiasm." To do that, Coratolo recommends making some "new hires, internal promotions, and overall things that will give people reasons to enjoy what they're doing." Preston's experience in the private sector should help with this task, adds Coratolo.

Next on Preston's agenda: prepare for uncertain times. Previous SBA chief Hector Barreto encountered bureaucracies and slow loan processing post-Katrina, but still claimed to be doing more with less (see, 05/11/06, "The SBA's Iffy Future"). "The benchmark [Preston] is going to be compared with is how well he does is in a crisis situation--how he performs in a natural disaster," says Coratolo.

While Preston tries to mend fences along the Gulf Coast, he can't neglect the need for a game plan going forward. "He's not in the business of saving lives; he's in the business of reconstruction. [When a disaster hits], the SBA has to be there early, interfacing directly with those in need," says Coratolo. To get on the ground most effectively requires an existing network. Coratolo recommends fostering more involvement with state and local chambers of commerce, bankers in local areas, as well as faith-based groups. "You have to have avenues of outreach, and you have to have horizontal ties to resources to direct people to other resources," says Coratolo. "


Andrew Langer, the manager of regulatory policy for the National Federation of Independent Business, a Washington D.C.-based small business advocacy organization, says the first step to a good legacy for Preston is to accept accountability for his agency's shortfalls—then move forward. "Overall, it's important to be open and accountable for the mistakes that have been made in recent years, especially when it comes to disaster preparedness," says Langer (see, 2/2/06, "The SBA Chief Comes Out Swinging").

Next, Preston should bolster funding for the Office of Advocacy, which is the group that pipes-up for small business when the federal government's legislative and rule-making processes stand to affect them adversely.


"Preston should make a specific line item for the Office of Advocacy to safeguard against budget cuts for future generations. For every dollar [the Office of Advocacy] spends, it saves hundreds of dollars for small business. It gets great bang for its buck," says Langer. The Office of the National Ombudsman, which assists small businesses with unfair and excessive federal regulatory enforcement, also must be strengthened, he says.

If Preston wants to have a lasting legacy, says Langer, he should enact a proposed program known as the Business Gateway Program to minimize paperwork and simplify regulatory compliance for small businesses. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates that paperwork increased by 441 million hours to 8.5 billion hours over the past year, with much of the impact absorbed by small businesses.

Business Gateway would simplify the process of compliance and minimize paperwork through an online tool available to all small businesses. "Imagine a system where small-business owners can go online, type in a few key pieces of info, and the system spits out every regulation they need to comply with, two-page instructions on how to do it, then walks them through how to do it all online," says Langer.

"If Steve Preston wants a legacy, he should make this a priority, put staffing and funding behind it, then make it simple for us to do. It's a sweeping project, but it's a lasting one," says Langer. Today Steven Preston is set to shape the future of the SBA. Critics and supporters of the agency are back in their corners for now, asking the question: How will Preston perform?

---end quoted material---

Gangemi did a great job.

- Andrew Langer

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Playing For Keeps, and Looking 'Em Square In The Eye

Well, the press has finally picked up on the transpartisan conference I attended last month. Washington, DC's The Hill had an article yesterday - it got it largely right, but some of the things were incorrect (I didn't have dinner with the Gore's every night, and my mother grew up in Berkeley, but didn't attend/graduate from UC Berkeley [that distinction belongs to her brother, my uncle, a life-long Republican]). Oh, and I wouldn't necessarily call the Inn at Gold Lake "lush" - it's a former girl's camp, and while it is nice (and small), it's not the Greenbriar, or whatever that fancy-schmancy place is down in Colorado Springs.

Anyhow, I've gotten some fun comments regarding this...

Conference offers partisans time out from election rancor
By Jim Snyder

Al Gore and Fred Smith represent two sides of the global-warming debate. At a recent retreat at a lush resort on a Colorado lake, they also formed half of a Samoan circle.

Gore, the former vice president whose movie about climate change is the surprise hit of the summer, and Smith, the head of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a right-leaning, free-market think tank, were among a group of political leaders, environmental activists and scientists who participated in a "transpartisan" conference on energy security and global warming held at Gold Lake Spa and Resort last month.

The retreat is part of a larger effort sponsored by the Democracy in America Project - run by a former self-described "very conservative" congressional candidate and a hippie midwife he had met after a series of personal setbacks. The project aims to create a "safe place" where the "left, right and center" can get to know one another through Samoan circles and other relationship-building exercises.

In addition to Gore and Smith, other participants in Colorado included Gore's wife, Tipper; Grover Norquist, the anti-tax, anti-regulation director of Americans for Tax Reform; Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club; Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, co-founders of; and Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition. In all, 32 people attended the retreat.

Though the meeting didn't yield concrete solutions to the issue of climate change, participants described the event as provocative and said it did seem to break down barriers between the two sides and open up a dialogue that has continued.

In sharing personal stories as part of trust-building exercises, some participants broke down in tears, sources said.

On the last day, attendees held hands and watched a sunset during the last day of the conference, Smith said. He added, however, that one participant drew a line at that, saying conservatives "don't hold hands."

"Everybody here plays for keeps, and there's not necessarily anything wrong with that," said Andrew Langer, who directs regulatory policy at the National Federation of Independent Business. [emphasis added]

At the conference, though, the two sides had the "opportunity to look each other squarely in the eye and open up a dialogue," Langer said.

The conference is the brainchild of Joseph McCormick, a former top graduate in his Virginia Military Institute class and Army Ranger officer who ran as a Republican in 1998 for Georgia's 2nd Congressional District, a targeted race that received some publicity because it was one of only a handful where Republicans test-marketed TV ads that hammered on the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

"I lived in a world of us versus them," McCormick said. He lost the race to Rep. Sanford Bishop, a Democrat still serving.

The election loss was followed by more profound setbacks: a painful divorce and the death of his sister. The turmoil left McCormick to reevaluate his life, he said.

Traveling south from Washington, McCormick made a spur-of-the-moment decision to turn off at Floyd, Va. He retreated to a rural enclave, living in a cabin without electricity for a year and a half.

"I had no commitments in my life at all," he said. "I had none."

The area he stumbled upon turned out to be a community of hippies. It was there, McCormick said, that he first began to question his previous political assumptions. He had judged liberals as insincere but found that his new neighbors "walked their talk."

Wanting to reenter the political debate without fighting the "red-blue war," McCormick eventually left North Carolina to retrace the steps of Alexis de Tocqueville, in order to take a measure of the modern American political scene.

He determined that what was most needed was a new way for people to communicate with one another.

"In Washington, the process doesn't allow for conversation," he said.

With Pat Spino, whom he met in Virginia and helped counsel back from the brink, McCormick founded the Democracy in America Project. The group, funded by the Setzer Institute, has sponsored three conferences. An upcoming one will held on the war in Iraq.

At the June conference, William Ury, who has directed negotiations among the bushmen of the Kalahari and clan warriors of New Guinea, and Mark Gerzon, another professional negotiator and author of Leading Through Conflict: Transforming Differences Into Opportunities, facilitated dialogue among the group.

The getting-to-know-you process included the Samoan circle, a negotiating tool where a small circle of, in this case, four people who represent two sides of an issue discuss their views as a larger surrounding circle listens.

Members of the outer circle come down and join the debate when they have something to say, but only people in the smaller circle can talk. When a person on one side says something, the person on the other must repeat it before offering a contradictory comment.

McCormick said he shared his own story to encourage other participants to be open to share their experiences.

Participants also voted on their core values using keypad technology, the same used by the audiences on "America's Funniest Videos" to choose which video is most deserving of the prize money.

Actual policy results might disappoint Washington veterans, battle-hardened by late-night conference committees fueled not by facilitators but by caffeine and political realities.

The Reuniting America website can seem a bit New Agey: "Tremendous success was found in the subtle yet profound building of relationships between individuals."

What agreements there were related to improving the efficiency of the electric-power grid and making the air traffic control system more efficient to cut energy waste, Smith said.

"We didn't solve anything," McCormick acknowledged.

The process is not "transactional" but "transformational," he said.

Langer, who sang the event's praises, said he ate dinner every night with the Gores. He was impressed that, despite the success of "An Inconvenient Truth," which has introduced the Gores to the likes of "X-Men" actor Hugh Jackman, they stayed for all three days.

Langer said he told Al Gore that his mother was a Peace Corps volunteer and Berkeley graduate. "The vice president got a big kick out of that."

Gore was unavailable to comment for this article.

The CEI's Smith said he talked a lot to Tipper, telling her, for example, that he liked her husband's slide show better than the movie, which he felt had been overly dramatized in parts.
He acknowledged that there were some moving moments during the retreat but noted the higher proportion of left-leaning participants: "They hug and squeeze a lot more than we do," Smith said.

But he added that one participant's defense of his side's free-market philosophy reminded him of John Wayne at Iwo Jima. Smith said there weren't many dry eyes afterward, even among conservatives.

"Most people realized we could be Catholics, we could be Protestants, and we could get along with one another," Smith said.
----end quoted material---

I don't particularly remember anyone breaking down in tears. But then again, I didn't know that I was in something called a "samoan circle".

- Andrew Langer

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Testimony... My First... Podcast?

Well, let's try this. Not sure how the audio quality will come through, or if YouTube will allow me to broadcast the MP3 file, but here's the link:

[link deleted]

If this doesn't work, I'll try something else.

- Andrew Langer

[editor's note: It didn't work. I think I'm going to have to try rapidshare, or something of that nature. Have to do this later on, as someone is wanting some chocolate milk.... AML]

The Magic Power Of Vagueness

Pictures will follow, as well as (hopefully) the audio of my testimony. It went well - I got some nice feedback from congressional staff.

In the interim, here's what I said:

Chairman Miller –

It is an honor to once again be invited to testify before you on the subject of regulatory impacts on small business, specifically the burden that small businesses face from federal paperwork.

I have to tell you, I’ve been working in Washington, DC for over a decade now, and like most people who’ve been in DC for some time, I’ve developed a certain blasé attitude towards government reports.

But every once in a while, something comes across my desk which is patently astonishing, something that simply takes my breath away. So it was when I received the Information Collection Budget from the White House several weeks ago.

It, too, is fairly blasé. In fact, I think government reports have to be dispassionate, no matter what information they are conveying.

But one cannot be blasé about the basic facts being conveyed in this report. It starts off with a simple-enough precept: America’s paperwork burden rose an unremarkable 5.5% last year.

Unremarkable, that is, until one realizes just what that’s 5.5% of. It’s 5.5% of eight billion hours! That’s right, BILLION, with a B. 5.5%, or one-twentieth of that, is an astonishing 441 MILLION hours.

When I see a number like that, especially on a Friday afternoon, it sits with me for some time and I give it a lot of thought. In this instance, I pulled out my calculator.

Several years ago, NFIB’s Research Foundation did a study on paperwork, and after surveying small businesses, came to the conclusion that paperwork costs just under $49 per hour. Some paperwork costs far more, some paperwork costs far less – obviously, it depends on the length, the complexity, the technical skills involved, but the average is about $49 per hour.

So just looking at the average costs from a macro level, paperwork cost Americans about $410 Billion last year – that’s right, billion, with a b. The increase alone was just over $20 billion.

Now, just dealing in abstract numbers doesn’t help – without context, it’s hard to gauge their meaning. All we really can see is that these numbers are huge. It’s when we compare them to other things we spend money on that we see just how huge they are.

NFIB pulled budget numbers, and the results are startling. Let’s start with the low-end of the spectrum: medical research. AIDS, for instance, is recognized as a serious health threat, one very much worthy of public study. So worthy, that the NIH’s Office of AIDS Research had a dedicated budget of $2.9 billion.

But what about cancer, one of the greatest killers? The entire budget of the National Cancer Institute pales in comparison to what American’s spend on paperwork: a paltry 1%, or $4 billion.

Certainly, though, Americans are spending far more on our most pressing public policy issue: the War on Terror? Sure they are – just not in comparison to what must be our greater public policy issue, making sure that we fill out forms for the federal government. The Department of Homeland Security’s spending in 2005 was $40 billion – Americans spent ten times more on paperwork.

It’s Defense that costs more than paperwork – but not by much. DOD spent $475 billion in FY 2005. Sadly, this is only about 15% more than Americans spent on paperwork.

A system that hemorrhages resources on paperwork in this manner is doomed to collapse – it cannot perpetuate itself, and will eventually run out of steam. And while I know that my colleagues on the left attempt to minimize this problem, even if we were to agree that the problem is a quarter of what it is, a system that focuses $100 billion each year on paperwork is not doing much better.

All of the tools that I have discussed previously are important – fully funding OIRA and the Office of Advocacy at the SBA, putting greater emphasis on reviewing regulations and the paperwork burden they impose, sunsetting regulations that aren’t reviewed – all of these are essential tools in getting a handle on this problem.

But one of the things I’ve only touched upon in the past, is the role that Congress plays. Legislation is driven by constituent demands, and is crafted in a fashion which can exacerbate this problem. Every time Congress passes a law which is vague and overly complex, it hands federal agencies the tools with which to do much mischief. Vagueness gives us regulations wherein dry land is magically transformed into “navigable waters of the United States’. Vagueness changes a pickup truck used for local landscaping into an interstate federal motor carrier. Vagueness turns “recycling” into “toxic releases”

If Agencies are given laws with holes big enough, they will drive trucks through them – holes that they will backfill with enough paperwork that American’s simply cannot undig themselves. I’d ask that as you consider how to deal with the agencies’ propagation of paperwork that you would also take time to consider how best to address Congress’ role.

And I’d like to reiterate something I spent a great deal of time talking about in March – an area on which there is apparent agreement between myself and my colleagues on the left.

In October, we will see the next iteration of the Business Gateway, a computer system which will be of a tremendous help to small businesses, both in understanding their regulatory responsibilities, and in completing and submitting their paperwork.

NFIB continues its steadfast support of this program. Recognizing that more and better resources available via the internet is a good thing, we know that this will greatly help in reducing these burdens. We continue with our mantra “simpler is better” – plain English, easily searchable, easily readable systems are what is needed.

We do continue to caution, however, that technology is not a panacea. We cannot make technology use mandatory – we have to recognize that some businesses will not, nor will they ever tech-savvy. In fact, I recently learned that NFIB has a number of Amish members, who are incredibly concerned about federal mandates regarding the use of technology.

We know that the Business Gateway is an ongoing process, and thankfully that journey is well on its way. It takes time and effort and resources to move a paper CFR to the web. More time to make it searchable. More time to make it simpler. More time to put compliance resources together with the regulations that they address. More time to put voluntary paperwork options on the web.

We know these things, which is why we continue to support this program, and ask that you do the same.

There are no easy solutions, that much I’ve said before. This is a problem that we have let get out of hand – and it cannot be dismissed out of hand. It is too large to ignore – the immensity of it makes that impossible.

Thank you again for inviting me to testify. I look forward to any questions you might have.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Live, On Tape From the NFIB Member Summit!!!!

Just got stopped by someone in the hallway, letting me know that my interview on Small Business Television is up on the web. SBTV was at the NFIB Member Summit last month, and they interviewed me on regulatory and eminent domain issues.

It can be found here (along with the rest of the NFIB interviews)...

- Andrew Langer

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Is This For Real?

I got the following in my e-mail box this morning (and have already forwarded it to some of you). Rarely do I reprint e-mails verbatim, but this was just too good. I thought about replying, asking if the senders of this e-mail were serious, but then I thought better of it. There is a part of me that simply cannot believe it's a real newsletter - it's almost a parody of creationists...
11 July 2006

A report titled “Here’s looking at you, chimp” was published in the 24 December, 2005, issue of New Scientist magazine. The report carried details regarding the studies to decipher the chimpanzee genome. New Scientist, which has adopted as a dogma the scenario of humans and chimpanzees separating from a common ancestor 6 million years ago, suggested that comparative analyses of the genomes of these two life forms would illuminate the details of the fictitious evolutionary process.

However, the idea that humans and chimpanzees separated from a common ancestor is a myth maintained solely as a result of blind devotion to the theory of evolution. The supposedly scientific statements issued in support of this myth consist of prejudiced interpretations based on various similarities between the two, and a very widely dispersed and insufficient fossil record. >>>


The Turkish newspaper Vatan carried a report titled “The Fossil That Has Confused the World,” taken from the 7 April 2006 issue of the journal Nature. The article claimed that a fossil discovered in Arctic Canada was “the missing link in the chain of life from water to land.”

This report ignored a great many scientific facts, and was obviously prepared with the aim of spreading classic “evolutionary propaganda.” As they have done so many thousands of times before, evolutionist paleontologists again rely on a few bone fragments and engage in totally imaginary interpretations, completely devoid of any scientific foundation. Furthermore, this is now being attempted to be passed off as “a significant discovery in the name of evolution.” >>>


Darwinist media organizations have embarked upon a new wave of propaganda aimed at portraying a fossil recently described in the journal Nature as a missing link. The fossil in question is that of a fish, discovered in Arctic Canada by the paleontologists Neil H. Shubin and Edward B. Daeschler in 2004. Given the scientific name Tiktaalik roseae, the fossil is estimated to be 385 million years old. Evolutionists looking for possible candidates for their tales of a transition from water to land are putting the fossil forward as an intermediate form by distorting its “mosaic” features.

However, the claim of a transition from water to land is no more than a dream, because the physiological gulfs between terrestrial animals and fish cannot be overcome by any of the fictitious mechanisms of the theory of evolution. The latest attempt to make Tiktaalik roseae fit this scenario, which is supported out of blind devotion to the theory of evolution and rests on no scientific evidence whatsoever, is based on preconceptions and intentional misinterpretation. The facts the Darwinist media have concealed in their Tiktaalik roseae propaganda are set out below. >>>


The Turkish magazine Cumhuriyet Bilim Teknik (Cumhuriyet Science and Technology) carried a report titled “The 10 Most Important Scientific Events” in its 7 January, 2006, edition. The article listed the advances described as the most important scientific developments of the year by the American magazine Science. The CBT sub-caption read “Important findings have been obtained regarding the way that populations diverge in order to establish new species,” and the section regarding the theory of evolution appeared under the heading “Evolutionary mechanism discovered.”

These statements by CBT are completely unrealistic. When one examines the text under the heading one sees that no concrete facts are provided at all, and that the claim made in it is utterly groundless. >>>


On 27 November, 2005, Los Angeles Times carried an article by Dan Neil. Titled “In God and Darwin We Trust,” (God is beyond all this), the article considered the evolution/creation debate in terms of the situation in Chile, and sought to construct common ground between Darwinism and belief in God. Neil maintained that evolution is a scientific theory and that for the religious believers in Patagonia see no reason to oppose Darwinism. However, he ignored a number of very important facts.

The main error of those who seek common ground between Darwinism and belief in God is that they make do with only the superficial aspects of what is expressed by means of the theory of evolution and fail to properly appreciate God’s might. In their view, evolution means nothing more than biological change in nature, and they think that there is no religious reason not to regard this as God’s form of creation. Indeed, the words “I don’t care if I’m descended from a monkey or a mouse.” in the article are a reflection of the superficial nature of this approach. >>>


Just so's you know I'm not buying into this, I'm offering the following cladogram. It's from the American Museum of Natural History - since I was a boy, they've redone their exhibits on evolution to more clearly show the evolutionary process can be charted:

And I've gotten an e-mail back from one of the folks I sent the newsletter to. He's one of the best scientists I know, and wanted to offer the following by way of perspective:

"'Everything in the universe exists through a combination of chance and necessity.' This paraphrased statement was made by Jacques Monad in his book "Chance and Necessity,"... Monad is a Nobelist in medicine."

Always nice to have a bit of fun on a Tuesday morning.

- Andrew Langer

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Three Pieces of News...

This summer is quickly becoming a much busier one than anticipated. That's not a bad thing, either. We did manage to hit the beach yesterday, and since it didn't get too sunny until mid-afternoon, it was a very pleasant day.

I'll start with an update. Those of you who have been closely reading the blog know that I've become involved in the movement to expand our local town council from three members to five. You've seen my various writings on the subject, and know where I stand.

Well, Thursday was our first meaningful public hearing on the subject - we expected it to either not be voted on, to have it voted down, or to have it tabled indefinitely and a committee appointed to study the matter (as per the writings of council member Norman Pinder). Surprisingly enough, a 4th option presented itself.

The meeting was incredibly well-attended. So many people attended, in fact, that I quickly ran out of my handouts (which summarized our position, reprinted my published op-ed, and offered contact information).

But council president Mary McCarthy ( announced at the outset that the council had met in closed session earlier, and had voted to allow the referendum initiative to proceed without interference from the council - and directed the town attorney and town manager to meet with the referendum initiative leaders. The reason being that the council recognizes that the issue is important enough that:

a) the public, not the council ought to decide it;
b) that if the public wants to decide on it, they ought to have the opportunity to do so;
c) that the process ought to procede.

Regardless of what ultimately happens, I consider this a victory - while we certainly want to see the council expanded, in the short term this is how things ought to move forward.

I let Jerry Schram and Tim McCluskey speak before me - they're doing the heavy-lifting on this effort - and I filled in some of the blanks in my three-minutes. The opposition presented few new arguments, essentially falling into three categories:

1) that the council works fine as it is now, and doesn't need to be expanded;
2) that having more than three council members will complicate things, and will make matters worse (the "County Commission" argument);
3) that expanding the council will be expensive, isn't a priority, and will have unforeseen consequences.

The last argument is the most interesting - it is substantive, and worth further discussion and debate. In fact, it was presented by two of the opposition's strongest voices.

There will be more discussion of these issues in the coming weeks - in the meantime we're going to meet with town officials, circulate the petitions, and embark on an effort to educate the public. I'm hoping we're going to have some more open meetings/debates - possibly moderated by the League of Women Voters.

This leads me into my next bit of news:

I am now an official candidate for elected office.

A week ago Friday, just as I was leaving my favorite haunt, Ben's Chili Bowl (there may be news about Ben's in the coming weeks - you heard it here first), I got a call from a local GOP activist, recruiting me to run for a position on the Queen Anne's County Republican Central Committee. I thought about it over the weekend, talked about it with friends and family, and decided to go ahead and do it.

The Republican Central Committee is the governing body for the GOP of our county, and I believe there is a great deal I have to offer to this board: namely, my background, my years of experience as an activist and advocate, and my professionalism. There will be more on this later on as well.

There are 19 of us running for a seat on the committee, with a number of incumbents standing for re-election.

The election itself is part of the primary on September 12 - so I've got just over two months. There will be a candidates' forum at the Centreville Public Library on the night of July 20th - I will remind you all of this.

Finally, and still in the vein of that activist experience and politics, I've been invited to testify before Congress again. On Tuesday, July 18, I will be testifying before the House Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs. The Subcommittee recently received a report from the Office of Management and Budget on paperwork burdens, noting a sharp increase in that burden, and I will be offering the small business perspective on that.

I'll be interested in seeing if Robert Shull, my counterpart at OMBWatch, will be testifying. Shull testified on the same panel with me at that congressional hearing in March ( - and in OMBWatch's recap of that hearing (, they spent some time taking potshots at NFIB for our stance on regulatory review, while taking sole credit for talking about a program called "The Business Gateway," which is a computerized tool for assisting small businesses in figuring out which regulations apply to them and how they ought to comply.

The problem is, I've long been a champion of the Business Gateway, testified about it at this hearing, and, in fact, talked about it longer - both in my oral and written testimonies - than Mr. Shull did. In fact, I've been talking about the importance of this system, and it's predecessor (the Business Compliance One-Stop) for years:

So, it'll be a nice opportunity to set that record straight.

Yes, lot's going on. Happy July!!!

- Andrew Langer

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Yahoo and Freedom: The China Conundrum

Knowing my interest in liberty and communism, and the discussions here on the blog about China's schizophrenia when it comes to individual rights, a reader of the Liberty Blog e-mailed me about a project she's involved in: (

A long time ago, I engaged in a lengthy chat on Usenet regarding the precarious nature of totalitarian regimes, and how no matter how financially prosperous a system might seem (ie, systems that appear to be free-market in nature, but engage in massive control over individual rights), a government that negates individual rights on a fundamental level cannot endure.

The ChiComs recognize this, but seem incapable of reconciling their desire for continued economic growth with the harsh reality that with it comes the demise of Maoism (and thank goodness for that).

So, in order to prolong it, they frustrate the liberalization by placing tremendous conditions on those who choose to do business there. And one would hope that those whose business is in no small measure based on the principles of freedom and equality (like those in the internet business) would resist those conditions, perhaps even considering not doing business there.

And this is the crux of the debate over businesses like Yahoo and Google, who are agreeing to censor their services as a price of doing business in China. According to, Yahoo is the worst, ranking them the most strict, or "worst censor in China".

Anyhow, you ought to check it out.

- Andrew Langer

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Freedom: A State Of Mind

Good weekend - up in New York for the first part (took a nice trip to Rye Playland), then back home for the 4th. Actually, we were down on the lower Delmarva at a friend's place - simply beautiful.

Last year on the 4th, I posted the Declaration of Independence. Could have done that again, but I decided to do something a little different.

When I was four or so (maybe five), I went to camp at Fieldston (some of you know this). Lots of vague memories - but one that stuck with me for years was the performance by some older kids of a song about freedom - with the refrain, "freedom is a state of mind!" Didn't know where it was from for the longest time, but eventually found the source on the internet. It's from a show called "Shenandoah".

Freedom ain't a state like Maine or Virginia
Freedom ain't across some county line
Freedom is a flame that burns within ya
Freedom's in the state of mind

Freedom, freedom,
Freedom, freedom
Freedom is a flame that burns within ya
Freedom's in the state of mind

Freedom ain't a boat that's leaving without ya
Freedom ain't a place ya float to find
Freedom's in the how ya think about ya
Freedom's in the state of mind


You can't get to freedom by riding on a train
The only way to freedom is right on through your brain

Freedom is a notion sweeping the nation
Freedom is the right of all mankind
Freedom is a body's imagination
Freedom is a state of mind

Freedom, freedom
Freedom, freedom
Freedom is a notion sweeping the nation
Freedom is a body's imagination
Freedom is a full-time occupation
Freedom's in the state of mind

Happy 4th.

- Andrew Langer