One ‘Species’ Not On The Endangered List

Create a program today, and you may be regulating an empire tomorrow. That sentence defines one of the undeniable truisms in the world of American government.

Despite the claims of President Clinton that “the era of big government is over” and the best intentions of presidents and lawmakers past and present, government as a whole seldom gets smaller. And its individual programs — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are among the pet targets of today’s big-government critics — often grow far beyond the expectations of either their proponents or opponents.

A case in point: the program designed to protect plant and animal species. Upon enactment of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the year widely recognized as the start of the federal effort to protect endangered species worldwide, the government protected only 437 threatened or endangered species. That is in sharp contrast to the 1,143 U.S. species protected by the government as of Aug. 31, 1998.

And the growth of the program is actually greater than those numbers suggest because Congress began protecting endangered species sooner than most people realize. Thirty-two years ago today (Oct. 15), President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Endangered Species Preservation Act into law. It offered protection to just 78 species, a mere 6.8 percent of the number protected today.

Congress and the conservation movement
Far from a modern-day concept, wildlife conservation actually dates back to colonial times. The June 21, 1991, edition of Congressional Quarterly’s CQ Researcher notes that 12 of the 13 British colonies passed laws designed to prevent the slaughter of deer and other animals.

Conservation also ranked high on the agenda of President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid hunter, at the turn of the century. He is responsible for creating the first national wildlife refuge, Pelican Island off the Florida coast, in 1903.



The Scoop On Newspaper Life

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

Back in the mid-1980s, after I had abandoned my unrealistic dreams of becoming an electrical engineer, I enrolled in journalism school. I did so in part because of my high-minded belief that newsmen can change the world with their pens. Now a dozen years later, I still love the work I do, but I see my chosen profession in a new light, and this is my jaded assessment: Journalism is a refuge for the interminably whiny.

Today’s typical newsman — and yes, I am stereotyping here — has an uncanny knack for seeing the worst in the world and for convincing his readers/viewers that the sun may never shine on their sorry lives again. Publishers pay them to murmur about everything — the corruption of our public officials, the decadence of our society, the ignorance of our children.

Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that many journalists, especially those in the newspaper world, find no joy in their own lives, either. Their work lives, that is. Their morale is low, their pay is lower, their editors are idiots. And the list goes on.

But don’t take my word for it. Read all about it at News Mait Writers’ Cooperative, a Web site managed by Melbourne, Fla.-based Florida Today reporter Maurice Tamman and loaded with the dirt on newspapers across the country.

Complaints aplenty
News Mait — “Mait” stands for “My Aim is True,” the title of a 1976 Elvis Costello album, Tamman’s favorite as a youth — is more than command central for curmudgeons. It also provides links to dozens of sites with listings for journalistic jobs, as well as a forum for writers to make their pitches for work and for newsmen to debate topics of interest to them. The latest addition to the site, just posted this week, is a salary survey of newspapers across the country.

But the section that draws the most attention is the one slugged “newspaper intelligence,” which provides anonymous insights from the newsroom. (Oh, the irony of journalists overly fond of anonymous sources being burned by their own creation!) “Part of looking for a job,” Tamman says in explaining the genesis of News Mait, “is deciding what kind of place you want to work at.” And what better way to learn than from the oft-disgruntled reporters who work at a given newspaper.

Getting Better At Doing Nothing

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

A reporter coined the phrase in 1948. Then-President Harry S. Truman embellished on it in his memorable re-election campaign that year. Politicians and pundits of all stripes have expressed its sentiment repeatedly over the past five decades. Now, President Clinton and Democrats antsy to regain control of the congressional levers of power have adopted it as their mantra.

The phrase in question is none other than the “do-nothing Congress.” And in these heady days of presidential sex scandals and election-year politicking, with a Congress that has been in session much less often than its recent predecessors, Truman’s sound bite has experienced a rebirth. It has become part of almost every analysis of the legacy of the 105th Congress.

But is that charge accurate? And if the Republican-controlled 105th is remembered as the Congress that did even less than the “do-nothing Congress” of 1947-48, how will the American electorate react?

Voters will answer the latter question at the polls next month, and historians will answer the former years down the road. But plenty of Congress-watchers, both scholarly and otherwise, have begun to form their opinions even before the planned Oct. 9 adjournment date. This late in the session, it is also safe to compare the current Congress with the one Truman so despised.

A comparison of two Congresses
On paper at least, the 105th Congress appears to have snagged the “do-nothing” label from the 80th Congress, which also was controlled by Republicans. Two statistics tell the story:

In the current Congress, the combined days in session for both the House and Senate totals 508 days — 285 in 1997 and 223 this year — as of Sept. 30, far less than the 712-day election-year tally of the 80th Congress.

Under the tenure of Republicans in the 105th Congress, Clinton has signed 241 bills into public law (as of Sept. 30). By contrast, Truman signed 906 measures into public law in 1948. (Clinton has vetoed only six bills so far in the 105th, while Truman vetoed 75 in his two-year battle with Republicans.)