Reader Mail

Running and Gunning

Muzzle toughness. Big Oil's slick money and greasy palms. Also: A Galaxie of cars. Kilgore's brain. Prayerbook politics. Plus much more.

11.13.05

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AIMLESS HUNTING
Re: Clinton W. Taylor's Museum Pieces:

Clinton Taylor's imagined dialogue on front-stuffer technology and market forces was a screaming hoot -- and so, so true. Keep those coming. I'm thinking I need to buy a Lyman trade rifle just for kicks -- in honor of Mr. Taylor.
-- Paul J. Foreman
Birmingham, Alabama

Clinton W. Taylor hit the nail on the head, or rather, the primer on the cap. The rifle season should be extended to include what is now muzzle-loading and archery seasons. If it's ok to kill a deer in September or October with a muzzle loader or bow, then why not also with a rifle?

He's right that the rules are driven by elitism. The "primitive" weapons snobs think they are entitled to the first crack at the trophy bucks and to have the woods to themselves during the most pleasant part of the season. Then, when rifle season comes in the weather is cold, the season is short, and the (antlerless) deer that remain have been educated by the smokepole and pointy-stick crowd. Besides, the bow hunters already have exclusive access to the happiest and most accessible hunting grounds of them all: the wooded suburbs. And muzzle loaders have it almost as good, once you factor in all the military bases and other special properties on which they are allowed to hunt and rifle hunters are not.

And there's a potentially serious unintended consequence to this issue. The short seasons that result force rifle-hunters to all be in the woods at the same time during what can be a very narrow window of opportunity. Surely it would be better to allow us to space ourselves out a bit more?

Is the Cato Institute aware of this government-regulated encumbrance upon freedom? Has Milton Friedman been briefed?
-- R. Trotter
Arlington, Virginia

I would like someone to tell me the point of hunting. It sure can't be to put food on the table because after all the ammo, guns, permits, leases, gasoline getting there, etc., it would be cheaper to go buy food at the store. I love hunting, but I get my trophies with a camera. I don't see any sport in putting food out for an animal then when they come to eat, sitting in a blind, and killing them.
-- Elaine Kyle

This hackneyed nonsense has been debated for years (you city people have just never heard of it before). It's the same as the crossbow vs. vertical bow propaganda. The author also is obviously not from a slugs-only state. Cool it and go hunting.

"The Nation's Pulse" it's not.
-- Ann R. Morrill
Ohio

Clinton W. Taylor replies:
I'm not sure why Ms. Morrill is opposed to my idea for longer hunting seasons or how advocating them will make hunters look bad. I would love to see states that only allow hunting with shotgun slugs extend their slug-only seasons to incorporate muzzle loaders, and vice versa.

It is my understanding that slugs-only states established that rule because legislators fear rifle bullets that miss their mark would travel too far and present a safety risk. Since a big, slow shotgun slug is ballistically similar to a big, slow muzzle-loader ball, there seems to be little reason to maintain separate seasons on safety grounds.

My point here is: hunt with what you like, but don't require me to hunt with what you like.

OIL RIGGED
Re: Paul Sperry's The Facts about Big Oil:

Mr. Sperry's comments will not be discussed or debated by the media or the politicians. All the consumer knows is that the price at the pump keeps going up. I doubt the average American knows or cares whether the oil companies are reinvesting their money in exploration or refurbishing refineries. The politicians are only too happy to assuage their anger by holding hearings and condemning the oil companies for their "ugly profits." It's helpful to their re-election in 2006.
-- Clasina Segura
New Iberia, Louisiana

I think you made a lot of valid points in your article, but I am confused about one thing. How can the price of gasoline that is already in a filling station's underground tank jump in price on the news of potential oil shortages?

During the recent hurricanes, I personally saw gas prices sky rocket on a daily basis and that was while the storms were just approaching shore. Wasn't the gas that's already in the ground already paid for and priced to sell at some calculated profit margin? If so, then weren't those daily speculative increases essentially gouging?

The explanation I keep hearing is that oil companies raised the gas prices to prevent a "run" on the local stations. But why should they care about that? They are in the business of selling gas. Don't they make their previously calculated profit if all the gas is sold?

And as far as your statement about the cyclic nature of the oil business, could you give us the facts on Big Oil's profits for the last ten or twenty years? It seems to me that oil companies consistently produce report profits, year in and year out. What's the nature of their cycle, normal profits versus truly stupendous profits?
-- Robert F. Casselberry

Why the Internet is a supremely entertaining medium.

From Robert Novak's Inside Report column, dated May 19, 2001:

"Republican Sen. Phil Gramm audibly guffawed over remarks of Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia during the Senate Finance Committee's markup of the tax bill. Aiming at oil companies, Rockefeller proposed a 100 percent tax on profits that exceed 20 percent. He cited a study that, while failing to find collusion in the industry, discovered a desire to maximize oil profits. That provoked Gramm's laughter and derogatory remarks. The comments amused Gramm particularly because they were coming from the great-grandson (John D. Rockefeller IV) of oil buccaneer John D. Rockefeller."

I think the Yiddish word "chutzpah" fits best.
-- R.G. Pettengill

Gas prices have now fallen below the level they were at when Katrina struck, and it appears they will continue falling in the coming months. This development, I believe, requires Congressional action. Oil executives should be hauled in to explain why prices have been allowed to fall. Congress needs to pass legislation to assure that oil company profits, projected to fall in the fourth quarter, remain in line with other industries. I would urge consideration of a reverse windfall profits tax to assure that the oil companies are fully compensated whenever the price of gas falls below two dollars.
-- Jeffrey Folks
Knoxville, Tennessee

I read Paul Sperry's article on big Big Oil profits today. And while he is correct in saying that the oil industry enjoys average five year profits of eight percent, an eight percent profit of 10 Billion dollars a quarter yields a gross income of 500 billion dollars (half a trillion dollars) for a single year. That amount of money is simply mind-boggling to the average person. In fact, it is an obscene amount.

Now the initial reports of the press concerning the oil company profits were slanted to paint the oil companies as greedy. This was done by printing the dollar amount of their quarterly profit without mentioning what their profit margin was for that same period. Mr. Sperry and other champions of big business are doing just the opposite by dwelling on the profit margin, and then using one averaged over five years, while quickly skimming over the dollar amount. Both leave out several other interesting bits of information.

Big Oil companies do not only produce refined petroleum products, they also pump and sell crude oil at the prevailing market rate. If oil costs $60 a barrel for Exxon to buy, then they also sell it for the same amount. Some of their oil production may go into refined products. If so, do they figure the cost of their in-house product at the actual cost of production or at the market price? This can either raise the percent of profit or lower it depending upon which formula they use and how much of their own product they use and the cost of production. Another thing that can skew the profit margin is how they factor in such things as exploration and development. If it is factored in as an operating expense, then it would come out of the gross receipts rather than the posted profit. There are many accounting factors that are rather obscure in this whole affair, and make it somewhat tricky to adequately defend or vilify the oil companies.

One thing is clear, however. Big Oil committed a PR blunder by raising the price of their product to produce a $3 a gallon price at the pump, at a time when the Gulf Coast was a disaster area. It made them appear heartless and when you post a $10 billion quarterly profit three weeks later, it becomes even harder to appear benevolent. Pump prices were blamed on $69 per barrel oil prices and then on loss of refinery capability on the Gulf coast. Well, oil prices are still hovering around $60 a barrel and refining capacity is still drastically reduced in the Gulf states, but at-the-pump gasoline prices have fallen between $.30 and $.50 cents a gallon (a 10% to 18% drop). A response to falling operating costs, or the result of negative publicity re: their quarterly profits?

Now the response needs to be addressed. Should the Congress institute a windfall profits tax? No. Why? Because high fuel prices guarantee that production of alternate fuel supplies will be accelerated. This is good because petroleum is, at least within our lifetime, a non-renewable resource. It will one day run out and we need to significantly reduce our dependence upon oil for fuel. Also, drawing a line above which profits are more heavily taxed or even confiscated stifles economic growth. Public scrutiny of oil company business practices should continue, however, and consumers should apply pressure, as necessary, to hold down their energy costs.

Now everyone wants to increase their bottom line, but reducing your customers' profits unjustly can lead to a backlash that lowers your own profit margin. It is something for Big Oil to consider.
-- Michael Tobias
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

You should consider that in addition to the refineries being disrupted by the hurricanes, people were evacuating via vehicles, filling their gasoline tanks, and thereby making the shortage worse.

Moreover, the natural tendency is to buy gasoline before the price increases.
-- Jerald Uecker

'BAMA BASHED
Re: Mark G. Michaelsen's Thou Shalt Not Be Indicted:

Boy did you hit the nail on the head on the Alabama mess. As a former Talk Show Host in Huntsville, I can say that state is amazingly goofy and corrupt.
-- Peter Thiele

ROCKY ROAD
Re: Lawrence Henry's Cars:

The excellent Lawrence Henry narrated:

[The Dodge] overheated again and again on the way west. We carried a canvas water bag slung over the radiator cap, occasionally losing it and having to double back on the road to find it.

A road trip from "Minnesooota" to Oregon and back -- uphill, both ways. You need every square inch of radiator cooling surface to handle that load on the engine. The bag blocks (more-or-less) 175 square inches. That's approximately 40% of the surface area of the average-sized radiator in those days. Plus, if you had a pressure cap at all, it was likely rated at only five pounds. Up in the mountains, water will boil at lower temperatures. Crossing the Rockies, that temperature is considerably less than 200 degrees.

No wonder the Dodge overheated and/or boiled over!
-- David Gonzalez
Wheeling, Illinois

I learned to drive on a 1964 Ford Galaxie XL500, at the age of 17, a yellow and black beauty with big round tail-lights and an engine note to die for. This was in the days when NA$CAR still ran production cars, and in order to race a car they had to produce a certain number for sale to the public (but try and buy one!). Daddy found out where one was, and told them that if they didn't sell it to him he'd take them to court, so they sold it to him. It would cruise at 85 mph just like it was standing still, swift and silent and smooth. Daddy was a hot rod, and he taught me to drive like he drove. (He and his buddies took their hot rods out to an unfinished piece of Interstate 80 and, under the supervision of a couple of friends who happened to be New York State troopers, they timed their cars over a quarter mile. Daddy said his car went up to 185 mph. (I did not see it do this, I hasten to add.)

The day came when I had to take my driving test, and the driving test guy got into that beautiful machine with a 17 year-old girl and had an experience that he probably still talks about to this day. Daddy had taught me not to slow down with the brakes (it just wears them out) but to go through the gears; Daddy had taught me that "anything you can drive into, you can drive out of" (never stop for anything), and, as we came up to a corner where the testing instructor told me to turn right after I had passed the apex, he discovered that Daddy had taught me how to make a handbrake turn. "You have to tell me sooner," I recall telling him, "If you want me to get around a corner the regular way!"

Needless to say, I failed that driving test, and the shaken tester told my Daddy, who was in hysterics, "Don't ever bring that car OR HER back here again!"

I was 25 years old and living in California when I finally got my driving license, on an old Studebaker Lark VI that I bought for $100 and worked on under the shade of a tree because that car had parts that even a girl could recognize and replace.

Daddy still tells people about that day, and laughs his head off about it. He didn't keep that car for long because he got in "so much trouble" in it, but it will live forever in the family archives as Daddy's Stocker Ford.
-- Kate Shaw
Toronto, Canada

PRAY FOR VICTORY
Re: Patrick Hynes's The Prayerbook Right:

In order to make these odd-year, pre-mid-term elections more interesting, I suggest that the GOP get the governors of Mississippi, Alabama, and Indiana to change their gubernatorial elections to the odd years. Let's face it. New York City, New Jersey, California, and Maine are not quite representative of the voting republic.

Yet, like other conservatives, I do think the GOP has a major problem. It is safe to say that the Republican Party is the party of massive domestic spending, high regulation (Sarbanes Oxley), censorship (a la McCain-Feingold), tariffs (remember Bush's steel tariffs?), the windfall profit tax, as well as a party weak on security. I know, I sound like I'm giving Democratic talking points, but it will take only a moderately intelligent operative to paint the GOP as the party of uncontrolled federal spending, high regulations, and irresponsible domestic security.

With a number of Red State Democratic Senators up for reelection, 2006 was suppose to a year where the GOP could have closed in on the magic number of 60 senate seats. I fear they will be fortunate to maintain a slim majority.
-- JP
Indiana

From the standpoint of one that lives 5 miles from the Maine line in New Hampshire -- due west of Portland, Maine -- Mr. Hynes has come very close to hitting the nail on the head regarding the Maine referendum on overturning the "Gay Rights" laws. He notes that 44% voted to for the referendum and that only 14% of Mainers are Evangelical Christians. The one statistic that he does not reveal, and that I believe is pertinent, is the percentage of Mainers that are adherents of the Gay/Lesbian lifestyle. It is my observation that, if one starts at the Maine/Mass line on the sea coast and continues north to at least Lewistown, if not all the way to Bangor, and not even to mention Bar Harbor, one finds homosexuals in almost the same percentage as in Key West or Fire Island or San Fran or, well, you can name the list as well as I can. It would be amazing to me if the referendum had passed. 44% is a lot better than I thought it would do.
-- Ken Shreve
New Hampshire

FLAT BROKE
Re: Peter Hannaford's The Murky Pudding of Tax Rearrangement:

I don't like the Forbes flavor. It tastes better than the current slime, and it's better than the recommendations of the President's panel, but it doesn't get it for me.

The Flat Tax still gives government our financial information. As long government has the power to demand access to every nook and cranny of our finances, it will only be a matter of time before we return to our current situation.

Also, the Flat Tax isn't flat. Its rate is flat, but a true flat tax would be a single lump sum levied on everyone. A percentage still punishes earnings.

Congressman Linder's Fair Tax denies the government the power to sift through your finances for purposes of taxation. Also, it taxes only consumption while remaining very much visible to the tax payer (unlike the current withholding system or a VAT).

The usual argument against the Fair Tax is that it will never pass. Well, as long as our Republican party is home to people like Bass, Grassley, Snowe, Chafee, Shays, Boehlert, McCain, etc., etc., etc. I agree. But it doesn't have to be that way. That's why we have these things called primaries. You vote in them. (You can even run in them if you want to.)

I want the tax disaster fixed, but I want it fixed completely.
-- Mark Stewart
Jacksonville, Florida

BRAINISM
Re: David Holman's Kilgore Kaput:

It wasn't just the death penalty ads that hurt Kilgore. It was all of the ads. They were infantile and insulting form start to finish. My wife, who usually votes eagerly, did not even bother to go to the polls because there was no one to vote for. The ads indicate that Kilgore was not smart enough to be a governor.
-- Patrick Minnis

WEAN ON ME
Re: David Holman's Bush Takes Richmond:

Need we say more? One wonders what place objectivity and empiricism play in your universe. But then I suppose objectivity and rationality is not what you are about. And by the way I'm a Republican and the sooner we get our party weaned off the nihilistic ideas promoted by your magazine the better.
-- John Ellis

FAUX CONSERVATISM
Re: John Jarrell's letter (under "Killjoy Kilgore") in Reader Mail's Accent on Virginia and David Holman's Kilgore Kaput:

Mr. John Jarrell of San Antonio, Texas, is a little confused about "conservative principles." He states these as the "encapsulation of the fundamental principals of modern conservatism":

- Taxes are our money.
- The state is not the solution.
- Freedom from womb to grave is an imperative, not a suggestion.

Taxes are definitely our money. However, the current GOP is spending our tax money, our children's, and our grandchildren's tax money by selling our debt to foreign governments to fund their outlandish deficit spending. This coming with complete control of the White House and Congress. Nothing "conservative" about that.

Actually, the state is the solution. If you don't believe in federalism (which most religious conservatives do NOT) you are a classic big government, nanny state liberal. The current crop of "conservatives" in office believe in usurping states rights when it suits them (Schiavo, drug laws, FMA, etc.). Hence the term United STATES of America.

I'm assuming that by "freedom from womb to grave" you are referring to the freedom of illegal aliens to cross our border and spend our tax dollars, or the freedom of law enforcement to seize property in the name of the war on drugs, or the freedom Americans have to share their jobs with H1-B visa applicants from abroad because they work for less money.

The GOP's "conservative" ideology has been replaced by a faux conservative worldview, dominated by social issues that are largely inconsequential, that hasn't even a passing acquaintance with what conservatism really means.
-- Ben Berry
Dallas, Texas

PARADISE LATER
Re: James Bowman's review of Paradise Now:

Have you heard about the new Dutch movie Sudetenland Now? It portrays the Nazi blitzkrieg on Europe as an entirely justifiable act because of the supposed crimes against Germans following their defeat in WWI, and the national humiliation with the
enforced Treaty of Versailles.

It then goes on to understand and sympathetically portray a couple of young Nazis as they pursue the attempted extermination of European Jewry as payback for this national stain.

Of course you haven't. That would be nuts. However you will be hearing about Paradise Now... especially at Foreign Language Oscar nomination time as the "tolerant" Hollywoodenheads fall over themselves to reward an apologia for the new Nazis.
-- David

LEAK MAESTRO
Re: Jed Babbin's The CIA Disinformation Campaign:

Masterfully done. It not only wove together many bits and pieces I often forget, but included new information.

Bravo.
-- Mike Drummond

Did he leak CIA secrets? Did he lie to the American people about reasons for going to war? Were we really in "imminent danger", as Jay said?
-- unsigned

Thanks for this great work, where a reporter did investigate -- a rare thing in news today.
-- Virginia Weicheld

I just read on the POWERLINE that Wilson had previously been to Niger in 1999. Your article today suggests that he hadn't been there since the 1980s. You may want to clarify this point.

Good luck,
-- Andy Stewart

The thought of George I making enemies at the CIA is laughable. This is a man who made it his life's work to avoid confrontation. This is the man who was afraid to anger "Danny" (Rostenkowski). Mrs. Thatcher had to smack him upside the head before the Gulf War to keep him on track. I don't doubt his personal courage especially on Veteran's Day but George senior certainly lacked political courage. Why he went into politics is a mystery because it's all about confrontation. I expected more from George II, but I can see now: like father, like son.
-- Barbara Anderson
Cincinnati, Ohio

SUBLIME AND ARGENTINE
Re: J. Peter Freire's Grouchy Gaucho's:

Mr. Freire's piece is a stretch. The reason most media outlets including Fox characterized these as anti-Bush protests was for the self-evident reason we could all see on TV that many of the protesters were carrying banners with picture of the president and/or anti Bush slogans. Are we surprised since just about every poll shows just how unpopular he is internationally by contrast with Clinton who seems to have rock-star status. I'm not sure the Spectator does itself much good for it's credibility by denying self evident truths.
-- John Ellis

J. Peter Freire replies:
The point of my article was actually that the self-evident wasn't the truth. The media took the protests at face-value, noted the Bush slogans, and absent-mindedly labeled the movement as anti-Bush. Perhaps it was wishful thinking on their part, but it certainly painted the protests in a much different, even deceptive light. Someone who quickly glanced at the paper's headlines wouldn't know the protestors were against free trade; he would simply assume Bush personally raised ire among the poor, something the media never attributed to Clinton.

STORES OF STORIES
Re: Lawrence J. Henry's The Stories We Get Told:

I'm amazed at how many facts were left out especially after you say "facts scarcely stand a chance anymore." Here goes:

"As Wendy McElroy on the Fox News website, "By law, Massachusetts' schools must notify parents before discussing sexuality with children." Parker and his wife had not been notified, despite having exchanged with the principal on the subject."

Good, non-biased source, did you even dare to look up the legislation? A book showing same-sex couples washing a dog or setting a table is hardly a discussion of sexuality. If that is true, then showing an opposite sex couple riding in a car together could also be construed as sexual. Additionally, you state that Parker and his wife were not notified, when in fact they were told about the book at a meeting earlier in the year:

Somebody, it is unclear who, probably Lexington superintendent of schools William J. Hurley, called the Lexington police. The police arrested Parker on a trespass charge. Parker spent the night in jail.

Again, you omit the fact that David Parker refused to leave the school after the Administrators told him to leave or when the police told him to leave. He himself decided to get arrested and not post bail: "Parker said he wanted to control 'the timing and manner' in which his son learned about 'adult themes.'"

A demonstration, with a police permit, was held in support of Parker on September 6. It attracted people from beyond Lexington, the issue having been publicized thoroughly on conservative websites. (The newspapers and TV stations almost completely ignored it at first.) An organized crowd of counter-demonstrators also showed up. When TV trucks appeared, some nasty confrontations developed, apparently started by the counter-demonstrators (many of them also from outside Lexington, and also attracted by Web postings).

The Parker rally attracted mainly people from beyond Lexington -- there were only a handful of people from Lexington in attendance. The counter-rally, which attracted mainly Lexington residents dwarfed the Parker Rally.

Also, while appearing to be concerned with facts it doesn't stop you from saying "some nasty confrontations developed, apparently started by the counter-demonstrators" Where are your facts? It was a peaceful counter-demonstration with elected officials and children present. The only problem that seemed to occur was when the TV cameras were interviewing members of the Lexington community at the counter-rally. David Parker crossed over the street to get involved and the police told him to go back to where he was permitted to demonstrate.

By then, the fable had taken hold of Parker as a mole for a right-wing religious juggernaut determined to take over Lexington's public schools. Alternatively, he was a martyr to the "homosexual agenda."

What fable? David Parker had already been in touch with the Article 8 Alliance. All of his emails were placed on the Article 8 website (which you link to). He even contacted Brian Camenker of Article 8 before he was arrested so Brian could get his camera and shoot a picture of David in handcuffs which appeared almost immediately on the Article 8 website. Article 8 was also with Parker on his appearance on Bill O'Reilly's show and on Parker's tour of Maine. He did this "tour" to assist the Christian Civic League of Maine in their campaign to recall the non-discrimination law which was signed into law by the Governor. (On David Parker's Blog he also requests viewers to go to the Article 8 blog to get updated information on him.)

Parker urged Mainers to work to overturn a Maine law that gives gays and lesbians protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation: "These laws will be used and have been used in Massachusetts toad expose small children to these lifestyles," Parker said.

All in all, for an article that is trying to separate the facts from the "stories" you seemed to get caught up in the all the stories and neglect most of the facts.
-- Boston Bud

VOUCHER SOCIALISM
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s The Voucher Market:

Here's a radical idea. Parents could use their own money to pay for their children's schooling. That way they could have complete control. We could lower taxes so that more people could do that. Handing every parent a voucher at the expense of taxpayers is voucher socialism, not a voucher market. We already have this in higher education and the results aren't pretty.
-- unsigned

POTENT POESY
Re: J. Peter Freire's Of Francs and Failures:

Paristine
With a nod to Joseph Farah at World Net Daily

Jacques and his freres are surely weeping
Les pauvres immigres have caught them sleeping,
Paysans revolt, their emotions churning,
What's that odeur? Is Paris burning?
Within the banlieues there's no joy
Among les jeunes who are sans emplois
What, take a job? Not the way to go;
We'd rather riot, torch your Peugeot.

Ah, Mother France you took us in,
Then left us with no way to win.
We're not egal, not garccons blanc,
We've no real chance to earn a franc.
No, what we are, we're useful fools,
For leftist dreams, just brown-skinned tools.
So the Republique's butt is in a crack,
Give your merci to Jacques Chirac.

We'll breed you into minority,
Till only mullahs hear your plea,
And Shari'a rules throughout your land,
A Frenchman steals, he'll lose his hand.
Your licentious lifestyle, long extolled,
Will leave your women stoned, dead cold.
But everything will turn out fine,
In the Muslim Republic of Paristine.
-- Russ Vaughn
Ruidoso, New Mexico

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