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Grease and Oil

Re: Bill Croke’s To the River of No Return:

I always enjoy Bill Croke’s wry sense of humor in his delightful articles. As a Montana native, Bill’s tales of the West bring about a feeling of nostalgia and hankering to return to my roots. But, having lived in southern California for too many years, my blood has thinned to the degree that the area’s cold season from late September to early June keeps me from returning to the Big Sky Country. I look forward to Bill’s life and times in Salmon, Idaho.
Thomas Bullock
West Covina, California

Oh, to pick up and move! While tethered to aging pets and growing grandchildren here in NY, I’ve been living vicariously through Bill Croke’s columns, daydreaming about visiting the West and his Rocky Mountain Bohemia. So move to Salmon, if you must; just keep writing your columns.
Kitty Myers
Painted Post, New York

Re: Philip Klein’s Don’t Stop Worrying About the Clintons:

Thank you for saying what I’ve been feeling for some time now. I’m a conservative and I can’t believe the type of support conservative commentators have been showing the Clintons. Are we that afraid of Obama?

My feeling is that it is all serve serving. Many conservative commentators don’t care one bit about advancing the conservative cause but advancing their own careers. I’ve grown to dislike Rush, Hannity, O’Reilly, Fox and I’m a hardcore card-carrying member of the vast right-wing conspiracy.
Ray Rivera

Election 2008 is made bearable only by the comedy of it all. We have Sir Edmund Rodham Hillary blasting the Chinese, Wall St. and big money. That after Norman “Soft Money” Hsu’s gift of $845,000 had to be returned. Surely she will soon provide the cancelled checks payable to the ghost waiters from Chinatown. And character references from J.Chung, C. Ya Lin Tre, and J. Riady. Now that would be funny.

For an encore, bring forward Baab Rubin. Baab left Treasury to join Citi. And trousered some $100,000,000 while serving as Enron’s banker. Further success including bundling subprime loans and peddling CDO’s. All the while, news reports claim she is the league leader in funds raised on Wall St. See what a comedy we have here.

Philip Klein is correct on a number of points in today’s column. Ms. Clinton is a cynical, power-hungry termagant, whose turbid and pandering campaign should disgust anyone who got out of the sixth grade and isn’t a bunch of dopes. But he waits until his penultimate paragraph to nail his most telling and depressing point: the declining Republicans don’t have the testosterone to fight this harridan with even a modicum of fire. Pathetic! Warriors come to fight; this bunch comes to minuet.
James C. Eaton
Chetek, Wisconsin

It is obvious that Philip doesn’t listen to Rush Limbaugh’s radio program — on which, Mr. Limbaugh repeatedly explains the purpose of “Operation Chaos.”

Both Democrat Party hopefuls are Saul Alinsky-inspired Marxists. Having had a little taste of autocratic power, one has already graduated to Stalinism (“I’m going to take away those profits”). The other likely will make the jump shortly after his coronation — which ceremony the Fourth Estate (perhaps “Fifth Column” would be more appropriate?) is doing its dead-level best to assure.

To that end, there have even been calls from within her own party for Mrs. Clinton to discontinue her campaign. If she does so, Mr. Obama’s skids will be well-lubricated with the snake-oil he routinely peddles to the ignorant rubes.

“Operation Chaos” exists to keep Mrs. Clinton in the race right up to the DNC convention, so that she and Mr. Obama can deflate their own war-chests as they go at each other hammer-and-tong. When they’re hurling vitriol at each other, they’re less likely to spatter any on John McCain, who isn’t having to deplete his coffers by answering their attack ads.

In August, whichever candidate manages to crawl out of the fighting cage to square off against Senator McCain will be a whole lot poorer (and a damned-sight bloodier!) than if Mrs. Clinton is forced out of the race now. Perhaps, by that time, Mr. McCain will have become a tad more pugnacious.
David Gonzalez
Wheeling, Illinois

To answer Philip Klein’s question, the answer from this New Yorker is a resounding NO! And I have yet to meet an upstater that is willing to vote for her. We all know her game. She doesn’t want to be President to “save the U.S. and the world,” she wants to get EVEN for all the perceived wrongs done to her and her husband over the years!! And OBAMA! Well, as I say to my Democratic friends (both of them), you guys are between a rock and a hard place. Thank God for McCain!

As for O’Reilly giving softball Katie Couric-style questions, on that I disagree. I saw the interview and while he could have asked a lot more questions he got her to come out on sanctuary cities, which is a big issue with a lot of voters. It seems all Liberals are such wusses!! They don’t want to offend anyone. And like everything else that, too, starts at home. I have them in my family and I laugh at their hesitance to offend, even their kids.
Joan Moriarty
Pine Plains, New York

After what Bill and Hillary put us through, I can’t imagine ever voting for Hilary, under any circumstances, in the primaries or in November, whether directly for President or under the dubious notion that she’s an easier-to-defeat candidate. Respect has to be earned and the two of them just frittered theirs away.
Robert Nowall
Cape Coral, Florida

Mr. Klein is right. No one on the right should find any comfort in the tenacity of Hillary’s campaign, nor should anyone be giving it any support. The best outcome for the right in this election is that Obama gets the nomination and loses in the general election to McCain. That disposes of both Hillary and Obama. I have no confidence that a general election campaign against Hillary will be particularly easy, especially because I don’t think even the so-called Republican attack machine actually has the stomach to go after her with enough determination (on either the issues or her character or both) to beat her. If conservatives want to influence the Democratic primary, to the extent that they can participate, they should vote Obama, drive the stake firmly through Hillary’s heart and look forward to the general election.
Anthony Mirvish

It is a symptom of Republican malaise and corruption that so-called conservatives have found it “fashionable” to get cutesy with the Clintons. It is, after all, far easier to try to “get along” with one’s political opponents rather than confront them. One wonders, however, how exactly the Republican establishment would confront the Clintons, even if inclined to do so? And here I’m referring to policy differences, not the adultery, public corruption, abuse of power, and thick patina of sleaze which so breezily characterize the Clintons (to which their Republican friends — such as the doddering McCain — dare not allude).

After all, the Clinton approach to gaining and keeping constituencies was and is to bribe them with bloated entitlement payoffs, selective regulatory power, and tax policy, i.e., the same approach used by Republicans prior to their deserved losses in 2006. Naturally, the Clintons are far more ruthless but their Leninist philosophy is seen as something to be admired, rather than decried, in certain quarters on the right. Such tenacity, those Bolsheviks! So the beat goes on, our fearlessly depraved leaders on the left and right gazing admiringly at one other, both supremely pleased at their exploitation of the system for their own political and personal aggrandizement. “Noblesse oblige,” they protest, “We, the cleverest among you, surely deserve the perks and favors we bestow upon ourselves and, while we’re at it, we graciously offer you, the bitter masses, the elixir of “free” health care (and hence ensure our privileged station for generations to come)!” Newt is so right. A Republican bloodbath is imminent unless radical solutions and leadership come to the fore.
Peter R. McGrath
Winter Park, Florida

According to Philip Klein, “(T)here is absolutely nothing admirable about a politician so narcissistic and hungry for power that (she) is willing to say or do whatever suits (her) political interests at any given moment.”

Mr. Klein: can you name any politician to which the above does not apply?
Arnold Ahlert
Boca Raton, Florida

Apparently those who presume to speak without “Spin” have their share of seemingly foolish egotists, as well.
Joe Holmes
Cedar Park, Texas

Re: Roger Kaplan’s The Candidates and Oil:

Seize the Arab oil fields? No potential backlash to that. Right?
Mark Tarnowski
Minneapolis, Minnesota

We should not go and seize oil or other natural resources by force for the same reasons I should not hold up liquor stores. It’s wrong and more importantly bad economics. If you can not or will not pay the price do what the economists say and find a substitute.
David Goodwin
Washington, D.C.

What is to prevent us from seizing the oil fields? The real question should be “why worry about it?” This is not 1973. In 1973, Middle Eastern countries were poor and backward. They had no idea how to spend their new wealth. Today, those same countries need oil revenue to feed their people. It may be hard for Americans to understand, but they need to sell their oil far more urgently than we need to buy it.

So if Saudi Arabia decides to boycott the U.S. again as they did in 1973, it won’t matter to us because oil is fungible. The Saudi’s will have to sell their oil to someone; they need the revenue too badly not to sell it. Whoever buys the oil that used to go to the U.S. will free up supplies from some other part of the world, such as Venezuela or Mexico and the U.S. can buy that oil. We should think of the supply of oil as a large pool. If we can’t drink from one side of the pool due to politics, we can simply move to another side.

In addition, we get most of our oil from Canada and Mexico. We get zero oil from Iran. Very little comes from the Middles East. Europe gets their oil from the Middle East; let them worry about secure supplies.

Finally, the high price of oil today has very little to do with supply and demand, which have been in balance for a long time. The problem with the current analyses of the situation is that most people were weaned on Keynesian economics in which the money supply has little effect. If people would pay attention to Monetarist (Milton Friedman) or Austrian econ, they would know that the current high price of oil is mostly the result of US monetary policy that pumps too much money and credit into the economy. In other words, the price of oil hasn’t risen; the value of the dollar has collapsed and fewer people want to use it. Oil hasn’t caused food prices to rise; central banks have. It’s wrong to blame Arabs for the “wreckage of the world’s economies” when the real criminals are central bankers, especially the US central bank.
Roger D. McKinney
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Roger Kaplan has hit the nail on the head. Although decades of our absurd environmental and regulatory policies have fed into the problem, there can be no doubt that, because of OPEC, the price of oil is above market, and these countries are getting an above market profit. Basic free market economics tells us this can only happen over the long haul by using force. It is not as if these sheiks legitimately own the oil in some kind of Lockean sense. Much was nationalized. It would be morally acceptable to use force to disband OPEC or seize the oil(or as it should be called, “liberating” the oil). Perhaps a real threat of military action with an ultimatum could produce the desired effect as well. One quibble: rather than letting the U.S. administer the price, auction the oil off to non-state run oil companies. We can and need to have a real market price for oil, not this State enforced sham that is delivering mega illegitimate profits to terrorists and dictators, while starving and impoverishing the rest of the world.
Philip Schneider

Mr. Kaplan has got to be kidding.

First, his proposed course of action would require denouncing the UN charter and mutual treaty obligations with dozens of countries all at once. I cannot conceive of any administration that could be snake-charmed into that.

Results vary, but the USA has been trying to be a good friend and moral exemplar these last few decades. How could that be thrown away at a stroke, even supposing you could find someone with more credibility than David Duke to advocate it?

And this country is not a European imperial power of the 19th century, when the society was grounded on the more homicidal strains of the Old Testament, with “la mission civilatrice” and “the white man’s burden” as solemn articles of faith.

Today a supposedly beneficent conquest (supposing it worked — a damn big “if ,” after Iraq) would look more like an economic mutation of the “lebensraum” theory. Probably rightly.

Second, seventy years of Marxists in high places has had its effect, and not a good one. America today is hard put to summon the national will and popular support to defend its own interests, let alone devise a rationale to impose its supervision on others. Quite apart from the fact that it is beyond our capabilities right now to stage an oil Blitzkrieg in any OPEC country, even trying it would lead to open revolt and quite possibly a civil war in this one.

Third, I cannot help but notice that many of the hard-line, preventive-war crowd never spent a day in uniform themselves. No matter how sincere, something is lacking from the perception of strategic planners who have never stood watch or sentry duty themselves.

So let me propose a middle course: modify the Arms Control Act, with its bans on foreign military recruiting and sensitive weapons sales — at least as far the non-nuclear items. After that, have at it! Let the visionaries launch their own filibustering expeditions. On their own dime. Risking their own necks. Win and we’re with ’em all the way, lose and we never heard of ’em. What was good enough for Francis Drake and Henry Morgan should be good enough for them.
Martin Owens
Sacramento, California

Roger Kaplan: You yourself acknowledge the obvious: that the Saudi and Gulf royals exist at the pleasure of the U. S. and the UK governments. So what is to keep all of us out here in flyover country from believing that our government (behind smoke and mirrors) already sets the price of our fuels? And why should we believe that the price would be set more in our favor if our government swept away the smoke and mirrors (swept the Saudi and Emirate regimes, that is) and took direct control?
Ty Knoy
Ann Arbor, Michigan

The thesis of this article has to be the most idiotic idea I have heard or read since the last time Hillary or Obama opened their elitist mouths. The Arab despots who “own” the oil, own the oil. It is their oil, to do with whatever they choose to do. It is not their fault that the USA now lies prostrate at their feet, begging and praying them not to raise the price of oil and to increase output.

The reason the USA is in an energy bind is our own stupid, misguided, idiotic, moronic, suicidal energy “policy.” Simply put, it is literally illegal to drill for oil or gas in most places within the offshore or on-shore confines of the USA, it is near impossible to build a new refinery, and it is almost impossible to build a nuclear power plant, and each state sets its own guidelines as to what type of gasoline is permitted. What a total joke.

And what forms of energy are promoted. Domestically produced ethanol — the biggest sick joke since the global warming scare and solar and wind; two forms of energy that if fully utilized would satisfy about 5% of the energy needs of this country.

This has been our energy policy for the last 35 years. In fact, if 35 years ago it was intended that we endanger national security by implementing a policy that would guarantee dependence on Arab oil, the suicidal policy we have followed would have been implemented.

The overwhelmingly successful, and environmentally sound, oil and gas drilling of the last 30 years or more in the Gulf of Mexico and in Alaska’s North Slope somehow have no bearing on decisions to seek more energy sources in Alaska or off the U.S. coastline. The fabulous success of France utilizing nuclear power — as well as our own U.S. Navy — has no bearing on increasing use of this non-polluting — and limitless — energy source.

As far as nuclear waste, this is a problem only if one assumes that over the next 100 or 200 years, science will have made ZERO progress in developing new technologies to recycle these materials. Just look back over the last 100 years to see the exponential advances in science to solve many of mankind’s problems. It is literally inconceivable that 100 years hence, uranium now destined for underground burial — at the cost of billions of dollars — will not be put to good use.

Today’s politicians are beholden to radical, left wing, pseudo-religious eco-wackos, whose sole purpose is to humble and disable the economic and military capacity of the USA. These people have no problem hopping about in private planes, limos, living in very large homes, etc., while excoriating others who drive SUVs. I would love to see a photo of the parking lot at a Sierra Club meeting; most likely precious few of these upper-middle-class to wealthy folks attending these enviro-love-ins walked, took the bus, or rode their bicycles to the meeting. What hypocrites.

It is the U.S. Congress — composed of corrupt, lazy, and typically very wealthy politicians who merely seek re-election — who pander to these radical types to receive campaign contributions — that have gotten this county into this energy problem.

The solution is not to take over the Arab oil fields. The solution is to develop our own energy sources — wind, solar, nuclear, hydroelectric, hydrogen, coal gasification, and yes, oil and gas.
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Roger Kaplan’s argument for seizing the oil fields applies the eye to the eyepiece of history’s binoculars. That idea’s absence for the current political arena is indeed disturbing…but that arena is now consumerist. Lincoln and Douglas debated live…you had to be there or take the time to read about it. Then think it through. Now it is all TV and radio sound bites. I watched Bill O’Reilly footsie with Hillary Clinton to secure Fox News’ access to Democrats during the sweeps…oops, I’m sorry, the Campaign. We can write off serious thought this election cycle. The citizenry and candidates of Lincoln-Douglas era were producers of liberty, not its consumers. I’m afraid Roger Kaplan needs to turn history’s binoculars backwards again to fit in better.
Christopher Roberts

Roger Kaplan asks, “What is to prevent us from seizing the oil fields?”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This mess didn’t start out as “blood for oil,” but I’m optimistic that we are not too late.

After seizing the Mid-East oil fields, as a show of international goodwill, I recommend ceding California to Mexico, or at least the coastal area west of I-5.

Maybe the Mexicans will develop the offshore oil.
Dan Martin
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Why limit ourselves to seizing oil fields? Using Roger Kaplan’s “logic,” a few well-aimed nukes, some targeted assassinations and an announcement that we will default on all our international debt could take care of a host of other problems as well.

There’s no sense in being wimpy imperialist marauders.
Arnold Ahlert
Boca Raton, Florida

Re: Russ Ferguson’s Sweet Carolina:

I hope the good citizens of North Carolina have learned the lessons of Iowa and New Hampshire. In particular, make sure the candidates and their staff pay up front.
Robert Nowall
Cape Coral, Florida

North Carolina! Clear mountain air in the west, hot air in Charlotte and salt air in the east.

This is an interesting state. Salespeople in stores will greet you with “Have a Blessed Day” and most small businesses are still closed on Sunday. You may be invited to a BBQ (some of the best anywhere) by folks you barely know “because y’all are our neighbor.” It is mostly a very special place to live.

But it has a dark underbelly. Charlotte is Detroit south. A horrific crime rate. A City commission fanatically dedicated to quite literally throwing tax money away on idiocy. The County of Mecklenburg is very similar ever higher taxes to support frivolous spending. It is a bastion of liberal thinking (which as we know, is no thinking at all).

The State itself has quite high taxes and a plethora of them to include an income tax. The legislature is owned and operated by and for democrats so there is rampant corruption and graft, as well as each session some urgent need to raise some or all of the existing taxes and the opportunity (almost always taken to make up some new ones).

But this is contrasted by the support for the military and the willingness to give up her sons to that fine organization. Churches regularly pray for their sons and daughters now serving by name. Care package requests fill bins to overflowing in a matter of hours, not weeks, as required in New York, say.

So like America, North Carolina is wonderfully schizoid, over taxed, and burdened by elected officials who follow, proudly, the American political tradition: do nothing; spend money.
Jay Molyneaux
North Carolina

Re: W. James Antle III’s Dapper Dann:

The day that this story broke the local talk station, 570 WKBN, spent most of the 3-6PM slot talking about it and taking calls on it. One of the earlier callers nailed it. “This is just Mahoning County politics transferred to Columbus.” Look at the corruption and graft that Youngstown, Ohio is infamous for and you will see that Dann is just playing by the rules that he learned playing the game in Mahoning County.
Nate Bell
Leetonia, Ohio

Re: Admiral James Loy’s letter (under “Catastrophe Indeed”) in Reader Mail’s No Sowell:

Admiral Loy’s response (“Catastrophe Indeed”) was going fine until about halfway through, the secret code words began leaking out, revealing that his disaster insurance scheme is just another government-run market distorter.

The first clue was Loy’s statement that it is” the insurance companies, not the taxpayers who would be on the hook.” It must have been an oversight to omit the adjective “evil” when mentioning insurance companies. The first rule of propaganda is to identify the enemy so you can pin the blame and the costs on him. Set up insurers as villains, since nobody cares what happens to corporations. Never mind that they already offer policies to cover anything you like, albeit at prices commensurate with the risk.

The good sailor suggests that his special, “actuarially sound” catastrophe fund should be allowed to grow free of taxes. While I am the last person to defend taxation, what makes his program uniquely deserving of this privilege? Surely if the tax climate is too oppressive for his fund to succeed, it is oppressive for all the rest of us as well. Segregating some assets for tax-free treatment just concentrates the tax burden on other assets, hardly a relief on the ordinary taxpayer.

He goes on to pretend that it “could only be used to pay claims in the aftermath of a true, massive catastrophe.” Hear me now and believe me later: once there is money in his fund, it will be prey for any politician who can get his hands on it. Every tornado, snowstorm and drought will be
labeled “catastrophic.” His fund’s focus is then diluted by larding on “public education… prevention and mitigation programs and … first responder programs.” Perhaps I am the only one who’s tired of noble-sounding, open-ended, never-enough, accountability-free government endeavors.

The private sector solution already exists: If you choose to build your house in the path of hurricanes/floods/earthquakes, buy your own freakin’ insurance. When you find that nobody wants to insure you, you are free to absorb the risk yourself or move somewhere less dangerous. It is not the duty of some evil corporation, much less that of the government, to subsidize your risky choices.
Jim Bono
Midlothian, Virginia

Re: William Tucker’s What Conservatives Want:

I have just finished William Tucker’s article, “What Conservatives Want,” and am disappointed by the lack of depth and 2-dimensionality shown in such a prestigious newspaper’s op-ed column.

I’m a “young liberal” as Tucker calls me. And I don’t enjoy being patronized and condescended to as I look for my daily news. But it’s not really enough to just whine about an out-of-touch conservative taking a dig at a generation that he misunderstands. I felt that I should explain what it is about liberalism that attracts so many of us.

It is that conservatism is responsible for the mess that we now find ourselves in. As Mr. Tucker writes his article (from comfortable Nyack, New York) about how there really isn’t that much inequity in this country, I suggest that he take a brief travel through the vast space between our coasts. There he will find those left behind. My hometown of Hawley, Pennsylvania, has a median income of $18,000. Many of those people support a family on that income, and everybody works. So I don’t really understand the argument that conservatism works for everybody who has a certain degree of “get up and go.”

The reason that William Tucker is a conservative is that he blames liberals for his high tax rate (which, by the way, are mostly due to the irresponsible tax cuts and runaway spending begun in the Reagan years).

Liberalism makes sense to me. I like the idea of making sure that my neighbor is taken care of. And I like the idea of my neighbor taking care of me. And every time we have ever adopted this policy in our nation’s brief history, whenever we take the stance that there should be a floor through which no citizen will sink, we have always entered a period of prosperity. The New Deal, The Great Society, The Clinton Years. Look at growth of GDP and median income during these times.

Mr. Tucker’s argument is philosophically compelling, and very misguided. I understand it. It’s been tried. And it’s never worked.

You guys blew it. It’s our turn now.

Tell Tucker to get out to rural Pennsylvania more. I’ll show him around.
Louis Gruber

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