A HEALTHY SHOCK
Re: Quin Hillyer’s Produce More Domestic Energy, Now!:
Many thanks, Mr. Hillyer, for your comprehensive article on the current energy production impasse. Wouldn’t it be the height of irony if Castro turned out to be the impetus for giving the cowering pols in D.C. the political cover to finally allow for the expansion of U.S. costal drilling? After all, it’s now a matter of national pride that the U.S. can cause less environmental damage than the Cubans drilling 35 miles off of Florida. Thanks Fidel! You’ve done your bit for America’s economy, even if Washington wasn’t much interested in America’s self sufficiency.
But in all seriousness, with the President fixated on CAFE standards for autos and trucks rather than hitting the political grand slam over the left’s and the Dems’ constant objection to more energy production, one wonders why Karl Rove is credited with being the policy genius of this administration. Somebody is not connecting with the base or the majority of Americans who want energy independence, and it’s not those who write for or read TAS. Even some of the aforementioned political weenies in Congress seem to have woken up and appear to have actually authored some rational legislation that actually addresses the problem in a meaningful way. I do note however, my sarcasm notwithstanding, that the impetus behind states opting out of the off shore drilling moratorium revolves around one thing; and it’s not the economic security of America. Rather, it’s good ole fashion greed. Yep, a 50/50 split of revenue sharing to the states has a way of putting the high-minded rhetorical concerns of the environment on the back shelf, especially when big bucks are on the table. This is a classic example of the first principle of politics on display: “Follow the Money.” Oh well, what ever it takes for Washington to finally do something right for its citizens.
— A. DiPentima
If you paid $1.00 in 1973 for a gallon of gas, the inflation adjusted cost would be $4.42 now, assuming that there are no adjustments in state and local taxes since 1973. Gas is costing a lot more than I would like to pay, but at least we are not driving 55 miles per hour and lines or empty filling stations are rare.
I congratulate Mr. Hillyer on his emphasis on long term solutions but, he fails to explain how that can be turned into immediate gratification. Without leaders who are willing to forego the political credit until after their possible demise, we are without effective leadership.
— Danny L. Newton
DON’T COUNT ON IT
Re: Lisa Fabrizio’s American Compassion:
If LIFE really always meant LIFE I would be against the death penalty, but in state courts that is not the case. Give someone life and in 15 years they get a parole hearing. Staying in that little cage to me would be worse than death and I was not unhappy with the Moussaoui verdict.
— Elaine Kyle
A STRANGE ISLAND
Re: Mark G. Michaelsen’s What’s the Idea?:
Sounds like things are just peachy up in ol’ Madison right now. Reminds me of a popular saying when I lived in Milwaukee: “Madison is twenty square miles surrounded by reality.”
A LITTLE CONTEXT
Re: Ben Stein’s What You Need to Know:
Ben’s statement, “Knowledge of history is context and context is everything” caught my attention. Not only do I agree whole heartedly with that statement but I would even go further in saying that being “educated” in worldly matters is essential to understanding anything about what has transpired throughout human history. In today’s climate, “schooling” and “education” are considered one in the same and nothing is further from the truth. In general, the American population is well schooled at enormous cost to the taxpayers but uneducated in some of the most basic skill sets needed for life.
Take any hot button issue off the front page of any 8th grade reading level news paper and you would be hard pressed to find enough factual information presented to provide its readers any hope of making an informed choice about the matter at hand.
Take the price of gas? You don’t need an advanced degree in economics to understand the basis of Supply and Demand but you would have difficulty finding anyone in the MSN or Congress that can demonstrate any understanding of what is involved in the running of a capital intensive business like the energy, airline or automotive industries. All of these can go from large profits to loss in a single quarter. Even when a member of the MSN or Congress reads the right words prepared for them by a paid staff member, you don’t get the feeling they actually understand what the words mean.
Take Social Security and its pending meltdown. The moment Ida May Fuller received her first SS check, the system was on a collision course with financial ruin. Ida paid $24.74 into the system over the three years she paid into it and received $22,888.92 in income over the 35 years she received benefits. No mathematical equation will sustain a system that rewards tens of millions with more than they paid into the system (with compound interest included) and yet you can’t find a single MSM person or member of Congress willing to go on record as to why Social Security is failing and will continue to do so as structured. The truth is ugly and protected by political correctness it seems. No one wants to put the system in its proper “context” I suppose out of respect for the “good intentions” of the dead. Even the President of the United States will not spell it out even though he knows the train wreck is coming and why it is. Robin Hood would be proud.
Context is often the difference between the truth and a lie. Much of what passes as News today is simply not the truth and the public is badly served by that and remains uneducated in the most fundamental truths of life. A well-rounded person needs a good understanding of history and all the lessons there and has to be well founded in economic truths. These aren’t things you get in our public institutions of learning as core requirements any more. The generations that follow my generation, the Baby Boomers, are going to learn some hard economic truths regardless of their schooling and apparent education level. Respect for history’s lessons would have made this unnecessary. Being an individual and not part of a “group” as Ben suggest is the first step in the right direction. The signers of the Declaration of Independence would understand because they were “individuals” first and foremost and very well educated in historical context.
— Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia
I’m confused. Why does Ben Stein — one of the most level-headed columnists whom I regularly read — have any need to employ a psychiatrist? (I am assuming that’s what he means when he uses the word “shrink.”) Perhaps this is a legal requirement for obtaining residence in Malibu? That would explain a lot…
— Todd Stoffer
Richard Nixon ended the Cold War?????
Re: G. Tracy Mehan III’s Concentrating the Army Corps of Engineers:
That’s $1 million per resident, not $100,000, if there are 1500 residents and the bill for levee repair is $1.5 billion.
— Bill Andersen
AN EASY MISTAKE
Re: Steny Hoyer’s letter (“Democrats Cry False”) in Reader Mail’s Hoyer Endorses Pelosi:
What’s with all the [sic][sic][sic]’s embedded in Steny Hoyer’s letter? With all the Ben Stein advertising banners, including one in the middle of Hoyer’s letter, it is quite possible for the casual reader to assume that every word in the Spectator is produced by Ben Stein. And I suspect Steny Hoyer is at best a casual reader of this site.
— Glen Hoffing
Shamong, New Jersey
Re: Ben Stein’s Stop the Scapegoating:
Ben Stein hits the nail on the head once again. There’s nothing more ridiculous than the “consumer-environmentalist” who commands “Give me all the energy I want at a price I can afford and don’t mess up the environment while doing it!” There’s nothing more pathetic than environmental leaders who preach and pray about conserving energy and then join the braying herd whenever oil prices go up — which is the thing that makes people conserve in the first place. And there’s nothing more dangerous than an American public that has been deluded into thinking resources are infinite and price will always remain the same. Public attitudes are going to have to change at some point. Let’s start by building a few more nuclear plants.
— William Tucker
I would ask Mr. Stein, whom I greatly respect and admire, just when does profit become grotesque and obscene? No one faults companies for making a return on their investments, however when that return tops $8.4 billion dollars for one company for ONE quarter, one has to ask is the fair or overpricing of the final product.
I agree that Americans seem to feel they have to have the biggest SUV (Navigators, Hummers et al) to show the world “Here I am,” “I have arrived,” but I also look at their major auto producers who either cannot or will not produce vehicles that are efficient and economical without government getting into the act and forcing them through legislation to do so. THEY must shoulder some of the blame also.
We need to wean ourselves off foreign oil period. There are enough reserves of crude oil and natural gas in area 181 in the Gulf of Mexico to sustain us for a considerable length of time. It is time that congress took the bull by the horns and did what is needed to get us on that road to energy independence.
I, for one, when I build my new home in the Pacific NW, will invest in a fuel cell power unit for my home. I will be able to generate adequate electrical power necessary, produce clear fresh water as one by product and hot water as the other. In addition I will be able to feed my excess into the grid in off peak hours.
— Allan Pilger
I understand everything you have said in the above article, HOWEVER, you are either purposely or ignorantly missing the point of the latest public outrage. The issue is GASOLINE prices, NOT oil prices. Most of us burn gasoline in our cars not oil. Yes we understand the market forces that cause the price of oil to go up and down. What we do not understand is why the oil companies (some would say purposely and illegally) fail to increase gasoline refining capacity to meet market demand. This is not rocket science.
We (the U.S.) have reportedly started to import fully refined gasoline from Europe to meet demand. This is a total waste of money. We should be refining our own gas right here instead of paying to ship it all the way from Europe. Some say that the oil companies (who own the refineries) are allowing refining capacity to fall behind demand so that they can cash in. Some also say that this is made possible because there is now not enough competition in the refining market due to the mega-mergers of the oil companies. They say that the oil companies should be broken up and the refining business separated from the oil exploration business. You should be commenting on this, not the tired old argument that oil companies don’t control the price of “oil.” We are past that. The fact is that they do have control of the capacity to refine oil into gasoline and that misuse of that power can drive up the price of gasoline.
What say you to that, sir?
— Sean M.
Poor Ben is so confused he forgets what profits are made by the poor little old oil companies. Billions, that is with a capital “B.” They are earning unheard of profits, it is almost embarrassing. Poor Ben.
— Marc Espinosa
You have it right, it is we the people too lazy to walk a few feet and want big wheels.
I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Stein. We might even have crossed paths in the White House when he was writing speeches and I was with WHCA. He is normally a model of common sense. That’s why it’s all the more sad to see him resorting to the same tired old strawman being used by conservative commentators of all stripes: that it’s gas prices, not windfall profits, that have consumers up in arms.
Reasonable people understand that gas prices are driven by the cost of oil. But if it were that simple, how could (for instance) gas prices go up 25 cents in four days here in California? Why is there a headline in today’s OC Register saying “Oil drops…gas prices up”? Does Mr. Stein think that it takes only four days for gas to be transported from the Middle East, refined, and trucked to a gas station? I hope not.
The fact is that oil companies make their windfall — their unearned — profits by raising the price of gas before the increased cost of oil or refinery operations or outages can possibly propagate through the system. To put it another way, and as Mr. Stein points out, the gas at a gas station was produced when oil prices were lower, or refinery capacity greater, or whatever the excuse de jour is, but the pump price is raised nonetheless. Then, when gas prices go down, they never quite go down to where they were before, regardless of actual costs.
Mr. Stein can choose to see this as a commodities market in action, but the rest of us see it as exploitation. Nobody wants to deny oil companies their due profits; we just want to pay for what gas really costs, not what speculators playing with the market can force it to cost.
— Sam Samuels
Thanks, Ben, for the article on oil prices and not to blame oil companies. Lots of little people own a “little” interest in minerals. We have been raped too long by those wanting cheap fuel and not let it rise according to “inflation.” Price the barrel of oil based on THE COLAS that congressmen allow themselves each year for their salaries, and oil would be, I bet, $100 a barrel.
— Charlie Rankin
You make sense. Although I do not like paying high prices for gasoline, I do not like paying higher prices for other things also. Enjoy your columns.
— Sidney J. Steingart
In his otherwise well informed and intelligent piece, “Stop the Scapegoating,” Mr. Stein suggested we, “â€¦ zoom around in our big huge cars as if gasoline (was) still $1.50 a gallon.”
Too bad Mr. Stein’s view from Malibu didn’t extend over the wall that keeps him and every American commentator in economics ignorance and separated from the reality of oil and gasoline prices.
Which reality includes that in 1981 oil was more than $90.00 per barrel in 2006 Dollars and in the same currency, (Which bears about as much relationship to the 2000 Dollar as does, say, the Iraqi Dinar to the Ugandan Shilling) in 2000, in parts of America, gas reached $5.30.
That is, in 2006, thanks to the Fed’s artificially holding down interest rates and running its printing presses overtime, which machinations might reasonably, in less polite circles, be called counterfeiting, it costs three 2006 dollars to buy a January 21, 2001 $1.50.
And we Americans are gladly zooming around in our big huge cars because gasoline still is $1.50 a gallon.
And because we want to!
I believe your article is half right and half wrong. Granted, the ones with the gas guzzlers and a car for every individual in the family are victims of their own habits. Most certainly, not enough has been done by this country to take advantage of other power resources: i.e., solar, atomic, and wind.
But to absolve the petroleum industry of any wrong doing in the current situation is absurd. They are making billion dollar profits at our expense, and there is no one in our legislative government that is not benefiting from it, directly or indirectly.
The whole thing is a corrupt situation from top to bottom. Personally, the gas prices have little effect on me; it is the fuel oil prices that I have trouble coping with.
— C.W. Fitch
THE REAL NEW DEAL
Re: Adam White’s & Daveed Gartenstein-Ross’s FDR’s Domestic Surveillance:
Compared to FDR, Bush has shown much constraint in exercising his executive powers. To the excellent essay by Messrs. White and Gartenstein-Ross, I would add two observations about the current NSA hubbub that have been totally ignored by the lying mainstream media. The NSA’s warrantless surveillance program has already been legally challenged, and found to be lawful. As Byron York reported in his March 15, 2006 NRO piece, the Court of Review, which is a federal appeals court set up to resolve FISA challenges, held that:
“… the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information…. We take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President’s constitutional power.”
The second point is that the ACLU — staunch defender of terrorist rights that it is — appealed the Court of Review decision to the Supreme Court. The highest court declined to hear an appeal of the lower court, suggesting at the very least a lack of alarm over the surveillance program. What that means in practical terms is that anyone who suggests the NSA surveillance program is illegal is a liar.
I just read your article about FDR’s use of wire-tapping. What I found most interesting is that Congress (led by RINO Specter) is threatening to cut off funding for the NSA surveillance program. Amazing how our congressional leaders can’t cut the immense and wasteful pork (that serves no constitutional purpose of government) out of the federal budget but are willing to cut off funding for a program that is vital to protecting our nation (which is a constitutional responsibility of our federal government).
SOLDIERING AND THE HOMEFRONT
Re: Craig Sarver’s letter (“Back to Vietnam”) in Reader Mail’s General Intelligence:
I’ll respond to some of Craig Sarver’s comments without resorting to accusations or personal attacks. First, I am a doctoral candidate in political science, hence my interest in discussing the history of conflicts such as the Vietnam War, though not necessarily expertise, which I never claimed to have. Although to some this might make me part of some kind of radical intellectual elite, I like to think of it more as being in a position to examine the subject objectively without regard to my personal preferences.
Second, my original message was in response to James Bowman’s film review, which contained misleading statements about historical events, such as the idea that “publicists and media apologists” promoted Winter Soldier “at the time” as “an expose of a military establishment rife with corruption and unpunished war criminals” — they didn’t. Bowman also tries to support his assertions about Winter Soldier with a reference to an argument by Guenter Lewy that lacks adequate documentation. I disagree with commentators who promote myths and cliches about history because it serves their purposes. Further, I question the link that pundits commonly make between anti-war protests and public opinion about Vietnam or its veterans, because several studies done in the 1970s find no evidence for it (see John Mueller, “Trends in Popular Support for the Wars in Korea and Vietnam”; William R. Berkowitz, “The Impact of Anti-Vietnam Demonstrations upon National Public Opinion and Military Indicators”; and E. M. Schreiber, “Antiwar Demonstrations and American Public Opinion on the War in Vietnam”). I also base my position on my reading of the research on American public opinion about Vietnam that was published at that time which indicates that protestors were widely disliked by citizens, regardless of their personal views about the war (see Howard Schuman, “Two Sources of Anti-War Sentiment in America”). I said nothing about spitting incidents or conflicts between protestors and veterans. However, if you have records of the press coverage of the protest where you were abused, I’d be interested to see it so I can verify it against the other evidence that suggests that the media’s portrayal of demonstrators was often negative and helped to fuel hostility against them (see John P. Robinson, “Public Reaction to Political Protest: 1968”). It might change my position.
I will also need some references for the translated works by the former NVA generals that you cite, although from what I’ve seen, similar anecdotes can be found online on any given day. As for claims that a counterinsurgency can’t be won by a kindler and gentler government, this turns logic on its head by ignoring the views of military professionals who specialize in this type of strategy, and is therefore pointless to debate. My statement was directed at self-righteous ideologues and pundits — many of whom also weren’t there — who claim that unlike the protestors, U.S. soldiers fought in Vietnam to defend the “freedom” of its people, while overlooking the fact that our government’s policy was to prop up a “democracy” — read, a military dictatorship with rigged and single-candidate elections — which tortured and executed thousands of its own citizens under the guise of defeating Communists. This is in itself a very dated argument that has taken 30 years to be accepted as reasonable rather than radical — well, maybe not.
Finally, I’m always interested in talking to Vietnam veterans, or veterans of any conflict for that matter. However, not all Vietnam vets hold the same opinions about their experiences, and if someone has spent the past 30-plus years arguing that people like me were responsible for saving North Vietnam from total defeat, it makes engaging in a reasoned dialogue pretty difficult.
— Jason Strakes
Re: Ben Stein’s Greetings From Rancho Mirage:
If you could, please pass my thanks along to Mr. Stein for authoring this wonderful article. Our Navy Chaplain sent this out to all of the Navy personnel stationed in Iraq, and it really helped to lift our spirits (it was also the last e-mail our Chaplain sent to the sailors here — he is finally going home). I was especially touched by Mr. Stein’s words because I actually drove a truck to the Baghdad airport on the same day this was published.
We all appreciate his kind words during such challenging and controversial times.
— LTJG Ken Carter
U.S. Naval Reserve, Baghdad
Your message of last week made it to me via one the several who forward various to me. It was a delightful tribute to read, and for that, my heartiest thanks.
As a vet of 38 years total in the U.S. Navy, I’m always proud when I see accolades being dealt to my fellow service personnel, and a deep appreciation to those who have taken the time to so.
Thanks and may God continue to bless you!
Only suggestion, better to have left your comments about Oprah to another time/place, as it didn’t set a positive tone in your message. And, hear me, I don’t disagree one iota about you had to say about her! Only the venue.
Thanks from an appreciative veteran, now residing in Panama.
— Louis N. Anciaux, CAPT, USN (RET)
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