DEMOCRATS CRY FALSE
Re: The Washington Prowler’s Pelosi Bluster:
Yesterday, Ben Stein [sic], in his online column posted on your website, cites two sources — unnamed of course — to assert that I am somehow angling for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s job. The words “absurd,” “ludicrous,” and “ridiculous” immediately come to mind. However, I realize that even such strong, unequivocal adjectives will not be enough to convince some to dismiss Mr. Stein’s [sic] assertions for what they are — nonsense. So, please allow me to state as clearly as I can: The assertions in Mr. Stein’s [sic] column are categorically untrue.
The fact is, I am working hard — as are all Members of the Democratic leadership — to help Democrats regain the House Majority in November, to elect Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, and to lead this country in a new, positive direction after years of Republican incompetence, cronyism and corruption.
— STENY H. HOYER
House Democratic Whip
The article in question was by the Washington Prowler, not Ben Stein.
DON’T SHOOT THE DOCTOR
Re: Ben Stein’s Stop the Scapegoating:
For once, Ben is slightly off-target. By blaming the oil companies for high gasoline prices, we are not “blaming the messenger,” we are a patient blaming the doctor for the disease. “Let’s kill all the doctors” would not be a very salubrious response to an epidemic outbreak.
Oil does not “appear” at the gas station. It has to be found. To be found, geologists having studied for years in college, have to come up with a theory as to where it might be found. Then field engineers have to collect data to see if they might be right. Then that data needs to be reduced by supercomputers run by still more engineers, mathematicians and geologists. And that is the first step.
Then if the oil is in an inaccessible place, and it is likely to be because the accessible places have mostly been found, the technology needs to be developed to get to it. That is likely to involve drilling in the oceans. It currently means starting in 10,000 feet — 2 miles — of water just to get to the starting point. To do this, platforms have to be designed by engineers and build by metalworkers over a period of years. Then they need to be towed to the right place and stabilized there.
Then the drilling needs to be done using specialty metals to take the strains and technology such as turning the drill hole 90 percent through rock.
Then the oil needs to be extracted from the rock using pressure and cracking technologies, which also needed to be developed. Then it needs to be refined in enormous facilities that take years to build.
Then it need to be transported to the gas station so you can tool up and fill ‘er up. That only looks like a windfall to someone who doesn’t know anything. Unfortunately, as Rush Limbaugh has observed, that constitutes a larger and larger proportion of our new graduates.
Oil companies, at these outrageous, abusive prices, are earning about 10 percent on sales. That means that 10 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline is profit. Out of $3.00 for a gallon, the oil company is making $0.30. That $0.30 supports the entire enterprise. It supports all those engineers, scientists, geologists, roughnecks, metal workers, truck and truck drivers, metal miners and smelters for the hardware. All of it that makes gasoline a reality rather than a debater’s point. Take away that $0.30, and all of that, along with the gasoline itself, goes. Just ask the Soviet Union before the fall.
And that $0.30 is what pays whatever dividend the shareholders get, which is a small fraction of the $0.30. All the rest of it is plowed back into the business looking for and producing more oil.
You think that is a bad deal? Do you think that you are likely to get more gasoline for next weekend if you give that $0.30 to ExxonMobil, or to Chuck Schumer? ExxonMobil, producing about 3 percent of world oil, is an enormous private enterprise, with revenues over $300 billion per year. The U.S. government spends that much every 6 weeks. Every 6 weeks. Do you think that we get our money’s worth out of that compared to what we get from ExxonMobil?
Where does Chuck Schumer come off being so staggered at $8 billion for one quarter’s earnings? That is tip money in Washington — wouldn’t pay for doughnuts for a week. Yet in private hands, in ExxonMobil’s hands, it supports our standard of living.
— Greg Richards
I have a friend that will not stop at an ExxonMobil station because she thinks they are gouging. I always laugh at her. I don’t care who is selling the gasoline; I stop at the cheapest station. I mean, after all there is a station on almost every corner. In Cleveland, Texas on the west side of Highway 59 there is a Chevron that is always 15 cents higher than the Shamrock on the east side and the funny thing is there are always cars at that Chevron. Go figure.
Thanks Ben for another good article.
— Elaine Kyle
Oil companies don’t set prices, they just eliminate competition. When Exxon and Mobil merged the story they gave America was that they “couldn’t compete” on a world stage without the merger which eliminated tens of thousands of jobs. The bigger the lie, the more likely it is that people will fall for it.
Without competition, where is their incentive to explore and find more oil? Why should they be interested in building more refineries or increasing the supply of crude when they are showing not only record profits, but obscene profits? The answer is that competition does not exist on the supply side because of that merger and others like it (i.e., Shell/Texaco).
Ben Stein presents a very concise and cogent essay on the situation. The traders are driving the crude prices up based on emotional fears of what might happen in the future. We are short of refining capacity since environmental restrictions have halted construction of any new facilities in the last 20-plus years and there is greatly reduced competition in the business after all the mergers that have occurred in the last few years.
The oil companies, however, certainly make themselves ready targets of the guy paying $40-plus to put 13 gallons of gas into his 30 mpg, 1985 Camry’s tank (me) when they repeatedly report successive record quarterly profits, quarterly profits greater than the GNP of most of the world’s nations, drop a half-billion dollar retirement package on a retiring CEO, and continue to sell our North Slope crude to foreigners while importing oil from other foreigners.
Meanwhile the American automakers, falling off the end of an exciting ride of mega-SUV sales are all about ready to go under in the next few years since they can’t cope with the same market as well as Toyota does as it posts record sales and profits.
— Robert P. Ward
Bonney Lake, Washington
Of course as usual Ben Stein is correct about the oil companies not setting the price of oil and the resultant price of gasoline but you can’t really find too much fault with the “man on the street” (or woman if you will) blaming “Big Oil” especially with the large salaries paid to executives of these companies being highlighted by every sleazy politician of both parties. However these politicians do know the facts or should and are just grandstanding to divert the attention they should be getting because of their capitulation to the radical environmentalists who have blocked every responsible move to increase domestic supplies of oil for the last 50 years. Not to mention the Liberal judges who have inhibited the development of nuclear power time and time again. Even the French get most of their electricity from the dreaded “atom.”
Well said. I wonder, though, if a better headline would be “Stop the misinformation,” or “Stop the ignorance.”
We’re reaping the wholesale dumbing-down of America by one particular political party and its allies in the mainstream news media and special interest groups.
What’s particularly galling — and what’s now a genuine threat to our national security that must be addressed immediately — is that this cabal has placed, places and appears to want to continue to place political and ideological gain above not just our security and sovereignty, but that of future generations.
It would appear they’re satisfied with our enslavement to the world’s energy, as well sit on such vast reserves of oil and natural gas. And as we sit on total coal reserves that match the total proven oil reserves of the world.
I’m not satisfied with either the enslavement or the cabal’s attitude and misinformation campaigns. I don’t believe many Americans are. If so, we’d better raise our voices and take action.
— C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia
Re: Andrew Cline’s Left-Wing Unilateralism:
The left wants to put the U.S. military in the middle of an African civil war? No thanks.
They should take a page out of the history books and raise a volunteer Regiment for such an idealistic adventure. I would be glad to help them with their training and wish them well when they leave. The volunteers can deploy to heart of Africa and try to break up a fight between warring Muslim factions. Good luck with that.
As for me, I would rather finish the commitments we have already made in the Middle East and train to defend the U.S. against actual threats.
— Chris (National Guardsman and former Marine)
The condescension by the left of their righteousness — after the slaughter — is contemptible. They are oblivious to the irony. The mass graves in Iraq seem to be meaningless. I really think it has to do with their immaturity to lend support to those they know are right regardless of the party. They are too insecure to do that.
— Susan Reeve
Tabernacle, New Jersey
Rarely does a short article such as this one bring to bear so much light on the threadbare fabric of liberalism’s attitude toward military intervention in foreign genocidal situations. The level of hypocrisy displayed in the liberal reactions to the Darfur situation and the pre-invasion situation in Iraq is truly disgraceful. Of course, if you ask John Q. Liberal about it, you’ll get “Bush lied, people died,” or some other nonsensical mantra that adds up to leftist cognitive thought. While I am aware that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds,” intellectual flight from consistency is often a badge of stupidity. Rhetorically speaking, how does one justify one intervention while condemning the other? But then, how does one justify welfare programs that have been shown by a battalion of studies to do the opposite of what they are intended to do?
It seems that to be a liberal one must eschew logic in favor of feeling, ignore common sense, and allow oneself to be bounced around the intellectual landscape by whim, caprice, and vagary. Little wonder that John Kerry can vote against something before he votes for it, or John Edwards can identify with the poor workingman while he directs the investment of the millions that he has wrung from the tragedies of parents with stillborn children. Senator Kennedy stumps for “alternative sources of energy,” but don’t put any windmills near his beach front compound. Conservative to conservative the most common question to be asked and answered is “What do you think?” For liberals, it is “How do you feel?” We desperately need “energy independence”, but don’t touch ANWR. Profits are “obscene,” never mind that they are the reason that most of us have jobs.
In a world in which there is no objective truth, no one is a liar (except Bush). Just think how great it would be to never have to dance on the horns of a dilemma. Just go the way you feel! Absolved of blame for consequences such as re-education camps, ethnic cleansing (see Pol Pot), boat people, gassed Kurds, etc., liberals can blithely march on, never having to face consequences because, with no objective truth, there is no responsibility. Look at the speaking engagements at our colleges and universities. We can shout down an Ann Coulter or a Mike Adams because they are wrong, and therefore deserve to be shouted down. You must listen to Al Franken and Al Gore because they have First Amendment rights (which apparently weren’t conferred on Coulter and Adams). These liberals actually believe that this is so, and worse, they are teaching it to another generation. Don’t ask how a supposedly educated man could refer to the 3,000 dead on 9/11 as “little Eichmanns.” Rather, ask yourself how millions of Americans can embrace the mindset that gives this type of speech as legitimate intelligent thought.
— Joe Baum
IRAQ THE CAULDRON
Re: Reid Collins’s La Guerre Est Finie:
Mr. Collins cogently points out what has been long evident to the few who seriously study politics and nation-states: Iraq was a creation of the British Empire following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WWI. It has been held together only by force, not its peoples identifying themselves as uniquely Iraqis. The same colonial mistakes were made in Africa and other places in Asia as well. Arbitrary boundary lines drawn without respect for cultural and ethnic identity of the area’s inhabitants are a recipe for the kind of situation we see in places like Iraq, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and the Congo. One wonders what happened to the Wilsonian Fourteen Points, one of which was “Self-determination of the Peoples”?
— Charles Nightingale
Thank you, Reid Collins, for saying what most on both the left and right are afraid to admit. If you go by the original premise of the Iraq invasion, the war was over the moment that statue of Saddam hit the ground. What is happening now is a scramble to add stability in the vacuum created by the absence of dictatorship, with the hope of minimizing backfilling by terrorists. To put it cynically, we actually don’t care about Iraq as long as it doesn’t become a terrorist state; we probably don’t even care about its oil any more. Al-Qaeda has made great strides in Iraq, but as long as it is prevented from establishing a home state, its actual significance to Americans is considerably less than that of annual traffic accidents. Whether we should bail out of Iraq now is a perfectly legitimate question.
— Paul Dorell
Highland Park, Illinois
This is way too sensible, easy and logical for the liberals and leftists to grasp. Quel dommage!
— C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia
Well said, Reid. The state of Iraq is very young and its civilization is very old. The traditional site of the Garden of Eden and today’s air bases are side by side. How, indeed, can we deal with this?
— Cara Lyons Lege
HIGH ON HAYDEN
Re: Jed Babbin’s Val for DCI:
Jed Babbin does offer some interesting insight into the Hayden nomination, but I have to respectively disagree on two fronts with his final conclusion:
Hayden is, in any event, the wrong guy to even attempt it. He’s a techie who has had little experience in the human intelligence game where the CIA’s failure is most important. But does he have the vision, guts and experience to brush past the CIA Praetorians and reform our spy apparatus while ignoring the bureaucratic battles that his boss — the DNI — will be mired in forever? Unfortunately the answer is — almost certainly — no.
Does Hayden have the cojones to do this job? Most certainly the answer is YES. I am not sure on what Jed is basing his opinion.
Just to set the stage on why I think so, here is my response to John Hinderaker’s “No Generals Need Apply?” posting from Sunday (before the official announcement):
It would not surprise me that Hayden would get the job, there has been that speculation for a while, but we thought he might get it later after he retired. (Like Clapper at NIMA/NGA). But having a military Dir CIA is not unprecedented, but it has been ~40-plus years.
If we leave aside the obvious political arguments over the NSA program which are sure to come up at any confirmation hearings, Hayden is a great pick. One of the big talking points on both sides of the aisle is how CIA needs to be fixed. Well, as I have discussed before, Hayden did the same thing at NSA, dragging it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. He overcame a lot of bureaucratic inertia to accomplish that. I would say he is the best candidate to do just the same at CIA. Additionally, being a in the military might afford him a little extra protection from some of the political sniping that comes with a regular political appointee. Time will tell, but if we are serious as a nation about our security and having competent intelligence services to help provide that security, I don’t think we could fins anyone better for this job at this time. If certain Senators want to play politics and kill this nomination (if it comes) to make some partisan points, what we will inevitably end up with running the CIA is a milquetoast, non-threatening figurehead who is acceptable to everyone, and such a person will have no leverage to produce any reforms in the Agency. That result would be the intelligence equivalent of FEMA/Michael Brown. That should be unacceptable to us all.
Now what I object to the most from Babbin’s assessment is his quick dismissal of Hayden as being able to handle the “CIA Praetorians.” Hayden’s biggest accomplishment while at NSA was to force the entrenched civilian bureaucracy, used to waiting out the revolving military directors, into virtual submission. As much as it pains me to do so, I refer you to a Sy Hersh article from 1999 which offers the following graph on what Hayden had to deal with when he got to NSA:
The advisory group put much of the blame for the agency’s problems on the stagnation and rigidity of the senior civilian management. “The N.S.A.’s party line to Congress is ‘We’re fine. We don’t need to change,'” the official told me. “It’s like a real Communist organization. Free thought is not encouraged” among the managers. Referring to the senior bureaucracy, the official said that the agency would “have to fire almost everyone.” This official and others singled out Barbara A. McNamara, the current N.S.A. deputy director, as someone especially resistant to change. “She’s leading a cohort of thirty-year veterans who go back to radio” — a reference to high-frequency radio transmissions — “and think nothing is needed,” the official said. In secret testimony this fall before Congress, he added, McNamara talked about “how good the N.S.A. is — how it caught this and that drug guy. They got a whole bunch of horseshit from Barbara.”
In subsequent interviews, many former N.S.A. managers endorsed the advisory group’s findings. One former official described the civilian leadership as “a self-licking ice-cream cone,” with little tolerance for dissent or information it did not wish to hear. “If you didn’t support their position, you weren’t considered a team player,” this person told me. “You couldn’t go into a meeting, put your best ideas on the table, have it out, get the best idea, and then go have a beer.” McNamara’s authority stems from her longevity: the admirals and generals who serve the agency director remain on the job for an average of three years before retiring or going on to other military assignments. The agency’s top civilians have worked together, in many cases, for nearly thirty years, and inevitably share the same insular points of view.
Another recently retired official told me that the N.S.A. has become a dynastic bureaucracy, in which the fathers have made room for their sons, with the wives and mothers of favored employees hired as mid-level staff in the human-resources office. “The place is full of warlords and fiefdoms,” the former official said. “Now we’re getting to the grandchildren.” Such insider hiring has led to the quip, which I heard from a number of officials, that the N.S.A. functions as a “Glen Burnie W.P.A. project.” Glen Burnie is a nearby suburb, and home to many N.S.A. employees.
Some six months later Barb McNamara was sent packing, “reassigned” as a liaison with the Brits. Hayden set a major precedent with that move, taking the lead “NSA Praetorian” head on, and besting her. Breaking the bureaucracy’s back allowed him make the major reforms that brought NSA into the 21st century. Babbin is a least underestimating Hayden’s ability at bureaucratic knife-fighting. Yes, Hayden is a techie, but he is also a master administrator, who can fight with the best that federal civilian employees can offer.
Lastly Babbin is flat wrong that Hayden has no experience with HUMINT. The man was an attache behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. I suspect he knows a thing or two about fieldwork.
While I normally respect Babbin greatly, I think he is off on this one. Hayden is the right man, at the right time, for this job. If he can’t do it, no one can. But we should at least let him try.
— Name Withheld
San Antonio, Texas
The head of the CIA should clean the place out; fire just about everyone. Richard Nixon’s CIA director, James Schlesinger, did it in the 1970s. The idea currently in vogue, “we’re losing experienced personnel,” is a canard. Schlesinger reviewed personnel files and commented “he’s here 20 years that’s enough, fire him.” It’s pretty obvious to anyone with a triple-digit IQ, the place doesn’t work! Proof, lest critics forget, is September 11. It was old, experienced personnel that didn’t have a clue about what Osama bin Laden intended. Final note: an indictment or two for leaking isn’t such a bad idea either! Perhaps wearing prison stripes for several years might cause someone to give it a thought before opening their yaps!
— Bob Montrose
Fort Lee, New Jersey
A small quibble with Chuck Vail: the form in question (which John Kerry–by the way, are you aware that he served in Vietnam?–promised to sign, but didn’t) is the Standard Form (SF) 180, rather than the DD-214. The 214 is the “Record of Service” which one receives at the completion of one’s obligated term.
— David Gonzalez
A KENNEDY MEMORY
Re: Enemy Central’s Resigned to Mediocrity:
It amazes me that Patrick Kennedy can’t remember getting out of bed, can’t remember getting into his car, and can’t remember driving to the Capitol, but he definitely remembers that he did not have any alcoholic beverages that night.
I call that selective memory. I think it’s a genetic defect. His father had the same memory problems after he drove off a bridge. He also did not remember a thing until the next morning.
— Steve Sterenchock
New Castle, Delaware
COURAGEOUS OR OUTRAGEOUS?
“Courageous” and “brave” are the words they use,
As the Liberal media try to disabuse
Us common folk of another Kennedy caper.
You can read each gushing line in your morning paper.
The story was this, and then it was that,
But Congressman Kennedy gets a pat
On the head and a slap on his privileged back
From every left-wing elitist and political hack.
(No wonder the Brahmins can put their reliance
On the fawners who have groveling down to a science).
Do we feel his pain? Yes, because each of us knows
That the pain of addiction through every family flows,
But our sons and daughters are only inferior.
They will not be shown the forgiveness that superior
Scions of wealth and privilege are accorded.
How will our kids’ falls from grace be rewarded?
Now, let’s see: jail time, a fine and license suspension,
Rehab, community service, and did I mention
A couple of years without a car?
His or her recovery seems very far
From possible with punishment this long and intense,
And all for a first time DWI offense.
Does the penalty fit the crime?
Probably, because hopefully the time
Will never come when these same people hit
Anyone while driving in a drunken fit.
Will Patrick be saved from such a fate?
Not unless he faces consequences before it’s too late.
To this day his Dad hasn’t paid for manslaughter,
Though he hastened to her death someone else’s daughter.
There’s no kindness in covering his actions with lies.
This man needs real help before someone else dies.
— Mimi Winship
THE HITS KEEP COMIN’
Re: The American Spectator:
You’re the first thing I turn to every morning — and for good reason: Amy’s terrific predictions about “tomorrow” for starters, Ken’s observations (George Tenet’s hideous medal?) on the terminal ineptness of Dubya — Greg and Mr. Amos as well.
Craig — ya’ gotta get out of the Socialist Soviet of Seattle…
The articles/columns are fine — but, as noted before, most often the best part of your operation is the letter section and the terrific insight from your readership which should be mandatory reading in the White House (‘n elsewhere).
— Geoff Brandt