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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

WHO IS GETTING MONEY FROM BIG OIL!!!!

Races to Watch IV: Money Flowing from Oil and Gas

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The oil and gas industry, under the spotlight this fall with energy at the forefront of political discourse, isn't hesitating to put some of its record profits into the hands of candidates who support its cause (or those it's seeking to convert). So far this election cycle, the oil and gas industry has given $12.3 million total to congressional candidates. Oil giants Chevron, Exxon Mobil and BP, each of which is among the top 100 donors of all time a (including employee and PAC donations), are among those companies that are attempting to sway congressional races.

Republicans have historically been the industry's favorite, bringing in as much as 82 percent of the contributions from oil and gas companies in the 2006 election cycle. Of the $12.3 million the industry has given to congressional candidates this cycle, Republicans have collected 75 percent. Nine of the top 10 Senate candidates and eight of the top 10 House candidates who have received the most oil money this cycle are Republicans.

The energy-related issues playing a role in the congressional races this year are numerous. Gas prices hit a new record, and renewable energy is now competing with oil and gas for subsidies. The ban on offshore drilling is likely to be lifted, and many candidates for Congress, particularly those from coastal states, are using this as a major part of their platform.

"I think energy is a big issue on people's minds mainly because of the rise in cost of gasoline, and the rise in cost of home utility bills, especially electricity," said Charles Ebinger, director of the Energy Security Initiative at the Brookings Institution. "The electricity bills in some northeastern states could go up to $1,500 a month this winter. These two things are perceived to be hitting people's pocketbooks the hardest. This is why issues like offshore drilling and nuclear energy are being discussed much more widely."

There is a lot at stake for the oil and gas industry this year--and for the politicians who hope to keep or gain a seat in Congress. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics has identified the candidates who have received the most money from oil and gas interests in this election cycle, and Capital Eye selected a few races to more deeply examine the impact of well-digger dollars on politics.

"Oil and gas money always plays a prominent role in politics, because there is so much of it," said Daniel J. Weiss, an energy and climate expert at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. "Oil company lobbyists are trying to protect their record profits by opposing an end to industry tax breaks. They're giving a lot of money to people who support those tax breaks."

Here are a few oil-supported races to watch:

Louisiana Senate Race

Mary L. Landrieu (D)*
Total Raised: $9,493,299
Total from oil and gas companies: $305,950

John Neely Kennedy (R)
Total Raised: $5,622,089
Total from oil and gas companies: $117,900

This election cycle, only Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) have received more money than Louisiana incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu from the oil and gas industry. Her nearly $306,000 haul is a particularly noteworthy accomplishment given that Landrieu is a Democrat and the oil and gas industry heavily favors Republicans. Landrieu's opponent, Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy, hasn't exactly been ignored by the industry, however, having pocketed more than $117,000 himself. Because the oil and gas industry plays such a big role in Louisiana, constituents there may not see the contributions as being tainted, the way constituents in other parts of the country might.

"Oil and gas provide the backbone for the Louisiana economy," said Scott Schneider, spokesman for the Landrieu campaign. "It's the source of thousands of jobs in the state and on the Gulf Coast." According to the state government, Louisiana is the number-one producer of crude oil and the number-two producer of natural gas among the 50 states. As a hub of the energy industry, and one of the few states where offshore drilling is permitted, oil money has always had a significant role in Louisiana politics.

The main reason that the oil and gas industry has been so supportive of Landrieu may be because of her action on offshore drilling. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Landrieu became the first Louisiana lawmaker to push through legislation allowing the Pelican State to recoup lost revenue by sharing royalties from offshore drilling, according to Congressional Quarterly. During fiscal year 2007, Louisiana received $23.1 million from offshore leases--and the state expects this number to go up dramatically in the next decade--and has put the funds toward coastal restoration. Those receiving a piece of the offshore pie have not been shy about contributing to Landrieu: oil rig operator Edison Chouest Offshore ranks fourth among her top contributors between 2003 and 2008.

Landrieu can use every dollar she can raise, as the she seems to be the only Senate incumbent that Democrats fear will lose a seat. "The Republican Party was a beneficiary of the demographic shakeup statewide, there is no question about that," said Thomas Langston, a political scientist at Tulane University in New Orleans. "Yellow dog Dems have been slow to die in Louisiana, and Katrina gave them a push into the grave, because Republicans realize they can win as Republicans." Another upshot for challenger Kennedy's chances is the high approval rating for Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. In addition, President Bush's approval rating in Louisiana is higher than the national average. However, it may be harder for Kennedy to lay his claim to the GOP since he only became a Republican in 2007.

Kennedy, too, supports offshore drilling, and his campaign said he'd like to see it expanded to end the nation's dependence on foreign oil, spokesman Kyle Plotkin said. "John Kennedy supports drilling everywhere, including the Outer Continental Shelf and [the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve], developing oil shale in the West, investing in clean and renewable energy and conservation," he said.

North Carolina Senate Race

Elizabeth Dole (R)*
Total Raised: $11,271,438
Total from oil and gas companies: $124,527

Kay R. Hagan (D)
Total Raised: $3,059,918
Total from oil and gas companies: $5,550

The oil and gas industry has given incumbent Elizabeth Dole 22 times more money than Democratic challenger Kay Hagan. Of the candidates for Senate this election cycle, Dole is among the top 10 recipients of oil and gas money--an obvious industry favorite. But despite her enormous financial advantage in this area (and overall), this race supports the notion that money can't buy everything, as these two political veterans are now racing neck-and-neck to Election Day. Recent polls show that this is going to be a close race, and one where the energy debate is a priority for both campaigns.

Both Hagan and Dole have come out in support of offshore drilling, but this is a reversal for both candidates. Before this summer, Dole and Hagan supported a federal moratorium on oil exploration off North Carolina's coast. Historically, many lawmakers have been staunchly opposed to offshore drilling for environmental concerns and the damaging effects it would have on tourism, but sky-high gas prices have caused politicians to re-consider their position.

Part of the energy debate strategy of both candidates in this race has been accusing the other of profiting off of the oil and gas industry. The Dole campaign ran an ad accusing Hagan herself of owning wells and profiting every time North Carolinians go to the gas pump. The News & Observer called the ad inaccurate, because it's Hagan's husband who has investments in companies that own domestic wells, and the Hagans do not own any wells themselves. The Hagan campaign shot back by broadcasting that Bob Dole, Elizabeth Dole's husband and a former Senate majority leader, has a $1 million stake in an offshore hedge fund that speculates on oil. According to the Hagan campaign, the Dole hedge fund investment raises a question: whether Dole's vote against more regulation of hedge funds that speculate on the oil market was motivated by personal financial gain.

While both campaigns are up in arms trying to prove that the other's personal finances make them beholden to Big Oil, there is no question about who is receiving more contributions. Not only has Dole received more than Hagan this election cycle by leaps and bounds, she's raked in more than $277,700 from the oil and gas industry during her Senate career. Since her first run for Senate in 2002, oil and gas companies have been among Dole's top 20 industry supporters. They have no effect on her legislative decisions, though, said Dan McLagan, spokesman for the Dole campaign. "Sen. Dole has never been beholden to any donor," he said, citing Dole's co-sponsorship of the Clean Energy Investment Act, a bill that would establish a government-run bank to assist in the financing, and facilitate the commercial use, of clean energy and energy-efficient technologies within the United States.

Where these candidates stand on energy issues will come into play for North Carolina voters on Election Day. "Working families spent the entire month of August having to pay more and more for gas," said Colleen Flanagan, spokeswoman for the Hagan campaign. "People in Greenville, Asheville and Raleigh, they aren't in the Senate listening to the back and forth. They're feeling it at the cash register."

New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District


Harry Teague (D)
Total Raised: $1,529,892
Total from oil and gas companies: $68,700

Edward Tinsley (R)
Total Raised: $1,091,355
Total from oil and gas companies: $43,950

Rep. Steve Pearce is retiring from his 2nd District seat to run for Senate, leaving it to candidates Harry Teague (D) and Ed Tinsley (R) to vie for his spot. The 2nd District, which sprawls over half of New Mexico, is littered with thousands of oil wells. Teague, like Louisiana's Sen. Mary Landrieu, is an anomaly for being a Democrat who's received more money from the oil and gas industry than his Republican opponent. However, party titles in this race are deceptive; it's really more about energy politics. Both candidates have ties to the oil industry: Teague owns an oil field services company, and Tinsley is an oil investor (and restaurant owner). Tinsley is favored slightly, but Teague is raising more money and it's stacking up to be pretty competitive.

Teague is not concerned about his professional background in the oil industry, "My experience in the energy industry is an asset. I've worked in the oil fields, but I also helped to bring wind farms and nuclear energy facilities to New Mexico," Teague said in an e-mail from his spokesman. "The only way we will solve the energy crisis is by drawing on all of these sources to become energy independent, and as a member of the majority caucus in Congress, I will be able to help shape a comprehensive solution to our energy problem."

The oil industry is the top industry supporter for Teague and ranks second for Tinsley. Teaco Energy Company (Teague's own company) accounts for nearly half of the money he received from the oil and gas industry, at $32,200. It should be noted that this is not money Teague is giving to his own candidacy; it's all donations from company employees, according to campaign finance records. However, both Teague and Tinsley have injected their campaign chest with a sizable chunk of their own money: $768,900 and $235,000, respectively, through June.

"Being tied to the oil industry is not as damaging in this district as it would be in another district," said Joe Monahan, a New Mexico political blogger. "[Teague] is a good candidate. He is going to get Republican votes and Democrat votes who might otherwise crossover. It's a district where there are more registered Democrats than Republicans, but those Democrats have been crossing over for many years to vote for Republican congressional candidates."

Normally an oilman running on the Democratic ticket--who could alienate Democrats with his industry ties and Republicans with his social values--would be something of a political misfit, but in this region of New Mexico, Teague might be just right. "He would not be as competitive as he is today, if he were more liberal," said Michael Rocca, a political scientist at the University of New Mexico.

CRP Researcher Douglas Weber contributed to this report.

*Indicates incumbent

Campaign Fuel: House candidates getting the most from the oil and gas industry

Name Race Incumbent/Challenger/
Open Seat
Total
Dan Boren (D) Oklahoma 02 Incumbent
$154,900
Joe Barton (R) Texas 06 Incumbent
$146,441
Mike Conaway (R) Texas 11 Incumbent
$128,450
Roy Blunt (R) Missouri 07 Incumbent
$108,100
Charles J. Melancon (D) Louisiana 03 Incumbent
$99,600
Mary Fallin (R) Oklahoma 05 Incumbent
$94,800
Charles W. Boustany Jr (R) Louisiana 07 Incumbent
$92,000
John Culberson (R) Texas 07 Incumbent
$91,600
Todd Tiahrt (R) Kansas 04 Incumbent
$90,500
Kay Granger (R) Texas 12 Incumbent
$86,250
John Sullivan (R) Oklahoma 01 Incumbent
$84,000
Randy Neugebauer (R) Texas 19 Incumbent
$79,950
Jim Matheson (D) Utah 02 Incumbent
$76,347
Chet Edwards (D) Texas 17 Incumbent
$72,750
Harry Teague (D) New Mexico 02 Open Seat
$68,700
Tom Cole (R) Oklahoma 04 Incumbent
$65,200
Peter Graham Olson (R) Texas 22 Challenger
$60,600
Gene Green (D) Texas 29 Incumbent
$59,500
Gregg Harper (R) Mississippi 03 Open Seat
$58,500
Pete Sessions (R) Texas 32 Incumbent
$56,800

Totals based on data released electronically by the Federal Election Commission on Sept. 2, 2008.

Senate candidates getting the most from the oil and gas industry

Name State Incumbent/Challenger/
Open Seat
Total
John Cornyn (R) Texas Incumbent
$853,300
James M. Inhofe (R) Oklahoma Incumbent
$349,750
Mary L. Landrieu (D) Louisiana Incumbent
$305,950
Mitch McConnell (R) Kentucky Incumbent
$299,450
Steve Pearce (R) New Mexico Open Seat
$283,034
Pat Roberts (R) Kansas Incumbent
$174,450
Lamar Alexander (R) Tennessee Incumbent
$164,350
Bob Schaffer (R) Colorado Open Seat
$150,400
Ted Stevens (R) Alaska Incumbent
$127,700
Norm Coleman (R) Minnesota Incumbent
$127,500
Elizabeth Dole (R) North Carolina Incumbent
$124,527
John Neely Kennedy (R) Louisiana Challenger
$117,900
Max Baucus (D) Montana Incumbent
$109,200
John A. Barrasso (R) Wyoming Incumbent
$108,400
Roger Wicker (R) Mississippi Incumbent
$107,250
Mark Pryor (D) Arkansas Incumbent
$103,250
Saxby Chambliss (R) Georgia Incumbent
$101,000
John E. Sununu (R) New Hampshire Incumbent
$90,900
Jeff Sessions (R) Alabama Incumbent
$87,650
Thad Cochran (R) Mississippi Incumbent
$75,700
Totals based on data released electronically by the Federal Election Commission on Sept. 2, 2008. Senate data based on six-year totals.

Monday, September 29, 2008

ANTI-ISRAEL GROUP WANTS AMERICAN AIDE!!!!

The Friends of Sabeel in North America, which professes to be the “voice” of Palestinian Christians, is raising cash for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Sadly for apologists of the Palestinian cause, the European Union axed its funding for ICAHD because of “pressure brought to bear by right-wing Israeli neo-cons who have campaigned obsessively against our funding while threatening publicly to close us down.” Or at least that version comes from ICAHD’s Jeff Halper, as he described his group’s dire straits without Euro cash.

Halper, an anthropology professor and American by birth, was a 1960’s-era student radical in the U.S. until he relocated to Israel, where his radicalism simply shifted focus against the Israeli Government. He founded ICAHD in 1997.

In 2005-2006, the European Union Partnership for Peace Programme gave nearly a half million Euros to ICAHD for an education program called “Re-Framing: Providing a Coherent Paradigm of Peace to the Israeli Public.” Ostensibly, this EU funding funnel “supports local and international civil society initiatives that promote peace, tolerance and non violence in the Middle East.” But most of the cash seems to flow towards groups like ICAHD that simply repeat the standard anti-Israel narrative.

Friends of Sabeel did not explain why the European Union cut off ICAHD’s funds. But apparently it was because of Halper’s role in the “Free Gaza Flotilla,” in which “peace” activists broke the blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza by sailing in from Cyprus. Upon returning to Israel, Halper was arrested and incarcerated overnight. Apparently even the normally tolerant European Union was unimpressed.

Last year, when it apparently was more flush with funds, ICAHD published a full-page ad in The New York Times with the headline: “Who Will Stop this Bulldozer from Destroying the Chance for Peace?” Included was a large photo of a Palestinian woman holding up her arms in the face of a presumably onrushing Israeli bulldozer. Naturally, ICAHD portrays the Israeli house demolitions as merely a nasty ploy to force Palestinians off their land. That destroyed homes usually housed terrorists, tunnels, or arms caches goes unmentioned, of course.

Despite this indifference to Palestinian terrorism, ICAHD professes to oppose all “forms of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians. It insists that a “lasting peace” depends on full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, but not necessarily any change in attitudes by Palestinians. ICAHD specially focuses on Israel’s “ongoing policies of Palestinian home demolitions, relentless development of large settlements, and building of the ‘Separation Barrier’ deep into the West Bank area.” The group is also distressed by America’s “uncritical political support” for Israel and Israel’s chronic “violations of basic human rights.”

So ICAHD’s allies at Friends of Sabeel in North America are appealing to anti-Israel religious activists in the U.S. to help contribute $30,000 towards ICAHD. Friends of Sabeel is the American branch of Jerusalem-based Sabeel, which is a think-tank for Palestinian Liberation Theology. The American Sabeel helps to organize U.S. church officials who believe that Israel is the primary villain in the Middle East. In recent years, Sabeel has advocated that U.S. churches divest their pension funds from firms doing business with Israel, but that campaign has largely collapsed, having been rejected even by liberal denominations. Board members of Friends of Sabeel in North America include former Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning, radical Catholic eco-feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether, and Christian Century magazine contributing editor James Wall.

Friends of Sabeel forwarded to its own supporters Jeff Halper’s urgent appeal for American dollars to replace the lost Euros. “So we now face a real crisis,” Halper glowered. “That said, those who want us ‘gone’ make a mistake in assuming that we will close if our funding is withdrawn.” Halper promised to keep his office open and work on a voluntary basis, with two staffers to help him. He thanked his American supporters for having provided an “important supplement” to the now cut off European Union funding, which had helped launch the “Constructing Peace Campaign.”

ICAHD launched the “Constructing Peace Campaign” last year to rebuild demolished Palestinian homes, so as to spotlight Israel’s supposedly senseless destruction. As a sort of pro-Palestinian Habitat for Humanity, the peace campaign also hosts an annual two-week summer camp, in which international volunteers help rebuild Palestinian houses as a “symbolic gesture of peace and opposition to the Occupation.” In between the construction work, the volunteers take field trips to observe what Halper calls Israel’s “Matrix of Control,” including the Wall, the “massive check points,” and “one of the many refugee camps created in 1948.”

All of this important anti-Israel work must continue, of course. So Halper defiantly concluded his appeal to American supporters: “I promise you, no matter what, ICAHD will not be silenced.”

Trying to rescue ICAHD, the Friends of Sabeel in North America have pledged to raise at least $30,000. The fundraising includes inviting Halper to the U.S. for a fall tour, during which he will presumably address sympathetic church groups. “We, along with Jeff, promise you that ICAHD will not be silenced,” the board members of Friends of Sabeel earnestly promised. “Together, we will continue to be a loud and persistent voice for justice.”

Potential American religious supporters of Sabeel and ICAHD will have to ponder whether a group too radically anti-Israel even for European Union support should merit dollars from among U.S. churches.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

TANCREDO'S ANTI-JIHAD BILL!!!!

International reaction was almost uniformly negative last week when news broke that Britain had officially granted Muslim Sharia courts permission to rule on everything from divorce to domestic violence. After all, in its strictest form, Sharia law requires the stoning of women accused of adultery, and the execution of converts from Islam, among other draconian punishments for offences that aren’t even considered crimes in the West. In the U.K. and abroad, pundits and politicians denounced Britain’s capitulation, but only one elected official responded with a daring proposal aimed at preventing Sharia law from gaining such a foothold in America.

That that politician was Rep. Tom Tancredo won’t surprise observers of American politics. The Colorado congressman has long been an outspoken critic of the unofficial “open-borders” policy that encourages millions of undocumented immigrants – including would-be terrorists – to enter the U.S. each year. During his short-lived presidential campaign in 2007, Tancredo repeatedly raised the immigration issue during televised debates. He also aired a provocative television ad in which he promised to “stop all visas to nations that sponsor terrorism and [to] arrest and deport any alien who preaches violence and hatred.”

The ad earned Tancredo scorn on the Left and also on some parts of the Right. Undaunted, he has now proposed a “Jihad Prevention Act” that “would bar the entry of foreign nationals who advocate Sharia law [and] make the advocacy of Sharia law by radical Muslims already in the United States a deportable offense.” In his official announcement on September 18, Tancredo observed: “This is a case where truth is truly stranger than fiction. Today the British people are learning a hard lesson about the consequences of massive, unrestricted immigration.”

“When you have an immigration policy that allows for the importation of millions of radical Muslims,” he explained, “you are also importing their radical ideology – an ideology that is fundamentally hostile to the foundations of western democracy – such as gender equality, pluralism, and individual liberty. The best way to safeguard America against the importation of the destructive effects of this poisonous ideology is to prevent its purveyors from coming here in the first place.”

Tancredo hopes his bill will spur public debate, and “send a clear message that the only law we recognize here in America is the U.S. Constitution and the laws passed by our democratically elected representatives…If you aren’t comfortable with that concept, you aren’t welcome in the United States.”

So far, reaction to the “Jihad Prevention Act” has been muted on both sides, possibly because the media is providing wall-to-wall election coverage. Nonetheless, some prominent supporters have emerged. Having advocated similar measures in the past, the group Muslims Against Sharia praised Tancredo’s initiative. So did scholar Andrew Bostom, author of The Legacy of Jihad. Bostom hailed Tancredo’s “sane approach,” adding, “Thank goodness for Congressman Tancredo’s courage and clarity on this pressing matter!”

Tancredo also has an ally in columnist and author Diane West. In books like The Death of the Grown Up and in her syndicated columns, West has chronicled what she considers the decline of Western civilization, brought on by everything from a perpetually adolescent popular culture to radical Islam. “What I like about this proposed legislation,” West said in an email interview, “is its clear, direct focus on Islamic law (Sharia).” Focusing on Sharia, West believes, is the “only way to grapple successfully with the repressive overlay of Islam on a society--understanding it as a function of law, and not religion.” She points out that Tancredo’s “bill allows us to see clearly through to the heart of the matter: the danger that unchecked Islamic immigration will bring about a constituency for Islamic law, leading to disastrous changes to our legal system.”

To be sure, West does have some reservations about the bill. “I'm not sure how he proposes to determine which Muslim immigrants advocate Islamic law and which do not,” she said. “I would prefer to see a general restriction on Islamic immigration to prevent the build-up of a demographic that wills Sharia. Moreover, West notes that this session of Congress is nearly over. Even if Tancredo’s bill were “brought to a vote this week, I sadly doubt it will be passed.” Still another problem is that there is scant enthusiasm in Congress for passing such a bill. With the notable exception of Rep. Sue Myrick, a Republican from North Carolina, the political class has failed even to address the conflicts between Islamic law and Western values – let alone to draft legislation to thwart the spread of Sharia in the U.S.

Europe may soon prove a model in this regard – the unhappy case of Britain notwithstanding. This December, Israel’s Dr. Arieh Eldad, a former member of the Israeli Knesset, will host the Facing Jihad Summit in Jerusalem. The summit seeks to bring together “European lawmakers who are united in their shared belief that Islam today poses a serious threat to Western civilization.” The idea is to create an alliance of politicians who can workshop legislation to prevent creeping Islamization, which they can then bring back to their home countries and create a voting block in the EU parliament. The attending parliamentarians will be joined by experts on radical Islam such as Daniel Pipes and Bat Ye’or, but bigotry will not be tolerated: Eldad emphasizes that the summit will bar “neo-Nazis and racist parties” like the British National Party. “Seven countries will be represented so far,” Eldad told FrontPage.

And what of America? Eldad thought it likely that at least a few Capitol Hill politicians would attend the jihad summit. If so, Tom Tancredo might be an ideal delegate.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

WHY DON'T THEY KEEP HIM OUT?

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- the Izod Ayatollah -- has come back to New York to address the UN General Assembly. If the United Nations today bore even the remotest resemblance to the international peacekeeping body it was founded to be, the line to denounce him would snake around the block, and Ahmadinejad would be arrested as soon as he set foot in New York. In fact, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem has called for just that: it is preparing a petition for the UN Secretary-General, calling for the Iranian Thug-in-Chief’s arrest and indictment on charges of inciting genocide against Israel.

But the visiting Iranian president can’t be arrested: he’s “legitimized” by Iran’s UN membership, and the UN Treaty prevents his detention.

And, of course, in the run-up to Ahmadinejad’s visit, the hard Left is planning to honor him. The perpetually-outraged women of Code Pink are planning a protest -- against George W. Bush, of course. The UN General Assembly’s new president, leftist priest and old Sandinista Miguel d’Escoto, will clink glasses with Ahmadinejad at a dinner in his honor hosted by five American liberal Christian organizations, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Quaker United Nations Office, the World Council of Churches, Religions for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee.

Hillary Clinton and a coalition of Jewish groups demonstrated the tenacity of partisan politics even in the face of the prospect of nuclear genocide from Iran: first Clinton declined to attend a rally protesting Ahmadinejad’s UN appearance when she found out Sarah Palin would be there, and then the Jewish groups hosting the rally disinvited Palin.

Our national unity in the face of the threat from Iran must have the mullahs quaking.

In light of his many belligerent statements, frequently demonstrating genocidal intent, it is appalling that the UN would once again allow Ahmadinejad a platform, and shameful that d’Escoto and the rest would welcome him rather than denouncing him. Ahmadinejad has boasted that “the annihilation of the Zionist regime will come.” During Israel’s incursion against Hizballah in Lebanon in 2006, he declared, “The Islamic umma [community] will not allow its historic enemy [Israel] to live in its heartland.” Israel’s end is near, he said: “There is no doubt that the new wave [of attacks] in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot [Israel] from the face of the Islamic world.” He has declared that “the Zionist regime is counterfeit and illegitimate and cannot survive.”

His genocidal statements have gone beyond Israel. At the “World Without Zionism” conference held in Tehran in October 2005, as the crowd chanted “death to Israel, death to America, death to England,” the Iranian President again recalled Khomeini’s words: “Once, his eminency Imam [Ruhollah] Khomeini stated that the illegal regime of the Pahlavis must go, and it happened. Then he said the Soviet empire would disappear, and it happened. He also said that this evil man Saddam [Hussein] must be punished, and we see that he is under trial in his country. His eminency also said that the occupation regime of Qods [Jerusalem, or Israel] must be wiped off from the map of the world, and with the help of the Almighty, we shall soon experience a world without America and Zionism, notwithstanding those who doubt.”

Ahmadinejad has threatened Iran’s foes with nuclear action: “Today, the Iranian people is the owner of nuclear technology. Those who want to talk with our people should know what people they are talking to. If some believe they can keep talking to the Iranian people in the language of threats and aggressiveness, they should know that they are making a bitter mistake. If they have not realized this by now, they soon will, but then it will be too late. Then they will realize that they are facing a vigilant, proud people.”

Last July, he crowed that “the big powers are going down. They have come to the end of their power, and the world is on the verge of entering a new, promising era.”

The “new, promising era” that Ahmadinejad envisions features a dominant Iran and a beaten, subservient America, as he himself explained in August 2006: “If you want to have good relations with the Iranian people in the future, you should acknowledge the right and the might of the Iranian people, and you should bow and surrender to the might of the Iranian people. If you do not accept this, the Iranian people will force you to bow and surrender.”

It doesn’t look as if force will be needed. The UN General Assembly is lining up now to do just that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

NO OIL FOR BLOOD!!!!

Yesterday morning, I had the honor of testifying before the House Budget Committee on the situation in Iraq. The discussion was polite and civilized, and was a reminder that even now it is possible for people who disagree about what to do in Iraq to argue without raised voices and disagreeable language (apart from the Code Pink women, yelling for those who think that shouting opponents down is preferable to arguing with them). Congressman Brian Baird once again demonstrated that it is possible even for those who bitterly opposed the war to recognize the importance of doing the right thing now--as well as the possibility of crossing the Republican-Democrat sectarian divide on this issue. One question came up repeatedly in the hearing that deserves more of an answer than it got, however: Why, after all the assistance we've given to Iraq over the past five years, was the first major Iraqi oil deal signed with China and not with an American or even a western company? The answer is, in part, because three Democratic senators intervened in Iraqi domestic politics earlier this year to prevent Iraq from signing short-term agreements with Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, Chevron, and BP.

The Iraqi government was poised to sign no-bid contracts with those firms this summer to help make immediate and needed improvements in Iraq's oil infrastructure. The result would have been significant foreign investment in Iraq, an expansion of Iraqi government revenues, and an increase in the global supply of oil. One would have thought that leading Democratic senators who claim to be interested in finding other sources of funding to replace American dollars in Iraq, in helping Iraq spend its own money on its own people, and in lowering the price of gasoline for American citizens, would have been all for it. Instead, Senators Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, and Claire McCaskill wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rice asking her "to persuade the GOI [Government of Iraq] to refrain from signing contracts with multinational oil companies until a hydrocarbon law is in effect in Iraq." The Bush administration wisely refused to do so, but the resulting media hooraw in Iraq led to the cancellation of the contracts, and helps to explain why Iraq is doing oil deals instead with China.

Senators Schumer, McCaskill, and Kerry claimed to be acting from the purest of motives: "It is our fear that this action by the Iraqi government could further deepen political tensions in Iraq and put our service members in even great danger." For that reason, presumably, Schumer went so far as to ask the senior vice president of Exxon "if his company would agree to wait until the GOI produced a fair, equitable, and transparent hydrocarbon revenue sharing law before it signed any long-term agreement with the GOI." Exxon naturally refused, but Schumer managed to get the deal killed anyway. But the ostensible premise of the senators' objections was false--Iraq may not have a hydrocarbons law, but the central government has been sharing oil revenues equitably and there is no reason at all to imagine that signing the deals would have generated increased violence (and this was certainly not the view of American civilian and military officials on the ground in Iraq at the time). It is certain that killing the deals has delayed the maturation of Iraq's oil industry without producing the desired hydrocarbons legislation.

Nor is it entirely clear what the senators' motivations were. Their release (available along with their letter to Secretary Rice at the New York Observer quoted Senator McCaskill as follows: "'It's bad enough that we have no-bid contracts being awarded for work in Iraq. It's bad enough that the big oil companies continue to receive government handouts while they post record breaking profits. But now the most profitable companies in the universe--America's biggest oil companies--stand to reap the rewards of this no-bid contract on top of it all,' McCaskill said. 'It doesn't take a rocket scientist to connect these dots--big oil is running Washington and now they're running Baghdad. There is no reason under the sun not to halt these agreements until we get revenue sharing in place,' McCaskill said." So was this about what's best for Iraq and American interests there or about nailing "big oil" in an election year?


Either way, like Barack Obama's asking the Iraqi foreign minister to hold off on a strategic framework agreement until after the American election, it was nothing but harmful to American interests and our prospects in Iraq.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

FEAR OF ISLAM? PUBLISHER PULLS BOOK DEAL!!!!

On September 30, 2005, the Danish daily Jyllands Posten touched off a tempest in the Muslim world when it published 12 caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. The resulting “cartoon riots,” in which at least 139 people were killed and 823 were injured, cast into fiery relief the contrast between Western values and Islamist mores – and the threats to free speech when the two collide. Three years on, a similar controversy has emerged on American shores.

At issue is a historical novel about Aisha, the child bride of the Prophet Mohammed (Aisha was six years old at the time of the marriage). In 2007, publishing heavyweight Random House bought the rights to the novel, titled The Jewel of Medina, offering the author, journalist Sherry Jones, $100,000 in a two-book contract. Jones spent five years researching Aisha’s life, studying Arabic, and working through seven drafts before finally finishing the novel. Random House, for its part, was preparing to market the book as a “Book of the Month” selection, just as soon as the book was published this August 12.

Except that it wasn’t. Shortly before its scheduled publication, Random House decided that it would not be publishing the novel after all. The turnabout had little to do with any specific literary flaws in the book. Rather, Random House feared a violent reaction from Islamic extremists. A statement from the publisher, making no attempt to disguise the preemptive surrender to intimidation, explained that after sending out advance copies of the novel “we received in response, from credible and unrelated sources… that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.” Unwilling to stand up to Islamic radicals, Random House handed Jones her walking papers.

Ironies abound in the company’s decision to put the kibosh on the book. For instance, much of the initial indignation came from non-Muslims. Most aggrieved was one Denise Spellberg, an associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas in Austin, whose work Jones had cited as research for her novel. Outraged by a book that she claimed “made fun of Muslims and their history,” Spellberg called Shahed Amanullah, editor of the website altmuslim.com, and encouraged him to arouse Muslim passions against the novel.

Although allegedly the offended party, Amanullah proved less easily provoked. In a commentary about Jones’s book, Amanullah defended her right to free expression. Instead of threats and intimidation, the proper “response to free speech is simply more speech in return,” he wrote, noting that “[a]nyone should have the right to publish whatever he or she wants about Islam or Muslims – even if their views are offensive – without fear of censorship or retribution.” Other Muslim writers also made the point, which evidently eluded Professor Spellberg, that one can be critical of a work without crying “Islamophobia.” Thus, the Muslim writer and poet Marwa Elnaggar, though critical of the novel, rejected the idea it should not have been published because of its “inaccuracies, its faults, and its biases.”

That left Professor Spellberg as the chief spokesman for Muslim anger that did not materialize and Sherry Jones as the victim of Muslim threats that had not been issued – an absurdity not lost on Shahed Amanullah. “The thing that is surreal for me is that here you had a non-Muslim write a book, and you had a non-Muslim complain about it, and a non-Muslim publisher pull the book,” he has said. (Professor Spellberg, whose faculty website lists her as “on-leave” from UT, did not respond to FPM’s requests for comment.)

Professor Spellberg’s overheated objections notwithstanding, The Jewel of Medina is an unlikely model of Muslim-bashing. If anything, its depiction of Aisha errs on the side of adoration. Reimagining the prophet’s wife as an unsung heroine, Jones has described her protagonist as a “remarkable figure in the history of the world, not just the Middle East.” The idea of Aisha as a kind of feminist icon avant la lettre was also adopted by Random House, whose original blurb for the novel stated that “Aisha uses her wits, her courage, and her sword to defend her first-wife status even as Muhammad marries again and again…” Small wonder that Jones responded to her publisher’s capitulation by protesting that her book is “deliberately and consciously written respectfully about Islam and Mohammed.”

But to no avail. Random House preferred to shelve the book rather than incur the wrath of Muslim malcontents, real or imagined. It is a sharp break with an earlier era, when Random House published Salman Rushdie’s 1988 book The Satanic Verses, in the face of death threats against the author. Rushdie himself has taken notice, lamenting what he calls “censorship by fear” at his once-courageous publisher.

It would be inaccurate to assume that Random House applies its newfound reticence on religious subjects equally. Critics point out that this month Random House will publish The 19th Wife, a historical novel by author David Ebershoff. The book is narrated in part by Ann Eliza Young, the rebellious 19th wife of Mormon leader Brigham Young who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for her criticism of practices like polygamy. The book would thus seem a perfect analogue to The Jewel of Medina, but for one crucial difference: Random House will publish it.

There is a happy ending, of sorts, in Jones’s tale of publishing woe. The Jewel of Medina is slated to be published this October, after being bought by Beaufort Books, the controversy-friendly New York house best known for signing If I Did It, O.J. Simpson’s putatively fictionalized confession to the murder of his ex-wife. But with a major publishing house bowing before even the possibility of a backlash, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that, even with Jones’s novel in print, the state of free speech in America is less robust than it was just a few months ago.

Monday, September 15, 2008

THE PARTY OF "NO WE CAN'T!"

From the days of ancient Athens, the citizens of democracies have been querulous warriors. Key democratic institutions such as free speech and citizen control of the military ensure that ordinary people take an active interest in the progress of war, freely (and often loudly) offering criticism and demanding results. Such criticism typically expressed impatience with military and political leaders for not doing everything they could to win wars as quickly as possible. Yet as David Horowitz and Ben Johnson argue in their bracing analysis of American defeatism, the antiwar movements from Vietnam to the present conflict in Iraq represent something very different: criticism aimed at expediting not victory, but defeat.

Once a leader of the New Left, Horowitz has become the bĂȘte noir of the American Left through his books, speeches, and online magazine Front Page, where Johnson is managing editor. In Party of Defeat, the authors relentlessly expose the cant, hypocrisy, and suicidal self-loathing of what these days passes for progressive thought, which has corrupted the Democratic Party through its radical activist base and compromised America’s security. The Democrats’ attack on President Bush in the midst of a war, the authors conclude, is “the most disgraceful episode in America’s political history.”

Party of Defeat opens with the Vietnam War-era hijacking of the Democratic Party by antiwar radicals, whose ultimate purpose wasn’t so much to end the war, but to discredit and weaken the political, social, and economic foundations of America. For the radical Left, then and now, “no longer regards itself as part of the nation,” Horowitz and Johnson write. “This Left sees itself instead as part of an abstract ‘humanity,’ transcending national borders and patriotic allegiances, whose interests coincide with a worldwide radical cause.” As such, it must work against America’s interests and success, disguising its activity as “dissent” or a more general antiwar sentiment.

George McGovern, who captured the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1972, embodied the leftist vision of capitalist America as a malignant aggressor responsible for global suffering and oppression. Though Richard Nixon’s landslide victory over McGovern that year ratified most Americans’ rejection of the radical worldview, the Watergate scandal empowered a Democrat-controlled Congress to cease support for South Vietnam and to eviscerate our intelligence agencies. Nixon’s political disgrace also made possible the election of Jimmy Carter, who largely shared the left’s view of a dysfunctional America. Carter, Horowitz and Johnson charge, “cut back America’s military defenses, hamstrung America’s intelligence agencies, and weakened the nation’s resolve.” And Carter abandoned the Shah of Iran, whose overthrow by radical Islamists in 1979, followed by the kidnapping of American diplomatic personnel, marked the first jihadist challenge to America.

Carter’s ineffectual response to this attack invited more, particularly in the 1990s during the presidency of Bill Clinton. Clinton, a much shrewder politician than Carter, understood that appearing weak on national defense was political suicide after the success of Ronald Reagan, whose strengthening of America’s military helped bring down the Soviet Union. Yet for all of his cruise-missile bluster, Clinton still endorsed the fundamental hostility to the military and indifference to national defense that now seem part of the Democrats’ political DNA.

During his tenure, “the analytical and operations branches of the CIA were cut by 30 percent,” the authors point out. Under Clinton, further, “the agency drastically reduced its recruitment of new case officers . . . and closed bases, including the station in Hamburg, where Mohammed Atta’s cell planned 9-11.” The cuts also led to a decline of agents in key Muslim countries. And Clinton “raised the wall between the FBI and the CIA higher than before, which fatally obstructed the efforts to capture the 9-11 plotters,” Horowitz and Johnson report. “As commander-in-chief [Clinton] was generally AWOL on the battlefront with the global Islamic jihad.”

Equally disastrous was Clinton’s failure to understand the motives of the jihadists, treating their attacks as criminal offenses rather than as acts of war. The first World Trade Center bombing, the debacle in Mogadishu, the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, the bombings of the embassies in Africa—“Bill Clinton’s response to the four terrorist bombings and the humiliating ambush in Somalia could be summarized as nothing, nothing, failure, nothing, and capitulation.” Aversion to casualties and ingrained hostility to anything other than a symbolic use of military force kept Clinton from responding more forcefully. Nor, despite numerous opportunities, did he authorize the killing of Osama bin Laden, who had declared war on America, and who in numerous writings and interviews explicitly linked America’s vulnerability to its failure to respond to these attacks.

The Carter and Clinton presidencies show that even centrist Democrats must appease the vocal minority of the party’s left wing, since it provides a large number of party activists and delegates, particularly during primaries. Hence just months after the start of the Iraq War—and from the outset of the 2004 presidential primary campaigns—national Democrats turned against a war that they had voted for, and that President Clinton had laid the foundation for in 1998 with the Iraq Liberation Act. Perhaps the most conspicuous example of this shift was the enthusiastic presence of Democratic leaders like Al Gore, Barbara Boxer, Tom Harkin, and Tom Daschle at the premier of Michael Moore’s anti-American fantasy Fahrenheit 9-11 in 2004. Moore’s film exemplified the phenomenon that came to be called “Bush derangement syndrome,” but mainstream Democrats also played a role in distorting the historical record concerning the Iraq War.

Party of Defeat includes a compelling reprise of the reasons why America went to war against Saddam Hussein. UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which declared Hussein in “material breach” of 16 previous UN resolutions enforcing the truce that ended the Gulf War, effectively legitimized military action against Iraq once Hussein ignored the 30-day deadline for complying with the resolution. Moreover, President Bush’s case for removing Hussein focused on WMD programs, not stockpiles. Though no WMD stockpiles turned up, the report of the Iraq Survey Group, made public in October 2003, indeed established the existence of WMD-related programs and equipment, laboratories and safe houses concealing equipment from UN monitoring, research on biological weapons, documents and equipment related to uranium enrichment, plans for long-range missiles, and evidence of attempts to acquire long-range missile technologies from North Korea. “It was Saddam’s refusal to observe the arms-control agreements designed to allow UN inspections and prevent him from building weapons of mass destruction that made the war necessary,” Horowitz and Johnson explain.

Yet these facts have been obscured by partisan attacks on the president’s decision to invade. Never mind that the invasion was ratified by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Iraq that Congress passed in October 2002, and which listed several casus belli besides WMDs. Even before then, prominent Democrats like Al Gore and Jimmy Carter were attacking the Bush Doctrine mandating preemptive action against terrorist threats. The first critical distortion that gave traction to the war’s opponents was the uproar over minor diplomat Joseph Wilson, who had been sent to Niger to investigate a British intelligence report finding that Hussein was attempting to purchase yellowcake uranium. In the summer of 2003, Wilson alleged in the New York Times and The New Republic that he had told the administration that there was no truth to the report before Bush repeated its findings in his 2003 State of the Union speech. As Horowitz and Johnson note, “The charge that Bush had lied about the Niger uranium deal provided a way for those who had previously supported the war to find common ground with the party’s radicals who had opposed it.”

That Wilson was a Democratic political activist and foreign-affairs adviser to John Kerry’s presidential campaign raised no red flags with a media that took his assertions on faith and relentlessly publicized them. By the time the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had investigated Wilson’s claims and debunked them a year later—indeed, Wilson’s actual report “lent more credibility,” as the Senate committee put it, to the existence of an Iraqi uranium deal—it was too late. The “Bush lied” mantra had won media validation and provided the antiwar activists with a potent weapon. Just how potent became clear with the meteoric rise of Vermont governor Howard Dean, whose early front-runner status in the 2004 presidential primaries forced Democratic contenders like Senators John Kerry and John Edwards—both of whom had voted in favor of removing Saddam—to tack left. Meanwhile, an increasingly overwrought Al Gore, while sitting out the presidential race, contradicted his long public record of advocating regime change in Iraq.

The press played a significant role in facilitating the cycle of sensational charges based on distorted evidence. Later investigations repudiated many of these allegations, but could not undo the damage done to public perceptions. The Abu Ghraib prison scandal is a case in point. “What would normally be counted as a minor incident in any war,” Horowitz and Johnson maintain, “was elevated to a national and then a global scandal by editors determined to exploit it without regard for its potential impact on the national interest or the security of American troops in Iraq.” The New York Times, which often sets the agenda for the rest of the mainstream media, ran 60 days of stories about Abu Ghraib, filled with ridiculous comparisons with the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war and with Saddam’s horrific crimes: “It was exactly the kind of psychological-warfare campaign that would normally have been conducted by an enemy propaganda machine,” Horowitz and Johnson observe. So, too, with the lurid charges of abuse of the prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, many of which were read on the Senate floor by Dick Durbin, who compared American officials there with Nazis and the genocidal Cambodian dictator Pol Pot. By the time 12 official investigations had debunked such claims, the media-stoked perception that Guantanamo was some sort of gulag of torture and abuse had achieved the status of fact, thus providing another propaganda weapon for our enemies.

On issue after issue—the alleged number of Iraqi children killed by sanctions, the inflated number of civilian casualties in the war, the looted Iraqi artifacts, the celebrity of Cindy Sheehan, the media exposure of clandestine intelligence-gathering programs, the attacks on General David Petraeus—Horowitz and Johnson document how the truth, and America’s security, were sacrificed to the ideology of radical activists, the partisan needs of the Democratic Party, and the liberal shibboleths of the mainstream media. Worse yet, America’s enemies took up these charges and incorporated them into their own propaganda (a frequent Al Qaeda tactic, as documented in Raymond Ibrahim’s The Al Qaeda Reader). For example, Osama bin Laden in a fatwa quoted epidemiologist and wannabe Democratic Congressman Les Roberts’s ridiculous toll of 650,000 civilian dead in Iraq—a figure that is twelve times the actual total by 2005. And the Iranian ambassador to the United States answered charges that his country was aiding terrorists in Iraq by alleging that “America had invaded Iraq on false pretenses” and was now making Iran the scapegoat.

Horowitz and Johnson draw a sobering conclusion: “The decision to attack the morality of America’s war effort has dealt a severe blow to the American cause. It has undermined American unity in the face of the enemy, profoundly damaged the clarity with which the war is understood, and diminished Americans’ ability to defend themselves.” In this important presidential election year, Party of Defeat is essential reading.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

BOONE pICKENS: "WHAT DOES HE REALLY HAVE IN MIND?"

"Get this one," says billionaire T. Boone Pickens in his latest TV ad, "Iran is changing its cars to natural gas and we're not doing a thing here. They're doing this to use less oil and sell it for $120 a barrel. We can switch our cars to natural gas and stop sending our dollars to foreign countries."

Readers of this column know better than to take at face value the marketing of the so-called "Pickens Plan."

So what's the full story behind Iran's move, and what would be the impact of switching our cars to natural gas?

Although Iran is a major oil and gas producer, it lacks oil-refining capacity and must import about 50 percent of its gasoline. To be less vulnerable to international pressure concerning its nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad decided to reduce Iran's reliance on imported gasoline.

He started with rationing in May 2007. But that quickly led to violent social unrest.

Ahmadinejad then decided to convert Iran's new car fleet to natural gas. So 60 percent of Iran's car production this year -- about 429,000 vehicles -- will be dual-fuel-ready, capable of running on both gasoline and natural gas.

But contrary to Pickens assertion, Iran isn't trying to use less oil: It's trying to use less imported gasoline -- and only to thwart a possible international gasoline embargo.

Though hardly a role model for energy policy, should we nevertheless follow Iran's lead with respect to natural-gas cars? Just what would that mean to you and to our economy?

While the natural gas sold for auto fuel is as much as 50 percent less expensive than gasoline -- at least for now -- the cover charge to get into a natural-gas vehicle can easily erase any savings.

A new natural-gas-powered car, such as the Honda Civic GX, for example, is almost 40 percent more expensive than a conventional Civic ($24,590 versus $17,700).

While tax credits can reduce the cost by thousands, somebody -- either you and/or taxpayers -- will be paying the difference.

If natural gas fuel saved you, say, $2 per gallon, then you'd have to drive 124,020 highway miles or 82,680 city miles to break even on fuel costs against the $6,890 purchase price premium.

You can convert an existing car from gasoline to natural gas, but the costs are daunting.

Converting a car to dual-use (as in Iran) costs between $6,000 to $10,000. Converting a car to run on natural gas only is about half as expensive.

Even so, the conversion has to be done correctly or, in the worst case, you risk leaks that could turn your car into an improvised explosive device. And if your car is altered without proof of EPA certification, you might not get any of the all-important conversion tax credits.

Then there's the inconvenience. Though their fuel tanks are larger -- which, incidentally, reduces trunk space -- natural gas cars have less range.

While a new Honda Civic can go as far as 500 miles on a tank of gasoline, the GX's range is less than half of that -- and, currently, there are only about 1,600 natural-gas refueling stations across the country, compared with 200,000 gasoline stations.

If your home uses natural gas, you could buy a home filling station at a cost of about $2,000 plus installation. While home filling stations can further reduce fuel costs to substantially below $2 per gallon, the devices take about 4 hours to replenish the fuel consumed by only 50 miles of driving. So much for gas-and-go.

Moving past the personal expense and inconvenience, the broader implications of natural-gas cars are worrisome.

The U.S. currently uses about 23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year. Like all commodities, the price of natural gas is supply-and-demand dependent.

Switching just 10 percent of the U.S. car fleet to natural gas would dramatically increase our consumption of natural gas by about 8 percent (1.9 trillion cubic feet) -- an amount that is slightly less than one-half of all current residential natural gas usage and one-quarter of all industrial usage.

The price ramifications of such a demand spike would likely be significant. The current cost advantage of natural gas over gasoline could easily be reversed. Our move toward energy independence could also be compromised.

Domestic production of natural gas has not kept pace with rapidly increasing demand. Consequently, about 15 percent of our natural gas must now be imported.

Without more domestic gas drilling, additional demand will need to be met with natural gas imported by pipeline and in liquefied form from the very same foreign sources that T. Boone Pickens rails about in the context of oil.

In its most recent annual outlook, the U.S. Department of Energy projects that the U.S. natural-gas market will become more integrated with natural-gas markets worldwide as the U.S. becomes more dependent on imported liquefied natural gas -- causing greater uncertainty in future U.S. natural-gas prices.

The natural-gas supply problem will be additionally magnified if significant greenhouse-gas regulation is enacted.

Here's how: Currently, when natural gas gets too expensive, electric utilities often substitute coal or cheaper fuels for power generation.

Under a greenhouse-gas regulation scheme, however, inexpensive coal might no longer be an alternative because of the significantly greater greenhouse-gas emissions involved with its combustion.

Utilities, and ultimately consumers, could easily find themselves at the mercy of natural-gas barons -- like T. Boone Pickens himself, a large investor in natural gas.

Is that the real "Pickens Plan?"

Saturday, September 13, 2008

DEMOCRATS: THE PARTY OF DEFEAT!!!!

We are living through an age of liberal betrayal, but David Horowitz and Ben Johnson can only see a part of it in their new book, Party of Defeat. For them, the Left’s treason is of an old-fashioned kind: giving comfort to the enemy in a time of war. In the lucid style of a relentless prosecutor, they lay out ample evidence to support the charge. I could go through it all with you. A grateful Osama bin Laden paraphrasing Michael Moore’s excuses for tyranny, the Democratic congressmen trying to ensure the US Army lost the second Iraq war, MoveOn.org being cheered on by those same senior Democrats for denouncing General Petraeus as ‘General Betray Us’ when he worked-out a strategy for winning the second Iraq war…the case for the prosecution is long and convincing.

But although I can envisage a Democrat Senator or an editor on the New York Times being unnerved by an unfamiliar puncturing of their righteousness, I can also imagine liberals rallying robustly. To the authors’ assertion that the Left has undermined the American cause and diminished America’s ability to defend itself, they could reply that although the Left was wrong about the surge, it was right to argue that the second Iraq war was an ill-conceived, ill-prepared adventure. To argue against bad policy is no treason, they might say, but a democratic duty.

Horowitz and Johnson concede the point, although with reluctance. For my taste, they display a touch too much jealousy for the supposed advantages enjoyed by the strong man or reigning psychopath in authoritarian regimes. ‘A democracy at war is faced with problems dictatorships find avoidable,’ they sigh. ‘Its citizens have a responsibility – as the Left never tires of repeating – not to abandon the freedoms they are defending.’ Yet even Horowitz and Johnson pull back from the ugly implication of their complaint and conclude, that ‘criticism of every war, including the one in Iraq, is warranted’.

Given that concession, their targets may wonder where the problem lies. Even if Horowitz and Johnson can make what they said sound hysterical, paranoid or dumb in retrospect, they had good grounds for believing what they said at the time. The charge of betrayal doesn’t stick when the authors admit that there were no weapons of mass destruction worth talking about and that the Bush administration’s failure to prepare for the carnage of the occupation was shameful.

I’m sure conservative readers would not buy this defense. Having seen liberal opinion here in England go berserk during the war, I don’t buy most of it myself. All I am saying is that Horowitz and Johnson’s liberal opponents will think they can dismiss the arguments of this book.

But they cannot dismiss a deeper liberal betrayal. As conservatives, our authors can’t quite grasp its nature although the evidence screams at them from the first to last page.

They begin with of a portrait of George Soros – and I’m grateful to them for showing me that contrary to meritocratic theory a man can become very rich while remaining remarkably stupid. The financier was enraged by George W. Bush’s statement after 9/11 that countries had to choose whether they were going to help America or provide safe havens for terrorists. ‘Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make,’ Bush said. ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.’

Bush’s doctrine was unexceptional – a leader would be guilty of a dereliction of duty if he did not treat those countries which harbored those who would slaughter his fellow citizens as ‘hostile regimes’ – but it was not allowed to stand. First his opponents pretended that the he had said ‘you’re either with us or against us’ – an unforgivably crass notion to their minds that challenged the central belief of postmodern liberalism that moral problems are never black and white only blurred shades of grey.

Then Soros got to work. The Hungarian billionaire whose speculations on the money markets fund the supposed left-wingers at moveon.org declared: ‘When I hear Bush say,

“You're either with us or against us,” it reminds me of the Germans. It conjured up memories of the Nazi slogan, "Der Feind hoert mit" (The enemy is listening). My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitized me.’

They did not sensitize him sufficiently, and not only because fuehrers do not observe constitutions, as a rule, or retire to Texan ranches when their term limit expires. Bush was not an inheritor of the totalitarian tradition, but America’s enemies most assuredly were and are. Radical Islam takes the Nazi’s Jewish conspiracy theory. It also seeks to destroy what rights Muslim women have and kill homosexuals, free thinkers, Muslims who change their faith or challenge their interpretation of Islam, and, of course , all non-believers and idolaters. Meanwhile Baathism in Iraq was not only based on the Fuehrerprinzip but so emulated the model of 20th century totalitarianism it gassed the ‘impure’ Kurdish minority. The targets of Islamists and Baathists are many, but they include the traditional friends of rich western liberals: trade-unionists, feminists, democrats, journalists, intellectuals and free-thinkers.

Yet Soros and the millions like him cannot acknowledge the victims of Islamo-fascism or offer them the smallest support. In their liberal anxiety to denounce their government they betray liberals and liberalism.

There are many gruesome scenes in Party of Defeat none more so than the moment when a blogger with the Daily Kos, Democratic candidate and self-proclaimed ‘Mayanist poet’ called Jeeni Criscenzo flies to Iraq to schmooze with the Sunni remnants of Saddam’s regime and the political wing of the Shia death squads of Muqtada al-Sadr. One of the Sheikhs she met eulogized the mass murderers of al Qaeda. ‘These young men who came here from other Muslim countries are very brave. They left their homes and comfortable lives to protect Muslims,’ he cries. No they didn’t they left their homes to slaughter Muslim Iraqis including liberal Iraqis who had every right to expect the support of the American and European lefts.

It may not be a surprise that Ms Criscenzo could not see what was in front of her nose, but it is flabbergasting that George Soros, Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton and the New York Times shared her myopia. Their behavior calls into question what it means to be liberal in America and Europe, and what it means to be conservative as well.

Now what with one thing and another, American conservatives must be feeling a little bruised at the moment, so I hope they don’t think I’m nagging when I say they should take more notice of the ideological shifts around them. In the Arab world and beyond, people who are liberal and remain liberal are being betrayed by liberal Westerners simply because their suffering cannot be blamed on America.

The case Ayaan Hirsi Ali illustrates my point. She experienced abuse and forced marriage, renounced Islam and embraced feminism and atheism. She was, in short, a classic liberal heroine, the more so because psychopathic misogynists were trying to kill her.

The attack on her liberalism in the West, however, was not led by traditional conservatives but by liberals – Dutch leftists, Oxford dons and contributors to the New York Review of Books, who hated her for challenging the stereotypes of their reactionary multi-culturalism, and denigrated her in the most patronizing manner they could devise. In the end, she found a haven with the American Enterprise Institute. What we used to call ‘the Left’ had rejected her and offered nothing more than formulaic criticisms of those who would murder her, so she turned to what we used to call ‘the Right’.

I know from the last time she spoke in London that her commitment to feminism and atheism is undiminished. Has then she shifted from Left to Right or have all the liberals who criticized her? Is the American Enterprise Institute, which came to her rescue ‘conservative’, and the New York Review of Books, which demeaned her, ‘liberal’, or is it the other way round? These questions are becoming pointless because the conflicts of our time are draining old labels of meaning.

I can say with confidence that more will follow Hirsi-Ali, but only if conservatives accept the liberal values liberals are so thoughtlessly discarding.

I’m not sure if David Horowitz and Ben Johnson can take the necessary next step. Because they are patriots first and foremost they write with great brilliance and rigor on the liberals’ betrayal of country but cannot appreciate their betrayal of liberalism and of all those suffering at the hands of anti-American and anti-liberal totalitarian movements.

I expect that this is a criticism that neither gentleman is used to hearing, but the trouble with their critique of American liberalism is not that it goes too far but that it does not go far enough.