Friday Digest

Digest

Aug. 15, 2008

GOVERNMENT & POLITICS

Drilling opponents feel pressure for a vote

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated this week that she is now open to a vote on offshore oil exploration and drilling, reversing her staunch opposition in weeks past to allow the subject to come to a vote in the House. Her change of heart is motivated by raw fear—fear that she can’t hold off Republicans and a growing number of Democrats calling for domestic drilling to alleviate America’s reliance on foreign oil, and fear that a vast majority of the American people actively support drilling. San Fran Nan simply doesn’t have the courage of her convictions, at least not as the election draws near. Don’t expect Madame Speaker to completely buckle just yet, though. She is likely to allow a vote on drilling only as part of a larger package that includes her ill-advised idea to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have vowed to shut down the government if they don’t get a vote on offshore drilling soon. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) pointed out that the drilling ban must be renewed every year on or before 1 October. He is calling on Congress to let the ban expire, and he has threatened a GOP filibuster of any spending resolutions that Democrats might use to attempt to bypass a vote on the ban.

In related news, the Energy Information Administration this week announced that U.S. oil demand fell by an average 800,000 barrels per day during the first half of 2008, constituting the biggest volume decline in 26 years. The EIA predicts that U.S. oil demand will average just over 20 million barrels per day in 2009, which would be the lowest level of consumption since 2003. And for those paying attention, since President George W. Bush rescinded the Executive Order banning offshore drilling on 14 July, oil has dropped from $147 a barrel to $113. That’s not a coincidence.

In the Senate: Compromise could hurt GOP

There’s political compromise and then there’s selling out. Just when the GOP had begun making measurable pro-drilling advances against the never-drill-anywhere Democrats, a gang of five “maverick” Republicans joined with a gang of five “normal” Democrats, creating the Gang of Ten and putting the kibosh on domestic drilling anytime soon.

Behind a guise of a “compromise” that would have made Henry Clay cringe, Republican Senators Saxby Chambliss (GA), Bob Corker (TN), Lindsey Graham (SC), Johnny Isakson (GA) and John Thune (SD) with their Democrat collaborators crafted a “bipartisan” energy plan that is little more than a blanket concession to the Left. Under the Gang’s proposal, drilling in ANWR is still a no-no, drilling within 50 miles of the coast is forbidden, and in the five states where offshore drilling is permitted with the approval of the state legislatures, extensive regulations may relegate it to a pipe dream.

The real clincher, though, is the tax credits and subsidies the Gang would direct toward chasing alternative and renewable sources of energy—handouts funded by $84 billion in new taxes on oil companies. That should do the trick.

Back door for Endangered Species Act

The Bush administration used its powers this week to propose a regulatory change in the Endangered Species Act that would allow federal agencies to decide whether their projects would harm protected species. Environmentalists and the Democrats in Congress are up in arms at the changes, claiming that granting agencies the power to make their own decisions on such matters without independent scientific review would essentially gut the Act and cause undue harm to the environment. Granted, federal agencies need solid scientific input to make informed decisions about the environmental impact of its actions. On the other hand, many environmentally safe public works projects have been scrapped over the years because of rigged rulings by scientific groups who have acted in the interests of the environmental lobby instead of pure science. At the very least, the administration’s controversial ruling should force Congress to revisit the Endangered Species Act, a law that began with the best of intentions but ended up becoming a political tool of liberal groups who would rather see the country overrun with spotted owls and snail darters than have safer roads, better river management and more power plants.

Campaign watch: Hindsight is 20/20

An article in the new issue of The Atlantic magazine explores the reasons for Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) failure to clinch the Democrat presidential nomination despite the fact that nearly everyone thought she had it in the bag. According to the article, a combination of infighting and bad management are to blame. For starters, everyone underestimated freshman Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and turned their attention to him perhaps too late to stop his meteoric rise in popularity during the primaries. Some of Clinton’s advisers wanted to attack Obama as not in touch with basic American values, but others rejected the idea. As the debate over just what to do with the upstart from Illinois raged on, the atmosphere among Clinton’s strategists became toxic, leading first to the departure of campaign manager Patty Solis Doyle, then longtime Clinton strategist Mark Penn. In the meantime, no coherent strategy for dealing with Obama came up, and worse still, Clinton herself did not step in to provide any direction, leaving the campaign adrift as Obama solidified his lead and sealed up the nomination.

Clinton may not have given up, though. Just days prior to the start of the Democrat National Convention in Denver, she and her husband have each been guaranteed a prime speaking slot, and her name will be placed in nomination to ensure that everyone’s vote will be “honored and respected.” The trick now for the party’s weakling nominee will be to keep the Clintons close enough to woo her millions of supporters without allowing them to overshadow him. Not being overshadowed by the Clintons? Good luck with that, Barack.

Regarding the upcoming convention in Denver, the New York Post reports that Democrats face a small crisis next week: a limousine shortage. “We just don’t have the cars—Denver just isn’t really big on chauffeurs,” said Barbara Curtis, of Two Step Limousine. “I am totally booked, and have been for six weeks.” Limousine liberals are certainly living up to their name.

From the Left: Edwards confesses

Former Democrat presidential candidate John Edwards has finally admitted to an extramarital affair with former staffer Rielle Hunter. Edwards had repeatedly denied the story, which first appeared in the National Enquirer last October, but got too hot to deny last week. During his campaign for the Democrat nomination, Edwards had spoken of his commitment not only to the poor, but also to his terminally ill wife Elizabeth. In fact, Edwards hinted at a direct correlation between loyalty to one’s spouse and the “trustworthiness, sincerity, honesty and strength of leadership” required to lead a nation. Good thing he didn’t win the nomination.

Even in light of the Enquirer’s mountain of evidence, the Leftmedia refused to correct the falsehood perpetrated by Couric and countless others, stating that because Edwards is not an elected official and not running for office, his philandering simply isn’t newsworthy. But, as firebrand columnist Ann Coulter pointed out, neither were conservatives Mel Gibson or Rush Limbaugh running for office when their dirty laundry was aired via every media outlet known to man. Nor was conservative Bill Bennett when his gambling problem was gleefully revealed. The media’s assertion is doubly false, then, because Edwards was certainly angling for a position in an Obama administration, perhaps as attorney general. Coulter isn’t surprised at the Leftmedia’s protection of one of their own, however. “I suspect that if I tried to look up coverage of the Democratic primaries in Nexis news archives,” she wrote, “Edwards’ name will have disappeared from the debates. By next week, Edwards won’t have been John Kerry’s running mate in 2004.”

Edwards continues to deny the Enquirer’s allegations that he is the father of Hunter’s daughter, saying that another former campaign worker, Andrew Young, is the father, as Young confessed last fall. Of course, Young could be a fall guy, and Hunter has—conveniently for Edwards—refused to submit to a DNA test for her child. Edwards also denies that he or anyone else has been paying Hunter to remain silent. His political action committee explains an April 2007 $14,000 payment to Hunter as compensation for unused film. If the money was converted for personal use, it becomes a federal criminal violation. That payment came shortly before Edwards’ chief fundraiser began sending money to Hunter. But the Enquirer has been right so far, and Edwards has already told a pack of lies. Whom do you trust?

On cross-examination

“I believe [Hillary Clinton] would have won Iowa, and Clinton today would therefore have been the nominee. Our voters and Edwards’ voters were the same people. They were older, pro-union. Not all, but maybe two-thirds of them would have been for us and we would have barely beaten Obama.” —former Hillary Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson on the impact of the Leftmedia’s refusal to cover John Edwards’ sex scandal

NATIONAL SECURITY

Russian into Georgia

On Tuesday, Russia agreed to a cease-fire after five days of fighting in the former Soviet republic of Georgia and its breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The cease-fire plan was the brainchild of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who pragmatically declared, “We don’t yet have peace.” Indeed, Russian forces continue to advance into Georgia despite the cease-fire agreement, and a third of the country’s territory is now under Russian control. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili agreed to the truce in principal, but expressed concern that it does not include any reference to Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia or Abkhazia, and that the agreement restricts the movement of Georgia’s military within the country’s own borders. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has traveled to Tbilisi where she will attempt to further develop and refine the cease-fire agreement between Georgia and Russia, but without the threat of U.S. military action, the Russian Bear knows that it can defy any agreement with impunity.

Russia’s military adventures in Georgia have been portrayed in the U.S. media as the result of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s Napoleonic ambitions, but the truth is more complicated. The ethnic regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in 1992 with Russian support. But Georgia has never relinquished its claims of sovereignty, and President Saakashvili provided the kindling for the current conflict when he sent troops into South Ossetia on 7 August in an attempt to bring the region back under Georgian control. The majority of South Ossetians are Russian citizens holding Russian passports, so Moscow’s forceful response to the Georgian incursion was predictable. What was also predictable (though perhaps it did not occur to President Saakashvili) was that Russia would use Georgia’s act of aggression as a pretext for escalating the conflict beyond South Ossetia’s borders and invading Georgia itself. It is at this point that the differing views on the conflict (Russia as the victim vs. Russia as the bully) begin to converge: Georgia did in fact provoke a Russian military response by invading South Ossetia and killing civilians there (though the confirmed death toll was in the dozens, not thousands as Russia claims), and Russia has in fact taken advantage of the situation to once again put Russian boots on Georgian soil in a sort of Soviet Union redux.

None of this discounts the fact that Russia has imperialist ambitions in Eastern Europe. In the past week, Russia warned the former Soviet bloc countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland that they would “pay” for criticizing Russia’s actions in Georgia. And there can be little doubt that Prime Minister Putin intends to punish Georgia for its rapprochement with the West and its aspirations for NATO membership. However, by invading South Ossetia, President Saakashvili conceded the moral high ground early and ensured that his chief ally, U.S. President George W. Bush, would find himself in a very difficult position. Far from being “slow to act” or “timid,” President Bush knows that history will record that Georgia pulled the trigger first, however disproportionate Russia’s response.

Warfront with Jihadistan: Command transition

In another sign of increasing stability in Iraq, General David Petraeus, prime architect of the highly successful U.S. troop surge, is preparing to turn over command of U.S. forces in Iraq next month to Lt. General Raymond Odierno, who was commander of day-to-day military operations during his last tour in Iraq and was effectively General Petraeus’ senior deputy. It would be difficult to think of a better candidate to replace Petraeus, who is leaving Iraq to become commander of U.S. Central Command.

Odierno will assume command just as serious discussions of significant U.S. troop reductions in Iraq get underway. On Monday, the General said that over the next year he hoped to see those force reductions, while also acknowledging that Iraqi political and military developments would obviously influence his recommendations. Of particular concern to Odierno is “to make sure we don’t have outside influence inside of Iraq trying to gain advantage,” a clear reference to the Mad Mullahs of Iran. He also said that the militia forces of radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are a prime concern. Sadr’s militia is currently pressing a PR campaign, trying to gain popular support by meeting the needs of ordinary Iraqis better than the Iraqi government can—a technique used to great effect by the murderous Hizballah in Lebanon.

We wish General Odierno well in his new command. We also thank General Petraeus and his troops for their great determination, and for devising and executing the strategy that has all but ensured our victory there.

Military Correctness: Navy sonar update

As we have previously reported, environmentalists determined to undermine national security in order to protect a few whales were trying to stop the United States Navy from testing certain sonar systems in the Pacific. The battle went to court, where a black-robed despot decided that he knew best what the Navy should be doing. The commander in chief, however, instructed the Navy to disregard the ruling. The matter went back to court. Now, the Navy has agreed to limit operations to specific training areas near Hawaii and in the western Pacific. The Navy has also asked the Supreme Court to reconsider the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling regarding use of mid-frequency sonar off the coast of southern California.

Profiles of valor: USN Petty Officer Hamill

In February 2007, then-Petty Officer James Hamill of the United States Navy was the command photographer assigned by the Provincial Reconstruction Team to document the opening of the Khost Provincial Hospital Emergency Room in Khost, Afghanistan. The hospital was a sign of progress in the dangerous Afghan province, and, therefore, a natural target for the enemy. Intelligence provided some warning of a possible suicide attack, but the event continued as planned. At the event, a suicide bomber dressed as a doctor did indeed sneak through the Afghan police’s outer security perimeter. An American soldier became suspicious, however, and stopped the supposed doctor. When he saw the explosive vest, he tackled the bomber. As the two wrestled, the alarm was sounded. It was then that Hamill dropped his camera in favor of his rifle. And not a moment too soon. The bomber was able to free himself and charged ahead, but Hamill stood his ground. He opened fire less than 10 feet away, hitting the bomber repeatedly, though as he fell, the bomber detonated himself. Hamill took shrapnel to the abdomen. Six other Americans were also injured, but no one was killed. Hamill ignored his wounds and helped perform life-saving aid on the other injured soldiers, as well as securing the area to prevent a follow-up attack. Hamill’s actions that day helped save many lives. For his “extraordinary heroism” and “total dedication to duty” he was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor.

BUSINESS & ECONOMY

’Byrd Amendment’ is bad news for trade

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) is working to renew the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act, which The Wall Street Journal calls “a nasty trade law that offers U.S. companies a double reward for seeking tariff help from Washington.” The so-called “Byrd Amendment” was put into a spending bill in 2000, but was repealed in 2005 after it was declared illegal by the World Trade Organization (WTO). It also tarnished the trade reputation of the United States. The goal, according to the Journal, “was to provide extra incentive for businesses to file trade complaints by giving them a share of proceeds. Instead of siccing the U.S. government on foreign companies to collect punitive duties for the Treasury, it gave the tariff money directly to the companies that file complaints.” The Government Accountability Office reported that more than half of the $1.9 billion in handouts went to only five companies, and 20 percent to one company—Timken, a bearings maker in Ohio. Worse, there was no accountability for accuracy of the claims. The WTO ruling in 2005 granted 11 trading partners the right to impose retaliatory tariffs on American goods. And they did.

Byrd and his Senate cohort Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are trying to persuade their colleagues that repealing the law “was a terrible mistake.” A pending appropriations bill contains customs and duties language inserted by Byrd, apparently meant to serve as a placeholder for revival of the aptly named Continued Dumping Act.
Getting the sin tax wrong

When Maryland’s state legislature voted last year to double the tax on cigarettes to $2 per pack in order to cover a budget shortfall, estimates on the decline in sales were a bit, well, underestimated. Rather than helping the state solve its budget crisis, it helped more Marylanders stop smoking. Cigarette sales have slumped by 25 percent, and Maryland is once again looking for ways to dig out of a fiscal mess—an estimated shortage of $40-60 million.

Though there is some speculation that neighbor states with lower cigarette taxes are benefiting from Maryland’s exorbitant sin tax, Virginia, Delaware and Washington, DC, have not seen a noticeable increase in their cigarette tax collections. But just in case any Maryland residents decide to cross state lines for their smokes, it’s now illegal to have more than two packs of cigarettes that are purchased out-of-state. That apparently hasn’t worked, and the word is that Internet and black-market sales are doing well.

Higher taxes on cigarettes have produced increased revenue in only eight of the 40 states that have tried it. How long will it take for Maryland’s and other state legislatures to realize that they can’t tax their way out of a budget crisis?

Income Redistribution: Bailing out states

Capital flow, the minutia of macroeconomics that gives the science its appeal, is the key to economic growth. Communities compete with incentives including reduced taxes and discounted land with high capacity infrastructure to attract new capital flow for job creation. The trade off is that the tax base generated by the new industry will offset the initial cost of infrastructure and reduced tax revenues. This mode of operation extends to the state level as well, albeit on a larger scale.

However, state governments often appear bi-polar, with an Economic Development Division promoting the state as an excellent environment for investment while the Department of Revenue—at the behest of the state legislature—seeks to maximize the revenue from businesses. Michigan is a perfect case study, with its “Michigan Golf” radio promotions touting the state as a vacation destination while the business media reports on its one-state recession and the economic mismanagement of Democrat Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The taxation and regulation regimen proposed by Granholm and codified by the Michigan Legislature has spurred the flow of economic and intellectual capital away from Michigan over the last eight years, yielding increased unemployment, increased demand for public assistance and increased budget deficits.

For the better part of two decades business schools have drilled students in the portability of capital in information-driven economies. There are only two impediments to capital flow: lack of natural resources and the possibility of asset confiscation by local authorities. By their rhetoric, we know that Granholm of Michigan and Gov. David Paterson of New York have no qualms about wealth redistribution, but they don’t have the tools (or the guts) necessary to take it to the extreme of, say, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Instead, they will beseech Congress to increase its benevolence upon their respective states by increasing taxes on the whole of the country. Their political calculus is simple: Increase the regulatory and tax burden across the entire country, and then their respective states won’t look so bad.

CULTURE

Around the nation: HIV immigrants now welcome

“Give me your tired, your poor… and your HIV-infected.” This could become U.S. immigration law’s new motto. Thanks to a bill signed last week by President Bush authorizing $48 billion to fight HIV and AIDS, a decades-old federal law banning foreigners with the diseases from entering the country may soon be a thing of the past. All that now stands in the way of a complete repeal is the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services’ removing HIV from the HHS list of “communicable diseases of public health significance.” (This is indeed curious, given that HIV is both “communicable” and “of public health significance.”)

Opponents of the ban are quick to note that with modern medical knowledge of how HIV/AIDS is spread, the preclusive law is unnecessary. Yet, they fail to highlight the economic impact the influx of infected individuals will have on the U.S. healthcare system, not to mention the very likely increase in the spread of the disease. The Congressional Budget Office forecasts approximately 4,300 HIV-infected immigrants will enter the country in 2013, with the number rising to 5,600 by 2018. And the cost? A whopping $83 million in public funds. Apparently, national interests take second place to ensuring an “inclusive” immigration policy—regardless of the cost.

Climate change this week: More Gore

When we last confronted His Greenness, Al Gore, the Speaker of the Inconvenient Truth stood accused of paying $30,000 a year in gas and electric bills for his 20-room home and pool house. Indeed, the Master of the Carbon Footprint devoured more than 20 times the national average. Gore’s defense was that he works out of his home and every family has a different carbon footprint.

Gore then took steps to make his manse more environmentally friendly. This resulted in a 10-percent increase in energy consumption. Not to worry—the Gores participate in the Nashville Electric Service’s Green Power Switch Program, which purportedly allows them to buy their electricity from renewable sources like wind power, solar power or methane gas from landfills, so any energy they burn won’t be earning them a bigger carbon footprint. However, this scheme may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Supposedly, Nashville Electric purchases all its power from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which says the “backbone of the system” is its 11 coal-burning plants—accounting for 60 percent of its power, with nuclear accounting for an additional 30 percent. That’s inconvenient.

Fitter, Happier, More Productive

Are conservatives harder workers that feel happier, have closer families, take fewer drugs, give more generously, value honesty more, are less materialistic and envious, whine less and even hug their children more than liberals? According to research by Peter Schweizer, a research fellow at Stanford University and the Hoover Institution, the answer is a resounding yes.

In his new book Makers and Takers, Schweizer demonstrates through new data and research that the common liberal stereotype painting conservatives as self-centered, angry, cheating, money-grubbing authoritarians are myth. In fact, Schweizer claims that these negative traits more often apply to liberals, and that his book exposes how: “Liberals are more self-centered than conservatives. Conservatives are more generous and charitable than liberals. Liberals are more envious and less hardworking than conservatives. Conservatives value truth more than liberals, and are less prone to cheating and lying. Liberals are more angry than conservatives. Conservatives are actually more knowledgeable than liberals. Liberals are more dissatisfied and unhappy than conservatives.” Certainly, Schweizer has discovered nothing we didn’t already know, but this is one book we will be adding to our summer reading list.

And last…

A recent headline on the Web site of WTNH in New Haven, Connecticut, read, “Almighty Allah busted on drug charges.” How could this be? Well, not that Allah. WTNH reports that the man, who legally changed his name to Almighty Supremebeing Allah, faces a narcotics charge. It gets worse: Allah has prior convictions and is being “held on $260,000.00 bond on charges including cocaine possession, attempt to sell cocaine, and traffic charges.” If Muslims rioted over cartoons of Mohammed, we hate to think what they will do if they find out Allah is a crack dealer. All we can say is, police be upon him.

Veritas vos Liberabit—Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus, et Fidelis! Mark Alexander, Publisher, for The Patriot’s editors and staff. (Please pray for our Patriot Armed Forces standing in harm’s way around the world, and for their families—especially families of those fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, who granted their lives in defense of American liberty.)

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