June 28, 2008

New FISA Bill

Why has the liberal opposition gone almost silent on the new FISA bill? Does no vocal opposition mean they have changed their views on the seriousness of the terrorist threat facing this country or is the silence merely a political ploy to not be seen as soft on terrorists? Or does the proposal contain some requirements and procedures that would render it toothless against terrorists?

Let's hear from Leahy, Sanders and Welch if they support it or oppose it and why!

Senator Leahy's statement is here. He opposes the new bill.

Senator Sanders has this to say:

Wiretap Law “I happen to believe that with strong law enforcement, with a strong and effective judiciary, with a Congress working diligently, we can be vigorous and successful in protecting the American people against terrorism and we can do it in a way that does not undermine the constitutional rights which people have fought for hundreds of years to protect--the Constitution, which today remains one of the greatest documents ever written in the history of humanity,” Sanders told colleague during debate on House-passed bill that also would gave telephone companies immunity from about 40 pending lawsuits over their role in a Bush administration surveillance program instituted after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “If we grant them retroactive immunity, what it really says to future presidents is, ‘I am the law because I'm the president and I will tell you what you can do and because I tell you what to do or ask you what to do that is, by definition, legal.’ “That is a very bad precedent,” Sanders continued.

I surmise he opposes the new law.

Representative Welch also opposes the new FISA law. His statement is here.

They all sound the same horn of 'accountability.' This reads to me as not much more than an anti-Bush political statement. None of them provide any insight into what the new law would actually do to change what they oppose. Instead they all want to see the telecom companies dragged into court and pay $millions, if not $billions, all because the companies did what the President asked them to do.

It's clear they are most interested in Bush-bashing while wrapping themselves in the mantle of protecting freedoms. My freedoms have not been infringed. I prefer to see our terrorist enemies and their collaborators stopped. Surveillance is a tool to do that. Why should I be afraid if I'm not a terrorist or a sympathizer?

June 27, 2008

Lock and Load - Editorial - NYTimes.com

Editorial - Lock and Load - NYTimes.com

Predictably, the New York Times whines about the Supreme Court's decision yesterday affirming Americans' prsonal right to keep and bear arms. The Times would have you believe that guns are the problem rather than the people who misuse them. It's all but certain the Times would sponsor confiscation of firearms. Guns don't kill people, people do that.

The Supreme Court was right to affirm the Second Amendment, albeit the left wing of the court would reinterpret the Constitution.

Meanwhile, over at the Wall Street Journal, they had this to say:

"Justice Scalia shreds the collective interpretation as a matter of both common law and Constitutional history. He writes that the Founders, as well as nearly all Constitutional scholars over the decades, believed in the individual right. Many Supreme Court opinions invoke the Founders, but this one is refreshing in its resort to first American principles and its affirmation of a basic liberty. It's not too much to say that Heller is every bit as important to the Second Amendment as Near v. Minnesota (prior restraint) or N.Y. Times v. Sullivan (libel) are to the First Amendment.

Which makes it all the more troubling that no less than four Justices were willing to explain this right away. These are the same four liberal Justices who routinely invoke the "right to privacy" – which is nowhere in the text of the Constitution – as a justification for asserting various social rights. Yet in his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens argues that a right to bear arms that is plainly in the text adheres to an individual only if he is sanctioned by government."

June 22, 2008

Op-Ed Columnist - Mr. Bush, Lead or Leave - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

Thomas Friedman - Mr. Bush, Lead or Leave - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

Writing from his considerable frustration, Thomas Friedman makes it seem so simple. A realistic energy policy is far more complex than his simplistic rant suggests.

Here are some common sense elements (a work in progress) in no particular priority order of a realistic energy policy :
  • Recognize that market prices will direct investment in new energy research and sources. If market prices for petroleum remain at current prices or higher, other alternatives, including hydrogen and electricity will emerge profitably.
  • Government subsidies and sponsored research are a realistic means to change our economy's energy sources in the long term. Good research takes time and is expensive; subsidies are costly and risk distorting the marketplace.
  • Don't assume that electricity is fungible, irrespective of price, with petroleum products for transportation or heating.
  • Understand that oil will not soon disappear from our energy diet. Enormous and costly infrastructure is devoted to petroleum and natural gas that will not be abandoned quickly. Financial realities and the economic effects of a shift to alternate sources of energy must be seriously considered and absorbed with minimum disruption to our economy.
  • Don't clutter the debate about energy with climate change. Energy efficiency is a much more realistic goal which will have the desirable side effect on greenhouse gas emissions. Recognize that energy efficiency measures have limits that will only mitigate demand when population grows.
  • A healthy economy requires a healthy energy industry.
  • Don't spend time on blaming bogeymen for the cost of energy. Public policy is better crafted on facts and realities. Plain talk is more productive that disparagement."Big Oil" as a derogatory term best left out of the discussion. The fact is we need energy companies with substantial resources to invest in our energy future. It's senseless to alienate companies that can help solve the problem of energy supply and costs in our economy. The same goes for "Windfall Profits" The emotional appeal of notion of the 'big guy desiring to screw the little guy' is the cheap fodder of opportunistic politicians which does not move the issue forward. The same is true of suggestions that the oil industry should be nationalized.
  • Wind and solar generated electricity supplement but do do not substitute for reliable baseload sources such as hydro, nuclear and coal.
  • "Energy independence" is unlikely within 50-100 years in a global economy. Nevertheless, we should optimize our own energy resources.

June 21, 2008

Op-Ed Columnist David Brooks- The Two Obamas - NYTimes.com

David Brooks nails the truth once more. Obama is a two-faced, not-to-be-trusted Chicago politician as Brooks aptly describes. But do those Americans who vote their emotions rather than their minds and facts care? I certainly hope so, but I doubt that this will matter to many of his rabid supporters.

Obama's blatant renouncing of public campaign funding reveals his true colors given his history on the issue. The Republicans should have a field day with this, but the media reaction is predictably tame.

With this flip-flop, Obama has shown clearly that he cannot be trusted. This issue should be in his face cointinually by the media, but they won't do it.

Op-Ed Columnist - The Two Obamas - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

June 13, 2008

New Jobs in Vermont - All Government

This simple table published by the Vermont group Public Assets, should reveal to any observer, assuming they're not Socialists, what's wrong with Vermont's economy. Negative job growth in the private sector during the last 7 years. All new job growth (4,500) is in the government sector (state, federal and local).

Wonder why your taxes continue to rise? It's no secret.

June 12, 2008

Court Says Guantanamo Detainees Have Right to Challenge Detention - washingtonpost.com

The Supreme Court erred. Of course, true to form, the New York Times applauds the decision from their ivory tower. But Justice Scalia in opposing this bad decision has it right:

"America is at war with radical Islamists," Scalia wrote, adding that the decision "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."

When will our country wake up to the fact that these terrorists are first and foremost sworn enemies of the United States who wish to see us and our way or life defeated. They are not people with civil rights like you and I under our Constitution. Why is that so difficult to grasp?

I hope this bad decision will not encourage our military to 'take no prisoners.'

Court Says Guantanamo Detainees Have Right to Challenge Detention - washingtonpost.com

Wonder Land - WSJ.com

Drill! Drill! Drill!

by Daniel Henniger

June 12, 2008; Page A15

Henniger's piece below exposes the truth about liberal America's policies. They have this 'castle in the sky' notion that the U.S. can become energy independent and not drill to produce more oil and gas at the same time. This is a foolish belief and a dangerous policy guaranteed to keep prices high for the foreseeable future as long as the major oil/gas suppliers choose not to increase supply and environmentalists oppose the construction of new U.S. refineries.

We should use the energy resources we have while at the same time developing new ones. Our primary motivation should be economic health and efficient use of energy so we can get more bang for the buck. Our present course is unsustainable and Congress may soon find that Americas will not stand for their do-nothingness. There is plenty of blame to go around, but unless we recognize this as a supply/demand issue rather than wasting time finding someone to blame, we will make little headway.

Charles de Gaulle once wrote off the nation of Brazil in six words: "Brazil is not a serious country." How much time is left before someone says the same of the United States?

One thing Brazil and the U.S. have in common is the price of oil: It is priced in dollars, and everyone in the world now knows what the price is. Another commonality is that each country has vast oil reserves in waters off their coastlines.

Wonder Land columnist Daniel Henninger says America needs to get serious about its oil and gas resources. (June 11)

Here we may draw a line in the waves between the serious and the unserious.

Brazil discovered only yesterday (November) that billions of barrels of oil sit in difficult water beneath a swath of the Santos Basin, 180 miles offshore from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The U.S. has known for decades that at least 8.5 billion proven barrels of oil sit off its Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts, with the Interior Department estimating 86 billion barrels of undiscovered oil resources.

When Brazil made this find last November, did its legislature announce that, for fear of oil spills hitting Rio's beaches or altering the climate, it would forgo exploiting these fields?

Of course it didn't. Guilherme Estrella, director of exploration and production for the Brazilian oil company Petrobras, said, "It's an extraordinary position for Brazil to be in." Indeed it is.

At this point in time, is there another country on the face of the earth that would possess the oil and gas reserves held by the United States and refuse to exploit them? Only technical incompetence, as in Mexico, would hold anyone back.

But not us. We won't drill.

California won't drill for the estimated 1.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil off its coast because of bad memories of the Santa Barbara oil spill – in 1969.

We won't drill for the estimated 5.6 billion to 16 billion barrels of oil in the moonscape known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) because of – the caribou.

In 1990, George H.W. Bush, calling himself "the environmental president," signed an order putting virtually all the U.S. outer continental shelf's oil and gas reserves in the deep freeze. Bill Clinton extended that lockup until 2013. A Clinton veto also threw away the key to ANWR's oil 13 years ago.

Our waters may hold 60 trillion untapped cubic feet of natural gas. As in Brazil, these are surely conservative estimates.

[Drill! Drill! Drill!]


While Brazilians proudly embrace Petrobras, yelling "We're Going to Be No. 1," the U.S.'s Democratic nominee for president, Barack Obama, promises to impose an "excess profits tax" on American oil producers.

We live in a world in which Russia's Vladimir Putin and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez use their vast oil and gas reserves as instruments of state power. Here, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid use their control of Congress to spend a week debating a "climate-change" bill. This they did fresh off their subsidized (and bipartisan) ethanol fiasco.

One may assume that Mr. Putin and the Chinese have noticed the policy obsessions of our political class. While other nations use their oil reserves to attain world status, we give ours up. Why shouldn't they conclude that, long term, these people can be taken? Nikita Khrushchev said, "We will bury you." Forget that. We'll do it ourselves.

Putin intimidates Ukraine, Georgia, the Baltic states and Poland with oil and gas cutoffs, while Chávez uses petrodollars to bankroll Colombian terrorists. Cuba plans to exploit its Caribbean oil fields within a long tee shot of the Florida Keys with help from India, Spain, Venezuela, Canada, Norway, Malaysia, even Vietnam. But America won't drill. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said just last month he's afraid of an oil spill. Katrina wrecked the oil rigs in the Gulf with no significant damage from leaking oil.

Some portion of the current $4-per-gallon gasoline may be attributable to the Federal Reserve's inflationary monetary policy or even speculators. But we can wave goodbye to the $1.25/gallon gasoline that in 1990 allowed a President Bush to airily lock away the nation's oil and gas jewels. This isn't your father's world of energy. New world powers are coming online fast, and they need energy. We need to get back in the game.

The goal shouldn't be "energy independence," a ridiculous notion in an economically integrated world. It's about admitting the need to strike a balance between the energy and security realities of the here-and-now and the potentialities of the future. Some of our best and brightest want to pursue alternative energy technologies, and they should be encouraged to do so, inside market disciplines. But let's at least stop pretending the rest of the world is going to play along with our environmentalist moralisms.

The Democrats' climate-change bill collapsed last week under the weight of brutal cost realities. It was a wake-up call. This is the year Americans joined the real world of energy costs. Now someone needs to explain to them why we – and we alone – are sitting on an ocean of energy but won't drill for it.

You'd think the "national security" nominee, John McCain, would get this. He's clueless – a don't-drill zombie. We may mark this down as the year the U.S. tired of being a serious country.

Wonder Land - WSJ.com

June 11, 2008

Op-Ed Columnist - David Brooks - The Great Seduction by Debt - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

David Brooks once again finds the head of the nail and hits hard. The debt and spending problem in this country will be ruinous unless social norms of savings and frugality can be reestablished. The credit card debt statistics he quotes are astounding.

I have always maintained that our education system has long been remiss in its failure to teach basic economics in school. everywhere in our society we are exposed to the charlatans of the 'have it all; have it now' gospel. It's no wonder our social norms and values are sliding downhill.

One of our biggest culprits, of course, is the Federal government which will/can not restrain spending. They should be setting the example, and, of course, they are...the worst one possible.

Have we lost fiscal discipline? Read David's full column at the link below.

The deterioration of financial mores has meant two things. First, it’s meant an explosion of debt that inhibits social mobility and ruins lives. Between 1989 and 2001, credit-card debt nearly tripled, soaring from $238 billion to $692 billion. By last year, it was up to $937 billion, the report said.

Second, the transformation has led to a stark financial polarization. On the one hand, there is what the report calls the investor class. It has tax-deferred savings plans, as well as an army of financial advisers. On the other hand, there is the lottery class, people with little access to 401(k)s or financial planning but plenty of access to payday lenders, credit cards and lottery agents.

The loosening of financial inhibition has meant more options for the well-educated but more temptation and chaos for the most vulnerable. Social norms, the invisible threads that guide behavior, have deteriorated. Over the past years, Americans have been more socially conscious about protecting the environment and inhaling tobacco. They have become less socially conscious about money and debt.


Op-Ed Columnist - David Brooks - The Great Seduction by Debt - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com