Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Our View: Hick Plays Oil and Gas Politics. But When Will He lead? | The Colorado Observer

Our View: Hick Plays Oil and Gas Politics. But When Will He lead? | The Colorado Observer

Our View: Hick Plays Oil and Gas Politics. But When Will He lead?

February 29, 2012

Anyone that has cracked open a newspaper or clicked their radio on in the past week or so has no doubt encountered the ads featuring Governor John Hickenlooper extolling the virtues of hydraulic fracturing in Colorado. At least that’s what the green lobby that sent him to the Governor’s Mansion perceives.

However, typical of everything else Teflon John does, he has cleverly figured out a way to come off as being pro-energy while the bureaucrats working underneath him continue their quest to chase extractive industry investment out of Colorado.

While we can hardly blame the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) for hitching their wagon to the Hickenlooper popularity train, we wonder just how “pro-industry” this governor really is. The governor may be starring in COGA’s ads, but what are his so called “civil servants” over at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment doing to the oil and gas industry when it comes to the details – details like small engine emission standards on pad locations?

How often is the Colorado Department of Natural Resources using their platform as a cooperating agency to tout the socioeconomic benefits of the many jobs created by exploration and development projects occurring on federal lands in Western Colorado?

What is the Governor’s Energy Office doing to promote the development of oil, gas, coal, oil shale, uranium, rare-earth minerals and the like? Further, what are they doing to prove that they have a reason to exist in the first place?

Don’t get us wrong. It’s great that the Governor of Colorado is willing to lend his voice and his image to promote a process in fracking that has unlocked untold energy reserves in Colorado, the United States and, indeed, the rest of the world. But lip service is only lip service. If the governor is truly committed to a policy of growth in the energy sector, that means instructing the bureaucracy to promote and advocate for responsible development in every corner of Colorado.

He found a lane on hydraulic fracturing but what is he doing to move forward on the Roan Plateau, the Vermillion Basin, the HD Mountains, the West Elk Mine, the Oil Shale Programmatic EIS, and so many other potential projects that remain in a perpetual state of bureaucratic gridlock? Is the Governor willing to risk real political capital to challenge President Obama, Interior Secretary Salazar, and the green lobby to release them?

Slick newspaper and radio ads aside for a minute, what will the Governor’s criteria be for selecting the new Director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission? More than any other position in state government, this person will be the face of the State of Colorado to oil and gas companies looking to expand or initiate operations here. Will Hickenlooper walk the same failed path of his obstructionist predecessor and choose a 17th Street lawyer – or will he seek out someone with actual expertise in the oil and gas industry that knows the difference between an APD and a PDF?

Time will tell, but we can be forgiven for assuming that John Hickenlooper will continue to find ways to appease one group by making another one slightly uncomfortable. After all, he’s the most popular governor in America. Just ask him.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fighting drugs and border violence at Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: What about the ranger’s M14 rifle, Yogi? | The Ticket - Yahoo! News

Fighting drugs and border violence at Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: What about the ranger’s M14 rifle, Yogi?

Fighting drugs and border violence at Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: What about the ranger’s M14 rifle, Yogi?

By Liz Goodwin | The Ticket9 hrs ago
Ranger Ken Hires in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. (Liz Goodwin/Yahoo News)
ORGAN PIPE CACTUS NATIONAL MONUMENT, Ariz. -- On a hot desert morning last week, a group of 20 tourists gathered in the visitor center in Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to attend a mandatory safety briefing before taking a guarded van tour to Quitobaquito springs. The springs is part of the 69 percent of the remote border park west of Tucson that has been closed to the public since Kris Eggle, a 28-year-old law enforcement park ranger, was shot and killed while pursuing drug runners armed with AK-47s in 2002.
Organ Pipe was named "the most dangerous national park" that year and also in 2003 by the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, before the group discontinued the series. The drastic increase of drug activity on Arizona's southern border since the 1990s has turned Organ Pipe rangers into de factor Border Patrol agents, and spurred state lawmakers to pass several laws cracking down on illegal immigrants within the state.
Since 2009, the park has offered van tours to the springs, as long as rangers armed with rifles go along to protect the visitors. Now, ten years after Eggle's murder, the park's leadership has decided to open up a portion of the closed areas to the public in March, citing improved safety conditions and a big increase in Border Patrol agents in the area.
In the run-up to Tuesday's Republican presidential primary in Arizona, immigration has once again been a hotly contested topic in the state: Mitt Romney in a debate last week praised Arizona's immigration laws as a "model" for the country, while President Obama's Justice Department is suing Arizona to overturn one of those laws, called SB1070. The law--which has not gone into effect because of a federal court order--requires police to check a person's immigration status during stops if there is a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is in the country illegally. It also makes it a state crime to fail to carry immigration papers or for illegal immigrants to solicit work. Drug violence has claimed tens of thousands of lives in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in 2006, but spillover violence has so far been minimal in the United States. Still, Jan Brewer, the Republican governor of Arizona, falsely claimed that beheadings occurred in the Arizona desert in 2010, the same year she signed SB1070 into law. Arizona was also the first state to pass a mandatory E-Verify law in 2007, to ensure employers don't hire illegal immigrants.
Brewer says the law will help police officers combat drug trafficking and crime, but critics say it will encourage racial profiling and interferes with federal control over immigration. Yahoo News went to Organ Pipe last week to witness the challenges of the border as the presidential candidates debate how best to control it.
'They'll have M14s at hand. Don't be worried.'
"There is a chance we might have to cancel the tour if there's some sort of apprehension in progress," Park Ranger Karl Sommerhauser, wearing a bulky dark green bulletproof vest, told the tourists last week. Sommerhauser had an ear piece curling out of his left ear. "We expect you to take direction from Ken," he said sternly.
Ken Hires, an unflaggingly cheerful park ranger dressed in reassuringly normal-looking tan ranger clothes, bounded to the front of the room. Hires is what's called an interpretive ranger, which means he has no law enforcement duties and does not carry a weapon. ("I spent my five years in Vietnam. Enough shooting," he said later.) Hires explained that some law enforcement officers would be hiding in the hills and closely watching the two-hour nature hike, while another pair of armed rangers would follow the tourists closely from the ground. "They'll have M14s at hand," he told the group. "Don't be worried."
"You might see something interesting off the trail, but please don't go wandering off," Hires continued, explaining that it made it difficult for the rangers to track people from the hills. "Please be respectful that those people are putting themselves on the line for us."
As the group loaded into the vans, one woman from Idaho whispered to her husband: "Does it make you worried? They get chest protections, and we don't get none of them."
Hires, sitting in the passenger side of the van, began talking quickly into his radio to the rangers. He turned to the back and explained: "We operate this as if it were an incident."
"You say there was an incident out there?" a walrus-mustachioed passenger wearing a cowboy hat asked warily.
"We're it," Ken said, to nervous laughter.
'There's nothing normal about Organ Pipe'
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a 330,000-acre, surprisingly green stretch of Sonoran desert populated by barrel, saguaro and organ pipe cacti, spans 30 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. The park became a corridor for drug runners in the 1990s after border security tightened at major ports of entry and in urban areas, driving human and drug traffickers to rural crossings. Alan Bersin, the Customs and Border Protection commissioner until last year, admitted that the Tucson sector of the border was "out of control" until recently. In 2010, half of all border apprehensions and drug seizures occurred in the Tucson sector, which encompasses much of Organ Pipe.
Drug runners would cut across Mexican Highway 2 through Organ Pipe's dirt roads in a car and then quickly hop onto U.S. Highway 85, which shoots up to Phoenix or Tucson. The vehicles blazed more than 200 miles of unauthorized roads through the park, and rangers found themselves in dangerous, high-speed chases nearly every day. An $18 million, 23-mile vehicle fence put up after Eggle's murder by the Department of the Interior cut down on this vehicle traffic. Now, cartels have had to get smarter, sometimes cutting into the fence, removing it, driving through, and then putting it back together again. Drug runners also started coming more on foot, dropping their packages in designated spots on the highway for someone else to pick up.
The Department of Homeland Security recently put up nine surveillance towers in the park, making it easier for agents to detect this new foot traffic, so the drug runners are now hiding in the hills, where the towers can't see them. (A Border Patrol helicopter operation last year in these hills netted 800 pounds of trash and a whole "herd" of people, according to Hires.) Border Patrol set up a check point on Highway 85 within the park in the past year, which has pushed drug traffickers to the neighboring Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and Tohono O'odham reservation, adding as much as four days to their on-foot journeys. "They're very adaptive, more so than us," said Organ Pipe park superintendent Lee Baiza wearily, during an interview with Yahoo News last week.
Baiza said he spends about 80 percent of his time working with Homeland Security and handling border concerns. "There's nothing normal about Organ Pipe," he added.
The superintendent, who took over in 2007, has faced criticism for preventing Border Patrol agents from building new roads in the wilderness areas of the park, which is part of a larger struggle between Homeland Security and national park and land agencies that operate on the border. (More than 85 percent of border property in Arizona is federally owned.) Bob Bishop, a Republican representative from Utah, introduced a bill last year that would waive environmental laws up to 100 miles north of the border, freeing up Homeland Security to build roads through the wilderness to combat illegal immigration and drug running. Bishop criticized the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for preventing Border Patrol agents from driving off-road in the Quitobaquito area of the park because of a pond nearby that contains the endangered Sonoran desert pupfish.
"I may care about the pupfish, but I also care about kids getting hooked on illegal drugs that are coming over that border," Bishop told Yahoo News. Drug runners cause more environmental damage to the border by leaving trash, he said, than Border Patrol agents would by building roads.
"Every congressman seems to have his own idea of what we're doing wrong," Baiza said. "The reality is all of that has improved immensely since 2007."
Apprehensions in the park were down last month for the first time in three years, Baiza said. Border Patrol would not release park-specific data, but a spokesman, Jason Rheinfrank, said that the Tucson sector overall saw a 40 percent drop in apprehensions last fiscal year, while the number of agents has nearly tripled since 2000. Illegal crossing arrests over the entire border were at a four-decade low last fiscal year, in part because of the flagging American economy.
On March 1, 46 percent of the park--instead of 31 percent--is scheduled to be open to the public. Baiza cited the increased fencing, number of Border Patrol agents, and technology in the park as the reasons for the change.
Organ pipe cactus. (Liz Goodwin/Yahoo)
'What we are trying to do is retake this landscape'
"The real problem we have with safety is drug dealing, not the people looking for work," Hires said from a loudspeaker system at the front of the van. Three different border patrol agents riding ATVs raced by, waving. "What we are trying to do is retake this landscape so we can all be free to be out here," he added.
Twenty minutes later, the vans arrived at Quitobaquito, where two young men toting heavy M14 rifles were already waiting. The rangers arrived at the springs two hours earlier to scour the area and make sure no one was hiding.
"Please be respectful and don't photograph them," Hires warned. The park service is worried that cartel members would retaliate against the rangers if their faces were publicized. Baiza says Organ Pipe never sends out press releases announcing new ranger hires for the same reason.
The armed park rangers didn't greet the group and stayed about 20 paces ahead on the trail. Hires showed the tourists the endangered Sonoran desert pupfish in the pond (the endangered Sonoran mud turtles were nowhere to be found), and answered questions about the names of different plants and flowers. He explained that the springs has been a crossroads for thousands of years, an oasis drawing thirsty desert-dwellers and entrepreneurial shell traders. The tour ended, and two volunteer rangers stood guard as visitors used the restroom in the bushes before the long van ride back.
"You got to show me your visa," one volunteer ranger joked as people began loading back into the van.
On the way out, Hires pointed out the two park rangers at the top of the hill, green specks on the horizon.
Another border patrol ATV zoomed past the van and stopped the law enforcement park rangers who were escorting the group back to the visitor center. Two brown packages were tied to the back of the ATV.
"See those bundles? Want to guess?" Hires asked. "Marijuana." In 2005, the last year the park released border incident data, Organ Pipe park rangers seized 17,000 pounds of marijuana.
The rangers let out a dog from the back of the SUV, as the visitors craned their necks to watch from the van. The dog jumped out and ran to the bundles. He sat down abruptly and pointed his nose at the packages, then looked back at his masters. "That's the sign," Hires said. The rangers tossed the jubilant dog a toy, and the Border Patrol agent drove off again in the ATV.
"There's been a sighting of a UDA," Hires said a few minutes later, listening to his radio. (UDA means undocumented alien.) "He's sitting next to a trash can which means he's waiting for us to pick him up and give him a ride home. He's given up."
'I feel safer here than in Fresno'
Despite all the excitement on the trip, Hires said he thinks the park is very safe because of the law enforcement rangers and the Border Patrol agents.
"I feel safer here than in Fresno," Hires said after the tour. (He works seasonally in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national park near Fresno, California.)
But visitors--or rather, the people who are choosing not to be visitors--still have concerns. In 2010, visits to the park plunged to a 10-year low of 209,600. Baiza says that when state politicians focus on the dangers of Mexico and the border, fewer people visit the park.
"They come here all petrified," Bonnie Auman, a park volunteer, said. "Then they see all the law enforcement, the Border Patrol."
Bishop, the Utah congressman, said that while the stagnant economy may have significantly deterred unauthorized migrants who are looking for work, he doesn't think it has made a dent in the number of drug runners targeting Arizona. "That's why we need to control the border," he told Yahoo News. "They're not going to be affected by E-Verify and the economy, and the Border Patrol needs to have the ability to battle that."
It remains to be seen whether visitors will be lured back. Hires journeyed to the Quartzsite, Arizona, RV show last month to recruit wary RVers to visit the park. "The No. 1 question: 'Is it safe there?'" he said. "And the second one was, 'Are you open?' People thought we totally closed the place."
Memorial to Kris Eggle. (Liz Goodwin/Yahoo)

Articles: Barack Obama, in His Own Hand

Articles: Barack Obama, in His Own Hand

February 28, 2012

Barack Obama, in His Own Hand

By Marion DS Dreyfus

Handwriting analysis may not be everyone's favorite analytical tool, but millennia of such exterior methods have yielded largely intriguing and historically valid conclusions or observations.

With reference to the 44th president: if you did not already know of his enormous arrogance and cocksureness, the president's signature would shake you into that realization.

His initial "B" and "O" are about six times the size of his following letters, a sign all by itself that his hubris is massive. But his signature also reveals an unusual feature not often seen in regular folk: he encapsulates the "ba" in Obama inside the enormously inflated "O" of his last name. Further, his idealism and egotism are announced by the elongated and extra-tall "b" of Obama. This is a strong indication that he is above all self-protective and unlikely to admit wrongdoing or flaw. He is guarded on all sides by his self-love and imperviousness to exterior assault.

The straight up-and-down of his letters, absent any slant usual for most people, indicates his astringent and non-emotional aspects -- he does not come across as a warm human being, and he cannot be swayed by sentiment, as he has little on show or available.

The generous left-hand margin of space before his signature begins indicates his generosity -- to himself. His no-margin at the right-hand margin of the signature shows he is careful to a fault with giving to others. His strangely niggardly charitable contributions over the years we have been following them indicate that this aspect of his signature is accurate: his annual giving is paltry in contrast to the monies he has made over the past decade, during which time his book sales, senatorial salaries, and presidential perks have kicked in millions.

To the side of good is the clarity of his letters, which are so clear as to suggest printing, not cursive writing at all. This indicates that -- unlike many physicians' signatures, for instance -- he wishes to be understood above all.

The slight downward tilt of his name on a horizontal axis indicates a proclivity to moodiness and depression, but it is slight.

Interesting is the final "k" in Barack, which is in proportion to the rest of his non-capital letters, approximately twice the height of the small letters "arac." However, this "k" is at variance from the "b" in "Obama," -- which "b" is outlandishly extended to pierce the "O" in "Obama." This second-banana "b" is also some four times the height of surrounding letters, and five times the height of the "k" in "Barack." The huge extension above the line is echoed, uncommonly, below the line. That is, this "b" descends as if it were almost becoming a "p" -- which trend does not happen often. Either it indicates excess energy or drive, or it shows a manifestation of hesitance. My first husband had that peculiarity of signature; he paused for a brief second every time he signed his name, darkening the ink on portions of his initial letters, and indicating some contest internally that had not been resolved. The president shows this unresolvedness in the up-and-down extension of that outsized "b." One can speculate about the etiology of that momentous pause, knowing Obama's background and vicissitudinous early life, but one cannot know precisely why it is the way it is.

The president himself might or might not be able to shed light on this, but likely not, since these stressors and strains are deeply buried and not accessible to easy disinterment.

The "B" in Barack is measurably larger than the "O" in "Obama," too, indicating his sense of ego and confidence in himself exceeds that which he has harbored as part of his once-upon-a-dead-father, the senior Mr. Obama from Kenya.

The initial "B" in Barack is enormous, as we have stated. But it dispenses with the usual cursive cross-stroke and downstroke common in all teaching of handwriting. The president has instead begun to write his name with an extremely introverted upsweep that again indicates self-protectiveness, and is unusual in that it begins not at the top of a normal "B," but "below the line," and is a fluid sweep upward into a flourishing and powerful double-loop to form the body of the "B." He shows a healthy internal physiognomy in his flourishy signature. No evident health problems are indicated. Yet the initial "O" in "Obama" is not smooth, and more resembles a wobbly egg than a full-on open "O"; he is showing a stronger predilection for himself over his family (name).

Caveat: Perhaps his having learned to write English at an Indonesian school might explain some of the anomalies; the books used in Indonesia, and the teaching methodologies, may differ from those taught in the West. But Obama's long history and experience in this country subsequent to his youth in a majoritarian Muslim country, where pedagogy might well differ from those current in Europe and the United States, militates against placing too heavy an emphasis on his educational paradigms at 4, 5, or 6 years of age.

Additionally, his clear letters and spiky letter-tops show an analytical turn of mind, and the size of the letters indicates, in graphanalysis argot, some degree of intelligence. (The smaller one's letters and writing in general, the theory goes, the more intelligence and concentration ability is displayed.)

His curt endings show not only that he is a person who can keep a secret, if need be, but that he is not a sympathetic ear. If you need a shoulder to cry on, this is not your man.

Finally, there is no break between the end of "Barack" and the beginning of "Obama," showing that he leaves no room for others to intercede or to extract anything from him. Such a "chain-smoking" linkage is absent in 99% of signatures. Almost everyone leaves a measure of open space between his or her first and second names.

NB: Handwriting is developed quite integratedly with one's growth and maturation. If one has a physical ailment, that will be reflected in one's writing. If one has a secret kink, such as an erotic proclivity best left unbruited, say, that too often manifests in various whoops and whorls of one's signature. One does not determine what one creates as a signature. Thus, Obama has developed a clear window into what he thinks, feels, and acts on.

Caution is advised in that this meta-analysis is done on only one sample, and only on his signature, not on a more extended excerpt, one that might reveal a modulation of the signals given in the autograph. This analysis is not predictive.

Marion DS Dreyfus has worked as a graphanalyst for private companies and police agencies in the United States and elsewhere.

RealClearPolitics - Aren't High Gas Prices What Democrats Want?

RealClearPolitics - Aren't High Gas Prices What Democrats Want?

Aren't High Gas Prices What Democrats Want?

By David Harsanyi

Gas prices are spiking. That's great news, right? We have to wean ourselves off the stuff. At least that's what we've been hearing for years. Oil is dirty. We import it from nations that hate our guts (like Canada!). And moreover, we're running out. Oil is "finite." Finite much in the way water is finite.

So why aren't Democrats making the case that the spike in prices is a good thing? Isn't this basically our energy policy these days? How we "win the future"? If high energy prices were to damage President Barack Obama's re-election prospects, it would be ironic, considering the left has been telling us to set aside our "dependency" -- or, as our most recent Republican president put it, "addiction" -- for a long time.

If Democrats had their way, after all, we would be enjoying the economic results of cap-and-trade policy these days -- a program designed to increase the cost of energy by creating false demand in a fabricated market. As the theory goes, if you inflate the price of fossil fuels, the barbarians might finally start putting thought into how peat moss might be able to power a toaster.

In 2008, Steven Chu, Obama's (and, sadly, our own) future secretary of energy (sic) lamented, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." The president, when asked whether he thought $4-a-gallon gas prices were good for the American economy, said, "I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment."

How gradual? Like, what, four years? Or is it eight?

Part of "figuring it out" surely had something to do with the recent decision by Obama to nix the Canadian Keystone XL pipeline project that would have pumped 700,000 barrels of oil per day into the United States. More oil just means more excessive, immoral, ugly energy use.

Well, get used to it. You can't take three steps without stepping over some potential 10-billion barrel reserve of dead organisms.

According to the Institute for Energy Research, there is enough natural gas in the U.S. to meet electricity demand for 575 years at current fuel demand, enough to fuel homes heated by natural gas for 857 years and more gas in the U.S. than there is in Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and some place called Turkmenistan combined. Oil? The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that the United States could soon overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world's top oil producer. There are tens of billions of easily accessible barrels of offshore oil here at home -- and much more oil around the world.

Yes, gas prices have spiked an average of 14 cents a gallon in the past month and about 30 cents a gallon since last November, according to AAA. Oil prices jumped to a nine-month high -- more than $105 a barrel -- after the Iranians shut down their own energy exports to Britain and France so they could start a much-needed nuclear program, which is, no doubt, for wholly peaceful purposes.

Given the fungibility of commodities and the track record of civilization in the Middle East, we'll likely always have to deal with occasionally painful fluctuations in the price of energy, regardless of what we do at home -- drilling and new pipelines included. Still, fluctuations have a lot better track record than price controls.

Subsidizing quixotic green companies or creating carbon credits won't stop the rules of basic economics. If the gas crunch starts hitting the economy, it's doubtless that we will get an earful of populist hand-wringing and that we'll hear the administration once again blame wealthy speculators and nasty oil companies.

Yet in the end, high gas prices are part of the plan. This is what the administration wants.

Copyright 2012, Creators Syndicate Inc.

RealClearPolitics - The Wisdom of Drilling for Oil

RealClearPolitics - The Wisdom of Drilling for Oil

The Wisdom of Drilling for Oil

By Peter Morici

When Barack Obama assumed the presidency, gas prices were less than $2 a gallon. He proceeded to shut down deep-water drilling in the Gulf, tightened other federal restrictions on petroleum development, and vetoed the Keystone Pipeline. Now, even with Americans driving not a lot more than three years ago and global growth slowing, gas is nearing $4 a gallon.

The liberal theocracy in academia, the media and the Democratic Party leadership relentlessly expounds that drilling for oil in the United States won’t much affect U.S. gas prices, because petroleum prices are set in global markets. And, more domestic oil production or U.S. access to Canadian petroleum won’t much change global supplies, or the pace of economic recovery and unemployment.


Oil prices paid by U.S. refineries in the Gulf do move with global prices but not in lockstep. Increasing North American production would lower U.S. refinery acquisition costs, because U.S. refineries, like others around the world, are built to handle the special characteristics of oil produced by their primary sources supply. And gasoline produced by individual refineries is not wholly fungible either—differing fuel characteristics are required across the United States and Europe to meet environmental standards

Although tensions with Iran are growing and pushing up oil prices everywhere, prices have diverged between, for example, U.S. and European markets. For years, prices for West Texas Intermediate and North Sea Brent moved closely, but now WTI is selling for $17 less than its North Sea counterpart. This indicates the U.S. market is becoming somewhat separate and less wholly determined by global conditions; hence, more domestic production and increased access to Canadian oil would lower U.S. oil and prices—more drilling in the Gulf and elsewhere in North America, and the Keystone pipeline would significantly affect gas prices and employment.

More importantly, whether Americans pay $115 a barrel for oil from Saudi Arabia and Nigeria or obtained from the Gulf of Mexico and other domestic deposits makes a huge difference. The annual trade deficit on petroleum is about $300 billion. Raising U.S. oil production to its sustainable potential of 10 million barrels a day would cut import costs in half, directly create 1.5 million jobs, and applying Administration economic models for stimulus spending, create another 1 million jobs indirectly.

Overall, attaining U.S. oil production potential would boost GDP about $250 billion. Not bad, because it could be accomplished by increasing federal revenues from royalties and reducing the federal deficit, instead of adding to it through additional stimulus spending and subsidies to questionable solar and wind projects.

Recently, the President ridiculed GOP presidential candidates for urging more domestic petroleum development stating, “Anyone who tells you we can drill our way out of this problem doesn’t know they’re talking about—or just isn’t telling you the truth.”

That’s simply not so—drilling for more oil in the United States could make a big difference.

Under Mr. Obama’s stewardship, the U.S. economy is not recovering as it should. As per usual, the President distracts public attention from poor policy choices by blaming and ridiculing others.

After three years, the President, who promised Americans millions of clean energy jobs in place of a thriving petroleum industry and much lower unemployment, should own up to his mistakes. Most Americans are needlessly paying too much for gas and foreign oil, while federally subsidized solar and wind projects are filing for bankruptcy.

This November, poor judgment and weakness of character—such as the President’s repeated attacks on the petroleum industry and failure to take responsibility for the consequences of his actions—make the most compelling case for change.

Americans should not expect a perfect president but at least one who bases decisions on facts not whimsy, and learns from mistakes. Americans are simply not getting fact-based leadership and good judgment from President Obama.

Peter Morici is a professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland School, and former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission.

10 Ways Obama Could Reduce Gasoline Prices Now | Maley's Energy Blog

10 Ways Obama Could Reduce Gasoline Prices Now | Maley's Energy Blog

10 Ways Obama Could Reduce Gasoline Prices Now

Obama: No magic bullet to lower gas prices

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says there is no easy answer to the problem of rising energy prices, dismissing Republican plans to address the problem as little more than gimmicks.

“We know there’s no silver bullet that will bring down gas prices or reduce our dependence on foreign oil overnight,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address. …

Obama said Republicans have one answer to the oil pinch: Drill.

“You know that’s not a plan, especially since we’re already drilling,” Obama said, echoing his remarks earlier in the week. “It’s a bumper sticker.”

Speaking of bumper stickers, remember “Yes We Can”, Mr. President? No one understands the concept better than the oil and gas industry. The main thing holding domestic energy companies back from making a stronger commitment to future domestic supplies is uncertainty. Capital hates uncertainty, avoids it like the plague. Your rhetoric may appease your doctrinaire base, but it makes domestic energy producers hold back, fearful that you will punish their success, or that you will change the rules on them in the middle of the game.

Erasing uncertainty is the #1 thing you can do as a national leader if you truly desire to lower gasoline prices. Not only could it change the psychology of energy investing, there is still time for companies to change their 2012 investment plans.

Below the fold is my humble 10-point plan: Things President Obama could (but won’t) do to reduce domestic gasoline prices by November 2012.

1. Commit to a strategic goal of North American energy security. That includes reasonable and responsible domestic drilling. That includes taking the lead on the Keystone XL Pipeline; we could find a way to make it happen while addressing the legitimate environmental concerns of Nebraskans. It includes a commitment to maintaining the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System and opening ANWR.
2. Ditch the anti-industry, anti-capitalist rhetoric. It is not the President’s or the government’s place to decide when an industry’s profitability is “high enough”. High oil company profits fund more drilling; more drilling means more future supply and lower prices. Besides, American oil companies are not owned by a cabal of wealthy executives, but by America’s pension funds, mutual funds and private investment accounts. “They” are “us”.
3. Stop targeting the oil industry for punitive tax treatment. States such as Texas and Louisiana have production tax abatement programs that have successfully encouraged new drilling. If you don’t believe that the threat of increased taxes discourages drilling, just ask Governor Perry or Governor Jindal.
4. Realize that Uncle Sam is in the energy business and is a partner in industry’s success. Oil and gas royalties are the federal government’s #2 source of revenue, after the income tax. Offshore slowdowns hurt not only industry and jobs, but government revenue.
5. Recognize that industry does not need to be led by government; industry needs to be unleashed and encouraged to innovate. The resurgence of the domestic energy sector was rooted in the private sector, not matter how much President Obama and Dr. Chu would like to take credit for it. The growth in North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas happened in spite of the federal government, not because of it.
6. Trust that no oil operator wants to be the “next BP”. The BP spill cost that company something on the order of $40 billion. Industry safety and environmental commitment is motivated more out of self-interest and less out of fear of the government. When it comes to federal regulation, the nation would be better served by Sheriff Taylor, not Barney Fife.
7. Return offshore permitting to the pre-Macondo pace. Your overreaction to the BP Spill has cost on the order of 500,000 barrels per day of domestic oil production from the Gulf of Mexico. The ridiculous “Worst Case Discharge” calculation as a routine part of offshore permitting is engineering malpractice, in my humble opinion. The professional staff of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is capable of reasoned regulation, but they currently operate in fear of their political masters.
8. Declare hydraulic fracturing & well design to be the regulatory domain of the states, not the EPA. Geology and environment vary widely; Pennsylvania is not Louisiana is not North Dakota is not California. It is insanity to think that one broadly-applied set of rules can be applied to regulate industry without suffocating development.
9. Rescind the recently-enacted royalty rate increase for new onshore Federal oil and gas leases. Secretary Salazar’s stated rationale for increasing the government’s take by a whopping 50% – from 12.5% to 18.75% of gross production – was to equate onshore royalties with the offshore royalty rate. That makes no sense. Higher royalties mean less drilling, poorer economics of production and premature abandonment of wells. Besides, an IHS-CERA Study recently showed that the federal government’s total take of offshore cash flows makes the Gulf of Mexico the second-most punitive fiscal regime in the world, after Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. [Update: In keeping with the First Rule of Holes, rolling back the royalty rate increase may be the first thing the government should do if it is serious about reducing energy prices. - Ed.]
10. Encourage development of a nationwide distribution system of natural gas as a transportation fuel. Natural gas is clean, abundant and nearly 100% domestic. Its potential as a transportation fuel has scarcely been tapped.

Bonus #11: Get real about the promise of alternative fuels. Recently you said: “You’ve got a bunch of algae out there; If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we’ll be doing alright.” Maybe so, but I will stick my neck out and say it ain’t gonna happen, at least not in my lifetime, not on a scale that will impact pump prices.

Homeschoolers can’t be taught ‘gay’ sex sinful

Homeschoolers can’t be taught ‘gay’ sex sinful

Homeschoolers can't be taught 'gay' sex sinful

You won't believe latest intrusion by government

Homeschooling families will soon be forbidden from teaching that homosexual sex is sinful as part of their schooling program, according to the government of Alberta, Canada.

Under the province’s Education Act, homeschoolers and religious schools will be banned from “disrespecting” people’s differences, Alberta Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk’s office told LifeSiteNews just last week.

“Whatever the nature of schooling – homeschool, private school, Catholic school – we do not tolerate disrespect for differences,” said Donna McColl, Lukaszuk’s assistant director of communications. “You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life, you just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction.”

Paul Faris, president of the Home School Legal Defence Association of Canada, told the news website the Ministry of Education is “clearly signaling that they are in fact planning to violate the private conversations families have in their own homes. A government that seeks that sort of control over our personal lives should be feared and opposed.”

According to the report, a government spokesman said, “You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life. You just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction.”

HSLDA and other homeschool organizations have expressed concerns that the new Alberta Education Act would to force “diversity” education on all schools – including private and home schools.

The legislation, known as Bill 2 in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, requires that all schools “reflect the diverse nature and heritage of society in Alberta, promote understanding and respect for others and honour and respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act.”

LifeSiteNews reports that the Human Rights Act has been used to target Christians and conservatives across the country, especially those who hold traditional beliefs about homosexuality.

McColl added that Christian homeschooling families can teach biblical lessons on homosexuality in their homes, “as long as it’s not part of their academic program of studies and instructional materials.”

“What they want to do about their ideology elsewhere, that’s their family business,” she said. “But a fundamental nature of our society is to respect diversity.”

According to the report, when McColl was asked by LifeSiteNews to explain the distinction between homeschoolers’ education and their family life, she replied that the question involved “real nuances” and said she would need to get back to reporter with specifics.

In a second interview, McColl explained that the government “won’t speculate” about specific examples and said she hadn’t been given a “straight answer” on what precisely constitutes “disrespect” – adding that families “can’t be hatemongering, if you will.”

The news site reports several Canadian provinces – including Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and now Alberta – have seen major battles in the last two years over “increasing normalization of homosexuality in the schools.”

Patty Marler, government liaison for the Alberta Home Education Association, told the website she was astonished at the Ministry’s candor. She wondered how the government would stipulate the difference between homeschoolers’ school and family time.

“We educate our children all the time, and that’s just the way we live. It’s a lifestyle,” she said. “Making that distinction between the times when we’re homeschooling and when we’re just living is really hard to do.”

She added, “Throw in the fact that I do use the Bible as part of my curriculum, and now I’m very blatantly going to be teaching stuff that will be against [the Alberta Human Rights Act].”

In 2009, the Alberta Human Rights Act was amended to classify marriage as an institution between two “persons,” rather than a man and a woman.

“When I read Genesis and it talks about marriage being one man in union with one woman, I am very, very clearly opposing the human rights act that says it’s one person marrying another person,” Marler said.

Faris noted that the most troubling issue is how government is attempting to control homeschoolers and how they teach their own children in their own homes.

He added that many homeschoolers have been receiving misleading information when they call the Minister’s office, which has been saying, “‘Look, there are no changes here. We’re not going to do anything differently,’ and other things like that.”

“The long arm of the government wants to reach into family’s homes and control what they teach to their own children in their own homes about religion, sexuality and morality,” Faris said. “These are not the words of a government that is friendly to homeschooling or to parental freedom.”

LifeSiteNews noted that the Progressive Conservative government has 67 of the 83 seats in the Alberta Legislature, so the bill is almost certain to pass. However, with an election coming up, the new right-wing Wildrose Alliance Party may have a strong showing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ethicists Argue in Favor of ‘After-Birth Abortions‘ as Newborns ’Are Not Persons’

Ethicists Argue in Favor of ‘After-Birth Abortions‘ as Newborns ’Are Not Persons’

Ethicists Argue for Acceptance of After Birth Abortions
Two ethicists working with Australian universities argue in the latest online edition of the Journal of Medical Ethics that if abortion of a fetus is allowable, so to should be the termination of a newborn.

Alberto Giubilini with Monash University in Melbourne and Francesca Minerva at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne write that in “circumstances occur[ing] after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.”
The two are quick to note that they prefer the term “after-birth abortion“ as opposed to ”infanticide.” Why? Because it “[emphasizes] that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child.” The authors also do not agree with the term euthanasia for this practice as the best interest of the person who would be killed is not necessarily the primary reason his or her life is being terminated. In other words, it may be in the parents’ best interest to terminate the life, not the newborns.
The circumstances, the authors state, where after-birth abortion should be considered acceptable include instances where the newborn would be putting the well-being of the family at risk, even if it had the potential for an “acceptable” life. The authors cite Downs Syndrome as an example, stating that while the quality of life of individuals with Downs is often reported as happy, “such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”
This means a newborn whose family (or society) that could be socially, economically or psychologically burdened or damaged by the newborn should have the ability to seek out an after-birth abortion. They state that after-birth abortions are not preferable over early-term abortions of fetuses but should circumstances change with the family or the fetus in the womb, then they advocate that this option should be made available.
The authors go on to state that the moral status of a newborn is equivalent to a fetus in that it cannot be considered a person in the “morally relevant sense.” On this point, the authors write:
Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.
Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life. Indeed, many humans are not considered subjects of a right to life: spare embryos where research on embryo stem cells is permitted, fetuses where abortion is permitted, criminals where capital punishment is legal.
Giubilini and Minerva believe that being able to understand the value of a different situation, which often depends on mental development, determines personhood. For example, being able to tell the difference between an undesirable situation and a desirable one. They note that fetuses and newborns are “potential persons.” The authors do acknowledge that a mother, who they cite as an example of a true person, can attribute “subjective” moral rights to the fetus or newborn, but they state this is only a projected moral status.
The authors counter the argument that these “potential persons” have the right to reach that potential by stating it is “over-ridden by the interests of actual people (parents, family, society) to pursue their own well-being because, as we have just argued, merely potential people cannot be harmed by not being brought into existence.”
And what about adoption? Giubilini and Minerva write that, as for the mother putting the child up for adoption, her emotional state should be considered as a trumping right. For instance, if she were to “suffer psychological distress” from giving up her child to someone else — they state that natural mothers can dream their child will return to them — then after-birth abortion should be considered an allowable alternative.
The authors do not tackle the issue of what age an infant would be considered a person.
The National Catholic Register thinks that these authors are right — once you accept their ideas on personhood. The Register states that the argument made by the ethicists is almost pro-life in that it “highlights the absurdity of the pro-abortion argument”:
The second we allow ourselves to become the arbiters of who is human and who isn’t, this is the calamitous yet inevitable end. Once you say all human life is not sacred, the rest is just drawing random lines in the sand.
First Things, a publication of the The Institute on Religion and Public Life, notes that while this article doesn’t mean the law could — or would — allow after-birth abortions in future medical procedures, arguments such as “the right to dehydrate the persistently unconscious” began in much the same way in bioethics journals.

Outrageous: Ethicists Argue For Acceptance of “After-Birth Abortions”

Outrageous: Ethicists Argue For Acceptance of “After-Birth Abortions”

[This is the same type logic that the Fascists in Germany used to justify the holocaust.]

Outrageous: Ethicists Argue For Acceptance of “After-Birth Abortions”

According to two Australian ethicists, the baby in that photo should be killed if the parents so wish it, in what they call “after-birth abortion”. It’s not infanticide or murder to them. No, it’s just another form of abortion, because newborns aren’t really people yet. And while it sounds crazy and horrific, this unfortunately isn’t something I’m making up.

Alberto Giubilini with Monash University in Melbourne and Francesca Minerva at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne write that in “circumstances occur[ing] after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.”

The two are quick to note that they prefer the term “after-birth abortion“ as opposed to ”infanticide.” Why? Because it “[emphasizes] that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child.” The authors also do not agree with the term euthanasia for this practice as the best interest of the person who would be killed is not necessarily the primary reason his or her life is being terminated. In other words, it may be in the parents’ best interest to terminate the life, not the newborns.

The circumstances, the authors state, where after-birth abortion should be considered acceptable include instances where the newborn would be putting the well-being of the family at risk, even if it had the potential for an “acceptable” life. The authors cite Downs Syndrome as an example, stating that while the quality of life of individuals with Downs is often reported as happy, “such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”

This means a newborn whose family (or society) that could be socially, economically or psychologically burdened or damaged by the newborn should have the ability to seek out an after-birth abortion. They state that after-birth abortions are not preferable over early-term abortions of fetuses but should circumstances change with the family or the fetus in the womb, then they advocate that this option should be made available.

As if that wasn’t sickening enough, there’s also this little gem:

Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.

Let that sink in for a few minutes.

So if a baby is born with Down Syndrome, or another disability, then according to these two, a parent should be able to just kill it. Or let’s say that the mother decides that being a parent is just too stressful for her. She should be able to kill her baby then, too. Baby costs too much money? Yep, just kill it. All of these things are perfectly acceptable, because newborns aren’t real people yet. And as for adoption in any of these circumstances? Well, that could cause the mother emotional distress, so the answer would be… kill the baby! The fact that they see adoption as something that would cause a mother emotional distress but not the murder of their own child just shows how sick these two people are.

The sad thing is, that this point of view is inevitable once you start allowing people to define just what a human being actually is. If we don’t value all life, then does it really make a difference when we kill a baby? At this point, what difference does it make if the baby is inside the mother’s womb or outside of it?

And while it sounds incredible that anything like this would ever be allowed outside of speculation in a bioethics journal, keep in mind the horrors of partial birth abortion. Keep in mind that our own president voted in favor of infanticide. And the arguments that these ethicists are making are the exact same arguments that pro-abortion advocates make for abortion every day.

Pro-aborts would surely scoff at this as fear-mongering, but I’d be curious to know what their answer is to why it is acceptable to kill a baby one day before they are born, and unacceptable to kill them the next day after they’ve been born. When we fail to stand for life, this is the inevitable conclusion. First it’s just the unborn babies that it’s OK to kill. Then it’s the newborns, and then the “undesirables”. If pro-choice is all about the choice of the mother, with no protection given to the child whatsoever, then why should it really make a difference when she kills her child?


This is a VERY simple way to understand the tax laws. Read on - it does make you think!!

Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner.

The bill for all ten comes to $100.

If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this.

... The first four men -- the poorest -- would pay nothing;

The fifth would pay $1:

the sixth would pay $3;

the seventh $7;

the eighth $12;

The ninth $18.

The tenth man -- the richest -- would pay $59.

That's what they decided to do.

The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement -- until one day, the owner threw them a curve.

"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20."

So now dinner for the ten only cost $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes.

So the first four men were unaffected.

They would still eat for free.

But what about the other six -- the paying customers?

How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?"

The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33.

But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would end up being *paid* to eat their meal.

So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so the fifth man paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of his earlier $59.

Each of the six was better off than before.

And the first four continued to eat for free.

But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man.

He pointed to the tenth. "But he got $7!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man.

"I only saved a dollar, too.

It's unfair that he got seven times more than me!"

"That's true!" shouted the seventh man.

"Why should he get $7 back when I got only $2?

The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison.

"We didn't get anything at all.

The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night he didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him.

But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important.

They were $52 short!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college instructors, is how the tax system works.

The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction.

Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore.

Unfortunately, some cannot grasp this straight-forward logic!

Kock Industries responds to Obama Fund Raising Letter

They're obsessed

By Jim Messina, Campaign Manager on

In just about 24 hours, Mitt Romney is headed to a hotel ballroom to give a speech sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a front group founded and funded by the Koch brothers.

Those are the same Koch brothers whose business model is to make millions by jacking up prices at the pump, and who bankrolled Tea Party extremism, and committed $200 million to try to destroy President Obama before Election Day.

So in the hours before Romney courts two men obsessed with making Barack Obama a one-term president, let's see how many of us can chip in to the Two-Term Fund.

Here's what Mitt Romney told his supporters just after his victory in the Florida GOP primary:

"We must not forget what this election is really about: defeating Barack Obama."

Pitch in $3 or more over the next 24 hours to show that, while that message may fire up two oil-industry billionaires, it's also one that plenty of us are tired of hearing.

Friday, February 24th, 2012

A Letter to the Obama Campaign

Mr. Jim Messina
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

Dear Mr. Messina:

Because every American has the right to take part in the public discourse on matters that affect the future of our country, I feel compelled to respond directly about a fundraising letter you sent out on February 24 denouncing Koch. It is both surprising and disappointing that the President would allow his re-election team to send such an irresponsible and misleading letter to his supporters.

For example, it is false that our “business model is to make millions by jacking up prices at the pump.” Our business vision begins and ends with value creation — real, long-term value for customers and for society. We own no gasoline stations and the part of our business you allude to, oil and gas refining, actually lowers the price of gasoline by increasing supply. Either you simply misunderstand the way commodities markets work or you are misleading your supporters and the rest of the American people.

Contrary to your assertion that we have “committed $200 million to try to destroy President Obama,” we have stated publicly and repeatedly since last November that we have never made any such claim or pledge. It is hard to imagine that the campaign is unaware of our publicly stated position on that point. Similarly, Americans for Prosperity is not simply “funded by the Koch brothers,” as you state — rather it has tens of thousands of members and contributors from across the country and from all walks of life. Further, our opposition to this President’s policies is not based on partisan politics but on principles. Charles Koch and David Koch have been outspoken advocates of the free-market for over 50 years and they have consistently opposed policies that frustrate or subvert free markets, regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican was President.

If the President’s campaign has some principled disagreement with the arguments we are making publicly about the staggering debt the President and previous administrations have imposed on the country, the regulations that are stifling business growth and innovation, the increasing intrusion of government into nearly every aspect of American life, we would be eager to hear them. But it is an abuse of the President’s position and does a disservice to our nation for the President and his campaign to criticize private citizens simply for the act of engaging in their constitutional right of free speech about important matters of public policy. The implication in that sort of attack is obvious: dare to criticize the President’s policies and you will be singled out and personally maligned by the President and his campaign in an effort to chill free speech and squelch dissent.

This is not the first time that the President and his Administration have engaged in this sort of disturbing behavior. As far back as August, 2010, Austan Goolsbee, then the President’s chief economic advisor, made public comments concerning Koch’s tax status and falsely stated that the company did not pay income tax, which triggered a federal investigation into Mr. Goolsbee’s conduct that potentially implicated federal law against improper disclosure of taxpayer information. Last June, your colleagues sent fundraising letters disparaging us as “plotting oil men” bent on “misleading people” with “disinformation” in order to “smear” the President’s record. Those accusations were baseless and were made at the very same time the president was publicly calling for a more “civil conversation” in the country.

It is understandable that the President and his campaign may be “tired of hearing” that many Americans would rather not see the president re-elected. However, the inference is that you would prefer that citizens who disagree with the President and his policies refrain from voicing their own viewpoint. Clearly, that’s not the way a free society should operate.

We agree with the President that civil discourse is an American strength. That is why it is troubling to see a national political campaign apparently target individual citizens and private companies for some perceived political advantage. I also hope the President will reflect on how the approach the campaign is using is at odds with our national values and the constitutional right to free speech.


Philip Ellender
President, Government & Public Affairs
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

The Perversion of Rights - National Review Online

The Perversion of Rights - National Review Online

The Perversion of Rights

CNN’s John King did his best the other night, producing a question from one of his viewers:

“Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control, and if not, why?”

To their credit, no Republican candidate was inclined to accept the premise of the question. King might have done better to put the issue to Danica Patrick. For some reason, Michelle Fields of the Daily Caller sought the views of the NASCAR driver and Sports Illustrated swimwear model about “the Obama administration’s dictate that religious employers provide health-care plans that cover contraceptives.” Miss Patrick, a practicing Catholic, gave the perfect citizen’s response for the Age of Obama:

“I leave it up to the government to make good decisions for Americans.”

That’s the real “hot topic” here — whether a majority of citizens, in America as elsewhere in the West, is willing to “leave it up to the government” to make decisions on everything that matters. On the face of it, the choice between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church should not be a tough one. On the one hand, we have the plain language of the First Amendment as stated in the U.S. Constitution since 1791: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

On the other, we have a regulation invented by executive order under the vast powers given to Kathleen Sebelius under a 2,500-page catalogue of statist enforcement passed into law by a government party that didn’t even bother to read it.

Commissar Sebelius says that she is trying to “strike the appropriate balance.” But these two things — a core, bedrock, constitutional principle, and Section 47(e)viii of Micro-Regulation Four Bazillion and One issued by Leviathan’s Bureau of Compliance — are not equal, and you can only “balance” them by massively increasing state power and massively diminishing the citizen’s. Or, to put it more benignly, by “leaving it up to the government to make good decisions.”

Some of us have been here before. For most of the last five years, I’ve been battling Canada’s so-called “human rights” commissions, and similar thought police in Britain, Europe, and elsewhere. As I write this, I’m in Australia, to talk up the cause of free speech, which is, alas, endangered even in that great land. In that sense, the “latest hot topic” — the clash between Obama and American Catholics — is, in fact, a perfect distillation of the broader struggle in the West today. When it comes to human rights, I go back to 1215 and Magna Carta — or, to give it its full name, Magna Carta Libertatum. My italics: I don’t think they had them back in 1215. But they understood that “libertatum” is the word that matters. Back then, “human rights” were rights of humans, of individuals — and restraints upon the king: They’re the rights that matter: limitations upon kingly power. Eight centuries later, we have entirely inverted the principle: “Rights” are now gifts that a benign king graciously showers upon his subjects — the right to “free” health care, to affordable housing, the “right of access to a free placement service” (to quote the European Constitution’s “rights” for workers). The Democratic National Committee understands the new school of rights very well: In its recent video, Obama’s bureaucratic edict is upgraded into the “right to contraception coverage at no additional cost.” And, up against a “human right” as basic as that, how can such peripheral rights as freedom of conscience possibly compete?

The transformation of “human rights” from restraints upon state power into a pretext for state power is nicely encapsulated in the language of Article 14 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which states that everyone has the right “to receive free compulsory education.” Got that? You have the human right to be forced to do something by the government.

Commissar Sebelius isn’t the only one interested in “striking the appropriate balance” between individual liberty and state compulsion. Everyone talks like that these days. For Canada’s Chief Censor, Jennifer Lynch, freedom of expression is just one menu item in the great all-you-can-eat salad bar of rights, so don’t be surprised if we’re occasionally out of stock. Instead, why not try one of our tasty nutritious rights du jour? Like the human right to a transsexual labiaplasty, or the human right of McDonald’s employees not to have to wash their hands after visiting the bathroom. Commissar Lynch puts it this way: “The modern conception of rights is that of a matrix with different rights and freedoms mutually reinforcing each other to build a strong and durable human rights system.”

That would be a matrix as in some sort of intricate biological sequencing very few people can understand? Or a Matrix as in the illusory world created to maintain a supine citizenry by all-controlling government officials? The point is, with so many pseudo-“rights” bouncing around, you need a bigger and bigger state: Individual rights are less important than a “rights system” — i.e., a government bureaucracy.

This perversion of rights is killing the Western world. First, unlike real rights — to freedom of speech and freedom of religion — these new freedoms come with quite a price tag. All the free stuff is free in the sense of those offers that begin “You pay nothing now!” But you will eventually. No nation is rich enough to give you all this “free” stuff year in, year out. Spain’s government debt works out to $18,000 per person, France’s to $33,000, Greece’s to $39,000. Thank God we’re not Greece, huh? Er, in fact, according to the Senate Budget Committee, U.S. government debt is currently $44,215 per person. Going by the official Obama budget numbers, it will rise over the next ten years to $75,000. As I say, that’s per person: 75 grand in debt for every man, woman, and child, not to mention every one of the ever-swelling ranks of retirees and disabled Social Security recipients — or about $200,000 per household.

So maybe you’re not interested in philosophical notions of liberty vs. statism — like Danica Patrick, tens of millions of people are happy to “leave it up to the government to make good decisions.” Maybe you’re relatively relaxed about the less theoretical encroachments of Big Government — the diversion of so much American energy into “professional services,” all the lawyering and bookkeeping and paperwork shuffling necessary to keep you and your economic activity in full compliance with the Bureau of Compliance. But at some point no matter how painless the seductions of statism, you run up against the hard math: As those debt per capita numbers make plain, all this “free” stuff is doing is mortgaging your liberty and lining up a future of serfdom.

I used to think that the U.S. Constitution would prove more resilient than the less absolutist liberties of other Western nations. But the president has calculated that, with Obamacare, the First Amendment and much else will crumble before his will. And, given trends in U.S. jurisprudence, who’s to say he won’t get his way? That’s the point about all this “free” stuff: Ultimately, it’s not about your rights, but about his.

Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2012 Mark Steyn

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Articles: President Obama's Theology: Is It Phony?

Articles: President Obama's Theology: Is It Phony?

President Obama's Theology: Is It Phony?

By Adam G. Mersereau

President Obama frequently professes his Christian faith and argues confidently that his policies are rooted in biblical truths. So when his administration issued a mandate requiring Catholic institutions to provide contraception and abortion-inducing pills to their employees, conservatives demanded an explanation. Why would someone who professes faith in God try to force Catholics to obey government over God (as they believe God to have spoken on the issue)?

Former Senator Rick Santorum, while not challenging Obama's profession of personal faith in Christ, has branded Obama's public-policy-theology as unbiblical and even "phony." Is this a cynical effort by Santorum to stoke anger among his conservative Christian base? Or is Obama indeed using Christian language improperly to justify liberal government policies?

Love Thy Neighbor

Fortunately, we do not have to guess at Obama's theological views. At the National Prayer Breakfast on February 1, Obama explained in detail his theology of God and government. Using the Bible as his authority, he expressed his devotion to God's command to "love thy neighbor as thyself." Much of his speech was premised on the idea that this command should apply not only to individuals, but also to governments.

The implication was hard to miss. President Obama believes that God's command to "love thy neighbor as thyself" provides the moral underpinning for his policies of centralized government power, increased taxation, and extravagant government spending. Presumably, it also justifies his attempts to redefine personhood, marriage, and our First-Amendment freedoms.

But God's command to "love thy neighbor as thyself" cannot properly be used to justify Obama's policies. This command was given by God to individuals, not to governments. This fact should be fairly obvious because governments cannot exercise biblical love -- only individuals can. You, as an individual person made in the image of God, have the God-given capacity to love your neighbor. You might express that love by sharing a portion of your personal income when your neighbor needs an expensive operation. You might sacrifice your time by helping him fix his roof. Or you might share your dinner table with him when he falls on hard times. Such displays of love from one person to another, welling up from a heart that sincerely desires to serve God, may well fulfill the command.

When the command to love others is "socialized" and applied to government, however, it actually forms the basis for tyranny. A government bureaucracy is not a person, and so it cannot love. It cannot express love toward a neighbor, nor can it cause one citizen to truly love another. Government bureaucracies can regulate among neighbors, but they cannot love them. By threat of force or punishment, a government can take resources from one person and give them to another -- but this has nothing to do with the biblical command to "love they neighbor."

Under a traditional biblical theology, government power should be exercised within boundaries prescribed by God. In America, we have articulated our shared view of those boundaries in the Constitution and its amendments. But a "socialized" biblical theology reverses the roles. It places government's authority over God's. Government assumes the authority to dictate which neighbors will do the loving and which neighbors will receive that love. Usurping the role of God Himself, government thus purports to define the meaning of neighborly love, and the amount of love that will satisfy God's command. Instead of governing within its God-given boundaries, the government, in its sovereignty, places boundaries around God. This leaves government with the power to define all of the rights of its citizens. Government, in effect, sits on God's throne.

And it gets worse. Because government is not actually God, it does not have the ability to act in a personal way toward each individual citizen. So its godlike power takes on a distinctly impersonal quality. Citizens are grouped into impersonal classifications (rich, poor, middle-class, black, white, brown) and treated not as individuals, but as mere integers in a larger societal equation. They become a means to the end of achieving the societal vision held by those in power. Eventually, they become pawns in the class warfare waged by those jostling for the throne.

My Brother's Keeper

Also at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama reiterated his belief that, as president, he is under a biblical burden to be his "brother's keeper." Of course, there is no Bible verse that encourages anyone to assume the role of his "brother's keeper." This phrase is found only in Genesis, chapter 4. Just after Cain murdered his brother, Abel, God asked Cain the whereabouts of his brother. Cain was terrified of God's looming wrath and evaded the question with sarcasm: "Am I my brother's keeper?" A careful biblical theology would not use this phrase to imply that every person is "his brother's keeper," much less to justify big government. But under President Obama's theology, Cain's irreverent response provides the moral justification for centralizing government power, and for polices that require massive spending and unsustainable debt levels.

President Obama's use of isolated Bible verses out of context is not new in politics. As misapplied by liberal politicians, biblical truths always seem to support government-designed utopia, which is a decidedly unbiblical endeavor (see Genesis Chapter 3, The Fall of Man). But liberal politicians rarely cite Bible verses that teach that poverty can be the fault of the individual, that governments are often arrogant and ungodly, that government's power should be limited, that God created marriage for one man and one woman, or that God rejects abortion and homosexuality. You will rarely hear a liberal politician invoke a Bible passage when speaking of the personal morality required of a free people. Instead, their interpretation of the Bible always seems to require the government to assume more power -- godlike power.

When God's commands to individuals are wrongly applied to governments, a new type of theology is created that is decidedly unbiblical. It even has a few names you might recognize. Liberal Protestants proudly call it the "Social Gospel." Catholic Marxists incorporated their class struggle and called it "Liberation Theology." Yet by whatever name, it is not biblical. Rick Santorum is right to question it.

Adam G. Mersereau is the author of Uncivil Society: Government's War Against God and the Plight of the Christian Citizen, available at and elsewhere. A frequent cultural commentator and former Marine officer, Mr. Mersereau now practices law in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Articles: Obama Skins the Cat

Articles: Obama Skins the Cat

Obama Skins the Cat

By S. Fred Singer

Much of White House policy is driven by pathological fear of global warming and the unreasonable compulsion to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a non-toxic natural constituent of the atmosphere and an absolute necessity for the survival of plants, animals, and humans. Never mind that there's no significant evidence that any recent warming has been caused by CO2 increases -- or indeed, that any such warming would endanger human health and welfare. In addition, it should be quite obvious that any attempt by the U.S. to reduce its emissions unilaterally is an exercise in futility and self-delusion: it would have little measurable impact on the ongoing rise of global atmospheric CO2 and would certainly not affect climate in any way.

But evidently, ideology trumps science, economics, and logic. Even common-sense considerations have not stopped President Obama from listening to his science adviser, Dr. John Holdren, one of the chief apostles of the global warming religion. Holdren is a former collaborator and associate of Stanford Prof. Paul Ehrlich, whose seminal book The Population Bomb, published some 40 years ago, preaches population control to achieve zero growth.

In this Malthusian spirit, we will shortly be "celebrating" the 40th anniversary of the publication of Limits to Growth, a book sponsored by the so-called Club of Rome, which -- like Ehrlich's -- predicted all kinds of imminent disasters for the world's population: famines, resource depletion, dying oceans, etc. In spite of complete failure to use sound science and economics, there are still many "believers" happily ensconced in the present administration. It is interesting to note that Limits to Growth did not concern itself in any way with global warming; climate disasters came along only since 1992, courtesy of the infamous Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, which also produced U.N. Agenda 21.

But one must give the Obama administration credit for trying hard to mandate CO2 limits to "save the climate." Its high point came in mid-2009, when the House barely passed the Waxman-Markey "cap & trade" bill -- also known as the "tax & spend" bill. It was so bad that even the Democrat-controlled Senate refused to touch it. Then, by the end of 2009, the Climategate e-mails revealed evidence of U.N.-IPCC skullduggery -- followed by the utter collapse of U.N. negotiations in Copenhagen. But in spite of all this, the EPA has been moving ahead and issued an "Endangerment Finding" (EF) that claims CO2 as an atmospheric pollutant, subject to regulation by the Clean Air Act.

Full disclosure: We (SEPP) are part of the plaintiff group that has sued the EPA for not using sound science in arriving at its EF. Oral arguments are scheduled for late February 2012. And we are hoping the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will rule in our favor and toss out the EF. On further appeal, it might even lead the Supreme Court to rectify its 2007 decision declaring CO2 a pollutant subject to regulation -- but with this all-important proviso: EPA must first demonstrate that CO2 "endangers human health and welfare."

Once it had become clear to Obama that there was no chance to pass legislation to force CO2 control, he vowed to find other ways to "skin the cat" (his words). Three of these subterfuges are underway, disguised in various ways to hide their true purpose.

1. Doubling mileage standards for automobiles by 2025 -- meant to reduce smog and other urban pollution, as well as the need for imported oil -- thereby improving national security. But the EPA, which has already drastically tightened existing standards, is quite open about the real purpose -- to reduce CO2 emissions. In essence, EPA has preempted the role of the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), which has the statutory responsibility for setting CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards. However, there is little chance that auto companies can produce reasonably priced cars that people will want to buy and -- note the irony -- are safe to drive. (Oh, Ralph Nader, where are you when we need you?)

2. In its December 2011 rule of 1,117 pages, EPA sets unrealistic limits on the emission of mercury from coal-fired power stations; it is part of their scheme to get rid of coal as a fuel, even though coal is the cheapest domestic energy source and requires no imports. The U.S. is blessed with abundant coal resources; over 50% of electric power was generated from coal, though the percentage has now dropped to 45%. The Chicago Tribune foresees a rise of 40%-60% in Midwest electricity rates; nationwide, the respected national economic consulting firm NERA predicts an 11% rise and a loss of 144,000 jobs by 2020.

The lame excuse the EPA is using is "to protect the children," but again, the science is lacking. In any case, most of the mercury emitted into the atmosphere comes from natural sources. Human sources, like coal-burning power plants, are located mostly in China or other regions outside the U.S. and outside EPA jurisdiction. In other words, mercury pollution is a global problem, much like CO2; U.S. power plants contribute only 0.5% of all emissions.

The Bush administration had already promulgated plans to reduce U.S. emissions; any further tightening by the EPA will produce little marginal benefits but huge additional costs -- all for the sake of some reduction in CO2 emissions. As usual, the EPA greatly underestimates costs by a large factor and hugely inflates benefits, claiming prevention of 11,000 premature deaths a year. In addition, EPA double-counts benefits; only 0.1% can be assigned to the reduction of mercury emissions.

3. Finally, we have the much-discussed Keystone XL pipeline, which is supposed to bring oil from Canadian tar sands to U.S. refineries on the Gulf coast. Obama has decided to stop this pipeline in order to ingratiate himself with extreme environmentalists, who oppose the project -- as just revealed in the San Francisco Chronicle of Feb 16. Their weak excuse is that an oil leak in Nebraska might produce pollution to the underlying aquifer. Of course, there is no reason why oil should leak over Nebraska -- and in any case, some 20,000 miles of various pipelines already cross the state. The real reason: production of oil from tar sands requires large amounts of heat and thus emissions of CO2.

Opposition to this capricious action by the White House is non- partisan. It involves labor unions, who see "shovel-ready jobs" disappearing; it involves national security concerns; and it involves the general public, who want cheaper and more secure oil from nearby sources -- not from overseas producers in the Persian Gulf, brought here by tankers.

In his 2008 election campaign, Obama promised to make electricity prices "skyrocket." He seems to be succeeding beyond all expectations, as a combination of White House policies is raising fuel prices. But as the cost of essential energy jumps upward, households are sliding into poverty; they can no longer afford to buy treats for the children; it's more important to keep them from starving and freezing to death. "Skinning the cat" may be a neat way of getting around the express wishes of the Congress and the public, but it is sure to backfire against the Obama White House in the November elections.

S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and director of the Science & Environmental Policy Project, specializing in climate science and energy policy. An expert in remote sensing and satellites, he served as the founding director of the US Weather Satellite Service and, more recently, as vice chair of the US National Advisory Committee on Oceans & Atmosphere. He is a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute and of the Independent Institute. In 2007, he founded and chaired NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change). For recent writings see and Google Scholar.