July 2007


bp-logo.pngBy: Brian Sikma

Gas prices have been hovering at higher than normal levels partly because our national refining capacity has not significantly expanded at any time during the past 30 years. Over the past several decades gasoline and petroleum companies have only expanded the capacity of existing refineries and have been unable to construct new facilities. This inability to build new refineries does not come from a lack of revenue on the part of the corporations, but instead comes from overly burdensome environmental regulations that either raise the price of construction to point where its not worth it or totally prevent that construction all together.

Some in Congress have proposed instituting price controls on gasoline sales. Price controls however would exacerbate the problem by further reducing the supply of fuel available at the pump. Others have proposed higher mpg fuel standards for vehicles. Mandating that newer vehicles be more fuel efficient will not help those of us that drive vehicles without the new technology. Additionally, consumers had better be willing to pay more for that new vehicle if Congress does succeed in passing fuel standards that require signification amounts of innovation and new technology.

So what’s the solution to energy problem? First, reduce our dependency on foreign oil by shedding short sighted environmental regulations that do not take into account the environmentally friendliness of new drilling technology. In other words, expand the supply here at home by taking advantage of large domestic oil reserves. Secondly, allow an increase in domestic refinery capacity by allowing companies to expand their refineries and, if necessary, build new ones.  Finally, we need to allow private industry-and not government subsidies-to determine which alternative energy sources have enough potential to be used on a large scale.

Right now, British Petroleum is trying to expand its refining capacity at the BP Whiting refinery. Located in northwest Indiana, BP Whiting is strategically placed near Lake Michigan, not too far from Chicago. The expansion of the refinery would increase the amount of fuel available in one of the highest priced gasoline markets in the country.

BP initially announced its plan to invest $3.8 billion in the refinery some time ago. This investment in northwest Indiana was estimated to have the overall impact of $21 billion being added to the regional economy. This benefit does not include the impact that an increased fuel supply would give to people all over northern Indiana, southern Michigan, and northern Illinois.

In recent days however, the BP expansion project has come under intense fire from local activists and state and Congressional leaders. The ire of these individuals focuses on the fact that BP will be releasing more “waste” water into Lake Michigan if it increases refining capacity. Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has urged Indiana governor Mitch Daniels to rescind the state issued permit that will allow BP to release the water (which is actually cleaner than some of the water that is pumped into the lake) back into the lake. So far Gov. Daniels (R) is holding the line on doing what’s right for not only the state but also the region.

The fact that Gov. Blagojevich (D) has felt qualified enough to comment on Indiana economic affairs is interesting since he was the target of a scorching Wall Street Journal editorial that criticised his very short sighted policy proposal to impose a business gross receipts tax on Illinois businesses.

Congressional critics of the plan include Illinois’ Sen. Dick Durbin (D) and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D). Everyone of Indiana’s Democratic members of Congress have also expressed opposition to the plan. Criticizing the plan was apparently not enough for some members. On Wednesday, July 25th the U.S. House passed H. Con. Res. 187. The resolution condemned the State of Indiana and BP for moving ahead with plans to release more “pollutants” into Lake Michigan.

Indiana’s own congressional delegation was split on the measure. Every Indiana Democrat voted against increasing oil refining capacity and every Hoosier Republican voted to support the economic growth of Indiana and the environmentally sound expansion of refining capacity. The argument used by Democrats in supporting the condemnation resolution was that BP and Indiana were allowing the wholesale pollution of Lake Michigan. The scene painted by them was one of a big oil company collaborating with a pliable state government to create a situation that benefited BP and campaign coffers while reducing the standard of living of individuals who live near Lake Michigan.

While the rhetoric ran high about pollution, there was almost no attempt by Democrats to put the situation it its proper light. Congressman Mark Souder (R-IN) summed the affair up well when he said “BP is investing more than $3 billion in our state, and Democrats are targeting it, ostensibly, for environmental reasons, despite the fact that the plant will still fall within the federal pollution guidelines.” Souder also referred to the resolution (which, by the way, doesn’t have any legal binding to it) as a “sham.” Even though Congressman Souder’s district doesn’t border on Lake Michigan, he rightfully understands that amidst all the talk of pollution and the need for clean water, the increase in release materials will still be well within federal guidelines. In fact, the release levels are also within the bounds laid out by Indiana state guidelines, and these state guidelines are more restrictive than the federal regulations.

At the end of the day the question each member of Congress is going to have to ask him or herself is, “Did my vote help reduce our dependency on foreign oil and reduce gas prices, or did my vote promote a feel-good set of talking points with no basis in fact?” Rep. Souder (R-IN), Rep. Pence (R-IN), Rep. Burton (R-IN), and Rep. Buyer (R-IN) all voted to reduce gas prices and allow individuals to conduct there affairs without big government condemning their efforts. Rep. Visclosky (D-IN) voted, as he normally does, to condemn private enterprise and promote baseless charges. Rep. Donnelly (D-IN), Rep. Ellsworth (D-IN), and Rep. Hill (D-IN) were all elected in 2006 amidst a political atmosphere that found fault with Republicans for not doing enough to lower gas prices. If these three are seriously seeking reelection in 2008, they didn’t help their chances when they voted for a resolution that condemns a private enterprises attempt to provide more fuel, and lower fuel costs, to Hoosiers.

Advertisements

By: Brian Sikma

“Mr. President, the terrorist are in this war to win it.  The question is: Are we?” –Sen. John McCain

 

Conservatives have few things to thank Sen. John McCain for. McCain, a Republican maverick with a taste for compromise, does have courage though. As the architect of the Gang of 14 deal that denied conservative judicial appointees an up or down vote on the Senate floor, as a leader with Ted Kennedy for immigration reform that would have been a debacle if it had passed, and as someone who voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, McCain has often appeared to be bent on doing whatever riles up conservatives. However, on the subject of the Iraq War, Sen. John McCain has it right.

Yesterday and through the night last night the Senate debate focused around an amendment that was not about whether or not we should win in Iraq, but about what route we should choose lose by. By some measures, this debate was highly unbecoming of the Senate. The members of the United States Senate are supposed to lead the country-not follow public opinion polls.

As leaders, senators should have risen to the challenge and forcefully sent our enemies a message: “We will not abandon the field in Iraq. We are going to fight until victory and we were not elected to vote on which road to defeat we will take the United States down.” Unfortunately, no such unanimous message was issued.

Senator McCain though courageously took to the floor of the Senate and delivered a strongly worded message that talked about the progress we’re seeing in Iraq and about the stakes involved in our decision to either stay the course or admit defeat to the terrorists.  (You can read the full text here.)  Here is a key quote from the Senator’s speech:

“If we leave Iraq prematurely, jihadists around the world will interpret the withdrawal as their great victory against our great power. Their movement thrives in an atmosphere of perceived victory; we saw this in the surge of men and money flowing to al Qaeda following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. If they defeat the United States in Iraq, they will believe that anything is possible, that history is on their side, that they really can bring their terrible rule to lands the world over. Recall the plan laid out in a letter from Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, before his death. That plan is to take shape in four stages: establish a caliphate in Iraq, extend the “jihad wave” to the secular countries neighboring Iraq, clash with Israel – none of which shall commence until the completion of stage one: expel the Americans from Iraq. Mr. President, the terrorists are in this war to win it. The question is: Are we?”

Senator McCain asked the right question.  Sen. Reid, Sen. Durbin, and their fellow Democratic colleagues should be thinking very hard about their response to that question.  Although Sen. Lugar claims we should think outside of “binary choices”, I’d like to know what third route there is.  There isn’t one in this conflict.  The choice is a very simple, binary choice: We Win or They Win. 

If Senators wish to get their name in front of a TV camera, they should go before the American people and explain exactly what is going on in Iraq. Explain that although there will continue to be bloodshed, we are going to follow the lead of the President and vote for the funds needed by our military. Our military offensive is succeeding. The Anbar province has been cleared of many terrorists and local leaders are now supporting the allied U.S. and Iraqi forces.

In the past mistakes have been made in the conduct of the war. But the way to correct that is to devise a new strategy; not unilaterally draw down and “redeploy.” Were our enemies in Iraq to succeed in expelling us from that country, they would not hesitate to launch an intiative to attack either our homeland or our citizens and military personnel abroad.

Related Reading:

Keep on Surgin’, By: Bill Kristol

After Iraq, By: Thomas Sowell

Gen. Pace Declares Iraq “Sea Change”-Time

 

victory.jpg

As the Senate continues to debate on the future of our Iraq War policy, they would do well to remember the words of that great bulldog for Victory: Sir Winston Churchill.

 “You ask what is our aim?  I can answer in one word: Victory.  Victory at all costs.  Victory in spite of all terror.  Victory however long and hard the road may be.  For without victory there is no survival.”

-Winston Churchill, First speech as Prime Minister, House of Commons, May 13, 1940

capitoldome.jpg By: Brian Sikma 

In a replay of the 2004 Senate hate crimes debate, Sen. Gordon Smith (R) and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D) have submitted an amendment to the Defense Reauthorization bill (H.R. 1585) that contains the same language as their hate crimes bill, S. 1105. This move increases the likelihood that hate crimes legislation will pass the Senate.

By attaching a controversial piece of legislation to a must-pass bill, hate crimes legislation supporters will succeed in limiting debate on a bill that could impact American law for decades. The amendment status of this proposal could obscure the tough vote choices that senators have to make. Senators would be allowed to quietly vote on the proposal without having to face the debate that a regular bill would require.

If a hate crimes bill were to become law, it would mandate that citizens receive unequal justice. Allowing a criminal to get a lighter sentence because he committed a crime against a majority individual, and then giving a heavier sentence for the same crime if it was committed against a minority individual, is allowing the law to discriminate in the application of justice. The only kind of discrimination that we should allow in our justice system is discrimination that favors right.

If the government were allowed to start punishing individuals for their supposed thought process, where are we going to draw the line? What is an acceptable thought today may be unacceptable tomorrow. At what point are we going to be able to logically say that enough is enough? When the government starts criminalizing thoughts instead of just actions the government becomes a thought police. Republicans, Independents and Democrats should all be able to come together in opposition to thought police.

Supporters of this measure argue that hate crimes are prevalent and require immediate government intervention. However, the facts speak to something different. According to the FBI less than 0.02% of murders can be classified as “hate crimes.”

In a bit of irony, S. 1105 is referred to as the “Matthew Shepard Act” after a homosexual male who was supposedly killed in a hate crime incident. Unfortunately for the bill’s sponsors, Matthew Shepard was killed not because he was a homosexual but was gunned down by a drug ring hit team. Matthew Shepard was the victim of a drug fight, not a hate crime.

Please take a moment and contact your Senators today and urge them to vote against the proposed Amendment No. 2067 to the Defense Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1585). By going to http://www.senate.gov you can find your senators’ contact information.

Related Reading

Thought Police on patrol in D.C., By: Ed Feulner

H.R. 1592: An Assult on Equal Protection

Advance USA Blog on Thought Crimes

Hate Crimes: Beyond Virtual Reality

By:  Kyle Forti

“Marriage is the foundation of the natural family and sustains family values.” There was a day in the not too distant past when a person wouldn’t think twice after reading that statement. And why should they? It’s a simple sentence that conveys something we’ve known for thousands upon thousands of years – that marriage is the innate institution of the family.

Recently, these very words were circulated in an email through the Oakland, CA government’s open email system and employee bulletin board. The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has now labeled this innocent sentence as possible hate speech and a violation of the First Amendment protections! I am writing today not to ask you to ban gay marriage, or even continue to uphold the natural definition of marriage, but to simply allow for the sentence I started with to be spoken today.

Have we come so far in the United States that we have completely lost the ability to discern the difference between “hate speech” and “free speech”? In regard to this matter, I would specifically like to mention the “hate crimes” legislation at a federal level – H.R. 1592 and S. 1105 and ask you to do everything in your power to oppose them.

I want to make it clear that I do not advocate true hate speech in any way. Those that scream threats of assassinating our leaders or President, those that want men and women with different views locked up, those that encourage violence against others, etc. should be punished as is already provided for by the laws on our books. What I do have a problem with is our federal government having the power to prosecute what may be considered to some as politically incorrect speech. While violent crimes cannot be tolerated, the free flow of opinions and facts must be upheld and encouraged in a free society. That is why I am strongly against the passage of either H.R. 1592 or S. 1105.

After all, why has there been a sudden hard push for national “hate speech” legislation? Have we ever needed such laws in the past? What has so abruptly changed in America that we now need to censor opinions and beliefs? Could it be possible that the advocates behind the introduction of these laws are pushing an agenda to shut down their opponents? I would have to believe so. As evidenced by the beginning of this letter and everything else I have read, “Hate speech” policy seems to deal less with the true threats of violence and more with the pushing of a liberal agenda.

I can express the most profane and perverse thoughts and ideas in a movie or piece of music, yet if a person has a difference of opinion on a political or social matter on talk radio or other news programs, it is immediately branded as hurtful and unfair. If the ultimate goal of these “hate speech” bills is fairness, then I suppose we should just give up the fight now and ban free speech altogether. No matter what is said, what one speaks will always be considered unfair to someone.

In order to fully advocate the preservation of foundational principles of a free society, I would again encourage you to vote against H.R. 1592 and S. 1105 and uphold a free and great America.

Kyle Forti is a conservative political activist and campaign staffer from Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He recently wrote the above article as a letter to Congress on the subject of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech laws.  The article is timely since the Senate could vote as early as this coming week on a Hate Speech amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill.

marineiniraq.jpg By: Brian Sikma

On the evening of July 12th, less than 2 weeks after the Iraq surge plan was fully implemented, two of Indiana’s Blue Dog Democratic congressmen, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) and Rep. Baron Hill (D), voted to withdraw American troops from Iraq. The vote was significant for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that Rep. Joe Donnelly broke a March 1st promise to vote against “an immediate or arbitrary withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.”

This is now the second time that Rep. Donnelly has voted for a measure to withdraw American troops from Iraq after his March promise to oppose any arbitrary withdrawal. The fact that Rep. Donnelly has now voted against his promise to a constituent not once, but twice, is highly disturbing. Rep. Donnelly was elected in part after promising to clean up a culture of corruption that he says his Republican predecessors party contributed to.

In recent days Rep. Hill has come under pressure from anti-war activists in his 9th Congressional District. This pressure may have contributed to his vote to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq even as gains are being made and key battles won.

Congress failed in two primary areas in this vote. First, they crossed a Constitutional boundary that allows the President alone to be the sole decision maker in war policy. This attempt by Democrats to accomplish their objective at any price speaks volumes about their commitment to the rule of law and government by the people. In 2006 Democrats were elected to a majority in both houses of Congress, they were not elected to the Executive Branch.

One of the rallying cries for Democrats in the 2006 campaign was that Republicans in Washington had run roughshod over the will of the people. How ironic that House Democrats voted to run roughshod over a document that begins with the words “We the People of the United States.”

The second failure of this vote occurred when a majority of the members of Congress failed to realize how premature their decision was. This vote to withdraw from Iraq came less than 2 weeks after the last of the “surge” troops were deployed to Iraq. In essence, the House passed judgement on a plan that has been fully working for less than 2 weeks.

Even now the surge plan is beginning to work as Ramadi, the capital city of the Anbar province, is being transformed from one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq to one of the safest. Sunni leaders are laying aside their differences and joining the Iraqi government and U.S. forces in battle against the common enemy: al’Qaeda terrorists.

Just earlier this week, U.S. and Iraqi forces attacked the town of Sherween. Sherween was a stronghold for al’Qaeda terrorists. During the fighting Iraqi civilians started fighting alongside of U.S. and Iraqi forces. By the end of the battle, 20 terrorists had been killed and 20 more captured.

Iraq is starting to fight back, and the U.S. surge strategy is working. Now is not the time to vote for defeat. Now is the time to unite for victory. Rep. Donnelly, Rep. Hill, and the 221 other House members who joined them in their vote should be ashamed for urging defeat at an hour when victory could be achieved.

Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act Roll Call Vote

covering.jpg

By: Brian Sikma

On June 25th Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking member, took to the floor of the United States Senate and spent 45 minutes delivering what some would later call a landmark speech. The focus of Mr. Lugar’s speech was the Iraq War. During his speech Sen. Lugar made several interesting comments that offer great insight into the political calculations that he and fellow senators have made in coming to their conclusion that the War in Iraq is practically lost.

The one point that Sen. Lugar hammered home several times was the need to change course in Iraq. This view is shared by some of his fellow Republican senators and has the majority support of the Senate Democratic caucus. In a key phrase Lugar said: “The prospects that the current ‘surge’ strategy will succeed in a way originally envisioned by the President are very limited within the short time period framed by our own domestic political debate.” What Senator Lugar was saying is that the 2008 presidential election will hinder our efforts to continue to carry out our mission in Iraq. That analysis is true only if America’s leaders and would-be-leaders lack the courage needed to have a frank discussion with the American people about the stakes involved in this war.

Senator Lugar predicted that the surge plan would fail, but he did say that a complete withdrawal of U.S forces from Iraq would not be in the best interest of America. His prejudgement of the plan is ironic since June marked the last month of U.S. troop level increases and July marks the first month of combat operations with the new reinforcements in place. According to the American Enterprise Institute, the new forces on the ground are succeeding exactly as military officials had hoped. Additionally, an official assessment of the success or failure of the surge is not due until September.

Inspite of calling for a new policy in Iraq, Senator Lugar did not propose what he himself thought would be the best course of action. It is very convenient to criticize a plan before it has succeeded, especially when your position has some public support and you are not called upon to present your solution.

Although Sen. Lugar has been lauded as a statesman and foreign policy expert, when we look at his voting record in the Senate a slightly different view emerges. One of Sen. Lugar’s biggest accomplishments was the Nunn-Lugar legislation that allows the Department of Defence to fund former Soviet countries’ destruction of WMDs. Contrast this legislative victory, which has done little to reduce the actual threat of war with WMDs, with Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. SDI put an enormous amount of pressure on the Soviets by forcing them to either upgrade their technology or risk seeing all of the nuclear ICBM arsenal neutralized by a complex defense system. As is quite well known, the USSR collapsed for a variety of reasons, among them was their inability to maintain an economy that could sustain a Soviet competitor to SDI.

Sen. Richard Lugar voted against funding the Strategic Defense Initiative in 1991. Although the Soviet threat at that time had been reduced, it was still substantial enough to merit the continuation of the program. Today, the work of the Strategic Defense Initiative has led to what is America’s first line of defense should a rogue state such as Iran or North Korea lob a nuclear tipped missile at our homeland.

Another piece of legislation that has had a profound impact on our national security was the funding of the B-2 bomber. This aircraft, and other defense systems that utilize similar technology, has given the United States an unparalleled edge in the ability to gain access to a target and successfully take that target out.

Senator Lugar voted repeatedly against funding for the B-2 bomber.

This record is not unique to Sen. Lugar. Several of the loudest voices now calling for a different direction in Iraq have consistently voted against important national security measures. When these individuals collectively begin to call for a new direction, we must be slow in granting them the status of an expert.

Perhaps the single most disturbing trend in these calls for a new direction in Iraq has been the deafening silence of any call for victory. Over and over again words similar to Sen. Lugar’s statement “Unless we recalibrate our strategy in Iraq to fit our domestic political conditions and the broader needs of U.S. national security, we risk foreign policy failures that could greatly diminish our influence in the region and the world” are echoed without a single call for victory.

While it is true that our policies in Iraq have contained serious flaws, it should be very evident that a failure to achieve victory will lead to a geopolitical situation where maniacal dictators underestimate the scope of a U.S. response to any irresponsible action on their part. A failure to achieve victory would result in Iraq overrun with dozens of little Saddams, each intent on setting up his own dictatorship. A failure to achieve victory will embolden Islamofascist terrorists to strike at U.S. targets both here at home and around the globe. A failure to achieve victory will be a bringing to nought of all that courageous American military personnel have fought, bled and died for. A failure to achieve victory will result in diminished respect for American foreign policy views in every corner of the globe.

None of this should be taken to mean that changes were not needed, and may not possibly still be needed, in the Iraq War. A fundamental point that we must realize is that we have failed to properly prosecute this war beyond the initial regime removal stage. In Operation Iraqi Freedom American military might proved that combining a modest number of personnel with an unbelievably high level of technology can lead to the collapse and total destruction of a nation-state supporter of Islamofacist terrorism. While casualties were sustained, they were at historically low levels and the advanced training and tactics used by U.S. forces involved in traditional military campaigns paid worthy dividends.

After the initial freeing of Iraq more U.S. troops should have been deployed to the country to stabilize the situation and quickly snuff out the native power-grabbing factions and foreign terrorist thugs. In the kind of sweeping and clearing operations that are required in order to defeat the highly flexible terrorist cells, nothing can replace the individual soldier’s ability to patrol and extinguish terrorist thugs wherever they are found. Our former strategy of clearing a village and moving on to the next village allowed terrorists to filter back into the area once U.S. forces moved on. Our current strategy of building relationships with local leaders and clearing and hold areas makes more sense.

Above all, our new strategy is working, despite Sen. Harry Reid’s claim to the contrary. Speaking of criticism about the “surge”, isn’t it a little premature to criticise a military plan that has only been in full effect for a little less than 2 weeks? Perhaps success should be given a chance.

Another area of failing, and an area that is not fully addressed by our surge policy, is our diplomacy in the greater War on Terror. The Iraq War is a subset of the larger Global War on Terror (incidentally, the phrase “Global War on Terror” has been banned by some House Democrats). Too many times we have failed to capitalize in past victories and time after time we have allowed our nation’s diplomats to drop the ball and praise individuals and groups who do not share our aims and our goals.

An example of this happened when the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Francis Riccardione, praised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and said that Mr. Mubarak “was loved in America” and that he if ran for office in America he would have no trouble being elected. Mr. Mubarak presides over a government that is heavily corrupt and consistently tramples the rights of Egyptian minorities. Mr. Riccardione also said that he enjoyed a recent film by an Egyptian Pop-Culture figure best known for his song “I hate Israel.”

If we are going to win the all important battle for hearts and minds in this war, this kind of foolishness will have to stop. It is inexcusable for an official representative of the United States to publicly praise a corrupt president and laud a hate filled musician.

These failures need to be addressed, but the way to solve them is not to abandon the field.

Statesmen are supposed to be leaders. Right now, Republicans and Democrats need to come together and start leading this country forward. Yes, the opinion polls are calling for a draw-down of troop levels. But if America’s leaders will put aside politics and go out and talk to the American people about the failures and successes of the past, and present a clear way to remedy those failures and capitalize on those successes, I think we’ll see polls shifting.

History has handed us an opportunity that has been denied many other countries. Yes, the opportunity is fraught with hardship. The way forward is not easy, but it is right. From Valley Forge to Iwo Jima Americans have consistently fought for victory. Now is the time for us to summon from deep with ourselves the courage for victory.

Now is a good time to remember the words of Sir Winston Churchill, the leader of one of our Allies, “Let us therefore braces ourselves to our duty. So bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and it’s commonwealths last for a thousand years, men will still say ‘this, was their finest hour.'”

America’s cause is just and right and good. In these dark hours of conflict and struggle let us remember that our victory will be forged on the anvil courage and perseverance. History has handed us an opportunity that has been denied many other countries. Yes, the opportunity is fraught with hardship. The way forward is not easy, but it is right. From Valley Forge to Iwo Jima Americans have consistently fought for victory. Now is the time for us to summon from deep with ourselves the courage for victory.

Related Reading:

The New Strategy in Iraq, By: Frederick Kagan

Public Diplomacy for Dummies, By: Bret Stephens

Republican Retreat, By: The Wall Street Journal

Surge Protector, By: Quinn Hillyer

Deployment-Length Amendment Is First Step Toward “Cut and Run” In Iraq

Next Page »