- The Washington Times - Friday, June 18, 2004

Ensuring energy security

Cesar Conda’s column (“To trim gas prices,” Commentary, Thursday) addresses the issue of U.S. energy security and dependence on foreign oil, citing a “fear premium” as one of the factors for the increase in oil prices.

Tapping the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge reserves in Alaska would help decrease reliance on Mideast oil and lower gas prices, but only for a limited lime. Whether the amount of ANWR oil is 1 billion barrels of oil or 20 billion barrels, it is still a finite resource.

A long-term approach to energy security is required to provide for sustainable consumption that permanently reduces American vulnerability to whims of the OPEC cartel.

Milton Copulos of this foundation has done research and field testing of vehicles powered by natural gas. He found that modifications of existing automobiles to run on natural gas or petrol could be performed for as little as $500.

The United States has an abundant reserve supply of natural gas, which is also a much cleaner-burning fossil fuel. Combining hybrid technology with natural gas consumption could extend this resource indefinitely and perhaps even enable the United States to be an energy exporter one day.

DAVID RATLIFF

Research analyst

National Defense Council Foundation

Alexandria

God with us?

Bruce Fein writes that the Supreme Court’s declining to rule on the constitutionality of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance “could demoralize” U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (“One nation under God,” Commentary, Thursday). If that is so, why weren’t our troops in World War I and World War II not demoralized by the absence of the phrase, especially considering that during both wars, we were up against a nation, Germany, whose troops had the motto “Gott mit uns” (“God with us”) on their belt buckles?

EDD DOERR

President

Americans for Religious Liberty

Silver Spring

The First Amendment was written because England had a mandatory state religion. To be in government or to be a property holder, one was required to be a member of the Church of England. Hence the constitutional text, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion … .” Freedom of religious expression was guaranteed later in the sentence: “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Mentioning God in the Pledge of Allegiance, or having a crucifix on the Los Angeles County seal, for that matter, violates neither the establishment nor prohibition clauses in the amendment. By their very nature, religious symbols and statements are not compulsory.

There is no official or mandated religion in the United States. Multiple religious beliefs (and non-belief) are represented in all levels of government. No one is forced to recite the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance if it goes against his or her views.

Contrary to Sam Breunig’s opinions (“Pledge perspectives,” Letters, Thursday), the Founding Fathers went to great lengths to ensure that the people had virtually unfettered freedom of religion rather than relegating it solely to the home and houses of worship.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union (along with its disciples in the courts) is waging a war against people who wish to publicly express their religious beliefs and heritage. This is the true tyranny, and, ironically, it is a tyranny of the minority against the majority. This is the true violation of the First Amendment.

STEVE MCCOMBS

Chatsworth, Calif.

An unfair comparison

I must take issue with one comment from Peter Huessy’s otherwise excellent Wednesday Op-Ed column, “Whining about winners.” Mr. Huessy states that he once asked Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, if the Democratic Party had become, in the 1980s, “a carbon copy of the Chinese Politburo.”

This is a very unfair comparison, as the People’s Republic of China adopted a generally anti-Soviet posture throughout the 1980s.

JACK TURNER

Olive Branch, Miss.

Look at the bright side

Donald Lambro has chosen to attack the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s $5.9 billion Community Development Block Grants program as “a waste-ridden program that has become sort of a campaign ATM machine for lawmakers seeking re-election” (“Unaddressed spending issue,” Commentary, Thursday).

He is entitled to his opinion, and I am sure he can point out anomalies (not that he bothers with any specific examples), but he fails to recognize any virtues of the program. I suggest that he look at Wisconsin’s CDBG program, which has provided potable water where there was none, repairs to leaking-like-a-sieve roofs for low-income families and fire protection for countless communities. I believe he would find thousands of low-income families that have greatly benefited from the CDBG program.

DAVID CARLSON

Eau Claire, Wis.

Tighter trade ties

I find myself largely in agreement with your editorial “Trade vs. terror in Central Asia” (yesterday). We, too, welcome the trade and investment framework agreement. It will further expand U.S. private businesses’ interest in Kazakhstan’s rapidly developing economy.

There are many reasons why Americans should be increasingly comfortable doing business in my country. First, and perhaps foremost, we get along very well together. There are almost 400 U.S. companies in Kazakhstan, and the U.S. investment in our economy stands at $9 billion. American companies themselves estimate their investment in Kazakhstan will reach $200 billion before the decade is over.

These businesses see benefits in our growing civil society and democracy. Our president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has just called for a sweeping series of reforms designed to further modernize our political system.

One major proposal would broaden the powers of Parliament, increasing the numbers of deputies in both houses and developing a new system of forming the government through a parliamentary majority mechanism.

His proposals also would bring the budget watchdog, the Accounting Committee, under the control of Parliament, much like the U.S. General Accounting Office. Our human-rights stance would be strengthened with the introduction of jury trials and the broadening of the powers of the human-rights ombudsman.

Political life in Kazakhstan is lively. We have two major political parties, yet for our election in September, 11 parties will be fielding candidates. About half of them are opposition parties, and a new election law will ensure transparency and open competition.

“You can’t just declare democracy. You can only build it through hard work,” Mr. Nazarbayev said last week. We understand we have many challenges ahead, and we look forward to continuing to work with you as we build prosperity and fight terrorism together.

Given the choice, any thinking person prefers trade over terror and democracy over totalitarian rule.

KANAT B. SAUDABAYEV

Ambassador

Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Washington

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