- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2006

In his Wednesday letter, “Pro-life, pro-choice,” Neil Arnold interjects the death penalty issue into a column by Nat Hentoff about abortion (“The devaluing of human life,” Op-Ed, Monday) and makes a simplistic comparison of both.

Mr. Arnold’s only comparison is that both abortion and the death penalty take a human life, but there are many differences. Aborted babies are innocent of any crime, but they are put though a hideous, often excruciatingly painful and unjust execution, most often as a matter of convenience. The partial-birth abortion procedure is especially barbaric.

Those convicted of capital crimes, on the other hand, are indicted, tried by a deliberating jury, convicted and sentenced to a humane death. They usually spend years appealing their convictions. Mr. Arnold proposes replacing the death penalty with life without parole but does not offer a suggestion on how to stop the killing of the innocent preborn.

If life without parole actually meant life without parole, we could eliminate the death penalty — but who, for example, wants a convicted pedophile who murdered a child to be sentenced to life without parole only to be released in 10 years to abuse and murder another child? That is the reality of our judicial system.

Who is responsible for the second child’s rape and death?



Facts about the Fed

Yesterday’s editorial “Wall Street and the Fed” seems to confuse both basic economic statistics and the source of the financial community’s consternation over the current Federal Reserve Board.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 4.2 percent annualized rate of consumer inflation on Wednesday, not 5.2 percent as the editorial states, which (had it been reported) would have been a number not seen since the early 1990s.

That leaves the real fed funds rate at 0.8 percent. In addition to being greater than zero, not negative as the editorial suggests, the real fed funds rate is, somewhat ironically, at about the same level at which it stood when the last recession began at the end of the first quarter of 2001.

Perhaps more telling, the real fed funds rate, calculated using the Core Personal Consumption Price Index, the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, which excludes the volatile food and energy components, is 3 percent.

This is well above its 1.7 percent average since 1990 and higher than anytime since the end of the last economic expansion.

Taking into consideration that monetary policy acts with a significant time lag and inflation typically peaks at the end of an economic boom, when resources are most stretched, interest rates are not nearly as accommodative as the editorial would suggest.

More important, any negative commentary directed at the Fed is not the result of sour grapes over woes in the equity markets, but rather a reaction to the unprofessional way in which communications have been made and, perhaps more important, concern that the Fed is ignoring both economic statistics (a stunningly weak labor report earlier this month, for instance) and the market tea leaves, which are suggesting that economic activity is deteriorating.


New York, N.Y.

FEMA and fraud

I thought Thursday’s editorial “Another disaster for FEMA” made a lot of good points. However, I think you missed the main reason why the Federal Emergency Management Agency loosened the distribution controls (the red tape) on the Katrina disaster relief debit cards and other forms of disaster assistance payments — and thus you came up with the wrong recommendation: that lawmakers and the leadership at FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security should “pay close attention to the stunning fraud and use it as a guide to make the necessary reforms.”

First, I think we need to understand that “necessary reforms” is just another name for more red tape. I would suggest that these controls, or so-called necessary reforms, probably already are in place at FEMA.

Second, in my opinion, the main factor behind the genesis of this stunning fraud was that many of the lawmakers who are screaming now (as well as many of the media folks) are the same people who just 10 months ago were screaming the loudest for FEMA to get the relief to the people of the Gulf Coast faster.

Well, I submit that FEMA did exactly what was asked of it and the subsequent “stunning fraud” of about $1 billion, or 16 percent of the total, basically amounts to the price of doing business the way Congress and the media insisted that it be done in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster.


Marine Corps (retired)

Stafford, Va.

More expensive oil ahead

David Deming believes current high oil prices will soon abate (“The oil price bubble,” Commentary, Wednesday). I disagree. I think prices will go higher and instead will pop the housing-market bubble.

Mr. Deming cites the 2000 U.S. Geologic Survey estimate of 3 trillion barrels total of conventional oil. The USGS estimate has been criticized for flawed methodology. Most other estimates are just over 2 trillion barrels of ultimate recovery. This is important because 2 trillion means we are about at peak oil production now, while 3 trillion means we can put off the crisis a decade or two and leave our children with an even bigger problem.

If the USGS estimate were correct, we should have had significant oil discoveries during the last few years of high oil prices. Instead, discoveries have been far outpaced by demand. In 2005, we burned five barrels for every one that was discovered.

Mr. Deming’s discussion of reserve to production ratios requires further analysis. Did he count the reserves of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as reported by each nation, or as estimated by independent analysts? OPEC likely has overstated its reserves.

Mr. Deming claims there is no geologic reason to leave the oil age till near the end of the 21st century. Such a statement has to be based on optimism about oil shale and tar sands. I don’t share this optimism. Canada has moved forward aggressively with oil shale, but production has only just matched falling conventional oil production while imposing great environmental harm. America’s oil shale is largely in the Colorado River basin. It takes water to extract the oil, but the Colorado River already dries up before reaching the ocean. And what about the possibility that our scientists may be right about global warming? Oil shale delivers more carbon per gallon of gasoline delivered.

Mr. Deming concedes that the oil age will one day come to an end. Shouldn’t we begin that transition while we still have enough oil to build the next energy infrastructure?



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