- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Pop goes the needle

Late in December, it was reported that Congress had, after nine years, finally lifted the ban on funding for needle-exchange programs in Washington. [“Needle funding curbs lifted,” Metropolitan, Dec. 27). The balance of the article leads one to infer that this was a magnanimous opening of the purse strings by our representatives and senators, but I vehemently disagree.

Having health care workers give away free needles for people to use to inject themselves with illicit drugs violates one of the most important of their maxims, Primum non nocere (First, do no harm).

What many politicians and social workers term a “victory” for life is really a stinging defeat for virtue and the belief that the better angels of our nature exist.


Purcellville, Va.

Taxes and energy

I salute Oliver North for seeing through the many ephemeral causes suggested for $100-a-barrel oil and cutting to the chase — that demand is outstripping supply (“Crude awakening,” Commentary, Sunday).

He didn’t point out that oil production will soon peak and enter decline, but I gather that he has figured that out because he states that the solution is independence from oil for the whole planet.

Nuclear power will be part of the solution, but I don’t share his optimism for a nuclear-hydrogen economy. To replace declining oil with nuclear power would require a great many new nuclear power plants and would use up our uranium supplies far more quickly.

I’m not optimistic about the plans for extracting uranium from granite or seawater.

Hydrogen requires a whole new infrastructure and is less efficient than using electricity directly or through batteries. Investing in solar and wind power is a lower-risk strategy. If we don’t expand nuclear power, we can use it far longer as a baseline energy source.

Greatly reducing our demand for oil and energy overall is critical. We use nearly twice as much oil per capita as Germany and four times as much as Mexico. We will be better off if we reduce our demand sooner because of policy changes rather than later because of depletion and deprivation.

We should shift taxes from income and into fossil fuels, implement per-mile auto insurance, invest in transit instead of more roads and make biking and walking safer and more convenient.



The Palestinian-Israeli conflict

Arnaud de Borchgrave’s Sunday Commentary column, “Keeping Palestine in mind,” was confusing.

He pictured Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert extending the philosophy of a 20th-century hypnotist in imagining that Israelis can live within a Palestinian state governed by Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Then he claimed that Mr. Olmert changed his mind after returning from Annapolis. Then he referenced an anonymous Jew saying that only a Michael Bloomberg presidency could “pull off a Palestinian settlement by getting Israelis to make the indispensable concessions.”

The rationale would be that only a Jew could bring peace to the Middle East.

Mr. de Borchgrave then admitted that a Palestinian state would make it easier for al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood to “maneuver.” He invoked the specter of confrontation with Iran over its nuclear weapons program.

However, the column ignored the fundamentals driving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Neither compromises by Israel nor the religion of any American president will bring peace without major changes in Islamic ideology.

He disregarded the recent statement by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat that the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel’s Jewish identity on the grounds that “it is not acceptable for a country to link its national character to a specific religion.”

In other words, Palestinians will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Islamic ideology underlies the conflict — the refusal of Arab states and the Palestinians to accept Israel based on a fundamental Islamic belief that non-Muslims cannot be allowed to govern territory once dominated by an Islamic entity such as the Islamic Ottoman Empire.

Furthermore, it is anathema for Muslims, e.g. Israeli Muslims, to be governed by non-Muslims who are independent of Islamic law.

Peace can only be possible when Palestinians accept a non-Muslim state in their midst, when they cease their incitement to violence and take action to dismantle their terrorist infrastructure. A starting point would be the cessation of the daily rocket attacks on Israeli towns.



Watching America’s purse strings

Kudos to The Washington Times for pointing out some of the possible and likely consequences of the subprime credit issues impacting global finance and trickling down to American homeowners (“Subprime meltdown,” Editorial, Sunday) . However, I am disappointed that the editorial failed to identify the important roles of Federal Reserve monetary policy under former Chairman Alan Greenspan, coupled with the failure of Congress to perform adequate financial oversight.

Under Mr. Greenspan, the Fed lowered interest rates 13 consecutive times in response to a recession, dot-com collapses and the September 11 terror attacks. With the economy strengthening, the Fed began the first of 17 consecutive rate increases in June 2004 before pausing in August 2006.

In hindsight, the decisions to cut the federal funds rate by 50 basis points in November 2002 to 1.25 percent and by 25 basis points in June 2003 were questionable. Were these monetary policy decisions the appropriate response, or were they the desperate moves of a powerful Federal Reserve chairman attempting to ensure a quicker recovery before his anticipated retirement in January 2005?

Mr. Greenspan is not alone to blame, as he had many powerful friends on Capitol Hill who sleepwalked through most of his ambiguous testimony. Mr. Greenspan has admitted in published reports and interviews that he purposely worked to create vague, vanilla and beguiling congressional testimony that served only to confuse our elected members of Congress.

Of concern today is that Chairman Ben Bernanke seems to be embracing the predictable monetary policies of gradualism in the face of this economic dilemma. The 10-year U.S. Treasury note yields 3.85 percent, while the federal funds rate sits at 4 percent, suggesting that the global markets have lost confidence in the Fed’s response.

In my opinion, the correct tonic would be for the Federal Reserve Board to cut the federal funds rate once by 100 basis points, down to 3 percent, at its meeting this month. This would better serve the many people who are struggling with an adjustable-rate mortgage while allowing the dollar to possibly hit bottom against foreign currencies. This bold remedy would instill confidences in the Fed to reverse the damage from the unnecessary subprime meltdown, assist homeowners who are experiencing difficulty in repaying their mortgages and provide relief to the global debt markets.


Rockville Centre, N.Y.

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