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A middle school teacher has been suspended for posting a video of his Barack Obama-slogan chanting, arm-waving drill team on YouTube.

The report from Fox News said the teacher, whose name was being withheld by the school district, was suspended today for the video revealing his students chanting lines from Obama talking points and wearing military-style uniforms.

According to Fox News, the school learned about the posting of the video, called “Obama Youth – Junior Fraternity Regiment,” and immediately took action.

It shows 10 black male students in 8th or 9th grades from the Urban Community Leadership Academy in Kansas City, a public charter school organized by the University of Central Missouri. They march in the room chanting, “Alpha, omega, alpha, omega.”

Although the immediate source of the phrase “alpha omega” likely traces to the black fraternity step team tradition, the deeper source derives from the book of Revelation, which refers to God as the “Alpha and Omega,” the first and last letters of the classical alphabet.

That chant soon yields to, “Yes we can.”

School superintendent Joyce McGautha was not pleased. She did not approve and does not condone the video. Not only was the teacher suspended, further drill activities were halted.

“Taxpayers have every reason to be upset,” she said.

The superintendent said because of the “legal action that we’ll probably have to take against the teacher,” his identity would be withheld at this point.

The Fox News report said the students studied Obama’s economic plan with the teacher, and the superintendent did not know whether the teacher or the students scripted the routine. The group should have also studied Republican John McCain’s economic plan, the superintendent said.

The superintendent said many of the school’s activities are recorded, and the teacher had been warned in a letter not to put it on the Internet.

Anonymous forum participants on the Fox News site were disdainful of the Democrats.

“The Democratic Party has become taken over by distorted closet socialists,” said one.

“Why does this not surprise me in the least, coming from an Obama supporter?” said another. “He deserves to be fired and NEVER allowed to teach again!”

WND reported just last week when nearby Missouri law officials, including public prosecutors, who were reportedly planning to “respond immediately” to any misleading advertisements against Obama if they “might violate Missouri ethics laws,” said they were backing off the intimidating implications of that report, promising they have no intention of prosecuting anyone.

As WND reported, prosecuting attorneys Bob McCulloch and Jennifer Joyce originally announced on KMOV-TV in St. Louis their participation in Obama’s “Truth Squad,” pledging to defend the candidate from untruthful ads with an undefined “immediate” response.

“Whether it is directly attributable to the (McCain) campaign or to one of the soft money operations,” McCulloch told the station, “if they’re not going to tell the truth, somebody’s got to step up and say, ‘That’s not the truth. This is the truth.'”

The move prompted Missouri’s governor to object that the prosecutors were using “police state tactics” to squelch information hurtful to the Obama campaign.

“What Senator Obama and his helpers are doing is scandalous beyond words,” wrote Gov. Matt Blunt in a statement. “The party that claims to be the party of Thomas Jefferson is abusing the justice system and offices of public trust to silence political criticism with threats of prosecution and criminal punishment.”

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New York – Say what you will about Geert Wilders – and his critics, not least the Islamic clerics who issue near-daily fatwas commanding his death, have made their views plain – there is no gainsaying that the man has guts. Ever since 2004, when the Dutch politician emerged as one of Europe’s more forthright foes of Islamic fundamentalism, Wilders, 45, has been the subject of considerable obloquy, both in his native Netherlands, where he is scorned by the political elite, and abroad, where he is the target of untold assassination plots.

But not only has his international infamy not deterred Wilders from declaring against Islamic extremism –and, more controversially, Islam as a whole – but it has actually spurred him to become even more outspoken about what he considers to be its mortal threat to Western civilization. Most recently, he made the point in his provocative 15-minute film, “Fitna” (“challenge” in Arabic), released on the internet last May to much handwringing in Europe’s political salons and the obligatory denunciations and death threats in the Muslim world. Agree or disagree with its message, there is no disputing its subtext: Geert Wilders will not be silenced.

This much was apparent during his September 25 stop in New York. Part of an outreach tour by Wilders and several members of his two-year-old political party, the rightist-populist Party for Freedom, the visit was designed to forge links with ideological allies in the U.S. and to explain just how parlous is the state of affairs in a Europe that is, as Wilders sees it, if not yet lost to Islam, nevertheless on the cusp of cultural and political surrender. At a lunch sponsored by the Hudson Institute, the conservative think tank, Wilders – tall, slightly tense and sporting the signature peroxide-blond bouffant that makes him look like a right-wing Mozart – offered an apt demonstration of what it is that has his European colleagues discomfited and his jihadist revilers literally clamoring for his head.

For those who’ve followed his career, it was vintage Wilders. Whether it was his recommended response to immigrants who refuse to assimilate (“there’s the door and there’s the shredder for your passport”), or his politically incorrect references to the “so-called prophet” Mohammed (“mass murderer and a sick pedophile”) and the Koran (the Muslim “Mein Kampf”), or his nod to the Iranian government (“crazy lunatics”), Wilders could not be accused of excessive diplomacy. And he was never more animated than on the subject that fuels his more health-hazardous tirades. At one point, Wilders presented what he called a lesson in “Islam 101.” It went like this: “Islam is not a religion. It’s a political ideology. If you want to compare it then the only thing you can compare it to is communism. It’s a totalitarian ideology.” Lest there be any misunderstanding, Wilders added that there was no such thing as moderate Islam. “Sure, there are moderate Muslims,” he said. “But there is no moderate Islam.”

Kindred themes feature in his film “Fitna.” To say that Wilders does not present Islam as a religion of peace is to put it mildly. “Fitna” juxtaposes graphic footage of Islamic terrorism – including the 9-11 attacks, the Madrid train bombings, and the beheading of Nicholas Berg – with Koranic verses and clips of Islamic clerics preaching murder of non-Muslims and Jews. Low-budget and unabashedly one-sided – Wilders seems uninterested in the possibility that there is more to foundational Islamic texts than murderous calls to arms – it is not exactly a polished work, something Wilders readily concedes. “I’m a lawmaker not a moviemaker,” he says. But like its creator, the film is nothing if not direct.

However one judges its content, the fact that “Fitna” has been released at all is something of an achievement. State-owned Dutch television stations refused to screen it last spring. Meanwhile, Dutch Muslims, unwittingly confirming Wilders’s skepticism about the compatibility of Islamic mores and democratic values, called for the film to be banned. The political establishment, too, failed to distinguish itself. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende did nothing to discourage the hotter heads in the Muslim community when he announced that “Fitna” “serves no other purpose than to cause offense.” Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen similarly urged Wilders not to show the film because it could “endanger the lives of Dutch nationals” abroad. (Appearances notwithstanding, Verhagen insisted that he was “not trying to meet demands from anti-democratic forces and terrorists in the Middle East.”) “It was an absolute disgrace,” Wilders recalls of such reactions.

More menacing was the preemptive outrage in the Muslim world. In a grim replay of the Danish cartoon controversy of 2005, Dutch flags were burned, as muftis promised bloodshed if the film were shown. In Indonesia, where protestors brandished banners proclaiming “Kill Geert Wilders,” the government appealed to Dutch authorities to outlaw the film and, failing to get its way, permanently barred Wilders from entering the country. The Taliban, after getting word of the film’s release, vowed to increase attacks on Dutch troops in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda-linked groups issued internet death threats against Wilders.

While some of the threats proved empty, others were all-too credible. Indeed, today Wilders is in more danger than ever – no small feat for a man who just a few years ago was forced to spend nights in high-security prison cells and safe houses to avoid the gruesome fate of another Dutch filmmaker, Theo Van Gogh, who was savagely murdered by Moroccan Islamist Mohammed Bouyeri in November 2004. In the past two months in particular, the threats have multiplied. “It’s embarrassing even to talk about it,” Wilders says when I ask him about his security arrangements. For obvious reasons, he doesn’t want to divulge the size of his security detail, but he does say that “they would have to clear the street” in Amsterdam to accommodate them all. Even in the relative safety of Manhattan, Wilders takes no chances. As he spoke, two tall men in black suits and crew cuts sat watchfully by the door.

Safety concerns have limited Wilders’s public presence, but they have not diminished his political stature. Just the opposite: His Party for Freedom (PVV) now has nine members in the 150-member Dutch parliament, where it continues to press for its Wilders-inspired platform of restricting immigration from Muslim countries; for more aggressively monitoring domestic extremism, including radical mosques; and for reducing an indulgent welfare state that allows immigrants to live comfortably without assimilating. To be sure, these remain minority views in Dutch politics. “We vote every Tuesday and it’s always the same,” says Martin Bosma, a PVV MP. “Nine people raise their hands and the other 141 stare at their shoes.” Nonetheless, Bosma says that “we have a lot of reasons to be optimistic.” The PVV currently has around 10 percent support in national polls, he notes. Double what it attracted when it first stood for election in 2006, this would translate into 15 seats in the parliament in the next general election in 2010.

The PVV also has another thing going for it: Its animating anxiety about the dangers of Islamic extremism is now shared by large parts of the Dutch electorate. In a 2004 poll, 47 percent of the Dutch admitted to fearing that they would have to live according to Islamic rules in the Netherlands at some point. Similarly, in a May 2005 poll, 43 percent of the Dutch said Islam was incompatible with Western society, results that were more than matched the following year, when a poll found that the majority of native Dutch found Islam intolerant (52 percent), violent (40 percent), and hostile to women (70 percent). Increasingly, it seems, Wilders is preaching to the choir.

To his political adversaries, these polls are proof of Wilders’s malign influence on Dutch politics. In this exegesis, it is only Wilders and the PVV’s “racism” and “xenophobia,” bolstered by “an alarmist presentation of Muslim immigration to the Netherlands and Europe,” that is causing the Dutch to doubt the model of all-tolerant multiculturalism that has prevailed for so long.

The reality, though, is more complex. Although, at around one million, the Dutch Muslim community still is only about 5.8 percent of the population, it is increasingly a majority in some neighborhoods – and a hostile one at that. Overtoomse Veld, the west Amsterdam neighborhood of Theo Van Gogh’s killer Mohammed Bouyeri, is by some estimates 80 to 90 percent Muslim. Major Dutch cities like Rotterdam, now home to the Islamic University of Rotterdam, are nearly half Muslim. On their face, such statistics may seem unobjectionable. But it has not escaped notice that these cities, with their restive and unassimilated immigrant populations, boast some of the highest crime rates in the Netherlands and serve as havens for religious radicalism. Nor do Dutch voters need Wilders to wonder about some Muslims’ capacity for tolerance. A spate of attacks on gay men by young Muslim thugs in Amsterdam, once the self-styled “gay capital of Europe,” has convincingly made the case for him.

Among those disinclined to debate him, it’s fashionable to dismiss Wilders as a populist vulgarian who revels in giving offense. The writer Ian Baruma, writing in the New Yorker, has quipped that Wilders sees “delicacy as a sign of fraudulence.” But this is something of a misconception. Despite his exuberantly confrontational rhetoric, Wilders himself is thoughtful, personable, and hard to mistake for the Muslim-hating bigot that some imagine him to be. For instance, as he was doing an interview in New York, a man tapped him on the shoulder. It was Ebby Moussazadeh, a board member at the Hudson Institute. Pointing to his nametag, Moussazadeh said, faux-menacingly, “It’s a Muslim name.” Wilders brightened. “Iranian,” he said. “I recognize it.” Wilders explained that he had travelled to Iran a number of times before his recent notoriety and said that he would one day like to return to the country when it is politically free.

Still, it’s true that Wilders comes across as too hard-edged for some. Even as he recognizes that, he is not about to moderate his take-no-prisoners style. On the contrary, he sees it as a way of injecting urgency into the European debate about Islam and multiculturalism. “In Europe, we have consensus in our veins,” Wilders told me. “What we did for the last 30 years is compromise all the time; it was all carrots and no sticks. All we have to show for it is a lot of orange and a lot of trouble.” No more, he says. “You have to be heard. Right now, people are speaking without really saying what they mean. It’s not enough to talk about immigration. You have to get to the core of the issue, which is that Islam is incompatible with democracy.”

Since the conversation has turned to Islam, his combative side resurfaces. Although Wilders isn’t ready to go into further detail, he reveals that he is planning to make a sequel to “Fitna.” This time, though, it is Wilders who offers the preemptive threat, directed at Islamic radicals: He will not be stopped. “If I stopped talking about this, the people who want to kill me would have a holiday,” he explains. “I cannot let them win.”

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The burgeoning alliance between Russia and Venezuela has just gone nuclear. On Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that he had accepted an offer from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to help Venezuela develop nuclear energy – “for peaceful ends of course.” The Russian nuclear power construction company Atomstroyexport, which is currently building Iran’s new plant, will coordinate the project.

Nuclear cooperation is only the most recent – and, arguably, the most alarming – testament to the ties between Venezuela and its Russian patron. For example, later this year Russia and Venezuela are planning to hold joint military exercises, a deployment that represents the largest Russian naval maneuver in the Caribbean since the Cold War. On top of that, Chavez has purchased Russian anti-aircraft systems worth over $4.5 billion, and has been promised a $1 billion dollar “loan” from Russia as part of a “military cooperation program.”

In the economic realm, too, the Kremlin and Caracas are closer than ever. In July, Russian energy giants LUKoil and Gazprom announced plans to invest up to $30 billion in Venezuela’s oil-rich Orinoco basin, a deal that Chavez hailed as “a colossus being born.” Moreover, trade between Russia and Venezuela more than doubled between 2006 and 2007.

The two countries have made no secret of their strategic partnership. Chavez boasts that he has developed a “profound friendship” with Putin. Returning the compliment, Putin declared that Russia and Venezuela are developing “our ties in all spheres,” with “new possibilities in energy, high-tech, machine construction and chemicals” and “cooperation in [the] military and technical spheres.”

Fueling this cooperation is a shared antagonism toward the United States. Both Chavez and Putin have described the relationship as “multi-polar” – a term that describes their opposition to “U.S. global domination.” For instance, Putin declared that, “Latin America has become an important chain-link in creating a multipolar world, and we will pay more attention to this vector.” More recently, Chavez was one of the few world leaders to echo the Kremlin propaganda line that the United States was to blame for Russia’s recent invasion of South Ossetia – a clear sign that Venezuela had come under Russia’s sphere of influence.

For Russia, the advantages of having a prominent anti-American ally are obvious. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was forced to prop up teetering fellow communist governments. In contrast, modern Russia, no longer constrained by communist ideology, is “free to shift [its] focus to creating wholesale chaos in Latin America,” according to a Stratfor analysis. “Where once massive state subsidies were necessary for creating a threat on the U.S. periphery, now Russia (which, for the moment, has the cash to spare) need only send a few extra shipments of light arms to spark a little extra destabilization in a region already rife with strife. For the Russians, a billion dollars to empower a country already working to undermine U.S. influence is money well spent. And if the influx of arms destabilizes Venezuela itself? Well, Venezuela is a major oil supplier to the United States. Either way it goes, Russia wins.”

More broadly, Russia’s alliances in the Caribbean help it “get payback for U.S. policies in Europe,” says Ray Walser, a Senior Policy Analyst for Latin America for the Heritage Foundation. Walser points out that Putin is especially angered by American support for Georgia, and its new missile defense deal with Poland.

At the same time, Walser notes that courting Venezuela carries its own risks. “The nuclear side of the relationship remains very uncertain.” Walser observes that oil rich Venezuela is an unlikely location for a nuclear power plant, which has “the potential to become a white elephant.” If the Russians and Venezuelans are actually planning to develop nuclear weapons, that would violate the 1969 Treaty of Tlateloco. Otherwise known as the “Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean,” it has been ratified by all 33 nations in the region. A violation of the treaty, Walser says, “would really get the U.S. angry.” In that case, Walser says, the political consequences for Russia would be serious. Russia risks further isolation from the U.S. and the rest of the world, while “for Chavez, invoking the Russians may not sit will with either the Venezuelan people or Venezuela’s neighbors, who have enjoyed relatively low defense costs.”

Perhaps mindful of such perils, Russia isn’t placing all its eggs into a Venezuelan basket. Nicaragua’s military has been promised Russian replacement helicopters and missiles, while Cuba gets “a new space-based communication station and new aerial espionage capacities.” Together, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba form a strategic Caribbean triangle of anti-American nations and vital sea-lanes that Russia is eager to control. According to Investors Business Daily, “America imports 60% of its energy from overseas, and 64% of that must cross the Caribbean to reach Gulf refineries, ports and pipelines. Another portion must cross the Panama Canal. Russian communications operations, submarines and naval ships hanging around with little to do are a problem, even if a shot is never fired.”

With its military commitments in the Middle East, America will be hard-pressed to patrol the Caribbean at the same time. Instead, says Ray Walser, Washington should “work to expose Venezuelan misdeeds such as narcotics trafficking and support of FARC” terrorists. America’s political leadership, meanwhile, must keep a close watch on Russia’s campaign to reignite the Cold War, one Latin American country at a time. Russia is already helping Iran build “its first nuclear power plant in the southern port of Bushehr” — and now appears to be betting that a many-headed nuclear hydra will be simply too much for the West to handle.

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Races to Watch IV: Money Flowing from Oil and Gas

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The oil and gas industry, under the spotlight this fall with energy at the forefront of political discourse, isn’t hesitating to put some of its record profits into the hands of candidates who support its cause (or those it’s seeking to convert). So far this election cycle, the oil and gas industry has given $12.3 million total to congressional candidates. Oil giants Chevron, Exxon Mobil and BP, each of which is among the top 100 donors of all time a (including employee and PAC donations), are among those companies that are attempting to sway congressional races.

Republicans have historically been the industry’s favorite, bringing in as much as 82 percent of the contributions from oil and gas companies in the 2006 election cycle. Of the $12.3 million the industry has given to congressional candidates this cycle, Republicans have collected 75 percent. Nine of the top 10 Senate candidates and eight of the top 10 House candidates who have received the most oil money this cycle are Republicans.

The energy-related issues playing a role in the congressional races this year are numerous. Gas prices hit a new record, and renewable energy is now competing with oil and gas for subsidies. The ban on offshore drilling is likely to be lifted, and many candidates for Congress, particularly those from coastal states, are using this as a major part of their platform.

“I think energy is a big issue on people’s minds mainly because of the rise in cost of gasoline, and the rise in cost of home utility bills, especially electricity,” said Charles Ebinger, director of the Energy Security Initiative at the Brookings Institution. “The electricity bills in some northeastern states could go up to $1,500 a month this winter. These two things are perceived to be hitting people’s pocketbooks the hardest. This is why issues like offshore drilling and nuclear energy are being discussed much more widely.”

There is a lot at stake for the oil and gas industry this year–and for the politicians who hope to keep or gain a seat in Congress. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics has identified the candidates who have received the most money from oil and gas interests in this election cycle, and Capital Eye selected a few races to more deeply examine the impact of well-digger dollars on politics.

“Oil and gas money always plays a prominent role in politics, because there is so much of it,” said Daniel J. Weiss, an energy and climate expert at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “Oil company lobbyists are trying to protect their record profits by opposing an end to industry tax breaks. They’re giving a lot of money to people who support those tax breaks.”

Here are a few oil-supported races to watch:

Louisiana Senate Race

Mary L. Landrieu (D)*
Total Raised: $9,493,299
Total from oil and gas companies: $305,950
John Neely Kennedy (R)
Total Raised: $5,622,089
Total from oil and gas companies: $117,900

This election cycle, only Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) have received more money than Louisiana incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu from the oil and gas industry. Her nearly $306,000 haul is a particularly noteworthy accomplishment given that Landrieu is a Democrat and the oil and gas industry heavily favors Republicans. Landrieu’s opponent, Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy, hasn’t exactly been ignored by the industry, however, having pocketed more than $117,000 himself. Because the oil and gas industry plays such a big role in Louisiana, constituents there may not see the contributions as being tainted, the way constituents in other parts of the country might.

“Oil and gas provide the backbone for the Louisiana economy,” said Scott Schneider, spokesman for the Landrieu campaign. “It’s the source of thousands of jobs in the state and on the Gulf Coast.” According to the state government, Louisiana is the number-one producer of crude oil and the number-two producer of natural gas among the 50 states. As a hub of the energy industry, and one of the few states where offshore drilling is permitted, oil money has always had a significant role in Louisiana politics.

The main reason that the oil and gas industry has been so supportive of Landrieu may be because of her action on offshore drilling. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Landrieu became the first Louisiana lawmaker to push through legislation allowing the Pelican State to recoup lost revenue by sharing royalties from offshore drilling, according to Congressional Quarterly. During fiscal year 2007, Louisiana received $23.1 million from offshore leases–and the state expects this number to go up dramatically in the next decade–and has put the funds toward coastal restoration. Those receiving a piece of the offshore pie have not been shy about contributing to Landrieu: oil rig operator Edison Chouest Offshore ranks fourth among her top contributors between 2003 and 2008.

Landrieu can use every dollar she can raise, as the she seems to be the only Senate incumbent that Democrats fear will lose a seat. “The Republican Party was a beneficiary of the demographic shakeup statewide, there is no question about that,” said Thomas Langston, a political scientist at Tulane University in New Orleans. “Yellow dog Dems have been slow to die in Louisiana, and Katrina gave them a push into the grave, because Republicans realize they can win as Republicans.” Another upshot for challenger Kennedy’s chances is the high approval rating for Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. In addition, President Bush’s approval rating in Louisiana is higher than the national average. However, it may be harder for Kennedy to lay his claim to the GOP since he only became a Republican in 2007.

Kennedy, too, supports offshore drilling, and his campaign said he’d like to see it expanded to end the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, spokesman Kyle Plotkin said. “John Kennedy supports drilling everywhere, including the Outer Continental Shelf and [the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve], developing oil shale in the West, investing in clean and renewable energy and conservation,” he said.

North Carolina Senate Race

Elizabeth Dole (R)*
Total Raised: $11,271,438
Total from oil and gas companies: $124,527
Kay R. Hagan (D)
Total Raised: $3,059,918
Total from oil and gas companies: $5,550

The oil and gas industry has given incumbent Elizabeth Dole 22 times more money than Democratic challenger Kay Hagan. Of the candidates for Senate this election cycle, Dole is among the top 10 recipients of oil and gas money–an obvious industry favorite. But despite her enormous financial advantage in this area (and overall), this race supports the notion that money can’t buy everything, as these two political veterans are now racing neck-and-neck to Election Day. Recent polls show that this is going to be a close race, and one where the energy debate is a priority for both campaigns.

Both Hagan and Dole have come out in support of offshore drilling, but this is a reversal for both candidates. Before this summer, Dole and Hagan supported a federal moratorium on oil exploration off North Carolina’s coast. Historically, many lawmakers have been staunchly opposed to offshore drilling for environmental concerns and the damaging effects it would have on tourism, but sky-high gas prices have caused politicians to re-consider their position.

Part of the energy debate strategy of both candidates in this race has been accusing the other of profiting off of the oil and gas industry. The Dole campaign ran an ad accusing Hagan herself of owning wells and profiting every time North Carolinians go to the gas pump. The News & Observer called the ad inaccurate, because it’s Hagan’s husband who has investments in companies that own domestic wells, and the Hagans do not own any wells themselves. The Hagan campaign shot back by broadcasting that Bob Dole, Elizabeth Dole’s husband and a former Senate majority leader, has a $1 million stake in an offshore hedge fund that speculates on oil. According to the Hagan campaign, the Dole hedge fund investment raises a question: whether Dole’s vote against more regulation of hedge funds that speculate on the oil market was motivated by personal financial gain.

While both campaigns are up in arms trying to prove that the other’s personal finances make them beholden to Big Oil, there is no question about who is receiving more contributions. Not only has Dole received more than Hagan this election cycle by leaps and bounds, she’s raked in more than $277,700 from the oil and gas industry during her Senate career. Since her first run for Senate in 2002, oil and gas companies have been among Dole’s top 20 industry supporters. They have no effect on her legislative decisions, though, said Dan McLagan, spokesman for the Dole campaign. “Sen. Dole has never been beholden to any donor,” he said, citing Dole’s co-sponsorship of the Clean Energy Investment Act, a bill that would establish a government-run bank to assist in the financing, and facilitate the commercial use, of clean energy and energy-efficient technologies within the United States.

Where these candidates stand on energy issues will come into play for North Carolina voters on Election Day. “Working families spent the entire month of August having to pay more and more for gas,” said Colleen Flanagan, spokeswoman for the Hagan campaign. “People in Greenville, Asheville and Raleigh, they aren’t in the Senate listening to the back and forth. They’re feeling it at the cash register.”

New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District

Harry Teague (D)
Total Raised: $1,529,892
Total from oil and gas companies: $68,700
Edward Tinsley (R)
Total Raised: $1,091,355
Total from oil and gas companies: $43,950

Rep. Steve Pearce is retiring from his 2nd District seat to run for Senate, leaving it to candidates Harry Teague (D) and Ed Tinsley (R) to vie for his spot. The 2nd District, which sprawls over half of New Mexico, is littered with thousands of oil wells. Teague, like Louisiana’s Sen. Mary Landrieu, is an anomaly for being a Democrat who’s received more money from the oil and gas industry than his Republican opponent. However, party titles in this race are deceptive; it’s really more about energy politics. Both candidates have ties to the oil industry: Teague owns an oil field services company, and Tinsley is an oil investor (and restaurant owner). Tinsley is favored slightly, but Teague is raising more money and it’s stacking up to be pretty competitive.

Teague is not concerned about his professional background in the oil industry, “My experience in the energy industry is an asset. I’ve worked in the oil fields, but I also helped to bring wind farms and nuclear energy facilities to New Mexico,” Teague said in an e-mail from his spokesman. “The only way we will solve the energy crisis is by drawing on all of these sources to become energy independent, and as a member of the majority caucus in Congress, I will be able to help shape a comprehensive solution to our energy problem.”

The oil industry is the top industry supporter for Teague and ranks second for Tinsley. Teaco Energy Company (Teague’s own company) accounts for nearly half of the money he received from the oil and gas industry, at $32,200. It should be noted that this is not money Teague is giving to his own candidacy; it’s all donations from company employees, according to campaign finance records. However, both Teague and Tinsley have injected their campaign chest with a sizable chunk of their own money: $768,900 and $235,000, respectively, through June.

“Being tied to the oil industry is not as damaging in this district as it would be in another district,” said Joe Monahan, a New Mexico political blogger. “[Teague] is a good candidate. He is going to get Republican votes and Democrat votes who might otherwise crossover. It’s a district where there are more registered Democrats than Republicans, but those Democrats have been crossing over for many years to vote for Republican congressional candidates.”

Normally an oilman running on the Democratic ticket–who could alienate Democrats with his industry ties and Republicans with his social values–would be something of a political misfit, but in this region of New Mexico, Teague might be just right. “He would not be as competitive as he is today, if he were more liberal,” said Michael Rocca, a political scientist at the University of New Mexico.

CRP Researcher Douglas Weber contributed to this report.

*Indicates incumbent

Campaign Fuel: House candidates getting the most from the oil and gas industry

Name Race Incumbent/Challenger/
Open Seat
Total
Dan Boren (D) Oklahoma 02 Incumbent
$154,900
Joe Barton (R) Texas 06 Incumbent
$146,441
Mike Conaway (R) Texas 11 Incumbent
$128,450
Roy Blunt (R) Missouri 07 Incumbent
$108,100
Charles J. Melancon (D) Louisiana 03 Incumbent
$99,600
Mary Fallin (R) Oklahoma 05 Incumbent
$94,800
Charles W. Boustany Jr (R) Louisiana 07 Incumbent
$92,000
John Culberson (R) Texas 07 Incumbent
$91,600
Todd Tiahrt (R) Kansas 04 Incumbent
$90,500
Kay Granger (R) Texas 12 Incumbent
$86,250
John Sullivan (R) Oklahoma 01 Incumbent
$84,000
Randy Neugebauer (R) Texas 19 Incumbent
$79,950
Jim Matheson (D) Utah 02 Incumbent
$76,347
Chet Edwards (D) Texas 17 Incumbent
$72,750
Harry Teague (D) New Mexico 02 Open Seat
$68,700
Tom Cole (R) Oklahoma 04 Incumbent
$65,200
Peter Graham Olson (R) Texas 22 Challenger
$60,600
Gene Green (D) Texas 29 Incumbent
$59,500
Gregg Harper (R) Mississippi 03 Open Seat
$58,500
Pete Sessions (R) Texas 32 Incumbent
$56,800

Totals based on data released electronically by the Federal Election Commission on Sept. 2, 2008.

Senate candidates getting the most from the oil and gas industry

Name State Incumbent/Challenger/
Open Seat
Total
John Cornyn (R) Texas Incumbent
$853,300
James M. Inhofe (R) Oklahoma Incumbent
$349,750
Mary L. Landrieu (D) Louisiana Incumbent
$305,950
Mitch McConnell (R) Kentucky Incumbent
$299,450
Steve Pearce (R) New Mexico Open Seat
$283,034
Pat Roberts (R) Kansas Incumbent
$174,450
Lamar Alexander (R) Tennessee Incumbent
$164,350
Bob Schaffer (R) Colorado Open Seat
$150,400
Ted Stevens (R) Alaska Incumbent
$127,700
Norm Coleman (R) Minnesota Incumbent
$127,500
Elizabeth Dole (R) North Carolina Incumbent
$124,527
John Neely Kennedy (R) Louisiana Challenger
$117,900
Max Baucus (D) Montana Incumbent
$109,200
John A. Barrasso (R) Wyoming Incumbent
$108,400
Roger Wicker (R) Mississippi Incumbent
$107,250
Mark Pryor (D) Arkansas Incumbent
$103,250
Saxby Chambliss (R) Georgia Incumbent
$101,000
John E. Sununu (R) New Hampshire Incumbent
$90,900
Jeff Sessions (R) Alabama Incumbent
$87,650
Thad Cochran (R) Mississippi Incumbent
$75,700

Totals based on data released electronically by the Federal Election Commission on Sept. 2, 2008. Senate data based on six-year totals.

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The Friends of Sabeel in North America, which professes to be the “voice” of Palestinian Christians, is raising cash for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Sadly for apologists of the Palestinian cause, the European Union axed its funding for ICAHD because of “pressure brought to bear by right-wing Israeli neo-cons who have campaigned obsessively against our funding while threatening publicly to close us down.” Or at least that version comes from ICAHD’s Jeff Halper, as he described his group’s dire straits without Euro cash.

Halper, an anthropology professor and American by birth, was a 1960’s-era student radical in the U.S. until he relocated to Israel, where his radicalism simply shifted focus against the Israeli Government. He founded ICAHD in 1997.

In 2005-2006, the European Union Partnership for Peace Programme gave nearly a half million Euros to ICAHD for an education program called “Re-Framing: Providing a Coherent Paradigm of Peace to the Israeli Public.” Ostensibly, this EU funding funnel “supports local and international civil society initiatives that promote peace, tolerance and non violence in the Middle East.” But most of the cash seems to flow towards groups like ICAHD that simply repeat the standard anti-Israel narrative.

Friends of Sabeel did not explain why the European Union cut off ICAHD’s funds. But apparently it was because of Halper’s role in the “Free Gaza Flotilla,” in which “peace” activists broke the blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza by sailing in from Cyprus. Upon returning to Israel, Halper was arrested and incarcerated overnight. Apparently even the normally tolerant European Union was unimpressed.

Last year, when it apparently was more flush with funds, ICAHD published a full-page ad in The New York Times with the headline: “Who Will Stop this Bulldozer from Destroying the Chance for Peace?” Included was a large photo of a Palestinian woman holding up her arms in the face of a presumably onrushing Israeli bulldozer. Naturally, ICAHD portrays the Israeli house demolitions as merely a nasty ploy to force Palestinians off their land. That destroyed homes usually housed terrorists, tunnels, or arms caches goes unmentioned, of course.

Despite this indifference to Palestinian terrorism, ICAHD professes to oppose all “forms of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians. It insists that a “lasting peace” depends on full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, but not necessarily any change in attitudes by Palestinians. ICAHD specially focuses on Israel’s “ongoing policies of Palestinian home demolitions, relentless development of large settlements, and building of the ‘Separation Barrier’ deep into the West Bank area.” The group is also distressed by America’s “uncritical political support” for Israel and Israel’s chronic “violations of basic human rights.”

So ICAHD’s allies at Friends of Sabeel in North America are appealing to anti-Israel religious activists in the U.S. to help contribute $30,000 towards ICAHD. Friends of Sabeel is the American branch of Jerusalem-based Sabeel, which is a think-tank for Palestinian Liberation Theology. The American Sabeel helps to organize U.S. church officials who believe that Israel is the primary villain in the Middle East. In recent years, Sabeel has advocated that U.S. churches divest their pension funds from firms doing business with Israel, but that campaign has largely collapsed, having been rejected even by liberal denominations. Board members of Friends of Sabeel in North America include former Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning, radical Catholic eco-feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether, and Christian Century magazine contributing editor James Wall.

Friends of Sabeel forwarded to its own supporters Jeff Halper’s urgent appeal for American dollars to replace the lost Euros. “So we now face a real crisis,” Halper glowered. “That said, those who want us ‘gone’ make a mistake in assuming that we will close if our funding is withdrawn.” Halper promised to keep his office open and work on a voluntary basis, with two staffers to help him. He thanked his American supporters for having provided an “important supplement” to the now cut off European Union funding, which had helped launch the “Constructing Peace Campaign.”

ICAHD launched the “Constructing Peace Campaign” last year to rebuild demolished Palestinian homes, so as to spotlight Israel’s supposedly senseless destruction. As a sort of pro-Palestinian Habitat for Humanity, the peace campaign also hosts an annual two-week summer camp, in which international volunteers help rebuild Palestinian houses as a “symbolic gesture of peace and opposition to the Occupation.” In between the construction work, the volunteers take field trips to observe what Halper calls Israel’s “Matrix of Control,” including the Wall, the “massive check points,” and “one of the many refugee camps created in 1948.”

All of this important anti-Israel work must continue, of course. So Halper defiantly concluded his appeal to American supporters: “I promise you, no matter what, ICAHD will not be silenced.”

Trying to rescue ICAHD, the Friends of Sabeel in North America have pledged to raise at least $30,000. The fundraising includes inviting Halper to the U.S. for a fall tour, during which he will presumably address sympathetic church groups. “We, along with Jeff, promise you that ICAHD will not be silenced,” the board members of Friends of Sabeel earnestly promised. “Together, we will continue to be a loud and persistent voice for justice.”

Potential American religious supporters of Sabeel and ICAHD will have to ponder whether a group too radically anti-Israel even for European Union support should merit dollars from among U.S. churches.

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International reaction was almost uniformly negative last week when news broke that Britain had officially granted Muslim Sharia courts permission to rule on everything from divorce to domestic violence. After all, in its strictest form, Sharia law requires the stoning of women accused of adultery, and the execution of converts from Islam, among other draconian punishments for offences that aren’t even considered crimes in the West. In the U.K. and abroad, pundits and politicians denounced Britain’s capitulation, but only one elected official responded with a daring proposal aimed at preventing Sharia law from gaining such a foothold in America.

That that politician was Rep. Tom Tancredo won’t surprise observers of American politics. The Colorado congressman has long been an outspoken critic of the unofficial “open-borders” policy that encourages millions of undocumented immigrants – including would-be terrorists – to enter the U.S. each year. During his short-lived presidential campaign in 2007, Tancredo repeatedly raised the immigration issue during televised debates. He also aired a provocative television ad in which he promised to “stop all visas to nations that sponsor terrorism and [to] arrest and deport any alien who preaches violence and hatred.”

The ad earned Tancredo scorn on the Left and also on some parts of the Right. Undaunted, he has now proposed a “Jihad Prevention Act” that “would bar the entry of foreign nationals who advocate Sharia law [and] make the advocacy of Sharia law by radical Muslims already in the United States a deportable offense.” In his official announcement on September 18, Tancredo observed: “This is a case where truth is truly stranger than fiction. Today the British people are learning a hard lesson about the consequences of massive, unrestricted immigration.”

“When you have an immigration policy that allows for the importation of millions of radical Muslims,” he explained, “you are also importing their radical ideology – an ideology that is fundamentally hostile to the foundations of western democracy – such as gender equality, pluralism, and individual liberty. The best way to safeguard America against the importation of the destructive effects of this poisonous ideology is to prevent its purveyors from coming here in the first place.”

Tancredo hopes his bill will spur public debate, and “send a clear message that the only law we recognize here in America is the U.S. Constitution and the laws passed by our democratically elected representatives…If you aren’t comfortable with that concept, you aren’t welcome in the United States.”

So far, reaction to the “Jihad Prevention Act” has been muted on both sides, possibly because the media is providing wall-to-wall election coverage. Nonetheless, some prominent supporters have emerged. Having advocated similar measures in the past, the group Muslims Against Sharia praised Tancredo’s initiative. So did scholar Andrew Bostom, author of The Legacy of Jihad. Bostom hailed Tancredo’s “sane approach,” adding, “Thank goodness for Congressman Tancredo’s courage and clarity on this pressing matter!”

Tancredo also has an ally in columnist and author Diane West. In books like The Death of the Grown Up and in her syndicated columns, West has chronicled what she considers the decline of Western civilization, brought on by everything from a perpetually adolescent popular culture to radical Islam. “What I like about this proposed legislation,” West said in an email interview, “is its clear, direct focus on Islamic law (Sharia).” Focusing on Sharia, West believes, is the “only way to grapple successfully with the repressive overlay of Islam on a society–understanding it as a function of law, and not religion.” She points out that Tancredo’s “bill allows us to see clearly through to the heart of the matter: the danger that unchecked Islamic immigration will bring about a constituency for Islamic law, leading to disastrous changes to our legal system.”

To be sure, West does have some reservations about the bill. “I’m not sure how he proposes to determine which Muslim immigrants advocate Islamic law and which do not,” she said. “I would prefer to see a general restriction on Islamic immigration to prevent the build-up of a demographic that wills Sharia. Moreover, West notes that this session of Congress is nearly over. Even if Tancredo’s bill were “brought to a vote this week, I sadly doubt it will be passed.” Still another problem is that there is scant enthusiasm in Congress for passing such a bill. With the notable exception of Rep. Sue Myrick, a Republican from North Carolina, the political class has failed even to address the conflicts between Islamic law and Western values – let alone to draft legislation to thwart the spread of Sharia in the U.S.

Europe may soon prove a model in this regard – the unhappy case of Britain notwithstanding. This December, Israel’s Dr. Arieh Eldad, a former member of the Israeli Knesset, will host the Facing Jihad Summit in Jerusalem. The summit seeks to bring together “European lawmakers who are united in their shared belief that Islam today poses a serious threat to Western civilization.” The idea is to create an alliance of politicians who can workshop legislation to prevent creeping Islamization, which they can then bring back to their home countries and create a voting block in the EU parliament. The attending parliamentarians will be joined by experts on radical Islam such as Daniel Pipes and Bat Ye’or, but bigotry will not be tolerated: Eldad emphasizes that the summit will bar “neo-Nazis and racist parties” like the British National Party. “Seven countries will be represented so far,” Eldad told FrontPage.

And what of America? Eldad thought it likely that at least a few Capitol Hill politicians would attend the jihad summit. If so, Tom Tancredo might be an ideal delegate.

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Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — the Izod Ayatollah — has come back to New York to address the UN General Assembly. If the United Nations today bore even the remotest resemblance to the international peacekeeping body it was founded to be, the line to denounce him would snake around the block, and Ahmadinejad would be arrested as soon as he set foot in New York. In fact, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem has called for just that: it is preparing a petition for the UN Secretary-General, calling for the Iranian Thug-in-Chief’s arrest and indictment on charges of inciting genocide against Israel.

But the visiting Iranian president can’t be arrested: he’s “legitimized” by Iran’s UN membership, and the UN Treaty prevents his detention.

And, of course, in the run-up to Ahmadinejad’s visit, the hard Left is planning to honor him. The perpetually-outraged women of Code Pink are planning a protest — against George W. Bush, of course. The UN General Assembly’s new president, leftist priest and old Sandinista Miguel d’Escoto, will clink glasses with Ahmadinejad at a dinner in his honor hosted by five American liberal Christian organizations, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Quaker United Nations Office, the World Council of Churches, Religions for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee.

Hillary Clinton and a coalition of Jewish groups demonstrated the tenacity of partisan politics even in the face of the prospect of nuclear genocide from Iran: first Clinton declined to attend a rally protesting Ahmadinejad’s UN appearance when she found out Sarah Palin would be there, and then the Jewish groups hosting the rally disinvited Palin.

Our national unity in the face of the threat from Iran must have the mullahs quaking.

In light of his many belligerent statements, frequently demonstrating genocidal intent, it is appalling that the UN would once again allow Ahmadinejad a platform, and shameful that d’Escoto and the rest would welcome him rather than denouncing him. Ahmadinejad has boasted that “the annihilation of the Zionist regime will come.” During Israel’s incursion against Hizballah in Lebanon in 2006, he declared, “The Islamic umma [community] will not allow its historic enemy [Israel] to live in its heartland.” Israel’s end is near, he said: “There is no doubt that the new wave [of attacks] in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot [Israel] from the face of the Islamic world.” He has declared that “the Zionist regime is counterfeit and illegitimate and cannot survive.”

His genocidal statements have gone beyond Israel. At the “World Without Zionism” conference held in Tehran in October 2005, as the crowd chanted “death to Israel, death to America, death to England,” the Iranian President again recalled Khomeini’s words: “Once, his eminency Imam [Ruhollah] Khomeini stated that the illegal regime of the Pahlavis must go, and it happened. Then he said the Soviet empire would disappear, and it happened. He also said that this evil man Saddam [Hussein] must be punished, and we see that he is under trial in his country. His eminency also said that the occupation regime of Qods [Jerusalem, or Israel] must be wiped off from the map of the world, and with the help of the Almighty, we shall soon experience a world without America and Zionism, notwithstanding those who doubt.”

Ahmadinejad has threatened Iran’s foes with nuclear action: “Today, the Iranian people is the owner of nuclear technology. Those who want to talk with our people should know what people they are talking to. If some believe they can keep talking to the Iranian people in the language of threats and aggressiveness, they should know that they are making a bitter mistake. If they have not realized this by now, they soon will, but then it will be too late. Then they will realize that they are facing a vigilant, proud people.”

Last July, he crowed that “the big powers are going down. They have come to the end of their power, and the world is on the verge of entering a new, promising era.”

The “new, promising era” that Ahmadinejad envisions features a dominant Iran and a beaten, subservient America, as he himself explained in August 2006: “If you want to have good relations with the Iranian people in the future, you should acknowledge the right and the might of the Iranian people, and you should bow and surrender to the might of the Iranian people. If you do not accept this, the Iranian people will force you to bow and surrender.”

It doesn’t look as if force will be needed. The UN General Assembly is lining up now to do just that.

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