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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
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edited by S.B. Kelly
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Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
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Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
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Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
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Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky



















These are all the Blogs posted on Thursday, 12, 2008.
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Terror accused 'wanted to set up Islamic state in Scotland'
This is from The Scotsman
TWO Muslim supporters of "violent jihad" discussed setting up a secret Islamic state in a remote part of Scotland, a court heard yesterday.
Away from the prying eyes of the authorities, it would provide a safe haven for those who felt "oppressed", jurors were told.
The community would be run according to Sharia law and eventually be used as a base to "discreetly train" for attacks against non-believers.
Blackfriars Crown Court in London heard the online exchange was part of a "mass" of allegedly incriminating material found by police in Bradford and London two years ago.
His "close friend" and the man he (Aabid Khan)  was talking to about the secret Muslim state was Sultan Muhammad, also 23, from Bradford.
Mr Denison said the web exchange between Khan and Muhammad about the secret state in Scotland was on 12 November, 2005. He told jurors it began with Muhammad, a Royal Mail sorter, explaining how he and colleagues had allegedly been chatting about hijrah or emigration for Muslims feeling oppressed in Britain.
He then continued: "So like maybe a remote part of Scotland – people were like 'What the hell?' – at least to a place where there were Muslim communities."
Khan is said to have replied: "A group of Muslims can go to a remote place and set up a mini Sharia state and they can rule according to Sharia law, like this and stay there, building them up and their children up, preparing for fitness, and then launching jihad once they strengthen themselves."
Jihadwatch carried a shorter report of the court proceedings yesterday. One of the comments, which I thought was particularly pertinent was this one from
Rookie
Oh Dear! Not this bloody image of Scotland again! Where in the name of the wee man are they going to find an area of Scotland that is “Remote”? Don’t they realise that the remoter an area seems in Scotland the more under scrutiny it is. A stranger of any persuasion up there stands out like a sore thumb. Can you imagine what a bunch of wallies dressed for the desert would look like? Gamekeepers, Ghillies, shepherds not to mention the local cops (who know every bird, deer, ptarmigan – and human being on their patch) not to mention the local population would make of that! They wouldn’t be there 10 minutes before every Morag, Donaldina and Katie-Mary in a hundred mile radius were at their door wanting to know why their women were dressed in garbage bags and would they like to join the Women’s Rural!
Can’t these prats read maps? What a bunch of pure numpties they are – Sharia Law my Ar*e!
I kept wondering what a tartan burqa would look like. Or Nessie in a niqab.
What the newsreport used by Jihadwatch didn’t repeat was Khans final comment on the drawbacks to Scotland and why, on reflection, another place would be better.
Mr Denison claimed Khan added: "In the UK you can isolate with a group discreetly and train, but better in the US as they have weapons. Over here, weapons is problem."
Then again in the US the infidel might shoot back.
Posted on 06/12/2008 3:09 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Muslim legal group says forced marriages causing a crisis
Britain's Muslim community is facing a "crisis" because hundreds of forced marriages go unreported and unnoticed, a legal group has said.
According to the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (MAT), more than 70% of marriages in the Muslim community which involve a foreign spouse have some element of coercion or force.
In its Liberation From Forced Marriage report, the organisation also claims young Muslims in Britain are "under siege" from older generations and alienated from mosques.
The MAT claims that while there are currently 300 reported cases of forced marriages brought to the attention of the police and government authorities, the true figure is in the thousands.
The report says: "These figures reflect the crisis that has loomed within the Muslim community without being noticed or dealt with for the past two decades.
"The figures that are reported to the authorities are only the tip of the iceberg."
According to the report, forced marriages are a reality for many young Muslims in the UK.
It adds: "Young Muslims in Britain are under siege from their elders and parents because of the generational and cultural gap.  They are alienated from the mosques because these mosques are mainly controlled by the elder generation."
The report recommends that Muslim community leaders work alongside the Home Office and Foreign Office to resolve the issue.
Shaykh Faiz Siddiqi, chairman of the MAT's governing council, said it was crucial that the Muslim community worked alongside the Government.  He said: "We will work closely with the Government.  It has to be joined forces but up to now the leadership of the Muslim community have not been forthcoming.”
The MAT was set up in 2007 and, according to its website, provides a "viable alternative for the Muslim community seeking to resolve disputes in accordance with Islamic Sacred Law and without having to resort to costly and time-consuming litigation".
So even a Sharia Law organisation reckons that there is a problem.
Posted on 06/12/2008 4:48 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Say no to no-go areas

In Pajamas Media today, I discuss "no-go areas" in the light of the recent scandalous incident involving the Christian evangelists and the Muslim Police Community Support Officer.

The incident is Jihad, pure and simple. Islam is far more about territory than piety. But just as they will fight us until we submit, we must fight back.

Click on the picture to read more:

 

Posted on 06/12/2008 5:55 AM by Mary Jackson
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Blankley on Kurtz on De Zutter on Obama

Tony Blankley wonders why the mainstream press is ignoring the serious questions about Obama and the radical Left raised by Stanley's important NRO article from June 2.  Blankley, among other things, asks:

[G]iven how much the media has covered both the Pfleger and Wright matters, when a respectable journal, such as National Review, runs an article by a journalist of established credibility, such as Stanley Kurtz, that suggests a different and far more disturbing interpretation of Obama's relationships with Wright and Pfleger, a responsible mainstream media would seek out Obama and, at the minimum, ask him whether the things the 1995 De Sutter article quotes him as saying are, in fact, things he said. They might even ask him to explain himself. Because if the 1995 article is an accurate reflection of what Obama said, then most of what he has said in the past few months about the Wright affair and Trinity United Church of Christ could not continue to be viewed as believable.

Posted on 06/12/2008 7:05 AM by Andy McCarthy
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Blunt Message for McCain from WSJ

A great editorial from the Wall Street Journal this morning on the insanity of legal restrictions on energy exploration and production while prices soar.  For the Arizona Senator who somehow thinks ANWR is just like the Grand Canyon, the Journal closes with a blunt message:

Recent weeks have seen some GOP stirrings on Capitol Hill, but John McCain has so far refused to jettison his green posturings, such as his belief in carbon caps and his animus against offshore development. A good reason for a rethink would be $4 gas. At present, it is charitable to call Mr. McCain's energy ideas incoherent, and it may cost him the election.

I also especially liked this part — for those who forever fret about America's "reputation in the world":

Amid $135 oil, it ought to be an easy, bipartisan victory to lift the political restrictions on energy exploration and production. Record-high fuel costs are hitting consumers and business like a huge tax increase. Yet the U.S. remains one of the only countries in the world that chooses as a matter of policy to lock up its natural resources. The Chinese think we're insane and self-destructive, while the Saudis laugh all the way to the bank.

Posted on 06/12/2008 7:07 AM by Andy McCarthy
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Qaddafi: Obama Acting "More White Than White" By Supporting Israel

BBC: Libya's leader has strongly criticised US presidential candidate Barack Obama for saying Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel.

Col Muammar Gaddafi said he was either ignorant of the Middle East conflict or lying to boost his campaign.

Mr Obama was speaking to pro-Israel lobbyists in the US last week.

Referring to him as "our Kenyan brother", Col Gaddafi also said Mr Obama might suffer from an inferiority complex because of his African origins.

The issue of race could make Mr Obama's behaviour "more white than white people", Col Gaddafi suggested, rather than acting in solidarity with African and Arab nations.

The comments came during a speech to mark the 38th anniversary since the US evacuated Wheelus Air Force base in Tripoli. (Hugh Fitzgerald discussed our abandoning Wheelus yesterday)

Israel claims Jerusalem as its "eternal, undivided" capital, but the Palestinians want the eastern half - occupied by Israel in 1967 - as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The Americans left Libya shortly after Col Gaddafi came into power in a bloodless coup in 1969...

"The statements of our Kenyan brother of American nationality Obama on Jerusalem... show that he either ignores international politics and did not study the Middle East conflict or that it is a campaign lie," he said.

"We fear that Obama will feel that, because he is black with an inferiority complex, this will make him behave worse than the whites."

"This will be a tragedy," Gaddafi said. "We tell him to be proud of himself as a black and feel that all Africa is behind him." ...

In addition, Mr Gaddafi suggested Mr Obama's comments may have been informed by a fear of assassination by Israeli agents, "the same fate as [former US President John F] Kennedy when he promised to look into Israel's nuclear programme"...

Posted on 06/12/2008 8:27 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 12 June 2008
The American Exception: The First Amendment

New Duranty, to its credit, has a fairly good article on the difference between American and European and Canadian laws concerning freedom of speech written by Adam Liptak:

...Some prominent legal scholars say the United States should reconsider its position on hate speech.

“It is not clear to me that the Europeans are mistaken,” Jeremy Waldron, a legal philosopher, wrote in The New York Review of Books last month, “when they say that a liberal democracy must take affirmative responsibility for protecting the atmosphere of mutual respect against certain forms of vicious attack.”

Professor Waldron was reviewing “Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment” by Anthony Lewis, the former New York Times columnist. Mr. Lewis has been critical of efforts to use the law to limit hate speech.

But even Mr. Lewis, a liberal, wrote in his book that he was inclined to relax some of the most stringent First Amendment protections “in an age when words have inspired acts of mass murder and terrorism.” In particular, he called for a re-examination of the Supreme Court’s insistence that there is only one justification for making incitement a criminal offense: the likelihood of imminent violence.

The imminence requirement sets a high hurdle. Mere advocacy of violence, terrorism or the overthrow of the government is not enough; the words must be meant to and be likely to produce violence or lawlessness right away. A fiery speech urging an angry mob to immediately assault a black man in its midst probably qualifies as incitement under the First Amendment. A magazine article — or any publication — intended to stir up racial hatred surely does not.

Mr. Lewis wrote that there was “genuinely dangerous” speech that did not meet the imminence requirement.

“I think we should be able to punish speech that urges terrorist violence to an audience, some of whose members are ready to act on the urging,” Mr. Lewis wrote. “That is imminence enough.”

Harvey A. Silverglate, a civil liberties lawyer in Cambridge, Mass., disagreed. “When times are tough,” he said, “there seems to be a tendency to say there is too much freedom.”

“Free speech matters because it works,” Mr. Silverglate continued. Scrutiny and debate are more effective ways of combating hate speech than censorship, he said, and all the more so in the post-Sept. 11 era.

“The world didn’t suffer because too many people read ‘Mein Kampf,’ ” Mr. Silverglate said. “Sending Hitler on a speaking tour of the United States would have been quite a good idea.”

Mr. Silverglate seemed to be echoing the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., whose 1919 dissent in Abrams v. United States eventually formed the basis for modern First Amendment law.

“The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,” Justice Holmes wrote.

“I think that we should be eternally vigilant,” he added, “against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death.”

The First Amendment is not, of course, absolute. The Supreme Court has said that the government may ban fighting words or threats. Punishments may be enhanced for violent crimes prompted by racial hatred. And private institutions, including universities and employers, are not subject to the First Amendment, which restricts only government activities.

But merely saying hateful things about minorities, even with the intent to cause their members distress and to generate contempt and loathing, is protected by the First Amendment...

In his opening statement in the Canadian magazine case, a lawyer representing the Muslim plaintiffs aggrieved by the Maclean’s article pleaded with a three-member panel of the tribunal to declare that the article subjected his clients to “hatred and ridicule” and to force the magazine to publish a response.

“You are the only thing between racist, hateful, contemptuous Islamophobic and irresponsible journalism, and law-abiding Canadian citizens,” the lawyer, Faisal Joseph, told the tribunal.

In response, the lawyer for Maclean’s, Roger D. McConchie, all but called the proceeding a sham.

“Innocent intent is not a defense,” Mr. McConchie said in a bitter criticism of the British Columbia law on hate speech. “Nor is truth. Nor is fair comment on true facts. Publication in the public interest and for the public benefit is not a defense. Opinion expressed in good faith is not a defense. Responsible journalism is not a defense.”

Jason Gratl, a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Journalists, which have intervened in the case in support of the magazine, was measured in his criticism of the law.

“Canadians do not have a cast-iron stomach for offensive speech,” Mr. Gratl said in a telephone interview. “We don’t subscribe to a marketplace of ideas. Americans as a whole are more tough-minded and more prepared for verbal combat.”...

A separate federal complaint against Maclean’s is pending.

Mr. Steyn, the author of the article, said the Canadian proceedings had illustrated some important distinctions. “The problem with so-called hate speech laws is that they’re not about facts,” he said in a telephone interview. “They’re about feelings.”

“What we’re learning here is really the bedrock difference between the United States and the countries that are in a broad sense its legal cousins,” Mr. Steyn added. “Western governments are becoming increasingly comfortable with the regulation of opinion. The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world.”

Posted on 06/12/2008 9:05 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Breaking: Supreme Court Lets Guantanamo Prisoners Challenge Detention in U.S. Courts

AP: WASHINGTON —  The Supreme Court says foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.

The justices, in a 5-4 ruling Thursday, handed the Bush administration its third setback at the high court since 2004 over its treatment of prisoners who are being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

It was not immediately clear whether this ruling, unlike the first two, would lead to prompt hearings for the detainees, some of whom have been held more than 6 years. Roughly 270 men remain at the island prison, classified as enemy combatants and held on suspicion of terrorism or links to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Justice Steven Kennedy wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Dissenting were Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Posted on 06/12/2008 9:22 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 12 June 2008
The luck of the Irish

I am fond of the Irish, except when they bomb us. (Americans who gave to Noraid out of soppy attachment to the "Old Country", hang your head in shame. Would you give to Hamas?) That said,  I used to resent them in one important respect: EU largesse. Ireland owes its recent boom and much of its modern infrastructure to the EU. Over the period when it received this money, the UK paid about the same into the EU, making me wonder whether we should not have cut out the middle man.

Today, however, I would happily kiss the Blarney Stone, and the feet of any Irishman, no matter how thick. God, I'd even read Ulysses if it would help, though I doubt I could do it in a day. For today the fate of that abomination the EU Constitution - sorry, the Lisbon Treaty - is in the hands of the Irish. Don't they have all the luck? The Telegraph explains:

As the only EU country to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, Ireland today carries the can for the cowardly evasions of its partners.

Six years ago, work began on a constitution designed, in a bitter irony, to bring the union closer to the people. When that was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, the EU, in time-honoured fashion, refused to take no for an answer and drew up an amending treaty in which the substance of the constitution was preserved but the need for further referenda minimised.

It was on that specious distinction that the Labour Party, having promised a referendum in its 2005 manifesto, wriggled out of an exercise in direct democracy that promised certain defeat.

Instead, ratification is taking place through parliaments, except in Ireland, which is constitutionally bound to a referendum.

Irish voters sceptical about the treaty have been threatened by the Fianna Fáil-led coalition under Brian Cowen and by the European Commission about the consequences of rejection. Because other countries have funked consulting the electorate, they face having to bear the brunt of official censure.

If the result is no, the EU may hesitate, following the French and Dutch vetoes, to re-submit the Lisbon Treaty to Irish voters (a tactic employed with the Nice Treaty in 2001). However, it can be expected largely to cushion the blow of rejection by implementing treaty provisions through intergovernmental agreement.

Despite this haughty disregard of opposition to what is in all but name a rehashed constitution, it is important for the future of European democracy that the Irish vote no. Rejection will further expose the profoundly dirigiste nature of the EU.

And that will hasten the day when the electorate, not least in Britain, finally slams the brakes on the apparently irreversible drive towards ever greater union.

Posted on 06/12/2008 10:35 AM by Mary Jackson
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Medal of Freedom to ... Donna Shalala

I have no great brief against Donna Shalala, Sec'y of HHS in the Clinton administration, but a Medal of Freedom?  [Power Line has the story, as does Winfield Myers, who does carry a brief against Sec'y Shalala.]

This is end of President Bush's administration, probably the last Medals of Freedom he will award.  There is also a very good chance a Democrat will be elected president in November, so now may be the last time a Republican gets to grant this honor to deserving recipients for a very long time.  And this is how the President chooses to use his opportunity?  Could you see a President Obama giving a Medal of Freedom to, say, John Bolton or Elaine Chao?  (Toward the end of his administration, President Clinton honored Jimmy Carter, George McGovern and Jesse Jackson, among others.)

By the way, I looked up the list, here.  Judge Robert Bork, now 81, has never gotten one.  Wouldn't that have been nice?

Posted on 06/12/2008 11:15 AM by Andy McCarthy
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Does Trump blow his own?

His own hair, that is? The Daily Mail has a "step-by-step guide to the gravity-defying Donald Trump combover":

Over the years we've had our share of great British combovers  -  Arthur Scargill and Bobby Charlton to name but two.

But both men would have to doff their cap to the astonishing coiffure of American billionaire Donald Trump.

Rather than invest any of his considerable fortune in a transplant or wig, the 61-year-old property magnate insists on using a series of elaborate measures to plaster strands of hair across his balding pate.

Occasionally, however, it comes unstuck  -  notably this week when faced with the insistent breeze on the Isle of Lewis, where he was visiting his mother's former home.

For more on combovers, see The Baldy Man. See also Dorian Vivalcomb for another strand of thought.

I hate to say this, but in that picture Donald Trump looks like an old, balding, poor woman's Boris Johnson. Dear, oh dear.

Posted on 06/12/2008 11:22 AM by Mary Jackson
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Soviet joke

From Gates of Vienna:

It’s a cold day in the middle of winter in Moscow, and a long line has formed in front of a butcher’s shop on the rumor that sausages will soon be available.

After the eager citizens have stood in line for an hour, slapping themselves and stamping their feet to keep warm, the butcher sticks his head out the door and says, “Comrades, I regret to say that the lorry has been delayed, and there will not be enough sausages for everyone! All Jewish citizens are required to leave the queue!”

Muttering and grumbling, the Jewish people leave the line.

The temperature drops and the wind starts blowing. After a couple more hours the butcher sticks his head out again and says, “The lorry has been further delayed, and there will be a distinct shortage of sausages! Comrades from the Moldavian S.S.R. are required to leave the line!”

So the Moldavians leave, and the remaining citizens continue their vigil as the wind blows harder and snow starts to fall.

A while later the butcher reappears and says, “The lorry is still not here! Comrades from the Estonian S.S.R., please leave the queue!”

And so it continues the rest of the afternoon: one by one, the various ethnic groups of the Soviet Socialist Republics — the Ukrainians, the Lithuanians, the Latvians, the Byelorussians, the Kazakhs, the Uzbeks, the Tajiks, the Turkmen, the Kyrgyz, the Armenians, and the Georgians — are all required to leave the line and go home. No one is left but the comrades of the Russian Federated Socialist Republic.

Finally, as night falls, with the snow almost a foot deep, the butcher emerges one more time.

“Comrades! Counter-revolutionaries have sabotaged the fuel depot! The lorry cannot refuel, so there will be no sausages today! Everyone must go home!”

Muttering and grumbling, the Russians turn away and start the long walk home through the snow. One old fellow turns to the man next to him and says, “Those damned Jews! Why do they always get all the breaks?”

Posted on 06/12/2008 12:11 PM by Mary Jackson
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Islamic Schools Teach Islam

It seems The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom finally got to see some of the textbooks used at the Saudi Academy in Virginia after having been stonewalled for years. Notice the Academy didn't voluntarily turn them over. Note there isn't anything in these textbooks that isn't mainstream Islamic doctrine either. Since Islam teaches hatred of the unbelievers, it only stands to reason that Islamic schools teaching Islam would likewise teach hatred. Thanks to Jerry Gordon.

AP: McLEAN, Va. - Textbooks at a private Islamic school in northern Virginia teach students that it is permissible for Muslims to kill adulterers and converts from Islam, according to a federal investigation released Wednesday.

Other passages in the school's textbooks state that "the Jews conspired against Islam and its people" and that Muslims are permitted to take the lives and property of those deemed "polytheists."

The passages were found in selected textbooks used during the 2007-08 school year by the Islamic Saudi Academy, which teaches 900 students in grades K-12 at two campuses in Alexandria and Fairfax and receives much of its funding from the Saudi government.

School was recommended for closure
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a panel formed by Congress, last year recommended that the school be closed amid concerns that it promotes violence and too closely mimics the conservative Saudi educational system.

The commission made its recommendation last year to close the school even though it had not reviewed the textbooks. Now that some have been reviewed, "we feel more confident that the potential problems we flagged before really are there," said the commission's spokeswoman, Judith Ingram.

School officials have long denied that the academy fosters intolerance. It has acknowledged that some of the Saudi textbooks contain harsh language, but says that the texts have improved in recent years and are revised as needed by the academy before being distributed to students...

The commission said it obtained 17 of the academy's textbooks through a variety of channels, including from members of Congress. The texts did appear to contain numerous revisions, including pages that were removed or passages that were whited out, but numerous troubling passages remained, according to the panel:

  • The authors of a 12th-grade text on Quranic interpretation state that apostates (those who convert from Islam), adulterers and people who murder Muslims can be permissibly killed.
  • The authors of a 12th-grade text on monotheism write that "(m)ajor polytheism makes blood and wealth permissible," meaning that a Muslim can take with impunity the life and property of someone believed guilty of polytheism. According to the panel, the strict Saudi interpretation of polytheism includes Shiite and Sufi Muslims as well as Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists.
  • A social studies text offers the view that Jews were responsible for the split between Sunni and Shiite Muslims: "The cause of the discord: The Jews conspired against Islam and its people. A sly, wicked person who sinfully and deceitfully professed Islam infiltrated (the Muslims)."

More generally, the panel found that the academy textbooks hold the view that the Muslim world was strong when united under a single caliph, the Arabic language and the Sunni creed, and that Muslims have grown weak because of foreign influence and internal divisions...

Posted on 06/12/2008 11:54 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 12 June 2008
The Oil Bubble Redux

This morning during a morning bike ride here on Florida’s panhandle my wife and I noticed that there was a queue of oil tanker trucks at a local tank farm on the bayou closest to our condominium. They were waiting to get filled to make deliveries to gas station operators in the vicinity.  I turned to her and said, “It looks like there no shortage of gasoline, is there?” 

Yesterday West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures closed at $136.38 on NYMEX.  Last time I looked, gas at the pump here was $4.00 for regular unleaded.  Then  Alexey Miller  head  of Russian oil and gas giant GAZPROM, speaking at a conference at the posh French resort of Deauville ,predicted that  $250 barrel oil, lies ahead.    All these present day  spiraling oil prices conjures up images  of  17th Century Dutchmen quaffing lager in their taverns scratching ever rising price quotations for what, ‘tulip bulbs’. 

So what’s causing the Oil Bubble that I wrote about in the June edition of the New English Review?  Lots of what my wife, the international economist,  calls : “paper barrels”.

As I  argued in my NER article it is all about speculation and the creation of an 'oil bubble' by hedge funds, institutional  commodity index investors abetted by the ‘greedmeisters’ in my old gang of investment bankers  on Wall Street,  doing oil swaps in the virtually unregulated derivatives market.  This was accomplished  with the unwitting aid of government regulators at the CFTC.  Regulators who have been overly generous in granting exemptions for OTC trading of the West Texas Intermediate black gold via electronic terminals from the London ICE and the Dubai Mercantile Exchange-an affiliate of NYMEX.

Yesterday morning I received an email from a friend back in Connecticut, Judy Shapiro.  She had read my NER piece and asked:

“Have Congress and/or the CFTC closed the swaps loophole?

I know the Enron and London loopholes have been closed but I haven’t heard anything definitive regarding the swaps”.

To find an answer for Shapiro, I searched on-line and came up with some telling testimony given at the recent Senate Commerce Hearings in Washington, DC  on June 3rd by  Michael Greenberger, Esq, Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore and former  Director of the CFTC  markets and trading.

Let me give you the high line points:

1. Neither the Farm Act of 2008 (S 2995)- an abortion of a piece of national legislation abetting inflation- nor the Consumers First Energy Act due for Senate consideration today address the 'Swiss cheese' of Federal regulation of the energy futures and derivatives markets.  There is reason to believe that while increased margins for futures and derivative contracts may help, ironically neither the Enron nor the swaps loopholes are effectively 'closed'. Rather than the CFTC, the FTC and FERC are already empowered to investigate and assess penalties for energy market manipulation using existing standards under the law including that of the SEC.

2. The 'rosy picture' of regulation by the current and prior CFTC chairs and Harris the Chief Economist of the CFTC who testified at both the Lieberman HSGAC and the Senate Commerce hearings, is flawed because of no action letters granted to the ICE and Dubai Mercantile Exchange (DME) (a daughter affiliate of NYMEX) both of whom can trade electronically West Texas Intermediate Futures and swaps on an exempted OTC basis. As I wrote a few weeks back, because of these OTC exemptions, the CFTC simply doesn't have data to make an assessment about 'no significant' market impact from commodity index trading. Moreover the useless idiots at the CFTC have deferred to less than stellar overseas regulators like the abysmal U.K. FSA involved in the Northern Rock thrift association 'implosion' that necessitated rescue by the Bank of England.

3. Greenberger concurs with the 'infamous' financier and hedge fund mogul 
George Soros and Michael Masters, another  hedge fund manager,  who testified at both the Lieberman and Senate Commerce hearings,  that perhaps 70% of the futures and derivative contracts are 'speculative' based on FTC and SEC definitions.  The major energy swaps 'clearing' investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are treated as if they were the equivalent of your local oil dealers like Standard Oil in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Then, there is in my view yesterday's
peculiar WSJ editorial, 'Dubai's Favorite Senators', that doesn't get the message about lax CFTC regulation of energy futures and derivative markets. It bashes NYMEX and the DME and plumps for increasing enforcement funding of the CFTC, 'pumping more' up at ANWAR in Alaska  and down here in the Gulf of Mexico in the federal waters that Democratic Senators allegedly  are thwarting for 'environmental reasons'. I have no problem with endeavoring to pump oil in the Gulf of Mexico, although it is fairly high cost lifting of oil from wells as deep as 30,000. The Bakken formation up in the northern tier states of North Dakota and Montana and others on shore in Louisiana make eminently better sense. Ultimately these oil reserves in the continental US are, at best, a momentary palliative given world hydrocarbon demands. But they are not an immediate solution to deflate the Oil Bubble before it bursts.

My problem with Sen. Schumer (D-NY) is that he is in the pocket of Wall Street-he gets lots of campaign dough from the denizens there- and may well be unwilling to address the closure of the 'swaps exemption' and the 'no action letters' cited in the Greenberger testimony giving both NYMEX and its affiliate DME free rein to trade West Texas Intermediate futures and derivatives on a virtually unregulated OTC basis.

To make matters even more complex there is the position of New York Federal Reserve President Tim Gather, who
argued  for a single financial regulation agency that would include derivatives in its purview and mandate. He believes the Treasury initiative proposed by Secretary Paulson, himself a former Goldman Sachs Chairman and trader, is not an adequate solution.

Given this background, any Federal 'global' regulatory system is a long way off.

So, can the Enron and swaps loopholes be closed?  I agree with Professor Greenberger, they can.  Further, there are existing administrative authorities to do that.  If not via the CFTC, then certainly by the FTC and FERC.  Is there willpower to do it at the Administrative level, without a further legislative prod from Congress?  I doubt it.  Perhaps when those sixteen wheelers with irate truckers circle the White House again,  this summer, as they did back in the oil boycott days of the 1970's and 1980's, you might get some action.

When you read that upwards of 16 % of rural heartland disposable income is going to pay for gas at the pump, irate Americans will demand a solution: an immediate one.

Senator Lieberman  has apparently reacted to the pain of his constituents and most Americans about the oil bubble. He announced additional hearings set for June 24th on the subject of curbing manipulation and speculation of the oil and food commodity markets.  Of interest he called for “the aggressive”  banning institutional investors from the commodity markets”.

He also proposed “strengthening existing regulatory limits on the size of the stake that each speculative investor can hold in a given market, called speculative position limits”.

And he plans to propose barring investment banks from using the regulated futures markets to hedge speculative bets their clients are making in the vast unregulated global swaps market — what he called “the swaps loophole.”

That may be the definitive answer to my friend in Connecticut, Judy Shapiro about whether the ‘swaps loophole’ has closed. It hasn’t. However, Lieberman intends to see that Congress does close it.  If all this occurs, then perhaps the oil bubble will deflate rather than burst.

Posted on 06/12/2008 12:44 PM by Jerry Gordon
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Wife of 21/7 bomber jailed for 15 years
I said I would return when this nasty family were sentenced. It was earlier today. From The Times.
The wife of one of the failed 21/7 suicide bombers was jailed for 15 years today for failing to disclose details of his plot to cause carnage on the London Underground.
Yeshi Girma, 32, who has three children by the bomber Hussein Osman, wept throughout the sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey and threw her hands in the air as the jail term was handed down.
She had to be helped from the dock as she was led away to begin the jail term.
Her sister Mulu Girma, 24, a model, and brother Esayas Girma, 22, were each jailed for 10 years for helping Osman escape a massive police manhunt and withholding information from the authorities.
Judge Paul Worsley told the three siblings, who held hands as they sat in the dock, that the sentences he was able to pass by law were “woefully inadequate to reflect the enormity of what you were about in July 2005”.
He said that had they informed the police of Osman’s whereabouts, the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot by officers hunting the bomber, might have been avoided.
The judge also jailed Mohammed Kabashi, 25, Mulu’s former lover, for nine years after he admitted the offences.
The judge told (Yeshi Girma): “You already shared Osman’s extreme views on Islam and coordinated the escape plan for the father of your three children after he failed to achieve his sought-after place in paradise.”
Addressing all four defendants, he added: “I have no doubt that each of you were prepared to aid a ruthless fanatic and that in so doing each of you must have harboured the hope that the bombers would ultimately be successful in their mission to seek to damage our society.”
The judge said his sentences would reflect public condemnation of their actions and serve as a deterrent to others tempted to follow their example.
Osman and his fellow bomb plotters were jailed for life last year for conspiracy to murder and told they would serve a minimum of 40 years. In February, five men received sentences of between seven and 17 years for assisting them and withholding information about their activities. 
Posted on 06/12/2008 4:34 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Lieberman Seeks Limits to Reduce Speculation

It seems Senator Lieberman is reading Jerry Gordon's work at NER and taking action on it.

New Duranty: A prominent Washington lawmaker said Wednesday that he would propose next week to ban large institutional investors, including index funds, from the nation’s booming commodity markets.

The idea is one of several outlined by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. That committee will hold a hearing on June 24 to continue examining whether financial speculation is affecting the prices of crops and fuel.

“There is excessive speculation in the commodity markets that is driving up the cost of food and energy,” the senator said in an interview. “The question is, do large institutional investors play a positive role?” His concern, he said, is that they do not.

Over the last five years, hundreds of billions of dollars have flowed into commodity futures markets, which play an important role in setting world benchmark prices for a variety of materials, including corn and crude oil.

One steady source of money has been the growing number of new funds that mirror specific commodity indexes, like the Standard & Poor’s Goldman Sachs Commodity Index. More recently, exchange-traded funds — popular new investment vehicles that trade on stock exchanges but track commodity prices — have followed the index funds into the market....

Posted on 06/12/2008 5:04 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 12 June 2008
A Musical Interlude: Love Me Tonight (Leonid Utyosov)
Posted on 06/12/2008 6:50 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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