Gas or Ethics?

It's been interesting to watch the "oil barons" in the hearings being admonished by the likes of Senator "Leaky" Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. It's interesting and funny to wonder why these millionaire executives appeared before this committee on 22 May, which has little to do with oil or commerce of any kind. One has to conclude that the whole affair last week was an effort for a select bunch of prima donna democrats to get their faces before their constituents in a "good cause" before taking their Memorial Day break from the hard work of legislating, never mind that the Judiciary Committee is concerned with matters of law, courts, judges, prosecutors, etc., not oil.

The execs made it plain enough that given the right to extract oil from areas owned by this country they could do wonders to bring down the price of gasoline. The committee members didn't want to hear that. They wanted to penalize the companies (windfall taxes) for making money (private enterprise) and the execs, in particular, for making more than they thought appropriate, never mind that they would make as much as they could themselves, given the opportunity. The deals they make just to stay in office might make the oil execs look angelic.

These Judicial Committee democrats know virtually nothing about the oil business, little more than how to pump gas at the self-serve. They and their colleagues in the Congress seem to think it's perfectly okay for coal-mining companies to ravage the topography of the poor states of Kentucky and West Virginia in fulfilling the demand for power but not okay to drill for oil in lands already owned by the nation or off the coasts, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, notwithstanding the offshore oil rigs off both the Texas and Louisiana coasts, which haven't suffered even slightly because of their presence, not to mention the inland wells all over the Southwest that don't seem to damage the scenery or anything else unduly.

Senator Durbin seemed to wonder if the execs had "any concerns about what you're doing to this country with the prices that you're charging and the profits you're taking." This is the senator who likened American GIs in Iraq to Hitlers' Nazi SS troops, Pol Pot's thugs who murdered a couple million in the infamous "killing fields," and the keepers of the Russian Gulags. This was Durbin's way of sabotaging the military effort in Iraq, so to have the gall to ask anybody else about what they're doing to this country was transparently self-serving and made the senator look foolish, though he probably thought the folks back home would consider him an ethical giant looking out for their gas prices.

For Senator Feinstein, it was a matter of lacking an "ethical compass about the price of gasoline." She saddled the oilmen with "just a litany of complaints, that you're all just hapless victims of a system." The broken system is in the Congress, which is responsible for the tardiness of the U.S. in ratcheting up its oil production years ago and…yes…the oil industry is a victim of this Congressional incompetence. There are rigs offshore vis-à-vis her state of California, though the Federal Ninth Circuit Appeals Court would dearly love to have them outlawed. Feinstein probably would, too, but she obviously dare not mention it.

One is "shocked and appalled" (as the politicians are wont to say when attempting to besmirch a fellow politician) at the obvious allusion by the senators to the matter of ethics – or lack thereof – of the people who are responsible for providing the gas, through drilling and/or refining, that is used in this country, especially since the ethical problem lies with them. The senators, about half of whom are millionaires or multimillionaires, are not bothered by the gas prices since their salaries range from $169,300 to $188,100 (leadership positions) plus extensive perks. House Speaker Pelosi makes $217,400. Despite being eminently well-paid, they lack the ethical concern for the average citizen making far less to make it possible for the oil companies to do what they can to alleviate the problem.

Senator Clinton is not on the Judiciary Committee but she is a good example of the ethically-challenged. Notwithstanding that she told General Petraeus to his face last fall that she considered him a liar, she concocted a lie about the 1996 snipers in Bosnia (a total of none) from whom she and Chelsea had to flee for their lives that was so outrageous as to make her a fit subject of the Senate Ethics committee. Even worse, hubby Bill and daughter Chelsea (16 at the time) have had to go along with it during the campaign, assuming they knew full well that Clinton was repeating to crowds this false tale, apparently never realizing that the perfectly peaceful event was all on tape. Then, there was her lie about the woman whose baby died for the mother's lack of $100 to pay a hospital emergency-room charge.

No…the ethical matter has much less to do with the gas execs than with the ethics of the senators and congresspersons. Senator Obama reckoned that in 20 years of attendance at the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright's church, he never heard the rev say any of the bad things that by now millions of others have heard. Does anybody believe this? Of course not! If he didn't hear Wright's garbage, he had to be sound asleep in the pew, something hard to do within the hearing of the screaming Wright, who might put the screaming Howard Dean (Iowa 2004) to shame for sheer volume, if not coherence.

Obama, at last notice at least, was still a member of Wright's church, which has this in its statement of faith: "We are an African people, and remain 'true to our native land,' the mother continent, the cradle of civilization." In light of this, how true is Obama to the native land called the USA? Do his Kenyan roots and his relatives there, including cousin Odinga, the prime minister, mean more to him than his roots in this country? Who knows? He hasn't renounced that part of the statement of faith.

The gas situation IS a problem of immense proportions that affects every area of life, but there's little hope of assuaging it until the "ethical Congress" gets itself off dead center and starts legislating sensibly (and a bit more ethically?) instead of many of its members sitting around and counting their money and being "shocked and appalled" that anyone would take notice.