TCS Daily


By Iain Murray - October 3, 2006 12:00 AM

As the price of oil and gas rose to 1970s oil crisis levels over the past year, pundits flew out of the woodwork that this represented a permanent change in the way of the world. Now that the price of gas is tumbling it seems appropriate to revisit those assertions.

Perhaps the most influential commentator to address the issue was Thomas Friedman. In an essay in Foreign Policy magazine he drew attention to a strong correlation between the price of oil and the level of freedom worldwide, as measured by various indices of freedom. He suggested that the dynamic worked so that tyrannical regimes were fed by high oil prices and that the only way to increase freedom worldwide would be to shift away from an oil-based economy.

If Friedman was right, then the current fall in the oil price should be seriously damaging to those tyrants, such that they might be forced to adopt reforms and increase freedom. The dynamic presumably works both ways, given the general increases in measures of liberty worldwide as oil prices fell during the 1990s. If we are not in a world of permanently high oil prices, one of the best things governments could do to increase global freedom would be to adopt policies that reduce oil prices. As a freedom-loving Englishman, this analysis appeals to me.

Yet that does not seem to be the way the dynamic works. Most energy analysts agree that the high prices we have seen recently were a reaction to instability. Increased fighting in Nigeria, the Israel-Lebanon crisis, the Iran question: all led speculators to bid up the price of oil futures. The perception of freedom being under threat raised the price of a barrel of oil. As those threats recede, the price comes down. What we saw was not some permanent new world order that requires a policy response, but an outbreak of what might best be termed "petronoia," a worry that oil prices will increase which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because of the nature of the futures market. When those worries turn out to have been exaggerated we see a reduction in the price of oil.

Global freedom and the price of oil therefore both appear to be variables dependent on a third factor: global instability. Solving that problem would increase global freedom and reduce the price of oil. We pay high prices at the pump not because there are dictators in Iran, but because there are unpredictable dictators in Iran. After all, there is little difference between the government of Iran now and in the 1990s when oil prices were at $20 a barrel beyond the factor that they are close to achieving their nuclear ambitions.

We can see how freedom is a dependent variable here by positing a thought experiment. If the Iranian government were to be made more stable somehow, would freedom increase? Almost certainly. Not so long ago, there was much talk of Iranian people power. The youth, we are told, are increasingly Westernized and unhappy with the theocracy. Iranian blogs talked about increasing hostility to the rule of the Mullahs. There was hope of a peaceful revolution. The current regime, however, retains power by use of alarmist rhetoric and appeal to Persian national greatness. It is this rhetoric, combined with the very real possibility of deploying nuclear weapons in its support that supplies the instability that fuels the petronoia. If this government were to be supplanted in an overnight "silken revolution," then any replacement government would be much more likely to negotiate with the United Nations over restrictions on its nuclear program while at the same time introducing religious and economic reforms that would increase measures of freedom. There would be a reduction in the threat to Israel from the Iranian-funded Hezbollah and less effort directed at incurring instability in southern Iraq. The price of oil would plummet.

This analysis should not, however, be taken as an endorsement of 1970s-style "realism" that says that dictators should be supported as long as they are "our" dictators. Dictatorships and tyrannies are by their very nature unstable. Relying as they do on force for their authority, they encourage resentment, sedition and, eventually, violent revolution. If the United States supports such a regime, its successor is likely to be hostile to its interests and therefore an agent of instability. Again, Iran is a case in point: the Shah's regime masked an instability that eventually led directly to the current situation.

On the contrary, democracies supported by the necessary institutions of liberty - the rule of law, property rights, freedom of contract and freedom of speech, to name but a few - have proven remarkably stable over the centuries. A "Freedom Agenda" that supports the development of these institutions, not just elections, will necessarily promote stability in a virtuous circle.

High oil and gas prices can therefore be viewed as a symptom, not a cause of, global instability. Promoting freedom in individual nations can help reduce that instability, which will in turn reinforce global freedom. One of the by-products of that stability will be lower oil and gas prices. This reduced cost of energy will lead to greater global wealth and faster development of the developing world, which will in turn lead to greater stability. Misguided policies that aim at curbing energy use will, on the other hand, lead simply to higher instability, reduced wealth and a more dangerous world. Stability through freedom should be the preferred answer to petronoia.

Iain Murray is a Senior Fellow in International Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.



Democracy is not the answer
But, rule of law, property rights, freedom of contract and freedom of speech are more important than the form of Government.

Post WWII Japan was a military dictatorship for almost 7 years, before it became a democracy.

Promoting democracy before promoting the above four virtues is like putting the cart before the horse.

NeaRNoaD is right, this article is nonsense
Neither democracy or dictatorship promote instability (or stability). Hitler, Chavez, Hamas, etc the list is quite long, were (or are) the result of democratic processes, and Pinochet or Franco the result of dictatorial acqusition of power, nevertheless the latter were definitely more stabile (and promoting stability) than the former. Numerous examples can be found for the opposite relationship, so its more likely that the price of oil has nothing to do with the stability of the form of govt. On the other hand given that democracies decrease people's rate of time preference (see HH Hoppe "Democracy:The god that failed") if you want a low price now (but not the price reflecting the true scarcity) you want the producers to be democracies so they will extract more than otherwise. anyway this article is quite a lot of nothing.

The "Perfect Storm" is weathered...
Until recently, we were looking at a VERY bleak set of circumstances:
- Unstable lunatics in control of major oil producing nations: Saddam, Ahmadinejad, Chavez, etc.
- Unrest or violence in critical oil-producing regions like Nigeria, Iraq.
- Major reductions in pipeline and refinery capacity in the US: Hurricane Katrina, Alaskan pipeline problems, refinery fires in Texas.
- Wild speculation on the futures market by people who probably should not have been trading in futures and dire predictions about the future of oil by "experts."

The combination of all of these factors resulted in a massive spike in gas prices. However, we weathered it. It seems to be over, but prices will spike again if we do not solve the problems that created it.

Solving the problem of unstable lunatics is going to be tough, but it will have to be done for reasons other than oil. Saddam is gone, and Iraq is becoming more stable all the time. This will end if we do not stay in Iraq until the job is done.

Ahmadinejad and his mullah puppeteers will probably require a similar invasion before they give up nukes and decide to become sane members of the international community. Luckily, we recently occupied some prime real-estate nearby, and we have plenty of combat veterans in theater to deal with the Mad Mullahs.

Chavez could be stopped with a bullet, but we need to stop playing touch football and start going for the tackle.

Dealing with unrest and wild speculation on the futures market are things that take large amounts of time, and cannot be fully resolved by acting through the United States. All of the solutions discussed above (with the exception of assasinating Chavez,) are longer-term solutions. They will take months to start, and years to fully resolve.

The thing we can do in the short-term is modify our environmental regulations so that more drilling and refining can take place. It is time to demand that Congress and the President declare that the whales and the pelicans can all go screw themselves, because we need oil. We can put environmental protections in place so that truly dangerous things are not done, but it is time to overrule local commissions that prohibit things like offshore drilling, and to push ANWR through Congress. Stupid, thoughtless environmentalists and self-centered NIMBY environmentalists are holding up this nation's development of crucial energy reserves, and it is time to call them on it.

In the meantime, nuke the whales, fry the pelicans, and dynamite the coral. It's time for progress.

Ahmadinejad speaks, markets listen.
Why is it that every time Ahmadinejad makes some wild speech, or sends some delusional letter, that the price for oil goes up?

Furthermore, what is preferrable when dealing with an oil-rich country:
- A democracy, where the oil is extracted by private companies.
- A dictatorship, where one man whose rule depends on the good will of the Armed Forces controls the distribution of oil revenues.

I see a lot more potential for abuse and resulting instability in the second situation.

Your examples of democracies producing unstable leaders are all flawed in vital ways. Hitler rose to power as a result of a global depression combined with the results of a humiliating defeat and a total breakdown in the economy of Germany in particular. Chavez came to power through fraud, and survived the recall election through blatant fraud. (1) Hamas rose to power in a PA which is run by terrorists, not politicians. Big surprise that the guys with the guns and the Iranian-funded welfare payments won, huh?

Extreme examples of democracies failing under circumstances that would also topple any dictatorship do not prove the failure of democracy, just the fact that any government can fail. The vast majority of democracies are peaceful and, if not prosperous, then they are better-off than most dictatorships.


How does that work again?
I've read your WSJ piece, and the reasoning by which this person has decided Chavez cheated on his (repeated) election wins is decidedly flimsy. By his reasoning, Bush also stole the 2004 election.

Didn't the Diebold machines have proprietary software the owners would not divulge to auditors, so we only had their word that the count would not be manipulated? And wasn't the head of Diebold an ardent Bush supporter, nay, a Pioneer who said he would do anything to assist in a Bush victory?

If we use the evidence accepted over at the WSJ, it points more strongly to a fraudulent win in Ohio than in Venezuela. Face it, Chavez wins elections every time because he is very popular. He wins them fair and square.

As for the Hamas win, look at the Fatah-run PA. This was possibly the worst governed place on earth in terms of corruption and incompetence. Plus, they never got results. Hamas couldn't win an election on the basis of being the only alternative on the ballot?

Democracy doesn't just mean that people you like can be made to "win" an election. It means that the voters get to choose, and they are free to choose wisely or stupidly. Ahmedinejad won another fair election-- one that turned out to be a surprise upset. Before him, Khatemi-- a reformer-- won. What does that mean about Iranian elections? That just anybody can win? Isn't that the point?

The price of oil fluctuates because of issues of supply and demand. When there is trouble in the Nigerian fields the price goes up. And when there isn't, it stays up. NYMEX crude futures are at $60.40 this morning. That's not down, that's up.

But if you want to support the theory that crooked politicians are cooking the oil price, blame Nursultan Nazarbayev. The guy wins every election handily-- last time, as I recall, with 87% of the vote. And everyone in the country hates him. All this must be his fault.

Relying on Force for authority
"Dictatorships and tyrannies are by their very nature unstable. Relying as they do on force for their authority, they encourage resentment, sedition and, eventually, violent revolution."

How is the USA or any nation-state different?

Read the WSJ piece again.
You are not even close to correct.

The Venezuelans chose which polling places Carter & Co. were permitted to monitor, rather than permitting Carter & Co. to randomly choose which polling places were monitored. The discrepancies between voting patterns at monitored polling stations and unmonitored polling stations indicated that there was a less than 1% chance that the balloting at the unmonitored polling places was real based on the results from the monitored polling places.

This is a basic and obvious deception. The results that were tabulated in American elections were tabulated by independent bodies, not by Diebold. Diebold did not get to decide which machines would be tested for proper function. There is no similarity at all between the two aside from the fact that software code was not disclosed.

Hamas and Iran as examples...
There are many more parties than just Fatah and Hamas. Palestineans had the option of voting for several different parties:

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Third Way
"The Alternative" - Coalition Party
"Independent Palestine" - Coalition Party
Palestinean Popular Struggle Front
"Martyr Abu Abbas" - Coalition Party

List above from:

To call the Iranian elections free and fair is simply insane. The mullahs pick the candidates and the winner, and then let everybody vote for the people they have selected. The candidates answer to the mullahs, not to the people who "elect" them.

Who the heck said anything about corrupt politicians?
I sure didn't. I never claimed corrupt politicians were jacking up the oil price. Save that for Bill O'Reilly.

I did claim that the jerks in charge of Venezuela and iran are well aware that by acting belligerent they can jack the price up a little bit.

A Basic Premise
Of auditing or attestation another persons assertion:

-is that the auditor/attestor should be allowed freedom to select the items that this wish to review.

Failure to allow an auditor freedom to examine as he or she deems necessary, is called a "scope limitation". At best it requires one to disclaim an opinion -at worst its an indicator of fraud and issuance of an adverse opinion or withdrawing from the engagement might be indicated.

Clearly, when the assertion is that elections are being conducted fairly and lawfully, limiting an observer to specific sites -would lead one to believe there's a problem.

Except of course to leftist devotees of Chavez, e.g., that colassal ass Carter or Roy

No free press in Venezuela
Who will keep Chavez honest?

That's right, he is a 'liberal' and is always honest.

can't get one without the other.
dictatorships by their very nature are anti-thetical to the rule of law, property rights, freedom of contract, and freedom of speech. (But then, so is almost every other form of govt.)

small thing
I didn't say democracies are bad for the current price of oil,i just said they are good but not because they promote stability, but because they give people in power more incentive to extract the oil. There is a model(Hotelling) that maintains that the optimal amount of oil to be extracted should be equal to the real rate of interest, as a percentage of the field (i.e.interest rate 5% per year extract 5% of the field). Democracies have an incentive to extract more than that (because of higher rate of time preference) while dictatorships(especially if the supreme leader has a heir)have an incentive to extrect less.

Venezuela: just another Ohio?
I think the parallels between Venezuela and Ohio are pretty close. This USN&WR piece places much emphasis on the difference between the offical election results and the poll results:

And guess what? In Ohio we also had a difference between the offical results and the poll results. Many reasons for this discrepancy were put forth by Right thinking pundits. But it's curious that in all the other states we didn't see that anomaly-- only in Ohio.

Next you make much of the fact that the election results in Ohio were tabulated not by Diebold but by independent bodies-- in this case the Ohio Board of Elections, firmly controlled by then-Secretary of State and political operator Kenneth Blackwell. I would have equal confidence in a person who peremptorily threw out all provisional ballots in the urban (and likely Democrat-leaning) precincts and a fellow like Hugo Chavez. The list of Mr Blackwell's incidents of chicanery is a very long one and, combined with a diffident and ineffectual Democratic Party of Ohio, left little doubt as to the degree to which this election would be engineered.

Bottom line: Jimmy Carter seems to think things in Venezuela went well, and he found little reason to believe all the charges the right wing made to him, after looking into their claims:

He was, however, not quite so pleased with what he found in Florida in 2000:

I urge you to read his actual comments on both elections. You are entitled to your opinion, and I know there is less than a one percent chance of its changing. But you could at least learn what someone thinks after he actually looks into the situation on the ground.

Fair elections or foul?
Allow me to suggest that the minor parties of Palestine are fairly insignificant-- something like the Libertarian Party in this country. Most are radical, for instance, while the majority of Palestinians are surprisingly moderate. They chose Hamas from dissatisfaction with the entirely unsatisfactory Fatah.

I think you are less than fully informed as to how things operate in Iran. You should probably brush up by reading Wikipedia's comments on the subject. Theirs is really the best article on the web (IMO) on the Iranian electoral process. The Guardian Council does indeed pick the candidates. But they do not pick the winner. That is done by the voters. And the election, observed by impartial outsiders, was judged to be fair and open.

Did you see which candidates got picked? There were two reformists, two conservatives (of which Ahmedinajad was the lesser known) and a pro-Western moderate (Hashemi Rafsanjani). It was a good balanced board of candidates, with someone there for everyone. You could offer that the reformists would have had a better chance had only one been chosen instead of two. But then you could say the same thing about the conservatives.

The plain fact is that the hardliner won because everyone in "red state" Iran wanted him. The reformists only took Tehran, and a couple of other urban "blue" areas. So just as in our own electoral politics there is a dynamic between religious cultural conservatives and educated, informed urban professionals.

Their system is better than ours in a couple of respects. First, they don't have the antiquated and ridiculous legacy of an electoral college. Second, they have runoff rounds-- which is how the candidate who initially got fewer votes than the centrist Rafsanjani ended up winning the race. He gained the votes that intitally went to the other conservative candidate.

I really don't see how it is so difficult to understand that Iranians voted the way they did. They wanted a populist and they got one. Many wanted a reformist, and didn't get one.

Jacking up the price of oil
You say "I never claimed corrupt politicians were jacking up the oil price."

But then, neither did I. Looking back over my original comment, the only reference I've made to corrupt politicans is to Fatah. And I don't think they exert much influence on the price of oil.

As for the jerks running Iran and Venezuela, they are only the mirror image of the jerk running the US. By his own redneck bellicosity, he backs them more and more into a position where they are tempted to use the oil weapon. Curiously, Cheney is doing the same thing with Russia by issuing gratuitous insults. All we need to do now is to insult or threaten Canada and Mexico and we'll have no foreign oil suppliers at all.

My father had a comment apropos of this kind of behavior. He said "Never slap a man in the face while he's chewing tobacco." That's advice Bush could take to heart.

What Carter thinks
He has had over 30 years to show us what he thinks.

I didn't see Carter swooping in to South Dakota to ensure the Indian vote was counted correctly in 2002.

Didn't Carter certify the Iraqi election where Saddam got 100% of the vote as free and fair
Didn't he also certify the Iranian election where the mullahs picked the candidates that would be on the ballot as free and fair?

Carter is like most liberals, he sees what he wants to see, and he wants to see those that hate America the most, winning.

A lot like roy does.

marjon, I have to warn you, when it comes to roy, you'd have a better chance of convincing a stump to change it's mind. roy's positions are determined by his ideology, and won't change until that does. (kind of like the way the left wing went from supporting Hitler to opposing him on the day that Hitler broke the non-aggression pact with Russia.)

"better chance of convincing a stump"
I'm a libertarian. I know all about stumps.

Grave fears of American dependency on Islamic pistachios likewise attended the fall of the Shah . Many foresaw that we would soon be at the mercy of OAEC, as well.
Yet neither the Persian pistachio mafiosi or the Organization of Apricot Exporting Countries realized the power of conservative enterprises to institute substition.

Free market innovations like Cherry Garcia and Mandarin Chocolate Sherbet broke the back of the IslamoFalangist fruit cartels of Lebanon and Syria, freeing vast amounts of apricot kernel and pistachio oil to power the nation's diesels , and pitronoia soon perished from the earth.

Now it is our great leader, Mayor Bloomberg who is pointing the way , liberating New York's arteries by diverting the flow of trans fats into the nation's carburetors.

Not sure
but I think it is you who lamented a few weeks back that you can see the Emir of Kuwait or UAE anytime of the day while you need an appointment to see your senator.

While it is true that dictatorships by their very nature are anti-thetical to the rule of law etc, what I was trying to say is, as long as the movers and shakers of a society respect the 4 virtues stated above, it is immaterial which form of Government that society accepts.

In fact, only those societies that respect those virtues accept democracy.

I was only trying to ephasize which comes first.

The real meaning of elections in Iran: Nothing
From TCS article: Iran's Ribbentrop.

The Iranian President is a spokesman with nor real power, he is given the opportunity to run only after the mullahs know that he will be loyal and do exactly what they ask him to do.

"It may seem a superfluous question. Western media often call him the popularly elected President of Iran. That should vest him with the highest authority in Iran. But all this doesn't get it quite right.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has a constitution and political arrangement unfamiliar to Westerners. It is an hermetically sealed system that does not allow anyone from the outside to enter. Power rests with unelected bodies. Those who are "elected" -- e.g. the President and Parliamentarians -- are actually pre-selected by unelected bodies.

In the Islamic Republic the highest authority is not the President or the Parliament. The Supreme Leader (Velayat Faghih) Ali Khamenei is -- as his title implies -- the highest authority. Below him are other unelected entities such as members of the Expediency Council and Guardian Council, which are still more powerful than the President and the Parliament. The Supreme Leader has to approve the President before he assumes his post. He can also dismiss the President from his post.

The Supreme Leader has the same authority over the Parliament. He is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He is the only person who can declare war or peace. He appoints and dismisses the leaders of the judiciary as well as the state radio and television networks. And he controls the intelligence and security operations.

The Supreme Leader's power is extended through his representatives, who are present in all sectors of the government. Those representatives are more powerful than the president's ministers and have the authority to intervene in any matter of state on the Supreme Leader's behalf.

He appoints six of the twelve members of the Guardian Council, the clerical body that can reject any laws passed by the Parliament and determines which candidates are allowed to run for public office.

The vast majority of the would-be candidates are never allowed to run in the Islamic Republic's elections. Only candidates that are from the ruling circle and proven to be loyal to the Supreme Leader can run. More than a thousand candidates registered for the election that Ahmadinejad won, but the Guardian Council approved only eight -- all of whom were former or present government officials.

After knowing that the Iranian President has little actual authority or power, we might be tempted to dismiss him as irrelevant. That would be a mistake. His position is somewhat like the White House Spokesman."

Did America start this?
Iran has been attacking American interests via terrorism since the day of the revolution.

Chavez has been issuing verbal attacks against us and going after America for no apparent reason ever since he was elected. We never did anything to him, other than pay him billions of dollars for his oil.

How, precisely, did Pres. Bush start this?

The Iranian political system
It's true that the Guardian Council makes all the important decisions in Iran. Khatemi's term in office showed that. He was unable to put the majority of his reforms forward. He and Ahmedinejad are certainly more significant than a White House spokesman, however, and the Majlis does function as a Congress. The situation is more like one where an activist Supreme Court would be able to exercise prior restraint.

That, of course, is a very different story than your original comment. Assuming that Ahmedinejad is a meaningless puppet, why have we even been talking about him?

American interventions abroad
But why start history at 1979? Why not go back to 1953, and America's disruption of Iranian politics by intervening to put the Shah back in power, rather than have the elections go forward? Doesn't that cast some light on Iranian anger at us?

And in Venezuela you must certainly remember the riots against Rockefeller back in the 1950's. It was the United States that installed an oligarchy there in order to get a sweet deal on oil profits, diverting the wealth of the nation into the pockets of the energy interests.

In neither case are they angry at us for "no apparent reason".

low oil prices
If americans want lower oil prices they could try to convince the liberals and Dem party to actually drill for the stuff, say everywhere, yes even in front of Barbara Streesands and Jane Fondas mansions. But those groups are preventing that from happening, and if allowed, oil prices would go way down.

Quite a strange turn Roy...
>"That, of course, is a very different story than your original comment. Assuming that Ahmedinejad is a meaningless puppet, why have we even been talking about him?"

You have called Ahmedinejad a puppet many times before when I, and many others, described the danger of his apocalyptic leanings combined with his desire for nuclear weapons. You stated that he didn't have the power to do much even if he attained them and that the true leaders of Iran were level headed.

As usual, you have altered your views to fit the current debate. If you not conscious of such a shift then it confirms to me that you are the morally and intellectually rudderless ship I thought you were. If you are conscious of such a shift you are to be downgraded to the level of a mere troll on par with LeMule.

I could go into your revisionist take on the 2004 election and your always stellar equivication of US elections and those of dictatorships but these things are self evident and require no factual input for the truly intelligent.

I would put forth the idea that Democrats and liberals, in an extreme state of denial, have to create conspriacies of the sort you are pandering in order to cover the fact that your ideas, ideaologies, and the politicians that push them are not as popular as you think.

Hold it!
You laid this at Bush's feet and have clumsily avoided answering the original question. Which "redneck" policies towards Iran and Venezuela caused both leaders to target him?

So yes, they are mad at Bush for no apparent reason. He is a prop for them to use on the world stage.

Apparently you prefer just to ramble on about the evils of America. You have real insight that cannot be found at DemocraticUnderground or the DailyKos.

pretty similar to how the communists do it.
No wonder roy likes the system so much.

we talk about him
because when he speaks, it is to voice the opinion of those who run Iran.

Wasn't me
Don't remember who made that comment.

And Bean Also is wrong on Iran's "Fair and Square" Elections...
Even someone paying the barest amount of attention to current affairs knows that Iranian elections are anything but fair. The Mullahs decide who can run and who can't. And guess what, Bean, they hardly ever choose people who oppose thier policies. I mean, Duh! Thus, people yearning for an end to Iran's 13th Century Theocracy decide not to vote since no one they'd want governing them can run. And Presto Chango!, the Theocrats, like Ahmedinejiad, win again. I guess to a "Liberal" this represents a "fair election."

Gee, Bean, how stupid of us...
Just because the "Guardian Council" selects the candidates, we stupid Libertarians and Conservatives come to the incredible conclusion that the elections are not fair! How dumb can we get? After all, Wikepedia and Bean assure us that a really wide selection of choices was made available to the people who did the actual selecting. Boy I'm glad you're around Bean to set us dumb "red-state" hicks straight! Still, maybe its just my red-neck that makes me wonder why, if the people select the winners, the "Guardians" feel the need to select the list of candidates that run. But hey, I'm not a "Liberal" so I probably don't have the brains to see the sense of it all.

Yes, they are more significant than White House spokesmen.
The President of Iran is the most important puppet in the entire nation.

I assume you have heard people suggest that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." So I suggest this:

Show me one instance where a President of Iran has acted in a way that was contrary to the publicly expressed wishes of the mullahs, and maybe you will have some justification for your claim. Otherwise, admit what the rest of the world already knows: Any country with religious police, professional torturers and secret detention cells for political dissidents is maybe, just maybe, not a free country.

Now, now, Mark...
Saddam was the only candidate on the ballot. Even Jimmy Carter can't screw up the count there.

Well, maybe he could...

I would like to see...
Roy detail the differences between the "Conservative" candidates and the "Moderate" candidates. I have read speeches by both and see very little difference. I doubt even Roy can torture the English language enough to squeeze out a "nuanced" analysis of their policies.

Forget Ohio - It's a loser
The reason that the exit polls in Ohio and New Mexico were so wildly off-target was the fact that they were not designed to get real results, but to support the Democratic candidates. Remember, if people are sure their candidate is going to lose, they will often not bother to vote.

The polls were released around noon, and the locations for exit polling were released to the Democrats by someone within the polling firm. So what happened? Democrats swarmed polling loactions, and the pollsters got a picture of the results that was wildly skewed and reflected less than half of the people who would actually vote. (1)

The polls massively oversampled women, a majority-Democrat voting block. They had forecast sililar landslides in 2000 and 2002, and were totally wrong then as well. (2)

Perhaps most importantly, BUSH WON BY 3.5 MILLION VOTES. Nice try, Roy, but this was not an exit poll. It was an active attempt to suppress Republican turnout.



A scattershot criticism
In the Iranian electoral system and in the American system alike, the real mavericks tend to get weeded out by the time the party puts its imprimatur on some potential candidate. Nonetheless, in Iran Mustapha Moeen was able to run for the highest office. And he certainly would not have been the Supreme Leader's first, second or even tenth choice for a mouthpiece for the nation. And in America Howard Dean could very well have ended up as the Democratic candidate-- to the distress of many more conventional pols.

So I would say in either system there is only a distant possibility, but yet some slight chance, that a candidate may run who has intentions of upsetting the status quo. I don't see that Iran's system is any less democratic in that sense than is our own.

You may feel free to explain to me how this position is inconsistent with anything else I've ever said, having obviously made an in-depth study of my opinions.

Ahmedinejad is obviously much more than a mere puppet. But he is also on a fairly short leash. I suspect he knows the exact boundaries of what he can safely say and what he can not say. In our own politics I think Cheney and Rove would be comparable to the Supreme Leader in acting as the hidden hands behind the throne. But we have no formal role for any authority higher than the president; it's just the way things worked out this time around.

Finally, it's certainly no secret to me that my own personal opinions are far from being the conventional ones found on cable television. I would be unlikely to waste my time, for instance, by running for public office. And I've certainly offered much in the way of adverse opinion about the Democratic Party generally. If you think there is a politician on that side of the aisle who is "pushing" my ideas I'd love to know who he is. I haven't yet heard of one.

So all in all I think your comments fall very wide of the mark.

My personal opinion
"Show me one instance where a President of Iran has acted in a way that was contrary to the publicly expressed wishes of the mullahs, and maybe you will have some justification for your claim."

I suspect you must realize in the deep recesses of your mind that Iran is faced with a grave threat: the United States bent on regime change, meaning overturning their way of governing and substituting our economic primacy. They've already seen that. They were the beneficiaries of our attentions for 25 years under the Shah.

Further, the issue back in 1953 is precisely the same issue as today. They believe their oil wealth is the property of the Iranian people, and they spend the proceeds of oil sales for the benefit of their people. We hope to privatise the oil and make it a basic constitutional right for foreign owners to repatriate profits out of the country. That is what we have written into the Iraqi constitution, so this is hardly a great secret.

So do you think the total range of opinion there includes anyone who welcomes American intrusion into their affairs for a second term? I don't. Therefore I would expect strong unanimity on issues of national sovereignty, and the usual array of opinions on lesser matters. And that, I think, is what we actually find in Iran today.

All political factions are in accord with the Ruling Council on that basic principle. And that fact is the only glue that is now holding the nation together. If it were not for American threats, the rule of the theocrats would fall apart rapidly in a sea of competing voices.

You win
If you think the Iranian and Venezuelan publics have no legitimate beef against Mr Bush, or against American policy in general for the past fifty years, there is nothing I can say that will have any impact. You are welcome to your simple view.

That they have no beef with Bush is beyond question.
As to their beefs about stuff that happened 50 years ago.
That's debateable, but aren't you the one who is always telling us to let go of the past?

And I have some news for you...
Yes, the system in Iran is rigged in favor of the status quo. Now let's take a look at the two party system in this country.

You are a Libertarian, by any chance? What chance does your party have of coming into national prominence? Isn't it the case that you could field a national candidate who took a thirty percent share in each and every state in the union, and you would still end up with zero (0) electoral votes?

Our deck is stacked against the untimely intrusion of dark horses with odd views into our national politics. So is Iran's. However if there is broad support we will grudginly include the occasional Ross Perot on our ballot, just as they included the very popular and equally radical Mustapha Moeen on their ballot this past election. And if either candidate had happened to win, the powers that be would just have had to begin working at chipping him down to size.

That's what happened in our last election that was won by a maverick. Jimmy Carter was the people's choice-- yet he was able to accomplish nothing, and was a one term president. And that's also what happened when Iranian voters chose their last maverick for president, Mohammed Khatemi. He also had a progressive agenda, which ended up going nowhere. Do you remember that?

I think you would be hard pressed to find a country where this sort of situation was NOT the case.

"Iran has been attacking American interests via terrorism since the day of the revolution. "
Gee. Then I guess Reagan shouldn't have sold them weapons in order to fund an off-the-books terror war against the Sandinistas.

What redneck policy against Venezuela???
You mean, apart from the failed 2002 coup againt Chavez (who had been elected) that was openly applauded by the state department and (according to numerous accounts) was cleared with and involved cooperation by US government officials?

What redneck policy against Venezuela??? part II
You mean, apart from blocking the extradition of convicted terrorist Luis Posada, guilty of planting a bomb on an airplane that killed 73 people?

Can I take it that your evasion means that you accept that Iran is a theocratic dictatorship?

And, as much as I hate to say this, you might be right about threats from abroad holding them together. The only thing that united the disparate tribes in the Saudi desert was the fact that they hated the Caliph more than they hated each other. I would expect that, to a certain extent, the Iranians may think the same way. We may be able to take out the Iranian government and ensure democracy there without having to use too-many ground troops because of the feelings of the Iranians towards their own government.

Ann Coulter. eh?
I think I see one problem right away. Both your citations are from Ann Coulter. You might want to check her facts against everyone else's facts.

1) The polls massively oversampled women? But the main exit poll was by CNN, whose sample was 47% male and 53% female. Kerry won narrowly among males (51%-49%) while he won widely among females (53%-47%). This kind of misrepresentation is a typical Coulterism. She was hoping you wouldn't check her assertion.

2) Bush won by 3.5 million votes? But that's a national figure, based on the popular tally. And as it happens he lost in 2000 by a half million votes-- on which occasion I recall your side chortling that the popular vote doesn't count. So which is it?

3) "Remember, if people are sure their candidate is going to lose, they will often not bother to vote."

Take me through the logic that says you can stimulate the Republican vote, or possibly depress the Democrat vote, by publishing bogus polls that show the Democrat ahead. Showing Kerry ahead by a fairly narrow margin would not have convinced either side not to bother to vote, but rather would have stimulated both to show up.

The poll was conducted in similar fashion to exit polls in every other state. Yet in Ohio alone the discrepancy was in excess of four percent-- statistically highly, highly unlikely. Bottom line, this state looks very fishy.

Not debatable but well established
"As to their beefs about stuff that happened 50 years ago.
That's debateable, but aren't you the one who is always telling us to let go of the past?"

That's a pretty inadequate response. First, the events of fifty years ago have been very well documented. They are not in question by anyone, regardless of their position on the political spectrum.

Second, we're not talking about whether you or I *should* let go of the past. The issue was why do they hate us. And the answer is in the events in their not-so-distant histories.

Nor am I *always* telling people to let go of the past. If my country had been used that way fifty years ago, I'd still be pissed. You would too.

I believe Chavez has a legitimate beef with Bush because of his backing of the coup attempt, recognizing the perps as the new government halfway through the fracas.

And I believe the Iranians have a similar beef with our constantly calling for regime change, and demonstrating our willingness to back up such undemocratic impulses with armed assaults on nonbelligerent nations (Iraq).

Building a unified Middle East
"Can I take it that your evasion means that you accept that Iran is a theocratic dictatorship?"

That fact is as obvious as the nose on your face. I can't imagine that I've ever evaded it. I only say their system for electing officials has much in common with our own. In neither instance do the people get to exercise as much influence on their government as one would like.

In our House, for instance, which used to be a bastion of popular rule, most districts have been so gerrymandered that it's more or less impossible for an incumbent to lose. You'd have to get caught writing mash notes to young men or something to lose an election.

But addressing the Middle East, I think we're in for a problem. Iraq is falling apart, and we are hated in two of the three parts. Saudi Arabia and Jordan are run by unpopular pro-American autocrats and are potentially unstable. Pakistan is Taliban, more so even than Afghanistan. And Mubarak is what, eighty years old?

I think in the next handful of years religious autocracies are going to take over in all those areas, except for the Sunni segment of Iraq and possibly Syria. And I think if we try to suppress them all by the kind of military means we've been using in Iraq, that will mean the end of the American experiment. That's something, as an American, that I don't want.

It would be so much simpler to just stay out of bad neighborhoods except when we want to buy some of their oil. I believe they still would accept cash.

Country stability has nothing to do with it. It is inventory of fuel and money.
The inventory of fuel and money in the whole system that delivers energy to consumers is the biggest and in the long run the only factor driving prices. To make matters worse for consumers the Federal Reserve generates more money thus lowering the value of money. (They are increasing the inventory of money so to speak thus driving down the price).

What this country and the rest of the world recently experienced was a double whammy of other countries, China and India in particular, demanding more fuel thus taking inventory out of the system and the idiots in the banking cabal of the President, Congress and Federal Reserve upping the inventory of money used to pay for it. So we have rising prices.

But fear not. The rising prices have sparked produces to put more fuel in INVENTORY just in time for the summer driving season to end. So we have FALLING PRICES. That is until the Federal Reserve creates more money inventory thus reducing the value of money and increasing the price of everything else.

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