Reader Mail

Sweetness All Around

U.S. subsidizes sugar in the morning and at supper time. Plus: A youthful eye on Syria. Also: Dems, Danica, and much more.

6.6.05

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SUGAR HIGHS
Re: David Holman's Sugar Daddies:

Many thanks for David Holman's piece on big sugar. But he underestimates the subsidy and the damage to the American consumer.

I rarely agree with greens or the nitwit left, however, much of their research on the connection of big sugar to a host of uneconomic federal interference is astonishingly on target. The largest example is the Army Corps of Engineers: virtually a wholly owned subsidiary of south Florida cane sugar farmers. The A.C.E., like all bureaucracies, seeks to justify its existence, provide comfy sinecures, and maximize its budget, with corresponding damage to wetlands and swamps, and nearly endless dredging and re-engineering of failed channels and ill-conceived land reclamation projects. It has found a perfect client in big sugar, which naturally lobbies both for the subsidies Holman identified, and an ever-expanding budget for the A.C.E.

Holman has no idea what he is up against if he tries to track down all the subsidies big sugar receives. In 1986 I was a 25-year-old agricultural economist working for a beltway bandit consulting firm, and got an assignment to look at the sugar industry. When I totaled up the subsidies, farm loan guarantees, fuel credits, tax relief, trade protectionism, and costs of social services to the mostly illegal labor pool for Florida cane sugar growers, I was astonished. In addition, the Reagan administration had promoted trade in sugar with our neighbors through the expensive and abandoned Caribbean Basin Initiative. When I added in the cost of the Army Corps of Engineers and their swampy tinker toys, it made me sick, and I became a small government conservative from my research.

When I began to privately circulate a draft of my cost analysis to friends on Capitol Hill and at the Department of Agriculture. I thought it was going to be just another policy paper, lost in the slush pile. We were all writing them, all the time. Your friends would promise to read it, but they never did. You circulated draft papers because your pals would occasionally help you out by catching typos and labeling errors on the scale on your graphics.

Days later, the secretary of my supervisor's boss telephoned me and ordered me to report to his office right away. I had never met the man. She told me to go right into his imposing corner office executive suite with his Cadillac sized desk. On this impressive slab of wood was a well-thumbed copy of my report, which he had not obtained from me. In the kind of meeting that can only be described as terrifying for a young man with student loans to pay off, I was told in blunt terms that I must immediately withdraw all copies of the draft report I had circulated (all stamped in red "DRAFT"), that I was to give him a complete list of everyone to whom I had circulated the report, that I was to be reassigned, and that I should be fired. I was told to leave the office immediately and drive to the Department of Agriculture and the offices of my friends on Capitol Hill and personally retrieve the copies, and report back to him by 6 p.m. In 30 seconds he had demoted me from economist to messenger boy, on a mission of information retrieval.

Days later I figured out that I was just a pawn between the interests of big sugar and big corn syrup (my likely client), and my report was just a skirmish in their continuing battle with each other to shape U.S. domestic farm subsidies. Holman is on the right track covering big sugar, but he should be glad he works as a journalist and not for a consulting firm. He can't be told the economist's equivalent of "you'll never work in this town again." The U.S. government is very good to big sugar, and big sugar returns the favor by buying a lot of influence in Washington.
-- James N. Ward
Breux-Jouy, France

Many of the CAFTA opponents sprinkled across the Republican Party are really grass-root patriotic Americans who are wary of yet another backdoor trade agreement which will further sell out our sovereignty, the American worker, and our manufacturing base for cheap foreign labor. Proponents of CAFTA are the same doublespeak globalists who promised that NAFTA would revitalize Mexico and be good for Americans, yet millions of illegal immigrants stream across out borders to get out of that corrupt hellhole. These CAFTA advocates are the same cheap labor crowd who favor massive illegal immigration, thus undercutting the American trade worker and homeland security. CNBC's Larry Kudlow and his Wall Street globalist buddies also believe in exporting our manufacturing and technology to Red China, which is enabling this corrupt communist dictatorship to finance and build a superpower military, including updated nuclear weapons that are pointed squarely at American cities.

These so-called free trade agreements are suicidal. They are robbing our once-productive and proud nation of its industrial strength, thus producing a race to the bottom as America gravitates towards a Third World country.

As a staunch conservative I too am against sugar price controls and loan guarantees by the Bush administration -- so end them and enact conservative economic policies for all industries that ensure healthy competition "within our borders" -- don¹t pass Judas trade agreements which backstab America and its middle class. A good first start would be to further reduce welfare, crackdown on monopolies, cut business taxes and reduce onerous costly regulations.

The GOP has been hijacked by Country Club globalists, who support giveaway trade deals, importing foreigner workers on H-1B visas, and massive illegal immigration. This lust for cheap labor, at the expense of our country¹s economic and national security, is going to hurt the Republican Party, big time, in the 2006 elections. Patriotic Americans, across the political spectrum, are going to oust the libertarian globalist turncoats (masquerading as conservatives), either by voting for a conservative Democrat; voting for a Third Party; or staying home. And if the GOP doesn¹t return to its patriotic roots by focusing on America and its citizens Hillary will be a shoe-in in 2008 -- then all will be lost.
-- Lou Venticinque
Jamison, Pennsylvania

I am for stopping all direct agricultural aid, why not have FREE TRADE right here in America. Let the market set the prices.
-- Elaine Kyle
Cut & Shoot, Texas

MARKETING FREEDOM
Re: David Kenner's Innocence in Syria:

I was fascinated by young Kenner's report from Syria! He is no innocent: he's an extraordinarily perceptive fellow. Georgetown, eh? I've marked it down: I have children in need of a sound education.

Students of Levantine politics can understand the optometrist Medium Leader and his machinations well enough, so long as their eyes are opened wide and have been recently examined by a proper doctor. Mr. Kenner has provided a window into the hearts and minds of the hapless (though, in the Arab manner, still cheerful and hospitable) Syrian people.

Some may write off Mr. Kenner's account of his flirtations as lightweight reporting -- it is not. It goes straight to the center of gravity in the Levantine conundrum we in the West are facing.

Our military and economic power are overwhelming, but we still have difficulty understanding that while the great number of human beings in the Arab and Muslim world are really just like us underneath it all, it is what they are underneath that makes them, as a practical ( and strategic) matter, as different from us as space aliens.

We have not yet discovered the proper mix of generalization and discrimination in our perception of the Islamic world, and so have been less than completely successful in optimizing our policy and posture toward it. Yes, all humanity has many things in common, but knowledge of those things does not necessarily improve or even inform our decision-making. Kenner has drawn a valuable schematic, illustrating with no little poignancy how, tho' we all be human, the djinn, so to speak, is in the differences.

Bravo, bravo Mr. Kenner! I, on account of certain bureaucratic and administrative trivialities, must refrain for now from visiting the Arab world in person, though I study it with some diligence from without. Kenner has provided exactly the sort of data one cannot learn from news reports or analysts' white papers. Fantastic! I thank him.

Any chance of more?
-- Paul Kotik
Plantation, Florida

A timely observation and a great article to provide a snap-shot of how most in the Middle East view Americans. Justified or not, the mindset of mistrust and cynicism is not new. It is centuries old.

In the 1980s, President Reagan saw a similar problem with the Iron Curtain countries and the USSR general populations being so exposed to decades of the propaganda machinery from the likes of TASS and other communist news organizations.

Reagan's answer was a revitalization and large expansion of Radio Free Europe where the message of truth, freedom, democracy and capitalism could blunt the one-sided message of hate for America and anything associated with it. Ask any of the Reagan Administration leaders of the importance of counteracting anti-American propaganda through Radio Free Europe and especially in Poland before its revolution. They will tell you that its value was "priceless."

Seems like the current administration could learn a few things from recent history.

Great article.
-- Jay Lora
Willis, Texas

David Kenner's story reminds me of a story I read a year ago, or so, about Hungary and the collapse of Communist rule there. With the story was a photograph of a Hungarian diplomat in his fifties, playing electric guitar in a rock band, along with his twenty-something daughter playing bass guitar. The diplomat was quoted as saying that rock 'n roll music was the beginning of the ground swell of opposition to Communist rule in Hungary. This seems plausible, judging by the growth of anti-establishment sentiment associated with rock music in the '60s and '70s here in the US.

So I would like to ask Mr. Kenner if he heard any western-style Pop or Rock music while visiting Syria. Reading Mr. Kenner's account, it sounds like the Syrian people at least romanticize western culture. Maybe some rock 'n' roll will help sow seeds of discontent and doubt towards their despotic ruler.
-- unsigned

David Kenner hit the nail on the head when he stated...

"Preventing America from achieving popularity among his population is a matter of life and death for Bashar al-Assad. Should Syrians ever want the rights Americans enjoy every day, the overthrow of al-Assad's government would inevitably follow."

That's exactly Right!
-- Scott
Benicia, California

DEMS REVEALED
Re: Sean Higgins's Taken Aback in Washington:

Donna Brazile says, "'They (conservatives) know what they believe in and they're not afraid to say it. Why aren't we?' she asked." The answer is simple, my dear. The day the Democrats reveal what they actually believe in is the day they become extinct as the dodo birds. For clearly, the heart and soul of today's Democratic Party is out of step with mainstream America. Look at the facts. The Democratic Party is the home of the abortion lobby, Hollywood bubble heads, pornographers, militant homosexuals & feminists, environmental nuts, the American-hating Left, and union bosses.

So, for Miss Brazile's edification, the Dems win only when they can disguise their true beliefs at election time. This explains their hatred towards talk-radio, Fox News, and the bloggers as these channels of mass communication make Democratic propaganda far less effective than it was in the good old days of Cronkite & Company.
-- Peter Skurkiss
Stow, Ohio

I found Sean Higgins's article to be quite delightful, and chuckled and chortled my way thru the entire thing. I even went back and reread several commentaries several times. The assembled nitwit liberal activists once again dramatize a concept that forms the title of Col. David Hunt's current book, They Just Don't Get It.

May I make a recommendation to my liberal brothers and sisters out there? If you want to regain some of your long-lost support amongst American voters, get rid of Teddy Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, "Pinko" Reid, Barbara Boxer, John Kerry and a plethora of other clueless churls, stop your stonewalling of Social Security Reform and the President's judicial nominations, and at least attempt to emulate Democrats of the past, such as JFK, Truman, "Scoop" Jackson and, more recently, Zell Miller. Otherwise, I'd suggest you follow that famous old commentary on what to do in case of a nuclear attack: sit down under a table, grab your ankles, put your heads between your knees and kiss your behinds good-bye. Because you will no longer have a political party.
-- Jim Bjaloncik
Stow, Ohio

It is not just the liberals who don't have a philosophy or political plan.

American conservatives have no philosophy or plan, either. None of the potential 2008 Republican candidates excites support or recognition among mainstream America. Conservatives live under out-of-control government spending, the federalization of education, health care reimbursement and crime on an unprecedented level, illegal immigration that threatens local governments' financial solvency and security, and a lack of a cohesive philosophy of the role of government in American life. Instead, the recent big issue for conservative talk show hosts is whether Mitt Romney's Mormon faith will hurt his chance at a presidential run. Conservative leaders and spokesmen are spiraling out of the orbit of mainstream America even as they attend rallies, rubber-chicken circuit dinners and self-affirming conferences.
-- Caroline Miranda
North Hollywood, California

It figures the liberals would pilfer a slogan started by an old Vermont farmer when we were fighting the "Civil Union" issue up here in lala land. That's because the liberals really don't have an original thought in their heads. They want to do all these "good" things for us, yet they can't even come up with their own slogan. That's like most of their ideas which are rehashes of old and failed ideas. They think us conservatives are old meanies, etc., who have really snookered the people? Maybe it's the American people having had 30-plus years of liberal failure finally decided those ideas are not in their best interests. All one has to do is look around and you can see why "Take Back America" from the left is doomed for failure. We lost up here with "Take Back Vermont" because some politicians forgot where their backbones were, but the rest of America took the cue. That's why the Republicans control both Congress and the White House. Actually, come to think of it, "Take Back America" is actually happening, except it's the right who are taking back this nation from those who tried to destroy it. That farmer in Vermont had a good idea, a good slogan, and even though it didn't work in Vermont, the notion has taken hold in America. Nov. 2004 showed that.
-- Pete Chagnon

If the Republicans in the Senate don't get some backbone the Dems may well start winning. I mean really, if the RINOs are going to be voting like a Dem then why not just cut out the middle man and vote for a "real" Dem?
-- Elaine Kyle
Cut & Shoot, Texas

LIES UPON LIES
Re: George Neumayr's Chic Crassness:

George Neumayr wrote:

"The liberal posse would catch this lawbreaker by breaking laws themselves. They would expose his lies through their own. Somehow Nixon's ends-justify-the-means thinking was unfathomably evil, but their own perfectly justified."

Following the syllogistics of the radical chic culture, we come to the Rather/Mapes fraud about GWB's Texas ANG service and the increasingly repeated "The facts and evidence supporting the story may have been false and/or fraudulent, but what the story said is true" defense from the Big Media solons when they are caught perverting the news.
-- Reid Bogie
Waterbury, Connecticut

Wow again. Just incredibly well written. Wonderful to hear such insight and truth and courage.
-- "Bob"

MECHANICA OF DANICA
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski's Spinning Danica, Eric Peters's Just You Weight, "Take Out" letters in Reader Mail's Feltgate, and "Heavy to the Metal" in Reader Mail's Hear Them Roar:

Can you handle one more letter on the Danica Patrick weight "controversy"?

First of all, I am an avid follower of American open wheel racing, both the IRL and Champ Car (formerly CART). In the 15 years I have followed the sport, I have tried to learn as much as possible about how the cars work, specifically how they keep the cars "glued" to the track while traveling at such amazing speeds.

There are two types of grip that make a race car stay on the track: mechanical and aerodynamic. Mechanical grip is achieved by the tires, suspension angles, etc. Aerodynamic grip is achieved by controlling how the air flows over, under, and around the car when it is at speed. This is frequently called down force. I think weight comes in to play on both types.

If a team employs a lighter pilot in the car they will automatically experience some loss of mechanical grip due to the overall lessened weight of the vehicle. The car will be faster because it is lighter, but it may not be particularly drivable because of the loss of mechanical grip.

In order to make up for the loss of mechanical grip, team engineers will need to adjust the angles of the wings on the front and rear of the open wheel car to increase the aerodynamic grip, or down force, necessary to achieve the same handling characteristics of a car with a heavier pilot. Increasing the deflection angles of the wings to increase down force introduces additional drag to the airflow around the car. This additional drag could very well offset the "advantage" gained through employment of a lighter pilot. It would seem this could make Ms. Patrick's weight a moot point.

As far as Danica's spin, it was indeed unfortunate that other innocent drivers were collected and forced out of the race. However I believe it was just a racing incident caused by drivers in front of her twice "checking-up" prior to coming to the green flag. Danica caught the first check, but did not catch the second.

Controversy or not, you have to admit Danica made a helluva drive, and it was one of the best Indy 500s in recent memory.
-- Clark Hodgson
Wyocena, Wisconsin

I am amused at the Danica Patrick comments. Some are smart, some are just political correctness gone into overdrive, some are, well, comments.

1. To those who think that drivers should just be smaller, like jockeys. Cars are not horses, jockeys are small because it is easier on a horse to carry someone who weighs 120lbs than William Howard Taft. (Who was reputed to be quite a horseman in his time.) Cars do not suffer the fatigue factor of a living critter.

2. That being said, the issue is COMPARATIVE weight advantage. In a lightweight race car, like an Indy car or F1 car, 100 lbs is a serious issue. Momentum is momentum, and the equation doesn't change because the driver is petite and beautiful. Danica Patrick can accelerate faster(by a hair), brake faster (by a hair), put less wear on her running gear (by a hair), and use less fuel at the same speed (again, by a hair). Most of these races are run and won or lost by those fractional little hairs that build up over time.

3. F1 and horse racing have the answer... handicap the rig. Danica Patrick and all other smaller drivers carry ballast, to ensure that all cars weigh the same (dry). This is simple basic fairness in a world of fractions of seconds, and a few miles more between pit stops.

From what I could see, the young and comely Miss Patrick is also a driver of serious skill. For those who think that what she does is of little note, just find someplace legal to drive at 100mph and stand on it (100 is about as fast as any normal, moderately powered production auto should be driven...). The world at 100 mph is very different that 65 mph. Double that and you have a slow Indy car in the straight.

So, take away her comparative weight advantage, and let her go back out there and drive. If she can win... more power to her. Of course her endorsement contracts might be a little unpopular with the big boys. Danica Patrick lapped them in the looks department several times. A woman is beautiful and drives a mean race car. Cool. Crank up the Beach Boys and let her drive!
-- John W. Schneider, III
Bristow, Virginia

Here are the particulars regarding NASCAR's car-weighing rule. NASCAR does indeed weigh the cars without the drivers, but also uses a 10-pound increment scale. If a driver weighs 200+ pounds, the car must weigh 3400 pounds. If a driver weighs 190-199, the car must weigh 3410. The system works down to drivers 159 pounds or lighter. Those cars must weigh 3450 pounds.
-- Rich Holt
Nashville, Tennessee

SIDING WITH PATRIOTS
Re: "Bad Day for Snitches" letters in Reader Mail's Feltgate:

In reading all the letters on Ben Stein's article, both pro and con, little is said about the anti-administration culture at the time of the attempted break-in. Anger about the Vietnam conflict (expanded greatly by LBJ) seemed to justify anything that would bring down the presidency. The Ellsberg affair was accepted by the angry Left as fair game even though it involved breaking the law.

If I remember correctly, many of the "Plumbers" were Cuban refugees who considered themselves Patriots, trying to assist in protecting America from those scheming to bring her down (i.e. Socialists). Nixon's tragedy was trying to protect these "Patriots" from being punished, by lying; he should have known the press and potential traitors were laying in wait.
-- David Smith
Pearland, Texas

EYE ON THE BYRDIE
Re: The Prowler's Nosy Democrats:

Senator Rockefeller may be avoiding the Bolton carnival because he sees that Senator Byrd is being seriously challenged in their red state and fears the same for himself.
-- Howard Lohmuller
Seabrook, Texas

CHIN UP, MAN
Re: David Hogberg's Veto-Proof Highway Robbery:

I really enjoyed reading and picking apart this man's column on Bush. The thing he lacks in this piece is optimism. I may be completely backwards on this, but doesn't President Bush always take the "high road"? It is my contention that he is simply saving that "political capital" for when he can actually get something done, given the obstructionist nature of our Senate. I think he is simply giving them the rope to hang themselves, as they undoubtedly will.
-- J. Dennam Irwin
Tallahassee, Florida

FRIEND OR FOE
Re: Jed Babbin's EU on Wry With Malaise:

Actually it was the 4th ID that was slated to invade Iraq from the North (not the 10th Armored, which was deactivated in the late '40s, if I'm not mistaken); maybe your experts and analysts aren't as informed as you think. Kidding aside, if Turkey is such a faithful ally it would be nice if they occasionally (visibly) acted like one. And, while I'm sympathetic to Turkey's desire to join the EU, I really fear that from the EU perspective, allowing free migration from a (relatively) poor, populous, Moslem country is only going to accelerate Western Europe's demographic doom.
-- Michael W. McClellan, LTC, USAF, MC
Keesler AFB, Mississippi

SHAMELESS HAM
Re: James Bowman's review of the The Longest Yard:

Chris Berman stole that line (shamelessly), from the late, great Howard Cosell...
-- unsigned

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