- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 6, 2005

Creative financing of highways

Taxpayers and motorists nationwide should be closely watching the development of the proposed superhighway in Texas (“Here’s a superhighway super enough for Texas,” Page 1, Monday). The key to this effort is that it will rely on private financing and tolls to build roads to supplement existing infrastructure. Because congressional mismanagement of the Highway Trust Fund has led to rampant waste, politicization of funding distribution and overinvestment in mass transit at the expense of roads, Texas’ effort should be applauded.

Of course, many environmentalists, including the Sierra Club, are so anti-automobile that they don’t want another highway built no matter how bad congestion gets. However, environmental concerns are misguided. The use of tolls for road construction will ensure that only roads that are needed and can create financial returns will be built. This will eliminate the problem of powerful politicians appropriating money for unnecessary roads for the sake of bringing “pork” back to their districts.

Even the eminent-domain concern here is overblown, as long as the state is serious about compensating landowners in an equitable manner because roads are without a doubt built for “public use” as prescribed in the Constitution.

Lacking a state income tax, Texas has long been more taxpayer-friendly and creative in paying for its needs than most states. Gov. Rick Perry’s efforts to harness the free market to reduce traffic congestion will hopefully provide an example for other states to emulate.

PAUL J. GESSING

Director of government affairs

National Taxpayers Union

Alexandria

Pigskin parity

The 2004 college football bowl season showcased the strong parity among the five major conferences (“BCS may use selection committee,” Sports, Wednesday). Despite the Big East’s automatic Bowl Championship Series bid, the departures of Miami and Virginia Tech (plus Utah’s dismantling of Pittsburgh) mean that the Big East should no longer qualify as a major conference. The present landscape is ruled by the remaining BCS schools (call them the “Trophy 5”) — the Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference.

Teams from Trophy 5 conferences matched up against each other in 11 of the 28 bowl games. Theoretically, this scheduling presented an opportunity for one of the major conferences to assert its supremacy over the rest. Yet, as the games played out, no one conference mastered all the others. Against the others, the Big 10 went 3-3; the Big 12 went 2-3; the Pac 10 went 2-1; the ACC went 1-1; and the SEC went 3-3.

Some routs surfaced: Ohio State’s Alamo Bowl massacre of Oklahoma State; Texas Tech’s stunning mastery of California in the Holiday Bowl; and, of course, Southern California’s utter embarrassment of Oklahoma. However, six of the 11 games were decided by less than a touchdown, and the Capital One and Rose Bowls had classic endings.

When summer rolls around, fans and columnists will resume the debate of which major conference deserves the title of “strongest” conference in 2005. In 2004, though, the bowl games proved that no single federation of big schools towered above the rest.

CHAD JAMES

Alexandria

Drink milk, lose weight?

As a nutritionist, I am astonished that dairy-industry spin doctors are still trying to bamboozle us into believing that increased dairy consumption can boost weight loss (“Milk as the new Atkins?” Web edition, Wednesday). This claim, which is being made by dairy industry-funded researchers like Michael Zemel, flies in the face of critical scientific evidence — including some of Mr. Zemel’s own research.

In November, University of Vermont researchers revealed the results of a large study examining the effects of a high-dairy weight-loss plan. Their research, which was presented to the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, found no significant difference in weight loss between high-dairy and low-dairy dieters.

Two other studies, both conducted by Mr. Zemel himself, also showed no weight-loss advantage for dieters consuming three servings of dairy products a day. Last year, Mr. Zemel published one study finding that high-dairy dieters experienced more weight loss, but skeptical observers pointed out that this study had significant limitations, including a small sample size.

Many other studies have shown that neither supplemental calcium nor increased dairy intake help people lose weight. Indeed, some groups consuming added dairy actually put on extra pounds. No surprise there. After all, cheese derives about 70 percent of its calories from fat. Even skim milk is half sugar, as a percentage of calories.

Drink milk, lose weight? I doubt it.

AMY JOY LANOU

Nutrition director

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Washington

Canadians doing their share

Mark Steyn’s off-the-cuff remarks about Canadian aid and military capabilities in the tsunami-affected region (“On tsunami’s shore,” Commentary, Tuesday) miss the point. Canadians are opening their hearts and wallets to the tsunami victims, and we are actively engaged in the relief and reconstruction efforts.

The Canadian government is matching donations made by individual Canadians, and thousands of Canadians are responding with generosity. Canada is also actively participating in the U.S.-led core group of nations coordinating relief efforts.

Canada is committing military assets, including our Disaster Assistance Response Team — a military medical and water-purification unit. It is headed to Sri Lanka, a country with whom Canada has historic ties through the Commonwealth, and more recently, through family and education.

Canadian military planes are also carrying emergency goods, including plastic sheeting, jerrycans and chlorination packets for water purification to Indonesia and the Maldives, working in close coordination with the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

COLIN ROBERTSON

Minister of advocacy

Embassy of Canada

Washington

Whitman’s book doesn’t get it

Christie Whitman says President Bush and political strategist Karl Rove were “wrong in their strategy of boosting turnout among the party’s voting base of political ‘extremists’ on the right, including evangelical Christians,” (“Whitman book hits Bush, Rove,” Nation, Wednesday). Heaven forbid. No pun intended. Is it a shame to appeal to the most giving and law-abiding among us? By the way, didn’t Mr. Bush win? And didn’t the Republicans increase their majorities in both the House and Senate?

Mrs. Whitman says the Republican Party has failed to reach out to “moderates” like herself. Then how did she get into the Bush Cabinet? How did Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudolph Giuliani get major speaking slots at the convention last year? How did Colin Powell get to be secretary of state?

It appears that Mrs. Whitman is spending too much time reading the New York Times and/or watching CBS. She ought to take a look at a county- by-county election map. The red counties show that Mr. Bush’s support was very broad in the heartland, while Sen. John Kerry’s support was very narrow — the blue counties were mostly confined to the elitist enclaves along the coasts and the Great Lakes.

GARY SOKOLA

Mount Vernon

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