- The Washington Times - Monday, April 24, 2006

Bowden’s solid record

Thom Loverro’s roasting of Jim Bowden in “Nationals GM drives himself into trouble” (Sports, Saturday) came one day after Alfonso Soriano hit three home runs in the Nats’ victory over Atlanta on Friday night to bring the team within one game of second place.

Despite Loverro’s delving into Bowden’s personal life, the real issue is winning or losing. To Loverro’s credit, he mentions what a great job the general manager did last year with limited resources. Yet Loverro castigates him for making a genius trade for Soriano that looks better every game. Soriano can thank Bowden for taking him from being the worst second baseman in baseball to being a truly gifted outfielder and increasing his marketability in his free agency next year.

And what of Brad Wilkerson, his trade mate? He has struck out in 50 percent of his at-bats so far this early season.

The Nationals will drub the Atlanta Braves this year and give the New York Mets a good run for their money. Why? Flat out because of Jim Bowden. You may not like him, but he made a mistake, and he apologized for it. Remember, the Nationals are winners, and it is because of Jim Bowden.

TOM MCANEAR

Arlington

The Hilton and the veterans

I am the mother of a Marine veteran who was injured in Iraq in late May 2004. My son was sent to the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for rehab and prosthetic assistance. He has had several complications and two major surgeries and is scheduled for a third major surgery. He is an above-the-knee amputee.

The reason I’m writing is because he has experienced so much since his injury. He has been given great care at both hospitals. During all this time, he has been to Fran O’Brien’s Stadium Steakhouse on several occasions and has gotten to experience the camaraderie, visits by Paul Wolfowitz and other senior ranking officials and several entertainers, such as R. Lee Ermey.

The weekly event that Hal and Marty — owners of Fran O’Brien’s — host for injured service members and immediate family members (“Wanted: A few good (and patriotic) chefs,” Editorial, Friday), contributes substantially to the mental health of the patients. It allows them a chance to get out in public with their “new status in life” created by injuries received in their attempt to fight for us and our country. Also, these steak dinners are free to the veterans.

How can the Hilton evict O’Brien’s and state it is for business reasons? It’s cause for a strike. I’ll be surprised if the Hilton doesn’t have people picket outside its establishment.

SUE BROWNING

Mother of Sgt. James King,

U.S. Marines

West Mansfield, Ohio

The ominous Specter of windfall-profits taxes

The article “Specter suggests ‘windfall’ tax on oil” (Page 1, yesterday) reminds me of an online dispute I had with the chief executive officer of a travel club. He made the claim that filling up at 7-Eleven (Citgo) would subsidize health care in Venezuela.

I was skeptical and went to look at Citgo’s 10-K report, a form filed annually with the Securities and Exchange Commission by publicly traded companies to detail their economic health.

As it turned out, 50 percent of Citgo’s gasoline comes from competitors’ refineries, and not all crude oil processed in Citgo’s refineries comes from Venezuela. The bottom line was that if Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez spent his entire budget on health care, and it all came from oil, you had less than a 20 percent probability of having your 7-Eleven purchase be associated with Venezuelan health care.

So what has this to do with Sen. Arlen Specter’s call for a windfall profit tax? The retail oil market is tied up in knots, and it is all because of Congress. There are mandated boutique fuels in every part of the country, and a limited number of refineries.

The oil companies have to trade fuel blends at the wholesale level just to meet the demand in different parts of the country. Couple this congressionally mandated supply straitjacket with the recent inept legislation to instantly require ethanol as a replacement for the fuel additive methyl tert-butyl ether, and you have a double price whammy.

If Mr. Specter thinks I would like to subsidize his incompetence, which is clearly demonstrated in your spending-bill article, with a windfall-profits tax on oil, he needs to think again. We did this all before, in 1980, and the Federal Trade Commission never found any substantial price collusion.

At any rate, I would much rather the oil companies paid dividends to their shareholders in the pension funds and 401(k)s than give Congress one more tax dollar to proffer for votes in the next election.

SAMUEL BURKEEN

Reston

Rich I am not, so frugal I must be. With gas prices rising to $3 a gallon — again — I find myself complaining mightily every time I must fill up my tank.

What once cost $10 is almost double that, and as I am prone to do, I consider the weekly, monthly and yearly cost. For my family, it’s difficult to avoid; there are five of us, and it means less for entertainment, less for splurging, but most important, much less for saving.

In the state in which I live, long distances must be covered to accomplish errands for a family this size. Here is a gas station, and four miles away is a grocery store. Backtrack to get to the pharmacy. Need something at the mall? It’s three miles in the opposite direction. I picked up and moved my family from our first location for two reasons, and this sort of daily headache was the first. Spending half the day running errands was simply too much to handle.

All of this background is provided to bring me neatly to my point, which is a real-person, on-the-ground response to the article “Specter suggests ‘windfall’ tax on oil.” Reading it, I experienced such a rise in ire to the premise on which Sen. Arlen Specter bases his supposed panacea that I felt compelled to respond.

First, oil companies are in the business of making money, and correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what most companies within the realm of free enterprise are supposed to do? Where is the incentive to invest or purchase stocks if the company is not posting profits?

How does it pay salaries or fund research and development for cleaner technologies if not by earning money on the venture? I could go on, but I’ll forgo that for the sake of brevity.

Profits are not a bad thing. They are a good thing, and penalizing companies for earning them, in my opinion, is un-American.

Second, Mr. Specter must realize that some of us know that we pay state, local and federal taxes on gasoline. How about scrapping all of those before we start punitively taxing companies that produce useful goods and services?

Third, when will politicians on both sides realize that the market is not their personal toy and that every time they tinker here or tinker there, it has very real consequences for those of us who do not breathe the rarified air of Washington? Those consequences are never good, as demonstrated time and again without fail and, most distressingly, proved by history.

Last, but never least, if I am any judge of the current state of affairs, it is far beyond the time that the supposed “greatest nation on Earth” should have weaned itself off the pump.

Americans by and large are ready to support and rally behind technologies that will move us away from petroleum and toward a cleaner, renewable energy source. We make personal choices every day that demonstrate this growing trend.

For me, it simply meant planning my day with a little care and consolidating my errands; when an errand is within walking distance, the car and its gallons of gold stay at home.

CARMELA HARMON

Durham, N.C.

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