- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Oil’s role in food crisis

When analyzing the world food crisis, it is important to understand all the forces at work, not just pick out certain ones (“Scenes from the world food crisis,” Editorial, yesterday).

To be sure, crop failures in Australia and elsewhere; a huge increase in demand for meat and grain products in China, India and other countries; speculation on commodity markets; and the inability of some countries to grow sufficient food for their populations are important factors.

The most important factor, however, was conveniently omitted from your editorial — skyrocketing oil prices. Higher oil prices here in the United States make food much more expensive because of higher costs for farming, transporting and packaging. Higher oil prices also have increased food-aid costs worldwide.

According to a 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report — well before the recent near-doubling of oil prices — transportation costs represent a significant share of food-aid expenditures.

The GAO concluded: “For the largest U.S. food aid program, approximately 65 percent of expenditures are for transportation to the U.S. port for export, ocean transportation, in-country delivery, associated cargo handling costs, and administration.”

Further, GAO found: “For all food aid programs, rising transportation and business costs have contributed to a 52 percent decline in average tonnage delivered over the last 5 years.”

The increased production of biofuels, while increasing demand for corn, has made a comparatively small impact on food costs. Moreover, many forget that a byproduct of ethanol production is a high-protein product that is fed to cattle and hogs, reducing the grain needed.

Further, without today’s biofuel production, prices for gasoline and other petroleum products would be 15 percent higher, according to a recent Merrill Lynch analysis.

Understanding all the factors contributing to escalating food prices and how they interact should be the first order of business.

BOB DINNEEN

President

Renewable Fuels Association

Washington

Muddy waters

It’s time to get out the lifeboats, Democrats. The results from last Tuesday’s primary in Pennsylvania have left the political waters as muddy as ever (“Pennsylvania buoys Clinton,” Page 1, Wednesday).

Conventional wisdom suggests that it is going to take a united front to defeat Republican Sen. John McCain in November. If that’s true, let me go on record as saying to the Democratic Party: Unity is a matter of national security.

How else can one explain it when the presumptive Republican nominee says the United States may need to remain in Iraq for 100 years or that his solution to the nation’s economic meltdown is to take a wait-and-see approach?

Open your eyes, Democrats. By moving quickly to bring the fighting between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton to an end, Democrats will be less likely to squander their political opportunity. If they delay and let the campaign hostilities continue, I am afraid my party has little chance of winning back the White House this fall.

DENNY FREIDENRICH

Laguna Beach, Calif.

Liberalectomy

Jacob Sullum’s Sunday Commentary column, “Think of it as a lifectomy,” seems to advocate that capital punishment is repulsive to most Americans. Indeed, it is a horrific way to end a life. On the other hand, the criminal has had a fair trial (and usually several appeals) and still is guilty of a heinous crime.

Is it justice to the families who have lost a loved one or more to put this killer in jail for life, feed him three meals a day and provide him with free health care, television and other pleasures?

There is no easy way to resolve this dilemma of capital punishment. The dichotomy of this problem stems from the fact that many of the people who prefer abolishing capital punishment are the same ones who approve of the Roe v. Wade decision. Apparently, ending the life of an innocent unborn child, who has committed no crime and is not guilty of any violation, is acceptable.

This is not only a form of hypocrisy, it is, in the vernacular of Mr. Sullum, a “liberalectomy.”

AL BADER

Silver Spring

Chaos

In the article “Clinton grabs $3.5 million after victory” (Page 1, Thursday), David Plouffe, Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign manager said: “The best chance we’ll have to win the general election is to expand the playing field.” That statement is plain foolish; the best chance to win the general election is to end amicably the race between the two Democratic candidates for president and run to the center in November. That will not happen.

Neither Mr. Obama nor Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will get enough delegates in the remaining primaries to reach the needed 2,024 delegates to win the nomination outright.

It will be up to the “superdelegates” to settle this issue. This outcome is the Democrats’ worst nightmare. It does not matter who is selected (Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton) or if a third person is selected. The outcome will be internecine fighting within the Democratic Party and defeat in the November general election. This is the outcome of “Operation Chaos,” begun by Rush Limbaugh; what a fitting end for such a divisive political party.

ARNALDO VAQUER

Arlington

Not yet intelligent

With all due respect to Sens. Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman, their 2004 legislation did not reform U.S. intelligence (“Intelligent reform,” Op-Ed, Wednesday). Nothing fundamental has changed.

The stovepipes (the individual agencies) to which they referred in their column are alive, well and still in charge of U.S. intelligence, not the director of national intelligence (DNI), the new position created by their legislation.

The senators’ reform hyperbole masks the government’s failure to address the systemic management and organizational problems that helped lead to the intelligence debacles about Sept. 11 and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

U.S. intelligence was not, and still is not, organized or managed as an integrated enterprise.

The DNI cannot bring about this change because he is no more in charge of intelligence than a parent is of his or her college-age children. Certainly, the DNI can influence the funding of the individual intelligence agencies, as parents can affect the allowances their children receive. However, the individual actions of the intelligence agencies are controlled by the agencies, not the DNI, just as college-age children are essentially independent of their parents.

Moreover, most of the DNI’s funding authority was also possessed by the director of central intelligence (DCI), the previous head of intelligence. The only real differences between these titular positions are that the DNI can devote full time to pulling bureaucratic strings across the agencies, whereas former DCIs spent little time doing so because they also were the directors of an individual agency, the CIA — and the DNI is not.

To ensure that our intelligence agencies operate with a “unity of effort,” the nation needs a full-time manager of intelligence, not the intelligence equivalent of the U.S. drug czar.

The DNI should be given direct management control over all the major national intelligence agencies, comparable to the control the secretary of defense has over the military services. Also, the organization of intelligence needs to be changed.

The DNI should be given the intelligence version of combat commanders to help integrate his agencies. These changes would represent significant and meaningful intelligence reform. Without them, the intelligence system will continue to function as it has since 1947.

LARRY C. KINDSVATER

Kindsvater Consulting

Falls Church


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