21 September 2008

McCain and Spain

here's the rub:

At an Ibero-American summit meeting earlier this year in Chile, Chavez was complaining about Zapatero's conservative predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, who was close to Bush and sent Spanish troops to Iraq. Zapatero challenged him in a polite and gentlemanly manner, ...

my guess is that in his comments to Spain's Union Radio, Sen. McCain had a senior moment and blanked on who Zapatero is. But who knows. McCain may have confused Zapatero with the Mexican dissidents in Chiapas, the Zapatistas, which would make sense because McCain suddenly began extolling the virtues of the Mexican government.

But unless one argues that McCain's miscue indicates dementia, the important comments came afterward from his Foreign Policy advisers who asserted a hard line on Zapatero.

As the McCain camp, then, continues to signal to the international community Senator McCain’s intention to conduct foreign policy in a manner consistent with the Bush administration (i.e. you are with us or against us), Washington’s conservative hawks evidently still find Zapertero’s withdrawal of Spanish forces in Iraq too much to swallow.

In the logic of Bush, Zapatero betrayed us so that our treating him as a friend would betray those nations, such as Poland, who have stuck with us.

The fact that Zapatero went toe to toe with Chavez defending Bush in a public event amounts to a distinction that doesn't make a difference.

Once we understand the ramifications of the international relations policies the Republicans present us, we can have a healthy debate about the extent to which (and the manner in which) we ought to enforce our alliances.

At which stage, a good place to start might be with George Washington's parting wisdom:

...permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded....

But don't hold your breath because as a new study demonstrates, American conservatives are more easily frightened than their Liberal counterparts.

And unfortunately for all of us, the cowards hold power.

14 September 2008

The Fanjuls Sugar Connection

Few things ought to curdle the blood of American patriots more than using our secular military to fight Christian (or religious) wars and our tax dollars to bail out cronies.

From the New York Times:

But in the end, the $1.7 billion buyout, scheduled to be completed in early 2009, may also prove to be a financial boon to the state’s remaining sugar superpower, Florida Crystals.

One of the country’s wealthiest families, the Fanjuls of Palm Beach, controls Florida Crystals and today touches virtually every aspect of the sugar trade in the United States.

If you buy Domino Sugar, you’re buying from the Fanjuls. Ditto C&H Sugar. (That name stands for California & Hawaii, but the Florida Fanjuls acquired it in 2005.) National retailers prefer dealing with coast-to-coast vendors, so if you buy a bag of sugar at Wal-Mart, Kroger or Safeway, you’re also patronizing the Fanjuls.

Take a pill, eat a granola bar — you’re probably consuming special, high-end sugars that Florida Crystals produces for the pharmaceutical and packaged-food industries.

Sugar imported from Mexico and the Dominican Republic also stands a good chance of coming from Fanjul companies.

Is there anything else we can do for members of the tortured Cuban-American community?

“This is going to be a really good deal for the Fanjuls,” says Dexter Lehtinen, a former federal prosecutor whose 1988 lawsuit against the state led to a settlement instituting tough clean water standards. “The state embarked on a nonachievable goal, and now in desperation to wrap up some package, they’re going to have to give access to Florida Crystals on favorable terms.”

Others, like makers of candy and cereal, say the Fanjuls already control too much of the sugar trade. They want to buy sugar cheap and say the Fanjuls have long charmed Congress into legislating price supports that keep it expensive.

“These people have been absolutely extorting consumers for decades, and the only reason they’re existing in the first place is, they were able to get sweet deals from governments that were propping them up,” says Sallie James, a trade policy analyst with the libertarian Cato Institute, referring to Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar.

Free market? What a fairy tale.