Letters from the week of September 21, 2000


Letters from the week of September 21, 2000

Russian Roulette
Absolute tariffs: Patrick Quinn's story involving international intrigue with a local connection, "To Russia with Food Coloring" (September 7), was both engaging and thought-provoking. The author's credibility did slip a bit with the unsupported claim that "an artificially low price ... has created an enormous demand for illicit liquor." There is nothing "artificial" about $2.50 for a liter of vodka or a 50-cent half-liter of bottled beer. These prices represent the true, natural costs of production.

It is precisely the "artificial" excise and customs taxes, so common in socialist countries, that create the motivation for smuggling. This may soon become a major problem in Russia as the federal tax czars attempt to balance the budget with Western-style "sin taxes."
Tom Ciccateri
Overland Park

Swine of the Times
Hog wash: A friend of mine left Joe Miller's recent article "Pig Out" (September 7) on my desk to read, and I'm extremely glad that he did. I am a native of Iowa and am familiar with the issues with these types of large facilities. I felt his article was thorough and gave both sides of the issue a shot to tell their story. But what I really liked was the attention given to the entire scope of issues -- how it REALLY affected the economy, the town, and the people and how other cities reacted to the scenario in Oklahoma.I personally know several hog farmers and the economic impact that such farms are having on them. There appear to be few winners in these operations except for the executives at the home office, like Seaboard in Merriam.

We still purchase most of our pork from farmers back in Iowa, but you can bet that I will be more inquisitive about the source of meat when I do purchase it from a chain grocery store. Even for someone who loves pork and is familiar with meat processing, the knowledge of those hogs' living their whole lives without even enough room to turn around is disturbing.

I'll be watching for future stories with Joe Miller's name on them.
Marcia Bolton
Kansas City, Missouri

Hog heaven: "Pig Out" has to be the hallmark of thorough and excellent journalism, whether we're talking about PitchWeekly or The New York Times. Rather than employ soft and flimsy emotional appeal, the article smacks readers between the eyes with cold, hard facts.Thank you for the provocative and informative article.
Dr. Kenneth Rosenauer
St. Joseph, Missouri
High on the hog: For many years, we have lost scores of jobs in the area. Companies such as Monfort, Wire Rope, and, most recently, Quaker Oats, had decided to leave the area. Sure, the city boasts a 4 percent unemployment rate, but many of the jobs created in St. Joseph are not real-paying jobs, which drastically impacts the tax base. On average, these newly created jobs are within the $7 to $9.50 per hour range, with limited affordable benefits, such as health and dental coverage. It would be interesting to know how Buchanan County rates in how many welfare recipients it has on the rolls.Surely the question of Seaboard's operational infractions with OSHA, the EPA, and the Sierra Club would be a foundation for the opponents here in St. Joseph; however, there is more negative rhetoric on Spanish-speaking migrant workers, the possibility of crime increasing, the devaluation of realty, and the overall negative impact on the local economy. By comparison, I feel that Seaboard can be a positive asset to the community. As captains of industry, they could address their problems more responsibly.

First, they could recycle the waste products produced by the processing plant and the hog barns, which could be used for energy for their plant and barn, and the other by-products could be used for fertilizer. Second, they could automate their operations to be more productive and profitable. Furthermore, they should build their plants and barns to be more environmentally friendly. These ideas can be viable if both the St. Joseph community and Seaboard Corporation can formulate an equitable plan that will benefit both parties.

I hope that it's not too late for Seaboard to reevaluate its decision to move to Elwood, Kansas.
Rick de Leon
St. Joseph, Missouri

Hog hell: In his article on Seaboard, Joe Miller alludes to the impact of the hog industry on humans, the environment, and the animals. How appropriate that such an article came out just in time for Farm Animal Awareness Week (September 17-23), a week dedicated to exposing the deplorable conditions and atrocities that are a daily part of the factory farming industry."Factory" farming pigs deprives these intelligent, personable animals (easily as intelligent and personable as, say, your dog or cat) of the chance to lead a natural life.

Call it ham or pork or the "other white meat," but rest assured that, like you or me, pigs feel pain, they know fear, and they are capable of experiencing happiness when given the chance. Let one nuzzle your hand sometime, or rub a pig's belly and see if you can't recognize and relate to the expression of joy that he or she demonstrates.

When will we stop treating nonhuman animals as commodities rather than feeling, sentient beings?
Mark von Schlemmer
Baldwin City, Kansas

Correction: Kathy Martin was incorrectly identified in "Pig Out." She is an environmental engineer from Norman, Oklahoma.
Snack Attack
One for the chipper: I am writing in regards to Tony Moton's article on Guy's Snack Foods and the 14-year-old girl ("Let the Chips Fall," August 24). I am a former Guy's employee and I don't feel that he was fair to Guy's. True, if Dan Harper did what he was accused of, it was wrong on his part, but I also feel that the parents should share in the responsibility.From what I was told, the parents took the girl to work with them because they thought she would get in trouble at home. If they felt that way, they should have kept a closer eye on her, and she should not have been free to roam around the offices. If the mother was having an affair with one of the gentlemen there, what could they expect from the girl? Isn't that sort of saying it is all right?

I think that if parents would be a little more responsible and give their children the attention that they need, maybe it would solve a lot of problems in this world. If, when Mr Sabatino informed the mother of what he had found, she would have done something, and then maybe some of these consequences could have been avoided.

Guy's has had its problems and is trying to recover from them. But it was a good place to work and still is.
Name Withheld Upon Request
Rayville, Missouri


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