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Ethanol Revisited

Post in 'The Green Room' started by DaveR, Jun 23, 2007.

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  1. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    1 bushel of corn = 56 pounds
    1 pound of corn = 3 cups
    1 bushel of corn = 168 cups of dry cornmeal
    1/4 of a cup = 1 tortilla
    168 cups of corn = 672 tortillas
    1 bushel of corn = $4.00
    1 tortilla = $.006 (rounded up)

    if corn was at $3.00 per bushel
    1 tortilla = .0045 (rounded up)

    If corn was at $2.00 per bushel
    1 tortilla = $.003 (rounded up)

    put another way.

    at $2.00 corn you can buy 333 tortillas for a BUCK
    at $3.00 corn you can buy 222 tortillas for a BUCK
    at $4.00 corn you can buy 166 tortillas for a BUCK

    Oh, I realize that this isn't taking into account transportation, middle men, etc. But the "starving lower class of Mexico is complaining about tortilla prices" - give me a break.

    I am not going to take sides, but I live in the midwest. My yard connects to fields in every direction. I am not a farmer, but I will pose one question.

    WHAT SHOULD THE PRICE OF CORN BE?

    I can tell you, it aint $2.00, I can tell you it aint $3.00. $4.00 is probably getting close. Drop the subsidies and let the free market rule. If its worth more as food than fuel - then eat it. If its worth more as fuel - then burn it. If it aint worth $4.00 a bushel - grow pot.

    Basically $4.00 corn is just about getting to the GMROI for a farmer that most companies would consider as "reasonable" if making a product.

    USA - what a great country - even our poor people are fat.

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  2. restorer

    restorer New Member

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    Hmmmm, maybe Englander should but Corie on the project to design and bring to market the first Tortilla Burning Stove. How about it Mike, you willing to take the challenge on? What a concept.

    Oh, BTW, the reason the Tortilla is such an issue in Mexico is it is a tightly controlled industry in the hands of a few individual. They are also a staple, meaning several eaten per day by each person. Think of France and having that daily baggette made by the monoply and deciding th raise the price to the point you can't afford it. I guess the nearest equivalent in America that comes to mind would be eggs. If we had a monopoly organization putting the price of eggs at $6. per dozen, it would force millions to radically alter their breakfast.
  3. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    oh UR- that was just kind of a light hearted attempt to show how corn prices minutely affect the price of a tortilla. What it really comes down to in my mind, is that corn SHOULD be at $4.00 a bushel in the real world of business. For people to claim that this is the root evil to the skyrocketing costs of everything under the sun, and that the rest of the world is gonna starve because were turning corn into fuel is hog wash. When corn prices were low, we (USA) were getting attacked because we were ruining the market for the little farmers in the poor countries, when its high, the poor people cant afford it (or the meat that it feeds). Cant win I guess. Several have spouted that we should have $6.00 a gallon gas so that it would advance the renew-ables scene, but I know that will hit my pocket harder than $4.00 corn will. For one thing, if that happens, corn will go to 5 or 6 bucks because of the fuel to raise and transport the crop.

    Oh wait a minute, did I just make a connection of fuel price to corn price.......I think I did. :bug:
  4. DaveR

    DaveR New Member

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    Jags,

    Thanks for joining the discussion. I guess it just takes some good Midwestern common sense from what the coasties call fly over country to understand the connection between rising energy costs and rising food costs.

    It is easy for those far removed from agriculture to assume that the food in supermarkets just grows on trees with little cost beyond low paid migrant workers to have it ready at their command. Heaven forbid the quality is not up to their standards or the price increases to cover rising economic costs of production and transportation fueled by rising energy costs. Heaven forbid the price of their adult beverages are going to increase. Let farmers and agricultural families put in 12, 18, 24, hour days to work the land and produce abundant harvests to feed millions while the urbanites enjoy their own sheltered lifestyle far removed from the land and people who feed them. If they would visit fly over country during Spring planting or Fall harvest and witness first hand the time, work, and cost involved in feeding American families maybe they would have a better perspective on the true cost drivers of food. Economic costs for growing Illinois corn in 2006 was estimated by the University of Illinois to average from $2.74-$3.11/Bushel depending upon the productive capacity of the land and the economic costs for 2005, 2004, and beyond were not any better. Really $3.50-$4.00/Bushel corn does not seem unreasonable to this Midwesterner and has been too late in coming for many Farming families.

    Rising energy costs will mean rising food costs with or without corn based ethanol.
  5. restorer

    restorer New Member

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    AG-E,
    Don't want to start a feud, but I don't think the farmer is the big winner in this deal. ADM and a few others are striking gold and the farmers are taking the hit. Would you say they are the top or bottom of the pecking order? Do they get any subsidy for growing corn for ethanol, or does that go to the processors? What kind of mitigation is in place for depleting their lands? What are their long term obligations to the ethanol industry?

    I think there are alternatives to corn as an energy crop. I'm not a farmer, although it has been around me all my life, my Grandfather made sure none of his children or grandchildren went into farming, ranching, or anything related. Closest was a cousin who was a brand inspector. I have heard sorgum, soybean, rapseed, and canola are better crops for converting to fluid energy without the huge capital investments and can be more easily transported.

    I really think switch grass for marginal farmland and land banked farms is a very real option for home heating. I heat with pellets and could mix corn, but not at $8 per 40 lb bag. What's that a bushel, just over $10. Corn grown out here is for feed and most all is under contract. I don't live closed enough to a friendly farmer to buy bulk, so I don't have that option. If they could afigure out a way to compress alfalfa into a truly heat producing pellet I could be in like great shape.

    I just do not see the economy of ethanol. It is too expensive. When you consider nitrogen depleters like corn and nitrogen builders that could be grown. It cuts the fertilizer producers out of the loop and saves our natural gas. May hurt the Wyoming PotAsh business, but two hundred can produce tens of thousands of tons per year, so it impacts a few, we can retrain them and get them safer jobs, that would only hurt the resource thieves bottom lines.

    Honestly I'm a big fan of bio-diesel and think that is a better direction for us to go.

    So, not to cut the farmer out, they should get a fair price for their crops, but I want to cut big business out of the gouge to us the consumers.
  6. colsmith

    colsmith New Member

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    Brotherbart, I respect your opinion on wood stoves a great deal, but corn in beer? NOT! "I'm from Milwaukee, and I oughta know" (If you're old enough, you will remember that son from a Pabst beer commercial.)

    According to the Reinheitsgebot (German Purity Law) adopted in 1516 and still the law in Germany, the only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water. And certainly Germany is the expert country on beer. I know that there is rice in Budweiser (it says grain, but I hear it is mostly rice) but I don't consider that actually beer, nor would I drink it except in desperation. Anybody who puts corn in their beer is not really making beer, in my opinion and the opinion of many others. In the U.S. it flies because we make a lot of crappy beer, but real beer doesn't have corn in it.
  7. littlesmokey

    littlesmokey Minister of Fire

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    Marcia:
    What's in Milwaukee's Best? Them Germans don't rule here, why there's more beers in America used for radiator flush than all the one brewed in Germany. Think there are more than a few brewed by forum members. We have no taste, but we know our beers, right, felowimnewer whs. Sorry drooled on te keyboard :-S
  8. DaveR

    DaveR New Member

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    The folks complaining about corn prices affecting the consumer price on a broad range of food get there by suggesting that corn is displacing other crops being grown because of its higher commodity price. This just does not reflect economic reality. Crops are grown in certain geographic areas because of optimal environmental factors with some overlap affected by commodity prices and market expectations relative to supply and demand fundamentals for each commodity. Economics 101 will allocate land resources based upon return expected from various land uses. For many areas the environmental factors and risk outweigh higher corn prices. Some have suggested that we would be better off using sugar beets for ethanol production without understanding the economics of agricultural production, storage, processing, and transportation. One study funded by the USDA suggests that ethanol from sugar beets would likely be more costly than corn based ethanol because of many factors beyond the energy content of sugar beets.

    Farmers do benefit from ethanol, biodiesel, and other renewable energy initiatives utilizing excess agricultural produce and capacity in these domestic markets rather than shipping surplus into low value global markets. Midwestern and rural communities do benefit from new capital investment, jobs, and growth following decades of stagnation and decline. Domestic markets which increase prices for agricultural commodities above the increasing economic cost of production is a reasonable, rational, and good outcome for American Farmers and rural communities. It is a good thing for all American taxpayers because it reduces government subsidies paid to agriculture to close glaring gaps between market price and cost while maintaining security of the domestic food supply. Utilizing American resources for benefit of American citizens and keeping U.S. energy dollars invested in America and American communities to benefit the greater good of American citizens is not a bad thing. This does not in anyway argue against the need for greater energy efficiency in sustaining a growing American economy.

    Here are a couple of interesting links for those interested in better understanding of agricultural perspectives beyond some of the misinformation found in popular media and anticapitalistic blogs.

    The first link shows dominant producing areas for various grain crops. For you beer drinkers notice the large distance seperating dominant corn producing regions from barley producing regions. Limited competition from corn relative to barley. Since corn is used for some whiskey, these adult beverages may be affected by corn prices and tequila may well be affected by corn prices as MExican farmers plant more corn for their own domestic consumption. Sugar beets would not be well suited for growing in most of the corn belt which is ideally suited to corn production and soybean production. Some winter wheat is grown in these areas but corn and soybeans have dominated.

    http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/sis5219?opendocument

    The second link discusses the economics of ethanol from corn versus sugar beets. Interesting analysis for those interested.

    http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/pub/sep06/ethanol.htm

    No feud intended, I am just hoping to broaden the perspective of some by sharing some of the agricultural community's perspective on these issues.
  9. littlesmokey

    littlesmokey Minister of Fire

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    No disrespect intended, but what do you do for a living? Are your posts related to your occupation? I asked about alternative crops and didn't get an answer. If you are in the ethanol business, let us know, then we can ask you some real burning questions.

    Most industry members disclose their affiliations without any problems, care to share?
  10. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    Yeah...What he said...
  11. DaveR

    DaveR New Member

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    I have no past or present involvement with the ethanol industry or biodiesel industry. I have no investments in the ethanol or biodiesel industry either, can't afford the gamble after just getting children through college without them relying on government grants or loans. If you want to pick a fight with ethanol industry insiders, you will have to look elsewhere. I have deep roots and sympathies with the agricultural community. My grandparents were tenant farmers, my great-grandparents were farmers, and many family and friends continue to earn their livings from agriculture. I am two generations removed from the farm. I am little more than a concerned citizen with a background in economics and business and a growing interest in the potential of renewable energy to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and improve rural economies. I have done some part-time market research for an independent farm owned venture seeking to better understand opportunities for agriculture relative to direct combustion appliances and as a result have spent some time researching the energy content of various agricultural commodities and by-products. Frankly, lower corn prices would have made corn in direct combustion applications a much more competitive proposition with other fuel alternatives. However, as a result of my research, I have also spent some extensive time reading the ongoing debate over ethanol and biodiesel before reaching my own conclusions in support of the initiatives. Personally, I work fulltime in manufacturing management and have seen this industry sector negatively affected by the flood of imports coming out of China with rural economies struggling to survive as good paying manufacturing jobs are lost and replaced with lower paying service, retail, and distribution jobs. I have also spent several years in the plastics industry and am familiar with the effect of rising energy costs on plastics and the growing interests in corn and other agricultural commodities potential as feedstock for this industry.

    In my area the largest community and county seat has seen a 25% decline in population since the early eighties resulting from the loss of manufacturing jobs and continues to see unemployment rates stuck around 5-6%. I believe renewable energy markets do offer new opportunities for the agricultural community which is still an important industry sector throughout much of the Midwest. I have family and friends employed by agricultural processors with startups for ethanol and biodiesel growing around us. Throughout the Midwest, there is a need for good paying jobs and renewable energy initiatives are an important opportunity for many rural communities. Higher grain prices are only recently beginning to cover the rising economic costs of production resulting from higher energy costs which is welcome relief to many in the farming community.

    The criticism of rising corn prices causing widespread inflationary pressures on food costs does not seem to me to be reasonable when rising energy costs appear to be the real cost driver. Just one Midwestern American's perspective to balance the many others I have seen voiced on this subject.
  12. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    [quote author="AGENERGY" date="1183192181"]

    While corn-based ethanol is not likely to be the final destination in America's journey toward renewable energy sources and reduced dependence on foreign oil, it seems to be a reasonable step along the way which keeps American energy dollars at home for benefit of American communities and American citizens.

  13. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

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  14. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    Bottom line is we need "real alternatives" not just stop gap measures. America needs to re vamp its' attitude towards energy.
  15. littlesmokey

    littlesmokey Minister of Fire

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    Nice edit, but I didn't say that. The quote is mis attributed.

  16. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    According to many sources, but I will just quote Wikipedia here:

    "American-style lager beer is a common variety of beer, a type of pale lager, traditionally made and drunk in North America, but also popular in much of the rest of the world. It derives ultimately from the Czech Pilsner, but is characterized by a much lighter color and body and the frequent use of rice or corn as adjuncts."

    Rice is actually number two with corn being number one. Some prefer rice because it contains less oil than corn but it slimes up the brewing equipment something fierce.

    And as to considering Budweiser beer, I leave that to the people that drink Bud. The largest selling beer on planet Earth.
  17. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, here are some of the first casualties of the rush toward fueling our SUV's with corn:

    http://tinyurl.com/3crg4s

    While I am glad the American Farmer can make more $$$, it doesn't seem fair that the price rises will hurt the poorest among us. I'd rather pay more for fuel, get higher MPG, stop paying $.50 a gallon to the distillers, and let these people eat.
  18. restorer

    restorer New Member

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    BeG:
    I agree. In college we tried to drink Coors, as the real beer. Three cans and before the real party started I had all the symptoms of a hang over. Found out the processing of the "rice" in Coors was causing a mild allergic reaction, so I switched to Millers. BTW, what's brewing in Tumwater? I used to follow brewery ownership, but when it got to be three, I stopped. Frankly, I liked it when you could get fresh Strohs on the West Coast. Oh, and Hank's in Portland is still my favorite. Calemarie or crab and a Henry's Dark is as close to heaven as......... Wait what was the topic?

    I want to chime in here. AG-Ethanol, if you have researched so much about agricultural alternatives, tell us your twist on bio-diesel, straight veggie burners and other alternatives. We are placing a lot of marginal farm land in corn production that is depleting the soil, what crops are soil building and can be used as fuel courses? I'm a city kid, family history were homesteaders, first to bust the soil kind of folk, even have a famous ancestor that built the San Bernardino Ranch Irrigation system. I read a lot from creditable Agricultural experts that disagree with our current direction. Admittedly I am not a fan of ADM, Simplot and a few other fertilizer/seed and "farm management companies". Personally I'd enjoy talking about the future of soybeans, or sugarbeats, near and dear to the farmers in my area. Often thought about converting the "residue" from beat processing into pellets like they do with distillers grain. But can't get past the smell. There are lots of farms out hear that grow dry Winter wheat, it's not irrigated, and frankly is seeded and left to mature, but there is profit if you have enough land. We grow a lot of hay, well did until the fires. It feeds beef and dairy cattle. There's rye grass and even alfalfa. The big fertilizer companies go broke in Utah, no business.

    Someone asked you earlier about the economics of corn, what does it cost to produce and what does it cost to make a gallon of ethanol. You have recently posted you have an economics background, can you give us a rundown of the actual cost of a bushel of corn, what it creates through processing in ethanol. So a farmer needs $4/bu to make a living, but others have pointed out there are no family farms, who's getting the four bucks?

    I have a friend who is a very well respected economist in social economics. Made quite a name for himself in the US and abroad. Several years ago he said to me, I know agricultural economics, but working at WSU has taught me something I never would have thought about. I know nothing about agricultural economics. He told me his knowledge really came when one of his grad students took him down to coffee in Pullman at a diner, across from the local brokerage company. They had a ticker running on the commodities markets and futures. All the window booths were full and all were obviously farmers. They would talk until the right markets came up and all talk stopped. To shorten the story, my friend got a front seat after awhile and got the farmers to open up. They new the market because they knew it from the beginning. Those good-old-boys were sitting on thousands of bushels of wheat waiting for the right time to sell. They made money, every year, some through insurance, but most through knowing their crops. Farmers I know and have talked to are not real happy with things right now. They say their costs are not stable, the most volutile are fuel, fertilizer, adn weed/pest control. When it looks like they are going to get ahead, the overhead goes up. Most are moving from contracted crops to free market crops. No beets, no corn, no seeds, lots of alfalfa, hay and rye grass. One guy I know will not contract his hay until December. He has eight trucks, with duals all rebuilt and sons or sons in law to drive and he's looking at customers in California. He delivers. He used to be a major player in sugarbeets until White Satin stopped buying in his area.

    Admittedly, all my information is anecdotal, but is real case. Would you share some of the same?

    Oh, BTW, a friend who is in my business has a family farm in North Dakota. He's too old to farm, can only put in a 12 hour day, said he's going to take 2,500 acres next year, plus his land bank and seed it in switch grass. Seems SDSU wants to make pellets. Hmmmmmm!!!!!!
  19. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    UR, that was BB not me. Though I agree with you about Coors. My pee has a higher alcohol content then Coors. That ain't beer.

    I haven't been by the Oly brewery on the Tumwater in several years, but I do see some nice microbrews coming from there, so I assume it's still alive.

    Me, I'm into Mac n' Jack, and Maritime Night Watch lately. Though I do admit to drinking a few Fat Tires too.
  20. restorer

    restorer New Member

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    Sorry about the misattribution. Just too many B's here.
  21. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    Craig,
    Good article! The point to be made here is that when you give someone the responsibility of feeding the world but give them NO control over the burgeoning population they must feed, the birth rate then overtakes the ability of the UN to feed them, and then starvation and death become the "great equalizers"........proves what we use to say in the military....that it's illegal to give responsibility for a broblem with also giving authority........
  22. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Hey, but in the military they train you....like telling you to keep things in your pants!

    Unfortunately, the current administration has done away with funding of international (and even internal US) programs which teach about birth control!

    You are correct about responsibility - but it is not quite that simple. Look at Katrina as an example. A disaster in the wealthiest country in the world.....yes, no one starved, but imagine a drought or similar disasters in a country with an average income of $100 or so per person/year.

    The dollar figure in the article is TINY. They say you can only educate people once they have a full stomach. So feed 'em, then teach them.

    I have a contact in Africa involved in trying to "save the world".....and he does blame much of the problem on corrupt leaders and "males" of the species - that is to say lack of responsibility. The average life span in his country is 37. He says that they have the resources to do things (rivers, water), but that the leaders just don't do anything and build up their own bank accounts.

    Complex. I would never argue against personal responsibility, but you do have to lead the horse to water before he can drink...

    Also, letting these people die often has the opposite effect. They then have to have a lot MORE children, so there is someone to tend the fields or whatever else. History shows that, in general, folks will have smaller families as they become more educated and better fed. Of course there are those who council against this trend.
  23. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    Here's the bigger picture: if I'm on the hook (for whatever reason) to help another person feed his family, you better believe I also have an absolute right to attach minimum requirements as pertains to that persons behaviour, such that we don't find ourselves in a never-ending "loop" of having to feed ever greater and greater populations that will eventually overwhelm the very system that's feeding them......

    In this instance, I believe we have the right to tell these people: "hey, I'll help you but you must also do your part and stop having children you can't feed"......if they're not willing to do this, then I'm under no obligation of any kind to have to feed them........
  24. DaveR

    DaveR New Member

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    Corn prices continue to fall as adequate rains bolster expectations for increased supply to meet demand. Typical of price swings seen in corn markets year after year as traders try to position themselves to take advantage of fickle weather. Any retractions yet on corn being a primary cost driver of food prices since corn prices are far below the $4.00/Bushel price everyone focused on just a few weeks back? Corn prices have also introduced a healthy dose of market reality into the irrational exuberance of corn-based ethanol production causing many to pause and reconsider capital investment in the industry even with current government subsidies. I continue to believe that agricultural based renewable energy intitiatives like ethanol, biodiesel, direct combustion of biomass and others have real potential to lessen American dependence on foreign oil without causing the problems imagined by some and believe that free market allocation of resources will deliver better outcomes with these initiatives.

    You may want to just read through the National Corn Growers Association website every time the talking heads in popular media and anticapitalistic blogs want to blame corn for the world's woes just to get the other side of the story for a more balanced perspective from which to draw your own conclusions. For those who have asked for more information on cost for growing corn, my perspectives on ethanol, biodiesel, alternative energy crops, real farmers' perspectives on these issue I would refer you back to previous posts that have covered this information. I would refer you to the National Corn Growers Association, Illinois Farm Bureau, American Corn Growers Association all of which I have shared links and represent the collective voice of Farmers across the nation. You may also look for the American Soybean Association, American Dairy Association, and other farm associations. The agricultural community is not one big monolithic community and you will find a diversity of opinion even within agriculture as each segment pursues that inherent human characteristic of self-interest. With the web, there is no reason not to be reasonably informed on the issues and to better understand the various perspectives surrounding critical issues of the day.

    http://ncga.ncgapremium.com/index.aspx?ascxID=dowJones&category=1&djid=20718

    http://www.ilfb.org/viewdocument.asp?did=13540
    http://www.ilfb.org/viewdocument.asp?did=12458
    http://www.ilfb.org/viewdocument.asp?did=8228

    With lower corn prices, I guess the U.N. can also stop worrying about not being able to afford feeding the poor of the world dependent upon U.N. benevolence for their survival. From my viewpoint, Bureaucracy with its inherent arrogance, waste, and corruption is no friend of the poor and oppressed. Just consider the U.N.'s performance in the recent past with Darfur, Iraq, Somalia, and the recent Oil for Food scandal. Or just ask American Indians confined to the poverty and forced dependency of the reservation administered by the great white Fathers of both parties in Washington for their welfare. Bureaucracy is the great bulwark of elitism against humanity and the aspirations of common men. Frankly, the poor, oppressed, and slaughtered of the world dependent upon the benevolence of the U.N. or Chavez, Castro, Kim, Putin, Hu should learn from the history of Stalin, Mao, and other great communists and socialists leaders that without means to throw off the chains of brutal tyranny the fallacious promise of bureaucratic security is little more than a trojan horse for those who would amass power and wealth unto themselves. Here is a sobering website for those would elevate the likes of Castro and Chavez as champions of the poor and middle class to the pantheon of human reformers. Maybe one should ask the millions murdered, imprisoned, tortured, impoverished, exciled, and disenfranchised by these great champions of the poor and statist reformers if the real costs of their reforms were worth the meager benefits.

    http://www.victimsofcommunism.org/
  25. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    This is becoming a one person political pulpit. Point has been discussed and finished. Take further to the ash can please, closing thread.
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