U.S.A.


Recent story in The Guardian: the Los Angeles Police Department was planning an ethnic enclave map, to identify the regions of LA where there might be terrorism brewing.  Problem was, they only were planning to map ethnic Arab enclaves.  They’ve been halted on the grounds of racial profiling, and the program is entirely scratched.  I’m not a friend of racial profiling, and, I don’t think it advisable for Los Angeles to grow the Angeleno equivalent of Londonistan.  The potential incubator of violence is certainly an issue for the UK.  Someone was trying to be proactive, no doubt.  The question is, why leave out everybody else? 

A quick look at the low points in LA History:
Now Los Angeles has a history of racial conflict, and it’s worth reviewing–but neither to revile nor excuse LA. 

There were the military v. Hispanic Zoot suit riots of 1941, where a town crammed with servicemen, marginalized Hispanics, and lots of rumors which set of a wave of tit-for-tat murders and consequent riots.  Since LA had a swollen population of displaced men from all over the nation (and for many, the first time off the farm and in the bars), a police force that would have been swamped by this event, and a marginalized Hispanic population in a concentrated urban area, you could easily say that conditions were favorable for prolonged violence, regardless of the town. 

Lesson No. 1: Displaced people strain the capacity of law enforcement. 
Lesson No. 2: Marginalized people don’t buy into the system. 
Lesson No. 3: You have to have capacity to be effective.

Then there were the Zebra murder serial killings of 1973-1974, when a splinter faction or subgroup of the Black Muslim movement (actually just plain flat a group of psychopathic killers) went around killing white people as products of some evil genius rather than people in their own right.  Police were entirely stumped by the random nature of the killings, and did try some racial profiling in order to sweep through and find the murderers. 

Lesson No. 4: Eventually the murderers were caught, and not through racial profiling, but through an informant. 

Since 1973 and the consolidation of narcotrafficking routes, the LAPD has been trying to get a handle on the gang wars between the Crips and the Bloods–versus the Latin Kings–versus–the Mexican Mafia, la eMe–starting in 1973 and continuing forward into today. 

However, there are so many social indexes involved in this phenomenon, and I will list only a few: it’s more about urban blight and lost opportunity–and the way prison culture is set up, which reinforces, at least with gangs, the racial nature of protection and violence.  Not to mention the fabulous profits for narcotics traffic out there, which fuels the economy of gang war.

Lesson No. 5: see Lesson No. 2, marginalized people don’t buy into the system, and add that urban decay creates competition that tends to settle along racial lines at least some of the time–a lot of the time.
Lesson No. 6: If there isn’t a legal economic outlet, then the illegal one will grow up and grow out, and
Lesson No. 7: There will be conflict as the state tries to bring security, or, contain insecurity. 

And then, for my last LA example, the brutal handling of Rodney King, whose abusive arrest was filmed.  Later, the four police officers that beat him without mercy were cleared in court, which spurred the Rodney King riots of 1992. 

Lesson No. 7: To avoid racial conflict, the state has to ensure equal protection and rights under the law.

Back to the Angeleno-Stan Map 
From this admittedly punctuated and facile overview, it seems pretty clear that most of these incidents are related to larger social movements: World War II for the Zoot suits; a pathological approach to the resentments underlying the Civil Rights Movement for the Zebra Murders; urban decay and drug traffic; and for the latest incarnation, the Global War on Terror Since 9-11.  Unfortunately, no one has ever drawn a Bubba Map for the White Supremacists of Idahoan enclaves (or Kansas City enclaves) or for those pockets of KKK still flourishing in East Texas and outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana or wherever they might still be.  Probably some Bubbas in Los Angeles too, making hate and raising Cain, and with the continued potential for real violence against society at large.  In the meantime, Arab-Americans are being racially profiled in Los Angeles and elsewhere.  Going through the lessons:

Lesson 1: Displacing people through mapping and targeted enforcement will lead to more, not less, instability.
Lesson 2: Marginalized people (through racial prejudice or lack of economic opportunity, or, both) are more likely to not buy into society.  But since one way society has of marginalizing populations is through racial profiling, it’s counterproductive to do it officially.
Lesson 3: The capacity to be effective might include an enclave map, but not one totally focused upon one ethnic group.  Like a Bubba map, a psychopath map, etc.  But that’s a lot of people to map: why not try something else?
Lesson 4: To get informants, you have to have a relationship.  To have a relationship, you have to have someone who believes that the system will take care of him rather than marginalize him.
Lesson 5: Economic revitalization will help people buy into the system and put violence–racist or otherwise–away.
Lesson 6: and help eradicate the violence associated with illegal economies; and
Lesson 7: Equal rights and protection under the law is a necessary component to the long-range goals of law enforcement.

So, mapping Angeleno-stan  was never the best approach.  Maybe that money could go into mapping better economic revitalization instead, for the good of all races and creeds.  It’s a thought.

On Sunday, October 7, Costa Rica’s voters approved the entry of the state into the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with their first-in-history vote by referendum.  In Costa Rica, the agreement was known as TLC, or, Tratado Libre Commercio (Free Trade Treaty) and was hotly contested, publicly fought, and barely passed.   

The dramatic enactment of democracy in Costa Rica barely made a stir in United States news agencies.  For instance, the Washington Post published one short article on October 8, page A-11, dateline: Mexico City, with the results of the vote.  Other local news in states with large textile concerns were a little more interested–many in the U.S. believe that CAFTA will continue to take manufacturing jobs away from U.S. labor.  But I was there and can write a little about the conduct of the controversy.  The photos below (not the map, which is from NPR) I took this month.

CAFTA/TLC
PBS-CAFTA MapThe Central American Free Trade Agreement is a burgeoning economic community in the Western Hemisphere.  Its member countries are: the United States, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic–and now, Costa Rica.  Because the Dominican Republic is considered Caribbean rather than Central American, the agreement is sometimes called by the acronym DR-CAFTA or CAFTA-DR.  It is a counterpart of sorts to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.   Belize and Panama are not signatories to the agreement. 

The Caribbean states also have their own trade agreement (in which the U.S. is not a signatory), but (as stated earlier) only the Caribbean’s Dominican Republic is a signatory to CAFTA.

The case for Free Trade
TLC SiA free trade agreement allows states to lower tariffs between each other and can be bilateral or multilateral.  Currently, a network of free trade treaties, both bilateral and multilateral, link states of the Western Hemisphere to each other, but they differ in membership and content.  Increasing numbers of multilateral ties both reflect and facilitate the rise of global markets.  Under these agreements, states are given better access to each other’s markets and can export and import more easily.  For Costa Rica, this may enable an influx of engineering and technical assistance, serve to modernize its business management, and streamline its markets for agricultural products–both crops and value-added agricultural merchandise.  It may also add to the job pool for labor, both skilled trades and unskilled.  

Costa Rica is in urgent need of new engineering and better infrastructure, both governmental and non-governmental.  Costa Ricans that I talked to working in business look forward to the development of new kinds of management and new opportunities for their talents.  Costa Rica’s hospitality industry also stands to gain significantly from the agreement.

China
With the EU as a prime example, the global economy appears to be settling into trading blocs which are able to command greater portions of economic power.  This trend has not always aided the Western Hemisphere in gaining economic power for itself–for instance, the U.S. and Central America are further threatened in the textile/soft goods market by the economic power of China.  It should be noted also that China is developing economic power in the Western Hemisphere as well.   Recently, China opened a new consulate in Costa Rica and President Arias will be visiting the state later this month.

The case against Free Trade
Tratado Libre CommercialWhile I was in Costa Rica, it was quite obvious that U.S. commercial presence was already quite strong within the state.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect to me was that many of the arguments mirror arguments in the U.S. over the Farm Bill–large agriculture, particularly that of U.S. grain producers, might threaten the local agriculture in Costa Rica.  This argument was fought mostly over rice–with the rights of Costa Rican domestic rice producers versus the rights of householders to cheaper rice imports.  As always, agriculture hires the most workers and accounts for significant portions of Costa Rica’s GDP–yet it is not as efficient  (or as subsidized) as U.S. grain crops.  Other crops, such as coffee, are currently administered in very small farms utilizing micro-climates and small confederations of farms.  Any unification of coffee markets, for instance, are going to change the nature of local power structures within Costa Rica. 

Most of the agricultural labor, for coffee at least, is migrant labor from Nicaragua–already a member of CAFTA–which seemed to prove to many Costariccenses that CAFTA was not providing jobs for agriculture for their neighbor state.  

Other arguments focused upon a dread of change to various government monopolies such as energy, telecoms, social security, and utilities.  The arguments against change for telecoms, for example, centered upon the state’s mandate to provide service to all against a competitive influx of multinational corporations which might improve efficiency but not provide service to all.  This argument was largely theoretical — TLC did not abolish the national telecommunications monopoly– but serves as an example of the conflict between old and new that Costa Rica will now confront. 

A third aspect of change is that Costa Rica’s environmental importance to the world (cloud forests, rain forests) may well be under assault from continued development.  As usual, this argument seemed to originate more from the international community than from Costa Rica itself.  Nevertheless, coffee growers, for instance, have marked environmental damage due to climate change on their own ability to provide coffee on the market.  Increasing development from the tourist industry and the development of resort/retirement real estate threaten the environmental benefit that Costa Rica’s undeveloped regions bring to the world.   

Further Reading:
PINR, May, 2005: The fight against CAFTA in the U.S. and U.S. reasons for backing CAFTA
U.S. Trade Representative site: CAFTA page, including links to the text of the Treaty

  

Vintage Cover, Ugly AmericanThe best book on effective diplomacy ever.  The best book on how to read a report promugated by a government agency, a politician, or a newspaper.  The best book on why it is important to be culturally and historically aware.  Et cetera:

Is a work of fiction.

William J. Lederer’s and Eugene Burdick’s The Ugly American is an easy, entertaining, fast read–and a frame story, where each chapter can be read alone and picked up later.  This novel details the fortunes of U.S. diplomats in a exemplar state, “Sarkhan”, in Southeast Asia.  The novel looks in at the embassy, the battlefield, and in reconstruction and Track II diplomacy.  “Track II” is where non-diplomats interact with the people of a host state–agricultural experts, for instance. 

When this book came out in 1958, it created an instant dialogue and outcry for a new diplomacy from the U.S.   President Kennedy used the ideas from this book to develop the Peace Corps. 

Once read, it makes a non-foreign service public almost instantly literate in foreign affairs.  One thing to note: the word “ugly” covers a lot of ground, starting with an overweight & oily political appointee as diplomat to Sarkhan and ending with an engineer who’s physically unattractive but a man of techniques and skills.

Anyway, below the jump, there’s one phrase per chapter showing the lessons given in the book.  The main thing is to read it, laugh, weep, and get mad–and let it get you thinking. (more…)

Africa:
♦ I don’t usually cover Africa in the RI, but this article about Darfur cannot be passed by.  As usual, Dan Graeber hits the essentials in this brutal, piteous world.

Asia-Pacific:
♦ The China-U.S. trade quality war Escalates again: now it is U.S. soybeans, with considerable dirt, pesticide, and weeds.  The latter conditions would allow for perhaps large changes in Chinese biomes–sort of like the kudzu vine that took over the South.  Also U.S. oil-seed.  Best-case scenario? All of this ends up increasing quality in the long term.  In the short term: heck, no.  In the meantime, the toy-and-dog-biscuit inspections in the U.S. proceed apace.
♦ The increasing importance of relations between India and Japan.  India’s maritime might, now and in the future.
♦ Australia’s military defense strategies and the debate over economic v. military security at The Strategist.
♦ In India’s Hyderabad, 34 people die because of bombing. 

Former Soviet Union:
♦ Italy’s ENI is re-negotiating in Kazakhstan over delayed extraction and environmental issues.
♦ Little beef-kiev-cake for ya.  Holy Samovar!!
♦ Mr. Saakashvili of Georgia on living next to Russia at Robert Amsterdam.  Russia denies all.
♦ Russia’s LUKoil cuts supplies to Germany by 30% over the last two months.

Latin America:
♦ Hurricane Dean in Mexico: at least 26 have died from the storm.
♦ Peru’s earthquake: at least 510 are dead, with more casualties being found.  Quisiera expresar mis condolencias al gente de las dos paises.
♦ The FEALAC symposium met this week this week in Brasilia, as reported by Boz. According to AFP, the Forum for East Asian-Latin American Cooperation includes: Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, and from Latin America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
♦ Venezuela–now cutting bus fares for the indigent in London.  Now buying 98 Ilyushin aircraft from Russia, for cargo or passengers . . . or, not.
♦ According to an extract provided from this post, Castro is in no way dead.  So there you are.
♦ Pollution from blue jeans in Mexico.

Middle East:
♦ Afghanistan:  Just three out of many from FPA Central Asia’s Afghanistan Aggregator, plus one update:
◊ Afghanistanica has a great post on Afghanistan scholars to watch, read, and study.
◊ Another article on the mystery of not-enough translators for Afghanistan, also at Afghanistanica.
◊ Mr. Foust at Registan.net on basic flaws in reconstruction aid .  A good start on the issue, with links for more.
◊ Friendly fire (what a term) from U.S. aerial bombardment kills 3 British soldiers and injures two more in Helmand Province. 
Iran:
◊ New in-the-works U.S. intelligence report is pessimistic about Iran, as reported by AP.  More nukes, no overthrow of Ahmadinejad, more weapons traffic. . .
◊ Iran plans to continue developing a 2,000 pound ‘smart bomb’.  Great.
♦ Iraq:
◊ Iraq’s elites are still leaving as fast as possible. 
◊ A Berlin study says Iraq will disintegrate soon.  The new U.S. NIE  on Iraq is not hopeful. 
◊ The Brits are leaving Basra any day now.

Iraq / U.S. Politics:  I tried to cover this in the op-ed war posts that I wrote yesterday.  Here is one post on Mr. Allawi, and here is one on a must-read editorial from staff officer veterans of Iraq.

Energy:
♦ Storm damage notwithstanding, Pemex is back in business, bringing oil to the U.S.
♦ Storm damages notwithstanding, Energy Prices a little more stable overall.  As of August 23rd: Brent crude, USD 69.58; West Texas intermediate, USD 69.68. 
♦ Rounding out the North American picture on U.S. energy imports, The Oil Drum has started a series on oil sands extraction, which does not look attractive. 

Overall, the message this week to me is two-fold: we need to plan international endeavours so carefully, in terms of both physical and energy security. 

Have a great week, everyone!

The op-ed coup d’etat between Mr. Maliki and Mr. Allawi is only part of the juxtapositioning over the September Benchmark report and the non-progress it will be required to present:

Op-ed war of words no. 2: Quality and quantity
On July 30, Kenneth Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon wrote an op-ed for the New York Times that Iraq was “A War We just might Win“, something that every Republican Presidential candidate has found interesting for the wrong reasons: that a so-called liberal paper would hold an editorial favorable to Mr. Bush’s goals.   

Immediately afterward, a long-time Iraq correspondent, Jonathan Finer, wrote in the Washington Post that these two, and indeed all, Green Zone Investigators (which includes Congresspersons, pundits, national security advisors, Presidential candidates, etc) never get out to see anything and their epiphanies are at best, suspect.   Like so many, Mr. Finer focussed on location, (ie, the Green Zone) but he also (at last) included the element of time, calling these “snapshot tours”.  No fact-finding mission of a week will tell you what is going on in Iraq, whether surrounded by BlackHawk helicopters and handlers or not. 

I’m sure of four things: a. that trips to Iraq serve as legitimizers to all who go, even for that three-day weekend.  b. that the feeling of fear that all of these day-trippers have as they go back and forth from the Green Zone feels real enough to introduce a kind of reality to the trip.  c. that people such as Mr. O’Hanlon and Mr. Pollack get information that we don’t get, study Iraq often and with numbers. and d. I’ve also heard with my own ears Mr. Pollack talk publicly about this war as a debacle.  The editorial they cited was hedged: failure was still exceedingly possible, and despite the title of the op-ed, it did not really sound like a “win”.  And despite Mr. Finer’s characterization, it sounds as if the two Brookings trippers went past the Green Zone, to Mosul, Tal Afar, Ramadi, and the “Ghazni neighborhood of Baghdad.”  Of course, they did this in eight days, and I doubt even the complexity of the Ghazni neighborhood could be adequately assessed in that time.  But this is their view:

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high.

I have a little sympathy for Mr. Hanlon and Mr. Pollack because it’s just horribly risky to write a positive-sounding op-ed, especially when there’s so much data to the contrary.  I’ve done it myself, and if you’re not a pessimist you look like a fool.  But unfortunately, this week the NYT ran an editorial from non-GZ Trippers, i.e., staff officers that have been hip-deep in Iraqi dust and sweat and blood for 15 months with the 82nd Airborne.

Being there, and being there:

As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)  

One of these NCO’s, SSgt. Murphy, currently has a head wound, and this underscores that sympathy ultimately should not go to the optimistic op-ed writer but to the practitioner.  And these practitioners slam the ivory-tower, marble-halled view:

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Thus, according to this last op-ed, the splintering in politics is well-represented with continued splinters in security.

More, and more:
Yesterday, John Warner R-Va, came back from a four-day trip to Iraq and said it’s time to start withdrawing troops, about 5,000 this year, in the hopes of prodding Iraq’s politicians to get going. 

The new August National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, that part of it which we are privileged to see, anyway, (10 pages, give me a break) is against troop withdrawals and yet offers not too much in the way of encouragement.   It is a supplement to the National intelligence Estimate from January/February 2007.

The op-ed wars continue. . . . .  the Benchmark Report will be presented on September 11, yes, 9/11.  I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. 

War of Wards: Mr. Allawi v. Mr. al-Maliki
Who has Iraq in charge, and who wants to be there?  The last hope of reaching political consensus within Iraq’s political factions came and went two weeks ago, when the Sunni boycotted the legislative special session all the way to recess.  That has ended the most important benchmark indicators for Bush in his upcoming fight with Congress–not to mention the fact that it’s not good for Iraq to have a non-functional, over-factionalized government.  Also, the two sets of Kurdish politicians cannot decide between Iraq and Kurdistan as national entities.  And more.

Then there are more splits.  Today, Ayad Allawi’s INP party, which holds 25 of 275 seats and 5 ministerial positions, announced it would be leaving al-Maliki’s government.  On April 18, Allawi wrote an editorial in the Washington Post that stated, among other things, that:

Responsibility for the current mess in Iraq rests primarily with the Iraqi government, not with the United States. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has failed to take advantage of the Iraqi people’s desire for peaceful and productive lives and of the enormous commitment and sacrifices made by the United States and other nations.

On August 20th, Iraqslogger.com broke the story that Allawi has retained a Bush-insider’s  lobbying firm, BRG, to represent Allawi’s interests and put down al-Maliki’s pretensions to office within the White House, Congress, and staffers in both places.  It only costs USD 300,000. for six months, part of which was a mail-out of this made-for-U.S.-egos editorial.  While certainly Iraq’s politicians have a long way to go, one needs only look at the poor politics, poor planning, and massive waste on this end to realize that Mr. Allawi has concocted the perfect set of excuses for the U.S. administration: some people haven’t gotten with the plan.  The funadamental problem with this view is that there was no plan. 

According to the same IraqSlogger article, BRG also represents the Kurdistan Regional Government in Washington.

The Allawi Memos seem to have been having an effect.  Mr. Bush II distanced himself from Mr. al-Maliki just this week, prompting an angry response from the Iraqi Prime Minister.  Bush then tried to retrieve some lost ground at a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) convention the next day.

However, there are other rifts besides those manufactured by BRG.  Last November, Mr. al-Maliki snubbed Mr. Bush II over leadership issues.  In late July, the London Telegraph published an account of General Petraeus’ rocky relationship to Mr. al-Maliki, which apparently includes shouting matches with Ambassador Crocker looking on.  At the same time, an article in the NYT detailed the close coordination between the two leaders via teleconferencing and other means, which have led to limited results.

This is the more recent news than part 2, on the benefits/costs of the Surge as noted in the op-ed wars.  However, both are significant.  This particular war of words shows that political solutions are far away in Iraq, and also in the U.S. when discussing Iraq.  And that lobbying here interferes there.

My last trip to the grocery store was the last straw . . . though I’m not on a mission to arrange a boycott (although I certainly could).  This is the position of an educated-but-lazy consumer who’s finally had enough.

Dear Food Manufacturers,

Things I am no longer buying:
sugar bombs away!Boxed breakfast cereals:  Dear cereal manufacturers: the value-added, pre-vitaminafied, pre-sugared, and in some cases, pre-milk-added component of your product is not adding sufficient value to my convenience.  At USD 4 or more per box, it is never likely to do so, either.  I’m eating oatmeal, and adding my own brown sugar and milk: take that, buster.

‘Healthy’ bread: I can remember when the choice was white, pasty stuff at USD .39 per loaf, and I was willing to pay up to USD 1.99 for a loaf that actually looked and tasted like it was made of real food.    However, you commercial bakers have sweetened your recipes, refined all of the husks out of the whole wheat flour, and who knows what else.  The result: your bread tastes too much like the old 39-cent stuff.  Unfortunately, your ostensibly healthy bread is now USD 3.39 to USD 5 for a loaf.  You can kiss most of my money good-bye, because I’m buying local bakery stuff, or, failing that, cutting my consumption WAY down until you figure out what made your product better in the first place.

Supposedly healthy and/or diet cookies: Oh, I love sweets, and oh, I tried.  But you’ve added so much fake sugar to them that I can’t even taste the cookie anymore.  Not the sexiest package in the world is going to overcome a bad product.

Supposedly healthy and/or diet salad dressings: I’ve tried your offerings here too, and the fake sugar content is too much to be borne.

Boiling My OwnCanned soup: soggy noodles, limp vegetables, and so much salt my teeth hurt when I take a spoonful.  That goes for Andy Warhol’s brand and for all of the supposedly higher-end canned soups as well.

Microwave dinners:  See soup, above.

Sodapop, commercial or alternative: Once the mainstay of my liquid consumption, and now, practically nothing of my life.  Ginger ale has no ginger in it; root beer no sassafras.  Plain, uncarbonated “alternative” or “vitamin-rich” drinks taste like watered-down fruit sodas.  Sports drinks taste like glycerine mixed with water and coloring.  No, no, and again, no.

Water . . .So what am I eating?
As a lover of convenience, this presented a problem.  But here it is: I’m drinking water and tea and coffee.  Mixing my own orange juice, when I want a sweet drink that’s cold.  Buying fruit and vegetables; eating salads; making my own quick stir-fries and soups. 

You manufacturers could have done all this for me, but I just can’t stand what you make any longer.  You have newed and improved me right back to the basics.  Your loss.

Sincerely,

The Ramblin’ Gal

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