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The U.S. role in the drug violence in Mexico; a fix for the need for farm workers in the U.S.; the costs and benefits of large families

May 14, 2011
  • In Mexico: People hold a cross that says "No more blood" during a march against drug cartels. (Alejandro Acosta / Reuters)
In Mexico: People hold a cross that says "No more blood" during…

Prohibition, again

Re "Crossing borders," Opinion, May 8

Rubén Martínez's pleas for drug cartels to end their violence will fall on ears as deaf as those of Al Capone during Prohibition.

The thing that stopped the booze barons was ending Prohibition. Liquor that sold for top dollar suddenly became an ordinary commodity that did not generate enough income to keep the mobsters' huge operations going. Bootleggers disappeared, replaced by honest businessmen who obeyed the law.

Once we realize that cocaine and heroin are agricultural commodities worth very little in a free market, the solution to cartel violence becomes obvious. What cannot be done with armies of police can be done easily with the stroke of a pen.

Mexican leaders know that it is the U.S. drug war that fuels cartel violence. The sooner we end drug prohibition, the sooner we will see a tremendous reduction in crime here and south of the border.

Ralph Givens

Daly City, Calif.

Hard times on the farm

Re "A better farm worker fix," Editorial, May 9

To address a putative shortage of cheap farm help, The Times proposes that Congress legalize the status of many illegal

immigrant farm workers. This presents a conundrum: If the workers obtain legal status, many will petition to become American citizens, but Americans won't do these jobs for such low wages. Anointing these workers with legal status is not the solution.

A more fruitful path lies in repatriating illegal immigrants and letting the market determine a fair price for legal farm workers. Simultaneously, agribusiness would do well to invest more in farm mechanization. That is the way toward productivity gains and achieving competitive advantage.

Tim Aaronson

El Cerrito, Calif.

You are right that Congress should revive (and, moreover, expand) the Agriculture Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act, instituting a guest-worker farm program with reasonable wages and worker protections.

The most common objection I hear, apart from the false accusation of amnesty, is that enough Americans would pick crops if the pay were higher (as it should be). This objection, though, is only an unsupported and dubious opinion. Picking crops is, as your editorial states, "backbreaking work."

Private guest-worker programs are required by law to seek legal American residents first, and I have heard substantiated claims from their directors that they cannot find many such workers at higher wages with medical benefits. Opponents of guest-worker programs should try working in the fields before repeating their shallow platitudes.

David Eggenschwiler

Los Angeles

Large families in a crowded world

Re "Bigger — and better," Opinion, May 8

Katherine Schlaerth hasn't thought through the consequences of her position on large families. They were fine a century ago on an uncrowded planet. My grandfather and grandmother came from families of 11 and 12 children, making my mother one of 50 cousins.

But today, overpopulation is a driving force behind many of the world's problems. We live on a planet with finite resources. Do we want to ease off having large families now, or wait until Earth is so crowded that we have to resort to measures more draconian than those China uses?

We haven't even begun to look at the ramifications of this issue. Instead of "bigger is better," we ought to be thinking, "One adult, one child."

Wilma Bennett

West Hills

The idea that having several children is somehow a notion worth celebrating is not just selfish; it borders on a complete detachment from reality.

If Schlaerth is so certain that having seven children was a worthwhile endeavor, perhaps she should have turned her focus on the thousands of orphans in this state who could have used her care and attention.

Although I can't even begin to understand the desire to have more than one or two children, if you really want seven, maybe you should look outside your own body for at least a few of them.

Jayson Matthews

Los Angeles

Skills of a mortician

Re "Finishing touches," Column One, May 10

When I first saw the front-page article about funerals and those who organize them, I was tempted to just go on and not read it. After all, it's a pretty uncomfortable subject.

I'm glad I didn't.

What struck me the most was how The Times and mortuary manager Martha Castaneda put it: "What happiness was there, was there. What anger was there, was there. What apologies were said, were said. Now is the time to discover what remains in their absence."

One tends to forget some of the more thankless, out-of-sight jobs that people have to do. I'm glad Castaneda is doing her job.

Robert Jones

Santa Maria

I feel sorry for those who are unable or unwilling to accept the fact that, with our first breath, our last is inevitable. Could we but embrace the truth of our death, each day, each moment, with loved ones and friends, hearing the songs of the birds or the sound of rain falling to earth.

Lives lived and celebrated at death can be a new choice for each and all of us.

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