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Agents overstepped bounds with raids on Indian shops

Is it any wonder that distrust of the federal government is increasing throughout the country? Ninety heavily armed agents from at least four federal agencies staged coordinated raids on four legitimate Native American businesses and seized legally sold products that were displayed in plain sight, not in some back room where requests for them had to be whispered.

Yes, these products are dangerous to one's health when their use is abused, as can be many other items, including dozens of household products. If these seized products are so harmful, why do these same federal agencies allow them to be imported into the country?

Did these federal agents even consider contacting tribal leaders or the involved business owners to explain the problems with these products and request that the owner voluntarily remove these items? Of course, this wouldn't have been as spectacular as the raids.

I wonder if Tops or Wegmans carried these products, if a score of federal agents would have swooped down on their stores like the 7th Cavalry?

Wouldn't the manpower and resources of these raids have been better utilized against the cocaine, meth and heroin dealers who ply the streets of every community in Western New York? Or, maybe these agents could round up the thousands of illegal aliens in the area instead of conducting foolish raids on Native American businesses?

Paul S. Shanks

North Boston

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Hochul has not failed to defend Constitution

I find the constitutional position of the Rev. Leon Biernat, and the gathered Catholics in attendance at Rep. Kathleen Hochul's town hall meeting, quite mystifying. True, our Constitution speaks of "we the people," but it also instructs to "promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves." If 98 percent of Catholics use birth control and 49 percent support the contraception compromise, then I'm not sure how else to define "we the people." If all U.S. citizens are provided access to unrestricted, full health care, including birth control, without putting additional scores of millions on the public dole, then I'm not sure how Obamacare or Hochul's support doesn't "promote the general welfare."

Lastly, if "secure the blessings of liberty" means First Amendment religious liberty, then it must equally mean non-religious liberty -- freedom from religion. These profound liberties are a constitutional dual-edged sword and not a breathtakingly imaginative slippery slope toward Nazi Germany. They mean Biernat and his protesting parishioners are wholly free to be Catholics without being required to be Protestants. They also mean, as reaffirmed in our 14th Amendment, a Catholic institution employer, operating in the public sphere and/or receiving monies from the government, cannot discriminate against a Protestant-faith minister employee, who uses birth control daily, marries homosexuals on weekends and takes pregnant women to Planned Parenthood for constitutionally protected abortions on her free time.

So, when Hochul took her oath of office, supported Obamacare and the contraception compromise, just how, when and where did she fail to "defend the Constitution"?

David Guayasamin

Lily Dale

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Buffalo airport has gates for international flights

A recent letter to this column regarding the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority's apparent "lack of vision" for not having U.S. Customs and Immigration facilities at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport to accommodate international flights was totally misleading.

The fact is gates one and two are fully equipped and approved as federal inspection stations capable of handling international flights. The terminal does process international charters and at times receives international passengers who have had their plane land in Buffalo for diversionary reasons.

The real reasons there are no scheduled international flights at the Buffalo airport is market driven and a manifestation of the economics of the aviation industry, not a lack of vision on the part of the people who had the foresight to build a new terminal that has grown into a $1.07 billion per year economic engine for our region. The airport is without a doubt one of Buffalo Niagara's true economic successes. This point was reinforced in a Feb. 15 Buffalo News editorial titled, "Airport looks to the future."

Further, the new terminal was dedicated in November 1997, not 30 years ago, as was also misstated.

C. Douglas Hartmayer

Director, Public Affairs, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority

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Speculators hold sway over commodity prices

Regarding the article about higher gas prices, I respectfully disagree with the statement by professor Lawrence Southwick that speculators are not to blame. Over the past 15 years, commodity markets have undergone a process of financialization; that is, financial innovations and relaxed regulations have allowed investors (speculators) to now dominate the futures markets, and current prices are directly influenced by these markets.

Investment flows into commodity futures contracts have increased from $6 billion in 2000 to about $400 billion in 2011. Historically, financial traders were constrained by "position limits" -- they were restricted in the number of contracts they could purchase, which kept their influence at about 20 percent of the futures market. New financial instruments and lax regulations have "flipped the market" -- financial interests now represent about 80 percent of the futures market. The tail now wags the dog. And it's not just Wall Street banks and hedge funds that can influence oil prices. Now anyone can bet on any commodity through Exchange Traded Funds, most of which also purchase futures contracts as the basis for their value.

The result of financialization is that speculators and investors have much more influence over commodity prices like oil, so prices have become more volatile. Prices that are heavily influenced by investors' bets tend to overshoot equilibrium values, creating bubbles like those we experienced in summer 2008 and spring 2011. However, those high prices are eventually brought back to earth by the gravity of declining demand. With gas at $4 a gallon, more of us will carpool, walk, ride bikes or take the bus. So there is one thing that you can bet on: As long as financial interests are allowed to dominate the futures markets, expect this roller coaster ride in gas (and all commodity) prices to continue.

Ted P. Schmidt

Associate Professor, Department of Economics and Finance

Buffalo State College