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Everyone's State

The letter from Allen Clobridge (September 2000) misses a very important point. Even though all of the nation's voters may have an interest in the outcome of elections in West Virginia, senators and representatives from that state are still constitutionally charged with representing the interests of West Virginia voters. Where these are in conflict with the interests of residents in other states, West Virginians should be confident that their interests will prevail. This may not be the case if their elected representatives are elected with out-of-state money.

Yes, this will occasionally lead to parochialism, but cross-state influence buying by the wealthy hardly seems to offer a solution. (The logical extension of Mr. Clobridge's argument, and one with fewer negative side effects, would be to allow us all to rote in every state.) The solution to parochialism is not to create conflicting loyalties in our elected representatives, but to elect representatives with vision and enough character to act as leaders.

BILL FENTON Alexandria, Va.

Flushed Out

I noticed your short blurb last issue on the virtues of dual flush toilets as a means of saving water. Unfortunately, one of the many disadvantages to the federal 1.6 gallon per flush (GPF) standard is that it essentially precludes such alternatives. If the higher of the two flushes in such toilets exceeds 1.6 GPF, then it doesn't matter that the low flush choice is below 1.6--the toilet is illegal.

One additional point I could have made in my October 1998 article for you on toilets is that federal one-size-fits-all mandates frequently close the door to better ways of addressing the problem to be solved. Indeed, these two-flush toilets were just beginning to catch on in areas of the U.S. with high water rates, but not anymore.

By the way, the next such regulation in the works is a tough new efficiency standard for washing machines, which will make pricey front loaders the dominant and perhaps the only type available before the end of the decade.



There is a significant error in your description of the possibility of cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal should George W. Bush become president. For the last several years, Congress specifically prohibited any reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal until Russia ratified START II, the nuclear reductions treaty.

However, this year, after Russia ratified START II (with some conditions that mean it will not enter into force anytime soon), Congress graciously modified the restriction. They now stipulated that cuts could only happen after a comprehensive (and lengthy) defense policy review is done. The presumption among Republicans was that the next president might be allowed to make such cuts. The current inhabitant of the Oval Office, leaving office fairly soon, was not to be trusted with that option.

Now, as to whether Bush will actually take up his bold pledge, and follow in the footsteps of his father, who courageously and correctly sharply reduced U.S. short-range nuclear arsenals after the end of the Cold War, that is an open question.


Good With Numbers

I just read with keen interest your article/report on U.S. News' collegiate ranking system, and I want to thank you for having an objective, fair-minded view that points out flaws with all parties concerned. Too often these days, society forces us to choose between two sides of an argument and does not let us recognize positive features of each position. Your article exemplifies this aspect. In addition, negative opinions are too often focused upon more than positive aspects. You focused on all points, good and bad, of U.S. News, the universities, and the public.

It dismays me that non-academics were selected to produce the original rankings, thereby continuing the alarming trend that education is something everyone knows about and is not difficult to understand. Teaching is an art that requires as intensive a study as any other discipline. When non-education oriented people are put in charge of surveying education, the "treat it like a business" methodology can have many adverse effects. What dismayed me further was the justification that Elfin et. al. pronounced that the Ivies and Stanford should be at the top, and that they purposely jiggled the numbers to support their subjectivity. With this in mind, the meritocracy is preserved at the expense of other more deserving institutions.

Please accept my thanks for objective journalism; it's all too rare these days.

COLIN MASON Belton, Texas

All That Glitters ...

I would like to correct some of the misleading statements in the article, "Loosening the Golden Handcuffs," which appeared in the July/August edition of The Washington Monthly.

The author states that the US. Federal Reserve owns more than 8,000 tons of gold. Not true. While the New York Federal Reserve does serve as a custodian and stores gold for foreign nations, the Reserve does not own any gold. Not one ounce. Furthermore, gold is not used by the Federal Reserve to intervene in foreign exchange or commodity markets. Sole responsibility for America's gold reserve lies in the hands of the Treasury Department.

The article suggests that the gold industry is reckless in its use of cyanide. Not so. The use of cyanide and cyanide-bearing solutions at precious metal mining operations is strictly regulated by U.S. federal and state environmental laws pertaining to air and water quality, waste management, and land use. Cyanide is the safest chemical reagent to extract gold from rock and has been safely used in precious metal extraction since 1887. In the many decades of its use in the U.S. there have been no work-related fatalities due to cyanide use and there have been no reports of off-site human health impacts.

The issue of abandoned mines is indeed a problem and one that today's U.S. gold industry is addressing through a comprehensive plan Even though most of these mines were abandoned generations ago, today's mining industry has been at the forefront in an effort to clean up those mines. To that end, the U.S. mining industry developed the Abandoned Mine Land Inititative, a project to report annually the number of high-priority sites and to identify, measure, and report on the progress of clean-up programs.

The initiative will also create a mechanism to identify and remove legislative and/or regulatory obstacles to such clean up and provide incentive for abandoned mine clean up. The overall goal of the initiative is to increase public and private investment in remediation, consolidating financial resources and technological expertise to promote on-the-ground clean up.

Your readers may also be interested in knowing that before any state allows mining to begin, the mining company must submit detailed plans for mining operations, as well as how the company will "reclaim" the site after mining has ended. In addition to having its plans approved, the company must post bonds to cover the likely cost of the reclamation--often millions of dollars for each mine operation. Thus, proper reclamation of restoration of land is assured before mining begins.

The gold industry's commitment to environmental stewardship is centered on land reclamation, which involves recontouring and revegetating lands, restoring old wetlands or creating new ones, and often includes specific new uses for the land--as parks, wildlife habitats, and environmental study centers. Further, many mining companies have won awards from noted environmental organizations, including the Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Council, National Wildlife Federation, Trout Limited, and the Pacific Northwest Pollution Control Association.

Last, among his many arguments for the world to discontinue private and public investment in gold, the author states that "selling our gold reserves is fiscally sound." This argument runs counter to the conclusions of perhaps the world's leading authority on the subject, Professor Robert Mundell of Columbia University, recipient of last year's Nobel Prize for economics. "Gold provides a stabilizing effect in a world of entirely flexible currencies," he has noted. "Countries will simply not risk just holding paper currencies, especially if there is any change in the international monetary system."

PAUL BATEMAN PRESIDENT, The Gold Institute Washington, DC

Credit Where Credit's Due

I have just read your interesting article "Greenspan? Gipper? Gates?" in the June issue of The Washington Monthly.

There is a point mentioned in passing on the last page, "Ronald Reagan oversaw the demise of the Soviet threat ..." that implicitly credits Reagan at least in part with forcing the Soviet Union into its dissolution. This is indeed a common opinion, but I believe it is an error.

The reason is that back in about 1970, I remember a brief article in the London Daily Telegraph that remarked that at the present rate of increase in the size of the Soviet Civil Service, it would absorb the entire population within 20 years.

Of course that could not happen. But it makes the point that the Russians were trying to do something for which they had not the resources and never could have the resources, and therefore were headed for administrative collapse within (perhaps) 20 years. All the public actions of Reagan and Gorbachev merely lent a particular style and color of the events.

RODERICK REES Woodinville, Wa.
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Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Nov 1, 2000
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