Subject: Dubya's Gas Pains—Consistent Inconsistency
From: Game Warden
Date: Wed Jul 28 8:07 p.m.
Ballot Box argues that Al Gore and George W. Bush are hypocrites for decrying high gas prices, when they used to advocate them. In Gore's case, there is clear hypocrisy: He actually supports a higher gas price because it encourages conservation, but in the heat of an election campaign he is claiming otherwise.
Bush is certainly being dishonest, because he knows well that there is nothing the U.S. government can or should do to drive down the price of a scarce, internationally traded commodity. (For him to complain about the oil price is a bit like complaining about the Texan heat: True, but what ya gonna do about it? Truthfully, nothing.) But his past "inconsistency" on oil prices is not hypocritical. For Bush to support cheap energy now reflects his position as a national politician, presumably with national interests at heart. Similarly, we can hardly fault Bush for having favored higher oil prices during the days when he was in the business and directly benefited from them. Does anyone here know of any businessman who wants his profits to plunge? Be serious. As I understand, Bush has never suggested that he opposes entrepreneurs pursuing self-interest, just as he does not oppose politicians pursuing the national interest.
Subject: Ballistic Political Defense System
From: Josh Pollack
Date: Fri Jul 7 4:15 p.m.
Chatterbox notes that with North Korea's abandonment of missile tests this fall, the Pentagon's rush to have missile defense in place by 2005 is misplaced. But the Pentagon's chicanery is even worse than Chatterbox knows. Our friends in the administration have been blatantly rewriting the record to their own satisfaction, and the major dailies have not been catching them at it, let alone calling them on it.
First, take the 2005 target date for missile defense's initial deployment. What does this have to do with North Korea? Until very recently the two had nothing to do with one another, according to the administration. Indeed, when the move from a 2003 target to a 2005 target was first announced by Defense Secretary Richard Cohen, on Jan. 20, 1999, he represented it as a response to the critique of the Welch Commission, a panel that said the Pentagon was rushing the program.
Second, take that very artificial 2005 date for a North Korean "missile threat," whatever that is supposed to mean. The purpose of the date is clear enough: to justify a wholly arbitrary 2005 date for missile defense. Well, it's not so arbitrary, since such a rapid deployment of a nonexistent system was once intended to necessitate a presidential decision before the elections, providing the Democrats with some cover on this ridiculous, phantom "issue." (Now it looks like the president is setting himself up for a non-decision of sorts instead, but that's neither here nor there.)
Saying the North Koreans can't make an ICBM operational by 2005 also provides the missile defense advocates with some cover, since it seems far more likely that the North Koreans could test one now, but are holding off. Admitting that they are holding off would tend to suggest that they aren't crazy, and can even be negotiated with.
[To read longer version of this letter, click here and scroll to the bottom.]
Subject: Blame Mexico for Nader
From: Peter Handler
Date: Wed Jun 28 2:22 p.m.
Robert Wright argues that the popularity of Ralph Nader's candidacy stems from the Clinton administration's decision not to include labor and environmental provisions in NAFTA and the WTO. I think that Robert Wright underestimates the difficulty of negotiating side agreements on labor and the environment to free-trade treaties. Poorer, developing nations fear (not without good reason) that richer countries like the United States will use these side agreements to insulate their workers from competition with cheap third-world labor.
With NAFTA, the failure to achieve serious side agreements had much more to do with the steadfast opposition of the Mexican government than with Bill Clinton trying to appease the Chamber of Commerce or Republicans in Congress. Trying to incorporate environmental and labor provisions into the WTO will be even more difficult. When Clinton tried pushing for these changes at the November meetings in Seattle, the talks fell apart. It's worth noting that not a single developing or middle-income country—even those with left-of-center governments—favor placing labor and environmental standards into the WTO.
Subject: Did Op-Sail Redline Sen. Lautenberg?
Date: Thu Jul 6 3:40 p.m.
Randy Cohen argues that by turning its ships around at 59th St., New York City's July 4th Op-Sail armada redlined Harlem. But he forgets that the river has two sides. If Op-Sail insulted Harlem, it also insulted New Jersey residents in some very wealthy towns, including Cliffside Park, home of New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. I think that you must take the Op-Sail organizers at their word—the people who sailed the boats did not find the wind, tides and traffic conditions favorable. I really don't think they thought, Let's show Harlem disrespect.