- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Kashmir conflict fuels violence, fundamentalism in India and Pakistan

I agree with the Aug. 11 report "The failure of Pakistan's public school system" that a great deal of work is required to make education accessible for the poor man in Pakistan. However, I do take great exception to the article's assertion that "ailed education helps explain Pakistan's status as one of Asia's least-developed countries, its sectarian violence, growing Islamic fundamentalism and feverish distrust of neighboring India and all things Hindu."
Political tensions between India and Pakistan caused by the Kashmir issue keep the countries' national security uncertain and ensure the diversion of national budgets to defense spending and other such measures. These are misplaced priorities, and have largely contributed to the corrosive social environment of both Pakistan and India. For example, another mosque in India's state of Rajasthan was demolished recently, and the government could do nothing to stop the destruction. This happened even though India has a more secular educational system than Pakistan. I wonder if this merits a report on Hindu fundamentalism and India's feverish distrust of neighboring Pakistan and all things Pakistani.

ASIM L. ALI
Lake Ridge, Va.

Civil rights leader under attack for anti-gay marriage amendment

Turning the truth on its head, Commentary columnist Maggie Gallagher portrays me as an ogre and the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, a former D.C. congressional delegate, as a victim ("Hate speech target," Aug. 11). Urging people to contact a public figure on a matter he has raised is not abuse. It makes no sense to call attacks on gay people principled policy positions while denouncing gays for defending themselves.
Mr. Fauntroy is scapegoating gay people for the problems in straight people's marriages. At a July 12 news conference, Mr. Fauntroy further blamed gays for what he called the feminizing of black men during slavery. What pathetic nonsense.
Mr. Fauntroy routinely claims credit (as I have witnessed) for the work of the late, openly gay Bayard Rustin in organizing the 1963 March on Washington. For Mr. Fauntroy to attack gays while taking credit for a gay man's work is doubly insulting.
Gays pay taxes like everyone else and are entitled to the same blessings of liberty. Even many conservatives oppose rewriting the Constitution to resolve a social dispute. If Mr. Fauntroy, in betrayal of his own civil rights background, seeks to disadvantage people he dislikes, we will not be complacent observers.

RICK ROSENDALL
Vice president for political affairs
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.
www.glaa.org
Washington

Flight pricing scheme is 'academic parlor game'

The Aug. 2 Commentary column "Flight delay repair that won't fly," by Brookings Institution guest scholar and former Clinton aide Dorothy Robyn, was long on economic theory and short on both politics and reality. She claims that the institution of market-based pricing mechanisms at airports would mitigate congestion and "may lead to slightly higher fares for peak-period flights at some airports." What she really is arguing for is higher prices to drive away average travelers in favor of just those who can pay top dollar. We at the Air Transport Association think that is not what the public wants and respectfully disagree.
Subjecting the air-transportation system to the rate tinkering of local or national bureaucrats in many cases the same folks who have failed to expand the airport system to accommodate the public's demand is not the answer. Limiting our national economy's supply of air transportation is bad economics and bad public policy.
Increasing aviation capacity is the only appropriate response to the public's needs and in the long run, the only response the public will accept. In addition, the more efforts are directed at demand management, the more likely we are to lose focus on the real problems and the more we will fail to provide what the American people want: safe, fast, frequent, efficient air transportation at fair prices.
Congestion or peak-hour pricing has been suggested by some as a means to ration airport capacity. During World War II, when we first rationed air transportation, airplanes were more than 90 percent full. You virtually needed to know your congressman and had to obtain a second mortgage to purchase a ticket. Following years of excessive government regulation, the Airline Deregulation Act freed up competition. During the past 20 years, the number of passengers has virtually tripled, and the price of air transportation has dropped some 38 percent, adjusted for inflation. The private sector has done just as expected: It has grown to meet the public's appetite for air transportation, and it has fed that appetite with lower prices.
Unfortunately, the remaining piece of the aviation capacity puzzle has not grown at the same rate. Various environmental laws, lack of political will and "not in my back yard" tactics (perpetrated in part by a group of anti-growth litigators) have limited airport growth. Now, Miss Robyn would lend her support to the elite anti-growth forces and limit the ability of the American people to fly by raising prices. She evades this adverse consequence with a casual aside that "congestion pricing may lead to slightly higher fares for peak-period flights at some airports." As anyone who buys tickets knows, peak-period flights already are priced substantially higher than off-peak flights. Therefore, to meet the social-engineering goals, the peak-hour premium would have to be even more substantial, not "slightly higher."
Miss Robyn's economically ideal world, in which congestion pricing is a measure of value that should be reflected in the costs paid by the air carriers and their customers, is not the world in which we live. Based on repeated comments by members of Congress, it is certain that if Congress permits a congestion pricing regime to be implemented, it would require that congestion pricing not apply to some classes of users. Thus, even if Miss Robyn's "slightly higher" price applied to some, any potential congestion mitigation would be undermined by the exemptions.
This is not fiction. The Federal Aviation Administration has commenced making a congestion-pricing rule for the notoriously congested LaGuardia Airport in New York. Based upon the proposal's own set of exemptions, four special categories of aircraft will be exempt from the congestion pricing requirements: general aviation, service to small communities, new entrants and international flights. These four categories use approximately 30 percent of LaGuardia's daily slots.
Moreover, airline economics suggests that for congestion pricing to work at LaGuardia, landing fees need to be increased between 500 percent and 1,000 percent. If 30 percent of LaGuardia's slots are exempted and the remaining 70 percent are subject to the increased fees, there will be no reduction in delays, although substantial numbers of passengers will be required to pay on the order of $50 per ticket more for the privilege of delays.
A host of other issues are inherent in the institution of congestion-pricing regimes. Will air-traffic controllers have to reroute traffic to ensure that passengers who have paid to land during the congestion period arrive first? Will congestion pricing serve as an excuse not to expand capacity to meet unmet and growing demand? (I think we already know the answer to that question.) How will traffic from small and midsize communities that are not exempted be able to bear the costs of congestion pricing? Are we going to disenfranchise those communities from the national air-transportation network? Or will we push service to those communities outside of the peak hours, necessitating that residents of those communities add additional overnight stays to their trips?
While while we are at it, how will congestion pricing affect feeder traffic from small planes and communities that may not be able to afford the peak-hour surcharge? Without that feeder traffic and with fewer passengers on the connecting long-haul flights, to what extent will the scheme have the potential of even further increasing prices on tickets everywhere in the national network?
What is required to fix the ills of our air-transportation system is the leadership and vision to build the infrastructure to supply the needs of a growing economy. With all due respect, academic theories are fine for parlor games, but not for getting the job done.

EDWARD A. MERLIS
Senior vice president, legislative and international affairs
Air Transport Association
Washington

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