- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 12, 2002

Law firm not 'working for free' in civil rights commission case

Your Jan. 4 front-page article on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is inaccurate ("Berry lawyer to work for free").
Recently, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice against Victoria Wilson, a member of the commission. Under 42 U.S.C. 1975(c) (1994) (Pub. L. No. 103-419, 108 Stat. 4338), all commissioners serve six-year terms. Ms. Wilson has yet to finish her six-year term, which will expire January 2006.
The commission has entered into an agreement with the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to advise and otherwise represent the commission on this matter. Contrary to suggestions in your article, the law firm is not working for free, which would be illegal. The commission is obligated to pay the law firm, and the agreement is in accordance with government rules and regulations.
The commission is an independent agency with statutorily mandated oversight responsibilities. These responsibilities include monitoring departments and agencies in the executive branch, including the Justice Department. This watchdog function is exercised no matter who is elected president. The Justice Department is a party to this lawsuit in opposition to the commission's position on the length of commissioners' terms. Additionally, the Justice Department's views on this matter had been known well before it filed suit. Under those circumstances, the commission concluded that it was necessary, appropriate and legal to enter into an agreement with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to ensure that the commission's views on this matter are fully articulated and its interest adequately protected. This agreement was necessary to preserve the commission's independence, integrity and public confidence in its ability to fulfill its legislatively mandated duties, which include acting as a watchdog over the enforcement of civil rights.

Staff director
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Fuel cells, free market answer energy needs

Your Jan. 10 article, "Automakers to speed fuel-cell goals," is good news to those of us who support innovation and free market solutions to America's energy needs.
While the auto industry is funding such research on its own without taxpayer help, the $1.5 billion pledged by the Bush administration for fuel cell research certainly beats the fuel mandates approach, which will destroy jobs, hurt the economy and sacrifice vehicle safety. If the government did absolutely nothing, entrepreneurs and automakers would still develop energy efficient/safe vehicles, as this is what consumers desire.
Mandating outrageously high 40-miles-per-gallon standards on sport utility vehicles, pickups and minivans, as is currently being discussed in the Senate, is a misguided approach that will fail miserably. The technology does not yet exist to make these vehicles run at high fuel mileage levels, so automakers would have no choice but to drastically alter operations associated with light trucks and minivans. The United Auto Workers estimates that 100,000 Americans would lose their jobs if the Senate proposal to increase fuel mileage passed.
Let's allow the American free market system to meet America's energy needs. I am willing to bet my minivan that we don't even need taxpayer support to make that happen.

Small Business Survival Committee

Postal service makes taxpayers pay for poor performance

Rich Merritt's Jan. 9 Op-Ed column describing the Postal Service's pay-for-performance scheme as "a massive deceit against the American people" is a valuable contribution to the debate on postal reform ("Stamping out productivity").
Before the release on Dec. 20 of the Office of the Inspector General's evaluation of this payment system, the details were a well-kept secret. One can now understand why. It is amazing that the Postal Service Board of Governors, exercising its oversight of the Postal Service, approved these ill-gotten bonus payments every year, including for 2001.
To a considerable degree, the present financial plight of the Postal Service can be traced directly to this convoluted and distorted incentive payment system. Before the events of September 11, the Postal Service was losing more than $1 billion, despite raising postage rates twice during the year, and was expecting to lose billions more. Since the bonus formula was revised in 1977, postal executives only had funds for bonuses if postal rates increased less than inflation. It is no surprise that that is exactly what occurred regardless of consistent declines in productivity making these under-inflation postage rates insufficient to cover costs.
The slowing economy and the growth of the Internet are not the source of the service's financial woes as much as its management decisions. I hope, with the facts finally known, it is not too late to make corrections to insure a financially viable and responsible Postal Service in the future.

Adjunct fellow
Lexington Institute

The author is the former director of the Postal Service's Office of Economics for Strategic Planning.

'We can be both safe and free'

Since the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has delivered one overarching message to the American public: That we can be both safe and free and that we can bring justice to our attackers and security to our borders without sacrificing the liberty that is the bedrock of our national character.
It has been in this spirit that we have been quick to both praise the government when appropriate and, when we believed civil liberties were being unnecessarily violated, put forth our strong concerns. Our concerns are based on long-standing constitutional principals and address issues so central to our democracy such as the president's order authorizing the use of military tribunals and the Department of Justice's plans to monitor attorney-client conversations without court supervision that we will never waiver in our criticism even if attacked for doing so.
In one such attack, Robert Carleson and Peter Ferrara of the American Civil Rights Union accuse the ACLU of being anti-American and "openly interfering with the government's efforts to prevent another terrorist attack" ("ACLU joins the security fray," Commentary, Jan. 2).
We couldn't disagree more. Nothing could be more American than standing up for constitutional rights at a time when they are most at risk. It is those rights, the core American values of freedom, equality and the rule of law that Mr. Carleson and Mr. Ferrara attack. Conservative luminaries with profiles as high as Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, and columnist William Safire have recognized that basic fact, entering the fray on various administrative and congressional measures, often in support of the ACLU's position.
Furthermore, it is ludicrous to argue that tempered and reasonable objections to the government's recent actions somehow facilitate future acts of terrorism. To suggest that dissent is unpatriotic is to deny that which makes our country great.

Director of legislative communications
American Civil Liberties Union

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