- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

Bush's color-blind brief

The opening sentence of Tuesday's Page One article "Bush set to break silence in race case" is misleading. It reads: "President Bush is planning to side with white students against the University of Michigan ."
However, were Mr. Bush to put his imprimatur on the brief the Justice Department has prepared for him, he wouldn't be siding with any race or ethnic group on the issue of reverse discrimination (or affirmative action, if you will). It would have been clearer had the sentence read: "President Bush is planning to encourage the University of Michigan to admit the most qualified applicants, regardless of race or ethnicity."
To give any person a 13 percent advantage on the entrance exams because of skin color or ethnicity is a morally wrong criterion in an admissions policy. If universities want to encourage diverse student bodies in a fair manner, they ought to offer those who can't make the cut some prep courses to help them improve their chances of admission.

Kokomo, Ind.

Addressing the clergy

I am a daily subscriber to your excellent paper, which is performing an immeasurably valuable service to our nation and its capital with its consistently principled and well-balanced reporting. It is especially refreshing to read a newspaper that, among its other virtues, does not seem to be bent on Catholic-bashing.
However, why was Maryland Lt. Gov.-elect Michael S. Steele's Catholic pastor, the Rev. J. William Hines, three times referred to as "Mr. Hines" in "Hometowns welcome Ehrlich, Steele" (Metro, Monday)? It's a friendly story otherwise, so why the gratuitously inappropriate title? Your reporter would not have heard anyone refer to Father Hines as mister.


Mrs. Huffington's ironic ad

Michael P. Farris' column "Huff-huff Huffington" (Op-Ed, Tuesday) failed to emphasize how cynical Arianna Huffington's anti-sport-utility-vehicle campaign really is. It isn't the use of oil, per se, against which Mrs. Huffington rants. Otherwise, the driver of any vehicle (including Mrs. Huffington herself), anyone who flies in an airplane and anyone who uses any petroleum products also would be guilty.
It's Middle Eastern oil that Mrs. Huffington considers bad because Middle Eastern oil supports Middle Eastern terrorists, but it's not SUV drivers who force us to depend on Middle Eastern oil. The guilt rests upon environmentalists, leftists and their media mouthpieces who oppose drilling for our own oil in Alaska and off our coasts.
Ironically, because Mrs. Huffington herself opposes drilling in the Alaska nature reserve, she and her environmentalist pals are at least partly responsible for our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. So, who is really enabling terrorists?

Longmeadow, Mass.

Don't jack up Metro fares

In light of Metro's threatened fare increase, we urgently need a Metro chief executive who displays leadership instead of voicing tired platitudes and yielding to the pressures of people who are not interested in sustainable mass transit ("Metro fares, parking-fee increases to get airing," Metro, Friday).
Yes, taking a stand against fare increases might get Metro head Richard White fired, but how refreshing it would be if he would make the following pronouncements:
Critics cannot shame Metro for its government subsidies. After all, the movement and storage of the private automobile is this nation's most cherished subsidy. This subsidy far outweighs Metro's meager assistance.
With the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries slated to increase oil production to meet Venezuela's shortfall, gasoline prices will again drop. Indeed, gasoline pricing has lagged far behind the consumer price index.
Throughout Europe and Asia, mass transit is subsidized as needed, so it remains affordable. In these regions, auto ownership, travel and parking are appropriately taxed. Thus, gasoline pricing is more commensurate to the private auto's extraordinary privileges.
Holding (or reducing) Metro fares would alleviate traffic congestion. Raising fares would only induce drivers to continue journeying by car instead of parking and riding. This would do nothing to solve congested traffic.


The FCC vs. free markets and states' rights

In a country where a pro-business Republican occupies the White House and his party controls both houses of Congress, one would not expect to see a major federal agency threatening an assault on states' rights and free-market principles.
Yet that appears to be what the Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Michael K. Powell is preparing to do as it contemplates major changes in telecommunications policy.
I am surprised that The Washington Times has editorialized in support of Mr. Powell's efforts, especially evident in an editorial ("The Tauzin-Dingell debate," July 29, 2001) in which the paper urged elected officials to "be skeptical of legislation that would dismantle the 1996 Telecom Act prematurely," and said "there are no quick fixes for the tech industry's current situation."
Mr. Powell is offering a rule that would gut the competitive provisions of the act a dismantling undertaken in the name of a "fix." He achieves his fix by infringing on the 1996 act's reliance on state authority to foster and grow competition in phone services for American consumers. That is why Frontiers of Freedom, the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform and 19 other conservative groups from across the country filed an ex-parte communication with the FCC opposing Mr. Powell's efforts.
Just as the Telecom Act of 1996 is finally beginning to bring significant competition to America's $110-billion-a-year local telecom services market, Mr. Powell has been sending signals to the news media that he wants the commission to pull the plug on competition. Whatever progress there has been was made possible by the Telecom Act's provision that the Bell companies offer competitors leased capacity on their publicly subsidized local networks at reasonable wholesale prices. This leasing arrangement is what the telecom industry calls UNE-P, Unbundled Network Elements Platform.
The chairman is proposing to eliminate the UNE-P requirement. The net effect would be the end of any hope of competitive choice for American consumers and a return of the entire local service market to the four regional Bell monopolies, which still control more than 90 percent of the market.
In the local market, competition has established a beachhead in a handful of states where state public utility commissions have enforced UNE-P. New York and Michigan have been leaders in this effort, and consumers are seeing the benefits of free-market dynamics at work.
By independent estimates, local phone service customers are saving several hundred million dollars a year in New York. In areas of Michigan where local competition has taken root, the giant Bell SBC has lowered consumer rates by a third, with even bigger reductions offered to small business customers.
Nationwide, more than 10 million consumers and small businesses have switched their local service from one of the Bell monopolies to one of the new competitors. Most of that competitive choice was exercised in just the past year, and all of it is the result of Bell competitors using UNE-P to get into the market. Rural consumers, in particular, have taken advantage of the new choices offered as a result UNE-P. According to FCC filings by SBC, rural customers in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio are outpacing suburban and urban customers in switching their phone service to new competitors.
Those of us who believe in free markets and states' rights would find that a serious setback for America and a dangerous precedent for excessive federal government power.

Former U.S. senator
Frontiers of Freedom Institute

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