- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 11, 2006

Deregulation in D.C.

As the People’s Counsel for the District of Columbia, I read with interest a quote attributed to Pepco regional President Thomas H. Graham that read, “Hopefully what doesn’t come about from this are people starting to blame other people because when deregulation came about, everyone thought they were doing the right thing” (“Lawmakers rush to curb power rates,” Page 1, Thursday). If this quote is correct and his remarks were intended to refer to events leading to deregulation and divestiture in Maryland, as well as in District of Columbia, then Mr. Graham is dead wrong. This could only be a revisionist view of history.

As practically “everyone knows,” the District of Columbia Office of the People’s Counsel, together with the Consumer Utility Board, were the lone voices advocating that deregulation, electric industry restructuring, the divestiture of Pepco’s generation plants, and retail competition and consumer choice would not benefit the residential consumers of Washington. Why? Because at that time, D.C. consumers had safe and reliable service provided by a well-managed electric utility that was subject to enlightened regulation and the crucible of effective, zealous consumer advocacy. As a result, D.C. consumers enjoyed one of the lowest electric rates on the East Coast.

For Pepco, via its misinformed regional president, to now plead with officials and consumers not to blame others or to blame Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is at the very least disingenuous.

OPC-D.C. and the Consumer Utility Board were not in favor of any of this in 1998. As OPC was recently reminded by a now-enlightened regulator, in 2006, the “deregulatory chickens have come home to roost.” To this very day, there is no evidence residential consumers in Washington, or apparently in Maryland either, have reaped the promised benefits of industry restructuring, deregulation, divestiture, retail competition or consumer choice.

The truth is while “being right” is great, protecting the future interests of consumers in having safe, adequate and reliable service at just, reasonable and affordable rates remains the goal of the Office of the People’s Counsel for the District of Columbia.

Perpetually escalating energy costs that are now not subject to local regulatory control are but one result of failed deregulation. OPC-D.C. remains willing to work with enlightened minds to revisit the policies that brought consumers to this point and to craft a new future. In this way, we can all “keep our eyes on the prize,” rather than focusing on “who did what” to the region’s energy consumers.


D.C. People’s Counsel


The Muslim mainstream and Muslim radicals

Jack Kelly (“Missing the Muslim mainstream,” Commentary, Wednesday) asserts as “the central strategic question in the war on terror: Is Islam compatible with a free society?”

Posing the question this way, however, fatally conflates Muslims as individuals, Islam as an abstract religious philosophy and medieval Islamic fundamentalism (defined here as the belief that a supernatural force commands the coercive imposition of Islam).

As Mr. Kelly should recognize, the existence of civilized Muslims such as Zalmay Khalilzad and Mansoor Ijaz conclusively demonstrates that Muslims as human beings and Islam as an abstract religious philosophy are both compatible with free society. Contrary to Mr. Kelly’s odd conclusion, no serious commentator, including Ann Coulter, would advocate that we “kill the Muslims in our midst.” Anyone so advocating would be the philosophical and moral equivalent of the terrorists we are fighting.

The philosophical content of the beliefs being imposed is irrelevant to the question of whether a philosophy or its adherents are compatible with free society. Any movement that conspires to initiate violence to gain power or impose its beliefs is incompatible with free society. What medieval Islamic fundamentalism shares with Nazism is the initiation of violence to gain power and impose beliefs on unwilling individuals.

Medieval Islamic fundamentalism is therefore wholly incompatible with free society because its essential defining characteristic is the violent imposition of Islamic beliefs. Terrorism and tyranny are the polar opposites of a free, voluntary society. By contrast, the military forces of free societies are best conceptualized as the collective organization of the individual right of self-defense.

Unfortunately, implacable violent opposition to voluntary, free societies is the dominant trend in Islam today. Even in supposedly “moderate” Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, religious police patrol the streets, coercively enforcing Islamic strictures. The United States has the moral right, though not a duty, to use force against any individuals or nations that initiate force anywhere in the world. The United States has a positive duty to use force to oppose a regime that uses violence against its own peaceful citizens. To claim otherwise amounts to a wholesale assault on the very notion of free society and elevates barbarism over civilization.


Great Falls

FAIRand unfair

In regard to “Campus recruiting rescue” (Commentary, Thursday): Although I opposed the Solomon Amendment, which cuts off funds to universities that bar military recruiters, and although my law school joined in the Forum for Academic and Institutional Research challenge, I still agree with William Murchison that law professors got the rebuke they so richly deserved from bringing a lawsuit based on such “illogical” legal theories that none could sway even one justice.

In addition to ridiculing all of their arguments, the unanimous Supreme Court went further, ruling that instead of relying on the threat of a funding cutoff, Congress could simply require campus access even from those universities that don’t receive — or are willing to risk — federal funds. The decision also gives a constitutional green light to even more intrusions, e.g., potentially requiring on-campus recruiting stations, guns on campuses, etc.

My law school voted to join FAIR knowing that the decision would have no legal impact, but as a gesture of support. Perhaps others did also or didn’t have enough common sense to realize that FAIR’s arguments could never succeed.


Professor of Public Interest Law

George Washington University Law School


On campus, a multiplicity of ‘isms’

Regarding David Horowitz’s assertion that universities are filled with leftists and Marxists (“Terrorism and tenure” Culture, et cetera, Friday), I can tell you from experience that they are also filled with jingoists and extreme conservatives. And so what? Students should be exposed to a wide range of views. Isn’t our job to teach critical thinking?

I’m an instructor at one of the colleges Mr. Horowitz criticizes, and I can tell you nobody has ever given me a hard time about being pro-Israel or disagreeing with Karl Marx. My department has a multiplicity of views, and I think that’s a good thing. We insist on dialogue. I have never punished any student for disagreeing with my opinions — which I always identify as opinions. For example, I am not a fan of President Bush, but for those who are, as long as they can write a good essay or back up their assertions with solid reasoning, I have no problem. And contrary to Mr. Horowitz’s straw man (straw professor?) assertions, students are getting exposed to arguments from both the left and the right — which is the way it ought to be.

Mr. Horowitz claims he wants academic freedom, yet the only professors he considers dangerous are left wing. There are extremists on both sides, and I must object when conservatives try to stifle dialogue by accusing academia of being “too liberal.” The reality is that students are learning in spite of this, and no, we are not teaching the next generation of terrorists. Taking a course about Marxism (or communism or even conservatism) doesn’t mean one will instantly accept that ideology. Mr. Horowitz should know that. So should your readers.


Instructor, media ethics

University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Amherst, Mass.

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