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Bush Is Taking the Public out of Public Utilities


Since BusinessWeek has been the primary sentinel in the public community for high ethical and moral standards, it comes as a shock to read "Political power overload" (American News, Sept. 1). Peter Coy leaves out the central issue, which is the systematic attack on the principle of public utilities by the Administration, with the timid acquiescence of most members of Congress.

It has taken several centuries to form this basic ingredient of modern civilization: The public utility is granted a monopolistic, guaranteed market together with the necessary access (by eminent domain where needed). The Administration wants to continue all the perks for the energy people while turning loose the fee structure for robber-baron pricing for "all the traffic will bear."

Vice-President Dick Cheney forms an energy advisory group composed entirely of energy people, its membership secret, its conclusions not released to the public. And a very large number of unelected decision-makers are drawn from Enron Corp. and from the group who were convicted and then pardoned in the Iran-contra affair. These are the people who control policy and "enforcement."

BusinessWeek, we need you to be guardians of the public interest more than ever.

Ward McCabe

San Jose, Calif. Re "Will the attack on the U.N. backfire on the bombers?" (International Outlook, Sept. 1): If I remember my high school history classes properly, we were taught that there are not three but four pillars of democracy: the executive branch, the legislative branch, the judiciary -- and the press. At present, the U.S. is engaged in rebuilding the first three pillars in Iraq. Naturally, the Bush Administration is recreating these institutions based on the template we have at home. This is well-intentioned, but na?ve.

The U.S. has had 200-plus years of democracy, while Iraq has none. In a democracy, one is supposed to vote. And it is through the press that one monitors one's representative, senator, and the government at large. It is through the press that ideas propagate. Unfortunately, Iraq has never been known for its press, but one can nonetheless easily find a variety of points of view, from Al Jazeera to News Corp. to Le Figaro.

A media empire isn't necessary to spread news, either: All that's required is a Web site or even a free e-mail account. Distribution across the country will require funds, but probably less than what it will take to recreate Iraq's oil industry. One can start with a single computer per village, connected to the Internet via wireless fidelity or satellite.

President George W. Bush, for the sake of democracy in Iraq -- along with the profits of Bechtel and Haliburton -- please send Earthlink, Yahoo!, and America Online.

Bernard Fraenkel

Oakland, Calif.


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