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Rolling Blackouts, Steaming Hot Tubs

Please, save the hyperbole. A few minor blackouts do not a "road to hell" make ("Market lessons from California," Editorials, Feb. 12). For most California consumers and businesses, the impact has been less than a big East Coast snowstorm.

Brett Sheppard

San Francisco

The California-created energy chaos has hit nearby states. To date, no one has had the courage to accept responsibility. But California's governor and U.S. senators want the rest of the U.S. to bail 'em out. First, accept responsibility. Pay the price for the mountain of mistakes. Shut down your hot tubs, spas, and pools, too. Show other Americans you mean it. It's your call!

Lyle Cazel

Glenview, Ill. No kidding. Jeffrey K. Skilling, CEO of Enron Corp., the company that profits the most from deregulation, remains a true believer ("Power play," Cover Story, Feb. 12). Sure, you can tell me he is not the only one to blame--part of the problem is that California's deregulation plan was flawed from the start. All I know is the bills keep going up, and folks like Skilling are making too much profit off of the backs of the California consumer. And with Enron's political ties, apparently including President Bush in their back pocket, I don't see any help in sight.

Calvin Miles

Temecula, Calif.

As Enron branches out into other commodities, CEO Skilling says: "Look at all those salesmen who play golf all day. You don't need to play golf to sell a commodity." This brings up a question that many of us in Houston have been asking: Why do you need to spend $100 million for naming rights to a baseball stadium to sell a commodity?

Arnold Loyd

Houston In "Rethinking America's lesson plan" (Social Issues, Feb. 12), you say: "Teachers' unions and liberal groups dislike the idea of giving public funds to private schools." This is just the type of fuzzy math that undermines honest efforts to find solutions to the nation's problems. This is not the government's money. The money would go to parents, not the schools, much as a tax refund would go back to those who supplied the funds in the first place. How it is spent is not the issue. Choice is the issue.

Cynthia Osborne Hoskin

California, Ky.

It's dismaying to learn that Education Secretary Rod Paige supports the use of standardized tests to measure instructional effectiveness. A standardized test compares the performance of a student with the performance of a previous group. If scores are too similar, they can't be contrasted satisfactorily.

Testmakers engineer score spread among students by including test items unlikely to be taught in class. So powerful is the need for score spread that items answered correctly by more than about half of the students are almost always discarded when the test is revised. Teachers and students are penalized for doing exactly what they should: successfully teaching and learning the most important content in a particular subject field.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles The most important aspect of Bush's tax-cut proposal is: What can we really afford ("Just how big is that surplus?" News: Analysis & Commentary, Feb. 12)? The assumption is that all existing program spending stays the same, that the use of "emergency funding" to get past the balanced-budget requirement is curtailed, that pork-barrel legislation doesn't increase, and that no new tax cuts are added beyond what Bush has already proposed. Oh, and two final things: In this analysis, there is no money to fund the Social Security transition or to pay down the debt.

Help me out, please.

Richard Wells

West Bloomfield, Mich.

I may have a better idea about the Bush tax cut. Let's give the top two brackets a cut of 33% and the bottom bracket a cut of 50%. In return, make it law that all taxpayers must give 5% of their income to the charities of their choice. Such a move will jumpstart not only our economy but also our society.

Robert M. Hamburger

Crestone, Co. Evidently President George W. Bush is thinking about fudging on his promise not to use the Social Security surpluses for anything other than debt reduction. It's either that or he hasn't been in close contact with his chief economic adviser, Lawrence B. Lindsey. ("Larry Lindsey on tax cuts and fighting the slump" and "The lockbox has George in a box," News: Analysis and Commentary, Jan. 29). I guess returning honor and dignity to the White House means something other than following through on the promises you make as a candidate.

Ken Gerstenmaier

Morristown, Tenn. Alan Greenspan may have increased interest rates too many times, but now he has an even harder job: increasing consumer confidence ("Can rate cuts do the job?" News: Analysis & Commentary, Feb. 12). The public doesn't know the difference between a slowing expansion and an outright slowdown.

Eric Jacobson

Sandy, Utah

The question you failed to ask: "Is Greenspan to blame?" In 1990, during a time of rising energy prices, he failed to reduce interests rate to stave off recession. Greenspan was negligent in 1990 and is grossly incompetent now. Fire him before he does more harm.

Stephen P. Sydor

Farmington Hills, Mich. Ideally, I would file electronically a joint tax return for my wife and myself and returns for each of my three children electronically and pay any taxes owed by credit card ("Paperless tax returns: We're making progress," BusinessWeek Investor, Jan. 29). Unfortunately, the tax software packages available today provide for only one free electronic filing and charge a high fee for any additional returns. Internal Revenue Service fees on credit-card billings make this payment option unattractive. The U.S. Postal Service is still the best deal going.

Greg Felton

Mill Valley, Calif. Microsoft Corp.'s software patents allow it to maintain a monopoly through legal fees rather than by producing a superior product ("The wind shifts for Microsoft," Legal Affairs, Feb. 12). The solution is to eliminate its patents on products that dominate a market and force Microsoft to compete on quality. Otherwise, the world will never have a chance to use a real operating system.

Stephen Colley

Belmont, Calif. There is nothing uniquely extreme about the XFL ("Sex! Violence! But will folks keep watching?" News: Analysis & Commentary, Feb. 12.) Putting "extreme" in front of football is a marketing ploy that will quickly become history. But man vs. machine events such as Freestyle Motocross and dirt track Sprint Car Racing? Now, that's extreme!

Gary L. Rupar

Springfield, Mo.

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