What caused the energy crisis in California?

Regarding your Aug. 19 editorial "Behind the rolling blackouts": Deregulating electric power is a big mistake. Regulation didn't fail California during its energy crisis. The shortfall began when utilities and regulators prepared for divestiture of the generators that had served that market well.

Deregulation fails because competition requires substantially more power capacity than the market can absorb, meaning some generators are only useful during peak loads. Unlike most goods, kilowatts must be used; they cannot be stored. Therefore, oversupply cannot restrain rising energy prices and classic market forces never assert themselves. Under deregulation, either kilowatts must cost more, or equipment must be used less efficiently. Promoters of deregulation actually lobbied to have the utilities stripped of their generators, just to empower competitors. This shut down some of the equipment during peak loads, leading to blackouts.

Californians are stymied. With utility deregulation, only promoters and politicians prosper. Ratepayers, taxpayers, employees, and investors lose.
Jim Woolsey
Sierra Vista, Ariz.

Weighing computer-based testing

Regarding "When the tests fail" (Learning, Aug. 20): It's true that computer-based tests may eliminate test lag (the delay in receiving the results of tests) but that's not the main problem with high-stakes tests. The real issue is that no single exam should ever be used to make important educational decisions. That's why parents across this country are organizing against high-stakes testing, computer-based or not.

I liked the school official's comparison of the new tests to a bathroom scale. With the computer-based tests, we can eliminate the waiting around to get the results. But, it's still possible to jiggle the results with reequating, resetting the cut scores, or rewriting questions so that they are easier. We can also do test prep, narrow the curriculum, and leave out kids to raise the pass rates. All that false reading of higher pass rates might make politicians happy, but it won't necessarily give an accurate picture of student progress.
Mickey VanDerwerker
Bedford, Va.

Why Bush cut aid to Egypt

Your (Aug. 20) editorial "The US, Egypt, and rights" applauding the recent US human rights stand vis-à-vis an imprisoned Egyptian human rights activist, gives unwarranted credit to the Bush administration. The treatment of this activist was given as justification for denying an Egyptian request for more money, a request prompted by recent additional US funds awarded Israel. Under promises made at the time of Camp David, Egypt receives funds in proportion to those given Israel.

In fact, the recent "human rights" announcement is merely an excuse to decouple Egyptian aid from aid to Israel. As the Monitor reported on July 26, the US has been shipping Al Qaeda suspects to Egypt so that interrogators there can torture them for us. Concern for human rights? Rubbish. It's cold-blooded hypocrisy and you should have called the Bush administration on it.
Mike Wilson
Lexington, Ky.

Let the poppies bloom

In response to your Aug. 21 article "Poppies bloom in Afghan fields, again": The US should not take an active role in discouraging the cultivation of poppies in Afghanistan. Funds spent "battling" the opiate trade are less productive than investing the same amount of money in preventive education. There will always be a market for opiates. Money spent on "controlling the problem" could be better spent on basic amenities in a poverty-stricken country.
Diana Lillig

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