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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deregulation Opponents of the World, Unite!

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In response to "Chubais Lamp Is Not a Good Guiding Light," a column by Boris Kagarlitsky, July 27.

As a U.S. citizen I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the reasonable views presented by Boris Kagarlitsky. Since I do not know Mr. Chubais other than through the hazed filter of press reports my appreciation of Mr. Kagarlitsky's opinion is limited to economic policy. What struck me as sane and realistic are the following words:

"Basic common sense should tell us that running the national energy system like a small private business is no less foolish than incorporating a small shoemaker's workshop into the centralized state planning system. But politics has no need for common sense — it has its own interests. And that is why even a clear case of policy failure does not constitute an argument against continuing that policy."

There is a political lesson for Americans in this. Several years ago the state of California was pressured by "free marketeers" via socially conservative legislators to "deregulate" power production in that state. This move quickly brought about a crisis of rolling brownouts, power shortages, monopoly price increases, profit gouging, and a crisis in energy production accompanied by repeated astronomical spikes in the consumer price of electricity. Two factors were not considered in this transition from a regulated to an unregulated market:

First, without state control vast corporate monopolies quickly replaced or purchased their smaller competitors.

Second, having secured a relative monopoly in distribution, the electrical power producers reduced the number of generating plants while failing to bring new plants on line (and since oil and natural gas are used as primary fuel to run generators in California the reduced service was also attended by an overall reduction in the number of oil refineries from 37 to six throughout the western region). Supply was intentionally and artificially reduced. Both price and profits climbed as the lights went out in the homes, businesses, and factories throughout California, Oregon, and the state of Washington.

The first political response to the shortfall in electric power was dishonest. Socially conservative politicians, mostly from the Republican Party, tried to blame the environmentalist movement. They claimed that the price increase was due to prevailing emission standards, as if new technologies didn't exist. They also blamed ecologists for "not allowing" more electrical generating plants to come online as a supposed "cause" of reduced electrical generation.

In fact, it was the producers themselves and their paid-off legislators, lobbyists, and lawyers that drafted and implemented the "deregulation laws" in California. The diversionary attack on the environmentalists was a smoke screen sent into the air to camouflage the swindling of consumers by the power companies. The citizens of California knew the propaganda of the power producers was absurd, that producers were to blame. Outspoken conservative politicians and corporate lobbyists stood exposed as professional liars.

Federal and regional governments in the West, especially the government of California, are currently being forced by circumstance and by public concern, by mounting rage, to reluctantly move towards a new system of re-regulating the market and energy production. Meanwhile, a large portion of extraordinary super-profits brought about by market manipulation and rampant price gouging have been used politically to fund corporate welfare and to transfer public revenue from social programs into massive tax cuts, mostly piped to wealthy citizens.

During this same period, electric and private oil monopolists have been free to donate millions and millions of dollars to their favorite grammarian, Mr. George W. Bush. The totality of these events and economic processes have helped create another dismal dynamic: Our electoral process, once admired, has been systematically corrupted by means of campaign finance violations, corporate payoffs to politicians, through avarice and shady deals.

Many years ago, as a young student of economics, I was taught that there exists such a thing as "natural monopolies" and that these are best placed under direct government control. In other words, a regulated sector. Electricity, roads, bridges, rail, ports, airwaves, airlines, and natural wildlife areas and parks are best controlled, according to this school of thought, by our federal government. Corporations place profits above everything else and are thus at the forefront of damage to our common heritage and nature. In purpose and being private monopoly ownership and production, and the politicians they sponsor are not accountable to the public — only to the stockholders.

I welcome the common sense of Boris Kagarlitsky.

Bruce R. Boyle
Plainfield, Vermont

Thank you for the informative article! I knew that deregulation in California did not work. I did not know of Brazil's or Russia's deregulation problems. The proponents of deregulation push for more and faster progress in the United States. Some segments are best strictly regulated by the government, no matter if there are inefficiencies. Our electric system has worked by and large very well in the United States. I do not look forward to deregulation.

Kevin Gallagher
Highmore, South Dakota

A Hacker's Like a Spy

In response to "Jailed 'E-Pirate' a Cause Celebre," an article by Elinor Mills Abreu, July 23, and "Jail Time, Digital Style," a comment by Lawrence Lessig, July 31.

I realize my stance will win me no friends in a world that glorifies petty terrorists such as hackers and violent "protesters" at major international summits, but I find nothing to sympathize with in the Dmitry Sklyarov story. I see no critical commentary here, everyone is stepping up to the podium to decry the U.S. stance and state that Dmitry did nothing wrong. I disagree.

Sklyarov intentionally wrote a program to circumvent someone else's security system. He states, as quoted in your 23 July article, "I wrote the program to demonstrate security flaws, not to violate copyright laws." Why, then, was it sold to the general public for personal gain?

Also mentioned in a previous article is that some consider the U.S. copyright law flawed, as it outlaws technologies, not conduct. I pose this question in rebuttal, "Whose conduct created the program in the first place (and subsequently marketed it)?"

Much, if not most, hacking is probably simply young computer whizzes trying their luck and testing their skills. However, there is a point at which it must be recognized for what it really is: a conscious act of sabotage and an attempt to harm others. If Mr. Sklyarov's real intention was merely to demonstrate Adobe's security lapses, he should have sent the program to them as a sample of how easy it was to break their encoding.

Just how much security is enough? Robert Hanssen, one could argue, simply found a weakness in U.S. security and exploited it (i.e. made it known to the Soviets). After all, "only if weaknesses can be discovered and described openly will they be fixed," your article said. What's all the fuss over Hanssen? Anticipating Sklyarov by a few years, all he did was find a weakness and sell it. As Sklyarov, he merely neglected to inform those from whom he was aiding others to pilfer.

Again, how much security is enough? If your neighbor leaves the door to their house open, do you steal everything you want and broadcast the openness of the door over the radio? No, you'd probably call up and say, "Hey, neighbor, you left your door open. Want me to close it for you?" However, Mr. Lessig's comment and the general attitude toward hackers would tend to imply the opposite.

There may be those who would defend Sklyarov (as opposed to Hanssen) on the grounds that his hacking didn't kill anyone. Please tell us, then, what will your reaction be when a Sklyarov hacks a medical program, giving patients access to information they do not know how to use, and they therefore die?

Lessig (a law professor!) wonders "how a free society can jail someone for writing code that was legal where written." For one, Sklyarov was well aware that his code was unacceptable by U.S. standards, but still went there. Two: religious death warrants are accepted in some countries. By this same logic, Mr. Lessig must consider Salman Rushdie a valid target, wherever he may be.

Jeremy Busch

G-8 Visa-Free Zone

In response to "Putin Takes His Triumphs To G-7 Talks," an article by Torrey Clark, July 20.

Your article makes the point that at government level Russia has achieved level status with the other G-8 countries.

And while [presidential economic advisor Andrei] Illarionov proudly announces Russia's ascension to the highest sphere, no mention is made that Russian citizens alone among the G-8 are still required a visa to visit any of the other club members.

Russia should in this field take the first step and allow citizens from each of the G-8 countries to visit Russia as freely as they can any other country. And the other G-8 countries should quickly reciprocate.

This may mean that at the next summit also radical Russian protesters could join the orgy of destruction suffered by Genoa last week, but yearlong tourists and businessmen could travel helping create the cultural and commercial exchanges by which every country progresses.

Walter Borio

13th Myth Debunked

In response to "Russia's 12 Myths About U.S. Media," a comment by Michael McFaul, July 13.

One myth that was overlooked in the article: Reporters' notes are exempt from third parties.

At one time it was believed sources did not have to be revealed. Here is a situation in Kansas a few years back: A reporter had interviewed an accused murderer. The enforcement agency demanded his notes, he refused, the paper refused to cooperate. They were both threatened with incarceration. They finally conceded and surrendered the notes. Freedom of press?? I don't think so.

Cliff Cusick
Wichita, Kansas

Protesters Differ

In response to "Soviet Union Strikes Back," a column by Yevgenia Albats, July 31.

The article certainly deserves some serious thought. I have to think about it because the next G-8 summit will be held in my backyard.

People who choose fully to inform themselves of the protest phenomena at Genoa, Davos, Goteburg, Seattle, Prague, Quebec City, and so forth won't come up with the same Soviet-centric view of protest as has Yevgenia Albats.

No: the protesters were there for a variety of reasons. Some, like soccer hooligans, were there only to cause problems, while others, like those who followed the hippies but never truly associated with the "peace and love" themes, merely like a good summer party. Still others were there because they sense losing the climate change battle to major corporations, while others sincerely want a better deal for the very poor and the very ill.

Of the various types of people gathered in Genoa, only the last two had legitimate cause for protest and their concerns were, in fact, being addressed, adequately or not, by the G-8, even while they protested.

The losers who will never be represented at any such illustrious table are the anarchists, who believe in nothing and no one. The winners are the legitimate and generally peaceful protesters who want more representative, democratic processes to help plan for a better 21st century. Plans are afoot for more direct forms of representation at international organizations such as the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank. It is here where democracy's planners and nation-states' representatives at the global level need to focus. G-8 has no secretariat and so the process reverts to the nation-states themselves to resolve at other joint forums.

An economist recently opined that he welcomed focus on the vague term "globalization" because it helped attract attention to the very dry, lifeless study of economics. Examined carefully, it can be proved that globalization works, if unevenly. Now, we need to attract the same sort of attention to breathing some life into democracy through better representative planning and operations at the global level.

John Anderson
Calgary, Canada

Hard to Believe

In response to "Pilot Error Blamed for Crash of Tu-154 Jet," an article by Lyuba Pronina, July 10.

I try to read regularly Russell Working's "Letters from the Far East." I enjoyed a visit to the Far East recently. I have a personal connection to the region, in particular to the town of Artyom, via a Russian student sponsored by our family to attend Temple University in Philadelphia.

I read with sadness The Moscow Times' coverage of the tragic plane crash in Siberia in early July. I am surprised that Mr. Working has not chosen to write more about this event from a local perspective. I would be interested to learn reactions from locals. I am acquainted with the family of someone who, sadly, was a member of the flight crew on that flight. From the reports that I have read, I find it difficult to accept "pilot error" alone as the cause of the disaster.

Kim Eberle-Wang
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Utopian Dreams

In response to "Duped by a Delayer," a column by Pavel Felgenhauer, July 26.

I am a reader that lives in the United States, and I would like to comment that I find it refreshing to hear another country's views on governmental issues that pertain to the U.S.A.

Most Americans are overly egocentric about our country. They have been happily anesthetized by our government as well as the media.

What a different world it would be if more Americans read international news reports ... There go my utopian dreams again. Sorry!

Lynda Bernarde
Seattle, Washington

In response to "Putin Answers All But One Question," article by Andrei Zolotov Jr., July 19.

I certainly agree with President Vladimir Putin's statement that the Russian Federation should be allowed to enter NATO as a full partner, since it is only a political organization, or else NATO should be abandoned. The Cold War is over. The United States and the Russian Federation should engage in conversation of an alliance. The both nations have the same needs for their people.

Arnoldt Spitz
Chersterland, Ohio