- The Washington Times - Monday, July 3, 2000

'Thank God for Ralph Nader'

Ben Wattenberg's column, "Are Nader's raiders apt to be faders?" (Commentary, June 29), was simplistic and close-minded coming from such an intelligent person.

Thank God for Ralph Nader. Sure, he may not always be correct on every issue, but think of how his organization has saved so many Americans from being ripped off, injured or even killed.

If someone decides to monitor corporations, it does not mean they are a "commie," socialist or are anti-trade. If someone thinks that a "free" trade policy favors corporations and can be detrimental to human rights and the environment, they would be correct whether they are a capitalist or socialist. Mr. Nader simply monitors the activities of the World Trade Organization, and this monitoring is in the best interests of many of us.

Mr. Wattenberg's assertions about the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries may be true, but let's face it, big oil has been making record profits lately.

His comment about the so-called upcoming presidential debates is also incorrect. First, they are not really debates; they are merely question-and-answer sessions. Second, both candidates barely differ on most issues because Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush are on the corporate America payroll. The Federal Election Commission is run by corporate America, which certainly does not want Mr. Nader or Ross Perot voicing an alternative opinion.

America is supposed to be a democracy, but corporate America and the corporate media are becoming our new government no alternative opinions allowed.

If we listen to the majority of the news media, we should not dare check the motivations of certain corporations and just let them make rules; similar to an aristocracy.

PAUL DEFILIPPES

Washington

After-school programs deserve high grades and praise

Darcy Ann Olsen's attack on after-school programs ("Canceling summer vacation," Commentary, June 20) both misstates the intent and the results of our efforts to help communities creatively use public school facilities for a broad range of much-needed education programs.

For example, the Department of Education's after-school and summer programs, initiated by the Clinton administration in 1994, are not, as Ms. Olsen of the Cato Institute complains, an effort to take child-rearing responsibilities away from parents. Rather, this initiative strengthens the family bond by engaging parents in after-school activities and providing them with educational opportunities as well, such as literacy programs, parenting classes and adult education.

Local parents and educators design the after-school and summer programs that meet the needs of their students and community. They also enlist the efforts of private civic organizations, such as the YMCA and 4-H Clubs, cultural groups and local businesses, to work with students and their families through these centers.

Most important, these programs provide a safe haven and educational oasis for the millions of American children of working parents. According to Department of Education studies, there are more than 23 million school-age children with parents in the work force, and about one in four has no supervision between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. It is during those hours that our young people are most at risk to be the victims of crime and violence, and when most youth-related crime and vandalism take place. It also can be, even for many of the best-behaved children, a time of loneliness or potential mischief.

That is why 84 percent of school principals favor after-school programs, where children can do their homework, receive tutoring, play sports, do art projects or improve their English in a supervised setting bustling with creativity and community interaction.

It also is the reason that schools from across the United States, including many in low-income urban areas, have applied for federal funds to open centers in their schools.

Ms. Olsen is right in saying that the administration enthusiastically advocates making available more after-school and summer programs. And now, after a strong five-year track record, the programs enjoy bipartisan support and the enthusiastic endorsement of parents, educators, elected officials, and business and civic leaders.

Ending these programs and substituting another tax break for middle-income and wealthy families, as Ms. Olsen suggests defies the wisdom of parents, juvenile experts and plain common sense. In the continuing, often difficult quest to provide educational opportunity for all children, we should embrace and build on what works.

This initiative works spectacularly.

FRANK S. HOLLEMAN III

Deputy secretary

U.S. Department of Education

Washington

Should the genetic genie be bottled?

The genetic genie is out of the bottle, and like nuclear power, it can be used for good or evil ("Human genome draft is complete," June 27).

Scientists have cracked the genetic code nature used to write the book on humans a landmark leap that may help people cheat diseases such as cancer. As President Clinton said during a two-continent press conference announcing the mapping of the human genome: "Today we are learning the language in which God created life." (Hopefully, that includes a clear definition of the word "is.")

Soon, it may be possible for doctors to manipulate genes and cure terrible diseases, but also for insurance companies, employers and others to make critical decisions based on information gleaned from an individual's genetic code. As in the movie "Gattaca," there is a frightening potential for both genetic bigotry and a form of eugenics the Nazis could only have dreamed of. Life imitates art.

Suppose the homosexual lobby is right. Suppose there is a "gay" gene. Some might consider that a birth defect, something to be eliminated. Abortion based on genetic testing could become a constitutionally protected method of gay-bashing. Tom Sena, a founder of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, has written that if a gay gene is discovered, even well-meaning, liberal parents might choose to abort their homosexual child as a mercy killing.

In 1994, scientists identified the dwarfism gene. Will such people be eliminated in the future through abortion based on prenatal testing? Dr. Joycelyn Elders, a former surgeon general, once testified that abortion "has had an important, and positive, public-health effect" because it had cut the number of Down syndrome babies. This is the evil discrimination against the genetically unfavored and, ultimately, the elimination of those considered unfit to live.

University of Chicago bioethicist Leon Kass, who believes this sort of thing is practiced today, says: "Abortion for negative eugenics reasons has quietly been made a staple of ordinary medical practice." How is a nation that permits, under the guise of a woman's right to choose, 1.5 million abortions annually, for any reason, going to prevent abortions because of genetic testing?

The slippery slope just got slipperier.

DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI

Chicago

A rocky view of free speech

The Washington Times makes some valid points regarding John Rocker's predicament ("John Rocker vs. New York," Editorial, June 29). Your emphasis on First Amendment violations is misplaced, however.

The right of freedom of speech, enshrined in the Constitution, protects Mr. Rocker from governmental interference. Contrary to restraining him, governmental power has been deployed to protect Mr. Rocker, and rightly so. What the government cannot, and should not, do is what your editorial implies: Protect people, Southern white males or otherwise, from the consequences of that speech.

That would be the sort of politically correct crackdown you condemn in your editorial.

SAAD GUL

Davidson, N.C.

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