- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 25, 2000

Letter writer gives columnist a bum rap

Kenneth Smith deserves better than Pat Johnson's charge that, "To claim that all liberals believe what Mr. Smith states they do is intellectually dishonest" ("Columnist leaps to conclusions about liberals," Letters, June 19).

Superficially, Mr. Johnson's letter gives every appearance of being both fair and logical. Upon examination, it is neither fair nor logical. Two simple observations make this quite apparent.

First, the letter is unfair because Mr. Smith never made this claim. On the contrary, Mr. Smith explicitly noted that he was characterizing liberalism based upon liberalism's "most visible spokespersons." If the letter writer knows a more intellectually honest means to characterize a political faction than this time-honored method, fairness requires that this alternative method be specified. It was not.

Second, the letter is illogical because it offers the writer's own example as the sole proof that Mr. Smith's generalizations about liberals were not just wrong, but intellectually dishonest. If we remove the subjectivity of politics, this is silly on its face. Suppose Mr. Smith had declared that liberals have five fingers on each hand. Would a single exception invalidate that generalization? Would a million exceptions prove that Mr. Smith was being intellectually dishonest?

If the truth be known, Mr. Smith probably is wrong about liberals. After all, most human beings are wrong most of the time and never is that so true as in politics. To be wrong, however, is not the same as being illogical or being intellectually dishonest.

Those who would prove otherwise leave themselves open to their own charges.

WOODROW F. DICK JR.

Springfield

Editorial reveals a taxing horror

Thank you for your June 16 editorial " 'Cost of Government Day,' " which should be required reading for every U.S. citizen.

Unfortunately, many Americans, aside from irresponsible aloofness, are so overwhelmed by family and work obligations that they fail to realize the subjugation under which we live day to day in terms of taxes and the hidden regulatory component.

Fail is the appropriate word as every citizen, regardless of his obligations and challenges, should be aware of this growing, insidious threat that undermines us in countless ways.

Saving for a child's college education has become par with climbing Mount Everest. Personal saving, investing and spending become more challenging as the multiple layers of taxation, including the latent regulatory layers, create an ever-increasing opportunity cost.

JERRY MCCUTCHEON JR.

Annandale, N.J.

Times fails to explain the facts about Egyptian case

Your June 22 editorial "Round up the usual Christian suspects" reflects inaccurate and incomplete information.

Sheiboub Arsal was brought to court, and the case against him was presented and treated on its merits. The procedures were neither effected nor affected by his religion. Furthermore, Mr. Arsals' defense lawyers were given every opportunity to present their arguments in accordance with the law.

There is no merit to the allegations that the court was motivated by religious discrimination or by any other element beyond the criminal case itself. Justice applies to all Egyptians irrespective of their faith. Egyptian nationals are not persecuted or targeted because of their religious beliefs, and citizens, whether Copts or Muslims, are not immune from prosecution if they have violated the law.

As to the reference to the large number of Copts rounded up for investigation in Alkosheh village in Upper Egypt, the facts are incomplete and taken out of context. The figure is questionable. It must be noted that more than 75 percent of the inhabitants of this particular village are Copts; consequently, it is not surprising that the majority of those interrogated would be Copt. You would have provided your readers with a more accurate picture had you also explained the facts.

MAHMOUD GAAFAR

Counselor and head of office

Press Bureau

Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt

Washington

Gore's e-government vision is too fuzzy

Vice President Al Gore set forth his vision for modern government earlier this month. Sadly, and after nearly eight years in office, it showed little vision and little understanding of the critical link between technology and fundamental government functions. The gap between his program and what e-government needs to be is as wide as the gap between a typewriter and a supercomputer.

Mr. Gore's four-point program offers us:

• Kiosks in malls for government services.

• A "GBay" for the auction of surplus government equipment.

• The promise of all government services on line by 2003.

• "Digital keys" for every American to unlock doors that now apparently bar them from conducting business with Uncle Sam.

Electronic government goes to issues far more critical to the information economy than kiosks and GBay. At its core, e-government is about fast and accessible services, integrated within and across agencies and departments, across levels of government, and, where appropriate, with the private and nonprofit sectors. It is about using technology as the tool to challenge and break down bureaucracy. It is about systems that share data seamlessly so citizens do not have to provide the same information to different agents of government over and over again.

And, it is about a program of leadership to accomplish these things.

The tragedy of Mr. Gore's program is that he was given responsibility for technology in government as part of the National Performance Review. But then who can name even one major review accomplishment? The effort was laudable; the results, however, were little more than tinkering around the edges of the federal bureaucracy. The evidence suggests that we should be concerned about the vice president's understanding of technology and its relationship to management.

After eight years of the Clinton-Gore administration, we have our Commerce Department selling computers to Housing and Urban Development, National Aeronautics and Space Administration selling computers to Commerce, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) selling to everyone, dozens of other agencies selling computers to themselves and scores of other agencies. We know who pays the millions of dollars to maintain these procurement shops you and me. NIH should concentrate on curing disease and not worry about selling computers to the Department of Labor.

Of equal concern is that there is no method to this madness. Taxpayers spend $36 billion annually on information technology for the federal government. Is that investment managed? Can government communicate across agencies, share data? The answer is no, or, at best, here and there.

Indeed, are there empowered professionals to manage these operations? The answer again is no.

Further, the vice president tells us that all Americans will possess digital keys with which they can easily interact and transact with their government.

This "public key infrastructure" environment requires the highest level of organization, coordination, management and leadership. There is nothing one could point to in this administration that would remotely suggest that this is possible.

By contrast, Texas Gov. George W. Bush recently proposed a different vision for e-government. His includes a chief information officer (CIO), with budgetary and managerial authority. The governor's $100 million seed fund would give this CIO position a powerful tool to encourage transaction, resource and information sharing across agency and departmental lines.

Mr. Bush emphasized technology as the tool to bury the bureaucracy that today entangles local, state and federal transactions. Granted, this is not the stuff that captures headlines. There are no kiosks, no "out-year" promises and no gimmicks. Instead, these policies make sense and are in the public interest. They also suggest a vision for, and an understanding of, government. They demonstrate an awareness of the role technology must play in moving that vision forward.

Dear vice president, even as sound bites and rhetoric, your program falls short and is mediocre. Simply stated, you just don't get it.

DONALD W. UPSON

Secretary of technology

Commonwealth of Virginia

Richmond

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