- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Clarifying D.C. computer costs

I read with interest the article “Computer system cost city millions,” (Page 1, yesterday). As the president and chief executive of the technology company providing the software to Washington for this system, I feel it is important to provide further insight into the nature of this project.

We would like to first commend our customer, the District, for taking an important step in moving this initiative forward and implementing key assessments that are fully in line with our technology recommendations. Part of this step involves the mandated move from a wireless standard — cellular digital packet data — being used by many jurisdictions, including Washington, that will no longer be supported by the wireless industry as of December 2005. Therefore, the District’s decision to temporarily stop work represents a responsible action to determine a prudent course.

As we all learned after September 11, the time has never been more important for our nation’s first responders to embrace innovative technology that helps ensure that they can do their jobs better and faster. I have written and spoken on numerous occasions about the outdated technology that continues to hamper our emergency-communications networks.

The District should be cited as a leader for taking steps to improve its system and implement one of the first fully accessible and connected mobile EMS systems in this country. Our software is only a first step in that direction, and we are honored to have the chance to provide it to the city.

Second, Optimus would like to clarify any potential misunderstanding about our contract with regard to the budget numbers cited in the article. It is important to note that the District contracted with Optimus to develop and deploy the system for a firm, fixed price, and the District has not paid Optimus any amounts in excess of that original price.

Optimus is also disappointed that we were not given the opportunity to speak with the paper before the publication of this article and feel that our input could have been valuable in shaping a fair and balanced article from the onset.

ERIC ADOLPHE

Founder, president and CEO

Optimus Corp.

Silver Spring

Equality in divorce

While the case reported in “Custody battle plays out across ocean” (World, Monday) is complex, the underlying principle is simple: Divorce law and divorce law enforcement are gender-bigoted. Here is what this case of child kidnapping in a divorce dispute illustrates.

First, if the father kidnaps, law enforcement generally expends extensive energy and money to locate, arrest, try, convict and imprison him. On the other hand, if the mother kidnaps, law enforcement generally does little; only rarely does the mother see the inside of a prison. Second, the mother gets substantial social support while the father stands alone — except, as in this case, for the support of his children, who continually ask him, “When are you going to get us out of here, Dad?” Third, and least discussed but financially devastating, the father — if he wishes to see his children — must spend enormous sums of money in his attempt to secure justice, and usually he fails. Mothers, by contrast, often get the court to demand that the father pay her legal expenses as well as his own. In divorce, this one-sidedness is seen as fair, at least by some women.

As women demand equality in the workplace, so too should men demand equality in the enforcement and punishment of child kidnapping. Men should demand equal jail time for both mothers and fathers who kidnap their children in divorce disputes.

GORDON E. FINLEY

Miami

Explaining the dollar’s decline

As the dollar’s decline could convulse the world’s financial markets, it is a matter of valid concern (“Deflecting the dollar decline,” Commentary, Dec. 8). Of the various explanations offered for its fall, the dominant one — that it results from America’s current account deficit, which in turn reflects America’s trade and budget deficits — will matter most in public discussion, and not just of monetary policy. Unfortunately, such an emphasis may overlook a more significant issue.

Expect the dollar-current account nexus to figure in a looming debate over America’s fiscal priorities, among them Social Security. Critics of the deficits may cite the need to avert international monetary turmoil as reason to repeal the president’s tax cuts. But even if a link between the dollar’s position and America’s fiscal habits were beyond dispute, and history suggests that it might not be, focusing on the tax cuts only diverts attention from the bigger problem of runaway federal spending.

Regrettably, both the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have permitted non-defense discretionary outlays to surge, particularly during wartime. That mistake aside, however, the American people must confront a more fundamental issue, namely the entitlement mentality that drives the spending. If that issue is not addressed, discussions about taxes or any other fiscal or monetary issue are pointless. America’s liabilities, including its pension obligations, are so large that they would require confiscatory tax rates to meet them. Such rates would trigger national bankruptcy.

The welfare of the people may well be the ultimate law, as Cicero said. Still, government cannot be all things to all people. A thorough reform of all entitlements, including Social Security, will require more than an abundance of courage from the administration and Congress alike. Nevertheless, if future generations of Americans are to enjoy the benefits of prosperity, let alone of a sound currency, such reform must be undertaken forthwith.

CHARLES H. RIEPER

Columbus, Ohio

Skirting Islamic economic principles

David Cowan’s Thursday Op-Ed column, “Islamic financial theory,” warns that we must beware the establishment of a powerful state based on Islamic economic teachings. He notes that Pakistan and Sudan have “Islamized economic policy” and cites the establishment of Islamic banks with $250 billion in funds as evidence for his prediction.

In his book “Islam and Mammon,” University of Southern California economist Timur Kuran lists the three main components of “Islamic economics”: prohibition of interest; taxation and tithing for redistributing wealth to the poor (the zakat system); and application of Islamic norms of economic behavior. He argues that so-called Islamic banks get around the interest ban, the zakat systems distribute little of their revenue to the poor, and there are significant disagreements about criteria for applying Islamic norms. Thus, Mr. Kuran concludes that it is a myth that Islamic economic reforms represent a radical departure from pre-existing practices. However, Mr. Kuran notes that one economic instrument for advancing Islamism, i.e., provision of nongovernmental Islamic social services (such as hospitals, clinics, and schools), can be very effective.

Noah Feldman (former senior constitutional adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq) believes that Islamic communal organizations arose as a reaction to Muslim governments’ preventing the establishment of vibrant secular civil society. He argues that the rise of this Islamic civil society is a turning away from using violence to gain political power. Mr. Feldman maintains that this development satisfies one of the necessary conditions for democracy to develop.

If Mr. Kuran and Mr. Feldman are correct, Mr. Cowan’s concern is unwarranted.

JOHN A. SULLIVAN

Arlington

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