- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 18, 2005

Continuing education for government employees

Hurrah for Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, and his promotion of requiring that “all federal agencies, each and every year, provide educational and training materials about the Constitution to their employees” (“Byrd’s briefcases,” Inside the Beltway, Nation, yesterday).

I made a somewhat similar proposal in a letter dated March 30, 2003, to Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican, but took it further, to include employees of all state and local governments and elected officials, as well.

Furthermore, people running for public office should meet some kind of standard of constitutional knowledge, or take certain courses on the Constitution, as a requirement for the right to run for office. I also would recommend basic economics courses for continuing education for government employees and elected officials.

As a businessperson who must meet continuing educational requirements every two years, I know the nuisance of allowing the time for it, but I also understand and appreciate the need to be continually refreshed on the base knowledge of my profession, as well as any updates.

HELEN HILLSTROM

Rockville

Suffocating small companies

The Washington Times is on target in pointing out the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s strangulation of small public companies in even more layers of red tape (“Relief for small companies,” Editorial, Wednesday).

It’s important to recognize that many of today’s corporate giants, such as Microsoft and Home Depot, were tiny firms less than 30 years ago. Business experts question whether these companies could have raised the capital they needed to grow if the barriers of Sarbanes-Oxley had been in place back then. Policy-makers need to ask what this policy is doing to the potential Home Depots and Microsofts of tomorrow.

In his laudable desire to aid these small firms, incoming Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox would do well to follow the example of President Reagan and his SEC chairman, John Shad.

In the early ‘80s, they pushed through Rule 504, which allowed companies raising $1 million or less in the public capital markets to be exempt from most SEC regulation. Small companies rushed to take advantage of this free-market policy. One of the big beneficiaries of the rule was, ironically, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, whose founders despised Mr. Reagan. Unfortunately, in the late ‘90s, President Clinton’s SEC largely gutted Rule 504. Mr. Cox should bring back a similar policy and increase the $1 million threshold to adjust for inflation and other factors.

Ultimately, Sarbanes-Oxley needs to be repealed or radically overhauled for both small and large businesses. It forces the documenting of minutiae only tangentially related to financial statements and potentially criminalizes honest mistakes. All of this has created a risk aversion in business that is keeping our economy from operating at full tilt.

JOHN BERLAU

Warren T. Brookes journalism fellow

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Washington

A better drug-treatment policy

In an article about Rep. Mark Souder’s displeasure over the involvement of the Department of Health and Human Services in an upcoming conference, your reporter wrongly states that George Soros “supports drug legalization” (“HHS-sponsored forum touts ‘harm reduction’ ,” Nation, Tuesday).

While Mr. Soros supports allowing marijuana use for medical purposes he does not support the broader legalization of drugs such as cocaine or heroin as your article implies.

Mr. Soros believes that our current drug policy is failing. He advocates “harm reduction,” an approach that, as the term implies, seeks to reduce the harm caused by drug abuse — both to society at large and to individual drug users. In holding this view, Mr. Soros is solidly within the mainstream of scientific thought and public-health policy. In addition, Mr. Soros’ foundation finances drug treatment programs and efforts to educate the public about the dangers of drug use.

MICHAEL VACHON

Office of George Soros

New York

A short history of ‘Darwinian militancy’

So authorities at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History reportedly tried to get a biologist fired from the National Institutes of Health because as managing editor of a science journal, he published a paper on intelligent design (“Scientist’s complaint backed,” Nation, Tuesday). Such Darwinian militancy is not new. To promote their theory, Darwinists have used intimidation ever since the 19th century.

As a relatively mild example, friends of Charles Darwin took revenge on one of his critics, the anatomist St. George Jackson Mivart, by blackballing Mivart’s application to London’s Athen-aeum Club.

In the 20th century, the German geneticist Richard Goldschmidt was the object of calumny for decades because, like Mivart, he questioned Darwin’s gradualistic view of evolution. Observing this animosity in the 1960s as a graduate student, Stephen J. Gould compared it to the hate campaigns described in George Orwell’s novel “1984.”

In the early 1980s, British Museum paleontologist Colin Patterson refused to toe the Darwinian line. He was castigated in the scientific journal Nature; was accused of facilitating the spread of Marxism; and, by Mr. Patterson’s account, was punished by “deluges of mail” from his angry colleagues.

All of the above victims of Darwinian militancy accepted evolution in the sense that over geological time different species have come and gone. They doubted, however, that Darwin had explained this.

EUGENE G. WINDCHY

Alexandria

Keeping science in the classroom

Thank you. Jennifer Harper’s article (“Scientists’ spirituality surprises,” Nation, Monday) quantifies what has been unspoken for too long: many scientists are spiritual. Science and religion are not mutually exclusive. Just because one follows scientific principles and empirically studies the universe does not mean that religion cannot have a place in the mind.

Moreover, it reinforces the necessity to keep science in the classroom and embrace spirituality (or “intelligent design”) privately. We need students to understand the scientific method and to rationally approach the technological challenges of the future.

Whether their spiritual beliefs coincide with their science education is beside the point: one’s mind has an unlimited capacity to embrace inconsistent ideas.

Introducing intelligent design into the science classroom is just a political ploy by well-intentioned parents. Spending time at home with your children and teaching them the values of your religion would be more efficacious than forcing the local school to do it. And besides, who wants to delegate the responsibility of a moral education outside the home?

DAVID VOLZ

Arlington

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