- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2006

Closing the digital divide

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, there was no question as to the vast divide that separated white and black Americans in all aspects of life from public accommodations, transportation, education and equity in the criminal justice systems. Although we have made tremendous strides during the past half-century, there are new frontiers that demand the attention of civil rights organizations in order to maintain our relevancy.

One of those areas is the growing digital divide in our country. A recent study by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights found that the digital divide continues to expand in America finding that blacks and Latinos are much less likely than Whites to have access to home computers and Internet access.

These findings come at a time when our Congress and Senate are debating two critical pieces of legislation (H.R. 3146 and S. 1349) which cable companies claim would permit telephone companies to avoid essential anti-discrimination provisions. The cable companies claim the legislation would allow telephone companies to target more affluent communities for broadband service while ignoring poor and rural communities and failing to offer them the latest advanced digital services. SCLC has reviewed the proposed legislation, and in our opinion these claims are baseless and the tactics that are being used by the cable company run afoul of common decency.

The cable companies would have Americans believe that companies such as Verizon are attempting to pass new Jim Crow legislation that would block poor and underserved communities from traveling on the information highway, and we find such comparisons offensive. This unfair playing of the race card is not only unwarranted, but is the type of dirty politics that is destroying the moral fiber of America.

The fact of the matter is that these tactics are not about protecting consumers against discrimination, but rather protecting the bottom line profits of the cable industry. According to a September 2005 Wall Street Journal article, cable bills have been rising much faster than the inflation rate. However, consumers have seen price wars emerge in communities where Verizon has begun offering high-speed Internet; so increased competition in the TV industry will undoubtedly result in lower prices for consumers.

A review of the proposed legislation clearly states that “A competitive video service provider shall not deny services to any group of potential residential subscribers because of the income of the residents of the local area in which such group resides.” In other words, the legislation has a clear anti-redlining provision that strengthens the Communications Act of 1934. However, the bill should be amended to include adequate enforcement against video providers who violate the anti-redlining provisions to ensure the protection of poor and underserved communities.

The passage of such an amended Video Choice Act of 2005 would result in legislation that promotes competition among broadband providers, provides lower prices and better service for consumers, and protects consumers against discriminatory practices.

CHARLES STEELE JR.

President and CEO

Southern Christian Leadership

Conference

Atlanta

A mockery of Vermont’s courts

The silence emanating from former Vermont prosecutor, Sen. Patrick Leahy, is deafening (“A 60-day travesty” Editorial, Saturday). Mr. Leahy told Sen. Arlen Spector that he was returning to Vermont with a pile of Judge Samuel Alito’s decisions to ponder, without satisfactorily explaining why he reneged on his promise to the Judicial Committee Chairman for an early vote on Judge Alito.

It might be well were Mr. Leahy to also spend some time pondering getting rid of Judge Edward Cashman, who has made mockery of Vermont’s judicial system in sentencing a confessed child rapist to just 60 days in jail

RICHARD EARL

Pebble Beach, Calif.

For Redskins, a great year nonetheless

Thank you Redskins and Joe Gibbs for a great year. Being able to root for a team with class is so rare these days. Importantly, the Redskins seemed to be a team proud of themselves.

Gone is the yammering about Dan Snyder. Gone are the protestations of malcontents. Even though there were a few controversial issues during the year, no one let those issues take precedence over the team.

The ‘Skins were fortunate this year and got some breaks, whereas last year it seemed everything went against them. Last year, it could be easily argued, the refs’ calls attributed directly to at least two losses, particularly the mystery illegal procedure call on James Thrash negating what would have been the winning touchdown run by Clinton Portis against the Green Bay Packers. This year, however, good fortune kissed this stalwart group, especially with the win against the Cowboys on the two beautiful bombs from Mark Brunell to Santana Moss. It was the first win against the hated Cowboys that had the shock value to offset the devastating Clint Longley, Thanksgiving day loss that occurred so many years ago. It will be a win long remembered.

There is much to be excited about when thinking about next year, particularly with the retention of coach Gregg Williams. The off season critical examination and engineering should bring about significant changes in next years team. The defense is pretty solid, but another impact player on the defensive line would be a great addition.

The offense presents more challenges. Mark Brunell (when he was healthy) had a great year and will be back. Will Patrick Ramsey return? Will Joe Gibbs play Jason Campbell or obtain another veteran quarterback? The addition of an impact receiver to complement Moss and David Patten is a screaming need. An impact blocker-receiver at tight end would also add an option rarely utilized this year.

There is the need for a little more creativity in play calling next year — sets that allow both pass and run options, so the plays or type of plays are not telegraphed. This would also help upgrade the audible system so that last minute defense changes could be exploited. A better check off system to counteract blitzes would also help.

If there’s a better diversion from the things in life that get us down, I don’t know what it is.

Go ‘Skins!

CHRISTOPHER MOODY

Gaithersburg

Lack of experience

Michelle Malkin’s Saturday Commentary (“Hillary wrapped in armor”) indirectly highlights what is probably the most significant problem with our political leadership today when it comes to military matters: Virtually none of them have any credible experience in the military.

For someone who has no military operational experience, particularly infantry operations (i.e. most of those in the Senate and House) adding more body armor makes perfect sense. More armor equals more protection which “logically” equals fewer casualties. (If you agree with this logic I highly recommend reading Colonel S.L.A. Marshall’s “The Soldier’s Load and The Mobility of a Nation.”) Better yet, let’s cancel a few of those expensive investigations or fact-finding tours and use the money saved to send our senators and representatives through boot camp to experience a soldier’s load first hand.

Does this mean we should not strive to continuously improve body armor? Absolutely not. If you can provide armor at a reasonable price with twice the protection at half the weight I say buy it, but don’t fall for the panacea that a few more pounds of ceramic plates is all we need to “protect our troops.”

What I really wish I could do is wind back the clock to Sept. 10th, 2001, and walk into the Senate and House with a request for more funding to up-armor Humvee’s and add ceramic plates to body armor. I’d bet that those who lambaste the military today for not providing sufficient protection or producing armor fast enough would be the same ones that would have scoffed at my request.

PATRICK M. MCGINN

California, Md.

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