- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 31, 2005

Driving while distracted

The Thursday article “Traffic effort targets walkers” (Metropolitan) focused on fatal pedestrian accidents. In view of the rapid rise in these mishaps, police have been targeting jaywalkers, with the burden of fault placed on the pedestrian.

But picture this likely scenario: A pedestrian is jaywalking. A driver is approaching while talking on his “hands-free” cell phone. The pedestrian is in full view of the driver, but the driver, whose mind is elsewhere, strikes the pedestrian. Clearly, the pedestrian was jaywalking and the driver was within the law. Case closed; the motorist is not charged — an altogether too frequent and faulted judgment.

Regardless of the cell phone’s features — hands-free or otherwise — it demands complete interactivity, no lulls permitted. More even than eating, chatting with a passenger or listening to the radio, using a cell phone can severely limit one’s attention. It is hazardous in traffic and therefore must be banned when one is driving.

Before adjudicating any traffic mishap, driver impairment must be addressed fully, with cell phone use — regardless of phone type — ranking as top priority.



Low-cost housing in Montgomery County

The article “County ignored low-cost housing” (Page 1, Dec. 23), concerning the affordable-housing situation in Montgomery County, missed several important factors. It is true that Montgomery County’s Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program was revolutionary and has been duplicated in many jurisdictions across the country. We are very proud of the awards we have won for that program, but most importantly for the more than 11,000 moderately priced homes that have been created because of it. However, the MPDU program is just one of several tools we use in Montgomery County.

In 2001, County Executive Douglas M. Duncan created the region’s first dedicated affordable housing fund. This fund has allowed us to create or preserve an average of 3,000 affordable housing units annually and has helped thousands of families find safe, decent and affordable places to live. In addition, while county-led initiatives have led to the revitalization of areas such as downtown Silver Spring, the county also has worked to ensure that housing options are created as well. Nearly 1,700 new housing units, about one-quarter of which are set aside for affordable housing, are coming online in Silver Spring. Moreover, more than 1,400 other units of affordable housing have been preserved in Silver Spring through the renovation and rehabilitation of older apartments.

As demonstrated by our economic and residential growth, Montgomery County is one of the nation’s most desirable places to live, work and raise a family. It continues to be a top priority to do whatever we can to make sure people of every socioeconomic background can find a home in Montgomery County. Our philosophy is simple: If you are good enough to work here, you are good enough to live here. The challenge is great, but we will continue to use and refine all the tools at our disposal to make sure we maintain the diverse community we cherish.



Department of Housing and

Community Affairs

Montgomery County


The science of Intelligent Design

In his pronouncements on intelligent design, Tom Bethel (“Banned in biology,” Commentary, Monday) is reminiscent of the Black Knight from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” In a grisly but comic battle with King Arthur, the Black Knight loses one arm, then the other, and eventually both legs, but he continues all the while to posture defiantly and taunt his opponent. Saying that intelligent design has gone from “strength to strength” does not pass the laugh test.

Two scientists — Michael Behe and William Dembski — have made statements about intelligent design that have garnered interest from the science community. Both have been given more than a fair hearing, but when examined closely, their ideas fall apart. Mr. Behe clearly struggled in the Dover, Pa., case that resulted in the ruling that intelligent design cannot be discussed in biology classes. When you have to admit that to consider intelligent design as science you would have to redefine science so broadly that even astrology would qualify, that’s downright embarrassing. Mr. Dembski was clever enough to stay away from the trial and similarly has dodged a scheduled debate with biologist Ken Miller. So much for “strength to strength.”

No one (including U.S. District Judge John E. Jones) is stopping academics from debating intelligent design at the university level. Likewise, no one is preventing the discussion of intelligent design in high school social studies, philosophy or other non-science classes. So, the whole “free speech” argument is bogus.

If ID proponents are willing to formulate a coherent, testable theory; do some research; publish results in scientific journals; and show a few cases in which they do a better job than evolution advocates of explaining some biological phenomena, then — and only then — will they have earned the right to have their ideas taught as science. However, given their preference for mass-market books and talk-show blather in place of honest hard work, I’m not holding my breath while waiting.




Tom Bethell writes that intelligent-design creationism is gaining adherents. Politically, perhaps, but not among scientists, as the 139-page Dec. 20 Pennsylvania federal court ruling made clear. Mr. Bethell has ridden this hobbyhorse for decades, changing terminology when convenient. He is convinced that creationism, in whatever guise, is important to his conservative cause, but I do not understand why bad science is good or responsible conservatism. Bad science education certainly is not in the best interest of this country.

There is a place for creation stories in classes dealing with the multiplicity of traditions from many religions and cultures or in church or Sunday school. There is no need to ignore them, but they are not science, and to teach otherwise is somewhere between silly and a fraudulent miseducation of our young.


Board member

National Center for Science Education

Hayward, Calif.

Drilling in ANWR

Sen. Bill Frist’s Sunday Commentary column, “The high stakes in ANWR,” is very interesting. He makes the statement that Democrats blocked the American Energy Independence and Security Act of 2005, which was attached to the Defense Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2863).

It is very interesting that he blames the Democrats for this action. Reviewing the Senate vote on the motion to invoke cloture and how the members voted reveals that three Republicans sided with the Democrats to not bring the filibuster to an end. Foremost amongst them: Mr. Frist. The vote was 56 to 44. If the three Republicans (Sens. Mike DeWine and Lincoln Chafee were the other two) had voted “Yea” and managed to swing one or more of the moderate Democrats, the filibuster would have ended and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would have been opened for oil exploration and exploitation. It’s a shame the Senate majority leader could not use the persuasive argument he penned to obtain cloture.


Copperas Cove, Texas

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