Doubting Thomas

Edith Efron has written the most perceptive recap of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings that I have yet run across ("Native Son," Feb.). Congratulations all around.

John G.B. Howland
Glenview, IL

When I read the article "Native Son," I thought I was reading something in Mother Jones magazine. It sounded like their party line: "Capitalist society is by definition racist and rotten to the core." It just goes to prove, if you have a big enough stake in spotting racism, you'll see it everywhere, as Edith Efron obviously does: If President Bush didn't nominate Thomas to replace Marshall, he would have been a racist. Since he did nominate him, Efron feels he was racist. If the committee didn't take Thomas seriously, they would be racist. Since they did evaluate him seriously, they are racist.

Mary Segall
Scarborough, Ontario

Edith Efron defines a racist as one who "simply does not treat black individuals the same way he treats whites." Efron would be fairer to define the racist as one who behaves this way toward blacks because they are black and not for other reasons.

A consequence of Efron's overly broad definition is that a white who happens to deal more negatively with a black than with another white, for any reason (such as incompetence on the job), can be accused of racism even though the white's action does not necessarily stem from racial prejudice. Charges of racism on such a ground are now part and parcel of corporate life throughout America, and it forms the philosophical basis of many of today's affirmative action programs.

Those who adhere to Efron's definition of racism have allowed affirmative action to become a program of coerced advantage through uncritical racial preference, supported philosophically by new linguistic definitions. Efron's definition provides many minority individuals with the legal and psychological weasel hole of "racism" whenever the stresses of responsibility become uncomfortable. It encourages many not to bother to become more competent and productive.

Christopher D. Costanzo
Washington, DC

School's Out

David Bernstein ("Why Johnny Can't Pray," Feb.) exaggerates the difficulties of resolving public-school religious-liberty problems and tries to make a voucher plan for public funding of all schools—public, sectarian private, and secular private—look like a good replacement for our present arrangement of church-state separation and public funds for public schools only. But his effort just won't wash.

Voucher plans would compel citizens to pay for sectarian institutions in violation of everyone's fundamental right to support only the religious institutions of one's free choice.

They would compel citizens to support schools over which they would have no meaningful control, schools which practice forms of discrimination and indoctrination intolerable in publicly supported institutions. Vouchers would thus fragment our children into a multiplicity of inefficient, generally inferior sectarian and ideological enclaves.

The costs of operating such a fragmented school "system" plus providing transportation for them (Pittsburgh now spends an average of $900 per year per student for busing nonpublic students, far over the public-school average) would be astronomical.

A fragmented educational system would destroy the bonds of social cohesion and put us farther behind in the competition with the Japanese and Europeans. Finally, the latest public-opinion polls (in 1991) show that Bernstein's voucher plan is opposed by 68 percent to 27 percent.

Edd Doerr
Executive Director
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, MD

Kudos to David Bernstein for taking the ACLU to task for its contradictory positions on education vouchers and religious freedom in the schools. However, he may have been misinformed when he was told that "the ACLU has not yet taken a position on vouchers." Not only do they have a position, it is far from "sympathetic."

A recent mailing for prospective ACLU members called vouchers an "attack on racial equality" designed to "undermine the nation's public schools," to allow "further flight of middle-class" whites to the suburbs, and to "force minority parents to send their children to poorly funded public schools."

Christian L. Struble
Houston, TX

Alcohol Treatment

In the March issue of REASON, you published a letter from James Byrd of Flower Mound, Texas. His letter referred to our Schick Hospital in Fort Worth. To set the record straight, the Fort Worth Schick Shadel Hospital is not out of business.

We started our medical treatment for alcohol addiction back in 1935 in Seattle, Washington, the same year A.A. started. However, medical hospitals were not allowed to advertise until 1979, so most people had not heard about or did not understand our treatment. Many confuse Schick's mild, medical counter-conditioning (aversion therapy) with the use of the drug Antabuse. There is very little similarity.

In 1970, the Fort Worth Hospital started helping alcoholics. Both our Seattle and Forth Worth Schick hospitals are still going strong. My life was saved by the program in 1972 at Forth Worth.

The Schick treatment consists of 1) Detoxification to withdraw the body from alcohol. Under medical supervision this is safely accomplished with very little discomfort. Detoxification eliminates the body's need for alcohol, but it does not affect the craving-reflex programmed into the subconscious memory. 2) Aversion therapy to counter the alcohol-craving reflex, so that the sight, taste, and smell of alcohol become repugnant. Then the subconscious memory reflexes avoid alcohol instead of reaching for it. 3) Counseling and education about why alcoholics become addicted and what they need to do to stay sober.

The treatment is not frightening, and no pain is involved. The medical staff is professional and caring. No alcohol enters the blood stream during the counter conditioning therapy. Finally, a two-year support program proactively stays in contact with the grads to advise and support them. Schick also has its own grad groups that act as support groups, and we also recommend all other support groups including A.A., SOS, etc.

The Schick program has a short hospital stay because of its intensive structure. We have consistently gone to outside researchers to check the efficiency of the program.

Michael Frawley
Vice President
Schick Health Services
Studio City, CA

Speaking Out

The item "Uncivil War" (Balance Sheet, Feb.) exaggerated differences within the ACLU concerning sexual harassment in the workplace. Contrary to your implication, there is broad consensus on the governing principles—most importantly, that any harassment claim must be resolved in a manner that respects employees' free-speech rights as well as their rights to be free from gender-based discrimination.

As in many areas of free-speech jurisprudence, whether any particular expression in the workplace constitutes protected free speech or prohibited harassment entails a fact-specific, contextual determination, turning on all the relevant facts and circumstances. Accordingly, it is not surprising that reasonable civil libertarians who are committed to the same basic principles will disagree about how those principles should apply to particular expression in a certain factual context. For example, there is general agreement that sexually explicit posters that employees put on the walls of a common work area should ordinarily be viewed as protected speech rather than proscribable harassment. At the other extreme, there is general agreement that one employee's unwanted placing of such materials into the locker of another employee constitutes regulable harassment.

In between those two extremes, some hard questions arise. For example, if the only posters displayed in the common work area are sexually explicit depictions of women, and that is an area where all workers are required to spend time, could such a display be regarded as the harassment of a captive audience? And how would the analysis be affected by the fact that there was a well-documented record of pervasive and persistent harassing conduct throughout the particular workplace? Only those who reflexively exalt values of free speech over those of equality, or vice versa, will contend that there are easy answers to questions of this type.

The disagreement within the ACLU about these fact-specific issues reflects our organizational commitment to both sets of values, as well as our encouragement of robust debate within our ranks—both, in my view, positive phenomena.

Nadine Strossen
American Civil Liberties Union
New York, NY

Keeping Score on Sematech

The article on Sematech ("DRAM Scam," Feb.), though extensive, repeated many of the same tired criticisms of the consortium, some of which are not only inaccurate but are outright false.

Furthermore, while I was pleased to note that you identified the author, Brink Lindsey, as an attorney who represents foreign clients in international trade matters, you would have better served your readers by informing them that Lindsey and his Washington, D.C., law firm represent a variety of Japanese clients.

A common misconception is that Sematech's charter expires at the end of five years. There is nothing in the enabling legislation that limits Sematech to five years. The parties involved decided to make at least a five-year commitment to demonstrate their willingness to support a long-term research-and-development project. Although the federal government agreed in principle to participate in the consortium, Congress required that the Department of Defense funds be authorized and appropriated on an annual basis.

Another misconception is that Sematech's initial charter was to put the U.S. industry back into the dynamic random-access memory-chip business. Although concern about the loss of the DRAM business helped underscore the need for Sematech, there was never a plan for the consortium to produce DRAMs. In fact, Sematech is a nonprofit R&D entity and, as such, is not allowed to manufacture any product for sale. Sematech's only product is the knowledge it generates for its member companies and the U.S. government.

Lindsey criticizes Sematech for focusing efforts on improving the equipment and materials industry. Until we embarked on our program, nobody really understood how much the semiconductor material and equipment industry in this country had eroded. When that problem was understood, it became clear it was unreasonable to expect that we could have a strong, viable semiconductor industry in this country without a strong, viable equipment and materials industry.

And our efforts are paying off. For example, Motorola opened its state-of-the-art MOS-11 semiconductor manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas, last year. Motorola had estimated that it would have to purchase about 80 percent of the equipment for that $650-million facility from foreign sources, but when it opened, it contained 80 percent U.S. equipment. Motorola gave the U.S. suppliers—and Sematech—the credit for this dramatic turnaround.

Much has been made of allegations about Sematech's technology holdbacks. But the example Lindsey cites with Westech is simply untrue. The president of Westech has publicly stated that if an order had been received for his equipment, he would have honored it. Sematech's policy is to give members the right of first priority for new equipment. Once the equipment is certified for sale, it is made available to every company, including foreign corporations. We understand that for us to succeed, our equipment and materials suppliers must be able to compete globally.

As for the allegations that Sematech uses kick-back agreements, that is also patently false. Of more than 50 joint development contracts and equipment-improvement programs underway at Sematech, only three are with Sematech members. Each was selected because it possessed a distinctive expertise for the task at hand and was judged by Sematech officials as the most capable of achieving the desired results. The members, like other Sematech contractors, must perform the work and are held accountable for their performance.

Sematech has entered into two additional contracts with its members to act as test-and-demonstration sites for newly developed or improved equipment where it is impractical or too expensive for Sematech to do the testing itself. The equipment is paid for by Sematech and no member company receives a reduction in its dues as a result of these arrangements.

We believe a fair report of the facts would find that Sematech benefits the nation by keeping significant revenue, employment, and technical expertise in the United States. Our mission is to enhance America's semiconductor manufacturing, which is vital to the nation's economic future. We believe we are succeeding in that mission.

Miller Bonner
Director of Communications
Austin, TX

Mr. Lindsey replies: Mr. Bonner correctly points out that Sematech has no explicit, statutory expiration date. Nevertheless, as far as federal funding was concerned, there is no denying that Sematech was originally sold as a five-year project; Sematech officials repeatedly stated that they only wanted government money for five years and no more. This was the general understanding on which administration and congressional support for Sematech was based. Moreover, the original commitment by Sematech's 14 founding members to participate in and fund the consortium was expressly limited to five years. By the way, two members—LSI Logic and Micron—have announced that they will not be re-enlisting after their commitment expires this year.

It is true that Sematech, once established in March 1987, never sought to manufacture DRAMs for sale. But as I stated in my article, in the initial planning stages Sematech's organizers seriously considered getting into the DRAM business. Intel, in particular, strongly supported this approach. IBM's opposition carried the day, however, and Sematech was launched as an R&D venture only.

I granted in my article that Sematech has achieved some minor successes in helping U.S. semiconductor equipment suppliers. The larger issue, though, is whether there is any public interest in bankrolling this assistance with taxpayers' money. Mr. Bonner's bald assertions notwithstanding, there is no evidence that dependence on foreign suppliers is undermining the competitiveness of U.S. chipmakers.

Regarding technology holdbacks, there is simply no controversy that—as I reported—Sematech used to include holdback clauses in its contracts with suppliers but does so no longer. This is according to Sematech spokesman Buddy Price, who not only admitted to me that such holdbacks were used but actually defended the practice. Westech's president may deny that he was forbidden from selling equipment to non-Sematech members, but that's what the contract that he signed stated-according to a December 9, 1991, Business Week article. (T.J. Rodgers of Cypress supplied a copy of the Westech contract to the Business Week reporter.)

Nothing Mr. Bonner says about Sematech's kickback agreements contradicts my point, which is that in some cases Sematech has given its members very expensive machines to use for free. Mr. Bonner's points go to the scale of corruption, not to the fact of it.

Finally, I note that Mr. Bonner couldn't resist the ad hominem argument that I am somehow biased because, as a lawyer, I have represented Japanese companies. While on the subject of disclosing affiliations with the Japanese, allow me to rattle off a few of the joint ventures and strategic alliances between Sematech members and Japanese companies: AT&T and NEC, IBM and Toshiba, Intel and Sharp, Motorola and Toshiba, Texas Instruments and Hitachi, and the list goes on. I've got nothing against linkups, but it's galling to see these thoroughly internationalized companies wrap themselves in the flag for a few scraps of federal pork.

As it turns out, I recently left private legal practice to join the Cato Institute as director of regulatory studies. Although a hired mouthpiece like Mr. Bonner may not understand this, my opinion of Sematech has not changed even though my employer has.