Letters to the Editor

Kosovar refugees aren't like Palestinians; mommies worry because they like it.

Published April 22, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Miss Israel visits the Balkans


The snide tone of the recent article by Flore de Preneuf regarding Israel's
efforts to aid Kosovar refugees was entirely inappropriate. Israel's motives for doing
the simplest of things are always being impugned by people who assume that
Israel always has ulterior motives for doing anything, aiding refugees in
particular. They're damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they sit on
their hands, they're accused of ignoring the plight of the refugees because
they're Muslims. If they actually help them, they're sniggered at by smug
nihilists who think the whole thing is nothing but a dishonest publicity
stunt, concocted to suck up to public opinion.

The situations of the Kosovars and the
Palestinians are not in any way analogous. While it is unfortunate, and while
an equitable solution is greatly to be hoped for, the plight of the
Palestinian Arab refugees is most definitely not the fault of Israel, as much as the
article tries to insinuate this. The Palestinians were displaced as a result of a
series of wars against Israel instigated by the Arabs, the stated purpose of
which was the destruction of Israel. Ever since the PLO was founded by the Arab League
(prior to the 1967 war, I might add), the Palestinian Arabs have gone out of
their way to let everyone know that they wholeheartedly supported the PLO
program, which, until very recently, explicitly called for the destruction of
Israel by violence and the forcible banishment of most of the Jews who live
there. Indeed, if Arafat's continuing statements to Arab-language media
are any
indication, the PLO has not yet genuinely repudiated this aim, regardless
of the
agreements they into which they have entered. The Palestinian refugee camps
were created and maintained by the Arabs for the specific purpose of
preventing Palestinian integration into the surrounding Arab countries -- keeping the
eyes of the world focused on a problem that they made no effort to solve, and
insuring that there would be a steady supply of desperate and violent people to
fill the ranks of the fedayeen. Unfortunately, this strategy has worked only too well, aided and abetted by irresponsible journalists like de Preneuf.

The Kosovars, on the other hand, are genuine civilian victims of a planned campaign of
genocide, who have never threatened Israel with war and destruction. It
is only right to help them.

-- Earl Hartman

Damned to diaper duty


This was undoubtedly the worst piece of writing I have seen in Salon. Hull
finally admits the truth near the end of page 2: "I say I
want help but I also want control, of all these little things I care about and he
doesn't." Nowhere in the article does she mention talking to her husband
about the things that bother her, and why would she? He doesn't care, and she
is not shy about proclaiming her assumptions as fact.

I would not deny that the father-child bond is much different than the
mother-child bond, but as a father who told his wife to finish dressing
while I changed and dressed my baby daughter in the outfit that I had selected; as a
father who checked diapers, ointments and baby food in the morning and
brought the replenishments home at night; and as a father who inspired laughter more than
once when the pacifier or a tiny toy fell from a pocket at work, I would
like to suggest that Hull take her passive-aggressive arrogance and toss it in the
diaper pail, before her husband goes from passive to aggressive and leaves her
to experience single motherhood. Then she can really whine.

-- Andy House

I don't know about her husband, but Jennifer Hull certainly sounds like a shrew. Consider this possibility: You worry because you like it, not because it matters. He doesn't like it, and so worries only about things that matter.

Women have a lot invested in saying that men don't do enough. I've seen plenty of women say that in cases where it clearly isn't true: where the woman is a whining layabout while the husband cooks, cleans and entertains the kids. And even where it's true, it's often true because the woman is worrying for the sake of worrying. So you stayed up all night worrying about wipe warmers? Maybe the father just thinks kids need to get used to the idea that sometimes in life, your ass is cold. Women often value worry for its own sake; men mostly value results. Perhaps that's the real difference.

-- Glenn H. Reynolds

Why Linux needs help


While I found the article interesting, was it necessary to use the vulgar term "fucking" when
describing what RTFM means? I am not opposed to the use of vulgarity when it
clarifies meaning, but that is not the case here: RTFM is also said to mean,
sarcastically, "Read The Fine Manual." Furthermore, among hackers, the use
of a vulgar reference to fornication in print has been generally changed to "fscking": a word play on the fsck (File System ChecK) command.

-- Rene S. Hollan

Yes, the Linux help files are bad, and often impenetrable -- even for
professionals in the industry, like me, let alone users like poor Andrew.
About the only thing that can be said in their favor is that they are
more likely to actually contain the information you are looking for, if
only you can decipher them, than those of commercial vendors. Commercial
software makers use nicer, context-sensitive help files that often just
don't answer your question at all. Nice GUI, inadequate content.

And what about when you want to go beyond the help files? Chalk and
cheese. There are thousands of people willing to give you good and
mostly correct advice about your Linux problem. Just start with the news
groups. Even better, search the news groups for answers before you ask
your question -- chances are you're not the first person to have the
problem. With commercial vendors you are much less likely to get this
sort of help. Here is a quote from a commercial software vendor that I
received in my e-mail just today:

"Thank you for your interest in [company name deleted] and for taking the time
to contact us. Technical support is designed primarily for getting the
program running without errors. When it comes to helping customers with
actually using the program, we are of little help as we don't have
access to usage information."

Say what?

So, go on complaining about bad help files. Even better, learn something
and write some if you are so dissatisfied. But don't make out that Linux
is worse than the others. When you take everything into account, it
isn't. And ultimately you have a better chance of getting a correct
answer with Linux than with most other pieces of software.

-- Andrew Dunstan


With his bad-pun focus on help and documentation, Andrew Leonard fails to
mention the key features that make a system widely usable -- intuitiveness
and consistency.

The example of GNOME-ppp is a case in point. The name "GNOME-ppp" itself
exposes the fundamental flaw in the program's design -- it is just a GUI
for ppp. Simply glomming a GUI on a command-line program and providing
documentation does not make that program more usable. In fact, an
incomplete GUI front end for a command-line utility might be less usable
than the command-line utility itself -- less intuitive, less complete, and
not as well documented.

Completely abstracting the details of underlying services and their
configuration into high-level concepts like "connect to the Internet"
makes a system usable. Making all such abstract interfaces work in
exactly the same way makes a system usable.

Creating interfaces that require the user to read Help files reduces the
usability of the system. That's why modern consumer user interfaces have

-- Bruce LeSourd

Passionate eating

I can appreciate the love of good food, but the reason why the rest
of the world can gorge on fat and stay healthy while Americans grow obese
on bread and water is simple: The rest of the world walks, and we drive.

-- Keith Ammann

The crack-up

I also recently went through a
similar "depressive episode." Like Smith, I am an intelligent
overachiever who has a great deal of self-knowledge and
introspection. However, no amount of self-help reading or relaxing
vacations would have kept me from falling into the depression that I
experienced. It seemed to almost come out of nowhere. Just like Smith, I also
"achieved" nearly every symptom on the psychiatric description of
depression. What made it even worse was that as I slid further
downward, I thought of myself as a big failure for "allowing" myself to
become depressed despite my intelligence and emotional maturity.

But there is a bright side. Working through the pain and the
bottoming out, I have learned so much about myself and my life. It
was a wake-up call for me to treat myself well in the present
instead of continually pushing it off until some point in the future,
after I had achieved my career goals and pleased everyone else.
Coming to the realization that I needed help from the outside -- my
doctor, my therapist, medication, my friends -- was a humbling
experience but a relief as well. Too often an overachiever tries to
do it all alone; the realization that the only person that judges
you for not doing it all alone is you provides a much-needed
reality check.

-- Angela Richard

I was extremely disappointed with Steven Scott Smith's superficial, smug
recollection of his bout with mental illness. While I feel
for anyone who has had to endure a mental breakdown, Smith's piece eschewed
honest self-examination in favor of phony Reader's Digest-style folksiness
("Remember, climbing out is done in baby steps") and rank condescension
aimed at his father, his therapists and just about everyone else. The piece
taught me nothing about living with mental illness and is markedly below
Salon's usual high standards.

-- Dan Wiencek

By Salon Staff

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