Letters to the Editor

India needs the Net's free information; Connie Chung's a bitch and a lousy journalist; what's Hillary doing with Al Sharpton?

Published July 19, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

India darkens Dawn

I totally disagree with Andrew Leonard's point that "it's even more absurd [than India's censorship], in this day and age, to
believe that the Internet could do anything to resolve such a conflict
[as the one in Kashmir]." Free speech may not alone end that war, but it can be a powerful vehicle
for competing ideas. The Internet can be and often is a powerful
catalyst for free speech.

-- Nick Dennany

Kalamazoo, Mich.

Leonard touched a raw nerve. There is a bigger
underlying problem here in India: the growing difference between the info-haves and info-have-nots. The
action of VSNL raises further questions. Can we expect the Net to be a democratic medium or is
it going to consolidate the established powers? Is it true that he who owns the server (read "the
network") controls the Net?

Fifty years ago India made a change from a feudal society to a "license
Raj" democracy. Organizations like the VSNL are one of the last pillars
of this license Raj. In the last few years we have been experimenting with a liberalized economy. I am an optimist. I believe what we are
experiencing today is a passing phase; and I envisage a free India based on freedom of expression and right to information.

-- Hemant Adarkar

Bombay, India

India has also barred Web access to another Pakistani newspaper, the Nation, and has also stopped cable companies from showing Pakistan Television to the Indian public.

Despite putting in more than 30,000 troops, aided by war planes, India has failed to clear the Kargil mountaintops, held by a few hundred "intruders." India claims to have killed more than 800 mujahideen and Pakistanis, against less than 350 Indian dead. How can that be? When someone attacks entrenched positions on top of mountains, the attacker is liable to suffer many more casualties than the defender. The disinformation put out by the Indian government is simply mind-boggling. That is why they want to shield their public form the media.

-- Asaf Ali Shah,

Islamabad, Pakistan

The overtime stigma

There is a way to be paid overtime as a technology worker, of course: be
a contractor. Obviously, you don't get employee benefits -- although the
pay is higher, so you can buy your own, and it's amazing how
much more respect you get.

But the problem with overtime is that it leads to a culture where quantity
of work matters more than quality. It's very easy to get very little
real work done and yet work a 70-hour week; should that employee get
more credit than his co-worker who finishes the same amount of work in a
regular 40 hours? Of course not, and yet this is often the case.

"Putting in the hours" is generally more about proving dedication,
loyalty and effort than actually getting useful work done. Many studies
have been done that show that increasing the number of hours worked does
not increase productivity that much. Employees get tired. Employees
goof off. Employees compensate for not being given personal time at
home by taking personal time out of the work day.

Entrenched overtime week after week does little except get everyone
macho points for how tough and hard-working they are. The high-tech
industry would survive well without it.

-- Matt Brown

I used to work for a company where you were required to submit a time card
stating that you had only worked eight hours a day, five days a week -- even though
that was a joke, and everyone knows it. People routinely work 70, 80 hours a
week; friends of mine have gone days without even leaving the building.
When I submitted the hours I actually worked (when I first started
there), I was reprimanded and told not to do it again.

Are they in violation of labor laws for doing this?

-- Mark Fischer

Los Gatos, Calif.

America's most bitchin' broadcaster

Yes, Connie Chung is a bitch, but it would not be a liability if she actually was a journalist in the
best sense of the word. In recent years, Chung's level of
journalism has reached new lows. She has consistently
twisted facts, stepped past the boundaries of polite society, and
lowered herself to be only one step away from the tabloid "journalists"
that she once pooh-poohed. I, for one, am grateful that her time in the
media has passed.

-- Joseph C.T. Chen

Los Angeles

Nancy Chan: Diary of a Manhattan call girl

How risqui, a regular column written by a (gasp!) working girl. What's
most notable about your working girl's writing is its mediocrity, yet
the show goes on. I suppose your readers want sex, sex and more
sex -- what juicier way to dish it out, what more pseudo-progressive
"liberated" way, than to enlist the help of (how shocking!) a
prostitute. Unfortunately, what Salon has gained in notoriety it has lost in quality.

-- Lawrence Weiner

Mexico City

Inside baseball

In 1984, I was a reporter at the now-defunct
Sacramento Union, and Mays was at a nearby Holiday Inn doing an
autograph show. Now, this was at a time when selling one's autograph (I think
Mays' was going for $5) was still a story, so I went there to try to get an
interview. I never did get the one-on-one I
wanted, but about midway through his signing session, Mays suddenly got up
from his chair and announced to the semi-stunned crowd that he would take
questions. I stood there taking notes, then after several minutes I yelled
out a question of my own -- something innocuous, like what he kind of
salary he thought he would be making now. Mays looked at me and asked, "Is that a notebook? Are you
a reporter?" When I said yes, I was, he launched into a long lecture
about how all reporters are liars, never quote him correctly, and are sneaks
besides. He then ended the Q&A, saying that since there was a treacherous
reporter in their midst, he couldn't speak freely anymore. And that was the
end of that.

-- Steve Martarano

Sacramento, Calif.

You can call me Al

Keith Moore misses the point. Al Sharpton is not so much
an ally as a wedge against Rudy Giuliani.

The Clinton team, by having Sharpton there with the mother
of Amadou Diallo, sent a signal that Giuliani might have to
answer questions about race -- and if any issue defines Giuliani, it is his inability to deal
with race. Years passed before he met with
the state's controller, a man who directly controls
parts of New York City's budget and has oversight
responsibility. This man -- the highest-ranking black official
in the state -- could not meet with the mayor until
after the Diallo shooting.

Any time the conversation moves to race, Giuliani
loses. It's not just the widespread perception
that he dislikes blacks. It's not just his blind support
of the largely white, suburban police department.
It's also the looming possibility that the federal government
may want to appoint a monitor for the NYPD.
This would taint every aspect of Giuliani's crime-fighting
record, turning his strength into a major liability.
The idea that the reduction in crime came about
because of a gross and systemic violation of the
basic civil rights of New Yorkers could lead
to catastrophic class-action suits.

Even the suburban boosters
of the mayor might have real problems in supporting
the modern-day Bull Connor. By being seen with Sharpton early, the Clinton team
is clearly showing Giuliani they're going to play

-- Stephen Gilliard

New York

Al Sharpton is a racial opportunist, always seeking to acquire limelight
and attention. The Brawley affair illustrated his scruple-deficient style.
Tawdry and boorish, Sharpton will bring racial divisiveness, not unity to
Hillary's campaign. That Hillary would kowtow to his vote-getting abilities
within blighted communities demonstrates an ability to pander to the lowest
common denominator in the voting block. This may establish a new watermark
in using people to achieve ones' own political ends.

-- Clarke Johnston

All you need is love -- and a marriage license

Gay and lesbian couples nationwide are required to jump
through all manner of hoops to attempt to adopt children. But while Jesse Helms wants to keep gays and lesbians from adopting children from foreign climes, key Republican operative Arthur Finkelstein -- who has worked tirelessly for Helms and others -- and Finkelstein's lover found the way surprisingly smooth for their two adoptions. Sen. Helms has been curiously silent about this.

-- David Ehrenstein

Los Angeles

As an international adoption worker, I cringe when I read stories "flaunting" people who
have cheated the system by posing as someone they were not.

While I agree with virtually everything you said, and also believe that a
family of any configuration is better than the very best of institutions, I
also strongly defend the right of any country to define the best
interests of their own children as they see fit. Not only because any other
position is one of cultural imperialism, but because flouting their rules can and does
result only in more stringent ones -- such as the one you deplore, which would
exclude all single applicants.

The precedents are already there. El Salvador used to be one of the most
liberal countries in requirements for foreign adoption. But when it was reported
that as many as 60 percent of the children adopted out of El Salvador went to single
parents (and there was a strong insinuation that many were adopted by
lesbians posing as single heterosexual females), ensuing legislation
prohibited adoption by singles. In fact, it narrowed the field to allow only
couples married for five or more years to adopt. Certainly that was not in the best interests of children.

I believe that we should fight to allow the largest number of children
possible to be adopted by stable, loving families of any configuration,
rather than being raised in institutions or foster care. At the same time,
I strongly believe this has to be done within the framework of the law,
whether it be ours or theirs. Let us try to convince
them with the logic and experience of our arguments. Anything else is
antagonistic, imperialistic, fruitless and counterproductive.

-- Martha Edwards

Cabin John, Md.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Hillary Rodham Clinton India Joan Walsh Pakistan