Letters to the Editor

What's to become of Microsoft? Plus: Putting McKinney's life in Judy Shepard's hands; who unearthed the L.A. Times controversy?

By Letters to the Editor
Published November 12, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

"It reads like a novel"



Do the paranoid survive?



Is Linux the real remedy?


Mark Gimein's article appears to miss the point of the monopoly charges -- that Microsoft's charges are about
business practices and not the prevalence of any operating system. At
the time Microsoft released its browser, Netscape was the world leader
among Web browsers, with only the poorly featured Mosaic and Lynx to
challenge it. What Microsoft feared was not a Netscape operating system, but the cross platform nature of the Web browser itself -- which meant a UNIX, Macintosh or BeOS user could
browse the Web just as well as a Windows user. All Microsoft had to do
to stop Netscape was cause slight incompatibilities with the underlying
operating system, forcing users to choose a substandard browser over an
incompatible one. By doing this, Microsoft caused Netscape such financial
trouble that they got bought by America Online and could never again
properly compete.

Also, Linux rightly shouldn't have been much of a consideration in the
proceedings. Linux companies don't sell operating systems, but
technical support, training, hardware certification, consulting,
commercial applications and CDs primarily containing free software.
Linux companies are in a different business than Microsoft is, so Judge Jackson was right to discount Linux in his judgment, despite its overwhelming presence in the server market and increasing success on the desktop.

-- Colin Lee

The situation is similar to the film business. In times past, a single
company could own a studio and a chain of theaters. Eventually the
government realized the unfair advantage such an arrangement poses. The
theater chain can freeze out movies made by anybody else, studio or
independent. Outside software companies, while free to develop new software
to run on Windows, have access neither to the inner details of the current
version, nor the design plans for future versions. Having both, Microsoft
applications developers have a pronounced advantage over outsiders. This is
the crux of the problem.

If anything is to be done about Microsoft's monopoly, it is to break the
company into two -- one that sells operating systems and one that sells
applications. It's perfectly all right if
the world decides on one OS standard; and it's perfectly all right if the
world decides that Word is the world's greatest word processor.
The playing field would be leveled, however, and the
company having the right combination of innovation and marketing would be
the most successful in each market segment. Should it turn out to be
Microsoft -- or whatever its successors might be called in the future -- so be
it. Other companies would have only themselves to blame.

-- Arthur Fuller

I think the judge needs to step back and take another look. No one has made an operating system that works as well as Windows. The competition loses because the product isn't up to standards, or just plain doesn't work. Microsoft has "squeezed" out no one.

Breaking up AT&T was not good. The phone services have turned to
total crap, and the prices for them are outrageous. The local phone company I have is
the pits. And the cell phone service is absolutely lousy and way too expensive.

Breaking up Microsoft will create the same problems: bad products, and bad service. One mess has been made in communications, and now the government is working on making another mess. This is a free enterprise country: Come up with a better
product, or make a career change.

-- Renee E. Jones

Eric Raymond's critique of the Microsoft antitrust suit ignores legal history. Several huge monopolies have been smashed by government lawyers -- oil, railroads, banking, tobacco and telecommunications -- to the benefit of all. To think that market forces do this service automatically is wishful
thinking and reflects an absolutist faith in capitalism, a mental relic of
the Cold War. Anyone who has shopped Linux has done so for ideological reasons -- not
purely motivated by consumerist behavior.

-- Brian Bagley

A dramatic moment of mercy


I wish I could hug Judy Shepherd right now. Nobody ever said doing the
right thing was easy, and I'm sure she'll second-guess her decision for
the rest of her life. But I'd like her to know that what she did for the
killer of her child made me have a little more faith in humankind.

-- Barbara Ingalls

Royal Oak, Mich.

I find it quite extraordinary that the McKinney case suggests that the
fate of a convicted killer should be left in the hands of the victim's
family. I suppose it makes clear that the death penalty is being justified
solely on the basis of retribution -- "an eye for an eye." This Old Testament
notion should have been discarded long ago.

The only "civilized" justification for the death penalty is deterrence,
and that has been shown to be empirically highly questionable. Allowing the
victim's family to decide whether a killer should be put to death seems to me
to encourage a kind of vigilantism which is crude and unseemly at the end of
the 20th century.

-- Ed Rogers

Branchburg, N.J.

"It's happened again"



I am quite sure that as Dan Savage was investigating the mysterious open garage, with
an at-large killer in the neighborhood, the thought occurred to him that
he was not in a very good position to defend his home.
It was curious that he did not just leave and attempt to contact the local police; perhaps deep down
he knew that they would be too busy to assist him. Even with
an at-large killer running around within blocks of his home, Dan's reflex
is to call for the elimination of my handgun so that he will feel safer
in his home. Go figure.

-- Ric Diola

Dan Savage mentions a curious point: Why
not stronger national gun laws? Is it not the patchwork of state laws
that have allowed gun-running from state to state, setting up a black
market that supplies anyone, no matter the age nor rationale, who has the
ready cash and spiteful nerve to buy a hot gun? Or is this observation
too simplistic to be taken seriously?

Odd how states refuse to pass laws to regulate guns while they smarmily
hide behind a federal document -- the Second Amendment -- that only
mentions a collective right, not an individual right. Does anyone think
the framers pictured slaughter in our schools, streets and work places
as the result of the Second Amendment? I doubt it. And don't anyone give
me any of that crap about how if the people in the schools, churches and
offices had only been packing, or about how a well-armed citizenry is a
peaceful one. Look at the way rageful drivers turn their everyday
conveyances into weapons. Like they should have shotguns in the front

I suggest all concerned read the rest of the Constitution and
learn about the "well-regulated militia."

-- Peter D. Barry

Austin, Texas

Rudy loses big -- but does it matter?


Andrea Bernstein's piece was right on point about the potential the New
York City charter reform referendum has for predicting the way the
partisans will line up in the forthcoming Clinton-Giuliani Senate campaign. But she leaves out several facts that may help out-of-towners understand the nuances of the issues.

First, the original impetus for the charter reform proposals was Mayor
Rudy Giuliani's attempt to forestall Council Speaker Peter Vallone's likely
effort to put a referendum on the ballot asking voters to pass on building
a new Yankee Stadium in Manhattan -- a pet Giuliani project that is seen
as a disaster by most Manhattanites, to say nothing of traditional Yankee
fans. New York City election law preempts any referendum if charter
reform is on the ballot. So while the motivation for charter reform was
indeed to preserve the mayor's legacy, it had its roots in his attempt to
make Manhattan safe for George Steinbrenner.

Second, the public advocate's office was created in the last wave of
charter reform when the Board of Estimate, which held co-equal, or
greater, powers with the mayor on many city budgeting issues -- was ruled
unconstitutional as a violation of the "one-man, one-vote" rule. While
not having much direct power, the public advocate's office was seen as a
possible antidote to the mayor's increased power. That was a perfect
setting for Giuliani critic Mark Green, who in addition to being a
former Nader's Raider has also been a regular Democratic candidate for
Senate and governor. It was specifically to prevent Green from being
appointed to fill out the end of Giuliani's term that the succession
issues were proposed.

Third, Bernstein neglected to mention that there were several items on
the charter reform proposal -- "gun free" school zones, streamlined
budgeting processes, reorganization of city government agencies -- that
were supported in principle by many, but that Giuliani insisted that
all the proposals be voted up or down as a package, so that his pet
projects could be accepted (he hoped) as part of a package of greater good.

Finally, the Chris Ofili painting is not "dung-spattered" -- it is
decorated, with the dung elements carefully placed.

-- Alan Straus

New York

Seventeen brothels of Asian sex slaves exposed in Atlanta


Several articles from
this past week are not appropriate, given Hank Hyena's irreverent and arcane approach and the amusing nature of the forum. As the editors stated, Naked World is intended to "weigh in" on sex and sexuality worldwide, as well as sexual nature and cultural sexuality.
Systematic rape as a tool of war, forced prostitution and
sexual torture fall into the category of violence, not
sexuality. Although Hyena did allow the slightest tone of
respect when discussing these incidents, the humor and
sarcasm Hyena has established as the tone of the column was
overwhelmingly offensive. He should stick to the truly
sexually amusing and intriguing (there's enough out there),
without sexualizing and trivializing violence against women.

-- Brook Partner

New York

Meltdown at the L.A. Times


Although it is loudly claiming credit, New Times did not expose the L.A. Times'
stupid Staples Center deal -- the Los Angeles Business Journal did. New Times'
piece, which ran in its Oct. 21 issue, was followed by stories in the New
York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Boston
Globe. But it was Dan Turner of the weekly L.A. Business Journal who deserves
the credit. He exposed the deal and outlined the
potential fallout the day after the special edition of the Sunday magazine
appeared. New Times can claim supremacy all it wants, but that doesn't change
the fact that it is taking credit for someone else's scoop.

-- Katherine M. MacGregor

Los Angeles

Editor's note: See Sean Elder's Media Log on the question of who broke the L.A. Times-Staples Center story.

Late bloomers


A poetry column is an appropriate expansion of Salon's regular
features. Glad to see it. Perhaps as the column evolves, aspirations for
highfalutin literary criticism will be dropped for the conversational
accessibility of your other articles. That said, a monthly verse review does
not seem frequent enough; how about biweekly?

-- Ben Pollock

Springdale, Ark.

Nursing a problem


In your article regarding hiring foreign nurses to fill in shortage
gaps, you failed to mention one important reason hospitals prefer to hire foreign nurses to fill in during shortages. Foreign nurses are heavily abused by hospitals. They are forced to
work through lunch breaks without compensation. They are sometimes not
paid for overtime. They come in early and leave late. The hospitals love
this; they get one foreign nurse to do the job of two American nurses.
I've been a nurse for 11 years, and I can honestly say it's the most
abusive job there is. It's even worse for foreign nurses.

-- Dominick Montelbano, R.N.

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