Letters to the Editor

Is it time for a female vice president? Plus: Get that spam out of my mailbox; "Millionaire" contestant gives Philbin the thumbs-up.


Letters to the Editor
November 22, 1999 10:00PM (UTC)

The Blair House 10
BY SARAH WILDMAN
(11/15/99)

If the increase in the number of women in Congress since 1984 is
notable, even more notable is the huge amount of progress that is still
needed. Less than 15 percent of the House of Representatives is female and less
than 10 percent of the Senate. We are clearly at least one or two generations away from true parity
in political power for women, and progress may actually slow down unless
young people get more involved in politics.

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-- Nate Levin

Although your first page touts the "significantly greater pool of
qualified women to pick from" -- and concludes, "With more well-qualified women
available, the parties won't have to settle for someone unknown to the public" -- the short
list essentially leads us to believe there are two, maybe three, potentially viable female vice-presidential candidates. The remaining prospects are either "unknown" or from states
whose lack of electoral votes makes them non-options for serious candidates.
This piece simply begs the question, "Are we any further along 15 years later?"

Having viable minority candidates for this office is a very important issue;
interestingly, it seems the Republicans currently have the upper hand. If
they're smart enough to play it, or even realize it is one, well, that's another
issue. Unfortunately.

-- Chris Cook

The title of Sarah Wildman's article "The Blair House 10"
is not an indication of the prospects for a female vice president. The vice president's house is known as the Admiral's House; Blair House is the the guest house for White House visitors. I would
hope any one of the 10 worthy women listed in the article would be in
Washington for more than a visit.

-- Edward Zaharevitz

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You failed to mention former Texas Gov. Ann Richards as a potential candidate. Although she has not been on the political scene in a while, Richards is sorely missed by many Democrats across the nation for her candor and outspokenness on traditional Democratic issues.

-- Ken Zirkel

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I was disappointed that you didn't mention Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, as a
potential vice-presidential candidate. She was impressively articulate
during the impeachment proceedings.

-- Jane L. Smith

Direct mail double-cross?
BY DEBORAH SCOBLIONKOV

(11/12/99)

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While I feel terribly sympathetic toward the DMA's profound anguish
over the prospects of losing spam as a marketing tool, and I honor and
celebrate
their plight, the fact remains that I pay for my
e-mail access. If it were a free e-mail account and the provider sold the e-mail address to spammers to cover their costs, that is marginally reasonable. However, I pay for my e-mail address out
of my pocket. It is not subsidized by the DMA. I despise opt-out plans,
because there are simply too many spammers out there to opt out of all
of their lists; deleting the e-mail is easier than removing an
address from every list. When the members of the DMA begin contributing
to my access, I'll stop complaining about spam. Until then, I'll put my
mouth where my money is.

As a side note, would it really be such a bad thing if e-mail weren't a
marketing tool? Would it really be so bad if someone's e-mail box could
remain a commercial-free space on the Internet? I hate being bombarded
with marketing messages all the time, I have a keenly developed sense of
banner blindness and I rarely visit marketing Web sites, so I'd like to
keep my e-mail box marketing-free as well.

Let me close with a modest proposal: While Perl and other scripting languages may not be the easiest to learn, I find the prospect of receiving spam, then inserting the
originating e-mail address into a script that spams the sender to be a
fascinating idea. Spam -- an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. As an
alternate proposal, what about pulling all the e-mail addresses of
executives and employees from an offending company's site, and adding
them to UCE lists, or using a similar script to spam them?

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-- Scott Puckett

I am shocked at the naiveti of the CAUCE members. They must be aware that
corporate America has long considered information gathered about
their customers to be the company's property. They should remember that business ethics only go as far as the bottom line and the corporate image. Corporate America has
long fought hard against anything that would require them to get
permission to share and use information collected about their customers.

Unfortunately for U.S. citizens who would much prefer to not be
bothered by advertising that they will now have to pay for, it's going to take
government action to stop corporate abuse of our privacy. We can only
hope that corporate America will see the light before their systems are crashed by the "spam
haters" -- not that we won't enjoy that immensely.

-- Scott Lohman

Minneapolis

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An appropriate biological analogy comes to
mind: symbiosis, the way two organisms interrelate with each other in terms of the benefits
that each receives from the relationship. In this case, the organisms are
the marketer and marketee.

The first type of symbiotic relationship is mutualism, in which both parties benefit from the relationship. A marketing example would be television advertising; the marketer gets a targeted audience while the marketee receives free broadcasts supported by advertising.
A second type of symbiotic relationship is
commensalism, in which one party gets positive benefits, and the other party receives nothing, but isn't harmed by the relationship. An example of this
would be billboard advertising.

Spammers represent the third type of symbiotic relationship -- parasitism --
in which the one party benefits while the other party is actively harmed. Spammers are parasites, causing financial harm to the backbone providers and ISPs, and resulting in higher
access costs to the netizen.

To eradicate a parasite one does
not reason with it nor wait for it to leave of its
own accord. Usually, one must endure a course of unpleasant
treatment. Government intervention may be such a necessary
treatment. At this point, it seems to me that the only question
left would be whether the cure is worse than the parasite.

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-- Rob Fargher

Maple Ridge, British Columbia

Why Microsoft really does suck
BY ANDREW LEONARD
(11/15/99)

When you purchase a computer, you own the computer. The software that is installed or made available with it is owned by the software manufacture. You purchase a license to use the software. That license is either bundled in with the cost of the computer or purchased separately. How else could any of us afford to use a piece of software that costs millions to develop, market, deliver and support? Upgrades are not free either. Someone has to lay down the millions of dollars to pay for the people and overhead associated with the development effort to identify, fix, test and distribute.

I come from the mainframe world, where as far back as 1966 we always blamed IBM for their control over the underlying operating system. I complained every month when I had to pay my monthly license fee for the use of the various software: MVS operating system, COBOL compilers and utilities. It was a fact of life then just as it's a fact of life now.

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If people don't like being held hostage by Microsoft and the family of Windows operating systems, change. There are alternatives. The fact is, people are jealous of what Bill Gates has done. He is a shrewd businessman who has done more to develop advanced computing than any person alive. Without Gates, Microsoft and their thousands of employees, where would we be? We have software available to the average consumer that a few short years ago was only dreamed of.

-- Edwin G. Bowles

For the love of the game show
BY JOYCE MILLMAN

(11/16/99)

Joyce Millman's essay is spot on (and not just because she used me as her
example of the Regis factor). I can say from experience that everyone on
the show, including Philbin and Michael Davies, made it very clear in all
their discussions with contestants that they would rather have us walk
away than lose, and I believed them both when they said they feel terrible when
people choose the wrong answers. The show is indeed classy, in an
admittedly tacky way, and it is helped along by the unique quirkiness of
Regis, and the man who chose him.

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-- John Christensen

Madison, Wis.

"Millionaire" is slow, sometimes boring and very predictable.
When these lunkhead contestants are using up life lines before
the $32,000 mark, what's there to be excited about? Get rid of them; bring on somebody who might have a shot. The early questions in this show are moronically
painful. Meanwhile, the slow pace of "uh ... uh ... I'd better make a phone call," and the new
catchphrase, "Is that your final answer?" leaves the pace of this show in deep mud.
"Millionaire" is on every night and folks are bound to be
losing interest; the show will eventually have to
make changes to stay strong. Sooner the better.

"Greed," on the other hand, is smart. You like to watch people sweat? "Greed" puts you on the edge of your seat. It's not so much of a team effort as it is an interesting combination of players with a mutual goal. The terminator round gives this show even more
edge, and I thought the questions were much more engaging than on
"Millionaire." Greed has more depth and elements to keep it
exciting. I've found myself surfing past "Millionaire" and looking in the TV
Guide for "Greed."

-- Michael Cleary

Letting docs decide
BY DAVID MCGUIRE

(11/13/99)

In his piece on United Healthcare, McGuire discusses
physician profiling: "'If a physician ... winds up being a very heavy
prescriber of an expensive antibiotic or orders a lot of MRIs, then that
physician will be taken aside and spoken with,' Reinhardt says. 'It's much
cheaper to do and just as effective.'"

As a physician, there are several things I would like to mention about
"profiling." If it is used purely as an educational tool, it can be very
effective. However, many HMOs use it as a form of coercion, a kind of a
backhanded way of controlling how doctors practice medicine that allows
the HMO to limit services without putting themselves at liability risk
by actually denying services.

There are several ways this is done. The most common is to tie doctors'
reimbursements to their "cost effectiveness" -- i.e., how little money they
spend on their patients. If the severity of the patients' pre-existing
illnesses is not taken into account, such measures of cost effectiveness
are flawed. This can lead doctors to 1) drive away sick patients and 2)
deny necessary care.

There is also the threat of deselection. The physician can be fired
"without cause," though in fact the cause is that he or she is costing
the HMO too much money. As far as the HMO is concerned, a physician
who is extravagant is no different from one who takes care of a lot of
sick people. Indeed, the latter may be a worse financial risk for the
HMO since the former can be re-educated, but the latter will never be
able to trim costs. This is what happened to me, and it played a large
part in my decision to close my 10-year-old practice.

I will never again work with a managed-care company that assigns
patients to family doctors like so many cattle, and then uses purely
financial criteria to assess how well the doctor is caring for his or
her patients. Any effective managed-care legislation must include a
provision that prohibits managed-care companies from giving bonuses or
penalties based on health-care costs and a provision that prevents HMOs
from terminating doctors "without cause."

-- McCamy Taylor

Tell me where it hurts
BY AMY O'CONNOR

(11/15/99)

Amy O'Connor describes Johnson City, Tenn., as "an impoverished community shunned by many of [Verghese's] American colleagues." I grew up in Johnson City, and lived there from 1962 until the late
1980s. It is, in fact, a quite prosperous and charming university
town, complete with a large Veterans Administration hospital, a
private medical center and a college of medicine. Between them, these
medical facilities have attracted quite a few doctors to live and
work -- a far cry from the city being "shunned" by the medical community. When the author describes a patient as "a hick living in a trailer" -- kind words from a caregiver -- it becomes clear that he's painting the town and its people in an image that better suits the
mood he's creating.

It's even more eye-opening when he states: "All my patients wanted to
appear as they were, with their names unchanged," but later admits
that two of the subjects were dead before he thought to ask. He truly
expects us to believe that every one of his patients or their families
-- afflicted with the most stigmatized disease of our age -- wanted the
details of their secret lives printed along with their real names?

While the events may well be based in fact, the author should
acknowledge that they are woven together into a fictional work. Had he
studied journalism instead of medicine, he would have known that
masquerading fiction as fact is the worst transgression possible -- as
bad as betraying a patient's confidence.

-- Ralph Dosser

It was stupid and irresponsible to promote Abraham Verghese's book with this line: "The bisexual who infected his wife and her sister with AIDS." Not only does that have little to do with Amy O'Connor's interview with Verghese, but it promotes the tired stereotype
that bisexuals are responsible for the spread of AIDS. It's catchy and simple,
but false.

-- Sara Ferguson

Merle Haggard
BY ELIZABETH BUKOWSKI

(11/15/99)

Now Salon feeds us the used-up carcass of a drunken, redneck C&W singer who has been married five times. In the entertainment world you can idealize anyone and gush at their moral brinkmanship.
Personally I can do without the attitudinal swill that has spawned from country & western music for as long as I can remember. I'm not talking about the drinking, womanizing, and cyclical depression,
but the barely hidden images of ensconced racism and a belief that "real men" act like hateful fools.

-- Ron Anguiano

Lakewood, Colo.


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