- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 8, 2000

Providing options with sex education


Sarah Means discusses the punitive treatment she received as a 16-year-old student simply because her mother "opted" her out of sex education ("Original sin in Fairfax County," Op-Ed, April 5). She was confined to her biology classroom's supply closet during the times when sex education was being conducted in the adjoining classroom.
For such controversial courses as sex education, schools should reverse their policy. Rather than automatically including students unless their parents say "no," students should be automatically excluded unless their parents say "yes."
This policy change would protect children from the kind of humiliation that Miss Means endured. More importantly, it would encourage parental scrutiny of the sex education program.
JAMES METCALF
Fairfax

HOV lanes just make traffic jams more horrible


I just read Jim Kenney's letter "HOV lanes are in our best interest" (April 3). While I applaud Mr. Kenney for riding in a van pool, I cannot support preferential high occupancy vehicle lanes (HOV).
I also have to commute on Interstate 95. I used to commute from Stafford to Crystal City in the mid-1980s, and from Stafford to Arlington in the mid-1990s. Fortunately, I only have to commute to north Woodbridge these days. Despite that significantly shorter commute, I still have to deal with stop-and-go traffic almost every day.
When I am on I-95, I see the new (and extremely expensive) HOV lanes virtually empty of traffic. Meanwhile, thousands of my fellow taxpayers and I, who cannot car pool because of our job requirements, get to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic. We are wasting valuable time, wearing out our brakes, burning now very expensive gas and polluting the atmosphere unnecessarily.
Wasn't the original purpose of HOV lanes to eliminate these conditions? What is their purpose now? How do we do away with these ridiculous restrictions?
I also would like to know who is responsible for deciding to lift (or not lift) HOV restrictions when there is an accident. As most of us already know, when accidents occur, we just end up sitting in many more miles of traffic.
BLAKE ROBERTSON
Stafford

Microsoft ruling: Windows of opportunities or a system's crash?


Kenneth Smith clearly shows in his column that he believes the benefits of Microsoft's actions outweigh the harms, notwithstanding that Microsoft has achieved monopoly status and that its actions clearly have been predatory ("Rent a Reno," Op-Ed, March 30). The end justifies the means and the law be damned. It is chilling to ponder that such views may hold sway.
Of course, Mr. Smith is in good company. Many of the technological elite hold the same view and dismiss the law whenever it gets in their way.
Perhaps this is a result of the political conditioning we have endured for nearly eight years. Obfuscate, manipulate, stall and deny, deny, deny, even after being found guilty.
Are we a nation of laws or not?
Of course, when prior attempts were made to restrain the conduct of the Microsoft Corp., the company's actions flew in the face of both the spirit and the letter of prior consent decrees. It is not surprising that a structural remedy is preferred over a conduct remedy, particularly when the company in question has no more integrity than the Clinton administration.
SPENCER T. KITTELSON
Sioux Falls, S.D.

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I respectfully disagree with Kenneth Smith's column on the Microsoft case.
The essence of this case is simple: Can a competitor compete solely on his bank account? It is proper and legal to compete on service, technology or any value added offer. It is illegal to compete on the size of your wallet. Why? Because the richest will always evolve into a monopoly; then there is no market, just dictation.
We know that a pure monopoly is not needed, the model works if an oligopoly is created a few fat-cat "competitors." The proper role of government is to maintain the level playing field, the same reason the police officer walks the beat.
The referee need not be a superstar; he just needs to know the rules, watch and blow his whistle. Capitalists often cheat because they are greedy.
R.L. HAILS SR.
Olney

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Kenneth Smith's column on the Justice Department's antitrust suit against Microsoft was perceptive.
Microsoft's guilt is that it was innovative, creative and imaginative, both in the development of its products and the marketing of these products to consumers.
As Mr. Smith stated so accurately, if competitors not as innovative as Microsoft can rent Attorney General Janet Reno, what industry could be next: automobiles, washing machines, condoms?
The computer software-using consumer is the loser. Cicero stated that justice is applied so that no one shall suffer wrong and that the public good is served. Apparently, that is not Miss Reno's definition.
PAUL KINNEAR
Abingdon, Md.

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Giving away software is one of Microsoft's methods of flooding the market with shoddy goods and building up a customer base of users of those shoddy goods.
When a new Microsoft product doesn't test market favorably against its competitors, instead of going back to the drawing board and improving its new product, Microsoft merely resorts to this "give it away for free until enough people are hooked" approach.
Personally, I loathe Internet Explorer and pray that Netscape can survive Microsoft's asinine marketing practices. Microsoft's products should be driven by expert programming talent not expert marketing talent.
ROBERT JACKSON
Bethesda

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I think the Justice Department is misnamed. The department will not enforce the laws on the books and now is out to see how much it can extort from a business serving the public.
The Microsoft case is just like the tobacco deal. Demonize the target, encourage critical news, create a finding of guilt and establish how much can be taken from the business in cash or destroy it all in the name of justice. What a crock.
WAYNE ARMSTRONG
Champaign, Ill.

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I'm grateful that I can get up in the morning and read The Washington Times. Kenneth Smith again emphasizes the short-term prospects people who manage companies have. Big government is not the way to go but there seems to be much caving in to those who want that. Keep up the good work. I hope the column influences some people to act differently.
CHRISTINA HOLDERREED
Tucson, Ariz.

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This is in response to Ron Nehring's column ("Prelude to regulation?" Commentary, April 6) and the hand wringing of many other people concerning the fate of Microsoft.
For those of us who have sat at our personal computers and lost data from system crashes, computer freezes and just plain illogical operations, let alone a complete lack of intelligible instructions we say, good riddance.
The software industry, and Microsoft particularly, has an arrogance and consumer-be-damned attitude that surpasses all understanding. This attitude has been verified by my colleagues at numerous computer fairs.
Software designers have said they have a product, and that if the public wants it, the public will have to conform to their way of operating software. In other words, take it or leave it.
The point made by Mr. Nehring that there already is competition fails to recognize that integrating competing software into one's computer requires a level of computer sophistication that exceeds that of the average user, myself included.
The entire situation is driven by what I perceive to be Microsoft's customer-be-damned attitude. Real open competition is the only way to solve the problem.
CHARLES E. HEIMACH
Arlington

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