Letters

Nothing But Net
SF Weekly's feature story on LatinoNet ("Net Loss," Feb. 18) was indeed a net loss for your readers. Instead of dealing with the important questions of what LatinoNet tried to do and the complexities of where it succeeded and failed, writer Matt Smith opted for the underbelly, substitutes exaggeration, intimations of scandal, and tired catch-phrases about government meddling for honest critique and reflection.

LatinoNet began four technology generations ago when electronic bulletin boards, command-driven interfaces, and 1,200 baud rates were the standard in network technology. LatinoNet bravely stumbled along uncharted roads with a vision that Latino nonprofits -- the advocates, caretakers, educators, leaders of our community -- needed access to this technology.

LatinoNet's vision was to help Latinos use network technology to become producers and not just consumers of information. We sought to create a robust and noncommercial resource for our community before the Web was even a twinkle in most folks' eyes. We provided training, support, and even modems, software, and funds to install dedicated phone lines for almost 200 Latino nonprofit groups.

The LatinoNet story remains to be told, and it is a story that will be best told by Latino historians and other scholars. We have donated LatinoNet's program files to the UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Library where they will be cataloged and archived. The critical and dispassionate analysis of these archives will tell an interesting, provocative, and very different story of LatinoNet's experience.

Armando Valdez, Ph.D.
LatinoNet Founder and Board Chair
Los Altos

Information Wants to Be, Uh, Noncommercial
As a scholar and educator concerned with the impact of technology on our world, I found Matt Smith's article on LatinoNet ("Net Loss") disturbingly lacking in analysis and insight. LatinoNet was clearly formed in an attempt to address the increasing gap between the technology "haves" and the "have nots." While the project did not reach as many nonprofits and individuals as originally intended, it was innovative and surely helped to direct attention and resources toward closing the technology gap. The real story here is that the LatinoNet model failed, the gap is widening at an increasing pace, and the social implications are enormous.

In addition to missing the mark on one of the most pressing issues of our generation, Smith's article failed in a number of other respects. It is based on the blatantly false premise that an unsuccessful million-dollar high-tech start-up is news.

Presumably the news angle in this case is that it was the government that invested taxpayer dollars in an untested concept. A substantive exploration of this would point to a number of difficult questions such as: Can the private sector and the "invisible hand" close the technology gap? Is it in the legitimate public interest for government to make investments and assume some financial risk to promote more equitable access to technology?

The lack of insight into the public interest issues involved is further demonstrated by Smith's attempt to portray Dr. Valdez as naive for striving to establish a model that is not dependent on advertising. Smith shows no appreciation for the Internet as a noncommercial communications channel.

Sanjeev Khagram, Assistant Professor
UC Santa Cruz

Electricity, Indoor Plumbing, and Brie
After several highly acclamatory reviews of Sinead's Irish Bar & Restaurant in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Bay Guardian, and the West Contra Costa Times, the review that Naomi Wise gave in SF Weekly ("Irish Stew," Eat, Feb. 4) was too capricious to take offense to. My concern lies with the two companions Ms. Wise thought fit to bring along with her and quote throughout her review:

"What's brie?" John asked. "We don't have that, we have Cheddar," Edna laughed. "This must be a French thing," John mused.

They portray the Irish as an ignorant and deprived race. It is people like these who give America the impression we have no electricity or indoor bathrooms. You can walk into any large grocery store in Ireland and not only buy brie, but choose from a large selection of cheeses.

Neither John nor Edna had heard of cheesecake before arriving in the U.S. Where were they, Mars? Not only is cheesecake on most restaurant menus in Ireland, it is also one of my mother's homemade specialties.

It is a pity that Ms. Wise is not as knowledgeable as her name suggests, and needs the help of two individuals who know nothing about food. On the front cover of SF Weekly you refer to the shoddy reporting of the Chronicle. I haven't heard of Michael Bauer needing help to do his reviews.

Steve Mac Rory, Manager
Sinead's Irish Bar & Restaurant
Richmond District

 
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