Letters to the editor

Recipes for dealing with spam Plus: Who took the surprise out of the Waco raid? Hemlock Society founder weighs in on physician-assisted suicide.

By Salon Staff
Published April 25, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

How to avoid the evil eye


Don't register products that you buy. Contrary to what some companies want
us to believe, a person does not have to register a product to "activate" a
warranty. Or, if you do register, don't include your e-mail address.

Another tactic is to use two e-mail addresses: One with your ISP for personal
correspondence with close friends and/or business associates, and another with a
Web-based e-mail service (Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, etc.) for all other e-mail. When
you access Web-based e-mail, only the message headers, not the full messages, are
automatically retrieved. This also provides a certain level of protection against
viruses and worms.

Beware of the "mailto" trap on many Web pages. (Salon uses a Web-based "mailto"
and does not fit into this category.) If clicking on a link invokes your e-mail
program, then do a copy-and-paste of the "To" address into your Web-based e-mail

Bottom line: Don't supply your e-mail address to potential spammers.

-- Martin Maloney

You can actually get rid of most spam by filtering out all e-mails that
don't have your e-mail address in the To: field. Most spam messages don't
actually have your address in the To: column -- spammers use an alias on their
mail servers to avoid having to send a separate message to each person on their
list from their client.

-- Peter Yared

Simson Garfinkel suggests "address munging" as a way for Internet users to
avoid receiving spam. Although this method may work for the individual user, it
creates an enormous problem for system administrators in the form of yet more
undeliverable, bounced messages.

I sympathize with the desire to avoid receiving junk e-mail, but shifting the
problem to someone else is not an appropriate short- or long-term solution.

-- Donna Higgins

There's a way to avoid letting the U.S. Postal Service notify
telemarketers of your new address that wasn't mentioned in your recent article on
the subject. According to the March-April issue of Utne Reader, you can
exit the National Change of Address System by calling the National Customer
Support Center at (800) 238-3150. (The same issue contains a wonderfully concise
"road map" to all the ways -- both readily available and truly radical -- a
person can regain their anonymity.)

-- John Book

Bad company

Porn and get-rich-quick spam is one thing -- I delete them unopened, along with messages with "friendly" headers from people I've never heard of. But what's the problem with polite opt-in offers from companies offering products or services I'm already inclined to consider? At best, I find a deal; at worst, I hit delete and move on.

In any event, looking to the federal government for "protection" is a bad answer; regulation, once started, rarely stops where you want it to. Better to request your Internet Service Provider to write more filtering options for the user. And while they're at it, maybe the ISPs can allow us to "opt-out" of those annoying animated banner ads.

-- C. Spector

A universal unsubscribe, or opt-out, list has been tried several times. Ask around the Internet about IEMMC, SafeMPS or the Direct Marketing Association's current attempt, the e-MPS. Not one of those attempts has worked.

The burden should be on the companies who wish to send e-mail to me to make sure that I actually want to receive it. Opt-out is not a solution for the problems caused by spam.

-- Matt Korth

Any legislation strong enough to prevent spam would be strong enough to
trample the First Amendment.

It would be much better to promote the use of cryptographic signatures and mail
software that can effectively filter on them. Legislation should be coupled with
this to enforce accountability of e-mail sending certificates. This way, if you
have a legitimate need to be anonymous, you can, but your message will not be
cryptographically certified and many people will configure their mailers to
ignore it. Conversely if you abuse your e-mail certificate, you will be
traceable, and sanctions and fines could be applied.

-- Robert

Why are we so excited about stopping unsolicited e-mail, when the U.S.
Post Office delivers unsolicited printed material every day but Sunday? Several
pounds a month of colorful trash that I become responsible for recycling, unread.
And there is no way that I can opt out of it, no filters for my mailbox.

Surely this is more troublesome than virtual trash.

-- Dick

Damn spam!



I'm glad that you are finally writing about the blight of our modern days,
spam. I'd like to update your readers on a service that I use to get back at the
spammers. Spamcop.net is both a free and a paid service to help you get
the people who send out spam. I use it every day to make sure that no one
spamming my e-mail box gets away with it.

Until the days when marketers no longer feel it is their right to flood our
e-mail boxes with their crap, Spamcop is the best resource I know of to get back
at the spammers.

-- Alex Zavatone

Who tipped off the media about
the Waco raid?


As a former reporter who has been extended the courtesy of joining in FBI,
DEA and ATF raids, I must say that Cal Leudke is being quite unfairly crucified.
It seems quite clear that the guilt for the botched Waco raid rests squarely on
the shoulders of TV cameraman Jim Peeler.

Law enforcement officials often give us media types advance tips (or at least
used to) -- we keep our mouths shut (which Peeler didn't), accompany the
officials on their raids and the ends of both law enforcement and public
disclosure are nicely served.

That television cameraman was simply unthinking or stupid. If you try to hang
this on law enforcement, all that will result in is tight-mouthed law enforcement
officials. And that clearly will not serve the public interest.

The problem is not "who tipped off the media"; the problem is what one
irresponsible member of the media did with that information.

Rod Proctor

Your April 19 story by Bryce, Moore, and Ellis builds to its conclusion
with a troubling sentence: "Every military strategist knows that maintaining the
element of surprise is critical, particularly when resistance is expected."

The trouble is, what the ATF was undertaking seven years ago outside Waco, Texas
should not have been a military operation. They are, at least in nominal
authority, a law enforcement agency.

It has traditionally been of utmost importance to recognize and maintain the
differences between enforcing laws and waging war. Actions such as the Texas raid
and siege indicate that this distinction is no longer clear in the minds of some
American officials. From the article you published, I'm sad to note that this
isn't clear to your reporters, either.

If the examples at Waco cement the idea that police and military powers are one
and the same, then there is nothing here but tragedy. If instead Americans use
these examples to take notice of the trend and repudiate it, something good might
come from the ashes of Mt. Carmel.

-- Tracy Harms

You're missing the point. The ATF, by any honest military standard, is
primarily composed of poorly-trained amateurs. Dozens of accounts of their
botchery and brutality have been published in various media -- not just nutjob
right-wing newsletters. When NYC's "elite" Street Crimes Unit was expanded too
quickly under political pressure, it lost that "elite" edge, and an innocent man
paid the price. The Street Crimes Unit has been disbanded. The ATF has been
involved in many such incidents -- perhaps it is time they were disbanded too?

-- Lee Cavett

Death without dignity



That was a perceptive article by Jacob Goldstein on the right to choose to
die. The taboo barriers erected by the medical profession make death by choice
near impossible, and are driving the practice underground. Although my book,
"Final Exit," has been in print for nine years now, it still sells thousands of
copies every year -- surely evidence of people wanting "the ultimate civil
liberty": death in a manner and by a means of their own choice. Thank you, Salon,
for having the guts to print this rare article.

-- Derek Humphry

Founder, The Hemlock Society

I read Jacob Goldstein article with a sense of relief. As a physician, my
reaction was, "It's about time!" When I graduated from medical school in 1968,
physician-assisted suicide was an absolutely taboo subject, although even medical
students understood that it was sometimes part of the art of medicine. Only
recently has the taboo surrounding this topic begun to lift, and Goldstein's
article is a breath of fresh air. It would be easy for a journalist to
sensationalize such a topic; I appreciated the straightforward reporting in this

Perhaps an unforeseen benefit of managed care is that, as more patients die at
home rather than in the sterile seclusion of a hospital, the public will begin to
join the dialogue that must eventually take place around this topic. Articles
such as this one are a hopeful start! Thanks for a courageous piece of

-- Judy Botello, M.D.

As my great-uncle slowly succumbed to multiple cancers some years ago, he
got to the point where his pain could no longer be eased by even massive doses of
painkillers. However, rather than drug him into unconsciousness and hasten his
death, his doctors refused to increase his dosage. By the end, his pain was so
great that even the slightest touch sent him writhing into agony. The suffering
this caused his poor wife and the rest of our family was probably nearly as
great. Practical, safe and humane assisted suicide legislation would have saved
everyone in our family a lot of pain and suffering. Nobody out there is asking
for organized euthanasia, just an opportunity to die with a little more dignity
and a little less pain. We should all hope for that.

-- David

"Down the vagina trail"



Eve Ensler is the kind of feminist that doesn't make me cringe. I was very
encouraged by the fact that although she believes in empowering women, she does
so without pushing men in a corner. I appreciated the fact that she does not end
her observations at the realization that women can be victims, but goes further
and encourages women to get up and heal. Kudos to Ensler, who decides to
transcend the pain and thereby help others through education and awareness.

-- Mary-Jo Metaxas

Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

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