Herman I. May

Herman I. May


27 October 2004

Ground equine

A controversy has been brewing in North Texas for the past several months. Many blowhards are climbing atop their soapboxes to rant against area businesses and in doing so are exposing themselves as hypocrites.

Sited this morning in of all places the Sports section of The Dallas Morning News was an editorial denouncing the slaughter of horses for meat. Leading with the title "Barbaric acts must be halted", one of the paper's regular talking-heads proceeds to present an unsubstantiated diatribe against a legitimate enterprise.

The writer, Kevin B. Blackistone, makes use of such provacative phrases as "oposition to the barbarism", "this animal cruelty", "dirty little secret", "an atrocious practice" and "despicable deed". He even begins his article with a graphic narrative of the slaughtering act itself.

The flaws in his righteous indignation are obvious to anyone who is not a hypocrite. Almost without variation, the exact same process which Blackistone finds so horrendous when applied to horses, is used daily on thousands of cattle and hundreds of sheep and other livestock destined for human consumption. Yet, somehow, all of that is irrelevant when it comes to the equine species.

Blackistone does his cause a disservice due to the fact that he offers no rationale for his abhorrence except to mention in passing that Texas is a state which " more than any other has duly recorded the horse's contribution to history, immortalized in folklore and celebrated...as an icon". Why is the horse any different than any other dommesticated quadruped?

A similar debate of this subject which took place earlier in the summer on the Op/Ed page offered some insight. Apparently, because the horse is considered by many bleeding hearts to be more of a partner than a means of tranportation, pleasure or labor, it somehow exists on a higher plane and has more existential value than a lowly cow, sheep or rabbit. Such views are untenable rationalizations that allow individuals to elevate the value of one life above that of antother in order to satisfy a misplaced reverence.

The fact is that all life is entitled to exist in and of its own right. As higher order, so-called sentient omnivores, we have a biologic and physiologic need to ingest animal protein. That some hominids desire equine meat as a form of sustenance is their right. Just as it is the right of the average fat-assed American to consume beef critters. At least the horses are being put to additional use in their death (e.g. meat, gelatin for glue, hides, etc.). Every year, thousands of greyhounds are put to death for no other reason that they have outlived their usefulness on the track or never achieved the "potential" of which their human masters felt them capable. This is directly comparable to the equine issue, since the vast majority of the horse destined for the butcher shopare retired races. In the case of the canids, they are dumped, buried or burned without additional benefit to man — except to relieve a financial liability for their owner.

It is people like Blackistone who are barbaric, cruel, dirty, atrocious and despicable in their hypocrisy. Until their ire is applied equally to all forms of animal slaughter; until they adopt the vegan lifestyle, they should keep their inexpiable sanctimony to themselves!

26 October 2004

XNS.org returns as XDI.org

Ideas and technologies come and go on the 'net. Sometimes the failures are due to an idea who enters the scene ahead of its time only to fade into obscurity in short order. Rare are the occasions when these technologies enjoy a resurrection. The eXtensible Name Service (XNS) paradigm is experiencing just such a resurgence under the bifurcated concepts of eXtensible Resource Identifier (XRI) and XRI Data Interchange (XDI).

Originally emerging in the fall of 2000, XNS was a technology whose proponents advanced the notion of standardized protocol for the exchange of personal information over the internet. Within the concept are the ideas that a plethora of personal information (e.g. name, address, telephone, financial information, etc.) can be stored on a secure, centralized server. When needed for a purchasing transaction, to gain access to a particular site or to provide current contact information, the individual need only make use of one's unique identifier to authenticate against the central database and instantly gain access. No longer would multiple userIDs and passwords be necessary. XNS would provide a key of sorts for streamlining many cyber related activities.

At the time, I saw merit with this concept. The ability to complete a host of personal information once, at a central location, then need only authenticate with ID and password at participating sites. However, the idea never went anywhere. For several months following my registration, I kept an eye out for participating sites. However, nothing appeared. One problem was the bursting of the .com bubble. Another was that the backers had a difficult time getting surviving companies to adopt the protocol and substitute it for the procedures they had come to trust. In time I relegated XNS to the back burner and went about the use of localized profiles.

XNS is making a comeback; this time identified as XRI. This time, however, I am a bit more leery of its potential. Though its proponents are betting otherwise, I am not convinced that the adoption climate has changed much. Add to that the fact that, while the resurrected concept has a significantly greater number of affiliates, most are themselves startups or novel communities lacking with unproven benefits and rates of success. In order for this technology to catch on, there are going to have to be partnerships with established and proven entities who recognize the potential benefits are are willing to augment or replace existing authentication schemes.

Though I have converted my existing XNS identity to the XDI format, I reserve my enthusiastic support and will remain cautious of the potential for success.

25 October 2004

Between the lines

News has been breaking throughout the day of the serious illness that has befallen Chief Justice William Rehnquist. It has been reported that he was taken to hospital this weekend for the dire effects of thyroid cancer and had to have a tracheostomy performed in order to restore breathing. In an of itself, this is a tragic, sorrowful event and my sympathies are certainly with the family during this time of great stress. However, it is perhaps reflective of a more serious issue on the High Court.

It would be folly to think that this is a revelatory event. Having just turned eighty years of age (01 October) and holding such a high profile job, one has to suspect that he receives a regular physical exam. For a neoplasm to have progressed to such a point as to constrict airflow without having been diagnosed would border on negligence. Thus, it is probable that he has known about this ailment for quite some time. Yet, he has made no announcement of retirement for health reasons. One is left to hypothesize that he had hoped to await the results of the election before revealing his predicament.

In fact, there have been many ruminations over the past year or so with respect to which, if any, of the current justices would retire and when. At least three, O'Conner, Rehnquis and Stevens, are considered ripe for retirement. If Rehnquist has known of his illness for as long as one might suspect, one would think he would have chosen to dedicate more time and effort to treatment and spending time with his family. Yet, he has not done so and none have made mention of stepping down. Is it vanity? Arrogance? I think there is a more important significance.

Much ballyhooing has been made over the past four years with respect to the Supreme Court "deciding" the 2000 election in Bush's favor. To me this has always been as illegitimate an argument as those who accuse anyone who voted for Nader as "wasting" their franchise and all but electing Bush to office. Both of these stances are highly flawed. In the case of the Supreme Court decision, they were simply acting upon their interpretation of current law and the degree to which they have power to step in and decide such matters.

What is highly telling is that there have been no retirements from the bench — even though at least two and possible three have been guessed at for over a year. That none have come to pass seems much more telling. They probably have come to see the incompetence of the current administration as a serious threat to the impartiality of the court and to view the possible repercussions upon the judicial systme and society in general as something that they are willing to make an attempt to wait out.

With less than a week before the general election, the affliction that has landed Rehnquist in hospital poses a serious threat to the integrity of the court. It all the more important that voters make the corerct choice next Tuesday. While O'Conner and Stevens may be able to make it through another Bush administration, it is evident that Rehnquist will not. The Nation cannot afford to have Bush put in a position to not only appoint a justice to the High Court, but also be able to designate a new Chief Justice. Too many rights are at stake!

23 October 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

Elizabeth and I exercised our Franchise Right today by voting early in the general election. To celebrate, we rented Fahrenheit 9/11.

Only someone living under a rock has not heard of this provacative and highly partisan documentary by filmaker Michael Moore. It has been widely praised by the left, while being branded a biased propaganda film by the right. Primarily, it is a self-serving manifestation of Moore's frustration with the Bush Administration and the fruit of his advocacy to get him voted out of office.

Much has been made of the allegations proffered in the film of Bush Family cronyism with the Saudi government and the bin Laden dynsaty. Moore goes to great pains to convince the viewer that financial and oil interests were responsible for "Bush and his inner circle avoid[ing the pursuit of a] Saudi connection to 9/11." In viewing the film, I had hoped to be enlightened to new information that would support this premise. Instead, it simply confirmed my previous opinion that these allegations were based on specious evidence whose sole purpose is to sully the motives of the Bush Administration.

Moore is guilty of spinning the known facts for his own purposes with respect to this particular attack. The reason that fifteen of nineteen of the hijackers were Saudi was due in large part to the fact that al Qaeda is headed by and deeply entrenched within the Saudi Arabian Islamist movement. Of course, they would primarily recruit from this population. Furthermore, just as there is no proof that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were connected to the hijack terrorists, neither is there any evidence to condemn the Saudi monarchy.

On the other hand, legitimate questions are asked about the cooperation of the Bush Administration in the departure of the bin Laden Family members from the US in the days following the September 2001 attacks. While the rest of the nation was grounded, the American Government arranged for these individuals to leave the States by air. The real question is, why were they afforded special treatment? Their safety has always been one excuse, but that is pretty lame as they could have been sequestered in a safehouse somewhere for that purpose.

Much has also been made of the anguish experienced by Lila Lipscombe. She is the mother of a soldier who was killed in Iraq. I suppose this portion of the film is supposed to elicit pity and sympathy. Me? I laughed. Is that morbid cruelty? Not if one knows the reason.

Mrs. Lipscombe appears early in the film spewing patriotic drivel about her contempt for those who disgrace the service of her son by not supporting Bush and his retributive war. She goes on and on with praise and support of her son and his choice to be a soldier. Her tune undergoes a 180° reverse following his death in the spring of 2003. At that point she feels anguish at the loss of her son, questions the motives of the war, and undertakes the task of getting answers about her loss from Bush in the light of his cavalier interpretation of the situation. One thing I cannot stand is hypocrisy; and this is its epitome. I am amazed at Moore's luck in finding an individual whose opinion of the war changes so drastically. One can only imagine the number of people he had to interview in order to get just this one example of such a stark reversal. Then again, perhaps there is a conspiracy hidden within that coincidence! ;-)

These points of criticism aside, I think there is merit in every voter taking the time to view the film. Though I harp on the flaws, there is quite a bit of valid information presented. It is sobering to see at once the belligerent attitude of the troops and the flawed intelligence that led to the invasion. Moore does a good job of pulling together all of the disparate components that have fueled the debate about legitimacy and relevance with respect to applicability of Iraqi Freedom to the War on Terror. However, he does so in the typical Moore fashion of hyperpole and spin.

20 October 2004

IM paradigm shift

Instant Messaging. It is a communications wave which is engulfing both the business and private sectors as a means of opening and maintaining channels of discourse. Much more immediate than eMail and much less intrusive than the telephone, IM provides a convenient method to stay in contact and share bits of minutia. Unfortunately, there are a plethora of clients and services from which to choose. Installing and subscribing to the multitude can become tedious and bothersome to maintain. One's desktop quickly becomes cluttered with a multiple windows which compete for attention as friends and family sign on and off.

Over the years, several intrepid individuals and groups have attempted to create consolidated clients, providing the ability to sign-in to several of the more popular servers simultaneously. I have tried a couple and been unimpressed. They have either been extremely buggy or have sacrificed features on which I have come to rely for the sake of interoperability. However, recent praise for an open source all-in-one client has intrigued me. Best of all, it is only available for the MacOS. Thus, no more being the poor step-child to the Windows version of the clients.

Adium is an extremely cool and stable multi-service client which packs loads of customization capabilities into a relatively svelt package — especially when compared to the combined drive space and RAM requirements of more than one of the dedicated options. In close to a week's use, I have experienced no crashes or untoward behavior. Neither have there been any connection losses. Besides a multitude of skins to tweak the visual experience, the suite of preferences is also quite impressive and allows users of the MacOS access to settings which were previously unavailable through our client(s).

At version 0.7, there is still much work to be done and, I am sure, many more features are just around the corner. Though no crashes have been experienced, several presentation glitches have manifest themselves. Several of the features have yet to be tired and tested as well. Nevertheless, I have abandoned even the built-in iChat (AIM compatible) client for this little jewel. :-) Any IM user on the MacOS platform would be well served to give Adium a trial use to see if it meets your needs.

18 October 2004

Farewell dotMac

It has been one week since I terminated my nearly five year patronage of the Apple portal and hosting service, .Mac. What began as a free perk named "iTools" and introduced along with MacOS X in January 2000, became a for fee subscription service named ".Mac" in July 2002. Existing iTools members were given the opportunity to subscribe at a fifty percent savings off of the $100/year cost. I took advantage of the latter as I was just completing the design of #kempiWeb. Though I had already evaluated and decided upon a web host for my project, I wanted to bank my existing investment in iTools for possible future hosting of the site. So, I paid my $50 bucks and waited to see what would happen.

Due to a combination of customer demand and planned feature implementation, .Mac has evolved into a robust little hosting service. However, it has not kept up with the demands of my administrative needs. For as .Mac has expanded and grown over the past twenty-four months, so too has #kempiWeb. Unfortunately, these developments have not been in a convergent direction. Therefore, the time has come to divest myself of this laudable service and redirect my investment of its annual C-note into this site. :-(

14 October 2004

Strike three; you're out?

Elizabeth commented during the debate last night that Bush looked polished. That is an understatement. He appeared much less fidgety; more engaged; and bearing what appeared to be a very forced smile. All-in-all his best debate performance to date, but was it enough to garner a "win". I think not.

Perhaps it is a good thing that there are only three debates. A convincing argument could be made for greater discussion on fewer topics. However, this barrage of two minute treatments on what amounts to largely the same subject matter over the course of three weeks would be taxing to anyone; candidate and the electorate alike. The third and final debate last night was no exception. Little new information was gleaned from either candidate. Sure there was some elaboration on a point here or a policy matter there. For the most part, though, it was the same old campaign trail banter.

The moderator for the third presidential candidate debate was Bob Schieffer of CBS Face the Nation fame. When he appeared on The Daily Show last week he was visibly nervous. That insecurity seems to have bled over to his questioning as well. The first question of the evening was both specious and unanswerable. Of Kerry (though one would have to think it could have been directed at Bush as well had he won the coin toss) he asked, "will our children and grandchildren ever live in a world as safe and secure as the world in which we grew up?" I guess I missed the candidate qualification of soothsayer. That question is at once both irrelevant and impossible to guess. Yet, both Kerry and Bush gave it a go by stressing the benefits of their "plan", while criticizing that of their opponent.

The same criticisms that have plagued Kerry throughout the campaign were reinforced last night. He is vague on the specifics of what he will do to change the policies adopted and followed by the Bush administration. Where specifics are given, he is evasive on inquiries regarding how he proposes to fund them. Chief among his responses to the latter is his intent to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. However, the numbers simply do not add up to allow for adequate coverage of the anticipated costs.

Though he appeared more polished, nothing about Bush has really changed throughout all three engagements. He still adheres to the irrational conviction that the Nation was justified in going to war against Iraq; even as daily one is presented with more and more evidence questioning the rationale. Add to that his egregious habit of not answering the questions posed to him and one has to be curious about the morals and integirty of those who so ravenously support him for a second term.

On several occasions throughout the ninety minutes exchange, Bush answered questions specific to aspects of perceived failings of his policies with glowing endorsements of his so-called "No Child Left Behind" initiatives. The gap between rich and poor growing wider? "No Child Left Behind" will level the edication field and allow the poor to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. Unemployment issues and immigration? "No Child Left Behind" will ensure that the unemployed get a chance to become (re?)educated and school systems are held accountable for immigrants knowing English. The apparent lack of unity in society and the government? No worries; "No Child Left Behind" is proof that perception is false. It was good, bipartisan legislation.


The most disappointing exchange of the evening was on the subject of abortion ... again. Schieffer asked of Bush, "would you like to [overturn Roe v. Wade]?" Bush's response? "What he's asking me is, will I have a litmus test for my judges?" No, no, NO!?!?! What he asked was if you would populate the Supreme Court with judicial appointments that would likely result in the overturn of Roe v. Wade. That has nothing to do with a "litmus test". The likelihood of a jurist to destroy the right of a woman to choose for herself whether or not to carry an embryo and/or fetus to full term can be derived from past jurisprudence. The use of a direct question to that effect is not necessary; and likely would not be tolerated. As with the question on mistakes in the second presidential candidate debate, Bush changed the question to give the appearance of a personal attack, while avoiding an answer. And, again, neither Kerry nor the moderator called him on it!

Subterfuge, deceit and the manipulation of facts are not qualities I want to see in a president. On the other hand, I can live with idealism and a vision of the United States as an engaged member of the world.

13 October 2004

Influenza fears

By now everyone is aware of the fact that roughly fifty percent of the influenza vaccination supply for the 2004-2005 season has been compromised. The specifics are still somewhat of an enigma, but the basic consensus seems to be that there was a contamination issue at the Chiron Corporation plant in the UK. However, the CDC still expects to be able to assure vaccination for up to 54 million individuals from other sources. This begs the question of just how necessary the vaccine really is.

According to the US Census Bureau, the current population of the United States is around 294.5 million individuals. Influenza data collected by the CDC estimates that between 5% and 20% of the population becomes infected by the influenza virus in any given year. A percentage that equates to somewhere between 15 to 59 million persons.

There is no doubt that the virus has the potential for serious illness and even death for certain members of the population. However, these groups are clearly identified as the very young (those under two years of age), the elderly (those over the age of 65 years) and those with underlying medical conditions - especially the immunocompromised. The medical condition category also includes women with the potential to become pregnant. While there is merit in having health care professionals included in the target immunization cohort, one has to question whether this is really necessary when basic principles of hygiene are followed. This leaves the vast majority of the population aged two to sixty-five and in good health as being left to consider the need for vaccine on a discretionary basis. Even so, the medical establishment and the media seem to strongly advocate vaccination for a mostly non-life-threatening disease.

Even the most rudimentary of calculations will reveal that if all of the available vaccine is targeted at the most vulnerable groups more than ninety percent of the most susceptible can be protected. It is my opinion that if the balance of the population would simply practice good hygienic practice, the need for vaccine in the general populace would be moot. However, people are by and large inconsiderate pigs. Many are the times I have seen people cough and sneeze without covering their noses and mouths; use the hand with which they have suppressed a cough or sneeze to greet others or touch public fixtures; or simply get out and about while infectious.

At the age of thirty-eight, I have only contracted an influenza infection twice. The first was during my early adolescence when I was among the high risk population of school age children. The second was in the early 90's when I was a novice employee of the health care environment. With respect to the latter, I incorrectly assumed that, because I did not have direct contact with patients, I was less susceptible to infection and could be a little more sloppy when it came to good hygienic practice. It has been ten years since that mistake. Moreover, it has been over four years since I have even had a cold. While I am a sample group of one, I certainly am not the exception. It is often the case that I am in close proximity to others. On public transit; in retail establishments; school events; in a household with two children under the age of eighteen. Plenty of opportunity for infection.

Rather than worry about the availability of influenza vaccine, the average individual should be more concerned with basic good health. Eat well; get plenty of rest (something that I am not prone to do, but good advice nonetheless); exercise; and practice good hygiene. Good hygiene includes, but is not necessarily limited to, washing one's hands frequently (especially after touching public fixtures or suppressing the discharge of bodily fluids); being cognizant of others around one's self (steer clear of those who look ill); DO NOT put your unwashed hands in or near your eyes, nose or mouth without first cleaning them well. Closely adhering to these basic rules will largely negate the need to even consider the influenza vaccine.

Oh yeah, perhaps I should add, in thirty-eight years I have never had an influenza vaccine. Two largely benign infections in close to four decades is excellent testimony to the benefits of good hygiene over hysterical vaccination. who knows, perhaps good genes play a part as well! ;-)

10 October 2004

2004 Third Party debate

If it were up to the major media outlets, the American people would only think there to be two candidates vying for the office of President of the United States. Well, two representatives of the mainstream parties and then "spoiler" Nader. In reality, there are at least eight pairs of candidates seeking to occupy the Executive Branch. Some credit should be given to CSPAN for being a responsible media outlet. For earlier this evening they broadcast the ninety minute third party debate which took place on 06 October at Cornell University.

The national media seem to be in cahoots with the major parties. They provide airtime only to the Democrats and the Republicans and ignore the potential contributions of the so-called "third party" organizations. At least an hour a day was provided to the national convention of the DNC (July) and RNC (August/September). However, not even a passing news item was afforded the Libertarian Party National Convention (27-31 May), the Green Party National Convention (23-28 June) or the Constitution Party National Convention (23-26 June.

Adding to the dearth of convention coverage is the absence of meaningful, mainstream coverage of these parties and those of the Communist, Socialist and Reform Parties in any of the national debates as well as general campaign coverage. We call ourselves a nation of inclusion ... a nation of tolerance. Yet, we appear to neither include or tolerate the voices of the minor parties. Thankfully, Cornell University saw the need to hear these minority voices. Those who had the resources available and took the time to watch were treated to a rare glimpse of not only the ideas and philosophies of these groups, but also into the civility under which debates should be held.

The presidential candidates from the Constitution, Green, Libertarian and Socialist Parties all engaged in a highly informative debate session of the "town hall" variety. Cornell students served the role of inquisitors and their questions rivaled those of any of the national broadcast moderators so far this year. Certainly, for myself, the Green and Libertarian candidates voiced positions that had both appeal and salience. On the other hand, there are aspects of the Constitutional Party which could prove alluring to the vast majority of the Republican fold.

Nevertheless, for the most part these candidates and their messages are ignored. Unless and until all parties are afforded an equal share of the national political spotlight, the United States will continue down the road of two-party, special interest stagnation!

09 October 2004

Second 2004 Presidential Debate

George Bush's advisors must have sat him down for a stern talking to between the first presidential candidate debate and that which took place last night. He presented himself in a much less petulant manner, though he appeared to have traded that shortcoming for belligerence. John Kerry, on the other hand, provided a little more insight into the policy and legislative changes he would implement upon taking office. However, both left something to be desired.

All through this general campaign season, I have tried to remain as objective and impartial as I could to allow for consideration of both the Democratic and Republican points of view. However, the arrogant and hubristic face adopted by the current administration has made this extremely difficult. Bush's performance last night did little to ease my concern. However, both parties have been evasive when it comes to one or another aspect of their past or performance.

Things got interesting from the very beginning when, in answer to a question regarding his appearance as being "wishy-washy", Kerry took pains to correct the mischaracterizations and out-of-context twists the Bush campaign has used to front this premise. No sooner had he finished when Bush reiterated the $87 billion war allocation issue. A subject which has been addressed and explained previously. Both candidates then proceeded to waste about twenty minutes repeating their positions on war themes which had been covered in the previous presidential and vice-presidential candidate debates.

Throughout the evening, Bush exhibited several bouts of belligerent disregard of the debate ground rules. Between interrupting Kerry and the moderator, Charles Gibson, and talking out of turn, he reinforced the perception that he has adopted a defensive posture during the debates. This is far different from the rhetoric of which he makes use on the campaign trail in front of hand-picked, partisan crowds. In the dynamic forum of debate he seems to flail about helplessly.

The most interesting exchange of the evening — and in some ways the most telling — came as a result of a question regarding the use of tax dollars to fund abortions. Though initially posed in a leading manner to Kerry, the latter was adept at explaining a stance that should give pause for thought to both his right-to-life detractors and the paternalistic practices of the Republican right. Kerry stated, "I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith ... I have to represent all the people in the nation." This is an important philosophy of which politicians at all levels would be wise to heed. During his rebuttal, Bush twisted his response to address sex education and legislation treating those who murder pregnant women as guilty of two counts of homicide. He completely skirted the issue of how to deny tax payer money to tax paying patients.

One example from yesterday evening exemplified Bush's inability to manage direct criticism of the policies of his administration. The last question of the event was directed toward Bush. Through it the inquisitor asked the President to identify three mistakes he has made during his administration to date and then reflect on what he would have done differently. Jumping in with both feet, Bush completely avoided the question. He went off on a tangent by spouting the good that he has done while in office. Then he employed the obfuscating phrase "when they ask about the mistakes, that's what they're talking about." Who is this "they"? One woman asked one question of one candidate, the latter of whom did not feel compelled to answer, during which he attempted to imply that the questioner was acting as a mouthpiece for some amorphous "they". Until Bush abandons this hubristic and arrogant stance regarding his record, he is going to continue to appear both vain and disingenuous. Everyone makes mistakes of one form or another. To shirk that responsibility and claim only to have made minor mistakes of minor appointments is a mistake.

Early analyses of this latest debate seem to interpret the result as a draw. I fail to see where this is the case. For the most part; perhaps. However, when taken as a whole, the response to the final question left Bush looking evasive and pompous.

07 October 2004

Are cyber-laws futile?

News reports indicate that the US House has passed two bills this week seeking to address the growing problem of "spyware". One has to wonder, though, just how effective such legislation can be.

A fellow named Raymond Chen posted an analysis of the spam he has received since 1997 in a 'blog entry dated 16 September. One can readily see that, since its inception on 01 January of this year, the CAN-SPAM Act has had only a negligible effect upon unsolicited eMail transmission. My own experience bears this out by virtue of the fact that I regularly receive spam. Though I do not keep records on the frequency or type, most of what I receive are of the so-called "e;African scheme" and pharmaceutical varieties. On average, I receive three to five of these annoyances every day. This may seem like a relatively modest amount, but there is no telling what the actual number may be.

The mail which I receive undergoes a somewhat elaborate filtering process. My only published eMail contact is that of the alias to which I subscribe. So, all correspondence directed at me is scrubbed through the filters of this server first. It is then forwarded to the mail server at my ISP, which again passes all messages through its screening software. Finally, it arrives at the mailbox at #kempiWeb — yet again undergoing filtration. What I POP from that final destination is relatively clean. Nevertheless, between twenty and forty messages make their way to my local inbox each week.

Thanks to the relatively robust Bayesian filter within my reader, almost all of this is subsequently routed to a junk mail directory. Once a week, I take my client offline and venture into this folder. (Why offline? Most spammers embed small HTML-based graphics in their missives. They are coded and associated with a specific eMail address. When the message is opened in an HTML aware mail client, the code verifies the validity of the address. By taking the browser offline, the code is not able to do its dirty work.) Each message is checked to ensure its garbage value and then forwarded to the Federal Trade Commission for addition to their spam database. But I digress ...

Chen's analysis clearly shows that legislative action is not going to accomplish anything useful. While there has been some reduction in volume, the overall trend suggests a return to pre-implementation levels. Combined with the fact that prosecutions have been few and far between and one can see that the only effective means of combating this sort of behavior is to act individually. My four-level filtering process has been greatly effective. It is not fool-proof — obviously, some spam still gets through and some legitimate messages probably never make it to my mailbox. Nevertheless, it has greatly curbed the number of messages I receive.

The irony of the "spyware" legislation is that, while eMail spam has an impact upon all of us, malware affects almost solely the users of M$ products. More specifically, those who make use of Internet Explorer as their web browser of choice. Therefore, as with spam, the simple act of educating people about how to avoid the cyber-predators is the most effective means of combat.

06 October 2004

VP candidate tussle

Last night saw the first and only vice-presidential debate of the 2004 general election. Unlike the debate between the presidential candidates of last Thursday, there was no clear cut winner — despite what the talking heads of both camps may lead one to believe. This is primarily due to the fact that both of the vice-presidential candidates are intelligent and competent orators. The evening was, however, not devoid of notable lapses in truth and logic which contributed to the draw.

The mistruths and subterfuge inherent in the entire campaign platform of the Republican candidates aside, Cheney made several basic mistakes of debate. On their face alone, these would have contributed to a clear victory for Edwards. However, the latter failed to convincingly address charges which have plagued his candidacy for quite some time, thus diminishing his standing and contributing to the tied result. I will return to Cheney's failings in a moment. First, Edwards.

One of the primary criticisms of John Edwards has been his absence from a great many legislative votes over his nearly five years in the Senate. This fact has not received a lot of coverage of late due to his second seat status in this election. Nevertheless, when it was brought up in last night's debate, the charge went largely unaddressed by the Democratic candidate. Mention has been made (and even alluded to by Cheney last night) that one reason for his lack of participation has been his aspirations for higher office almost since first being elected to the Senate. This lack of dedication to his role as advocate for the State of North Carolina does cast a poor light upon his commitment as a member of the Executive Branch. Like Kerry's apparent evasiveness when it comes to his Senate record over the last twenty years, this failing may be the Achilles Heel of the Democratic ticket if it is not adequately addressed.

The other Edwards criticism that is often trotted out as reason against his consideration is the fact that, prior to his legislative career, he was a trial lawyer. Specifically, his bread was won as a medical malpractice litigator. I am not sure what significance this is supposed to represent. While I admit there is the perception that trial lawyers are greedy ambulance chasers, not all fit this mold and by all reports Edwards was an honorable counsellor. To me this is a specious and petty argument against qualification.

It is not hard to see why Cheney is often described as the bulldog of the Bush Administration. His presence in the debate was marked by a dour, monotonous demeanor. When he was not spouting the warped spin that is the Republican campaign platform, he was resorting to personal attacks. Most everyone will agree that those who resort to personal attacks during the course of debate lose any legitimacy of their position. Such activity represents a loss of logical, articulate thought and runs the risk of conveying the perception of misleading rhetoric. On several occasions throughout the event, Cheney would engage in series of irrelevant assaults upon Edwards and even Kerry, instead of making more effective use of his limited time to address the issues at hand.

The most interesting faux pas of the evening was executed by Cheney. During the course of attempting to rebut accusations of favoritism towards Halliburton, Cheney challenged Edwards to visit FactCheck.COM where one "can get the specific details with respect to Halliburton."

In fact, the super domain for Fact Check is .ORG, befitting a non-partisan organization whose stated goal is "holding politicians accountable". Furthermore, following Cheney's advice will reveal that neither he nor the company he previously headed is absolved of culpability with respect to the charges levied against both during the campaign. Fact Check certainly got some free publicity, though! :-) Overall, I found this to be an interesting Freudian Slip by the vice-president. It certainly mirrors the preferential corporate consideration the current administration exudes.

Just around the corner, the second presidential candidate debate. Hosted by Washington University this Friday, it is a "town hall" format. Oh goodie!

05 October 2004

Eleven members in eight weeks

A commentary on the status of the TKG_Class_of_1984 Yahoo! Group was going to await the two month anniversary of my membership. However, the recent addition of three members is as many days has marked a milestone worthy of note.

Starting a group like this can be a crap shoot. After twenty years, there is no telling where everyone is going to be or how diligent they have been in keeping the school apprised of their current contact information. Others who were close in high school may lose contact through a variety of reasons. There are also issues involving personality conflicts as well as individuals who simply want nothing to do with that period in their lives. However, most of these shortcomings seem inapplicable at this point.

Though slow to take off, the membership of the list has ballooned from one member in early August to eleven members as of yesterday afternoon. One may question the significance of a total less than a dozen. Yet, considering that our graduating class contained only forty-one individuals, it represents just over one quarter of the whole. Not too shabby for a list whose only real method of advertisement has been a small blurb in the alumni newsletter and word of mouth.

It is hoped that the presence of this narrative on the 'net will provide fodder for a casual search of information pertaining to the Thomas K. Gorman Class of 1984. Should the visitor be a member of this group (or significant other thereof), I invite you to follow the link above and join the rest of us. We would love to hear from you. At present the membership includes Cedric, Dennis, Dusty, Julie, Lisa, Mary Anne, Mike (E), Molly, Robert, Veleshia and myself.

04 October 2004

Long John shivers

I am adding the Long John Silver's (LJS) fast food chain to my list of boycotted businesses. Not that I have really eaten at one of their establishments with any regularity during the past twenty years. However, I have considered it many times. Now, I will not.

A story published in today's Dallas Morning News tells of a supervisor at a local establishment who was recently fired for attacking a robber. It seems that on 18 September of this year, the supervisor at the LJS just down the road from my home was robbed at "gunpoint" (apparently a firearm was never produced). He complied with company policy and handed over the take in the till. The robber then demanded that the supervisor and the other three employees go to the back of the store. The supervisor, fearing that he and the other employees would be harmed, grabbed a hammer and hit the alpha felon. After recovering from a daze, the robber dropped the money and fled with his accomplice. Within days the supervisor was called before the manager who fired him for risking his employees and violating company policy.

Apparently, corporate was unwilling to even consider the extenuating circumstance of this particular individual. When aiding officers with the offense report, it was discovered that this individual had been robbed at gunpoint a quarter century ago. After complying with the demands of that felon, he was shot nonetheless. Under the circumstances, he felt justified in fearing for his life. However, in acting upon those fears he was punished with termination by LJS.

The entire corporate holding company for Long John Silvers, Yorkshire Global Restaurants, has been placed upon our household boycott list.

VP voting decisions

The normally sage Cokie Roberts made a rare faux pas during this morning's broadcast on Morning Edition. During a discussion of tomorrow evening's vice-presidential debate, Roberts stated, "... we don't have any evidence that people really vote on vice-presidents ..." I would counter that, perhaps, "they" have not asked the correct prople.

I have voted on the basis of the vice-presidential candidate once and, unfortunately, it looks as though I will be doing it again this time around. For me, the 1992 Presidential campaign was a tempest. Al Gore was my nominee in the primaries. Clinton was never really a contender for my vote. He was a largely unknown governor from a rural southern state. Allegations of philandering hovered around his campaign almost from the beginning. Not that I am a puritan when it comes to morality, but there are just certain behaviors that presage competency and trust. One who would cheat on one's spouse is likely to be dishonest in other realms as well.

Gore, on the other hand, had been on my radar screen for quite some time. I had read his book on the responsibility of all earthlings to be stewards of the environment; his career had always been one of merit and honor; and the accusations that he was stiff and wooden always struck me as being specious and hypocritical.

My vote went to the Clinton-Gore ticket in 1992 precisely because Gore was on it and with an eye toward the 1996 and/or 2000 election cycle when he would be assured of being the lead candidate on one or both. By 1996, Clinton had earned my vote through his balanced and insightful first term. That Gore was still on the ticket in that year was simply icing on the cake.

Now we come full circle. Kerry heads the ticket with the individual for whom I voted filling the vice-presidential slot. As with Clinton in the 1992 campaign, Kerry has been uninspiring to me. He is evasive, ambiguous and boring. These accusations of being patrician and thus unfit to lead leave me humored, not concerned. Nevertheless, it is Edwards that is likely to sway my vote toward the Democratic ticket; not Kerry.

01 October 2004

Is Kerry regaining momentum?

The first of three presidential candidate debates occurred last night. Almost without dissent, Kerry has been credited with a win. Scoring debates is somewhat arcane, but there are established criteria and I very much agree with the general consensus. Having said that, I am still no more impressed with Kerry than I was before the debate. However, I am encouraged to see that he has shed some of his ambivalence.

Bush, on the other hand, every bit lived up to what I expected of him. He was petty, immature and stuck to the tired rhetoric that has been the hallmark of his campaign speeches for the past several weeks. Of all of his banter during the course of the debate, two comments stand out as warning flags of what four more years of this subversive administration will bring.

When pressed to rebut on the subject of the retributive war in Iraq, Bush stated that thanks to the actions of his administration this troubled mid-east county is struggling forward because "[i]t's hard work to go from a place where people get their hands cut off, or executed, to a place where people are free." I would counter that the superfluous war in Iraq has taken it from a country in which the populace feared the loss of a hand to one in which the citizenry fears the loss of their heads! One can live without a hand. Only death comes from decapitation.

Later, while addressing the subject of nuclear nonproliferation, Bush stated, "I'll tell you another way to help protect America in the long run is to continue with missile defenses. ... We'll be implementing a missile-defense system relatively quickly." The ignorance and hypocrisy in this statement are blatant. To suggest that missle defense is going to protect the United States from nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists is ludicrous. While one or another terrorist organization may obtain nuclear material, the world is in more danger of fallout from a "dirty bomb" than it needs to fear an incoming al-Qaida ICBM. The threats for which missile defense has any real merit are dead and gone. Direct those funds where they can better be spent on intelligence and border protection!

Kerry still has a lot of work to do in order to turn his campaign to the point where he stands a snowballs chance in heel of beating W, et.al. However, last night's debate was a strong step in that direction. If not in Kerry's own right, definitely in light of the fact that Bush did a great job of making himself look like a petulent fool who is stuck in one groove toward oblivion.


continue to the September 2004 archive

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