The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 6, 2001 · Page 7
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 7

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, May 6, 2001
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THE SAUNA JOURNAL SUNDAY. MAY 6, 2001 AJ Tom BeU Editor & Publisher Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. f To join the ~' conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (785) 827-6363 E-mail: S J Letters® saljournal.com Quote of the day "This guy's got a case—you don't send the FBI in to kill women and : '• children." GoreVidal novelist and screenwriter, on how the deaths at Waco inspired ; Timothy McVeigh to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building. In the China shop THEIISW China THEARGUMBilT This dance is too important for missteps O f all the nations on this planet, the one that demands our closest attention is China. It is spending a growing percentage of national resources on its military It's intelligence community is working full-time to acquire technology for more accurate long-range missiles. And worst of all, it is lead by an unstable and confused central government where military and civilian leadership cannot agree on the country's path to the future. Considering this status, it is both amazing and disconcerting when the Bush administration displays confusion and inconsistency in its China policies. One of the most sensitive areas in Chinese relations is Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province. Ten days ago President Bush came to Taiwan's defense, which by itself is not bad policy But he implied the U.S. would defend Taiwan with military power even if Taiwan provokes a crisis. That reverses years of delicate foreign-policy balancing and is akin to waving red meat in front of a pit bull. Bush's spin machine immediately started covering for the president, softening the comment and smoothing feathers. But days later a senior advisor to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a memorandum ordering the U.S. military to suspend contacts with China. That effectively cut off important communication corridors — including those that helped win the return of the crew from a U.S. surveillance plane that collided with a Chinese jet fighter. This order from the Pentagon was reversed and "clarified" the same day, only to be followed by remarks from Bush Thursday saying Chinese religious repression was due to "weakness" and "fear" in China's leadership — words sure to rile the hyper-sensitive Chinese. Granted, we expect our president to remain firm in the face of threats and antagonism from foreign powers. But that message should be clear, consistent, measured, and in the best interests of our nation's future. In the last few weeks the Bush administration failed on those counts, and continues to make missteps while dancing with the most dangerous partner at the ball. — Tom Bell Editor & Publisher T EDITORIAL NOTEBOOK Who's minding the store? ifi ^he problem occurs like clockwork every four to eight years in American "politics and each cycle the problem gets worse: The difficulties and delays a new president faces is staffing his administration. Going back several presidents, Washington policy makers have agreed something should be done about the problem; nothing has. Entering the 14th week of his presidency' — the arbitrary lOOth-day measurement of presidential performance — George W. Bush had in place and confirmed by the Senate only 29, barely 6 percent, of his 488 top executive branch appointments. He will be lucky to have a complete administration in place by the anniversary of his election. Although Bush got off to a late start, his personnel operation is methodical and well-organized; it has already sent .nearly 200 names to the Senate. Mkt the comparable stage of his J &esidency, Bill Clinton, whose (ft^iite House was not methodical and well-organized, had 42 appointees in place, and President Reagan had 112. In the Kennedy administration, it took an average of 2.4 months to nominate and confirm an appointee; in the Clinton administration it was 8.5 months. The problem is part evolutionary, part institutional. Paperwork intended to ensure na- ',tiQnal security and ethical gov- l^^ment has ossified into a bewildering mass of overlapping and conflicting red tape. There are separate disclosure forms for the White House, the Office of Government Ethics, the Office of Personnel Management, the FBI background check and the individual Senate committees. The level of detail is ridiculous. Can you identify the neighbors at every address you have lived in the last five years? Provide a copy of every speech you have given in the last five years? The desire to stave off political embarrassment has only caused the paperwork to multi- • ply. Applicants are routinely grilled about employment of any nannies or illegal aliens. Stunningly, few of the questions have anything to do with professional qualifications. Jealous of its perks, the Senate takes its time on confirming appointees and it insists on its right to confirm far too many positions —1,125 require Senate approval, including many mid-level positions. The solutions are simple and have been studied to death by such organizations as the Brookings Institution's Presidential Appointee Initiative: Unify and simplify the paperwork; slash the number of jobs requiring confirmation; make background checks commensurate with the job; set timetables and deadlines for Senate action. The federal government can't fairly be accused of inefficiency when for long periods of time there is no one there to run it. — Dale McFeatters Scripps Howard News Service T BELLWETHER There's too much spam in the can It costs these computer spammers nothing to junk up your e-mail box I love e-mail. It allows business to be conducted at high speed from virtually anywhere in the world. Messages, photos, documents and number-crunching spreadsheets leap across thousands of miles in minutes. E-mail is faster than the postal service, offers more utility than a fax machine and is tons ^ better than playing phone tag with^voice-mailboxes. But I hate e-mail. Every day dozens of junk e-mail messages arrive in my mailbox. This "spam," as it's called, offers get-rich schemes, weight-loss ^ tricks, nutritional supplements and invitations to porn sites. Some studies estimate spam makes up one- third of e-mail traffic on the Internet. # That seems on the low side. Some days 90 percent of my inbound messages are spam. It is impossible to determine the money wasted on this junk. It ties up servers, steals bandwidth and takes time to delete. Spam is one of the incremental factors that force companies to increase network capacity, add computers and storage space, hire more technical support and buy filtering software that can knock out legitimate • SUNDAY FUNNIES The Salina Journal Every few months an Internet urban legend surfaces claiming Congress is implementing a charge for e-mail So far these rumors have proven untrue, but such a scheme might pose a solution for spammers. messages as it tries to keep out the trash. Changing e-mail addresses helps keep users a step ahead of the spammers. But such tactics are impossible for those who use e-mail in business. They have to keep the same addresses so customers, suppliers, associates, employees and bosses can contact them when necessary The longer those addresses are in use, the more they are picked up by spammers who use automated software programs that prowl the Internet, pick up addresses and compile them in lists. One of the attractions drawing junk- mailers to e-mail is the price. Once the computer and Internet connection is acquired, the rest is basically free. Junkers who use the postal service have to pay for paper, envelopes, printing and postage. Email spammers can formulate one message and send it to millions of addresses with a single click of the mouse. It doesn't matter if half the addresses are undeliverable or if the messages are eventually tossed in the computer's delete file. This creates a lopsided equation that weighs against the consumer: There are no wasted resources for the sender of spam, only for the receiver Every few months an Internet urban legend surfaces claiming Congress is implementing a charge for e-mail. So far these rumors have proven untrue, but such a scheme might pose a solution for spam­ mers. Consider the possibilities. If senders were charged a penny for everything they e-mail, most of us could communicate with family and friends for pocket change. Businesses could maintain contact with hundreds every month for a few bucks. The cost would be minimal. But spammers would face a different hurdle. There would be a real cost to sending their junk. At a minimum, they would have to reduce the inclination to send rubbish repeatedly to the millions of e-mail addresses they collect, whether they are deliverable or not. Such a scenario is a long ways off. Consumers scream when they lose something free, even in the face of benefits. But some day we will reach the point where spam constitutes nearly all e-mail traffic. It will create such a burden on the network that legitimate e-mail will be lost or delayed. Then those few pennies will be a small price to reduce the flow of garbage into our e-mail boxes. • Journal Editor & Publisher Tom Bell can be reached at 823-6464, Ext. 753, or, yes, by e-mail at tbell@saljournal.com. No spam, please. A crumb in the eye of fruitcakes r never would have thought that anybody actually made fruitcakes R ecently, 1 was going through my December mail (1 like to let my mail age for several months, in case it contains scorpions) when I came across a letter from a Mr. Fred Jellin, who identifies himself as a vice president for Baker Maid Products, "the largest producer of Fruit Cake of the finest quality" Mr. Jellin was unhappy with a column I wrote about a Christmas tradition that my mom and 1 invented, in which we celebrated the annual arrival of a gift fruitcake by slamming it in our kitchen door Mr Jellin allowed as how this column might have been "written tongue in cheek," but states, "we don't accept this kind of humor when the subject is fruit cake." He further states that "we bake and ship 2,000 cakes a day!" I was frankly shocked by # this letter. Like most people, I have long believed that nobody actually makes fruitcakes. 1 believed that all fruitcakes were formed thousands of years ago by some kind of horrible natural catastrophe involving (1) fruit; (2) cake; and (3) a radioactive meteorite. I subscribed to the widespread theory that these ancient fruitcakes had been circulating as "gifts" ever since, being passed from person to person, with nobody ever actually eating them. And now 1 find out that there is an organized conspiracy, calling itself "Baker Maid Products," that is deliberately making more fruitcakes, and putting them into circulation at the rate of 2,000 a day, and bragging about it! DAVE BARRY The Miami Herald What if the real problem is not that the oceans are rising? What ifi in fact, the continents are sinking, under the weight of all these new fruitcakes, which are the densest objects on earth, other than World Wrestling Federation fans? Here's my question: You know how scientists claim that global warming is causing the oceans to rise, and if something isn't done, eventually North America will be covered by water as far inland as Mason City Iowa, the result being that — among other disasters — the nation's entire pig population could be stung to death by jellyfish? Well, what if the real problem is not that the oceans are rising? What if, in fact, the continents are sinking, under the weight of all these new fruitcakes, which are the densest objects on earth, other than World Wrestling Federation fans? When is the Food and Drug Administration going to recognize what is happening and take some kind of firm regulatory action against "Baker Maid Products" involving nuclear missiles? And wouldn't "The Pig-Stinging Jellyfish" be a good name for a rock band? Speaking of fruitcakes: 1 also received some unhappy mail from an "L. Edwards," who got his (or possibly her) dander up over a column I wrote about the California power shortage. "L. Edwards" was particularly upset about my explanation of v/here electricity comes from, which was that when lightning strikes the earth, it goes underground and hardens into coal, which is then burned in generators to form electricity. "SHAME ON YOU!" wrote "L. Edwards" across my column in large letters with a marking pen. "Electricity does not harden into coal! I think you should be wary of telling untrue scientific facts." "L. Edwards," you are certainly entitled to your opinion, and far be it from me to suggest that you are a great big wiener- head. But it just so happens that my theory that coal is hardened electricity fits perfectly with the thinking of some of the world's leading scientific minds. And when I say "some of the world's leading scientific minds," 1 am referring specifically to Mr Harold Jones of Tulsa, Okla. In response to my electricity column, Mr. Jones sent me a letter explaining his theory, which he summarizes as follows: "ELECTRICITY IS SMOKE!" Mr. Jones contends that electrical circuits work by means of smoke traveling from place to place inside wires. By way of proof, he points out: "Every time you let the smoke out of an electrical circuit, it no longer works. You can test this at home. If you have a wall outlet that is black where the smoke has leaked out, plug something in, and you will see that it no longer works." I would like to see "L. Edwards," or any other so-called "critic," poke a hole in Mr Jones' tightly reasoned theory It is proba: bly the most important scientific breakthrough since Albert Einstein discovered the "Theory of Relativity" which states that time and space are relative, which ex: plains why time goes slower, and space gets smaller, when you are with your relatives. I assume that Harold Jones will soon be receiving the Nobel Prize, which comes with a nice cash award. Plus, you get a fruitcake. • Dave Barry is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Write to him c/o The Miami Hera Id I One Herald Plaza, Miami. FL 33132.

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