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Sifting through spam is merely one glamorous duty of my job

October 07, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

Our e-mail was down yesterday. That made me depressed because one of the joys in my life is reading all the spam (electronically generated ads, for all of you people smart enough not to have a computer), which for some reason I find fascinating.

Unfortunately, the company installed some kind of filter that blocks out a lot of the spam, severely cutting back on my access to special sales on Ginsu knives and porn. As if this weren't bad enough, the filter does not block out any of the spam generated by politicians under the premise, I suppose, that it somehow falls into the realm of "serious discourse."

Please. I mean, given a choice between a chick hanging lustily onto a parking meter and a White Paper from John Kerry discussing the impact of multinational global warming treaties authored by the G-7 nations - well, pass me the quarters.

But somehow (and if I ever discover who is responsible for this, I can guarantee there will be violence) I got on the spam e-mail list of Democratic national chairman Terry McAuliffe, who writes more letters than Allan Powell, although not as partisan.

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I got one of these on the eve of the first presidential debate last week that said:

"Dear Andrea Rowland (spam tends to be inexact),

Tonight, don't let George Bush's henchmen steal another victory ... Immediately after the debate, we need you to do three things: Vote in Online polls, write a letter to the editor and call in to talk radio programs. Your 10 minutes of activism following the debate can make the difference."

I've got several problems with this. One is that I hate anything that encourages more letters to the editor. On the weeks that Editorial Page Editor Bob Maginnis is off and I have to stand in, I always give people who write letters the same response. "Dear Sir: Thank you for your opinion. Now never write us again."

'Course that's just me, lashing out at anything that has the potential to complicate my life - i.e., actually reading the letters and cleaning them up for publication. No lie, you would be surprised at the number of letter writers out there who think the twin towers were attacked by a chap named "Ben Laden."

But that's just a personal quirk. More troubling is the implication that we, the spam-reading public, are being asked to declare Kerry the winner before we have even seen the debate. In other words, it's not about which candidate has won, it's about which candidate can scare up the most computer nerds to say that he won.

And this whole thing presupposes I'll be watching the debate in the first place, the chances of which, as we go to press, are about one in 40,000. All right, I might tune in a bit to the vice presidential debate, just to see Cheney tell Edwards to go parking-meter himself, but come on, it's baseball playoff time. Get real.

Fortunately, just as I was getting all hot and bothered and full of righteous indignation I get another political spam, this one from the office of Rep. Roscoe Bartlett. These almost always cheer me up.

This one was a press release under the heading "Bill to toughen animal-fighting ban advances." It commenced: "A key subcommittee recently approved legislation that would establish felony level penalties and otherwise strengthen the federal animal fighting law.

"The bill - H.R. 4264 - passed by a voice vote in the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Thursday morning. The legislation establishes felony penalties for animal fighting violations and bans interstate commerce in the sharp metal implements - knives and gaffs - that cockfighters strap to birds' legs."

I can agree with the guy from the Humane Society who says "Dogfighting and cockfighting are cruel and barbaric practices." True enough, but - the "subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security?" This is how the committee on terrorism is whiling away the hours?

Animal fighting. Who are we hunting for, the feared Osama bin Llama? I can't say I've ever seen a rooster with a boxcutter.

Love that Congress. No issue is so urgent that it can't take time out of its busy day to crack down on the rampant epidemic of cockfights. "Sure, sure, we'll get around to fixing Social Security, but first let us pass this joint resolution declaring that volunteerism is a good thing."

At least the chickens aren't sending out spam asking us to prematurely decide that the winner of tonight's fight is the Rhode Island Red.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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