- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Tarnished BBC still the ‘best’

Helle Dale’s apparent glee over the comeuppance of the BBC in its attack on Prime Minister Tony Blair’s veracity is understandable (“Bumbling Broadcast Corp.,” Op-Ed, Feb. 4). The Washington Times, judging from its recent selection of the Beeb as “knave”of the week (Editorial, Jan. 31), has never liked the BBC. However, despite Lord Hutton’s condemnation of the BBC’s editorial practices triggered by Andrew Gilligan’s unscripted radio broadcast, BBC World Service provides the best coverage of international news, far better than the coverage provided by the American networks. The BBC always seems to have a reporter on the ground where the action is, even in the most remote locations. It also frequently covers important events in the less-developed parts of the world, which routinely are ignored by the American media.

Mrs. Dale attributes the BBC’s predicament to its status as a state monopoly, but this is not unique to media organizations that are state monopolies.The recent debacle at the New York Times, where a reporter consistently wrote fake articles, is a case in point. In fact, the breakdown of editorial practices at the New York Times was a much more serious organizational flaw.

TheNewYorkTimes quickly recovered, and so will the BBC.

RANSFORD W. PALMER

Glenn Dale, Md.

Virginia has chosen wisely

Regarding “Bill barring illegals from college expected to pass” (Page 1, Feb. 5): your article states, “The House today is expected to pass a bill that would prohibit Virginia’s state-sponsored colleges and universities from enrolling illegal aliens.”

Bravo, Virginia. You have chosen wise legislators who are keeping their oath to serve the people of Virginia. Look at what has happened to California: We house half of the illegal alien population in the United States; the illegal aliens all come here because we are a welfare state for them — and we had a $38 billion deficit near the end of 2003. Just in inner-city Los Angeles, 80 percent of students are the children of illegal aliens. California pays $9,200 a year per student from kindergarten through 12th grade. Not satisfied with that, illegals demanded and got in-state college tuition. Now they are demanding driver’s licenses. Our state helps illegals with rent, utilities, free breakfast and lunch in school, day care for preschool children, food stamps and free health care while they don’t pay income tax. Our emergency rooms are closing because illegals use them as free health clinics. The more you give to illegals, the more they come.

HAYDEE PAVIA

Laguna Woods, Calif.

End doesn’t justify means

In “Finger-pointing and fact-finding” (Op-Ed, Feb. 3), Tod Lindberg justifies the war in Iraq by asserting that if we hadn’t gone to war, we would in all likelihood be certain that Saddam Hussein still had weapons of mass destruction. This statement overlooks one important thing: the progress the U.N. weapons inspectors might have made if the Bush administration had allowed them to finish their job.

To purport that the ends justify the means in a case like this is to set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the world.

MARY T. SHAW

Norristown, Pa.

Admirable admiral

Duncan Spencer reviewed a book by John M. Taylor about my great-great-grandfather, Raphael Semmes (“‘Semmes’ is saga of a naval raider,” Civil War page, Jan. 31). Interestingly, Warren Spencer, professor of history emeritus at the University of Georgia, wrote perhaps the most scholarly book about Raphael Semmes. The book, “Raphael Semmes — The Philosophical Mariner,” (University of Alabama Press, 1997) captures my ancestor’s personality and depth. The book includes accounts of his service in the Seminole Wars, on Gen. Winfield Scott’s staff during the Mexican War and aboard the Confederate cruisers Sumter and Alabama.

Warren Spencer credits my ancestor as one of the persons who inspired him to complete the book and states, “His personality comes through all of his writings; his strong intellect constantly challenged me. I have learned from him the meaning of honor and the value of sacrificing one’s self for the sake of one’s convictions. My travelthroughRaphael Semmes’ life has, in the sunset of my career, given me a new meaning to this period of my own existence. And for that, I thank Raphael Semmes.”

In command of the CSS Sumter and the CSS Alabama, Semmes boarded more than 500 vessels of all flags; captured 86 Union flagged vessels; sank the USS Hatteras; took 2,000 prisoners, including 140 U.S. Marines; and commissioned one captured ship astheUSSTuscaloosa. (Auburn had not yet emerged as a great university town.) In doing so, he lost not one prisoner to accident or disease. Excepting an officer killed during a hunting trip, none of his own crew was killed until the engagement with the USS Kearsarge.

The unfortunate use of the term “quirky” by Duncan Spencer to describe Raphael Semmes detracts from the otherwise fairly good review.

In any event, Warren Spencer, more than any other author, captures Raphael Semmes’ character. While he and I disagree on some points, his book is entertaining and factual.

OLIVER J. SEMMES III

Navarre, Fla.

Drowning in spam

Your article “Spam flood still rising despite new U.S. law” (Page 1, Saturday) was interesting but also frustrating.

For one thing, the Can-Spam Act does little, if anything, to curb spam. In the month since it was signed, I have seen exactly one spam e-mail — out of approximately 2,500 received — that was appropriately labeled and none whose opt-out/unsubscribe address was functional.

Then there’s the matter of the origins of spam. In my case, just a minuscule fraction of the total originated at, as opposed to passed through, a U.S. IP (Internet protocol) address. The prime offenders appear to be located in China, Brazil, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Burma. Part of the problem with origin, unfortunately, is that too many ISPs (Internet service providers) and service subscribers are lax in securing their systems against mail relaying. The spammers know this and regularly scan blocks of e-mail addresses to find unsecured machines to act as relays for their trash. Yet another problem, particularly with offshore ISPs, is that few, if any, really are interested in controlling spam, and they ignore spam reports submitted to them.

Finally, there are the registrars, many offshore, who provide name services to the spammers. These folks, when confronted, throw up their hands and explain that they can do nothing and that it’s all the ISPs’ responsibility. True, but only partially so. If a registrar receives multiple complaints regarding a domain name registered with it, it has a responsibility to cancel the registration — for what little good that will do — and take other steps to neutralize the spammer. As well, if ICANN, the international accrediting agency for registrars, receives multiple complaints regarding a particular registrar, they then are — or should be — obliged to investigate those complaints and, where warranted, rescind the registrar’s accreditation.

So, what’s the solution? Frankly, I don’t know. Certainly, I’d like to see Can-Spam amended to provide for opt-in, rather than opt-out; penalties that would include isolation of inattentive ISPs; decertification of name registries that can be shown to cater largely to spammers. I would like to see heftier fines and a per-message “fee” to be paid to the recipients of every unwanted e-mail. I would like to be able to sue the spammers in my own right as well as see the Federal Trade Commission investigate and enforce the law “any day now.”

ROBERT G. MELSON

El Paso, Texas

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