Editorial: Finding Common Ground on Spam

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With the introduction of new e-mail marketing guidelines last week, the Direct Marketing Association took a necessary and overdue step.

The guidelines drive a public wedge between the e-mail marketing practices of most of its members and those of the senders of mass offenses: unsolicited pornography, pyramid schemes and the like.

As in so many other areas of public contention -- privacy immediately comes to mind -- the direct marketing industry has done a terrible job of defending itself, this time from those who would like to see e-mail revert to the days when commercial pitches were taboo.

Without a doubt, fierce debates will continue between marketers and anti-spammers over permission boxes checked and unchecked and other issues surrounding what exactly constitutes permission to mail. Yet the guidelines offer DMers and moderate anti-spammers an opportunity to begin focusing more on areas they have in common and, as a result, mount unified offenses against the real scourge of online marketing. Here's to hoping both groups take advantage of it.

Of Budgets and Postal Requests

Why did the U.S. Postal Service get nothing while President Bush proposed doling out billions of dollars last week for security concerns in his $2.13 trillion budget? Because its executives didn't request anything.

Bush said he envisions an emergency system that could warn the country of biological attacks, yet the system hit during the first (and, so far, only) biological attack -- the mail -- still hasn't fully recovered. Postal officials have only themselves to blame, especially since they still haven't told Congress how they'll spend the $500 million that was allocated last month.

The USPS is determining that the answer lies in equipment that can detect biological hazards as mail goes through the sorting process before irradiation would be done.

Whatever the solution, it will be expensive. Let's pray the president has some money left in his wallet to pay for those detectors before the anthrax perpetrator decides to strike again. Our mail system -- and those who rely on it -- can't take another hit.
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