Managing Spam in 2005

In 1998, nearly 10% of all email traffic on the internet was SPAM. By 2003 that number had climbed to 50%, and the problem had gotten so bad that Congress passed the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act)

The specific requirements and penalties of that law, (which took effect in 2004) have done little to stem the tide of junk email we all receive. Today, in 2005, the percentage of unsolicited email is at an all time high of 87% (source – Wired Magazine July 2005)

How can we even stand to check our email? Well I can’t. That’s why I pay for a service to protect my entire domain name from all Spam. That’s a great solution for me, but it’s too expensive for a home or very small business user. How then can you protect yourself?

First, there are filtering options in Outlook and Outlook Express, and I encourage you to investigate them further. More details on this are in my article from May of 2000 called “Managing your E-mail II” here http://pdxtc.com/200005-managingemail2.htm

After trying about 6 other programs, I found a free version of some software that I used for a long time called Mailwasher. This program was easily trained and configured to learn all of my preferences, and for free, there’s nothing better. However, you I still basically have to check mail twice, once in a clunky web-interface to sift through all the blocked SPAM. I prefer to just check my mail normally, not worrying about a missed message.

In 2003, a friend recommended a service called Knowspam. That was a great solution that blocked 100% of all SPAM through a “permission based” system. A permission based system means that all new senders not on your list, will get a “verification” email, asking them “Are you human?” Well, if they are really human, then they take the simple instructed action, and you’ll get their email, as well as all future mail from them, unless you choose to block them later.

Many readers of my column tried Knowspam, and I got dozens of positive comments. That wasn’t enough for Knowspam though, because they still went out of business.

Well the good news is that there’s a replacement for Knowspam. It’s called Spam Arrest, and it’s under $3 a month. It does everything that Knowspam used to do, and then some. I’ve now set myself up with an affiliate account and arranged for you try it for free for 30 days.

First, you easily upload all of your contacts, and then follow their easy directions to change your system mail settings, and anyone on your list or anyone you ever send mail to is automatically approved.

The great news is that this works for up to 5 email accounts, and even works for AOL mail! If you want to see 100% of your spam get blocked, and not be embarrassed to let your kids see your inbox, then visit http://www.pdxtc.com/spamarrest and sign up for your free 30 day trial.

Spam, What is It Good For, Absolutely Nothing!

Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE), or spam has reached epidemic proportions, and continues to grow. According to American Online, of the estimated 30 million email messages each day, about 30% on average was unsolicited commercial email. As a result of its very low marginal costs, spam has become extremely prolific. Regardless of how many emails are sent out, the spammers’ costs are low, and constant. With numbers like these, there is a tremendous burden shifted to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to process and store that amount of data. Huge volumes of this junk may undoubtedly contribute to many of the access, speed, and reliability problems suffered by many ISPs. Further, many large ISPs have experienced major system outages as the result of massive junk email campaigns. Spam is an issue about consent, not content. Regardless of whether the UCE message is an advertisement, porn, or a winning lottery notice, the content is irrelevant. If the message was sent unsolicited, and in bulk then the message is spam.

This junk e-mail is more than just annoying; it costs Internet users, and Internet-based businesses millions, even billions, per year. When a spammer sends an email message to a million people, it is carried by numerous electronic systems on route to its destination. The systems in between are bearing the burden of carrying advertisements, and other unsolicited junk for the spammer. The number of spams sent out each day is truly overwhelming, and each one must be handled efficiently, and expeditiously by many systems. There is no justification for forcing third parties to bear the load of unsolicited advertising. Ultimately, these costs are passed on to YOU, the consumer.

Spam originates in one of two ways, it is sent directly by the spammer from and under their control, or via illegal third party exploitation such as open proxies or open relays. Spammers get your address in a variety of ways. If you sign up for, and provide your email address, these seemingly friendly sites can turn around and sell your email to advertisers. Additionally, if you have your email address on a Web page, it is easy for unscrupulous advertisers to “harvest” it, and add you to their lists.

There are ways to reduce the number of spam messages, however it is presently impossible to stop them all. Spam filters, are software applications that redirect emails based on the presence of certain common phrases, or words. These automated measures are prone to being defeated by clever spammers. Additionally, there is a risk of important emails being deleted as spam. In 2003, Congress passed a sweeping law, CAN-SPAM act of 2003, which basically prohibits the use of deceptive subject lines and false headers in all emails. Additionally, the FTC is authorized (but not required) to establish a do-not-email registry. The CAN-SPAM Act took effect on January 1, 2004.

Spam is based on theft of service; it wastes time, money, and other resources. Spam can and will overwhelm your electronic mail box if it isn’t fought. Over time, unless the growth of spam isn’t stopped, it will destroy the usefulness and effectiveness of email as a communication tool.

How To Fix The US Economy With Four Simple Steps

This article proposes steps to fix our economy through changes in FICA taxes, an executive order, and infrastructure investments, selling National Debt Bonds and creating a National Debt Federal Lottery. The FICA fix, National Debt Bonds and the National Debt Federal Lottery will pump money into our economy we can use to create jobs and fix our infrastructure while expanding our tax-base. My hope is to give us some ideas to ponder and start a conversation outside of Congress, which seems unable or unwilling to find solutions that don’t include class warfare or just positioning for the next election. It seems if any solutions to our problems are to arise they are going to have to come from outside of Congress. The Constitution states the power resides in the people, so it looks like we the people will have to grab the bull by the tail and face the situation; create our own solutions and stuff it down the throat of Congress through voting and the right to assemble to make our grievances known. Ponder these solutions; if you agree let Congress know. If you don’t agree make changes or state your own solutions that we can all ponder, but please don’t wait for Congress which created these problems by putting their Aristocracy and hunger for power before America’s well-being.

1. Reduce FICA taxes from 7.65% to 5%; get rid of the $106,000.00 ceiling; lower the retirement age to 64; means test recipients; lock the Social Security box and prevent the Government from borrowing from that locked box until it’s solvent for one hundred years continually. Lowering the rate to 5% will give every American worker an immediate 2.65% raise and lower employers matching by 2.65%. This immediately puts money into our economy two ways; Americans have more to spend and American employers have more money to hire or invest. I can hear the cries of socialism from our politicians and from those that have no idea what socialism means. It’s a cry intended to divide and conquer us or scare us into fighting one another. Socialism is the Government controlling the means of production and the distribution of wealth, which means there is some socialism in all Governments, just look at your taxes, Government contracts and International Treaties. I guess socialism is fine and dandy for mega-corporations, Wall Street and bankers when it’s our taxes footing the bill and fixing their self-made mess. But the middle class doesn’t get any of that socialist help from the private sector. Let them eat freedom cake. Congress wants to fix Social Security by increasing the retirement age and lowering benefits or by getting rid of Social Security entirely. That’s not a solution, that’s slavery. Politicians will tell you that people live longer so increasing the retirement age makes sense. I say if people live longer, lower the retirement age to 64 and at that age workers stop paying the 5% FICA taxes. Give it to them on the back-end when they’ll need more money to live and pay expenses. Can you imagine the money that will pour into our economy from just this one fix? A company with a million dollar payroll will save $26,500.00. A worker making $30,000 a year will save $795.00 a year. It doesn’t sound like much and it isn’t, it’s only $66.25 a month or $16.50 a week. In today’s economy most people will pay a bill, buy extra groceries, four gallons of gas or a pizza. But this is money that goes right back into our economy, about one and a half billion per week. Think of how much money small businesses will save; those who have to match their own FICA taxes will save 5.3%. Large employers like Walmart, McDonald’s, UPS and those with hundreds of thousands of employees will save millions of dollars a year, including the Federal Government. Means testing is probably the biggest problem because it sounds so anti-American. You mean I pay in to Social Security for 40 or 45 years and get nothing back. You get it on the back-end. If you live to 75 or 85 that’s 11 to 21 years of not paying the 5% and most people make more money after they turn 50 years old or later. Plus it’s the patriotic thing to do to save our country and help the next generation. Remember; ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. It isn’t socialism to preserve our form of Government and it isn’t terrorism to criticize or try to fix what’s broke. It might be justice to have the people who broke it, pay to fix it, but that’s another solution for another day.

2. This fix is so simple and quick that all we need is a President with a spine. The President can do this with a stroke of his or her pen without any input from a stalemated, do-nothing, juvenile-twisted, baby-bickering Congress. As the executive of the Federal Government the President should sign an executive order telling every Federal agency that including but not limited to every pencil, pen, desk, chair, carpet, computer, roll of toilet paper, bullet, bomb, gun, tank, car, airplane or ship that they buy must be 100% manufactured in the United States. We can’t do it overnight, but within 60 to 90 days the President can have a report on his or her desk stating what can be U.S. bought immediately and aim for buying only American at 25% per year per agency until all agencies reach 100% in four years. Can you imagine all the start-up businesses and job creation? Foreign companies will have to build factories on American soil and hire American workers. This has to be 100% USA made, no skipping around the executive order by shipping parts here from overseas and assembling it here and calling it ‘Made in the USA’. Think of the steel factories coming back, the rail and shipyards coming back. This one fix will be long-term and last for generations, if the best Congress that foreign money can buy doesn’t screw it up. I guess we will not only need a President with a spine but an American voter that isn’t swayed by emotional issues used to divide us and keeping us hyphenated-Americans until we believe there’s no hope. Remember, we can always rebuild our country, other generations have done it before us, but getting back the rights and power given to us by our Constitution after we take it from one another will be much harder. Vote, write, call, email, snail mail, Fax and visit your Congressperson until your neighbor is fully represented or replace the bums.

3. This step takes a kind of courage you won’t find in politicians who only look toward the next election and their own lobbyist filled deep pockets. We need to invest in our infrastructure and create jobs that will expand the tax base. We can create jobs by fixing our railways so that goods can move to central hubs and then trucked to its destination. We can save fuel without destroying the trucking industry. We can produce steel for railways and shipping. Just think how much cheaper it is to move goods by rail. We’ll still need truckers to move the goods from a central hub to its final destination, so truckers will not lose jobs; they’ll save on fuel; and be home with their families at night. Our waterways will need ships, seamen, sea-women, and dock-workers. That’s a lot of steel and jobs which can be the beginning of bringing manufacturing back to the USA, along with fix number two, all for half the cost or less of the wars we’re now fighting. Historical evidence tells us we need to put this country back to work and to do that we must spend money and increase investments. The last stimulus package wasn’t nearly enough to do the job. We tried to fix a 15 trillion dollar economy with less than a 6% stimulus that went to the people who fraudulently and criminally broke our economy and never came to justice. The stimulus we need now should be at least 15% of our total economy and it should go to the individual states by population, two thousand dollars for each person in every state to fix our highways, bridges, tunnels and power grid. The money won’t go directly to the state or its people in a lump sum. The Federal Government will pay for the infrastructure improvements and treason laws will ensure honesty. There are three hundred and thirty million people in the United States and going by population this stimulus will cost six hundred and sixty billion dollars, less than the last stimulus cost and going to the right people to do the right thing. To help pay for this stimulus we can ask the bankers who got the last stimulus to pay us back with interest. States with a million people will get two billion dollars, states with five million people will get ten billion dollars and states with twenty million will get forty billion dollars and so on. How many bridges, highways and tunnels can Rhode Island fix with two billion dollars? There will be jobs for many years. What about Wisconsin, Minnesota and Colorado, what can they do with ten billion dollars? And how about our larger state populations like California, Texas and New York, what can they do for jobs and the infrastructure with forty or forty-five billion dollars? How much politicking and corruption will there be in this system if all the principal players are constrained by treason laws? I don’t know, but I’d sure like to give it a shot and see. Of course with this step we will need a strong whistle-blower law which means Congress will have its say, so I guess it’s all a pipe dream. This step is bold and daring so we will have to force the cowardly hearts of Congress to comply because now that money is free speech the guy with a hundred dollars has more free speech than the guy with one dollar; and these fixes will cost more than a trillion dollars. How much free speech can you buy with a trillion dollars?

4. Sell war bonds like we did in WWII and hold a yearly Federal lottery, all for the purpose of paying the National debt. We’ll call the bonds National Debt Bonds and sell them in $5.00 increments and their only use by law will be to pay the National debt. You’ll be able to sell them, trade them and inherit them for a ten-year period after the National debt is paid. For those ten years you can deduct them from your taxes dollar for dollar at 10% per year, and they’ll still be sell-able, trade-able and inheritable. Buy more bonds and have more chances to win. On December 1st of each year we will randomly pick three groups of twelve people from each state, the first twelve people who come closest to picking a randomly generated number will win one million dollars free of all Federal taxes; the next twelve closest to the random number will receive three hundred thousand tax-free and the last twelve closest to the random number will receive one hundred thousand tax-free. This will cost 840 million to pay off the winners; let’s say an even billion with the cost to run the program. If the program doesn’t create one billion dollars in any given year then the Government will take 50% plus the cost of running the program and the chosen 1800 people will split the rest equally. We can easily guarantee reaching over four billion per year by deducting five dollars from the 80 million checks the Federal Government mails out every month and automatically entering the 80 million recipients for the National Debt Federal Lottery. They will be able to sell, trade or inherit the $60.00 per year compulsorily taken from their checks. And to show good faith and leadership, we will deduct $1000.00 per month from all Congressional members, the nine Supreme Court Justices and the President, which will bring in $545,000.00 per month or $6,540,000.00 per year to the National Debt Federal Lottery, more if we add cabinet and staff members at a reduced rate. And because Congress, the Supreme Court and the President love America so much they will exclude themselves and immediate family members from any winnings, including cabinet and staff members if added. With the $5.00 from every Federal check, if just 10% of the population participates in the National Debt Federal Lottery at $5.00 per month, we should be able to bring in a minimum of over six billion dollars a year. With the cost to run the program kept under 10% by law and the payment to the winners, we should be able to pay off our National debt at four billion a year with this program alone. Add in the other three steps and the increased tax base with some other steps including tax reform and spending cuts, we will be able to pay off our National debt at about two trillion dollars a year. That means we can pay off our total National debt in less than ten years without killing the poor, plus rebuilding the middle class. Of course Congress and their deep pockets and their willingness to destroy this country for the fleeting glow of power and the greed of their souls will fight these steps with every trick at their disposal. Being that Congress makes the laws and in effect are American Royalty, above all laws, it will take an educated, strong and willful American populace to spring up from grassroots to take back our Constitutional powers and stop Congress from being part of the problem and force them to be part of the solution. There are more simple steps we can take to fix the problems our politicians in cahoots with bankers and greedy power brokers have caused this great country, but that is for another time.

Postal Service Wants 5 Cents an Email

You may have received an email about how the US Postal Service is trying to push through a bill that would allow them to charge 5 cents per email. I can understand why people would think that it’s true. The Postal Service had nothing to do with the email being sent and they aren’t going to give you anything for the 5 cents. Sure sounds like a government agency.

The email is a hoax. What’s amazing to me is that it started in 1999 and is still making its way around the Internet. If you haven’t seen the email, you can see an example of the email and more information about it on the Urban Legends Reference Page (http://www.snopes.com/business/taxes/bill602p.asp).

I wouldn’t be surprised by the Postal Service wanting to do something like this, which is one of the reasons this email has been mistaken by so many people as being real. The U.S. Postal Service currently has an electronic postmark available to businesses who want to use it. You send your email through the Postal Services servers and they put a postmark on it for a price. It works similar to snail mail – you send email to their server and it may or may not make it to your recipient. USPS website (http://www.usps.com).

If you want to know about a bill before the Senate or Congress, go to the source. You can check on any bill before Congress or the Senate at Thomas – The US Congress on the Internet (http://thomas.loc.gov).

If the Postal Service did put a 5 cent tax on email, it wouldn’t be the end of the Internet. There are a number of ways to communicate without using email.

Prior to the Internet groups used Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) to communicate and trade files by dialing into a central computer and establishing a connection over a phone line. Yahoo Groups and Topica Groups are basically doing the same thing now, but over the Internet. These BBS systems allow people to trade messages without the use of email.

Something I’m looking into for my ezine is Really Simple Syndicator (RSS). The idea behind this is to post headlines on my website and a program running on your computer would read these when they’re available. No email needed. With the problems of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) blocking email, even from trusted sources, in the future it may be a necessity for ezine publishers to continue to publish.

I know it’s old fashioned, but there’s always the option of using the Fax and Phone to communicate.

Finally there’s the possibility of a private Internet that bypasses government involvement altogether. Most of you that work for a company of any size are using an intranet – a company-wide Internet that is only accessible to people who work for your company. An extranet is an intranet that allows access from people outside the company. By connecting the extranets, it would be possible to create a private Internet.