April 23, 2001-- Newsletter #127

By Joe Burns


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

Goodies to Go (tm)
April 23, 2001--Newsletter #127

This newsletter is part of the internet.com network.

Please visit http://www.htmlgoodies.com

Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

Whew! What a tough day. Just before writing this newsletter, I received about ten panicked emails from the people at Internet.com. The Goodies site wasn't showing up in any version of Netscape. I went in and fixed one of the SSI's and every page came back except the homepage. How about that, huh? After an hour plus of banging my head against the desk, I found the problem. It was a single missing end TR command. One command and the entire homepage died in Netscape. Oh well, at least it will be a good example for my students as to why they always need to check their code in multiple browsers.

Did you hear...

When was the last newsletter that didn't have a warning about a hack or virus? Keep an eye out for a Melissa clone that arrives with the subject line "Matcher". The body of the message then has the text:

Want to find your love mates!!!
Try this its cool...
Looks and Attitude maching to opposite sex.

(Misspellings left in on purpose - Joe)

There's an attachment and if you click on it - you're infected. The virus is seen as a medium level concern. It has two things going for it. First off, it's a Trojan horse virus so it isn't immediately apparent that it's been planted. Second, people are still falling for opening an attachment in droves. I simply do not open attachments. Period.

Privacy is still a concern on the Internet. Attorney General John Ashcroft met with privacy advocates to discuss how the U.S. government deals with privacy issues. One of the big sticking points, Carnivore, will remain sticky. CNN reports that Ashcroft will offer no assurance that Carnivore use will be curtailed.

In these darn times of falling (and some rising) stock prices, can any one site claim to be the best site on the Web? Well, if you're talking strictly about profit potential and stock ratings, one site shines above all others. Ebay. ( Source)

On a personal note, you may remember a few newsletters back that I raged against cell phones and PDA's. Well, maybe I'll be brought around on one of them. My university has purchased a PDA just for me. It should be here in about a week. We'll see if I step over to the dark side. I hope it comes with games.

Now on to today's topic...

On May 16th, Timothy McVeigh will be executed by lethal injection in a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. He will be put to death for the 1995 killing of 168 persons in the Alfred P. Murrah federal building. McVeigh has not shown sorrow for his crime. In fact, he has referred to the children killed in the blast as "collateral damage".

Now, please understand I am not supporting nor decrying the death penalty. I am simply stating fact. McVeigh will die. The execution will go through. McVeigh welcomes it. There will be no appeal.

The question I want to put forward is, "should Americans be able to watch the execution on the Internet because it is our First Amendment rights as citizens?"

If that statement knocked you for a loop, it did me too. My concern is that the statement is not a hypothetical question being posed to a University ethics class. It is a real statement that is being fought right now in the federal courts.

U.S. District Court Judge John Tinder has denied a claim by the Entertainment Network to "broadcast" the execution over the Internet. Entertainment Network chief executive David Marshlack claims an appeal will be brought. Marshlack is the same person who provides the soft-core site Voyeur Dorm.com and hosted the one-day event AskOJ.com where OJ Simpson answered questions online.

If you're wondering, as I was, if there aren't already rules in place regarding broadcasting an execution, there are. The Bureau of Prisons guidelines and federal law clearly state that allowances will be made for the media to be present at executions, but that no sound or video recording devises may be used.

That should pretty much put an end to the entire question but it doesn't. The federal government is breaking its own law. The execution will be broadcast. A closed circuit feed from Terre Haute, Indiana will be sent to families of the bombing victims in Oklahoma City, OK. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft defends the broadcast stating that it will bring some closure to those who lost loved ones in the attack.

In addition, McVeigh has expressed a want to have the execution broadcast. Should that make a difference?

Entertainment Network will broadcast the execution for a fee. I don't care about the money. What I do care about is someone seeing the execution after the protected feed is finished. My main concern is that once the pay-per- view broadcast is over, then just about anyone will be able to see the execution. Many who paid the fee will capture it. Once the feed is captured, I can easily see animated gifs and copies of the actual death scene popping up all over the Web.

One student I spoke to thought the concept of Web broadcasting an execution was abhorrent. The student with her said we should be able to view the execution adding, "it's no worse than what is out there now".

I think this is the real crux of the matter. Your opinion on the subject most likely lies within your moral stance. Who is profiting? Who is winning? Who, in your eyes, is getting what they want, but shouldn't? That shows the fight to broadcast the execution as what it really is, an ethical battle within society. However, ethics are not what will make the decision. An interpretation of the law by a court will make the decision to grant permission to broadcast or not.

By now you must have formed some level of opinion. Let me see if I can alter it or if you stand firm. What if the Entertainment Network proclaimed they would give all of the money raised from the Web broadcast to charities created to help victim's families? Should then the execution be broadcast?

What if I told you that the scenario above is true? Entertainment Network wants to provide the feed for $1.95, all of which, they say, would go to charities set up to help families of the bombing victims. ( Source)

Do you feel differently about the broadcast now that you know that?

I was told once that the first amendment only works if the Larry Flints of the world are given the same access to freedom of speech as everyone else. That's true, but there are still limits on that first amendment freedom. For example, you may not incite hatred or enrage a crowd through your speech. The one limitation that always pops up is yelling "fire" in a crowded movie house. That's not protected speech.

So now the question is once again being put to not only the people of the U.S., but also to the Internet itself. The Internet is often lauded as being open and free from governmental restrictions. It is freedom of speech incarnate.

The First Amendment is tested again and again in regards to pornography on the Web. This somehow seems bigger in my mind.

I have my opinions but they are certainly not federal law and my purpose here is not to sway you, but only to inform you so that you might get a dialogue going with those around you.

Does the first amendment stretch that far? If someone is allowed to go online and rant on against Wal-Mart, should the Entertainment Network be allowed to broadcast the execution of Timothy McVeigh?

If the answer is "no", then where must we, as a society (even a global society), draw the line? At what point is something no longer protected?

Is the Internet truly open to any and all forms of self- expression?


That's that. Thank you for reading. Hopefully I can spark some discussion. I only wish I had a class later today I could put this to. The next time I'll be able to bring this up is Tuesday, and I will.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And Remember: I'm readying my lectures for next semester when I'll teach Advanced Audio. As you can tell, I'm a big fan of trivia and I often pepper it into my lectures. While searching for audio tidbits, I ran across this one. It is generally agreed that the loudest sound ever produced (in recorded history) was the volcanic eruption on Krakatoa in 1883. The blast created a sound wave that sent a tidal wave halfway across the world. The wave was so strong that it blew a Dutch warship 30 feet onto the land in the Harbor of Batavia (now Djakarta).

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