This Doesn’t Compute.

We have a small confession to make. Years ago, when public interest in the internet was fairly new, when modem speeds were much slower, when email accounts had much lower storage, when email filters were not that sophisticated, and when people were getting 50 spam emails for every legitimate email, we secided to do something about it. We became part of a newsgroup and offline group that hated spamming. We were sick of emails for porn, adult products, hair loss products, skin cleaners, and everything in between. We often chuckle at people today who complain the get 5 or 10 pieces of spam in their computer inboxes. “Back in the day,” a mere 10 emails a day of spam would have been welcome.

The group divided the fight against spamming in a couple different ways. First, if there was no profit for the spammers, there was no reason to spam. We took part in contacting the companies that were funding spammers. Most of the legitimate companies looked into and broke off ties with spammers who continued to spam people even after entering “opt out” information. Other companies (such as the porn and adult product companies) could not be reached or did not care. Thousands and thousands of people across the country signed up to tell legitimate companies to stop sponsoring spam.

The group then went after the spammers themselves.

We contacted lawyers and authorities to make sure we were not in violation of any laws – especially mail fraud laws.

We won’t tell people what we did (we don’t want to give people ideas) but suffice it to say the spammers eventually cried “uncle” and stopped. The volume of spam dropped, giving spam filters a chance to come online to help protect people from unwanted spam in their inboxes.

We didn’t break any laws and were successful but we have always wondered about the morality of that escapade. Even though it was legal to do what we did, was it moral?

Luckily we don’t have to decide that issue right now, but the act of people sending unsolicited magazine subscriptions to the homes of the members of the City Council here in Satellite Beach brought to memory what we did in the past. We have decried the practice as childish and unproductive. We maintain such actions are morally wrong. There is a cost associated with getting a bill for a magazine one did not order. Postage, time, phone calls, etc are all required to resolve the issue. (We didn’t do anything like this the spammers. We did something similar, but different.) The distinction is there. Sending unsolicited magazines to someone’s home is just wrong.

Turns out that according to the US Postal Service, it is illegal as well.

The reason reason we bring this up is a letter that appeared in the Florida Today on Thursday, June 28, 2012 and written by Satellite Beach resident Scott Thomas. In his letter, Mr. Thomas writes:

New Satellite Beach council’s priorities ‘intriguing’

As a Satellite Beach resident, I have read with great interest FLORIDA TODAY’s coverage of the Satellite Beach City Council since the tea party took it over.

One of the new council’s stated goals is to reduce the amount of money the city spends on police. This point of view does not surprise me.

However, it does surprise me that, according to Sunday’s front-page article about the council, these same people think investigating unsolicited magazine subscriptions is a proper use of the police department’s time. It’s just more evidence the new regime has an intriguing set of priorities.

First, we want to start with the proposition the City Council is looking to “reduce the amount of money the city spends on police.” We have never heard that to be a stated goal of the City Council. We have heard the City Council wants to ensure the limited assets and monetary resources of the City are spent in such a manner that yields the biggest “bang for the buck.” There is nothing wrong with being frugal, examining budgets, and trying to make sure the various City departments are efficient.

Frankly, we cannot understand why people in their private lives look to reduce and prioritize spending as well as receive the most value for a dollar are somehow against governments prioritizing and examining the efficiency of that government.

(And just for the record, when we interviewed the three candidates for County Sheriff on the Steve Bussey Radio show, all three said looking at the Sheriff’s budget in order to eliminate waste and increase efficiency was a priority. This means if you hate the City Council looking at the efficiency of any city department, you are going to absolutely love the desired goals of any of the men who are elected to the office of Brevard County Sheriff.)

But after erroneously (we believe) taking the Council to task on the budget and spending of the police department, Mr. Thomas makes an statement that be a poster child for “non sequitar.”

…these same people think investigating unsolicited magazine subscriptions is a proper use of the police department’s time.

We can’t follow this. A person who wants to make sure the police department is run efficiently can no longer report a crime? That is the logical extension of Mr. Thomas’ statement.

We aren’t buying it.

Isn’t determining whether a crime has been committed and if so, investigating that crime part of the duties of the police department?

Would citizens rather have Denan and Councilman French (who has said he too has received unsolicited magazines) going from door to door of homes talking to people concerning who committed the crime? Is that what we want here in Satellite Beach? People banging on doors as some sort of “vigilante investigators?” A free for all of people running around investigating crimes and alleged crimes?

We cannot fathom how anyone who asks the police to investigate an alleged crime can be pilloried. We just don’t understand that mindset.

In fact, we see not turning the matter over to the police a slap across the face of the Satellite Beach police. While that sounds off the wall and out of the blue, let us explain.

While we believe the magazine issue is a crime, assume for a moment it is not. Are we really saying that Chief Pearson and the Satellite Beach Police Department are not professional enough to say “we’re sorry, but this is a civil matter. We have no jurisdiction here?” Or “sorry, there is no crime here at all?” Is that the message we want to be sending to the Satellite Beach Police Department?

If it is a crime, do we really want to be saying “the Satellite Beach police aren’t competent to investigate a crime?” Once again, is that the message we want to be sending to Chief Pearson and his “peeps?”

Are we saying we want the Satellite Beach Police to decide whether to investigate a crime based on political positions of the alleged victims or the investigating officer? Is that where we want to be going?

There is only one appropriate resting place for the criticism of “wasting” the resources of the Satellite Beach Police Department on this type of incident. That place is squarely on the heads of the people that sent the magazines in the first place.

That’s right. Instead of blaming the people who got the unwanted subscriptions or saying the police investigation is a waste, how about saying the people that put the alleged victims and the police in this position are wrong?

How about denouncing the people who instigated this mess instead of attacking those who are reacting to it?

Good grief. Mr. Thomas’ letter is akin to “blaming the victim.”

We apologize if we have offended anyone, but we believe Mr. Thomas’ letter is a shot in the dark that not only misses the mark, but results in a self inflicted wound.

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