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SeaViews: Insights from the Gray Havens 
February 2002

(formerly the _Rochester Rag_, formerly the _News from Detroit_)

Motto: The surest way to get a reputation for being a trouble maker these days is to go about repeating the very phrases that the Founders used in the struggle for independence.

-- C.A. Beard


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On last month's Fix;

the answer to last month's Fix,
"Should the feds fuse disparate databases for use of  furthering public safety and health?"

No. Of what conceivable use is it to the Center for Disease Control to track a fast-moving outbreak of ebola to know the tax status or pending fish and wildlife fines against an individual? If any of you have saved a copy of the 1040 Tax instruction booklet from the late 80's, the opening "Letter from the Commisioner" says things like, "Last year, your cooperation made our voluntary tax system the most admired in the world ... blabla And I want to assure you that Federal Law requires that the IRS keep private all the information that you send us and it will not be shared with other departments."

 Of course, few people believe anymore the Income Tax is voluntary (that was a fiction used to pass an otherwise unConstitutional ammendment), and neither should you believe that information the govt has on you is held in a tight little vault that does not communicate with other tight little vaults. In fact, on Capitol Hill the past few weeks, we've already heard how  "local and federal law enforcement are sharing information to help track down terrorist suspect. So Congressmen, please spare us the heartrending, soul-searching sob stories on the Hill about whether or not we should shed more liberty "to gain a temporary safety". The choice is already made and another link forged in the shackles.

On Changes;
By now, some of you already know, but this will serve as a general announcement. I have been offered a position back at Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN. Sheryl and I will be leaving Washington in May and I start work at Mayo the first week of June.

Second, Oakland University (my Ph.D. alma mater) was kind enough to disable and delete all alumni email accounts on Feb 13 - without any warning. The upshot of this is that I have lost all personal emails that any of you have sent me since May 2000 (which was, foolishly, the  last time I  backed up the Oakland account to a local store). I'm hoping that the bulk of you will read this and help me to reassemble my email list.

Please respond to

John Johnson has been kind enough to offer this as a email forwarding address. The guest editorial below was sent by me to the newspapers in the town around Oakland U.

Guest Editorial:

OU's Students/Alum Deserve Better
by Steve Langer

Current and future alumni of an institution should be aware of how they can expect to be treated by their alma mater after they've graduated. This letter details Oakland University's methods.

Prior to the year 2000, OU held out the carrot of  email accounts to those who would join the alumni association (and pay the annual dues). In fact, the OU IT web pages still claim that they carry this service. Many of us took advantage of this offer, since it can be very convenient to have a fixed email account by which friends and family can always find you, regardless of where one lives or works.

But on 5 April 2000, Linda Oliver (Alumni relations) sent an email to all OU alumni email account holders  that effective 30 June 2000, all alumni association internet privileges would be canceled. A part of her letter follows

On Wed, 5 Apr 2000, Linda Oliver wrote:
> <bold><underline>Internet/E-Mail Access Privilege to End </underline></bold>
> The University must end the Internet/e-mail access privilege including
> homepages now on the Alumni Association or any other OU site.  If you use
> the privilege, you need to identify and secure your own Internet Service
> Provider (ISP) before that time.
> <bold>>>Alumni Association members:</bold> Your access ends June 30,
> 2000.
> ...
> The university made this membership privilege available when the
> enrollment and the numbers of alumni was much smaller.  ... As
> the  number of students, faculty, staff and alumni has grown, and the
> number  of distance learning and off-campus instructional sites has expanded,
> resources have been stretched to the limit. ... At the same time, the University's ISP has
> changed its billing structures, making the alumni access financially
> impossible for the University.
> ...

A group of alumni performed the following analysis on the Saturn cluster.
Saturn cluster user statistics from 15-24 May 2000.

Total number of defined users: 23016
total number of login sessions: 10472
number of dial in sessions: 1611
number of distinct users: 1707
number of "alumni" sessions: 52
number of dial-in "alumni" sessions: 15

We sent the results to Vice  President David Disend, and pointed out that alumni impact on the Saturn cluster was at most 0.5%.  His response basically parrots the Oliver letter without answering our points, but adds a new twist.

>>>Subject:         INTERNET ACCESS
>>>Date:         Wed, 03 May 2000 16:19:38 -0500
>>>From:         "David S. Disend" <>
>>>As you know, as of May 5, 2000, the Internet access privilege,
>>> including email and web homepages, will be closed to all but OU students,
>>>faculty and staff.  ... The privilege was initially offered to Alumni
>>>Association members when student and alumni numbers were much smaller.  ...
>>>At the same time, the university's own Internet Service Provider, the Merit
>>>Network, has changed the way it bills us.  They now charge per packet of
>>>information going through the network.  Thus, the cost of providing the
>>>service to alumni far outstrips the income from Alumni Association dues.
>>>Finally, any benefits the university provides for the $30 tax-deductible
>>>Alumni Association dues must take into account IRS regulations.  With the
>>>value of the Internet access, the tax-deductibility of the dues comes into
>>>question.  Additionally, we cannot raise the fee for OUAA membership to
>>>cover the cost of Internet access.  Not all OUAA members are interested in
>>>the Internet benefit and at this time Oakland University is not able to
>>>act as an Internet Service Provider.
>>> ...
>>>David S. Disend

The Disend letter makes three claims.

1. Email will stop on May 5, 2000 (Oliver said June 30)
2. Merit Charges OU by the packet
3. Free email endangers OU's tax exempt status with the IRS

The claim that Merit (OU's internet service provider) charges OU "by the packet"  is patently false, as a May 2000 phone call to Merit's sales group revealed. An institution of OU's size would use one or two T3 data lines for on site connections, for an annual flat fee of $50-100 thousand. For dial in users we have

"MichNet dial-in affiliates pay for dial-in lines at any of MichNet's dial-in sites. Dial-in affiliates pay a $1,000 annual fee (this fee is waived for organizations that are Merit direct connect affiliates); dial-in line pricing depends on location."

So OU, being a direct connect affiliate should pay _nothing_ for dial in support.

Point three, that OU cannot offer "free" internet services because it would endanger OU's tax exempt status with the IRS, is a red herring. There are numerous free ISPs (see, demonstrating that OU does not have an unfair price advantage. And, free email forwarding services are offered by both Michigan State (see and the University of Michigan (

In any case, both the May 5,  2000 and June 30, 2000 deadlines came and went  - and nothing happened. Two weeks later - a year - my account was still active. So, this author came to believe that OU had reversed itself.  I was still using the OU account until on February 13, 2002 - over twenty months after the deadline(s) - when it was disabled without warning stranding all email in it.

Calling the IT Helpdesk, the Manager indicated that since I was no longer a student or employee, it would violate OU's academic computing software licenses for my account  to continue (ah, so now it's the license excuse ... these people need to get on the same play book).  I gave up, and requested a simple account archive. The response: "We cannot provide the tar file for your home directory. This would require the email account to be open."

Anyone with a shred of experience with the UNIX  "tar" command knows this is absolutely false. And even those without such experience may ask, "If it is so  imperative to kill alumni accounts that OU cannot risk even two minutes to archive them due to licensing violations - why did OU's IT staff wait over 20 months from their announced deadline to do it?"

Somehow MSU and UM manage to offer email services to alumni. And  while Vice President Disend was concerned about OU's tax exempt status being  at risk by offering cheap email, somehow OU offers over 50% discounts on its golf course rates to alumni (see Yet  that does not violate Disend's concerns about unfair competition and  IRS rules for exempt organizations (,,i1%3D3%26i2%3D18%26genericId%3D6874,00.html)???

The excuses have gone from consuming too many resources, to violating IRS tax exempt regulations, to licensing violations. Of these excuses, two are provably false, the other is applied inconsistently. The OU administration, alumni association and IT groups demonstrate complete contempt for the intellect of the very students that their institution trained. But to be fair, the OU alumni page does warn us about this kind of treatment.

Membership benefits are subject to change without notice. Please revisit this site occasionally for the most current list.

Steve Langer, OU PhD 1994 Medical Physics
Associate Professor of Radiology
University of Washington - Seattle


1. David Gay writes;
from: Gay, David []
to: Tue 2/26/02 9:07 AM



Senator "I will serve no more than 2 terms" Wellstone has kicked off his campaign for a THIRD term in the US Senate. He has attempted to acquire voter sympathy with the announcement that he has had a mild case of MS (multiple sclerosis) for the last few years. It shouldn't effect his ability to perform his duties as a Senator...

Meanwhile our Governor (no new taxes) Ventura has decided that legislators who won't vote for his tax increase are unpatriotic. Ventura does not want to touch the $2 billion surplus in the bank. I suspect these surpluses have contributed to the current recession.

For this month's fix;

"Should the US fuse it's different databases to more easily track people's movements - all in the name of public health and safety - of course?"

Of course this is a pretty obvious infringement on personal freedoms. Just going to the doctor could start a law enforcement investigation of you. Just as stopping at the gun shop or picking up a pack of cigarettes at the local convenience store. Combining this with the I-chip could be worse. Were you go and when you go could become a matter of public record. I would think this actually violates the 5th amendments protection against self incrimination.

Now, if the US Government actually did this, I don't think they would know what to do with all the information. It would end up being filed just like the Lost Ark of the Covenant in "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Although, others outside the government might find ways to accessing the information for their own purposes.

David Gay


2. David Gersten encourages us to support the Patriotism Act.

From: David B. Gersten []
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 4:16 AM
To: Steve Langer
Subject: Check This Out

Hi Steve,

Give a look :~)


Quote(s) of the month:

"Langer's Law Number 7: Liberals are most generous with other people's money"
-- In relation to item 1 under Virginia, see below

Fix of the month:

"Should the minimum wage be nationally tied to the inflation rate?"



1. Olympia, Feb 20: Gov. Locke is faced with a budget shortfall, businesses are leaving the state, and we have yet to repair the cracked viaducts that are barely standing after last year's "Nisqually" earthquake. The answer: raise the gas tax 8 cents.  


  1. St. Paul, Feb 23: Govnr Ventura is taking ongoing heat from liberal press that the state's financial short falls are due to his "Jesse Checks" (check refunds that he sends out every tax season). However, the pundits neglect to mention that the state still has a $2 Billion rainy day fund, and other states that don't have tax refunds are having even greater budget deficits. In fact, all the states are losing revenue these past 2 quarters. That's why they call it a recession.


1. Feb. 23: State govnr. Huckabee took alot of heat for reducing taxes. The liberal arm of his state are convinced that services will fail - and in the aftermath of 9/11 the state revenue is off. Well the Govnr. heard those cries. He has ordered the state IRS group to put up a web page for donations above and beyond the state required income tax. Since it's activation in Jan, the voluntary tax web site has collected just over $300.

Washington D.C.

1. Feb 20: A bi-partisan piece of legislation called the Campaign Finance Reform bill is threatening to get to the president's desk, and he has threatened to sign it. This is not good. Among the points in it are that candidates would not be allowed to spend money on adds within 60 days of the election, thereby crippling challengers, while incumbants could simply call a press conference to maintain their face time with the voters. Hence, some wags have come to call it the "Incumbant Protection Act".

It is clear why incumbants would like it, also the media. After all, the media can become "king makers" by picking who they will give free air time to. It is not clear why Bush would want to sign it. It may be that he wants to deprive Dems of the issue and hopes the Supreme Court will strike it down.

2. Feb 25: Another bill is afoot that would quietly kill numerous people and ban SUVs. Of course, it's not called the Murdering and SUV Banning bill (there is, after all, no truth act for law naming), but this will be its effect. The bill is set to raise the CAFE (Corporate Average Fleet Economy) to 37.5 mpg. The last time such a bill was introduced (under the Clinton Admin) the CAFE standard was raised to 28 mpg but pickup trucks, vans and SUVs were exempted. The National  Transporatation Safety board said that as a result of bulding lighter, less strong vehicles that complied,  an estimated additional 1800-2500 people have died each year in accidents since its enactment. This time, the authors intend to include pickups, vans and SUVs to there will be no loopholes for those who want safer vehicles.

Net News;

Some deep thoughts to ponder ...

Subject: Carlin Chuckles

>> 1. If you take an Oriental person and spin him around
> > several times,does he become disoriented?
> >
> >
> > 2. If people from Poland are called Poles, why aren't
> > people from Holland called Holes?
> >
> >
> > Why do we say something is out of whack? What's a whack?
> >
> >
> > 3. Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy
> > adultery?
> >
> >
> > 4. If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?
> >
> >
> > 5. If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?
> >
> >
> > 6. When someone asks you, "A penny for your thoughts"
> > and you put your two cents in . . . what happens to the
> > other penny?
> >
> >
> > 7. Why is the man who invests all your money called a
> > broker?
> >
> >
> > 8. Why do croutons come in airtight packages? Aren't
> > they just stale bread to begin with?
> >
> >
> > 9. When cheese gets its picture taken, what does it say?
> >
> >
> > 10. Why is a person who plays the piano called a pianist
> > but a person who drives a race car not called a racist?
> >
> >
> > 11. Why are a wise man and a wise guy opposites?
> >
> >
> > 12. Why do overlook and oversee mean opposite things?
> >
> >
> > 13. Why isn't the number 11 pronounced onety one?
> >
> >
> > 14. "I am" is reportedly the shortest sentence in the
> > English language. Could it be that "I do" is the longest
> > sentence?
> >
> >
> > 15. If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked,
> > doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted,
> > musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed,
> > tree surgeons debarked, and dry cleaners depressed?
> >
> >
> > 16. If Fed Ex and UPS were to merge, would they call it
> > Fed UP?
> >
> >
> > 17. Do Lipton Tea employees take coffee breaks?
> >
> >
> > 18. What hair color do they put on the driver's licenses
> > of bald men?
> >
> >
> > 19. I was thinking about how people seem to read the
> > Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned
> > on me . .they're cramming for their final exam.
> >
> >
> > 20. I thought about how mothers feed their babies with
> > tiny little spoons and forks so I wondered what do
> > Chinese mothers use? Toothpicks?
> >
> >
> > 21. Why do they put pictures of criminals up in the Post
> > Office? What are we supposed to do, write to them? Why
> > don't they just put their pictures on the postage stamps
> > so the mailmen can look for them while they deliver the
> > mail?
> >
> >
> > 22. If it's true that we are here to help others, then
> > what exactly are the others here for?
> >
> >
> > 23. You never really learn to swear until you learn to
> > drive.
> >
> >
> > 24. No one ever says, "It's only a game" when their team
> > is winning.
> >
> >
> > 25. Ever wonder what the speed of lightning would be if
> > it didn't zigzag?
> >
> >
> > 26. Last night I played a blank tape at full blast. The
> > mime next door went nuts.
> >
> >
> > 27. If a cow laughed, would milk come out her nose?
> >
> >
> > 28. Whatever happened to Preparations A through G?
> >
> >
> > 29. Do people who spend $2.00 apiece on those little
> > bottles of Evian water know that spelling it backwards
> > is NAIVE.
> >
> >
> > 30. Isn't making a smoking section in a restaurant like
> > making a peeing section in a swimming pool?
> >
> >
> > 31. if the Jacksonville Jaguars are known as the
> > "Jags" and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are known as the
> > "Bucs", what does that make the Tennessee Titans?
> >
> >
> > 32. If 4 out of 5 people SUFFER from diarrhea... does
> > that mean that one fifth enjoy it?