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My only previous contribution to the debate about inappropriate posts, in
response to Dennis Wish's request for votes, was in re messages that
amounted to ads for technical software, which I voted not to censor so long
as they didn't get out of hand.  I am generally of the opinion that while
free speech often does little good it usually does no harm and is better
than the alternative.

Bill Allen's post about the current and several former presidents yesterday
however, gave me pause.  Having reflected, I think a post suggesting that
Lee Harvey Oswald did his country a favor is inappropriate for this forum.

I think it common knowledge that many in this country (and thus presumably
many subscribers to this list) considered John Kennedy's assassination a
personal as well as a national tragedy.  Bill is certainly entitled to think
such folks (myself included by the way) to be deluded fools, but should in
my opinion have known that his comment would be offensive to us.

My intent is not to flame Mr. Allen, besides which I gather he's an old hand
and probably wouldn't notice anyway.  Rather I am suggesting to the group
that we might all want to think about expressing political opinions on the
list the same way we have apparently been thinking about other off-subject
(non-engineering) posts.

It appears at least from the period I have been lurking that subscribers are
in agreement concerning the types of humor that are appropriate for the
list.  No one has posted jokes a reasonable subscriber would consider
obscene, racist or otherwise offensive.  In short, the internet standard of
self censorship appears to be working for humor.  I believe this is because
we are generally respectful of one another's feelings and, at least for
off-subject (non-engineering related) items, everyone recognizes that it
would be inappropriate to post a joke one knew was likely to be hurtful to
some or all of the subscribers.

Inclusiveness to facilitate free interchange of information regarding
structural engineering issues is important to the success of this list.
Posting items which do not pertain to structural engineering and which are
not only uninteresting to most subscribers (e.g., ads), but patently
offensive to some (e.g., goring of other people's sacred cows, as in Mr.
Allen's post) is contrary to this goal.  To pick on somebody else, imagine
our Kathleen O'Brien (Happy St. Patrick's day), a.k.a. Wildwoman, starts
posting really rude dirty jokes.  Some of those lurkers Dennis Wish is
trying to court are likely to be offended and will be pushed away.  One
could argue that if they can't take a joke to hell with them, but I think
our profession would be better served if we made room to accomodate both
prudes and Kennedy-lovers along with true Texans like Bill.

Drew Norman, S.E.
Drew A. Norman and Associates