"I categorically refuse to use a mail client that renders HTML by default -- why should I let every spammer in the universe know their mail got through?"
There are plenty of reasons to stay away from HTML mail, but this is not one of them. Most mailers which interpret HTML also provide an option to disallow the loading of external images, and most of them have that option set by default. So there should be no covert channels back to spammers.
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