1997-06-02 - e$: Beltway piglets and other barnyard animals

Header Data

From: Robert Hettinga <rah@shipwright.com>
To: cypherpunks@algebra.com
Message Hash: 074857e16a32bcbadd84407ac1931f6e19593fd71c9067a6ab37826d2c129a92
Message ID: <v03020922afb728ab90f3@[]>
Reply To: <v03102806afb650b3d40d@[]>
UTC Datetime: 1997-06-02 00:25:24 UTC
Raw Date: Mon, 2 Jun 1997 08:25:24 +0800

Raw message

From: Robert Hettinga <rah@shipwright.com>
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 1997 08:25:24 +0800
To: cypherpunks@algebra.com
Subject: e$: Beltway piglets and other barnyard animals
In-Reply-To: <v03102806afb650b3d40d@[]>
Message-ID: <v03020922afb728ab90f3@[]>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

At 9:05 pm -0400 on 5/31/97, Marc Rotenberg wrote:

> Keep me posted. If legislation is threatening a good technical
> solution, I'll be the first to blow the whistle.


The actual contribution of Mr. Rotenberg and his organization to the cause
of freedom on the net, in this country, and around the world, can be found
precisely in a competant analysis of above bit of semantic nonsense. That
is, it is nil, if not negative.

Given his past outrageous failures, and his persistant attempts to waste
whatever reputation he now has left, remarks like the above finally prove
the trust people had for him and the organizations he has run was
completely misplaced. A reputation, I might add, literally *donated* to him
by thousands of people and companies, who all believed in and trusted him
*personally* to keep the Uncle Sam the Inquisitor out of their lives on the
net. He has now squandered all of it with the demonstrable cluelessness
found in the above bit of self-serving emeticism.

First, he led EFF to ignominious defeat with the digital telephony bill,
and now, like some kind of political gremlin, emerging unscathed after
engineering *that* jumbo-jet plane crash, he starts up EPIC, where he
slipstreams no-brainer ACLU court cases like CDA to stay in the beltway
pelleton. Now, as if to demonstrate once and for all his utter moral and
legislative vacuity on the breakaway, he tries to "legislate" spam out of

As if such a Carrolesque tactic like criminalizing internet spam was
economically, much less physically possible at all. I'd laugh, if it
weren't the kind of low scientific comedy found in totalitarian
dictatorships the world over. "Scientists" like Lysenko come to mind, as
does Marx, for that matter.

Hell, I'm a congenital Republican myself, and I've lived in quite a few
yellow-dog Democratic towns, including the one where I now live. I love a
good neighborhood political pissing match as much as the next guy. However,
Mr. Rotenberg's cynicism, as betrayed by that remark, goes way beyond the
fine old tradition of American political gamesmanship, and points straight
to the heart of the cesspool that has become public life as we know it

That's because what we have evolved in this country is the ne plus ultra of
legislative sophistry, if not political fraud. (As if *that* phrase wasn't
already redundant...) If the ruling elite in this country was ever crazy
enough to turn the RICO statute on itself, EPIC would be behind bars, along
with Archer Daniels Midland, with the AARP, and all the other beltway
piglets, each of them  poking their little trotters into the eye of the
next one in line, hoping for a governmental sow's teat of their own to suck

Tim May has said it here before, but it bears repeating. The way a
"lobbyist" stays in business is to threaten an otherwise innocent group of
people with the power of real or imagined legislative coersion. The
"constituents" then pay extortion to the legislature in the form of
outright campaign contributions through a political action comittee, or by
showing up at "voluntary" fundraisers on behalf of collusionary
legislators, or through soft-dollar labor ("research", for instance) that
the lobbyist does for "free" on the legislator's behalf. The lobbyist takes
a commission on all this cashflow in the form of his salaries and operating
expenses. If the "constituent" is lucky, the legislation goes away until
more money is required, whereupon the extortion begins anew with more
trumped-up legislative excressance. This would be fine, I suppose, business
is business, except that the principal measure of *any* legislator's
performance (besides, of course, voting his most active supporters as much
largesse from the public trough as possible) is the *quantity* of
legislation he produces. I mean, you can't have a voting record if there's
nothing to vote on. So, the very best any "constituent" caught in this
racheting spiral of extortion can hope for is to slow the pace at which the
legal noose tightens around his neck. The Digital Telephony/CDA flap is a
prime example of this, and Mr. Rotenberg either was charitably an unwitting
dupe in this process, or, if one were to take a cynical turn of mind,
gleeful at its eventual effect on his bottom line.

Eventually, a businessman so afflicted with such parasitism goes out of
business unless he can afford to utterly corrupt the legislator into going
away permanently, which only works until the legislator retires. More
likely, the business simply gives up and begins to operate as a criminal
enterprize. Using the legislature to kill his business competition, maybe.
Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland do this with agricultural commodity
subsidies and hyperregulation, and the largest Florida sugar companies have
this down to a science. Remember what Milton Friedman said: increasing
government regulation only raises the barriers to market entry and thus
only benefits the survivors in the regulated industry -- never the
consumer. Rockefeller held on to his monopoly in oil just by paying the
government to look the other way when he did something other oil companies
were being punished for. Duke did the same thing with tobbacco.

I'll say it here so there's no confusion about the matter: "Anti-Trust" is
just another legislative shell-game, because *no* business monopoly can
exist without government collusion, usually from the legislative branch,
though the executive can always be had for a price as well. Bill Gates went
to Martha's Vinyard before the last election to talk to Comrade Bill, and,
guess what? No more antitrust action. Anyone want to wager on the size of
the contribution, legal or otherwise? Again, the threat of "Anti-trust"
action is just the way that governments tell the monopolies they've
colluded to create that their graft bill is past due.

Anyway, I *would* say that this kind of extortion by government and
lobbyists would probably fall under the RICO statute if it were ever used,
except, of course, the RICO statute itself is, after the constitutional
ammendment which permitted the creation of the Internal Revenue Service,
probably the single largest attack on freedom this country has ever seen.

So, what *can* be done about spam? Easy. Write code, not law. My bet is on
some form of digital postage, myself. $MTP, if you will. But, there's no
way to solve the problem of spam except by writing code, whatever solution
emerges eventually, and that's the crux of even the simplest analysis of
Mr. Rotenberg's statement at the top of this message.

Certainly any attempt by Mr. Rotenberg and his fellow barnyard residents to
impose legislative fantasy on top of the economic and physical reality of
the net is at best delusional Lysenkoism, and, at worst, political
parasitism in it's purest form.

In other words, Mr. Rotenberg, bunk.

Bob Hettinga

Robert Hettinga (rah@shipwright.com), Philodox
e$, 44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'
The e$ Home Page: http://www.shipwright.com/