non-censorous spam control (was Re: Spam is Information?)

Dr.Dimitri Vulis KOTM dlv at
Mon Aug 4 10:46:12 PDT 1997

I'm back from the weekend to a large quantity of unanswered e-mail
which I'll get to eventually. if you said something of interest in
the last week or so, I'll comment on it this week - I hope.

But first I'll rant and rave some more on the subject of payment for
physical transportation and the snail mail, with the payment for the
Internet in mind.

Adam Back <aba at> writes:

> William Geiger MLCVXII <whgiii at> writes:
> > In <199707311120.MAA00669 at>, on 07/31/97 
> > >  at 12:20 PM, Adam Back <aba at> said:
> > >
> > >One way to implement this is for other people to pay the author for their
> > >articles a penny if they like the article.  That way people who write
> > >things which others find interesting to read get subsidized posting.  Is
> > >it still free speech if you have to pay for your posts if you're arguing
> > >for an unpopular minority?
> > 
> > This will not work!!!
> > 
> > Charging for e-mail/news posts will do nothing to prevent spam and
> > more than likely increase the noise on such lists. It is the spamers
> > who have the money to post volumns of their crap.

As I think I pointed out before, the "spammers" would be more willing to
spend money to post than the folks who just talk and answer questions.
I wouldn't answer questions on comp.unix.questions if I had to pay to
do that. Any scheme that requires the poster to pay will dampen signal
more than it will damped the noise and thus worsed the signal to noise ratio.

> For email spam I disagree.  I currently get 10 spams a day or so.  All
> as a result of one unprotected post to a USENET group a few weeks
> back.  Before that I hadn't posted to USENET for a while and the spams
> had nearly died down.
> If the spammer had to pay 1c for each spam, he'd be out of business
> with his current scatter gun approach.  He'd have to get a lot more
> selective, because it would be in his commercial interests to do so.

I've been getting dramatically less junk e-mail sent to the addresses which
I placed on the various "removal" lists. (Maybe 1 or 2 / day, vs 10-20 on
the 'control" ones.)
> > Also I think you will find that it will be the fanatics who
> > will think it worth the $$$ to get their message out.
> Fine by me, so long as they're paying their way, the NoCems from a
> reliable rating service will take care of them.
> You have more of a point in newsgroups, or mailing lists as the
> spammer only has to make one post.
> Charging for posts in that scenario only makes sense to stop people
> who spew multiple mega-bytes of robo-spam just to be annoying, and for
> no commercial gain at all.
> NoCems are the real answer to public forums.  Spammers will feel less
> incentive to spam when it becomes clear most people have them filtered
> out anyway.
> > While I find the various mailling lists & newsgroups of intrest the
> > majority of them are not thet intresting that I would be willing to pay
> > $$$ every time I post a reply to someones questions (most of my posts
> > outside of CP are answering questions on programming,crypto, & OS/2). I
> > think that the overall quality of the newsgroups would decline if you
> > started paying on a per-post basis.
> Surely you aren't that prolific a writer that 1c a post would
> be a burden on you?
> I make what 20 posts a day at peak?  Often 1 or none some days.
> > It should be noted that the Bandwith issue is a red-herring. It is an
> > antiquated concept from the Fidonet days and does not apply. The bandwith
> > of the USENET has been *PAID IN FULL* by every subscriber to an ISP. The
> > ISP customers pay for their connections to their ISP who in turn pay for
> > their connections to the Access providers who inturn pay for the Backbone.
> > The PIPE has been paid for what goes over it not an issue. If all I want
> > to do with my T1 connection is ship *.jpg files via ftp 24/7 that is no
> > ones busines but my own. If I chooses to use my bandwith to transmit a
> > variety of file formats using various protocols
> > (HTTP,FTP,GOFFER,ARCHIE,...ect) who are you to say that some formats are
> > good and some are not!! (this is not even getting into the content of the
> > data being shiped).
> That's interesting, and probably true, but still bandwidth is limited,
> see.  It is entirely possible for some idiots to consume vastly more
> than their share of the shared pipe.
> Probably what you're saying is that you like a lot of other "power
> users" myself included use more bandwidth than the average neophyte.
> So you're in favor of flat charges because it represents a good deal
> for you.
> Get me on a T1 and I use it, man.  Hmm, I'll just upgrade to gcc 2.7.x
> (10 megs later) and then I'll upgrade the OS (another 50 megs later),
> and so the day gos on.  Bandwidth hog.
> Sitting on the end of this pay per second 28.8k PPP line really cramps
> my style :-) I've started buying linux CD sets, and upgrading OS less
> frequently.  I'm still on X32a (for linux people) even though it's
> expired and tried to disable it's self, I've hacked around the
> disablement (set the clock back 2 months for a couple of seconds while
> it's starting, and then forward again part way through seems to fix
> it) because I don't fancy the cost of 10 megs at 28.8k, nor the
> hassle.
> Now I would be pretty happy to spend $500 - $1500 a year for a 64k
> leased line, or at least for a flat rate phone bill.  But nooo you
> can't get that in the UK.  You're looking at more like $10k once
> you've factored in leased line + bandwidth leasing.

Bill G wrote that the payment for (non-toll) roads is flat. This
isn't quite true. You see, the more you use a road, the more gasoline
you use up. When you buy gasoline, a very substantial portion of its
price are the taxes imposed by varous gubmint entities. A "toll-free"
road still brings revenues when it's used - the more traffic, the more
gas is burned, the more gas is bought, the more tax is paid. The funds
raised from gasoline taxes are supposed to be earmarked for highway
repairs and new construction.  Thus, the gubmint taxes you for every
mile you drive. Owners with less "fuel-efficient" cars are taxed more
heavily. All miles are equal, whether you drive on an interstate or
around your own backyard.  Tolls come in when the gubmint wants to
make a certain mile "more equal" than the other miles. E.g. in New
York City it costs $7 to cross the Verazzano bridge from Brooklyn
to Staten Island, but if you live on Staten Island, you can get a
discount. (By the way, this toll is used to subsidize the subway, 
which doesn't even go to Staten Island.)

Of course the U.S. highway infrastructure isn't getting adequate
maintenance anyway and is failing at an increasing rate.

The New York City subways/buses are an example of a true flat rate. 
Last months the system changed so that if you use a little plastic
card to pay your fare instead of the traditional token, you can
change for free between buses and subways.  Thus, someone who lives
and works in Manhattan and takes a subway for 1 or 2 stops pays the
same $1.50 as someone who takes the subway from Manhattan to the
outskirts of Queens and then changes to a bus. The argument is that
once the infrastructure is in place, the incremental cost of carrying
one more passenger doesn't depend much on how far he's going. The
real reason is that the users who benefit from this fare structure
are much more likely to vote Republican than the users who
subsidize them. :-) And NYC subways are still in a much worse shape
than the public transportation in cities where the fare depends on
the length of the trip (like Washington, DC, or London) or is
artificially low and can't cover the costs (like Moscow).

I might as well remind those still reading this rant that the reason
why NYC subways fell into such disrepair was political. When 3 private
companies built competing underground railroad systems in NYC in late
19th/early 20th century, they each charged a flat 5c for a ride and
had sufficient revenue for maintenance, new construction, and dividends
to the investors. Unfortunately, USD like any other currency is
subject to inflation. When the 3 companies tried to raise their fares
to match their rising costs, the New York City and State politicians
didn't let them. To keep the subway fare at 5c was the standard
promise of every politician running for NYC mayor in the first half
of the century. The subway companies were forced to operate at a loss
and were happy to turn over their trains to the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority - a piece of gubmint controlled by New York
State. Now that the gubmint owns the subways, the fares have been
rising much faster than the inflation. (I remember when the subway
cost 50c on a weekday, 25c on a weekend.) However the years of
neglect (blamed on the lack of capital) have left the subways in
a much worse shape, and the repairs are likely to cost more than
regular maintenance would have. (Just like the U.S. highway

And the cost of collecting the fares is a substantial one. (This is
also the case with long distance telephone calls - I believe that
flat-rate service, not wasting any resources on keeping track how
long a particular user has used a circuit, will prevail eventually.)
E.g. the MTA just spent close to $1B on installing new turnstiles
with card readers. Most users of New York City subways already pay
a special city income tax (not that I like it). Wouldn't it be more
"efficient" to make the subways "free", and to collect the funds
for running the subways from the "general" city and state taxes?
(Using taxes is the socialist solution; letting a private company
charge a flat fee for unlimited usage, if it so chooses, is the
efficient free market solution.)

Now on the subject of snail mail: someone asked why USPS is in the
business of censoring content (e.g. pyramid schemes). USPS has been
in this business for a long time. It refuses to deliver "obscene"
content, and in the past refused to deliver "birth control"
information (to a consenting recipient) judging it to be obscene.
Not too long ago USPS used to raid "competing" services, such
as FedEx, examine the contents of the letters, judge that they
weren't sufficiently "urgent" and should have sent via 1st class
mail (USPS's gubmint-granted monopoly), and harrass the sender
and the recipient. Not too long ago USPS seriously proposed
charging 1st class postage any time a fax machine was used.

Is USPS's postage "flat"? Obviously, they charge per piece of mail.
However is costs the same 32c to smail a first-class envelope under
a certain weight from Queens to Brooklyn or to Hawaii. Obviously, it
takes much more effort to deliver such a letter to HI than to Brooklyn.
The European tradition was to charge according to the distance the
letter was supposed to travel. I recall reading that in late 19th
century USPS simply did not deliver to rural areas - the farmer was
supposed to travel to his nearest post office to collect the mail.
There was a political battle in U.S. Congress, with "free rural
delivery" being the slogan of the politicians representing the
states with a lot of farmers, while the ones from the more urban
states did not want their contituents to subsidize the obviously
expensive rural delivery. Eventually the farmers won, resulting
in the birth of "mail order" industry - companies mass-mailing
catalogs and delivering good by mail (such as Sears), who were
in fact subsidized by the city dwellers who had to pay the same
postage to deliver a package across town than Sears paid to
deliver its catalog across the Great Plains.

It costs USPS much more to deliver an envelope with a handwritten
address than one with an OCR-readable address. That's why the senders
of "junk mail" (pre-sorted, with OCR-ready labels) are said to
subsidize the senders who scribble something on an envelope - even
though the "bulk" postage is less than "first class". USPS has
been talking about various schemes so people who mail a single
envelope with an OCR-ready address would get a smaller postage
hike than the "scribblers".

I'm not sure what all this means in terms of flat vs. metered
Internet fees, so in closing I'll rant about the pyramid schemes,
"airplane games", "earn money stuffing envelopes" scams, et al.
No gubmint should be in the business of declaring them to be
"illegal" any more than they should be declaring pornography, 
bomb-making  recipes, religious propaganda, or crypto programs
to be "illegal". 

You may recall that the first wide-known pyramid scheme was run
buy a chap named Ponzi in Boston. He collected money from 
"investors", and said he expected to pay back a handsome return
based on some "postal orders" business. He did in fact pay the
promised returns to the early invesors using the funds collected
from the later investors, until the rate at which he had to
pay out the old investors exceeded the rate at which he was
getting new investors. Ponzi was arrested, convicted of "fraud"
(because he was claiming that the returns came from "postal
orders" when in fact they didn't), spend a brief time in jail,
then moved to Florida where he made lots of money on the real
easte boom.

A similar scheme in Russia by an organizaton called "MMM", run 
by the Mavrodi bothers, left a large number of "investors"
holding the bag. Interestingly, one of the Mavrodi brothers
is now in Russian jail (awaiting trial), and the other one is
still running a pyramid scheme: he accepts "voluntary donations"
from an investor, in return for a "voluntary donation" at a later
date whose amount and time are not guaranteed and depend on
the "donations" collected from others. The Russian government
does not shut down Mavrodi's latest operation so far, claiming
it's not "fraud" since he doesn't misrepresent the source of
his returns nor the risks involved. Reportedly so far he's
getting oodles of investors and pretty good returns. Eventually
of course his scheme will collapse, but the "investors" who
got in and out early enough will have made good money.

A similar scheme recently brought down the government of Albania.
Reportedly the investors who got in late in the game and didn't
get the returns they expected (or actually lost their investments)
demanded that the gubmint reimburse them for their losses (by
taxing the money from the more intelligent Albanians). When
the idiots want the gubmint to protect them from their own
idiocy, the gubmint happily uses this excuse to screw not only
those who would fleece the idiots, but everyone.

The obvious moral of this extra-long rant is that gubmint of any
kind is a root of all evil and Kent Crispin sounds like a pedophile.


Dr.Dimitri Vulis KOTM
Brighton Beach Boardwalk BBS, Forest Hills, N.Y.: +1-718-261-2013, 14.4Kbps

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