Computer Underground Digest Volume 2, Issue #2.08 (October 20, 1990)

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

**************************************************************************** >C O M P U T E R U N D E R G R O U N D< >D I G E S T< *** Volume 2, Issue #2.08 (October 20, 1990) ** **************************************************************************** MODERATORS: Jim Thomas / Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@NIU.bitnet) ARCHIVISTS: Bob Krause / Alex Smith USENET readers can currently receive CuD as COMPUTER UNDERGROUND DIGEST is an open forum dedicated to sharing information among computerists and to the presentation and debate of diverse views. CuD material may be reprinted as long as the source is cited. It is assumed that non-personal mail to the moderators may be reprinted, unless otherwise specified. Readers are encouraged to submit reasoned articles relating to the Computer Underground. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ DISCLAIMER: The views represented herein do not necessarily represent the views of the moderators. Contributors assume all responsibility for assuring that articles submitted do not violate copyright protections. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ CONTENTS: File 1: Moderators' Corner File 2: From the Mailbag File 3: Prodigy, Problems, and Censorship File 4: Censorship on the Nets File 5: PC's & Political Action ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ ---------------------------------------------------------------------- ******************************************************************** *** CuD #2.08, File 1 of 5: Moderator's corner *** ******************************************************************** From: Moderators Subject: Moderators' Corner Date: October 20, 1990 ++++++++++ In this file: 1. RIGGS SENTENCING 2. NEW FTP SITE +++++++++++++++ Riggs Sentencing +++++++++++++++ Sentencing of Robert Riggs has again been postponed for administrative reasons. Sentencing has been rescheduled for November 16 in Atlanta. We are told that both delays are fairly routine and administrative and not the result of any snags or surprises in the case. +++++++++++++ Additional CuD FTP Site +++++++++++++ A second ftp site for CuD archives will be available within a week, which should increase the ease of obtaining back issues and other documents. We **URGE** readers who come across conference papers or other information that others would find helpful to pass them along so we can add them to the archives. We assume that, because the bulk of the readers are professionals, that many attend and present papers at conferences. If you are one of these, please send along your papers. ******************************************************************** >> END OF THIS FILE << *************************************************************************** ------------------------------ From: Various Contributors Subject: From the Mailbag Date: October 20, 1990 ******************************************************************** *** CuD #2.08: File 2 of 5: From the Mailbag *** ******************************************************************** From: groundzero@TRONSBOX.XEI.COM Subject: ATI and bounced mail Date: Oct 15 '90 Ati #51 has been sent out, and anyone who hasn't received it yet should email me again with an alternate address. About 10 addresses bounced back when I tried to mail ATI to them. Alt.society.ati has been created and people can read ATI that way instead of having it mailed to them. ATI's editors can be reached at: groundzero@TRONSBOX.XEI.COM +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ From: Toxic Shock Group Comments: New user Date: Thu, 18 Oct 90 12:11:47 EDT I was surprised at the voluminous amounts of mail we received because of the article I submitted to CuD (#2.07, file 7) recently... However, I was even more surprised at the number of people asking about subscriptions and what have you to the publication "Toxic Shock." "What we have here is a failure to communicate." Toxic Shock is a group, *NOT* a publication. We write text files in which we give our views/opinions, and sometimes just have fun. We occasionally send out a newsletter entitled The Flaming Fetus, which is essentially an electronic newsletter. It is put out on a *VERY* irregular schedule right now... We DO want new members/writers, and we DO try to educate, inform, and piss off, but we do this through our text files and the occasional newsletter. We do not have the finances available to make an actual magazine for our views (but would gladly do so if the finances were available to us, hint hint), and our views are probably not the kind that the government would allow to be printed for very long. I hope this clears up the misunderstanding...It was an easy mistake... -Bloody Afterbirth- +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ From: gilham@CSL.SRI.COM(Fred Gilham) Subject: Re: Professional Crackers Date: 21 Sep 90 15:26:46 GMT To: EFF-NEWS@NETSYS.COM Mike Godwin writes: >I was at a bookstore on Saturday that had a $55 book called COMPUTER CRIME >(it may be a textbook). In looking through the book, which is aimed at >system administrators, MIS guys, and the heads of small businesses, I >noticed no references at all to the kinds of young explorers we often >"hackers" or "crackers." Instead, the the book seemed based on the a priori >proposition that ALL of the computer crime that sysadmins would be dealing >with would be of the intercorporate or disgruntled employee sort. The >book's copyright date was 1989. Several authors argue that the major financial impact of computer crime comes from inside jobs. In the March 1990 Communications of the ACM, the president's letter has the following example: Take for example the case of Harold Smith and Sammie Marshall. Between 1976 and 1981, they embezzled $21.3 million from Wells Fargo Bank. The fraud was nothing but standard old check kiting. Check kiting is cashing a check on an account whose only deposit is a check that has not cleared yet and then covering the draft on the other account with another rubber check from the first bank, which is covered by a rubber check from the second bank, etc. etc. This can go on indefinitely. It is a game that anyone can play. A major national brokerage house was recently fined by the federal government for doing the same thing on a massive scale. Smith and Marshall played the game from inside the bank. Instead of using ordinary checks, they used the bank's branch settlement system to keep a steadily growing mountain of fraud in circulation within the branch settlement system. You'd have to make a lot of free phone calls to match that. -- Fred Gilham ******************************************************************** >> END OF THIS FILE << *************************************************************************** ------------------------------ From: Karl Lehenbauer Subject: Prodigy, Problems, and Censorship Date: Sun, 30 Sep 90 12:08:43 CDT ******************************************************************** *** CuD #2.08: File 3 of 5: Prodigy, Problems, and Censorship *** ******************************************************************** {The following author responded to a netnote by warning of the problems of holding sysops liable for the message content of their systems. He raises a number of important issues, especially the danger of censorship if corporations or other groups feel the need to restrict the substance on "open systems" (moderators)} ++++++++++++ If sysops were held liable for message content, it would be the end of Usenet. Further, it would have a chilling effect on free speech via bulletin boards. As a sysop, I would have to be very careful to never allow anything out that was in the least bit controversial, and would always want to err on the side of not allowing a message to go out unless I was really sure there was no chance of me getting in trouble for it. Shouldn't the poster of the message be accountable for its contents? Or by this reasoning, shouldn't the phone company have to listen to *all* the phone conversations going on at any time to make sure nothing illicit was being said, done or planned? They tried this in Eastern Europe, you know. Further, this would be a new and time-consuming burden on sysops and introduce potentially long delays in messages getting out. If a sysop let a bad message go out and it was gatewayed to a bunch of other machines, or one was forged or somehow illicitly injected into the network, by this reasoning wouldn't the owner/sysops of all the machines the message went to be liable? If that were the case, it would definitely be the end, because nobody has the resources to monitor, for example, all the traffic on the Usenet. I used Prodigy several times, and it is a heavily censored system, i.e. Prodigy's censors examine every article posted before it goes into the message base, and people on it were complaining that the censors were capricious, arbitrary and would not state reasons why specific articles had been censored. Not only is there nothing like talk.religion.*, talk.politics.*, soc.motss on Prodigy (they dropped a forum in which fundamentalist Christians and homosexuals and homosexual rights advocates were going at it, although they claimed it was for a different reason), but you can't even mention or talk about most products by name because advertising is a big part of their revenue base (about 20% of your display is permanently dedicated to advertising when using it -- ads are continually updated in this area the whole time you're on) and they don't want anyone to get free advertising. Consequently messages of the "Yeah, I bought a Frobozz 917 and it works really well" are censored. If this is IBM's view of the future of personal electronic communications (Prodigy is a joint-venture of IBM and Sears), and there is every reason to believe it is since this is what they chose to provide, it is a bleak future indeed. (The reason they do this, I think, is that Prodigy is supposed to be a "family" system. Under your one account you can set up logins for your other family members. So they don't want anything in there that some kid is going to read. But that restricts everything on the system to a very low common denominator, namely that every message must be so inoffensive that *nobody* is going to be offended by it... and that is censorship. This occured a few months ago and I am not aware of their current policies. It's also worth mentioning that they're giving away free subscription kits and maybe a month free to everyone who buys a PS/1. Another complaint I have about their system that isn't relevant to a censorship posting but is still worth mentioning is how incredibly clunky and limiting their interface is. While it is cool that you run their terminal program software when accessing their system (so displays are cached, it displays graphics, etc), the interface is totally closed in terms of being able to get a piece of data off their system and onto your disk. No downloads, no stock quotes pulled into your spreadsheet... You can copy it by hand from your display or print it on your printer, and that's it. ******************************************************************** >> END OF THIS FILE << *************************************************************************** ------------------------------ From: Moderators Subject: Censorship on the Nets Date: Sat, 13 Oct 90 02:44 CDT ******************************************************************** *** CuD #2.08: File 4 of 5: Comment on Censorship and BBSs *** ******************************************************************** The previous author raised serious questions about censorship. What are the dangers when a large corporation, one that might be intimidated by advertisers or other external powers, assumes control or excessive influence over a system? If university systems allow free and unconstrained dialogue across the nets, there is likely to be substantive content that some find objectionable. When posters resort to racially derogatory posts, invoke the "seven words" prohibited by the FCC, or exchange materials that, for example, a major government agency finds unacceptable, should that university restrict access by users or the content of material? Those who subscribe to many of the various hotlines or news groups have seen content that goes well beyond that generally tolerated by most of us. Generally, problems are readily dealt with informally. But, what happens when pressure comes from an external source? In the MARS incident, the NSF flexed its fiscal muscles (according to those on the receiving end). The following two posts excerpted from MARS are typical of the response of those who may not appreciate some material but who find censorship even more objectionable: The gifs were obviously deleted. I am not sorry to see them gone either. The MARS hotel was shut down because of complaints about "offensive" pictures on this bbs. (Or at least that was the latest from my source.) Frankly, I don't care if they are here or not, I just don't see why people are complaining about them. If you don't like them, then don't look. (IGNORE IT!!!!) I also don't like the idea of the university having to censor this board to suit the narrow-minded leanings of a few people who evidently have nothing better to do than hunt for stuff to come down on. Just my two cents worth. +++++++++++++++++++++++++ I see that the repulsive head of CENSORSHIP has raised it's ugly head once more. I thought the dark ages were over but apparently a few still cling to the past. If these pictures were offensive to anyone then all that had to be done was ignore them. To impose ones views on a group of people simple because YOU think it is wrong is tantmount to hitler slaughtering the jews because they weren't his TYPE oF SUPREME BEING. Again i am sorry that CENSORSHIP found its way into another democratic haven of society but alas it will always be found where the residents don't conform to the STANDARDS of the MORAL MAJORITY ( i use the term sarcasticly). ++++++++++++++++++++++ According to posts and conversations, Washington University (in St. Louis) has also experienced problems. The following note was posted on MARS and summarizes the response to the apparent intrusion of net-censors: ++++(Begin post)++++ Ok users, has also been forced to remove all their r,x-rated GIFS! this is why: ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ README ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Questions have been raised regarding the appropriateness of maintaining this material as part of a university archive and making the material available over the NSF network. The material has been removed pending the outcome of an investigation. If your organization uses this material for academic or research purposes, and would be willing to provide written evidence for our investigation, please send e-mail to Please read the file 'WHY' to get an unofficial explanation of what's going on. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ WHY ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ This all started in February 1990 when the Washington University Chancellor's Office received a letter from an irate individual who claimed that Washington University was committing a grave offense by making available a collection of GIF pictures which more-or-less explicitly depicted sexual acts (as implied by the name of the directory). The claims included things such as aiding and abetting sexual harassment, misuse of resources, unprofessional conduct, and placing `obviously unethical' individuals in a position of trust. The reaction of the Chancellor's Office was "Please let us know what is going on, this must be replied to..." The ball was passed on the the Office of the Network Coordinator, which owns and operates wuarchive. After a long series of "we don't want to be involved in censorship" statements by everyone involved, an investigation was launched into the legal ramifications of making such material available. What it comes down to is this: 1) Making the material available is perfectly legal, according to the University's legal counsel (they cited 1-900 numbers as an excellent example). 2) These GIF pictures are hardly the highest priority material in the archives, and resources would be devoted to them only as long as they didn't interfere with the more valuable services. 3) University personnel were not involved in the maintenance of this section of the archives. The GIF archives are entirely maintained by a student of another University. 4) We can't make the material available unless we can show that it has some academic or research value. All sites which join the Internet must sign a contract which states, in part, that all use of the Internet will be in support of research or education. It is the feeling that virtually all of the material in the archives could be justified except the R_X_rated GIFs. *ALL* of the people who work with the archives *EMPHATICALLY* do NOT support censorship in any form. However, we are bound by the contracts our employers have signed regarding this matter. If you are a professor at an institution of higher learning, or a legitimate researcher, and feel that this material would be useful for your teaching or research, please send a letter ON UNIVERSITY OR CORPORATE LETTERHEAD to this address: Washington University Office of the Network Coordinator One Brookings Drive Campus Box 1048 Saint Louis, MO 63130-4899 USA If you are a student or individual in a non-academic or non-research position, PLEASE don't waste our time... The archivers put a lot of personal time into keeping wuarchive one of the best archives in the world and we don't appreciate being called names or spending our time reading junk mail. Be aware that if you DO write a letter supporting this material, you may one day be called upon to support your position. It is a very sensitive issue and will undoubtedly some day be considered by highly-placed government officials, and subjected to public scrutiny. Signed, The Maintainers of Wuarchive ++++(End Post)++++ We have not yet had the chance to look into the WU situation or to dig out information on other systems that have had similar problems. The above examples deal with x/r-rated material, which some may find an issue not sufficiently important to worry about. There is, of course, a sticky area in making freely available adult-oriented contents that are accessibility by juveniles. But, the issue is *NOT* cyber-porn! Rather, it is one of how e-space shall be controlled, if at all. Who determines what shall be permitted and what shall not be? Can a few angry letters to a federal bureaucrat invoke threats of fiscal blackmail? Should there be an appeals process? Can an angry letter in one state be justification to censor materials in another? Recent federal prosecutions and application of RICO to close down an entire establishment, upheld this week by the U.S. Supreme Court, has serious implications for BBS sysops. It would seem that officials could confiscate the equipment of a sysop who maintained adult .gif/.gl files. We have also seen in other prosecutions who "wire fraud" and other inter-state "crimes" can be cleverly used to bring criminal charges that far exceed the alleged wrong-doing. The issue confronting modemists is that of how statutes will be enacted and enforced in the coming decade. The logic underlying intrusion into boards that contain adult material can also be applied to other material as well. The questions is not whether we support "pornography," but whether cyber-space shall be free or whether it shall be regulated. A recent article in the Federal Communications Law Journal (E. Jensen, "An Electronic Soapbox: Computer Bulletin Boards and the First Amendment," Vol. 39: 217-258) raised the spectre of "licensing" BBSs. Although this is not currently a realistic option, the potential risks of such an approach, and others that restrict freedom of communication across the lines, should be met head-on and not after restrictive laws or policies are in effect. It seems that government controls over e-space are creeping slowly into electronic communications in ways that, if done in other media would invoke immediate public outrage. Until early 1990, there has been no organized constituency to lobby for legislative changes or to guard against the inflammatory rhetoric of *some* officials and journalists. In the past six months, modemists have become more aware of the potential problems in the electronic frontier and have mobilized. Although EFF and CPSR have received most of the attention, other individuals and groups have also been active in organizing conferences, delivering lectures, or in just contributing to the dialogues about the problems of creating a responsible modem community on one hand and preventing unnecessary governmental encroachment on the other. The bottom line is that this is *NOT* a "computer problem." It is a POLITICAL problem, and PC/modem users should recognize that unless they become politically involved, the new frontier may be quickly closed. Among many others, Jim Warren has been active in developing political strategies to address many of these issues. In the following file Jim raises a number of crucial points. ******************************************************************** >> END OF THIS FILE << *************************************************************************** ------------------------------ From: well!jwarren@APPLE.COM(Jim Warren) Subject: pc's & political action Date: Sat, 13 Oct 90 16:04:10 pdt ******************************************************************** *** CuD #2.08: File 5 of 5: PC's and Political Action *** ******************************************************************** Jim Thomas recently asked me to write about computers and political action. This is a slightly edited version of materials I wrote for a recent online interview on the WELL -- Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link -- in Sausalito CA. -- Jim Warren,, (415)851-7075/voice LOCAL & NATIONAL POLITICAL POWER THROUGH PERSONAL COMPUTING Most folks feel powerless to change the direction of public and political events around them -- in their town, state or their nation. In fact, using computers, we can have political impact far beyond what is otherwise possible for most "middle-income" individuals. I state this from repeated personal experience and success. Here are some suggestions: First, I need to review some essential "modern math" that every successful politician knows by heart. Thereafter, I'll give specific examples of its application, greatly empowered by computer usage. POLITICIANS' BASIC ARITHMETIC An illustrative hypothetical: Consider a voting district of, say, 600,000 population -- perhaps a city-wide or county-wide district. More than likely about half of its population will be of voting age AND registered to vote. Therefore: 600,000 population = 300,000 registered voters But, only 40%-70% will vote (low-end for local and school board elections; high-end for tight Presidential and Gubernatorial elections). Therefore: 300,000 registered voters = 120,000 to 210,000 actual voters Now, the goodie! Most elections for an open seat are won by less than a 5% margin. And, almost all "professional" politicians will run for several open seats during their political career. (Even if they are an incumbent, now, they plan to run for a higher open seat, later.) Therefore: 120,000 voters = 6,000 swing-vote for a minor election 210,000 voters = 10,500 swing-vote for a major or Presidential election But, if there are only two candidates, only one half of the swing vote needs to be switched from one candidate to the other. Therefore: In a 2-candidate race for an open seat in a district of 600,000-population, *YOU* need only affect 3,000-5,250 votes to change the election. That is, a single individual need only switch 1/2-to-1 percent of the voters. Your power becomes even greater when there are more than two candidates. And, all of these figures scale, up or down, for the size of *your* target-of-interest, uh, District. And, there's a hueristic for which there is less objective proof: One person, actively interested in an election, will critically influence 20 voters -- if the person does no more than pursue casual political discussion in the course of normal business and social interaction. Aside: Perhaps the definitive periodical for practical politiking is CAMPAIGNS & ELECTIONS, published 7 times yearly, $29.95/year, C&E, 1835 K St NW Suite 403, Washington DC 20006. It has carried a "Campaigns & Computers" section for about ten years or more. This is the BYTE Magazine of effective political action. [For those who want to accomplish political change; not just bitch about it.] POLITICAL ACTION: TUTORIAL PREFACE The uniform wisdom among political campaign managers is that the following are effective campaign tools -- listed in approximate order of importance: 0. Face-to-face contact, by candidate or supporter, door to door and in public places. Yeah, I know, I wouldn't do it, either -- mentioned, here, only for completeness as *the* most effective thing someone can do. 1. "Dear friend" notes and cards, distributed by candidates' supporters to people who know the writer. I.e., the best advertising is still word-of- mouth recommendations from someone you know -- even though they may be the mildest of aquaintences. ("This guy, Charlie somebody, told me a Yugo was *much* better than a Honda, and ...") [2. Candidate statements included in ballot materials. These optional statements have a word limit, are written by the candidates (i.e., they have broad latitude in, uh, "accuracy"), and their printing costs are shared equally among the candidates choosing to have such statements distributed as part of the official ballot materials. These are the most read by voters and are given the greatest credence by the voters -- in spite of the fact that they are candidates' "un-refereed" statements. This is something an outside activist can't do, except possibly in the FOR and AGAINST statements for a ballot initiative. It's something over which outsiders have no control. Mentioned for completeness and importance.] 3. Directly-distributed materials -- letters, brochures, leaflets, etc. (Hot pads and videotapes have been interesting tools in recent elections.) These are usually distributed by direct-mail, but are also commonly distrib- uted by hand, door to door. 4. Television advertising can be powerful, but only for creating emotional bias -- for or against. And, it ain't for average-income folks. 5. Radio advertising runs a distant fifth, and is often considered almost useless outside of drive-time ads -- which are costly. Not for citizen activists -- though call-in's to talk-shows can be effective. 6. Signs and posters are uniformly considered to be almost completely useless except for encouraging the candidate's volunteer campaign workers -- who want to see 'em and want to display 'em. Ditto for lapel buttons. Junk! I.e., effective political action hinges on targeted communications with/to large numbers of people. [Surprise! Politics involves people!] "Target" and "large numbers" imply that computers are applicable. And how! [Please note: Anyone who recognizes these political realities has more potential political power than those who are unaware of them. Anyone who utilizes this information enhances their political power in comparison to those who fail to use 'em. All of it takes work and effort; most of it can be used by rich and poor, alike; none of it requires computers -- but much of it can be greatly enhanced by computer-assistance.] EFFECTIVE CITIZEN/POLITICAL ACTION #1: "DEAR FRIEND ..." Send out *lots* of "Dear friend" cards or notes. They can be very brief -- little more than, "I support XXX and hope you will, too." And, the need your [apparantly original] signature. If the recipient's likely to at least vaguely remember your name, it's worth sending 'em a note. The note or message can be printed from original copy -- typewritten is perhaps best; legible *brief* hand-written notes are probably second best (which can still be xeroxed or quick-copy printed); fancy typeset notes are least effective for communications intended to have a personal flavor. (Dear friends don't typeset notes to dear friends!) COMPUTER-ASSISTED CREATION & DISTRIBUTION Of *course*, you maintain your personal and business address book on your personal computer -- making addressing easy. And your letter-quality or lasersetter can crank out the notes -- and have 'em seem highly individualized! (Folks know about form letters -- but not from friends and aquaintences.) A computer greatly enhances this political power over the alternative of hand-writing or hand-typing -- more productivity per unit of time or effort. EFFECTIVE CITIZEN/POLITICAL ACTION #2: MASS DISTRIBUTION OK -- you contacted your friends (both of 'em, heh!), but want to have a still greater impact. I mean *serious* impact! POWER OF THE [PRINTING] PRESS Remember that directly-distributed written materials remain one of the most effective tools for campaigning -- distributed by hand, or by mail. Such materials from anyone *other* than the candidates and their campaign committees -- clearly identified as "independent" -- are even *more* effective. So: Write and distribute your own note, letter, leaflet, newsletter or tabloid newspaper. Cover your neighborhood ("My family and I live nearby and feel this is so important that we've hand-delivered this to you. ..."). Distrib- ute it to your business clients. *If* it is a sufficiently sincere and effectively written item, you might risk putting it on automobile wind- shields (the risk is recipients' irratation factor; But, I used to paper Silicon Valley with "Windshield Editions" of the Silicon Gulch Gazette and received *no* complaints -- to my considerable amazement). Finally, round up the loot and blitz-mail it throughout the voting district you want to impact. Do it as a newsletter or tabloid newspaper. Businesses sympathetic to your "cause" can be significant underwriters of the expense, by placing advertisements -- and writing 'em off as a business expense. But, all that takes a minor but serious publishing operation. POWER OF THE [COMPUTER} PRESS **Desktop publishing on personal computers *greatly* empower such efforts.** TARGETING PROBLEM However, this is a "shotgun" approach. Figure about half the homes you reach won't have a resident who goes and votes. That means lots of time wasted if doing hand distribution; or ~50-cents per useful contact by mail -- before the next postage-rate hike. PERSONAL COMPUTER TARGETING SOLUTIONS So far, people can get the lists of registered voters from the Registrar of Voters -- in [marginally useful] paper form or [powerful!] computerized form (magtape, floppies, perhaps online -- depends on the budget and service orientation of the Registrar). PRIVACY ADVOCATES, BEWARE! God help us if and when those who are in power prohibit citizen access to such essential citizen-action information -- probably enacting such prohibitions under the guise of "privacy protection". Don't want to bother them voters with any o' that distrubing information from non-incumbants. ;-) COMPUTER *POWER* FOR THE PEOPLE With the voter reg data in your computer, you can generate "walking order" lists of voters and their addresses. This allows neighborhood leafleting volunteers to expend their limited time and energy efficiently. The voter reg data, of course, forms a mailing list base -- trivially processed to limit only to favorable party registrants, addresses/areas, perhaps age groups (information often in the lists), etc. Merge-purged with other lists of interest, the utility per piece of literature-n-postage can be further enhanced. COMMUNITY & HOMEOWNER/RENTER EMPOWERMENT When I fought for equitable, community-oriented treatment of mountain and rural residents and homeowners in unincorporated San Mateo County, I used the County's property assessment lists, in electronic form -- public records, rightfully so. Each parcel record indicated name and address of the owner -- the first-cut mailing list. Many lived outside the County; deleted to reduce useless mailings. Homeowner exemptions were flagged -- which I used for mailings targeted for homeowners. Those flagged as having residential improvements but without homeowner flags were targets for material concerning renter interests. When I wanted to address property-based voter-action, the logical intersection of voter and assessor lists produced a powerful target list. For construction-related issues, I added the state lists of licensed building contractors, real estate brokers, and real estate salespeople. These records are available in many states *by law*. PUBLIC RECORDS POWER At least in California, all these records are open to the public under the State's *potent* Public Records Act, and -- by explicit terms of that Act -- copies are available for no more than the direct cost of duplication. Further refinements -- power enhancements -- are possible by marrying different versions of these records over time (longer-term residents, more experienced builders, brokers, etc.). PUBLIC RECORDS CAVEAT One fly that occasionally appears in California's public records availabil- ity ointment: Because the Public Records Act is vague on the issue, some repressive agencies respond to requests for copies -- which they must furnish -- by offering only paper copies. Even when the records are maintained in electronic form and copies of large public-records bases are clearly of limited value in paper form. *Access to digital copies of digitally-maintained public records -- for no more than direct duplication costs -- needs to be explicitly and rigorously required in states' Public Records Acts.* COMPUTER-ASSISTED PERSONAL POLITICAL EMPOWERMENT Professional political campaign support companies often charge naive cam- paigners and candidates big bux for such lists and list processing. In fact, computer-capable folks can generate 'em on their [robust] personal computer -- for their use and for use by underfunded candidates and causes (there's no such thing as an overfunded candidate or cause -- except those you oppose; sorta like good taxes and bad taxes). NEW TWIST: COMMUNITY POWER BY FAXMODEM More and more folks can now receive messages by fax. Increasingly, those who have personal computers also have fax'es. Coupled with a fax-modem in the computer, this adds a powerful new tool for organizing fast community action -- often needed as self-serving bureaucrats and arrogant elected officials seek to ram through policies before the impacted public can defend themselves (a consistant pattern in my San Mateo County ... and elsewhere!). In the past year, my rural and mountain neighbors and I have begun organizing an increasingly broad and effective fax network. With a fax-modem (an Interfax 24/96) plugged into the phone-port on my Mac, it's trivial to draft a notice and have it faxed to *lots* of folks who have expressed interest in these issues -- without ever having to touch hard-copy (much less re-feed it, over and over, through a manual fax). This supplements an additional wrinkle in community activism: Many of the recipients have lowcost copiers at home. Many of them have agreed to make copies of the notices as soon as the receive 'em, and pass 'em along to neighbors or post 'em on local community bulletin boards. This gets around the serious problems of weekly community newspapers being too slow and/or too unwilling to provocatively publicize impending politicians' plans. **Really *neat* community action!** [Hope this wan't too boring or too long-winded. Actually, there's *lots* more to say -- especially about how to design effective direct-distribution written materials. But, that's more concerned with writing than computers.] ASIDE, RE "THE COMPUTER ELITE" & COMPUTER EGALITARIANISM Anyone capable of utilizing a computer can utilize it for significant personal political empowerment. But, it *does* require that (a) they have access to a computer, and (b) they be competent at utilizing it. Both of these entry barriers are non-trivial; the latter emphasizes the need for computer education -- it's for personal empowerment, just as is drivers' education and social studies. Folks who can't drive are considerably less empowered than those who can. Folks who can't use computers are considerably less enabled for acquiring and utilizing valuable information for astute decision-making and effective personal action, than those who can use computers. This is not an elitist view -- it is simply a statement of reality as I see it. These issues are part of why I feel that it is essential to teach kids -- all kids, rich and poor, "elite" and "slum" -- how to use computers. To the extent that we know how to use a computer (or how to drive) we have the potential of greatly increased personal empowerment. To the extent that we have that use-knowledge and can gain access to a computer (or a car, or the net, inaccessible to most folks), then we can implement that potential empowerment. Personal computers -- essentially defined, exclusively, as meaning computers that can be afforded by individual people -- provide access to information- processing power, for individuals, that was previously available only to corporations, government and the very wealthy. (Nonetheless, multi-thousand dollar "personal" computer systems remain financially un-ownable by folks on very limited income -- though they can often gain access through schools, loaners, donors, complimentary online accounts, etc. This is no different -- nor more elitist, nor less egalitarian, than the fact that multi-thousand dollar cars are equally unavailable to folks on very limited income.) The particular issue I am raising is that folks who know how to use computers, and have access to computers, can also have much more political power than most of them realize -- far in excess of folks who don't know how to use computers or don't choose to use 'em (regardless of how poor or wealthy they may be). --jim ******************************************************************** ------------------------------ **END OF CuD #2.08** ********************************************************************


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