What Would John Galt Do?

A whole different way of looking at "WWJD"

Monday, February 20, 2006

Lying corporate bastards

[Revised on 26 Feb 2006 with info that could not be found when the original was being written]

If you've read my first post in this blog, then you know that lying is one of the three things that really lights my fuse. And I've got a pretty damn short fuse about being lied to.

Tonight's attack of insomnia (i.e., the reason I'm sitting here writing at this hour instead of sleeping like decent folk) is caused by the lying corporate bastards that create fake grassroots (aka "astroturf") organizations to further their political agendas.

I'm not against corporations in general, and I'm certainly not against people making money -- as long as they do it honestly. This blog is named "What Would John Galt Do?" and on this subject, the answer is pretty clear:

In all proper relationships there is no sacrifice of anyone to anyone. ... Men exchange their work by free, mutual consent to mutual advantage when their personal interests agree and they both desire the exchange. ... This is the only possible form of relationship between equals. Anything else is a relationship of slave to master, or victim to executioner.

Even though it was Howard Roark, not our hero, who said it. Still, this is pretty clearly What John [Galt] Would Do.

But remember that John Galt's values are about making money HONESTLY. And there's nothing honest about the business practices of Microsoft Corporation, the movie industry, or the recording industry. A monopoly is NOT a free market. Using political "pull" to get legislation that tilts the playing field (either by putting onerous regulations upon your competitors, or regulations that favor you) is NOT operating in a free market. And taking away people's rights in order to prop up a business model that has been made obsolete by technology is very much NOT What John [Galt] Would Do.

Apparently it's not enough nowadays to just go up on Capitol Hill and buy a politician make some generous campaign donations to get a politician's attention; no, apparently it's now necessary to create fake grass-roots organizations to lobby these politicians as well.

I used to get really upset at Left-wing organizations whose very names were lies. Well, I still do get upset at them, but tonight's rant isn't about them. For instance, years ago there was a group called "Coalition for Safe Power" whose only goal was to eliminate the safest form of electric power generation (nuclear).

And we also had the so-called "Friends Of the Earth" (at least their acronym was telling the truth) who weren't friends of anything; they only wanted to shut down -- guess what? Nuclear power! -- which of course is the least-polluting of them all.

And now we have the Interfaith Alliance, supposedly an organization of Left-leaning Christians, but their startup money came from the Democratic Party.

So those people used to piss me off, and still do. But they're Left-wingers. You expect them to lie. But now corporations have gotten into the game too, and they've learned well from the tactics of the Lying Left.

So now we have "grass roots" organizations popping up all over the place like mushrooms in the fall, except they're not the kind of mushrooms that are good for you. Microsoft Corporation has become notorious for this over the last few years as they attempt to subvert the Free Market through high-sounding organizations such as the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution (who, I'm sure, has the real Mr. de Tocqueville spinning in his grave) and the so-called Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE).

The latter has earned more of my vitriol than the others because I was taken in by them once upon a time. I was chairman of my county's Libertarian Party organization, and I learned about CSE from a booth they had at the County fair. I liked their positions on the issues: they were telling the truth about Global Warming -- and this was at a time when virtually no one (except scientists) were aware that it was a hoax; they said all the right things about the Free Market; and they understood the need to reduce taxation and regulation.

So I got into bed with them. I invited their state director, Russ Walker, to come and speak at one of my county Libertarian meetings. He came, and brought lots of swag with him. I began wondering how in the world a little bitty citizens' group that I'd never heard of had the money to spend on expensive stuff such as T-shirts. He gave away a lot of them that night.

As time went on, I would receive CSE's action alerts requesting the usual stuff (usually, a letter to a congresscritter). They were all good stuff. But then one day...

(cue the movie music that indicates impending doom)

I received the following "CSEmail Update". Everything except the table of contents and the pertinent "Action Needed" item have been removed for brevity:

CSEmail Update 20 Oregon Edition January 16, 2002
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
- There's a Better Way to Solve the Budget Deficit
- Paul Beckner's Message - Politics Return to Washington
- Weekly Commentary - Enron: Death of an Energy Giant
- Dr. Brough on Economics - Its Not the 70s
- Action Needed - Support the Microsoft Settlement
- CSE Message of the Month - Get Moving Senators
- Three New Ways to Get Connected with CSE!
- Take Action: Make Your Voice Heard
- Help CSE

Quote of the Week:
"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom." - Albert Einstein

Urgent Action Needed!
Write A Letter to Support the Microsoft Settlement!
Time is running out and we need your help. A vocal group of attorneys general are threatening to pull the plug on the recent settlement reached by the U.S. Department of Justice, nine states attorneys general and Microsoft. Write a letter to the Justice Department and let them know that the settlement reached is fair to all parties: consumers, Microsoft, and its competitors. Simply click on the following link.
http://www.capitolconnect.com/cse/ALERTS.asp?subject=73

Unfortunately, the text of the Action Alert is lost to history. The link (above) is long dead and CSE had the foresight to block the Wayback Machine from archiving it. I was stunned. I felt betrayed. Here was a supposedly pro-free-market organization, asking us to go to bat for a monopoly that was arguably the biggest threat against the free market at that time.

I immediately disassociated myself from the Citizens for a Sound Economy. A week later I received the following query from Ross Marzolf of the CSE wanting to know why I had unsubscribed from their email list:

Dear Mr. Barber:

Thanks for the message. You have been removed from our email distribution list. For our information and so we can better serve our members in the future, could you reply with the reason for your request? Was it content, frequency or some other reason? Thanks for your help.

He shouldn't have asked. I was willing to let bygones be bygones, but since he asked, I wrote him an email that basically ripped him a new asshole. Since the below-quoted email directly rebuts the lost Action Alert, it isn't difficult to piece together some of the lies therein:

It's because I'm a Libertarian, not a Republican. I've noticed a few small things over the last few months that have been a little disturbing -- such as little hints on your Website that you're in bed somehow with the Conservative Political Action Committee -- but the thing that finally did it for me was your totally irresponsible and uninformed exhortation on 15 Jan to deny justice in the Microsoft case.

You Microsoft bigots seem to think that the world will come to an end if Microsoft is forced to start being responsible for their actions. You even went so far as to claim that 50% of attorneys general constitutes a "vocal minority!"

The most galling statement in your talking points on this issue is the bald-faced lie that "Microsoft has not harmed consumers. Consumers all over the world have benefited from the new choices and low prices provided by the high-tech sector and innovative companies like Microsoft."

Microsoft has not harmed consumers? What do you call THIRTEEN BILLION DOLLARS in damages? That's what it cost in 2001 alone for companies to clean up after the damage caused by virus and worm attacks -- all of which were a direct result of Microsoft's negligence in producing notoriously insecure products.

Consumers have benefitted from new choices and low prices? Since when have I had a choice in whether or not I want Internet Explorer running on my computer? Are you unaware of the dirty tricks put into Windows 2000 to FORCE businesses into using Microsoft's server operating systems, instead of the vastly superior products of its competitors? This has been going on since the early 1990's when Microsoft destroyed Digital Research Corporation (after they had shamelessly copied an earlier product by same) by putting specific code in Windows 3.x that made Windows shut down if the computer was running Digital Research's operating system instead of Microsoft's.

By what criteria do you consider Microsoft's exorbitant prices to be "low?" Have you been living in a cave, or dogsledding in Alaska, and missed the news of Microsoft's new licensing schemes? There are some businesses that will have to pay almost double the prices they are paying now -- and Microsoft is doing everything they can to insure that they become "the only game in town."

Innovative? Microsoft has never innovated anything -- all of they've ever done is steal technology from others. In some cases they've not only not paid for the intellectual property they stole, but have actively destroyed the small companies whose inventions have made Microsoft rich.

Microsoft makes Bill Clinton look like a saint by comparison.

The "new choices" and "low prices" that could be benefitting consumers -- IF the nine holdout attorneys general are able to prevail -- are all in the camp of Microsoft's competitors, my friend. Microsoft is doing everything they can, legal or not, to do away with any shred of competition. No single entity in the world today poses a greater threat to the Free Market -- and to innovation -- than Microsoft Corporation.

Add all this to the enormous threat to privacy that Microsoft's new flagship product, Windows XP, presents to people all over the world (your credit card numbers, your gender, your age, your marital status, the names of your children, everything you've ever bought online, everything you've even just looked at, and how long you spent looking at it... all of it going into a
giant database owned by Microsoft... information to be sold to God knows who... information that will be around for God knows how long...)

I'm sorry, but you are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG in your position on Microsoft Corporation and I now see that CSE has other interests that supercede those of a sound, free-market economy.

Thanks for asking. If you guys decide to get your heads screwed on straight at some point in the future please let me know and I'll resubscribe.

Ken Barber

Years later, I found out what CSE really is: a front organization funded chiefly by corporations. And does what it's told to do by its owners. And yes, Microsoft is one of its owners donors. Finally, I understood how CSE could afford to give away all of that swag.

CSE, now known as "Freedom Works" after a merger with Jack Kemp's "Empower America", continues lying to this day about being a "grassroots" organization (Google Russ Walker's name and you'll find press releases peppered with references to himself as a "grassroots leader), and has never disclosed that 85% of their funding came from corporations.

Next: The movie industry's cynical manipulation of professional photographers How Micro$oft endangers the entire world with lies about Windows® security

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