Join me in celebrating "Lysander Spooner Day" on May 14th!

I propose that Americans observe Lysander Spooner Day on May 14th (a Thursday this year).


By refusing any and all un-wanted mail!

I’ll get to the how in a moment, but I think it’d be a fitting tribute because Mr. Spooner thought that the US Postal Service was an unconstitutional monopoly – so he did what any good person would and responded by starting a competing company, the American Letter Mail Company.

The US Government responded to this competition by tying him up in court until he ran out of money and shuttered the company.

Fast forward about 170 years…

I just got done sorting through a pile of unread mail in my home.

It weighed 8.5 lbs (4kg)!

After sorting it into two piles, I found that 86% of the mail was unsolicited junk!

So here’s how to stop it.

The USPS Domestic Mail Manual section 508 part 1.1.3 “Refusal After Delivery” explains that Addressees may control delivery of their mail.

One way to do this is to write Refused near the postage (I’ve used a fat tipped fluorescent pink marker to great effect), then returning it to my mailbox with an indication that there is mail to be picked up.

When the letter carrier arrives, they see the mail piece, read the Refused note, and process it accordingly.

That’s all there is to it – and it takes a lot less of your valuable time and effort to write Refused on a letter (or you can use a Refused stamp) than it does to recycle the mail or throw it away.

Don’t you think that’d be a fitting remembrance for a guy who was bullied by the US Government?  If so, simply share this post with your friends, family, and most importantly – your neighbors!  This protest against Government bullying and junk mail will work best if people participate together.

I propose the hashtag #LysanderSpoonerDay in social media.  Please join me in spreading the word so that Lysander Spooner and the ideas he stood for are remembered across the nation.

All I ask is that you share a link to this page with your friends, and by all means, let me know if you’ll be participating!

Some of you might be wondering, “What happens if I do this for a while – will I get in trouble? Will my letter carrier get mad at me?” For the answer to those questions, I’ve detailed my experience with refusing United States Postal Service junk mail.

My experience with refusing United States Postal Service junk mail

Earlier today I discovered that I had 8.5 lbs. of mail in my house – none of it really important as evidenced by the fact that I ignore it to no ill effect for long stretches at a time – in this case, several months.

I had been refusing my mail using the process described in the USPS Domestic Mail Manual section 508 part 1.1.3 “Refusal After Delivery”.

But how did I get that much junk if I’m refusing it?  Well, I took a break because we added a new member to our family and I honestly didn’t have time to interact with mail at all – not even enough to refuse it.

But I did use this approach before for several months and here’s what happened.

At first, the mail simply disappeared.  This happened for a few weeks.  Then, one day when I wasn’t home, the letter carrier asked my wife a strange question.

Does your husband live here anymore?

My wife suspected something fishy and said that yes, of course I still lived here, and asked him what led to his question.

He said:

Oh, well, we’ve been getting a lot of mail addressed to him that is refused… so we’re going to assume that he doesn’t live here anymore and hold all of his mail.

Seriously? Threats?!? They didn’t like what I was doing so they were going to hold my mail hostage and make me go to their post office to beg for it – no doubt with a complimentary tongue lashing?

My wife responded that the mail man would need to discuss that with me first.

It took me a few days to catch my letter carrier to discuss it with him.

I asked him what the issue was and he explained that my refusal was causing a lot of confusion and frustration at the local post office.

Specifically, he was concerned that it was his sworn duty to deliver every piece of mail with proper postage to my house.

I explained that I did not in any way wish to interfere with anyone’s attempts to do so – only that, as documented in the Domestic Mail Manual, I would be exercising my authority to refuse any mail allowed by the policy.

He said that this left them in a bit of a pickle.

According to him, anything mailed first class would be sent back to the sender – at the sender’s expense (which is an easy way to use market forces to encourage organizations to stop sending junk mail – who wants to pay for useless junk mail?).

That was a hassle for them – but at least they knew what to do with it.

The problem was “bulk mail” that is delivered to everyone in an area as a service of the Postal Service.  Apparently they don’t have a process for returning it – and my junk mail was piling up in the post office.  Worse yet, they have strict policies against destroying or disposing of mail.

His proposal was that I continue to accept delivery of mail as before – and continue expending time and energy processing it as garbage or recycling.

I expressed that I was simply trying to simplify my life, and that while I planned to deal with any requested mail, the junk mail was tantamount to someone stopping by each day and littering in my living room.

I explained that I was unsympathetic to the concern that the perpetrators of this littering would now have to shoulder 100% of the burden for the trouble they’ve caused me and countless other Americans for years.

Since I have nothing against my letter carriers or US Postal Service employees personally, I notified him that I opted out of “bulk mail” and that as a result he would no longer have to shoulder my mail both to my home, and back to the post office after I had refused it.

Unfortunately, he was unwilling to accept my proposal, once again admonishing me that he was bound by sacred trust to deliver every fake foreign lottery winning notice some fraudster felt like sending.

I also explained that, perhaps he could obtain some relief by asking the USPS to amend the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) or other policies to address his concerns.  It was a real shame that people reading and following the instructions in the DMM were causing so many internal issues – but those were issues between the USPS and it’s employees, and as a customer there was little I could do about them.

Disappointed, he smiled and said that his supervisor would be paying me a visit and I responded by sharing my schedule so she could catch me on a weekday when I was home.

Unfortunately, I have yet to discuss the matter with a supervisor as none have ever attempted to contact me.

So, there you have it… refusing mail in compliance with DMM guidelines may result in threats and attempts to coerce you to stop, but so far I have not explored the limits of adhering to this approach in the long run, so my apologies if it results in less favorable outcomes in your particular case.

Columbus Law Overlooked in Criticism of Despotic Foreign Regimes

On the drive in this morning, I heard that Egypt is cracking down on protesting again. By reporting on the story, it seems that the local and national media view such laws as violations of human rights. That’s heartening, because they are. Here’s how the Los Angeles Times summarized the new law:

Egypt’s interim president on Sunday banned public gatherings of more than 10 people without prior government approval

It went on to explain:

Rights groups and activists immediately denounced it, saying it aims to stifle opposition, allow repressive police practices and keep security officials largely unaccountable for possible abuses.

“The law is giving a cover to justify repression by all means,” said Bahy Eddin Hassan, head of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, one of the local groups that had campaigned against the law.

The thing that puzzles me though is that we have the same kind of law right here in Columbus, Ohio.

Here’s the law right out of the Columbus City Code:

919.06 Permits.
(A) No person, in any park, shall participate in any meeting, parade or other organized activity involving more than ten (10) persons without a permit issued by tile director.
(B) No person shall fail to comply with the fee requirements or other terms and conditions of any such permit issued under the provisions of this chapter.
(C) All permits issued by the director must be exhibited in a clear and conspicuous location and produced upon the demand of any law enforcement officer.
(Ord. 1648-91.)

Go ahead, check out the source link. I’ll wait while you verify that this is actually the law in Columbus, Ohio.

The fact is that in Columbus you can’t play baseball – you can’t play football – you can’t play basketball – without a permit.

No exception is made for political protest in these public spaces.

Why do we have this law?

Same reason the tyrants in Egypt have theirs.

The law is giving a cover to justify repression by all means,

It’s great that the media think that this kind of law deserves attention. But how about we focus some of that attention at ourselves?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had freedom in the land of the free?

And by letting such laws stand here, don’t we give backward foreign regimes cover?

A Fine Example of a “Copyright Troll”

Over lunch today I happened upon the following article by Rafael Rivera (and here’s Rafael Rivera’s profile on on Google+).

The Rise & Fall of a Windows Phone Marketplace Scammer

Here are my takeaways:

  1. Mr. Rivera for some reason felt compelled to defend Nintendo’s intellectual property when they apparently weren’t even interested in such a minor case.
  2. The fact that Mr. Rivera was able to obtain the copyright to Mr. Hartger’s works so easily (and presumably for free) indicates that if Mr. Dudley had the same idea, he would have been immune to Mr. Rivera’s approach. (And how much “stealing” is really going on when the author gives away copyright to any old person who asks?)
  3. Does Mr. Rivera’s collusion with Mr. Hartger represent an “unholy alliance”? I mean, Hartger facilitates the “theft”* of ROM’s by distributing the emulator that Mr. Dudley allegedly stole – so how does this measurably protect Nintendo’s copyrights?

You are my hero Rafael Rivera. You defended the powerless Nintendo corporation against some hack. Now Nintendo will make millions as Windows Phone users, noting the lack of Nintendo emulator software for the device in the Windows Phone Marketplace, go out and buy Nintendo products.

Personally, I think this story only illustrates how easy it is for a sociopath on a mission to abuse DMCA takedown notices.

I’d only really heard good things about Mr. Rivera before this. Seems at the very least that he’s a statist with some serious issues determining priorities in life.

*Note: I have a hard time accepting that creating a copy of an idea or object at your own expense constitutes theft. The ROMs were not “taken” since neither Nintendo or their customers were deprived of their use.

Royalties vs. Patents?

I wonder if musicians would be so adamant about royalties for replaying a creative performances if they were charged royalties every time they used software, essentially replaying the creative performances of orchestras of programmers and engineers – ceaselessly, inescapably.

You can turn off a radio – but you can’t turn off the droning background hum of technological innovation.

In fact, in such a world, musicians would need to pay royalties to record, distribute, or even listen to their own music.
The funny thing is, that in a free market – this is EXACTLY what happens – except the royalties are paid up-front and bundled as part of the price of software and devices. The only cases where engineers get “royalties” of their creative performances is in the world of patents.

Both are protectionist – and both set their fields back immeasurably to bolster the absurd notion that one should be rewarded perpetually for a single good performance.