Reinhold Grether on 29 Dec 2000 11:42:45 -0000

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[rohrpost] RTMark Reporting: 2000 Annual Report (fwd)

December 29, 2000 (first anniversary of victory over eToys)

The WTO becomes honest, children get "tough love" from corporate
predators, and the elections really were auctioned off after all

At RTMark, the rough-and-tumble Year 2000 was dominated by significant
cultural payoffs, as well as one obvious failure.

And preparing the way for the year's funniest moment was RTMark's first-
quarter transfer of ( to a group of
impostors known as The Yes Men (, who have
maintained the site ever since.


The transfer paid off in May, when an organizer of a conference for
lawyers specializing in international trade matters visited and,
without reading the text very closely, clicked "Contact" to invite WTO
Director-General Mike Moore to speak. "Moore" declined but offered to send
a substitute.

In late October, one Dr. Andreas Bichlbauer (actually Veshengo Phuridili,
a Yes Man) spoke at the conference. His lecture described the WTO's ideas
and ultimate aims in terms that were horrifyingly stark--suggesting, for
example, the replacement of inefficient democratic institutions like
elections with private-sector solutions like, an Internet
startup selling votes to the highest corporate bidder.

None of the lawyers in attendance expressed dismay at Dr. Bichlbauer's
proposals, which The Yes Men have posted, along with all correspondence,
at They are currently preparing video
documentation of the lecture, questions, staged pieing, and lunch.

A DOWNTURN FOR A DEMOCRACY (, the "private-sector
solution" of which Dr. Bichlbauer spoke, itself formed the largest
dividend of 2000 for the RTMark investor. Newspaper and TV journalists who
covered the story often found ways to mention that corporations already
buy votes--exactly the point founder James Baumgartner had hoped would be
made. (Baumgartner is currently planning a spring lecture tour to help
defray legal costs he incurred fighting lawsuits before the ACLU came to
his rescue. He can be reached at

But 2000 was certainly not all free speech and good luck. And the year's
biggest disappointment began with 1999's biggest triumph.


One year ago today, eToys capitulated to activist pressure--which some say
had helped drive down its stock price, recently sighted at $0.03--and
officially gave up its attempt to steal an art group's domain name

Many activists hailed this triumph--lately punctuated by the announcement
of eToys' looming bankruptcy--as a lesson to other corporations that might
consider taking what is not rightfully theirs. When Autodesk suddenly
relented from a similar attack, many felt the lesson had been well learned

But unfortunately, corporations do not learn lessons that are not written
in law. Many of the entities that were fighting for their lives last
December 29 have been forced out of existence by their predators, even
before eToys; a few others are still fighting, at ever growing expense
(, Leonardo Magazine, etc.); and dozens of new cases have
been brought to RTMark's attention.

In these days of privatized education, it should perhaps come as no
surprise that some of the new attacks are against children: Warner
Brothers, for example, is going after a fifteen-year-old girl for her
Harry Potter fan site, and Ferrero, which makes "Kinder Surprise"
chocolate eggs, is attempting to hijack the domain of an Austrian
children's charity ("Kinder" means "children" in German).

"Public outrage without legal backup isn't enough," said Rita Mae Rakoczi,
lawyer and RTMark spokesperson. "eToys was beaten outside the courtroom,
but as a result nothing was written in stone, and companies know they can
still get away with this sort of behavior--not to mention much worse. The
only solution is to pass laws protecting people from corporate assault,
and to rescind laws doing the opposite."

See for more on these cases and others.


To recover from these indications of colossal failure--which would portend
doom for less well-anchored startups--an exciting array of cultural treats
is in store for 2001.

* One German project (
  has already forced a major airline into reconsidering its lucrative but
  horrible transportation practices; this project is being adapted to the
  U.S. market with RTMark's help, and public participation will be
  requested at some point within the first quarter.

* Given the different impacts of corporate abuse in different parts of the
  world, RTMark will be developing its first full-fledged regional mutual
  funds in 2001. The first will focus on France, whose population has
  resisted the push of globalization in unique ways--including by not
  learning English. The fund will be accompanied by a nearly complete
  translation of into French, and will be unveiled within the
  first quarter by its celebrity manager.

* RTMark's communication infrastructure will be overhauled in the first
  and second quarters. Subscribers will be able to choose from a menu of
  regular updates--on project additions, new investments in particular
  projects or funds, developments in specific areas of interest, etc.
  Also, an online payment system will be made available to facilitate
  small investments in projects and funds.

Of course, in the cultural-profit as in the financial-profit sector, there
is no predicting what new actions may prove necessary in order to push the
bottom line in 2001.


Last but not least, Andrei Codrescu has announced the co-winners of this
year's Corporate Poetry Contest ( in correspondence with Daniel Arp, and three managers overheard
by temp worker Missy Chimovitz. An excerpt from one of the latter:

   You can play it two sides to the middle...
   I really want to know your thoughts--
   I'm game to making some internal adjustments,
   Because I really want to wrap my arms around this thing.

Suggestions for prizes to be sent to the hapless winners are currently
being solicited.

RTMark's primary goal is to publicize corporate subversion of the
democratic process. To this end it acts as a clearinghouse for anti-
corporate projects.

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