The Rat knows how to sell—or buy—almost anything in Washington

Packet Rat
R. Fink

The online auction mania has captured the Rat’s respectful admiration.

It’s his kind of business: no inventory, no shipping, no fuss, no muss. Just keep
the site up, and the money rolls in. It’s like selling air.

Of course, some people do sell air on the Internet—or at least air derivatives.
One enterprising wannabe e-business figured out how to capitalize on the narrow window of
opportunity presented by the impeachment trial proceedings at the Capitol.

The Web site at
advertised buttons imprinted with slogans such as, “I had inappropriate contact with
Rep. So-and-so.”

Being a loyal and nonpartisan public servant, the cyberrodent would never take part in
similar political profiteering. But the idea of turning the spare compute cycles on his
departmental LAN into the next does have a certain appeal—strictly for
purposes of federal revenue enhancement, naturally.

The whiskered one would expect only a small commission for thinking of these and other
ways to assist in resolving pesky governmental issues:

In view of labor shortages in key industrial sectors at home and abroad, retirees could
fill an important economic niche ignored by pricey minimum-wage labor. The retirees need
only earn enough to cover their medical copayments.

The whiskered one proposes setting up, an online auction site for
political contributions. Candidates get all of their campaign funding from a single high
bidder. Purchases of influence become a matter of public record. Voters know exactly whose
pocket their representative is in. And there’d be no more of that matching-funds

But in this age of electronic commerce, fixed prices are becoming a thing of the past.
Why should USPS rates be fixed?

Postal workers can make only so many on-time deliveries, so why doesn’t the Postal
Service take a hint from the bandwidth auctions held by the Federal Communications

USPS could trade its excess postal capacity on an electronic spot stamp market and
deliver faster than Federal Express, if the price was right. The postmaster general would
never again have to beg for a rate hike.

The Rat realizes that federal agencies may not yet be ready for such bleeding-edge
business practices. In the meantime, he plans to keep busy tracking down and exterminating
any Furbies that may have slipped past agency security. He knows just the place to auction
off their pelts on the Web.  

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected]


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