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                         SANDY SANDFORT
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Jeff Barber thinks he might have me, but isn't sure enough to
dispense with his dunce cap.  No need to worry Jeff, I am right,
but your reasoning is pretty good, to wit:

    ... It might be possible to construct [the deal] as "I
    authorize you to pay the other party if they can produce
    a certificate that, when decrypted with this key,
    produces this text."  The production of that certificate
    might only be accomplished through the cooperation of
    the on-line coroner...

Clever, but you have already identified your weak point--the
on-line coroner.  More on this later.  About my SCENARIO ONE
(cheating escrow) Jeff offers:

    Why can't I damage your reputation?  Assuming:

    a)there exists a public place to cast aspersions on your

Granted for the sake of argument.
    b)that I have a receipt digitally signed by you
    indicating that you accepted the payment and contract
    from the two parties

Sorry, no can do.  Sounds like being an accessory to a crime to
me.  I wouldn't put anything in writing signed by my known public
key, and neither would anyone else.  What if our True Names ever
became known?  Shit happens, you know.

    c)that I can prove I have "executed" my end of the
    bargain (pun intended)

Here's the rub.  What would constitute proof?  Not just the fact
that the victim was dead--even of foul play.  How do you prove,
in the "public place" given above, that *you* did the dirty deed?
I don't think you can.

    (And surely, you wouldn't try to argue that you didn't
    pay me simply because the contract was for murder -- I
    don't think your potential future clients would relish
    giving their escrow service the power to judge the moral
    virtue of their contracts.)

I don't know.  Some clients would like it, some wouldn't.  The
market would decide.  Don't get too theoretical here.  Remember,
the vast majority of people think murder is a Bad Thing.  I don't
think they would give a rat's ass whether or not a murder got
paid.  This would be *especially* if the escrow passed on some of
the dirty money to them in the form of reduced escrow fees. :-)

In response to my SCENARIO TWO (fake murder) Jeff wrote:
    ... in order for this scheme to work, the coroner must
    be in the business of regularly publishing signed and
    certified death certificates on the net....  I'm
    assuming therefore that the life insurance companies and
    the like will exert sufficiently strong influence to
    ensure that your scenario is extremely unlikely....

Oh Jeff, you were doing so fine there for awhile.  The insurance
companies would want to ensure *just the opposite* as long as
they were in on the gag.  I (the fake murderer) would go to the
insurance company as well as the rich uncle.  Why?  Because they
offer rewards for "murderers" who *don't* kill policy holders.
The insurance companies, of course, all work closely with the
on-line coroner to produce false death certificates to screw over
murderers, their clients and/or the escrow companies that do such
business.  Contrary to popular belief, coroners are against
death.  No coroner in his right mind would have any problem
fooling the bad guys.  No electorate, or the private equivalent,
would mind a coroner who lied for a Good Reason like helping to
prevent murders.

    Now how do I get this thing off my head ...)

No rush, Jeff, you might want to post again on this topic. :-)

 S a n d y