Monthly Archives: April 2007

MS in trouble?

This article suggests some things on the basis of possibly two trivial events, but it has an interesting sub-thesis worth pointing out:

. . . it goes back to piracy and how it helped enforce the MS monopoly. If you can easily pirate Windows, Linux has no price advantage, they both cost zero.

With Me II, Microsoft made it very hard to pirate. It is do-able, you can use the BIOS hack and probably a host of others, but the point is, it raised the bar enough so lots of people have to buy it. Want to bet that in a country with $100 average monthly salary, people aren’t going to shell out $299 for Me II Broken Edition?

What did MS do? It dropped the price about 100x or so. I can’t say this is unprecedented, when it made Office 2003 hard to pirate it had to backpedal with the student edition for about $150. This time though, things are much more desperate.

At least some part of MS understood this when they decided to make Internet Explorer free like Netscape, and I’ve long believed that Netscape chose to make its browser free (remember that before the Internet, there were very few major apps that were free) because it had seen Microsoft Word become the de facto standard because everyone copied it and business bought it. I may have read that somewhere many years ago, but I definitely see that.

Just for the record, I think Linux has to depend on its price advantage. Even cool new revisions like Ubuntu with OpenOffice aren’t going to do it for some people. But, that said, I think making Vista too difficult to pirate impacts its wide adoption. If Microsoft is at the point where it can’t make money off being the de facto standard, and really does need to sell licenses, then maybe they are in trouble. Maybe that’s the impact of the anti-trust suit, I don’t know.

Capitalism and water

If you don’t dedicate too much of your reading time to useless rags like Time and Newsweek, you’ve probably read an article or two over the last few years about the globalization of water. There was an interesting article in this month’s Vanity Fair (not online) “The Rise of Big Water” that details Big Water’s entrance into the Chinese market. The article asks, but does not answer, the question about just how far markets can be effective, especially when it comes to things like water.

On the one hand, the article makes a compelling case that a price level can prevent waste on the one hand, and spurn development of the resource to places it might not otherwise reach on the other. It also points out, though, that some people end up paying ridiculous portions of their income for water.

I think lumping things like water into the category of a normal good, like diet coke, is a big mistake. Part of market pricing is set by consumer preference. If no one wants diet coke because they like diet pepsi, Econ 101 says the price of diet coke should go down. But people are still getting diet soda. And people don’t even need diet soda. Water, though, is different. People cannot live without it. Unlike electricity and natural gas, even, water is among those things that are required by life.

So, how do you encourage development, prevent waste, and make sure that people have enough water? In a developed country, you could give tax credits to people with low incomes. Direct subsidy is probably the only way it works in emerging economies, and that doesn’t address the waste issue.

I’m all for markets when it comes to discretionary goods. It does have its magic in that realm. But I’m skeptical of how this works for things that is basically a human right. Is it snarky to ask if air is next?

Yellow Lab For President

Take one of my yellow labs, Diego. He’s going on 9 now, but he’s still fit and lean because he runs and plays and chases balls every day. He’s a joy to be around, but he’s no party boy, like his sister, Sadie. He’s strong and silent, and his bearing is regal. He’s and boundlessly enthusiastic with life and his love for humans. But Diego is no pushover. He will defend his turf, and he’ll fight if provoked. Yet, when children come over to play, they can prod and poke and bug him and twist his ears and he’ll never, never utter a sound of complaint. He’s a good dog, and he’s got all the qualities for a great president.

Come to think of it, when we are ready to make a bigger step in changing our DNA, we could do a lot worse than finding a human to run the White House who has the qualities of my yellow lab. Boundlessly enthusiastic, strong and regal, and can always be trusted with children. A good dog.

Couldn’t agree more. (From HuffPo.)

Sanford ’08!

Virginia=humans Iraq=non-humans

Everyone from the judges on American Idol to the Governator are paying homage to the fallen in Virginia. Imagine if we felt the same way about any 32 people who died?

Moments of silence would turn into near monastic vows as the moments multiplied into hours.

This whole episode is sickening. It was sickening that it happened, and the reaction is one of a society that has dehumanized the entire world beyond our borders.

Another Nail In The Coffin Of Old Liberalism

The old-line liberal groups, the women’s movement, the environmental movement, various minority lobbies, and labor, continue their descent into the history books with yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling in Carhart, which permitted the banning of D&E abortions.

The myopia of these groups was responsible for the 12 years in exile of the Democratic congress, and had little or nothing to do with Clinton’s success. I’m not sure what on earth they thought they were doing supporting the likes of Joe Liebermann and Linc Chaffee, who usually aren’t around on the big votes.

What the Republican interest groups, like business and the Religious Right, figured out long, long ago was that forming a coalition with strict partisan discipline was the key to power in a country where not everyone votes and most of the government is controlled by undemocratic means. (Senate, Electoral College, and the Supreme Court.)

Democrats are finally getting that, and that was a huge part of their success in 2006, and their continued high approval ratings. You see, the core Democratic message is popular and usually a majority view that the Democrats allow to be shouted down, then they compromise, and then they lose.

Banning abortion is a minority view, but the minority is shouting louder. Ignoring the environment is a minority view, but the minority is shouting louder. If you don’t stand up to the shouts, you simultaneously undermine people’s conviction for the majority opinion and also ensure that people see that you won’t stand up and you get labeled weak.

Getting over this a little in 2006 was the key to success, and, it’s working so far on Iraq. But the fruits of spinelessness in the past are now being reaped.

Trial Court Judge in Wisconsin Case

Rudolph T. Randa was appointed by Bush senior, and is a Republican. Apparently, he has a good reputation in Wisconsin. Still, this will be the most famous case he decided, and he looks bad. I would move to exclude him from now on if my client were a Dem.

The trial court denied both pre- and post-trial motions to dismiss the case. There is a larger explanation for the denial of the pre-trial motion, but virtually none for the post-trial motion. The former was written by a magistrate judge, Patricia Gorence, the latter by the district judge, Randa.

Post-Trial Denial Order
Pre-Trial Denial Order

Biskupic Must Go To Prison.

McClatchy via TPM:

WASHINGTON – A U.S. attorney in Wisconsin who prosecuted a state Democratic official on corruption charges during last year’s heated governor’s race was once targeted for firing by the Department of Justice, but given a reprieve for reasons that remain unclear. A federal appeals court last week threw out the conviction of Wisconsin state worker Georgia Thompson, saying the evidence was “beyond thin.”

Congressional investigators looking into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys saw Wisconsin prosecutor Steven M. Biskupic’s name on a list of lawyers targeted for removal when they were inspecting a Justice Department document not yet made public, according to an attorney for a lawmaker involved in the investigation. The attorney asked for anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the investigation.

He put an innocent woman in jail to avoid being fired. The Seventh Circuit released her, and I think the chances of a new trial just dropped to nil. She should sue everyone in sight.

UPDATE: Look at this:

ORDER: The judgment of conviction is REVERSED, and the case
will be REMANDED with instructions to enter a judgment of
acquittal. An opinion will be issued in due course. The
time to file a petition for rehearing is extended until 14
days after the court issues its opinion. This extension of
time also means that the mandate will be deferred. But
Thompson is entitled to immediate release from prison, on
her own recognizance. The United States must make
arrangements so that she may be released before the close
of business today. Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook,
Circuit Judge William J. Bauer, Circuit Judge Diane P.
Wood. [06-3676] [2091025-1] (jame)

Not sent for a new trial, but reversed. This is incredibly rare. People don’t get thrown out of jail by courts of appeal very often, and if they do, they don’t have it happen on factual findings, but on errors of law. No one here is saying the trial court applied the wrong law. It’s just saying there was no evidence.

More Dirty Nashville Play

This time a double whammy from Radulov and Hamhuis sending Bernier to the dressing room with what looks like a concussion and another match penaly for the Predlies.

Where’s the outrage from the pacifism advocates? Perhaps they haven’t noticed becuase the teams involved are both supposedly finesse-oriented and are not close to major markets, but I can only imagine the yowling if any Rag, Leaf, or Pen were on the receiving side and any Devil or other outsider were on the giving side.

As a proponent of physical play and fighting I do not like Nashville’s tactics. Injuring two of San Jose’s important offensive players in two straight games cannot be accidental. In my opinion, this is exactly the sort of vehemence that is properly brought to a catharsis by a fight between each team’s tough guys.

Could it be that by creating an environment that limits fighting the playoffs creates dirty play in its ‘stead?

Let's Hate Toronto

“People have a grudging respect for New York outside of the city, and have a grudging respect for London. But people outside of Toronto don’t have that for Toronto, they really don’t.”

People have dropped the New York hatred because of 9/11. Before that, the hatred was likely more intense than the Canadian soul could muster. Still, it sounds interesting to find out more about these issues.

Cenk is right.

Cenk Uygur is right: the concept of free speech is broader than just first amendment protections from governmental interference. We need to prevent people from being ostracized just for expressing unorthodox attitudes or ideas.

Of course, people are free to express their opinion that Imus should be fired. Personally, I think there is more than enough evidence that Imus is a racist, and this isn’t even the most egregious example of it. But, similarly, I am entitled to express my opinion that that opinion is wrong and short-sighted. While I get great pleasure from the scahdenfreude watching the PC Shock Troops hound demons like Ann Coulter and Don Imus, I also get a bit of indigestion at the practical effect of all of this: just more “evidence” for the right-wing slime machines that PC liberals are out there to fuck them over.

You’re operating in the rarefied air that orbits ivory towers and media pundits if you think John Edwards isn’t just a little, well, faggy (they don’t call him “Breck Girl” in right wing circles because he looks super macho, and it’s ironic like calling a bald guy curly, ok?), and you think “nappy headed hos” is beyond the pale language. Aren’t they nappy-headed? Am I seriously advocating some kind of racist agenda by saying so?

And identity politics liberals like Garance Franke-Rutha and Kos can pretend there is some fancy theorem that makes it ok for Kos to make fun of Gingrich’s “gringo” accent or accuse people defending Imus of having “oppressed white male” syndrome when my making fun of a Mexican’s accent in English or tiring of “oppressed white female” syndrome would be repudiated as racist or sexist.

There is a double standard in most people’s eyes there. Everyone knows it’s ok to make racist comments against whites, but whites may make those comments against no one. Whites are the type O blood of the race joke world.

I’ll say this much. Producing an Orwellian language free of any racially loaded words or phrases will do absolutely nothing to resolve the issues facing minorities in this country and elsewhere. Nothing.

Congress Pre-War Intel

We went to war based on this? You couldn’t even file a lawsuit based on that. It is rank speculation. Some of it sounds vaguely sinister, until you realize you have no basis of comparison to judge whether these contacts are a large number or not. (Among many other huge holes.)

Imagine just for a minute if this had been a proposal for universal health care. You know the Senators would have demanded much stronger documentation. But, of course, our country was suffering a collective post-traumatic stress episode that had been intentionally soothed by a desire for violence. So, instead of leading, our leaders followed that and voted for the Iraq war.

That presentation isn’t proof that the Iraq intel was faulty or fraudulent. That we already knew. It’s proof that everyone that voted for the war knew better but was afraid to lead, so they followed.

That means you Edwards, and you Hillary.

Outrage Overload

I have been outraged to the point of distraction at the federal government for over six years now, and I’m not sure I can sustain it anymore. For example, I just haven’t been able to care that much about the U.S. attorney scandal.

I’m mildly interested in the Iraq funding bill, and I suppose I should be somewhat cheered by the Supreme Court’s Massachusetts v. EPA decision (even if it hinges on the life of an octogenarian). But the burnout works two ways.

Part of me thinks things will never improve, and exodus is the only way I can make sure that any children I have will get a fair deal to live a middle class life. Part of me thinks I’m whiny, since I come in at the top percentiles of the middle class in worth and income, and I also won the birth lottery being a white male.

But after all is said in done, it’s just hard to care when you don’t even feel that revolutionary victories of formerly grand proportions—the 2006 elections, for example—even make much of a dent in What Ails America.

What’s more, I have a local situation that I might begin blogging about in the near future. I am closing on a new house tomorrow in a small town roiled by infighting over, of all things, sewer service. In steps the state and has threatened random people there with $1.5 million dollars each in annual fines if they don’t connect to a sewer that may or may not exist on the day the order demands. All of my Che Guevara energy will be going into that fight, I can tell, and not resisting the nitrous-oxide-trip-like images of federal politics.

Even when it got me mixed up as a non-liberal, I advocated for a liberal vision of states’ rights. I’m more and more convinced that de-balling the federal government, which, after all, is controlled by an undemocratic senate, and undemocratic electoral college, and an undemocratic supreme court that is appointed by the winner of the undemocratic electoral college and confirmed by the undemocratic senate, is the way to go. The seeds of our founding may have contained the seeds of our undoing after all.