politics, civil rights, intellectual property, science, capitalism, and foo

« July 2002 | Main | September 2002 »

August 29, 2002
Sanity in Airport Security?

I think almost everyone who knows me has heard me rant and rave about the stupidity of airport security - and that was before the September 11 changes which only increased my ire. I have to say however, that things are looking up.

Many in the blogosphere have been saying that the incompetence was only going to get worse and I had to agree with them. So, it goes without saying that I am flabbergastedly happy that the two security questions are going the way of the dodo bird. "Over the years, they have lost whatever original value they contributed and can now be safely eliminated," said James Loy in this CNN Article.

A man with a clue in a top role in homeland security? Cats and Dogs living together...

It gets better.

Next on the agenda may be random screening of passengers at airport gates, he said.

"I think passengers would really like that," Stempler said. "We never understood that. You either do it right the first time or fix what you're doing at the security lane."


Posted by hoffmang at 01:07 AM

August 28, 2002
Picking on the Guardian

Such an easy target, but Lileks bring such a flair to picking on the Guardian. The thing I think I like most about this Screed is the calm Lileks shows as he utterly destroys the article...

Posted by hoffmang at 10:13 AM

August 25, 2002
Understanding Power

Reading around the web today, I am reminded of something that struck me a couple of years ago.

Why do people comply with court orders? Its an interesting question, and I think one that few people actually get a chance to think about. I thought about it in the commercial context as EMusic swam the litigious channels of the music industry from both sides of the aisle.

The answer is that, if you don't, sooner or later someone shows up with a gun and tells you to either comply, lose your liberty, or be shot.

I think too few folks realize that this is the basis on which even a benevolent and generally good government functions. I'm certainly happy that we as a society have reached a level of civilization where we take all of this for granted - even to the point that most people forget that the real coercive factor is violence, however I think that folks who fear the capacity for violence or decry force really have lost touch with the reality of human interaction.

The key is, has been, and continues to be placing violence into rational processes with due process. Intellectually recognizing that force is a legitimate component, arguably a precursor of the continuum that is the rule of law just seems to be lost on so many folks. It certainly seems to be a large source of contradiction in their arguments.

Posted by hoffmang at 01:03 AM

Cracks in Transnational Progressivism

James Bennett writes that Transnational Progressivism is showing cracks. I was unaware that the Aussies were asserting their sovereignty, but it certainly makes sense. I am, however, very happy to hear that Eastern Europe is skeptical. I'm going to enjoy watching Eastern Europe develop past much of Western Europe.

A conversation my wife and I have around here once in a while concerns me starting a tech company in Prague...

Posted by hoffmang at 12:03 AM

August 21, 2002
Agent Arts

Agent Arts today announced my appointment to their Board of Directors.

I'm really looking forward to working with Andrew and the folks there. They were the only outsource technology provider at EMusic that we were ever pleased with.

I'm most excited about being able to remain active in what I consider to be the most exciting next steps in the downloadable music business. Quality personalized recommendations coupled with data mined about the relationships of songs and artists are going to be leveraged to create really intuitive playlists on the fly from a listeners collection.

Its the sort of stuff that threatens radio long term.

Posted by hoffmang at 11:13 AM

August 15, 2002
Progressive Transnationalism

Steven Den Beste introduces an article from John Fonte explaining a new and controversial concept of Progressive Transnationalism. One should read either the abstract or DenBeste's highlights.

My take is that this is the newer, friendlier version of "socialism" where the elite get to redistribute the wealth and happiness pejoratively for the masses. This certainly explains my Jacksonian contempt for many of these concepts.

Posted by hoffmang at 03:42 PM

August 09, 2002
Justice to Enforce Online Copyright

In a move that pleases me, Congressmen from both sides of the aisle have asked Ashcroft and the Justice Department to enforce copyrights online. The letter that lawmakers sent apparently specifically requests that the Justice department enforce the NET act on peer to peer networks. Also check out the Wired coverage.

Far better than making any new laws would be the simple enforcement of the existing ones. People are not going to behave until there is some risk to their behavior. If DOJ becomes at all aggressive P2P networks will become ghost towns.

Posted by hoffmang at 10:23 PM

August 08, 2002
Blog Children

I have Blog Children!

First, I convinced my wife to blog. As soon as she started I was blown away as I was reintroduced to how strong a natural writer she is. Lots of good stuff about our daughter - The Bean - as well.

Barely a couple of days after she got started, her friend Julie set up a couple of blogs - only one of which survives as far as I can tell. Julie is in Tech Support, so she did the heavy lifting of starting quite a few of her own blogs.

Third, Heather's friend Camille came down from Canada and I set her up on a blog. She made some changes and now I find out that she has decided to learn HTML and is totally hooked. She's now worried that she will need a pocket protector and plans to learn Javascript.

Two final observations. Both Camille and Julie have decided that literary criticism (and in Julie's case all entertainment) is what they feel is most interesting to the rest of the world. Knowing how much all of us read, it certainly makes sense.

Finally, I have to mention something that made me extremely proud of my wife. We all started at BlogSpot with Blogspot templates. I decided to move this site and my wife's site off to Movable Type, so I spent quite a bit of time modifying the templates for both our sites and generally setting up my wife's site as to links and such. I'll be darned if my brilliant and usually tech phobic wife didn't figure out advanced template editing in Movable Type and change her links section completely on her own.

Ain't she grand!

Posted by hoffmang at 12:13 AM

August 06, 2002
Stock Option Expenses and Unintended Consequences

Today's Wall Street Journal has an article by Jonathan Weil and Theo Francis entitled Deciding Stock Options' Value Will Be Tricky Task for Firms. The article ends:

Most companies that have declared their intentions to recognize stock-option compensation expenses each quarter would feel only a modest pinch to the bottom line from the change. General Electric said in a footnote to its 2001 annual report that expensing stock-option compensation would have reduced net income by about 2.2%; doing so in 2000 would have cut earnings by about 1.8%. Similarly, Procter & Gamble said expensing the options it granted employees and executives would have cut net income by about 11% in 2001 and by 5% in 2000. At Coca-Cola, earnings would have fallen by about 5% last year and 8% in 2000. High-technology companies' earnings likely would be hardest hit by a change in accounting rules. For example, Intel Corp., the semiconductor maker, told investors that its 2001 earnings would have fallen by 80% if it had counted stock-option grants as an expense, although the expense would have lowered 2000 earnings by just 8%.

The Intel situation scares the hell out of me. The only possible explanation for the difference in the two years is that in 2000 Intel's stock performance was fine and in 2001 it was not. Thus, Intel was forced to issue many more new shares to calm nerves and buttress the loyalty of key employees in a down market without using precious cash. The net effect will be that in periods of decreased revenues and incomes - which is what makes Intel stock decline in the first place - Intel and others like it will be forced to place further artificial pressure on its stock to arguably do what is best from a public policy and long term shareholder value standpoint.

I think the vast majority of the supporters of expensing options are looking at the issue without seeing this unintended consequence. However, I'd also lay a wager that this is exactly the type of behavior and effect that Warren Buffett and non growth companies like GM want to see.

Posted by hoffmang at 03:24 PM

August 05, 2002
Intellectual Property as Welfare

Tom W. Bell has a very insightful essay on the historical underpinnings of American Copyright and Patent Law which draws out the concept of these laws creating a welfare system and thus corporate welfare.

Posted by hoffmang at 01:14 PM

Powered by Movable Type