No More Bad News

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been posting a lot fewer political items here. It’s not because I think things are looking up, but because I think they’re looking worse and worse. I decided that trying to keep up would (a) be a lost cause, and (b) make this blog terribly boring (not that it isn’t anyway).

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been posting a lot fewer political items here. It’s not because I think things are looking up, but because I think they’re looking worse and worse. I decided that trying to keep up would (a) be a lost cause, and (b) make this blog terribly boring (not that it isn’t anyway).

I am still cataloging the various signs of the apocolypse, in a separate blog that’s mostly a collection of story links and summaries. I call it The Decline and Fall of the American Empire, because I think there are clear signs that America is going to hell in a handbasket, but like frogs in a pot of water, if the heat is brought up gradually, no one will cry out until it’s too late.

At least, that’s my opinion. And as far as I understand the current laws of the United States, I’m still entitled to it.

We’ll see how long that lasts.

What’s That Crash I Hear…?

About 45 years tardy, one of our nation’s courts ruled that adding “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance turns it into a state-sponsored (or -mandated) prayer, and therefore makes it un-Constitutional. The fact is, any time Congress is voting to add the word “God” to anything, it’s probably a violation of the separation of church and state.

About 45 years tardy, one of our nation’s courts ruled that adding “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance turns it into a state-sponsored (or -mandated) prayer, and therefore makes it un-Constitutional.

Now everyone near a microphone or a TV camera is shoving people aside to go on-record as being for the Pledge, and against the non-“common-sense” judges.

The fact is, any time Congress is voting to add the word “God” to anything, it’s probably a violation of the separation of church and state.

Dumbya’s assertions notwithstanding, the legal foundation of the United States of America is the Constitution, and if you’ve read it, you may know that the word “God” does not appear anywhere in it.

Senators are rushing to put together a Constitutional amendment to allow the Pledge. Between that and the power grab perpetrated by Bush and abetted by Ashcroft, that crash you hear may well be the shattering of the finest piece of legislation ever enacted.

More Naked People

I have a sure-fire way to end all this suicide bombing. Israel could be the first nation to legally require that all residents go nude, all the time, in public.

I have a sure-fire way to end all this suicide bombing. Israel could be the first nation to legally require that all residents go nude, all the time, in public.

It’s a lot harder to hide a bomb if you have no clothing on. Anyone wearing clothing can be spotted immediately, and searched on the spot.

I suppose you’d have to make carrying duffel bags and the like illegal also…

Hey, I’m just trying to help here!

Make ’em Pay

I’m convinced that only a structural remedy can successfully address Microsoft’s unrepentant behavior and resolve the guilty verdict in the Microsoft antitrust trial. Dave Winer wondered if bloggers could come up with ideas. I have one: make them pay a shareholder dividend. A biiiiiig dividend.

I’m convinced there’s no lie Microsoft won’t tell, no line they won’t cross, to be able to continue to behave exactly as they want. Using the war against terrorism is the latest absurdity.

Given this and Bill Gates’s threat to pull Windows from the marketplace if forced to make any court-ordered changes to his software, it’s clear the only successful remedy in the Microsoft antitrust trial will be structural.

Dave Winer recently wondered if the blogging community could help solve the sticky issues of finding an appropriate remedy. So I have an idea.

One of Microsoft’s mightiest weapons is the huge pile of cash they sit on, more than $40 billion. Among many other things, it lets them buy their way into new markets, taking huge losses for years to drive out competitors. Taking most of that money away would at least slow them down.

But taking $40 billion away from them isn’t something that would be “fair” (though why the rules of fair play should apply to Microsoft is beyond me). There is a way around this.

Make them pay a shareholder dividend. A biiiiiig dividend.

It’s common practice for companies with profits or ready cash the size of Microsoft’s to pay dividends; indeed, Microsoft’s cash hoard is twice the size of GM’s, a company with 7 times the revenue. (In other words, they should need lots less, but have much more.) It’s even arguable that holding that cash is a tax dodge.

So, for a lot of reasons, a court-mandated dividend that shrank the pile of cash to something reasonable — say, $4 billion — would be a structural change that could both positively affect Microsoft’s behavior, and be a nice bonus for shareholders.

This idea isn’t a complete solution, but it’s a possible component. Take it or ignore it, whatever.

F.-I.W.

Not all of the concepts in this classic story scale well to a larger society, but the most powerful one — F.-I.W. — is essential (in measured amounts), even if Dumbya and John Ashcroft would tell us otherwise.

Not all of the concepts in this classic story scale well to a larger society, but the most powerful one — F.-I.W. — is essential (in measured amounts), even if Dumbya and John Ashcroft would tell us otherwise.

No Consumer Harm?

A CNet article covers customer resistance to Microsoft licensing changes that result in substantial price increases, which drives home how consumers really are harmed by Microsoft’s illegal exercise of their monopoly power.

A CNet article covers customer resistance to Microsoft licensing changes that result in substantial price increases:

“One year ago this week, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft announced a radical change in the way that businesses buy its software: Rather than simply being able to upgrade their software when they wanted to — and when their budgets allowed — companies would need to commit to buying operating-system and application upgrades ahead of time through an annual fee. […]

The cash bonanza for Microsoft due to the licensing change is sizeable. For instance, Microsoft pulled in an extra $1 billion during the first three quarters of its 2002 fiscal year for Office, just one of several products affected by the change. The change, according to Gartner, raised licensing fees paid by customers between 33 percent and 107 percent.”

No consumer harm due to monopoly power being illustrated here. Customers are better off paying more, they like it…

Where Will It End

“Given the lack of public outcry about these shameful laws and rulings, I’m beginning to wonder if very many of you care about your rights. Do you?”

Writing about a recent judicial ruling on the DMCA, Dan Gillmor writes:

Given the lack of public outcry about these shameful laws and rulings, I’m beginning to wonder if very many of you care about your rights. Do you?

I’m convinced Dan’s right. Americans no longer care about their rights, just as long as their cable TV is working. If this keeps up, it won’t be America much longer…

Habeas Corpus

“Why suspend the habeas corpus in insurrections and rebellions? Examine the history of England…”

Why suspend the habeas corpus in insurrections and rebellions? Examine the history of England. See how few of the cases of the suspension of the habeas corpus law have been worthy of that suspension. They have been either real treasons, wherein the parties might as well have been charged at once, or sham plots, where it was shameful they should ever have been suspected. Yet for the few cases wherein the suspension of the habeas corpus has done real good, that operation is now become habitual and the minds of the nation almost prepared to live under its constant suspension.

— Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1788

Due Process

“It is fundamental that the great powers of Congress to conduct war and to regulate the Nation’s foreign relations are subject to the constitutional requirements of due process.”

It is fundamental that the great powers of Congress to conduct war and to regulate the Nation’s foreign relations are subject to the constitutional requirements of due process. The imperative necessity for safeguarding these rights to procedural due process under the gravest of emergencies has existed throughout our constitutional history, for it is then, under the pressing exigencies of crisis, that there is the greatest temptation to dispense with fundamental constitutional guarantees which, it is feared, will inhibit governmental action.

— Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 1963

Truth Is Scarier Than Fiction

In less than three weeks, we’ll start going to the theaters to watch the latest Star Wars movie. We will see bad things happen. And then we’ll go home, and let similar bad things happen in real life.

In less than three weeks, we’ll start going to the theaters to watch the latest Star Wars installment. If the trailers and Lucas interviews are any indication, we’ll see the Republic give sweeping powers to “protect” them, to the very person they are most afraid of (they just don’t know it).

And then we’ll come home, and continue to do the very same thing in our real lives. In smaller steps, like the frog in a pot, where the heat is turned up so gradually it never realizes it’s being cooked, until too late.

John Ashcroft is Darth Vader.

Lying Styles of the Rich and Famous

“[T]here are no honest administrations. But each presidency does bring its own unique style to the task of deceiving the citizenry.”

From Slate’s Lying in Style:

[T]here are no honest administrations. But each presidency does bring its own unique style to the task of deceiving the citizenry. And at least you can derive some truths about a president from the way he chooses to lie to you.

Dark Victory

I wonder if the next Star Wars movie is going to be serendipitously subversive. In a Time interview George Lucas says “All democracies turn into dictatorships — but not by coup. The people give their democracy to a dictator.”

I wonder if the next Star Wars movie is going to be serendipitously subversive. In a Time interview George Lucas says “All democracies turn into dictatorships — but not by coup. The people give their democracy to a dictator.”

A dark parallel with current events, I think.