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