Ranting and raving and carrying on

Just a few random thoughts about random stuff. Warning - may contain profanity

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Location: Toronto-ish, Ontario, Canada

Just a guy... Bit of a geek, but who isn't these days?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Who needs a title?

Today's my wedding anniversary - 3 years ago my wife said "I do", and just over 13 years ago she called me up to go on our first date. I must be doing something right, I guess... A lot of people would get all mushy here, but I won't - I'll save that for when I see her tonight.

As for the rest of you, welcome back to another episode of me, ranting and talking about whatever I feel like.

Most of what I get worked up about can generally be traced back to one thing, something I call the first law of humanity. "People are basically stupid." As long as you remember this, everything else makes sense. (And yes, I include myself in that - sometimes I'm first on the list, it seems.) We all have total brainfart moments where we say or do something that seems to make perfect sense in some situation, but when held up to the light of day it's obviously a bad idea. Unfortunately, when you are doing stuff that affects millions of others (like passing laws) the stupidity is magnified. Take the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the US, for instance - I'm sure that it makes sense in a narrow reading when applied to a specific set of circumstances for a specific reason. Unfortunately, the legislation was way too loosely worded, and has been applied to all sorts of stupid things. For example, Lexmark tried to sue another company that was making replacement cartridges for Lexmark's printers because the other company had basically broken the code that Lexmark put into its printers so they would only recognize Lexmark cartridges. So they were trying to get (and enforce) a monopoly this way. The courts have (fortunately) seen reason, and told Lexmark to go pound sand.

If they hadn't, this sort of chicanery would have gotten worse. Lexmark's business model (and that of many other printer manufacturers right now) is to sell the printers cheap, but gouge for the cartridges. If this were extended to other fields, it might get truly bizarre - how about a $5 CD player, but it only plays CDs from one record company? Or a $2000 car, but you can only use gas from specific gas stations. Monopolies are bad, consumer choice is good. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't seem to care about that - as long as they get their consumer electronics cheap, who cares that they're being tied into a particular company?

One of the problems with this (and we've seen it with Microsoft) is that a company with a legitimately-earned monopoly in one area may try to leverage that to gain advantages in other areas. This is an important distinction - a monopoly can be legitimately earned (by crushing your competitors through sound business tactics), but you can't use that monopoly unfairly in other markets. This is why Microsoft got their wrist slapped by the US DoJ a couple of years back.

Speaking of important distinctions, do you know what Martha Stewart is in jail for? It's not fraud, and it's not insider trading. It's lying to the SEC. She was never charged with insider trading. And yet, people think she's in jail for it. She couldn't be charged with insider trading because she wasn't an insider at ImClone. An "insider" is someone who's part of a company or a significant shareholder. She only had a few thousand shares, and no other connection to the company, thus she wasn't an insider.

I don't particularly like Martha Stewart, I think she's a bit of a wingnut. But she's in jail for lying? If they send people to jail for that, I think we're gonna need a lot more jails - just for the politicians!