March 30, 2004

AOL Gives Away Spammer's Porche

Just when all seemed lost on the spam front, here's news that AOL is raffling off a spammer's Porche it won in a lawsuit against the unnamed spammer last year.

Not auctioning. Raffling. They're giving it away to some lucky AOL user. I hope my family members who are still on AOL enter this competition. If I could get my hands on the car, guess what the vanity plate would say?

Link via Boing Boing.

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Ethics of Encrypting Email

Ernie wonders if lawyers have an ethical obligation to encrpyt e-mail, in order to preserve client confidentiality.

I don't think so, myself, any more than one has the obligation to encrypt paper mail. Both messages pass throught he hands of third parties; both are possible to intercept given a clever or determined interloper.

But if a snooper captures a paper envelope, steams it open, reads the contents, and passes it along, has the attorney committed an ethical violation by failing to use tamper-proof envelopes? I don't know of any Bar Counsel or court in this country that would impose such a duty.

So why impose a higher duty for e-mail communications? Considering Ernie's point that most lawyers couldn't even spell "PGP", let alone identify a hash function, the folks who make the ethics rules are unlikely to impose such a standard on the entire profession.

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March 27, 2004

Accidental Wedding

We're in Austin today for a wedding.

Alex had never flown in a plane before, and he took it like a champ. We've got great pictures, which Dineen will post soon. My favorite is the one of him staring out the plane window watching the baggage handlers.

Today is my second time in Austin in as many weeks. It's odd to be here without most of the SxSW tribe also congregating, but I know we'll see several old friends tonight and have an absolute blast.

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March 22, 2004


As the weather here refuses to turn nice, I find myself thinking of warmer climates.

In honor of the tropics, I bring you a new template: Surf!.

If you don't like it, hit the Switcher to try another. If it breaks, let me know.

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March 21, 2004

Getting Things Done

Along with Ernie , a number of bloggers are discovering the "Getting Things Done" system by David Allen's consulting firm.

I first heard of the method from one of the law-related e-mail lists I subscribe to, probably MacLaw. The GTD method is especially powerful for lawyers who have to juggle hundreds or thousands of time-sensitive details and minutia. It's no surprise that lawyers like Rick Klau, Sherry Fowler, and Buzz Bruggeman swear by the system.

The method was even mentioned at the Emerging Tech conference last February, (see the "Recommended Reading" at the bottom) as part of the "Life Hacks: Tech Secrets of Overprolific Alpha Geeks" session. Alpha Geeks like Robert Scoble have joined the ranks, proclaiming that a day-long session changed his life. Jeff Sandquist got the Outlook plug-in for the GTD system. I'm sure there are a lot of other Alpha Geeks out there using it as well.

The David Allen website features user forums for those who want to see how people are implementing the system. There's also a "Coaches' Corner" with columns from the various coaching staff and coach Jason Womack even has a weblog. (or two?)

Joel on Software has some reader tips.

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March 18, 2004

Wonkette, Grounded

File under "Celeb Sighting": Just before a meeting with a client today at the Grounds I did not expect to see Ana Marie Cox, better known as Wonkette, with a whole film crew in tow.

I snapped a blurry, badly-lit pic with my cell phone and may post it if I get it uploaded.

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March 17, 2004

March 16, 2004

Bruce Sterling Presentation

Author Bruce Sterling, who needs no introduction, just invited all of us to his house tonight for free beer, free wifi, and 100% guaranteed free electric power. No food, though.

His points follow, filtered through my ears, brain, and clumsy fingers.

Most sci-fi authors are moving from "steam-punk" and "cyber-punk" to "now-punk."

These are dark and interesting times - most people can't stand this Department of Justice guy but I'm a big fan of Rummy. Job 1 of this administration is to get it spun - if you get it spun you don't have to get it done. They didn't invent this, it's a long term-development.

This administration's approach to science is like that of the old Soviet Union, but groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists are starting to counter this effectively.

In 2004 Austin declared itself the clean energy capital of the world and that cheered me up - I'm willing to suffer a lot for that particular benefit. I've got 3kW of solar power on my roof. I could power my entire neighborhood and drench it in wifi using South African army surplus microwave horns.

Anyone who's got a lot of oil coming out the the ground has no incentive to foster the creative class - every nation with lots of oil has significant problems (Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and so on) - even those places in Canada with lots of oil are the most screwed-up parts of Canada.

2004 is a very cheerful year for some people - India is waking up all over right now. As a futurist, I spend a lot of time trend-spotting India. They're making amazing progress in living standards for a billion people.

Freaking out over Indian offshoring is a short sighted point of view. If you want to keep a large number of people ignorant and backwards, try it out in your own country instead.

The interesting thing about Indian offshoring is that even some Indians are opposed to it. Gandhi made his own clothes as a way of frustrating multinational corporations, in part to "be the change" he wanted to see in the world. India has tried this approach in general for almost 50 years and never prospered, but then a new party came into power and has shown the world India can compete.

Take the protectionist shell away and they're doing ok. They're even doing well creatively - Bollywood is forming new structures to generate movies. Look at the web to get a better look at the Indian moviemaking.

Chinese and Indian have a huge global diaspora. We talk about globalization as if it's Americanization but it's not. Other cultures are spreading widely.

The Brazilian Minister of Culture is a traveling musician. He wants to preside over the "tropicalization of digitalization." What do third world people want to do with the Internet? They outnumber us in the developed world and their interests do not coincide with ours.

There may not be a way to commercialize the interjection of the internet in the third world but that doesn't mean it won't be done. It alarms me to see Brazil as the world's most politically innovative country - Brazilians say that it is the "country of the future and always will be." They're setting a lot of trends. They have a lot to gain and little to lose.

Is it successful to have foreign policy to alienate all our economic and military allies and do things that a majority of people in most countries think is the wrong thing to do? Do we want more policies like this? [Ed. - depends on if you think popularity is the goal of foreign policy]

I spend a lot of time thinking about computer security. Under this administration, security has gotten steadily worse. Viruses, phishing, torrents of porn, pharmaceutical fraud is reaching unprecedented rates. About 1/3 of the spam online is being sent from people whose unsecured computers have been enslaved. Because it's impossible to secure a Microsoft system. "Outlook is a flaw with a mailer attached to it."

It's bad on the Internet now - it's coming apart at the seams. We're used to the social disorder pouring into our machines. But what happens when the third world comes online and plugs into a global assault of the world's most malicious computer users?

The U.S. is pushing the internet as the crown jewel of our culture. But when someone from a more sedate society opens the window to see what we see, they would be appalled.

Everyone on the world is being savaged - even us Mac guys have to weed out the cruft from those who have been victimized. But the Bush Administration could have done something to prevent this. Make corporations responsible for their products. There's a white paper detailing what can be done. But the administration has no intent of actually fixing anything. But they're not even stopping the Nigerian 419 scammers. Our government has completely failed to protect us from this real threat, failing to listen even to their own hand-picked experts on the question.

This problem will take political will to fix, and that's not happening.

Before the war, Scott Ritter openly warned that there were no WMD's in Iraq - they were too incompetent to make them even thought they wanted to. But no one listened.

The Spanish election turned on lies and spin - when the recent attacks got blamed on Basque separatists, and it eventually got revealed as Al Quaeda, voters were fed up with the lies.

Martin Rees thinks our civilization has a fifty-fifty chance of making it to the end of the twenty-first century. I am cheered up by his optimism.

I'm also watching microbial threats like SARS - they hit old people the hardest and old people are think on the ground every where. Unless bird flu gets loose, we're going to be an increasingly top-heavy society.

Also looking at "global red light district" phenomenon. Globalization doesn't lift all boats. You can rise like China or India, or become a criminal state that can't compete. They spend all their time exporting criminal services to the rest of the world. The only difference between a criminal state and an oil state is that an oil state still has its oil. Once it runs out, they move to the criminal state.

Somalia has 14 years of massive failed state - 14 years of warlords. And they're coming on line at an alarming rate, wiring up as fast as they can go. Everyone who can earn a living from Somalia has already left, and they're sending cash home and running it by remote control. This won't make Somalia a better place, it will just turn it into a wired anarchy.

This trend expends beyond Somalia. Some places succeed at globalization, some don't. Those fester. Intervention won't work any more than it has in Haiti. I don't regard this as hopeless - I think there is some kind of solution but I don't know what it is.

It's good to live in a city [Austin] where you feel that if more people lived as we do it would be a happier place.

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March 15, 2004

How to Work a Conference

Ste is a Richmond web designer who has some observations on how to maximize your SXSW experience.

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Blogging and the Law

Jonas and I are in the Blogging and the Law panel. Jonas is live-blogging, so I'll just throw in a snide remark or two.

There are a bunch of lawyers and law students here in the audience - I think we're going to start heckling any minute. Oh, the irony:the people whose chose to attend are the people who are the least likely to need it.

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Doug Bowman has put his SXSW presentations online: Stopdesign Presentations: South by Southwest 2004.

Well worth a look.

Dave Shea showed off some of the award-winning CSS Zen Garden, including a handful of his favorites (and one as-of-yet unreleased design). I hope he at least blogs a list of the ones he showed since I wasn't able to track them down. UPDATE: Dave's notes are online and also for the CSS: Good Bad and Ugly panel following.

Dan Cederholm showed off his image tab rollover techniques, which seem to me like they are widely known by now. He promised to put his presentation online later and I'll update when he does.

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March 14, 2004

Power to the People

I'm now legally sharing my power strip with Simon and a couple of others, as I recharge after the Trippi panel. Up until this morning, there was a new policy banning use of power outlets in hallways and panels, but the news has come out that the policy has changed. Those responsible have been sacked - or at least enlightened.

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Joe Trippi Presentation

I'm in Joe Trippi's presentation and I'll attempt to blog it live. We'll see how this goes.

Zack from is leading the interminable introduction. He says that he warned Joe not to use blogs as part of the campaign, and in hindsight, it was blogs that "build the Dean campaign." There is no trace of irony in his delivery.

The Dean campaign broke new ground by making itself a "social movement" and, unlike all other presidential campaigns, was willing to cede control of the campaign to the people supporting it. (This is probably one of the reasons it failed, in my opinion.)

Now Joe's up. I'm paraphrasing him from here on out.

The Democratic party, after the Carter campaign, set up internal barriers to stop insurgent campaigns. After Gary Hart in 1984, the party went back to strengthen those. The front-loaded primaries are one way of doing this. The Republicans figured out long ago how to defeat insurgents, but the Dems are just now catching up. See McCain for an example.

These barriers meant that the only way the Dean campaign had a chance was to come in hard and fast, well-funded, aiming to win Iowa and New Hampshire. No insurgent could have a chance any other way. All the campaigns that tried to avoid Iowa/NH got blown out of the water.

Our current system is rusted and broken, and has been since TV changed politics in the wake of the Kennedy/Nixon debates. At that time, we just didn't know how bad it would be. Now fundraising is the most significant qualification to join the race.

"We don't have health care, not because Gephardt didn't have a good plan, or Dean didn't have a good plan, or the Clintons didn't have a good plan, but because the special interests can put up Harry and Louise and kill it. It doesn't matter what the plan is." (Is he nuts? Well, of course he is. )

The internet is the only medium that lets democracy come back into the fray. All other media is top-down. The Internet is the most powerful tool put in the hands of average Americans. It's a bottom-up phenomenon. The people who use the net will begin to change everything, not just in politics, but across the board.

The Dean campaign began with 432 known supporters nationwide. It grew to 650,000 Americans and raised more money than any Democrat in history, not with $2,000 checks, but averaging less than $100 per person.

How did we get there? Mainstream media had a homogenous message, but all the important debates - WMD's, DMCA, and so on - were happening in the blogosphere. Trent Lott happened there. Paperless voting machines are getting discussed there. Not in the mainstream media.

The campaign embraced the immediately when they saw critical masses of people start to form. One thing the campaign did was that every day today there's an American waking up saying "I can make a difference." Broadcast politics have been wiped out. (Does he know who John Kerry is?")

$25 can change the way the Democratic party's nomination process works. This year, there two million Americans in this country who would borrow $100 to get rid of George Bush. The day that happens, politics will be changed forever.

In the campaign, they had a whiteboard and knew they needed to raise $200 million. Not going to happen in $2,000 increments. Analyzing smaller increments started to look like the answer.

Not only would this grassroots movement change the occupant of the White House, but it would also empower the American people to get rid of the lobbyists and the special interests. Only the internet gives the American people that power.

What worked and didn't work?

The largest political SMS machine - wow, 5,000 users. Not so helpful, but the attempt was made.

MSNBC has an average audience of 250,000 people, after 12 years on the air. In 13 months, Dean grew from 432 to 150,000 people. Almost every really cool idea on the Dean campaign came from the blogs.

Signs: Iowa for Dean, etc. was on the web site. A blogger let them know they had forgotten PR. Someone from London wanted an Americans Abroad for Dean sign. A thank-you note came from another woman in Spain. All this happened in 10 minutes. Under the old way, the would have been a warehouse full of signs and the omission would never have been fixed until the election was already over. No campaign has as much brainpower as 60,000 Americans.

At a press event in NY, they decided they needed a red bat for Dean's appearance - with five minutes left. Just as Dean gets there, a campaign aide runs up with a red bat he's somehow found. The red bat was an idea from the blog readers to signal the audience they had made the fundraising goal, and the blog readers know the idea had been posted only 30 minutes before.

This wasn't giving up control; it was blog readers making the campaign better than it ever could have been.

Without the internet, Dean could have gotten nowhere near where he got with this campaign due tot he way the rules are set up. It takes more than 13 months to tear down the old structure, but the genie is now out of the bottle. Washington is not immune from change for the people. The net isn't going to knock the system down, the people are going to do it using the net as a tool.

The campaign spent $100,000 to attack Bush in Texas, and asked the people for money to keep the momentum going. In regular politics, a million-dollar fundraiser usually nets $650,000 - but the Dean campaign netted $900,000 by raising a million with that ad buy. Now that the campaign is over, the establishment attacks Joe Trippi as a way of preserving the old way of doing politics.

Now for Q&A:

Someone asks about the 2 million Americans with $100 each. Trippi says that the best thing about that money is that it's hard money which can be spent any way the campaign wants to, unlike soft money or 527 organizations. It's not enough to change presidents - without popular support, politics won't change and we'll have another Carter.

q: Do you think the internet is now like it was before corporations got involved?

a: The Dean campaign couldn't have happened if hadn't happened - the 'net wasn't mature enough and people wouldn't be willing to use credit cards to contribute. That's why the Dean movement didn't happen last cycle - it wasn't mature enough. No one in Washington is talking about the grassroots - they only care about the money. That's why the change isn't coming from Washington, it's got to come from the people. No one's going to change your country for you. So how to do it? That's what the Dean campaign started to answer.

q: is this something unique about progressive politics, or will the conservative movement pick up on this as well and ultimately balance out?

a: the Republicans, even more than the Dems, are a top-down party and will be much less willing to give up control. The Kerry campaign might not even be willing to do that. The media, the recording industry, are top-down and that's why they get blindsided because they just don't understand the bottom-up movement that's coming.

q: if someone said that was only now doing what has been doing for years, what would you say?

a: I wouldn't disagree. Rove and these guys have built a Death Star by bundling obscene amounts of money - the only apparatus for the Dems to be competitive is grassroots. Part of being an opposition party is that the only way to get power back is for the people to take it.

q: Did Trippi have any notion that the media was going to knock Dean down at the first chance it got?

a: The campaign was in trouble long before the Dean scream. The Gore endorsement was a watershed event. It unleashed two forces: all the other candidates decided to target Dean, and the press realized it had to get tough with the presumptive nominee. Those two things happened at once long before the first vote was cast, unlike any other Democratic presidential campaign in history. When the campaign made some mistakes, all those forces combined to kill the campaign. No one has ever faced the kind of independent attack ads like Dean did in Iowa. Iowa also happened to be the worst state for a guy like Dean because it is the oldest average voter in the state.

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The Substance of Style

The first panel this morning is the one I was looking forward to the most, because I'm a pretty big fan of Virginia Postrel, who writes, among other things, the Dynamist. She was here discussing the themes in her new book.

In sum, style matters, and the increased demand for aesthetics in our society is reflects both a deeper sophistication and also a satisfaction of some of our baser needs. Now that dentists have gotten so good at preventing our teeth from falling out, for example, many have now turned to cosmetic dentistry as a way of continuing to expand their range of services. The advance of style in mundane objects like toilet brushes is a result of the power of our economy to extract value to serving ever-smaller market niches over broader markets.

The panel whet my appetite to read the book, which I probably would have picked up anyway.

One other pleasant surprise was walking in to the panel, throwing my ass in the first avaialble seat, and realizing I had just plunked myself down next to two of my fraternity brothers: Rick, who is now a teacher in Austin and has lived here for years, and Heath, a prominent blogger in his own right. Small world.

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Meeting of the Uninsulated Minds

"Mine is soft as a kitten."

Jefe and Griff discuss thier domes.

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When I got out of the shower this morning, I found that Dan, who I'm rooming with, had turned on the Sunday morning chat shows. George Will, stiff as a corpse, was talking and I realized that there is no one on the planet who is in more desperate need of a Queer Eye makeover than he.

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March 13, 2004

SXSW 2004

As has been my usual March habit, I'm back in Austin for SXSW. The events are already in full swing, and if the weather doesn't stay too wet, it should be another great conference.

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March 09, 2004

Web Eye

At first I thought it was a parody, but if so, it's the dryest delivery I've ever read:

Lance and Brad post about skin care. Seriously.

Link via Dori.

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Rule Against Perpetuities

Ernie writes about the infamous Rule Against Perpetuities (which, I must note, does not apply to this website). The Rule is so complex that a California court once ruled (in Lucas v. Hamm, 56 Cal.2d 583 (Cal. 1961) ) that a lawyer who misapplied the Rule was not liable for malpractice.

(The original discussion flows from Beldar and Legal Underground.)

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March 06, 2004

Everybody Lies About Money

Now that Martha Stewart has been convicted of conspiracy and other charges, it's only a matter of seconds before the inevitable cell-block decor and prison cuisine parodies flood the market. (Feel free to note the better ones in the comments section.)

Most people who aren't paying attention will think that she did something wrong with her stock trading - which she didn't. The only securities fraud charge was dismissed by the judge earlier. The jury convicted her of trying to cover up the non-existent wrongdoing.

So even if you didn't do anything wrong, boys and girls, remember, it's still not ok to lie about it.

On a related note, Krempasky points to the closing argument of the defense - which may be the worst one I've ever seen.

UPDATE: Airbag has an exclusive peek at the jury deliberations.

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The Shores of Tripoli

Once a sworn enemy of the Unites States and state sponsor of terrorism, Libya has made a stunning turnaround.

With breathtaking speed, Libya has given up a program to develop nuclear weapons, surrendered its bombmaking equipment, destroyed chemical munitions shells, invited human rights inspectors to the country and opened its once-closed economy to trade and investment. U.S. officials are scouring Libya's capital, Tripoli, searching for the site of a new embassy more than 20 years after breaking diplomatic relations.

It is pretty clear to most observers that Libya's new attitude is directly related to the regime change in Iraq. We can only hope that other former enemies follow suit.

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March 03, 2004

Ich habe Dachau gesehen

Kim Du Toit: Never Again:

At the end of the trip, we turned to the kids and said: "One day, someone may say to you that this never happened. You are here to bear witness that it did. Never, ever allow those lies to take root and spread. Make sure your children know that this happened, too. This cannot be allowed to happen again.

I haven't seen anything like it myself, but now I know that I really must make the effort when my children are old enough to understand.

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March 02, 2004

100 Years of Seuss

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Theodore Geisel, known to millions of children and their parents as Dr. Seuss.

Few people in this country did as much as he did to bring the magic of literacy to children. Few adults my age don't have fond memories of classics like The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and many others.

Listen to Jesse Jackson reading Green Eggs and Ham. [scroll down]

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Governator, Part II

California's new governor is a political force to be reckoned with. If he continues to succeed like he has so far, the "Recall Resentment" of the Democratic Party - seen most prominently in their rhetoric about "undoing" elections - will not be an asset for them in the fall, and might even turn around to hurt them.

Just how impressive has Arnold's performance been so far? If only our president was so effective:

The comparisons to the former president and California governor are now no longer the stuff of actor-turned-politician trivia. They are a statement of the new governor's considerable clout.
"He is the most effective salesperson for ideas since Ronald Reagan," says Bruce Cain, a political scientist at the University of California at Berkeley. Those who have worked with both, "say he's even better."

Maybe there will be significant support for a different constitutional amendment sparked by California politics.

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Eldred Post-Portem

Professor Lessig engages in some undeserved self-flagellation over the outcome of the Eldred case:

A few seconds later, the opinions arrived by e-mail. I took the phone off the hook, posted an announcement of the ruling on our blog, and sat down to see where I had been wrong in my reasoning. My reasoning. Here was a case that pitted all the money in the world against reasoning. And here was the last nave law professor, scouring the pages, looking for reasoning.
I first scoured the majority opinion, written by Ginsburg, looking for how the court would distinguish the principle in this case from the principle in Lopez. The reasoning was nowhere to be found. The case was not even cited. The core argument of our case did not even appear in the court's opinion. I couldn't quite believe what I was reading. I had said that there was no way this court could reconcile limited powers with the commerce clause and unlimited powers with the progress clause. It had never even occurred to me that they could reconcile the two by not addressing the argument at all.

As any lawyer knows, sometimes being right isn't enough - Satan's minion's are shrewd persauders. After all, he gets his pick.

Link from Ernie.

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Grey Areas in the Law

The EFF analyzes the legality of the Grey Album. Most obscure, yet important, point:

There is no federal copyright protection for sound recordings made before 1972. Because the White Album was released in 1968, it appears that EMI has no federal copyright rights in the sound recording... State laws, however, may protect sound recordings made before 1972. Many states have their own copyright laws or may apply common law doctrines to protect sound recordings from misappropriation. The rights and remedies are likely to vary from state to state.

This opens up the DJ and anyone distributing the remix to liability under a hodgepodge of laws.

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