Monthly Archives: May 2004

Not Safe For Work

The Guardian reports that in Ireland they have their own approach to keeping financial markets clean—Irish bank boss quits over adult sites:

The Irish banking sector was dealt another blow this weekend with the resignation of the chief executive of the Bank of Ireland, Michael Soden.

Mr Soden resigned on Saturday after he admitted breaking company guidelines by accessing internet sites containing adult content. He is also expected to step down from the board of the Post Office, a role he took up after the Bank of Ireland signed a deal with the Royal Mail's retail arm.

A spokesman for the bank said directors would meet this week to discuss Mr Soden's replacement and payoff.

The experienced banking executive said he deeply regretted the embarrassment he had caused the bank by breaching its policies on internet use.

“I have made it a central part of my tenure to set the highest standards of integrity and behaviour and to do so in an environment of accountability, transparency and openness,” he said. “I now accept that accessing this material was inappropriate and would cause embarrassment to Bank of Ireland and people who work there.”

Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern yesterday said Mr Soden's resignation and a growing scandal at Allied Irish Bank had jeopardised the credibility of the Irish financial industry. “It can't get much worse.”

Perhaps Mr. Soden should look for a job in Denmark?

Posted in Law: Everything Else | Leave a comment

Annals of Software Obsolescence: Intuit is Even More Evil than I Though

In an earlier post I explained how Intuit was trying to force customers happily using earlier versions of their Quicken software to buy new updated copies by destroying the ability of users of older Quicken versions to download financial statements from banks and credit cards in the most useful format, web connect (which I've since learned Intuit refers to as OFX). I also noted that a much less-useful format, QIF files, remained available.

Well, looks like Intuit is closing even that loophole: starting with Quicken 2005, users will no longer have the option of importing QIF files for Checking, Savings, Brokerage and 401(k) accounts — the kind that have the most activity and thus most need online updating.

As a result, when Intuit decides to obsolete customers' ability to download their bank statements, as it just did to me, the entire user base will either have to go to manual entry or buy a new copy of the Quicken program.

That's forced obsolescence with a vengeance.

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Posted in Software | 8 Comments

Allow Me to Fan the Flames of Your Burning Bridge

Gawker has this email purportedly from a departing lawyer at Paul, Hastings, a firm with a reputation for great intellectual brilliance exceeded by arrogance.

From: [REDACTED] Sent: Thursday, May 27, 2004 1:11 PM Subject: FW: Goodbye…

As many of you are aware, today is my last day at the firm. It is time for me to move on and I want you to know that I have accepted a position as “Trophy Husband”. This decision was quite easy and took little consideration. However, I am confident this new role represents a welcome change in my life and a step up from my current situation. While I have a high degree of personal respect for PHJW as a law firm, and I have made wonderful friendships during my time here, I am no longer comfortable working for a group largely populated by gossips, backstabbers and Napoleonic personalities. In fact, I dare say that I would rather be dressed up like a pinata and beaten than remain with this group any longer. I wish you continued success in your goals to turn vibrant, productive, dedicated associates into an aimless, shambling group of dry, lifeless husks.

May the smoke from any bridges I burn today be seen far and wide.

Respectfully submitted,

[SIGNED]

ps. Achilles absent, was Achilles still. (Homer)

(spotted via Brian Leiter)

Posted in Law: Practice | Leave a comment

University of Georgia Will NOT Be “Losing Its Name”

The more than two-century-old University of Georgia is having a nasty spat with the 67-year-old “University of Georgia Foundation”. As part of the spat, the Foundation is seeking to trademark the “University of Georgia” name, having discovered that U.Ga. let the registration lapse a few years ago. The Foundation apparently did this because the state is threatening to remove the Foundation's right to use the U.Ga. name.

According to a correspondent on Dave Farber's mailing list at least one of the newspapers covering this has leapt to the conclusion that this might mean that at least in theory, the foundation could try to force the University of Georgia, founded in 1785, to stop calling itself the University of Georgia.

Nonsense.

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Posted in Law: Trademark Law | 1 Comment

Yes, Igor

Charles Petit has a blog whose content is so good I read it despite the layout, which (at least on Firefox with my defaults) produces a color scheme and crowded typeface that I actually find disturbing. Here's the start of an especially good recent post:

It's alive: The Ninth Circuit gave us a true Frankenstein moment on Monday. In Thinket Ink (PDF), a panel held that

if a corporation either suffers discrimination harm cognizable under § 1981, or has acquired an imputed racial identity, it is sufficiently within the statutory zone of interest to have prudential standing to bring an action under § 1981.

Id., slip op. at 6343 (emphasis added).

Why is this a Frankenstein moment? Because by implication it means that the corporation, an unnatural person, has taken on yet more aspects from natural (real) persons: race, religion, ethnicity, and gender. This leads to some very, very interesting (and difficult) questions of constitutional and statutory interpretation; and of the relationship among law, policy, and reality; and of speculative fiction.

There's more where that came from, plus other stuff about “Law and reality in publishing (seldom the same thing!) from the author's side of the slush pile, with occasional forays into military affairs, legal theory, and anything else that strikes me as interesting.”

Posted in Law: Everything Else | Leave a comment

Annals of Software Obsolescence: Intuit is Evil (Quicken Dept.)

I've been a somewhat satisfied user of Intuit's Quicken home accounting software for many, many years. Quicken has a very deserved reputation for lousy technical support, but the online users' groups are terrific. I used to upgrade every other year or so, but stalled at Quicken 2000. Or rather, I 'upgraded' to Quicken 2003, hated the way it locked up and garbled my display, uninstalled it and went back to Quicken 2000.

Among the very most useful features of Quicken is that I can download my checking account and credit card statements and reconcile them quickly. A bonus feature was that I could do the same with mutual fund prices, whether or not I actually owned them. Or rather, make that, I used to be able to do these things.

Some time in the past few days, Quicken quietly decided to pull the plug on what it calls online services for older versions of Quicken. (I had no warning of this and only found the web page today when things had been going wrong for several days.) The result of this is not only that I can't download mutual fund (or stock) prices, but also that I can no longer get information from my bank in a useful format.

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Posted in Software | 4 Comments

Playing the Fear Card

Lots of people have been suggesting cynically that the Administration's warning that there are terrorists under the bed might have been an attempt to distract people from Iraq and other news displeasing to the Bush re-election machine.

The cartoonists in particular have had a field day with that one. A New York Times columnist cited the doubtful reaction in his column as a sign that the press might be rising from its dormancy.

Well, don't get your hopes up too high quite yet. Consider this Newsday item (Newsday hardly being a shrinking violet) reprinted in the LA Times, Threat Warning Called a Surprise to Agency:

The Homeland Security Department was surprised by the announcement by Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III that a terrorist attack was increasingly likely in coming months, officials said Thursday.

The department, created a year after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is charged with issuing terrorism warnings to the public, and tension arose when Ashcroft and Mueller effectively took over that role at a news conference Wednesday when they said Al Qaeda is preparing a powerful attack.

Officials said the Homeland Security Department knew in advance about the news conference but expected it to focus on seven suspects with ties to Al Qaeda who were wanted for arrest or questioning. Department officials said they were caught off guard when Ashcroft went further and warned that Al Qaeda “is ready to attack the United States.”

The news conference, which excluded Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, raised concerns in Washington that his department was not coordinating the domestic fight against terrorism, which was confusing the message for the public and for local authorities.

Talk about missing the point! What this set of facts loudly suggests is NOT that Homeland Security is a useless agency with a confusing message (although it is), but rather that Ashcroft was doing political spear-carrying. The threat level wasn't changed because the non-evidence Ashcroft presented wasn't enough to warrant raising it (raising the 'threat level' above yellow imposes millions of dollars of extra policing and security costs on states, localities and airports).

The anonymous author of this story is fatally infected with the idea that the administration would not make an announcement about a heightened terror threat unless (a) it believed it and (b) was doing something about it. Yet the story itself suggests strongly that neither of these are in fact the case, since if there really were a domestic threat and plans to do something about it, Homeland Security would be involved, if only in an inter-agency way. As the Washington Post reminds us

Under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and Bush administration rules, only the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can publicly issue threat warnings, and they must be approved in a complex interagency process involving the White House. Administration officials sympathetic to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said he was not informed Ashcroft was going to characterize the threat in that way — an assertion that Justice officials deny.

The failure to even pick up the phone and call Ridge's office is nearly conclusive evidence that Ashcroft's press conference was just a stunt—based on facts that the Post reports may be “six weeks old”.

Posted in National Security | Leave a comment