Chinese airplane bumper cars, Microsoft’s Passport revoked, BC forgets to bring the funny, the NBA tries to get “in the zone,” and the hubris of dot-commers remembered with a sad shake of the head and roll of the eyes.

I’m probably the only one, but I think, if the Chinese were to check closely at the bottom of the United States recent letter of apology saying we were “very sorry” for their pilot killing himself by ramming into our plane and for the subsequent landing on the Chinese island that our plane and crew were forced to make due to this ramming, that there might be, there, near the bottom, in type so small that it’s almost illegible, a tiny addendum which reads, “PS: Go to hell.”

* * * * *

Anybody interested in seeing Microsoft bring to credit cards the same level of honesty, reliability and security that they do to operating systems? No? Well, there’s big money in credit cards, so Microsoft is doing it anyway, and it’s user-authentication “service” called Passport.

The essence is that you give Microsoft your credit card information(!), they store it securely on their servers, and you can access it to pay for all kinds of transactions, online and otherwise. Microsoft kindly takes a small percentage out of the merchants’ pockets to pay for this marvelous service.

Except that if you read the “Terms of Use” you’ll find, as did Jack Russo, Esq., a contract lawyer from Palo Alto, that there’s not one, two, or even three really good reasons not to use Passport. In fact, Microsoft has give us 15, and they’ve been good enough to spell it out in that that happy dialect known as “legalese.”

  1. Microsoft Passport Terms of Use. Not “terms of service” because they don’t want to guarantee any level of service. You’re a user. That’s it.
  2. Use of Passport constitutes an agreement to ALL Terms of Use. Take it or leave it.
  3. Microsoft reserves the right to change the Terms of Use at any time.
  4. You are responsible for regularly reviewing these conditions. Like everybody does, right?
  5. Microsoft is not responsible for any linked sites, which is kind of swell considering most of the Passport service is a series of linked sites. You, however, agree to the Terms of Use for all linked sites, whatever those terms may be.
  6. Microsoft has the right to use feedback or suggestions free of charge regardless of what intellectual property is contained within. Microsoft receives this free use license regardless of whether the user is an individual or represents a company.
  7. Any reproduction of software is subject to legal license which is retained, of course, by Microsoft, and the software may not be duplicated. (I’m not sure this makes sense for web sites, but MS put it in anyway.)
  8. Advice received via Passport should not be relied upon for personal, medical, legal, or financial decisions. Too bad that’s a lot of what it purports to offer.
  9. MS and its suppliers do not guarantee suitability, accurate, timeliness, reliability, availability. A shame this isn’t the tagline for the Passport marketing campaign.
  10. MS is not liable directly or indirectly for any damages whatsoever. In case that wasn’t clear.
  11. MS reserves the right to terminate access to PP without notice. So nobody make funny faces at Bill Gates.
  12. Agreement governed laws of King Co., Washington (where MS is headquartered). Presumably Microsoft’s lawyers will know state and local law better than your lawyer.
  13. Must be litigated in Washington. Hope you don’t live overseas.
  14. Use of PP is unauthorized in any place that does not give full authority to these Terms of Use. So there.
  15. Microsoft et al. is indemnified against everything due to anything arising out of use of Passport service.

Where do you want to go today? (For more on software contracts and the industries attempts to foist lousy terms of service on customers, see

* * * * *

News Item from The San-Jose Mercury News:

Jewish Group says “BC” Comic Strip Slurs Jews

    A leading Jewish group on Thursday said a “BC” comic strip scheduled for publication on Easter Sunday slurs Jews with its depiction of a menorah turning into a cross and urged U.S. newspapers not to run it.

    Cartoonist Johnny Hart, author of “BC,” which features a comic group of cavemen, and the strip’s distributor, Creators Syndicate, said the Easter Sunday panel was intended as a tribute to both Judaism and Christianity and not meant to offend anyone.

Apparently no word from Hart as to why BC, syndicated in some 1300 newspapers, is occasionally incomprehensible and hasn’t been funny in years.

* * * * *

The NBA killed the illegal defense rule for next year, and in so doing fundamentally changed the professional game. Whether this will result in a better game or not remains to be seen, but because star players can then be doubled by weakside help without reference to a man-to-man defense, look for most teams to play a sagging man-to-man system which collapses on the post players (well, the good ones anyway) and contentedly gives up the half-open trey.

Hoisting the three isn’t what I’d call a more exciting game, but that’s the general rule on how to beat the zone. After all, if you’re hitting the long ones, the other team will have to step out to guard you eventually or they’ll just get buried. Of course, if you’re missing, you’re screwed, so that’s an important lesson too: Shooters matter big time. Teams that don’t have a few are going get creamed next year.

Ya heard it here first. [ESPN has Peter May’s good take.]

* * * * *

Now that the dot-com era is over, and sanity once again rules the financial markets, how about some favorite quotes from the overhyped online ventures that dreamed so big? Gosh, it seems like only yesterday. From Boo! And the 100 Other Dumbest Moments in e-Business History at

    • iVillage founder and CEO Candice Carpenter in February 1998, “There isn’t an Internet company in the world that’s going to fail because of mistakes—Internet companies make thousands of mistakes every week.”

    • CIBC Oppenheimer analyst Henry Blodget in January 1999: “Unlike with other famous bubbles … the Internet bubble is riding on rock-solid fundamentals, perhaps stronger than any the market has seen before. Underlying the crazy price increases are the foundations of what could become the early 21st century’s leading growth companies…. Just because the Internet stock phenomenon looks like a bubble, it isn’t a given that the bubble will burst.”

    • Melanie Griffith, on her site: “I don’t care if people think I’m a dumb blond or stupid or an overage actress or over the hill. I don’t care because I’m gonna have a very successful Internet company, and I’m gonna have $100 million in the bank and I don’t really give a shit what anybody thinks!”

    • Utek, a business development company that finds, acquires, develops, and finances university technology for its customers, issues the following warning in its prospectus: “Our management has limited experience operating a business, has had no experience in managing and operating a business development company, and has little or no experience in corporate finance and corporate mergers.”

    • “Microsoft’s user-authentication service,, shuts down after the company neglects to renew its domain-name registration. On Christmas Day 1999, a user from Nashville, Tenn., pays the $35 fee, and the site goes back online the following day.”

    For the record, my favorite quotes of the entire dot-com era were from the DOJ v. Microsoft trial, an engaging story perhaps best told by Wired magazine writer John Heilemann in his book Pride Before the Fall: The Trials of Bill Gates and the End of the Microsoft Era. Check it out at a library near you.