The Danger of Picking Your Flavor of Law Enforcement

The coverage about HP being accused of knowingly selling printers to Iran through 3rd party distributors in violation of U.S. law is mildly interesting.

HP is violating the trade embargo if its executives cut a deal with Redington knowing its printers would be sold in Iran, according to the Globe. But despite a crackdown on U.S. companies who sell products in Iran, some American companies whose products are sold through third-party distributors have so far avoided scrutiny.

[From HP mum on selling printers to Iran – San Jose Mercury News]

What is interesting is following the comments on the stories. In several of the stories I have read the comments basically trend to “what’s the point of trade embargoes anyway” or “it’s only printers” or “this is more neocon strategy to inflict harm on the innocent people of Iran”. Few people even bring up the issue of why there is a trade embargo on Iran in the first place.

What is ironic is that the same people who say it’s okay to violate trade embargoes on Iran or Cuba are apocalyptic about the notion of Swiss bankers aiding wealthy Americans to avoid taxes (legally or otherwise) which is just another form of trade at it’s core. Stepping away from the class warfare dimension for a moment, how about the appropriateness of willfully selling printers to Sudan or Zimbabwe, both subjects of general trade embargoes? How about trading in palm oil from Indonesia in spite of an embargo over deforestation issues as a result of palm oil production?

We will end up in a very dangerous place when it becomes acceptable to simply ignore laws you don’t agree with.

The Netbook Craze

Slate asks what does it mean that the top Amazon laptop sellers are netbooks. It is pretty stark, the top 20 sellers are windows netbooks or Macs, you have to get to #21 before a full size Windows laptop makes an appearance. It probably means that low priced laptops are capturing a lot of attention in an economy where everyone is concerned about costs, and also that the portfolio of top selling Windows laptops are stale while netbooks are new and fashionable.

Minimalism pervades Amazon’s laptop list; over the last few weeks, the great majority of the 25 best-seller slots have been occupied by various permutations of the Eee PC and other souped-down, sub-$500 machines. In the computer industry, these miniature computers are known as “netbooks.” The term is vaguely defined, but the best way to spot a netbook is to peek at the specs: Today’s bigger laptops run on Intel’s speedy Core 2 Duo processor, while netbooks use a smaller, less powerful, and cheaper Intel chip, the Atom. Netbooks also run older or more lightweight operating systems—generally Windows XP or some flavor of Linux.

[From What does the “netbook” craze tell us about the future of laptops. – By Farhad Manjoo – Slate Magazine]

Netbooks are exciting. Small size and a small price add up to mean faster product cycles and more competition, which is always good for consumers.

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Read more on Netbooks at Wikinvest