The Emergent Chaos of the Elections

First, congratulations to Barack Obama. His organization and victory were impressive. Competing with a former President and First Lady who was the shoo-in candidate is an impressive feat.

I’d like to talk about the Obama strategies and a long chaotic campaign in two ways. First in fund-raising and second, on the effects of a long campaign.

In fund-raising, everything I’ve read says that the Clintons were much better at getting the “big” donations allowed under McCain-Fiengold. (Which I’ve commented on here and here.) What I now want to say is that the “chaos” strategy of enabling lots and lots of small donations seems to have worked spectacularly. Letting your supporters self-select, emerge, and then working them over and over. In fact, Dissent commented that her name was added to their list when she made a media inquiry. Highly chaotic, no big one-night rubber chicken totals, and highly effective.

As an aside, I know that oftentimes in startups, we’ve ended up quixotically pursuing big deals, because big deals can be given attention. The strategy of using channels and having lots of little sales can be harder to advocate for.

Secondly, voter engagement is at a high everywhere in the country. Pundits often complain about low voter turnout, low engagement with the process, and people not caring. It seems that a little chaos, diverse candidates, and having a winner emerge from the contest are healthier for democracy than having the pundits select a winner.

We’d like to thank everyone who paid attention to our primary endorsements.

Supreme Court Narrows "Money Laundering"

The Supreme Court narrowed the application of the federal money-laundering statute on Monday, ruling for criminal defendants in two cases in which prosecutors had employed broad definitions of two of the law’s major provisions.

The two rulings are likely to crimp the government’s ability to bring money-laundering cases, although not necessarily to the degree that an initial reading of either might suggest. (“Justices Narrow Money-Laundering Law,” New York Times.)

The money laundering laws are a great example of bad law, and I’m glad to see them narrowed. They’re bad law because they include tremendous prosecutorial discretion, because they’re exceptionally expensive to enforce, and they infringe on the privacy and liberty of normal people.

Recently, I talked about “The Costs of Security and Algorithms” and the link between these silly laws and a how banks had shifted their risk-management dollars from looking for bad loans to looking for money launderers. Sometimes this goes to a ridiculous extent.

When I was moving to Montreal, I didn’t have enough ID to purchase a Canadian dollar cashiers check to reserve my apartment and satisfy Bank of Boston’s AML regulations. The check was for some nominal sum, like $1000. Fortunately, Zero-Knowledge was willing to loan me the money, and cut my landlord a cheque that day.

I’m glad they’ve narrowed the law, and I hope this will be the first of many chips that bring down the edifice.

In the "couldn't have happened to a better set of people" department…

Fifteen people have escaped unharmed in the US state of Indiana after a sky-diving plane lost power 7,000ft (2,100m) from the ground.

The pilot told the 14 skydivers on board to jump to safety, then crash-landed the plane.

And the pilot was un-injured, according to the AP story. From Skydiving plane fails at 7,000ft, BBC. The website of the company in question even asks “Want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?” making one less joke for us to tell here.

8th Pet Symposium Early Registration Deadline

We kindly invite you to attend the next PET Symposium, that will take
place in Leuven (Belgium) on July 23-25, 2008. The PET Symposium is the
leading international event for the latest research on privacy and
anonymity technologies. This year, four other events are co-located with
PETS 2008, including the Workshop On Trustworthy Elections (WOTE 2008)
and the closing workshop of the EU FP6 PRIME project (Privacy and
Identity Management for Europe).
There are now 3 days left before June 5, the Early Bird registration
deadline. The PETS’08 early bird registration fee is 250 euros (until
June 5th), and it will be 350 euros after June 5th.
We strongly encourage you to make your hotel and travel arrangements as
soon as possible, as we cannot guarantee hotel availability after the
block bookings expire on June 5th.