I’m part of the team working on a Web travel service called Dopplr, which lets folks share their trip plans with friends and colleagues. Things are going quite well — we’ve received an angel funding round, and a terrific crew has come aboard.

Now, although the service remains in private beta, we’ve invited people from 100 top organizations to sign up if they choose. More about all these items on the Dopplr blog.

Salon: If you care about your rights, don’t buy an iPhone.

It’s only in the cell phone business that anyone would tolerate such behavior. If a company tried this in any other industry, people would howl to the heavens. Imagine the outrage if Apple or Microsoft sold desktop PCs that allowed you to connect to the Internet only through Comcast — and then, if you tried to use Earthlink instead, the company would shut down your machine. Or what if Ford allowed you to drive your new Explorer only to Wal-Mart to buy your groceries; if you went instead to Whole Foods, a company official would come by and slash your tires.

As Apple breaks the phones of people who’ve done nothing but assert rational customer rights, it is showing an attitude that will come to hurt the company in the end. I wouldn’t use this phone now if someone gave it to me.

Stay away from the iPhone if you have any common sense. Don’t reward Apple for its sleazy ways.

SF Chronicle: $65 million will buy you an unfinished mansion on S.F.’s Gold Coast.

It would be one of the most expensive houses ever sold in San Francisco – a neoclassical villa with a four-story floating staircase and glass atrium, a facade of French limestone and a roof of 19th century Florentine tile is on the market for $65 million. Despite the price tag, the home is a mere shell – it doesn’t have interior walls, floors or ceilings – and will require more than $10 million to complete.

As more and more people sink below the financial waves, the super-rich do better and better. This is by design — by national policies that have divided Americans by class more than ever, rewarding the people at the very top, largely at the expense of our children and grandchildren, who either will pay to fix the mess we’re creating or will live in a world that makes this one look positively egalitarian.

Will Shipley: iPhone & iPod: contain or disengage?

But with the iPod Touch, what’s Apple’s excuse for locking up the platform? Why can’t I write programs for this device? Who might it hurt? Why is Steve announcing that he’s playing cat-and-mouse with developers who intend to do so? Is Apple so far removed from its customers that even when the latter overwhelming votes for extending a device (by downloading iPhone programs in the hundreds of thousands), Apple’s response is, “No, you can’t do that. We know what you want, you don’t. You want AJAX apps, you just don’t know it yet.”

That sure reminds me of the old, crappy Apple. The one that almost went bankrupt because of its hubris.

I don’t write programs for Apple because I worship Apple. I write programs for them because they have the best development environment. But I’ve always said that I will move from the platform the day Apple starts acting like a monopoly — trying to make money by using its marketing position to extort money from users, instead of innovating so quickly that users willing throw money at Apple.

Apple’s control-freakery is more than inconvenient for customers and potential partners. It’s insulting, and counterproductive.

I still use a Mac because it’s the best tool for the job — and because it’s infinitely extensible. But I won’t consider an iPhone or iPod Touch until the company lets go of its insistence that Apple, not the customers, are in charge. That may be never. Too bad for Apple, which is losing a customer.

From Bloomberg news:

As many as half of the 450,000 subprime borrowers whose mortgage payments increase in the next three months may lose their homes because they can’t sell, refinance or qualify for help from the U.S. government.

No one can take joy at the family turmoil that is about to become real after these years of marketplace fantasy. But it’s a huge stretch to make a case that most of these borrowers — many of whom put no money down, or signed up for loans on which they paid only the interest for several years, or used what equity they did have as a piggy bank to spend on other things — own the property at all. Legally, yes. In reality? No.

Calling it home ownership when someone has zero equity (or less) is absurd. Some of these people are not victims in the slightest, except of their own greed or foolishness, or both.

Which isn’t to deny that there’s been some major-league sleaze going on in executive suites. I’m all for going after the sleazeballs who engaged in things like forging documents, etc., or who lied outright to borrowers. There are undoubtedly many of them.

And we should come down hard on the mortgage industry, top to bottom, which helped engineered this bubble in ways guaranteed to cause such woe. But the fact that the game came to an end does not — in the slightest — make me want to let people off the hook for some incredibly bad decisions.

(Of course, the Fed’s latest rate cut is going to bail out the people at the top of the housing food chain, and leave the ones at the bottom just as screwed as they were. That’s scandalous, too, rewarding the financial engineers for their recklessness.)

But I’m not feeling much sorrow for the people who signed for loans that they had to at least suspect were going to be risky at best — loans that would make sense only if property prices continued to rise indefinitely and consistently. Maybe, shedding all common sense, they bought a line of bull from the media (and probably their neighbors and definitely the mortgage industry) that prices would never stop rising. But they were willing participants in making this mess, not passive bystanders or victims in any standard sense.

The bailout proposals in Congress are crazy. We should give people taxpayer subsidies to pay down loans they never should have qualified for in the first place? Insanity.

A lot of these folks are victims of their own greed and/or willingness to believe the impossible. They have my sympathy if they’re forced to leave the houses they never really owned, because that’s a disruptive situation for anyone. But they don’t qualify as victims in my book.

Meanwhile, the media will continue get this story wrong. Nobody cares, apparently, that you can’t logically own something when you have a negative equity and no plausible way of paying down the principal. But never mind. The meme is being well-established — victimhood for a new class of people who, by any rational standard, don’t deserve it.

Look. The system is absolutely rigged against the people in lower incomes, particularly the working poor. No question. Let’s change the tax system. Let’s make opportunities more level. But let’s not encourage speculation from top to bottom. It’s bad for everyone.


UC-Irvine has rescinded the hiring (LA Times) of a new law school dean who holds well-known views on key legal issues, because, the chancellor claims, “he felt the law professor’s commentaries were ‘polarizing’ and would not serve the interests of California’s first new public law school in 40 years.”

UPDATE: He’s now been rehired — but the school officials still won’t explain why they rescinded the hiring in the first place.

This doesn’t pass the smell test. Erwin Chemerinsky, the not-dean who has been teaching at Duke University, says the real reason was conservative pressure. Chancellor Michael Drake’s reasoning is, if you read it carefully, a non-denial denial.

As another law school dean noted, the Erwin Chemerinsky, the not-dean who has been teaching at Duke University, is well known for liberal views: “That’s been true for as long as I’ve known him. It’s rather like discovering that Wilt Chamberlain was tall.”

Chemerinsky’s positions aren’t the relevant issue. This would be just as outrageous if UC Berkeley (where I have a part-time gig) fired a conservative scholar for nothing more than holding views deemed polarizing. What does matter is the university’s cowardly decision. It’s shameful.