Photo Republished at Groupon stock surges 20% after Eric Lefkofsky becomes CEO | VentureBeat

Groupon HQ 

Albeit with incorrect attribution.

My photo was used to illustrate this post

Looks like interim chief executive Eric Lefkofsky was just not ready to let go of the title. Groupon announced he would be taking over as permanent CEO today in its quarterly earnings release.

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Groupon stock surges 20% after Eric Lefkofsky becomes CEO | VentureBeat

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Tax Zealots – Amazon vs. Illinois

Amazon - The Original Store

Amazon just emailed me:

We regret to inform you that the Illinois state legislature has passed an unconstitutional tax collection scheme that, if signed by Governor Quinn, would leave little choice but to end its relationships with Illinois-based Associates. You are receiving this email because our records indicate that you are a resident of Illinois. …

Please note that this not an immediate termination notice and you are still a valued participant in the Amazon Associates Program. But if the governor signs this bill, we will need to terminate the participation of all Illinois residents in the Associates Program. After that point, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for sales referred to, and nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Illinois residents.

The unfortunate consequences of this legislation on Illinois residents like you were explained to the legislature, including Senate and House leadership, as well as to the governor’s staff.

Over a dozen other states have considered essentially identical legislation but have rejected these proposals largely because of the adverse impact on their states’ residents.

Governor Quinn’s office may be reached here.

I had heard of this happening in other states, but this is the first mention I’ve heard about it happening in Illinois. Frack. I don’t make thousands of simolians using Amazon links1, but I do make enough to pay for the hosting of this blog.

I guess it’s happening though:

A bill seemingly being fast-tracked by the Illinois General Assembly would add a new tax

Beginning July 1, 2011, a retailer having a contract with a person located in this State under which the person, for a commission or other consideration based upon the sale of tangible personal property by the retailer, directly or indirectly refers potential customers to the retailer by a link on the person’s Internet website.

This is widely known as the Amazon Tax. Supporters include the state’s retail merchants. They claim it will raise $150 million a year in revenues. But the Tax Foundation begs to differ

Word is that Illinois legislators are considering click-through nexus, also known as an “Amazon tax,” pushed by revenue officials who claim that it would raise $150 million a year in revenue. Such laws, nicknamed after their most visible target, require retailers that have contracts with “affiliates”-independent persons within the state who post a link to an out-of-state business on their website and get a share of revenues from the out-of-state business-to collect the state’s sales tax. They exist in New York, Rhode Island, North Carolina, and Colorado. […]

Illinois’s version is a traditional first-generation “Amazon” tax that targets affiliates. Contrary to the claims of supporters, Amazon taxes do not provide easy revenue. In fact, the nation’s first few Amazon taxes have not produced any revenue at all, and there is some evidence of lost revenue. For instance, Rhode Island has seen no additional sales tax revenue from its Amazon tax, and because Amazon reacted by discontinuing its affiliate program, Rhode Islanders are earning less income and paying less income tax. There’s no reason why Illinois wouldn’t suffer the same fate.

(click to continue reading Capitol » Today’s lessons.)

What bullshit. Utter bullshit. Amazon isn’t going to pay the tax, and I’m not going to report the income anymore, because there won’t be any. How does this help close the monstrous budget gap in Illinois? It doesn’t.

Darth Vader

Bill Status of HB3659  96th General Assembly   Full Text Votes  View All Actions  Printer-Friendly Version


House Sponsors Rep. Patrick J. Verschoore – Dan Reitz – Brandon W. Phelps – Linda Chapa LaVia – Frank J. Mautino, Roger L. Eddy, Mark H. Beaubien, Jr., Michael K. Smith, Daniel V. Beiser, Harry Osterman, Mary E. Flowers, Greg Harris, Sara Feigenholtz, Lisa M. Dugan and Naomi D. Jakobsson

Senate Sponsors (Sen. John J. Cullerton – Christine Radogno – Jeffrey M. Schoenberg)

(click to continue reading Illinois General Assembly – Bill Status for HB3659.)

Idiots, all of them.


I was going to make this into an info-graphic, but never got around to it. Anyway, here’s the text-only version:

Old system:
1. I see a film I like (or book, or musical instrument, or whatever), write about it, post a link to Amazon’s DVD, partially because they host an image of the DVD cover, partially because I want other people to watch the film too.
2. My aunt in California sees my post, clicks the link, and buys the DVD
3. Amazon (in Seattle) sends her the disc via UPS
4. I get a 3% commission
5. I report this income in my yearly federal and state taxes (and I do)
6. State of IL makes a little bit of tax revenue

New proposed system
1. I see a film I like, write about it.
2. my aunt in CA sees my post, goes to Amazon and looks for the DVD, buys it.
3. Amazon sends her the DVD
4. I get zero commission in IL
5. I don’t have this income to report on my taxes, so I don’t.
6. State of IL gets zero

Why is the proposed system better for the State of IL?

  1. if you click a link I put up, and purchase an item from Amazon in the same web session, I get around 3-5% of the purchase price as commission []

China’s Push Into Wind Worries U.S. Industry

Talk to the Wind

Well, on the one hand, the Chinese government fully supports and subsidizes its green power industries, and on the other hand, the U.S. government, and especially the Tea Baggers and Oil Slurper Republicans are dismissive of any energy policy that doesn’t focus solely on highways, natural gas, coal and oil. So, do the math: Chinese companies are going to be lapping the innovations of American companies until something changes. And it probably won’t.

Goldwind and other Chinese-owned companies plan a big push into the American wind power market in coming months.

While proponents say the Chinese manufacturers should be welcomed as an engine for creating more green jobs and speeding the adoption of renewable energy in this country, others see a threat to workers and profits in the still-embryonic American wind industry.

“We cannot sit idly by while China races to the forefront of clean energy production at the expense of U.S. manufacturing,” Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, said during a debate this year over federal subsidies for wind energy.

(click to continue reading China’s Push Into Wind Worries U.S. Industry –

and World Trade Organization threats notwithstanding, China is serious:

American wind output still meets only a small portion of the nation’s overall demand for electricity — about 2 percent — compared with countries like Spain, which gets about 14 percent of its electrical power from the wind.

And the tepid United States economy, rock-bottom natural gas prices and lingering questions about federal wind energy policy have stalled the American wind industry, which currently represents only about 85,000 jobs. Even the American market leader, General Electric, reported a sharp drop in third-quarter turbine sales, compared with the same period last year.

All of which might indicate that dim market prospects await the wave of wind-turbine makers from China. But the Chinese companies can play a patient game because they have big backing from China’s government in the form of low-interest loans and other blandishments — too much help, in the critics’ view.

In the case of China, the Obama administration is investigating whether the Chinese may have violated World Trade Organization rules in subsidizing its clean-energy industry.

Mr. Rowland’s company, Goldwind, is the fledgling American arm of a state-owned Chinese company that has emerged as the world’s fifth-largest turbine maker: the Xinjiang Goldwind Science and Technology Company.

To help finance its overseas efforts, Xinjiang Goldwind raised nearly $1 billion in an initial public stock offering in Hong Kong in October — on top of a $6 billion low-interest loan agreement in May from the government-owned China Development Bank.

Goldwind, which set up a sales office in Chicago, has hired about a dozen executives, engineers and other employees so far. Most, like Mr. Rowland, are Americans already experienced in the wind energy field.

Not sure where exactly the Goldwind U.S. HQ will be located, but somewhere near me presumedly. Google Maps says on W. Washington, which is probably correct, but Goldwind’s site doesn’t yet reflect this.

Another major international player in the wind energy business will soon be calling Chicago home, as Chinese manufacturer Goldwind has announced plans to locate its North American headquarters in the city.

Goldwind’s move to the Windy City is the latest in a string of major wind firms that have looked to Chicago as the most logical business center for their US operations, attracted by the city’s central location, international airports, strong legal and financial expertise, and an experienced, educated workforce.

The firm also announced it has hired a talented pair of new executives to head the company, including Tim Rosenzweig as CEO and Matthew Olive as Director of Sales, both well-seasoned wind industry officials.

(click to continue reading Goldwind to Locate US Headquarters in Chicago, Hires Executive Staff – News – The Illinois Wind Energy Association.)

However, honestly, as a consumer, I’d happily purchase a home windmill from any manufacturer, regardless of geopolitical concerns. Jingoism doesn’t really factor in. And I’d be happy if my cousin got a job with Goldwind, or some other foreign green energy company. If the US is too short-sighted to encourage alternative energy companies, well, c’est la vie.

Fast Track to Banana Republic

or Third World country, or whatever phrase you want to use. The US became the economic juggernaut it once was by having a healthy, wealthy middle class. If all the cash gets sucked up by the leeches in the upper bracket, there isn’t enough left for the rest of us.

The clearest explanation yet of the forces that converged over the past three decades or so to undermine the economic well-being of ordinary Americans is contained in the new book, ““Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class” (Paul Pierson, Jacob S. Hacker)

The authors, political scientists Jacob Hacker of Yale and Paul Pierson of the University of California, Berkeley, argue persuasively that the economic struggles of the middle and working classes in the U.S. since the late-1970s were not primarily the result of globalization and technological changes but rather a long series of policy changes in government that overwhelmingly favored the very rich.

Those changes were the result of increasingly sophisticated, well-financed and well-organized efforts by the corporate and financial sectors to tilt government policies in their favor, and thus in favor of the very wealthy. From tax laws to deregulation to corporate governance to safety net issues, government action was deliberately shaped to allow those who were already very wealthy to amass an ever increasing share of the nation’s economic benefits.

“Over the last generation,” the authors write, “more and more of the rewards of growth have gone to the rich and supperrich. The rest of America, from the poor through the upper middle class, has fallen further and further behind.”

As if to underscore this theme, it was revealed last week (by David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for The New York Times), that the incomes of the very highest earners in the United States, a small group of individuals hauling in more than $50 million annually (sometimes much more), increased fivefold from 2008 to 2009, even as the nation was being rocked by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

(click to continue reading Bob Herbert’s Fast Track to Inequality –

Electricity comes from other planets

All the more reason to vote, if you haven’t already

CTA Apple Stop

Apple store

Apple has so much cash in their corporate coffers1, they can afford to spend a little money fixing infrastructure. In a country that cared about people more than foreign wars, the Chicago Transit Authority would have enough budget to maintain its own stations, but we don’t live in such a magical place. Infrastructure investment for public transit2 is not a priority, unfortunately.

Nevertheless, I salute Apple for doing this, no matter their motives. I would applaud other corporations for jumping into this breach, and sprucing up other stations, shoring up bridges, etc. Too bad they mostly only focus on naming rights for stadiums.

Even while the neighborhood took on a high gloss, the CTA station looked the way it had for decades — like the stop closest to the poverty of the Cabrini-Green housing project.

Now this woman stood gawking at the Apple Store and the plaza that linked it to the station.

“The plaza just knocked my socks off,” she said. “A plaza, with seats. Like these guys weren’t so terrified of homeless people sitting down that they weren’t going to let anyone else sit down, either. And a fountain, that instant supplier of peace. It made me want to sit down on a nice day with a cup of tea and a book. OK, in gratitude to Apple, it should be an iPad, but whatever. I say thank you to Apple.”

Exactly the effect Apple intends.

There’s reason to be grateful to Apple for the metamorphosis of this patch of Chicago. Apple has not only built a store more stylish than anything nearby, it has invested close to $4 million in the North/Clybourn station.

It’s the equivalent of mowing the neighbor’s weedy lawn — and paying the neighbor to let you.

Outside, the station has clean new brick, big new windows and a sleek new look, partly 1940s and entirely 2010.

The inside isn’t stylish, but it’s improved. Someone has scrubbed the red concrete floors, brushed red paint on the old railings, tried to wipe the grime from the escalator stairs.

(click to continue reading CTA station is the apple of computer giant’s eye, Mary Schmich says –

Apple Logos

  1. over $50,000,000,000 last time I looked []
  2. Amtrak, CTA, et al []

Kass Is A Bit Clueless

John Kass has a point in his passionate defense of the Chicago Tribune; I have no doubt most reporters just do their jobs without resorting to Clear Channel-esque frat-house shenanigans, and admonitions to “show yer tits” as Tribune executives allegedly did. But his tired cliche about bloggers shouldn’t have made it past the editors. It was a cliche ten years ago, and even more so these days. The folks who are professional bloggers1 are just as much part of the 21st century media as ink stained wretches at daily newspapers.2

Looking up at the Chicago Tribune

I told you what the Chicago Tribune is not. Now let me tell you what it is. It’s reporters, photographers and editors, analysts and designers, and others who help us with the work. Our newspaper is just one part of Tribune Co., and what the corporate bosses do is separate from what we do.

Chicago Tribune reporters work in difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions. They do not blog from mommy’s basement, cutting and pasting what others have reported, while putting it under a cute pen name on the Internet.

(click to continue reading Kass: Frat house atmosphere in the Tribune? Not in the newsroom. –

Randy Michaels is going to leave the Tribune, by the way, and while the New York Times recent story was probably the catalyst, there certainly were non-basement-dwelling bloggers involved too.


Randy Michaels, Tribune Co.’s embattled chief executive, has decided to resign his post at the Chicago-based media company and intends to leave the company before the end of the week, sources close to the situation said.

He will be replaced by a four-member office of the president that the sources said would comprise Eddy Hartenstein, president and publisher of the Los Angeles Times; Tony Hunter, president and publisher of the Chicago Tribune Media Group; Nils Larsen, Tribune Co.’s chief investment officer; and Don Liebentritt, chief restructuring officer.

The development comes after weeks of turmoil at the bankrupt company, brought on by assertions that Michaels and his management team displayed boorish behavior and fostered a sexist, hostile work environment. Even as the Tribune Co. board met Tuesday to discuss Michaels’ fate in light of the crisis, new complaints by current and former employees were emerging.

Michaels’ departure may have become inevitable when the New York Times newspaper ran an unflattering report earlier this month that colored the company as a sexist “frat house” increasingly populated with former Michaels associates from the radio industry.

That perception seemed to be confirmed several days later when Lee Abrams, whom Michaels handpicked as his chief innovation officer, sent all employees an e-mail containing a link to a video of a newscast parody with nudity and profanity that he labeled “Sluts.”

(click to continue reading Tribune’s top exec poised to resign –


  1. most decidely not me, nor any of my ilk, but the bloggers who write seriously []
  2. another cliche, of course, no journalist gets their hands dirty changing typewriter ribbons any more []

Hey, Small Spender: The False Narrative

Paul Krugman writes in response to the oft repeated assertion that Obama is ballooning the federal government:

Here’s the narrative you hear everywhere: President Obama has presided over a huge expansion of government, but unemployment has remained high. And this proves that government spending can’t create jobs

Here’s what you need to know: The whole story is a myth. There never was a big expansion of government spending. In fact, that has been the key problem with economic policy in the Obama years: we never had the kind of fiscal expansion that might have created the millions of jobs we need.

Ask yourself: What major new federal programs have started up since Mr. Obama took office? Health care reform, for the most part, hasn’t kicked in yet, so that can’t be it. So are there giant infrastructure projects under way? No. Are there huge new benefits for low-income workers or the poor? No. Where’s all that spending we keep hearing about? It never happened.

(click to continue reading Paul Krugman – Hey, Small Spender –

Daughter to a Sister of Thought

and the reason why people think there was a massive increase in federal programs is a familiar, if discouraging reason, namely lies, more lies, and a partisan and or ineffective media.

The answer to the second question — why there’s a widespread perception that government spending has surged, when it hasn’t — is that there has been a disinformation campaign from the right, based on the usual combination of fact-free assertions and cooked numbers. And this campaign has been effective in part because the Obama administration hasn’t offered an effective reply.

Actually, the administration has had a messaging problem on economic policy ever since its first months in office, when it went for a stimulus plan that many of us warned from the beginning was inadequate given the size of the economy’s troubles. You can argue that Mr. Obama got all he could — that a larger plan wouldn’t have made it through Congress (which is questionable), and that an inadequate stimulus was much better than none at all (which it was). But that’s not an argument the administration ever made. Instead, it has insisted throughout that its original plan was just right, a position that has become increasingly awkward as the recovery stalls.

And a side consequence of this awkward positioning is that officials can’t easily offer the obvious rebuttal to claims that big spending failed to fix the economy — namely, that thanks to the inadequate scale of the Recovery Act, big spending never happened in the first place.

But if they won’t say it, I will: if job-creating government spending has failed to bring down unemployment in the Obama era, it’s not because it doesn’t work; it’s because it wasn’t tried.

Structural Unemployment is a Structure of Excuses

Paul Krugman is skeptical about the oft-repeated claim that the current high unemployment rate is because the entire economy needs to be reconfigured and workers retrained:

The other Herzog

So all the evidence contradicts the claim that we’re mainly suffering from structural unemployment. Why, then, has this claim become so popular?

Part of the answer is that this is what always happens during periods of high unemployment — in part because pundits and analysts believe that declaring the problem deeply rooted, with no easy answers, makes them sound serious.

I’ve been looking at what self-proclaimed experts were saying about unemployment during the Great Depression; it was almost identical to what Very Serious People are saying now. Unemployment cannot be brought down rapidly, declared one 1935 analysis, because the work force is “unadaptable and untrained. It cannot respond to the opportunities which industry may offer.” A few years later, a large defense buildup finally provided a fiscal stimulus adequate to the economy’s needs — and suddenly industry was eager to employ those “unadaptable and untrained” workers.

But now, as then, powerful forces are ideologically opposed to the whole idea of government action on a sufficient scale to jump-start the economy. And that, fundamentally, is why claims that we face huge structural problems have been proliferating: they offer a reason to do nothing about the mass unemployment that is crippling our economy and our society.

So what you need to know is that there is no evidence whatsoever to back these claims. We aren’t suffering from a shortage of needed skills; we’re suffering from a lack of policy resolve. As I said, structural unemployment isn’t a real problem, it’s an excuse — a reason not to act on America’s problems at a time when action is desperately needed.

(click to continue reading Paul Krugman- Structure of Excuses –

Worth reading the whole article if you have a moment

Most Wealthy OK with Tax Increases

For all the gnashing of teeth about restoring taxes to what they were before Bush temporarily lowered them, turns out most of those in the upper brackets actually wouldn’t mind the increase. Unfortunately, the one-third is louder than the two-third majority…

Lloyds Bank Ltd Law Courts Branch

As Congress and President Obama fight over the Bush tax cuts, a small number of left-leaning rich people have come out in support of paying higher taxes. The most famous are the members of the Responsible Wealth Project, who say they pay too little in taxes and want to address inequality.

They may be an eccentric minority, or (in the view of conservatives) a lunatic fringe. But a Quinnipiac University poll this year showed nearly two-thirds of those with household incomes of more than $250,000 a year support raising their own taxes to reduce the federal deficit.

(click to continue reading ‘Tax Me More’ Says Wealthy Entrepreneur – The Wealth Report – WSJ.)

Garrett Gruener recently wrote:

For nearly the last decade, I’ve paid income taxes at the lowest rates of my professional career. Before that, I paid at higher rates. And if you want the simple, honest truth, from my perspective as an entrepreneur, the fluctuation didn’t affect what I did with my money. None of my investments has ever been motivated by the rate at which I would have to pay personal income tax.

As history demonstrates, modest changes in the tax rate for wealthy taxpayers don’t make much of a difference if the goal is to build new companies, drive technological development and stimulate new industries.

(click to continue reading The Bush tax cuts: an entrepreneur’s perspective –

and a little historical perspective:

When inequality gets too far out of balance, as it did over the course of the last decade, the wealthy end up saving too much while members of the middle class can’t afford to spend much unless they borrow excessively. Eventually, the economy stalls for lack of demand, and we see the kind of deflationary spiral we find ourselves in now. I believe it is no coincidence that the two highest peaks in American income inequality came in 1929 and 2008, and that the following years were marked by low economic activity and significant unemployment.

What American businesspeople know, and have known since Henry Ford insisted that his employees be able to afford to buy the cars they made, is that a thriving economy doesn’t just need investors; it needs people who can buy the goods and services businesses create. For the overall economy to do well, everyday Americans have to do well.

Now that the Bush tax cuts are about to expire, Republicans are again arguing that taxes should remain low for the wealthy. The idea is that this will spur people like me to put more capital to work and start more ventures, which will create new jobs, power the economy and ultimately produce more tax revenues. It’s a beguiling theory, but it’s one that hasn’t worked before and won’t work now.

Instead, Congress should let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans and use the additional tax revenues that are generated to invest in infrastructure and research. “Invest” is the right word. Putting money into infrastructure — such as roads, bridges, broadband, the smart grid and public transit — as well as carefully chosen research initiatives provides a foundation for future growth. As important, it puts funds in the hands of those who will spend them, generating demand that will pull us out of our economic crisis and toward a new cycle of growth.

Job growth, especially of the small business and micro business size is not predicated on personal tax rates. If you are an entrepreneur and you have a good idea for a start-up, you aren’t going to wait for favorable tax rates, or be discouraged by unfavorable tax rates.

And Mr. Gruener’s larger point is exactly correct: the government should be investing in infrastructure (fiber optics, efficient energy, transportation), not hoarding pennies.1

  1. Especially not pennies, remember? []

Blackwater, Monsanto and Black Ops

Monsanto hiring Blackwater? Why am I not surprised that two companies as consistently evil as Monsanto and Blackwater1 have worked together?

Purple Hayes

Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater’s work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater’s owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation. Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.

One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the “intel arm” of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.

Governmental recipients of intelligence services and counterterrorism training from Prince’s companies include the Kingdom of Jordan, the Canadian military and the Netherlands police, as well as several US military bases, including Fort Bragg, home of the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and Fort Huachuca, where military interrogators are trained, according to the documents. In addition, Blackwater worked through the companies for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the US European Command.

(click to continue reading Blackwater’s Black Ops | The Nation, Jeremy Scahill.)

Traffic Lights Turn green tonight

and Monsanto bobs and weaves:

Through Total Intelligence and the Terrorism Research Center, Blackwater also did business with a range of multinational corporations. According to internal Total Intelligence communications, biotech giant Monsanto—the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds—hired the firm in 2008–09. The relationship between the two companies appears to have been solidified in January 2008 when Total Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich to meet with Kevin Wilson, Monsanto’s security manager for global issues.

After the meeting in Zurich, Black sent an e-mail to other Blackwater executives, including to Prince and Prado at their Blackwater e-mail addresses. Black wrote that Wilson “understands that we can span collection from internet, to reach out, to boots on the ground on legit basis protecting the Monsanto [brand] name…. Ahead of the curve info and insight/heads up is what he is looking for.” Black added that Total Intelligence “would develop into acting as intel arm of Monsanto.” Black also noted that Monsanto was concerned about animal rights activists and that they discussed how Blackwater “could have our person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) legally.” Black wrote that initial payments to Total Intelligence would be paid out of Monsanto’s “generous protection budget” but would eventually become a line item in the company’s annual budget. He estimated the potential payments to Total Intelligence at between $100,000 and $500,000. According to documents, Monsanto paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009.

Reached by telephone and asked about the meeting with Black in Zurich, Monsanto’s Wilson initially said, “I’m not going to discuss it with you.” In a subsequent e-mail to The Nation, Wilson confirmed he met Black in Zurich and that Monsanto hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and worked with the company until early 2010. He denied that he and Black discussed infiltrating animal rights groups, stating “there was no such discussion.” He claimed that Total Intelligence only provided Monsanto “with reports about the activities of groups or individuals that could pose a risk to company personnel or operations around the world which were developed by monitoring local media reports and other publicly available information. The subject matter ranged from information regarding terrorist incidents in Asia or kidnappings in Central America to scanning the content of activist blogs and websites.” Wilson asserted that Black told him Total Intelligence was “a completely separate entity from Blackwater.”


Read the entire article yourself and make up your own mind…


  1. now known as Xe []

Gale Norton Loves Her Some Sex, Meth and Oil

Gale Norton, former Bush Pioneer,1 has no regrets about the shambles she left behind in her wake, before she joined Royal Dutch Shell.

I like to eat paste

Gale Norton, former President George W. Bush’s first Secretary of the Interior, ran the department during the time when its Minerals Management Service was guilty of some of its worst excesses—including holding cocaine and meth-fueled sex and oil parties. But that didn’t stop Norton from taking to Capitol Hill Tuesday to defend the “hardworking and professional men and women of the Minerals Management Service.”

Norton was one of two Bush-era Interior secretaries who testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Tuesday morning, the first time representatives from the previous administration have been put on the hot-seat about the regulatory miscues that may have led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Current Secretary Ken Salazar joined Norton (who served in the role from January 2001 to March 2006) and Dirk Kempthorne (June 2006 to January 2009) before the panel.

In her opening statement, Norton accused critics of the Interior Department of vilifying the Minerals Management Service (now renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement). “There has been a great deal of media attention to the ethics of MMS. It pains me to see the vilification of MMS and its employees. I want to speak in defense of the vast majority of hardworking and professional men and women of the Minerals Management Service,” said Norton in her prepared opening statement.

Now, it was under Norton’s watch that many of the porn, meth, and oil parties took place at the MMS’ Lake Charles, La. office. Oh, and the sex, oil, and cocaine parties at the Lakewood, Colorado office. And Norton, who went to work for Shell Oil shortly after leaving office, has been the subject of a Department of Justice criminal investigation into whether she illegally used her position at DOI to benefit the company that would hire her soon thereafter

(click to continue reading Bush Official on Sex, Meth and Oil: What’s the Big Deal? | Mother Jones.)


  1. well, probably, too lazy to look her up []

We are Apple We Don’t Even Own Suits

Loved this quote about wardrobe choice in the middle of a long, interesting article about the fractious relationship between Apple and AT&T1. I’ve had a contract with Verizon previously, and the restrictions Verizon placed on the phone were ridiculous.

Topic of the Day

Looking back, it’s clear that the cracks in the Apple-AT&T relationship began forming as soon as Jobs announced the iPhone in January 2007. It was the first time the public got to see the long-rumored device — and, shockingly, the first time AT&T’s board of directors saw it as well. (Apple refused to show the phone to all but a handful of top AT&T execs before the launch.) The split only deepened from there. Apple and AT&T have bickered about how the iPhone was to be displayed in AT&T’s stores: Apple insisted the phone be presented on its own display stand, away from other models. They have even fought about wardrobe: When an AT&T representative suggested to one of Jobs’ deputies that the Apple CEO wear a suit to meet with AT&T’s board of directors, he was told, “We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits.”

(click to continue reading Bad Connection: Inside the iPhone Network Meltdown | Magazine.)

Also, kudos to Steve Jobs for telling the AT&T hack to piss off. Apple isn’t a servant to AT&T, if anything, they are equals, and one could actually argue that Apple is in the dominant position.

Solipsistic note – was recently at a high level meeting, and I wore a suit, sans necktie, and was happy when the room full of execs we met were all in business casual attire, and not a suit to be found. I don’t mind having to wear a suit actually, as long as I don’t have to put on a tie.

  1. SBC []

Microsoft Kills Kin Quickly

Speaking of product launches, the Microsoft Kin has been discontinued after a whopping two months in the marketplace. Yikes. Sales must have been freaking horrible. Microsoft spent a lot of money developing Kin, and a lot of money advertising it. Who is getting fired tomorrow? Ballmer?

Ready for a scotch

Amid anemic sales, Microsoft has decided to halt work on its Kin phone less than two months after the product hit the market. The social media-oriented phone will not make its planned European debut and Microsoft is shifting the entire Kin team to work on Windows Phone 7, the Microsoft smartphone operating system due out later this year. Andy Lees, who heads up the company’s cell phone efforts announced the move to Microsoft workers earlier on Wednesday, according to a source close to the company.

Microsoft confirmed the move in a statement to CNET.

“We have made the decision to focus exclusively on Windows Phone 7 and we will not ship KIN in Europe this fall as planned,” the company said. “Additionally, we are integrating our KIN team with the Windows Phone 7 team, incorporating valuable ideas and technologies from KIN into future Windows Phone releases. We will continue to work with Verizon in the U.S. to sell current KIN phones.” The Kin, which made its debut just two months ago at an event in San Francisco, was the result of several years of work by Microsoft and stemmed from its 2008 acquisition of Sidekick maker Danger. However, despite a few innovative features including streaming music and a Web-based companion site, the Kin phones were criticized for missing key features, such as a calendar, as well as because the monthly fees for the phone were as high as more capable smartphones, such as the iPhone and Android-based devices.

(click to continue reading Microsoft pulls the plug on Kin | Beyond Binary – CNET News.)

Martin Peers Despises the iPhone

After reading articles like this, you have to wonder if Martin Peers is short-selling Apple stock, or perhaps a paid consultant for a competing cellphone corporation. Or else is quoting, without attribution, trash-talk from a friend who is a member of one of these cult-like Wall Street industries.

Original Palm Pilot

If the iPhone 4 has become “the most successful product launch in Apple’s history,” as the company says, one wouldn’t want to imagine the worst.

Apple’s statement overlooked the fact that its fourth-generation phone has an antenna design that may require consumers either to buy a case or learn to hold the phone in a particular way to ensure reception. Usually the idea is to produce phones that get clearly better, not worse, with each new version.

So far at least, Apple’s cult-like fan base seems willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt. Apple said Monday the product had sold a remarkable 1.7 million units in the first three days.

Investors shouldn’t take too much comfort, however. A lot of those sales likely came from preorders placed before reports of the antenna weakness circulated. What’s more, many of the initial sales also were likely upgrades by existing iPhone owners. These people already have shown themselves willing to put up with reception problems—although in the past they could blame AT&T’s clogged network.

The real question has to be whether concerns about the antenna, combined with carrier congestion issues, will slow uptake of the iPhone among customers not yet converted to Apple worship. Not only are they likely to be less patient with any product failings, they can now choose from an ever-widening array of alternative smartphones.

(click to continue reading HEARD ON THE STREET: The Curious Case of iPhone 4 –

Oh yes, this is the worst launch of a new product, evah! Worse than the Edsel, worse than the Palm Pre, worse than Zune, yadda yadda. Even worse than the Apple Lisa!

In Mr. Peers world, isolated media reports about antenna failure if you hold your fingers in an odd spot is the same as an antenna failure in all 1,700,000 iPhone 4s sold.1 Also, if you purchase an iPhone, you apparently join some sort of religious cult, though I don’t know why this is even relevant to the WSJ readership. I’m not sure how purchasing an electronic gadget transforms one into a brain-eating zombie, Mr. Peers forgot to include his exposition explaining how this occurs, or the editors removed it for space reasons. Maybe FaceTime does something to your neurons?

Another point worth noting, Mr. Peers believes there are exactly zero improvements in the iPhone 4; battery life increases, better camera, higher pixel display, these are actually downgrades. Who knew? Silly me for believing that doubling the RAM2 would be an enhancement.

Look, corporations are not people3, and Apple is not your aunt Millie – Apple deserves and should receive criticism sometimes. But this Martin Peers dude isn’t dishing any valid criticisms, he’s just asking to replace John Dvorak as linkbait troll of the day, worthy of cynical laughter, no more.

  1. disclaimer, I don’t have an iPhone 4, nor have I ever held one myself. I plan on joining the cult once my application essay is approved sometime soon []
  2. from 256MB to 512MB []
  3. despite the morons in the US Supreme Court’s recent ruling to the contrary []

Farewell, Facebook

Here’s why I’m selectively changing a lot of my information in Facebook – faking my demographic details and so forth – Facebook wants so desperately to make a dollar off of my data, they have become skeevy, and untrustworthy. I’m old enough that there isn’t too much that is embarrassing in my Facebook profile, but I don’t every corporation in America to have access to my information without my permission1

Nothing remains from the past

The chorus of pro-privacy, anti-Facebook bloggers is getting louder. Facebook wants to keep track of everything you “like” — all over the Web and even in the real world. McDonald’s has signed on as Facebook’s first geolocation partner. Whatever that means. The Observer has a deeper relationship with my Facebook page than my best friend. Today I’m deactivating my account. Here’s why.

Then I stumbled upon a list of the various third-party groups that have access to my account. In all, there were 32, including the makers of “Which Jane Austen heroine are you?” (I’m Fanny Price), The Awl, a snarky, high-brow commentary site, and Business Insider. The latter two I didn’t recall approving. The media sites, I discovered, were installed automatically when I browsed their websites while logged in to Facebook. Jane Austen, I’m afraid, I must take responsibility for. Reports are unclear as to what information applications can pull from your account. Some warn that developers have broad access and do not distinguish between what you mark as public and private, and some quizzes even get access to friends’ information.

Considering Facebook’s track record of shifting privacy settings, which the Electronic Frontier Foundation wraps up here, and you can get a visual sense of here, it seems pretty much guaranteed that user control over personal information will only get weaker. At the same time, Facebook is collecting new data based on user browsing habits across the Web. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently unveiled Facebook’s “Connect,” a tool integrated with sites across the Web so users can “like” everything from articles on major news sites such as The Washington Post, to items for sale on retailer sites. Those connections are public, and if you don’t like it, Facebook has this advice to offer: “If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not making) the connection.”

At the same conference, Zuckerberg also announced that the company will let third parties store information longer (previously, outside developers could store user information for no longer than 24 hours). So not only do we have to worry about Facebook’s policy; we also have to worry about the huge ecosystem of parties that hold Facebook data.

(click to continue reading Farewell, Facebook | The American Prospect.)

One could just delete one’s Facebook account, or take the guerrilla warfare route, and make lots of false data points. The latter option sounds more fun, actually.

Senator Al Franken of all people, with the help of The Consumerist, has published some detailed instructions on how to modify your Facebook privacy settings, which at the very least you should glance at.

  1. such as, if I purchase a new Nikon, I’ve given Nikon permission to update their records of me, and so on. McDonald’s on the other hand, shouldn’t have any information about me as I haven’t stepped into one of their restaurants in decades []