Thus spake Zarathustra: Any commentary on 2001 shall include a Green Bay Packer with mouse ears, Dubya’s elevation to the presidency, a rash of dot-com deaths, and the latest in Microsoft idiocy. And so it was written.
I’m imagining the commercial would go something like this:
- Voice Over: “Mark Chmura, former All-Pro tight end for the Green Bay Packers, you’ve just been found not guilty by a jury of your peers of sexually assaulting a teenage girl at a party. Now that your wife has also apparently forgiven you, what will you two do next?”
Chmura: “We’re going to Disney World!”
For the record, Chmura’s response is a direct quote.
Despite a country having the lowest expectations for George W. Bush of any president in living memory, he’s off to a better than expected start. And certainly he’s off to a much better beginning than Bill Clinton’s ending.
Bush’s cabinet choices, though lackluster on the whole, are in most regards upgrades to those exiting the posts from the Clinton administration. Those on the Left can complain about John Ashcroft all they want; there’s no way he can possibly be as bad as Janet Reno, an attorney general who in my view did the unbelievable and surpassed Ed Meese as the worst of all time. [UPDATE 4/20/04: Boy was I wrong about this one! Ashcroft is indeed worse than Reno and Meese. Maybe combined.] The case Justice Department case against Microsoft is the only bright spot I can think of, and even that was run by assistant Joel Klein and litigated by hired gun David Bois.
Ashcroft, along with Bush’s move to bar funding for groups who provide overseas abortion servicesâ€”something that has very little to no impact on the average Americanâ€”appeases the Right Wing Conservatives and allows Bush to pursue a more centrist agenda. That’s not to say that he will, but shoring up the Right Wing at the beginning is a shrewd political move (which, yes, I’m convinced he didn’t come up with without help).
Bush also merits political points for his attempts to reach out to Democrats in tone and speech. This may amount to nothing, but it’s a gesture of civility that I don’t think is lost on mainstream America. Further points for shrugging off the despicably rude exit and the vandalism of the Clintonites. They get props for the “Office of Strategery” plaque (a reference to a Saturday Night Live joke), but cutting phone lines, taking keys off keyboards (even if it is the “W”), and putting garbage in the refrigerators speaks volumes about the types of folks who’ve been running the show for the past 8 years.
In that regard, Bush can hardly do worse. (Though his public speaking hasn’t improved. The latest Bushism: “There’s no such thing as legacies. At least, there is a legacy, but I’ll never see it.”â€”To Catholic leaders at the White House, Jan. 31, 2001)
In a rather morbid way, it’s been entertaining to watch all the dot-coms go “plop, plop, plop, flush” down into the toilet bowl of bankruptcy. Given that this country hasn’t seen a recession since 1981-82 (1991 was a blip), the hubris surrounding all of these Gen X-led startups was perhaps understandable, if unfortunate.
Ultimately, though, we’re seeing that traditional economic notions like “profit & loss” do apply no matter your business model. That’s a lesson that’s come late to a lot of people, and here’s hoping they’ve made a killing over the past few years and managed to keep some it, because interest rate and tax cuts notwithstanding, a recession is a distinct possibility.
Amazon.com, the crown jewel of the Internet-based tech boom, is a great example of what I’m talking about. Despite providing a wonderful online experience for customers, Amazon has never made a profit and will not for the foreseeable future. Sure, they claim they will have an operating profit in the fourth quarter of 2001, but that’s different then having a net profit, and they are so leveraged that there’s almost no way their business won’t fold like a house of cards eventually. I really enjoy using Amazon.com’s web site, but mark my words: Within five years, they’re history, and it’ll probably be a lot sooner than that. [UPDATE 4/20/04: Despite still never declaring anything but a “pro forma” profit, Amazon.com has managed to form business alliances which should keep it afloat for the foreseeable future. I hereby happily eat my words.]
Of course, by then they’ll just be joining the rest of the dot-com crowd who somehow believed that profits don’t matter in business. The list recently dead or pretty well dying dot-coms should convince all but the most ardent “New Economy” true believers that old economic rules continue to carry weight. Here’s a truncated list with pithy quoted comments from the Super Happy Fun Slander Corner atâ€”I kid you notâ€”FuckedCompany.com:
- Mercata, Paul Allen’s company designed to leverage the power of group buying. (“Margins? What margins…Let’s see….the more successful we are the lower the margins. So if I’m working this calculator right…at scale we’ll have nothing.”)
- InfoSpace.com. (“Apparently the laid off are referred to as ‘realigned resources.’ The new alignment must be ‘grab your ankles.'”)
- eToys.com (“The batteries are dead.”)
- WebMD.com (“Another round of layoffs. Just what the doctor ordered.”)
- 24-7.com (“It’s about time. I’m sure they didn’t mean for it to be this funny but…’You have reached www.24-7.com. Unfortunately, we are now closed.'”)
- FreeRide.com (“There’s no such thing as a freeride.”)
- Lucy.com, a women’s apparel store. (“I can’t imagine why this didn’t work. Selling clothes online to a demographic that LOVES to go to the mall and shop?”)
- MVP.com (“Just proves that popularity in the sporting world and 50 cents will get you a virtual coffee and that’s about it.”)
- AskMe.com (“Should be AskMeButDon’tExpectAnAnswerRightAway.com.”)
- WineShopper.com (“Bloodbath in the vineyards.”)
Well, I’ll stop at 10 since this could go on all night. You get the idea. Hard not to feel badly for some of the employees who take it on the chin with these sorts of things. One does hope that things rebound for them. On the other hand, capitalism will always have losers, and for the dot-com-ers who decided to forego a sound business model, this means you.
Surprise, surprise, Microsoft’s done it again. Long infamous for putting completely unnecessary features in software products to the detriment of computer security (not to mention ease-of-use), Microsoft’s latest catastrophe centers around their email program Outlook Express.
See the full article, HTML E-mail Clients Susceptible to ‘Wire-Tapping’ if you want details.
The highlights include great little paragraphs like:
- “This is an old issue,” Smith [Chief Technology Officer at The Privacy Foundation] told InternetNews Radio Monday. “It’s three years old. It’s had very low visibility. Microsoft didn’t fix it. They continue to ship e-mail readers with the problem with no indications that they want to do anything about it.”
I also liked the quote from Carl Voth, the guy who discovered the security hole:
- “No e-mail client should ever run executable content in an e-mail message,” Voth said. “I can’t think of a single good, practical reason as to why that would be necessary anyway…No e-mail client should ever forward a message with executable content that was not put there by the guy who’s doing the forwarding.”
Yeah, but end-user security concerns have never stopped Microsoft. If there’s no dollar sign attached, they just don’t care until somebody raises a public relations stink. Nothing new here, but that won’t stop me from trying to warn people.