Friday, March 18, 2005

Please don't shop at Walmart

Big government announcements yesterday as Walmart settled a lawsuit for hiring illegal aliens. They agreed to pay $11 million to settle the case, apparently the highest fine ever for such a case but barely a fraction of the $285.2 billion in sales that Walmart rang up last year according to CBS Marketwatch.

A quick Google search comes up with a surprising number of lawsuit settlements in recent months in cases raging from federal child labor violations to submitting false prescription drug claims.. In the Child labor case they were fined a paltry $135,540 and in the fraud case they paid $2.8 million. Walmart denies any wrongdoing in all three cases.

Am I wrong to think these fines are far too small for a company with annual sales over $285 Billion dollars? Over the years Walmart has shipped untold numbers of jobs to China, torn down hard earned workers benefits, banned employees from joining unions, destroyed thousands of small family retail businesses, screwed their suppliers, and the list goes on and on...

Monday, March 14, 2005

Tom Fuentes is a democrat!

Señor Tomás Fuentes remains in the news after inserting a foot in his mouth last week by leading a crusade to cancel a study abroad program in Spain for students attending South Orange County Community Colleges. His reasoning is that Spain turned its back on the US by withdrawing from the Iraq war last year, that Spain is a dangerous place, and because the study abroad program is elitist.

Dana Parsons in the LA Times has an interesting update with reactions from one parent who got a response from Señor Fuentes.

A quick glance at the statistics on shows us Spain has far fewer asaults, murders, rapes, and crime than we do here at home. Furthermore, they have less traffic fatalities and their life expectancy is higher than ours in the US. The fact is the kids would have an experience of a lifetime if they went to Spain and are likelier to run into harm's way if they stay here!

Señor Fuentes, former chairman of the Orange County Republican party, tells us the program is elitist because only students who can afford it can go. What a noble thought for a republican. Not just any republican, but as the SOCCCD website informs us, a democratic minded Knight of Malta and Knight of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. The same website also points out he is a sixth generation Californian so we don't confuse him with some other lesser ranked species.

Did you know the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher are the only people allowed to ride into a church on a horse? Isn't that a bit elitist? That's worthy of another post.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Poisoned Apple and angry spammers

Apple has won the right to subpoena the editors of the three websites it sued in its terror campaign against employees who divulge new product information before the big shows. The judge cites a 1982 appellate court case and basically makes the point that no one has "a free pass", not even journalists, to protect the identities of their sources when a crime has been committed.

Todays Mercury News has an open letter from to Steve Jobs asking him to lighten up with the lawsuits and preserve the good underdog image the company has built over the years. A pont we made here a few days ago.

Well, it is too late for that, they have pissed off the blogs and the press. I predict that in the future, reviews of new Apple products will not be as kind or lenient as they have been in recent years. We will be reminded their computers are slow, compatible software is overpriced, other brand music players do the same for less, etc. Worse yet, Apple users will probably be subjected to more viruses and crap as people decide to punish the company. It is the relative lack of security problems which attracted flok dekoke and many others to Apple in the first place.

On another topic, we noted in a prevous post the effort to link sites for Online Poker to the Wikipedia definition of the term. The idea being to get top billing on Google to spite the spammers. Soon after the effort was announced, the Wikipedia listing climbed to 5th place on Google and yesterday it was in third place. Today I notice it is not even on the top ten. Have the spammers noticed?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Señor Frog declares War on Spain

Rarely has flok dekoke world come across such a juicy bit of news in the media. Orange County is a wealthy enclave located south of Los Angeles in our beloved California Republic. You may remember them from the early 90's when they gambled away over $2 billion dollars of county funds in some cockamamy derivatives scheme.

Well, they are in the news again and this time it is bizarre even by California standards. The OC Weekly reports that Orange County's Saddleback Community College is canceling their study abroad summer program in Santander, Spain. Lucky Saddleback students have been going there for the past 15 years and they had no reason to believe this was to change this summer. That is until they ran into Señor Tomás Fuentes, former chairman of the Orange County Republican Party from 1984 until last year. Señor Fuentes is not only a notorious local caudillo, he is also a trustee for the South Orange County Community College District.

In Mr. Fuentes' own enlightened words, "Many of our students in this college, and of its sister college Saddleback and Irvine, past and future today, fight on the battlefield of Iraq under the flag that is behind us. Spain has abandoned our fighting men and women, withdrawing their support. I see no reason to send the students of our colleges to Spain at this moment in history." He adds that these programs are elitist and that Spain is a dangerous place for the students.

Fear not, OC Weekly reports the students are left with a bounty of choices for study abroad programs this summer: Cambodia, China, New Zealand and Vietnam. Clearly all staunch supporters of the war in Iraq and distinguished members of the "coalition of the willing". We could go on and on with jokes about this but we'll let the news speak for itself this time.

By the way, note the timing of the announcement, this news is hitting the papers just two days before the first anniversary of the March 11 train bombings in Madrid. Nice touch Señor Frog. And yes, Spain pulled it's troops out of Iraq after the conservatives lost power, but they were in Iraq and Afghanistan from the start and they too have lost sons in both conflicts.

Update: While checking the Irvine Valley College website I notice they only list one study abroad program now: China. I wonder if Vietnam, Cambodia and New Zealand are victims of Señor Frog too? Let's hope he puts his foot further in his mouth in tomorrow's papers!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Unsweetened Apple Sauce

As predicted, Apple is getting pounded in the press (and the blogosphere) for their lawsuits against three websites. At last count there were 173 related news articles today on Google News. Here is a small sampler:

Martin Stabe
Dan Gillmor
New York Times
San Francisco Chronicle
Kansas City Star

There is nothing wrong with Apple trying to protect its trade secrets. It is the way they are going about it that is questionable. They should deal with employee confidentiality issues internally. Instead, Apple will kill the messenger in an effort scare their employees from further revealing confidential product information. Apple's corporate attorneys know it is easy to intimidate young inexperienced website owners with expensive lawsuits. But they may have miscalculated the price themselves.

Things have gotten out of hand for Apple with the judge declaring that the websites in question are not "legitimate press". The thing is that limiting legal protection to "legitimate" journalists is an old way of controlling the press. It is a common practice in nasty one-party states.

Countries can set up registries and accreditation schemes for the press, which come in handy when pesky journalists start prying too deep into corporate or government matters. Journalists may loose their accreditation/liscense and investigations into corruption and other unsavoury affairs are suddenly shut down. The consequences of this go far beyond anything Apple could ever possibly want to protect and their good image will suffer for it. Even if they win their case.

Even Steve Wozniak, one of Apple's founders, is unhappy that Apple is going down this path and is actually donating money to help the cause of one defendant in Canada.

Friday, March 04, 2005

This Apple has a worm in it (II)

An update on a previous post regarding Apple's bullying tactics against websites that speculate on upcoming products and their sources of information.

The Mercury News reports in Apple 1, bloggers 0 that Apple will likely get away with their suit against websites like Think Secret that discuss upcoming products among other Apple related things. It appears the sites have no protection on revealing their sources of information because they are not "legitimate press". Forbes Online sums it up nicely today in Is Apple the New MicroSoft?. Being likened to the dark side has to hurt, ouch!

It is truly remarkable to see how Apple, which is riding the crest of the popularity wave with its iPods and itunes, is hellbent on tarnishing its public image over a relatively minor internal issue. You could argue that insider information, especially if erroneous, can hurt the company. But frankly, when I read Think Secret, I know they are speculating on new and exciting products at Apple. The fact that the products turn out differently is not a shock to anyone and the buzz created by these websites actually benefits Apple.

In the days leading to the San Francisco Mac Expo in January, I read the Think Secret site every single day eagerly hoping to learn the smallest tidbit on any of the exciting new products that might be announced at the show. No advertising campaign could ever give Apple that level of attention and hype. This is good for them but they don't understand it. This blog thingy is scary for the control freaks among us.

My unsolicited two cents for Mr. Jobs is to loosen your belt one notch, take a deep breath, and work with the sites to spin the information to your advantage. Deal with the insider information internally and focus on creativity which is why we like you in the first place. It will save you much bad "illegitimate" press like this in the coming weeks. See the Guardian's Online Blog for more on this.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

An Anti-Spam Experiment

Before my three readers begin scratching their heads upon seeing my new link to Online Poker, please note I don't have the slightest interest in poker or gambling. This is about combating spam.

If you click on the link, you will be taken to Wikipedia's definition of online poker. The point here is to thwart spammers so the top ranking on Google searches for online poker lead to the Wikipedia instead of a site promoting spam. Spammers crave the top rank on any search and if enough people link to the Wikipedia they will never get there.

As Frenchfragtory puts it: "Each time a search engine bot (for example, Googlebot, the "machine" that crawls the internet and logs pages and links) indexes a page where there are links to some site, these sites are granted more "page ranking". More site linking to your web means greater page rank, and therefore better position in search engine results. Basically, what spammers are trying to achieve is being result #1 returned by a Google query."

A noble experiment is worth the effort.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Subject A is my Hero

It has been brought to my attention that flok dekoke world has neglected posting anything recently on subject A and her many adventures. This is a shame because her life goes far beyond the borders of fdk world. So here it goes.

Subject A embarks on her first ever expedition to Mexico in two weeks. She travels with her 5th grade schoolmates and I'm green with envy. It will surely be an unforgettable experience for her. We hope she takes many pictures and that we can post one or two in flok dekoke world as we have done with our current photo (which she took during another expedition).

Subject A is the bravest little person in the world, or at least in her classroom. She is fearless when it comes to expeditions, camping out, and visits to the doctor. She even relishes visits to the orthodontist. She deals with pain. What else could one wish for but to live without fear when so many others want us to feel it?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Keep your hands out of that cookie jar!

I know, I know, the last thing you want to read is another dopey blog on social security reform but I can't help asking one question. If the social security system is going to run out of steam in 2053, or whenever, why would diverting cash from it to personal accounts help things?!

Wouldn't it make more sense to leave it alone and just expand the 401K system so people can put a little more cash into that instead? Am I being too simple minded?

The answer, your stock broker might tell you, is NO because stock markets in other countries where pension systems have been privatized are booming as the mutual funds have to scramble to invest payroll taxes into the market every month. Presumably this is better for you, but this is how bubbles are built. It's a giant pyramid scheme where the brokers make a killing on commisions regardless of where the market ends up.

The system might last a little longer if our politicos kept their hands out of the cookie jar and stopped spending our current social security surplus on porkbarrel projects.