Jobs Not Off the Hook Yet

When I suggested that Steve Jobs be let off the hook for possible financial improprieties, a bunch of you just about ripped my fool head off. You might get your wish to see Jobs in jeopardy. After being cleared by Apple (did they put Leslie Nielsen on this case?) the feds decided to check up on the charges themselves.

While some might view Apple as some kind of touchy-feely company, it is, after all, built to make money. In fact, its platform is more proprietary than Redmond's because it is completely tied to hardware (bring back the Mac clones!).

Still, I'm kinda hoping Steve J. skates on this one.

HP CEO Feelin' Fine, Low-Level Gumshoe Feeling Low
According to reports, Mark Hurd, the head of HP, was copied on a key memo discussing an investigation into reporters, employees and directors looking for leaks (Hurd neglected to read the memo and missed part of a key meeting on the subject, he says). Hurd is still running meetings, making the covers of business magazines and doin' fine.

Meanwhile a 29-year-old peon (let's call him Scooter Libby Jr.) from the PI firm with all the sneaky tactics, pled guilty to identity theft -- all for doing the bidding of HP execs.

Dotster Found its Dots
As beer companies know, sex sells. Domain registrar Dotster agrees, and recently held a contest to find female spokesmodels. These women are no slouches. One is a former Miss Arizona (yes, this century!), another appeared on a Dunkin' Donuts commercial and a third actually speaks Spanish.

I've gotten numerous press releases about this and they all tell me to check out the Dots at http://www.dotsterdots.com. But this Internet company doesn't operate on Internet time, as the site is still just a placeholder. Maybe the company should take a course in Publicity 101 and have the Web site ready before they blast out a million press releases!

Doug's Mailbag: A Shaky Foundation, Teflon Steve?, More
The LA Times recently shined its spotlight on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for investing in things like power plants, which can cause pollution and respiratory disease -- things which it is also known for trying to eliminate. The foundation has since posted a response to the article on its Web site, but here are some of your thoughts:

I just, by chance, came across your post on the Gates Foundation. Thank you for writing it. I imagine our first responsibility as human beings is to not harm others, especially the vulnerable.
-Rita

I'm in the process of reading the LA Times article you cited in Redmond Report. From what I've seen so far, the article is mostly a retelling of the same sad story that has existed throughout history -- that there is very little in life that is incontestably good or bad.

As human beings, we make choices every day that reflect a complex blend of the beneficial and the harmful. Cities ban smoking in bars and restaurants; those same bars and restaurants then lose customers, and some of the establishments either go out of business or have to lay off staff. I drive a small, fuel-efficient car to reduce global warming; I get involved in a traffic accident, and my injuries are exacerbated because the car provides less protection from the force of impact. Schools encourage personal expression on the part of their students; those same students join MySpace.com and express themselves to the point of making themselves vulnerable to perverts. A woman takes pictures of her unclothed nephew for the family; when the film is processed, a zealous store employee notifies the authorities that a customer has some child pornography and the woman is arrested. This kind of thing happens at all levels, and to everyone. It may be one great unifier of all human beings, for all I know.

Google and its "do no harm" mantra have been held up to public scrutiny because of its choice to participate in the Chinese market. Politicians have marched up and down the aisles of Congress in moral outrage over what Google, Cisco, Yahoo, Microsoft and many others have done in failing to protect human rights. Yeah, they've marched up and down the aisles, even as their buddies in Congress have created an absolute cesspool of influence peddling and corruption. And they're rank amateurs compared to the pros in places like the Middle East and Latin America and too many other countries to list.

My final opinion on this whole thing is that I applaud the good that the Gates Foundation has done. In those areas where it has some influence with companies in which it invests, it should wield that influence to improve the companies' environmental and business practices. If it has no clout, then it's up to others to wield the cudgel. Sustainability and a net "good" are the best that can be hoped for in this world; perfection is a pipe dream for fools to believe in.
-Dennis

The article in the LA Times is somewhat of a cheap shot. It says "Bill and Melinda Gates require the managers to keep a highly diversified portfolio, but make no specific directives," so they are not calling the shots. Also, because Bill is looking to make a "big impact," it will be easier to provide direction if he owns a portion of the company. That's my thought.
-Carlos

Investment "screening" for socially responsible companies is done by other major foundations, including the Ford, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, and the Rockefeller foundations. It's not rocket science and it's not financially irresponsible. It is irresponsible and a little schizophrenic to be invested in companies that are causing the problems that you are trying to fix!
-Chris

As a longtime sufferer of asthma, I have got to say that Bill Gates' foundation is investing in the wrong thing. To do good while using methods that do evil, especially with breathing, means to do evil. As I barely have enough money to ride the bus to work in the morning, I won't tell them what to do, but I would love to see how they would react to the sentence of having difficulty breathing for life!
-Angus

A geology professor at a major state university was fond of saying, "Ban strip mining; let them freeze in the dark." Energy infrastructure investments may produce a good ROI, I don't know, but until we grow a lot of fur or all move to the tropics we are going to require energy to survive. Keep in mind that wind has been criticized in California for the turbine blades killing birds. Look at how many people die each year in cold climates when the power goes out due to a snow or ice storm and then we can pass judgment. Better yet, let the person that survives on no electricity, no gas and no wood-burning cast the first stone.

My only quasi-criticism of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to date is that it focuses so heavily on Washington State in the U.S. I would quit IT tomorrow if the foundation would contribute to a new nonprofit that would allow myself and like-minded individuals to work on a national citizen ballot initiative that would reform protections for victims of child abuse. The United States still has more protections in place for abused pets than abused children. As an adult that tried to protect a child that was being abused, I have witnessed firsthand how our system fails these children, and I did look into soliciting help from Gates' foundation for long-term reform after I failed. While I did not see an avenue for getting the help I was looking for, I was overwhelmingly impressed with the work this foundation does. Who are we going to attack next -- the American Red Cross? Most of the media failed to give Microsoft the credit it deserved for the extremely generous resources the employees and company donated for Katrina relief, including personal time, either.
-Mark

The spotlight is on Steve Jobs, too, as he ducks charges that he and Apple's board of directors were backdating the company's stock options:

Write on the board, 100 times, the following two sentences: "Two wrongs don't make a right. The ends do not justify the means."

What, did someone just make Cupertino an "ethics-free" zone? I cannot tell you if Steve Jobs did anything wrong. I have no choice but to leave that to Apple and the SEC, but there should be no "get out of jail free" cards for any criminal, regardless of their intent or what good they have done.

Criminals have given in the past to charity, sometimes generously, and that in no way excuses their behavior. This is true regardless of political party or corporate affiliation. The MSNBC writer is erroneous in comparing Martha Stewart's crime to the crime of backdating options. Both actions are wrong, but recent history shows that back-dating options is a far more lucrative practice (see United Healthcare for details).

I am absolutely appalled that a former SEC commissioner would wave it away as a mistake. It also seems disingenuous, at the very least, to credit Steve Jobs as a genius on one hand and then state he had no idea that the options were being backdated. As to whether he actually made any money from the deal, please remember that intent can be prosecuted without action, which is why attempted murder is a crime.
-Tom

On a lighter note, ever wonder what might go wrong if the Ford-Microsoft deal to equip cars with Windows goes through?

If your Ford with Windows crashes more that two times in three years, does your insurer drop you? Where will they put the ctrl-alt-del keys? Suppose they put them on the steering wheel and you confuse them with the cruise control buttons?! How do you press them while still in motion -- or do you come to a complete stop first? Imagine the pop-ups on your GPS system after some spyware gets in! Would you have to re-activate every time you change the plugs and the oil/filter? Would installing iTunes or other after-market apps void the warranty?

No, I don't have too much free time on my hands. If I did, I would have come up with more, on things such as bot-herders controlling your car and driver restore fixing the car, etc.
-Jeff

Let me know what you think -- comment below, or send me an e-mail at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

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