Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chevron $27 Billion Claim in Ecuador

Chevron faces a potential crisis from a $27 billion claim in a lawsuit in Ecuador, where indigenous people blame Texaco for polluting the areas where they live and damaging their health.
A ruling in the 16-year-old case had been due in the coming months, but that is now complicated by the judge's replacement amid allegations he was involved in a $3 million bribery plot.
Another Valdez!

World Wide IT Failures

The total annual cost of worldwide IT failures is $6.2 trillion dollars, according to calculations performed by Roger Sessions, ├╝ber-expert enterprise architect and CTO of ObjectWatch.

Roger presents his analysis in a blog post:

According to the World Technology and Services Alliance, countries spend, on average, 6.4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on Information Communications Technology, with 43% of this spent on hardware, software, and services. This means that, on average, 6.4 X .43 = 2.75 % of GDP is spent on hardware, software, and services. I will lump hardware, software, and services together under the banner of IT.

According to the 2009 U.S. Budget, 66% of all Federal IT dollars are invested in projects that are “at risk”. I assume this number is representative of the rest of the world.

A large number of these will eventually fail. I assume the failure rate of an “at risk” project is between 50% and 80%. For this analysis, I’ll take the average: 65%.

Every project failure incurs both direct costs (the cost of the IT investment itself) and indirect costs (the lost “opportunity” costs). I assume that the ratio of indirect to direct costs is between 5:1 and 10:1.

Cellared Wine

Many Canadian growers and wineries say the impact of the recession has been compounded by government regulations that they say benefit lower-priced imports. They point to “cellared in Canada” labelling rules, which allow large wineries to market wine as Canadian even if it contains 30 per cent or less Canadian grapes. These wines dominate many provincial liquor board store shelves and sell for under $10 a bottle, far less than wines made from 100-per-cent Canadian grapes.
In Ontario, blended wines must include 30 per cent Ontario grapes to qualify as “cellared in Canada,” but B.C. has no content requirement. As a result, big wine companies import bulk wine juice from Chile or California for as little as 21 cents a litre, bottle it in B.C. and market it as B.C. wine, Mr. Bond said. “Why does the government of British Columbia believe in deception and how long do we endorse this policy?” he said.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Voluntary Action?

Much of the corporate sustainability and responsibility agenda has been propelled since the ’90s by the idea that voluntary action on the part of corporations is more effective than regulation. It has been a celebration of market dynamism over moribund regulation, the latter of which would provide only for the lowest common denominator. At any rate, liberalization of markets outpaced our ability to develop an effective governance model to tackle issues such as climate change in a joined up way so many were happy to go a long with an approach that at least delivered incremental improvements.

Monday, September 28, 2009

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Lubbock's Tax

Last week, residents across Lubbock County, Texas, began picking up six-packs of Lone Star on their way home. Legally.
For years, sales of packaged alcohol have been strictly regulated, limited mainly to private clubs, to some restaurants in the city of Lubbock and to a small part of the county known as the Strip. But after four months of planning, protests and appeals since voters overwhelmingly approved sales countywide, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission last week issued 86 permits for packaged retail alcohol sales.
That terminated Lubbock’s claim to being, with those few exceptions, the biggest dry county in America — a distinction the county of 264,000 was willing to cede in exchange for a tax windfall during the worst economy in decades.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

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Friday, September 25, 2009


A recent survey on information security and privacy protection found many companies fail to comply with standards set by the credit card industry
TORONTO (09/25/2009) - Over half the organizations queried in a recent survey say they don't even try to secure, let alone secure, sensitive information about people or families.
Examples of such information are bank account data, driver's license numbers, and Social Security numbers (corresponding to the Social Insurance Number used in Canada).
The survey queried 560 U.S. and multinational organizations. It was conducted by Imperva, a data security company, and the Ponemon Institute, an independent organization that conducts research into privacy and information security policy.
According to the survey, only 28 percent of smaller companies—those with 501 to 1,000 employees—say they comply with the international Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which focuses largely on IT (information technology) and Internet security. In contrast, more than 70 percent of large merchants—those with 75,000 or more employees—say they comply with the standard.
"If you go the larger organizations to do business, you are more likely to be secure today," said Imperva CTO Amichai Shulman.

Doubling Processor Power

The reason our society and economy have become so rapidly and thoroughly digitized in recent years is that the underlying computer processors have been able to keep up, and exceed, all the workloads we’ve thrown at them. It’s Moore’s Law in action. But will there be a point of diminishing growth in processing power?
In 1965, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, postulated that that number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit — and thus processing power — would double every two years.
The rest of the story is the stuff of computer industry legend. It turned out that Moore was right on the money, and the processing power of semiconductors keeps outpacing the workloads we put on them — from high-volume transaction processing to simulations to graphics. At the same time, the form factors that support these applications keep getting smaller and smaller.

What your suit says

David Silverman Words at Work
9:52 AM Thursday September 24, 2009

There is no surer sign that I've crossed the invisible line into curmudgeon than this: I wear a suit to work every day and want everyone else to also. It's the second half of that statement that's clearly crotchety, but I ask you to hear me out.

Twenty years ago I started my first job at IBM. I wore grey slacks with plenty of pleats (it was the late 80s), a button down shirt, and a tie — my favorite was a red woven "sock" tie, may it rest in peace. On occasion, I would add to the mix either my father's 1940s three-piece grey suit or paisley suspenders causing me to appear to be a very young old man. (I have photos of this, but they are too terrifying to share.)

Later, I moved to New York City and got a job as a salesman. Sartorially, I visited a now-defunct temple of woolens called Moe Ginsburg's. An entire floor was devoted to American-style suits. Another to British. A third to the rakishly curved and vented Italian style. Bald men with tape measures who smelled of excelsior, cotton fluff and gin directed me to the wall of suits in my size.

I left that job for a position in England where I was going to be a techie. I therefore traveled to the Gap and, with the help of some remonstrative friends, selected khakis, blue linen shirts, and a blue blazer with gold-like buttons. My mother almost fainted. I appeared, she said, "awfully American."

When I arrived in London my boss' first remark was, "While you're waiting for your real clothes, go buy some suits." And so, off to Oxford Street, more old men, a copious amount of ale, and I was in 4-button black and grey suits and, once again, a vest.

When I returned to America, the suits came off. Freedom! I thought as I went into business for myself. Black T-shirts. Ripped jeans. The suits were stuffed far back in the closet, and I recreated myself as Steve Jobs-meets-Johnny Cash.

But what that freedom really meant was: I had no idea what to wear. My man-in-black ensemble ruined an account at McGraw Hill — the customer was appalled that I had worn a sweater. So I rode the aesthetic pendulum back the other way — to the point of giving a presentation in Armani to an audience of 300 California buyers in Polo shirts (and a few sweaters).

Without the guiding principle of a "uniform" I was spending more and more time worrying if I was wearing the right clothes for the people I was meeting. This led to keeping a suit and tie on the back of the door, many hours (and dollars) spent shopping, and time every morning puzzling over what goes with what.

So I've returned to the fold. The old men and their yellow tape measures have forever vanished, so I am left on my own as I browse the five styles of suit at Charles Tyrwhitt--three British, two Italian, no American. I buy them. I wear them. And I question myself no longer.

When I teach my class of college students, themselves arrayed in garb ranging from gaudy to grunge to garbage I say, "Why do I wear a suit? Because it's easy, yes. Because it makes me feel professional, yes. But also because it shows respect. Putting on a suit tells the person I meet with that I value them enough to dress up for them."

I ask the students to keep that in mind they're looking for work and even when they come to class — and maybe, if nothing else, to at least stop showing up in pajamas.

What do you think? Is the suit a sign of freedom or oppression? Is it a complete anachronism of Mad Men machismo and discrimination? Or is a suit a uniform men and women should both wear?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Media Making

The news media and the government are entwined in a vicious circle of mutual manipulation, mythmaking, and self-interest. Journalists need crises to dramatize the news, and government officials need to appear to be responding to crises. Together, they have woven a web of lies and have misled an increasingly skeptical public.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cell Phones Again

The amount of time each month that the average wireless subscriber spent talking on a mobile jumped 430%, to 12.6 hours, between 1998 and 2008, according to the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Assn. [CTIA]. As handsets gain additional capabilities, people are increasingly using them not only to make calls but also to check weather forecasts, watch videos, and play games. "The weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems," the Food & Drug Administration states on its Web site.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Execs Least Likely to Contribute to Society

Business Execs Least Likely to Contribute to Society
Just 21% of Americans think business executives contribute "a lot" to society's well-being. Those thought to contribute more than suits included lawyers (23%), artists (31%), and journalists (38%). The top three contributors: the military
(84%), teachers (77%), and scientists (70%).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bishop’s University gets the largest Investment

SHERBROOKE, QC— Three levels of government joined with Bishop’s University today to announce the single largest infrastructure investment in the University’s history, a $29.5 million renovation and expansion of the John H. Price Sports and Recreation Centre. The Governments of Canada and Quebec will each contribute $13.25 million to the project, while the Ville de Sherbrooke will contribute $3 million.

FCC Rules for Internet Providers

The head of the FCC plans to propose new rules that would prohibit Internet service providers from interfering with the free flow of information and certain applications over their networks, an official at the agency said Saturday.
The Federal Communications Commission chairman, Julius Genachowski, will announce the proposed rules in a speech Monday at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, the official said on condition of anonymity because news of the announcement had not been formally released.
The proposals would uphold a pledge Barack Obama made during the presidential campaign to support Internet neutrality -- the equal treatment of Internet traffic. That would bar Internet service.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Online Community

The lesson that technology is only as good as its user will be a hard lesson learned for many companies needing to focus more on community strategy and management than on the technology solution. Online community software enables new ways of working that require a shift in mindset and culture. IDC finds that traditional corporate culture acts as a major barrier to adoption today, even more so than the economic downturn.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Flash Orders

U.S. securities regulators proposed on Thursday a ban on flash orders that stock exchanges send to a select group of traders, fractions of a second before revealing them publicly. The Securities and Exchange Commission is seeking to end the practice criticized for giving an unfair advantage to some market participants who have lightning-fast computer trading software.

Insider Trading HK

IT HAS long been considered a paradise for investors who have a juicy bit of inside knowledge. Insider trading was not even a criminal offence in Hong Kong until 2003. Earlier this year local tycoons banded together to block proposed changes to disclosure rules that, in effect, allow executives to front-run earnings announcements. So a striking change in regulatory approach has come as a shock to many.
Over the past year Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has initiated ten prosecutions for insider trading, resulting in ten guilty verdicts, dozens of convictions and five jail sentences. This month the SFC claimed its biggest scalp yet with the conviction of Du Jun, a former Morgan Stanley banker, who was expected to receive a hefty jail term at his sentencing on September 18th.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Losing Faith in the Press

The American public's assessment of the accuracy of the news media has reached a new low. 63% of American adults say that news stories are often inaccurate, compared to 53% in 2007 and 34% in 1985. 70% say that the news media tries to cover up its mistakes, and 27% describe the press as not professional.

More Royalty Collection

At a time when many iTunes shoppers are still fuming over Apple's first-ever increase in song prices, the demands by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), and other performing-rights groups, would likely lead to more price hikes at iTunes. This would also undoubtedly confirm the perception held by many that those overseeing the music industry are greedy.
For those reasons, composers and songwriters will struggle to sell their case to the public. But these royalty-collection groups say they're at the bottom of the music-sector food chain and aren't trying to gouge anyone. They say their livelihoods are threatened and wonder why movie studios, big recording companies, TV networks, and online retailers are allowed to profit from their work but they aren't.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Slingshot Water Purification

Kamen seeks an angel with Buffett-sized bankroll
By Dana Blankenhorn | Sep 15, 2009 | 0 Comments
ShareEmailDiggFacebookTwitterGoogleDeliciousStumbleUponNewsvineLinkedInMy YahooTechnoratiRedditPrintRecommend0Dean Kamen is the closest thing we have to Thomas Edison.
He’s an inventor and a promoter. He’s a genius, but he’s not really a businessman.
His big idea right now is the Slingshot, a water purification system that works by vaporizing a liquid to remove impurities, boiling the result to remove the rest, delivering over 250 gallons of pure water each day from any source.
Power for the Slingshot can come from another Kamen creation, the Stirling Engine. It can take any fuel source, even cow dung, and has a rating of 1 kilowatt.
You can run a Stirling next to a Slingshot and still have half the generator’s rated power available for other uses.
Kamen demonstrated the Slingshot on the Colbert Report over a year ago, and the first stories on the combo are over three years old.
What’s lacking are engineers, the kind who help lower costs, and the kind who create business models.
Back in 2006 the idea was to produce the devices in Bangladesh and sell the services through entrepreneurs. Iqbal Quadir of Grameen Phone had a network of people who were already making money selling cell phone services. But that deal never made it past planning. I confirmed with Kamen’s firm, Deka Research, that there is no production deal pending.
The need for the other kind of engineer is obvious. The hand-tooled prototype Kamen has himself photographed with cost $100,000 to make. He needs to get that down to $1-2,000 for mass production.
Which brings me back to Edison.
Thomas Edison is lauded as a founder of General Electric, and the company’s original name was Edison General Electric, with works in Schenectady (where David Packard labored briefly).
(I like this picture of Edison, from Wikimedia. It was taken in 1893, at the height of his powers.)
But when financier J.P. Morgan combined Edison General Electric with Thomson-Houston in 1892, Edison was out, and Tesla’s AC current rather than Edison’s DC current became dominant.
The same sort of thing happened with Edison’s other big inventions, like phonographs and the movies. Business interests and history conspired against what he considered his intellectual property. Edison did well, but not as well as he thought he deserved to do.
What today’s Edison needs is someone who can turn the Stirling and Slingshot into a low-cost combination that will sell in large quantities, and who will give Kamen the credit and piece of the action he feels is his due.
Know anyone?

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Executive Pay

373 U.S. public companies reduced their chief executives' base salaries between June 1, 2008 and June 18, 2009. 68 companies in the Fortune 1000 index have reduced executive officers' base salaries in the past year.

Monday, September 14, 2009

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Multitasking Effectively?

Now a study from researchers at Stanford University suggests that my concerns may have been well-founded. The study conclusions, reported in the Aug. 24 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are unambiguous: "Multitaskers were just lousy at everything," according to Clifford I. Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford and one of the study's investigators. Despite starting the research on 100 college students with the hypothesis that multitaskers had some special abilities, the study found that multitaskers were actually quite ineffective at managing information, maintaining attention, and getting results. Compared to study participants who did things one task at a time, they were mediocre.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Economic Fundamentals

Corporate officers and directors have been selling shares at a pace last seen just before the onset of the subprime malaise two years ago.
While a wave of insider selling doesn't necessarily foretell a stock market downturn, it suggests that those with the first read on business trends don't believe current stock prices are justified by economic fundamentals.

Hubble Images

Check out these amazing pictures released yesterday of the new Hubble in space.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Driving Sustainability

When companies pursue sustainability, it's usually to demonstrate that they are socially responsible. They expect that the endeavor will add to their costs, deliver no immediate financial benefits, and quite possibly erode their competitiveness. But, say the authors, the quest for sustainability can unearth a mother lode of organizational and technological innovations that yield both top-line and bottom-line returns.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

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Since failure is a taboo subject of discussion in modern business, it’s no surprise that graceful endings are decidedly uncommon. Since this taboo is a function of human interaction in collaborative environments (ie: business and government), the problem is widespread.

Monday, September 07, 2009

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Digital Books

Google claims that rather than suppressing competition in the emerging market for electronic books, the agreement would increase it by offering a web-based alternative to expensive proprietary systems such as Amazon’s Kindle. Having bought a book from Google, customers would be able to read it on any device with internet access. Moreover, by clarifying the copyright status of millions of digital books, the deal would also make it easier for firms other than Google to strike deals to use them.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Utilizing Innovation

“Presidential Action Saves Computer Industry”. A fake article beneath it describes government intervention to prop up the ailing mainframe industry. It sounds ridiculous, of course. Computer firms come and go all the time, such is the pace of innovation in the industry. Yet for some reason this healthy attitude towards creative destruction is not shared by other industries. This is just one of the ways in which Dr Grove believes that his business can teach other industries a thing or two. He thinks fields such as energy and health care could be transformed if they were run more like the computer industry—and made greater use of its products.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Pfizer fined $2 Billion

Will even a $2.3 billion fine change drug marketing practices?
By Dana Blankenhorn | Sep 2, 2009
Pfizer today agreed to pay a $2.3 billion fine, and admit guilt, to settle cases arising from its marketing of Bextra, a painkiller removed from the market 4 years ago.
The case began with whistleblowers concerned the drug-maker was pushing the drug for unapproved uses.
Sounds hefty. But is it really?
Consider that Pfizer set aside just this amount, $2.3 billion, while announcing its acquisition of Wyeth in January. As BNET reports it’s a subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn, that is actually copping the plea. Pfizer issued no press releases about the case until the settlement was finalized.
The fine also settled accusations concerning the marketing of three other drugs — Geodon, an anti-psychotic drug; Zyvox, an antibiotic; and Lyrica, an anti-epileptic drug. The Justice Department release said the company would “enter into a corporate integrity agreement,” a fancy word for probation, in hopes of keeping future cases from spiraling.
In sum, Pfizer “managed” this case just like any other corporate event, like the failure of a clinical trial. In acquiring Wyeth it turned the case from a cliff to a mere “bump in the road,” as one analyst described its troubles to The New York Times.
The use, and marketing, of drugs for uses beyond those approved by regulators is a continuing scandal. Whether it’s Pfizer pushing these drugs, an entertainer’s doctor offering propofol as a sleeping aid, or a university department head using Risperdal for ADHD, it’s practically business as usual.
Drug makers, their agents, researchers, universities, and ordinary doctors are all implicated in this scandal, and the tools available to police them seem increasingly inadequate to the task at hand.

World Wide Patent

A senior lawyer at Microsoft is calling for the creation of a global patent system to make it easier and faster for corporations to enforce their intellectual property rights around the world.
In a blog posting on Tuesday, Microsoft's Deputy General Counsel Horacio Gutierrez said that a backlog of patent applications internationally was needed to tackle the 3.5 million pending patent applications around the world — including around 750,000 in the US.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Perfectionists have a hard time starting things and an even harder time finishing them. At the beginning, it's they who aren't ready. At the end, it's their product that's not. So either they don't start the screenplay or it sits in their drawer for ten years because they don't want to show it to anyone.
But the world doesn't reward perfection. It rewards productivity. And productivity can only be achieved through imperfection. Make a decision. Follow through. Learn from the outcome. Repeat over and over and over again. It's the scientific method of trial and error. Only by wading through the imperfect can we begin to achieve glimpses of the perfection.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

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"I don't think my boss really gets this project. I mean, he still thinks social media is all about marketing! And I'm so tired of fighting to do it right."
This is the hymn of the Stranded Evangelist: the person who is taking a company or organization into new territory, territory that makes other people (especially the ones in charge) incredibly uncomfortable.

Downward Slope

The average employee probably knows long before management that his or her company is on a downward slope, and losing its entrepreneurial and innovative edge. Unenlightened and hidebound management, slipping standards, penny pinching accompanied by pound foolishness, high turnover, and mistreatment of customers are often readily apparent to the rank and file.

Dallas City Guide – Interactive City Guide

Dallas City Guide – Interactive City Guide