Jul 30 2009

Beers at the White House

Jamie Barrows

So today President Obama and the two people involved in the unfortunate arrest of the Harvard University Professor (Gates and Crowley) are going to sit down and have a beer together. The idea being that if they can spend a little time getting to know each other, they can put the whole incident behind them.

Now I’m not a huge supporter of our President, and I didn’t vote for him. The truth is, that I think many of his plans for our country are disasters in the making. And I haven’t seen a lot of the promised transparency that he promised during his campaign. But in this case, I think his plan is a really good idea. And I have to give him credit for it.

In my experience, a lot of the racial problems that people have are not caused by hate or true racism. Most of the time they are caused by a lack of knowledge about a person who is different. By a stereotyping of an entire group of people, because the person has limited or no contact with that people group. That isn’t to say that there are not true racists who are going hate no matter what. Those people exist and are a serious concern. But a lot of people have generally good intentions about others. And when they are confronted with the reality of their prejudices (in a real person rather than just on paper or by being told by others), will usually change their outlook and beliefs about that people group.

It was clear from the start, that the whole incident was a big mistake. A mistake caused by prejudices and resulting anger on both sides that quickly escalated. Which resulted in the poor actions on the part of the police officer. Both sides colored the confrontation with their own prejudices and expectations. The police officer saw a belligerent black man who refused to follow simple instructions during an investigation. And the professor saw a white overbearing police officer who was flaunting his authority and making demands of the professor in his own home. Both sides were wrong (though I tend to side a little more with the professor on this one). And yet neither side had bad intentions. The officer was investigating a possible break in, and the professor was just trying to enter his home.

And because of their good intentions, I think that Obama’s plan of getting them to sit down together will actually work. Not sure that beer was the best choice of drinks (alcohol and good judgement don’t usually mix), but the concept is still good. When they can both see and interact with each other in a casual atmosphere, then they can both realize that this whole thing was just a mistake that got out of hand. And maybe they will even become friends.

Feb 20 2009

When did it become a crime to succeed?

Jamie Barrows

Lately the tech news sites have been filled with rumors about a possible antitrust prosecution against Google. Most of the rumors are based on statements made by Obama’s nominee for antitrust chief, Christine Varney. She has mentioned that Google has acquired a monopoly type of position in the Internet advertising industry and may be a future target of antitrust proceedings.

There is no question that Google has a very large and rather dominant position in the Internet advertising industry. The vast majority of Internet advertising is controlled by Google and that majority is increasing all the time.

But when people look at why it’s so large and why it’s increasing, no one cites dirty tricks or monopolistic practices as reasons. All of the analysts, even those critical of Google, point out that Google simply offers a better value than any of it’s competitors. It’s sheer size does give it the ability to offer more at lower prices, but that doesn’t change the fact that what Google offers is better than what any of it’s competitors offer. Google offers better value to the the customers who are buying the ads, as well the websites hosting the ads. A win for everyone.

So basically the reason Google is so successful is because it is providing a better product than it’s competitors are providing. And because customers have recognized this, Google has become the dominant player in the market.

So when did it become a crime for a company to be too successful? When did it become against the law to gain too much market share by simply being better than anyone else? Where is that invisible line between having a successful law abiding business, and a business that is now too successful and illegal?

Oh, and before anyone says this is a Democrat/liberal vs Republican/conservative thing, I would like to remind you that the Bush administration was making many of the same types of statements about Google. So this isn’t because the Obama administration is anti-business and the Bush administration was pro-business. This is a mindset that affects both parties.

Your business is allowed to be a success as long as it isn’t too big a success. Because if you are too big a success, then aside from any illegal or unfair dealings, your business could be prosecuted.