Sunday, November 16, 2008

Now is the time for Sun to buy itself back

As a 9 year Sun veteran, I watch the continued turmoil inside of Sun Microsystems with a somewhat heavy heart.  A few days back Sun announced yet another lay off, this time 18% of the work force.

I actually think that some of the cut and the reorganization that is coming with it is good.  Sun still had some areas of the company that were actively holding it back from evolving and the rumors i hear are that the cuts are going to be heavy in these areas.

However, I am afraid it wont be enough.

Unlike many others, having seen Sun from the inside, I am actually a Jonnathan Schwartz fan.  I've watched him from the moment he took over and seen a bold, innovative, and incredibly smart guy with the guts to make big bets for Sun's future.   However, I think his ability to execute has been hamstrung  on a number of levels. 

From the inside, he has had to fight a deeply entrenched culture that desperately want to hang onto Sun's existing way of doing business, selling servers, even as market forces grind the margins on that business into the dust.   From the outside, he is stuck with having to make quarterly figures for the stock market, even though it takes a  lot more the 3 months to retool a company.  Every time he cant make quarterly figures, he has to figure out how to do what he is trying to do with even less people as he makes the market-demanded personnel cuts.

Which gets me to the point of this blog.  Sun's market cap is down to 3 billion dollars.  Sun has at least that much still in the bank.  I believe that now (or not too far in the future, if you want to bet on the market in general dropping even lower)
is the time for Sun to take itself private.  Buy the controlling interest off the market and give Jonnathan the room to succeed or fail on the merits of his ideas... not because a short-sighted markt is forcing upon him short-sighted decisions.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A quick note on Caribou Barbie

A lot of the radio talk today was about whether Palin helped or hurt McCain in the presidential race. 

All the debate seems to be over did she do well this demographic v. did she alienate that demographic  and was her style too strong or did she help by saying tough (some might say slanderous) things that McCain couldn't or wouldn't say.

As far as I am concerned all this misses the most important point.  She defintiely hurt McCain with one crticial demographic... and that was a demographic of one.

Gen. Colin Powell cited the choice of her as VP as the thing that finally goaded him into openly endorsing Obama as his candidate for the presidency.
  Until then, his long standing freindship for McCain had kept him neutral.

That, to my mind, was far and away the most important for Obama, and damaging to McCain, endorsement of the entire campaign.

So there is no doubt in my mind that running Caibou Barbie turned out to be a devestating mistake.

A word for MacCain

And now a word for the Hon. Sentator from Arizona... and its not PPPBBBTTT!

I actually think John McCain's concession speech was terrific.    I especially appreciated the disapproval he showed at his loyal followers booing at the name of the President Elect. 

This is the John McCain I remember from when he ran againt Bush.  The John McCain I could actually consider voting for.   He disappeared during this race, replaced by a low pandering B grade politician but in defeat he was far more gracious then he had been when he had a chance.

I don't really think that this is his fault.  I believe John McCain to be a man of great loyalties and very much driven by duty.  During the campaign, I think he felt obligated to run it the way his party, driven by slime like Karl Rove, told him to.  Once Barak Obama was elected, however, I think the same sense of duty drove him to support his new president.

I also think John McCain wants to end his career with something historic.  And if thats not being president, he can at least be a major player in the administration OF an historic president.  I think he'd be an asset to all concerned and I, and I hope our president, would welcome his involvement.

As for Ms. Palin, well, I was inspired by a friend of my wife's at seminary.  Joyce, this is for you....

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Episode 3: A new hope

Okay, this ISN'T about Star Wars, sorry.  Its just my geeky way of talking about my feelings today, the day after we elected our first Afro-American president.

Listening to the Radio today I heard a lot of back and forthing about  what this means.  (Besides meaning that much of America hates George W Bush and anyone associated with him.)  The focus seemed to be "does this mean America is no longer racist."

Well, would that it did, but that's jumping to the ends of a story that we are still very much at the start of.  I don't think this means racism is dead in America.  I don't even think this means that specifically racial prejudice against Afro-Americans in politics is dead.  But I do think its the start of something.

Today, I find myself thinking a lot about a baseball player named Jackie Robinson.  Branch Rickey, then president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was a pretty wise man.  When he decided he wanted to integrate his baseball team he went looking not just for a player who was as good as the white players, but one who was significantly better.  And not just better at baseball, a better figure of a man.  He knew that *any* negative perception of the first black player in the major leagues would doom the effort.  Foibles and weaknesses that would be forgiven in any white player would be held up by the opponents of the effort as "obvious signs that black men aren't suited to playing a 'white game.'"

The words "black man" would not have been used at the time, but we all know what word woudl have been and there is no reason or excuse to use it here.  But the man for the job would have to listen to it, day in and day out, and not rise to the bait.  To be better, much better, not just then all his fellow players but then the people who would seek to pull him down.

Not only did he need a man who could survive such a scrutinized and intense fishbowl of a life, but he needed one willing to do so.  That takes a very special kind of commitment.  One I think very few of us could have.  I doubt I could.

He found his man in Jackie Robinson.  And thanks to Robinson's bravery, strength of character, and willingness to self-sacrifice-- today crowds of Americans of all races and background routinely gather into stadiums to cheer loudly for teams composed not just of white and black men, but many other races as well.  It didn't happen over-night.  But jackie Robinson started the process that led there.

When I look at Barak Obama on the podium, I see Jackie Robinson.  And the same rules unfortunately hold for him.  He had to be not just a good politician to get where he is now, but a great one.  In all likelyhood the greatest one I am going to see  in my own lifetime.  But its not over with the election.  The kind of wanton mis-deeds America has forgiven other Presidents for, he won't be. 

He will need to be better then them, better then all the rest of us. When he talks about wanting to unify America it can't be the Bush/Rove idea of unification which came down to "Okay, now everyone unify by doing it MY way." He is going to have to really follow through on his acceptance speech promise to make all of America feel listened to and engaged.  Even people he might inwardly cringe just to be in the same room with.

But if he can do it, then it just might be the beginning of the end of prejudice against Afro-Americans in the American political system.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A historic night

There are a few days in my life that I think of as watershed moments.
I can usually tell them by the feeling of almost surreal amazement that accompanies them.  I have three...

The first, when I was very young, was watching a man step out onto the lunar soil.  The idea that, not only was there a  man on the moon, but that I was *watching* the moon.  That I could see into space and onto another world, was an amazing thing.  A good sort of amazement.

The second was when the Space Shuttle columbia exploded.  I was in college and walking past our student union cafeteria which had one of those early monster-sized big screen projection TVs.  I stood there and watched the footage in utter disbelief.  Such things happened in books and movies, not in real life and I could not get over the weird feeling that I was watching some movie and not reality.  That was a bad sort of amazement.

The third was tonight, when a man with a black father and white mother, and a face America calls Afro-american, became our next president.  I wanted to believe it was possible, but I am still absorbing the fact that it is reality.  This, again, is a good sort of amazement.  Its the kind of miracle that brings with it a renewl of faith.  In this case a very secular miracle and a very secualr renewel of faith, to whit my faith in the American people and our system of government.  A faith particualrly sorely tested, and found somewhat lacking, these last four years.

The thing about parents is that, if they are good ones, they are always older and often wiser for it.  They've seen the cycles of the world and how it turns and have the hindsight to recognize it coming around again.  When I had all but lost my faith in this country, was convicned that the police state it had become under the administrationof George W Bush was going to be a permenant fact of life in America, mine told me not to give up.  That when the people really come together they *can* change things in this country.

Well, they were right and tonight proved it.  I suppose every cloud has a silver lining, and if a President Obama is the silver lining of having had a President Bush the past 8 years, maybe it was all worth it. 

But as I think about this amazing turn of events, I also find myself thinking about how we got here, and what my parents and others of their generation did to make it possible.  Because this didn't just happen because the American people are sick of what has been done with our government the past 8 years.  It also happened because we live in an America where it *could* happen.

There will likely be a lot of talk in the coming weeks of Dr. Martin Luther King, and there is no doubt that he was very important in getting us to where we are.  But there are a lot of other people we owe a debt of grattitude to.  People who risked abuse, pain, torture and even death to oppose an unjust way of life.  People without names we will ever know.  People of my parents generation.

Barak Obama is an amazing man, of any skin tone.  A politician the likes of which I don't think I've seen in my lifetime. The analogy I keep coming back to is the stories I've heard of how people responded to JFK.  He has that kind of leadership.  And i have no doubt that it took such a man to cross this line.  But when I think about him, and what my generation has to be thankful for, I am reminded of a famous quote of another man history remebers.  Sir Isaac Newton who said:

"If I have been able to see further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."

To those whose shoulders we all stand on today, you know who you are, and thank you.  If not for you, none of this could have happened.