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Government Cronyism Watch: Microsoft Inside FCC, California, Washington, and Bahrain

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Summary: Latest examples of Microsoft entering the non-commercial arena and influencing decisions so as to help its bottom line

THE FCC family grows and the latest addition is covered by BusinessWeek, which says:

‘Sexiest Man’ Joins Navy Admiral, Microsoft Veteran at New FCC



[...]

Also among Genachowski’s recruits are retired Navy Rear Admiral James Barnett Jr., 56, who is chief of the FCC’s bureau of public safety and homeland security; Steven VanRoekel, 40, the agency’s managing director, who came from Microsoft Corp.; and Steven Waldman, 47, founder of beliefnet.com, which offers prayers and commentary to help users seeking spiritual guidance. Waldman, a former Newsweek correspondent, heads an FCC task force on the state of the media.

[...]

VanRoekel oversees the agency’s day-to-day operations. The former Microsoft executive and aide to founder Gates on speeches and strategy says he has worked to boost technology use since arriving to find an agency where “the status quo was the norm.”


We wrote about this tactless appointment before [1, 2]. The FCC took on Apple just weeks after VanRoekel had become the Managing Director of the FCC. But anyway, why does BusinessWeek care so much about a man's appearance? It's not as though people should vote for someone based on whether he is "Sexiest Man" or not.

Apropos, a couple of weeks ago Schwarzenegger put himself in Microsoft's pocket and now he's getting bitten in the rear. From the San Francisco press we now learn:

Glitches in Microsoft's California vouchers



[...]

Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger visited Microsoft Corp.'s Silicon Valley campus to announce that the tech company would hand out more than 70,000 training vouchers through the state's One-Stop Career Centers. The idea was to give Californians - whether unemployed or working - a chance to take online computer courses and get free tests to certify their skills.

This Microsoft-sponsored program, called Elevate America, mainly offers intermediate training in office programs - Word, Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Vista - with some vouchers set aside to provide advanced online training to people hoping to work in computer administration.

[..]

Microsoft has run this same program in 12 other states and officials say the average completion rate has been just 30 percent - giving local workforce boards a chance to improve on that ratio by making sure that Californians follow through and take advantage of the training.


This is just nationwide dumping, as we have already explained. Microsoft tries to indoctrinate everyone by means of Windows and Office "training" that it "donates". This programme is mostly being used in the US, but there are similar things going on in the UK. We gave examples.

To the US government, Microsoft is the tail that wags the dog. Last month we showed that a former Microsoft manager (Hunter) had entered the government where he is now helping Microsoft escape tax [1, 2, 3]. Microsoft's darling press, the Seattle Times, still seems to be unwilling to cover this blunder; instead it says that "State tax break entices tech firms to build data centers"

Legislators and businesses have been worried about losing new data centers to other states since Microsoft, citing the state's tax law, moved its cloud- computing platform Azure out of Washington to another U.S. data center. The news was distressing to the Grant County town of Quincy, where Yahoo, Microsoft and Intuit have built large server farms, drawn to the county's cheap and green hydropower.

Server farms send data and software across the Internet to users and to Web sites around the world. Microsoft continues to operate a data center in Quincy but chose last year not to expand Azure there. Running a server farm requires large amounts of energy and bandwidth.


The Seattle Times should be shamed of itself for continuing to ignore a serious fiasco that hurts citizens of Seattle. Is this publication paid by Microsoft in any way (directly or indirectly)? There's quite a déjà vu here because other Seattle or Redmond 'publications' are dedicated just to Microsoft boosting and some masquerade as government-oriented Web sites that offer impartial advice to governments.

“The Seattle Times should be shamed of itself for continuing to ignore a serious fiasco that hurts citizens of Seattle.”Here is the latest example of Microsoft promotion as an 'article' in one these Web sites; Microsoft seems to have gotten its own magazines to sell its products and deceive readers (under the the illusion that these are "news" sites). Here is one new example and another one. These new articles may seem like news, but they are embedded in sites that are named after Microsoft products. It's an insult to real news sites and it dilutes authentic reporting as a whole. Shouldn't the FCC look into such issues of misreporting (or improper media centralisation)? Oh wait, the FCC would not care because it's partly run by a former colleague of Gates and Ballmer. It's all just PR from a highly PR-dependent company that he used to work for, so why would he care?

Speaking of government influence, Microsoft will have a conference in Costa Mesa next week and we also learn that it has "workshops" in Bahrain, where these simply enable Microsoft to send instructions to people who make decisions:

Furthering its commitment to promote good government practices through the use of technology, Microsoft Bahrain today announced that it hosted a workshop for senior technology executives from the various entities within the Government of Bahrain.


This is wrong on very many levels. No wonder so many governments blindly sign contracts with Microsoft and sometimes get sued for it by their citizens. In some cases, the lawsuits come from competitors. Take Switzerland for example. We covered it in:

  1. Microsoft Sued Over Its Corruption in Switzerland, Microsoft Debt Revisited
  2. Can the United Kingdom and Hungary Still be Sued for Excluding Free Software?
  3. 3 New Counts of Antitrust Violation by Microsoft?
  4. Is Microsoft Breaking the Law in Switzerland Too?
  5. Microsoft Uses Lobbyists to Attack Holland's Migration to Free Software and Sort of Bribes South African Teachers Who Use Windows
  6. ZDNet/eWeek Ruins Peter Judge's Good Article by Attacking Red Hat When Microsoft Does the Crime
  7. Week of Microsoft Government Affairs: a Look Back, a Look Ahead
  8. Lawsuit Against Microsoft/Switzerland Succeeds So Far, More Countries/Companies Should Follow Suit
  9. Latest Reports on Microsoft Bulk Deals Being Blocked in Switzerland, New Zealand
  10. Swiss Government and Federal Computer Weekly: Why the Hostility Towards Free Software?
  11. Switzerland and the UK Under Fire for Perpetual Microsoft Engagements
  12. Lawsuit Over Alleged Microsoft Corruption in Switzerland Escalates to Federal Court


Microsoft's manufactured 'studies' are another important subject that we mentioned last week (Microsoft uses these for government lobbying) and here is the latest example.

Microsoft’s Worldwide Utility Industry Survey 2010 is their latest attempt at doing this, and while this is not really a major study, there are a handful of meaningful conclusions that I think will – and should – resonate with utilities.


In the next post about the Gates Foundation we will show the latest 'studies' that they fund to serve themselves. This type of behaviour ought to be exposed because it only adds 'noise' to the debate and it harms citizens for the benefit of few large corporations.

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