Ballmer Departure From Microsoft Was More Sudden Than Portrayed by the Company
Kara Swisher on the timing of Ballmer’s departure:
Interestingly, Ballmer actually indicated that he had planned on staying in his letter about his impending departure, noting: “My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company focused on empowering customers in the activities they value most.”
That sentence spurred much chatter inside the company, including the persistent rumor that Gates had dropped the bomb on Ballmer. That sentiment was further underscored when Ballmer’s letter contained no reference or thanks to Gates, with whom he has been tightly tethered over the last several decades. Its absence has been much discussed internally at Microsoft, where it has been seen as an unusual slight and a sign of a rift.
Gates also did not reference his longtime business partner in any celebratory manner in Microsoft’s announcement. “As a member of the succession planning committee, I’ll work closely with the other members of the board to identify a great new CEO,” said Gates, in the entirety of the quote about Ballmer’s retirement. “We’re fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.”
This is what people who have been baffled that Ballmer’s been able to keep his job as long as he has haven’t understood: it’s always been Bill Gates keeping him there. Even as Ballmer shifted to becoming the laughing stock of the tech industry, Gates was his protector.
Welcome to the Age of Denial
In 1982, polls showed that 44 percent of Americans believed God had created human beings in their present form. Thirty years later, the fraction of the population who are creationists is 46 percent.
In 1989, when “climate change” had just entered the public lexicon, 63 percent of Americans understood it was a problem. Almost 25 years later, that proportion is actually a bit lower, at 58 percent.
The timeline of these polls defines my career in science. In 1982 I was an undergraduate physics major. In 1989 I was a graduate student. My dream was that, in a quarter-century, I would be a professor of astrophysics, introducing a new generation of students to the powerful yet delicate craft of scientific research.
Much of that dream has come true. Yet instead of sending my students into a world that celebrates the latest science has to offer, I am delivering them into a society ambivalent, even skeptical, about the fruits of science.
The most pernicious part of this trend in my opinion is the anti-vaccine movement:
Meanwhile, climate deniers, taking pages from the creationists’ PR playbook, have manufactured doubt about fundamental issues in climate science that were decided scientifically decades ago. And anti-vaccine campaigners brandish a few long-discredited studies to make unproven claims about links between autism and vaccination.
The list goes on. North Carolina has banned state planners from using climate data in their projections of future sea levels. So many Oregon parents have refused vaccination that the state is revising its school entry policies. And all of this is happening in a culture that is less engaged with science and technology as intellectual pursuits than at any point I can remember.
This has real consequences in terms of illnesses and deaths that are completely preventable. Babies are once again dying of whooping cough for the first time in decades.
I view this movement as the equivalent of communism during the Cold War: what’s needed is a concerted, mult-decade intellectual assault to widdle its backers down to a nub of discredited extremists. Instead, we’re giving these anti-intellectual clowns their own hosting gigs on prominent television talk shows.
Glenn Greenwald’s Partner Detained in the UK
Glenn Greenwald’s partner was detained during a layover in the UK on his way to Brazil. The used detention powers provided under an anti-terrorism law to question him not about terrorism, but his involvement with Greenwald’s reporting on the NSA’s surveillance programs:
The detention power, claims the UK government, is used “to determine whether that person is or has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.”
But they obviously had zero suspicion that David was associated with a terrorist organization or involved in any terrorist plot. Instead, they spent their time interrogating him about the NSA reporting which Laura Poitras, the Guardian and I are doing, as well the content of the electronic products he was carrying. They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism: a potent reminder of how often governments lie when they claim that they need powers to stop “the terrorists”, and how dangerous it is to vest unchecked power with political officials in its name.