Biggest turkeys of 2008

What has feathers, can't fly, and likes to stick its neck out at precisely the wrong moment? Cringely cries fowl by naming the biggest tech turkeys of the year.

Last year around this time I introduced the Gobblers, my awards for those individuals in the tech field whose behavior most closely resembles a bird whose sole purpose is to be served on a platter.

It was such a big hit I decided to do it again this year. Thus I present the 2008 Gobblers for biggest turkeys of the year, along with the special evolutionary niche each one fills.

Axl Rose: After 17 years and more than US$13 million, the aging axman for dinosaur rock band Guns N' Roses emerged with a new album. But not before siccing the feds on one of his fans, Kevin Cogill, for streaming cuts from "Chinese Democracy" on his blog. The 27-year-old Cogill plead down to reduced charges and is looking at probation. As for the album, the New York Times called it "a shipwreck, capsized by pretensions and top-heavy production... overwhelmed by countless layers of studio diddling and a tone of curdled self-pity... like a loud last gasp from the reign of the indulged pop star." Maybe Rose should be giving it away for free. Avian breed: Old Buzzard

Eliot Spitzer. A dalliance with a US$3,000-an-hour hooker left the former Governor of New York bereft of his reputation, his job, and probably his marriage. Somehow Spitzer forgot that, in the Post-Monica world, there is no such thing as privacy or discretion -- especially for someone with the roster of enemies Spitzer had. Avian breed: Cooked Goose

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen. This month he signed into law an RIAA-sponsored bill that spends nearly $10 million in taxpayer money to police college networks for illegal music sharing. At the same time, Tennessee is facing a budget shortfall of around $45 million and is laying off teachers. Nice. Avian breed: Dodo Bird

Chinese Premier Jen Waibao. Sure, he's got his own Facebook posse, and that's cute. What isn't cute is everything else the Chinese government does: walling off big chunks of the Net from its citizens, imprisoning dissidents, hacking US government computers, even cheating at the Beijing Olympics. About the only thing they've done right is ban sales of "Chinese Democracy." Somewhere Mao is smiling. Avian breed: Vulture

Jerry Yang. Not quite a year ago, the former Chief Yahoo turned down an offer from Microsoft to buy his company for US$33 a share. Yahoo's current stock price? US$9. Then he negotiated a revenue sharing ad deal with Google that was supposed to save the company, only to have Google step away when the Feds smelled an antitrust rat. Now he wants Microsoft to come back. (Their response? As if.) Personally, I've never been a fan of the MicroHoo concept, but few corporate leaders have bungled quite so badly. Avian breed: Turkey of the Year, or possibly just a Dead Duck.

Here's hoping they all get stuffed.

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Robert X. Cringely

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