Saturday, February 19, 2011

Oracle tries green persimmon effect

Over 50 years ago, Guambat spent one of his most valuable summers of his life on his great-uncle's farm in Western Tennessee. He chopped cotton, worked the plow horse, carted 'maters, pulled 'tators, shucked corn -- and learned you cain't whistle Dixie, or anything at all, after chomping down into a green persimmon.

This last lesson was one of seemingly hundreds learned that summer. It came about as Guambat and his uncle were traipsing through a wooded area. Guambat delighted in the free fruit market that was his uncle's farm, and usually he'd find stone fruit, apples, berries of many sorts, and the odd run-away strawberry or what not. On this occasion, he came across a tree with some lovely green fruit, one of which he plucked.

He asked his uncle what is was. "It's a persimmon" said he, "but folks like to call 'em pawpaws." What a lovely name either way, Guambat thought. Must taste as lovely.

"Are they good to eat?", he asked his uncle. "Delicious when they're ripe", says he. "But I bet you can't eat a bite of that one and then whistle me Dixie".

So young Guambat, being ever so plucky, and after finding so many good things to eat on a Tennessee farm, ever so fatter, chomped off a crackling nice chunk of green persimmon.

Not only could he not whistle Dixie, he could hardly form a word. Nary a pucker came to his lips.

Had Guambat had access to the web back then, and taken notice, he would have known that the old uncle was just playing another trick on his city-fied nephew. See, Pucker up, it's persimmon time in Tennessee! from Hillbilly Savants' blog:
I can remember my cousin Danny saying; “Oh, Tug, these persimmons are delicious, you’ve got to try one!” Then he held one up to his mouth and pretended to take a bite and acted like it was the best thing he had ever tasted in his life. Of course I, not wanting to look stupid in front of my hero cousin, took a big bite. If you have never bitten into a green persimmon before, you don’t know what you are missing. Or rather I should say you don’t want to know what you are missing! It takes no more than one bite into one to turn your mouth completely inside out. It has the similar effect of biting into a lemon, only worse! The first thing you want to do after trying one is to stick your tongue out and start slapping it. That is hard to do because your lips are now drawn into a frozen pucker, making this nearly impossible.
You need to read that article, because it is full of beautiful pictures of the fruit and other memories and uses of it.

And so what does all this home-spun humour have to do with Oracle? Well, Oracle is trying to trick the Federal government into making State Attorneys General take a great big bite of green persimmon. Oracle wants to stop the whistleblowers.

But first, for background, see this blog post for the context:
Government not most favored customer of Oracle.

Oracle Seeks to Bar U.S. From Giving States Whistleblower Data
Oracle, accused in a U.S. lawsuit of overcharging the government on software contracts worth $1 billion, will argue in a hearing in Alexandria that U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Jones should block the Justice Department from sharing confidential company information with state attorneys general.

Lawyers specializing in whistleblower cases said Oracle’s request to shield documents from state governments may be an attempt to limit the company’s liability, which some attorneys not involved in the case said could be as much as $1 billion in the U.S. lawsuit alone.

The lawsuit was filed under the False Claims Act in 2007 by Paul Frascella, a former Oracle employee, and joined by the Justice Department on July 29. The act lets citizens sue on behalf of the government and share in any recovery, while the government has the option of intervening in a case. The U.S. is seeking triple damages and can collect as much as $11,000 for each false billing.

Oracle is accused of inducing the General Services Administration, or GSA, to buy $1.08 billion in software from 1998 to 2006 by falsely representing that the government was receiving the same discounts as most-favored commercial customers. Oracle instead gave companies discounts of as much as 92 percent, while the government’s reductions ranged from 25 percent to 40 percent, the U.S. claims.

On Jan. 31, Oracle America Inc. agreed to pay $46 million to resolve claims that Sun Microsystems Inc., which merged with Oracle last year, paid kickbacks in an attempt to get government contracts and submitted false information to U.S. contracting officers.

The case is United States of America v. Oracle Corp., 07- cv-00529, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).

You can get a direct link to that case, and a wealth of further information, by reading the whole Bloomberg article.

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