Thursday, April 27, 2006

Oh, this is good: Enron blames the Media

As Kenneth Lay, former executive of Enron, gives his testimony, he shifted the blame to the media for destroying investor confidence, particularly the Wall Street Journal.

At times abandoning his legendary folksy manner for a sharper tone, Lay told jurors there had been "a real conspiracy" against Enron. He asserted that one newspaper in particular, The Wall Street Journal, "was on a witch hunt" aimed at the company and its onetime chief financial officer, Andrew S. Fastow. While also blaming Fastow, who has pled guilty to fraud and testified for the government, Lay zeroed in on articles the newspaper published in the fall of 2001 that he said "kicked off a run on the bank" that doomed the company.

Oh, nevermind you that he and Mr. Skilling, are on trial for allegedly lying to investor's about the financial health of Enron. As the justice system is concerned this may very well be a valid defense strategy, but one cannot excuse the fact that being in charge of a company in financial trouble, these two characters had a responsability to their shareholders, their employees, and society at large to disclose any financial troubles. Go figure! I wonder if this tactic will work. They are being tried in Texas after all.

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Bulgarians Protest Base Deal

Secreatary of State, Condolezza Rice is in Sofia, Bulgaria, attending a meeting of NATO countries. She will meet with the Bulgarian PM to discuss and finalize a planned US military base opening in the Balkan country. Naturally, there are those who disagree and they have taken to the streets in protest claiming that the US is seeking a jumping point in what they think is a US strategy to attack Iran. While their claims may be exagerated (or not, depending whom you talk to) they should also see the benefits and the inevitability of the planned opening. When the Bulgarian nation decided to join NATO and the EU they had to come to a compromise, where while they benefit from such memberships, they must also open their airspace, ports, and land assets to other member countries, and whatever else. One has also to think of this base opening as an influx of US dollars into the Bulgarian economy, though the base, which is presumed to be small in comparison to those in Germany and France, may seem insignificant in such light. Nevertheless, future expansion of American presence in Bulgaria is not a bad thing. Those who would protest do so under the influence of outside interests (can you say Russia!).

SOFIA, Bulgaria - Thousands of Bulgarians demonstrated Thursday against a deal to allow U.S. troops to use military facilities in the country.

Under the deal, seen as part of a broader U.S. military strategy of shifting troops based in Europe farther east, up to 2,500 U.S. troops would be deployed in the Balkan country on a rotational basis.

The rally against the plan was organized by an ultranationalist party called Attack and drew several thousand people to a park a few hundred meters (yards) from the venue for the NATO meeting.

The protesters shouted, "Yankees Go Home," and waved banners that read, "Condi, ask the Bulgarian people" and "U.S. bases War."

In a declaration, protesters called on the government to put the issue of to a referendum.

According to the Attack party, 200,000 Bulgarians have signed a petition against the deployment of foreign troops to Bulgarian military bases.

Officials expect the first U.S. troops to arrive at the end of the year or early in 2007.

The agreement would give U.S. troops access to three bases in southern Bulgaria for training and logistical operations. The locations are the Bezmer and the Graf Ignatievo air bases and the Novo Selo training area.

Attack party leader Volen Siderov told the rally that "from Bulgarian airports, U.S. military jets will take off to attack other countries."

"Bulgaria is preparing to enter a new dirty war, this time against

Iran," Siderov said.

Protester Lyuben Bozhilov said opening Bulgaria's territory to U.S. troops could make the country a target for terrorists.

Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin recently tried to downplay such fears, saying that weapons of mass destruction would not be deployed to the facilities used by U.S. troops.

"The agreements between the United States and Russia on non-deployment of nuclear weapons in the new NATO member states guarantees that there will be no nuclear weapons in Bulgaria," Kalfin said.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

French Misguidance

t is understandable if one has noted that the Europeans, especially the French, suffer from an inferiority complex, especially when they try to match themselves to the US. Excluding the nationalistic fervor that most European countries display, their inferiority complex seems all the more clear seeing how their economies fare poorly against the US. That is not to say that they are unable to become a real competitor to the US, but considering their political and industrial capacities - and wanton, for that matter - they cannot hope to ever match the economic might of the US. Case in point: France. In an effort to shore up French pride against US dominance, and attempting to leave a legacy to his nation, President Chirac unveiled a government-backed plan to create a rival search engine to Google and Yahoo! which would be native to Europe. This again is an example of the hawkish stance most Europeans maintain in attempting to preserve their nationalistic tendencies against any anglo-american influence. For example, the French dislike (to nice a term for what they really feel) the use of English terms which are the norm in the business and IT world.

So, in order to raise the global focus of France and its industries, Mr. Chirac's attempt at trying to create a rival to US search engines seems paultry at the very least. Here's to another governmental body entering the market. If Mr. Chirac wants to throw money away, that's his business, but if the French governmental spending has shown anything it shows its inability to promote free markets and does not support European private companies in the long term.

The French president, Jacques Chirac, yesterday unveiled what he hopes will be his great legacy to France's struggle against the global dominance of the US: a series of technological projects including a European search engine to rival Google.

Mr Chirac, who walked out of an EU summit last month when a fellow Frenchman committed the grave offence of speaking English, styles himself as the defender of France in the globalised world.

After the biggest street protests in decades forced him to stage a U-turn on employment reform last month, Mr Chirac is keener than ever to be remembered for doing something positive for French pride. Yesterday, he announced that he would provide 2bn EUR (1.4bn GBP) in funding for a series of innovative grands projets, including a Franco-German search engine to compete with Google and Yahoo!.

Named Quaero - Latin for "I search" - the search engine aims to be the first to efficiently sort through audio, images and video. It would search the growing array of podcasts and videoclips on the web and deliver the information to computers and mobile phones. Quaero has been a pet project of Mr Chirac's for some time. In his new year speech at the Elysee Palace, he spoke of the need to "take up the global challenge posed by Google and Yahoo!".


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Curtailing Freedom of Speech

A judge in California has banned the wearing of shirts bearing anti-gay
messages. His decision was based on the question of whether the First
Amendment's freedom of speech protected anti-gay messages and whether sexual
orientation provides the same basis for protection as does race or religion.
California is known for its progressive policies when it comes to public matters
but this decision only stifles freedom of speech, and does not promote the
protection of any rights. The question remains however, that if one individual's
anti-gay message is to be considered hateful and inciting/inflammatory,
therefore not protected by the First Amendment, by what right does another
individual's anti-republican, anti-religious, etc., can be considered protected?
I believe that there is a double standard in place, and it only helps in
diminishing individual rights under the guise of First Amendment protectionist.
Here's a brief excerpt:

The shirt, which said "Be ashamed, our school has
embraced what God has condemned," on the front, and "Homosexuality is shameful"

on the back, was substantially disruptive, and an "impermissible intrusion on
the rights of gay and lesbian students," Reinhardt wrote.
Kozinski and
Reinhardt both have longstanding records as First Amendment advocates, but their
discourses here showed little agreement, even on minor points. In fact, they
spent several pages attacking one another's reasoning, and using footnotes to
encourage one another to watch movies supporting their points. Reinhardt even
brought up a dissent Kozinski wrote as recently as the week before to point out
what he saw as inconsistencies in reasoning.
In brief -- and very little
about the opinion was brief -- Reinhardt said that in a school environment,
speech attacking homosexuality can disrupt education, and may thus be silenced
by administrators. But such power has limits, he said.
"T-shirts proclaiming
'Young Republicans Suck,' or 'Young Democrats Suck,' for example, may not be
very civil, but they would certainly not be sufficiently damaging to the
individual or the educational process to warrant a limitation on the wearer's
First Amendment rights," Reinhardt wrote.
That's the kind of reasoning that
these days will elicit cries of "activist judge."
"This is a classic example
of social engineering and manipulating the law," said Kevin Therion, a lawyer
with the Alliance Defense Fund who argued the case for Harper. He also questions
Reinhardt's presumption that gay students deserve the protections of an ethnic
or religious group.