Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Wall Street Cliches

I came across this Wall Street Journal rundown of all those lovely Wall Street cliches and other musings that many financial journalists hear so often. My favorite answer by some lazy brokers was stuff like: "The market is up because there are more buyers than sellers..." (No D'uh). This article goes through some more sophisticated items, like the "Dead Cat Bounce" or "Buy the Rumor, Sell the News".

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Kwasniewski on John Paul's Sainthood

Here's a little morsel of news I had seen before but didn't get a chance to mention in the blog: Poland's outgoing president Aleksander Kwasniewski(also a former communist) has been testifying in the beatification procedure for John Paul II. This is bizarre on all kinds of levels. I'll leave it at that.

And, oh by the way, today is Kwasniewski's last day in office. Wonder how extensive his campaign for the top UN post will be now.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Law School - First Semester Survived

I haven't discussed law school much since starting the blog, but now that I have survived the first semester mostly intact, I guess I could share a few thoughts about it.

First, I'm loving a great part of it. Don't laugh, but I enjoy reading cases, thinking about "the law" and learning about new ways of thinking. It definitely feels like intellectual boot camp a lot of the time and the first semester, they say, is the roughest. But still, I am glad I decided to go back to school.

Having said that, I am afraid I peaked a little too early and the last month was rough. I did lose some interest as the avalanche of reading built up. I did stay on top of the daily stuff, but did not do enough studying and preparing for finals. And when they did come around, I had to rush with my outlining and studying, cramming a lot of it into the spaces between exams. Next time, I hope to get a quicker start on this, possibly even at the expense of some of the heavy daily reading.

This might sound silly, but I set myself a goal of going to every single class and I achieved it. OK, with one exception for the legal writing class, but that doesn't count... (The goal was a result of the fact that I skipped way too many classes back in college). Anyway, I think that helped with the understanding of the material, but I admit that going to some of the classes was marginally useful and I may hesitate a little less about skipping when needed next time. The goal is still there, but I may be a little more "flexible".

See, for law students it's all about the grades. Most people do want to learn, but that A or B is still the bottom line. So, if anybody out there is looking for tips, do read all those professional outlines and other study aides. They do help and I should have started that earlier. Again, at the expense of the reading. Do read the cases, but be wise with your time.

Finally, I met a lot of fantastic people at school. New friends and other acquaintances with a lot of interesting backgrounds. This is also the advantage of moving around once in a while (with the disadvantage being, of course, having to leave them behind after a while). You don't want to close yourself only within the law school community and I am happy that I did meet some nice folks who have nothing to do with the law in Chicago, which itself is a great town.

Talking about friends. I did neglect many old ones, especially in the last few weeks as the finals began to loom over the horizon. I am sorry for that and I hope to reconnect in the next few weeks.

I am scheduled to do the first year at the law school and then move on to journalism school for a while before going back into the real world. So, unless things change, I have one more semester on the law side and I plan to enjoy this one too. Weird.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

UN-Presidential: Kwasniewski Pardons Party Buddies

Poland's outgoing president Aleksander Kwasniewski has pardoned two party buddies, including a former deputy interior minister who leaked information of an impeding police raid to people close to local gangsters. Instead of 3 1/2 years in jail, he gets a one-year suspended sentence. The other pardoned official is Kwasniewski's former chief of staff.

This has caused quite a controversy in Poland, and rightly so. Pardoning cronies is an awful way to stain a legacy which did include overseeing Poland's entry into NATO and the European Union. One would think (and hope) that this may also complicate Kwasniewski's plans to be one of the candidates to replace Kofi Annan atop the UN next year.

Despite his communist past, Kwasniewski remained a popular politician, even as his party friends sunk under a wave of corruption scandals. When he was running for reelection five years ago, I remember visiting my grandmother, who had the pictures of Pope John Paul II and Kwasniewski on the top shelf in the living room. But then she saw one of Kwasniewski's aides poking fun at the pope and the president's picture ended up on a lower shelf. Well, Grandma, after this pardon mess, I think it's time to take the photo down completely.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Death for Deaths? Execution of Crip Founder

Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote a short, yet poignant column on the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams, the co-founder of the Crip gang, which has left a trail of blood in California and elsewhere. The man did shotgun four people to death, but should the state stoop to his level through execution?

"[Williams's] legacy is terrorized neighborhoods and a chorus of weeping mothers. His anti-violence books and speeches were too little, too late, and the mythologizing of him was as unconvincing as the Nobel nominations. But his execution was a macabre spectacle in a nation that preaches godly virtue to the world while resisting a global march away from the Medieval practice of capital punishment."

Well said.

"Beef Panties" and Other Top Corrections of 2005

Here's an interesting list of some of the top corrections and typos of this year. There's "Jew Jersey" in the Denver Daily News and the wonderful typo "beef panties" from my former employer, Reuters. Mostly funny stuff, even if we are laughing at other people's errors (and believe me, I had my share).

By the way, Reuters runs this thing called The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, which shows readers comments to stories and photos with editor responses and some corrections. Worth a look. Thankfully I don't think I ever made the list, especially on the last two points.

Talking about corrections (or bad and ugly), can I do my Civil Procedure exam over??? Not that I'm obsessed or anything. One more to go and then I'm home free.

Martial Law in Poland - 24 Years After

I was talking with my law school buddies on Monday (after a disastrous Civil Procedure exam) about schools canceling classes for snow days. And then I recalled getting days off from school after the introduction of Martial law in Poland back in 1981. And I didn't even realize until later that today is December 13! Wow, so 24 years ago I was thrilled to get a few extra days off from school as tanks rolled into the streets to put down Solidarity (forgive me, I was only a seven-year-old then). I don't remember much, but along with the tanks I do remember newscasts read by "journalists" in uniforms. Wow, nothing like living in a communist country.

And here's an unfortunate statistic. According to Polish papers, more than half of Poles don't remember when Marial Law was declared and nearly half of those who do remember December 13 think that it was the right move. The propaganda that the Soviets were ready to roll in seems to be growing stronger with age. These must be the same people who in another poll last year chose communist leader Edward Gierek as the most popular Polish politician over Solidarity hero Lech Walesa. OK, so Walesa didn't do himself any favors as a president in the early 90's, but come on...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Schroeder Gets Paid with Gas

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder seems to be coming out just fine after (barely) losing the elections earlier this year. The man who was one of the strongest critics of the U.S. and probably the biggest European friends of Russian president Vladimir Putin, gets rewarded with a post as the head of the shareholders committee of the gas pipeline that conveniently circumvents Germany's eastern neighbor Poland. So Gerhard gets the prize and Poland gets punished for standing up to its bully neighbor to the east.

Something stinks here, especially since Schroeder vigorously lobbied for this pipeline when he was the chancellor. He might regret this, however, because getting in bed with Gazprom and the rest of Russian gas interests may not be the cleanest arrangement.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Big Snow, Jet on the Highway

Wow. Just had the first big snow storm of the season with as much as 10 inches of the white stuff falling in some parts of the area. And the snow likely caused a passenger plane to skid pass the runway at Midway Airport, ending up on a highway. What a day. Good thing I'm flying out of O'Hare next week.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Chicago Goes Smoke-Free!

About Time! Chicago is banning smoking in restaurants and bars. Great news. Nothing can ruin a dinner on the town like having a smoker puffing away at the next table. Sure, bars will get extra time, but it's still great that soon enough I won't smell like an ashtray when I come back after hanging out with some friends at the local Irish pub.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Saddam: No Clean Underwear Is Torture

I accidentally came across this article in The Sydney Morning Herald, which points out the incredible discrepancy between the worlds of Saddam Hussein and his victims. At his trial, the nasty former dictator had a problem comprehending the pain he had caused his own citizens during his iron grip rule of the country. Instead, he thinks "no underwear, no chance to take a shower and no chance to smoke a cigarette" is terrorism. And he has the nerve to say this while listening to witnesses tearfully recount rape and murder under his rule. Now he decided to boycott the court and told everybody to "Go to Hell!" Sorry, Saddam, the world no longer revolves around you and your underwear.

One of my fellow law students said yesterday that he's "proud" of Saddam for standing up to this "illegitimate" court. Now I'm not sure whether being tried for crimes against humanity is less legitimate than being tried by some foreign judges at The Hague. I would, however, say this is the best way to spotlight the monstrosities caused by Saddam and I wish the prosecution would have started with the most serious crimes. Nonetheless, the man still shows he is totally disconnected from the reality and feels no shame for the crimes perpetrated against his own countrymen.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Don't Be Chicken and Pray

So Tyson Foods, one of the world's biggest producers of chicken and other meat products, is launching a "faith-friendly" marketing campaign that will include free downloadable prayer booklets on its web site. I don't know about you, but I get a bad feeling in my stomach when I see religion and adverting mixed like this. Prayer, I figure, should be very personal and should not be coming off a corporate web site. That chicken will be fine without it.

On the other hand, I'm afraid, this is just the beginning of many campaigns targeted at religious Americans, whose lives do seem to be more and more faith-centric, especially in some parts of the country. It was inevitable for some marketing geniuses to notice the trend. Will Tyson sponsor the next showing of The Passion of the Christ at the grocery store near you?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Corrupt Medicine - Nearly 70 pct of Poles Bribe Doctors

Corruption in Poland has always seemed to me to be at astronomical levels. Poland sports the worst level of corruption among the EU countries. When I lived there, I often had to deal with bribe-taking officials, be it customs agents or police officers. Thankfully, I never had to deal with the scourge of corruption in hospitals, which is even more frightening. According to a cover story in this week's Polish Newsweek, nearly 70 percent of Poles admit to giving bribes to their doctors, or about 10 percentage points higher than just two years ago. The weekly estimates about 5 billion zlotys, or $1.5 billion, in bribes flows into the Polish healthcare system every year.

I applaud Newsweek for focusing on this story. The magazine, supported by the health ministry, has proposed that doctors and hospitals decree that they would not longer take bribes. I hope this will at least spotlight this huge problem.

Certainly in the U.S., money talks in the health care system and the richer get better treatment, medicine, etc. But it's frightening that in Poland patients have to grease the wheels at every step of the way, from getting into the hospital, to receiving the right medicine or being seen by the right doctor. Who can say how many poor patients, who don't even have money to pay a small bribe, suffer because they do not get the right treatment. And if 70 percent of Poles give bribes to doctors, wouldn't this indicate that pretty much every doctor takes bribes?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Dave, Oprah -- Is World Peace Next?

Well, Oprah and my favorite TV guy David Letterman have settled their decade-old feud. Can the Isrealis and the Palestinians, or at least the French and the Brits, follow suit?

PS. It hurt a little seeing Dave groveling so much...

UN-Presidential: Pardon Controversy Continues

The storm over the possible pardon for former deputy interior minister by outgoing Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski is brewing at full strength. The news is on the front page of most dailies, with a clearly negative slant. Not a good move by Kwasniewski, even if just for the sake of his legacy.

There is plenty of speculation why he would want to pardon crony Zbigniew Sobotka, who endangered police lives by leaking info on a police raid. At least one paper speculates that since Kwasniewski's prospects for a UN post or any other "international" position are not very strong, he may simply be doing all he can to keep his former communist friends happy at home.

There is one disturbing wrinkle here. The justice ministry, now in the hands of the right, is sitting on papers requested by Kwasniewski, possibly stalling until he leaves office on December 22. That's a little worrying from a constitutional level, as the president does have the power to pardon without a permission from either the justice ministry or the courts if he so desires. Justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro is right in saying this pardon would border the outrageous. But he should not undermine the president's constitutional powers, especially since one of his own is about to take over.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

UN-Presidential: Kwasniewski May Pardon Former Ministers

This blog has been following Polish President Kwasniewski's campaign for the top post at the UN, with mixed feelings. Now, according to Polish papers, it looks like Kwasniewski may issue a last minute pardon to a former Interior Ministry deputy minister who is heading to jail for endangering police lives by leaking info about a planned police raid on local mafia.

Kwasniewski doesn't have much time because his presidency ends on December 22 and for his sake I hope he doesn't make it. This would be an ugly stain on his record. He might want to ask former U.S. President Clinton about the harm of last minute pardons. This move would excuse an action by a former top official at a ministry which oversees the police. Instead of doing all he can to support law enforcement, this character decided to leak secret info to two local party officials, who in turn passed it on people connected to the local underworld.

All three were sentenced to jail, with former deputy minister, Zbigniew Sobotka getting a 3 1/2 year sentence. Hopefully he'll end up there.

Kwasniewski is also considering pardoning another crony, former interior minister and Kwasniewski's chief of staff Ryszard Kalisz, for a small libel fine from several years ago.

Saving party pals from just punishment doesn't exactly look becoming for a man who claimed to be the "President of all Poles" and wants to head the UN some day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

About Time: Spam Filters Getting Better

For all of you out there who see half the spam slip through into your email account (and many personal emails labeled spam), here's some good news: Spam filters are getting better. In a test by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, up to 96 percent of Spam messages were blocked by the two Web-based e-mail providers. Now let's hope the corporate spam filters get more clever.

One quick hint. To avoid having your email "scraped" off web sites, try entering something like name (at) isp (dotcom) or something like that instead of the regular name@isp.com.

Somebody May Be Watching Your Key Strokes

Some scary new data out there indicates that hackers are increasingly using keylogger programs, which sit quietly on your computer and secretly record every key stroke to intercept passwords and other private info. Then they send them on to the hackers. What's even more frightening is that most computer users don't even realize such programs exist.

The number of keyloggers is predicted to jump 65 percent this year. Beware!

Send Your Resume: Stern's Anti-Censor

In another interesting article, the Journal profiles Howard Stern's "anti-censor", the man who looks through miles of video tape from Stern's radio show to find the steamy stuff for a new on-demand channel.

Where's my resume?

Freakonomics Wrong on Abortion?

Well, maybe abortion is not the big crime buster some believe it to be. According to a Wall Street Journal article, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston have found some faults with the statistics used by Steven Levitt, the co-author of Freakonomics, for his most famous, or infamous, theory. Levitt asserted that Roe v. Wade led to a drop in crime because poorer women who were able to get abortions would probably have had children more likely to commit crimes.

Well, the Fed economists (not endorsed by the Fed) say there is no statistical proof "the hypothetical youths who were aborted as fetuses would have been more likely to commit crimes had they reached maturity than the actual youths who developed from fetuses and carried to term."

Levitt acknowledges a "programming error", but stands by his theory, saying the Fed economists looked only at a small subset of his overall work on abortion and crime.

Levitt's arguments bring abortion to the level of social utility, a "clean" way to lower crime. I have always believed, perhaps hoped, the explanation for the drop in crime in the recent years will be more complicated than Roe v. Wade. Levitt, however, has shot down other explanations in his book, such as the "broken windows" theory. The debate continues.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sony BMG and the Rest - Not Hearing the Electronic Music

I haven't written much about this Sony BMG mess before talking to Lucas van Grinsven, but here's Piotrek's take on it. He'll be posting his entries to this blog soon.

I wonder when music companies will finally understand that piracy only highlights the shortcomings of their current model of distribution. In fact people are forced to get pirated stuff. Take me, for instance. Since I bought my mp3 player this year, I've been trying to get songs legally. At least in Poland it just wont fly. Some sites sell music legally, but their stuff is either really old or you are effectively asked to pay more than at the store.

So Sony and the likes are failing their customers twofold. First, they are not even trying to respond to demand, which, as Apple shows, is huge. Second, they, or at least Sony, are alienating their consumers. Nobody who is sane enough and got his PC messed up by that weird Sony technology would buy anything from that company again. How long can you keep on shooting yourself in the foot before you collapse?

My Fav Tech Head in Chicago

I met up on Sunday with my friend Lucas van Grinsven, the European Technology Correspondent at Reuters. He's based in Amsterdam, but has come across the ocean to cover companies like Philips and Siemens at a medical equipment convention in Chicago.

Over Chicago's famous deep-dish pizza, Lucas told me some stories about how he broke some interesting news on copy-protection software Sony BMG put on their CDs. The company ultimately recalled the CDs because the virus-like software, which would hide on your computer system, left open a hole for potential hackers. Crazy stuff and Lucas was one of the journalists who drove this story.

Software writers spot open source in Sony BMG CDs
Sony BMG offers MP3 files and disks for unsafe CDs
Microsoft to remove Sony BMG malware

I'm not sure if I'm supposed to mention this, but Lucas is also working on a book. Judging from his expertise and knowledge of the tech sector, it will surely be a must-read.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Boost Your Grades, Fast

Here's an interesting article in the New York Times about how some high school athletes boost their low grades to be eligible for college sports. Yesterday I caught a part of some college football game, where one of the players said his favorite course was: sign language. Guess he's good with his hands...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Looking for a New Voice in a New Homeland

Reading this morning's papers, I came across this moving story in the Chicago Tribune about a 13-month-old Polish girl named Patrycja, who is awaiting an operation that may give her the voice she never had. Poor girl had a rough start in life -- born premature, abandoned at the hospital where intubation an a tracheotomy rendered her mute. But looks like things are looking up and she'll have an operation to restore her voice box and windpipe soon.

She's being adopted by a U.S. family after coming here in part thanks to the Polish community in Chicago, but also a lot of other good people both in Poland and in the U.S.. Nice story as the holidays near. Too bad I can't find her picture on the front page somewhere online.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Kwasniewski's UN Campaign in Ukraine

Poland's outgoing President Aleksander Kwasniewski's push for the top UN post continues with a trip to Ukraine. There, with plenty of justification, he is playing up his part in the Orange Revolution a year ago. Unfortunately, Kwasniewski's Ukrainian contribution may hurt him with a big UN player -- Russia.

Day to Give Thanks!

Today is Thanksgiving, the great American holiday. Even though I lived abroad for a while, I had been lucky over the last few years to still be able to spend this holiday with my family in Connecticut. This year I am here in Chicago, studying ahead of exams (well, at least pretending to), so for the first time in quite some time I won't be with the family. I miss them.

We have embraced this holiday exactly because it celebrates the family. And every year I am thankful for all of them: my hardworking parents who have sacrificed so much for their children and my wonderful sisters who are full of beautiful goodness and mean so much to me. (yes, including my Sis Nicole who asked to be mentioned in the blog).

I am , of course, also grateful for the rest of my family and friends, whom I was privileged to meet along the way -- U.S., Poland, Holland and everywhere else. They include many great new friends in Chicago and even one back in Poland (You all know who you are!) I am lucky to have such wonderful friends. Thank you.

OK, enough cheesiness. Back to the books...

Monday, November 21, 2005

Journalists in the Line of Fire

I have read a couple frightening, yet fascinating first-person accounts by journalists about the attack on a hotel housing many news people in Baghdad on Friday -- one from Mike Boettcher of NBC News and another from Chicago Tribune's Liz Sly. Of course I realize that hundreds of Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers have been killed by bombs, but hearing about journalists being targeted still send a chill down my spine.

The closest I ever got to "war" coverage was seeing rocks fly over my head when I was covering soccer hooligans in Rotterdam, so I admire the courage of the correspondents who put their life on the line every day in a real war zone. And I still remember when I found out that a friend, a Reuters cameraman, was killed in Iraq while taping the last few hours of the takeover of Baghdad.

Here's a quote from NBC's Mike Boettcher that shows what it's all about out there: "Baghdad becomes a state of mind almost. You know that the danger is always there, but if you are always thinking about that, you can’t get anything done. You see other media compounds attacked and when that happens, you wonder if next time it will be yours. And this time was our time. But, you can'‚t operate that way ‚— in terms of always thinking,'Is this it?'"

New York Times v. Post's Howard Kurtz

The New York Times has a long article on my favorite media critic Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post. Howie's one of the most prolific writers I know, not to mention the fact that he also hosts a show on CNN. Writes books. Blogs.

And that's pretty much the jest of the article: Howard covers so much, he often writes about his employers (The Washington Post and Time Warner), raising questions about a possible bias. I've always found his stories balanced and super informative. He's tough and has solid sources in the industry. And he did write some rough articles about the many recent problems at the Times.

But here is one bizarre wrinkle in the NYT article. The first two somewhat critical quotes about Kurtz are coming from folks who write for online magazine Slate.com. And the owner of Slate.com is... The Washington Post (recently bought it from Microsoft). Now, talking about people commenting on their own employers. And, as far as I can tell, the article never mentions this little fact.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

CIA Identity Scandal Cheat-Sheet

For anybody interested in seeing how Bob Woodward's revelation that he might have been the first journalist to learn of Valerie Plame's CIA job has changed the already complicated timeline, here's a nice graphic from the New York Times.

And, of course, the Washington parlor game "Who's the Leaker?" continues.

NYT: Rice Says She Wasn't Woodward's Leak Source

Friday, November 18, 2005

Poland's Nutty Politician Becomes a Capitalist?

Poland's nuttiest politician, Andrzej Lepper of the Self-Defense party, comes out of the socialist closet to reveal that he's now... a capitalist. The man who wanted to lead the revolution to bring back communism (reading between the lines) is now for privatization and free market. Just a few weeks after the elections, he no longer supports a 50-percent tax bracket for the rich and dropped his vendetta against central banker Leszek Balcerowicz, the architect of Poland's economic reforms after the country nearly went bust under communism.

So, all those folks who voted for Lepper's party, well, too bad for you for listening to his promises. Now that he wants to be in the government, it's all out the window. Maybe he's not that nutty, but simply Poland's biggest opportunist.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bradlee: "He Doesn't Have to Disclose Every Goddamn Thing"

The Washintgton Post's legendary editor Ben Bradlee defends Bob Woodward, in his usually colorful way, for not telling his current bosses until last month that he knew about Plame's CIA job: "I don't see anything wrong with that. He doesn't have to disclose every goddamn thing he knows."

Bradlee was, of course, the only other man besides Woodward and Bernstein to know the identity of Deep Throat until it was revealed earlier this year.

But the man currently holding Bradlee's former post,
Leonard Downie Jr., is not happy with Woodward, saying he should have known earlier.

Does this show some fundamental rift between reporters, especially investigative ones, and their editors? There's always healthy tension between us, but I wonder if this will shorten the leash. For now, I side with Bradlee.

Another P2P Bites the Virtual Dust

Another P2P sharing network/application shuts its doors. This time its i2Hub, only a few days after Grokster, with others probably waiting to strike a deal after the unfavorable Supreme Court Ruling. But the genie will never get back in the bottle and applications that do not rely on centralized architecture, such as BitTorrent, will not be easily controlled.

And while I'm at it, take a look at my article on problems with sharing too much on P2P's. Unfortunately one of the sites I relied on for the article, SeeWhatYouShare.com, has gone off the air (or the web).

Post's Woodward Testifies in CIA Leak Investigation

So turns out Bob Woodward, The Washington Post’s man with the golden sources, might have been the first reporter to learn about Valerie Plame’s job with the CIA and Scooter Libby was not the first government official to reveal the position of Joe Wilson’s wife. Woodward says he learned about Plame’s CIA gig in mid-June 2003. Rove’s spokesman denies that Bush’s right-hand man was Woodward’s source.

One interesting aspect of this is the fact that Woodward, the man who kept the identity of Deep Throat secret for 30 years spoke to a grand jury about another source for the first time in his illustrious career.

Second, while he might have shared this information with at least one other reporter at the Post, Woodward did not tell Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. until last month. I’m sure the bosses at the Post are not too thrilled about this, but I’m certain they’ll stand by their most well-known staffer. Even though he, like New York Times scapegoat Judith Miller, is a driven reporter who sometimes likes to follow his own path.

One interesting parallel. A key complaints about Miller coming from the New York Times was that she was too close to some of her sources. Well, Deep Throat was former number-two at the FBI W. Mark Felt, who was almost a mentor to Woodward even before he became a reporter. But I digress.

Anyway, this sure is an interesting wrinkle in the investigation by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, changing the chronology he had previously presented. Story developing.

One more thing, and forgive the name-dropping. Woodward is one of the most pleasant people I met at the Post and had always bought Ben & Jerry's ice cream for the staffers when he was in charge of the weekend edition.

TWP: Woodward Testifies In CIA Leak Case
Statement of Bob Woodward
NYT Editor: Suffering from Serious Case of Judy Miller Fatigue

Monday, November 14, 2005

The 'S' Word in Chicago

You can feel it in the air. The first snow of the season is coming to Chicago on Wednesday. And, from what I hear, this is just the beginning of a usually rough winter out here. Wind and snow. I had not seen much of the white stuff in Amsterdam over the last few years, so this will require some getting used to. But my sister Sylvia, who had survived a few Windy City winters, bought a nice warm jacket for this poor student and all I need is a nice warm hat. Bring it on, Chicago! (I think I might regret saying this...)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Stop Torturing My Eyes!

Disturbing photo from Australia. Man, those PETA people are out there.

And do check out the PETA site to find out why you shouldn't eat turkey this Thanksgiving. You just could win a "Tofurky" dinner!!! Paw-licking good!

Yale Law Goes After Its Own

If you plan on being a Supreme Court nominee with views not too popular with the main stream academia, definitely cross Yale Law off your list.

NYT: Yale Law Frets Over Court Choices It Knows Best

French Riots Everywhere

This Economist map puts the riots in perspective (no subscription required, I think). They are widespread, with hardly any large cities left unaffected. The scale of these events is spectacular. This has to shake up the self-absorbed French government. Please!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Economist on France's Mess

The Economist, one of the world's top magazines, comes through with a comprehensive package on the mess in France. First, they point not at the alienation of Muslims, but instead say France's bigger concern is the economic isolation of its immigrant population, especially hurt by massive unemployment. It stands at 10 percent but is twice as much and often even higher among immigrants and their children.

Second, they say that most EU countries fail at what the U.S. succeeded: integrating its immigrants so that the second and third generations become full citizens of their new homeland instead of being radicalized against it. Again, it's mainly economic reasons: "Unemployment among legal immigrants in America is negligible, and business ownership is off the scale compared with Europe."

The Economist Special Report: France's riots - An underclass rebellion (Sorry, subscription required)

Friday, November 11, 2005

French Protests against Riots

So how do French people deal with the ongoing riots? They go out and protest... Expect some crippling strikes soon.

WSJ.com: French Residents Prepare Protest Against Rioting

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Renting with a Loaded Gun

A fellow Northwestern Law blogger has just bashed another student out here who decided to share his experiences about a trip to Rent-A-Center in a poor neighborhood with the rest of first-years (1L's). I had seen the original note, but mostly ignored it because it's not the first unnecessary posting on the listserver. I read it again and agree it does reveal some frightening prejudiced thinking.

"...I didn't even want to drive through this neighborhood, much less do business there. I finally agreed to go on the condition that my friend drive his car and that we have a loaded gun with us at all times. Even looking back in hindsight, I don't think this was an unreasonable decision...."

Well, I'd say bringing a loaded gun might have been a liiiiitle ridiculous. I don't want to know what he carries in his pocket in Chicago...

Kwasniewski Campaigns for Top UN Post

Poland's outgoing president Aleksander Kwasniewski continues his aggressive campaign for the top post at the United Nations. During his current swing through Britain, he told The Times newspaper he's "ready" to succeed Kofi Annan next year as Secretary-General. Under Kwasniewski's watch over the last 10 years, Poland has joined NATO and the EU, and he had been mostly a unifying figure in a country still divided over its past. It is important, however, to remember that under the current constitution, Polish president does not have many powers, so these achievements were certainly not his alone. I am still uncomfortable about his communist past, so not sure how to feel about this. The UN does need a young, energetic leader to clean up the mess after the Oil for Food scandal and shake it out of its complacency, so maybe Kwasniewski could be the man.

I did notice that every time Kwasniewski gets ready to run for a post he sheds some pounds and he's looking pretty thin and tanned lately, so he's definitely on the trail again. We'll see how it turns out.

Polish Nut Against Soccer?

Here's a quick translation of part of a radio interview with Andrzej Lepper, the nutty leader of the Polish Self-Defense Party and a deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament (according to a media industry newsletter forwarded to me by my friend Dorota Kaminska):

Q: "Mr. Speaker, do you support 'Euro 2012' in Poland?"
A: "We are against the euro in Poland."

The interviewer, of course, meant Poland's joint bid with Ukraine to host the Euro 2012 soccer tournament...

Miller leaves "Convent of The New York Times"

How about this quote from the article on Judith Miller resignation from The New York Times: "Ms. Miller, 57, said in an interview that she was 'very satisfied' with the agreement and described herself as a 'free woman,' free from what she called the 'convent of The New York Times, a convent with its own theology and its own catechism.'

Nah, she's not bitter...

Despite it all, I still admire her for going to jail to protect her source. I hope I'll never be placed in that position, but if I am, I could do much worse than Miller.

Miller's farewell note in the NYT.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Europe's Struggles Against Terrorism Continue

Tony Blair lost his fight to give UK police more tools in the fight against terrorism. Allowing police to keep suspects for as long as 90 days without charging them is no easy matter and should certainly be used only in the most dire situations. But for now, Britain will extend the limit to 28 days from the previous 14 days.
This is another example of the Europeans struggling with their approach to terrorism at their own doorsteps. I remember in Holland earlier this year several terrorist suspects, one with maps of Amsterdam's Schiphol airport and government buildings, were found not guilty of preparing for a terrorist attacks. I'm afraid European police and its prosecutors continue to have their hands tied and it may take another bloody attack or two to change that. I won't even mention the inability of the EU to come up with a real continent-wide approach.
I admire Blair for taking on his own party once again, but how many more times can he do this before a Thatcher-like rebellion within the Labour ranks? Is Gordon Brown packed and ready to move next door to 10 Downing Street?

BBC News: Blair defeated over terror laws

Anti-Obesity Group Goes after Clinton

An anti-obesity group is going after Clinton because his foundation teamed up with Viacom's children network Nickelodeon n a childhood-obesity initiative he formed with the American Heart Association. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood says Clinton should push Viacom to stop lobbying the FCC to scrap a rule limiting advertising to children.

But I'd say the bigger problem might have been the example Clinton set by running into all those McDonalds and all those doughnuts he inhaled along the way. But that's just me.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Make Money Paying Taxes in Holland

Why didn't I declare more taxes in Holland? I could have made a bundle... Oh, I know, because they were already so incredibly high...

Reuters: Dutch firms make profit by paying too much tax

Guest Blogger - France's Katrina Moment

Here’s an email I received from my friend Piotr Skolimowski in Warsaw, who has a similar take on Europe, and especially France, as I do. I was hoping to hit this subject, but he beat me to it.

Dont you think that the riots we are seeing in France now are a kind of “Katrina moment” for Europe? I remember how smug public opinion on the Continent was following the events in New Orleans. Looting and social exclusion of the black community was held up as a proof that the U.S. social model failed. So how should we interpret current events in France? It appears that the welfare system in France isn't a cure for all ills as we’ve been led to believe.
I think this storing up problems for the future of Europe only makes things worse. Research shows that high unemployment rate has become a part and parcel of a generous welfare state as there is only so much that business can take in terms of high labor costs. So you have a system where “old” immigrants have been practically squeezed out of the labor market. But this system cannot sustain itself unless it takes up more immigrants as native population ages. It’s a vicious circle and France could be in a serious trouble few years off. So the government should get its act together and implement coherent reform plan. But I’m afraid it would end up as it always does in Europe with Brussels organizing some meaningless conference on immigration. Europe just doesn’t have will to act.

I’d say it better develop a will to act, and soon. Burning cars may just be the beginning.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Calvin and Hobbes - 10 Years Later

My favorite comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes, disappeared 10 years ago. And people are still talking about it. There's been a flurry of articles lately thanks to the release of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes compilation. I have almost stopped reading comic strips. Yes, I'm older, but there is also nothing out there like the little trouble maker too wise for his own good and his toy tiger. I still collect those unlicensed Calvin t-shirts.

Slate: Slide show on the appeal of Calvin and Hobbes
Chicago Tribune:
College of Calvin

Harriet Is Doing Just Fine

Well, looks like President Bush's favorite lawyer is doing just fine. From a media industry email:

Freelance update

Harriet Meyer, who left The Daily Telegraph Your Money section where she was a reporter in April this year, is now freelancing in Barcelona.

OK, I know it's a different spelling, but, come on, just play along...

Is That Fried Chicken Coughing?

KFC is already preparing for the possible anti-chicken backlash if the avian flu spreads. I wonder if this is already having an effect on the results of its parent company, Yum Brands (which has the lovely ticker symbol YUM). The company does estimate that sales could drop as much as 20 percent due to the negative publicity. I have a feeling that it may even be more, judging from what happened to McDonalds' sales in Europe during the mad cow scare. KFC has quite a presence in Asia and Europe. I don't even want to think what would happen if the bird flu showed up in the U.S., where we eat $50 billion worth of chicken every year. Let's not even mention how much grease that would include...


Libby's Nightmare at Northwestern

Just came back from a speech by Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation. The talk was about public interest work and why all these law students should want to become prosecutors instead of going for the big bucks in private practice. Fitzgerald skillfully avoided any controversy and answered only one technical question on the CIA investigation. Nothing on Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's former right-hand man or anything remotely news worthy. And nothing on squeezing journalists for info. But still, these speeches are such a great advantage of being at a top law school.

Those Crazy Expensive Textbooks

One of my favorite economic journalists, James Surowiecki at the New Yorker, wrote a little piece on the business of selling textbooks. I reported on Dutch publishers when I was working for Reuters in Amsterdam and now, at law school, I feel the pain of paying hundreds of dollars for my textbooks and other study aids. Surowiecki doesn't discuss one factor at great length: some big-name professors get students to buy textbooks they wrote or co-wrote. I have on my bookshelf three books by one of the favorite professors at Northwestern, Marshall Shapo - his big textbook, his supplemental "hornbook" and a "how to survive law school" book he co-wrote with his wife. Not a bad deal, professor :) And it may be difficult to sell the books I had highlighted to death.

As for the Dutch publishers, two of my big textbooks are published by WoltersKluwer.

Europe's Growing Muslim Population

Here's an interesting interactive map showing the growing Muslim population in Europe. It has doubled in the last 15 years to 15 million and the UN expects it to double again by 2025. In France, Muslims now make up 8 percent of the population, up from 7 percent in 1995. The growth in other countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and, surprisingly, Switzerland is also quite high. All this while the birth rates of original populations fall throughout Europe. The continent is heading towards some difficult times if it doesn't deal with this issue by doing much more to integrate its "immigrants".

WSJ: Paris Riots Spread To Other French cities
WSJ: Interactive map showing the growth of Western Europe's largest Muslim populations

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Polish President Warns Successor

The Financial Times has scored some solid scoops on Poland over the last few days. Now the paper has an interview with the outgoing president, who warns the Law and Order party against being vengeful as they bask in power. A little ironic coming from a leader of a party that has been slaughtered by corruption charges, but he still has a point. I do hope that the new government takes on corruption, but will keep in mind that it's not just the post-communists that it should target.

Outgoing Polish president warns against radical policies

Good Polish Rap?

So the phrase "Polish rap" inspires smirks among my Chicago friends, certainly the non-Polish ones. And I must say that Polish rap is still mostly some unhappy monotone speaking over some uninspiring beats. But I did come across one song I greatly enjoy and recommend. Fisz Envee - Kreciol. And the bonus is the video for the song, which reminds me a little of the one for Keane's Bedshaped.

Download video

Mr. Big Investor: Close Shop in Poland

Poland's new finance minister has told the Financial Times that large foreign supermarkets are not welcome in EU's largest new member nation. Tesco, to which she refers by name, is Poland's largest British investor. This is scary stuff, folks. Not a good start for the new minority rightist government. The minister has also called for a LARGER budget deficit.

This may be a nod to the radicals from the Self-Defense party ahead of a confidence vote, but markets are already betting this government may be short-lived. Many Poles are hoping this will be the case.

Hypermarkets 'not welcome' in Poland

Polish finance minister seeks more social spending

France's Test under Fire

The unrest in France is only the latest sign of the growing dissatisfaction of the immigrant population in Western Europe. After living in Amsterdam for a few years, I am convinced that the alienation of non-white residents in Holland, Belgium, France, and other EU countries has become a crucial problem for the continent. It again reminds me of what I've read a while back: Europeans are like the tree people in Tolkin's Lord of the Rings, who have slept as the world around them changed. They can no longer ignore the growing Muslim populations within their own borders. Integration will not be easy after decades of treating the "guest workers" and their families as outsiders. But without it we will see many more burning cars, churches and masques, or even awful bombings, as in London or Madrid. Terrorism may become a much bigger problem for Europe than it has ever been for the United States. And it will be perpetrated by their own people.
This, of course, does not mean that only the governments must take necessary measures. The European Muslim community should also take this problem head-on, quashing the hate that led to the death of controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh a year ago.

TWP: Rage of French Youth Is a Fight for Recognition

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Inspired by a Friend

Well, let's try this blogging thing. My friend Vadim Makarenko, a respected media journalist in Poland who works for the Gazeta Wyborcza daily, has just launched his blog (http://changinghats.blogspot.com). So I figured, why not me?

By the way, I invite you to check out his blog. It's half English, half Polish. He says it's for people who know him, but I think it's still worth a look.