Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Professor in the News - Greed is Good?

A friend in class just pointed out an article in the Chicago Tribune about my Business Associations professor. The article is quite critical, but gives an interesting background. For example, Prof. Fischel has been quite close to Michael Milken, the disgraced junk bond king of the 1980's. And he's already got 200 cases under his belt... I'm curious what role Fischel will play at the Enron trial.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

English Politician 'Plays' an Idiot on TV

If you're searching for the dumbest politician out there, look no further than British member of the parliament George Galloway. The man just spent three weeks locked up on the British version of reality show Big Brother, where he 1) danced in a red leotard, 2) lapped imaginary milk from a saucer like a cat, 3) did a terrible Elvis impersonation and 4) pissed off pretty much every other pseudo-celebrity in the house, not to mention most of Britain. All this while taking his salary from the British government. Can you imagine any U.S. politician pulling off a stunt like this???

He finally got booted off. A day earlier, conservative tabloid The Sun released a video of Galloway, who bashed Bush and Blair over the war in Iraq, chilling with Uday Hussein back in 1999. To be fair, I should also point out that on Thursday Court of Appeal upheld Galloway's $270,000 libel victory over the Daily Telegraph. But Galloway still faces the possibility of a UK fraud investigation looking into the Iraq oil-for-food corruption scandal.

I wish this disgrace of a man would stay locked up much longer. Go away, please...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Come Smoke in Chicago

Just as Chicago has banned smoking in restaurants, with bars coming soon, RJ Reynolds is hoping to glamorize cigarettes again by opening a trendy smoking lounge in the city. With many advertising avenues closing up, looks like cigarette makers are desperately looking to market their products through unconventional means. This looks a little ridiculous on its face, but these guys are great at promoting a product that everybody knows is deadly. And it's a welcome change from just relying on discounts and free gift catalogs. Hey, it's still an $87 billion industry.

Next, I'm looking forward to sipping some poison in a posh tasting bar...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

PR People a Waste of Journalist's Time?

Here's a thought-provoking interview with Jack Shafer, a caustic media critic at Slate. I particularly enjoyed his opinion about PR people:

I have found, with only rare exceptions, that PR officers are impediments to journalism. They are the people who man the barricades, who salt the earth before you can get to it to plant your story... They're time-wasters, hall monitors.

I'm not sure if PR people are thaaat bad, but I have also wondered why some of these folks call themselves "spokespersons" if they hardly say anything of use. Not sure if the regular "no comment" you get out of them complies with the definition. Most of the time they just repeat what you can read in the press release. But there are those rare gems out there who are willing to speak to journalists, be honest and even open. I love them.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Tom Bans South Park

Oh no! Paramount will never again show one of the funniest South Park episodes after Tom Cruise said he did not like it. Shocking, apparently he didn't dig the "Tom Cruise will not come out of the closet" theme. I thought it was a great commentary on that pseudo-religion he's in... Too bad, world. You missed a good one.

Can the World Rely on Russian Energy Supplies?

Here's a fantastic quote from Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili after a mysterious explosion knocked out the supply of gas from Russia.

"I think the world should wake up to the threat of this kind of behavior. Yesterday it was Ukraine, today it is Georgia, tomorrow it might get anywhere where Russia sells its gas and electricity."

Europe, you can now officially be frightened (if you were not already after the Ukraine embargo). Putin is not fooling around anymore and he's got the gas to prove it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Lessons Not Learned: The Saddam Trial

Today I listened to a lecture on the Saddam Hussein trial by David Scheffer, a visiting professor at Northwestern Law and a CNN legal analyst. Interesting stuff, but I came away from it wondering why it is that judges, prosecutors and other legal folks working on these crimes against humanity trials don't learn many of the lessons from the previous tribunals.

For now it looks like Saddam will follow the Slobodan Milosevic book on hijacking his trial for political reasons. Come on, when was the last time you read about Slobo's trial, which is still going on and on and on?

So, first blame the Americans. Check. Second, question the legitimacy of the tribunal. Check. Then rant and scream and complain about everything, including the lack of clean underwear. Check.

Next thing on the list -- and don't be surprised if this happens soon -- start complaining about your blood pressure or other ailments to delay the trial. (By the way, Slobo wants to get some medical treatment in Russia). Who knows, maybe with the new lead judge there will be less of this, but for now, it looks like this will take years, just like with Slobo.

On top of allowing the defendant to dominate the proceedings, another significant mistake seems to be starting with a lesser charge. I realize that this might be a trial run, but why not nail Saddam with one of the bigger crimes, especially gassing of the Kurds.

Finally, while in the Slobo trial there is one defendant doing a good job at making the trial excruciatingly long, at the Saddam trial there are 11 additional defendants to make things even more complicated.

This trial is crucial for the Iraqis to see how evil Saddam was. I hope it won't turn out to be as messy as Slobo's, for the sake of the Iraqis and the world.

One interesting tidbit from Prof. Scheffer. Don't be surprised to see Tariq Aziz as a key prosecution witness.

Oh, and don't get me started on Ramsey Clark...

Monday, January 16, 2006

Martin Luther King, Jr. - The Logo

Today's Martin Luther King's Day in the U.S. So Google decided to make his head as one of the O's in its logo on the main search engine page. A little distatesful, if you ask me.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Legally Odd: Thief Steals Law Textbooks

A fellow student posted a note on the Northwestern Law listserver looking for replacements for his Business Associations textbooks after a thief stole them during a break-in. Now there is an ambitious or clever thief. Either he knows that these damn textbooks cost like a $1000 each or he may want to take some law courses soon. I'm surprised he wasn't caught napping a few feet away. Some of those books are deadly boring...

To be fair to the thief, he took the books that were in a nice backpack in the student's apartment.

Maybe he should have taken a Criminal Law book instead?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What the... -- Polish Driving Lesson

For all you linguists hoping to learn a few juicy Polish words, I recommend this little lesson for drivers from the recently launched Google Video.

Ex-Communist Leader to Testify on John Paul's Sainthood

This beatification process of John Paul II is getting more bizarre by the minute. Sure, looking for miracles is already out there in the modern world. But now it looks like John Paul's biggest nemesis, former communist leader of Poland Wojciech Jaruzelski, is set to testify in the beatification proceedings, according to Polish daily Rzeczpospolita. That's quite a long way from when Jaruzelski and the rest of the communists tried to do all they could to keep the pope from breaking their stranglehold over Poland. How times change...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Friend Launches His Own Blog on Eastern Europe

Piotrek Skolimowski, a guest writer at this blog, has launched his own blog, which will concentrate on East Europe's macroeconomy. Read the post on Poland's new finance minister. His take: the ruling party is snatching talent from the opposition to try expanding its base. Clever stuff.

British Soldiers Mock Boring Dutch

First they come drunk to Amsterdam's redlight district for sloppy stag parties and now this?

Reuters: Dutch troops in Pakistan say mocked by drunk Brits

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Financial Times Brings Down Polish Finance Minister?

The infamous interview with the Financial Times from a couple months ago seems to have caught up with Teresa Lubinska, who has resigned her post as Poland's finance minister. She was replaced with a former leader of the opposition Civic Platform party Zyta Gilowska (a bit of an unfortunate name).

This blog had talked about Lubinska's FT comments, which included an attack against the biggest British investor in Poland and a call for a BIGGER budget deficit. Good riddance. But I wonder where a minority government is going when it appoints a former leader of an opposition party that had walked away from coalition talks last year. The rightist government has already seen a replacement of another key minister, this time at the treasury, who quit last week over an article in the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita about some questionable financial contacts.

Key budget vote is scheduled for mid-January and then we'll get a better indication whether this government will survive.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Kerry Gets a Better Face

Looks like our favorite Democratic candidate is getting himself, or at least his face, ready for another run. Think it's a facelift or just a browlift? Sure, he didn't get any botox shots last time around...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

60 Journalists Killed in Iraq So Far

Sixty journalists have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. CPJ also said that 47 journalists were killed around the world in 2005, more than three-quarters of whom were murdered to silence their criticism or punish them for their work. These are sad figures, but also point to the kind of sacrifice many in our profession make for a greater good (we hope).

I had always wondered if I would ever be willing to go to Iraq or another dangerous place as a correspondent and to this day I'm not sure if I would have the courage. I would be especially reluctant because only a few months ago I saw the wife and son of my friend Taras Protsyuk, a Reuters cameraman killed in Iraq in March 2003. Taras was a great guy and his death alone was painful. But seeing the family he left behind only multiplies the loss. Taras and all the journalists who have died on the job are heroes. I hope we can live up to their examples.

Unreliable Neighbor Sitting on the Gas

So how would you like it if that crazy neighbor with the big shotgun also controlled your power supply? Well, Germany, France and a lot of other European countries are realizing that relying on unreliable Russia for their gas may turn out to be quite a disaster. Putin and company have turned off gas to Ukraine over a price dispute (not to mention sour grapes over the Orange Revolution a year ago) and gas pressure dropped in the pipes of other European countries. Europe will have to think long and hard about their energy policies. And a pipe circumventing Poland and other eastern neighbors may not be the solution, as long as the gas continues to originate in Russia.