Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Polish Court Brings Back Some Sanity

Poland's top court has taken a step towards defending the freedom of speech, saying that one can only be punished for defaming a state official under a current law if the statements are made while he is performing his function (link in Polish). I'm not quite clear on what the court ultimately deems an official function, but it still looks like good news. This should bring back at least some sanity to the defamation law that has been used by some ruling politicians to punish anybody daring to criticize them or say harsh things about them. It's at least a step in the right direction.

But I still think Poland's constitution guarantees a much wider freedom of speech than some laws allow. Or at least it should. I know this is quite an American point of view, but a country is ultimately stronger if citizens are allowed to freely criticize state officials. Too many times politicians, who usually have a much better way to refute such criticism than those making it, hide behind defamation laws and use them to stamp out dissent.

I wonder if this means that the Kaczynski Twins can't go after foreign journalists who make fun of them?

Saving the Duck Republic, At All Cost

It's almost pathetic the way the Kaczynski Twins misplayed their hand in Poland's political poker. First, they bring in The Self Defense party and it's mercurial leader Andrzej Lepper (in all his glory in the photo), along with the so-rightwing-they're-wrong party, the League of Polish Families. Then they push Lepper to the wall and he bites back, leaving the coalition. Then our favorite brothers try to buy several Self Defense members to join the coalition without much success. Their whole dirty scheme comes into light when Polish TV station TVN plays exerts of the strong-arm sessions with one of the more colorful members of Self Defense. Got it all?

Well, the kicker is that the Kaczynskis are now trying to bring Self-Defense and Lepper back into government... I don't know if the twins could have wasted any more political capital. Their poll numbers are way down, so they had to come crawling back to Lepper, which will give him a much stronger hand when, as I fear, he comes back into the coalition. And so the Duck Republic continues its flight south, just in time for the winter.

On a different front, perhaps related to all those German kartoffel jokes, Poland's potato production is down this year...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Airbus - Expect Goodies not Profits

The bad news at Airbus just keeps coming. Now its new chief executive has resigned only three months on the job. Looks like Mr. Streiff just could not handle the politicians and technocrats who have different goals than ridding the company of stifling bureaucrats. I particularly enjoyed this quote in the Wall Street Journal story by Dan Michaels:

The structure of Airbus -- created in 1970 by technocrats in France, Germany, Britain and Spain -- is rooted in its origins as a consortium and has long proved more effective at spreading jobs and tapping subsidies than generating profits.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Russia Squeezing Its Neighbors, Again

Uncle Vladimir is at it again. With oil and gas money in hand and the West, especially EU leaders like Germany and France, worried about a key energy supplier, Putin now has a free hand to reign in the former republics. Most of Russia's "near abroad" has gotten in line and the few remaining rebels are getting hit over the head. This is especially true with Georgia, where a pro-U.S. president is wrestling with the increasingly aggressive Uncle Vladimir.

This yet another step in Russia's drive to regain a chunk of the pre '89 power in the neighborhood. Heck, even Russia's former pal Lukashenko is having troubles with the pushy neighbor. And the West continues to stand by. I just hope the move to strangle Georgia won't get out of hand. Putin is already threatening to recognize two of Georgia's rebellious regions. War, anyone?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Firefox not that safe?

I count myself among the biggest fans of firefox, but was a little disturbed to hear that it may not be as safe as our legions have hoped (my article on The Seattle Times Tech Tracks blog).

By the way, if, like me, you would rather smash your head through the computer monitor before using IE 6.0, but can't get it installed on a locked up computer system, check out the 'portable' version.

Airbus - Why Not Just Kill Jumbo?

Yet another delay for the superjumbo, super-fiasco Airbus A380. EADS has informed all its potential clients that it would take at least additional 10 months to roll out the first jets to the airlines. That's on top of the earlier delays. Emirates airlines, which placed the biggest order for the two-decker, was originally supposed to receive the first A380 earlier this year. Here's what the airline's CEO had to say:
"We have a further ten-month delay ... The position is very serious for Emirates and we are now reviewing all options."
If Emirates cancels its order for 43 planes, the A380 could be pretty much doomed. Lufthansa, the second largest customer, has ordered only 15. If it wasn't for European egos and government support, this project would have already been killed by now. Why not just let it out of its misery.

This growing mess only supports my thesis that the A380 is destined to be Europe's Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes' gigantic wooden plane that only flew once, a few feet above water. Airbus' flying coffin may not be wooden, but it sure looks closer to its funeral.