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Great news for free software

by Laurent GUERBY Mon Nov 13th, 2006 at 06:16:09 PM EST

Sun Microsystems has choosen the GNU General Public Licence to open its Java technology: see the official annoucement page.

Read more... (20 comments, 354 words in story)

Trouble for new Swedish government

by Laurent GUERBY Sat Oct 14th, 2006 at 10:00:30 AM EST

According to The Local:

Swedish trade minister resigns
Published: 14th October 2006 13:20 CET

Sweden's trade minister Maria Borelius has resigned, prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has announced.

Speaking on Swedish Radio's Saturday interview, Reinfeldt revealed that he had spoken to Borelius on Saturday morning.
"We have agreed that she should resign," said the prime minister.

Borelius has also quit as a member of parliament for the Moderates. She explained her decision in a press release:

"The reason is the pressure that has been put on those closest to me. My family, my friends, my neighbours and their children, business associates, relatives, even my children's friends, have been put under close scrutiny which means that normal family life has become impossible," she wrote.

Borelius had been in the job for just a week. But in that time she was hounded by the Swedish media.

First, it was revealed that she had not paid employer's tax for a nanny in the 90s. Then her failure to buy a TV licence was seized upon.

The final straw came on Friday when irregularities in a share trade were exposed, along with the fact that her homes are owned by a company based in the tax haven of Jersey.

And they haven't privatized anything yet. What's the temperature in the local medias?

Note that I hope sometimes in the future such scandals (which are commonplace) in my country will also lead to such acts.

Comments >> (24 comments)

Stiglitz in IP take 2 : Give prizes not patents

by Laurent GUERBY Wed Sep 20th, 2006 at 05:07:49 PM EST

From Marginal Revolution, Joseph Stiglitz writes on New Scientist  (article in PDF):

Innovation is at the heart of the success of a modern economy. the question is how best to promote it. the developed world has carefully crafted laws which give innovators an exclusive right to their innovations and the profits that flow from them. But at what price? there is a growing sentiment that something is wrong with the system governing intellectual property (IP). the fear is that a focus on profits for rich corporations amounts to a death sentence for the very poor in the developing world. So are there better ways of promoting innovation? Intellectual property is different from other property rights, which are designed to promote the efficient use of economic resources. Patents give the grantee exclusive rights to an innovation - a monopoly - and the profits this generates provide an incentive to innovate. Recent years have seen a strengthening of IP rights: for instance, the scope of what can be patented has been expanded, and developing countries have been forced to enact and enforce IP laws. the changes have been promoted especially by the pharmaceutical and entertainment industries, and by some in the software industry who argue that the changes will enhance innovation. [...]

Read more... (18 comments, 823 words in story)

Chris Dillow: Why I'm not a classical liberal

by Laurent GUERBY Sat Sep 16th, 2006 at 12:39:36 PM EST

Chris Dillow just wrote a guest post on Philosophy, et cetera:

Why I'm not a classical liberal

Why am I a left-libertarian? This question breaks into two parts: why, given that I'm a libertarian, am I on the left? And why, given that I'm on the left, am I a libertarian? First things first. Here are six reasons. I'll be brief; these are intended to be first words in a dialogue, not last words.

1. A missing theory of property duties. I say "duties" rather than "rights", as right libertarians or classical liberals do, for a simple reason. To justify inequalities of property, you must demonstrate that the poor have a duty to respect the rich's property. How can this be done? [...]

The problem is, this only justifies a fraction of property ownership. Arab princes are wealthy not because they've discovered new uses for oil, but because they are lucky enough to own land under which there are oil deposits.

And in many cases the history of land ownership is the history of theft, conquest and expropriation. How can we justify property ownership based upon this? [...]

3. Self-ownership doesn't justify inequalities. A cornerstone of Nozick's libertarianism is the principle that we own ourselves, so that any effort to tell us what to do is a form of slavery.
This principle, though, doesn't justify inequalities of income, because incomes are jointly produced by individual talents and social circumstances. Thierry Henry's skills as a footballer, Bill Gates' as a software developer or Paul McCartney's as a songwriter would have earned them little 100 years ago. Even if they own their talents, they've no right to the social conditions in which these talents can thrive. [...]

An interesting platform, don't you think?

Comments >> (2 comments)

Stiglitz on energy and the public sector

by Laurent GUERBY Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 03:43:58 PM EST

Just found this blog post (in french) mentionning an audio interview of Joseph Stiglitz on economy and the energy sector (both french and english simultaneous translation).

He says very clearly keep your energy in the public sector, "if it's not broken don't fix it", and do not privatize following ideology based economics. Follow some remarks on GDP, state of the USA.

Too short but interesting anyway.

If the MP3 link doesn't work, look here.

Comments >> (8 comments)

Joseph Stiglitz on IP

by Laurent GUERBY Wed Sep 13th, 2006 at 07:20:39 AM EST

An interview on Liberation:

[...] La propriété intellectuelle est-elle la face cachée de la mondialisation ?

Les déséquilibres de ce régime de droits exclusifs sont parmi les pires déviances du capitalisme actuel. Parce qu'il est question de vie ou de mort, comme on le voit dans la lutte pour des copies de médicaments à bas prix. Les hommes ou les brevets ? La faute originelle : avoir laissé aux ministres du Commerce et aux multinationales le soin de façonner les trips [en français, Adpic ­ aspects des droits de propriété intellectuelle touchant au commerce ­, ndlr], en 1994. La PI est intégrée au commerce, pas à l'environnement ni aux normes de travail. [...]
Is intellectual property the hidden face of globalisation?

Unbalances of this regime of exclusive rights are amongst the worst excess of today's capitalism. Because it's a question of life and death, as we see in the fight against drug low cost copies. Man or patent? The mistake: having let trade ministers and multinationals shape alone TRIPS, in 1994 IP is integrated with trade, not environment or worker protection norms. [...]
Note that he escapes the question of what he did when he was close to power and all those treaties were negociated back then. Interesting read nonetheless.

Comments >> (7 comments)

Property not always an optimal solution?

by Laurent GUERBY Wed Aug 30th, 2006 at 02:43:27 PM EST

After James Boyle on property cognitive bias mainly centered on the bias physical property is having intellectual property, now there's Stumbling and Mumbling on physical property bias:

[...] Indeed, where land is abundant, an efficient solution to the tragedy of the commons might not be private ownership or stinting, but just moving on, as nomadic tribes do.
In this book, Douglass C. North writes:

    Because land commands little value in sub-Saharan Africa, private property rights in land have not become well established and therefore social stratification in rural communities based on land ownership has not evolved as it has in population-abundant land-scarce Asia (p75-76). [...]

Read more... (7 comments, 256 words in story)

Who's making big bucks?

by Laurent GUERBY Tue Aug 29th, 2006 at 03:41:07 PM EST

Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture fame cites some interesting WSJ bits

    So, it was a good quarter for earnings, right? Not necessarily, if you look at the entire spectrum of publicly traded companies. Sure, the S&P 500, with more than 97% of companies reported, has posted earnings growth of about 13%, marking yet another quarter of double-digit earnings growth. However, looking further down, the picture isn't quite as positive.

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***James Boyle on property cognitive bias

by Laurent GUERBY Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 05:16:37 AM EST

In his latest article on the FT A closed mind about an open world, James Boyle offer some interesting thoughts about intellectual property:

Over the past 15 years, a group of scholars has finally persuaded economists to believe something non-economists find obvious: "behavioural economics" shows that people do not act as economic theory predicts.[...]

Studying intellectual property and the internet has convinced me that we have another cognitive bias. Call it the openness aversion. We are likely to undervalue the importance, viability and productive power of open systems, open networks and non-proprietary production. Test yourself on the following questions. In each case, it is 1991 and I have removed from you all knowledge of the past 15 years.

(More below)

***Back from front page

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Bush and the IRS

by Laurent GUERBY Sun Aug 20th, 2006 at 05:46:49 PM EST

A nice story on the NYT, found via Angry Bear and Dean Baker:

If you owe back taxes to the federal government, the next call asking you to pay may come not from an Internal Revenue Service officer, but from a private debt collector.

Within two weeks, the I.R.S. will turn over data on 12,500 taxpayers -- each of whom owes $25,000 or less in back taxes -- to three collection agencies. Larger debtors will continue to be pursued by I.R.S. officers.

The move, an initiative of the Bush administration, represents the first step in a broader plan to outsource the collection of smaller tax debts to private companies over time. Although I.R.S. officials acknowledge that this will be much more expensive than doing it internally, they say that Congress has forced their hand by refusing to let them hire more revenue officers, who could pull in a lot of easy-to-collect money.

The private debt collection program is expected to bring in $1.4 billion over 10 years, with the collection agencies keeping about $330 million of that, or 22 to 24 cents on the dollar.

By hiring more revenue officers, the I.R.S. could collect more than $9 billion each year and spend only $296 million -- or about three cents on the dollar -- to do so, Charles O. Rossotti, the computer systems entrepreneur who was commissioner from 1997 to 2002, told Congress four years ago.

I.R.S. officials on Friday characterized those figures as correct, but said that the plan Mr. Rossotti had proposed had been forestalled by Congress, which declined to authorize it to hire more revenue officers. [...]

Read more... (9 comments, 415 words in story)

Religion and suicide bombers

by Laurent GUERBY Fri Aug 4th, 2006 at 03:30:48 PM EST

Via Jeffrey Alan Miron and Op-Ed from the NYT reminding us of old facts:

    In writing my book on suicide attackers, I had researchers scour Lebanese sources to collect martyr videos, pictures and testimonials and the biographies of the Hezbollah bombers. Of the 41, we identified the names, birth places and other personal data for 38. Shockingly, only eight were Islamic fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were from leftist political groups like the Lebanese Communist Party and the Arab Socialist Union. Three were Christians, including a female high-school teacher with a college degree. All were born in Lebanon.

    What these suicide attackers -- and their heirs today -- shared was not a religious or political ideology but simply a commitment to resisting a foreign occupation. Nearly two decades of Israeli military presence did not root out Hezbollah. The only thing that has proven to end suicide attacks, in Lebanon and elsewhere, is withdrawal by the occupying force.

    Thus the new Israeli land offensive may take ground and destroy weapons, but it has little chance of destroying the Hezbollah movement. In fact, in the wake of the bombings of civilians, the incursion will probably aid Hezbollah's recruiting.

Comments >> (14 comments)

***More fun in oil geopolitics

by Laurent GUERBY Thu Aug 3rd, 2006 at 07:31:21 AM EST

From the Washington Post: Will Cuban Oil Find Break U.S. Embargo?

The Associated Press
Saturday, July 29, 2006; 12:27 PM

MIAMI -- Some facts about America's trade embargo with Cuba:

_ It's been U.S. policy since 1961.
_ It has yet to loosen Fidel Castro's grip on power.
_ It has cost America little strategically or economically.

Until now, that is.

From here on out, say a growing chorus of experts, America will pay a price for maintaining its 45-year trade ban with the communist nation _ a strategic and economic price that will have negative repercussions for the United States in the decades to come.

What has changed the equation?

Oil. [...] (more below)

From the front page ~ whataboutbob

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Wildfires and global warming spiral

by Laurent GUERBY Sat Jul 29th, 2006 at 06:43:29 AM EST

From Agoravox (in french), an interesting graph:

Read more... (5 comments, 56 words in story)

Italy's Watergate on Slate

by Laurent GUERBY Fri Jul 28th, 2006 at 04:10:39 PM EST

On Slate:

Italy's Watergate
Espionage, secrecy, and corruption: Lessons for the Bush administration.
By Patrick Radden Keefe
Posted Thursday, July 27, 2006, at 11:38 AM ET

When Italian prosecutor Armando Spataro issued arrest warrants for 22 CIA officers last November, for the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in Milan, it seemed like a hollow gesture. Spataro claimed that American operatives had snatched the imam, who is known as Abu Omar, and transported him to Egypt, where he was allegedly tortured. But there was no way the United States would extradite its spies, and it appeared that the Italian investigation of the murky practice of extraordinary rendition would go the way of similar cases in this country: nowhere.

But Spataro wasn't hampered by the sort of pervasive official secrecy that prevails in the United States, and his team turned up revealing details of the abduction. The more they dug, the more dirt they found. Before long, the investigation blossomed into a full-blown spy scandal, replete with domestic wiretapping and the mysterious death of one of the investigators. By early July, two of Italy's top spymasters were under arrest.

We haven't heard much about the story on this side of the Atlantic. (When asked whether he had discussed it at the G8 summit with President Bush, Italy's new Prime Minister Romano Prodi quipped that Bush probably doesn't even know "the initials" of Italy's spy agency, Sismi.) But this is Italy's Watergate. It has already revealed in unprecedented detail the anatomy of an extraordinary rendition. And it raises serious doubts about the Bush administration's "just trust us" insistence that behind the veil of secrecy, espionage is an honest, upstanding business.

Read more... (1 comment, 289 words in story)

GDF privatization bad for consumers unions say

by Laurent GUERBY Mon Jul 24th, 2006 at 01:57:02 PM EST

Employee representatives of Gaz de France have written a public letter, published on Libération:

Tous ces éléments avérés montrent bien que la préoccupation de l'entreprise n'est nullement de faire bénéficier les usagers des meilleurs prix.

Concernant la sécurité d'approvisionnement, celle-ci est d'abord liée aux accords politiques entre les gouvernements comme le confirme le dernier G8. La sécurité d'approvisionnement de la France a été construite par la signature de contrats à long terme d'une durée de 25 à 30 ans avec les pays producteurs. C'est cette politique que la France a conduite qui a permis à la population française d'accéder au gaz à des tarifs les moins chers d'Europe alors même que la France était un des pays les moins pourvus en gaz.


All these facts show that the company objective is not to provide consumers with low prices.

About security of supply, the main factor are the government political agreements as shown in the last G8. French security of supply was built with long term contracts - 25 to 30 years - with producer countries. This is this very policy that enabled french citizens to get amongst the lowest gaz prices in Europe whereas France had amongst the smallest gaz reserve.

Read more... (2 comments, 287 words in story)

Venezuela Says Unilateral Oil Cutoff to the U.S. is "Absurd"

by Laurent GUERBY Wed Jul 19th, 2006 at 04:32:18 PM EST

From venezuelanalysis (sponsored by the government of Venezuela):

Caracas, Venezuela, July 17, 2006 --Venezuela's embassy in the U.S. responded to the U.S. government's speculation that Venezuela might cutoff its oil supply to the U.S. by saying that the possibility of this happening unilaterally is "absurd." Venezuela's Ambassador to the United States, Bernardo Alvarez, gave the response in a letter written to U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, who had commissioned the U.S. Congress General Accounting Office (GAO) to make an analysis of a potential Venezuelan oil cutoff. [...]

The report mentions and Alvarez's letter restates that, "it was not Venezuela but the U.S. government, solely for political reasons, that has discontinued the bilateral technology and information energy exchange agreement between our two countries that had been successfully ongoing for over 20 years." For Alvarez, this is "a strong indication of the imposed prohibition on U.S. agencies, like the Department of Energy, to engage effectively with Venezuela."

This example and others show that while Venezuela wants to " remove politics from the energy equation, the United States, unfortunately, has acted in ways more apparent than real in this regard." [...]

Read more... (9 comments, 211 words in story)

European Commission Consultations

by Laurent GUERBY Tue Jul 11th, 2006 at 04:45:47 PM EST

To those who still believe they can get something out of those "consultations", here are a few wise words from grassroot activists who have been working on the subject for a few years:

Read more... (12 comments, 423 words in story)

Crown copyright as a tool for political censorship in the UK

by Laurent GUERBY Tue Jul 11th, 2006 at 11:14:12 AM EST

Craig Murray (wikipedia bio), ex UK ambassor, is accused of Crown copyright violation by the UK government because he published online a serie of document he obtained using the Freedom Of Information Act.

He was documenting some claims he wrote in his book "Murder in Samarkand: A British Ambassador's Controversial Defiance of a Tyrannical Regime Within the War on Terror" about the Uzbekistan dictatorship, from the book synopsis:

Read more... (4 comments, 357 words in story)

The Oil Cup : Chavez Still Working Hard At Making Friends

by Laurent GUERBY Sat Jul 1st, 2006 at 05:42:47 PM EST

From bloomberg:

Venezuelan President Chavez Urges Africa to Boost Oil Taxes

July 1 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged African nations to boost taxes on oil producers, saying the world's poorest continent isn't gaining enough benefits from its reserves.

In Africa ``we know there are international companies that do not pay taxes on what they get from petrol, or some pay very little,'' Chavez told leaders attending the annual summit of the African Union in the Gambian capital of Banjul today. ``That is robbery. In Venezuela, they have to pay 30 percent of what they get from petroleum and on income they pay 50 percent. And even with that they are still making a profit.''

Governments in Sub-Saharan Africa will earn more than $200 billion in oil revenue over the next decade, according to a study released June 17 by Catholic Relief Services, a U.S. aid agency, released today. Exploitation of the continent's untapped reserves may encourage conflict and graft, the study found.

Countries with oil reserves have to ensure they aren't exploited, and use the money for development, Chavez said.

``Nature has given Venezuela one of the greatest reserves of oil in the world, and we are tired of this oil going to feed Dracula,'' he said. ``Oil is a powerful instrument for social development, for education, employment, for agriculture, for the life of our people. Petroleum, which was used to colonize us, we are now going to use it to set ourselves free.''

Nigeria and Angola are sub-Saharan Africa's two largest oil producers.

Chavez called for greater cooperation between South American and African oil producers, and said a co-operation agreement similar to that between state oil companies in Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil may work on the continent.

``We should create a commission so that we can see how we can create a coordinating opportunities for studies and for putting in place practical petroleum projects,'' he said.

Venezuela is South America's largest oil producer with daily output of about 2.6 million barrels a day. Chavez has this year raised fees and taxes paid by foreign companies that pump oil in the country and taken more control over energy joint ventures.

New York Times on Mexico 'leftist' at MaxSpeak

by Laurent GUERBY Fri Jun 30th, 2006 at 06:38:19 PM EST

From MaxSpeak:

By Julio Huato

[Even MaxSpeak is outsourcing. We are pleased to offer this post by Julio Huato of CUNY.]

Enrique Krauze's op-ed in the New York Times ("Bringing Mexico Closer to God," June 28, 2006) about Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico's leftist presidential candidate, reveals more about Krauze's conservative outlook than about the true prospects of a López Obrador administration. Lacking substantive facts, Krauze mixes a few casual remarks with his own personal impressions to project the ghost of "messianic populism" onto López Obrador's future presidency.

But the main threat to Mexico's fragile democracy is not a ghost. It is, instead, the brutal reality of the country's social inequality. Twelve years after NAFTA was implemented -- official sources attest -- almost fifty percent of Mexicans still live in poverty. Measures of wealth dispersion are dismal, comparable to those in Brazil, Haiti, and sub-Saharan Africa. Many Mexicans are under the impression that Felipe Calderón, the candidate of the right, "has failed to convey real concern for Mexico's poor," as Krauze puts it, because he has no actual concern for Mexico's poor.

There can be no political stability in Mexico and -- therefore -- lasting growth without narrowing the gaping economic divide between the rich and poor. López Obrador's redistributive policies promise to be effective without disrupting private ownership and markets; not only compatible with the growth of the economy but actually growth inducing. Wall Street seems to have grasped this. Joydeep Mukherji, Standard & Poor's specialist in Latin America, recently told CNN en Español that foreign investors' real concern was Mexico's ability to grow in the long run, which depended on stable social conditions, and dismissed short-term turbulence should López Obrador win. [...]

The "free markets" credo and the "pull-yourself-by-the-bootstraps" moralising of the PAN lack popular appeal. Backed by the financial and political muscle of prominent businessmen with strong conservative leanings, to the poor, this discourse smacks of hypocrisy -- doublespeak where helping the rich at public expense becomes a "stimulus to private investment" and helping the poor turns you into a "populist." Aware of this, Calderón's campaign strategy defaulted to fearmongering, saturating the airwaves with negative messages. [...]

Anyone with knowledge of Mexico politics?

Comments >> (1 comment)
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