October 8, 2005

Is There Anything American Tech Companies Won’t Do to Kowtow to China?

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Economy — Tom @ 4:59 pm

How Orwellian–From The Wall Street Journal editorial page (requires subscription):

Pity poor Taiwan — which has just been involuntarily reunified with China by the source of information almost everyone now turns to on the Internet. The island’s government, and a handful of its most ardent pro-independence legislators, are up in arms that Google has decided to designate Taiwan as a “province of China” in its map section.

Google says it’s just following the lead of the United Nations, which is famous for its contempt for the island and has just dismissed Taiwan’s latest application for membership after a discussion lasting 24 minutes.

There’s no reason to be surprised by Google’s behavior. The big Internet companies long ago showed themselves ready to go to almost any lengths to get into the China market

Excerpt of the Day: On Conditions at Guantanamo Bay’s Prisons

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:43 pm

Mary Anastasia O’Grady in The Wall Street Journal (requires subscription):

Conditions at the prison at Guantánamo are inhumane. Inmates are deprived their right to religious worship, receive scant nutrition and suffer constant verbal and physical abuse from guards. It’s a humanitarian outrage.

I refer, of course, to Castro’s Guantánamo Provincial Prison in Cuba proper, the prison across the fence from the U.S. naval base compound holding the terrorists. Fidel’s lock-up makes the U.S. prison look like a five-star tropical resort.

Torture, deprivation and isolation of political prisoners at the “other” Guantánamo — or at any of Fidel’s gulags across the island — are no secret. They’ve been loudly denounced by prisoners’ families and reported by Cuba’s independent journalists. But foreign journalists have paid little attention. It seems they’re too busy shredding their hankies over whether enemy combatants at the naval base have enough honey glaze on their chicken.

Positivity: Seabees Building Tent City to House 1,000 Katrina Homeless

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:07 am

From Navy Newsstand:

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This Weekend’s Unanswered Questions (100805)

Another installment in a nearly-regular series of mysteries and pseudo-mysteries (usually 3-4) this inquiring mind would like to have answers for (some links included may require free registration):

QUESTION 1: If Japan can do this, why can’t we?

Japan appears to be on the verge of the way to privatizing its postal service:

September 25, 2005
Japan’s Cabinet OKs Postal Privatization

TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s Cabinet approved legislation Monday to privatize the country’s trillion-dollar postal service, pushing ahead with its plan to create the world’s largest financial institution.

The government planned to submit the bills to parliament later in the day.

The postal reform bills, whose rejection by the upper house last month prompted Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to call snap elections, was endorsed at a Cabinet meeting Monday morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said.

The ruling coalition’s landslide win in Sept. 11 lower house elections was seen as a firm mandate for the plan to split up Japan Post’s delivery, insurance and savings deposit services and sell them off by 2017. The postal service’s $3 trillion in holdings make it the world’s biggest financial institution.

“By getting these bills through parliament as soon as possible, the government aims to drive forward with postal reforms and use this as a breakthrough to speed up other structural reforms,” Hosoda quoted Koizumi as saying.

The bills are certain to clear the lower house, which the ruling party controls with a two-thirds majority. A vote is expected sometime in mid-October.

Note that it’s not just what we would think of as the postal service, but financial services too. Yet we can’t even get up the nerve to privatize an entity that only delivers the mail.

To be fair, with e-mails, faxes, and other means of communication, The US Postal Service may not be important enough to pay attention to, as long as it would go into a corner, leave us alone, and break even. But it will lose an estimated $1.8 billion in the coming year that will end on September 30, 2006. That’s too much; the USPS should be figuring out what lines of busines it should privatize.

QUESTION 2: How many other deals in bankruptcy like this one are going unnoticed?

At this post, based on data available at the time, I estimated that bankrupt Huffy Corp., once America’s leading maker of bicycles, would dump $40 million in pension liabilities onto Uncle Sam’s pension guarantee agency. Actually, it will be about double that, and in the process China (i.e., the Chinese government) will take control of another industry:

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the federal agency set up to guarantee pensions, announced Wednesday it will take responsibility for the pensions of 3,700 Huffy workers, mostly retirees.

Miamisburg-based Huffy filed for bankruptcy in October 2004 and announced plans to shed worker pensions and become a private, Chinese-controlled company. Huffy plans to emerge from bankruptcy this month.

The bankruptcy court has ruled that Huffy can terminate its pension plans, and the PBGC has determined that the company meets all the criteria to transfer its pension liabilities to the pension insurance program. The Huffy retirement plan ended Aug. 31 and Tuesday the PBGC became the trustee of the plan.

The PBGC typically files claims in bankruptcy against sponsors of underfunded pension plans for the full amount of the shortfall.

The company’s plan is 47 percent funded, with $71.7 million in assets to cover $152.4 million in benefit promises. The PBGC estimates it will cover $80 million of the $80.7 million shortfall; it expects to recover between $7 million and $9 million on its claim.

Agency spokesman Jeffrey Speicher said Wednesday that benefits should continue to flow uninterrupted.

Under federal pension law, the maximum guaranteed pension at age 65 for plan participants is $45,614 per year. The maximum is lower for those who retire earlier or elect survivor benefits.

Why this result doesn’t bother anyone is a mystery to me.

Go to this post if you think any “private company” in China has true autonomy or is able to avoid strict governmental supervision.

QUESTION 3: Who’s ready to buy this blog at AOL’s “going rate”?

AOL sets the benchmark:

AOL Buys Weblogs to Boost Blog Presence

NEW YORK (AP) – America Online Inc. will inherit Engadget, Autoblog and other popular Web journals as part of a $25 million deal announced Thursday that expands AOL’s presence in the blogging community and the company’s potential to attract advertising dollars.
The 85 blogging sites that AOL is getting as part of its purchase of Weblogs Inc. let users read about everything from travel to technology and debate on topics like parenting and movies.
The move comes as AOL, facing drops in subscriptions as its traditional dial-up business declines, focuses more on offering free content to attract a larger audience and create more advertising space.
AOL, a division of Time Warner Inc. (TWX), is paying $25 million in an all-cash transaction, said an executive familiar with the deal. The executive spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose financial details.

That’s about $300,000 per blog. Tell AOL they can E-mail me. At that price, I’m ready to sell.