Saturday, December 9, 2000
i've always been super impressed by bill clinton's speeches. here's a transcript of one he gave at the university of nebraska, which c-span2 :) had on last night. who types this stuff up?
all at classicgaming.com! no one's submitted mechwarrior or like bard's tale or ultima or anything like that yet (um, or mac games like ancient art of war, lode runner, dark castle). they did have hitchiker's guide to the galaxy. i remember trying to play that at OMSI.
haven't played computer games in awhile though, cept solitaire. by the end of college i had devolved to just solitaire and tetris after fleeting bouts with civ, simcity 2000 and masters of magic (civ + magic: the gathering :) though looking through gamespy reviews these two games looked pretty promising: realMYST and homeworld: cataclysm.
discs of quake yo (via metafilter)
don't miss teller book (via robotwiz)
Friday, December 8, 2000
interesting business news
jean-marie messier, CEO of vivendi (preeminent international water utility (next to suez lyonnaise), took over US filter and cendant's software unit last year(?), publisher of blizzard entertainment's war/starcraft and diablo, which has infected my little cousin's mind*), makes the cover of wired. talks about its merger with seagrams & canal+ and the creation of a new global media empire to rival AOL-time warner, sony, disney, GE, viacom and news corp.
*i was devouring piers anthony and dragonlance books at a similarly young age, thanks to my brother :)
AI movie poster starring that kid from sixth sense, who should've been anakin and should be ender.
December 6, 2000
Estrada's Scandals Compel Businessmen
In Manila to Adopt a Risky Activist Stance
By ROBERT FRANK
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
MANILA, Philippines -- Francisco Licuanan III, president of developer Ayala Land Inc., spends most days in his plush conference room, negotiating with property companies and arranging financing for multimillion-dollar developments.
Yet a recent afternoon finds Mr. Licuanan in the smog-filled streets outside his office tower. He has joined a crowd of executives, bankers and stockbrokers calling for the overthrow of Philippine President Joseph "Erap" Estrada. "Erap, resign!" he shouts, standing under a giant banner that reads, "Oust Erap Now!"
The country that riveted the world in 1986 with its People Power revolt is heading for another political showdown. Yet this time the leading agitators aren't the nuns, students, housewives and other victims of an ailing dictator -- though they're also involved -- but the well-heeled victims of an ailing economy and falling markets. Call it Plutocrat Power.
President Estrada, a former star of local action movies, is facing conviction for allegedly receiving more than $10 million in payoffs from illegal gambling and diverted tobacco taxes. He has denied the allegations and has vowed to serve out his six-year term, ending in 2004. The impeachment trial is scheduled to begin Thursday.
The allegations emerged on Oct. 9 and began the second phase in Mr. Estrada's damaging impact on the Philippine economy, once a rising star in the region. The first began 2 1/2 years ago, with Mr. Estrada's election on May 11, 1998. At the time, the country was just beginning to recover from the Asian financial crisis. The good news quickly faded and the country slid into one of its worst economic declines as Mr. Estrada staggered from one corruption scandal to another, sparking charges of cronyism and comparisons to former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. While Mr. Marcos's crimes during his 1966-86 rule were far more severe -- billions of dollars siphoned out of the country, years of human-rights abuses under martial law -- the campaign against Mr. Estrada shows how sensitive the country has become to economic troubles and foreign-investor sentiment.
Blows to the Economy
Foreign direct investment, the country's economic lifeblood, fell about 83%, to $360 million, in the first seven months of the year from the year-earlier period. The composite index of the Philippine Stock Exchange has dropped about 38% since Mr. Estrada was elected. The peso has declined 20% during the same period, losing nearly 10% of its value in the seven weeks since the allegations emerged on Oct. 9, before recovering slightly.
Recalling how Mr. Marcos sapped a once-vital economy, business leaders who played a supporting role in People Power are now taking center stage. Their aim: to drive out the president before he drives the economy into the ground.
Stock traders have donned black armbands to mourn the "death" of the market and have staged mass walkouts from the exchange. Top executives have held protests almost every week on the streets of Manila's Makati business district. Bankers and manufacturers have taken out newspapers ads calling for the president to resign. Business groups have persuaded all five of the president's economic advisers and his trade-and-industry secretary to withdraw their support from the president and resign. At the risk of making matters worse, executives are advising foreign investors to postpone their investments -- and are lobbying ratings agencies to downgrade the country's credit rating -- until the president steps down or is ousted.
Wooing the Poor
The well-off are also wooing the poor, mindful of their strong support for Mr. Estrada. Business leaders need to show, too, that their economic concerns have a disinterested, reformist component. Last week, businessmen and socialites served up a lavish, free "People Power Lunch" in the heart of Makati for farmers and rural poor. More than 5,000 militant labor leaders, coconut farmers and fisherman joined the executives for pork and chicken stewed in vinegar. Businessmen also staged a minicar race dubbed "Let's Go Against Erap," and students are holding a "Dance Till Erap Drops" disco dance.
"Who says we can't be just as active as the leftists?" says Cristine Lopez, a Manila bookstore owner, as she gathers her workers to join a one-day work stoppage to protest the president. Like many business owners, Ms. Lopez is enlisting her maids, drivers, former schoolmates and neighbors to the cause.
The current battle between business and Mr. Estrada began in a conference room in a hotel in the Makati district. On Oct. 26, about 40 directors from the country's top five business groups met to discuss the president's scandals and the effect on the economy.
Tensions between big business and Mr. Estrada had been growing for some time. During the 1998 elections, business leaders called for "Anybody but Erap" and supported a rival. Several corporate chiefs joined the government as economic advisers in hopes of fostering deregulation and attracting foreign investment. But relations worsened after Mr. Estrada began meddling in business, intervening in a stock-market probe and awarding regulatory favors to Lucio Tan, who controls Philippine Airlines.
The final straw came with the Oct. 9 allegations by provincial Gov. Luis Singson -- a self-confessed gambling lord and close friend of the president's -- that Mr. Estrada collected money from an illegal numbers game and skimmed money from tobacco-tax collections. Mr. Singson also claimed that the president held frequent late-night drinking binges, gambled in high-stakes mah-jongg games and bought mansions for his mistresses, including a giant house in central Manila with a man-made sandy beach and a wave pool. Mr. Estrada has denied that he owns the houses and has said that his lifestyle isn't relevant to his performance as president.
Among those present in the hotel conference room were some of the country's leading business lights, such as Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayal II, the Harvard-educated chairman of the giant Ayala Group (parent of Ayala Land) and one of the president's economic advisers; Raul T. Concepcion, chairman of the trade group Federation of Philippine Industries; and Ricardo Romulo, a prominent corporate attorney and chairman of the Makati Business Club, a group representing the country's top 1,000 companies.
After meeting for more than two hours, the executives set to work on a campaign to pressure the president into resigning. Designed to run in tandem with the impeachment process, the plan included news conferences, rallies and meetings with cabinet members and legislators.
On Oct. 31, a few members of the Makati Business Club's board held a second meeting, this time with the president's economic advisers. The executives told the advisers that their continued presence in the government lent credibility to Mr. Estrada. Mr. Zobel told his fellow advisers that they risked losing the respect of the business community and of their friends if they stayed on, according to people present. Before long, all five advisers had quit. After similar conversations with members of the business community, Manuel Roxas II, the young and dynamic secretary of trade and industry and the chief salesman for foreign investment in the Philippines, also resigned, on Nov. 2. Mr. Estrada compared his resignation to losing "a son."
A Coalition Is Revived
The Makati Business Club and others helped revive a giant coalition called Kompil that was instrumental in bringing down Mr. Marcos in 1986. Just like that group, it includes labor unions, academics, socialists, church leaders, women's groups and nongovernmental organizations. This time, however, business signed on as a co-leader, helping to steer planning meetings, set strategy, conduct media training and raise funding.
The business putsch holds many risks, for both local businesses and U.S. companies that have invested in the country. Besides the declining values of stocks and the peso, interest rates are soaring to double-digit levels and the country's vital electronic exports are slowing as global demand weakens. Economists expect growth to fall short of 3% next year, barely keeping pace with the country's rapidly expanding population, counted at 77.7 million in 1998. Mr. Estrada's trial will cast more clouds over the country.
Eleven members of the House of Representatives will act as prosecutors in the Senate trial, the first formal impeachment proceeding against an Asian leader. Mr. Estrada is being charged with bribery, graft and corruption, betrayal of public trust and violations of the constitution. He can be removed only if at least two-thirds of the total 22 Senators vote to convict him on any one of the charges.
Risk of Retribution
Business leaders say they're simply trying to head off an even larger crisis in driving out Mr. Estrada. But they also run the risk of retribution if Mr. Estrada survives -- an increasingly plausible outcome since he refuses to step down and may control enough votes in the Senate to avoid conviction. Key economic reforms, business licenses and government-business partnerships could all be under threat if Mr. Estrada remains in office.
U.S. companies would share the pain. Citigroup Inc., Texaco Inc., Intel Corp., Ford Motor Co., Dole Food Co. and other American companies have poured more than $20 billion into the Philippines since 1990, making the U.S. the largest foreign investor in the country. The economic slowdown has already affected consumer-product companies such as Ford and Citibank. And while American executives are largely avoiding the fray, saying they simply want a quick solution to the political turmoil, many of their Philippine partners are rallying against the president.
At the same time, gestures like last week's "power lunch" haven't helped business win over the masses -- especially the poor, who remain Mr. Estrada's power base and harbor long-held resentment toward the elite. Poverty afflicts more than 40% of the populace, while the bulk of the country's wealth is held by a small number of powerful families. Many see business not as an agent of progress but as the defender of Old World feudalism.
Mr. Estrada has begun stoking this class conflict by blaming his troubles on a "conspiracy and economic sabotage of the rich" and "insulares and peninsulares," referring to the Spanish colonial aristocracy. Others charge that the business groups are trying to take back economic power that Mr. Estrada has shifted to his own business friends, such as Mr. Tan and another former Marcos pal, Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco.
Recent polls suggest that most Filipinos aren't sold on the business campaign. Students, who played such a critical role in People Power, have only recently started to appear in small numbers on the streets. Lower-class farmers and the poor continue to favor the president's serving out his term.
A Poor Man's Situation
The anti-Estrada rallies, speeches and media coverage are concentrated in the business district. About 50 miles from Manila, among the sugar-cane farms of the province of Batangas, Virgilio Fabilitante wakes to another day of joblessness. His six-month old son died of meningitis in September, leaving him and his wife with nearly $1,000 in hospital bills. Fuel prices have risen so much that he has lost his main source of income, trucking the village's vegetables to the city market. He's struggling to feed his family of five with the vegetables he grows himself and the $2 a day he earns by fixing other people's cars and taking care of his uncle's pigs.
While the president may be corrupt, Mr. Fabilitante says, at least Mr. Estrada has made small gestures to the poor, such as launching a mobile store that sells subsidized Erap-brand rice and sugar to remote areas like his own.
Staring at a bare, plastic Christmas tree on the concrete floor of his small house, Mr. Fabilitante adds: "The businesspeople and Mr. Estrada can fight all they want. It doesn't matter for us. For the poor, life stays the same. That's what happened after People Power, and that's what will happen again."
Business leaders stress that they're just a small part of a broader coalition calling for the president's ouster. They add that the poor would suffer most if the president stays in office because economic woes fuel rising unemployment. Still, many executives wonder how far they're willing to take the campaign. Last month, business groups called off a three-day work stoppage, fearing it would prove too difficult to manage.
"We have to be clear-minded about how far we want to push this," says Ramon del Rosario, vice chairman of the conglomerate Phinma. "But the business community clearly reached a consensus that it would be far more damaging for Estrada to stay in power for another three years than it would be to disrupt things now."
The movement has made for some strange bedfellows. At a recent rally, socialists wearing Che Guevara T-shirts and calling for an end to the "destructive capitalist system" marched together with office workers from Ayala Land who were still wearing corporate badges that read "Total Customer Satisfaction."
"The other day I found myself sitting in a meeting between two militant union leaders arguing about whether we would have red or blue flags at the next rally," says Guillermo Luz, executive director of the Makati Business Club. "It's a little weird."
The pragmatic hand of business has also tempered the rallies -- avoiding some of the violence of past demonstrations. "They're businesspeople, so they favor negotiation over confrontation," says Dan Songco, the chief administrator of Kompil.
Write to Robert Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org
December 7, 2000
Accounting Standards Board Considers
Letting Pooling-of-Interests Continue
By JONATHAN WEIL
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Backing down on a key provision of its plan to eliminate so-called pooling-of-interests accounting, the nation's accounting-rule makers proposed allowing U.S. companies to continue making acquisitions without having to take large periodic earnings write-downs.
The decision by the Financial Accounting Standards Board came after intense pressure from investment bankers and large technology companies, many of which have relied extensively on pooling-of-interests accounting to fuel their acquisition-oriented growth strategies.
The news brought cheers from those who have been lobbying against the board's September 1999 proposal to eliminate pooling accounting for mergers and acquisitions. Critics, however, maintain that under the accounting method proposed by the board Wednesday, acquisition-minded companies' earnings and assets could become even more inflated than they are under currently acceptable methods.
"The FASB has given the store away," said Abraham Briloff, professor emeritus of accounting at Baruch University in New York and a longtime critic of pooling-of-interests accounting methods. "The FASB has capitulated to the pragmatic world of the companies that want to provide the highest levels of earnings numbers they can generate."
The board's chairman, Edmund Jenkins, acknowledged the criticism, but said the board was persuaded that current amortization methods for goodwill arbitrarily reduced many of the values of corporate assets and should be overhauled. At the same time, he said the board had received heavy resistance to its earlier proposal to ban pooling outright, including attempts by some members of Congress to legislatively bar the board from eliminating pooling, and that he believed the latest proposal would satisfy critics.
"I'd expect that this will go some way toward resolving the overall issue," Mr. Jenkins said. "The objective is to issue a standard that improves business combinations. This answer is well-grounded in terms of economics of the transaction and the information and transparency needs of investors."
With Wednesday's decision, the Norwalk, Conn.-based board still is proposing to eliminate pooling-of-interest accounting. Under pooling, merging companies simply combine their assets and don't have to account for any premiums paid by the acquirers as goodwill.
But it stepped back from requiring companies using "purchase accounting" to amortize purchased "goodwill" on a periodic basis. Currently, companies using purchase accounting methods for acquisitions must record as goodwill any premiums they pay above acquired companies' tangible net-asset values, and then amortize that goodwill over periods lasting as long as 40 years.
Before Wednesday, the seven-member board had proposed reducing that period to 20 years. Under Wednesday's proposal, however, companies would have to write down the purchased goodwill on their balance sheets only if and when they determined that the value of that goodwill has become impaired.
Tech Sector's Favorite
Before the board's proposal last year, the pooling method had been the technique of choice for large technology companies with high-valuation stocks because it allows them present their financial statements without having to account for the actual costs of making acquisitions. Likewise, the absence of periodic write-downs for goodwill allows acquirers to maintain the appearance of strong earnings growth and large returns on assets and equity.
The revised pooling proposal isn't expected to take effect until March, at the earliest. The board said it is still working out many of the details, including standards for valuation techniques to be used for determining when acquired goodwill becomes impaired. Under the new proposal, many intangible assets currently classified as goodwill still would have to be amortized periodically, such as patents whose values have finite lives, while other intangible assets that don't lose value over time wouldn't have to be amortized.
The value of domestic merger and acquisitions involving pooling-of-interest accounting peaked in 1998 at $852 billion, or 52% of deal volume, before falling in 1999 to $349 million, or 22.2%, in anticipation of the FASB's proposal. So far this year, only $157 million, or 9%, or all deal volume has used pooling-accounting methods, according to First Call/Thomson Financial.
More Deal Appeal
Bankers and the large companies that have relied on pooling say that with purchase accounting, many deals would prove unattractive to investors because of the negative earnings impact. Trevor Harris, a managing director at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., points to the example of SBC Communications Inc. Had the San Antonio-based telecommunications giant been required to account for its recent pooling acquisitions using a 20-year goodwill-amortization period, the company's estimated earnings for 2000 would be only $4.1 billion, compared with $7.8 billion, Mr. Harris calculates.
Proponents of pooling say the board struck a necessary compromise in order to make purchase-accounting techniques more appealing to corporate America. "To be able to eliminate pooling, which is their primary goal, they had to make purchase accounting more palatable," said Robert Willens, an accounting expert at Lehman Brothers in New York.
Among the companies praising the board's move Wednesday was Cisco Systems Inc., the huge telecom-equipment concern based in San Jose, Calif., whose growth has come largely through pooling acquisitions. "Clearly the FASB listened and responded to extensive comments from the public and the financial community to make the purchase method of accounting more effective and realistic," said Dennis Powell, Cisco's vice president and controller.
Write to Jonathan Weil at email@example.com
Thursday, December 7, 2000
here’s a really cool essay on death
(via metascene who always finds really good links. i’m always amazed anyway)
taha stories from bulgy :)
(via misterpants who also gets good stuff!)
Wednesday, December 6, 2000
Some will shrink in fear from ambiguity and complexity, falling back on tribal identities...
Courage is the willingness to look into that mirror [humankind's collective consciousness] and not forget what we see, then say what we see, ... not to confuse ourSelves for that image ...
--spew, islands in the clickstream :)
Tuesday, December 5, 2000
so i was reading about the riemann zeta function off this cool math node on everything2 and this bug walks (ripples) by. like it's huge (two inches!) with many long legs. i didn't really want it crawling around my room so i took it out to the hallway, cept one of its legs came off in the process. it's twitching right now in my sink.
got an email back from cosma shalizi, he didn't think much of bayesian statistical analysis (being a strict frequentist) or process physics... oh well. ever been cut loose and set adrift? he said he was getting engaged tho, which is cool :)
looking through the philosopher's magazine [(via spikemag) via abuddha :] there was this synopsis of thomas kuhn's structure of scientific revolutions. also, marx: a snapshot and an interview with martha nussbaum, um who btw jack (always wise to departmental gossip) says slept with amartya sen, developmental economist and nobel prize laureate, which kind of makes it a more interesting read. i thought this article was going to be about brain microtubules, but it's not.
found this site tho by rhett savage!
cat power's cover of "i found a reason" is so good. so is six and seven in succession on handsome boy modeling school's so... how's your girl?, "once again," "truth," respectively. thanks brian! at first it sounds like they're saying BJs on "projects," but really they're saying pjays.
Monday, December 4, 2000
tripping: an anthology of true-life psychedelic adventures.
Bob Jesse left his position as a vice president of business development at Oracle, the world's second-largest software company after Microsoft, to head the Council on Spiritual Practices, a nonprofit organization that advocates (among other things) the responsible use of entheogens (divine-manifesting drugs) for religious purposes. Such a marriage of technology and psychedelic consciousness — and a resoundingly profitable and influential one at that — might have been foretold by Marshall McLuhan's 1968 observation that "the computer is the LSD of the business world."
wide ranging red herring interview with dennis"thresh"fong, will wright and bruce shelley (via missingmatter)
Well, the big thing in Korea is Internet gaming rooms: There are between 15,000 and 20,000. You put that in perspective, the Korean population is a sixth that of the United States. There are twice as many Internet gaming rooms per capita as there are McDonalds in the United States. You can play games online for a dollar an hour anywhere within a couple of blocks of where you're standing. Gaming is much more of a mainstream entertainment. There are 20 to 40 cable stations in Korea that broadcast game tournaments being played live with commentary. Instead of like watching NFL, they're watching Starcraft being played by the best players in the world with commentary. You can go to school to study playing games. There's different curricula, the way you can set up your curricula in education in Korea, and you can actually study to become a top game player. You know, we hear negative things about games in America with the violence issue, which is really a minor thing, in terms of the number of games that are actually violent. But, there's none of that in Korea. All you hear about is what's cool and how exciting it is to be a game player.
Sunday, December 3, 2000
michael whelan concepts for sea of silver light, new tad williams otherland book. more :
forgot the name of that renaissance science guy, so looked for 'renaissance science' and came up with this link :
'project chrysalis' turned up this alternative history. chrysalis colossus btw totally rocks.
more slashdot threads :)
follow up articles from yesterday :
Saturday, December 2, 2000
pretty fascinating personal look at "corruption" in the software industry (developers – indentured servants/sharecroppers, os vendors – master/landlords) and what he, michael d. crawford, is going to do about it! (via this slashdot thread)
Well, so what am I going to do about it? I'm going to give my very best effort to bring Andy's cross-platform Zoolib to the world. Zoolib allows you to write a single set of C++ sources and recompile them for MacOS, Windows, BeOS and POSIX flavors like GNU/Linux.
i am so not technically oriented, but it sounds like fire from heaven. kinda reminds me of this ars technica discussion on instruction set abstraction layers and stuff. i'm so full of it.
debunking andrew sullivan's bad science writing :)
Friday, December 1, 2000
burning effigy of joseph estrada (via ghost rocket)
get a handy google toolbar installed in your browser (via gulfstream)
site redesign brought to you by majority voting :)