Saturday, March 26, 2005

Triple-Threat to Our Security: International Fora, Judicial Processes and Terrorism

Marty Lederman

The Administration has released its official National Defense Strategy. One of the purported "key assumptions" upon which U.S. national defense strategy is based is the following U.S. "vulnerability" (page 5): "Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism."

Boy, if they're willing to say that in such a prominent public document, one shudders to imagine what they say in private about "international fora" and "judicial processes." More chilling still is this editorial from the Washington Times. The problem, you see, is that the enemy not only knows what our laws are -- it also knows that we "observe the laws of war." Yes, if only we weren't so enamoured of that pesky ol' rule of law, winning wars would be oh so much easier.

This is a theme one increasingly hears as a justification for avoiding all public deliberation about the law of interrogation and torture -- such as discussion of which forms of interrogation are lawful: In theory, torture is forbidden, but Al Qaeda detainees must be made to think that the law is uncertain -- that torture just may be possible -- so that the threat of extreme interrogation techniques is credible (which is said to be the only way to elicit information from these crafty foes). In other words, our law must reamin opaque so that the threat of torture and inhumane treatment remains credible. (Never mind that such threats are themselves unlawful.)



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In 2002 Bush Jr. announced his National Security Strategy that basically states that the US is the world's number one politial power and the world's number one economic power, and the US will all take necessary steps to maintain these positions. (It's sort of an "I dare you" to the rest of the world.) Now, the DOD (read Rumsfeld) has come down with its National Defense Strategy. I can hardly wait for the National Economic Strategy that will secure the US's #1 position economically. Probably Europe, China, India, Japan and other Far East nations can hardly wait too as their competitiveness continues to build. No walking softly for this President as he waves the big stick. First the World Bank. Then the UN. Can Mars be far behind, with an upcoming National Galactic Security Strategy?

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Computer News
China's Google rockets on debut
It was a remarkable debut. Chinese search engine's shares sold in the United States for US$27 ($39) - then surged on day one to close at US$122.54 ($177.46).

Friday's result was the biggest first-day gain for a new listing in the US for five years.

Investors had more than quadrupled their money.

An analyst in New York with, a website devoted to initial public offerings, John Fitzgibbon, said: "This one is the return to the internet bubble. Last time we saw a deal skyrocket was during the frothy IPO markets of 1999 and 2000."

Then came the post-mortem.

Some analysts said the internet search engine could have had an even better payday for itself if underwriters had sold the deal at a higher price to begin with.

"It looks to me like the underwriters should have had a better indication of the appetite for this stock than they did," said Donald Straszheim, president of Straszheim Global Advisors.

Investors were eager to own a stake in a company that many say could grow as dramatically as Google and is based in a country itself undergoing explosive growth.

But other analysts are not so sure the underwriters made a mistake, given that the company's shares were priced at a relatively high multiple of revenues.

"It wasn't priced out of line with the rest of the market. In a situation like this, you're dealing with the unpredictability of the after market," said Tom Taulli, of Instream Partners in Newport Beach, California.

At issue is the underwriting process. Banks selling shares to the public - in this case Credit Suisse First Boston, Goldman Sachs, and Piper Jaffray - are paid to use quantitative models to determine a fair price for shares, but also to gauge investor demand.

Underwriting has both subjective and objective elements, making definitive evaluation of a bank's performance difficult. In this case, demand for the IPO was evidently outsized, but so were the unknowns for the company.

"We don't know the potential impact of censorship in China, or how quickly the internet will grow there," said David Menlow, president of Had the IPO been priced higher and then fallen in the first day of trading, investors could have sued. chairman and chief executive Robin Li, speaking on CNBC, said he was not upset by the potential lost proceeds of the IPO because the company had only sold a small portion of itself, and had significantly more growth ahead.

But University of Florida Professor Jay Ritter, an IPO expert, said left money on the table by introducing the shares at a level well below where they ended hours later.

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