Sunday, January 29, 2006

On break; see you back here soon

The DSL connection to my desk went down last week and it's taking a while to get it restored. So posting and the necessary surfing beforehand is not very practical. You're on your own for a few more days. I'll be back by the end of the week, I hope.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Google censoring search results in China

With dismay but no surprise, I share the latest restriction on freedom in the world's largest emerging market. I don't know what we can do about it. (I did take the Google News link off my other blog. Small gesture.) Ideas, anyone? Yahoo! News

The China version of Google won't include email or blogs, the New York Times reports. The Times also has these interesting points:
Google says it plans to disclose when information has been blocked or censored from its new site, just as it does in the United States, Germany and other countries.
The regular Google.com site, based outside China, will continue to be available for access from China. Difficulties using the site have put Google at a disadvantage in China, where the Google.com site had lost ground to a Chinese rival, Baidu.com, which went public last year.

Want more discussion? Foreign Affairs had a good piece last fall. The introduction:
Conventional wisdom has long assumed that economic liberalization undermines repressive regimes. Recent events, however, suggest that savvy autocrats have learned how to cut the cord between growth and freedom, enjoying the benefits of the former without the risks of the latter. Washington and international lenders should take note.
The article is here.

Lender showing leadership

Updated Jan. 27

An important regional bank says it won't lend to developers of shopping malls and other private ventures who are getting their sites through eminent domain. This is a reaction to the Connecticut case in which the U.S. Supreme Court, defying the accepted sense of what's fair, allowed the seizure of people's homes to create a New London construction site not for public, but commercial purposes. Here's BB&T's chairman explaining the bank's decision:
"One of the most basic rights of every citizen is to keep what they own. As an institution dedicated to helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security, we won't help any entity or company that would undermine that mission and threaten the hard-earned American dream of property ownership."
Here's the news release from the bank.
And here are the documents on the New London case.
I should mention, also, that I own stock in BB&T. Today they make me proud.

There's an interesting Florida case involving eminent domain. Audra D.S. Burch tells the story in The Miami Herald.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A wrap for "West Wing"

My favorite TV show for years has been NBC's West Wing. I haven't managed to follow it very well, for personal reasons, but every time I do catch the show I am moved by the respect the writers and actors show for a life of public service. Well, this week I read in the Miami Herald that this is the show's last season. Am so sorry. Anyone know where I can find tapes? Hmmm, maybe it will go into reruns.

By the way, did you know that NBC's website for the show provides additional topical reading for each episode -- an article on Kazakhastan, a link to an education reform organization, a piece about the French ban on dwarf-tossing. Hey, you can't get more eclectic than the topics this show has covered!

The show.

Some more from the Herald's TV writer, Glenn Garvin.

And, for real fans, the unofficial West Wing Continuity Guide.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Florida's own "meanest city"

Beautiful Sarasota, home to retirees and art students, won itself a place of distinction that I'm sure many there would just as soon not occupy. It was labeled America's meanest city by advocates for the homeless because Sarasota has outlawed the act of camping without a property owner's permission. Actually, they've done this three times now, with the first two tries ruled unconstitutional. The latest ordinance was upheld a few days ago by a county judge, inspiring comment in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Here are more of the facts, from the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Carmakers get the message

Well, it's about time. Detroit and its import competitors are finally thinking small again. Can they give up the SUV binge? It's probably too early to say, but meanwhile, here's a look at a Pint-sized Lineup

Friday, January 06, 2006

Media's man of the moment


Thanks to Jon Friedman at MarketWatch for this profile of James Risen, who with Eric Lichtblau blew the lid off a domestic spying program that had operated in secret since weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. There's been some controversy about their report in the New York Times, with slams from President Bush and speculation about why the story was held by the Times until days before Risen's book (right) would hit the stores. Here's Friedman:
During our conversation, Risen only expressed emotion on two occasions. When I asked him to comment on the President saying that Risen and Lichtblau's sources were traitors, Risen said, "That wasn't too nice." Then he said animatedly: "I think they're patriots."

The second time was when he discussed, with noticeable disgust, the media criticizing the New York Times for "sitting on" the Risen-Lichtblau story for about a year before publishing it.

Countering the skeptics, Risen said the Times "performed a major public service." While the Times conceivably could've published it sooner, he said with a shrug, "Who cares? In the end, the important thing is that they published the story." He dismissed the debates as being "inside baseball."
Friedman's Media Web column is here.
If you're interested in the book, here's my favorite bookseller, Books & Books.

Politics was country before country was cool


Here's a book I'll have to take a look at. Thanks, Bob Edwards, for having the author, Chris Willman, on your show today. Here's a sample from Willman:
Country musicians as a whole, it seems, sing from the heart more than anywhere else. They're sincere, but as Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt concludes in his recent best-selling little tome "On Bull -- " (a topic familiar to real country folk), uninformed sincerity is still bull. Many of these most successful musical stars are, like our Texan president, wealthy folk just playing a role….
I found a good review at SFGate

Wikipedia can be better

The write-it-yourself reference site should be tweaked, not trashed, according to Mitch Ratcliffe at ZDNet. OK, maybe it will take more than tweaking to achieve the transparency he wants. But his Rational Rant is worth reading. It's the first of a series.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Back at the desk


The Christmas holiday in New England was fun and thoroughly relaxing. The rain didn't spoil our daughter's ski plans, and the plunging temperature on New Year's eve was manageable even for thin-blooded Floridians.

We went into Boston for First Night, with snow falling on the Commons as the parade passed by (see the Mardi Gras-style bird), and fireworks afterward. We caught the 7 o'clock show, then ducked into The Last Hurrah -- a great urban watering-hole in the famed Parker House Hotel -- for delicious stew and brandy-laced coffee. After another walk in the park we were lured into the historic Park Avenue Church by the free cocoa and hot cider, and stayed for a Christian pop concert that was upbeat and life-affirming. By the time we came out, all train rides were free and we trundled homeward in the snow-muffled city. A lovely evening, and to bed just minutes after midnight.