28 January 2006

Yes, it's that time again. Business 2.0 presents the 101 Dumbest Business Moments of 2005. There are lots (and lots) to choose from, but I especially liked this one for its combination of technical savvy and overall cluelessness:

"If there's a burglar in my home, maybe I send an e-mail or a text message to the police instead of making a call." -- Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, on his VOIP service's lack of 911 access.

Numbers 40 and 41, concerning Steve Ballmer's colorful threats against Google, contain language that I won't quote here but are worth reading as a classic example of speaking loudly but carrying a small stick.

Posted 12:25 PM

26 January 2006

Ah, the dilemma of democracy. What if the democratically elected government of a country is someone like, say, Hamas?

As a practical matter, neither the US nor Israel can refuse to recognize the freely elected government of the Palestinian Authority. On the other hand, it's politically impossible for either country to negotiate with an organization that hopes to wipe Israel off the map. I predict lots of low-level, informal contacts, and lots of hope that actually governing will force Hamas to moderate its positions.

Posted 09:52 AM

25 January 2006

The mainstream Western press is mostly gaga over China, and particularly China's economic explosion. Professional publications like IEEE Spectrum draw attention to the number of engineers in key positions in the Chinese government, the clear implication being that technocrats know how to build an economic powerhouse. (As opposed to the messy inefficiencies of democracy, of course.) Naturally, the Chinese government encourages the idea that it is marching rapidly and smoothly along a path that will make it a global leader.

And yet, the government admits to 74,000 protests in 2004, involving 3.76 million people. 2005 may have doubled that number. This in a country that actively suppresses all negative news, and where protestors routinely face years in prison. Protestors are concerned with a wide range of issues, particularly land seizures, pollution, and official corruption, and are frustrated with the lack of official accountability.

The Chinese government argues that economic liberalization and political liberalization need not be linked, that individual liberty is a Western idea and not relevant to China. World history -- particularly the recent blossoming of democracy in countries like Taiwan and South Korea -- argues otherwise, and so, apparently, does China's own experience.

Posted 10:59 AM

Amazing landscape photography by Leiping Zha. I think I recognize some of these locations, but my photos sure don't look anything like these.

Posted 10:48 AM


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