links for 2010-03-29

  • The much-criticized cloak of secrecy that has surrounded the Obama administration’s negotiation of the multilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement was broken Wednesday. The leaked draft of ACTA belies the U.S. trade representative’s assertions that the agreement would not alter U.S. intellectual property law. And it raises the stakes on the constitutionally dubious method by which the administration proposes to make the agreement binding on the United States.
    The goal of the trade pact is to tighten enforcement of global intellectual property rules. The leaked draft, though incomplete in many respects, makes clear that negotiators are considering ideas and principles not reflected in U.S. law.
  • It didn’t take long for Julie Liu — late 20s, smartphone-addicted, constant Googler — to get hooked on the online review site Yelp. Where to eat Friday night? Read some reviews by random anonymous diners. Oh, that looks good. Book a table online, show up, eat.
    But after Liu and her sister opened Scion restaurant in Dupont Circle, they saw Yelp from a different angle. Liu said Yelp’s salespeople phoned repeatedly, telling her that if she advertised on the site, negative reviews would move lower on Scion’s page and positive reviews would move up.

  • When historians recount the momentous events of recent weeks, they will note a curious coincidence. On March 15, Moody’s – the bond rating agency – published a paper warning that the exploding U.S. government debt could cause a downgrade of Treasury bonds. Just six days later, the House passed President Obama’s health-care legislation costing $900 billion or so over a decade and worsening an already-bleak budget outlook.
    Should the United States someday suffer a budget crisis, it will be hard not to conclude that Obama and his allies sowed the seeds, because they ignored conspicuous warnings. A further irony will not escape historians. For two years, Obama and members of Congress have angrily blamed the shortsightedness and selfishness of bankers and rating agencies for causing the recent financial crisis. The president and his supporters, historians will note, were equally shortsighted and self-centered — though their quest was for political glory, not financial gain.

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