Yahoo! watching you
China is censorsing the Internet-and it has Yahoo's blessing. The Internet Society of China announced that 300 signatories signed the "Public Pledge on Self-discipline for China Internet Industry." A spokesman for Yahoo!'s China office in Beijing said the company had signed the pledge but refused to comment further. Those who sign the pledge must refrain from "producing, posting, or disseminating pernicious information that may jeopardize state security and disrupt social stability." The prohibition also covers information that breaks laws and spreads "superstition and obscenity." Members must remove material deemed offensive or face expulsion from the group. Signers also pledge to monitor foreign websites and block those containing unspecified harmful information. A special police force already monitors websites and sifts e-mail searching for subversive messages.
Organized religion is more highly regarded than organized labor, public schools, and the mainstream news media-but that's not saying much. Public confidence in religious institutions in the United States sagged to a 30-year low, according to a new Gallup poll. Only 45 percent of Americans surveyed had "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in religious institutions-a drop from 60 percent last year and the lowest percentage since 1973, when Gallup began surveying Americans on their confidence in national institutions. A Gallup spokesman blamed part of the erosion on the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. Of the 16 institutions named in the survey, churches and organized religion in general ranked sixth-below the U.S. military in first place (79 percent), the police (59 percent), the presidency (58 percent), the U.S. Supreme Court (50 percent), and banks (47 percent). From 1973 to the mid-1980s, religious institutions topped the confidence ratings. Trailing organized religion were the medical system (38 percent), public schools (38 percent), TV news (35 percent), newspapers (35 percent), the U.S. Congress (29 percent), the criminal justice system (27 percent), organized labor (26 percent), big business (20 percent), Wall Street (19 percent), and HMOs (13 percent).
Robert J. Samuelson argues in a Washington Post column that current attempts in Congress to add a prescription-drug benefit to Medicare reflect "shameless prospecting, by both parties, for votes among the elderly and near elderly." House Republicans this year passed a bill that would cost an estimated $320 billion during its first eight years, while Senate Democrats are considering an even more profligate plan, with costs exceeding $400 billion over seven years. "Both parties are sacrificing the country's long-term interests for short-term political advantage," he contends. "The country's interests are to curb the burgeoning costs of retirement programs, which, given the aging of the baby-boom generation, threaten to overburden the budget." Few legislators want to discuss the long-term impact of Medicare's exploding costs on the economy and on the lives of younger generations, leaving Mr. Samuelson to hope that the House and the Senate will be unable to reconcile their competing plans. "Given the indifference, and yes, stupidity, the best that can be hoped for is that Congress and the president won't make the country's future problems worse-aka gridlock."
The boomer soundtrack
Whatever became of classical music? Sales are in the doldrums, reports Michael Dougan of the San Francisco Chronicle. As baby boomers aged, many expected them to buy more and more classical CDs, but it isn't happening. "In a marketplace spun asunder by the digital revolution, classical recording labels have been forced to face the music: Traditional schemes for peddling their albums don't work anymore," he argues. "Sales of classical music CDs are at a four-year low, and dropping." One problem: Classical music isn't usually tied to major movies or other events, so retailers often move the genre aside for pop music.
I know nothing
Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) once led an investment bank that is now accused of inflating stock prices during the 1990s, The Washington Times reports. David Boyer notes that he currently "plays a key role in Democrats' strategy on corporate responsibility." So will a tough-on-business senator be forced to get tough with himself? The firm is none other than the colossal Goldman Sachs, and Mr. Corzine was its chairman from 1994 to 1999. A former broker claims the firm tried to force investors to pay inflated stock prices, but the senator denies he knew anything about it. "I don't believe there is ever going to be anything that sticks about us at Goldman Sachs forcing anybody to buy anything," Mr. Corzine told the paper. "Goldman Sachs never forced anyone to buy anything when I was chairman, I can tell you that."