Saturday, February 3, 2007

Did I Award too Soon?

I suppose it is a question of where you want to draw the boundaries; but there is always the risk of an "of the week" award getting displaced by a candidate that shows up at the last minute. Thus, while there is no doubt that Hakuo Yanagisawa triggered an opportunity "to make the ridiculous look ridiculous," as Molly Ivins put it and even if the target was a broad as "men with power in Japan," it may still be the case that Google has beaten them out this week. I have Jonathan B. Cox of The Charlotte Observer to thank for having second thoughts. Here is Cox's lead:

Google tried to silence lawmakers and pushed -- at times with a heavy hand -- to influence legislation designed to bring the company to Caldwell County.

The company demanded that legislators never speak its name, and had them scolded when word of its interest in North Carolina leaked out, according to records made public this week.

As work proceeded on the bill to remove much of its tax burden, Google threatened to end negotiations because legislative staff didn't write exactly what it wanted. State Commerce Secretary Jim Fain was asked to "prevail upon" the bill writer.

Indeed, the first set of state documents released from the 13-month negotiations reveal a company obsessed with secrecy and not above bullying, tactics that helped get it tax breaks that could top $100 million over three decades.

"I sort of had to work in the dark," said Sen. Jim Jacumin, a Republican who represents Caldwell County. "That bothered me. They need to respect the laws of the land, even if they're business."

Of course this is not the first time that Google has had a public tantrum over its difficulties with the subtleties of governance. There was that great quote from Eric Schmidt last October that captured the Google attitude and arrogance in a single sentence:

The average person in government is not of the age of people who are using all this stuff.

In other words, where any engagement with government is concerned, the Google motto is: We should have our way because we know better than you do! If that is not chutzpah, I do not know what is!

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