26 October 2001

It's Time to Ask Our "Borderless" Corporations: What Side Are You On?

Wow, this column by William Greider is on the mark, and asks insightful and relevant questions that are going unposed in the mainstream media. You passionate conservatives that attacked Clinton for cozy China relations ignore facts regarding your right wing leadership enabling and supporting Boeing to move airplane construction to China and Citibank to launder money for wealthy autocrats.

A recent New York Times headline asked an insinuating question: "After the Attacks, Which Side Is the Left On?" The Times should find the nerve to put the same question to the major players of business and finance. Which side is Citigroup on? Or General Electric and Boeing? Where does loyalty reside for those American corporations that have rebranded themselves as "global firms"? Our resurgence of deeply felt patriotism, with official assurances that Americans are all-in-this-together, raises the same question. At a deeper level, the patriotic sense of unity collides with familiar assumptions advanced by the architects and cheerleaders of corporate globalization. The nation-state has been eclipsed, they explain, and no longer has the power to determine its own destiny. The national interest, they assert, now lies in making the world safe for globalizing commerce and capital.

In these threatening times, such claims sound suddenly unpersuasive. Frightened citizens turn naturally to their government for security--the original purpose of the nation-state--and business enterprises do the same. The global corporation, however, intends to have it both ways: American first when that serves its interest, but otherwise aloof from mere nationality. Since these companies are busy waving the flag at the moment, one needs to recall how they described themselves during the past decade, as they dispersed production worldwide and planted their logos in many distant lands. "The United States does not have an automatic call on our resources," a Colgate-Palmolive executive once explained. "There is no mindset that puts this country first."

The much-admired CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, portrayed GE as a "borderless company," and he brutally enforced the logic. When GE wanted additional cost savings on turbines, jet engines and appliances, it told its US suppliers to pick up and leave, or else--that is, move the jobs to Mexico or other locales where the labor is much cheaper, or GE would find different suppliers. A GE executive in Taiwan once remarked, "The US trade deficit is not the most important thing in my life...running an effective business is."

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19 October 2001

They're Rich, They're Spoiled, They're Supporting Terrorists

This insightful column by Robert Scheer that appeared in Tuesday's LA Times lays out the case that Saudi Arabia has been a big supporter of terrorism and would be a logical target "if President Bush were serious about his stated goal of punishing nations that support terrorism".

The evidence is overwhelming that it is the incredibly rich Saudis, far more than the desperately poor Afghans, who are responsible for the emergence of a militant and violent variant of Islam that has infected much of the Muslim world. It is wealthy Saudi businessmen, with the complicity of the Saudi government, who have financed the religious schools and moujahedeen training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan from which the latest wave of terrorism has erupted.

It is convenient for the Saudi government to now distance itself from Bin Laden, but the record is clear that, as the New York Times editorialized, "with Riyadh's acquiescence, money and manpower from Saudi Arabia helped create and sustain Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization." When one peruses the list of directors of businesses and foundations cited by the U.S. government that allegedly supported Al Qaeda, it reads like a who's who of Saudi society.

Perhaps that's why the Bush administration rejects the Taliban's demand for proof that Bin Laden is behind the recent terror, a normal response to an extradition request. Have we refused to supply that evidence or to issue the white paper of proof promised by Colin Powell because what we have learned about the international financing of Al Qaeda is too embarrassing to the Saudis?

What we do know is that at least more than half of the hijackers were Saudi citizens; that their alleged leader Bin Laden is a member of one of Saudi Arabia's richest families; that money from the Saudi elite sustained a terrorist network; and that the Saudi government has refused to cooperate fully with the U.S. in investigating these links or seizing terrorist assets.

Did the oil sheiks from Saudi Arabia create this mess?

18 October 2001

For perspective, read E.B. White

A column in USA Today by Michael Gartner asking President Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Ari Fleischer to pause a moment and read some past essays by E.B. White caught my attention and I feel it would be profitable for all to read ...

He stood foursquare for freedom at a time when others were temporizing, were vacillating, were accommodating. He stood foursquare for freedom when other writers — on their own or at the behest of their government — were deciding to say or write only what we today call politically correct.

"To hold America in one's thoughts is like holding a love letter in one's hand — it has so special a meaning," White wrote in December 1941 on the 3rd day of World War II.

To him, that America was a place where he could say or write what he pleased, in war or in peace. Imagine what he would have written today had he heard White House press secretary Fleischer tell Americans to "watch what they say."

Imagine how he would have responded had he heard national security adviser Rice tell the networks not to air live footage of the ramblings of Osama bin Laden.

"In a free country," he wrote in January 1939, "it is the duty of writers to pay no attention to duty. Only under a dictatorship is literature expected to exhibit a harmonious design or an inspirational tone."

16 October 2001

Identifying Terrorists by Brain "Fingerprinting"

No, not by planting a computer chip inside your head ...

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Kirsch is advocating that this new computer-based technology be used to identify terrorists and disallow entry into the U.S., expel foreign nationals, and restrict the mobility of U.S. citizens who are "branded" terrorists, based on test results. In a nutshell, brain fingerprinting identifies the perpetrator of a crime accurately and scientifically by measuring brain-wave responses to crime-relevant words or pictures presented on a computer screen. Prior to boarding an airliner a passenger would look into an iris scanner and a fully automated system would retrieve the associated brain fingerprint and decide whether the individual would be allowed to board ... a record of a person's brain wave activity when shown images with which a terrorist would have a strong personal connection (such as the inside of a terrorist training camp or the contents of a terrorist code book), and correlating these to iris scans.

No, I'm not making this up. Kirsch, founder of Infoseek, is dead serious about this idea - he says its "proven 100% accurate in over 100 tests, including tests on FBI agents and tests for a US intelligence agency and for the US Navy". Naturally, this would require the existence of a federal database of these "brain fingerprints" ...

"Mr. Watson, would you step up, attach the sensor headband, and and view into the scanner."

"Mr. Watson, will you come with us, please ..."

15 October 2001

Terrorists Have Elected To Receive

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12 October 2001

House Panel Thwarts Terrorists by Banning Net Gambling

From a Wired News article by Declan McCullagh: Osama bin Laden is not, according to news reports, a terribly big fan of Western vices. ... Nor has there been any reliable confirmation that last month's suicide-hijackers, who completed the bloodiest terrorist attack in American history, were habitual gamblers. ... But that didn't stop the House Financial Services committee from voting 62-1 on Thursday for an "anti-terrorism" bill that limits Internet gambling.

And read inside the text of Congressman Ron Paul who voices his opposition to these anti-terrorism measures - he states it has more to do with a war on financial privacy than it does combating terrorism. He calls HR 3004 a "laundry list of dangerous, unconstitutional power grabs". Read more inside ...

It looks like we're creating a new American Gestapo ... the Reagan regime used the "War on Drugs" to set the foundation of the disasterous assault on civil liberties with forfeiture laws and increases federal and local search/seizure powers; now Bush is using the "War on Terrorism" to enact a new Orwellian world where all of your financial, medical, recreational, and educational activities are to be monitored 24x7 by Big Brother and his cadre of electronic agents.

Wake the fuck up, people. Turn off Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or West Wing, or whatever drivel that's playing on the giggle box. Write your elected representatives now. Oh, I forgot, most mail rooms are closed now because of the recent anthrax scares. You can email them but the deluge of electronic mail is typically ignored (Bob Stump doesn't even have an email address - he thinks he's doing taxpayers a favor by saving costs). Well, I suppose we're out of luck unless we have the money of Time Warner, Enron, GE, or any other corporate behemoth or industry funded right wing think tank organization (like CATO, Heritage Foundation) to buy influence ...
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FAA Chief Quits in Protest

Hmm, it looks like federal officials took special steps to protect their own safety when they were demonstrating to the rest of us that it's okay to travel on airplanes. From an AP news report:

The head of security for the Federal Aviation Administration decided to quit after he was told to reassign air marshals to commercial flights carrying members of President Bush's Cabinet, a source with knowledge of the resignation said Thursday.

Michael A. Canavan, named associate administrator for FAA's office of civil aviation security last December, said the marshals had been assigned to other flights that he felt could be more at risk of a hijacking, according to the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Bush administration officials had wanted marshals on the planes carrying Cabinet members, who took commercial flights to demonstrate that air travel was safe and thereby encourage Americans to return to the skies.

10 October 2001

ACLU Breakdown on Anti-Terrorism Legislation to Increase Police Powers

The ACLU has posted an excellent writeup comparing and commenting on the various proposed legislative acts to thwart terrorism by increasing and expanding prosecutorial powers - the Anti-Terrorism Act plugged by the Bush administration, the House PATRIOT bill and the Senate USA Act. Basically, the ACLU is opposed to the legislation because it (1) reduces and/or eliminates the role of judges ensuring law enforcement wiretapping is conducted legally and with proper justification, (2) dangerously erodes the distinction between domestic law enforcement and foreign intelligence collection, (3) the definition of "terrorism" is too broad - even acts of civil disobedience could lead to "terrorist" prosecutions, and (4) it is believed that the U.S. government is moving unnecessarily and irresponsibly quickly on these measures.

Security and civil liberties do not have to be at odds. Law enforcement authorities already have great leeway under current law to investigate suspects in terrorist attacks - including broad authority to monitor telephone and Internet communications. In fact, under current law, judges have rejected only three federal or state criminal wiretap requests in the last decade.

Yes, if you haven't already figured it out, I am opposed to these proposed acts ...