Friday, March 11, 2005

Fifty years ago, the President of General Motors told Congress, "What's good for America is good for General Motors, and vice versa". (The "vice versa" part proved more quotable). John Chambers, CEO of Silicon Valley powerhouse Cisco, apparently has a different idea:

John Chambers, the chief executive officer (CEO) and president of Cisco Systems Inc., doesn't care when economists think China is going to become the world's largest economy. He's just thinking about what needs to be done for Cisco to tap into that market.

"We can have a healthy discussion about whether that's in 2020 or 2040, but it will (become the world's largest economy) and China will become the IT center of the world," Chambers said, speaking at a press conference in Beijing last week. ...

"What we're trying to do is outline an entire strategy of becoming a Chinese company," Chambers said.

Part of that strategy means being responsive to requests for investment from the Chinese government. During his presentation in Beijing, Chambers noted that Cisco, of San Jose, California, has spent $38 million since 1998 to set up university training centers for software programmers -- a move he said was made at the suggestion of Chinese officials.

Cisco has also moved the manufacturing of many of its products, which is done under contract with other companies, to China at the request of Chinese government officials, he said.

"Our contract manufacturers, at my request, and candidly at the request of the leaders in your country, began to move our contract manufacturers here to China," Chambers said.

In America, loss of jobs to outsourcing is an inevitable side effect of the generally beneficial workings of the global market. In Beijing, Chambers says in plain English that he's shifting American jobs to China because the Chinese government asked him to.

Even former Reagan administration official Paul Craig Roberts is kind of appalled:

Unless there are major changes soon, America's economic future is a third world work force with a banana democracy's worthless currency.

In addition to his service with the Reagan administration, Roberts also wrote for the National Review and the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and also spent time at the Hoover Institution. I linked to a copy of this column on Counterpunch -- a web site run by Alexander Cockburn, who's fringe-lefty enough to make regular readers of The Nation uncomfortable. It's odd how well it fits in.

Roberts column via Avedon Carol.

You know, Republican extremism in defense of our safety would be a little easier to take if they showed any concern for, like, our actual safety:

Dozens of terror suspects on federal watch lists were allowed to buy firearms legally in the United States last year, according to a Congressional investigation that points up major vulnerabilities in federal gun laws.

People suspected of being members of a terrorist group are not automatically barred from legally buying a gun, and the investigation, conducted by the Government Accountability Office, indicated that people with clear links to terrorist groups had regularly taken advantage of this gap.

But it's not so easy to take them on an airplane now. That's the only thing that matters right? Besides, fixing this would involve dealing with an enemy that the Republicans truly fear: the NRA.

via Liquid List and, I think, Avedon Carol

Bankruptcy was the theme of the week. The bankruptcy bill passing in Congress, and the moral bankruptcy of everyone, particularly the Democrats, who voted for it. Which is the latest in a long train of abuses by the Republican leadership -- Matthew Yglesias has been blogging a report with the sorry details.

The Times has an editorial today on the next big fight in Congress, in the Senate, over the nominations of three outrageously unqualified nominees for seats on appellate courts. This at last seems to have provoked the Democrats out of their torpor, if only because it has somehow got through their heads that at this point, if they don't have the filibuster (which the Republicans are threatening to take away), they have nothing at all.

But it's going to be awfully hard to rally the general public to their cause. After years of going along to get along, of "civility" in the face of Republican outrages, it's not going to be easy for people to believe that now, when at long last, their last bit of substantive power is on the chopping block -- that this is the moment when they have finally decided to take a stand on a matter of principle.

A little news from Boston: in the lull between football and baseball season, sports radio here is desperate to fill time. For a while, it was Jose Canseco's book. ('Roids radio! All testosterone, all the time!) But that seems to have paled, because they have lately settled on an even more desperate gimmick: trying to pretend that the Celtics are once again playing professional basketball at the Garden. I, for one, am not going to fall for it.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Jealousy is an ugly thing. But it can be amusing.

(via The Noise Board)

One of the Star Trek movies shows a traditional test for young officers involving a distress call from a tramp freighter, the Kobayashi Maru. Without warning, the cadets are attacked by cloaked Klingon ships with overwhelming power, and before they have a chance to figure out what's happening, their ship is blown up. Star Fleet, it turns out, has been putting its young officers in no-win situations like this for generations, as a test of character.

A bit later, still somewhat shaken up, one victim asks Captain Kirk how he handled getting his ship blown out from under him. Kirk didn't. He rigged the simulator to make it winnable. In the movie as it stands, this is a throwaway. In the hands of better writers, it might have been the key to Kirk's character. Kirk's wild, impulsive streak and bursts of temper actually make sense as the actions of a man who is trying to hide from his own limitations -- from knowing that there are some things you just can't win. Then again, in the hands of better writers, Kirk's impulsiveness, and his continual flouting of rules up to and including the supposed "Prime Directive" of noninterference, might have had consequences.

In American politics, there's been a traditional test for politicians contemplating military actions -- the "Dover test", for Dover Air Force base, where the coffins of dead soldiers are returned to American soil. The test is simple: will voters confronted with the sight of American dead believe that they did not die in vain?

And we all know by now how Dubya is dealing with this test: by rigging it, trying to hide photos of American coffins. To the point that American Tom Watson, looking at current events in Italy, can say:

The most striking image in the tragic death of Italian security agent Nicola Calipari, killed by U.S. troops on the road to the airport with freed hostage/journalist Giuliana Sgrena, is simple and striking: national mourning. Americans avoid it. Our leaders avoid it. Our trained seal national media avoids it. Have you paused to watch a national prayer service for our dead in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two bloody years? No, because it hasn't happened. Do you recall that national day of mourning for the 1,500 killed in the Iraq incursion? No, because President Bush has never named one. Yeah, we have local stories about "our heroes" killed in Fallujah, Baghdad, and Mosul - local funerals, local ceremonies of grief, local newspaper stories about the high school athlete or the volunteer fireman who went to war and never came home. Nothing national. Nothing American. ...

Why don't we mourn as a nation? The reason is simple and shocking and damning: because our leaders don't care.

He describes what we and our leaders do. Historically, it's not what we have done -- that's what the Dover test is about. But Dubya's trying to rig the test. And the test is there for a reason.

Maybe Dubya has Star Trek's writers to protect him -- and us. Would you like to bet your country on it?

(via Electrolite).

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

While not many of us were looking, there were some strange things going on in tax court. The judges there were making rulings based on secret documents which no one -- not even the accused -- was allowed to see. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has put a stop to that.

If we can apply the same standard to cases of torture and imprisonment without trial, and get it to stick, perhaps we'll be getting somewhere.

In completely unrelated news, Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican -- South Carolina) says that he doesn't feel comfortable honoring Abraham Lincoln. "It takes a while to get over things", the Senator notes. I don't know about that. His party seems to have gotten over Lincoln just about completely. (via Atrios.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Some amusement from the Nielsen Haydens to start the week. If you enjoy reading Anglo-Saxon, read this. If you enjoy reading crackpots, see the comments here.

Update: ...aaand the twits just keep on coming! The Electrolite thread, has not only attracted Vox Day, the twit lampooned in the original post, but several others of his ilk as well. Among these is one Bane, who advises on his own blog on "the keys to proper child abuse": "If you're going to hit something as small and fragile as a child, you should have the skill for it. Children break easily, and now more than ever, they give you the fish-eye at the emergency room when you bring one in that you have carelessly broken." Duly noted.

They're rearranging the deck chairs in the union halls. While union membership dwindles into nothing, the AFL-CIO headquarters is rejecting a plan to give more money to individual unions for organizing. They say the money is needed to run headquarters properly. Mind you, it's not exactly comforting that the plan's main proponent is a head of the Teamsters named Hoffa. But if they don't find a way to mount new organizing drives in the next few years, they won't need a headquarters.

Of course, there are things that it's proper for the headquarters to do -- like opposing bad legislation at the national level. But considering how much of that we've seen since Dubya took power, it's obvious that the Republicans are disinclined to listen -- and right now, the Democrats have allowed themselves to be made irrelevant. A strong showing by union membership might change that -- but before that, they need to have members.