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The Corporations Rule!

Should anyone doubt that the corporations actually manage America Inc., the final piece of evidence fell from the sky today when it was announced that the Corps of Engineers senior procurement officer, Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, was demoted -- essentially fired -- for criticizing the DOD's decision to grant a sole source non-competitive multi-billion dollar contract to Dick Cheney's pet Halliburton Co.  This is no a no-body.  She has worked in military procurement for 20 years and for the past several years had been the chief overseer of contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that has managed much of the reconstruction work in Iraq.

Ms. Greenhouse went public last year with her criticism of Iraq-related work awarded to Halliburton by the Corps of Engineers. Her main objection was the issuance to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root of a no-bid, five-year contract to restore Iraqi oil fields shortly before the Iraq war began in 2003.  Her attorney, Michael D. Kohn, wrote in the letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld: “Her removal will send a message to all concerned that if they dare stand up to corrupting influences within the Army contracting world their careers will be destroyed."

Ms. Greenhouse had also fought the granting of a waiver to Kellogg Brown & Root in December 2003, approving the high prices it had paid for fuel imports for Iraq, and had objected to extending its five-year contract for logistical support in the Balkans for 11 months and $165 million without competitive bidding. In late June, ignoring warnings from her superiors, Ms. Greenhouse appeared before a Congressional panel, calling the Kellogg Brown & Root oil contract "the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career." She also said the defense secretary's office had improperly interfered in the awarding of the contract.

"She is being demoted because of her strict adherence to procurement requirements and the Army's preference to sidestep them when it suits their needs," Mr. Kohn said Sunday in an interview. He also said the Army had violated a commitment to delay Ms. Greenhouse's dismissal until the completion of an inquiry by the Pentagon's inspector general. Mr. Kohn said that when he telephoned Dan Meyer, director of civilian reprisal investigations in the inspector general's office, on Aug. 24, Mr. Meyer was "shocked" to learn that the corps had proceeded against Ms. Greenhouse. Mr. Meyer said that he was immediately opening a "civilian reprisal" investigation and faxed forms to Mr. Kohn to initiate the process, Mr. Kohn said.

When you next see a corporation, bow your head and pray that you will not be its next victim!

August 29, 2005 in America Inc, Bush Administration, Capitalism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 23, 1927


On this day in 1927, the State murdered Sacco and Vanzetti, put them to death for being anarchists and Italian and unwilling to bend to the master's demands.   

Lest we forget.

August 23, 2005 in History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Peter Jennings

From everything I can tell, Peter Jennings was a nice enough guy, liked and respected by his family, friends and business associates.  But he was just a news reader -- an "anchorman" in the flashy 50-ish style marketing lingo of TV news.  The hours and hours of TV and radio broadcast time, and the acres of newsprint devoted to his death and career are a symptom of that industry's self-obsession rather than a true indicator of Jennings' true status as a journalist.

Every network needs, I guess, someone to sell their news division.  And Jennings was very good at that, with a seriousness not found in the Brokaws and Rathers of the world.  And it is as a consumate pitchman that he should be remembered and celebrated.   Unfortunately, the news business considers itself too important for it to accept this truthful label for one of its most successful products, and it has sought to turn Jennings into a news-breaking colossus.

That's a shame and, in the end, a disrespectful memory.

August 10, 2005 in Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 9th, 1961

Forty-four years ago today, US aircraft sprayed dioxin-laced Agent Orange over the central highlands province of Kon Tum, Vietnam.  This was the start of perhaps the largest and most sustained chemical warfare campaign launched by man against man.  Lest we forget.

See also 

August 9, 2005 in History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 6th, 1945

Sixty years ago today, on a day that will live in perpetual infamy, the Americans made the first use of a nuclear weapon, destroying Hiroshima and killing 140,000 innocent civilians.

Nothing can forgive, and nothing can make us forget.

August 6, 2005 in History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Globalization Sucks

A Chinese oil company has been rebuffed in its attempts to buy Unocal, the American oil giant.  As an article in today's Globe & Mail points out, this failed deal exposes the sham of globalization.  I don't usually import entire articles, but this one is worth it.

China's state-controlled oil firm, China National Offshore Oil Corp., or CNOOC, has bowed out of the race to purchase Unocal Corp., a U.S. energy company with significant holdings in Asia, after the Chinese giant encountered heavy political opposition to its bid.

The Unocal affair highlights problems with the whole globalization argument. Rather than being the worldwide integration of economies based on the search for profit and the maximization of efficiency, globalization should be seen as describing relations between a select few countries in a select few issue areas.

CNOOC's rebuff exposes at least four fallacies of the globalization argument.

First, advocates of globalization contend that the requirements of the market and the search for profit drive important decisions, be they economic or political. Politics (defined as who gets what, when and why) should be decided by questions of economic efficiency in a globalized world. However, CNOOC's offer of $18.5-billion (U.S.) to buy Unocal surpassed the bid of its rival, Chevron, by more than $1-billion. CNOOC was also reportedly considering increasing the value of its offer. If market forces are the key determinant, the Chinese giant should have won its bid. It didn't.

Second, the globalization thesis states that, given the increasingly important role of the market, the state will have less and less control over what occurs in an interconnected, fluid and unfettered international system. Yet the CNOOC offer for Unocal was stonewalled by the U.S. House of Representatives, which put up serious regulatory and political roadblocks to the company's bid.

So much for detaching global markets from nation states.

Third, according to the globalization argument, national-security concerns are becoming less and less salient vis-à-vis the concerns of the global system, having been trumped by concerns about market access and profit, and about environmental degradation, global pandemics and international human-rights violations.

Yet those who opposed the Chinese bid primarily cited fears over a) control of national energy resources; b) how the loss of control over energy might affect national security, and c) how the loss of this control to China, a growing rival in East Asia and around the world, will threaten U.S. security in the future.

So much for globalization outranking national security.

All of which leads to the fourth fallacy of the globalization argument. Globalization is not global. Instead, relatively equal participation in a globalized economic system is limited to a select few countries, and in a select few areas. Interdependence in economic affairs can only really be found in two regions - North America and Europe, with Japan added for good measure. Anyone not in that group may gain access from time to time, but on terms set by the club's members (for example, the matter of agricultural subsidies and the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization).

The Unocal affair shows the exclusionary power of this type of globalization. What does the other side of the coin look like?

On same day that CNOOC's bid for Unocal ended, Kinder Morgan Inc. (a U.S. energy company) agreed to purchase Terasen Inc. (formerly BC Gas, an important Canadian company with development interests in Alberta's oil sands) for $3.1-billion, with little fanfare on either side of the border or in either national capital. China isn't allowed to play the game that way. Very few others would be allowed to either.

These fallacies are not new, and have existed as long as the idea of globalization has populated academic journals and newspapers and popular debate. But it's nice to bring a concept as powerful as globalization back down to earth from time to time, exposing it for what it is - a tenuous argument that explains relations between a select few states in a few issue areas.

Well said!

August 5, 2005 in America Inc, Capitalism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack