Fascism is the union of government with private business against the People.
"To The States, or any one of them, or to any city of The States: Resist much, Obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, at once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, ever afterward resumes its liberty." from "Caution" by Walt Whitman

Friday, December 24, 2010

2010-12-24 "Use a camera, go to prison? It's not the law - yet" by Peter Laufer, Terry Phillips from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper:

Former CBS News correspondent Terry Phillips is the author of "Murder at the Altar."
Bay Area journalist Peter Laufer is the James Wallace Chair in Journalism at the University of Oregon; his latest book is "Forbidden Creatures: Inside the World of Animal Smuggling and Exotic Pets."
An inexcusable affront to the holiday spirit has been injected into the heart of San Francisco. After parking the other day, we spotted the following notice.
"Due to the level of alert throughout our nation regarding terrorist activity, picture-taking is prohibited in all areas of this parking facility. If at any time you should see a person or persons taking pictures, please report this immediately to the security or management personnel."
It sounds like a remnant of Stalin's Soviet Union or perhaps a warning in Communist China or some other dictatorship. It was shocking to see that notice posted inside the public garage beneath Union Square. In San Francisco. California.
While holiday shoppers happily snap up presents in shops at the street level, folks leaving their vehicles are cautioned not to snap anything underground lest, to quote language popular with grandstanding politicians, the terrorists win. We are instructed to finger our fellow shoppers who think their kids look cute piling Christmas presents into the family SUV.
The crudely printed notices secured haphazardly with packing tape imply that garage employees have the right and the power to determine who threatens our freedoms in this publicly co-owned and co-operated space. Garage management! Hardly the paragon of expertise for this task.
San Francisco's Department of Parking and Traffic has jurisdiction over the underground garage. The city contracts with a nonprofit corporation to oversee operation and maintenance of the facility. That arrangement does not abrogate the government's responsibilities. Nor does it transfer police powers to control the behavior of honest, law-abiding citizens to garage managers and their private guards.
Here in these United States of America, barring extraordinary exceptions, anyone may take photographs of whatever they want when they are in a public place. And the Union Square garage is a public place.
Whether working journalists or vacationers, we all have the right to take pictures in public places. The only limited exceptions are some military installations and a few other vulnerable facilities that suggest obvious targets, such as nuclear power plants.
The lovely First Amendment guarantees us the right to capture images of grandma with her Christmas presents heading back to the station wagon. Or the patterns on the garage wall that we might perceive to be art. Or even a picture of a sign that falsely prohibits photographing that very sign.
Paranoid encroachment by local authorities placarding public spaces with police state-like threats concerns us (we both worked as journalists for several years in former Soviet bloc countries). From Moscow to Beijing and all points between, government agents routinely confiscated film shot by oblivious shutterbugs. Railroad depots, subway stations, even iconic national monuments were deemed unphotographable during the Cold War. While traveling behind the Berlin Wall, tourists and journalists alike were admonished not to point camera lenses toward anything that might be considered a subject of state secrecy.
But that was a different time and place. The Wall came down.
Alas, in place of the old USSR, we now seem beset by a new siege state mentality here at home. Fear is interfering with common sense and constitutionally guaranteed rights. We, of course, endorse appropriate security measures. But a blanket ban on innocent cameras in our local public parking garage exemplifies overreaching authority. It is an unacceptable intrusion, especially when no overt threat to our festive Union Square exists.

2010-12-24 "Profit Over Policy?: US Govt Let Companies Do Business With Blacklisted Countries" by Kristina Chew
Over the past decade, the United State government has allowed American companies to do business---billions of dollars of business---with countries blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism.
An investigation by the New York Times [http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/24/world/24sanctions.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp] has discovered that a little known office of the US Treasury Department, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, has approved over 10,000 licenses for business deals with countries including Iran that have been 'cast into economic purgatory, beyond the reach of American business.' Companies that have benefited include Kraft Foods and Pepsi, not to mention some very large banks.
A law makes it possible for such licenses to be approved despite the sanctions on the basis of agricultural and medical humanitarian aid. But the law is written so broad that under the category of 'humanitarian aid' are: cigarettes, Wrigley’s gum, Jolly Time popcorn, Louisiana hot sauce, weight-loss remedies, body-building supplements and sports rehabilitation equipment which were sold to the institute that trains Iran’s Olympic athletes.
The law was passed in 2000 under heavy economic and political pressure, at a time when American farmers, 'facing sharp declines in commodity prices and exports, hoped to offset their losses with sales to blacklisted countries.' Other abuses of the law include:
* an American company being allowed to bid on a pipeline job that would have helped Iran sell natural gas to Europe---the United States opposes such projects
* McCormick & Co applying to sell salt substitutes, marinades, food colorings and cake sprinkles to a number of chain stores in Iran---but it turns out that the stores all have direct connections with banks on an American blacklist and terrorist organizations; one store is owned by the government of Tehran. And since when does food coloring count as 'medical humanitarian aid'?
In other cases, licensing has not kept pace with changes in US foreign policy and diplomacy. American companies have imported cheap blouses and raw material for steel from North Korea after restrictions were loosened when that government promised it would renounce its nuclear weapons program. That agreement has fallen apart, but the license remains.
To gain access to the information, the New York Times filed a federal Freedom of Information lawsuit. The government agreed to provide a list of 'companies granted exceptions and, in a little more than 100 cases, underlying files explaining the nature and details of the deals.' Obtaining all of this took three years, and 'the government heavily redacted many documents, saying they contained trade secrets and personal information.'
It seems that the US government is letting commerce and business undercut, if not underwrite, what are supposed to be our stated foreign policy goals?

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