Corporate World

Shock and awe (C.P. Pandya)

Coming to an electronics store near you: high-voltage stun guns. I couldn't make this up if I tried. Wall Street-darling Taser International, maker of "nonlethal weapons" (that have been shown on at least 40 occasions to contribute to death), said recently it is in talks with electronics chain Sharper Image, among other retailers, to sell "consumer-friendly" stun guns in the U.S. and Canada. For those of us not near a Sharper Image, Taser also plans to sell a "consumer-friendly" version of its 50,000-volt weapon on its Web site -- just a shock and click away.

This very frightening bit of news thrilled Wall Street investors, who sent the stock's value soaring 19 percent the day the deal was announced, June 25. The value of Taser's stock has tripled in one year and the company expects its revenue to jump 150 percent from $24.5 million as orders for its weapons come flooding in. Just this past week, Taser received a $436,000 contract from the Dayton, Ohio police department and a $1.8 million from the U.S. military.

The increasing popularity of these very dangerous "nonlethal weapons," is making it easier (if it wasn't easy enough) for law enforcement throughout the U.S. and Canada to use excessive force in unjustified circumstances. The company has continually used the twisted logic so dear to corporate America that its product is actually helping save lives and cause less injury. But, Amnesty International has shown that police officers throughout the country have been trigger happy with the Taser gun even after they have a person in custody, simply because of the gun's "nonlethal" categorization. Taser's guns send 50,000 volts of electricity through a person's central nervous system, causing them to instantly fall into a heap. But, since these guns aren't marketed as killing machines, law enforcement officials seem encouraged to use them handily. Also, the after-effects of these guns hasn't been studied, according to Amnesty, which has since February 2003 called for a ban on the guns.

Shocking news: Haitians to be excluded from Haiti's economic development!

Some of the details of the plan for Haiti are starting to emerge, as a meeting of various global bureaucrats and the government have made some decisions. The World Bank was front and centre.

Grassroots International, whose Haitian counterparts effectively endorsed the coup as well, has published a communique from those Haitian organizations denouncing the new economic plans as disguised colonialism. Below is an article from the Inter-Press service quoting some of the civil society groups whose voices were broadcasted loud and clear when they were attacking Aristide during and after the coup, but who now have been discarded because they don't endorse the intensification of the economic plunder of Haiti that the coup has brought.

Since the exclusion of Haitians, their lives, their democratic will, and their aspirations, was the whole point of the coup in the first place, this economic plan and the dumping of anyone with progressive ideas from governance is just a continuation and consolidation of the coup.

By Jane Regan
1,310 words
22 June 2004
Inter Press Service
(c) 2004 Global Information Network

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jun. 21, 2004 (IPS/GIN) -- Haiti has a new development plan aimed at pulling the country out of its age-old economic, social and political morass with new roads and schools, policy changes and millions upon millions of donor dollars.

The only problem, critics say, is that it was written behind closed doors, follows a neo-liberal economic recipe and is little more than "disguised colonialism" because of the large role played by international institutions like the World Bank.

The Cadre de Cooperation International (CCI) or Interim Cooperation Framework, a draft summary of which was released earlier this month, has a generally neo-liberal economic orientation that calls for more free trade zones (FTZs), stresses tourism and export agriculture, and hints at the eventual privatisation of the country's state enterprises.

A Minor Victory In A Major Struggle (C.P. Pandya)

Open up markets or else. This is often the ultimatum governments of developing countries are given as they try to find a way out of severe poverty and economic stagnation. This "development" is anything but and has always come at a very very costly human price: death, displacement and deeper poverty. This is to say nothing of the real agendas motivating the U.S. and other industrialized countries to promote this form of gun-point development.

This week, Ecuador's congress sent out a message that it will not give in to such outside pressures as it seeks to develop. On June 16, it rejected proposed legislation to open up government-owned oil fields in the Amazon to foreign oil companies. President Lucio Gutierrez, who came to office on a left platform, pushed to open up the oil fields for nearly two years in reaction to an IMF mandate stating that without such "reforms" of the oil sector, the agency would withhold $120 million in "aid."

Among the international oil companies who pushed hard for the "reforms" were Occidental Petroleum of the U.S., Canada's EnCana Corp., Brazil's Petroleo Brasileiro and Spanish-Argentine giant Repsol - all of which would have gained supremely had the fields been opened up. The dismissal of the legislation came as a shock to foreign investors, who are used to getting their way when it comes to matters of "development." Any subscription-free links to this fascinating story would be much-appreciated.

One last thought: Perhaps the country's dealings with the deadly legacy ChevronTexaco left behind prompted the congressional vote this week.

Caterpillar's Complicity (C.P. Pandya)

Readers of the "Killing Train" have no doubt stared long and hard at the picture of the razed Palestinian home that shamefully graces the top of this blog. It therefore seems only appropriate that my inaugural entry be news on the company that provides Israel with the machinery it uses to pulverize Palestinian homes, farmland and lives. A United Nations advisor sent a letter to Caterpillar, the bulldozer-maker based in Peoria, Illinois, saying that sales of its bulldozers to Israel are tantamount to complicity in Israeli human rights abuses against the Palestinians.

Caterpillar, which sold $24.4 billion worth of bulldozers and other heavy machinery last year, seems unphased. CEO James Owens didn't bother to respond to the letter, but in a letter to the parents of Rachel Corrie, the ISM activist killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza, he said his company does not have "the practical ability - or the legal right - to determine how our products are used after they are sold."

Perhaps the company just knows that it will protected by the Bush administration. The administration chose Owens as one of 12 corporate executives who will sit on the newly created Manufacturing Council, an advisory board that, according to Commerce Secretary Don Evans, will provide "manufacturers with a permanent seat at the policy table."

CP Pandya's window on the corporate world

Some time ago I co-wrote a commentary with CP Pandya on the Venezuelan government's economic policies. It was a useful piece because I was able to supply some historical context and some information about Venezuela itself, while CP was able to provide a view as a business observer. I believe it is a sign of our success that we managed to draw a rather hysterical, unintentionally ironic, and somewhat amusing critique from a member of the Venezuelan opposition.

CP's work more generally provides analysis and insight on corporate doings and depredations, with information that only very close watchers of the business press have. Combined with a radical perspective, this is very useful, and I believe complementary to my own approach. As readers know by now, I spend very little time or energy reading the mainstream North American press -- I use alternative and foreign sources and connections. But I value the insights of good mainstream press watchers, which is what most of the z bloggers and friends are. CP's particular focus on the details of corporate dirt adds something to the picture, which is why I am glad to see that CP will be blogging here, in the new 'Corporate World' section opening up on the killing train. It only makes sense, since capitalism is such a major contributor to the train...