Fencing the Southern Border

Kudos to Janet Gilles for a terrific letter in today’s Austin American-Statesman about the proposed border fence, the reasons behind the largest mass migration in human history, US farm subsidies and the fallacy of “free trade” — awesome, woman; really deserves a wide readership — since letters are not available on the Statesman website, hope you will post it to the Raglist also. Well done!

Mariann Wizard

You are too kind, Mariann. Here’s the letter printed in today’s paper.

About the effort at Texas A & M to find a strong yet sensitive border fence to “protect the US from one of the Largest human migrations in history”, perhaps it might be wise to look at the cause of the migration.

Mexico was a largely rural land, with farmers growing 25 types of corn on their five acre tracts. While we like to think of our agriculture as efficient, in truth, the Farm Bill now stalled in the Senate subsidizes our corn farms with tens of billions of dollars, driving our small farmers, as well as small farmers around the world off their land.

Meanwhile, we are becoming well known as the biggest hypocrites in the world as we go on and on about free trade.

Let’s quit destroying the economies of weaker nations, and their immigrants will quit overwhelming our borders. Remember, we can’t keep drugs out of prisons, so it is unrealistic to think we can seal our borders.

Janet Gilles

Good work, Janet.

Sealing the borders, my ass!

Look at East Germany. Tiny borders, compared to ours. Guards empowered to shoot to kill, a step we have never been willing to take. And their borders leaked a steady stream. Keeping people in or keeping people out has never worked well except by providing the means to get everything they need where they are — money, democracy, whatever ….

Steve Russell

Amen to Janet’s letter and all. I found on my recent travels that small farmers, rural people in general, are being driven off their land from Honduras to Columbia to Brazil. 17 million people in Sao Paulo is several million people too many for one city. Any “economy of scale” was passed long ago. There are huge slums around Bogota,
Columbia because of a coalition of government officials, drug lords, and large land owners who profit from driving the small farmers off their land. The Garifina, African-Native South American people with their own language, are being driven off their coastal land in Honduras to make way for tourist hotels. Honduras has the second largest concentration of U.S. military after Iraq. Columbia is the recipient of many millions of dollars a year of our “anti-drug” money that props up the military dictatorship. I don’t know how “we” are messing with Brazil. Maybe their own ruling class doesn’t need help driving people off their land. Panama uses U.S. money, might as well be a State. Gambling, prostitution and pornography are legal in Panama. Very huge high rises are displacing the people in Panama City. I was distressed to find that in these wholly owned subsidiaries of the U.S. one cannot buy Cuban rum. It is definitely “we” who have crossed their borders in search of blunder.

Alan Pogue

Thanks, Alan.

According to his secretary of state, the number one foreign policy goal of the Reagan Administration was to make mj illegal in every country that wanted to trade with the US, and they did. Making wars in every country south of us.

Remember this past few years, both Canada and Mexico tried to legalize, but with the full weight of the US against it, they could not.

Such a tragedy this has led to.

And then with his zero tolerance, incarcerations went from 278 people in Travis county in 1978 to over 20,000 ten years later.

The wars keep us too busy to do what’s decent.

The rural people driven off their land as you say from Honduras to Brazil has led to the biggest migration in human history, and the machines cannot work the land efficiently enough to feed everyone. Only locally raised food can do that, the price of quarter million dollar tractors and genetically engineered seeds and chemical fertilizers is too high for the poor, and then you throw in shipping and storage and cooling.

Only the rich will be able to eat when formerly food was grown everywhere.

Janet Gilles

I found the same scenario when I was out there on the trail. The only land that the poor can have is the land that no one wants. The Monsanto and Cargil plan is in full swing. Their manifesto is to control all the food on the planet and they are moving that direction and could possibly actually do it unless something happens to change things. Rebellion seems to be impossible to me since the powers that are in control also have the media in their pocket.

Charlie Loving

And on that note, Bill Meacham says, “This is scary”:

Spy Official Calling Anonymity Dead Simply Summarizing Government Spying Powers
By Ryan Singel

Donald Kerr, the second in command at the Director of National Intelligence office, gave a public speech in October saying that anonymity is gone and that privacy is best understood as what rules and oversight restrict what the government can do with information about you, as the AP reported this weekend.

Essentially, he’s arguing that if you are willing to go online – thus sharing some information with at least your ISP, you should be fine with the intelligence community watching what you do, because the government has privacy boards and ISPs do not.

The AP story on that statement (.pdf) has created a media stir, given that Kerr is the number two official in the intelligence community– which is supposed to spy on foreigners, not Americans. But this is a post-9/11 spy bureaucracy that willingly targeted Americans for surveillance without getting court approval as the law requires.

It’s also a pretty clear statement of how the administration and the heads of the intelligence community think government surveillance of Americans should work.

[I]n our interconnected and wireless world, anonymity – or the appearance of anonymity – is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Anonymity results from a lack of identifying features. Nowadays, when so much correlated data is collected and available – and I’m just talking about profiles on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube here – the set of identifiable features has grown beyond where most of us can comprehend. We need to move beyond the construct that equates anonymity with privacy and focus more on how we can protect essential privacy in this interconnected environment.

Protecting anonymity isn’t a fight that can be won. Anyone that’s typed in their name on Google understands that. Instead, privacy, I would offer, is a system of laws, rules, and customs with an infrastructure of Inspectors General, oversight committees, and privacy boards on which our intelligence community commitment is based and measured.

When Congress passed the so-called Protect America Act this summer, it gave the government the power to order all ISPs, email providers, VOIP phone companies and instant messaging services to turn over all communications that involve at least one person thought to be outside the United States to the government.

The intelligence community also seems to think that it can look at Americans’ phone records and the To and From lines in emails to mine for terrorists, without implicating privacy rights.

In the Q&A after his Oct 23, 2007 speech at the GOE-INT Symposium, Kerr questions why it is that individuals are okay with having their emails handled by an ISP – with the threat of an insider looking at the e-mails, with having the federal government – with strong privacy rules

I was taken by a thing that happened to me at the FBI, where I also had electronic surveillance as part of my responsibility. And people were very concerned that the ability to intercept emails was coming into play. And they were saying, well, we just can’t have federal employees able to touch our message traffic. And the fact that, for that federal employee, it was a felony to misuse the data – it was punishable by five years in jail and a $100,000 fine, which I don’t believe has ever happened – but they were perfectly willing for a green-card holder at an ISP who may or may have not have been an illegal entrant to the United States to handle their data. It struck me as an anomalous situation.

Hmm. Suppose there was a rogue employee at your ISP who got access to your internet traffic. The worst case scenario I can think of for most people is that that person might try to blackmail you. As for stealing your credit card, its far more likely this would happen at a restaurant or a retail store.

What can’t your ISP do that an intelligence service can?

* Arrange to have you sent to a country like Syria to have you tortured like the government did to Maher Arar. Though the Canadians have since apologized and paid him $10 million for being tortured for almost a year, the U.S. government hides its culpability using the “state secrets privilege”

* Put you on a government watch list

* Find a tenuous connection between you and suspected bad guys in order to justify further surveillance

* Find a way to nail you for material support to terrorism

* Build secret files on Americans’ First Amendment-protected political activities

* Use those files to round up dissidents in the event of an “emergency”

In other words, this Administration – of which Kerr is only a small player – believes that the nation’s spooks microphones and data-mining robots should be inserted deep into the nation’s telephone and internet infrastructure. They don’t want court oversight, they don’t want Congress asking questions, they don’t want inspectors general crawling through their program logs. They think that they should have this power because they promise not to abuse it and there are laws prohibiting some of the things on that list.

They believe that they, unlike the Nixon Administration, won’t be tempted to create an domestic enemies list. That they won’t start adding groups like Food, Not Bombs and Quakers to terror data bases (only the Pentagon could be so stupid). That they won’t make mistakes and transpose phone digits when doing phone surveillance (only the FBI could be so careless.) That they won’t confuse Tuttle for Buttle, or Senator Ted Stevens’ wife Catherine for notorious terrorist Cat Stevens.

I’m not saying that the Administration is creating an enemies list. Or that they are using their extraordinary surveillance powers for anything other than good-faith anti-terrorism work.

But they have been given the power to build an extraordinary surveillance architecture — one that any dictator would love to have at his disposal. And they want — and Congress looks to be set — to make it permanent in the coming months.


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