Gary Bolton is MIA, but the GT200 is Still in Action

Back in June, the London Police raided Global Technical, Ltd. — the maker of the GT200 fake bomb detector — as well as two other companies with similar product lines. Since then, however, there have been no further updates either on the investigation or on the activity of Gary Bolton, the officer of Global Technical.

Unfortunately, while Mr. Bolton has gone quiet, the GT200 is still out there on the market. Despite being warned by the UK about the fraudulent bomb detectors, Mexican authorities are still buying the devices, and still believe in their magical narcotic and drug detection abilities.

A friend of mine helped me with translating a couple articles that discuss the GT200, and sadly, neither of them are even slightly critical or suspicious about the GT200′s alleged abilities.

See here:

Dozens of Victorenses who were visiting GranD Campestre (the local mall) were surprised not by the presence of a large group of soldiers, but by the maneuvers they were doing.

Some curious people asked what it was about.

It turns out the military was putting to use in that area a modern detecting device.

It’s the GT200, which, with a long antenna and an inserted card, located cocaine, weapons, gunpowder, marijuana just by holding it near the suspicious vehicle.

And also here, describing how Querétaro’s government has completely drunk the GT200 Kool-Aid:

The Secretary of Citizen Safety in the state of Querétaro is acquiring armored vehicles, vehicles with video surveillance equipment, and the GT200, which, he says “is an instrument used by other national organizations, which allows us to detect at a distance possible explosives, corpses, weaponry, ammunition; it’s sophisticated and it works at great distances.”

Sigh.

-Susan

America: The Only Nation That Requires Its Soldiers to Lie

In light of today’s Senate vote, which failed to overcome the Republican filibuster to prevent a chance to consider a bill that would provide the President and Department of Defense with the option of maybe ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, I present the following lists without further comment.

Countries That Allow Gays to Serve in the Military
Albania
Argentina
Australia
Austria
Belgium
Canada
Colombia
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malta
The Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Romania
Russia
Slovenia
South Africa
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
United Kingdom
Uruguay

Countries That Have Allowed Gays To Serve in the Military and Ended Up Regretting It
None

Countries That Don’t Allow Gays To Serve in the Military
Cuba
China
Egypt
Greece
Iran
Jamaica
North Korea
Pakistan
Saudi Arabia
Serbia
Singapore
South Korea
Syria
Turkey
Venezuela
Yemen

Countries That Allow Gays In The Military, So Long As They Obsessively Disguise the Truth About Their Lives
United States

-Susan

Corporate Participation in International Law: Some Historical Examples

It has probably become apparent by now that the idea that corporations are noncognizable under international law is one that irritates me to no end. There is, obviously, a great deal of unsettled law out there regarding exactly how liability for violations of international law accrues to non-state entities. But corporations have played a vital role in the development of international law for just about as long as “international law” can be said to have existed, and there is no historical basis for the idea that corporations cannot, as a matter of law, be a participant in or violator of international law.

At some point I will write some more on the subject, but for now, I want to at least throw some links up that give some historical examples. The Transnational Corporation in History: Lessons for Today? is a highly recommended starting point. It gives a good overview of how the legal character of corporations has developed, and how the private/public distinction has always been unclear, oftentimes deliberately so:

Corporations and states are commonly represented as having an oppositional relationship. Corporations represent the private; states represent the public. Corporations represent the efficient, the natural, and the spontaneous; states represent the inefficient and the contrived. The ascendancy of the corporation means the decline of the state. But these commonly held views are ahistorical and tend to ignore the complex relationships between states and corporations. Modern incorporation is simply a matter of fulfilling formal registration requirements. There are few surviving remnants of the old notion that incorporation is a privilege conferred by the state. This Article aims to redress the balance somewhat by telling aspects of the history of the corporate form that have been obscured by modern forms of incorporation and modern conceptions of the public and the private. In a modest way this Article intends to show just how recent the public/private paradigm actually is and how selectively such concepts have been applied.

Compared with the French trading companies generally, the English and Dutch companies were considered to be much more independent and able to operate at arms length from their respective governments. The agents of the Dutch and English companies were regarded as employees and servants of groups of merchants, rather than the subordinates of their governments. The British considered themselves traders first and territorial rulers second. Of course, the proper mix of the East India Company’s functions was contested, tended to be in the eye of the beholder, and changed dramatically over the period of the company’s existence.

And how questions over the status of corporation under international law are not new:

The British East India Company certainly took advantage of its ambiguous status—successfully emphasizing its sovereign powers when it wished to avoid contractual debts to local rulers, protesting to the Royal Navy that its status would be reduced in the eyes of the locals if it had to acknowledge the superiority of the British naval fleet, and all the time relying for its trading advantage on the might of British naval power and on the calculated and limited use of force. It charged merchants fees for safe passage and was able to do so as an exercise of its monopoly and sovereign powers. It was graphically and finally reminded of its subordinate status, however, when Queen Victoria took over from the company in 1858. The company had survived in various guises and with mixed public and private motives for 250 years.

But throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, corporations were assumed to be competent at conducting activities that, today, we generally believe only a true sovereign could do. Corporations could start wars, engage in diplomacy, claim new territories, and enter into international agreements. Treaties between corporations and state or state-like entities flourished during this time period, i.e., the treaty between the Dutch East India Company and the Ali Raja, the Treaty of Giyanti, and the Treaty of Allahabad. Some treaties, such as the treaty between the British East India Company and nascent Singapore, lead to the creation of what would eventually become modern day nation states.

Also worth checking out is this 1769 letter, An Enquiry Into the Rights of the East India Company of Making War and Peace and of Possessing Their Territorial Acquisitions Without the Participation or Inspection of the British Government, which gives a good example of how, even then, people were confused about how sovereign a corporation could be, when there was no “official” grant of sovereignty.

I am not trying to say that the role of corporations in international law is crystal clear — it is obviously not. But the idea that corporations are unrecognizable under international law, and that states can use the corporate form to immunize the profits its citizens have made from engaging in violations of international law, is an extremely modern one, and in its own way is a very radical idea.

-Susan

Corporate Human Rights Abuses For Fun and Profit

In light of the Second Circuit’s decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, here is a business plan for all corporate entities that would like to maximize profits for their shareholders. Although theoretically any corporation could implement this business plan, it is recommended primarily for companies that have less invested in their branding, or for companies that are better able to insulate their parent companies from any negative public relations fall outs. For instance, producers of fungible goods like diamonds, oil, and bananas should pay particularly close attention to the following.

Step 1: Create a Subsidiary organized under the laws of Randomcountryastan, a third world nation with a weak and relatively ineffectual government, and which is not particularly concerned about human rights abuses.

Step 2: With the help of Randomcountryastan’s government, enslave a couple thousand members of the nation’s undercaste. Make sure that children are not exempt from this enslavement. If any of your new “employees” resist this arrangement, beat them up, and maybe kill a few for good measure.

Step 3: Make sure any officers of Subsidiary are immune from U.S. jurisdiction. This is not actually all that important for the corporation’s purposes, but it will probably be easier to find people to agree to be officers if the U.S. has no personal jurisdiction over them.

Step 4: Use your slave labor to make extra cheap widgets. As a bonus measure, obtain the right to mine Randomcountryastan’s natural resources at sub-market rates by bribing the appropriate government officials. Use those resources to make your widgets.

Step 5: Sell the widgets to Parent company at an extremely attractive price. Parent can then retail them to consumers outside of Randomcountryastan, with a large mark up.

Step 6: Hire really good lawyers to structure these transactions, as well as Subsidiary’s incorporation, so as to make sure there is no paper trail connecting any U.S. officer/director of Parent to personal knowledge of Subsidiary’s use of slavery to make widgets. Also make sure that Parent and Subsidiary observe all corporate formalities.

Step 7: Profit!

-Susan

Christine O’Donnell: Pros and Cons

Christine O’Donnell is the Republican candidate in Delaware’s Senate race. There are a lot of strong feelings out there about O’Donnell’s candidacy, so I thought I would weigh in with an objective analysis of the pros and cons regarding her suitability for being elected Senator.

Pros:

  • Political platform includes the belief that “[v]oting to spend money we don’t have has become the appealing option for too many politicians. The men and women of America know this is not sustainable.”

Cons:

  • Political platform also includes the belief that “every individual has a unique, unrepeatable preciousness, and that our fiscal policy should be one that encourages and empowers the individual creativity.”
  • Has never articulated any concrete fiscal policy positions, or advocated a specific plan of action she would support in order to reform the federal government’s spending or taxing.
  • Campaigned on MTV to end the epidemic of masturbation that is destroying our country.
  • Is a young earth creationist that advocates teaching creationism rather than Darwinism in public schools.
  • First became involved in politics while working for an anti-pornography crusade.
  • Has a lien filed against her by the IRS for unpaid income taxes.
  • Uses campaign funds to pay her rent and personal expenses.
  • Believes opponents are hiding in her bushes at night to spy on her.
  • Lied about her home being foreclosed on.
  • Lied about receiving a college degree.
  • Lied in court filings about being prevented from attending Princeton for a Master’s degree, when she did not even have an undergraduate degree at the time.
  • Thinks that lying is always wrong, even when it is to Nazis for the purpose of saving Jews you have hidden in your house.
  • Supports the “ex-gay” movement.
  • Uses phrases like “get your man-pants on.”
  • Has failed to pay past campaign debts, while continuing to divert all campaign funds towards spending on the current campaign.
  • Has no savings, no investments, owns no property, and reported receiving only $5,800 in income in the last year.

But she believes in fiscal responsibility, even if she doesn’t practice it, so that makes her an ideal politician, right? Right?

I have mixed feelings about the Tea Party, but one thing that always kept me hopeful it would amount to something useful was the general resistance among the Tea Party infrastructure, such as it is, to get drawn into the ‘culture wars.’ But despite all their claims about a fiscal policy focus, they still wind up choosing candidates like O’Donnell — who are above all social conservatives first, and fiscal conservatives only incidentally. Of course, in O’Donnell’s world, it’s the same thing:

“As I was in Washington, D.C., advocating for the social issues, I realized that they’re all connected, that your approach to protecting the human dignity and protecting the individual definitely reflects in your fiscal policy, and that’s why I’m a fiscal conservative.”

-Susan

Market Failures and Dried Apricots

I’ve always liked dried apricots, but the texture of them is, admittedly, kind of disturbing to me. Not to mention their color — that neon-tinged ocher was never meant to be seen in nature. But they make for excellent trail mix and they taste pretty okay, so I’ve learned to ignore the unsettling chewy texture and bulbous appearance.

And then last week I was introduced to sulfur-free dried apricots. And I am never going back.

As it turns out, the dried apricots that are commonly available in stores get their Frankenstein-like attributes from being treated with sulfur dioxide. Unfortunately, this treatment has the mild side effect of completely ruining the flavor. In contrast, sulfur-free dried apricots look kind of like flattened and freeze-dried termites, but they are approximately a hundred times tastier. As a friend of mine put it, “organic dried apricots are nature’s Sour Patch Kids.” They really are. Go buy some now, you won’t regret it.

So why has it taken me this long to discover how much better sulfur-free dried fruit is? Well, probably because I’m an indiscriminate omnivore, and when I see something labeled as “organic” I tend to interpret it as “overly expensive for no justifiable reason.” But it’s also because sulfur-free dried apricots are really hard to find. Grocery stores tend to only carry the sulfur-treated variety — and when placed side by side on a super market shelf, I can see why the sulfured monstrosities might look more superficially appealing to a potential customer. At any rate, stores seem to be inclined to carry the less tasty version over the organic kind, probably in order to appeal to shoppers who are basing their purchase on appearance. Compare for yourself:

Dried apricots that have been treated with sulfur dioxide

Dried apricots that do not taste like ass

Dried apricots are not the only fruit where consumers are forced to settle for pretty at the expense of tasty. The tomato is probably the most notorious example of this — supermarket shelves are lined with bright, round, shiny red tomatoes that seem to come straight from central casting. But when it comes to taste, comparing these Hollywood-perfect tomatoes with a heirloom variety, such as UglyRipe, is kind of like comparing Natty Light with a microbrew. The average tomato available at the supermarket is simply a bland and watery imitation of the real thing.

In the case of tomatoes, though, there is at least a strong argument to be made that the government is to blame for the lesser availability of the ugly-but-tasty varieties. But when it comes to dried apricots, the specter of government regulation cannot be as easily invoked, to explain why the sulfur-treated apricots are widely available and the unprettified kind are so hard to find. True, drying fruit with the help of sulfur dioxide is cheap, but my guess is that the real appeal is the resulting appearance. People just aren’t going to venture out and try and entirely new food type when the appearance is so unsettling. I mean, would I have ever tried the non-sulfur kind on my own, if a friend hadn’t bought some for me to try? Probably not. Because they’re labeled organic, and I don’t swing that way. But also because there is nothing particularly compelling about the sight of a bag of organic dried apricots, which could in fact be confused with a bag of potpourri.

So consumers don’t know enough to go for non-sulfur treated dried fruits. And stores — except for stores that specialize in catering to yuppies, like Trader Joe’s — have little to gain from trying to offer consumers an ugly looking version of a commonly available product. Which means we’re stuck eating a less-good version of dried apricots, unless and until consumers somehow discover en masse how much better the organic kind can be.

-Susan

The Money Tree

What happens when money starts sprouting on trees?

About what you’d expect: a lot of people didn’t notice, the ones who did seemed to assume it was an art installation and snapped pictures with their camera phones, and then once one brave dude started to harvest a few of the notes for himself with no ill-effects, everyone else joined in.

The money tree was a marketing ploy by RaboDirect Australia, and it reminds me of the old joke about the economist who doesn’t stop to pick up a $20 bill he spots on the ground, because he assumes if there truly were a $20 bill free for the taking, someone else would’ve nabbed it by now.

“We were surprised by the results when compared to the way people treat their savings, which often sit idle in their transaction accounts,” says the bank. “Much like the A$4.7 billion in potential savings Australians are missing out on in lost interest, the majority were unfazed when presented with money actually growing on a tree.”

To be fair, I think I’d have the same reaction as those who stopped and took pictures — it seems fair to assume that if you see a money tree pop up in a park, some hipster art student is behind it. I don’t understand the people who didn’t even notice it, though; I can see how green backs might be missed, but Australian money is bright and gaudy enough to stand out.

-Susan