Noam Chomsky Crawls Out of the Woodwork

Noam Chomsky has emerged from whatever alternate universe he lives in to regale us all with his wisdom of the subject of the killing of Osama bin Ladin.

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

Apparently Chomsky is unable to distinguish between a duly elected president with the duty to protect the citizens of his country with a terrorist responsible for the murder of thousands. In any event we don’t need lectures on morality from a man who stood up for the Khmer Rouge, not to mention so stupid he believes that the United States opposes the governments of such countries as Cuba, Haiti, Vietnam, etc because they are good examples of alternatives to “US Hegemony”.

A Look at the Lesser-known bin Ladens

The bin Laden family is actually quite a large and prominent family, of which Osama is something of a black sheep. Apparently, they find sharing the name of the world’s most notorious terrorist a little embarrassing.

Osama bin Laden was the son of a prosperous family that came from practically nothing to become one of the Saudi royal family’s most trusted construction contractors. As Steve Coll recounted in his 2008 book about the bin Laden clan, Osama was always somewhat removed from the wealthy family–especially after becoming a devout Muslim at the age of 13, when he fell in with an Islamist group run by his Syrian gym teacher. Osama’s piety was respected, and even prized–he became an “excluded and essential” figure, Coll writes, in the family until the clan officially disowned him in 1993 at the request of the Saudi government.

Virtually since that moment, the bin Laden family has been left to deal with the fallout arising from their now-infamous name.

Personally, I would consider changing my name if I were a bin Laden. You don’t see too many Hitlers around these days.

Apple’s Chinese Workers Treated ‘Inhumanely, Like Machines’

I’m glad I don’t own an iPhone. From the Guardian comes this story.

An investigation into the conditions of Chinese workers has revealed the shocking human cost of producing the must-have Apple iPhones and iPads that are now ubiquitous in the west.

The research, carried out by two NGOs, has revealed disturbing allegations of excessive working hours and draconian workplace rules at two major plants in southern China. It has also uncovered an “anti-suicide” pledge that workers at the two plants have been urged to sign, after a series of employee deaths last year.

The investigation gives a detailed picture of life for the 500,000 workers at the Shenzhen and Chengdu factories owned by Foxconn, which produces millions of Apple products each year. The report accuses Foxconn of treating workers “inhumanely, like machines”.

It’s not quite slave labor but apparently conditions are bad enough that the workers are tempted to kill themselves.

Excessive overtime is routine, despite a legal limit of 36 hours a month. One payslip, seen by the Observer, indicated that the worker had performed 98 hours of overtime in a month.

■ Workers attempting to meet the huge demand for the first iPad were sometimes pressured to take only one day off in 13.

■ In some factories badly performing workers are required to be publicly humiliated in front of colleagues.

■ Crowded workers’ dormitories can sleep up to 24 and are subject to strict rules. One worker told the NGO investigators that he was forced to sign a “confession letter” after illicitly using a hairdryer. In the letter he wrote: “It is my fault. I will never blow my hair inside my room. I have done something wrong. I will never do it again.”

■ In the wake of a spate of suicides at Foxconn factories last summer, workers were asked to sign a statement promising not to kill themselves and pledging to “treasure their lives”.

Foxconn is based in Taiwan. I wonder what conditions are like in factories owned by Chinese companies, or the government.