Librarians Battle for Freedom

Let’s hear it for a rugged bunch of tough-as-nails freedom fighters: America’s librarians. Throw out your stereotypes and see these people for what they are—battlers for personal liberties.

Librarians have long been leaders in the ongoing fight against censorship, but lately they’ve also been forced into leading the battle against the privacy-invading provisions of the infamous USA Patriot Act.

This law allows federal agents to go to any public library and rifle through our personal records to see what books we’ve checked out or what e-mails we’ve sent. It also slaps a gag order on librarians, making it a crime for them to reveal that their records have been seized. Librarians are revolting. One group that had been subjected to these FBI searches filed a landmark lawsuit last year, asserting that the gag provision is a violation of free speech. The Library Connection of Windsor, Connecticut., a co-op of 26 libraries that share an automated records system, demanded that it be free simply to identify itself as having endured the secret raid.

But George W.’s prosecutors claimed that the government would suffer irreparable harm if this information were made public. Last year, a federal judge ruled for the co-op, but the Bushites appealed. Then, in a court filing, the prosecutors themselves mistakenly disclosed the very name of the group they were trying to keep secret. This boo-boo, plus a recent change in the Patriot Act loosening up the gag provision, finally led the feds to surrender to the librarians, saying, “continuing to pursue this appeal does not make sense.”

GOLDEN YEARS

Last year, with a gusher of oil profits flooding into the coffers of Exxon Mobil Corp., CEO Lee Raymond moaned that he really didn’t know what to do with so much money. Now we learn that he quickly figured out what to do with a big pool of it: He gave it to himself!

Lee retired at the end of last year, and cashed out bigger than any bank robber in history. He walked away with a package of cash and stock payments worth about $42 million. Then he took a lump-sum pension benefit worth another $98 million (not bad for a guy who pushed to reduce pension benefits for ExxonMobil’s blue-collar workers). But that’s barely the half of it. Brother Raymond also sacked up stock and other compensation worth an extra $258 million. This brings his total payout to nearly $400 million! He was CEO for 12 years, so that works out to a farewell package of some $33 million for each of his years.

Sure, ExxonMobil has done well, but this is due to an astronomical increase in oil and gasoline prices, having nothing to do with any managerial genius on the part of Lee. But he is a genius in negotiating sweet deals for himself. In addition to salting away a gold mine for his golden years, Raymond also got ExxonMobil to pick up his country club fees while in retirement. Plus, he’ll get to use the corporate jet, get money to pay for tax advisers, and be paid an extra million bucks to serve as a “consultant” to ExxonMobil this year. He’ll also get a free security system for his home, security guards, and a limousine and driver. All of this will be deducted from ExxonMobil’s corporate income tax as a “business expense,” meaning you and I get to subsidize Lee’s retirement.

GOOGLE’S WEASELING

Question: What does the name “Google” translate to in Chinese? Answer: Weasel.

This Internet giant grew up with a free-spirit attitude and the ethical slogan of “Do No Evil,” but today it has sold out those values and become just another money-grubbing outfit, as proven by its effort to weasel into the Chinese market. To get in, Google is paying a price in human freedom—and its own integrity. Google’s big shots have agreed to collaborate with China’s repressive rulers to censor that country’s Internet users and to help the government silence dissidents. Google will block access, for example, to any pesky Internet sites that deal with such taboo topics as “democracy” or “Tiananmen Square,” which the Chinese propaganda ministry considers “sensitive.”

Chief Googlite Eric Schmidt says that the corporation simply must follow China’s repressive censorship laws, calling it a “principled decision.” Speaking recently in China, Schmidt grandly declared that, “I think it’s arrogant for us to walk into a country where we are just beginning operations and tell that country how to run itself.”

The U.S. corporations that did business with Hitler couldn’t have said it better. Schmidt admits that Google did not even suggest that the Chinese regime loosen up a bit on censorship, and that it had no intention to do so. “We had a choice to enter the country and follow the law,” says Schmidt, “or we had a choice not to enter the country.”

No, Eric, you had an obvious ethical choice to “Do No Evil”—to tell China’s rulers that Google would provide an essential service that they know they must offer to their people, but that you’d only provide it if the rulers loosen their repressive restrictions and allow the free flow of ideas.

To tell Google bosses to stand for their own espoused values and to stop their weaseling, give them a call: (650) 253-0000.

Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.

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Published at 12:00 am CST
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