Saturday, June 1, 2019

Help. the American imbeciles are coming!

First posted in Asia Times.

Xenophobia coupling with paranoia breeds imbeciles that are capable of only silly and petty actions. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York is the latest case in point.

China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) has offered to put up $50 million to help New York City develop and design state-of-the-art subway cars to replace dilapidated rolling stock in America’s largest subway system, a system that’s more than a century old. 

Schumer immediately demanded that the US Federal government fully vet this proposal based on the fear that China could use the cars to spy on America.

Horrors to Betsy, imagine millions employed in Beijing to listen in on daily commuter conversation on the IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) and IND (Independent Subway System) lines. “Hi Joe, how’s the family? Think the Yankees will win the pennant this year?” Blah, blah, blah.

The next thing you know, by piecing the tidbits together, the Chinese would have stolen the top-secret design of the multi-headed missile! Ludicrous? Yes, but there is precedent for this line of illogic.

Twenty years ago, during the height of hysteria around Los Alamos scientist, Dr. Wen Ho Lee, an in-house FBI expert on China publicly claimed that China conducted espionage differently by relying on “grains of sand” approach.

At the time, Paul Moore, one-time head of counter intelligence claimed that Beijing rely on random bits of information collected by ethnic Chinese living in America (each a grain of sand), which when assembled in Beijing became America’s top-secret weapon designs.

Schumer may have been influenced by Moore’s idea of Chinese way of spying, when he asked Department of Commerce to check out CRRC. He probably didn’t know that Moore used to car pool with Robert Hanssen and did not have a clue that he was sitting next to the deadliest Soviet double agent inside the FBI.

Moore could see three Chinese talking to each other at a party to be in the process of passing secrets to China but never saw his buddy, Hanssen, as a spy for the Soviet Union. His racial bias against ethnic Chinese was not that of an isolated individual but reflected an institutional bias of the FBI as an organization.

Last year, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified in Congress saying that Chinese spies are everywhere, that China uses non-traditional collectors of intelligence and poses a whole-of-society threat. Words that slightly differ from Moore but rooted in the same racial prejudice unchanged for at least two decades.

In case you’re wondering, CRRC is the world’s largest manufacturer of railroad cars. As one measure of the advanced technology they owns, CRRC recently announced that they have developed a magnetic levitation train that will go as fast as 600 km/hour.

In the US, CRRC has already won contracts to build replacement subway cars for Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. The business arrangement is basically similar for the four cities.

CRRC would ship the outer shells of the cars to the US for assembly, in Springfield Mass for Boston and outside of Chicago for the other three cities. All the components that go inside the car would either be manufactured or sourced from within the US. Thus, the local content would exceed 60%. Each of the two assembly plants would employ 150 or more workers.

The tangible outcome out of the two deals is that the four cities would get state-of-the-art subway cars that are lighter, quieter, safer and at least 20% cheaper than competing bids. The savings for each of the cities would be worth well north of $100 million when the orders are finished.

Since Pullman went out of business decades ago, the US hasn’t had any manufacturers capable of making the rolling stock for passengers. Now with the cooperation of CRRC, the US will have two operations in different parts of the US.

The CRRC deals in the US involve technology transfer from China to the US—none stolen from the US since the US didn’t have any. Even so, there remains parties that object to a Chinese presence in the US rail system. 

One of these is the Rail Security Alliance, self-described as a coalition of rail freight car manufacturers. Ostensibly this organization fear for the safety and security of passengers that ride on cars made by CRRC. Their real agenda is the fear that CRRC will move on to their turf next and take over box car manufacturing as well.

Can’t blame the freight car makers for wanting to protect their livelihood but what about New York, Washington and other metropolitan transit systems that run on annual deficits. If they can’t buy from CRRC, the next largest rail rolling stock manufacturers in the world are Siemens and Alstom. Unfortunately, the American cities can’t afford the prices these “Caucasian” companies charge. 

Easy for Washington politicians to say don’t buy from China but where are the supplemental funds to give to the transit authorities so that they could afford to buy “white” subway cars?

Senator Schumer as Senate’s minority leader is very much part of the dysfunctional establishment in Washington. This group of people knows how to snipe, bicker and even lie as the occasion demands but they do not know how to get anything done.

Schumer among them understands that repairing and rebuilding America’s infrastructure is the highest national priority. But they don’t have a clue on how to get started; they just know that they don’t want Chinese companies such as CRRC to lend a helping hand.

How idiotic is that?

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