my pissant two cents

Thursday, February 17, 2005

outrage overload

i haven't written much lately. no particular reason for it, though i must say it's been difficult to find a topic. not because there's nothing to write about, but because every day brings something worse than the previous.

bloody hands drive intelligence bus
start with today, for instance. john negroponte has been nominated by president fredo to head up the national intelligence apparatus. let's look at his resume, shall we? his most recent gig was ambassador to iraq, from june 2004 to the present, a period of bloody uprising against the occupation forces by native iraqis and islamist immigrants. prior to that, he was the u.s. ambassador to the united nations, when the u.s. was lying to, marginalizing, ridiculing and disregarding that noble institution, which, ironically enough, the u.s. pushed mightily to create after ww2. look back a little further, and you see that he was the ambassador to honduras in the 1980s, while the reagan/bush administration was using that country as a launching pad for its illegal, terrorist proxy war against the sandinista government in nicaragua. what does all of this mean? bad news for national intelligence.....

walmart meets expectations
this is hardly news anymore: workers unionize, walmart quits; walmart breaks the law, and the government lets it happen.

walmart employees in jonquiere, quebec, canada, completed a herculean task, besting the retail behemoth's professional unionbusters. they voted to organize, to exercise their right under canadian and international law to bargain collectively for better wages, benefits and conditions. walmart responded in textbook fashion: they closed the store. this follows the last successful union organizing effort against walmart, when 11 meatcutters in a jacksonville, texas, store voted to join the united food and commercial workers union. walmart's response? outsource all meatcutting positions nationwide.

by now, you probably know all the bad things walmart does in this country and elsewhere. slave labor in china, child labor in southeast asia, unionbusting, state and federal law-breaking in the u.s.... perhaps the lesson to be learned from our canadian brethren is that if we can unionize every walmart store, they will shut their doors.

even more galling is walmart's flouting of the law, and the government's acquiescence. in case you hadn't heard, walmart got busted for a number of child labor and other job standard and wage violations, including letting minors operate dangerous tools, like chainsaws (which injured at least one teenager), in violation of federal law, throughout the country. it's punishment? a small fine ($135k), and a promise not to do it again. too harsh? walmart thought so, and the department of labor agreed. so walmart got a juicier deal. when the d.o.l. busts walmart, walmart gets creative control over the press releases announcing said busts.

think about that. i have a friend who's a big-time hollywood producer with more emmy awards than you've got teeth, and she dosn't get creative control over her movies.

not that you should expect a lot of walmart busts in the future. another aspect of the deal is, walmart gets a 15-day heads-up any time the d.o.l. gets a complaint against the company. imagine a bank robber who is turned in, but the police give him a fortnight to hide evidence of his crime before they arrest him.

the outrage storm has gotten some air, as reformed business drum-beater lou dobbs of cnn blasted the sweetheart deal and asked, what is there to protect workers when walmart gets to "fix" its problems, because the federal government is blowing the whistle on whistleblowers? and what worker is brave enough to blow the whistle given the company's history of firing people who complain about being locked inside and forced to work off-the-clock?

in corporate crime as in its ruthless suppression of high prices, walmart never dispappoints.

pure evil in power
alberto gonzales is the attorney general. not even former p.o.w. john mccain (r-az) would stand up against the pro-torture lobby. only 36 democrats had the guts to vote no.

i have nothing much to add, except that i am ashamed that the same profession which gave us bill kunstler and erwin chemerinsky and william douglas and earl warren would give us a pig like gonzales. i'm also ashamed of my fellow latinos who look with pride at the first latino attorney general and ignore the fact that he's our own adolf eichmann.

no joy in iceville; the nhl goes walmart
the n.h.l. shot itself in both feet yesterday, killing off the remainder of the 2004-2005 hokcey season. it's the first time a major professional sport in north america has lost a season to a labor dispute. the non-sports media paid prescious little attention to it, and frequently got the story wrong when they did. even jon stewart, for whom i have a world of respect, told "the daily show" audience that the cancellation was the result of a strike.

it was not.

it was a lock-out, the exact opposite of a strike. for those who don't know, a strike is when the workers refuse to work in order to force the employer's hand. a lock-out is when the employer prevents the employees from working.

the issue here? teams claim to have lost nearly a billion dollars in the past decade. why? because they're paying players too much. the problem? owners can't live within their means, and they want the players to save them from themselves.

the players offered to take a 24% pay cut across the board, and install a highly punitive luxury tax system. the league said thank you, and then tried to add a salary cap to the deal. the players gave more, and the league took it. the players gave in a little more, and the league took that, too. a last minute deal fell through when the owners refused to yield, and the season went kaput.

it must be obvious by now: the owners had no intention of playing this season. their purpose is to bust the union. and they're slitting their own throats to do it.

but he's our gay prostitute
i know a thing or two about journalism. even though i have little patience for those who proclaim their "objectivity" in the news business (which naively presumes that the reporter has no particular opinions or any axes to grind), i believe that the reporter is obligated to give each side of a story a fair airing.

i also know that if you want to cover a minor league baseball team in east podunk, just outside of the ass end of nowhere, you better have a stack of clips and a letter from your editor testifying to your bonafides.

so imagine my amusement over the jeff gannon/jim guckart story. jeff gannon (whose real name is james guckart) is, of course, the guy who bleated in a white house press briefing, with president fredo in attendance (an extreme rarity), that the president may have a tough time dealing with leading democrats in congress who have "divorced themselves from reality."

the man is clearly no kind of real journalist. a real journalist would have said the exact same thing, but found less obviously biased words to do it.

but that's not even the funny part. the funny part is, the guy got his white house press credentials, which are rarer than hen's teeth and worth a lot more, as a reporter for the talon news service. never heard of it? not surprising. it only existed for 96 hours prior to his getting the golden ticket. it was set up by a right-wing nut in texas.

the funnier part is, the guy ain't even vaguely a real journalist. he's a gay prostitute. yep. he had a number of websites advertising his services as a fit, friendly former marine who was willing to massage or wrestle his clients at the rate of $1200 per weekend-- but top only. the sites were illustrated with pictures of gannon/guckart in various states of undress, waxed chest glistening in the lights....

oh, and he's also a tax dodger, owing the state of delaware somewhere along the lines of $20k.

so this raises a few questions. 1) wasn't a background check done before this guy, who used a false name, got a white house press pass? 2) if not, why not? 3) if so, why weren't these seriously damaging facts unearthed? 4) if they were unearthed, why was the press pass issued anyway?

the only answer is, someone with serious political clout in the white house got him his press credentials. why they would do so opens up a whole can of worms that somebody somewhere should be looking into.

what is to be done?
the long and short of all this is, the situation can always get worse. if you wait for things to get better before you take action, prepare to wait a long, long time. act now, lest you lose your right to act at all.

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