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Some news first, then a couple of articles from today on ZNet.

The October Issue of Z is Online. ZNet Sustainers or those who aren't
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There is a free article, as well: "5 to 4: The Unclear Future of
Abortion," By David Mikhail. Mikhail discusses the often-ignored swing
vote of Justice Kennedy, and future scenarios for abortion rulings, from
the rapidly evolving Supreme Court, at
http://zmagsite.zmag.org/Images/mikhail1005.html

There are also two new videos in our online store which is at:
https://www.zmag.org/store/ZStore.cfm

     Is It Time for a New Rainbow Coalition? 
     A Talk by Ron Daniels   
     Daniels looks at the degraded state of the U.S. political 
     system, particularly around race, by recounting the history 
     of the Rainbow Coalition. (Daniels was Jesse Jackson's 
     campaign manager and a former presidential candidate 
     himself.) He argues for the real potential today to create 
     a new diverse coalition based on "rainbow" principles.

     Race-ing Justice: Black Resistance & the Politics 
     of Mass Incarceration, A Panel Discussion
     Speakers on this 2005 Left Forum panel in NYC panel 
     discuss the racist framework of the bloated and corrupt 
     U.S. prison system, and the cultural and media stereoptypes 
     which continue to obfuscate its bleak realities. Manning 
     Marable, Keesha Middlemass, Laurent Alfred, Adolphus 
     Belk, & Reverend Sekou speak. 


And here are a couple of articles from today's postings on ZNet....


Asda Wal-Mart: Cutting Costs at any Cost 
by Joe Zacune  
 
Wal-Mart is the world's largest retail company and is more familiar in
the UK as the supermarket chain Asda. Wal-Mart has built a global empire
of supermarket stores on an image of 'always low prices'. This obsession
with prices has led to poverty wages, ever-worsening sweatshop
conditions and the destruction of local businesses and communities.
These policies are well known but now new evidence has emerged on how
Asda senior management are planning to deliberately "chip away" at
workers' rights and working conditions in the UK.

War on Want has seen a leaked document titled "Warehouse Chip Away
Strategy 2005" that outlines how Asda senior management are planning to
drastically undermine labour standards. Asda management plan to breach
these rights despite openly acknowledging the risks of trade union
opposition and health and safety violations. 

Work breaks are to be cut, grievance mechanisms removed and health and
safety conditions weakened. The document also proposes removing the
right to take individual grievances to external arbitrators. Asda
management plans to include "single man loading" despite the fact that
their own "risk assessment says 2 men (are) required for loading". Line
managers are advised to "lead by example, not taking all the breaks that
hourly paid colleagues get" in order to "take credence away from
breaks". 

Of the ten richest people in the world, four are members of the Walton
family, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune. Wal-Mart documents released in
April 2005 reveal that the company's CEO Lee Scott was paid over $17.5
million in total during 2004. 

Not content to pay its employees wages that are on average 20% lower
than the industry standard, Wal-Mart seeks to cut costs through the
routine violation of workers' rights. Wal-Mart requires that labour
costs be kept to less than 8% of each store's sales. In addition,
managers must reduce the labour costs at their stores by 0.2% each year.
This drives managers to stretch their workforce to cover chronic staff
shortages, and to break the law by employing children and undocumented
migrant workers. 

One internal audit of 25,000 employees in 128 Wal-Mart stores in the USA
found 1,371 violations of child labour laws, including minors working
too late, too many hours a day and during school hours. It also found
60,000 instances where workers were forced to work through breaks, and
16,000 where they worked through meal times. Wal-Mart's model is fast
becoming the industry standard, as other firms slash employee wages and
benefits in an attempt to compete with the retail giant.

Wal-Mart is vehemently anti-union. Its anti-union policy is a central
part of its obsession with minimising costs. Wal-Mart provides managers
with its infamous 'Manager's Toolbox to Remaining Union Free' that
states: "Staying union free is a full time commitment. Unless union
prevention is a goal equal to other goals and objectives in the
organization, management will not devote the necessary day in, day out
attention and effort." If there is any evidence of moves towards
unionisation, managers are ordered to phone the Wal-Mart Union Hotline
immediately. 

In the UK too, workers at Asda have come up against Wal-Mart's
anti-union culture. Following Wal-Mart's 1999 take-over of Asda, the
company has sought to restrict the role of general union GMB. After four
years of negotiations, a new agreement between Asda and the GMB came
into effect in 2004, which does not provide for collective bargaining.
In the words of GMB senior manager Harry Donaldson, "We believe that,
since the take-over, Wal-Mart has tried to stifle union activity at
Asda." Managers at a unionised Asda distribution depot offered workers a
new terms and conditions package which included a 10% pay increase and
the requirement that workers give up collective bargaining
representation by the GMB. When workers rejected the proposal, Asda
withdrew the 10% pay increase. 

Wal-Mart's ability to slash prices at its retail stores is based on its
power to drive down wages and working conditions at the factories which
produce its products. As the largest retail corporation in the world,
Wal-Mart has immense power over suppliers and uses this to dictate
everything from prices to precise delivery schedules. 

Wal-Mart is leading the race to the bottom by relentlessly squeezing
cost efficiencies out of the supply chain. Wal-Mart frequently requires
its suppliers to open their books for Wal-Mart inspection and tells them
exactly where to cut costs. When national labour or environmental
standards create a barrier to cost cutting, suppliers are encouraged to
relocate to a labour market that will enable them to produce at the low
price Wal-Mart requires.

Even where wages are rock-bottom, Wal-Mart insists that its suppliers
drive prices ever lower. Qin, a factory worker in China, explains: "In
four years they haven't increased the salary." Isabel Reyes, a garment
worker in Honduras, tells the same story: "There is always an
acceleration... the goals are always increasing, but the pay stays the
same." 

In August 2002, Asda sparked a banana retail price war with lasting
effects on the banana industry and banana workers worldwide. Asda
specifically targeted key items such as milk and bananas as part of its
strategy to brand itself as Britain's low-price supermarket. In the end,
consumer prices were lowered by 25%. Asda's exclusive deal with Del
Monte, contracted at what industry experts describe as a "ridiculously
low price", means that it is supplied with bananas grown and harvested
under the worst labour and environmental conditions in the world.
Independent growers in countries with adequate worker and environmental
protection, such as Costa Rica, can no longer sell to Asda and other
British supermarkets without making a loss. 

War on Want is encouraging Asda employees in the UK to contact GMB if
they wish to find out about their rights or start a union. More
generally we are calling on the UK government to support a binding
framework of corporate accountability to regulate the activities of
corporations such as Wal-Mart. 

In the global economy huge multinationals are only accountable to their
shareholders. If we are concerned about workers' rights throughout the
world, corporations like Wal-mart need to be reined in and unions need
to be strengthened. 

For more information and to join War on Want's campaign to rein in
global corporations go to: www.waronwant.org/asda or email
[EMAIL PROTECTED] 




Imperialists in Democratic Clothing
Ken Sanders  
 
With his ratings in the tank and desperately in need of a boost, not to
mention a distraction from the sudden impotence of his administration,
this week President Bush fell back on what worked so successfully for
him in the past: fostering fear and promoting war. 

Originally scheduled to mark the anniversary of 9/11, but postponed so
that Bush and his cronies could ignore Hurricane Katrina, Bush delivered
his latest pro-war screed to the ludicrously misnamed National Endowment
for Democracy. A government-funded, semi-private organization (which
happens to be free of Congressional oversight), the NED is a darling of
the neo-conservatives and shares membership with the Project for a New
American Century. Created by Reagan in the 1980s, ostensibly to promote
"free market democracies" through "the magic of the marketplace," the
NED's interests and practices are anything but democratic. As can be
gleaned from its stated goals, the NED's notion of "democracies" are
countries friendly to U.S. corporate interests. If a country isn't
"democratic" enough already, the NED uses U.S. taxpayer money to
subversively fund and instigate regime change. 

Examples abound of the NED's fondness for interfering with the elections
and democratic processes (however imperfect) of other nations. In the
1980s, the NED funded militaristic and dictatorial candidates in Panama,
as well as opposition candidates in such stable democracies as Costa
Rica (the opposition candidate in Costa Rica also had the endorsement of
that champion of democracy, Manuel Noriega). In the 1990 elections in
Haiti, the NED provided significant funding to former World Bank
official Marc Bazin in a failed attempt to oust the leftist
Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Bazin, seen by most Haitians as a "front man for
military and business interests," received only 12% of the vote.
Displeased with that result, the NED funded anti-Aristide groups,
culminating in the violent political instability in Haiti that left
dozens dead and ultimately resulted in Aristide's exile. 

In the 1990s, the NED supported Skender Gjinushi, speaker of the
Albanian parliament and former member of the Stalinist Politburo in
Albania. Gjinushi was a principle organizer of the unrest that led to
the 1997 fall of the democratic government in Albania, not to mention
the death of over 2,000 people. In Slovakia, the NED funded several
initiatives that ultimately resulted in the defeat of Slovakia's
freely-elected government. The NED-backed "reformers" who took over in
Slovakia were largely leading officials in the Communist regime of
then-Czechoslovakia. 

Additionally, and most notoriously, backed and funded the aborted coup
against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002. Determined to install
a pro-U.S.
leader in Venezuela, the NED funded a subsequent recall referendum and
then forged exit polls declaring Chavez' defeat. Venezuela, like Iraq,
possesses huge oil reserves estimated at 78 billion barrels, making it
the world's seventh largest oil resource. Chavez, however, is staunchly
anti-American and even publicly called Bush an "asshole." The NED's
motivation to "democratize" Venezuela should be abundantly clear.

Regardless of how one feels about Chavez or Aristide or any other leader
or government of a sovereign nation, it is antithetical to the
principles of democracy to interfere with and influence the election
processes of other nations. It is particularly appalling when the goal
is not to foster democracy so much as to further enrich U.S.
corporations. 

At any rate, speaking before the NED, Bush preached to the converted his
sermon of a never-ending and self-perpetuating war on terror. Invoking a
romanticized vision of the 9/11 attacks ("... a proud city covered in
smoke and ashes ... a fire across the Potomac ... passengers who spent
their final moments on Earth fighting the enemy"), Bush once again
pimped the war in Iraq as a glorious exercise, necessary for making
America safe from the scourge of terrorism.

A nice thought, but completely without foundation. Aside from the
fraudulence of Bush once again tying Iraq to 9/11, it was utterly false
for Bush to claim that the invasion of Iraq was ever necessary for
protecting America's national security. In fact, all indications are
that our glorious invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq have only
managed to increase the threat of terrorism, not only to the U.S., but
to the rest of the world, as well. By invading and occupying Iraq, the
U.S. has managed to radicalize the Arab and Muslim worlds to join the
terrorist cause. As revealed by a recent report by the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, the occupation of an Arab nation by
non-Arabs has radicalized hundreds of previously non-militant Saudis,
prompting them to join the anti-American insurgency in Iraq. In other
words, in direct contradiction to Bush's claim that "[t]he hatred of the
radicals existed before Iraq was an issue," the invasion and occupation
of Iraq has converted non-militant Muslims to jihad and terrorism.

Bush attempted to refute this fact by reminding those who believe "that
our presence in [Iraq] has somehow caused or triggered the rage of
radicals," that "we were not in Iraq on September 11th, 2001, and Al
Qaeda attacked us anyway." Touche'. 

That's right. We weren't "in Iraq" when Al Qaeda attacked on 9/11. We
were, however, starving Iraqis through sanctions, and had been for a
decade. Additionally, while we weren't "in" Iraq, we were "in" Saudi
Arabia, which we now know was particularly offensive to Osama bin Laden
and a primary motivation for the 9/11 attacks. In addition to U.S.
military bases in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden and other Muslims deeply
resented the U.S. for staging a proxy war against the Soviets in
Afghanistan, relying almost exclusively on Muslims to do its fighting,
and then abruptly abandoning Afghanistan and its "freedom fighters" once
their purpose had been served. Thus, Bush is correct: terrorists' hatred
of the U.S. did not begin with Iraq. It merely grew.

In a similar vein, Bush argued that "Russia did not support Operation
Iraqi Freedom, and yet militants killed more than 180 Russian school
children in Beslan." While Bush's facts may be right, his logic is
specious. The horrible events in Beslan were carried out by Chechen
terrorists as part of their war against Russian occupation of oil-rich
Chechnya. Thus, while the atrocities in Beslan had nothing to do with
Iraq, they also did not occur in a vacuum. 

What was most notable about Bush's speech to the NED was his tacit
admission that his so-called war on terror is really a war for imperial
dominance. Bush accused the terrorists of seeking to "overthrow all
moderate governments in the region and establish a radical Islamic
empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia." Is that not precisely what
the U.S. seeks and has long sought to accomplish both overtly through
force and surreptitiously through groups like the NED? Does not the U.S.
seek to establish a military-corporate empire that spans the globe? 

How else to explain the hundreds of U.S. military installations around
the world? How else to explain subversive groups like the NED, which
deliberately interfere in other countries' affairs with the goal of
creating regimes friendly to U.S. business interests? What other
explanation is there for orchestrating coups in oil-rich countries like
Iran (successful) and Venezuela (unsuccessful)? What other explanation
can there be for installing and/or supporting tyrannical regimes in
Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Chile (to
name but a few)? What other reason is there for the invasion and
occupation of a nation that never did the U.S. any harm and had
absolutely no proven ability to do so? 

Why? Whether anyone really wants to admit it, the U.S. has committed and
continues to commit such irrefutably undemocratic acts to establish and
protect its hegemony. Its empire. How appropriate, then, that Bush
celebrated his Iraqi venture before a crowd of like-minded champions of
"free market democracies." How appropriate, considering that both the
speaker and his audience advocate spreading "democracy," but only
through such undemocratic means as war, coups, and illicit influence. 
 
http://www.politicsofdissent.blogspot.com




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