Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Swine Flu: A Byeproduct of NAFTA?

On January 1, 1994 the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took affect. The agreement has been supported by every U.S. President since George H. W. Bush; this, even though the agreement was not implemented until near the end of the first term of the Clinton administration. During his campaign, President Obama spoke about making some changes to the agreement, but as president, has not made any such proposals.

Upon the implementation of NAFTA, many U.S.-based companies flocked to Mexico in order to flout U.S. environmental regulations, worker-safety rules and minimum-wage standards. As a result of these businesses going south, both American and Mexican workers were deeply hurt. In the United States, decent-paying jobs were lost and blue-collar workers found themselves being forced to compete in the so-called "race to the bottom." Mexicans saw the rise of the so-called maquiladoras - sweatshops that exploited the work force by paying slave wages, virtually eliminating worker-safety concerns, and exploited the land and its people through reckless anti-environmental practices. Many of the companies that created the maquiladoras set up shop along the border regions, but many moved much farther south as well. One such business was a Virginia-based company called Smithfield Farms; this, according to an April 29 article written by Julio Hernándes for La Jornado, one of Mexico's leading daily newspapers.

In his article Hernándes points out that in 1985, Smithfield Farms was found to be in violation of the Clean Water Act
at its pig processing facilities in Smithfield, Virginia. The accusation was that they had been dumping vast amounts of hog waste into the Pagan River, which is a tributary that eventually finds its way into the Chesapeake Bay. At that time the company was fined $1,285,000.00. Then, in 1996 one of the company's CEO's was ordered by a Federal Judge to pay $12.6 million and to complete an eighteen month prison sentence. A second Smithfield employee was given a similar sentence for falsifying and destroying records, as well as the intentional discharge of toxins into the river.

According to Hernándes' report, the hog-processing company re-located to the Perote Valley of Vera Cruz under the name of Granjas Carroll (Carroll Ranches) near a town of approximately three thousand inhabitants known as La Gloria. Here he alleges, the company has been allowed to carry out gross environmental violations with total disregard toward the local population; this, with the full protection of the state and federal government since it first relocated there - including the full protection of the current Calderón Administration.

Other news reports seem to support these accusations of government complicity. An article dated April 6 , which also appeared in La Jornada summed up the situation this way:

Clouds of flies emanate from the rusty lagoons where the Carroll Ranches business tosses the fecal wastes of its pig farms, and the open-air contamination is already generating an epidemic of respiratory infections in the town of La Gloria, in the Perote Valley, according to Town Administrator Bertha Crisóstomo López."

Further, the local newspaper Marcha on April 15 laid the entire blame for what it called an epidemic in La Gloria on Carroll Ranches. Interestingly enough, neither the Mexican nor the U.S. government acknowledged that a problem existed until April 24. It must be mentioned here that La Jornada is one of Mexico's largest newspapers - if not the largest!

Since the implementation of NAFTA, the filthy and unhealthy conditions - the utter disregard for the people of Mexico and the environment in which they live has been the dirty little secret of politicians and their corporate masters alike. Now, it would appear, the genie has been let out of the bottle; and, that genie's name is H1N1 - swine flu - a virus that has put the entire world on alert due to its potential for the creation of a world-wide pandemic. An occurrence such as this flu outbreak was just about inevitable - just a matter of time considering the horrific conditions with which so many have had to contend since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement; Then there are those who continue to propagate the philosophy of Laissez-faire economics - a philosophy by which government completely abides by a hands-off policy toward business; this, in spite of the overwhelming evidence that such hands-off policies practically invite environmental abuse, worker exploitation and sometimes, even human-rights violations.

Somewhere in America - all across this country actually, there are those who call themselves true patriots. In their private e-mails and conversations, as well as publicly on their countless radio-talk shows, they denounce environmentalists for "hating America." These so-called conservatives constantly attempt to demonize persons that believe in environmental preservation and regulation by calling them communists, socialists, Nazis - any derogatory term they can come up with. Still, the swine flu is now out there - rapidly spreading from state to state and from country to country, threatening who knows how many people - and to think that it all could have been avoided with some sensible environmental regulation!

For more on this subject in English you can go to the Narco News Bulletin.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hijacked! Fayetteville's So-Called Anti-Taxation Tea Party

Yesterday, I checked out the so-called anti-taxation Tea Party that took place in front of the Town Center on the Fayetteville Square. Actually, I didn't really attend the event, but since I was in the immediate vicinity and was curious about what would be said and how many people would show up for it, I popped in once in awhile.

Fortunately, I got to enjoy the company of some Green Party folks and other progressives who apparently, had the same curiosity about the event as me. Their good humor and insight helped improve my mood considerably, especially since my annoyance with tea-party organizers continued to grow as the starting time for the program grew nearer.

Truth be told, the Tea Party grew quite a large crowd. According to an article in the Northwest Arkansas Times organizers estimated that up to one thousand people attended the event; this, over the course of some three hours. My own very unofficial estimate gave organizers credit for attracting some 700 attendees. Either way, yesterday's Tea Party likely doubled any peace demonstration attendance that I've seen here in Fayetteville. This would include the demonstration that took place on the Fayetteville Square that took place in October, 2002, when around 400 caring people attempted to stop the imminent and criminal invasion of Iraq.

While Wednesday's event was attended by a mixed group of people, it was not all that difficult to discern that most were conservative Republicans. Quite a few of the people there were conservatively dressed in suits and ties; some of the women were attired in corresponding apparel. There were lots of signs condemning out of control government and there were lots of people bearing American Flags. At one point, I noticed a vehicle circling the square with a large flag, which hearkened back to the War of 1812; it said, Don't Tread on Me.

As various progressives, who had also checked out the event, came over to where my group was sitting, they gave reports of anti-liberal and anti-immigration sentiment as well as Christian dominionism. One quick glance into the crowd revealed a sea of waving signs that expressed an anti-socialist message - as if the Obama Administration is actually practicing real socialism! Of course, this anti-socialist agenda is actually a mainstay of the conservative philosophy. Just call anyone who thinks for himself or herself a socialist, and they have been totally discredited - their character destroyed. This appears to be how many a conservative mind functions.

It has long been my understanding that, politically speaking, the concept of left versus right is not lateral but rather, is circular. In other words, if one person's thinking goes far enough to the left and another's goes far enough to the right, they will end up having some common beliefs. A general distrust in government is one such commonality; this, even though both the left and the right do believe that government ought to regulate certain things - just different things.

Some of those at Wednesday's event reflected this commonality; they attended because they feel that both President Obama and the Congress are out of control and not representing the needs and desires of the people. I spoke with one or two such people during the event on Wednesday, but had a difficult time expressing my dissatisfaction with the event as a whole particularly, as regards the intentions of event organizers and that which I consider to be their true agenda.

Of course, I cannot claim to know what any one person's true intentions are. Still, there are trends, personal histories, and observations that can be made by anyone who cares enough to keep their eyes open. Let's examine this a bit:

Fayetteville's Tea Party was part of a coordinated nationwide event. It was strongly promoted by the obvious Republican-propaganda organ Fox News, as well as Free Republic and many conservative radio talk shows.

Locally, Fayetteville's Tea Party was, according to a recent story in the Northwest Arkansas Times, organized by Laurie Masterson - formerly Laurie Taylor who married Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Mike Masterson some months ago. Two or three years ago Ms. Laurie, as I like to call her, was heavily involved in an attempt to get sex-education books banned from the Fayetteville school system particularly, in the middle schools; but if memory serves me well, even in the high school. At the time, Ms. Laurie claimed that it wasn't really a book ban; she only wanted to make such material inaccessible to students without parent's consent. It was claimed that such books were pornographic. They clearly were not; at least, not according to this writer. Having been a child whose parents would not discuss anything relating to the birds and the bees, I am personally very supportive of having such material available for students of a certain age. Call it whatever you like, but for many students Ms. Laurie's proposition, had it been adopted by the school board, would have effectively cut off access to much needed information that cannot be accessed at home. The word "ban" works well enough for me.

It was also Ms. Laurie, who at least twice on Johnny Tittle's former radio program, offered to pay my way to anyplace in the world I would have liked to visit; this, provided that I would promise never to set foot in the United States again. Why did she make such an offer? She and most other listeners didn't appreciate my opposition to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, or their desires to attack Iran with nuclear weapons. Sure, she may have simply thought that she was being clever but still, such attempts at being funny often reflect a deeper belief system.

Here's something to think about: While Ms. Laurie and some of Johnny's other listeners clearly stated on the air that I should leave the country because of my opposition to the useless taking of innocent life, they are now holding rallies in opposition to taxation and government spending. Just where were they during the eight years that George W. Bush was raising the national deficit by $4 trillion in order to finance the illegal invasion occupation of soverign nations while giving contracts to companies such as Halliburton, which wasted billions of dollars while supplying our troops with contaminated food and drinking water.

Perhaps, the true feelings of the event's right-wing organizers were expressed during a recent e-mail exchange I had with a former local radio talk-show host. During the exchange, he was referring to the upcoming tea party supporters as being "we the people." Upon asking him if the majority of Americans who voted for Obama, myself included, qualify as "we the people," he gave the following reply:

"...All of this is to say Socialism is not American and people who want socialism are not believers in America and thus are unpatriotic. So I have no qualms referring to my side as Americans and your side as non-American. We do surround you and vastly outnumber you."

So there you have it - one so-called conservative's (I prefer the word fascist's) opinion of those with whom he disagrees. He reduces us to being less than real American's; that way, our opinions can be dismissed. In truth, designating unbelievers as the enemy has long been a tactic of that which I call the "rabid right."

I suppose that it's frightening to consider the possibility that many who attended Wednesday's program are not a part of this rabid right; yet, their body count both here in Fayetteville and nationwide, will be used to bolster the radical right's power base in order to advance their social, political, economic and theological agenda. Today, I can't help but feel that some of the folks in attendance Wednesday are being used by those who cannot abide by the fact that the Democrats have been chosen to govern the country. Just as in the 90's when Bill Clinton's election brought on an extreme right-wing backlash complete with organizations dedicated to hound, cripple and ultimately, bring down the new president, I believe that the Tea Party organizers have the same agenda in mind. I also believe that many simply cannot abide by the fact that a black or racially-mixed man was elected to the nation's highest office.

Believe me, I am not a Democrat and have my criticisms concerning some of Barak Obama's policies; especially, his continuation of the war in Afghanistan, the war on drugs, and his silence when it comes to Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. Still, it's not very difficult to see history repeating itself here and that, as Rush Limbaugh once indicated, the rabid right wants to see Obama fail - all to the demise of how many more people!

Some economic indicators are pointing to the fact that there may already be some light on the economic horizon - that the stimulus, which conservatives are so opposed to, might be starting to work. It saddens me to think that those who have concerns about excessive government spending are likely being used in order to advance the rabid right's dark agenda. In a word, they are being hijacked. That is my opinion.

Upon returning home last night I called a friend. He refused to have anything to do with yesterday's festivities and I wanted to express my fears to him. My message was simple: Be afraid; be very afraid!