Friday, January 13, 2006

Democracy Can Save the Planet: but only if you vote for the right folks

What follows is a more complete review of John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hitman which I recently read on recommendation from a couple friends, and also a discussion of the linked issues of economic globalization and environmental conservation. As my previous blog entry summarized, Perkins’ book is an account of the life of an operative who worked for a private company from the 1960’s to 1980. He details the cynical escapades of the US corporatocracy which worked in collusion with the CIA and presumably the Pentagon to inflict capitalist terror on the Third World.

Perkins opines that when simple extortion and bribery failed to convince democratically elected officials in Panama, Ecuador and Chile, the corporatocracy called in “jackals” who exterminated these leaders in order to supplant them with more pliable dictators. No doubt these rumors have merit since such speculation has circulated ever since Mossedegh was removed from oil-rich Iran in 1953 in favor of the US-backed Shah. (For that matter, we can go back to Teddy Roosevelt's "Gunboat Diplomacy" in Central America for a glimmer of extortion and threats for economic gain; or look to Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Sir Francis Drake, etc, etc, etc.) Some may leap to the cynical conclusion that all leaders, all political operatives, “all US presidents, except maybe Carter”, have conspired to promote their personal financial interests by using jackals and economic hitmen. In fact, I learned from our discussion, that some feel that the very existence of US economic supremacy is proof that “they’re all in on it.” I tend to be skeptical of persons in power, but even I don't believe that.

My take on this mind-set is that when one realizes (finally!) that the current gang in the White House is made up of corrupt scoundrels, the natural inclination is to throw one’s hands up in surrender and assume that no matter who is in the White House, no matter who we elect, such criminal activity will always be tolerated. Nothing could be further from the truth, but for a Bush voter, this is much easier to do than to admit that you simply voted for the wrong guy in 2000 and 2004.

I maintain that we in the US have an enviable governmental system of self-determination and we have the power to figure out real solutions to the world’s problems, if we choose to take that course. In the last two elections, however, we have chosen tax cuts, pre-emptive wars, financial incentives for oil drillers, environmental deregulation and sell-outs for the drug companies. We have put our trust in the “plantation owner”, as Perkins’ refers to George W. Bush. Whether the US electorate was fooled or caught unawares, we have put into power the very cabal that perfected the idea of economic hitmen.

The discussion of the book devolved into a general discussion of the sustainability of the planet with the increasing use of natural resources and voracious appetite the US consumers have for products made with cheap Third World labor. Perkins himself recognizes the straits the world is in and offers a final chapter designed supposedly to point us on the correct course. Unfortunately this “world class” economist is unable to provide anything more than 1) “discuss my book”, 2) “live simply” and 3) “talk to your friends about living simply.” I don’t know which crime is worse: killing Torrijos or calling that an economic plan for the 21st century!!

So let’s review a real economic plan for the 21st century that was put forth several years ago in a four-hundred page book which the author offered as just the “beginning of the conversation.” The author, I’ll call him Prince for now, outlined the extent of the problem and in the final chapters offered the Global Marshall Plan to ensure sustainability of the planet that included economic, political and technologic solutions. Prince’s five strategies included 1) stabilizing the world’s population, 2) developing environmentally appropriate technologies, especially in energy, agriculture and transportation, 3) formulating worldwide “rules of the road” to measure the economic and ecologic impact of our decisions, 4) negotiate worldwide regulations and enforcement mechanisms to ensure success of the overall plan, and 5) establish a worldwide cooperative to educate the world’s citizens about global environment. These strategies are expounded upon at moderate length as to how we can effect a positive change in “the social and political conditions most conducive to the emergence of sustainable societies.” The details of Prince's vision that connects the politics of global economy with planetary sustainability are too wonkish to pursue in this forum. The premise, written 14 years ago, emphasized the urgency of planning for the future before it’s too late.

Shortly after gaining power in 2001, our current Vice-President said, "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy." Then he secretly met with energy company executives to formulate our "national" energy policy. Yeah, right. More recently we are learning that the Interior Department is superseding legislative fiat and giving private contracts for oil-drilling in the Alaskan reserve. Perkins mentions Cheney by name as one of the instigators of the “hitmen” who enslave the brown people throughout the world by extorting and threatening their leaders in order to extract oil, other natural resources and cheap labor from their countries. Not surprisingly, Prince’s plan does not call for extortion or bribery, but rather economic carrots and sticks as well as internationally determined regulatory structure to ensure population control, fair trade, fair wages and environmental sustainability.

The US needs to play a role in the discussion going forward. We are by far the largest per capita consumer of fossil fuels, producer of carbon waste emissions and consumer of manufactured products. The Kyoto Convention, which has been ongoing since the mid-90’s, is a worldwide consortium of nations looking at strategies to limit greenhouse gases going forward. In 2001, Bush’s emissary at the conference said, Science tells us that we cannot say with any certainty what constitutes a dangerous level of warming, and therefore what level must be avoided." Immediately afterward, Bush withdrew the US from the discussion invoking our “national interest”, but the treaty was later signed by 132 other nations to reduce greenhouse gases to pre-1990 levels. Prince would argue, and did, that despite what the economic hitmen of the Bush administration would tell you, protocols such as Kyoto are the beginning of realizing that our enlightened self-interest as a nation is manifest in just such international consortiums and they should not be ignored. The US needs to be at that negotiating table. Prince says, "Our first step should be to set realistic and achievable, binding emissions limits, which will create new markets for new technologies and new ideas that will, in turn, expand the boundaries of the possible and create new hope. Other steps will then follow. And then, ultimately, we will achieve a safe overall concentration level for greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere.” Unfortunately, we have a longer way to go today than we did when Prince uttered those words in 1997.

The global environment is more than animals and rivers and streams; it also consists of 6 billion people and without proper regard for the lifestyle and well-being of the people or their economic development, then the planet is screwed. When Nike puts a factory in Thailand, the locals rush to the gates for jobs which can pay up to ten times what they make at other jobs in the community. The laws of economics predict that these jobs will be desired because the workers will gain immediate benefit from choosing them. As a consequence, the most able workers are employed by the large western multinational corporations, and any profit from their labor is extracted away from the Third World country. We cannot expect impoverished laborers to go back to the rice patties for pennies a day because "in the long run" tying their wagon to the Nike star may be a failed proposition. Any economist would see that working at Nike for $1.50 per day is immediately better than humping in a rice patty for $0.25 per day.

A previous labor secretary, Robert Reich, outlined in his book The Future of Success, a framework whereby international trade would be governed by treaties that ensured that profits from such endeavors would instead be funneled back into the Third World country. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, instead of making usurious loans to poor nations, would provide funding incentives for policies that promoted environmentally friendly practices and worker well-being. Adoption and enforcement of international worker safety standards, anti-sweat shop statutes, child labor laws, etc can only be accomplished with the cooperation of the US and other western citizenries. Embarassingly, Paul Wolfowitz is current head of the US-represented World Bank, so don’t expect any enlightened self-interest any time soon. Tom DeLay is under fire for, among other things, taking pay-offs from sweat-shop owners in the Marianas Islands in exchange for favorable legislation.

Prince's and Reich's econnomic plans are based on moral and ethical principles that are as old as humankind itself. These principles are delineated in Native American practice, Socratic philosophy, Eastern religion and Christian faith; they're universal. Unfortunately, such ideas do not gain traction within our electorate because 1) it’s not in our immediate self-interest to care about brown-skinned people when we are getting cheap microwave ovens and TV’s, and 2) the “plantation owners” and slave-traders whip up the noise machine of pre-emptive war, blow jobs, weapons of mass destruction, fear of terrorism, and on and on and on in order to distract us from the necessary reforms which our leaders further claim are expensive and threaten our sovereignty. Reich's and Prince's enlightened ideas aren’t radical bleeding-heart liberal propositions that will drain our treasury and deplete our standard of living. (Wars do that.) These are moral and ethical principles that will ensure the health of our planet and everyone on it. Whether you're a Christian, atheist, Buddhist, or whatever, isn't that what morality is?

I realize that for a blog article this is becoming a lengthy thesis, so I’ll wrap it up. I would encourage anyone to read Prince’s book for an uplifting positive view of what our future can be. Is there a lot of work to do? Yes. But concrete ideas are out there that can be expanded and molded if we work for them. Is is possible? Only if we can reason with ourselves that our government is of, by and for us and not the plantation owners. We have an obligation to elect honest, intelligent visionaries and hold ourselves responsible to the entire planet. If you feel that none are available, then run for office yourself. Sitting in a basement, fearing terrorism, dream-catching and "discussing" Perkins’ book is not enough. Driving a four-cylinder car and eating sprouts is not enough.

I am not necessarily a religious man, but this situation reminds me of the old schoolyard jokes about St. Peter at the Pearly Gates greeting the newly deceased. When our planet is inundated with water from the melted ice caps, Third World nations rise up in defiance of the west, wars and pestilence take over and the bacteria re-gain their rightful dominion of the earth, we will all be greeted by St. Peter. We’ll say, “But Peter, we believed in God and believed that God would save us from the impending doom. Why did He abandon us?”

Peter would reply, “God did not abandon you. He gave you Reason and Science to figure out solutions to your plight; instead you chose irrational belief and to live in fear rather than work for solutions. He gave you Love and Compassion to promote cooperation among all the people of the world; instead you gave power to the slave-traders who destroyed communities of your brothers and sisters throughout the world. He gave you Leaders with Vision to start you on the path of redeeming your planet. Instead you elected warmongers and ecological rapists whose short-sighted selfish financial interests destroyed your planetary home. You abandoned the gifts God gave to you. You abandoned God.” (You can substitute Earth Goddess, Krishna, Gaia or whatever your favorite flavor is for God. Personally, I'd pick simple Common Freakin' Sense!!, but that's me.)

Oh, I almost forgot… Prince’s book, written in 1992, is called Earth in the Balance.

And Prince? That was Senator, and later Vice-President, "Prince Albert" Gore.

We had our chance.

4 comments:

commonsensical said...

Grodge,



A few comments/rebuttals.



I am not sure why you politicize this book when one of the main points of the book in that the corporations run the country/world for economic gain and only those who oppose it politically suffer. The only reason I excluded Carter was his actions in Panama and his personal philosophies infuriated the corporatocracy. Coincidently he only lasted one term. Also the book covers post WWII not just the last 1 years. Though The Bush family and their cronies certainly appear to be caviler in their promotion of policy for personal gain, according to the book they are certainly not alone in personally profiting from the system. LBJ and Clinton also have reaped huge financial benefits from the corporatocracy. This is not am attack on your beloved Clinton rather making a point that with the possible exception of Carter, no one is excluded. All you have to do is connect the dots form the campaign money Clinton got from the Walton family, trips to China and the large profits Walmart gets from Chinese made goods coupled with the fact China is buying US Treasuries at a rapid pace to see is bought into the program. Before you go off on Bush and company reread my comments above, they blatantly abuse the system for personal gain and don't seem to care what anyone thinks about it.
If you buy into Perkins claims, you shouldn’t be surprised Gore wasn’t elected (see Florida 2000) because his vision flies in the face of the corporatocracy.
If you study the parallels between Saudi Arabia and China they are strikingly similar from an economic stand point, though Saudi Arabia is 25 years ahead of China on the development curve.
They are the two foreign countries who hold the most investments in US Government Securities.
SA has an advanced, westernized infrastructure and China is heading there. My brother recently got back form a business trip to China and stayed in a nearly vacant city in the middle of nowhere designed to house 500,000 people, when the time is right it will be utilized.
Both countries gain economically from their greatest resources. SA sells us oil and China has cheap labor to make goods at a greatly reduced price. Both countries profit greatly and in return buy US Treasuries and the corporatocracy churns on.
The corporatocracy is alive and well in Latin America, see recent proposal for free trade there.
The only power we really have is not at the voting both, it is with our purchasing power since the corporation are the source of the power, not the government, though they certainly work in concert. Refusing to participate, boycotting goods made in salve labor countries, Walmart, Sam’s Clubs and not buying into the quality of life is tied to buying more stuff at cheaper prices. Personal sacrifice by doing the right thing and encouraging others to do so is the doctrine preached by Perkins, not voting for change because in his estimation they do not hold the ultimate power. I am not certain that he is right though I must say it makes a lot of sense to me.


A related side question, assuming Perkins is dead on – why were two of the Kennedy’s assassinated. It has been rumored in the past that their own father was part of the plot. Do you see any ties to Perkins’ theory and their death?

Grodge said...

CS: “I am not sure why you politicize this book when one of the main points of the book in that the corporations run the country/world for economic gain and only those who oppose it politically suffer. The only reason I excluded Carter was his actions in Panama and his personal philosophies infuriated the corporatocracy. Coincidently he only lasted one term.”

Grodge: I politicize the book because Perkins’ conjecture is political. His accusation is that my government and current gov’t officials have engaged in assassination of democratically-elected foreign leaders for personal financial gain. Whether you believe Perkins or not, and there is no way to be sure he is truthful, that is the premise he is floating. Is it political? You betcha. You may regret recommending the book, but that’s what it’s about, and it corroborates to a degree what I have read in other references: Bill Minutaglio’s First Son is a very fair biography of our dear leader. Daniel Yergin’s The Prize outlines the relationship of oil-producing nations with the political power structure in the US and other western governments. Perkins’ accusations are firsthand accounts of extremely heinous crimes by current political figures. CS, you did read it, right?

CS: “Also the book covers post WWII not just the last 1 years. Though The Bush family and their cronies certainly appear to be caviler in their promotion of policy for personal gain, according to the book they are certainly not alone in personally profiting from the system. LBJ and Clinton also have reaped huge financial benefits from the corporatocracy. This is not am attack on your beloved Clinton rather making a point that with the possible exception of Carter, no one is excluded.”

Grodge: The Bush family’s political influence began with Prescott Bush’s Senate career and has continued now for three generations of murder and mayhem in the name of the US citizenry. They have surrounded themselves with thieves, liars and murders (John Negroponte, Elliot Abrams, John Poindexter, Dick Cheney and Casper Weinberger to name the most prominent; although Abu Gonzalez and Condi Rice have shown recently that such lack of scruples knows no racial or ethnic boundaries*) who have done their bidding. Clinton is hardly “beloved”, but the contrast is stark between Clinton’s personal failures and the Bushes’ systematic dismantling of the self-government process we have known and loved for over two centuries. If you can’t see it, then so be it. History will look back on the electoral choices made at the beginning of the 21st century as seminal in the downfall of the greatest republic of the previous century.

CS: “All you have to do is connect the dots form the campaign money Clinton got from the Walton family, trips to China and the large profits Walmart gets from Chinese made goods coupled with the fact China is buying US Treasuries at a rapid pace to see is bought into the program. Before you go off on Bush and company reread my comments above, they blatantly abuse the system for personal gain and don't seem to care what anyone thinks about it.”

Grodge: Clinton is from Arkansas and you would think that some financial tie between Walmart and the Clintons would be present, but I could find no such link; again references on your part would be helpful. In fact, in this weeks’ news, “Hillary snubs Walmart” is the headline. http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/nation/ny-ushill0204,0,7025281.story?coll=ny-leadnationalnews-headlines&vote19737754=1

And a USAToday article from 2002 says that 85% of political campaign donations from Walmart goes to Republicans. http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/2004-02-02-walmart_x.htm Philosophical differences exist between Dems and Repubs regarding labor laws and the relative degree of freedom that markets should enjoy. Wouldn’t it be great if the US could wave a magic wand and make Latin America a corruption-free workers’ paradise? Sure, but a decent start can be enacting a fair and reasonable free-trade agreement in order to jump start markets with capital, and then placing regulatory guidelines as they get wealthier. You have to start somewhere. Keep up with the Tom DeLay story on Saipan and the Marianas Island (use Google), to see how NOT to be a friend of third world workers. Robert Reich, former labor secretary, has written several books on free markets, labor regulation and the government’s role in international policy.

China buying US Treasuries makes Clinton a murderer? CS, with all due respect, the dots are not connected. Is Clinton a political animal who lowers his scruples to gain a few votes and/or campaign donations? I’m sure he does, but none of it is mentioned in Perkins’ book. Clinton is hardly “beloved” by me; he was a capable, although oversexed, bureaucrat who did an above-average job earning his salary as my public servant. To be fair, your accusations of him are pretty far afield, and such exaggeration only detracts from your more sensible arguments. The accusations in Perkins’ book, if you choose to believe them, are specific allegations of threats, bribery, extortion and murder, and the author names specific names, and none of them begin with Bill or Hillary, but many of them do begin with George and Dick. That is the only thing that I can conclude. If you have other credible information, my email box is unlocked.


CS: “If you buy into Perkins claims, you shouldn’t be surprised Gore wasn’t elected (see Florida 2000) because his vision flies in the face of the corporatocracy.
If you study the parallels between Saudi Arabia and China they are strikingly similar from an economic stand point, though Saudi Arabia is 25 years ahead of China on the development curve.
They are the two foreign countries who hold the most investments in US Government Securities.
SA has an advanced, westernized infrastructure and China is heading there. My brother recently got back form a business trip to China and stayed in a nearly vacant city in the middle of nowhere designed to house 500,000 people, when the time is right it will be utilized.
Both countries gain economically from their greatest resources. SA sells us oil and China has cheap labor to make goods at a greatly reduced price. Both countries profit greatly and in return buy US Treasuries and the corporatocracy churns on.”

Grodge: Gore failed to get elected because he apparently did not get enough votes, and since I am assuming that you are one of those who failed to cast a vote for Gore, you can understand that concept. The 2000 campaign consisted of brutal personal attacks and ended in a controversial decision by activist judges. The 2004 campaign was a textbook example of personal destruction, demagogic fear-mongering and outright lies. Again, unless we turn this ship around, I maintain that history will look back on the electoral choices made at the beginning of the 21st century as seminal in the downfall of the greatest republic of the previous century. During the election campaign of 2000 I distinctly remember the emails in my box about how Gore was a serial exaggerator, the snarky comments about his (false) claims that he took credit for inventing the internet and the ignorant cartoons from poorly informed unnamed Republicans (who happen to work at Stryker and in their own recruitment firms, respectively). An ignorant democracy won’t last long.

SA and China have something valuable to offer the world markets, but I’m not sure what your point is. Those particular governments and citizens can invest their capital wherever they choose, and they choose US treasuries because of the security and liquidity, and this in turn helps all of us by 1) keeping our borrow-spend government afloat and 2) keeping interests rates down and thus the capital markets are flush with investment capital. If these foreigners chose not to invest in US bills and bonds, frankly we’d all be screwed, but the corporatocracy would churn on regardless because they would continue their tight relationship with the kleptocrats in SA and other resource rich nations. Read “House of Bush, House of Saud” for the details.

In fact, one could argue that the corporatocracy may do even better with a financial meltdown here in the US, and conspiracy theorists might argue that that may be the motivation of Bush’s immense borrowing. It will lead to economic insecurity and a decrease in confidence in US government bonds and currency. OPEC then changes it’s oil peg to the euro, the Chinese stop buying US treasuries, the credit markets implode, bankruptcies increase and the wealthy (ie, Bush’s cronies**) buy up assets (ie, our homes and businesses) for cents on the dollar and the average US worker’s lifestyle begins to resemble that of the Saipan’s sweatshop worker. Clinton balanced two budgets which led to lower interests, which we are currently enjoying; don’t expect that to last much longer under current policy.

CS: “The corporatocracy is alive and well in Latin America, see recent proposal for free trade there.
The only power we really have is not at the voting both, it is with our purchasing power since the corporation are the source of the power, not the government, though they certainly work in concert. Refusing to participate, boycotting goods made in salve labor countries, Walmart, Sam’s Clubs and not buying into the quality of life is tied to buying more stuff at cheaper prices. Personal sacrifice by doing the right thing and encouraging others to do so is the doctrine preached by Perkins, not voting for change because in his estimation they do not hold the ultimate power. I am not certain that he is right though I must say it makes a lot of sense to me.”

This is where I disagree with you most vehemently. To make a broad generalization, the democrats tend to side with labor unions and promote such things as universal healthcare, worker safety and workplace standards; the republicans tend to promote free markets at the expense of workers rights (reference Tom DeLay in the post). Workers rights and standards are the things that will bring the third world labor markets up to the standards of the US with suppliers of Walmart providing adequate worker conditions, etc, which will raise prices and level the market. Only if the US voters hold our leaders’ feet to the fire will they push for such standards in international forums.

At the end of the day, if underwear and coffee is 10% cheaper at Walmart, the market will seek that level and all stores will be required to buy from unscrupulous suppliers in the third world. That’s economics; ask our friendly local furniture magnate how markets work. If you think that you and Norton your building mate are going to change the world by buying asparagus at the food co-op, well… that’s what the Bush, Cheney, DeLay et al, cabal is counting on. I disagree with Perkins’ solution on that tack. The power we have as a democratic republic is in electing leaders who will advocate for our best interests in the political process. Complacency while blue-blood homicidal plutocrats literally steal our country is absolutely the wrong tactic. If someone can read Perkins’ book, believe it, and then sit back and hand our government and its powerful military-industrial apparatus over to such scoundrels, then we have found a new shameful low in human dignity and morality.

CS: “A related side question, assuming Perkins is dead on – why were two of the Kennedy’s assassinated. It has been rumored in the past that their own father was part of the plot. Do you see any ties to Perkins’ theory and their death?”

Yes, and I think that Hugo Chavez is implicated in the Bears losing to the Carolina Panthers in the playoffs and the Illini’s loss to UNC last spring. God, I wish Bush would just listen to Pat Robertson and kill that bastard once and for all! Seriously, so many people had motivation to kill the Kennedys for so many political, personal or financial reasons, that such conjecture is fruitless; although I admit that I never heard the Joe Senior Theory, which is interesting to say the least, especially since he was disabled from a stroke in 1961, and I’m not sure what his motivation would be to kill his own sons. I’ll leave that conjecture to professional historians like Oliver Stone; for my part, I’d rather stay in the present and recognize the evil that walks among us.

*I would include Colin Powell in that list, but he has recognized the error in his ways, although I doubt he’ll ever be able to wash the stink off.

**Recent news stories report that Carlyle Group (ie, Bush’s cronies) is buying Asian real estate, maybe even that town your brother visited. Are they divesting assets in preparation for a meltdown in the US real estate market? http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3601/is_2_52/ai_n15346682

commonsensical said...

Grodge,

I thought this was a discussion of the book but we obviously read 2 different books. The one I read focused on the power being with the corporations and that SA was only buying US Treasuries because that was part of the deal that Perkins himself put together. Unless you think his statement was fabricated it was not an independent decision that their economic leaders thought was a good investment.

Also the connection between Wal-Mart and the Clinton’s is legendary – I am surprised someone as well read as you missed it. Here are just 2 of a multitude of articles that can be found with a simple search on google. Also don’t insult us with your Hillary crap. She served on the board of Wal-Mart for 6 years and received $100,000’s off them in stock, salary and use of corporate planes. Bill received SIGNIFICANT campaign contributions as well. You need to take of the blinders my friend and read beyond the headlines. Hillary spent years as a litigator on Wal-Mart’s board keeping the union out so her public move last week to return $5,000 was a show of how two sided she is – not her noble heart.

Furthermore, I said Clinton gained financially in a very big way from his from his involvement with China/China I NEVER said he had anyone killed. Not sure where you came up with that one.

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1571/is_n47_v13/ai_20090932

Not mention the “free” trade with China is killing the US economy but that is a different topic. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/walmart/china/trade.html According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute [PDF], America's balance-of-payments deficit with China (of which approximately $18 billion dollars is created by Wal-Mart) was responsible for the loss of 1.5 million manufacturing jobs between 1989 and 2003. http://peaceandjustice.org/article.php?story=20051107091848568&mode=print0


I will close with this and then I drop out of this conversation because we are too far apart. You make valid point after valid point about the Latin American leaders who are dead, presumably and most likely as part of the CIA’s involvement but you don’t see the connection to the Free Trade proposal the has recently been proposed for LA. If those leaders were still in play do you think the Free Trade Agreement would be happening? HELL NO! Those people despised the US and wanted to break away from the US. Do you think Chavez will sign a free trade agreement? Why do you think those leaders were disposed of?

I drop out of this conversation because you have missed the entire point of the book (or maybe you simply don’t agree with Perkins’s claims, which is fine) and it is pointless to continue.




Clinton and Wal-Mart
WARD HARKAVY, VILLAGE VOICE, 2000 - Twice in three days last week, Hillary Rodham Clinton basked in the adulation of cheering union members. Her record of supporting collective bargaining, however, is considerably worse than wobbly. Pity the thousands of unionists at last Tuesday's state Democratic convention who chanted her name, and the hundreds of retired Teamsters at Thursday's luncheon in midtown who had interrupted their Founder's Day meal to hear the corporate litigator turned union-loving Democrat deliver a campaign speech.
They would have dropped their forks if they had heard that Hillary served for six years on the board of the dreaded Wal-Mart, a union-busting behemoth. If they had learned the details of her friendship with Wal-Mart, they might have lost their lunches . . . In 1986, when Hillary was first lady of Arkansas, she was put on the board of Wal-Mart. Officials at the time said she wasn't filling a vacancy. In May 1992, as Hubby's presidential campaign heated up, she resigned from the board of Wal-Mart. Company officials said at the time that they weren't going to fill her vacancy.
So what the hell was she doing on the Wal-Mart board? According to press accounts at the time, she was a show horse at the company's annual meetings when founder Sam Walton bused in cheering throngs to celebrate his non-union empire, which is headquartered in Arkansas, one of the country's poorest states. According to published reports, she was placed in charge of the company's "green" program to protect the environment. But nobody got greener than Sam Walton and his family. For several years in the '80s, he was judged the richest man in America by Forbes magazine . . .
Was Hillary the voice of conscience on the board for American and foreign workers? Contemporary accounts make no mention of that. They do describe her as a "corporate litigator" in those days, and they mention, speaking of environmental matters, that she also served on the board of Lafarge, a company that, according to a press account, once burned hazardous fuels to run its cement plants . . .
The Clintons depended on Wal-Mart's largesse not only for Hillary's regular payments as a board member but for travel expenses on Wal-Mart planes and for heavy campaign contributions to Bill's campaigns there and nationally . . .
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart's first lady, who also benefited from Wal-Mart stock, solicits support from union workers. Which makes her words to the elderly Teamsters last week especially poignant: "You can count on me to stand up for the right to collectively bargain!" Right on, sister!
http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0021,harkavy,15052,5.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/14/AR2005051400765.html
And the Clintons depended on Wal-Mart's largesse not only for Hillary's regular payments as a board member but for travel expenses on Wal-Mart planes and for heavy campaign contributions to Bill's campaigns there and nationally.
http://www.topdog08.com/2005/05/hillary_and_sam.html

Grodge said...

Regarding the Saudis, this is the concept that I assume you are talking about:
"And we worked out this deal whereby the Royal House of Saud agreed to send most of their petro-dollars back to the United States and invest them in U.S. government securities. The Treasury Department would use the interest from these securities to hire U.S. companies to build Saudi Arabia–new cities, new infrastructure–which we’ve done."*

I'll admit that I have re-read that quote a few times, and I also remember it from the book, but I cannot fathom how this would work. Treasury would "use the interest" to hire US companies? Wouldn't the interest be paid to the bondholder, namely the Saudis? Or is he saying that the SA leaders would give the interest back to the US in the form of contracts with US companies? Why even bother with buying US securities, and why not just have the Saudis promise to contract with US companies using petro-dollars? This concept remains unclear to me.

This makes more sense to me (from the same article):
"One of the conditions of the loan–let's say a $1 billion to a country like Indonesia or Ecuador–and this country would then have to give ninety percent of that loan back to a U.S. company, or U.S. companies, to build the infrastructure–a Halliburton or a Bechtel. These were big ones."

As for the rest of your post, you are correct; we are too far apart on that issue. I am not about to get sucked into a prolonged defense of Hillary and Wal-Mart, other than to say that this topic is not germane to Perkins' book, there is no accusation of illegality, people are allowed to engage in business activity even when they live in Arkansas, no conflict of interest is apparent (otherwise why would Hillary be stumping for the AFL-CIO), and your references** are not that credible. Previous work experiences of public figures will always be scrutinized; scrutiny alone, which has been quite thorough in the Clintons' case, does not necessarily denote malfeasance.

I enjoy our banter and hope that it continues.
PS: I never shop at Wal-Mart either, but probably for different reasons than you and Norton.

*I don't have a copy of the book, but I did find this quote from an interview with Perkins; I believe that the concept is consistent. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article8169.htm Please correct me is this is different from the book's prose.

** The article you quoted, from Ward Harkavy at the Village Voice, is not alleging malfeasance; he is only questioning Hillary’s loyalty towards the labor unionists during their collective bargaining. (If you want malfeasance, you should read what Harkavy says about Repubs: http://villagevoice.com/blogs/bushbeat/archive/002397.php
(I usually eschew such rhetorical trash, but you brought him into the discussion, and thus, you should be forced to read this article in its entirety.)