when the status quo frustrates.

Made in Africa

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Recently, my roommate went home to Holyshitisthisplacepoor, WV, to visit his mother and help her take care of some business. After that was settled, they went to the mall, where they encountered a store he’d never seen before that seemed to have something to do with Sarah Jessica Parker and sold insanely cheap clothing. While Sarah (or SJP, for those in the know) blithered on from every television screen about your inalienable right to fashion, my roommate purchased 3 shirts for less than $10 apiece during what he assumed was some kind of clearance sale. He came home and showed them to me, they were OK shirts, nothing special, and told me a) about the crazy low prices and b) god damn, is Sarah Jessica Parker obnoxious. Since Roommate is frequently on a spandex-tight budget, and his current clothes are largely falling to pieces, we agreed that that seemed like a pretty good deal.

Then he washed the clothes, and they shrank literally a third. In one wash. He’d have to lose 40 pounds to get back into the shirts, which he never wore outside the house. He could have just stayed home and set fire to $30. To lose all three shirts would have made sense if they were the same style or brand, then you can just say, whoops, no wonder this one was on clearance. But to have three completely different styles and makes of shirts all shrink by the same drastic amount? WTF, right?

So I poked around the interwebs a bit, and found that SJP’s line (which is only women’s wear, so he wasn’t actually buying SJP clothes, as he believed) is sold exclusively from a store called Steve and Barry’s. Being a person who pays no attention whatsoever to celebrity clothing lines and steps in a mall maybe once a year, I was blissfully unaware of this place until now. The prices Roommate thought were clearance prices were actually S & B’s everyday low price, which the business press always helpfully points out “undercuts WalMart”. How do they do it? Well, they strongarm malls into paying them more for store set-up costs than it actually costs to set up a store, apparantly are staffed up to the corporate level by newbs who don’t yet care how much their pay sucks, the store’s owners can pwn the tariff/import game like nobody’s business, and probably most surprisingly,

That’s why it buys more from factories in Africa and less from China than many rivals — most African countries face neither U.S. quotas nor duties.

And so now I know about the African Growth and Opportunity Act that’s designed to encourage Africa to get in on the supplying-US-market game. This leads me to two questions, one of which is relevant to the poor people making the clothes and the other about the poor people buying the clothes:

1) How long until Sarah Jessica Parker, Steve & Barry’s, and African-country-TBD become the updated Kathie Lee Gifford, WalMart and Honduras?

The President may designate Sub-Saharan African countries as eligible to receive the benefits of the Act if they are making progress in such areas as: establishment of market-based economies; development of political pluralism and the rule of law; elimination of barriers to U.S. trade and investment; protection of intellectual property; efforts to combat corruption; policies to reduce poverty, increase availability of health care and educational opportunities; protection of human rights and worker rights, and elimination of certain practices of child labor. Progress in each area is not a requirement for AGOA eligibility.

2) Does it really do struggling families any good to give them a $7 sweatshirt if they have to buy a new one almost every time they wash it? If I were that poor, I’d prefer my shitty clothing fall apart in a manner I could more easily mend. Split seams and tears seem preferable to outright drastic fabric shrinkage.

But what if the kids go to the website and read about all the dirty things their parents aren’t letting them see?

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

For reasons which now escape me, I looked at an advertisement for “Fred Claus” in my alt-weekly paper, and in the corner I saw a little dove. Why, I thought, is my soap company stamping approval on crappy movies made by Jen Aniston’s rebound?

Turns out the Dove Foundation has little to do with soap; this Christian (oops, I’m sorry, Judeo-Christian) media-rating group is there to help parents who feel that the MPAA’s rating scheme, while helpful, is not prudish or detailed enough. It’s not enough to know why parental guidance is suggested, I need a list of every salacious thing that makes Fred Claus or Bee Movie a potential occasion for sin. First, let’s review a sampling of their simple 0-5 scale:

Sex: 0: none
1: on-screen acts of romance
2: infidelity; implied pre-marital sex or secondary lead characters with consequences
3: inappropriate sexual relations without consequences
4-5: graphic sexual activity is heard and/or seen

Language: 0: none
1: few utterances of mild crude language
2: few utterances of mild obscenity
3: crude and obscene language used throughout the story
4-5: any Biblical profanity (GD, Jesus, Jesus Christ) and any uses of gross sexual language

Nudity: 0: none
1: baby’s behind; shirtless men, low cut shirts, short skirts seen occasionally on women
2: rear nudity that is not suggestive such as skinny dipping from a distance; cleavage
3: sexually suggestive and revealing clothing or underwear is common throughout
4-5: frontal nudity

Other: Lead characters that exhibit disrespect for authority, lying, cheating, stealing, illegal activity, witchcraft or sorcery
0: non
1: mild-moderate with consequences
2: moderate poor behavior
3: moderate-heavy behavior with no consequences
4-5: extreme portrayals, condoned or excused

A score greater than 2 in any category means no dove for you!

Not only is the Dove Foundation more prudish than the MPAA, but they’re also more consistent and transparent, providing a rundown in each catagory of exactly where filmmakers went wrong. For example, Fred Claus contains:

Drugs: You see Frosty’s Tavern but a sign says eggnog is served.
Nudity: Cleavage; some sumo wrestlers are briefly seen.
Other: A lady gives birth but it is not graphic; a man accepts donations under false pretenses; a character lies to his girlfriend; the shredding of a Christmas wish list; elves abandon their posts for a time.

Seinfeld’s Bee Movie is not without sin:

Drugs: A lady has a drink in a glass which looks like apple juice.
Nudity: None
Other: A joke about B-Gandhi, B-Columbus, and B-Jesus which the filmmakers could have done without.

But don’t be fooled, these Christians are no sticks-in-the-muds! Just like all Americans, they enjoy a good joke or a sophisticated plot device as much as anyone, provided it doesn’t conflict with their values in any way, or even reinforce their values but in too graphic a way. Other than that, rock on, Hollywood!

It also has scenes such as a teddy bear being opened up and the stuffing popping out. However, it is quite humorous to hear “Jingle Bells” played as a dirge! (Nightmare Before Christmas, 3D)

Bees shouldn’t be able to fly! Their bodies are too big for their wings, and yet…This is a cute film which kids will love. It has a few lines for the adults too. Who wouldn’t love a newspaper headline which reads: “Frisbee Hits Hive!” *** (Bee Movie)

This film is consistently funny and should propel Steve Carell further up the Hollywood ladder of success. He plays Dan Burns, a widower raising three daughters. The daughters alone set up some potentially humorous moments as one is seventeen and pushing her father to let her drive. The middle daughter believes she is in love with a boy and that her father simply doesn’t understand that it is the “real” thing. This sets up a great scene as the boy comes to visit, and when Dan answers the door, the boy explains he is there to see Dan’s daughter. When Dan learns it is the middle daughter and not the oldest, he says, “Come back in two years!” and closes the door. (Dan in Real Life)

Christmas carols (secular, of course) played in a non-jolly way? Zany! Benign newspaper headlines? What will they think of next! And what about kids these days? Don’t tell me, I’ll tell you!

All right, so they wants to rates the movies. Fine with me, but why is this niche group pandering creeping into the mainstream ads? Who gave this moral watchdog group the patina of legitimacy? Whose fault is this?

In 1991 The Dove Foundation began promoting family-friendly entertainment. Our standards and criteria are based on Judeo/Christian values, free from the pressure of commercial interests. We believe in a positive approach of commending high-quality, wholesome movies rather than condemning filmmakers for not meeting those standards.

In the summer of 1990 a group of fathers began looking for a way to identify movies that were compatible with their families’ values — The Dove Foundation was born…(2005) Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment began to include the Dove “Family-Approved” Seal on all nationally marketed Dove approved DVDs.

Fox, I should have known. The same empire that gave us Married With Children back in the 80′s and Family Guy today in television and Farm Sluts, What Happened in Vegas…. and The Transporter on screen is concerned about your family’s values. God damn, those guys are good at playing all possible sides. Sex and violence sells, and getting panties wadded up over sex and violence sells. Two, two, two profitable markets in one!

***The assertion that bees can’t fly is only true if you use the linearized hydrodynamic equations and assume fixed wings; if you use the non-linearized ones with the proper assumptions about the wings, they can in fact fly.

Capitalism is evil

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Just when you thought it wasn’t bad enough that bottled water companies drain public reserves of water for free and then sell it back to said public for $1.50 a pop, WaterBank of America has launched a fresh new horror:

Ice cubes

Because you didn’t need enough plastic in your life.

H/T to Meagan D.; sorry that I didn’t believe you at first.

Yet another way in which America is screwing Iraq

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

So we’ve all heard about the Blackwater thing by now, right? After last Sunday, when Blackwater Christofascist mercenaries went on a killing spree, murdering at least 28 people in cold blood, Iraq’s puppet government finally said “enough is enough,” and revoked Blackwater’s license to operate in the country. This isn’t the first time that Blackwater has done something like this—it’s easy, considering that Blackwater killers are immune from prosecution. They’re only killing Iraqis, after all.

Remember democracy in Iraq, and those teary-eyed American conservatives praising the courage of ordinary men and woman and their purple fingers? Well, turns out that the whole democracy-building adventure was as hollow as we anti-war cynics said it was, because despite the puppet government’s orders, the occupiers have resumed Blackwater convoys. This, despite how deeply horrifying the massacre really was:

Witnesses say the first victims of the shootings were a couple with their child, the mother and infant meeting horrific deaths, their bodies fused together by heat after their car caught fire. The contractors, according to this account, also shot Iraqi soldiers and police and Blackwater then called in an attack helicopter from its private air force which inflicted further casualties.

Pretty par for the course, though, burning parents and babies alive. We’re used to hearing news like that. Here’s a fresh new horror that America is foisting on the long-suffering Iraqi people: Order 81.

Most North Americans, even left-wing, anti-capitalist North Americans, don’t know about the epidemic of debt-related suicides among Indian farmers. You should take some time to learn about it, though—at least 4,500 farmers in central India have killed themselves in the past six years—even higher than the slightly-better-publicized 4,300 Palestinian deaths so far during the Second Intifada. And while neoconservatism has generated righteous anger for its genocidal ideology, the Indian tragedy is a reminder of how brutal neoliberalism has been for the people of the Third World.

So, why are the Indian farmers killing themselves? Because they can’t repay crop loans. Why can’t they repay crop loans? Well, the way farming has worked since the dawn of agriculture is that you have your initial investment, which includes seeds, and you keep reusing your seeds after each harvest. If you don’t have enough, you can trade seeds with your neighbour. But companies like the notorious U.S.-based Monsanto realized that they could make more money manufacturing and pushing genetically modified “terminator seeds,” which are sterile and cannot be reused, forcing farmers into dependence on the company for their livelihood. To make things worse, the genetically modified seeds tend to be hardier than the natural variety, so the sneaky company can just blow some onto an unsuspecting farmer’s field, and presto! The mutant crops overtake the natural crops, and you have a new Monsanto customer-for-life. Nice, huh?

Well, this has worked out so nicely for transnational corporations in India that the Americans have decided to try it in Iraq, because invading, murdering, and looting hasn’t permanently screwed the country enough. When he was administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, U.S. diplomat L. Paul Bremer issued a bunch of orders, including the aforementioned Order 81:

What Order 81 did was to establish the strong intellectual property protections on seed and plant products that a company like the St. Louis-based Monsanto — purveyors of genetically modified (GM) seeds and other patented agricultural goods — requires before they’ll set up shop in a new market like the new Iraq. With these new protections, Iraq was open for business. In short, Order 81 was Bremer’s way of telling Monsanto that the same conditions had been created in Iraq that had led to the company’s stunning successes in India.

Dr. Vandana Shiva, a scientist and activist who has done a tremendous amount to fight against the GM assault on India, explains the colonialist dimensions of terminator seeds thusly:

This epidemic of piracy is very much like the epidemic of piracy which was named colonialism 500 years ago. I think we will soon need to name this round of piracy through patents as recolonialization as a new colonialization which differs from the old only in this – the old colonialization only took over land, the new colonialization is taking over life itself.

While the Blackwater mercenaries will eventually be forced to leave, one way or another, terminator seeds are a great way to ensure that Iraq will remain, long into the foreseeable future, a wretched neo-colony of American corporations.

Civilized human beings

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Another day of SPP talks and protests, another mindboggling quote from CCCE president Thomas D’Aquino. In reference to the protesters’ displeasure at the fact that elected representatives and the public aren’t being consulted on the SPP, he said:

I do not say to myself, ‘If I don’t get an hour with the prime minister in the next six months, I’m going to go out and protest and reject the system outright. I don’t do that because civilized human beings — those who believe in democracy — don’t do that.

One might argue that civilized human beings who believe in democracy don’t sign away national sovereignty in closed-door meetings. At the teach-in last Sunday, Michael Byers, one of the panelists, gave a shout-out to the cops who were no doubt in the audience, mentioning that unlike the leaders in Montebello, our meetings are open, and we have nothing to hide. I found it interesting that representatives of all major Canadian parties except the Conservatives attended the teach-in. Even the relatively right-wing Liberals, who held power when the SPP talks began, seem to feel a bit queasy at the direction that the discussion is taking.

In a functional democracy, protest is not simply a right. It’s a duty. This wouldn’t occur to someone like D’Aquino, who gets an hour with the Prime Minister whenever he wants, as well as more input into decision-making than politicians get. But his comments highlight something that I kept pondering as I marched beside anarchists, communists, social democrats, liberals, trade unionists, members of various targeted and racialized communities, and whack-job conspiracy theorists. Despite the earnestness of the demonstrators, despite the fact that many of us are stridently anti-capitalist and “reject the system outright”; the collective demands themselves are not radical. They aren’t even really reformist. They’re the sorts of things that we’re taught in high school civics class to be intrinsic to democracy and civil society: Stop meeting in secret. Debate policy in Parliament; that’s what it’s for. Consult the public.

That these demands, in the current political climate, are considered controversial at all is a damning indictment of how far we’ve drifted in the direction of oligarchy. The revolution we need looks more like the one of 1789 than of 1917.

Speaking of civility, check out this video from yesterday’s protest (hat-tip to Ariel):

Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, manages to stop a protester from throwing rocks in the family-friendly “green zone.” It seems that the “protester” is actually a cop or provocateur: Unlike when demonstrators normally get arrested, the cops don’t beat him, and while he scuffles with the other protesters who try to hold him back, he doesn’t struggle with the police at all. The other anarchists don’t seem to know him and don’t try to protect him or object to his arrest. He’s led quietly behind police lines. No word yet on who he is or whether he’s one of the handful of arrests (I’m guessing not).

Conclusion: Cop, sent to stir things up, discredit the demonstrators, and justify a police crackdown. It doesn’t seem to have worked, though. Remind me who the civilized ones are, again?

Quite important but frankly quite boring

Monday, August 20th, 2007

Ottawa SPP protest
I have a lot more photos from the protest here, so check them out.

The media can’t really explain it. The governments of three countries have been very vague about it, to the point where most elected representatives don’t know what it is. And yet, some people seem rather upset about it.

Until a few days ago, when mass protests around the Three Amigos’ summit in Montebello, Québec, forced the media to pay a bit of attention, most people in the three affected countries had not heard of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). Even the alternative media and the blogosphere is suspiciously quiet—probably because it’s hard to both find information about the issue and to explain it in the convenient soundbytes and talking points to which we’re all accustomed. Thomas D’Aquino, of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, describes the content of the talks (which have been taking place for the last two years) as: “quite important but frankly quite boring.”

We wouldn’t want to bore the people whose lives are likely to be radically changed by this thing. That’s why you’re not being consulted—in fact, your elected representatives aren’t even being consulted. Only the top military brass, corporate elite, and national leaders need to be concerned. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it. After all, don’t they always have your best interests at heart?

This is why I don’t believe in most conspiracy theories, incidentally. There’s no need for them. If your leaders are planning something distasteful for you—say, treaties or agreements that would attack your health and environment, strip what little labour protection you currently enjoy, curtail your freedom of movement, and embroil you in illegal wars—they don’t need to invent elaborate means to hide it from you. They can simply bury the issues in alphabet soup, discuss their plans in remote locations, and tell you that it’s too boring for you to need to read about.

Anyway, the 5,000 or so people who converged in Ottawa yesterday evidently didn’t find the subject boring at all. I was there, participating in the rally, march, and teach-in meant to tell the world about what’s going on today and tomorrow in Montebello. I was terribly impressed at the ability of the organizing groups—particularly the Council of Canadians—to accomplish what our media and politicians couldn’t do; namely, explain what the SPP is and why we should all care.

It’s 3AM, I have $20, and I need a gallon of milk, a pet bed, and an imitation designer purse, shoes and accessories. Where do I go?

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

WalMart’s getting the critical-size Wall Street jitters:

The company’s growth rate has slowed to a crawl, overtaken by rivals once thought to be no match for the “beast of Bentonville.”

which is why they’ve been absolutely delusional for the past few years.

Blah, blah, blah, poor people are already buying as much as they can, rich people wouldn’t be caught dead shopping there, how does WalMart cater to the fashionable Target market without alienating their bread-and-butter fashion-illiterate foodstamp market? Well, mostly they do it by acting like a bunch of newbs who’d never managed a chain of stores before:

Discriminating shoppers in its newest, urban markets are accustomed to higher standards of quality, selection and customer service than Wal-Mart has ever had to offer. And the firm, as it tries to retain its profitability of old, has shown a curious response to that challenge, recently capping wage increases for clerks who already are underpaid, scarce and lacking in product knowledge.

Many Wal-Mart outlets remain an aesthetic dead zone. The company’s belated store-remodeling efforts have been half-hearted, even though an alarming internal Wal-Mart survey in late 2005 found that one-quarter of the company’s U.S. stores fall short of minimal standards in everything from adequate lighting, prompt check-out time and even cleanliness – standards few Wal-Mart observers would describe as especially high in the first place.

…And it’s good news that Wal-Mart has bungled in so many different ways this decade – in rushing into upscale merchandising without realizing you don’t roll out an ad campaign until the advertised goods are in the stores; and that failing to rehabilitate shabby stores is an expensive bargain. Good news, because those are fixable issues that offer significant growth prospects.

Why is WalMart coming up with tactics more appropriate for a desperate drug addict trying to score a hit than a multi-billion dollar chain of stores? Because the system doesn’t reward profit, it rewards growth, insane, unsustainable, mathematically boggling growth:

At 45, Wal-Mart is showing its age. With sales of $345 billion (all figures U.S.) last year at 6,779 stores in 13 countries employing a total of 1.9 million people, Wal-Mart still has the clout to dictate pricing and package design to giant suppliers like Procter & Gamble, Campbell Soup Co. and Dell Inc., which rely on Wal-Mart’s 3,443 U.S. stores and thousands more abroad as one of their biggest, if not their largest, distribution channels.

But last year, Wal-Mart eked out same-store sales growth, at outlets open at least a year, of just 1.9 per cent, a mighty comedown from the routine double-digit increases of the 1990s.

…Last week, Wal-Mart reported anemic same-store sales growth of 1.9 per cent for July, the kick-off of the important back-to-school season, trailing the industry average of 2.6 per cent.

…In fairness, Wal-Mart is confronted with the daunting law of large numbers. It has to grow by $35 billion this year just to post a respectable growth rate of 10 per cent, which means finding new revenues equal to the total sales of Walt Disney Co. or Intel Corp. (emphasis mine)

I’ve never taken even a single economics class, but I have taken a lot of math. Say you have to grow 10% every year, and your first year you make $10. Next year, you have to make $11. And the year after that, $12.10. Which is fine, while you’re still small. But by year 50 you’re going to expected to bring in over $1,000 while your smaller, more limber competitors can post the same growth rate by bringing in less than a tenth as much in actual dollars. I am not stupid enough to think that I am the only one who has figured that bit out.

So why is a 50 year old company being held to a clearly unreasonable 10% growth rate? Why is the number 10% even being mentioned? What is this obsession with unsustainable growth? I know that this is not an original idea, but why do I see it everywhere but the business pages? I am very confused why a person more educated in the ways of economics than I would gloss over this very obvious detail while writing bizarre statements like this:

If Wal-Mart is not to go the way of General Motors Corp., Sears, Roebuck or Xerox Corp., whose long success bred an arrogance that blinded them to changes in the market and doomed them to fail at reinventing themselves, the company will need a top-to-bottom cultural makeover that rejects shoddy stores, outlets understaffed by poorly paid employees with little product knowledge, and a consistent drive to somehow upgrade its merchandise without alienating its base of low-income consumers.

Seriously, how much Koolaid do you have to drink to be a business journalist? Or a businessman for that matter? Problem: After 45 to 50 years of constant growth and market saturation, we’ve stopped growing faster than a bacterial culture. Solution: not expect start-up levels of growth from established company let’s sell shit to the rich and the poor in the same store! All we have to do is remodel the stores to meet the expectations of affluent shoppers without alienating or raising the prices on the poor shoppers while offering trendy, stylish clothing of good quality next to the cut-rate mom jeans which will remain super-deals while hiring a workforce that offers the service and product awareness discriminating shoppers expect while keeping labor costs low and passing the savings on to you. Easy! The faux-rich will flock to WalMart and will happily mingle with the riffraff, who of course will be impressed by the opportunity to study their betters.

Could someone explain this in a way that makes sense? Because I don’t get it. And I still won’t be shopping at WalMart, because they’re clearly not doing anything to meet my standards: I’d never shop at a place I couldn’t see myself working at.

The Roberts Court making list of all the ways ordinary American citizens can go fuck themselves

Friday, June 29th, 2007

First, they came for the wimmins: partial birth abortion bans are upheld.

Next, the uppity negros: Roberts actually writes “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race” in a decision against even the barest hint of affirmative action. We all see where that one is going.

And with the two biggies out of the way, there is finally the leisure to screw everyone over.

Striking down an antitrust rule nearly a century old, the Supreme Court ruled today that it is no longer automatically unlawful for manufacturers and distributors to agree on setting minimum retail prices.

…The decision was the latest in a string of opinions this term to overturn Supreme Court precedents. It marked the latest in a line of Supreme Court victories for big businesses and antitrust defendants. And it was the latest of the court’s antitrust decisions in recent years to reject rules that had prohibited various marketing agreements between companies.

What? Are you really suprised? You guys didn’t really think that there was enough privilege for all the straight white men, did you? But don’t fret too much. The higher prices you’ll be paying will go towards the further enrichment of the top 2-3% of the population, who will then be able to plenty afford to keep those women, brown people and foriegners in their place. And isn’t that what the Bush mandate was all about? Mission accomplished!

When the ship is going down, you might as well sue the captain who ran us into the iceberg

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Have you noticed all those terrible storms that we’ve started to encounter as a result of warmer oceans? And all those rising sea levels that threaten the existence of major cities around the globe? And just how generally fucked we all may be as a result of global warming?

Well, law firms have, too. They’re expecting that as more lives are ruined the way they were ruined in New Orleans, and as more information comes out pointing to Big Energy’s full awareness of the dangers presented by their CO2 emissions, there’ll be some beaucoup-bucks lawsuitin’ ahead.

Check out the haps in Dallas:

Top Dallas firm Thompson & Knight started a dedicated climate-change practice June 4 with 26 lawyers. Monday, Dallas’ Vinson & Elkins will unveil its 41-lawyer group, headed by a former senior counsel for the World Bank.

The law firms – and a dozen others nationwide – are getting ready for a predicted explosion of climate-related work tied to government regulation, lawsuits against energy companies and new markets that will trade the rights to emit carbon.

As friend and reader Sigmund pointed out to me, the trail of money is the best barometer for reality in America. And along with the formation earlier this year of The United States Climate Action Partnership, which includes companies like DuPont, GE, BP, and others banding together to request emissions regulations, the creation of massive legal departments concentrating solely on climate change litigation and regulation should send a loud and clear signal to the last few remaining holdouts (like, say, the head of NASA) that global warming is real and impacting our lives in significant ways.

So the next time Grandpa tells you that global warming crap is crap, just wait for him to fart and then hit him with a class-action lawsuit. You, your mom, and your Uncle Albert have suffered enough of his harmful CO2 emissions, and Thompson & Knight and Vincent & Elkins are here to help. Just make sure you enlist their help before Grandpa does, though, because these firms are more than happy to play both sides:

By their geography, the Dallas firms have a number of energy companies as clients. But they also expect to represent plaintiffs who’ve been harmed by global warming and pollution.

Mmmm. Them’s good fees! They’ll spend nicely when Thompson’s or Elkins’ descendants are purchasing black market water credits in the Iowa desert.

[And, no, I'm not opposed to suing the pants off any companies at fault, but it also might be a little late for it to help much...]

Wal-Mart’s shadow government comparable to America’s but at a fraction of the cost

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Ohhhh. Creepy.

Wal-Mart, renowned to outsiders for its elbows-out business tactics, is known internally for its bare-knuckled no-expense-spared investigations of employees who break its ironclad ethics rules.

Over the last five years, Wal-Mart has assembled a team of former officials from the C.I.A., F.B.I. and Justice Department…

The investigators — whose résumés evoke Langley, Va., more than Bentonville, Ark. — serve as a rapid-response team that aggressively polices the nation’s largest private employer, enforcing Wal-Mart’s modest by-the-books culture among its army of 1.8 million employees.

If you are a mid-level or higher WalMart exec and they even think you’re crossing them, they’ll fuck you up.

After Ms. Roehm sued Wal-Mart for wrongful termination, the company disclosed the results of the investigation last week in a detailed and at times salacious countersuit. Investigators obtained records that they said showed the two married executives had engaged in a sexual affair, accepted free meals from an advertising agency vying to win Wal-Mart’s business and begun negotiating a deal to leave Wal-Mart to work for that agency….

The Wal-Mart investigation was striking in its scope. Lawyers for Wal-Mart subpoenaed Mr. Womack’s wife, Shelley, compelling her to give sworn testimony about how she discovered a sexual relationship between her husband and Ms. Roehm. They prompted her to turn over dozens of embarrassing e-mail messages that her husband had sent to Ms. Roehm from a private account.

The same people responsible for making WalMart seem more competent and compassionate than FEMA after Katrina are using their years of experience at the highest levels of the FBI & CIA to crack down on embezzlement, intra-employee fornication, and maybe even dissent:

Mr. Lynn, in an interview and in a wrongful-termination lawsuit filed against Wal-Mart, claims he was singled out because he openly criticized the working conditions in the Central American factories he inspected.

“Wal-Mart is the ultimate Big Brother in corporate America,” Mr. Lynn said. He disputes Wal-Mart’s claim that it investigates every employee the same way. “They are very opportunistic,” he said. “If it is someone they want to get rid of, they will go all out. If it’s somebody whose career they want to save, they won’t.”

It’s not time to get concerned yet. When they start organizing a WalMart army, then maybe we should be worried.

If you think the name is odd, wait ’till you see the t-shirts they had printed up.

Monday, March 26th, 2007

WalMart is handing out bonuses for “Associate Celebration Day.” Ok, cool.

But could someone explain why this sounded good in their collective corporate heads?

Store associates and assistant managers with 20 or more years of service will get an extra week of pay under the new Servant Leadership bonus plan.

Emphasis mine. Please tell me there is some detail that I’m missing. Something that would reassure me that yes, WalMart executives can just do one nice thing for their wage slaves without being backhanded about it.

At least they get better every time they try to reward the proles. Maybe by this time next year they’ll come up with a reward system and completely forget to add the part that causes us to all pause and reflect on what clueless wankers they are.

**Edited to add: In the comments, Auguste points out the detail that I missed. It was not as reassuring as I had hoped for. In fact, if the orgins of the name are the same as those he quotes, then I retract any part of this post that makes it sound like maybe I thought WalMart was finally doing something right. What fuckers.

Because you’re never too rich to steal a few extra pennies

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

Best Buy: Where a cent stolen spends twice as nice as a Benjamin earned.

According to the earnings spreadsheet in the financial download section of their corporate site, during fiscal year 2006, electronics megosaur Best Buy generated $30 billion in revenue with a gross profit of $7.726 billion.

So could someone please explain to me why they feel the need to swindle consumers out of a few extra bucks?