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5 posts from August 2007

August 22, 2007

"Angry Anarchists and Family-Friendly Activists"

Graffitti2The language that people use to report on events is often as fascinating as the events themselves. A CP wire story that ran in yesterday's Peterborough Examiner, for example, mentioned the "angry anarchists and family-friendly activists" who travelled to Montebello to protest the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership talks. I have a mental image of people being separated into two separate lines -- the angry anarchists and family-friendly activists -- so that they can be processed accordingly. ("Hey, Fred. Do you have any more 'angry anarchist' delegate badges? I'm all out.")

And as for Harper reportedly describing the protesters as "sad" -- that's a comment that speaks for itself when it comes to a Prime Minister's lack of respect for the tradition of protest in a democracy. Sad, indeed.

August 21, 2007

Del Mastro and the Giant Baby Bottle

Img_2050_2Health Canada promotes breastfeeding as the best method of feeding infants as it provides optimal nutritional, immunological and emotional benefits for the growth and development of infants. It's therefore a bit difficult to understand why the latest political postcard from Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro features a giant baby bottle.

Img_2048_2The baby bottle is enormous: much larger than the supposedly happy family that it accompanies. I say "supposedly" because the mother in the photo looks totally traumatized -- almost like she'd just figured out what $100/month will get you if you're trying to pay for infant formula.

August 07, 2007

Anything But Child's Play: The Fisher-Price Toy Recalls

PuzzlemapI've been thinking a lot about the Fisher-Price toy recalls ever since it happened last week. I decided to blog about the recall and some related issues today in my Yahoo! Parenting blog.

I find the story disturbing on so many levels because it ties into so many of the issues that concern me on a day-to-day basis -- and that I blog about here in this blog: the drive for lower-and-lower prices by big-box retailers; the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs -- and, as we've seen repeatedly this year, with dire safety consequences; and the as-yet-unknown long-term social costs of globalization, both here and around the world.

August 02, 2007

Nixon on Media Relations

I happened to come across some book excerpts from a brand new book about the Nixon Years (Robert Pallek's Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power. New York: HarperCollins, May 2007) while I was flipping through the May 2007 issue of Vanity Fair earlier today. Pallek -- whose research is based on four years of laborous research, pouring through transcripts of the infamous Nixon and Kissinger tapes -- makes the case that Nixon's press policy was all about damage control.

And as for any allegations that he might be repressing facts? Nixon was characteristically blunt: "I don't give a damn about repression." (That was his comment to Kissinger, after finding out that former Kissinger aide Daniel Ellsberg had released the so-called Pentagon Papers -- the Pentagon's secret history of the Vietnam War -- to The New York Times.)

I wonder if this book made it on to Stephen Harper's summer reading list.

August 01, 2007

Unpaid Teen Workers at Mexican Wal-Mart: NEWSWEEK


This Newsweek story about teenagers in Mexico working for nothing but the possibility of tips (reprinted at CommonDreams.org) made me question, once again, why these things are allowed to go on.

Joseph Contreras writes, in part:

"Wal-Mart is Mexico’s largest private-sector employer in the nation today, with nearly 150,000 local residents on its payroll. An additional 19,000 youngsters between the ages of 14 and 16 work after school in hundreds of Wal-Mart stores, mostly as grocery baggers, throughout Mexico-and none of them receives a red cent in wages or fringe benefits. The company doesn’t try to conceal this practice: its 62 Superama supermarkets display blue signs with white letters that tell shoppers: OUR VOLUNTEER PACKERS COLLECT NO SALARY, ONLY THE GRATUITY THAT YOU GIVE THEM. SUPERAMA THANKS YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING."

While some would argue that without that gratuity, these teens and their families would be even worse off, couldn't the case be made that without the volunteer packers, Wal-Mart would be forced to pay its 19,000 "volunteer" laborers? And as Mexico's largest private-sector employer -- an employer that made $280 million in net profits in the second quarter of 2007 -- shouldn't Wal-Mart show some leadership or be mandated to do the right thing?

Why are Canada and the U.S. doing business with Mexico, if this is how it treats its labor force. Why aren't the Canadian and American branches of this multinational company being called to task in a major way.

Maybe we should all march to our local Wal-Mart stores during back-to-school season and ask if they pay teenagers, or if they expect our sons and daughters to volunteer for the privilege of working for Wal-Mart. And if Wal-Mart Canada and Wal-Mart US wouldn't consider asking our kids to work for free, why should they pay other people's children that way -- children whose families are desperately poor?

It is unbelievable that these questions even have to be asked.

How did our ideas about what will be tolerated -- let alone what is right or wrong in our society -- get so far off track?

Will any political party ever stand up to the mega-corporations? Or has the power shifted so much in favour of those mega-corporations that talk is futile?

Sources: CommonDreams.org, Newsweek