Friday, April 26, 2013

Terrorism Abroad

In case you were taking a break from domestic news and wondering who's killing innocent people overseas, well, in Bangladesh it's mostly the people working for Bennetton, the Gap, and J.C. Penney;
"The plan would ditch government inspections, which are infrequent and easily subverted by corruption, and establish an independent inspectorate to oversee all factories in Bangladesh, with powers to shut down unsafe facilities as part of a legally binding contract signed by suppliers, customers and unions. The inspections would be funded by contributions from the companies of up to $500,000 per year.

The proposal was presented at a 2011 meeting in Dhaka attended by more than a dozen of the world's largest clothing brands and retailers — including Wal-Mart, Gap and Swedish clothing giant H&M — but was rejected by the companies because it would be legally binding and costly.

At the time, Wal-Mart's representative told the meeting it was "not financially feasible ... to make such investments," according to minutes of the meeting obtained by The Associated Press."
Well, I, for one, am glad that our corporate "citizens" are not knuckling under to the tyranny of those irresponsible Bengalis who seem to hold the misguided belief that things like workplaces that don't collapse or catch fire are some sort of "right" rather than a privilege of being in a Free Market.

I'd have more to say but there's a terrific sale today down at Wal-Mart, and I have got to pick up a pair of Levis; always low prices there, y'know?



  1. "but was rejected by the companies because it would be legally binding and costly."

    What a horrible thought. Spending money in the interest of saving life and limb and being held to the deal to boot! Doesn't that violate one of the Amendments or something? If not, it's at least not what the Founding Fathers intended and totally un-American.

  2. Oh please, of course they aren't going to voluntarily submit to these sorts of requirements.

    But so what? The real crime isn't that business is trying to make money even at the cost of other people and lives, they do this all the time. All of them do. The real crime is that Bangladesh doesn't stop them. That's the government's job. To expect Wal-Mart to voluntarily give up an easy buck so that someone who isn't affiliated with the company can feel morally better about a situation is not reasonable. Expecting that a governing body enforce rules that would make Wal-Mart do this, is reasonable. It seems like Americans have lost sight of the difference here, and I think its pretty critical.

    PF Khans

  3. There are some politicians that are trying to turn the U. S. of A. into another Bangladesh.

    As for WalMart and the others you mention I don't shop there anyway so it won't change my buying habits.

    I just recently spent two months snowbirding in a desert area. Another snowbird, a dittohead, and his wife, a Glenn Beck enthusiast, were always complaining about pisspoor Obamanomics since there were a few empty storefronts up for lease. I tried to point out to them that that within a five mile driving distance (three point five as the crow flies) there were two WalMarts and a Super Target. All three looked to be doing great judging by the cars in their parking lot so no wonder Mom&Pops are hurting financially. Small businesses seem to be a thing of the past unless you want to be a franchisee.

  4. PFK: Oh, Please?

    How about oh, please this: The entire country of Bangladesh produced about 305 billion in 2012. Wal-Mart, alone, made $125 billion in profit in 2012.

    To expect a country like Bangladesh to "enforce rules" on an outfit that is a stronger economic power that it is would be to expect Afghanistan to drive U.S. foreign policy. Wal-Mart, Target, and J.C. Penney would simply up the payoffs, or move to Sri Lanka or whatever other desperate Third World nation would agree to whatever "rules" these corporations insist on.

    But the U.S. government? THAT outfit has more power than Wal-Mart, if it chooses to use it. It has less to do with "...feel(ing) morally better about a situation" as it does about refusing to allow international corporations to pit Bangladeshi workers against U.S. workers in a race to the bottom. It has less to do with morality than it does with accepting that the U.S. works better for most Americans when powerful individuals and organizations are not allowed to place individual and corporate profit over living-wage jobs that contribute to political and social stability, both in Bangladesh and in the U.S. It has more to do with recognizing that letting our corporate "citizens" rape and screw other parts of the world helps make "them hate our freedoms" and stir up the fires of hate that follow us back home...

    Simply stated, there is no reason NOT to insist that products sold in the U.S. are not made under conditions that would not be illegal in the U.S. other than to sate the greed of those profiting from the lucre to be made off those conditions.

    That isn't good for people like you and me - unless you're an executive VP for Comcast and haven't told us about that - and it isn't good for the people in the places out corporations are subcontracting this stuff in now, either.

    Our government doesn't intervene to help poor places like Bangladesh fight this corporate corruption largely because we've spent the last 40 years being sold this sort of guff about how the "business of business is business" and that we shouldn't worry our little heads about what corporate "citizens" do in pursuit of a buck.

    You've ranted here about how you feel like the U.S. public has taken a dump on you because they sent you to a war they don't give a shit about...and yet you don't see any trouble with American corporations selling you products made by people THEY don't give a shit about? You've ranted here about how the U.S. public has agreed to wars fought in places and on peoples they could care less about...and yet you don't seem to have trouble with the U.S. public funding companies that help corrupt those sorts of places and kill those sorts of people.

    But it's JUST this sort of thing that helps make trouble for places like Bangladesh and from there to us here. All of us in the First World do better when the Third World spawns fewer angry people with chips on their shoulders; if there's a lesson from all this "terrorism" nonsense it's that distance is no security if you're a big enough asshole and make enough of the right enemies.

    Like the idea of spending a year in South Asia helping the corrupt-as-hell "government" of Bangladesh help crush an Islamic insurgency run by people whose families got killed in this travesty?

    Then by all means lay back and remind us how it's not our "fault" that our companies are greedy and the government of Bangladesh is a corrupt POS...then, yeah, I'd say that at least ONE American citizen has lost sight of something pretty critical...

  5. mike: And the two are tightly related.

    If you want to destroy the social compact that has given us nearly eighty years of social peace it helps if you can force well-paid First World workers to compete with Third World workers who have to put up with conditions we haven't seen here since the Thirties.

    What makes me tear my hair out is that this stuff doesn't even - in the end - help the goddamn Walton clan and their ilk. Cramming down the U.S. middle class, returning U.S. society to 1929, is only OK if you've forgotten what a fraught place that society was, with all sorts of radical loons from Left and Right ready to tear the republic down to get some sort of safety and freedom from the rapacious capitalism of that time.

    This makes sense only if you're very, very stupid or very, very greedy, or both.

  6. PFK

    If I violate the law, whether or not the government chooses to, or is able to enforce that law has no bearing on my criminality. Hell, I learned that from my high school principal, Hamilton Whipple 65 years ago. He also taught us that a transgression is a transgression, whether or not you get caught at it.

    Unfortunately, it has almost become the notion of people that the only "wrong" is being caught. Students say, "My teacher gave me an F", as if the student had no part in the award of the grade.

    Yes, governments should make a reasonable attempt at enforcing the law, but people and corporations still remain fully responsible for their own compliance with it. That's the "social contract" Chief is referring to, and without such a contract, society would devolve into a police state or anarchy.

  7. OOOPPPSSS - Math error, make that 55 years ago!

  8. Well, it looks like they arrested the building owner. I suppose it means that the Wall Street bankers are next.

  9. Look, it's not that this isn't tragic, it's just that I don't think there's any 'social contract' at this point.

    If there isn't one between a society and its warriors, then there definitely won't be one between its consumers and corporations. Seriously? Social contract? In an America where half of all marriages end within a couple years? Where the out-of-wedlock birth rate is higher than the in-wedlock birthrate? Where the LIBOR scandal just went down and the financial meltdown was caused by the greediest people skirting just under the radar?

    There's no 'social contract' any more. We gave up on that in exchange for freedoms and a decision to let the government police the gigantic institutions we created for our ultimate welfare. Economies of scale are not bound by a social contract and probably never have been past the first asshole who realized that he
    could get away with being an asshole somewhere other than where he lived.

    BTW, who in the Army never learned, "Lie, cheat, and steal" as an operation motto for the level of expectations for what would be done to complete 'the mission? You don't think that attitude pervades all aspects of American culture at this point?

    I recall an officer acquaintance of mine who was very much a shitbag. While he was Staff Duty Officer, he skipped town. The S3 happened to inspect and found that he wasn't there so he called him up and demanded he make an appearance. Knowing how much trouble he'd be in if he was known to be out of town without a pass, he told him he'd be there in 20 minutes. 4 hours later, he was still out of town hanging with some girl. The S3 was still waiting. About 8 hours after getting called back in, he finally arrived on base to talk to the S3.
    The S3 yelled, told him he'd get a letter of reprimand and had to write a paper on when being late killed soldiers in history and was on Staff Duty for the next two weekends.
    But the S3 never followed through and so he never wrote the paper and he didn't pull staff duty on the second of the two weekends.

    Punishment, reprimands, and exercising control requires follow through. Only Bangladesh can provide that in this case, and they don't seem to want to very much. Telling Wal-Mart or whoever they have to do X without any enforcement method in existence is futile and it cheapens the law.

    You want to solve this problem? Congress should impose tariffs on countries that don't get their act together for their laborers. Wal-Mart is going to make money one way or another. Trying to shoe-horn them into a position where they are forced to do something else is futile. Make the systems in which they operate do the work they are supposed to and the workers will be safer.

    PF Khans

    PS, you're both right, I'm pretty sure a) Afghanistan DOES drive US foreign policy well outside of its weight and b) society IS devolving into police states and anarchy.

    PPS Glad the government's doing its job! The criminal who owned the building should be in jail.

  10. PFK

    I can't speak for the post 1995 Army, but in my 35 years of Army and Marine Corps service,

    "Lie, cheat, and steal" as an operation motto for the level of expectations for what would be done to complete 'the mission?"

    was not an acceptable "operation motto". But much has change since my watch.

    As to the "social contract" between American society and it's military, it has been a fairly unidirectional, and defined legal one since day one. Members of the Armed Forces:

    "Support and defend the Constitution against all enemies" and "obey the lawful orders" (in the Oath of enlisted troops and the Commission of Officers) of those appointed over them, which, ex officio, includes one and only one elected official. There has been no enduring notion or expression that the military deserves a special or elevated place in society, other that that required to meet recruiting and retention goals. Adopting the title "warrior" is just a sad attempt to artificially elevate the social and economic position of the military, and results in further aberrations such as "The Shooter" wanting differential benefits based on increasing "warriorness" of given occupational specialties.

    As to your dirtbag officer anecdote, well, that's indeed a failure to obey and enforce lawful orders.

    Ain't gonna get an argument from me that American society has no respect or desire for any form of contract that inhibits self interest, be it corporate or personal. If the prevailing values were those of social consciousness and accountability, the GOP and Tea Party would be virtually non-existant.