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Anti-globalisation protesters "make me want to vomit"
February 6, 2001 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Anti-globalisation protesters "make me want to vomit" says Michael Moore, head of the World Trade Organisation. Which is funny, since *he* makes *me* want to vomit, too. "Because the poorest people on our planet, they are the ones that need us the most", says Mr. Moore. Oh, the sincerity in his words...
posted by tobyslater (42 comments total)

 
What an a$$hole.

A completely different Michael Moore, with a completely opposite viewpoint, is going to be on Politically Incorrect tonight. Watch. Also featured on tonight's show is everyone's favorite scapegoat. Ralph Nader. Should be a good one.
posted by ritualdevice at 12:46 PM on February 6, 2001


My favourite story about Michael Moore (the "Downsize This" comedian, *not* the vomiting capitalist), is from British funnyman/ commentator Chris Morris: "'I made up a corrupt English businessman with a totally ludicrous name who had fired all his staff and then methodically patrolled local schools, carrying a big banner that read 'I sacked your Dad because he's totally fucking useless'. And Moore is such a knee-jerk that he's saying, 'You know what, we've gotta get this guy. Why doesn't anyone do this in Britain?' And I said, 'well there is a guy called Mark Thomas who also goes around and bullies receptionists. And Moore goes, 'NOT THOMAS. You need a guy who really kicks ass.'"
posted by tobyslater at 1:02 PM on February 6, 2001


I propose that Michael Moore and Michael Moore arm-wrestle for rights to the name 'Michael Moore.' The loser will have to be called 'Uncle Jimmy.'
posted by twitch at 1:03 PM on February 6, 2001


Most of my friends do not view Nader as a scapegoat but grant him the right to run in an election if this is his choice. From my perspectve, I am delighted that Mr. N has to use corporation tv to denounce corporation newsoutlets for ignoring his candidacy which was focused mainly on his anti-corporation message. Call me naive, but just what did he expect from those he detested?
posted by Postroad at 1:39 PM on February 6, 2001


So, what do anti-globalists propose to counter this WTO modus operandii that they despise so much? I've heard a lot of noise and anger, but very little media reporting about what these groups stand for other than the usual sound bites regarding the allegedly evil motives of the WTO. Rather than debating who makes who vomit more, I'd prefer to see some pointers to what some of these groups actually stand for.
posted by MrBaliHai at 1:49 PM on February 6, 2001


What exactly is the WTO doing at these talks that you object to?
posted by tranquileye at 1:51 PM on February 6, 2001


I've heard a lot of noise and anger, but very little media reporting about what these groups stand for other than the usual sound bites...

Hm... the corporate-owned media isn't doing a very good job of getting the anti-corporate message out? How odd!

We've done the WTO debate here on MeFi here so many times that I'm reluctant to proselytize still more on the problems with the WTO, and I don't have all my political bookmarks with me on this machine. Here's one summary of the idea of globalization versus the reality of the WTO's version of globalization.

tranquileye, my chief problem with the WTO is that the WTO's corporate-dictated decisions can and have been used to strike down democratically-arrived-at legislation. Even the very little influence constituents currently have over their representatives becomes moot with a stroke of the WTO's pen.
posted by wiremommy at 2:21 PM on February 6, 2001


wiremommy, I'll confess to being predisposed for the WTO and against what look to me like a bunch of undergraduates who haven't figured out yet that capitalism will pay for the lifestyles they soon will crave - but I'm open to hearing more, if only because my opinion of the WTO is based only on media reporting. Can you be more specific about what WTO "corporate-dictated decisions... have been used to strike down democratically-arrived-at legislation"? And who exactly is wielding that mighty pen you refer to? No, this is not a troll; I seriously would like to hear more from the protest side, and I trust wiremommy to not preach but explain, based on past MeFi posts.
posted by m.polo at 2:28 PM on February 6, 2001


Ralph Nader and Michael "Roger and Me" Moore as advocates for the downtrodden. Amazing. If I had busted a union (as both Nader and Moore did), I wouldn't have the nerve to pretend I cared about the working class.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 2:51 PM on February 6, 2001


I can tell you a few things I object to about groups like the WTO and the process of globalisation:

-that corporations, both in the UK and USA, have gained their various powers against the will of both the people and original written law
- that some of today's biggest economies are not nations but corporations
- that, in the UK and USA, companies legally have all the rights of a human being but suffer few of the legal responsibilities of a person
- that as a result our governments are grossly influenced by corporate power
- that as a corporation grows its need to respect the rights of its customers diminishes
- that the abuse of this political power by companies usually infringes upon the rights of the people and the process of democracy
- that global economics works on the theory that continual economic growth is an end in itself, despite the fact that natural resources are finite
- that this emphasis on growth cannot account for the enormous damage done by the plundering of natural resources and that we are therefore storing up a frightening debt for our children
posted by tobyslater at 3:03 PM on February 6, 2001


Oh, and I object to the fact that Michael Moore claims to be doing it for the poor when quite patently his job is to defend the interests of some of the world's biggest capitalist economies. These cannot, by definition, be interested in helping the poor; the shareholders would simply not approve.
posted by tobyslater at 3:11 PM on February 6, 2001


M.polo, I'm sure Wiremommy will provide her own examples, but here's one small example of what I think Wiremommy is talking about:

To prevent sea turtles from being killed by shrimp nets, the US eventually required the use of 'turtle-excluding devices', which both cost money and reduce (on the order of 10-20%) the shrimp take for commercial fishermen. Congress then passed a law forbidding the import of shrimp from countries that didn't catch shrimp in turtle-harming ways, presumably making for a level playing field. Nations could qualify by demonstrating that there weren't any turtles where they caught shrimp or by passing comprable regulations. Initially, this law was applied largely to Carribean countries; later, it was extended to Asian countries as well. Thailand and other Asian countries sued, saying that this was a discriminatory trade practice and a violation of the GATT. The WTO backed them up, invalidating the law.

(There's an excellent summary of the case online. I certainly don't think that the WTO are monsters and I think that free trade is, on the whole, a good thing, but that's one small example of how difficult it can be to make environmental and labor laws that govern imports from GATT signatories.)
posted by snarkout at 3:30 PM on February 6, 2001


m.polo, you confess to be biased about the case at hand, yet you call those opposed to corporate managed trade ignorant themselves. Think about that for a minute, because many intelligent people are fighting the corporate-trade regime who are very well-versed on the issue.

I am a capitalist, and as a capitalist I see the WTO/IMF/FTAA are not capitalist institutions. They are corporate-managed trade regimes without any connection to community or nation.

WTO: forced Mexico to pay Multiclad $16 million because the municipality didn't want a toxic waste dump in it's town; forced the US to rewrite it's laws concerning dolphin safe tuna and to import unsafe tuna; increased logging worldwide despite measures designed for sustainability; Venezuela and Brazil won a challenge to the US regulations forcing lower air standards; the EU banned fur from animals caught with leg hold traps, but the US forced it to reverse it's decision; the list goes on.

A NAFTA decision coming up in the next week stands to staggeringly drop safety measures for trucks coming out of Mexico. Safety standards in Mexico for shipping trucks is pretty much non-existant, and if this ruling falls in favor of Mexico (it probably will), unsafe and unregulated trucks will be able pass both sides the border.

One fact to take away: the US has never won a trade dispute regarding environmental standards. For every dispute that arises, the standards are lowered. There is no right to appeal. All decisions are final. This creates a “race to the bottom” for international standards, which is what corporations want. People, however, need to protect their jobs, communities and lives.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 3:33 PM on February 6, 2001


How exactly is "force" applied in the WTO? What would happen if one nation (say the U.S.) decided not to comply with, say, a dictate from the WTO to lower air quality standards?
posted by kindall at 4:00 PM on February 6, 2001


The government found at “fault” would have to pay the other for lost revenue for as long as it retained the laws.

It's a trade treaty that allows punitive damages but doesn't allow any country veto power.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 4:20 PM on February 6, 2001


The government found at “fault” would have to pay the other for lost revenue for as long as it retained the laws.

What if they didn't pay? They'd be kicked out of WTO, one presumes? All the other WTO members would embargo them? What exactly?

I mean, I have a hard time imagining a lot of the European countries going along with environmentally detrimental rules. What if several of them, as a bloc, pulled out? Would we be obliged to cease trading with, say, France?

posted by kindall at 4:48 PM on February 6, 2001


No one has directly addressed Tranquileye's question: What, then, replaces the WTO? Nothing? That'll sure hinder corporate greed.
posted by argybarg at 4:55 PM on February 6, 2001


kindall, the corporations which paid for the campaigns of the elected officials who dared to defy the WTO would simply begin supporting their political opponents. It would be the last thing those people ever did in public office. The companies that make up the WTO hold a "you'll never work in this town again" trump card over the heads of everyone in Washington. They're working on getting it that way in every other industrialized nation, too. Of course, if voters actually paid attention and didn't vote for corporate-funded candidates, this situation would never have arisen in the first place. Unfortunately people are, for the most part, stupid little sheep. (I know that's an often overused description, but dammit, if the shoe fits...)
posted by Potsy at 4:55 PM on February 6, 2001


Oops ... I meant MrBaliHai's question.
posted by argybarg at 4:56 PM on February 6, 2001


Everyone, before asking anymore questions please read this. It’s quick and worthwhile.

I’ve had this WTO conversation so many times, in so many different venues. Memes couldn’t exist, otherwise you all would’ve heard everything I’ve said about this by now.

I have a hard time imagining a lot of the European countries going along with environmentally detrimental rules.

Why is that so hard to believe, knowing everything you do about privately funded politicians and how lobbying works? Corporations benefit from neo-liberal economics, not people. The corporations that lobby their governments into these treaties keep the pressure on. The Selling of “Free Trade” is a great book outlining the reasons Clinton pushed for NAFTA. Basically, he wanted the support of big business so he could win re-election. He rammed NAFTA through, and got the funds he needed to win again. Not very surprising. Interestingly, the next big project was healthcare reform. That failed miserably, mostly because Clinton used all his political capital on pushing through highly disliked legislation.

You’ll notice the only government officials that make any noise about restructuring trade treaties are third world representatives because they are suffering immensely under these policies. If a corporate-owned politician so much as made a whisper about renegotiating
the WTO, he’d lose his campaign contributions. Mostly third world countries suffer under debt structured by the IMF and controlled by the WTO.

There are just enough standards to give governments an out. In the Brazil/US gas ruling, standards were lowered to what they were 10-15 years ago effectively letting the US say if it was good enough then, it's good enough now. (When they even acknowledged the laws were changing. I'm sure nobody heard any PSAs about it.) It's obviously a flawed arguement, antithetical to the idea of progress.

The rub is globalization is good, but not corporate managed trade, which is what these institutions represent. Growing international trade is a worthwhile goal if environmental, labor and national soverigenty are brought along. People before profits.

Just look at who defends the treaties: CEOs of multinationals, economists sponsored by the multinationals, politicians funded by multinationals. Now look at those against it: environmentalists, unions (by far the most politically ghettozied group in the US), third world folks. All these people suffer from these laws. So, if you’re a multinational CEO the WTO is a boon. If you’re a worker, or someone living under environmental rollbacks, you’re suffering.

Potsy, I’d hesitate from insulting the people you’re trying to help. In America most people (and therefore voters) work 50+ hours per week. That doesn't give a lot of time to read Multinational Monitor or BRIDGES Weekly Trade News. It’s easier to sneak by oppressive corporate rule by a dog-tired worker than it is politicized folks like ourselves.

Argybarg, wiremommy answered it with a link, and the first in this post is useful too.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 8:39 PM on February 6, 2001


The anti-globalist hate professed by guys like tobyslater seems like exactly the kind of incorrect and unthoughtful schpiel spit out by "Adbusters" every other month. Toby notes that corporations don't have the same responsbilities as a human being; for instance, owners of corporations have "limited liability" when it comes to a corporation being sued or going bankrupt.

This is a *good* thing for environmentalists. Think about this: If there was no limited liability, would you have your company clean up an old landfill and build your new factory in that depressed part of town?

Not only that, but if you look at it, it is *not* the educated poor who are complaining about globalization (a similar situation to genetic engineering, but let's not open that can of worms). It's the middle and upper-class Europeans and Americans.

Look at history: Countries who opened their doors to foreign investment and trade (in Asia, for instance) are doing much better. Compare Korea to Myanmar. Compare Taiwan to China.

And another thing: If you're for helping the poor, and aren't giving the 30% of so of your net wealth to Charity like everyone's favorite capitalist, you have no right to complain. If you don't have the money, then if you're not volunteering 20 hours a week or so, you have *no* right to complain.

Protests do not count.

Are there problems with the WTO? Of course they are. But if you consider those problems to be that an international organization is superseding local control, then you better look at the WHO and the UN in addition to the WTO/IMF.

Peace,
Kevs
posted by Kevs at 9:17 PM on February 6, 2001


...my chief problem with the WTO is that the WTO's corporate-dictated decisions can and have been used to strike down democratically-arrived-at legislation.

But the decision to form the WTO, the decision to join it, and the decision to abide by its rulings were all agreed to by the duly-elected rulers of each country, no? (At least, by those countries that have any semblance of democracy in the first place.) If there's any wrongdoing here, isn't the blood on the hands of each country's rulers, rather than on the bureaucrats that are merely carrying out their wishes?

I mean, there's no WTO Army. Any country is still free to ignore any ruling the WTO makes that it doesn't like. So if, for example, the voters of the United States didn't choose a leader that campaigned on a platform to end WTO membership, didn't they essentially make the democratic decision to be part of it?
posted by aaron at 10:00 PM on February 6, 2001



...forced the US to rewrite it's laws concerning dolphin safe tuna and to import unsafe tuna...

The EU forces member countries to rewrite laws all the time. Why isn't it just as bad?
posted by aaron at 10:05 PM on February 6, 2001



"So if, for example, the voters of the United States didn't choose a leader ... didn't they essentially make the democratic decision..."

Egads, aaron! Must you troll with the incessant Bush/Gore references? ((I'm sorry...with the feminism thread and now this, it seemed quiet on the front today) BTW - how did your dad fare the other day?))
posted by red cell at 10:45 PM on February 6, 2001


Heh heh.

Nothing happened with my dad. No layoffs, no talk about impending layoffs; they're acting like the whole idea of the layoffs never came about in the first place. So I guess we're just stuck wondering until the ax falls, or until the city makes public its latest budget plans. :/
posted by aaron at 10:49 PM on February 6, 2001



Kevs, the "right to complain" stuff misses an important point. Someone who does nothing to either help or hurt the poor is still morally superior to someone like Moore of the WTO who goes out of his way to hurt poor people by rolling back the clock on labor and environmental laws all over the world (and then adds insult to injury by actually claiming that the world's poor "need" him).

capt.crackpipe, I hate to insult people, and being an optimist at heart I find it distasteful to have to say things like that, but I just have to call it like I see it. As I said, the shoe fits. People don't have be that astute or well-informed to know things like, in the USA for example, the two major political parties are bad for them. I can hardly avoid hearing or reading about it every day, and I've never even looked at Multinational Monitor or BRIDGES Weekly Trade News. And every time I go to vote, I'm astounded at the number of independents and third-party candidates on the ballot (with party names like "workers so-and-so" or "socialist something-something") who never get any votes. How hard would it be for people to just move that little hole-puncher down a notch or two and give one of those other candidates a try? Not that hard. But that's too much to ask because people have been brainwashed into thinking that the two major parties are their friends, and it is they who allowed themselves to be brainwashed.
posted by Potsy at 10:52 PM on February 6, 2001



So what should replace the WTO? Should it be replaced with nothing?
posted by argybarg at 11:12 PM on February 6, 2001


Although your response wasn't encouraging, glad to hear it nonetheless, aaron. ;]

An aside to this aside, please overlook that superfluous close parenthesis in my above post.

Now...back to fighting, people!
posted by red cell at 11:14 PM on February 6, 2001


Argybarg, I'd be content with a WTO that had implemented a more transparent, fair, and subject-to-appeal procedural system and that one that let countries make genuine stands regarding the importation of goods produced under unfair labor conditions or in environmentally destructive ways. I know many people think the WTO is intrinsically a bad thing; I'm not one of them, but I do think it's very unlikely that the WTO will ever transform itself into something that I can wholly approve of.
posted by snarkout at 5:48 AM on February 7, 2001


From the Zmag article pointed to by the Cap'n:
The idea is simple—instead of only imposing on third world countries low wages and high pollution due to their weak or bought-off governments, why not weaken all governments and agencies that might defend workers, consumers, or the environment, not only in the third world, but everywhere?
No matter what sort of conspiracy theory your brain filters world politics through, this is not why the Uruguay Round happened, nor is it why any round of the GATT happened. Such vitriol undermines your cause and completely eliminates any credibility from this source.
posted by norm at 9:35 AM on February 7, 2001


Kevs:
Not only that, but if you look at it, it is *not* the educated poor who are complaining about globalization (a similar situation to genetic engineering, but let's not open that can of worms). It's the middle and upper-class Europeans and Americans.

Well duh. It takes time and money to find out what's going on and complain about it. You have to have some spare cash to be able to take half a week off to go protest. You have to have some spare cash to be able to afford subscriptions to magazines that would talk about this sort of thing. You have to have some money to get a 'net connection. You have to have enough money that you don't need to work a second job (or a 12-hour-a-day job) in order to have time to read and think about it. And to top it off you pretty much have to be fluent in English, German, or French to even be able to read much on the subject.

What's remarkable is that middle-class Europeans and Americans are pissed off about injustices that are, for the most part, currently hurting somebody else.

And another thing: If you're for helping the poor, and aren't giving the 30% of so of your net wealth to Charity like everyone's favorite capitalist, you have no right to complain. If you don't have the money, then if you're not volunteering 20 hours a week or so, you have *no* right to complain.

Where do you get this from? Do you not realize that charity is a temporary, individual solution to an permanent, institutional problem? If charity were the solution to poverty, don't you think the Victorians would have licked it for good and all a hundred years ago?

Besides, what are those numbers supposed to represent? Why not 40%? Why not fifty hours a week? Why don't you demand that I go play Mother Teresa before you take me seriously? It'd be just as reasonable.

Protests do not count.

Why not? If a protest successfully dislodges a piece of institutionalized unfairness that was keeping people in poverty, I'd say that the protesting did a lot more good than any amount of charity could ever do.

Are there problems with the WTO? Of course they are. But if you consider those problems to be that an international organization is superseding local control, then you better look at the WHO and the UN in addition to the WTO/IMF.

You're missing the point. The WTO puts the interests of multinational business interests over everything else - that is the purpose for which it was built. Are multinational business interests more important to you than anything else? More important than the health of the planet you live on? More important than the freedoms and privileges a good government protects?

-Mars


posted by Mars Saxman at 11:17 AM on February 7, 2001


Oh, okay Norm. Did the opposite happen? Did wages go up worldwide? Did employment? Or, perhaps, in Mexico there are 8 million more people living below the poverty line than before NAFTA and the number of working poor in America remains constant, despite Clinton’s claims to “45 million new jobs”? There are more Americans without medical insurance now than in decades, 45 million.

So we all know, that NAFTA truck ruling came down in favor Mexico, just as everybody thought it would. Corporations win again, safety standards lose again.

The race to the bottom continues unabated.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:50 PM on February 7, 2001


Nice (untrue) hyperbole, Cap'n. The Mexican Trucks have to meet our safety standards. Admittedly, enforcement will be a problem, but studies show that 25% of our own trucks don't meet our safety standards, so there's not going to be many more unsafe trucks on balance.

My larger point was that your admonition for everyone to "before asking anymore questions please read this" was profoundly irritating; your propaganda isn't any more convincing to me than corporate media probably is to you.
posted by norm at 8:48 AM on February 8, 2001


The link the Captain posted was an excellent explanation of why WTO protesters protest the WTO. It did not do much to convince me to protest the WTO, but it was a complete enough backgrounder for understanding the movement. I now understand that the movement is, as I suspected, composed primarily of highly eloquent and intelligent nutcases. ("Nutcases" being defined, as it always is in matters of ideology, as "people whose perception of reality differs so fundamentally from mine that they may as well be living on another planet." Most people have a similar reaction to unfamiliar ideas. No particular insult is intended.)

An example picked at random as to why it doesn't work for me: "[The WTO's] agenda prioritizes the privatization of education, health, welfare, social housing, and transport." As if the mere accusation were enough to make me gasp and exclaim, "This must be stopped now!" There's no supporting evidence of this assertion, no reference to any publicly-available WTO statement of purpose, no dissection of the WTO's own words to show how they support this thesis. In fact, we never see any of the WTO's own words in the entire piece! (But that's okay, as anything they say would be suspect anyway, right?) The statement I quoted is in fact not a thesis at all, it's intended to be accepted at face value as a premise -- privatization is always bad, the WTO is in favor of privatization, therefore the WTO is evil and should be protested. The statement is meant to be taken as proof of itself, the mere accusation damning. The piece was littered with flat assertions like that, sentences that left me thinking, "Now wait just a cotton-pickin' minute." But they were already on to something else.

Obviously they're preaching to a choir of people who already share their basic premises, not presenting an argument capable of swaying those who have vastly different political leanings. As a primer for anti-corporate types on the way the WTO protests tie into the basic philosophy, it is probably very effective. It falls short in convincing the unconvinced as it contains no proof that the WTO's goals and methods are as claimed. Still, it re-affirms my original perception that these people think their premises should be obvious to anyone of intelligence, and if they're not obvious, well, obviously something is wrong with you. In this they are no different from other ideologues, and I have the same reaction to them as I have to any ideologue: okay, I hear what you're saying, I understand it, and it's not outside the realm of possibility, but it's not at all how I see the world, so I'm not gonna believe it without a heaping helping of good old-fashioned proof. I'm not averse to changing my mind and have done so many times in the past, but you have to put it in terms I can understand. And I don't mean "words of one syllable" either.

It would be very interesting to see how this would read if it had been targeted to swaying, say, Republicans to the anti-WTO cause. It might be an even more interesting challenge to try to write something like that without seeming condescending. This is a gulf that must be bridged if WTO protesters are serious about bringing about change.
posted by kindall at 9:57 AM on February 8, 2001


Great post. Very much how I feel about protestors.

It is to my continued discredit with my fellow lefties that I support free-trade of almost all types. Being an econ/math major, I tend to demand proof and argument from people like that(ie, protestors) and it is rarely forthcoming. People who feel that their view-point is self-evident can be quite frustrating(I've had professors who were like this).

I feel there are legitimate problems with the WTO, like a greater need for transparency in it's decision making process, but I also believe that an institution like the WTO is very necessary and beneficial to the world. Unless someone can say why what the WTO does is wrong and what would be better, I remain unconvinced.
posted by dcodea at 10:23 AM on February 8, 2001


Uhhh, Kindall? What about the link I threw up? You know, the one with excerpts from the WTO sea turtle ruling?
The Panel consequently decides that restrictions on trade which are policy-forcing automatically violate the terms of GATT because they "impact upon the multilateral structure of trade"...
Please note that I'm not saying that being against restrictions on trade is inherently a bad thing. Japanese rice farmers and large American steel mills are probably doomed under reasonable free trade laws, and although I think that's a shame, I've yet to mentally construct a cure that's worse than the disease. And it certainly seems likely that the French would love to inaugurate laws limiting imports to countries that lauded Jerry Lewis and ate lots of goat cheese. (Or at least former colonies of certain Jerry-Lewis-loving, goat-cheese-eating countries; see the bananas tariff dispute.)

But how, given this stated WTO bias against "policy-forming trade restrictions" in favor of multilateral agreements, are countries supposed to enact, say, restrictions on shrimp produced by countries that don't care about killing turtles? Or restrictions on dolphin-unsafe tuna? Or punitive tariffs on beef produced on slash-and-burn-produced grazing land? Or ban cunningly crafted geegaws that are produced as a result by prison or child labor? Is your ideological position that no such restrictions should be allowed? Or that the market, through some sort of labelling system, will devise its own solutions?

Both of those answers seem at least self-consistent, although I don't agree with them, but are they, in fact, your positions? I'm fairly sure that you're not commiting the rhetorical fallacy of dismissing the position just because you feel that some people who espouse it are idjits.

Not to deny you the pleasure of classifying me as an ideologue or anything. Grr. WTO bad. Everyone booze up and riot.
posted by snarkout at 10:40 AM on February 8, 2001


Norm, I didn’t link to it to sway your opinion. I don’t believe anyone can change their views by reading a faq. I linked to it so you could understand where I’m coming from. I’m not prosetlyizing here — you're not going to hell for believing that the WTO has benefits (it certainly does for a few). I’m just making my case. Perhaps the link should've said, “If you want to understand where I’m coming from, read this.” In fact, that's closer to what I meant.

Corporate media is propoganda. If you get all your information and opinions from it, you live under what communication theorists call “information subsidy.” It works very simply: information favoring subsidizers (such as CNN or PR firms) is made free or cheaply available, while information that is beneficial to dispersed interests is expensive or hard to find because no one is out there marketing it, selling it as “news.”

A great example is the NAFTA trucking issue. If you believe corporate media, then there isn’t a serious issue and trade liberalization marchs on.

However, if you look a little closer, problems arise:

“Fewer than 1 percent of Mexican trucks entering the U.S. are inspected, but 35 percent of those are taken out of service for serious safety failures (46 percent higher than the out-of-service rate for U.S. trucks). The U.S. has neither the facilities nor the personnel to inspect every truck;”

From that CNN article: “An official from the U.S. Trade Representative's Office did not say how authorities would keep unsafe trucks from entering the country...”

Because he can’t.

Continuing:

“Although Mexico pledged to institute a comprehensive truck safety program when NAFTA went into effect, seven years later, that country still has not instituted an effective system. The new rules now in effect are voluntary and are
to be phased in over the next two years;

Mexico does not limit the time drivers spend behind the wheel. Some drivers report being required to drive 36 hours straight with just a six-hour break before returning
to the road;

Mexico's hazardous materials control system is much laxer than the U.S. system. Many substances that must be identified in the U.S. need not be marked with an official placard in Mexico;

Mexican truck carriers last year were more than three times as likely to have safety deficiencies as U.S. carriers, and Mexican trucks are twice as likely to be deficient in one safety category; and,

When Mexican trucks are inspected at the border, the inspections are often not full inspections, but instead involve mere visual checks. ”


Kindall, it was a FAQ, not the defining tract of the anti-globlization movement! You're holding a FAQ to a much higher standard than it's meant to address. Just like with norm, I didn't link to it as a reason for you to protest the WTO, but it is a quick outline of why I do it.

Somehow, from it you arrived at, “these people think their premises should be obvious.” Yes well, from the Bible I found that Christians have ritualistic sex and talk with burning bushes. I didn't link to the FAQ so you could surmise a stereotype. I wonder if all people with the name “kindall” read FAQs and come up with sweeping allegations about others...

See what I mean?

Also, “so I'm not gonna believe it without a heaping helping of good old-fashioned proof.”

Well, that’s impossible. In emprical inquiry, evidence is supplied to explain a hypothesis. Nothing is ever proven. All a critic can do is evaluate the evidence. There is plenty of evidence in this thread which you’re simply not evaluating at all.

I’d be happy to supply you with a reading list, but I suppose you’re still busy with the last one. How’s that coming anyway?

dcodea, I've outlined several reasons why I think the WTO is bad and there have been many links put up about what should replace it. Are you just not seeing them?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 11:22 AM on February 8, 2001


Cap'n: your data is consistent with my propaganda, as you would have seen if you read my link. 35% of Mexican trucks fail our safety standards; 25% of American ones do. Not that different. NPR is fairly unbiased, I think; listen to their story on the subject. Most Mexican trucking businesses affected by this are as modern or more than American ones. Or are you stereotyping Mexican businesspeople as unable to follow regulations?

Snarkout: Right on. I agree with you nearly completely. I think that most people are for a reciprocity based protection system; i.e., if you require TEDs for domestic shrimpers, it should be OK to require that foreign shrimp sold also use TEDs. See the debate on the subject I posted (self link! self link!) for another good exchange on the subject.
posted by norm at 12:02 PM on February 8, 2001


My apologies to everyone -- it's transparently obvious on rereading that link that it's a third-part summary of the actual ruling.

The relevant section from the incredibly lengthy and dense actual ruling:
3.217. The embargo was not "necessary" because the complainants already had an adequate programme in place for the protection of sea turtles within their jurisdiction. Inasmuch as the sea turtles in question occurred in waters within the jurisdiction of other nations, the United States could have sought to protect them through international agreements which did not include unilateral import restrictions. Such measures would achieve the US policy goal, while being consistent with the GATT. Pursuant to the CIT's 8 October 1996 Order, the embargo applied to all wild harvested shrimp or shrimp products from non-certified countries, whether or not such shrimp had been harvested in a manner that harmed or could harm sea turtles. In order to become certified, other nations had to adopt conservation policies comparable to US policies. Thus, the embargo could not be considered "necessary" because it was a measure taken to force other countries to change their policies and practices and could be effective only if such changes occurred.
(Emphasis mine.) My reading of that is that if Notrealistan claims that it's extant child labor laws are fine and can make a halfway plausible claim that it's so, Liberalia is not allowed to institute a unilateral trade embargo on all countries not adhering to specific practices -- an enforced ban on children below 12 working more than 10 hours a week for non-family members, say -- if it disagrees or feels that Notrealistani law isn't actually enforced, as this would be a "measure taken to force other countries to change their policies and practices and could be effective only if such changes occurred." Experts in international trade law or laity willing to slog through that WTO ruling are welcome to explain any mistakes I have made in my understanding of this.

To be explicit about what I'm saying, I believe that unilateral trade restrictions are a valid way of achieving certain policy goals within a larger, free-trade framework. As two examples, I believe that when possible agriculture should protect migratory animals, for instance; this is a long-time bone of contention in trade agreements (from net-caught tuna to Japanese whaling). I believe that America should endeavor to ensure that its workers in countries it trades with have the right to collective bargaining, for instance. I'd like to see more flexibility granted to countries to enact these unilateral restrictions, so long as it can be shown that they are not in fact primarily veiled attempts at protectionism (as I believe America's position on TEDs and shrimping was not).

Would anyone who disagrees with me care to lay out his or her objections? (Vis a vis the WTO; I don't care to debate the importance of collective bargaining or fishery depletion in this discussion.)

(Sorry if I'm being pendantic, Norm and Kindall, but since the accusation of fuzzy thinking gets hurled around so freely I want to define myself as well as I can.)
posted by snarkout at 12:09 PM on February 8, 2001


Damn you, typoed close tag!
posted by snarkout at 12:10 PM on February 8, 2001


“35% of Mexican trucks fail our safety standards” (your quote) is a misrepresentation of the Public Citizen statement “35 percent of [Mexican trucks] are taken out of service for serious safety failures (46 percent higher than the out-of-service rate for U.S. trucks).”

And I did read the CNN piece (In fact, I quoted it above—perhaps you’re not reading my posts?), and I heard the NPR report when it aired last night. Lori Wallach got about 20 seconds to state her case near the end. After the report, they interviewed a Mexican trucking executive, in which he stated all will be great. Shocker.

Look, if you think putting more dangerous trucks on American roads is a benefit, you’re entitled to your opinion. I’d like to see you explain yourself to the people who are going to be harmed by this, either by job loss or injury.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 1:30 PM on February 8, 2001


Corporate media is propoganda. If you get all your information and opinions from it, you live under what communication theorists call “information subsidy.”

And of course, we can always rely on the non-corporate media; they have no agenda whatsoever.

I’d be happy to supply you with a reading list, but I suppose you’re still busy with the last one. How’s that coming anyway?

I'll get to it eventually, promise. Mostly I've been busy being a good little corporate drone and helping to launch a product, when I haven't been being a good little consumer. But this stuff does interest me, really. Part of the way I learn is to write screeds and see if anyone else can tear them down. If you find this too confrontational, I'll back off for a while.
posted by kindall at 4:32 PM on February 8, 2001


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