Trouble In Wallyworld

A recent story on ABC news told about a possible nationwide strike of Wal-Mart employees on “Black Friday” if the company doesn’t change its policy about allowing unions. Wal-Mart has been adamant about not allowing unions on the grounds that they are not necessary since their workers are well paid and happy. In the case of the recent threat, for example, a spokesman for the giant retailer had the following comment:

Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman . . .claim[ed] that most employees have “repeatedly rejected unionization.

“They seem to recognize that Walmart has some of the best jobs in the retail industry — good pay, affordable benefits and the chance for advancement,” he said in a telephone interview with ABC News.

Apparently it’s not just politicians who lie with a straight face; corporate spokespeople can do so as well. We all know that things are not going well for the giant retailer. There are numerous strikes and walk-outs at Wal-Mart stores around the country where employees who make barely above subsistence wages demand what they regard as their rights. In Chicago recently, for example 17 peaceful protesters were arrested for supporting a strike that had been going on since September 15th. In addition there have been over 100 different types of lawsuits filed against Wal-Mart over the years, including one filed by female employees demanding equal pay and promotional opportunities which made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

I have blogged before about Wal-Mart which, as I have said, is a mixed bag. The company does many good things, including support of local charities and showing concern for the environment; they also employ 1.4 million people. But they refuse to allow unions, as noted, and their hourly wages are barely above poverty levels — $12.00 an hour on average which nets the worker $24,960.00 a year, barely $1900.00 above poverty levels for a family of four — guaranteeing that the employee’s spouse will almost certainly also have to work.

The employees are wrong to say that every other major company allows unions, of course, as the example of Whole Foods proves. But companies such as Whole Foods actually do put the employee’s needs first as they have better pay and even profit-sharing for their employees who do appear to like working for the company. So it’s not a question of unions, which are also a mixed bag, it’s about the giant company’s attitude toward its employees — all of them, and not only those at the managerial levels. Talk is cheap, especially when it is riddled with lies. It’s time for Wal-Mart to put its money where its mouth is and treat its employees ethically. The threat of a major strike on “Black Friday” may be the impetus the company needs to do the right thing.

Religion Doesn’t Matter

I am not sure what possible difference it makes what religion the president practices — or doesn’t practice (though I confess I am puzzled about Mitt Romney’s religion. What is the Mormon “take” on marriage?  Polygamy is OK but gay marriage is taboo. What’s with that?). But ever since John Kennedy’s Catholicity bothered many and was a bump in the road to his presidency, it seems to be a topic of some interest to voters — or at least the media think it is. A reporter from Yahoo News recently went to Northern Virginia, to a place near Arlington they call “Little Provo,” and interviewed a number of Mormons to see whether Mitt Romney’s religious preferences would make a difference in their voting (Duhhhh!). The story begins as follows:

Some 10,000 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints live in Northern Virginia, a crucial battleground region in what is expected to be one of the most tightly contested states of the 2012 presidential campaign. Situated next to the nation’s capital, the area is a hub for politically active Mormons in their 20s and 30s. With Mitt Romney on the verge of formally becoming the presidential nominee of the Republican Party, we traveled to Northern Virginia in June to talk to these voters about what that historic moment–the first Mormon to be nominated for president by a major American political party–will mean to them.

Strange to say, there was at least one interviewed who planned to vote for Romney’s opponent. But, as expected, most align themselves foursquare behind their man, for better or worse. None of this seems to me to be terribly important. There is a movement afoot to besmirch members of this Administration for their alleged practice of the religion of Islam. And while I have blogged about that and the force behind it which smells much like decaying McCarthyism, I ask again “what possible difference does it make?” The question is not what religion these people do or do not practice, rather it is whether or not these people can do the job they are called upon to do. And the answer to that question seems to be a reluctant “No” — at least at the top of the pyramid.

Both of the major players in this Fall’s election carry considerable baggage with them into the contest. Barack Obama has been all-too-conciliatory for many, cozying up to Capital and making deals with devilish companies to win accommodations; escalating the war in Afghanistan and ordering drone attacks in crowded civilian centers in the name of “anti-terrorism”; and weakening his stand on the environment, especially of late. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is not forthcoming and has a checkered past with only modest success as Governor of Massachusetts; he also has a questionable connection with Bain Capital and its tendency to outsource while he preaches “job creation” at home. Further, he is regarded by many as aloof and insensitive to the needs of the lower and middle classes — an image that was further sharpened when his wife was interviewed recently on ABC News. In response to a question about her husband’s unwillingness to release his tax records, she is reported to have said: “we’ve given all you people need to know” about the family’s finances. As one of “you people,” I find this offensive.

But the pyramid shows signs of deterioration further down as well.

Our government has broken down and lies scattered in fragments, including partisan politics, lies, deceit, deception, self-promotion, and greed — a great many politicians have their hands out to the all-too-generous corporations who are ready and willing to dole out the treasure that will guarantee them the results that will benefit their bottom line. What the country desperately needs is a Third Party candidate who is tied to no large corporations and who has vision and tenacity while at the same time he or she is unwilling to sacrifice integrity to achieve political success. But such a person could not succeed until or unless constraints are placed on political gift-giving and the hands of special interests are tied and the playing field is made level.

It’s not about religion, folks. It’s about competency. It’s about character and courage. It’s about a person’s willingness to stand up for what is important and ability to put the interests of the country ahead of their own self-interest. This country has produced such people in the past; one hopes that another is out there in the wings waiting for the opportunity to step forth.

Trumping Donald

Conservative writer George Will is having it out with Billionaire Donald Trump so keep your head down! The verbal fisticuffs and name-calling have already started to fly. On ABC News, George Will wondered aloud why on earth Mitt Romney would want Trump’s endorsement, saying, in part,

I do not understand the cost benefit here,” . . .. “The costs are clear. The benefit — what voter is going to vote for him because he is seen with Donald Trump? The cost of appearing with this bloviating ignoramus is obvious, it seems to me. Donald Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your IQ can be very low and you can still intrude into American politics.”

Trump then tweeted back, calling Will “dumb.” I recall higher-level verbal abuse on the playground as a kid — though none of my friends ever used a word like “bloviating.” Come to think of it, none of my adult friends have ever used that word, either. In fact, I had to look it up: it means Trump is a bit of a wind bag, so there! Take that, Donald! But George Will is a wordsmith, and Donald Trump is. . . well, Donald Trump: pretty much what is wrong with this country — a self-absorbed, short-sighted, greedy, raper of the earth, who enjoys manipulating other people.

I don’t read George Will regularly, though I maintain a high opinion of him because of his pointing out early on in the Iraq war that if Weapons of Mass Destruction were never found there would be no possible moral grounds for that war. I agreed with him at the time and thought it a courageous thing to say, given his conservative credentials. “W” was at the height of his popularity at the time. Mr. Will would seem to have integrity, though I admit I never heard him mention W.M.D. again after it was clear to the world that there never were such things in Iraq. It might have been appropriate for him to ask aloud why on earth we invaded that country in the first place. But we have to take what crumbs we can get from the tables of the great and not-so-great.

Trump, on the other hand, has never struck me as much more than a tiny man with a smirk and a large idea of himself under a mass of hair that always seems about to take off. The man still insists that Obama is not an American citizen, for Pete’s sake! How can anyone take him seriously? He is now involved in the golf game on a grand scale, building expensive golf courses around the world (all with his name attached of course), appearing on the Golf Channel with some regularity and on national TV as well, promoting himself as usual and sticking in my craw. But I can always turn off the TV when he appears, as I learned long ago. In any event, you have to marvel at his way with words. In the “debate” with Will, Trump jumped on Twitter to lash out against Will, writing that “George Will may be the dumbest (and most overrated) political commentator of all time. If the Republicans listen to him, they will lose.”

What we have here is a flyweight flailing away at a light-heavyweight. My money is on George Will in this fight, and on Obama in November — no matter who does or does not endorse Romney.