Volume 21, Number 6
Mississippi’s SB 2988
Bruce k. Gagnon
A War on Communities
Z magazine Readers
Sean Bell Verdict
Damming the Flood
Triumph of Lunacy
Dr. Wall Street
Colombia Trade Deal
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Colombia "Free Trade" Deal
Elites and their media overlook pile of corpses in quest for profits
A proposed "free trade" deal with
Some of the sordid elements include payments to high-level Democratic figures, including former President Bill Clinton, to speak out in behalf of the trade deal favored by extreme right-wing presidents in both the
Despite the evident failures of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to benefit ordinary workers and farmers in either the U.S. or Mexico, the Colombia FTA—currently being considered by the U.S. House—uses NAFTA as a model and then goes even further in enshrining the powers of corporations to sue elected governments over regulations that might diminish profits. Even though the trade deal is opposed by every American labor group and Colombian union federation, many Democrats are working hard to ram through this trade deal while proclaiming that their party represents working people.
But the most stunning aspect of the Colombia FTA is the willingness of corporate, political (including leaders of both major parties), and media elites to overlook the pile of workers' corpses that
Yet the pursuit of "class cleansing" by
Editorials from the "liberal" New York Times to the rightist Wall Street Journal beseech us to ignore the body count and instead see the bigger picture, insisting that a "free trade" deal with this blood-soaked nation must be enacted because it "would benefit the American economy and further the nation's broader interests in Latin America," as the Times put it.
The systematic killings and torture of union activists, along with kidnappings of family members, is described delicately as
The fact that the death toll among unionists has dropped, having achieved its desire affect of driving the percentage of union contracts to just two percent, is hailed as a great feat under President Alvara Uribe. Less publicized than the falling death toll among unionists is the fact that 400 have been killed since Uribe took office in 2002 and that
Nonetheless, as two Times columns (Edward Schumacher-Matos of
Among those trumpeting
Meanwhile, Times columnist Nicholas Kristof warns that if Democrats were to reject the
The Colombia FTA follows in the footsteps of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which provided new protections to investor rights and enormously enriched elites in the
"The FTA goes beyond NAFTA in several ways," explains Tucker. "For one, it will give oil, gas and mining corporations in the Colombian Amazon additional tools to challenge future Colombian governments' efforts to protect the rainforest."
The FTA with
The influx of
Few benefits are seen for Colombians who are not part of the nation's wealthiest classes. "What the FTA does is lock in and codify a neoliberal relationship between the two countries," notes Tucker, "meaning
While various editorials have claimed that the Uribe government has taken aggressive steps to insure union rights, observers say that his government actually opposes labor rights every step of the way. The AFL-CIO's Thea Lee contrasted the rhetoric of President Uribe with the difficulties that Colombian unionists outlined to her.
"If you listened to Uribe, you'd think he was the greatest lover of labor rights in the world," Lee says. "But the workers face obstacle after obstacle in trying to organize, trying to get government recognition, the government failing to enforce the law if illegal firings occur—every single action is to deny workers the right to unionize."
"Only about 2 percent have collective bargaining contracts; and about 5 percent are union members," says Lee. "That puts
David Sirota, author of The Uprising, argues that with the Colombia FTA, "President Bush [aims to] bolster Uribe with a pact giving corporations incentives to leave
The AFL-CIO's Thea Lee sees a powerful coalition pushing for the Colombia FTA that includes the Bush administration,
The Colombian government has particularly sought to bring "moderate" Democrats and congressional staffers on the junkets. During these tours, they meet with purported "labor leaders" urging passage of the FTA. But the AFL-CIO notes that almost all of these "leaders" hold no official standing and that all of
Few political observers will be surprised by the Bush administration's willingness to overlook the deaths of trade unionists in order to enlarge the "free trade" web to include
But more remarkable has been the extent of support for the Colombia Free Trade Agreement among insider Democratic forces. While both Democratic presidential contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have proclaimed their opposition to the Colombia FTA, the authenticity of their stance against "free trade" is highly dubious (see John Nichols, "Trade Issues Trouble Leading Dems," the Nation, 4/4/08).
Bill Clinton has also been closely aligned with the
In June 2007,
Still, despite the array of powerful forces pushing for it, the Colombia Free Trade Agreement may face a tough path to passage. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dealt the proposal a powerful blow in early April by insisting on a vote that revoked the "fast-track" process that has been used to ram through "free trade agreements" like NAFTA with limited debate and without amendment. One trade expert describes the fast-track powers conceded to
Opponents of corporate globalization like Todd Tucker saw Pelosi's move as a major step forward in blocking the Colombia FTA and promoting a more thorough deliberation of trade that will hopefully provide the chance to separate Congress from its close embrace of corporate campaign contributors and bring it more in line with strong public resistance to the shift of jobs to low-wages nations, the importation of toxic products, and the spread of environmental degradation. (A 2006 Pew Research poll found 77 percent of Americans opposed to the outsourcing of
"Speaker Pelosi's decision to cancel Fast Track was unprecedented," said Tucker. "It is highly laudable that she reasserted Congress's constitutional authority over trade. Public Citizen, the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, and many other groups will be dedicating our full resources to ensure that the Colombia FTA is defeated by Congress."
But other critics, like Sirota, are troubled by hints that Pelosi—who backed a recent trade agreement with
Pelosi's implicit "message" to Sirota and other opponents of the corporate globalization agenda is that she might eventually be brought around to supporting the Colombia FTA, especially if Bush makes concessions on issues like an economic stimulus package geared toward working families and more retraining benefits to workers dislocated by the flight of industry to Mexico, China, and other low-wage, high-repression nations. Sirota suggests that a vote on the Colombia FTA might be delayed until the lame-duck session after the November election, when the public's ability to hold Congress is minimized.
"The trade deal isn't being delayed because it would pass now—it is being delayed because if it came to a vote now, it would probably lose because populist Democratic forces are better organized right now," Sirota wrote April 10. "In other words, Pelosi is maneuvering to thwart the will of the rank-and-file members of her caucus, all to keep a lobbyist-written trade deal alive."
Also sharing some of Sirota's concern is Roger Atwood, communications director of the Washington Office on
"Our position is that Colombia has not made anywhere near enough progress to introducing accountability into the government's action on human rights and ending impunity for the killings of trade unionists, which is still quite shocking," Atwood states. "Despite all the talk about violence lessening, there's been 23 unionists killed so far this year alone "
This escalation of military assistance, including training, was followed by the enactment of Plan
Yet it has had negligible impact on the growth of cocaine and marijuana in
Critics have noted that
Along with the Colombian military engaging in the bombings and strafing of villages, massacres of civilians, and other atrocities, a massive paramilitary force allied with business leaders and landowners conducted "social cleansing" operations of their own.
U.S.-owned firms have been connected closely to the paramilitary death-squads. Three Colombian unionists were killed at Drummond Mining, a U.S.-owned firm based in
While the temporary derailment of the Colombia FTA from fast-track status gives hope to those seeking to end Colombia's brutal and systematic suppression of worker rights, it also exposes the extent to which the Democratic establishment has embraced some of the most inhumane pillars of George W. Bush's policies.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.