"We belong to the planet, WTO. Tread lightly, it's the only one we have."

Riots in Seattle

After reading the Geov Parrish column "Impolitics" ("The high cost of throwing rocks," 11/4), I'm concerned about the safety of protesters, law enforcement officers, and innocent bystanders as the WTO convenes here on November 30th. Nonviolent protests and civil disobedience are long-standing traditions in the USA. Courageous activists like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Henry David Thoreau have often served as the moral conscience for the nation. Our own President, William Jefferson Clinton, protested against the government's involvement in Vietnam. We must remember that without activism and protests, slavery and child labor would still be acceptable institutions, and women would not have the right to vote.

In the past, however, we have seen riots in Seattle—during the Vietnam war era, after the Rodney King verdict, and recently it happened during the homeless youth protests. Hopefully, these sort of confrontations can be avoided during the WTO conference.

The eyes of the entire world will be watching, and many will be sitting in judgement—let's hope cooler heads prevail.



You want fries with that?

I have a few questions that perhaps the trade globalization mavens could answer.

Under WTO trade regulations, what is to prevent a country from selling E. coli tainted meat in the US? And would, say, Brazil be able to scream "Unfair!" if we block that meat at the border and refuse it entry or sale in US markets?

If a country wanted to sell thalidomide in the US, would the WTO claim that the decades-old ban by the US on this highly toxic drug is unfair? And if the drug meets the safety standards of, say, Ethiopia, would the much stricter US standards be an illegal barrier to fair trade? What if instead of thalidomide we are talking about the diabetes medication your mother takes or the high blood pressure medicine you need to stave off heart attacks?

Would labelling a product as "Meets US safety and purity standards" be struck down as "unfair preference given to domestic products"?

Who will be held responsible when food and medicine which do not meet US standards start killing folks? I for one am not looking forward to the day when the Jack-in-the-Box poisonings of yesteryear are looked back upon with nostalgia.



Giant sucking sound

Everyone's heard statistics regarding the unnatural rate of species extinction we are now seeing, or on how very long it took to create the forests on this planet and how very little time it's taken to deplete them. Only one creature has the ability or appetite for such destruction. Yet somehow we think we are immune to the catastrophes this could cause.

In "That Giant Sucking Sound" (11/25), David Korten hits the nail on the head when he says, "We're just shifting more wealth into the pockets of the small percentage of the world population that owns most of the shares of corporate stock. In the end this is all about corporate profits." What good will all that money do when we have a planet that can't support life? Disruptions in the food chain are rippling to the top, despite how smart we think we are or how much money we have. People need to start looking at how their actions effect the planet and every other creature on it. We need to step back and see the big picture. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, we need to do it before it's really too late.

Americans have an especially voracious appetite when it comes to more of everything, yet we actually are either enlightened or wealthy enough to have some laws regarding labor, the environment, and animal welfare. But there are still many in this country and elsewhere who don't look beyond immediate gratification of their own selfish desires, thinking only "how can I get what I want?" regardless of the other costs. Unfortunately, there is no special place for those of us who have tried to tread lightly on this earth. We all die if the land, water, and air can't support life. It is a slow death for now. Our bodies are silently poisoned by the accumulated pesticides that we pass onto our young, and sea creatures are strangled by plastic six-pack rings thoughtlessly discarded into our oceans.

We belong to the planet, WTO. Tread lightly, it's the only one we have.



An abstract good

The concerns raised by critics of the WTO on issues of labor conditions, environment, health, and human rights are of sufficient credibility and weight that the American public should give the claims and counter-claims a much more rigorous scrutiny than has been made thus far. Proceeding largely on the testimony of the WTO's beneficiaries seems gullible even by American standards. In the abstract, free trade is good; the particulars of American trade deficits is anything but good. We simply have not heard enough evidence nor has there been sufficient public debate to proceed with reasonable confidence in our present course.

An independent, impartial evaluation of the consequences of the WTO to date (and perhaps NAFTA, since so many effects may be intermixed) should be conducted. And there should be a moratorium on further WTO implementation until that evaluation is completed (two years?).

While all treaties are subject to revision or abrogation, existing provisions create powerful constituencies. Now is the time to assess the WTO—while dissenting opinions can still make themselves heard.



All the news that's fit

I watched with interest as the KOMO 4 news director gave an editorial describing how the station would not give any coverage to protests that weren't officially sanctioned and legal by the City of Seattle.

I appreciate the honesty and candor of the station in what, in effect, is a news blackout.

All groups that are holding protests this weekend, legally or not, all have a right to fair media coverage. The distribution of permits for protesters is always politically charged, and those groups that the City doesn't see eye-to-eye with usually lose out. Does this mean that what they have to say should be ignored? This is a blatant example of how nonobjective the corporate media is today.

To be honest, even if coverage were given to these protests by KOMO 4 News, they probably would screw up the message they were trying to convey anyway. And it is for this reason that activists and organizers have created an Independent Media Center (1415 3rd Ave or at www.indymedia.org) to get the messages out that the mainstream news outlets don't cover or incompletely cover.

So, to those people who don't feel like dealing with the mainstream media like KOMO 4 TV, I encourage you to visit the folks at the Independent Media Center.

It's rare that a mainstream news outlet has been so explicit with its editorial policy, so I laud KOMO 4 News for announcing their news blackout and stating outright that they will be defenders of neoliberal economic policy and the protectors of multinational corporations.




It is interesting to note that if the Boston tea party of 1773 happened today, KOMO would be absent or fail to report the entire story. Corporations, specifically Boeing, Microsoft, and Weyerhaeuser, act illegally every day, and yet KOMO constantly gives these and other lawless corporations full coverage and more—not of their crimes but of their supposed benefits to humankind.

If KOMO is really concerned about not covering the actions of criminals, perhaps they need to get the full story on Archer Daniels Midland's price fixing, Atlantic Richfield Company's fraud and negligence, Bechtel Corporation's bribery, Plum Creek's forest robbery, Boeing's government rip-offs, Chevron's hazardous waste violations, the Fisher family's (GAP, Banana Republic, and Old Navy) use of sweatshop labor, and Fluor Daniel's corruption and mismanagement at Hanford. The list goes on and on. But where is KOMO?

These corporations constantly manipulate news coverage. Of course, focusing on these large corporations could be too much for a small local newsroom that has many of these corporations essentially paying their bills. After all, what does KOMO owe the public—especially those that are trying to stop these same corporations from their illegal activities. After all, aren't the crimes of these outspoken members of the public such as jaywalking, hanging from ropes, blocking traffic, and "screaming," much more serious than fraud, rape of the earth, and the death of millions around the world due to poor working conditions and environmental pollution?

KOMO, it's obvious where you stand (or hide); it's in the pockets of these disruptive and illegal corporations and NOT behind the public. If KOMO and other mainstream media would do their job instead of playing lackey to corporations, perhaps all of us could just stay home—we wouldn't have to be out on the street "screaming" to get our message out.

KOMO, don't boycott the tea party of 1999.



Those confusing buttons

I have lately seen a number of people wearing a button with the initials "WTO" and a big red slash running through the middle. Would somebody please tell me what this button means?

The most simple, logical, and seemingly obvious explanation—that it calls for the abolition of the World Trade Organization—raises difficulties. Such a radical measure, and the anarchy that would ensue, might very well be on the wish list of extreme libertarians (on the one hand) and of radical isolationists (on the other). But I doubt if that's the sentiment among the labor unions and environmentalist organizations in which these buttons have been circulating. Such groups have a long history of supporting international cooperation as well as multilateral structures that regulate all kinds of activities. In fact, the protest literature I've received from these organizations, while criticizing the WTO in the strongest terms, stops well short of urging its dismantlement and instead calls for a major overhaul in WTO policies and the way it conducts its business. But that's a far cry from what these buttons seem to be saying.

Labelling means everything these days, and this may be a case where the protesters' need for a punchy graphic symbol has warped and obscured the very message that they're trying to convey.



All I got was this lousy...

I was walking down Pike St. the other day, and what do I spy in the windows of various cheesy tourist dives downtown? Why, "Stop the WTO" T-shirts, with the world "Protester" proudly emblazoned down the sleeves.

Civil disobedience as a growth industry. The commodification of political protest. But consider 50,000 potential protesters, and these shirts at $20 a pop—well, you do the math.Would Ghandi have worn one? But I expect nothing less from a town like Seattle, the very same town that gouged the Klondikers a century ago. Hey, it worked in the 1890s, why not the 1990s?

And I am sure that by next week there will dozens of op-ed pieces with regard to who the winners of this entire escapade are, but the answer is resoundingly simple: The local policiticos. After all, all of this free publicity and the surrounding media frenzy will keep Seattle, the backwater that it is, on the world's stage for a solid week. The "Greatest Protest" of the century? Try the "Greatest Photo-Op" of the century. And considering how much this city seems to jones for a sense of legitimacy in the bigger scheme of things, our local leaders are probably foaming at the mouth.



Poetry corner

It seems to me that Ezra Pound wrote a poem that may metaphorically address the issues now in dispute at the WTO in Seattle:

Airs of Pei

Mao Mount's vine-joints show their age,

Uncles and nobles, how many days?

Why delay here with no allies;

Why delay here in lack of supplies?

Fox furs worn thru, without transport,

Uncles and nobles, sorry sport!

We be the rump of Li with tattered tails,

a lost horde amid fears,

and your embroidered collars

cover your ears.

Ezra Pound



The right stuff

Here is one you probably won't print, because you would have to admit you were wrong all these years.

It's great to see all you liberals and leftists upset about the World Trade Organization. It's about time you woke up and smelled the coffee (or should I say B.S.).

If you would have listened to the right-wing crazies years ago when they warned you about the international elites and their designs for world takeover using such devices as the United Nations, the International Monitary Fund, the Council on Foreign Relations, [...] NAFTA, GATT, and last but not least the very misnamed international organization the Federal Reserve, you would not be looking down the barrel of a gun called the WTO.

You are still more concerned about some Third Worlders working in a sweatshop overseas than you are about your own kind losing his or her job in a factory that just shut down because of "free trade"; but you are improving your outlook and attitude on the issues. There may be hope for you yet.



Black copters no joke

Do you have any idea just how FUNNY the protests are? For the last year and a half, the NRA has been working against a UN Resolution to ban all firearms. Since International Treaty supercedes Federal and State Law, the Senate alone had the power to ban all guns. So, now we have the radical LEFT worrying about international treaty superceding all Federal and State Laws and Ordinances concerning importation, etc. It's ALL THE SAME THING! The Left, worrying about rain forest exploitation and the right worrying about black helicopters manned with squads from Indonesia. Neither Side wants to give up United States control to an international body.

That's why I'm just laughing. Because the right has been assaulted by the Left for so long that now, they need all the friends they can get. Will the right support the left? I don't think so. Will the left share their toys, stand in line, not throw tantrums or food, and not hit when mad? That's the interesting question. The Radical Left needs to see what they stand for and reach a compromise or they will LOSE! Oh well!



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