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corporate dominance | no new sprawlmarts

The Republic of Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart is now trying to become its own government.
April 5, 2004

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) is so huge, news stories often report that the firm would be in the top 20 economies of the world, if it were a country and not a corporation. Oddly enough, if things go well for Wal-Mart tomorrow, it will take a step toward becoming an autonomous political unit, at least in Inglewood, Calif.

If ballot measure 0-4A passes, the world's biggest retailer will win the right to build a supercenter -- one of the firm's flagship grocery and retail megastores -- that would cover an area the size of 14 football fields. Inglewood is one of several California towns where elected officials have attempted to keep out big box retailers.

In a region already scarred by the recent grocery strike, a coalition of organized labor and community activists is squaring off against Wal-Mart with familiar arguments about low wages and a dearth of benefits, and the effect that the company's non-union workforce has on grocers like Safeway (NYSE: SWY) and Albertson's (NYSE: ABS). Wal-Mart counters that the economic trickle-down will be good for a city with high unemployment, where close to one-fourth of the population lives below the poverty line.

So while it's unusual to see a private corporation go straight to the voters for an end-run around the legislative process (and spend about $1 million in the process), there are some even stranger provisions in the ballot initiative. The 71-page measure would authorize the construction to proceed without public hearings and without traffic or environmental reviews. But the kicker is this: Any changes to the project would require a separate election and a two-thirds vote by residents.

Very clever. The folks who run Wal-Mart didn't just bounce off the turnip truck. They obviously realize how easy it is to sway 51% of the electorate, thus the higher threshold for future changes. If 0-4A passes, the company will not only have a license to make its own rules, but it will be all but impossible for Inglewood's citizens to regain control of this enormous piece of development. This precedent for corporate autonomy might be great for Wal-Mart shareholders, but I'm not so sure about the rest of us.

homepage: homepage: http://www.fool.com/News/mft/2004/mft04040505.htm

The Ghost of Christmas Future in the Land of the Free 05.Apr.2004 15:46

repost archives san francisco chronicle(before she was fire


The ghost of Christmas future in the land of the free

Wednesday, December 12, 2001


Afghanistan is just the beginning on the war against terror . . . Across the world, and across the years, we will fight these evil ones, and we will win.

-- George W. Bush, Fort Campbell, Ky., Nov. 21, 2001 .

HEY, GRANDMA! Are you home? I just picked up our new flag at the Wal-Mart Patriot Center. You want me to take down the old one?

"Bless your heart, Bobby. What would I do without you? It's been so long since I could afford my arthritis medicine, I can't even pull on the flagpole rope. And you know what trouble I'd be in if somebody passed by and reported us flagless. President-for-Life Bush made that a federal crime back in early- 2005, I believe."

Did he do that with an executive order, Grandma, or was Congress in on it?

"I think it was an executive order, Bobby; Congress became kind of irrelevant after Mr. Bush was re-elected in '04. Like allowing him to be President-for-Life, it made the people feel better. But it's hard to remember. So much has changed."

Like what, Grandma? Weren't we already at war with the Evil Ones back then?

"Well, of course we were, honey. America has been fighting the Evil Ones since before you were born. God rest your mother's and father's souls; they made the ultimate sacrifice -- your daddy early on in Iraq, your Mamma almost four years later in Switzerland."

I wish I could remember Mamma.

"I know, Bobby. But don't forget: you can always play that lovely 'Tribute to Our Fallen Heroes' video that United Airlines, Home Depot and the National Football League put out for Christmas '07. They made it so every family could morph in the image of their lost loved one."

So, what has changed, Grandma? Besides going to prison for being flagless, how is life different from what it used to be?

"Let me see. Well, we didn't always have surveillance cameras in every room of our house, and nobody listened in on our phone calls unless a judge gave them permission."

Come on, Grandma! How can you fight the Evil Ones if your government isn't free to seek them out where ever they might hide?

"I know, honey. We were so naive back then. Thank God Attorney-General-for- Life Ashcroft woke us up. He showed us how silly and dangerous our notions of privacy and constitutional rights were. Just two months into the war against the Evil Ones, he scolded a bunch of senators -- people still cared what Congress thought back then -- for scaring 'peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty.' He said, 'Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends.' "

I know that speech by heart, Grandma. We recite it at the start of history class -- right after the prayer and right before we name names of neighbors and friends we suspect of aiding the Evil Ones. I turned in Justin this morning because his mom keeps copies of some old magazine called The Nation hidden in her underwear drawer.

"Such a good boy. If only your folks were here to see what a friend of freedom you've become."

Gosh, Grandma, that's what being an American is all about. We may be poor in material things -- what with 90 percent of the national budget going to the long war against the Evil Ones -- but no sacrifice is too great to ensure our security and protect our freedom. Now, let's go out in the yard and raise that new flag. I'll hoist her up and you sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" -- real loud so Justin's mom will hear when the police come to take her away.

imagine... 05.Apr.2004 16:07

this thing here

imagine if this particular bill passes. then imagine the clever legal team at walmart attempting this kind of bill all around the country. imagine wal-mart getting bigger and bigger and bigger. and by that, i mean more and more wealthy, i mean more and more able to influence legislators and write laws in it;s interest, i mean a wal-mart store everywhere, i mean the highest possible market saturation, i mean wal-mart becoming a grocer, and a pharmacy, and a home depot, and a car and tire center, and...

imagine if wal-mart was just left alone to grow and grow like a tumor.

what would that mean?

eventually, it would mean that a consumer would not be able to shop for goods at any location but a wal-mart. what does this remind me of? it reminds me of state run department stores in the former soviet union. "there is nowhere to shop but the store on the corner. and the store on the corner is the same as the one on the other corner."

so i guess the point that interests me is: if we leave a corporation in a capitalist society alone, and let it grow and grow and grow to it's little heart's content, we end up with the exact same results as if we lived in an authoritarian communist society. absolutely no choice but the wal-mart on the corner...

what does this tell us about capitalism? it's not capitalism that gaurantee's choice, it's competition that gaurantee's choice. and it's not capitalism that gaurantee's there will be competition, it's anti-trust laws and many other laws. for what is the natural inclination of any corporation, if left alone to grow according to it's own devices in a vacuum devoid of laws and public interests? a market saturating, all pervasive monopoly...