Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing.net pointed to a Newsweek article about teenagers in Mexico working for tips as they bag groceries at Wal-Mart. She described the practice this way:

Wal-Mart pays Mexican teens $0 an hour
The young (14+) teenagers that Wal-Mart employs as after-school baggers at its Mexican stores earn nothing at all — paid only in tips. Technically, this complies with local labor laws, while violating the hell out of their spirit.

The Newsweek article that Cory points to starts off with the following paragraphs:

Wal-Mart prides itself on cutting costs at home and abroad, and its Mexican operations are no exception. That approach has helped the Arkansas-based retail giant set a track record of spectacular success in the 16 years since it entered Mexico as a partner of the country’s then-leading retail-store chain. But some of the company’s practices have aroused concern among some officials and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that Wal-Mart is taking advantage of local customs to pinch pennies at a time when its Mexican operations have never been more profitable.

Wal-Mart is Mexico’s largest private-sector employer in the nation today, with nearly 150,000 local residents on its payroll. An additional 19,000 youngsters between the ages of 14 and 16 work after school in hundreds of Wal-Mart stores, mostly as grocery baggers, throughout Mexicoand none of them receives a red cent in wages or fringe benefits. The company doesn’t try to conceal this practice: its 62 Superama supermarkets display blue signs with white letters that tell shoppers: OUR VOLUNTEER PACKERS COLLECT NO SALARY, ONLY THE GRATUITY THAT YOU GIVE THEM. SUPERAMA THANKS YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING. The use of unsalaried youths is legal in Mexico because the kids are said to be “volunteering” their services to Wal-Mart and are therefore not subject to the requirements and regulations that would otherwise apply under the country’s labor laws. But some officials south of the U.S. border nonetheless view the practice as regrettable, if not downright exploitative. “These kids should receive a salary,” says Labor Undersecretary Patricia Espinosa Torres. “If you ask me, I don’t think these kids should be working, but there are cultural and social circumstances [in Mexico] rooted in poverty and scarcity.”

“Exploitative”? “Regrettable”? Poppycock! For almost two years I worked as a bagger at a grocery store, and I was never paid one thin dime in salary. I worked only for tips, just as these Mexican teenagers are doing. I was living in Germany during the early ’80s, and the grocery store in question was the military commissary on the U.S. Army base of Hanau. We almost always worked in groups of three baggers at each check-out stand, and we divided the tips equally at the end of our shift. The minimum wage during that time was $3.35 an hour, but we easily surpassed that each day. On a very slow day we’d make at least $5 a hour, and on really good days we could make $10 or more an hour. We only bagged on school days, and at most we worked four hours out of any day.

Was I being exploited? Heck, no! Had I worked as an employee of the commissary, I would have been paid minimum wage since I was unskilled labor. If I’d been a paid employee of the commissary it might have made concerned busy-bodies happier, but it would have meant making less money than I did working for tips. So are their warm-fuzzies worth my lost money? Since it would have been my lost money, the answer is clearly no.

Do I regret my time as an “exploited” bagger? Heck, no! I learned some very helpful life lessons at that job. In an hourly-wage job, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to complete each task since the pay is based on how long you work, not how well or how fast. But since I was paid per job and not per hour, it was well worth my extra effort to hustle and get things done faster. Faster bagging meant more people through the line, and that meant more money for me. I also learned that being pleasant and cheerful resulted in more and better tips than being surly and glum. I learned how to bag groceries efficiently, and the best way to clump similar items on the conveyer belt for the checker. And I really developed my forearm muscles by bagging.

Labor Undersecretary Patricia Espinosa Torres says, “If you ask me, I don’t think these kids should be working.” Yeah, let’s not teach teenagers anything about responsibility, commitment, hard work, or social skills through work. That’s the ticket. Doing so would make them self-sufficient, and then they wouldn’t turn to the government to wipe their behinds for them. I prefer teaching teens how to be good adults, and learning how to work is part of the process of becoming an adult.

Here’s another thing I noticed: nowhere in the Newsweek article was there a discussion of how much money the teenagers make by working for tips. If they were making less than minimum wage, don’t you think that would be reported? The silence makes me suspect that the Mexican teenagers working as baggers at Wal-Mart are making more than the Mexican minimum wage. And if that is the case, how exactly are they being exploited?

On May 23rd, American author E. L. Doctorow was booed while he gave the commencement address at Hofstra University. Rather than using this opportunity to talk to the graduating class about their accomplishments or what they could expect in the near future, Doctorow used his time to bash President Bush and call him a liar.

One story he [Bush] told was that the country of Iraq had nuclear and biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction and was intending shortly to use them on us. That was an exciting story all right, it was designed to send shivers up our spines. But it was not true.

Another story was that the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, was in league with the terrorists of al-Qaida, And that turned out to be not true. But anyway we went off to war on the basis of these stories.

Loud boos erupted at these words. At one point, Doctorow stopped speaking and just stood there at the podium. Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz stepped up to the mike and asked that the crowd allow Doctorow to continue, but some people continued to boo the author nevertheless. While this is one of the latest examples of commonly-held leftist ideas about the war in Iraq, this certainly won’t be the last time they are brought up. So let’s look at the “stories” that Doctorow claims Bush told.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

A common claim by the liberal left is that President Bush lied to us about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. Leftists often claim (as does Doctorow) that President Bush said that “Iraq had nuclear and biological and chemical weapons,” but what President Bush really said was that “[Iraq] possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.” That is what President Bush said on Oct. 7, 2002. The President also didn’t claim that the threat was imminent:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

What did we know before we toppled Saddam’s regime? We knew that Saddam had both biological and chemical WMDs. How did we know this? Because Saddam had used them. This is not conjecture, nor is it speculation. This is a historical fact. Saddam had such weapons, and he was willing to use them. Since Saddam couldn’t account for these WMDs, nor would he allow inspectors to verify their destruction, the only logical conclusion is that Saddam still had them.

Fast forward a year after the overthrow of Saddam, and liberals are calling out, “Where are the WMDs? Bush lied!” But let’s look at a little bit of what has come out in the news recently. In May 2004, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said, “The Iraqi Survey Group confirmed today that a 155-millimeter artillery round containing sarin nerve agent had been found.” This round of (all together now, kids) sarin nerve agent was hooked up as an improvised explosive device, or IED. But this wasn’t an isolated event — two weeks earlier, terrorists had exploded an IED that contained mustard gas. The servicemen were fortunate in that the shell had been stored improperly, making the mustard gas ineffective; the sarin shell was exploded incorrectly, reducing the threat from it as well.

But when you find two dead cockroaches, it is foolishness to claim that is the extent of the infestation.

“Gazi George, a former Iraqi nuclear scientist under Saddam’s regime, told Fox News he believes many similar weapons stockpiled by the former regime were either buried underground or transported to Syria. He noted that the airport where the device was detonated is on the way to Baghdad from the Syrian border.” (Fox News)

In April, Jordan broke news of a planned bomb plot that could have killed tens of thousands of people in the city of Amman. At least three trucks came over the border from Syria laden down with detonators, explosives and the raw materials to create more explosives. Amid these “raw materials” were VX, sarin and 70 other chemicals. Could Syria have created the VX and sarin? Sure, but only Iraq had the facilities to create them in the quantities that were found. Is it a coincidence that military convoys were seen heading from Iraq into Syria before the war, and now we are capturing terrorists leaving Syria with chemical WMDs? Not according to Jaffar Jaffar, regarded as the father of Iraq’s nuclear program, who recently surrendered to American forces.

But what about Iraq’s nuclear program? On Sunday, May 23rd, 2004, former Justice Department prosecutor John Loftus talked about the nuclear program in the Middle East. This is transcribed from my recording of his interview:

“Now the British discoveries date back to just after September 11th, when British intelligence wiretapped a frantic phone call from North Korea to Libya. The North Koreans were saying, ‘Oh my God! If the Americans do go into Iraq, they’re going to find all the documents about our nuclear weapons program.’ ‘And who’s going to pay,’ the Libyans inquired, ‘all the nuclear scientists from Iraq in Libya once Saddam falls?’”

We now know that Libya had an ongoing nuclear program, but why was Iraq paying Libya to house nuclear scientists there? The simplest answer is that Libya’s nuclear program was really Saddam’s nuclear program outsourced. Loftus continued:

“Well, that tape was played to the North Koreans. They said, ‘Yeah, we have a nuclear program. So what? Bribe us.’ We played that tape to Kaddafi and he said, ‘Let’s make a deal.’ So Kaddafi has secretly confirmed that there was this Arab consortium on nuclear weapons. That Saddam decided because he knew where the blind spots were in Hans Blix’s staff to move his key nuclear scientists into Libya. 408 were transferred into that country. Kaddafi provided a hollowed-out mountain…. Some of these guys were actively working on Saddam’s payroll. He knew where the blind spots were. That’s how they knew to hide the entire weapons of mass destruction program. Blix is going to go down in history as a bloated bureaucrat whose arrogance was only exceeded by his incompetence. The spread of nuclear weapons took place right under his nose.”

So Saddam had and used biological and chemical weapons, and these weapons have turned up in Iraq and surrounding countries. While it appears that Saddam may not have been active inside Iraq with a nuclear program, he had outsourced such a program into Libya with the assistance of North Korea. President Bush’s claims were true when he said that “[Iraq] possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.”

Any liberal who tells you otherwise either has his head buried in the sand, or is outright lying to you for his political gain.

Iraqi ties to al-Qaeda

So is Doctorow correct when he claims there is no connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda? Well, let’s look at what we know.

Czech intelligence reported in October 2001 that Mohammad Atta, the terrorist who flew the first plane into the World Trade Center, met with Iraqi Counsel Ahmad Al-Ani. Why would Atta break his cover a few months before the September attack to meet with an Iraqi in Prague? Could this meeting have been related to the plane hijacking training provided by the Salman Pak training camp in Iraq? According to Sabah Khalifa Khodada Alami, an Iraqi military officer who defected from Iraq in 1999, Salman Pak was a training site for the Fedayeen Saddam in airline hijacking and sabotage. Also training in this camp were non-Iraqi groups, who received similar hijacking training using the Boeing 707 plane parked in the camp.

But there is another link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The Jordanian bomb plot mentioned above was planned by Abu-Musab al-Zaqawi, a close follower of al-Qaeda. The people captured in this plot confessed on Jordanian television that the plot was hatched by al-Zaqawi in 1999, while he was in Iraq, as an al-Qaeda attack. The attack was attempted with Iraqi WMD supplies, but fortunately was stopped before thousands died.

Does the name al-Zaqawi ring a bell? He’s one of the ghouls who chopped off Nick Berg’s head. Know where he is right now? If you say Iraq, go to the head of the class. So here we have al-Qaeda: trained in Iraq, supplied with weapons from Iraq, plotting attacks in Iraq, launching attacks now in Iraq and, thanks to the corruption of the U.N.’s “oil for food” program, funded by Iraq. But if you listen to people like Doctorow, there is no connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq.

Yeah, right.

Addendum (5/26/2004): Al Gore has stepped forward and bloviated about the war in Iraq. He is calling for the resignation of the Secretary of Defense, two deputies, the intelligence chief, the National Security Advisor, and the head of the CIA. If a bomb were to claim the lives of these six people, it would be a terrible blow to the American government. But Gore is calling for them to fall on their own swords. He is also calling for the removal of President Bush at the ballot box this November. Yep, Al Gore, the sore loser, is calling on America to cringe and crawl before the terrorists and piss on themselves, much as Spain did after the March 11th bombings in Madrid. Thanks, Al.

Lemme clear up one simple thing that Gore missed when he said “[Bush] decided not to honor the Geneva Convention.” The GC specifies how soldiers, prisoners and civilians are to be treated. But there are three basic caveats to the GC. First, the GC only applies to the nations who sign it. Second, if a signatory nation violates the rules of the GC, the other nation(s) are no longer bound by it. Third, the rules about treatment of soldiers apply only to people wearing uniforms, insignia or other clear indications of military membership. Clearly, al-Qaeda does not fit the last category since they are not a clearly identified military. Nor have they shown that they will honor the GC, setting off IEDs with mustard and sarin gas in them. And they are not signatory members of the GC. So how exactly do al-Qaeda and the other terrorist rabble attacking Coalition soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan fit with the Geneva Convention? They don’t, but this won’t stop liberals like Al Gore from beating their breasts over it.

This speech by Al Gore will be translated and broadcast throughout the Muslim world, and it will strengthen the resolve of those who delight in the shedding of American blood. With this speech, Al Gore is giving real aid and comfort to the enemy. This is treason. But because Gore is a Democrat, nothing will happen to him.