Monthly Archives: July 2009

Is Toyota the new GM (in a bad way I mean)?

This is the crux of it for me.

“It’s as if a long-held doctrine at Toyota – that it doesn’t shut down factories and it doesn’t fire workers – has crumbled,” a Japanese auto analyst told the New York Times. “Some would say this is a new era for Toyota.”

A new era for Toyota? What kind of era will this be? I thought they were trying to forge a closer relationship with the United States? Clearly the American market has been lucrative for the corporation, but its workforce appears to be just another disposable input. Those same employees you let go are the ones who would’ve probably been buying your cars as well. So for Toyota it’s we’ll take your money and that’s it!

Top Ten Meanest Cities (via Street Sense, DC)

Today I bought a copy of Street Sense here in DC and read about a rather disturbing trend. That trend is the rise in homelessness and it’s criminalization by cities around the country. In the article there was one fact that I also wanted to share.

During one eleven-month period, Los Angeles spent $3.6 million repeatedly prosecuting 24 homeless individuals. For the same amount, according to the Lewin Group, a management research consultancy, the city could have provided housing for over 350 people.

Now isn’t that amazing? That is absolutely shocking! I wonder how many homeless people does the District of Columbia have? It makes you wonder what could be done here.

Top Ten Meanest Cities:

  1. Los Angeles, CA
  2. St. Petersburg, FL
  3. Orlando, FL
  4. Atlanta, GA
  5. Gainesville, FL
  6. Kalamazoo, MI
  7. San Francisco, CA (that liberal bastion! Say it ain’t so!)
  8. Honolulu, HI
  9. Bradenton, FL
  10. Berkeley, CA (another liberal enclave?!! Wow it’s like Cambridge, MA!)

Why can’t NGO’s play with the USTR?

I found this post rather interesting. It would appear that there are corporations that object to NGO’s sitting on the ITAC and working with the United States Trade Representative.

Two witnesses who function as ITAC chairmen testified that the increased presence of NGOs onMonogamy ITAC could dilute the effectiveness of the ITAC system, a claim echoed by some Republican members of the subcommittee.

Weird huh?

The Trade Advisory Committees (TACs) are (mostly) corporate, who get privileged access to USTR and negotiating documents – including lots of stuff that Congress and the public don’t even get to see.)

We need to have NGO’s working with the USTR to counter balance corporate America. Trade is extremely important concerning many issues related to social justice and &c. Weed need trade policies that aren’t going to treat people like numbers, inputs or commodities. This is where NGO”s can play an important role.

Philip Mattera really smacks the snot out of Wal-Mart and its new sustainability index

So Wal-Mart got a lot of press last week for the announcement that it would be creating something it called a sustainability index.

Walmart today announced plans to develop a worldwide sustainable product index during a meeting with 1,500 of its suppliers, associates and sustainability leaders at its home office. The index will establish a single source of data for evaluating the sustainability of products.

“Customers want products that are more efficient, that last longer and perform better,” said Mike Duke, Walmart’s president and CEO. “And increasingly they want information about the entire lifecycle of a product so they can feel good about buying it. They want to know that the materials in the product are safe, that it was made well and that it was produced in a responsible way.

You have to give credit to their PR people (Edelman?). I mean this is one class A PR effort. When I heard about this earlier in the week I honestly did not really care to think much about it. I figured at least they were trying to do something good for a change. Now that I’ve read Philip Mattera’s surgical smackdown I now have a change of mind!

Rating products is a good idea. It’s already being done by various non-profit organizations that bring independence and legitimacy to the process. Wal-Mart, by contrast, brings a lot of negative baggage. In recent years, Wal-Mart has used a purported commitment to environmental responsibility to draw attention away from its abysmal record with regard to labor relations, wage and hour regulations, and employment discrimination laws. It also wants us to forget its scandalous tax avoidance policies and its disastrous impact on small competitors. The idea that a company with a business model based on automobile-dependent customers and exploitative supplier factories on the other side of the globe can be considered sustainable should be dismissed out of hand. Yet Wal-Mart is skilled at greenwashing and is, alas, being taken seriously by many observers who should know better.

They are indeed very skilled at their messaging and spin. They’ve made it into a science really. I honestly get tired of blogging about Wal-Mart but when you’re the biggest corporation in the world doing so many bad things I guess you make good copy.

Why I like Dave Carroll

So I just read that United Airlines may have lost $180 million dollars because of the negative publicity surrounding their breaking a $3,500 Taylor guitar of Dave Carroll’s.

Meanwhile, within four days of the song going online, the gathering thunderclouds of bad PR caused United Airlines‘ stock price to suffer a mid-flight stall, and it plunged by 10 per cent, costing shareholders $180 million.

Whoever does the PR for United Airlines gets a big FAIL. The moment you have someone (anyone) making Youtube videos about your corporation that get popular and you do nothing, you FAIL. In the Internet age I applaud consumer activism like this.

e-Cigarettes? WTF?!!! What the hell?


Tell me why do we allow products like “e-cigs” to be sold?

The Food and Drug Administration has announced a warning on electronic cigarettes, also known as “e-cigarettes,” after a lab analysis found that they contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze that may be harmful to humans. E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that generally contain cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor, and other chemicals that are inhaled by the user.

Smoking is bad OK? This is why NYC and other cities have smoking bans that relegate smokers to dark corners to wear dunce caps. I’m sorry I have friends who smoke and they’re just plain wrong on this. Yes, there are tons of things that are bad for you like a lot of the food we now eat, but not smoking is a no-brainer!

Despite bans in Australia, Canada, and Hong Kong, e-cigarettes are readily available in shopping malls and online, and public health experts worry that they could increase nicotine addiction and tobacco use in young people. E-cigarettes do not contain health warnings, and are available in flavors such as apple, mint, banana, strawberry, and chocolate, making them all the more appealing to young people. And the purchasing process is as easy as the click of a button as I found recently when I attempted to order a set of e-cigarettes online.  The online retailer simply asked me to “agree” that I was at least 18 years old. I clicked on the ‘I agree’ button, placed my order, and on to checkout with no further verification of my age.

Is this how big Tobacco plans to get back into the mainstream? Please tell that we will vanquish these instruments sooner rather than later. Or at the very least regulate them with gusto and ensure that they aren’t marketed to young people.

The US Chamber of Commerce should remove “US” from its name

Ah yes that hallowed institution that great “Chamber of Commerce” of our nation has spoken again. Yes, the organization who has supported the abuse of Chinese workers by opposing labor regulations (by China!) that would seek to protect them better, has graced us with another pearl of wisdom.

“We urge the Senate to refrain from including provisions that could negatively impact U.S. relations with key trading partners and disrupt the global trading systems,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Foreign Trade Council and two other groups said in a letter to Senate leaders.

“Climate change is a global problem that calls for international cooperation, not unilateral ultimatums.”

I’m surprised that they even recognize climate change as real! What they’re basically against in this situation is the United States applying a tariff on “carbon-intensive” goods like steel coming from countries who aren’t doing enough to reduce C02 emissions. Now mind you this provision would not take effect until 2020! By that time we’ll need to be doing things like this. Instead of the United States being the leader that it has to be on climate change “Da Chamber” wants us to sit idly by.

Dear, Cigna. Why do you cause so much pain and suffering?

I can’t help but wonder what the executives at Cigna must feel when they hear stories about the uninsured. Also what do they feel for those whose claims have been denied by Cigna and other firms just like it? Does it not bother them that their entire business model revolves around collecting premiums and denying as many claims as legally possible? How does this help America? Imagine if the families of these executives were to one day be denied healthcare coverage and these lions of industry were left to sit and watch their loved ones suffer unspeakable pain?

At least for one of these industry captains, a Wendell Potter his conscience finally got the best of him. He could take it no longer.

It was July 2007 and Potter, a senior executive at giant US healthcare firm Cigna, was visiting relatives in the poverty-ridden mountain districts of northeast Tennessee. He saw an advert in a local paper for a touring free medical clinic at a fairground just across the state border in Wise County, Virginia.

Potter, who had worked at Cigna for 15 years, decided to check it out. What he saw appalled him. Hundreds of desperate people, most without any medical insurance, descended on the clinic from out of the hills. People queued in long lines to have the most basic medical procedures carried out free of charge. Some had driven more than 200 miles from Georgia. Many were treated in the open air. Potter took pictures of patients lying on trolleys on rain-soaked pavements.

If no other sentence from the article about Mr. Potter in the Guardian remains with you then let this one seep in.

“For Potter it was a dreadful realisation that healthcare in America had failed millions of poor, sick people and that he, and the industry he worked for, did not care about the human cost of their relentless search for profits.”

Relentless is the word indeed. Even now they seek to destroy any attempt at having an effective healthcare system in America. Here are some more insights in to how the US healthcare industry works.

Potter was witness to the campaign against Michael Moore’s healthcare documentary Sicko. The industry slammed the film as one-sided and politically motivated. Secret documents leaked from the American Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s lobby group, detailed the plan to paint Moore as a fringe radical. Potter now says the film “hit the nail on the head”. “The Michael Moore movie that I saw was full of truth,” he admits.

Potter was also working for Cigna when it became embroiled in the case of Nataline Sarkisyan, whose family went public after Cigna refused to pay for a liver transplant that it considered “experimental” and therefore not covered by their policy. Cigna reversed this decision only hours before the Californian teenager died. “I wish I could have done more in that case,” Potter said.

They are un-American there’s no way to get around it. We cannot let these traitors hand us another defeat as they did in the Clinton presidency. Healthcare corporations as we know it must be eradicated and exorcised off of the face of the earth.

Atlantic City gambles with workers making a living

So the workers at these casinos voted to join a union in 2007 (UAW) since then they’ve been trying to negotiate a contract. It has gotten to a point where they have now decided to authorize a strike.

Nobody wants a strike, but we’re going to stand up to enforce our rights. We have negotiated for almost two years, but instead of reaching an agreement the company keeps cutting back. Harrah’s [owner of both casinos] has cut our 401(k) match, increased our benefit costs and laid off our fellow workers.

It would appear that the corporation Harrah’s is still doing pretty well with revenue. The next time you visit one of these casino’s (the Trump establishments are going through something similar with their workers as well) you might want to tell the management that some of that money you give them when gambling and staying in their hotels should go to their employees too.

Build windmills not more war planes

So we just heard that Congress has voted not to have Lockheed Martin build more F-22 fighter planes. In the Senate debate there was a question as to the amount of US manufacturing jobs that would be lost to the economy if funding for this order were denied.

Lockheed Martin has estimated that work on the plane provides 25,000 jobs and indirectly supports up to 70,000 others.

Well why are we just building war planes then? Why aren’t we building more windmills? There’s plenty of ways that the 1.75 billion not spent on the F-22 could help the economy. If you want more jobs created in the United States then put people to work building not only windmills, but also doing public works and upgrading infrastructure that would benefit the entire nation. Aren’t there levees in New Orleans that need to be strengthened? What about bridges in Minnesota that need to be secured? What about fixing public transportation in this country? What about putting people to work to digitize medical records that could cut down on healthcare costs?

“Obama’s support for electronic medical records is one of the key efforts of health reform that actually will deliver lower costs for hard-working American families,” said Larry McNeely, a health care advocate at U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “Long-term savings can’t happen unless we have 21st century health information technology.”

There you have it!