Thursday, March 19, 2015

Race for the Bucks

For sheer tone-deaf chutzpah, Starbucks and its billionaire CEO Howard Schultz deserve every single one of the vitriolic Tweets being hurled their way over their latest phony marketing campaign. The ploy is to get the rich white people who buy their overpriced coffee -- and the poor white people who serve them their overpriced coffee --  to forget all about wealth inequality and the class war, and have an awkward concern-trolling conversation about black people instead.

As if you needed another reason to boycott Starbucks.

But, if you still insist on patronizing this franchise for your $5 fix of caffeine, I suggest you also instigate a conversation about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Starbucks is, after all, one of the 600 or so lucky multinational corporations negotiating in secret to take over the world. So, walk into Starbucks armed with a magic marker as well as your cash, and change the motto on the cup from "Race Together" to "Race Together to Stop Fast Track."

Initiate a conversation with your barista and your fellow customers about how this secretive deal will destroy thousands of American jobs. Saunter in carrying an anti-TPP sign. Demand that Howard Schultz tell his employees and his customers all about what the public is not being allowed to see. Godzillionaire TPP negotiator Mayor Mike Bloomberg, after all, has spilled the beans in a New York Times op-ed, revealing that Big Tobacco will supersede anti-smoking laws of sovereign nations by availing themselves of undemocratic corporate tribunals:
 If the Obama administration’s policy reversal is allowed to stand, not only will cigarettes be cheaper for the 800 million people in the countries affected by the trade pact, but multinational tobacco corporations will be able to challenge those governments — including America’s — for implementing lifesaving public health policies. This would not only put our tobacco-control regulations in peril, but also create a chilling effect that would prevent further action, which is desperately needed.
 So shouldn't fellow billionaire Schultz himself be willing to spill a few beans as well as roast them? Shouldn't he be just as concerned with health justice as with racial justice?

Flush the TPP has more helpful hints to help you harass Schultz and the whole cult of comfortable corporatists.

Meanwhile, what a coincidence that Schultz is initiating his Race Together murketing campaign in pro-labor Washington State, where activists and elected officials alike have been out in force protesting the TPP. Washington and neighboring Oregon just happen to be ground zero for the Obama administration's astroturfed propaganda campaign for fast track trade authority. These are major exporting states, and Oregon is also the home state of Senator Ron Wyden, Democratic chairman of the powerful Finance Committee and a TPP proponent.

 Gaius Publius quotes from the Obama-aligned P.R. firm's own press release:
With Congress set to debate concrete measures for strengthening the American economy this year, the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs (PCAJ) is launching today to pave the way to trade promotion [Fast Track] authority for President Obama and to help pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership. PCAJ is kicking things off with a significant digital advertising effort in Oregon and Washington State and will expand to other key states in weeks to come.
PCAJ will bring together progressive voices across the activist, advocacy, and business communities to share information about the benefits of this groundbreaking trade agreement—which is expected to support hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the United States.
Mitch Stewart, Battleground States Director for the 2012 Obama for America Campaign, and his fellow partner at 270 Strategies Lydia Tran, are coordinating the public launch and will provide strategic counsel for the coalition.
I'm surprised that the White House is not also urging "folks" to all race together to their nearest Starbucks for some refreshment to swallow along with the trade swill. Starbucks stands to profit big-time should the TPP get rammed through  Just think -- they can hire Vietnamese baristas for 30 cents an hour to schmooze with the local potentates over the plight of the nicotine-addicted peasants.

Starbucks is already doing phenomenally well. As the New York Times reports,
For the quarter ended Dec. 28, the company reported operating income of $915.5 million, up from $813.5 million in the period a year earlier. Revenue increased 13 percent, to $4.8 billion.
Still, the company is searching for new revenue streams, facing stiffer competition from rivals as it moves into higher-end coffees. With the race campaign, the brand may have been looking for a way to break away from its competitors, said Jeetendr Sehdev, who teaches at the University of Southern California.
“This is not about starting a conversation. This is about coffee wars,” he said. “The sole objective here is to try to increase the brand’s cultural relevance.”
Schultz never misses an opportunity to use his humble origins to justify his race to the top of the plutocratic pile. During her 2014 trip to China (where they're complaining about the high Starbucks prices) first lady Michelle Obama even oddly included Schultz in a list of civil rights and sports heroes for repressed Chinese students to emulate. 

What a coincidence that the Obama administration is now scapegoating China in its push for a coup by Starbucks and hundreds of other multinational corporations. Mrs. Obama, champion of healthy eating that she is, might want to take a look at Starbucks' food menu while she's busy touting Schultz's civil rights marketing campaign.  Here it is, courtesy of Food Babe:

Starbucks is a proud member of the Grocery Manufacturing Association, which lobbies for both the TPP and for GMO (genetically modified organism) food. And if any TPP partner country has the nerve to ban proplyene glycol from the food that children eat, Starbucks can haul them before an investor dispute tribunal and soak their poor populations for huge monetary damages. Starbucks and Big Tobacco and Big Pharma and hundreds of their closest friends and lobbyists can all Race Together, vying for the gold in the Greed Olympics.

NAFTA on Steroids, or Capitalists on Crack. No matter what you call the teams, the game is always fixed.


Jay–Ottawa said...

Are trade agreements like TPP only about easier access to markets and money? Something more worrisome is in the mix.

The powers now capable of taming big corporations are nation states. True, governments just about everywhere have always lent a big hand to business. However, nation states have not been utterly subservient to business all the time. Cripple nation states––theoretically responsible for protecting the social contract––and suddenly corporate power is king of the hill around the globe––not occasionally on a narrow trade issue through a stiff fine here and there, but all of the time just about everywhere.

Governments that buy into TPP are committing suicide. Their leaders know it. They are latter-day Ronald Reagans expanding the myth that government is the problem. Whatever powers governments retained to secure economic justice (at least once in a while) will be forfeited. Nation states are already half way down on one knee before the new kings of finance and commerce.

Get used to the new deal. Business will reign supreme, its new status secured through the back door of trade agreements. Governments will be forced to turn over (i.e., privatize) everything that might turn a buck in corporate hands.

Money is only half the story. TPP and TTIP are political coups that seek to undermine the nation states of North America, Asia and Europe. Such trade pacts usher us into the next stage of history, the great abdication of nation states.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Great point, Jay-Ottawa!

Of course, this all makes perfect sense. Although our representatives in the legislature are clearly on-the-take, that could change. People like Elizabeth Warren are popular and wild cards - unlike Obama who is as easy to control as his Republican counterparts. Better to hedge their bets with a trade deal that has ISDS included in the make-up. Now these governments will be at the mercy of the multi-national corporations.

I must admit, the ISDS provisions are the ones that concern Australians the most. While there is little coverage on the TPP and most Australians have never heard of it, there are occasional articles in the Sydney Morning Herald and on Australian websites. Most focus on the ISDS and the rising costs of medicines that will surely come to pass if the TPP is voted through Parliament.

As for Starbucks, I thought their biggest sin was moving into areas where there were established coffee shops and running them out of business. I had no idea Starbucks was one of the big corporations invited to the TPP talks. Say no more - I will boycott them in future. I usually favoured the smaller, local shops anyway but now I will make a point of it.

Bill Sprague said...

I remember in SFO when Starbucks was a cart outfit. My, how things have changed. What seems to be obvious but it is never mentioned is that if one makes it in America then one should pay TAXES in America on the gains! It is really quite simple but that's why there are lawyers. To see how much tax we can get away from paying!

Denis Neville said...

I recall that Howard Schultz, in 2012, urged his employees to promote fiscal bipartisanship and support Fix the Debt [Maya MacGuineas - Pete Peterson - Simpson-Bowles] by writing “Come together” on Starbucks coffee cups.

“Assholes tend to stick together, and once stuck are not easily separated.” - Robert I. Sutton, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

Jay–Ottawa said...

Just found this over at TI where Greenwald explains why Snowden has not found refuge in Germany. The Americans threatened not to alert Germany if it discovered a terrorist plot brewing against the Germans.

Within the commentary following that tale, this link to a speech by Chris Hedges in Toronto about Canada's new bill, C-51, aping arrangements of the US security state.

"I do not know if we can build a better society. I do not even know if we will survive as a species. But I know these corporate forces have us by the throat. And they have my children by the throat. I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists. And this is a fight that in the face of the overwhelming forces against us requires us to find in all acts of sustained rebellion the embers of life, an intrinsic meaning that lies outside of certain success. It requires us to at once grasp reality and then refuse to allow this reality to paralyze us. It is, and I say this to people of all creeds or no creeds, to make an absurd leap of faith, to believe, despite all empirical evidence around us, that good always draws to it the good, that the fight for life always goes somewhere. We do not know where. The Buddhists call it karma. And in these sustained acts of resistance we make it possible to reclaim a future for the generations that come after us, a future that the corporate state, if not overthrown, will obliterate.”

annenigma said...


Thanks for posting that. I too read Glenn's piece and that particular comment that quoted Chris Hedges. I was taken by "I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists." Count me in.

Here's another quote from a famous American: "I have not yet begun to fight!"

Jay–Ottawa said...

Hedges’ plane to Toronto was delayed by bad weather. He missed reading his speech but released his text to the press. It’s not long.

Here’s another good line from the paragraphs where he limns the real dissident, the true rebel.

“The rebel knows that, as Augustine wrote, hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage….”