Friday, April 3, 2015

Greedwashing Grifters

And a very Good Friday to one and all. 

It's been quite the OCD epidemic of self-serving damage control among greedy corporations lately. Apple, which has grown filthy rich off its slave labor in Chinese suicide mills and the minimum wage retail labor of debt-ridden millennials in Exceptional America, issued a strongly-worded statement against gay-bashing in Indiana this week. And Walmart did them one better, issuing a strongly-worded statement against gay-bashing in Arkansas only weeks after it offered a minimal increase in its starvation wages to a few carefully selected employees.

Somebody alert the Pope to start the canonization process.

And then there's McDonald's, which just makes itself look worse every time it tries to redeem itself in the court of public opinion. It was bad enough when they came out with that survival skills manual for employees a couple years ago, helpfully advising the Help to cut back on heat and food and sell last year's Christmas presents in order to afford this year's Christmas. It was hilarious enough when they started a marketing campaign in which lucky customers got randomly chosen to do a random good McDeed for the sole purpose of corporate greedwashing for TV. It was disgusting when they gave a miniscule wage increase to a miniscule number of employees this week. It was doubly disgusting when they actually gleaned glowing headlines for their cynical PR effort from the corporate media.

Of course, Walmart and McDonalds are among the corporations that only very recently and ostentatiously cut their public ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the right-wing billionaire bill mill that regularly churns out anti-labor "right to work" legislation designed specifically to destroy unions and thus keep everybody's wages depressed.  They're also among the 600 or so multinational corporations which are directly, or through such lobbyists at the US Chamber of Commerce, negotiating the anti-labor Trans-Pacific Partnership and its evil twin, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP.) Apple is in a global free market paradise all its own. The late lamented Steve Jobs made no secret of having no interest in bringing manufacturing jobs back to America.

New York Times op-ed writer Paul Krugman, in his usual Panglossian fashion, praises Walmart and McDonald's with the faintest of damns in his latest column. Sure, their token wage increases are on the crappy side, but they could also be the harbinger of things to come! "We" can give America a raise if we want to, fellow elite folks! Pretty please.

And then he really pulls a fast one. He stealthily inserts a plug for the TPP:
For one thing, global competition is overrated as a factor in labor markets; yes, manufacturing faces a lot more competition than it did in the past, but the great majority of American workers are employed in service industries that aren’t exposed to international trade.
I really had to restrain myself responding to that snide little remark, which obliquely trashes both TPP opponents and that lowly, yet "protected," category of servility:
So, since most of us are servants, we shouldn't worry about the Trans-Pacific Partnership because the billionaires haven't yet figured out a way to offshore all those great cashier and hamburger flipping jobs?

People who lost their good-paying factory jobs to NAFTA have been forced to become members of the Precariat, working for peanuts at Walmart and McDonalds. And now they're expected to jump for joy because the billionaires decide to throw them a few pennies and bennies and milk the good press for all it's worth.

Disgusting and shameless.

The TPP, which has been described as NAFTA on steroids, will in fact destroy thousands and thousands more American jobs. Factory orders on durable goods in this country are already way down, and the situation will only grow worse with every new trade deal. At least PK isn't falsely claiming, as are other "progressive" astroturf campaigns, that the TPP will protect American jobs and level the playing field.

The living wage movement must join forces with other trade unions to fight back against both globalization and the anti-labor "right to work" cookie cutter ALEC bills now showing up even in blue states like Oregon.

Solidarity is our only hope.
Meanwhile, the latest employment report shows a slowdown in hiring for even the crappy New Abnormal jobs. Black people are especially hard hit, with their median wages falling by 3.6 percent since the start of the long depression, a rate twice that of whites.  Meanwhile, the AARP reports that nearly half of all job seekers over the age of 55 have been out of work for at least half a year.

Tell us again that deregulated hypercapitalism and globalization don't have a toxic trickle-down (actually more of an acid rain downpour) effect on the Servant Economy. We are not lovin' this.


Pearl said...

Karen: Great comment you contributed (at 4:00 am?) to Krugman's latest and your column today fills in further the sordid details of what is happening in our society to working people. I was also glad to see so many excellent comments from knowledgeable readers and wish there was some way to organize the misery of people earning minimum wage into real political action.
I doubt supporting Hillary for President would change anything lest she have to pay more taxes on her own billions.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks Pearl. Actually I commented closer to 6-6:30 a.m. so was comparatively late in posting this morning. I refuse to get up at 3:30 a.m. just to be among the first 50 or so people to comment on a Times op-ed. I did it a few times, and the rest of my day didn't go well (cranky Karen)as a result. If I'm awake, fine, but I won't set my alarm for the privilege of commenting in 1500 characters or less.

Pearl said...

Exonerated Alabama death row inmate freed from prison via @msnbc

Justice in America.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen, I haven't read your comment yet.
We've got to write to someone at the Times repeatedly to stop this crazy op ed column schedule. It's abusive. Our comments push up Times subscriptions!

I've written to Andy Rosenthal's email, plus public editor also saying please forward to Bassy Etim(?) the boss of comment moderators, or whatever he is. No response.

But who is the decision maker, and how do we reach? I stay up late anyway in the winter, but am trying to turn my sleeping hours back to earlier. I can't imagine that there hasn't been some reader protest over this change they imposed--with no reason or notification.
How about some street protests---something like --"Commenters Sleep Lives Matter".

Tommybones said...

Karen, in your comment to Krugman you forgot about how many retail stores have set up "check-yourself-out" lanes. I have, when the opportunity arose, told them I would not spend my money in their store and do the work too. I also would not be at all surprised to learn that a plan is afoot to figure out a way for the fast food industry to supply the fixins' and the grill so we can fry our own damn burgers (at the same price of course).

Karen Garcia said...


You and I are among several commenters who've complained (to Bassey Etim among others) about the timing of op-ed publishing. He wrote something non-responsive, to the effect that they are experimenting with a lot of different stuff based on the reading habits of subscribers. I guess there must a mystery sect of subscribers who get their optimal Times experience at 3:30 in the morning! The Times also sent me of those commenting surveys the other night, in which I again complained about both the timing and the horrible placement of comments to the side of the articles. This will no doubt result into another magical algorithm purporting to gel with the reading habits of subscribers. I had to laugh when the very first question they asked their random "commenting community" members was whether they were "paid" subscribers. No paywall-jumping commenters allowed, yo! I think this survey was just another marketing gimmick with which to gather personal info for their advertisers, so I just refused to answer most of the nonsense... including my income.


Yes, I forgot about the self- checkouts, where some mega-bank also charges you a quarter or 50 cents for using your EBT or debit card to pay for the groceries that you ring up and bag yourself. You gotta hand it to the plutocrats, they come up with ever more novel ways to extract every last penny from the proles.

Meredith NYC said...

The American Service Economy? Like TVs 1970s PBS Upstairs Downstairs, set in Britain’s class stratified, pre WW1 “Servant Economy.” A vast servant class needed for their aristocrats’ every need. Prepare and serve them deluxe meals, dress them, run their baths, keep their clothes tip top, and clean their many houses. The household work was so labor intensive, they needed armies of less educated commoners, who would be satisfied with their lot, look up to their betters, not rock the boat. No Occupy the Houses of Parliament or The Palace.

No pensions either. Winston Churchill as a young man provided for his beloved nanny in her old age sickness, after a lifetime of work with no pension from his mother.

Our vast ‘service economy’ workers will have no pension either. Will the US govt be as beneficent as Churchill? But there’s no personal relationship. They’re on their own.

Now Nobel economist Krugman says relax, at least they’re protected from globalization. For this we need a Nobel Prize economist columnist?
Thus the old class ridden servant economy has been translated to 21st C USA, home of the world’s greatest democracy, meritocracy, bill of rights--founded to contradict the explicit class system of Old Europe.

All this irony is too much for Times star Krugman to worry his pretty liberal head about.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen, I'm stunned the Times is experimenting based on our reading habits. What was wrong with the prior time? Weird. The new time will decrease readership and comments. Comments are a draw for their revenue. What are they smoking over there?

I wonder if the public editor fwds emails to Bassey. I can't find his email.
I wonder what time columns go up on other publications?

Btw, Karen, are you on twitter? Do you send tweets to journalists, etc?? i haven't done this yet, but may.

Zee said...

As I was, in fact, self-checking myself out at the local “big-box” hardware/home improvement store this very afternoon for the purchase of two fluorescent light bulbs, I was thinking exactly the same thought as “Tommybones.” So he beat me to the punch.

Now, I don't have much choice when it comes to “shopping locally” for things such as fluorescent lights, unless I want to drive extended distances to find Albuquerque's small, non-chain, retail outlets in remote corners of the city, which may or may not have what I really need.

(I have found that it is harder to get straight answers about what is actually in stock from unknowledgable human store clerks than it is to see what the “big box” store really has in stock—complete with relevant specs—as noted on their website.)

But Tommybones is closer to the truth than perhaps even he knows:

I don't dine at Chili's, Applebee's, McDonald's or the like unless I'm on the road or trapped in an airport while in transit and unwilling to leave the “secure” area . I have my own local favorites, and I think that they generally give me much better culinary offerings.

But the next time that I do find myself in a major chain restaurant, I think it quite likely that I will be ordering—and paying my bill—on a tablet, with minimal interaction with a human “server” or “cashier.” Maybe a robot or drone will even bring my meal to my table, and without the usual errors in communication.

Wages may actually go up for those humans who remain in the service industries. But there may be fewer and fewer of them so employed.

It's going to get worse before it gets better.

And this just in:

“There's no economic law that technology always makes workers better off, even in the long run. We should be preparing now just in case it doesn't.”

But I have to wonder: “What happens when the plutocrats run out of gainfully employed peons who are able to earn enough to buy the electromechanical gewgaws that the plutocrats are making their living selling?”

Does the house of cards finally collapse?

Meredith NYC said...

Karen..... as you say, disgusting and shameless. And despite this, Krugman says relax, our burger flippers and house cleaners are protected from job offshoring!

We get his drift. Last week’s column said be thankful for ACA, despite high cost subsidizing of big insurance co's and the millions it leaves out, and its obvious inferiority to the h/c systems abroad.

Today’s column—maybe the tiny raises for a few Americans from a part of 2 vast monopolies portends a new era in US labor relations. Leaves out the high hurdles normalized in our politics. Explaining these would trace cause/effect and fight this ‘let’s be satisfied’ with 2nd best. But instead, he makes the job of the gop easier.

Re Australia.....see comment by RLS about min wage, vac/sick days/health care. That’s contrast.

Jared Bernstein on MSNBC today.....we need a national wage floor. The Mcdonalds’ raises affect about 10 pct of their workers, not the franchises. Big media publicity for that 10 pct.

He said our % of unionized employees is now so low, compared to our own past (and other nations now), that workers have to protest in the streets instead of negotiating contracts with employers.

So we force workers to do public street marches with signs and chants, hoping the TV cameras will be there. This shows them defying employers instead of having the dignity of negotiating. We call them radicals, an underclass. The Middle Class keeps its distance---the gop benefits.

In countries with unions on corporate boards, like Germany, workers don’t normally march in the streets for decent wages/ benefits. Though in EU nations even the middle class might march to influence their govt policies. Workers have some realistic BARGAINING power. There is give and take between business & unions. Respect is the basis.

Our marching workers lack political representation---both parties avoid this. EU nations have long had workers’ parties, with input even if don’t win elections. Our politicians need funds from big money so keep their lip zipped about ‘worker rights’.

Our Unions were once part of the middle class’s biggest expansion. That story should be retold constantly to the public by liberals.
Krugman, Free Trader, is loathe to be firmly on the employee side of the spectrum, no matter how he labels himself as a liberal.

Valerie said...

Great Comment to Kruggie - I maintain it is far better than anything he could have written. I have frequently skipped the opinion articles and gone straight to my favourite commenters. You being at the top of my list.

Denis Neville said...

Stunned that the NY Times is experimenting based on the reading habits of its subscribers?

Really now?

Facebook and the New York Times may be teaming up.

The New York Times is considering publishing some of its stories directly to Facebook.

Facebook’s ability to control access to news and what is trending and deemed important would be extraordinary. What could possibly go wrong?

The late NY Times reporter David Carr wrote:

“That kind of wholesale transfer of content sends a cold, dark chill down the collective spine of publishers, both traditional and digital insurgents alike. If Facebook’s mobile app hosted publishers’ pages, the relationship with customers, most of the data about what they did and the reading experience would all belong to the platform. Media companies would essentially be serfs in a kingdom that Facebook owns.”

The next battle for control over content is a significant one, not so much mandated by Facebook as by consumer preference. Carr quotes David Bradley, Atlantic Media Company, who says “Increasingly, people would rather have their news curated by friends rather than editors.”

“An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge. This clutter is an unfortunate by-product of one of our greatest strengths as a species. We are unbridled pattern recognizers and profligate theorizers. Often, our theories are good enough to get us through the day, or at least to an age when we can procreate. But our genius for creative storytelling, combined with our inability to detect our own ignorance, can sometimes lead to situations that are embarrassing, unfortunate, or downright dangerous—especially in a technologically advanced, complex democratic society that occasionally invests mistaken popular beliefs with immense destructive power.” - David Dunning, “We Are All Confident Idiots,”

“The Facebook dog is loose, and he’s acting more friendly than hungry. But everyone knows that if the dog is big enough, he can lick you to death as well.” - David Carr

annenigma said...


The Facebook takeover of print news media (and comments) has been happening all over the country, mostly with smaller newspaper companies. You can't comment at all unless you do so through the paper's Facebook page and of course you must agree to become a product of Facebook to do so. They really do have a brilliant business model.

I think of it as our newly designated digital 'Free Speech Zone'. If they can herd us all into this arena, it makes it easier for them (and their evil twin the Gov't) to monitor our every interest, preference, and sentiment than than it would be if we were scattered amongst thousands of websites. Personal preferences (composed into profiles/dossiers) as well as 'situational awareness' are very valuable commodities. There are companies like Stratfor that data mine that info and provide intelligence reports to corporations as well as their government.

So, as if the evening network news wasn't vacuous enough, we'll be getting whatever content appeals to the masses as determined by Facebook members' 'likes' and 'shares' because that's what generates easy income for Facebook and their corporate partners. We'll then be fed more of the same.

The whole country has gone to the dogs, and that includes the news. Look for more light and fun 'news' like dog stories. Americans don't want real news - it's a bummer (as we all know). They do adore their pets to the point of obsession and will like and share those stories/links to no end.

Just ask people you know if they follow the news. You'll be shocked at how few do, and they have no regret or shame about it. They love their ignorance - it's bliss, until it comes back to bite them in the ass.

Sorry to be such a drag. On a cheerier note, Happy Easter Passover!

Pearl said...

Denis: Regarding the news reports in the major press, sensationalism is rife and especially on TV as well where we get endless stories and videos for example of the horrors of Kenya but without a true explanation of how and why this has come about. I only skim the main headlines of the regular news, then whatever articles of interest to me in my progressive news sources I have time and energy for such as Truthout, etc. and of course Sardonicky with all the interesting comments like yours. As Valerie said she finds the comments in the nytimes for Krugman more interesting than what the writer has to say. No wonder people are ignorant but then in many cases the workload for many to survive does not allow time and energy to follow the news which is often unreliable and needs deciphering as Karen often does for us.
My beef as a Senior Citizen in an upscale retirement set up is there is no one to have a meaningful conversation with (even those of sound mind) on anything I find interesting. Not even about our local politics which are important with an election coming up.
So thank goodness for Karen and all of you which helps keep my mind functioning even though the real news is revolting and dishonest. I do get depressed as a result but would rather have my instincts validated than live in confusion. I also find the camaraderie uplifting as we share the same sorrow and pain about history especially if we are old enough to remember much of the past. One can only hope that the younger generations are waking up and there are some reports that this is beginning to happen and hopefully is not too late. My youngest granddaughter is beginning to figure it all out without much advice from me so we are now on the same wave length regardless of a generational gap. May you all have a decent holiday time.

annenigma said...


You're not the only one who lacks someone to have meaningful conversations with about topics of interest. Count me in. I admit I'm too interested and immersed in world news as evidenced by the fact that I get criticized by non-news people because I 'have an opinion about everything'. It's true. It's hard not to have an opinion when you/I (think you) know what's going on. It ends up being a one-way non-conversation because they lack the basic information to contribute, which embarrasses them and obviously that's not at all the intent.

I actually know some otherwise intelligent people who deliberately dive into our dumpster culture just to find some piece of fluffy trash with which to engage others in conversation. 'My opinion is' that that is sad!

Of course they can always rely on that good old upbeat standby, their dogs. There is one exception to the no opinion finding among most people. They rabidly believe that NO ONE should vote for a person who does not love and own dogs because something is seriously wrong with them, as in deranged. I've heard that one several times. I offer that as an example of the kind of opinion that Americans will actually freely offer.

I've thanked Karen before for cutting through the crap of news propaganda and for providing us with a venue to share (and sometimes just vent), and I'll do it again. Thank you Karen!

Pearl said...

Annenigma: Thank you for your comment and now I know why you write such intelligent and meaningful comments. There is a culture of anti knowledge and education in the U.S. and Canada also, but a little less so.
Do the people that wouldn't vote for anyone who doesn't love dogs but might if they had the means to take care of them which is quite expensive with vet bills, etc? So your critics can afford this and statistics show that animals eat better than many people do in the U.S. You can remind them next time they make those comments.
As for culture, watching TV, shows the kind of "entertainment" that is popular. One could go on and on connecting it with the consumer society and the rest of the value system in place.
Wish you lived down the street Annenigma. We would have plenty to talk about.

Karen Garcia said...

Happy Easter and Passover, everybody!

Zee said...


Thank you for the Easter/Passover well-wishes.

On a beautiful day such as today--at least, here in the warm, sunny American southwest-- it is difficult for even a perpetual pessismist such as myself not to be able to find some hope for the future.

May hope never stop springing eternal.

Valerie said...

Count me into the group having very few people with whom to have a meaningful conversation. Like the U.S. and Canada, Australians don't seem interested in real news that will affect their future lives both economically as well as politically. I think the Australian government has taken care of its citizens for so long that they now expect the government will always work in their best interest.

Yet I fear the stealthy corporate takeover is just around the corner. They've been so successful in the U.S. and Canada, why not Australia with its huge mineral resources? Large foreign corporations elbow their way in, pushing small local businesses aside, claiming only a multinational corporation of their size can take on the bigger projects that the government no longer wants to deal with. Instead of thinking locally and protecting small business and local jobs, the local politicians feel flattered that a multinational will even talk to them.

I feel like Pandora warning friends of the TPP and not to get sucked too far into the housing bubble. I feel in my bones that another crash isn't too far around the corner considering the way the bankers have been allowed to continue their unregulated, casino approach to investment banking. Yet, no one seems interested in even finding out about it.

Worse are my Obama fan friends with whom I used to have good conversations. The lap up the NYT and if it isn't in the Gray Lady, it isn't news. When they read Kruggie, Kristof and Friedman, they rarely venture into the comment section. None of them had heard of the TPP until I harangued them into listening and now all spout the "Obama version."

People feel OK saying, "I'm not that up to date on politics these days." As if we don't have a responsibility to keep ourselves informed in a democratic society. No wonder Jimmy Carter says we don't have a functioning democracy anymore.

Jay–Ottawa said...

“Solidarity is our only hope.”

Amen, Karen!

Wishes stay home in the comfort of the head or the heart. Hope, real hope, puts on overhauls and sweats it out in the fields.

The legislative, executive and judicial branches of American government are beyond hope. They have become puppets. Hope in overhauls girds itself to wrestle with the puppeteers, the corporations behind the fakers in government.

Who among you has the stomach for that?

As Chris Hedges reminds us yet again on another Monday morning, “since profit is the only language the involved corporations know how to speak, we will have to speak to them in the language they understand.”

Our continued buying from thieving corporations just keeps growing their muscle––as if we didn’t know. Don’t buy and a corporation will grow weak. Simple and within the capacity of us all. Spare me the “more complex than that” arguments against boycotts.

Here’s where our only hope, solidarity, comes in. Solidarity is essential for boycotts to succeed in bringing corporations to heel. Sorry to tell you, however, that boycotts cost the boycotters as well as those boycotted. Can you bear that burden, brothers and sisters? And you thought Lent was over yesterday.

No need to be physically strong, or well-to-do, or well connected to power. No need to be young with fresh lungs to scream slogans in the faces of cops. No need to camp out in parks through the nights. No need to write letters to Washington. Just don’t buy the damned targeted goods. Any age can play. But, of course, you’ll have to do without now and then, if you’re up to hoping actively in solidarity. You'll have to speak the only language corporations understand. You must deny them your money.

To hope in and simultaneously to violate a boycott by continuing to buy targeted products is at best feeble, at worse hypocritical.

Well, a boycott has been declared to help––of all groups––the most undeserving, the very lowliest, the most oppressed in American society: convicted criminals behind bars. They form a population of between 2 – 3 million in the American gulag. Who among us wants to be in solidarity with them? Ugh. But if, as a follower of one philosophy or another, you’re interested in halting incarceration as a big, profitable and highly abusive business, here’s the list of corporations you boycott. In solidarity.

“Corporations currently exploiting prison labor include Abbott Laboratories, AT&T, AutoZone, Bank of America, Bayer, Berkshire Hathaway, Cargill, Caterpillar, Chevron, the former Chrysler Group, Costco Wholesale, John Deere, Eddie Bauer, Eli Lilly, ExxonMobil, Fruit of the Loom, GEICO, GlaxoSmithKline, Glaxo Wellcome, Hoffmann-La Roche, International Paper, JanSport, Johnson & Johnson, Kmart, Koch Industries, Mary Kay, McDonald’s, Merck, Microsoft, Motorola, Nintendo, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Quaker Oats, Sarah Lee, Sears, Shell, Sprint, Starbucks, State Farm Insurance, United Airlines, UPS, Verizon, Victoria’s Secret, Wal-Mart and Wendy’s.”

annenigma said...


I like your idea Jay, but where exactly are you going to find all those people who actually give a shit? (pardon my French). I do know there are a lot of people who do care strongly about something, and I'll walk you there with some diversions. Come along for the tour please.

First I'd like to say that something like the Ice Bucket challenge got a lot of national attention but only because social media made it into a brief moment of fun focused on the self. The national media reflected that feel-good moment back for viewership. If you asked those Ice Bucket folks what ALS stood for, they would likely have guessed it stood for a football league.

The fact is, it seems very difficult to get people to want to do or even learn anything that will make them feel bad or uncomfortable. Committing to anything requiring sustained engagement, sacrifice, or commitment, even for their own direct benefit is a stretch. There would have to be something more to drive them. Like dogs!

Before I get to the dog part, I have to say that we'd have to return to cave dwelling to boycott all the products of all those companies. Koch Industries alone is the 9th largest conglomerate in the world. I couldn't possibly list all their products. Proctor and Gamble is another corporation with too many companies and products to mention. And they are just two of the ones listed.

I think we just have to wait for their system to collapse and be prepared to pick up the pieces ourselves with our own system, and then we would break open the prisons and freeing everybody! Yippee!

First I think we need to get serious about starting and supporting coop and local sustainability movements now so that when their system collapses, we don't also. The fact is, people do love the feel-good aspect of connecting with others and working for something that just happens to benefit them or their tribe. Developing more local resources would in effect subvert those large corporations more than direct action of a BDS could hurt them (if such a thing was even viable in reality).

If someone could think of a way to combine the coop/local movement with DOGS, you'd have a real winner. Something like a community-based program to bring dogs into the prisons might be a start to bridging the gap and increasing caring and compassion on both sides. Maybe even a dog park inside a prison yard? Oh, ok, that's unreal. But if dog owners saw prisoners actually loving their dog, they'd feel like they were in Heaven! Man's best friend could be prisoner's BFF. It could lead to something good.

The bottom line is that I'm just trying to find a way to harness that energy of people's love/obsession/dedication to their pets and how it could be translated into something that benefits other humans and their lives. That's a lot of strong, untapped, unfocused energy that has a very positive vibe. I don't know what form that energy could take, but it's worth exploring.

See, I have hope too, just a bit more basic and earthy. Arf! arf!

The Black Swan said...

I've been boycotting multinationals for a while now. I've also been trying to get others to join the boycott... with no success. Annenigma has it right, unless people can stroke their own egos through a boycott, they won't really care. And once that ego stroking is over... they won't care.

But I've been talking to a lot of people and it is nice to find so many my age who realize that our environment is being destroyed, our government is hopelessly corrupt, and that the love of money IS the root of all evil.

So where do we go from here? The co-op world is pretty interesting and has a lot of potential, but, and this is the big problem, these businesses still have to operate by the rules set up by the US gov't, a wholly owned subsidiary of CORPORATE America. And therein lies the rub. How do we escape a system AND play by it's rules?

As for me, I've been setting up and taking part in underground arts events, gathering like minded people, and planning for a future beyond capitalism.

There is a way out, we just have to find it, and always be finding it. No need for a clear plan, just a clear goal.

Pearl said...

Annenigma and everyone: Such caring from the heart for others and the frustration of how to truly arm ourselves to survive and/or go into battle if necessary.
Annenigma, you want to translate the love of dogs into something meaningful. Well, my oldest granddaughter at 25 has. She is a professional dog trainer and also houses dogs to be trained as service animals who become meaningful companions to disabled people, autistic children, vets with PTSD and it is utterly amazing the positive effect these dogs have on their owners. They are also trained to cheer up hospital patients and are used to find people who are lost, etc. If only we could train humans to be so useful to each other it would be a more caring world.
I look forward to reading all the comments and learn so much from all your experiences.
Thank you Karen for providing the arena to share our thoughts and hopes and providing us with the information to become our best knowledgeable selves.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Who is the enemy? The corporations. Or haven’t we agreed on that?

What is their lifeblood? Money.

How can we disable corporations? By taking low-risk action ourselves, now rather than later, to deny them money.

Anne, are boycotts so impracticable?

“…where exactly are you going to find all those people…[?]”

No need to corral the whole population, or even a quarter of it. Boycotts work by cutting into corporations’ competitive edge. It took only a small percentage of people to boycott grapes for Cesar Chavez’ farm workers to win concessions.

“…we'd have to return to cave dwelling to boycott all the products of all those companies…”

The prison advocates, I fully agree, should trim their long list to focus on one, or no more than a few, corporations at a time. Thoughtful leadership is missing there. The need to concentrate the boycott effort is crucial to success. The smart pride studies the herd, then cuts off and runs down one antelope at a time for dinner.

As for backing our way into caves, can we tolerate taking a few baby steps in that direction? Corporations that are never perturbed will herd us into caves long before any string of consumer boycotts. We just have to hang on until the target corporation’s income stays flat or begins to dip? That’s about when CEOs run around with their hair on fire.

“…we need to get serious about starting and supporting coop and local sustainability movements…”

Co-ops, sure. They are on the opposite end of globalization. I doubt that coops are much concern, though, to the enemy of us all (corporations). I suspect co-ops have much more trouble building their numbers than boycotts. Can’t we intimidate the Goliaths and the globals at the same time we support the locals? Especially for the sake of prisoners who can legally (see 13th Amendment) be treated like slaves?


I’ve read about programs where prisoners train seeing-eye dogs, if that’s what you’re referring to. Does wonders for the few prisoners lucky enough to obtain that scarce work. But how will boycotts (to help a couple of million prisoners) step on the toes of a few dog programs?

The gouging of inmates and their families will not come through more animal programs, more art, or more support for co-ops outside the walls. Something more is needed, with teeth, not dependent upon the occasional “good will” accorded by wardens, legislators and corporations, something else working for the mass of inmates, and that’s the targeted boycott of corporations who are allowed to rip off the prison population thanks to uninformed and indifferent consumers.

Valerie said...

I had no idea that Costco was associated with prison labour. I always thought it was a pretty good company because the top management were very willing to provide benefits for all their employees. Good to know and I WON'T be renewing our membership.

I am a big fan of boycotts. I agree that it is really our only weapon against the corporations. These multi-nationals have too many connections to the higher echelons of government - hallowed halls we are not permitted access. We can vote, but I am not even sure our vote counts and if it does, too many who are elected have no problem selling out. We need to vote with our dollars and make our voice heard that way.

But the corporations aren't stupid. They know their name is mud with a lot of us which is why they try to sell us their goods under other names. It is up to us to find out which corporations are selling under what names. And because locally, ethically made goods are more expensive, it means a commitment to buying less and having less.

If, as in the case of Australia, there is literally no textile industry left I try to buy durable products that will last. Or buy things second hand - at least your money goes to someone else and not into the coffers of a multi-national.

While keeping ourselves informed is important and it is good to find other like-minded people who share our paradigm, this knowledge is useless if it doesn't translate into action. I'm all for protesting and the power of a public outcry, but the boycott remains the most powerful weapon at our disposal. Many people are afraid or physically unable to protest, but all of us can refuse to support the corporations we hate.

We should strive to spend wisely and ethically.

Kat said...

I will offer a dissenting opinion on boycotts. I am not a fan. I think they are diversionary. They don't really help to scrutinize how power and resources are allocated. And I have had it up to here with buy local campaigns! To me, these campaigns are selling the same ideology- the entrepreneur as hero and exceptionalism (our community is the bestest ever! Our community first!). I was checking out a facebook page set up for my community. My first impression was "these people live in a bubble". Everything was local, local, local. I'm sorry, but I don't believe we are going to handcraft soap our way to the revolution. If I were to suggest that--even in the most mild way-- I know what the answer would be: Don't be a hater! Every opinion must be happy, happy, happy. There was actually a resolution passed by my area commission to ban plastic bags, but exempt "Local businesses" so that it "won't hurt the local economy"! Great. In that one statement you are arguing a ban hurts businesses and displaying your ignorance with this idea that there is this separate thing called the local economy.
I think worker owned enterprises are great, but most of these small local businesses reproduce the same system of large corporations. They belong to organizations such as the chamber of commerce and the national restaurant association-- organizations that fight minimum wage laws and unions. They encourage voluntary giving in lieu of a true safety net (at minimum) or god forbid, redistributive justice. They seek tax breaks. And they speak the same bullshitty language that drives me crazy. And they create a lot of crappy jobs too.
The local business mania keeps us from talking about public spending. I'm not saying that it is not good to have a variety of businesses or never to vote with your pocketbook, but let's recognize these measures for what they are. They actually are pretty conservative.

Barking Mad said...

What a great lively debate! Yes, it's actually me, Anne. Let me throw a little cold water on your faces to wake you up a bit. Feel free to throw some back.

First, PLEASE review the history of corporate charters. This website at Reclaim Democracy is an excellent source:

Almost since the founding of our nation, the Supreme Court has been assisting corporations to dismantle the protection that our founders built in the form of state corporate charters to ensure that We the People controlled corporations and not vice versa. That battle is over. They won. If TPP passes, it will just be icing on the cake. Corporate rights already supersede ours.

By law, corporate charters were used to protect and serve the public. If a corporation broke the law, harmed the public, or did not benefit the public, their charters were revoked and they were done. Period. Charters were limited, not granted in perpetuity as now. Corporate charters are now essentially dead because the corporations effectively killed them with the help of the Supreme Court. No wonder SCOTUS is appointed and not elected. They are chosen for a purpose, and that is to protect the interests of the powerful.

The Supreme Court has a history of upholding and protecting corporate rights over ours since at least the early 1800's. Citizens United was just the nail in our election system coffin. The coffin was already constructed by big corporations and their union, the now 100+ year old U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In regard to the BDS movement, the deck is already stacked against it's effectiveness because the really big money that owns and influences corporations comes from big shareholders like investment groups and state pension funds. They are bound by law/bylaws to get the best rate of return, period. Same with the big bad corporate actors. They feed off government largesse and situate themselves in every Congressional district so their cut of the pie never shrinks, but ours does.

That's just the nature of the beast called Capitalism. There is no morality and very few ethics. It's our system that's broken - for us. It works just fine for them.

Occupy was right. The system is completely rigged. Laws and tax code and hundreds of years of Supreme Court precedents will keep it that way in order to ensure corporate immortality and power. It's hard to see how a BDS movement could have much impact unless the government itself, representing US, got behind it and restoring corporate charters would go a long way. That would be a new ball game.

On a lighter note, arf! arf! We need Rescue Dogs for humans. How about organizations like Dogs for Peace, Dogs for Clean Elections, Dogs for Income Equality, Dogs for Healthy Foods - keep it positive, for and not against. At least we can have fun while circling the drain.

Just think of the dog rallies for a worthy POLITICAL cause. Oops, did I step in it by using that stinky, dirty word?

Hey, we already anthropomorphize dogs, so why not 'evolve' them to speak for causes? They'd be far more humane than humans. People would willingly march for a cause if dogs took the lead, so to speak. The best part is the government wouldn't dare crack down. Not only would that be politically incorrect, but think of the snarling. Would they pass laws prohibiting dogs from marches after that? If so, I think we'd have the seeds of a revolution!

Woof! Woof!

Valerie said...

Shamelessly buying from a multinational corporation is like hating a school bully and then inviting him to your party.

Kat said...

I don't know if that comment was directed at me, but I shame really doesn't come into the equation when I shop. Neither does pride. I really don't buy much at all besides groceries and stuff for a home project from time to time. Every piece of furniture in my house with the exception of bookcases is used. Clothing-- the majority is second hand. I can't get around buying from a multinational when I ned a new pair of sneakers, I guess. I don't eat at chains- I eat at home. I stay at independent motels on vacation.
Buying local here is mostly about (small) luxury items.
When I was writing my comment I was thinking of people I knew in my community who have an excess of pride in their local buying habits, not anyone on this blog. They buy their specialty foods or perhaps a few highly priced home goods and then turn around and buy everything else at Target and Amazon!
The other day I saw a yard sign for a fundraiser for our "community schools". I realize that individual schools have their own fundraisers, but this was different. Our schools are part of our (highly economically segregated city) school system. With certain "fixes" our school system has become more segregated, making it "safe" for middle class people to return to our neighborhood when they have shcool age children.
We have a much higher percentage of public sector workers than other parts of the city (probably also workers at TBTF institutions). It is if they want to kick away the ladder-- telling others that what they need is to grow their own food and shop ethically, never ackowleding where their privilege really comes from.We are actually the one city in the sate that has gained state government jobs as well as the other levels of government. We need more public spending on jobs for those outside the middle class, not more entrepreneurship. One case where I was upset that money went out of state- Our city paid for a contractor to help kick people off the welfare rolls. That wasn't the stated goal of course, it was to help people transition off the rolls. Actually, it was about fixing the numbers so they paid millions to an out of state company that could have been spent on recipients. These are the local issues I wish people would care about more.
I hope you'll read this:

Kat said...

This article is helpful in explaining some of my thoughts too (because I'm probably not very good at it.)

I want to add that I would not be able to comment on Facebook anyway because I refuse to join. That is one multinational that is not getting my business.

annenigma said...

Well there you go! With most of us already being minimalist consumers, boycotting things we already never buy means it would be a BINO, a boycott in name only and we personally would have a zero impact.

Doggone it, that's why I offered up another direction where we doo doo, rather than not do, something. I guess I'm barking up the wrong tree.

Zee said...


Thanks for the link to the fascinating analysis of the economic philosophy of Alexander Hamilton, perhaps our least well-known—at least, to me—Founding Father.

I have skimmed the article on line and will print it off for a deeper reading. However, two passages stuck in my mind during my “skiming.”


“In most of the world, the real story of capitalism is not the story of laissez-faire — a doctrine the strong impose upon the weak — nor a quaint story about egalitarian local economies, but the story of the state presiding over a mixed economy. Hamiltonian developmentalism — the unnamed ideology — is amoral, pragmatic, instrumentalist, and flexible.

Thanks to my participation in this forum, I have come to believe that the United States, too, needs to adopt a mixed economy—along the lines of the Scandanavian countries—wherein certain sectors of the economy are subject to strong government regulation and direction, while other sectors remain distinctly private. And a strong social safety net is another integral part of their economies.

And second,

“Unfortunately, American society is very far from facing the crisis. And a huge part of the problem is the Jeffersonian notion that “the government that governs best is the one that governs least.” While that is true as regards individual liberty, it is absolutely dangerous to think that way as regards the economy.”

Where do we find the proper balance between these two opposing forces, for “forces in opposition” they are, indeed.

Zee said...


I forgot to mention that the book Hamilton's Blessing is sitting on my "to be read" bookshelf. The article from Jacobin Magazine may prompt me to move it higher on on the list.

Kat said...

Thanks for reading Zee. I always appreciate that you will look at an article titled "reading Hamilton form the left".
You are right about striking the right balance. I have had Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation on my bedside table for a couple of years ow- It would probably give me some insights. I should move it up. Recently finished The Communist Manifesto so maybe that explains some of my remarks. I tend to be impressionable that way.

Valerie said...


The comment wasn't directed at you AT ALL. I was trying to offer a simple analogy. I see so many so called liberals - limousine liberals - claiming they are for the little guy and then turn around and shop at stores known for pushing small businesses out of business. These people are proud of the t-shirt they bought at Target for $5 and seem insensitive to the fact that the was a HUGE cost to the person who made it and the environment - they just aren't paying it. If we, who recognise the injustice of what the multinationals are doing to the working class and small business owners, aren't willing to sacrifice a little and shop with out dollars, who will?

I completely agree that we need a huge public outcry focussed on the issues that really matter - income inequality, race inequality, exploitation of the vulnerable working class - the list is long. I am not sure I agree that boycotts are distracting. I suppose if people think their obligation to work to help the situation is finished with a boycott, then yes, I can see your point. I remember an environmentalist friend saying (20 years ago) that recycling let people off the hook. He pointed out if people really cared about the environment they wouldn't drive their cars so much.

However, if the charter of a corporation is to make as much profit as possible for its shareholders, then consistently refusing to be lured into buying from them is a worthwhile endeavour.

I appreciate your point and I am glad you wrote to clarify it. I actually think buying used is one of the most environmental and locally supportive things we can do. Like you, we try to buy as much as we can. Often we get better quality - because tools, furniture and fabrics aren't as sturdy as they used to be - but it also puts money in the pockets of people and not corporations.

Valerie said...

That last comment was really, badly written! I am on my break at work and my proof-reading skills aren't as good when I am rushed. Sorry! Hope people can read around my mistakes.

Kat said...

Thanks Val for clarifying. And no, your reply was not poorly written. Compared to any reply I create, it reads like Flaubert. I can't post anything with less than 5 typos (sometimes I can keep the count down if I limit my reply to five words.)
Recycling does drive me crazy! It is too much of a free pass. It does nothing to confront our utter wastefulness.

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