Friday, 15 April 2011

Canadians: Prime minister should act like a CEO

This story is profoundly depressing. It shows how successful the corporate/right wing mindset has become. Most CEOs have none of the qualities identified "Having vision and leadership" not being exactly necessary. On the other hand most corporations behave like psychopaths - ignoring every human emotion except greed and aggrandizement. A corporation need only deliver one thing - a satisfactory rate of return to its shareholders. Indeed by law that is required of corporations - its only duty of care is to the people who invest in it. At one time successful companies had to take care of their employees and their customers, and there was indeed a careful balancing act. Many great companies even found ways to actually set an example to governments. The first "public housing" for instance was built by the quaker owned chocolate company Cadbury's - whose employee housing was far better when first built than any tied housing seen before. Port Sunlight - built by a soap maker - is still visited by urban planners an an example of best practice in built environments.

These days it is only the bottom line that matters to most CEOs - and the share price. Many companies now simply trade on the basis of the prospects of future earnings. The dot com boom (and bust) seemingly taught investors nothing: huge values are ascribed to enterprises that produce nothing and have nothing like an adequate revenue source.

The psychopath has no empathy. Nor do the companies that send their manufacturing off shore, to exploit workers in sweat shops in conditions that are illegal in the markets where the goods are actually sold. They destroy the environment, acting with callous disregard not just for the health and safety of their employees but everyone in the immediate vicinity - or indeed the whole world. The corporations fund misinformation campaigns, carefully building distrust of scientists or anyone who objectively reviews their operations. The tobacco industry has been found guilty of misrepresentation of the harm its products causes, but they still trade. The same techniques are now employed by big oil and coal companies who fund the climate change denial lobby. They are responsible for the inaction of the world's leaders to deal with the biggest risk that all life as we know it now faces. The fishing industry simply eliminates entire species - throws away much by catch - and then moves on into deeper waters having rendered the best fishing grounds deserts. The only difference between PG&E or Bernie Madoff and most large corporations is that they got caught. Most of the offenders are not even investigated let alone charged. many simply move off shore to avoid paying taxes or being subject to regulation. And desperate small countries offer them shelter in return for pitiful sums to allow them to survive: the flag of convenience comes very cheap to the company but at huge cost to sea farers. All of us pay more taxes (and these days fees and charges too) and suffer from withdrawal of essential services in order that the wealthy and the corporations they operate can get richer. It is possibly very telling that John le Carre - the pen name of an author who used to wrote spy fiction about the evils of the KGB and CIA - now writes about big pharmaceutical companies: if anything their behaviour is worse.

A Prime Minister ought to have regard for the well being of all of the citizens of the country he is elected to govern. He should be scrupulous, and be aware of the problems of other countries and peoples as he is called to represent us on the world stage. Our present PM has been responsible for the catastrophic drop in Canada's reputation. We were once seen as an example. We are now seen as a puppet in the hands of the multinational corporations as these are the only interests that are recognized as valid by what we are taught is no longer "The Government of Canada" but "The Harper Government ".

We do not need as CEO as PM. We need a statesman. Or woman. But of course the only one of them that is running is not even allowed into the debates

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The green thing

This got circulated on an email list I subscribe to. The person who sent it failed to provide the link from where he got it. I did not write this - I stole it. I make no apology for that. I will go do a search to see if there is an authentic original somewhere, but perhaps it is already viral. I hope so.

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In the line at the store, the cashier told an older customer: "you know, plastic bags aren't good for the environment". The elderly lady apologized to the young cashier and explained, "You know, we didn't have the green thing back in our day."

That's right, we didn't have the green thing in her day. Back then, we returned our milk bottles, Coke bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But, true, we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

In our day, we walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and we didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But that's right; we didn't have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the disposable kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts. Hey, you know, wind and solar power really did dry those clothes. But, no green thing.

Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not all brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right, we didn't have the green thing back in her day.

Back then, we had one TV, or maybe just a radio, in the house - not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a pizza dish, not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up newspaper to cushion it, not fancy Styrofoam or brand-new plastic bubble wrap. But, we didn't have the green thing.

Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working, so we didn't need to drive the car to a health club, in order to run on a computerized and electrically powered treadmill . But that old lady's right, we didn't have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty, without resorting to a new plastic bottle of mineral water for each new sip. We refilled pens with ink, instead of buying new pens, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But the old lady's right, we didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus, instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from a satellite 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But that old lady is right. We didn't have the green thing back in her day.