29 Dec 2011

Coke helps save Canada's polar bears but exploits developing countries

The Coca-Cola Company has put on a happy face for the North American public by pledging to help protect the iconic polar bear while, at the same time, continuing to be one of the worst environmentally destructive corporations in the underdeveloped world.

Pointing out on its website that the rapid loss of sea ice in the Arctic threatens the future of the polar bear, Coke says it is extending its financial support for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) with $2-million over five years toward conservation efforts.

In addition, Coke will match up to $1 million USD of consumer donations in Canada and the US made until March 15, 2012.
New Coke Cans featuring
the iconic polar bear
At the same time, the company is spending millions on TV advertising and has even changed the appearance of its Coke cans by displaying polar bears on them so it can get a big boost in sales for being such a great corporate citizen. Since advertising is a business expense, the cost of the ads is a tax deduction for Coke, and the company will receive an additional tax break –– for its contribution to the WWF -- both courtesy of the Canadian public.

There is no denying that the polar bear project is very important, and was warmly welcomed by The Thompson Citizen.

However, this project raises two important questions:
  • Should Coke be allowed to get away with the hypocrisy of exploiting an emotional campaign to help save polar bears while, at the same time, depleting water resources, exploiting workers in developing countries, and telling us that it is “fun” to drink its sugar-laden products?
  • Secondly, should the World Wildlife Fund Canada be taking money from a corporation that destroys the environment and wildlife in other parts of the world?

22 Dec 2011

Staff at 'Grinch' KPMG well looked after
while advocating 'workers' comp' cuts

It is bitterly ironic that KPMG – the private consulting firm that helps governments wipe out thousands of important jobs that make our communities work well – is itself regarded as one of the very best employers in the country.

Injured workers and their support groups in Ontario are outraged by the recent KPMG report for the Ministry of Labour’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) that, according to the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), “advocates that a successful workers compensation system is one that stops compensating injured workers.”

KPMG – which operates across Canada and internationally – performs “hatchet jobs” for governments – often governments that don’t have the nerve to take the lead themselves when they want cutbacks.

Here are some of KPMG’s recommendations, according to OCAP:

  • injured workers who get laid off should be denied compensation,
  • people who get re-injured should have less access to compensation, compensation for permanent injuries should be reduced, and
  • the WSIB should be able to review compensation indefinitely, thereby leaving injured workers with absolutely no income security.

KPMG operates across Canada as well as in 145 other countries globally. The organization’s motto is: “Cutting through complexity.”

In 2011, KPMG was named as the World's Best Outsourcing Advisors, which basically recognizes their skills to help companies get rid of good paying staff positions and farming them out to lower-paying, often questionable companies.

The individuals – mostly accountants – who choose to work for an organization that helps destroy the jobs and lives of thousands of hard-working Canadians are themselves treated like Royalty.

According to a 2010 report in The Globe and Mail, This is what KPMG offers: “flexible job schedules, a salary top-up for 17 weeks of maternity leave, four weeks of paternity leave, bonuses for staff who volunteer in the community, access to elder care – and a concierge service to help an employee, say, renew his passport or plan his family vacation while at the office.” 

15 Dec 2011

New Latin American/Caribbean alliance
aims to further reduce Gringo Power

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
with Argentina's President Cristina
Kirchner at the CELAC summit.
Slowly but surely, the Gringos are being chased out of Latin America and the Caribbean!

The 600-million people of the combined regions have taken another important step towards minimizing the influence of the United States, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and even Canada in their countries.

Meeting in Caracas, Venezuela, all 33 governments from those regions – bolstered by a new sense of pride and independence – launched the much acclaimed Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) during the first week of December.

The gathering turned its back on the United States and Canada – both members of the existing hemispheric body, the U.S.-dominated Organization of American States (OAS) – by not inviting them to attend.

CELAC and other regionally-controlled bodies are slowly replacing the OAS, which the U.S. used for decades as a key tool in its often brutal treatment of peoples in these countries. No one in Latin America or the Caribbean has been left untouched.

The launching of CELAC demonstrates the strength of a range of progressive governments in Latin America, which includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela.

8 Dec 2011

'Taking back the media',
effective campaigning required to empower
Progressive Movement

Progressive groups in Canada need to become even more determined, better organized and prepared to develop new effective strategies if they are to stop the Harper Conservatives and their corporate allies from tearing apart what we have built up over the past 50 years. 
Not a day goes by during which Stephen Harper hasn’t destroyed yet another program or activity that is vital to the Canadian public.  Near the end of the election campaign, Catch-22, the anti-Harper site, published a list of 100 reasons why people should not vote for the Conservatives, highlighting some of their most atrocious actions.

Frankly, the situation is desperate. If we are to recognize our country 10 years from now, we must get off our butts and work harder than ever before.

* * *
FYI: At this stage, this is a “one-man” campaign aimed at sparking discussion among people in the progressive community. In two other recent blogs I have written about the need for progressive groups to follow the example set by the Occupy Movement in its early days, and why the Progressive Community needs to be stronger in Canada. 
I am not a member of any public interest group, not do I seek to benefit personally from the discussion I hope to see take place. I would appreciate your feedback. Discussions will continue in January.

* * *

5 Dec 2011

British study has the goods on corporate execs

This is one of those stories you will never read in The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business.
The mainstream media and anyone associated with the business community refer to the heads of powerful corporations as, “captains of industry”, “mega-moguls”, and “bold, brilliant entrepreneurs.”

But what are these so-called business “leaders” really like?
In Britain, a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading businesses. Authors Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon compared the results with the same tests on patients at Broadmoor hospital, where people who have been convicted of serious crimes are incarcerated.

On certain indicators of psychopathy, the bosses' scores either matched or exceeded those of the patients, says the study. In fact, on these criteria, they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders.

Journalist George Memboit has the whole story in The Guardian:
“The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly, Board and Fritzon point out, closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people.

“Egocentricity, a strong sense of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations.”

Whoa! Look around the Canadian corporate community. While the descriptions do not apply to all “executives” at “the top of their game”, this sure makes for interesting conversation around the water cooler.

The study reminds me of a story told to me by a female executive working in the advertising business in Toronto. Company management wanted to stress the need for staff to do a better job competing with one particular company. In mixed company, with a couple of dozen people in the room, the CEO gave an impassioned, rah-rah speech, ending with: “We need to show them that our dick is bigger than their dick!”

Perhaps before anyone is permitted to become head of a giant company – with the power to wipe out thousands of jobs or merge with another firm and walk away with millions in a bonus – they should be required to pass psychological tests.

I have barely touched on the interesting information Memboit’s column. Please have a read....


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JABS AND LEFT HOOKS: As expected, the first NDP leaders’ debate Sunday was a bit of a yawn. Thomas Mulcair seemed to be most at ease, but his comment that “no one would object to tapping the tar sands” needs to be explained. Peggy Nash was strong on policy and appeared to be at ease. Brian Topp was not impressive and needs to work hard on his presentation.  The pleasant surprise was Niki Ashton. . . . So the NDP contest can focus on serious debate among serious contenders, three or four weak candidates should drop by the wayside in the New Year . . . . I saw so-called journalist Stefan Baranski, who heads something called Ontario Newswatch, on CBC-TV’s all-news channel Sunday political panel for the first time this week. Baranski is another of the many environmental destruction denialists. He defended Harper’s environmental record and calmly chimed in that the Kyoto Protocol was useless, totally discrediting himself as a trustworthy journalist. . . . . I checked out the Ontario Newswatch website – an awful lot of old provincial Tory political hacks among its guest contributors.  Hmmm . . .  I wonder who pays the bills?

1 Dec 2011

Focus and determination required:
A call to all progressive organizations
to unite under one big umbrella

The mainstream media’s largely negative portrayal of the Occupy Movement in Canada illustrates once again the need for the creation of a large progressive cooperative movement in the country – a cooperative venture that would include hundreds of groups. 

“The Canadian media really dropped the ball on this one,” says Kalle Lasn, referring to the Occupy coverage. “Instead of seeing it as a movement of young people fighting for a different kind of future, which is so beautiful and so valid, they basically saw it as a pesky irritation.”  Lasn is co-founder of Adbusters, the magazine that helped initiate the Occupy Movement.

We need a movement powerful enough to pressure corporate media owners into providing equal coverage, and with access to enough financing to support the development of alternative, independent media. 

If the progressive movement is to be successful in improving society, it is hugely important for it to be able to reach the general public with its information creating a balanced view of important issues in Canada.

The kind of large cooperative body I discussed last week would have a much greater chance of being treated fairly by the mainstream media because of the tremendous pressure it could bring to bear on the corporate owners. I plan to discuss possible tactics that could be used in such situations in a future blog.

Last week I pointed out that we must come to grips with the realization that neither the mainstream media nor Stephen Harper is paying much attention to what we have to say.

Journalists such as Murray Dobbin, Linda McQuaig, and Naomi Klein write excellent, thoughtful articles about the problems we face and, while their stories keep us well informed, they have very little – if any – impact on the right-wing ideologues.

If we are to have the kind of Canada we want, we need to look at the possibility of building a huge nation-wide cooperative of hundreds of progressive groups representing different areas of interest that would develop powerful ways of tackling the right-wingers.

But first I think it is necessary for dozens of key progressive groups to do a little self-analysis.

Inside our organizations, Board members, staff and volunteers need to discuss and respond to the fact that the progressive movement is losing ground to the forces of neoliberalism at a tremendous rate. Every day, the Harper Conservatives destroy another part of the fabric and values of our country.

Unfortunately, many people deeply involved for years in the Canadian progressive community are tired and discouraged. Evidence of this is the failure of leading NGOs, public interest groups and labour organizations to come together to establish a major social/political initiative in response to the devastating election of the Harper majority in May.

The huge public response to the emergence of the radical Occupy Movement indicates that there is a wide gap between the concerns of quite a large segment of the general population and the ability of organized groups to lead and channel those frustrations.

In a number of organizations, young, energetic people with different goals and strategies more reflective of the times, need to be given an opportunity to lead on some important issues. Old tactics need to give way to new tactics.

This is not to say that many organizations are not doing fine work in their chosen areas – but many groups tend to focus on their own issues and fail to see the forest for the trees when it comes to identifying the kind of action that is needed in this political environment.

Some organizations, in particular some segments of the labour movement, have lost their way and are often just going through the motions when it comes to supporting progressive social and political issues. This may be due to the fact that many union members do not actively support progressive social and political issues the way an earlier generation did.

The problems we face as a nation requires that all leaders and would-be leaders in our communities come forward and start working together harder than they have ever worked before.

*    *   *

I launched this discussion on my blog last week with the hope that people would respond to my ideas. Many did. Here are a few of the comments:

“To see what we can achieve by working together, see www.citizensuk.org”, Bruce Edwards wrote regarding a British activist group.  “Political and corporate leaders often don’t embrace change, unless they’re pressured by the people they serve. But too many people don’t realise they have potential to join forces and create change in their neighbourhoods and across the country.”

Anonymous # 1 wrote: “There have been calls for broad progressive/left- wing movements for decades. In 1919 farmers and workers came together to form a provincial government in Ontario. In the 1930s there was the popular front against fascism. In the 1960s there were anti-war coalitions. The CCF and NDP were each formed to be the political expressions of these broad based movements. However, those parties have not yet lived up to their full potential. With the current social upheaval I see the possibility for this to change. You've laid great groundwork here.”

“Great article and analysis,” wrote John Stockton. “Yes, you are absolutely right, Canadians can no longer afford to denounce the situation and then leave it to others to rectify the problem. The problem being that the Conservatives are nothing of the sort. They are quasi-fascists who believe that what they don’t know isn’t worth knowing, hence putting a creationist in charge of the ministry of Science and Technology. . . . The arrogance of the Harper government is breathtaking and it is only by the marshalling of those socially progressive forces in Canada that we can get back on the path of using our mutual strengths to confront the very real problems facing our country.”

And finally, blogger Emily Dee (Pushed to the Left and Loving It), says, “I'm in. How can I help? I have two dogs that can lick envelopes and a genuine concern for the direction that our country is headed in.”

*  *  *

I would like to ask readers to bring their ideas forward concerning how we evaluate the need for a progressive coalition. First and foremost, information about the basic concept needs to be distributed more widely. I can prepare a condensed version of the basic idea for anyone who has access to email-lists or who would like to circulate it among groups. Contact me at: fillmore0274@rogers.com

A project like this – which would become massive – needs to proceed slowly. But based on the number of people who have shown interest, it would not be difficult, even at this early stage, to enlist the support of at least 20 volunteers. More important, two excellent organizations – one an NGO with developmental skills and the other a major research organization – have indicated their interest in supporting the building such a project.

Please add your comments to my blog. If there is enough interest, we will move the project discussion to a website in the New Year.


JABS AND LEFT HOOKS: Who can tell me why the Canadian mainstream media provides so much coverage of the practically meaningless goings-on (at this early stage) of the selection of the U.S. presidential candidates? All that space and journalists’ time wasted! Think of all the good stories they could be doing.

For example, CBC Reporter Margo McDiarmid says ... that Canada is being seen as the Darth Vader of the climate conference in South Africa. . . . 

I’m announcing this a little late, but I have a solution to the dispute among the countries about who should pay for cleaning up carbon. My idea is to break this into three categories: rich nations pay a lot; emerging economies pay a reasonable amount that would escalate over 10 years; and poor countries pay nothing.

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