Archive for November 22nd, 2006

by Jay Stevens 

There have been a couple of interesting articles I’ve linked to in the past few days about corporate responsibility and their role in how they can be steered to do good. Of course “good” is a wildly subjective term, and some feel big business shouldn’t be “steered” at all. But most reasonable people realized unchecked corporate power is bad and that there are serious issues that need addressing.

Leon Gettler of The Age admits that even libertarians’ grandpappy Milton Friedman realized a need for corporate social responsibility even as he railed against it. Gettler notes that companies can attract workers and customers through social responsibility, they can make profit off of new markets that cater to burgeoning social responsibilities (like alternative energy), but that they should also be aware of negative social consequences their products

For example, Health Minister Tony Abbott’s accusation last week that Coca-Cola was fuelling Australia’s childhood obesity crisis should be put in the context of calls around the world for controls on the marketing of fast foods.The tobacco, oil, mining, banking, forestry and pharmaceutical industries have all felt the long-term impact of social issues when they were caught out by society’s changing expectations.

With an issue such as obesity, for instance, the public’s view once upon a time was that the responsibility lay with the individual. Now the blame has shifted to the way companies are marketing fattening foods. The same applies to the tobacco industry.

That is, a company can suddenly find its product sales dropping precipitously if it doesn’t remain aware of the social conditions in the environment where the sales are made.

But while it’s clearly arguable with whom the blame lies in the problems created by things like fatty foods or tobacco products, these products revolve around individual choice. That is, the only person directly impacted by a Big Mac is the consumer eating it.

Other products affect more than the person consuming it. For example, a manufacturer who dumps toxic waste into a public water supply is adversely affecting the community where the plant is based, not the consumers of the plant’s product. Relying on the market to correct the damage done by the plant is foolish. For those situations, where a company’s practices are clearly harmful to the public good, we must regulate.

Helping corporations do the right thing through regulation—which, it should be noted, also levels the playing field so that a greenish BP doesn’t have to worry about a dirty Exxon¬Mobil—is not exactly a new idea. It’s more or less what we used to do, in the long period from Teddy Roosevelt and the trustbusters on to about the 1980s.

Enter climate change. It’s a problem. There’s a near-unanimous scientific consensus that says human activity, at the very least, contributes considerable to climate change and, if unchecked, that will lead to serious consequences to global living conditions and economies. The problem of leaving the market to “correct” the problem of global warming is that it’s a delayed effect – our behavior now will make the climate worse later. By the time consumers realize there’s a serious problem with their habits of consumption, it’ll be too late.

There were a lot of arguments against regulating change to combat climate change, and most of it from those with vested interest in big energy profits. First it was “global warming doesn’t exist.” When the temperatures rose, it became “it’s a natural temperature shift.” Now that scientific and popular consensus recognizes the problem, it’s now “too late to do anything about it.”

Global warming is real, it’s here, it’s our fault, and we can do something about it. We can raise emission standards, for example, sign on to international treaties to reduce CO2, raise gas mileage requirements, give subsidies or loans to energy-saving improvements on public and private buildings, and invest heavily in alternative fuels. None of these things would be difficult or overly expensive.


New West’s editor-in-chief, Jonathan Weber, comments on the deal between Yahoo and newspaper groups and waxes philosophical about journalism, the Internet, and readership.

JT prepares for his trip to DC.

Gerik touts wind farms and Jon Tester’s alternative energy legislation.

How about a military draft? Montana’s legislative representatives aren’t so crazy about the idea.

The Missoulian opines about ethics reform. The piece actually had something smart to say: “If you want Congress to meet the highest ethical standards, then you have to raise your own standards. If all you care about is your share of pork and whatever advantage your representative and senators can secure for you, don’t be surprised if that becomes their standard of performance, too, with those ends justifying whatever the means. Insist on honesty and integrity and absolute allegiance to the public interest, and you’ll have a better chance of getting it. “

James Lardner on populism’s revival.

Bob Berwyn on the clash between the endangered Canada lynx and the ski industry.

ID’s Polish Wolf finds praise for Israel in refusing to bomb Palestinian human shields.

The “liberal” media continues to bash the Democrats and progressives. Um…hello? The nation just rejected the GOP.

How far Tom Delay has sunk: he doesn’t even have influence over a “Dancing with the Stars” contestant.

Kevin Drum on the GOP Congress’ abandonment of its duties: “It’s like watching a bunch of first graders stomp off the playground after the teacher has told them to break up a fight.”

Another good harbinger of the upcoming Democratic Congress: Dems oppose appointment of Bush political anti-reproductive rights hack as head of reproductive-health program.

FL-13 was stolen by the GOP. You can contribute to the recount at an ActBlue page. Remember, this isn’t about just the Democratic party, it’s about democracy. Don’t let the b*stards get away with it.

Shane comments on the terrorist hysteria that results in actualizing racist and religious prejudice.

NPR has recordings of Gitmo tribunals. Basically, they’re the English-language version of Soviet court transcripts or Kafka’s “The Trial.” America, meet your anti-terror policies.

Apparently the UCLA officer who tasered a student has a history

Apparently corporations consider themselves “democracy.”

An economic analysis of why the New England Patriots are better than the Washington Redskins.

by Jay Stevens 

How low can you go?

True to Republican party form, Montana’s branch of the party is raising a fuss about Montana state senator Sam Kitzenberg’s switch to the Democratic party. Unwilling to come to grips with the simple fact that their party may indeed be coursing steadily to the right and alienating its members and erstwhile supporters, the group is claiming that Brian Schweitzer directed the switch. And in trying to prove their claim, they’re now requesting telephone records from the Governor’s office and the Department of Revenue.

Fine. Let them do so. But when they don’t find anything, can we all agree that they owe the Governor, Sam Kitzenberg, and the state of Montana a sincere apology? A reimbursement of taxpayer money to offset the requests for the records would help, too.

But don’t hold your breath, folks. The Republican Party doesn’t know how to apologize. The Republican Party doesn’t know how to stop themselves. First comes the requests for phone records, then will come calls for independent investigations, then will come lawyers and depositions and blah-blah-blah until someone has to face perjury charges they’ll be acquitted of, and the taxpayer will be stuck with an enormous bill for a bald, partisan witch hunt that ends up with…nothing.

Instead of all this, I’d suggest the Montana GOP get busy reworking its ideology, its representatives, and its tactics. You’re bleeding voters, folks. Remember this used to be a “red” state, don’t you? You lost the Governorship, the legislature, and both Senate seats. And it’s not because of some shady back-room deal the Good Guv arranged.

Here’s my advice: take a hard, long look in the mirror.

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