Cost of Corporations

Corporations are like vultures (and I apologize to the vultures of the world, as in the natural world; they perform a service, unlike corporations). They figuratively pick over the remains of the deceased, and they do it systematically and with precision. All with the wink and nod approval of our government overseers.

At least vultures in the natural world provide a service.

Bureaucratic structures seem designed to wear you down and extract what little resistance a grieving person might be able to muster. Life insurance is just one of the structures that comes to mind. Kafka wrote about this.

Then, there are states like Florida, where the dregs of society go to skirt personal responsibility, especially when it comes to killing pedestrians. No requirements at all for an errant driver owning anything substantive in terms of liability. Not sure how the laws developed there in terms of their homestead exemption and bankruptcy. Again, I’m sure the powers that be were tacit in the process. Oh, and Progressive Insurance, you suck!

It’s never been lost on me that Mark identified many of these things during his 101 days of walking and sharing. He recognized that lie that all of us have been sold and continue buying. He told the truth in a non-judgmental  manner. And now he’s gone.

There’s plenty more to say and write, but the past two weeks haven’t been conducive to writing. Not that the previous weeks back to January 21 were, either.

A friend and former colleague told me that there would be a time when the world would return to their distractions. She cautioned us to prepare for being alone with our grief, not to mention the myriad other tasks of trying to locate some meaning in Mark’s death.

People and Corporations

We hear a lot of lip service paid to cracking back on corporations. People generally seem to dislike corporations—except when they’re supplying a paycheck, or often, cheap, substandard products manufactured offshore, by exploited workers.

Corporations have more rights now than ever before. In fact, the Supreme Court has broadened the concept of “corporate personhood” considerably over the past decade.

Candidates for president say the darndest things.

Candidates for president say the darndest things.

Mitt Romney, when running for president in 2012, actually came out and said explicitly, “corporations are people.” Justice John Paul Stevens would disagree, as he did in his dissent in the Citizens United case:

[C]orporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations . . . and their “personhood” often serve as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of “We the People” by whom and for whom our Constitution was established. Continue reading

Jamming About Traffic

I consider reading important—enough so that I’ve remained committed to reading three or four books a month for the past decade or so. It occurred to me recently that being smart and well-informed doesn’t really matter. That’s probably one reason why my reading has fallen off the cliff in August.

Discussions with other readers about books we like and how it sucks when a great book is nearing an end is also part of that reading drop-off—I just haven’t been able to find anything that resonates with how I’m feeling this summer. That was until I stumbled upon a book about traffic.

Since I wrote “traffic” with a “small t,” you’re sharp to recognize that the traffic I’m talking about isn’t the Traffic of “John Barleycorn Must Die,” or “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” although it’s mighty tempting to keep the music blogging going with ruminations about “Little” Stevie Winwood and a post about WBLM that takes me back to the halcyon days at Lisbon High—that’s for another time and another post.

The traffic I’m anxious to riff on today is the story of traffic courtesy of a writer that I sadly just found out about, Tom Vanderbilt, and his wonderful book, Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). Vanderbilt’s type of traffic is the kind we’re all intimately familiar with, whether we like it or not. Because save for a few of us, our lives intertwine with cars, Happy Motoring, and the carpet-like mass of vehicles crisscrossing America at any given time.

The joys of sitting in traffic on American roadways.

The joys of sitting in traffic on American roadways.

Continue reading

More Than Fried Chicken

Who would you consider our most iconic national figures in the U.S.? In addition to the faces on Mount Rushmore and recent presidents, what 10 to 15 names would you list for people from the past? One name that I’d include would be a man who “arrived” a bit later than most. That would be Harland Sanders, better known as simply, “Colonel Sanders.”

Sanders’ resume is a diverse and varied one. From his very humble beginnings in Henryville, Kentucky, he rose to prominence as an unlikely entrepreneur who refined a recipe for fried chicken, one that became known due his secret recipe containing “11 herbs and spices” that gave Kentucky Fried Chicken its distinctive flavor. It also allowed him to build a business enterprise that he sold at the age of 69, to John Y. Brown (former governor of Kentucky) and Jack Massey, a Memphis financier.

Today, Kentucky Fried Chicken (aka, KFC), has revenues of $23 billion, with nearly 19,000 outlets in 120 countries around the world. Not bad for a recipe for frying chicken that was forged in the backroom of Sanders’ family diner, in 1952.

Southern-fried chicken, corporate-style.

Southern-fried chicken, corporate-style.

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Candy Man

In the realm of iconic American products, M&M’S is right there at the top, maybe next to Moxie (not!!). Seriously though, if you’ve ever been into candy, you’ve probably gone through an M&M’S phase. Is there anything better than a peanut M&M?

NPR, that bastion of journalistic integrity and investigative grit was digging deep this morning, when it provided an in-depth piece on why the bag of peanut butter M&M’S is lighter by a fraction than the bag of plain M&M’S. Inquiring minds were waiting for dirt on this one.

An iconic American candy product.

An iconic American candy product.

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How Safe Is Your Water?

Don't drink the water!

Don’t drink the water!

Bread may or may not be the staff of life. Water on the other hand is essential for survival. Like electricity, you never think twice about water safety until it’s compromised.

On Thursday of last week, a major American city of 300,000 had their public water supply compromised by a careless corporation. A week later, residents in some parts of the city are now allowed to drink the water. Still, there are more questions than answers forthcoming. Continue reading

Getting Hacked at Christmas

Another retailer, another security breach. This one involving 40 million shoppers at Target stores in the U.S. For many, the stress of holiday shopping is now through the roof.

While many are choosing to direct their anger and frustration at Target, they shouldn’t; the 2nd largest retail discount chain is doing everything it can after the fact to address concerns from customers.

Getting targeted by hackers, at Target

Getting targeted by hackers, at Target

The Minneapolis company, which has 1,797 stores in the U.S. and 124 in Canada, said it immediately told authorities and financial institutions once it became aware of the breach on Dec. 15. The company is teaming with a third-party forensics firm to investigate and prevent future breaches.

Target advised customers on Thursday to check their statements carefully. Anyone noting a suspicious charges on a credit/debit card is told to report it to their credit card company and then to call Target at 866-852-8680. Cases of identity theft can also be reported to law enforcement or the Federal Trade Commission. Of course, this is after the fact.

What I found most interesting about this case is how often this actually happens and what appears to be the response in the retail world among so-called experts. Continue reading

The Labor Shift

Work defines who we are in America. When I was born, the models for work were General Motors, IBM, and Xerox among many. These large corporations were built on a tacit understanding that once you made your way through their doors, you were taken care of for life—or at least until you retired. Of course, there were pensions back then, so you were taken care of during retirement, too. Continue reading

Raging against the machine (not so much)

Corporations have become easy targets for criticism and even outrage. Railing against them has actually spawned a chic cottage industry with multiple offshoots and subsidiaries.

Corporations are first and foremost a business entity or construct. Possibly the most important aspect of this business structure is that corporations exist separate and apart from their owners.  We think of corporations as giant, impersonal behemoths; uncaring and unfeeling. Surprisingly, many corporations are quite small. Continue reading