corporations, their work is inevitably compromised. Just the opposite was demonstrated by
attorney Gary Reback at a conference on Microsoft sponsored by Ralph Nader. Recently the
Gates monolith bought out Funk & Wagnell’s Encyclopedia to use for their on-line
"Encarta" version. Funk and Wagnell’s originally had an entry on none other than
Bill Gates himself, describing him as a "tough competitor who seems to value winning
in a competitive environment over money." A terrible sentence. After the takeover,
this same phrase was improved to "known for his corporate contributions and
educational organizations." Obviously a much better version of history. (Seattle P-I,


Buy Nothing Day

The Adbusters organization, out of Vancouver,
Canada, produced a commercial that failed to meet the high standards of our three major
networks. Against the backdrop of a pig, the ad questions overconsumption, calling on
consumers to participate in Buy Nothing Day on the day after Thanksgiving. Despite having
cash in hand, the ad was rejected by NBC because, in the words of VP Richard Gitter, the
ad was "inimical to our legitimate business interests." An understandable reply.
But CBS went even further in a letter rejecting the commercial, announcing that Buy
Nothing Day is "in opposition to the current economic policy in the United
States." They did not say if criminal penalties would be invoked against
nonconsumers. (WSJ 11/19)


The "I Have a Dream" Dept.

Coca-Cola has clearly found a visionary new
leader in their new chief executive, M. Douglas Ivester. In his first public speech,
Ivester urged his fellow executives to "expand the horizons of our businesses, and
the horizons of our thinking." To demonstrate his point, he told his audience the
typical person drinks only 4 ounces of soft drink out of an average of 64 ounces of
liquids per day. "That still leaves our industry, said Ivester, "with 60 ounces
to go after. Put another way — we’re only tapping four 64ths of the opportunity."
Such utter waste. And what a sense of mission. Can’t you see thousands of Coke employees
dreaming of leading the way to a world where the remaining 60 ounces have been reclaimed
from the clutches of milk, fruit juice, water and lattes? (AP 11/9)


The Muckraking Press

Popular magazines are finding a sure way to
produce quality feature stories on Hollywood celebrities. They let them pick their own
writers. The Wall Street Journal reports that magazines now routinely let major stars veto
questions, topics and reporters who "look for the bad news," as Good
Housekeeping editor Ellen Levine so delicately puts it. Critics claim this results in
celebrity puff pieces that are just cogs in the culture industry’s marketing plans. But
Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter has a good retort. He says, "You can only have so
many tough things in an issue and I think it’s foolish to waste it on an actor." We
are still waiting to discover what constitutes a "tough thing" for Vanity Fair.
(WSJ 11/18)


Do It Yourself Spy Kits

Is productivity lagging at your company? Well,
ABC Asia Pacific may have the answer. Spy cameras sell for only $2,200 apiece and for a
limited time only, you can actually buy one and get the second free. Says CEO Jeffrey Tan,
"Productivity really does go up with this system. You see a very quick return on your
investment in any business." Not only will installing the "Spy Eyes" system
act as a deterrent to theft, but Mr. Tan reports it can help managers see if employees are
really working and so "reduce unjustified management complaints." This is bound
to make it popular with workers. Summing up, Tan says, "It’s a helpful tool for
people who want to stay in control." Should prove even more popular with executives
and dominatrixes. (Reuters 11/21)


Life in the Fast Lane

The defeat of fast track authority for the
President set off warning bells in our leading newspapers. The Wall Street Journal warns
that the Democrats have become "a wholly owned subsidiary of the trade unions,"
bought outright with "cash, pure and simple." Even worse, they warn "what
is going on at the AFL-CIO is a takeover by the American Left." This last remark came
as a surprise to the American Left, last seen at a 1990 Anti-Gulf War rally. Meanwhile,
the New York Times produced a lasting rebuttal to the "flagrantly false
rhetoric" spurred on by "labor’s campaign money." Reverting to a killer
syllogism, they said, and listen carefully: "But American wages closely mirror
American productivity. Trade can not threaten productivity, so it does not threaten the
wages of most American workers." Good to see the old carnival shell game still has
practitioners. (NYT 11/13, WSJ 11/11)


Superior Wages Await You

Nike was burned once again when an internal
report on working conditions by accounting firm Ernst and Young was leaked to the press.
The report describes a factory near Ho Chi Minh City where employees were working an
average of 65 hours a week to earn an entire $10. Besides great wages, Ernst and Young
also looked at the quality of the work environment and discovered the factory exceeded
local standards for carcinogens by a mere 177 times. But lest you begin worrying, it
should be known that Nike has an "action plan" to deal with the situation. They
also have reassuring words spoken by PR representative Vada Manager. "There’s a
growing body of documentation," he says, "that indicates that Nike workers earn
superior wages and manufacture products under superior conditions." Mr. Manager would
not say where they were growing their documents, or which fertilizer they were using. (NYT


"You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby"

In 1950, Citibank had $23 million in gold bars
sitting in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. But they had a slight problem. The bars
had these nasty looking swastikas emblazoned on them. Worse yet, gold taken from Holocaust
victims, politely referred to by historians as "non-monetary gold," was
contained in the bars. Perplexed as to what to do, Citibank turned to the U.S. Treasury
Department who came up with the simple solution of melting the gold, or
"purifying" it, and recasting it with the fine words, "United States of
America," emblazzened on them. They described this, using a nicely sanitized verb, as
a "reissue." And how does Citibank explain how their firm could have trafficked
in Nazi gold? According to spokesman Jack Morris, "This all happened in an era when
there wasn’t as much introspection about this kind of transaction." I mean, where
would we be without the new improved introspection on Wall Street today? (NYT 11/2)


The Great Swooshing Sound Revisited

Sometimes it helps to cast fresh light on old
problems. For example, when NAFTA began, critics predicted that greedy U.S. corporations
would shut down their U.S. plants and reopen them in Mexico. But thanks to a recent report
by John Sweeney of the Heritage Foundation, we can now see the situation in its proper
perspective. It turns out that industries like our automobile makers have not been fleeing
the country. Instead says Sweeney, "The automotive industry–one of the most
important sectors of Michigan’s economy–has engaged in greater cross-border,
intra-industry specialization since NAFTA went into effect." Now isn’t that a more
positive way to describe corporate flight? Mexico specializes in production, we specialize
in…. ("NAFTA’s Positive Impact on the United States," 11/6)


Dispassionate Objectivity

The German government has taught nations
worldwide a valuable lesson in objectivity. It recently came to the attention of the
German parliament that former war criminals have been drawing pension benefits for the
past 50 years for injuries incurred in World War II. This has been occurring while many
Holocaust victims still have not received compensation. Why? Because the appropriate
officials felt that injuries and war crimes were two "separate issues," best
handled by different departments. Our quiz question: how many years of education does it
take to comprehend such distinctions? (Reuters 11/13)


Who’s on First?

The transit system in Washington DC has
finally solved the problem of high rush-hour fares. Responding to complaints that
Washington’s high rush-hour fares did not bring better service, assistant general manager
Peter Benjamin is reported as responding that the bus service no longer had special
"rush-hour" fares. These were now their "regular" fares. And the fares
during off peak times were no longer "regular" fares, but the
"discount" fares. The upshot is that bus service customers could not expect
better service during rush hours because they were now only paying regular fares. A
brilliant solution. (WP 11/13)


Reasons to Buy American

In Oakland, nine bison escaped from the city’s
zoo. I know you are probably thinking "So what," but you obviously haven’t heard
the rest of the story. Before the bison could wreak havoc in the streets of Oakland,
clever employees found a way to lure them back. First they tried putting some mouth
watering hay in front of them. When that failed they went to a tried and true American
product. Yes, they put slices of Wonderbread in front of the dumbfounded bison and stopped
them in their tracks. The bread that builds strong bodies 12 ways proved to be 100% more
effective than hay in attracting the half ton mammals. What an endorsement. Can’t wait to
see Langendorf’s next ad campaign. (Reuters 11/13)


Class Divisions in the Cat World

In Bloomfield, Ohio, two teenagers broke into
an animal shelter late at night and beat 16 cats to death with baseball bats. No known
motive. Should this offense have been punished as a mere misdemeanor or treated seriously
as a felony worth a possible 10 years in prison? For the jury in this case, the whole
issue turned on how much each cat was worth. A felony in Ohio requires at least $500 of
property damage. Thus the prosecution had to prove that each cat was worth $31.25. If the
cats had been pure bred Siamese, there’s no question the killings would have been a
felony. But in this case the cats were strays and defense attorney Kirk Daily successfully
argued that because the shelter got them for free, they had no economic value. There’s a
valuable lesson for teenagers here somewhere. Meanwhile rumor has it the jury is hard at
work on a math book based on the trial with problems like "How many cats can Bob and
Ed club if they are worth $20 a piece…" (AP 11/7)


The Rural Renaissance

Long declining farming communities have found
two new ways to prop up their economies. The New York Times reports the growing prison
industry has become "a tool for rural development." Small towns are now
competing hard for the once feared "hotels, " because, in the words of Mayor
Ruth Carter of Canon City, Colorado, "We have a nice non-polluting, recession-proof
industry." Reassuring news. At the same time, many family farms are now abandoning
growing vegetables for the more lucrative field of "agritainment" or
"agritourism." They are opening their farms to city slickers hungry for
authentic old time experiences, and charging money for hay rides, petting zoos, u-pick
fruits, and corn mazes. Says farmer Rich Hodgson, "Entertainment farming is the wave
of the future for small farmers." And it took our country how many years to evolve
the concept of "entertainment farming"? (NYT 11/2)