Rogues Gallery of Corporate Liars

Pearl River     We should all know the name, Thomas Midgley?

He was a chemist for General Motors almost one-hundred years ago, when General Motors and Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of New Jersey were the Google and Facebook of their day, or maybe I should say Google and Facebook are the GM and Standard Oil of today.  GM had a problem.  There was a “knock” in the gas that was upsetting drivers and engine performance, so they set Midgley and their chemists to work solving it.  He came up with tetraethyl lead, which they marketed as the additive ethyl, rather than leaded gasoline, which many called it anyway.  All of this despite the fact that the human harm from lead at almost any level was well-known.  There were other alternatives like ethanol, but ethyl was something that GM could market and make billions on, so why would they worry if they damaged people and their communities for a century and still counting?

Just for that one invention, Midgley should be on any listing of corporate rogue’s gallery.  He should be joined there along with his enabler from GM, Charles Kettering, known these days still as the donor making amends through his philanthropy later in institutions like Sloan-Kettering.  Amazingly, Midgley was not a one-hit wonder.  GM owned the Frigidaire brand of refrigerators.  Some of the cooling chemicals were leaking and making people sick.  Midgley was tasked with coming up with something else that would do the job of keep everything cool.  He invented chlorofluorocarbons that did the trick and were marketed as freon.  CFCs also powered aerosol cans on everything you can imagine.  Of course, as we all know now, the widespread global use of CFCs created holes in the atmosphere’s ozone layer, joining other problems to create the climate change crisis we face now.

As Barbara Freese pointed out in her book, Industrial-Strength Denial¸ and on Wade’s World  the company’s went to great pains to protect their profits and deny that there was any harm from all of this.  Often in fact, they claimed being poisoned was good for all of us.  Freese’s book highlights six other case studies from slavers to seatbelts to smoking to sub-primes, including many of ACORN’s old nemeses like Ameriquest, Countrywide, and New Century, all of whom drug out the damages for decades with one farfetched denial after another.

Freese points out that corporations like to claim that they are also “innocent until proven guilty,” and, amazingly, this was only really trumped in the CFC battle.  How do they get away with this?  As we watch the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, we know that the FDA is requiring that drug companies prove they will work without adverse impacts.  Why are companies and their products not held to similar standards by the Federal Trade Commission and other consumer agencies?

Profit is powerful, and money talks, even while killing people, but this is a perversion of the law and the marketplace.  Corporations need to adopt the slogan of “doing no harm,” but without regulation and strict governmental enforcement, it will just be a slogan, rather than a reality, and we’ll all pay the price, just as we have in the past.


The Bolivian Election Mystery

New Orleans       In the United States now we wait and watch while President Trump stoops to historically new lows in trying to subvert the vote of the people and resist the inevitable that he lost the election to Biden at the Electoral College and by a more than a five million vote drubbing.  Having failed to game the court system with manufactured instances of voter fraud where he is unable to produce evidence, Trump is now resorting to the dirty trick bag of dictators.

Two hyper-partisan Republican election commissioners in Detroit at first tried to refuse to certify the election there in an act that seemed to be blatant racism, and certainly baseless, and then recanted after voters and state officials went crazy at their action.  Trump called them personally to get them to recant again with an affidavit, but the state continues to move to certify,  so he can sue if he wants.  Even more outrageous, he has invited Michigan Republican leaders to the White House to arm twist them to get the party-controlled legislature to send delegates on his slate to the Electoral College.  The Republican head of the state senate seems to be saying this is poppycock, but it just establishes how obsessed Trump is that he thinks he can steal an election in plain sight.

If you want to steal an election, you need to have a very tight plan before the votes are counted, not afterwards when everyone already knows the results.  This is election fraud 101.  In Honduras most recently, the president was losing badly and then, suddenly, no results were reported overnight, and when they began again, he was magically reelected.  He had been the beneficiary of a golpista, so he had the support of the military and others for this outrage.  Not so, Trump.

A bigger mystery is Bolivia.  The Organizers Forum visited there several years ago, so we have followed events in that country since then.  Evo Morales was trying for a fourth term.  He had been widely supported as the first indigenous president and had delivered in many areas including reducing poverty.  In the election, he was barely trailing and vote-counting was suspended.  When it resumed the next day, Evo barely eked out a victory. The Organization of American States reported election irregularities.  There were massive protests for weeks, and Morales went into exile in Mexico.  Another election has now occurred.  Morales’ party won, and he has returned.  The question remains.  Was their voter fraud last time?

This gets interesting.  I tried to track down Francisco Rodriguez who was one of the authors of a report that indicated there likely wasn’t fraud.  He was supposedly at Tulane, but repeated inquires to his website and the university were fruitless.  The report had focused on late-counted votes from rural areas and the results of “methodological and coding errors” that stress the “importance of documenting innocuous explanations for differences in early-and late-counted votes.”  In other words, in Evo’s case, he may have won, but also may have delayed the count creating havoc, rather than fraud.

Either way, if Trump were willing to learn lessons, trying to steal an election after the voting is underway and the tally is known is impossible.  His own Republican Party has known this for years, which is why they specialize in voter suppression in order to subvert the election before the count.  After the count, it’s too late, and people everywhere are in the streets to make sure their will is followed, unless of course the military is willing to force the issues.  The US military has made it clear that they will follow the Constitution, not the President, so we are luckier than our southern neighbors.

It’s a sad situation, but one where we are fortunate to know the outcome already.