The most ironic thing about our sound bite, text-message culture is the overwhelming part corporations now play in our everyday lives.
The ironies abound. Like big tobacco companies paying for smarmy commercials about kids not smoking, and big national breweries most famous for pale, light watery beers that look like a form of human waste rather than beer, talking about drinking responsibly. As if we believe they mean that. Just buy a pint, not a six-pack. Yeah!
The truth is available for those few remaining Americans who don't want sound bites, such as "Kill an Iraqi for Iraqi freedom," or "Drive faster for safer roads." But most seem to want to pull an ostrich in the sand. For those who don't, here are a few little corporate factoids gleaned from our two twin-ish daily newspapers and their wire allies.
The Washington Post reports that the amount of nicotine, the most highly addictive part of the commercial cigarette, has increased 10 percent in the past five years. The trend was discovered by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health; Massachusetts is a blue state that requires tobacco companies to measure and report their nicotine content. Total nicotine has increased an average of 16.6 percent in the past five years, and the amount of nicotine per gram increased 11.3 percent in the same time period.
More than 90 of the 116 brands tested fell into the increased-personal-risk-by-nicotine category. Plus, with the increases, the smoke becomes harder to quit. The nicotine in Marlboro, the brand preferred by two-thirds of teenage smokers, went up 12 percent. The nicotine in Kool menthol lights, menthol being the preferred choice of 65 percent of all African American smokers polled, went up 30 percent.
"What is critical is the consistency of the increase, which leads [us] to the conclusion that [the increase] has to be conscious and deliberate," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Texas, a red state responsible for the President formerly known as Pinhead, also gets the data but has declined to analyze it.
Let's summarize for those of you who only care about the bottom line. Most American tobacco companies, while talking about helping folks quit their product, have increased the most addictive part of the deal, making it twice as hard to quit. Nice.
NOT TO BE OUTDONE, those lovely folks we elect are helping big business at our expense yet again. An alleged "mistake" by federal officials seems to be allowing Chevron and two other conglomerates to avoid paying royalties to the government on much of the oil being pumped out of the newly discovered field in the Gulf of Mexico.
Not only do they get to debase the environment to keep the profits and your SUVs rolling, they don't have to pay for it. To spur the exploration of new oil fields in the 1990s, the then Newt Gingrich-led Congress exempted oil companies from royalty payments. The leases were also supposed to contain a trigger that would remove the exemption if and when prices reached $66 a barrel, a sum well below where they are today.
But somehow that exemption wasn't added, and Chevron and the boys are surprisingly trying to force the government to live up to its alleged mistake. Over the course of these contracts the fees we, via our shoddy government, won't get add up to approximately $10 billion.
My guess (only a guess) is that much money changed hands back in the day, and now we the people will pay twice: at the pump and at the tax trough, where the poor and middle class are forced more often now that the rich get to go there less and less. Let's kill that death tax, too, so there is more room for we the screwees!
AND IN CHICAGO, Mayor Richard Daley vetoed an ordinance that would have forced mega-retailers to pay their workers higher, slightly-better-than-minimum-wage salaries. This came after the nation's largest retailers (many of whom operate here, too) told Daley's crew the measure would keep them from opening any more stores in Chicago. The minimum wage in the Windy City right now is $6.50 an hour.
Paying folks who wait on you more than that would not add up to the $10 billion your government and, sadly, mine has given to Chevron and its ilk. Lovely, lovely!
FINALLY, closer to home, the Seattle Police Officers Guild, rather than celebrating the fact that one of their bright boys in blue - Zsolt Dornay, who escaped without charges after shooting a bystander in a crowd objecting to his motorcycling in an alley and manhandling of a woman who complained before he fired his weapon during what sounds like a well-deserved thumping - is seeking "witnesses" who can come forward with "evidence" so that the folks Dornay disturbed and pushed around until they resisted en masse can be punished.
Never apologize. Never admit wrongdoing. All the citizens are potential criminals. All the cops, however violent, are always right.
Works well in Argentina and Chile, whose economies ours more and more resembles thanks to the past six years of national legislation by the men and women enthralled by corporate payoffs. So let's get the citizenry nice and cowed, too. The trends are there, if you but seek to look.
But hey, how about those Seahawks? What's wrong with that overpaid offensive line, huh?
Dennis Wilken would love to hear from you. Write him at the address or e-dress listed below.[[In-content Ad]]