‘Yes Men’ at it Again

April 19, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DOW THROWS A DISMAL PARTY, FEW ATTEND
Underattended “Run for Water” plagued by death, zombies, and dozens of “Dow spokesmen”; truth seems to run free

Video: Yes Men video coming soon here; other video here
Stills: Yes Men pictures coming soon here; numerous others here
Contact: Whitney Black (803)466-3786; press@theyesmen.org

Brooklyn, NY — Bucolic Prospect park in Brooklyn, NY played host to a bizarre spectacle on Sunday, as a dramatically under-attended Dow-sponsored “Run for Water” was infiltrated and turned upside down by hundreds of furious activists, including a hundred dressed as Dow spokespeople.

New Yorkers who came to the park expecting a light run followed by a free concert found themselves unwitting extras in a macabre and chaotic scene as runners keeled over dead, Dow-branded grim reapers chased participants, and a hundred fake Dow representatives harangued other protesters and and handed out literature that explained Dow’s greenwashing program in frank detail.

The actions called attention to Dow’s toxic legacy in places like India (the Bhopal Catastrophe), Vietnam (Agent Orange) and Midland Michigan (Dioxin Contamination), and to the absurdity of a company with serious water issues all over the world sponsoring the Live Earth Run For Water.

After race cancellations in London, Milan, Berlin, and Sweden, on-site Dow brand managers were in damage-control mode. But their job was made harder by the hundred fake “Dow” spokespeople who loudly but clumsily proclaimed Dow’s position (“Our race! Our earth!” and “Run for water! Run for your life!”), spoke with many runners, screamed at the other protesters, passed out beautifully-produced literature, and all in all looked a whole lot better than the real Dow reps, who seemed eager to make themselves scarce.

“I don’t know what’s going on here,” said Tracey Von Sloop, a Queens woman who attended the race. “All I know is these people are both crazy, and Dow is f*ing sick. I’m outta here.”

The event was the latest blow to Dow’s greenwashing efforts, the most visible element of which is the “Human Element” multi-media advertising campaign, one of the most expensive, and successful, marketing efforts in recent history. It even won an “Effie Award” for the most effective corporate advertising campaign in North America.

"Effective," perhaps — but also completely misleading. To name just a few examples of Dow’s water-related issues: Dow refuses to clean up the groundwater in Bhopal, India, site of the largest industrial disaster in human history, committed by Dow’s fully-owned subsidiary, Union Carbide. As a result, children continue to be born there with debilitating birth defects. Dow has also dumped hundreds of millions of pounds of toxic chemical byproducts into wetlands of Louisiana, and has even poisoned its own backyard, leaving record levels of dioxins downriver from its global headquarters in Midland, Michigan.

“We thought it must be a joke when we first heard that Dow Chemical Company was sponsoring a run for clean water,” said Yes Woman Whitney Black. “Sadly, it was not. One of the world’s worst polluters trying to greenwash its image instead of taking responsibility for drinking water and ecosystems it has poisoned around the world? What an awfully unfunny way to start off Earth Week. We decided the event needed a little comic relief.”

Irony was piled on irony throughout the race, which Dow absurdly claimed was going to be “the largest solutions-based initiative aimed at solving the global water crisis in history. At one point, organizers were caught on tape dramatically throwing out excess water left over because of an embarrassingly low turnout.

Groups organizing the action included the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, New York Whale and Dolphin Action League, the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign, the Wetlands Activism Collective, Global Justice for Animals and the Environment, Kids For A Better Future, The Yes Men, and hundreds of assorted volunteers, activists and mischief makers.
[Thank you, Claudia!]

Dada Massa and the Slate Political Gabfest

David Plotz made this great [paraphrased] comment (aside: I’m not Plotz’s biggest fan) on Slate’s Political Gabfest about the sad tale of Eric Massa especially as concerns his interviews with Glenn Beck and Larry King.

Large electoral sweeps [Democrats in 1974, Republicans in 1994, Democrats again in 2008] tend to bring a lot of lunatics along with others. [Eric] Massa is ‘the weirdest of the weird’ from the 2008 Democratic Sweep.

Heh. Too true.

BTW, IMNSHO, their podcast is well worth following

Climate Change and Blog Action Day

[Blog Action Day] Climate Change presupposes that there is some sort of change coming in the status quo of climate not-change. And to a large extent, that is the case. I studied a variety of subjects but mostly circled around the most recent 25,000 years of this planet’s history. Lots of climate change there in those 25 millennia.

One thing is certain, and that is that climate change means changes in our world. Big changes. My experience covers things like woodlands becoming grasslands, and deserts emerging where herds of animals once grazed. Coastlines changed drastically as ocean levels went down when much of the northern hemisphere was covered with as much as 3 kilometers of ice.

When the average temperature rose again, millions of square miles of coast where animals (and humans) doubtlessly lived were again submerged as all that ice melted into the world’s oceans.

Relatives of ours, Neanderthals, disappeared. Lots of very conspicuous animals — huge grazers like mammoth and mastodons, woolly rhinoceros, giant ground sloths, and the predators that were dependent on them like saber-tooth cats, dire wolves, other cats and canine relatives — became extinct.

This particular episode will likely be unsurpassed since any in the last 7,000 years. It will be interesting, but not in a good way. More like the Chinese proverb, “May you live in interesting times.”

Perhaps we will go extinct…

Capitalism: It Makes You Feel Like a Battered Spouse

Not Moore’s movie Capitalism: A Love Story, Capitalism itself makes you feel like a battered spouse.

This movies documents the rampant ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ that has ensued since just after WWII. The director moves from as much street theater to fairly straight forward facts. I attended (Friday 2:30 pm) with a crowd (~50) of roughly retirement age people. They talked back to the screen and it felt, at times, like a Pentecostal meeting. I was very surprised, pleasantly so.

It may be preaching to the choir, but some may not be aware that our real obstacles lie, not from political parties, but corporate interests roiling the waters (cf. Fox, Limbaugh, Beck, et. al.) to obscure the real enemy — multi-national corporations granted the rights of ‘persons’ in a questionable recording of a SCOTUS ruling that drug the 14th amendment in places it did not belong.

So really, this is not about being part of “a nation of shopkeepers”, rather it is being chattel in a corporate system that takes out life insurance on its line employees hoping they will die young. Google ‘Dead Peasants‘ for more info about this delightful practice.

And really, the choir needs to be preached to, otherwise they might stop singing.

Go and see it, perhaps you too will feel like singing…

Thom Hartmann on “Sociopathic Paychecks”

This is from Thom Hartmann‘s daily email newsletter

Sociopathic Paychecks
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that “Executives and other highly compensated employees now receive more than one-third of all pay in the US…  Highly paid employees received nearly $2.1 trillion of the $6.4 trillion in total US pay in 2007, the latest figures available.”
 
This article is largely excerpted from Thom Hartmann’s new book “Threshold: The Crisis of Western Culture.”

One of the questions often asked when the subject of CEO pay comes up is, “What could a person such as William McGuire or Lee Raymond (the former CEOs of UnitedHealth and ExxonMobil, respectively) possibly do to justify a $1.7 billion paycheck or a $400 million retirement bonus?”

It’s an interesting question. If there is a “free market” of labor for CEOs, then you’d think there would be a lot of competition for the jobs. And a lot of people competing for the positions would drive down the pay. All UnitedHealth’s stockholders would have to do to avoid paying more than $1 billion to McGuire is find somebody to do the same CEO job for half a billion. And all they’d have to do to save even more is find somebody to do the job for a mere $100 million. Or maybe even somebody who’d work the necessary sixty-hour weeks for only $1 million.

So why is executive pay so high?

I’ve examined this with both my psychotherapist hat on and my amateur economist hat on, and only one rational answer presents itself: CEOs in America make as much money as they do because there really is a shortage of people with their skill set. And it’s such a serious shortage that some companies have to pay as much as $1 million a day to have somebody successfully do the job.

But what part of being a CEO could be so difficult-so impossible for mere mortals-that it would mean that there are only a few hundred individuals in the United States capable of performing it?

In my humble opinion, it’s the sociopath part.

CEOs of community-based businesses are typically responsive to their communities and decent people. But the CEOs of most of the world’s largest corporations daily make decisions that destroy the lives of many other human beings.

Only about 1 to 3 percent of us are sociopaths-people who don’t have normal human feelings and can easily go to sleep at night after having done horrific things. And of that 1 percent of sociopaths, there’s probably only a fraction of a percent with a college education. And of that tiny fraction, there’s an even tinier fraction that understands how business works, particularly within any specific industry.

Thus there is such a shortage of people who can run modern monopolistic, destructive corporations that stockholders have to pay millions to get them to work. And being sociopaths, they gladly take the money without any thought to its social consequences.

Today’s modern transnational corporate CEOs-who live in a private-jet-and-limousine world entirely apart from the rest of us-are remnants from the times of kings, queens, and lords. They reflect the dysfunctional cultural (and Calvinist/Darwinian) belief that wealth is proof of goodness, and that that goodness then justifies taking more of the wealth.

Democracy in the workplace is known as a union. The most democratic workplaces are the least exploitative, because labor has a power to balance capital and management. And looking around the world, we can clearly see that those cultures that most embrace the largest number of their people in an egalitarian and democratic way (in and out of the workplace) are the ones that have the highest quality of life. Those that are the most despotic, from the workplace to the government, are those with the poorest quality of life.

Over time, balance and democratic oversight will always produce the best results.  An “unregulated” marketplace is like an “unregulated” football game – chaos.  And chaos is a state perfectly exploited by sociopaths, be they serial killers, warlords, or CEOs.

By changing the rules of the game of business so that sociopathic business behavior is no longer rewarded (and, indeed, is punished – as Teddy Roosevelt famously did as the “trustbuster” and FDR did when he threatened to send “war profiteers” to jail), we can create a less dysfunctional and more egalitarian society.  And that’s an important first step back from the thresholds to environmental and economic disaster we’re now facing.

I would link to it directly if I could find the newsletter on the web.