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WTF Alert: BP CEO is a Mere PR Problem?

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What term do you use to describe spin about spin? Spin squared? Meta spin?

Whatever you chose to call it, a classic example is in full view in a New York Times article, “Another Torrent BP Works to Stem: Its C.E.O.

If you were to believe the New York Times, which all too often appears to take dictation rather than engage in reporting, the big problem with the BP CEO, Tony Hayward, is that he has made some pretty shocking statements over the course of the Deepwater Horizon leak. The framing is “BP…now finds itself with one more problem: Tony Hayward, its gaffe-prone chief executive.” Examples:

The spill is not going to cause big problems because the gulf “is a very big ocean” and “the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest.” And this week, he apologized to the families of 11 men who died on the rig for having said, “You know, I’d like my life back.”

What is truly astonishing is the way the article absolves Hayward of any managerial responsibility for the crisis. It refuses to acknowledge that these off-putting remarks are an accurate reflection of an astonishingly self-serving world view and that Hayward is ultimately responsible for this colossal mess. In Japan, executives resign and even commit seppuku for far less.

Now why might BP be doing its damndest to paint Hayward as a leader who is merely clumsy with the media, as opposed to someone who has been criminally negligent? Bloomberg points out the obvious, that some investors want his head:

BP Plc Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward faces rising speculation that the worsening oil spill will cost him his job as he grapples with worried investors, rating downgrades, U.S. politicians and public anger over the company’s inability to control the crisis….

“There is a question mark over the chief executive officer,” said Colin McLean, of SVM Asset Management Ltd. in Edinburgh, which holds BP shares. “The dividend will continue but be cut. A quarter or a third is quite possible.”…

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power offered even odds that Hayward will leave his post by the end of year. The New York Daily News yesterday called him “the most hated — and clueless — man in America” for his handling of the crisis.

“It looks increasingly likely that heads will roll, and Tony will be in the frame,” Dougie Youngson, an analyst at Arbuthnot Securities Ltd. in London, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “The longer these things go on, the shakier things look for the company.”

Yves here. The Bloomberg report makes clear that so far, the heat on the political front is more intense than that from shareholders. However, there is a good reason why CEOs who preside over disasters are typically ousted. They find it difficult to reverse policies and decisions that contributed to the problem. Even if they were the victim of bad luck (and the multiple failures in the Deepwater Horizon mess suggests not), they will lack credibility in plotting a new course.

And as we pointed out yesterday, the negative perception of Hayward is not just a matter of his words, but also his conduct. Consider his response to an injunction to force BP to provide cleanup workers with masks and other protective gear:

I’m sure they were genuinely ill, but whether it was anything to do with dispersants and oil, whether it was food poisoning or some other reason for them being ill. … It’s one of the big issues of keeping the army operating. You know, armies march on their stomachs.

Recall other examples: insufficient action to prevent oil from damaging the Gulf coast areas, which experts in booming say was entirely feasible. Or how about the refusal to let scientists anywhere near the leak until public pressure forced BP to relent a tad? You’d think if they were interested above all in solving the problem, as opposed to managing appearances, they’d be eager to tap the views of experts.

But the New York Times article portrays Hayward’s woes as a mere communications problem rather than a substantive issue:

Instead of reassuring the public, critics say, Mr. Hayward has turned into a day-after-day reminder of BP’s public relations missteps in responding to the crisis, which began six weeks ago and looks likely to continue well into the summer.

The article does not address the dead body in the room, that Hayward’s job is at risk, until the ninth paragraph of the piece. And it quickly reverts to a PR centric focus:

Those relief wells, which would be used to inject cement into the damaged well to permanently kill it, are not expected to be completed before August, and the environmental damage would linger well after that — which means that the company and Mr. Hayward face a public relations crisis that will last for many months.

Yves here. Huh? This is simply perverse. The significance of the environmental damage is….a continued PR crisis? What about liability? What about its responsibility to the communities within which it operates? This bizarre line of reasoning illustrates how low the standards of conduct for big companies have become.

The article continues in this vein, with six more paragraphs detailing the embattled oil producer’s lobbying and public relations strategies.

If the New York Times had positioned the piece as an examination of BP’s PR mistakes and how it was trying to regroup, it could have covered much the same ground and made a useful contribution. But it went off the rails in suggesting that communications was the main problem facing Tony Hayward. This line of thinking reinforces the idea that a CEO’s main job is “performance”, not in the traditional sense of producing results, but in the Hollywood parlance of acting.

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27 comments

  1. purple

    America – and its looks like Britain too – is about all about PR, not substance. The daily functioning of our society has become one big scam.

    Without the underwater cameras, BP would be lying mercilessly.

    1. anonymous

      This is the single sharpest observation I’ve read on the spill. True, BP would be claiming that the oil washing up on the beaches might be from the DWH or it might not. The feds would establish a commission. No, wait, they feds did establish a commission which will establish…thoughts were thunk, mistakes were made, balls were dropped, rigs were inspected, stories were spun, cash was contributed, tales were told.

      Without the cameras there wouldn’t even be a spill. True dat.

  2. attempter

    Here’s standard NYT style procedure:

    On Thursday, BP began showing a new television ad in which Mr. Hayward, speaking directly into a camera, pledges to spare no effort to clean up the spill.

    It ends with a heartfelt promise: “We will get it done. We will make this right.”

    In an alternate universe where journalistic ethics existed, reporters would never feel entitled to read subjects’ minds, other than as inference from the evidence of actions (never words).

    So no reporter would write, and no editor would allow, the characterization “heartfelt”. (I’d go further and say “promise” is a word with too much editorial connotation. The reporter has no business going beyond the denotative “said”.)

    I seized on that example because that’s definitely an intentional, systematic practice at the NYT – to “report” motivations and states of mind of the powerful, always in a flattering light, based on mere words, and usually directly contrary to the evidence of actions.

    According to Baker the WaPo does that too, but I’m not as personally familiar with it.

    But it went off the rails in suggesting that communications was the main problem facing Tony Hayward. This line of thinking reinforces the idea that a CEO’s main job is “performance”, not in the traditional sense of producing results, but in the Hollywood parlance of acting.

    That’s also the institutionalized mindset of especially the Democratic party. Every issue is a messaging issue.

    And the MSM in general reports everything the way. Thus for example an election campaign is a propaganda horse race and never has anything to do with real issues affecting real people.

    That’s of course exactly how the kleptocracy wants it, and their prostitute media delivers. Bread and circuses all the way. (Well, really just circuses; forget the bread unless you can pay.)

    And as a piece like this demonstrates, and as Obama and his liberal hacks have demonstrated, they’ve come to internalize this sham world so much that they really believe it. Hayward’s many quotes reveal him to be exasperated that the “shoot” or the “interview” won’t end. This time reality keeps hounding him. Obama clearly has the exact same mindset. It can’t be even temporarily spun the way the Bailout, involving only fictional dollars and balance sheets, can be (as long as you ignore the jobless, which so far they can).

    If an asteroid were going to hit the earth, they’d have to start out trying to propagandistically wish it away, and when that didn’t work, they’d probably all have nervous breakdowns. What else would be left? They have no other skill set or sense of reality.

  3. Dwight Baker

    Leaking oil –bad press, scientific predictions folks not happy our President is a bit upset
    All of those things at one time may sink BP MONEY MAKING SHIP!
    By Dwight Baker
    June 3, 2010
    Dbaker007@stx.rr.com

    Who could ever rule out that the BP blowout ‘that they own’ could take the company down? Of course Rothschilds have $600 trillion in gold they might just step up and help out.

    Computer models show Gulf oil reaching East Coast
    Read more: http://www.sunherald.com/2010/06/02/2230930/computer-models-show-gulf-oil.html#ixzz0pp8Dj3Ko
    Be sure and watch the video

    Leaking oil bad press #2

    Now think a bit about that? Who is guilty? BP! Who is going to pay? BP? So BP why should you wait another day to not use the TAME NATURE overshot plan and end this oil ruining our coastlines killing our plant life, fishes and such.

    Poor BP folks that have been in front of a camera should pack their bags and move to Argentina. Got enough stacked back Argentina will cover all your tracks. Now those are harsh and insulting words but deserved. If you think I am wrong prove it.

    Contact dbaker007@stx.rr.com for a complete illustrated and well documented commentary of “what went wrong who is guilty and what is the cure’.

  4. Dwight Baker

    Shell Oil — British Petroleum –BP –are the same the Rothschild’s rule the roost. The Rothschild’s control the media they own Reuters and New York Times to spin the stories the way they see fit.
    By Dwight Baker
    June 4, 2010
    Dbaker007@stx.rr.com

    Louisiana is not the only part of the world to have its delta devastated by oil company arrogance.

    Here’s the story of another oil company that destroyed the subsistence for hundreds of thousands of farmers and fishermen.

    Then they conspired with a government to murder the people who tried to stop it.
    http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/857.html

    So what is next on the blow out in the Gulf and what will OBAMA do. He has the CURE for stopping all the oil but will he insist it be done? Jindal has it also so do the Governors of Mississippi and Alabama.

    What will they do, roll over or demand the right thing done to TAME NATURE overshot plan for the people and property they swore to protect.

    Stop the damn oil NOW.

  5. Dwight Baker

    CONNECTING THE DOTS
    By Dwight Baker
    June 4, 2010
    Dbaker007@stx.rr.com

    Two families rule the Bilderberg roost Rockefeller and Rothschild they are cousins. Their ancestors came from Georgia near the Black Sea.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sea

    Rockefeller owns the majority of the major oil and gas-producing companies based in the USA with far reaching tentacles around the globe the Rothschild owns Shell Oil and British Petroleum and others.

    Our big blow out problems in the Gulf is a financial responsibility for both families. BP as the operator Exxon/Mobil as a 25% shareholder however I believe that the truth of the matters as they have developed goes much deeper than just the blow out. I believe and the facts so far reveal that the blow out was caused by BP folks on the rig floor that wanted to make a big bonus by moving the Deep Horizon to another drill location within days of running the last string of casing. And to get that done they needed to cut corners and the corners they cut led up to this horrific disaster.

    However, the Rockefellers and Rothschild do not see tragedy as affecting them, all look for is a way to make more money. Now Anadarko Production Company had bought into a 25% partnership on that well. Anadarko is a strong company with much production around the world and a large amount in the Gulf. Now can Anadarko take the hit of losing $2 trillion? I don’t know, but the slowness of getting the blowout under control could be the driving motive at this time to take Anadarko over by the Rockefellers and Rothschilds.

    Elite Dietist is a term that I use to describe greedy hoarders as Predator Beast among the populations of planet earth. The only god they serve is self and they use money power and total separation from normal mankind to live breed and continue their repetition of the grand things done for the sake of money and wealth from their family archives. Rockefeller lives on 3500 acres near New York City with 11 stately mansions and all of the things needed for self-survival on those grounds. About 3500 workers take care of the folks living there and that includes a large group of security guards equipped with the best.
    Rothschilds has 11 palatial estates and around in England that much like Rockefeller has all the servants, security guards teachers and others so that they too live in a separate reality than that they are trying best to create for us.

    Now, who are the other want to be Bilderbergers as movers and shakers in the New World Order? As the mob says they are out to be “Made”. Now what must one do to be “Made” to get in the group Bilderberg? They must go through a ritual of black magic in purging out and renouncing all acts of conscience and that must be seen by the super Elite Dietist controlling the ritual. That is done in the Grooves a sacred place for them in Northern California.

    Nothing new about any of that it has been going on since the creation of man. Those people less of conscience are the Anti-God and Anti-Christ that was predicted to come and had come in the New Testament. Abraham had faced those folks in the Fertile Crescent when he decided to leave and follow the God of his creation. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had faced that same evil resisted it and was thrown in the fiery furnace.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadrach, _Meshach, _and_Abednego

    Thus today we must not clamor complain be upset and forget that we do have the rules of conscience to live by. We human beings are Gods greatest creation. Therefore as evidenced by the life of Jesus Christ and the words that he spoke FAMILY is the key to our survival as God Sheep. We must not bow down to the anti-god folks in any way shape form and/or fashion. We must stand our ground and do what is best first for our family friends and kin and then go out from there into our communities where we live and do the same thing. Teaching all to do the same things. That is the core message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  6. Dwight Baker

    When Obama comes today, he will bring an Olive branch
    By Dwight Baker
    June 4, 2010
    Dbaker007@stx.rr.com

    Folks let us try to get over Tony and his tricks and lies; Obama is headed down today to right all the wrongs.

    This is not the first times in our lives when we have been hard pressed to find a reason to smile. And for sure this will not be the last time in our lives we will have been ripped to the core of our human existence.

    Yet, Obama is our President and he can “At will” do what ever we ask! There are grand ideas for reconstruction and refurbishment of the Great Gulf of Mexico and all the lands and lowlands by folks just like us. You do not have to go to Harvard to understand what must be done. But gripping and complaining should be toned down when he arrives.

    A deaf and dumb man could look around and see the tragic state you our Neighbors and fellow Americans on the Gulf of Mexico are in. Therefore let us all lighten up a bit and if the chance is given tell him your ideas in brief what you know needs to be done. Solutions to this giant problem is out there and can be found, each of us has a voice to speak up about our needs and what is the best way to go.

    I live in Texas a 25-year veteran engineer in Oil and Gas ‘been there done that’ many times before. I have faced challenges most will never have to endure —but come out on top every time. And our fellow Cajuns hands in oil and gas knows how to do things the right way the first time too.

    The best thing we can all push for is to stop the oil and gas. The sure fix has been presented to BP they have yet to come back with an OK. But I think it is right around the corner. TAME NATURE with an overshot is the only ways to bring under control Mother Nature. The Plan will work in a timely fashion with results of a cemented well that can be abandoned and the rigs drilling relief wells now can be discharged.

    TAME NATURE overshot plan is yours for the asking e-mail me dbaker007@stx.rr.com for your copy.

  7. Dwight Baker

    KEEP the rigs running in the Gulf
    By Dwight Baker
    June 4, 2010
    Dbaker007@stx.rr.com

    BP made the faulted failed and fatal mistakes not the rest of the oil field folks. So don’t whip everybody.

    Governor Bobby Jindal is worried and perplexed about the economy of Louisiana being wrecked more — by our Federal Government shutting down all the rigs running in deep waters.

    Bobby the CURE. Let’s check each rig to see if a main shut off failsafe BOP was installed. If so let them go on working. If not let them set a cement plug where they are drilling now pull the drill string and began to strip down to the main flange where the bottom BOP’s are bolted. Then install a main shut off failsafe BOP rig back up go in the hole drill out the cement plug and go on drilling.

    Simple fix keep the federal government out of it and use your own state people to do the checking. The feds have got way too much on their plate now with the BLOW OUT.

    As a reminder I have the CURE for the BLOWOUT it is called the TAME NATURE overshot and it will end your problems in the Gulf with cementing the well in then no more oil coming from the Deep Horizon.

    1. LeeAnne

      Bring in every available off shore drill expert, draft them to establish an immediate emergency regulatory agency, fire everyone in the old agency, and give extraordinary powers to the NEW FEDERAL OFF SHORE OIL DRILLING AND FISH PROTECTION REGULATORY AGENCY.

  8. Dwight Baker

    American Champs in oil and gas time to enlist!
    By Dwight Baker
    June 4, 2010
    Dbaker007@stx.rr.com

    Anger frustration has led many in America to disappointment and discontent so much that 90% of the comments on the internet about the Blow Out are senseless stupid and most times more about party lines. Now is that stupid or not?

    Chu does not have a clue about the techniques pipes etc in oil and gas ‘folks oil and gas is a generational passed down occupation’. Nor does many from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton and on — but one thing for sure there has been a learning curve 90 degree straight up. And over time the brightest will always come to the top for study defines them. E-mail Dbaker007@stx.rr.com for What Went Wrong and the Cure for the BP Blow Out.

    Most reports on the Blow Out in the TV news media are faulted. The Blow Out has set them back for none knew what was really going on, so on and on — that has gone on— one emulating the other with neither have the common sense and reason about oil and gas matters to understand the subject matter they were reporting.

    Thus the rub has come for the working class of folks in America. For many of them have grown up valuing common sense and reason more highly than years of grueling education. And for many that was the only way for them to go — for lack of funds and preparatory education to get them ready for Colleges and Universities.

    Yet none should forget the Wall Street crisis was led by the blue blood elites with years of training in Universities.

    Now it is time for many who do not have a clue to bow out and let many CHAMPS with generational oil and gas common sense and reason take over. And from that crowd of Champs there is many that would stay and stay and stay until the job is finished knowing when complete the best had been done for all around.

    In the BP culture of folks I have not seen any of that type. Therefore BP needs to pay whatever it takes then stand back and let the AMERICAN CHAMPS in OIL and GAS take over.

  9. Doc at the Radar Station

    “This line of thinking reinforces the idea that a CEO’s main job is “performance”, not in the traditional sense of producing results, but in the Hollywood parlance of acting.” -Yves

    “America – and its looks like Britain too – is about all about PR, not substance. The daily functioning of our society has become one big scam.” – Purple

    Wow, this really clicks with the rebroadcast of Charlie Rose’s interview with Neil Young the other night. The inspiration for several songs came from seeing a USA Today article/photo with critically wounded troops being airlifted. The main thrust of the story was the awesomeness of how medical knowledge was going to be improved due to the war. This also reminds me of some of the observations by Solzhenitsyn of the Soviet government in the Gulag Archipelago. Now I understand why he was glad to be exiled out in the sticks with no radio (or other communication).

  10. Don in GA

    Very good commentary. Unfortunately I don’t find it that surprising. The business press is almost completely in the tank for the government/business cabal. Headlines trumpet the latest manufacturing survey or employment report or consumer spending number as the latest sign of recovery without noting that the entire economy is artificially propped up by deficit spending that is roughly 10% of GDP. The latest signs of a bottom in housing are reported without noting that 96% of new mortgage originations are guaranteed by government agencies at interest rates and terms that no sane private lender would even consider. The business press debates whether sleazy behavior by Goldman Sachs and others meets the standard of criminal behavior, and if not what’s the big deal and is the stock a buying opportunity? How about BP, will the dividend be maintained and is it a buying opportunity?

    With regard to the CEO role as performance, i.e. acting, I don’t see how anybody who has watched Tim Geithner talk about how strong the economic recovery is could think he’s doing anything but acting. Geithner, the SEC and other government agencies don’t act to make the securities markets safe for investors, they try to reassure investors the markets are safe. They’re like the mayor in Jaws, who wants the sheriff to be quiet about the shark and get the tourists and locals back in the water before any economic damage is done.

    Could there be a more vivid example of government as performance art than the so called bank “stress tests” from 2009? The word was leaked ahead of the “tests” that no bank would fail and economic conditions were already worse than the “worst case” scenario assumptions used.

  11. LeeAnne

    Rage and anger. I am the president but I can do nothing about British Petroleum. I can do nothing about their treatment of people –new hires for beach and shore clean-up. Nothing to make sure heavy penalties are enforced for neglecting the health of workers and supporting families idled by the spill. But, boy, am I angry.

    Rage, anger and apologies. British Petroleum’s CEO Tony Hayward apologizes. Gaffe? That was his soul talking. His life isn’t running a company. His life is perks, taxpayer oil subsidies, public relations, jets, limos, stock options and early retirement to a big pretentious silly house with at least 30 low paid illegal aliens in help. I hope these fellas can afford the security they’re gonna need around these very vulnerable properties when TSHTF.

    Rage, anger and apologies. Anger is reported over ex-Georgie B admitting to water boarding. Where’s the Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder. Now that oil is in the headlines, he’ll deal with that. His administration will be long gone before anything is accomplished vis-a-vis BPs obligations to the people as they and their families try to survive in the killing fields of the Gulf.

    But we’ll still have unlimited executive branch power over the people and none for regulating corporations as long as we do not have CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM.

  12. DownSouth

    Yves, why are you trying to affix blame in the wrong place?

    It is obvious that Tony Hayward had nothing to do with the blowout on the Deepwater Horizon, but it was caused by those people, the ones picture in these fotos:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/houstonjanitors/page12/

    As you very well know, those people are not capable of rational thought and are easily stirred up by communist agitators like the SEIU Houston Local 1.

    The comments on this thread from a couple of days ago should have set you straight, but evidently you weren’t paying attention:
    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2010/06/why-is-washington-fiddling-with-unemployment-high.html

    As zanon said, “i work with union workers. they come in drunk, collapse on desk, and urinate on it. i cannot fire them. they file greivance over every little thing.”

    So those disgusting people, totally ruled by their emotions, went out on strike in the latter days of March. BP’s command center in Houston went uncleaned for days, and those people didn’t return to work until April, and then only after raising all kinds of hell. As dave spells out their tactics, “They are often racist and xenophobic (keep out ‘cheap’ labor). They are often violent (destroying property and attacking ‘scabs’). And they almost always resist any technological or efficiency change.”

    And those people caused all that mayhem for what? As dave, who “comes from a union family” goes on to enlighten us: “Unions exist for the purpose of improving the lives of union administrators and nothing more. All that crap about workers is a bunch of shit.”

    dave explains how it works, or at least how it should work:

    Low skill workers have no bargaining power, why is that a surprise? Why is that wrong? Bargaining power is based on supply and demand. In an automated world there is no demand for semi literate assembly line schmoes. Either they can get some real skills (I have a lot of bargaining power) or they can accept reality.

    It’s true, Ishmael quickly confirmed: “Unions are job killers. It is not just the pay it is the work rules and the inflexibility of compensation when the economy changes. How many times have I seen businesses shut down due to unions not willing to take cuts when the whole macro enviroment change.” And private unions are only the tip of the iceberg. Public unions are even worse! “They are like a big vampire that has fastened upon this country,” Ishmael enlightens us.

    How could those silly cleaning people in Houston be so stupid and unreasonable?

    But the damage those people cause doesn’t stop there. Those people are eating away at the very core of American productivity, and pose a grave threat to our American lifestyle. As charcad was quick to point out, the “USA’s partial industrial collapse” is in large part due to “Hyper-dysfunctional and politicized labor union leadership.”

    So there you have it Yves. How could Hayward possibly be blamed? How could he or his top lieutenants in BP’s Houston office stay focused on drilling oil wells while being distracted, forced to deal with those people and their totally unreasonable and nonsensical demands? Those people who are so easily deceived and misled by ruthless and self-serving union leadership? Those people who are destroying America and the American way of life? And just imagine, drilling oil wells with a dirty office! The wretchedness of it makes my stomach turn.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Assuming I detected just the faintest hint of sarcasm here, you’re right on target as always.

      Yup, you just can’t get good help anymore, and anytime you see two or more of “those people” gathered together, you can be sure they’re up to no damn good. That’s why it’s important to promote bickering to keep them off balance. Better the dogs fight in the cage than form a pack against their masters. It’s the natural world odor.

  13. Abhishek

    The whole story has been one riddled with collusion between regulators and oil companies,procrastination and lies by British Petroleum and ineptitude of the Obama administration.There has been constant passing of the buck between the main companies involved – BP and Tranocean on who was to blame for the oil spill.There has been also a blame game with the “oil drilling” regulator being found guilty of lax regulations and its top official resigning.

    1. tegnost

      How about Paccar and Boeing…let’s not forget the many profitable companies dismantled so financiers could farm the pensions of the workers or destroy the unions, a practice that continues to this day. I am not a union member, but I am paid better as a result of unions. I would say that you are focusing on only one tree in the forest, but your argument doesn’t contain any actual trees as you don’t specify any companies to support your own point,while in reality there are many many profitable companies with unions , how about kroger and safeway? Has anybody looked at Waste Management earnings lately? Remember that in your non union utopia you won’t have any customers because no one will have any money except the people who already have everything they need. These micro arguments over unions fail utterly not because of the goodness or badness of unions, but because union detractors have no viable replacement for unions to insure that workers have some leverage because believe it or not those workers have actual lives and relationships, they are in fact actual people that may even buy something from you! This capitalist commerce could concievably prevent you from having to lower your prices and could possibly have the benefit of slowing some of that asset depreciation that everyone seems so concerned about, could it not?How about some outrage over people paid more than they could spend in several lifetimes on the profits they made from union busting globalization and currency manipulation?

  14. Ishmael

    Downsouth — Let me give you a clue. When there are no jobs there will be no offices to clean.

    The other day someone I know was lecturing me in a similar manner that you are. I responded “then name me one company with unions that has done well.” After he responded I broke out in a chuckle and informed him that the company he named was in bankruptcy. This was even before things got tough. I have not seen their products lately. Probably was liquidated.

    Just so you know, I never refer to them as “those people.” Unions always destroy themselves. Now you can go back to your teeth gnashing.

    Yves, nice article. Over the last 15 years I have seen the US become a nation where our leaders are Shmoozers and not doers. Sad.

    1. DownSouth

      Ishmael,

      I’ve often wondered just how many Americans have awoken to the prospect of what the right-wing has in store for them, or just how hostile it is to anything that might resemble human flourishing. The discussion you had with dave, charcad and Periphery Visionary on the thread linked above, however, gives a pretty good sneak preview.

      In your imagined world of the future, technology reigns supreme, and humans are all but replaced by machines in the production process. The world is Balkanized into four groups: 1) The owners of the machines, or “capital,” 2) The owners of natural resources, 3) A small but highly trained, highly skilled and highly paid workforce, and 4) everybody else. The first three categories are essential to your imagined utopia. The last category is expendable, as you yourself put it so candidly: “Now there is lots of handwringing over the lowering populatin of developed world. Now is that not the natural out growth of automation and not needing as much labor. Western governments should recognize this and let populations drift downward due to automation.”

      Of course none of you could ever imagine yourselves as being part of this expendable fourth category.

      “I worry that we are trapped in a 1950’s mindset where we see prosperity and near-universal employment as a fundamental right requiring nothing more than for us to simply step up and claim it,“ Peripheral Visionary bemoans, “which is a dangerously out-of-touch way of thinking.”

      “If the cost of factory labor becomes essentially -0-, and the cost of ‘intellectual capital’ at the same time is very heavily discounted, then other production costs will become relatively far more important,” charcad envisions. “Think of fuels, electricity, raw materials.” The owners of natural resources will do very well in the new Shangri La.

      Let me just state that I have grave moral reservations about this imagined Utopia, to say the least. But beyond that, I don’t see how it’s going to work from a practical perspective. If, as charcad puts it, “the cost of factory labor becomes essentially -0-,” and the cost of “intellectual capital” at the same time “is very heavily discounted,” just who do you believe is going to buy all the wonderful products your machines produce so effortlessly?

      But beyond that, just what do you hope to accomplish by reducing the vast majority of the population to penury? And what sort of person would want to create such a world?

      I’ve racked my brain, and the only conclusion I can come to is that, buried somewhere deep within your psyche, is a rather virile strain of sadism.

      It’s difficult for me to imagine such a person, because it is so remote from my way of thinking and feeling. But George Orwell in “Politics vs. Literature” gives some insight into the kind of person that might want to see such a large portion of humanity on the down and out:

      But the most essential thing in Swift is his inability to believe that life—-ordinary life on the solid earth, and not some rationalized, deodorized version of it—-could be made worth living. Of course no honest person claims that happiness is now a normal condition among adult human beings; but perhaps it could be made normal, and it is upon this question that all serious political controversy really turns.

      [….]

      Happiness is notoriously difficult to describe, and pictures of a just and well-ordered Society are seldom attractive or convincing. Most creators of “favorable” Utopias, however, are concerned to show what life could be like if it were lived more fully. Swift advocates a simple refusal of life, justifying this by the claim that “Reason” consists in thwarting your instincts. The Houyhnhnms, creatures without a history, continue for generation after generation in order to live prudently, maintaining their population at exactly the same level, avoiding all passion, suffering from no diseases, meeting death indifferently, training up their young in the same principles—-and all for what? In order that the same process may continue indefinitely. The notion that life here and now is worth living, or that it could be made worth living, or that it must be sacrificed for some future good, are all absent. The dreary world of the Houyhnhnms was about as good a Utopia as Swift could construct, granting that he neither believed in a “next world” nor could get any pleasure out of certain normal activities. But it is not really set up as something desirable in itself, but as the justification for another attack on humanity. The aim, as usual, is to humiliate Man by reminding him that he is weak and ridiculous, and above all that he stinks; and the ultimate motive, probably, is a kind of envy, the envy of the ghost for the living, of the man who knows he cannot be happy for the others who—-so he fears—-may be a little happier than himself. The political expression of such an outlook must be either reactionary or nihilistic, because the person who holds it will want to prevent Society from developing in some direction in which his pessimism may be cheated. One can do this either by blowing everything to pieces, or by averting social change. Swift ultimately blew everything to pieces….

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Mandy has it right, eloquent and illuminating. You starkly caught the commodification of human labor and reduction of people to transactional Darwinism as a bankrupt in all respects, dystopian tribalism and future-shock feudalism Yves captured it well too, as the corruption of “unenlightened self-interest.”

        Maybe it’s an article of faith but it seems so self-evident that to thrive, create our best, and pursue happiness as a people we need less survivalist competition and more symbiosis and community cooperation instead, with long-term stewardship and husbandry. as well as trust, justice and social purpose in our economic system—a really (not so) novel paradigm.

  15. Doc Holiday

    > BP Plc, under pressure from the U.S. to keep cash on its books to pay for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, probably won’t lower dividends, Fitch Ratings said.

    > Fitch also missed the housing bubble and Enron and on-going stuff like that (for many years) — so I conclude that BP should shell out $100 Billion for the spill and the dividend should be at zero in a year…. but, then again, I also assume that BP will be shielded from paying out a dime for this disaster!

    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-06-04/bp-probably-won-t-lower-dividend-to-shareholders-fitch-says.html

  16. Ishmael

    Oh my. As pathetic as the private jobs number was, the birth death adjustment was 215,000. That means the private jobs growth number was really hugely negative. Last months birth death adjustment was also huge but at least the employment number was up big unlike this month.

    Double dip, here it comes.

  17. NOTaREALmerican

    I donno… This guys sounds like an amoral scumbag to me. He was smart enough to get to the top, so that makes him a smart amoral scumbag.

    Just the kind of person you’d expect to run a huge organization of humans.

  18. Doc Holiday

    Why is Obama bullshitting about the fine for BP??????

    Re: http://energy.senate.gov/public/_files/KingTestimony5252010.pdf

    Lease holders of a
    covered offshore facility (COF) must demonstrate a minimum amount of OSFR of $35 million
    per 35,000 barrels of “worst case oil-spill discharge” up to a maximum of $150 for COF located
    in the OCS and $10 million in state waters. As an illustration, a worst case oil-spill discharge
    volume of 35,000 barrels (bbls) requires $35 million in OSFR while a volume of 35,001 bbls
    requires $70 million. The MMS calculates the worst case oil-spill discharge volume for a facility.
    An exemption to the OSFR is provided for persons responsible for facilities having a potential
    worst case oil-spill discharge of 1,000 bbls or less.

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