Tar vs. Blood – Fools, PR and the shifting sands of corporate social responsibility

The trendy thing to do these days for trendy companies that sell trendy products is to show their trendy customers that these companies care about more than just their bottom line, they also care about how showing that they care can affect the same.

Take climate change. An issue that is all the rage (at least is was before the global economic downturn) among consumers who have been inundated with a large and wasteful awareness campaign about it. Yes, we’ve all learned about the perils of out-of-control consumption, have been directed to consume more, but to consume products that are allegedly less harmful to humanity. So how are multinational corporations serving humanity these days?

Take the Gap, Timberland and Levi’s.

These three companies are the latest to boycott the Alberta “tarsands” because of the CO2 emissions that come from the extraction process. Here’s CP’s writeup:

Another four major U.S. companies are joining the move to either avoid or completely boycott fuel produced from Alberta’s oilsands.

The Gap, Timberland and Levi Strauss have all told their transportation contractors that they will either give preference to those who avoid the oilsands or have asked them what they’re doing to eliminate those fuels.

The move adds to growing international economic pressure on the oilsands industry and the Alberta government to reduce its environmental impact.

Indeed, the Gap, Timberland and Levi Strauss are shifting away from the Alberta oilsands. But is it a focus on the elimination of oil? No, we can see that the order put out has been to only avoid oil from Alberta’s oilsands projects.

In a market system, when you pull one source you must supplant with another. And indeed, that’s what’s happened here. If these companies don’t get their oil from Alberta, the supply will be increased from other sources, namely countries that breed terror and radicalized citizens that wish to see people in Western countries suffer.

It is unclear whether the Gap, Timberland and Levis have told their stores in Riyadh Saudi Arabia to boycott Alberta’s oilsands oil, but this poses an important question: does the socially conscious Saudi shopper care enough about how those Albertan oil tycoons are murdering the Earth? And if so, when will we see a boycott?

New #VoteTO poll – Ford still out ahead

Numbers leaked to your Ford-friendly neighbourhood blogger:

Ford – 32%
Smitherman – 22%
Thomson – 10%
Pantalone – 9%
Rossi – 7%
Undecided – 22%

When undecideds are dropped out of the sample,
Ford – 41%
Smitherman – 28%
Thomson – 13%
Pantalone – 12%
Rossi – 9%

Done by Ipsos

A news station will have the numbers out later this evening
UPDATE: It a poll that was likely commissioned for Global. Rumour is they have an “explosive new poll” that’ll go on the news at 6pm.

UPDATE: Global reports same numbers as above except Smitherman at 21% and undecided at 21%. This poll was done by a company with extensive credibility and indicates that Ford may be Toronto’s next mayor come October 25th.

Liberals would meddle with RCMP: Liberals

The Liberal Party of Canada put out a baffling press release today accusing Conservatives of meddling with the staffing decisions of the RMCP, an arms-length agency of the government of Canada. The Liberals are upset that Chief Supr. Marty Cheliak was let go as head of the Canadian Firearms Program.

Their solution? They would meddle with the staffing decisions of the RCMP, an arms-length agency of the government of Canada.

Liberals call for reinstatement of Chief Supr. Marty Cheliak

Liberal MPs are demanding the immediate reinstatement of the Director General of the Canadian Firearms Program after the Harper Conservatives ousted him for making the gun registry a model in police protection.

Was Cheliak fired by the elected and partisan side of the Canadian government. Well no, according to the Ministry of Public Safety. “The RCMP has complete autonomy to direct its own personnel matters”, according to a spokesman from that office.

Imagine if the RCMP acted and reacted according to the whims of its political masters. That would help support the definition of a “police-state” wouldn’t it? It’s a bit disturbing that the Liberals either haven’t done their research as to the appropriate relationship between government and the RCMP, or that they are indeed advocating that their government would run political interference.

The Liberals argue that this is a political move executed by the government on the eve of a showdown between the parties on the long-gun registry, a vote on its dismantling is scheduled for September 22nd. The RCMP however, says that the position is one which has a bilingualism requirement, one which Cheliak does not meet.

On the face of this, a bureaucrat is being reassigned by an arms-length agency of the government for not meeting a bilingualism standard. Since the Liberals cannot make a case against this as stated, they are concocting an argument that this is political interference.

The Liberals have taken a partisan position (as parties do) in the debate over the long-gun registry. However, to support their argument, they are politicizing an arms-length agency of the government. They are doing so first by accusing the government of political interference “without hard evidence”, as the CBC reported last night, then by suggesting that they would inappropriately interfere with staffing decisions at the RCMP to rectify the situation, which they indirectly admit, supports their position in an upcoming partisan debate.

CBC vandalizes Wikipedia too

One of the stories raging in the Canadian blogosphere today is the Toronto Star’s Wikipedia edit of Rob Ford’s Wikipedia page linking readers to a parody site of the candidate for mayor of Toronto. BCF has the run-down.

I decided to check up on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to see what sorts of edits their staff have made.

First, the IP address 159.33.10.92 belongs to the CBC.

Someone at the CBC has edited an article on George Soros to make the following changes to the text:

It seems that the CBC employee doubts the “official” story.

Further, what does a CBCer think of CTV’s Ben Mulroney, son of Fifth Estate star (and former PM) Brian Mulroney?

Ouch.

How to do voter ID (Liberal edition)

Forget Tim’s, Dr. Ignatieff. Get a stack of membership forms, camp out at Starbucks and just wait

MANHATTAN — An English professor claims she was ejected from an Upper West Side Starbucks by cops for refusing to order according to the coffee chain’s rules, according to the New York Post.

Lynne Rosenthal, who says she holds a PhD from Columbia, told the paper she asked for a toasted multigrain bagel at the Starbucks on 86th Street and Columbus Avenue — then blew her top when the staffer behind the counter asked her if she wanted butter or cheese on top.

“I just wanted a multigrain bagel,” Rosenthal told the Post. “I refused to say ‘without butter or cheese.’ When you go to Burger King, you don’t have to list the six things you don’t want.”

“Linguistically, it’s stupid, and I’m a stickler for correct English.”

Rosenthal, whose grudge against the coffee chain also extends to refusing to order by the trademark “tall” and “venti” sizes, next began yelling at the staffer to hand over her plain bagel, until the manager finally called the police, according to the Post.

Starbucks staff said Rosenthal incited the face-off by hurling profanities at the staffer.

“She called [the barista] an a–hole,” one worker who witnessed the incident told the Post.

Mario Laguë

A terribly sad day in Ottawa. Michael Ignatieff’s Director of Communications died this morning in a motorcycle accident. Here are the statements from the party leaders. I met Laguë once. There was a kindness and quiet about him. My thoughts are with his family.

Michael Ignatieff:

“It is with great sadness that we learned this morning that our Director of Communications, Mario Laguë, was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in Ottawa.

“A man of many talents and accomplishments, Mario was a beloved member of our staff, and a valued personal advisor to me and the entire Liberal team. A man of great integrity and spirit, Mario served his country in many capacities with honour and dignity. Whether as a public servant under Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, Ambassador to Costa Rica or in his most cherished role as a husband and father, Mario brought a bright light to everything he did.

“While we will miss Mario’s extensive talents, we will miss most of all his warmth, his humour, and his passion for Canada that inspired us all.

“On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our Parliamentary caucus, my thoughts and prayers go out to his family, loved ones and the many, many friends and colleagues that knew him.”

Stephen Harper:

“I was very saddened to learn of the sudden and tragic passing today of Mario Laguė, Director of Communications for the Leader of the Opposition.

“Throughout a varied and distinguished career, Mr. Laguė served his country with dedication both in Canada and abroad. His numerous roles included serving as Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Director of Communications, as Quebec’s Delegate in Venezuela and in Mexico, as Canada’s Ambassador to Costa Rica, and as Assistant Secretary to Cabinet – Communications and Consultations in the Privy Council Office.

“Mr. Laguė will be greatly missed by those who knew him personally and who worked with him throughout his career. His devotion and service to his country are his legacy.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. Our thoughts and prayers are with them in their time of grief.”

Jack Layton:

I was deeply saddened this morning to learn of the sudden death of Mario Laguë, Director of Communications to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. On behalf of all New Democrats, I wish to extend my heartfelt sympathies to Mr. Laguë’s family, friends and colleagues.

Beneath the political fault lines that we find ourselves negotiating each day, there is a foundation of deep respect among those who devote their lives to public service. No matter what political stripes we may wear, we all feel this loss profoundly.

Mr. Laguë was a man of gentle strength who devoted decades to building a better country. We admire the consistent integrity he brought to his work, whether he was advising a Quebec premier or Canadian prime minister, or representing us all overseas as a Canadian ambassador.

We reserve a special place in our hearts today for Mr. Lague’s wife and two children. I know so well that a political career is always a full-family endeavor. They too have given much. And as we mourn with them today, we do so as extended family.

Responding to Paul Wells…

Today Paul Wells wrote a piece in which he supported the thesis of a post I wrote back on July 22. However, he thought he noted a bit of an inconsistency between my post and later tweets,

I’ve been mystified by Stephen Harper’s willingness to squander so much political capital on an issue as trivial as the long-form census. Only slightly less so by the media’s piling on, treating this as a matter of great national importance, and by the level of emotional investment so many apparently attach to census-gathering.

The opposition? They’re just reveling in the unexpected bounty of low-hanging political fruit, and Tory self-inflicted injury.

I don’t get it. It’s just not that big a deal – either way.

— Charles W. Moore, New Brunswick Telegraph Journal, today

Stephen Harper seeks to diminish or destroy the Liberal Party to replace them with the Conservatives as Canada’s default choice for government. His greatest challenge is to dismantle the modern welfare state. If it can’t be measured, future governments can’t pander.

— Blogger Stephen Taylor, July 22.

That’s the choice, I suppose. Either what the Harper government is doing with the long-form census doesn’t matter, or it does. Obviously Moore has a lot more company than Taylor does. Indeed, lately Moore’s company includes Taylor: since July 22 this whole business has gotten too hot for Stephen’s liking and in his blog and on Twitter he’s joined the nobody-cares crowd, arguing that this whole business is an invention of the “push media,” by which he means news organizations that cover a story he doesn’t like for longer than he likes.

There is obviously a bit of confusion because after I wrote that blog post, I took to twitter and wrote this:

When members of Parl ConCensus Gallery aren’t push reporting stories on Census/Prorogation, they’re auditioning for Iggy’s PressSec on #lpcx — @stephen_taylor

I noted a similarity to that earlier sleepy story of the year called prorogation when the Toronto Star breathlessly plastered its front page describing a “fury” of Canadians against prorogation because 20,000 people had joined a Facebook group! Sure enough, while 20,000 people seeded interest in the story, the media took the ball from there and covered it and covered it for the next three weeks and it wasn’t too surprising that the millions of dollars in free media coverage netted that Facebook group over 150,000 members!

To address Wells specifically, he sees a bit of a disconnect between my suggestion that the PM is really using the census issue to dismantle the welfare state and my assertion that “nobody cares” about this story.

However, in my original article I wrote this:

QMI’s David Akin exclaimed surprise that from his cell within the beehive of special interests that is Ottawa, he was shocked to find that a full half — that other half — of Canadians aren’t upset about the changes to the census when it seems that’s the only thing the other bees seem to be buzzing about. The story that “just won’t go away” is a flurry of activity “inside the beehive”, because until you go outside, you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Two things: I still standby my thesis that I believe that chucking mandatory nature of the long-form is a move to dismantle the welfare state (and that this is a move in the right direction). And two, nobody cares outside of the beehive. It’s the media that is pushing the story outside of the beehive walls propelled by the loud buzz of special interests.

If you were to poll typical Canadians and asked them, “what is the biggest issue facing you and your family”, I’d venture a guess that most would not respond that “the changing of the long-form census to a voluntary survey” ranks high on their list.

“Nobody cares” is a simplification; nobody cares outside of the beehive. The swarm of special interests sure does care. Other Canadians? They’re at the cottage, or BBQing on their decks. Does bugspray keep bees away too?

As for my trouble-making behaviour, I make no apologies. Sometimes it’s fun to throw rocks at beehives.

And in non-census-related news…

A 20-year old letter allegedly written by Iranian “Green revolution” leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi to Iran’s then-president President Ali Khamenei is causing a lot of chatter within Tehran-watching circles this week. The letter was published on the website of the now-exiled past President of the Islamic Republic Abolhassan Banisadr and appears to expose a long-denied international assertion against the Iranian regime. The letter references the type of activity that suggests that Iran has participated in foreign terrorist attacks and has been fighting an aysymmetric proxy war against its enemies for quite some time now. Not that this is such a stunning revelation to anyone, but it is interesting nonetheless that internal government documents have come to light from within that acknowledges this.

Here is the letter, and I’ve reprinted a Google-translated excerpt below:

“After the plane is hijacked, we become aware of it. When the machine gun in a street opens in Lebanon and the sound turned it everywhere, we will know the case. After the discovery of explosives from our pilgrims in Jeddah, I’m aware of it. Unfortunately, and despite all the loss that the country has realized this move, yet like every time the operation can be called anytime the state occurs”

Our troops in Afghanistan are fighting an asymmetric battle against non-state actors in the south of that country. We’ve known for some time that factions within the Pakistan military have been sympathetic and supportive of Taliban fighters and we’ve known the same about Iran’s support as well. If the letter is valid, it helps the Iranian regime lose face over a lie it has laughably maintained among the international community. Though, such a “revelation” will come as a shock to no one. Iran for example provides billions of dollars in annual support to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Facing mounting opposition from opposition forces, Ahmadinejad has taken a hard-line stance to bolster his support among hardliners within his base. This, of course, is underscored by the development of a nuclear program to assert Iran’s independence, defense and dominance over the region. However, a nuclear program, while couched in anti-Semitic and bellicose terms, is at minimum state-to-state posturing.

The release of the letter that internally confirms that the regime has long participated in state-sanctioned proxied asymmetric attacks against not only foreign soldiers but against civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon among other countries, may simply be yet another element for fodder for an opposition posturing against a hard-line regime losing favour at home. This further suggests to Iranians that their leadership has been occupied with tangential foreign issues while domestic strife rises and quality of life diminishes.

To that point, this is also about two rival political factions blaming each other for failures in Iran’s history as an Islamic republic. Washington’s Daily Beast picks up on this thread,

“This letter has historical significance now,” Banisadr told The Daily Beast in a telephone interview. “At the time of its initial publication it was significant, too, because it clearly stated that the Iranian regime was involved in terrorist activities abroad; that these actions were not sporadic, but that it was the Iranian government that was engaged in terrorist activities.”

Neither Khamenei nor President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has commented on the letter. But people in Iran speculate that the letter re-emerged at this moment because Mousavi was threatening to reveal secrets in connection with the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, having been accused by current Iranian authorities of losing the war. And some hope that Mousavi’s secrecy standoff with the government might cast light on another dark moment in Iran’s history–the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988, which reportedly cost the lives of thousands of people. Within Iran, the executions are a taboo subject. But last month, Mousavi alluded to them, suggesting that his cabinet was kept in the dark.

The Mousavi letter also seeks to establish the credentials of the opposition leader as someone who was in government and who was an insider to the regime’s history. This contrasts with Ahmadinejad, the former mayor of Tehran who had little to no experience.