This is why I’ll never shop at OfficeMax again—even if everything is free

This sounds like:

a. Something I’d write.

b. An experience I would have.

This column is my first step toward recovering from a maddening return experience.

Source: This is why I’ll never shop at OfficeMax again—even if everything is free

Taking Aim at Target.

Yesterday, I spent the day in Canada, and driving over the border, something hit me. Not literally, but figuratively. The Canadian side of the border was bustling and vibrant, full of shops, pedestrians, successful businesses. We crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and entered the U.S. It was like we were entering a third world country. Desolate, bombed out buildings stood with weeds growing out of the windows next to shuttered factories. Poor people sold food and junk on the street corners from folding tables in front of the abandoned shopping mall. The only sign of life was the Native American-owned casino, and the vagrants propped up on street corners. It is, as Arianna Huffington has termed it, third-world America, and it’s literally at our national doorstep.

All this got me thinking… why? What has happened to our country? Why—solely on the basis of looks—does our northern neighbor seem to be so prosperous, and why do we seem to look so poor? I think the reason is what writer Bill Bishop has termed “the big sort.”

The big sort holds that conservative or liberal, we tend to gravitate toward people that think like we do.

Unfortunately, that’s creating two philosophically parallel countries that happen to physically overlap.

In one country, it’s OK to hate your neighbor because they are black, or jewish, or gay, or catholic, or educated. This is the America of Sarah Palin, Glen Beck, and Rush Limbaugh. It’s the America that believes purple wooden stakes at the end of your driveway will prevent U.S. marshals from treading on your property. It’s the America that looks to yesteryear for inspiration and longs for the way things were. It’s the America that is afraid and suspicious and believes in the boogie man. It is the America that looks out for number one.

In the other country, tolerance is the aspirant. This is the America of far less inhabitants. Maybe Rachel Maddow, Michael Moore, and Phil Donahue. It’s the America that believes we can rule by example, and that we can make life better for others. It’s the America that is hopeful and believes in the future. It is the America that believes it is our moral responsibility to look out for those who cannot look after themselves.

Which America is the correct America?

The first country, believes they are right and everyone else is wrong.

The second believes they may be right and that everyone else is buried in the sand.

I’m going to digress for a moment: I’ve had this blog for about 5 years, and consistently, the story that gets the most traffic is over 4 years old, and ironically is about a bad experience I had purchasing a giant piece of furniture at Target. [You can read the whole post here.]

Unfortunately, despite my anger, I went back to shopping at Target. Until about 2 weeks ago.

Around my birthday this year, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel was outed for making a large donation to an organization called Forward MN. It’s a political action group that supports extreme right wing candidates for election in Minnesota.

That upset me.

What upset me more is the official Target response to the donation. Essentially, they said “we’re sorry, BUT we can do what we want” read: “we don’t care.”

Why is that upsetting. Because Forward MN has been associated with political leaders and groups that advocate violence toward gays and lesbians. So while Target has argued that they gave to Forward MN to support their “pro-business” stance, I wonder, would Target have made the donation if Forward MN publicly advocated violence toward blacks, or asians, or women, or muslims, or born-again christians, or people with brown eyes… see where I’m going with this? It’s inexcusable—in this day and age—for any group to advocate for violence against any other group. It’s unconscionable for any corporation to openly support it.

It’s unconscionable especially when companies like Target have relied on gay and lesbian designers to make their company what it is and to catapult its cool quotient… which, shamelessly, Target has. I call upon the many gay and lesbian and GLBT-friendly designers (Todd Oldham, Isaac Mizrahi, Mossimo) to cease their support for a company that is doing such damage to the community and to our society.

Why is this acceptable? Why does the first country, in sneaky, cowardly ways support murder and violence? Is it not hypocritical that the same people that lead this country do not live by its rules? The recent revelation of former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman—who was the brainchild behind anti-gay, anti-gay marriage, and defense of marriage legislation—has admitted that he himself is gay. Why is it OK for Sarah Palin to speak about abstinence when her own daughter has a child out of wedlock?

The place that bickering about who puts what where in the bedroom has gotten the US to a place that is quite ugly. It is a place sprouted in fear and intolerance, and it is a place that is eminently un-American. It is led by religious extremism that has bastardized the meaning of christianity, and it is gobbled up by an increasingly edutained, undereducated, desperate, bored, and financially less prosperous American society. The solution to this problem is not government. In the words of Ronald Reagan. Government is the problem. It is the enabler that allows this divisiveness to prosper, because without it, we would have no political system, and with no political system, our economy would fall to the wolves.

I write this today with the hope that this will become the most read, most “hit” story on my blog. Not because I want to bitch about the state of our country, but because I hope that it gives pause to those who read it, and maybe that will help to make a difference.

When I was in 10th grade, my Social Studies teacher, Mr. Gustafson, encouraged us to “read everything you can get your hands on.” He was referring to news, and in particular, newspapers. It was the difference between being an intelligent citizen and becoming a victim of the system, he said.

All these years later, I still believe that. However, what passes as news today is considerably different than what passed as news 25 years ago. The stories on CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC hardly count as news, they’re sharply biased opinion pieces or edutainment, at best.

The problem with this is multi-fold. In the dying wake of print news, television journalism has become a bit of an oxymoron, and quickly Americans are finding themselves in a news drought. Kind of like food… we’re surrounded by it, but very little of it is of any notable quality.

The end game of this change is scary, and we’re seeing the beginnings of it now, though the tide has been shifting quickly and dramatically over the past decade. As journalism becomes increasingly scarce, and as information becomes more accessible, our collective appetite for it diminishes. (If it’s always accessible, why take the time to digest it?) So increasingly, the public has become prone to persuasive mini-soundbites, taking a cue from the page of a master marketer’s playbook. Half-truths, mistruths, distortions and outright lies pervade our political landscape. Honesty and integrity are dead.

The outcome? We have two political parties that are so horrifically unable to govern, that we are becoming victims of those that “lead” us. Republicans have learned that out of chaos comes control, and will spend every last moment undoing or unraveling any institution to create ever-more chaos. Democrats have learned that spineless government can weasel its way in to our lives in many ways, and will slither in to every corner of life.

Rhetoric has become meaningless and vocabulary has become charged with ignorance. “Canada,” “Socialist,” “European,” “Collective,” have all become swear words that enrage, incite fear, and shut down discussion rather than encourage it. The average square-state American has been lead to believe that the American way is the only way: Canada has it wrong. The U.K. has it wrong. God forbid, Sweden or Denmark, they might as well be hell on earth. Yet this same square-state American cannot reconcile this ignorant and myopic world view (made more narrow by her/his inaccessibility to actual news) with the ennui she/he feels at the state of affairs in America today, and it’s this insular stupidity that will be the undoing of this country.

Scarily, the crazy fringe—Dennis Kucinich, Sarah Palin, Jesse Ventura, Ron Paul, Lou Dobbs—seem to have a handle on this, and will continue to tap in to the ennui and confusion that the average American encounters daily. What will be the outcome of this? A multi party system like (gulp) Canada? A new enlightenment (unlikely). Or, more confusion? Probably the later, which will allow the Republicans to cultivate confusion and chaos, and allow the Democrats to slither in to every corner of our lives through tax or regulation.

I’m going to change my affiliation to Independent. Stay tuned, it can only get more interesting.

Toyota says tests cast doubts on story of runaway Prius in California –

Toyota says tests cast doubts on story of runaway Prius in California –

Phew. I’m glad that this case turned out to be questionable, and that Toyota has been successfully casting doubt on it.  Wonderful.  Now, let’s take a look at the other 1,400 cases

Articles like this insult readers intelligence, and rely upon stupid, uninformed people to sway opinion.  Clearly it works, otherwise Toyota’s PR folks wouldn’t be pushing this issue so hard.

Exxon: Corporate Hater?

15 March 2010

Dear Mr. Tillerson:

I hope this message finds you well.

I am sure that you receive many letters from angry environmentalists, angry customers, angry activists of all types. I am writing to you today not because I am angry, but because I am confused.

My family has long been a “Mobil family,” in fact, I’ve been Mobil customer for four decades. My dad, a semi-professional automobile racer, proudly displayed the Mobil logo on his car. My grandfather swore by Standard Oil. There is a Mobil on the corner of my street, and it has, for a long time, been my gas station of choice. I am proud to support my local franchise owner, and her employees. I have had both a Speedpass and a ExxonMobil MasterCard for many years and I gladly suggest Mobil to my friends, colleagues, students, and co-workers.

I write today with a request: Would you explain to me the policy of ExxonMobil with regard to its gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered employees? My understanding is that your policy enshrines discrimination against this group of people. While I understand that the leaders of large corporations often have to make unpopular choices for the good of the company and its shareholders, I cannot understand your seemingly discriminatory policy. Your policy toward GLBT people, Mr. Tillerson, simply does not make sense. By offending and in effect shutting out gay and lesbian consumers, it alienates the largest market of discretionary spenders in the world. Personally, I find your policy not only absurd—a bullying bout of Texas bravado—but offensive.

I am willing to hear the reasons for your choice, Mr. Tillerson, and I look forward to your expedient reply to my request. I ask that your letter of reply actually be from you, not an assistant or a corporate communications person, as I would truly like to know your thoughts on this matter and your reasons for this decision. I know you will understand, Mr. Tillerson, that until I receive your reply, I cannot in good conscience continue to patronize any ExxonMobil outlets. With this letter, I have put my Speedpass and ExxonMobil MasterCard on hiatus until I receive your reply. Your reply will determine whether or not I continue to be a proud ExxonMobil customer for the next four decades, or whether your reply will clarify what can seemingly be construed as a choice of intolerance and hatred.

I have posted this letter (as I will with your response) on my blog, and will share it with my friends, colleagues, students, and co-workers.

I look forward to your reply, Mr. Tillerson, thank you for your time and attention to this letter.


More info at: HRC | Corporate Equality Index.