Thursday, October 23, 2014

221. My Gosh, what' s going on?

My gosh, what is going on?

It seems like this summer has been one disturbing story after another. On the international scale, it began with Israel engaging in battle with the militant group Hamas. Then there was the passenger plane that was shot down by Russian separatists. Then, in graphic detail, we were introduced to ISIS and their horrific behavior in the Middle East and toward captured prisoners.

Domestically, the big story for several weeks was the controversial shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Then unbelievably, a gun range shooting instructor was killed when a nine year old was being taught how to shoot an Uzi. Finally, there was the nauseating story of the ice bucket challenge that seemingly was used to humiliate a student with Autism in Bay Village.

However, getting as much attention as those issues has been what been what is going on in the sports world. A second NBA owner will now be selling his team due to racist comments made to others in management. In the NFL, the conversation has surrounded the shocking video of domestic abuse by Baltimore Raven running back, Ray Rice. Unfortunately for the NFL, it did not stop there as several other players are facing domestic abuse charges and star running back Adrian Peterson is facing child abuse charges. Finally, on the local level, many were appalled when the Steubenville football player convicted of rape returned to the football team.  

It’s been one thing after another, each one with a different sense of emotion—anger, shock, disappointment and sadness. The commonality among headlines has been violence and cruelty directed at other human beings—often based on religion, race, gender and disability.

These issues have stirred debate after debate between newscasters, journalists, bloggers and experts. Rightly so, these are important issues and in some circumstances the issues are complex. There has been the normal share of grandstanding—exaggeration and hyperbole. There has also been rush to judgment and commentary by those with agendas, which likewise limit productive debate.
Time, space and redundancy prohibit a meaningful analysis of any of these in considerable detail. For many issues, I share the common concern and opinion, such as: Why does a nine year need to learn how to shoot an Uzi? How could Ray Rice hit his future wife like that? Is the Gaza strip ever going to be free of conflict?

On a social level, which is always interesting to me, there are parts of the conflicts that are difficult to understand. What are we going to do with terrorist groups and what possesses people to inflict such fear and anger toward others based on arbitrary religious beliefs?  Why do fans show such support to athletes; for it seems that a star player can do just about anything and still enjoy the love and forgiveness of fans?  When it comes to racial matters, why does it seem that political affiliation determines the one’s perspective of the issue?

Finally, there is the frustration of trying to get to the truth. From the Ferguson shooting to the NFL’s investigation of Ray Rice, there is an ever-changing circulation of fact, myth and denial. Obviously, before forming an opinion on the issue, it’s important to have all the facts. Too often, we’ve seen, and for obvious reason, there is lying, deceit and cover-up. With all of the news outlets and availability of social media, there is a lot of information and misinformation. And, just as appalling, there is the influence of financial considerations. Many times, companies and intuitions like the NFL, don’t make decisions based on principle, but rather financial impact.
It’s been a depressing few months. It has had a real effect on me—and it has been suggested that I stop watching the news. However, these are serious issues: sexual assault/domestic violence, terrorism, racism, war, shootings, bullying and child abuse. These issues should be regarded as avoidable and unacceptable, and we need a societal evolution that is less understanding and forgiving of acts of violence and cruelty. We need to stop accepting the excuses—whether they are political, religious/cultural or financial.

Enough is enough.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

220. How to shop by political leaning

Quite obviously, and for a couple of reasons, you will never see me inside of a Chick-fil-A. Nor will you see me inside of a Hobby Lobby store.

I just cannot support the political views of those corporations. I also do not like to support companies that engage in animal testing, use sweatshops, or damage the environment. The list of companies and issues goes on and on.

The problem is that it can be a daunting task to keep up with which companies have similar political values and engage in social responsibility. Fortunately, there is an app for that!

First seen on “The Colbert Report,” I’ve learned of a couple of apps that can be used to allow the customer to know where their money will eventually end up. Colbert introduced me and his viewers to “BuyPartisian.” Another somewhat similar app that I found for android is called Buycott.

They are comparable in that they alert customers where their money is going, although BuyPartisian is more politically-driven while Buycott is more issue-driven.

BuyPartisian will tell you what percentage of political donations by the company, its executives, even workers, goes to Republican or Democratic political candidates.

For example, it will let you know whether Apple or Starbucks donates more money, and how much more money, to each political party. Although it is common for companies to donate to both sides of the aisle, there is still a strategy of donating more to candidates and political parties that best represents the company’s issue. Simply scan the barcode of a product and the app will provide this information.

In Buycott, you can pick issues important to you (called campaigns) and after scanning the product, it will alert if it conflicts with any of those campaigns. There many campaigns along the political and social spectrum and you choose as many as you like.

The app will also tell you company information and provide a “family tree” since of course so many companies are actually part of much larger companies. One commentary notes that it was depressing to realize that the same eight parent companies make almost everything.

Some examples are campaigns avoiding companies that engage in sweatshops, animal testing and factory farming — or those companies that participate as a Washington Redskins or Michael Vick sponsor.

Other campaigns include supporting companies that value marijuana legalization and the Second Amendment.

There are even detailed campaigns for things such as “Boycott Absurd Arbitration Clauses,” “Executive Pay is Greater than 300 Times the U.S. Mean or Full-Time Employee,” and even “Stopping Common Core.”

For example, a quick scan of the Gatorade sitting next to me revealed one conflicting campaign: “Demanding GMO Labeling.” It further lets me know that Gatorade (actually its parent company, PepsiCo) donated an amazing $2.145 million to defeat Proposition 37 in California, which wanted to require GMO labeling. Companies such as Pepsi and Monsanto dedicated more than $46 million to defeat the ballot initiative. I guess this is my last Gatorade.

This is quite powerful information for the consumer, especially if choosing between two similar products. It truly allows consumers to vote with your wallet. After all, that is the direction of American democracy. Money wins elections.

Granted, if you are against almost everything, like my wife and me, it can be time-consuming and quite inconvenient searching purchases. But it can also lead to greater sense of social consciousness in knowing what my money is actually supporting. In that sense, I can feel a little better about my purchases.