Goldman, GSK & Royal Diversions

Goldman Sachs is in the news again. According to the New York Times the great financial octopus has been implicated in fixing aluminum prices among other enterprises. Apparently this has gouged consumers out of billions of dollars. Just another shell game that comes out of loosened government regulations. Banks can now enter the commodities markets and set prices as long as they are not too obvious about it. Goldman is now under investigation but surely this is merely the tip of the massive swindling operations that occur everyday. Imagine if they’re found guilty of any part of this the fine will be a mere drop in the bucket of Goldman’s annual profits from such shell games that are now common in the international banking community.

GlaxoSmithKline has now come under scrutiny for their dastardly drug testing methods in China. China is so deregulated that this giant drug company had been able to test drugs directly on humans and bypass any more humane methods entirely. According to the Guardian news: “Sir Andrew Witty will speak publicly for the first time about the cash and bribery scandal that has led to the arrest of four of the company’s senior executives.” This story deepens as GSK is not only testing drugs using no moral standards but also using bribery to prescribe them to people who apparently don’t need them. Remember now this practice of kickbacks has happened here also but who can pay attention to all these stories? The drug companies are huge, rich and powerful and if they want news blocked and little, if any press coverage, they generally get it.

Now who can ignore the royal baby. Today, Tuesday the 23rd of July, MSNBC stood for Massive New Baby Coverage. Honestly this was virtually the only news all day. Our system of tabloid journalism ignored news that might actually affect all of us and chose to concentrate on that story which has no bearing on our lives whatsoever. Maybe it isn’t even journalism any longer just sensationalism and diversion.

Perhaps now the baby has finally been born we can return to important matters like speaker Boenher bragging that the house he presides over ‘should be judged not on the laws they pass but on the laws they repeal!’ Maybe now people will realize that many representatives are evil servants of huge corporate conglomerates that only care about profit. Do we really want people to go hungry in this country and not have affordable health care? What about our students? Should we ignore the interest rates on the student loans? What about the ’Stand your ground’ laws? Shall we allow wanna be cops who ignore the 911 dispatchers telling them to stay in their cars to randomly shoot unarmed teenagers? This country needs an examination of its’ morals and to exercise more common sense. We need to get our heads out of the diversions and into the reality of politics and decent leadership!

Get off the cell phone and Drive! — Jake Shween

Washington Oil (Burning Man 4)

Margaret brushed the hair from her eyes in front of a large vanity mirror. Silently she rehearsed her speech. She was a bit fidgety in spite of the fact that she had been the spokesperson for the oil and gas consortium for over six years now. This was the first time however, that the entire Washington D.C. crowd would be present. Senators and congressmen, industry leaders including several Arab princes even several representatives from the Russian oil conglomerate Lukoil. She was in the midst of the oil boys. The old oil boys club.

It’s okay she thought to herself as she applied a fresh coat of lip gloss. She was remarkably attractive and she knew it. She had relied on her looks before to smooth things out with the naysayers. Just tell them what they want to hear and everyone will applaud. It was all about the money anyway. Make it sound environmentally safe and emphasize the profit. Worked every time and if there was any doubt simply grease a few palms. When had the Environmental Protection Agency ever stepped in any way? It was the same old routine. The agency might balk, some phone calls would be made, then business as usual. Ah the beauty of capitalism in the good old U.S.A.

She straightened her drink on the antique foyer table. The wood was reddish and quite old. Probably mahogany she remarked to herself, this place spares no expense. She looked in the mirror again and marveled at the seascape hanging on the wall behind her in the wide hallway. It captured her gaze for a moment and took her imagination away. The picture showed a wide beach on the one side that stretched as far as the eye could see, the other side was the ocean, with a dappling of clouds on the distant horizon.

She took a large swallow of the bourbon. Quite unladylike but it was just her in the hallway. Turning she walked up to the painting. It was a Jasper Cropsey. Probably worth a beamer at least. Back to the mirror, it was almost presentation time. She was waiting to hear her cue with a final glance at her baby blues. Wait a second! What was that? She had caught a flash in the corner of her eye. There it was again. She looked closely into the mirror which perfectly reflected the painting behind her. Right there on the distant beach something sparkled like a diamond. Was it the bourbon? Yet she knew it was something more. She turned and looked directly at the picture again. Suddenly it seemed dim and bleak.

Billy stood on the beach. It was early in the morning. He felt like he had been walking forever. He stopped for a moment and faced the ocean. He felt for the gem resting on his chest and held it up to the sunlight. It glistened brightly. He saw clouds in the distance. Clouds and blue. Blue eyes? No it couldn’t be. Just sky and forever. He held the gem and wanted to ask it a question. How much further would he have to travel alone?

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable” — John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Get off the cell phone and Drive! — Jake Shween

The Laurentian Highway (Burning Man 3)

Eddie Sargavy twirled the pen in his fingers. The room smelled of long extinguished cigarettes. He stared out the window at the Laurentian Highway. In the distance a sign flashed on the side of the Continental Can Company. Cee Cee Cee over and over again. One large Cee, one medium size cee that fit into the large arc and a smaller cee to complete the trio. He chuckled to himself, a frustrated chuckle. “See, see, see it says and how come I can’t come up with a damn thing” he said to himself. “Damn irony.”

Eddie had been up half the night. He was trying to come up with a concept for a new client. Mindlessly his hand sketched out a human shape on his scratch paper. He had to have something by morning. Lazily the lonely cars in the distance seemed to drone up the road, the noise eerily reminiscent of waves on a beach.

This was unusual for Eddie. He was the creative force of the advertising agency. Normally things would just come into his mind as if the muse never rested. Tonight was different though. The air felt heavy. It was October in Montreal and the air still felt like summer. The day had been unusually warm, 86 degrees, a new record. He had left the café early after meeting again with the client for what was supposed to be a mutual round of drinks. Walter Blytheville downed his Labatt beers hungrily like a man on a mission. That was now ten hours ago. Eddie imagined him sleeping peacefully. Why was this campaign so difficult? He had never had troubles with moral issues before. He simply could no longer wrap his mind around selling something that could be harmful to the environment or to people.

He looked down again at his scratch pad. There was a rough outline of a figure lying down. He scrawled a bit and drew the outline of a beach. A truck roared by in the distance. He drew some curls on the water, the impressions of waves, small waves. He stood up to stretch. His laptop continued it’s eternal screensaver waltz. It reminded him of a video game he played as a child. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a toothpick. What he really wanted was a cigarette. He turned and looked at the clock radio on the bedstand. 4:13 AM. He was supposed to make a presentation at ten. His flight back to New York was at two. He was in a bind, a dead zone, he needed a way out of his creative rut. He needed a way to numb his conscience.

It occurred to Eddie how small he really felt, that did it. He reached into his suitcase and retrieved a pack of camel cigarettes. He threw the door open to the motel room, the classic Mirabel Express. He could’ve stayed anywhere on the agencies tab but he loved the rustic little cheesy places.  Something about reminding himself where he had come from and how far he had come. Several drags into his cigarette he decided he was over his moral crisis. “We’re all gonna die sooner or later so who the hell really gives a damn? Who am I, the pope?” He quietly closed the door and extinguished the stub in a Styrofoam cup. He walked back over to the desk and tapped the keyboard of the laptop. “Wake up little prince” he said trying to humor himself awake. It was then that he looked at his scratchpad. His mouth fell open. He shook his head and patted his cheeks. The figure he had drawn was no longer there……..

Billy was not sure how long he had slept on the sand. He had awoken in the night. It felt like something was brushing against his skin. More than once he felt it but each time he saw nothing. Just a vast expanse of stars overhead. Not a crab, a night bird or even a sea flea in sight. The ocean was calm. The waves made a gentle rumble that sounded far away. Billy was thirsty now and he knew it was time to go further. He felt for the pendant around his neck. He held it to his chest, the feel of it was comforting. He stood easily and with the ocean on his right, Billy walked on.

“I shall be found with ‘Indians’ engraved on my brain when I am dead. A fire has been kindled within me, which will never go out.” — Helen Hunt Jackson

Get off the cell phone and Drive! — Jake Shween