BP has poured barrels of advertising dollars into the media promising to make things right for those suffering as a result of the oil company's profit-motivated misdeeds in the Gulf of Mexico. The company's very existence is on the line and they know it! While their pleas sound reassuring, the record of large corporations acting with honor and accountability is not.
These big companies have found it is cheaper to change the public perception than their business practices. Based on Exxon/Alaska, Chevron/Ecuador and too many other environmental disasters to list here, we should be wary of any pleas and promises by BP.
Once this crisis has moved below the fold, and to the back page, BP will do what big corporations have always done: mislead, defer, stall and deny they are liable. BP is probably already working on its postcrisis strategy. They likely will put millions into a legal defense fund and hire law firms who will make careers out of stonewalling and waiting out their victims.
Let's put this in perspective: If this was a terrorist act, the United States would have declared war on BP. But because it was motivated by selfish greed and not political ideology BP gets a pass? The results to America are the same either way.
There are trillions of dollars to be made from oil. These greedy pirates will not stop until all that money is made. Corporations do not care about anything but profits. Let's take that away from them. Mark my words, BP will weasel out of paying for all it has wrought!
Brian Valsavage, St. Petersburg
Change the mind-set
I would like to see the decisionmakers responsible for what appears to be the gross negligence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster tried in civil court, if not criminal court. This includes the onsite supervisors of both BP, Halliburton, Transocean Ltd., and the Minerals Management Service. This would also include those corporate and government higher-ups who were aware of the choices that put the welfare of the public, the animals and the flora in jeopardy for the sake of increasing company profit.
Those people who seem to lack a moral compass in decisions regarding the welfare of humanity, animals and plants might be deterred from making negligent decisions if they thought that they could end up personally responsible financially and most certainly would face jail time. This might improve their ethical judgment.
I think that going after the individuals, possibly even more than going after the companies, would serve two purposes:
1. Spur the front-line and supervisory personnel to make better moral judgments.
2. Tend to protect the company from complete financial ruin, protecting them from the stupid negligence that so many companies and government oversight organizations have lately fallen prey to. (Not just in this occurrence, but on Wall Street, in the SEC, and the banking industry, etc.)
Yes, the companies should pay to clean up their mess. Most important, the corporate mindset must be changed to consider that the decisionmakers will be liable personally for their decisions.
Lisabeth Wright, Seffner
Inside the shelter, there's a storm June 6, story
With institutional change, grumbling is predictable
According to the article, the Spring "ran through a string of executives" before hiring current CEO Joanne Lighter to, as she stated, "make changes," including calling for people to be more accountable. It seems as though that's exactly what she's doing.
Tiffany Carr, president and CEO of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, says in the article that "change at shelters prompts strong feelings." It's not just at shelters, or even at nonprofits, where change evokes such strong sentiments. I've worked for corporations where changes were directed from senior management. Whether these were changes to processes, business goals or mission/vision, there were always some people who grumbled, complained and resisted. They much preferred the "comfort" of doing things the way they had always done them, even if that way was no longer viable or productive.
It sounds to me as though there are some "grumblers" associated with the Spring — disgruntled former employees and volunteers — who liked things the way they were. When the board directed the new CEO to make changes to the way things were, these change-resisters decided to go public and take their "grumblings" to the St. Petersburg Times.
Change in any business enterprise — nonprofit and for-profit — is inevitable. You just hope the changes will lead to improvements. In the case of the Spring, board chairman Charlie Hounchell thinks the Spring "is headed in a new, better direction." I hope the "grumblers" realize that going back to the way things were is not a wise or viable option, and I hope there are no more "grumblers" holding them back from their goals.
Diane Kornick, Clearwater
Other ways to save energy
When it comes to energy policy, it seems both the people and our government are using one carrot while ignoring the benefits of using a different one. Yes, it is good to reward companies for developing new, less polluting types of energy and techniques for better gathering and distributing the less efficient forms. But what about challenging manufacturers of every product in the market to come up with ways to use less of all forms of energy, and publicly reward them for their efforts, too?
Some areas for improvement are obvious: cut extraneous packaging to just what is needed for protection of the item in transport and storage until it becomes property of the end consumer. Corporate branding all over the packaging is a form of advertising that often means excessive packaging, and it just gets thrown out because it serves no other purpose. It would be better if we could reuse such packaging for more than just taking out the garbage or sending gifts to distant relatives.
Less obvious, but equally important, is a shift from first-use plastic to recycled plastic or plant material for floor coverings, containers and other decorative accessories.
Don't wait for government orders to increase fuel efficiency in automobiles, or anything else for that matter. Reward companies that do it before a law must be passed, and punish those who drag their feet until the bitter end. The same is true for agricultural methods that use large amounts of water, depleting the aquifer and requiring that water be trucked in for other uses.
In the 1950s and '60s, American companies worked on getting the nation ready for space travel — and then put a man on the moon. We can all work today to get ready to create an energy-efficient world. What are we waiting for?
Willi Rudowsky, St. Petersburg
Green needs to be good
The environment is something that I believe all of us are aware we must work to preserve for our children and grandchildren. I try to do my part, just as many others do. However, I will not sacrifice quality to purchase "green" products.
I have not found many of the environment-friendly products to have the quality of my existing brands — even though they are more expensive. Give me a good product which is environment- friendly and I will choose it every time.
Kathy Stock, Lutz
A nation immobilized by yipping poseurs June 5, Garrison Keillor column
An unseemly stab
Are you kidding me? What does the tea party movement have to do with the oil spill? Typically Garrison Keillor is a pretty good writer, keeps his pieces short and to the point. However, he violated the utmost rule of writing, which is, stay on topic! Placing a stab at the tea party in the middle of his piece was dishonest and inflammatory.
Keillor, if you want people to consider your satire at all relevant, either come out and honestly state your disdain for the tea party in a piece strictly devoted to your opinion or adhere more closely to what you learned in school and that is, stay on topic!
P.S.: If you really want to know what the tea party's position is on Medicare and Social Security you should ask a tea partier; it is obvious you don't have a clue.
Kristina Gionet, Gulfport
It's better than no milk | June 8, letter
Milk is for cows
A recent letter makes the claim that flavored milk should be provided in schools to encourage more kids to drink the stuff.
The letter also claims that milk is the leading source of vitamin D. Actually, the human body can manufacture and assimilate all the vitamin D it needs with two 10-minute sessions in the sunshine per week. What could be easier?
Even if the issue of animal cruelty in the production of milk is left out of the equation (dairy is the other half of the veal industry; dairy products come from the milk being withheld from the baby calves), it is still the wrong thing to push onto kids.
We should not convince children that they need to drink the milk of another species or that they need to drink it past infancy. No other animal does this. These are the reasons contrived by the dairy industry to sell its product. Cow's milk is suited to the nutritional needs of calves, not humans. Most humans are lactose intolerant, and milk increases your chances of developing food allergies, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. All this information is easily verified with a Google search.
Leave the milk for the cows. Have juice, water or a flavored soy beverage — all much healthier than milk.
Jim Patterson, Tampa
Praise for Bay Pines
No matter how good an organization is, you can always find someone who will complain about it. There is no hospital in this area as busy as the Bay Pines VA Medical Center. In addition to the many patients in the wards, nursing home and domicile, many thousands of outpatients come in for treatment. No other hospital has to cope with this volume.
As a volunteer, I constantly hear comments from patients about the excellent treatment they receive, usually at no cost. The staff is very caring and competent. The facilities are maintained beautifully, and even the floors sparkle.
I was recently a patient in another major local hospital, and I can assure you that Bay Pines would not permit some of the neglect and questionable treatment I experienced. Perhaps a thorough investigation of all Pinellas County hospitals would show that the constant criticism of Bay Pines is one-sided and prejudicial.
Robert A. Stanton, Seminole
BRAULIO ALONSO: 1916-2010
The passing of a great man
One month ago, a guest speaker in my high school classroom, Dr. Braulio Alonso, challenged students, stating, "I want you to read, read, read … and when you're finished, read some more! … and always remember to treat people, all people, with dignity and respect."
The admiring students clapped and cheered for Dr. Alonso, and waited in line to have their picture taken with this great man whom their school is named after. He made many visits to his namesake school to speak with students.
They will always remember Braulio's hallowed remark that "Education is the greatest affirmative action program in the history of the United States of America." Public school leaders, students and community members will remember this past weekend as a time when a good human being and humble public servant left this world smiling back to us saying, just call me Braulio.
J. Miliziano, Tampa