Ultra-gifted Lucius Shepherd pointed up a UK Independent article noting that the current military actions in Libya spearheaded by the US, UK and France are mysterious and possibly incomprehensible. I don't think it's controversial to state that the majority of people in the west are uneager for more war and would prefer to reduce, rather than increase, military conflicts. So the question arises, why is this war taking place, and who benefits from it and all the other conflicts? It's fair to say that the misery level is pretty high among average people in the US, and I doubt it's a whole lot better in the UK and France. My study of UK salaries for my type of job, housing prices, food, and petrol prices last year showed me that there are some pretty deep misunderstandings here in the US about "standard of living" and about what people receive in terms of government aid or supplements in the UK. Simply: they get less. UK salaries are lower than US salaries in real terms, and everything costs, on average, considerably more. Move to the UK? Not unless I suddenly morph into Madonna.
So, are arms manufacturers driving these conflicts? The largest arms manufacturer in the world in terms of revenue and earnings isn't Boeing, isn't Northrop-Grumman, and isn't Lockheed, Raytheon or General Dynamics - all companies that were previously major employers in Southern California (Northrop still is - I guess Raytheon is doing OK too). These are all companies I had some familiarity with due to neighbors, friends, and my years of work in corporate development. No - the largest arms manufacturer in the world is BAE. This nice lady is Linda Hudson, President/CEO of BAE Systems, who late Friday, issued a statement to employees regarding what clearly seemed to her at the time to be a certain shut-down of the US government due to Capitol Hill controversies.
Overall, all of the top 10 weapons manufacturers, all of whom are based in Europe, the UK, or the US, seem to be doing relatively well. Are they making money because of the ongoing, seemingly endless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya? Are they further making money because of ?? Well, Boeing just laid off 1,000 more workers in Southern California, tastefully right after signing a deal worth 4 years of corporate revenue with China.
We do not hear such reports of BAE Systems, which employs nearly half of the parent company BAE's workforce. They have grown by tens of thousands of employees in the past two years. I had not heard of Linda Hudson before this a.m. She was the first female President/CEO of General Dynamics, which is no slouch position. In 2009, she acceded to being President/CEO of BAE Systems, which, although it is a division of BAE, with revenues of $32.42 billion worldwide, is probably a bit more challenging a position than her previous work at GD. I am as impressed by her NY Times interview as I've been by any female executive interview I've read in recent years.
As to why I had not heard of her, people sometimes forget that gender bias is not only real, it's pervasive to the point that Linda Hudson has probably 5% of the media coverage of male executives in charge of company divisions a tenth of the size of BAE Systems, men who have literally no influence in comparison to her daily role. She was ranked only 43 on Fortune's list of the 50 most powerful women in 2009. Most people would assume that Oprah Winfrey tops this list - but for the past five years, that slot has gone to someone many who don't read Fortune have never heard of: PepsiCo's CEO Indra Nooyi.
As to the power differential among multinational corporations making soda pop or nuclear submarines (a major project of BAE), PepsiCo's annual revenue of $60 billion, while still less than the amount cut from the US Government's budget Friday night in an historic agreement between the Republican Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader (I think they got up to $78 billion, but it might actually be zero, the way they account) - oh, where was I? - PepsiCo is twice the size of BAE in revenue. And it's not the world's largest soda pop maker. That would be of course, the Coca Cola Company. If you've ever yearned for Mexican Coke, you know that they truly are world-wide.
It is not, I think, to the advantage of either PepsiCo or the Coca Cola Company to have constant worldwide conflict destroying their customer base. A dead person can't drink soda. It's doubtful they would leave a provision in their will mandating soda purchase. The restaurants or other vendors who comprise the majority of any soda company's business are unlikely to be able to vend the product following a bomb or missile attack.
So, who is benefiting from these wars? Certainly not the families of those risking their lives in conflict. Families sacrifice so their their loved ones can defend our country.
It should go without saying that, when defending our safety and freedom, most of us would be willing to sacrifice a lot, and our troops put their lives on the line every day. But is, for example, the Libyan conflict about "our safety and freedom?" It's hard to picture that. The air battle seems to have stopped Gadhafi's troops from killing many thousands. But unfortunately, that does go on every day around the world - usually while those of us in the west never hear of it and go on about our daily lives having no idea someone else's family is being torn apart across the world.
So, are giant corporations encouraging this war for increased profits and control of oil? With the exception of retail giant WalMart, which has recently gone "green" corporate-wide (so maybe we shouldn't "boycott" or bag on WalMart quite so much) although the many-year controversy over WalMart's treatment of female employees had caused the company class action pain right now with the WalMart bias class action suit . . .
Maybe we could look at the other tier of corporate giants as to who is, if not driving, then benefiting from, these constant conflicts in areas related to oil. Afghanistan, while a terrible conflict, I think is not directly related to oil. It was a clear response to the attacks of 9-11, which were, most likely, related to oil. Many understand Al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism as being about "religion," which it must be, for the average person involved in or just sympathetic to, the messages of Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders. But Osama, as many have pointed up, was long-ago jettisoned from his oil-rich family due to his radical views and actions. It's obvious to just a casual observer that Al Qaeda provides an attractive means to express the frustrations of those who are poor, left-out, and do not share in the oil-based wealth of the Middle East. To someone like me who doesn't even much follow Middle East politics, it was painfully obvious years ago that the regimes who are now under challenge region-wide, just experienced what happens when people finally get tired of being whipped into an angry frenzy of hatred over an indirect enemy, the United States, or those who are "different," like the Israelis, thus directing attention away from their direct, daily enemy - the whole hidebound, hierarchical, exploitive mess that is so many of the countries in the region, whether led by military dictators or family oligarchies.
But but but . . . back to who is more evil? Defense contractors or oil companies? Who's got the muscle? BAE and GD and Raytheon, Boeing or Northrop (all engineer-led companies - i.e. they "make stuff") or those who "take stuff." Oil companies "extract" and control.
So. Beyond WalMart, the world's highest revenue companies are dominated by the "energy providers" -
#2 worldwide - Royal Dutch Shell: $368 billion annual revenue - more than ten times the revenue of any one defense contractor, including BAE.
#3 ExxonMobil: $301 billion - nearly 10 times the revenue of BAE.
#4 British Petroleum: $298 billion revenue
* we have just achieved 1/3 of the US government's annual expenditures and half of its revenue - Federal, of course - they never count state or local when they do combined government revenue, which as percentage of GDP dwarfs that of European nations, which lack things that the US has, like STATES.
#5 Saudi Aramco: $233 billion
#6 Total S.A. (French): $212 billion
We are now up to $1.5 trillion
#8 ConocoPhillips: $198 billion
#9 Sinopec (China): $197 billion
#15 Chevron: $167 billion
#17 PetroChina: $149 billion
Among the others in the top 20 corporations by revenue worldwide are auto manufacturers: Toyota and Volkswagen, and energy production - State Energy Grid of China. Also in this group are GE ($150 billion) and Dutch company Vitol ($195 billion), the largest privately-held firm on the list. Vitol is primarily an energy trading company, by the way. It's an energy conglomerate including oil.
This list from a certain perspective, could be seen as the world's global warming engine. Literally and figuratively, as it ranges from every extractor and refiner of oil worldwide, to those who finance such ventures, to those who make products that use the energy - autos, trucks, and in the case of GE - everything else.
Viewed in this manner, the arms manufacturers appear to be model citizens. Arms manufacturer BAE, is led by a female engineer who's spent her life learning how to build up companies and make things work. The others all have roots in aviation, such as Los Angeles County's only Fortune 500 company, Northrop Grumman, which was originally two different companies founded by 1) Jack Northrop (aviation pioneer) and 2) Leroy Grumman (aerospace pioneer). Now, this could be apocryphal, but I have heard that Northrop is currently working on a project that can only be described as "beam me up, Scotty" in the real world - yes, matter transportation.
It's a little more clear when we speak about "war for oil," is it not? It's a little unsophisticated to "blame George Bush" when the type of economic dominance I just described is brought to the fore. Can one blame him, or blame any US politician when this type of world-dominating economic muscle is discussed? There is not one other industry on the planet that, under the pressure of even two or three of the oil giants and one auto manufacturer, wouldn't fold like an empty Coca Cola can when it's stepped on.
It's what we're dealing with. Review what occurred during the BP Gulf Oil Spill. How long it took for anything to be done. What happened later - shutdowns of drilling in the gulf - for the environment? Or, to help BP recover its profit margin by suppressing the activities of other companies eager to move forward and grab its oil share?
As to the power of creativity, the Book View Cafe Breaking Waves anthology earned over $550 for the Gulf Oil Spill fund of the New Orleans Community Foundation.
Don't make offensive videos that turn people off and make them sick to their stomachs. Work to make yourself and others free. So we won't have to keep dying ourselves and killing other people to make these companies mo' money mo' money mo' money. You can't legislate it. You can't elect someone to stop it because they'll get nowhere. You can only strangle it. And get the hell off WalMart's back while you're at it. By "going green" they're doing more to strangle it than any state's population could do.