How Corporate Lobbyists Can Engineer a Train Wreck

Corporate lobbyists are great at championing reform while killing it.

“Corporate crises consultants” (yes, there are such creatures) are just corporate lobbyists who have patented a formula allowing their wrongdoing clients to champion reform while simultaneously killing it.

A classic case is now unfolding around last year’s derailment of a 2-mile-long Norfolk Southern freight train in East Palestine, Ohio. The community’s air, soil, water and people suffered a massive spill of toxic chemicals.

So, following the corporate crisis script, Step One was for the CEO to offer “thoughts and prayers” for victims. Step Two: Reject corporate blame but promise a “thorough investigation.” Three: Magnanimously pledge to work with lawmakers to prevent future disasters. And Four: Quietly unleash your pack of lobbyists to gut any effective change in the law.

Norfolk honchos are now pushing hard on Point Four. CEO Alan Shaw recently reiterated the corporation’s promise of reform, but — shhhh — he quietly orchestrated a $17 million increase in the rail industry’s congressional lobbying to kill or drastically weaken safety proposals that Norfolk had publicly embraced after the wreck. But he keeps talking reform, slyly assuring locals that Norfolk would be “continuing our engagement” with lawmakers.

“Engagement” is a euphemism for payments. Rail executives have poured beaucoup bucks into such compliant Congress critters as Rep. Troy Nehls, the Republican chair of a rail safety subcommittee. He recently wailed that Congress must not impose “more burdensome regulations and all this other stuff” on the poor multibillion-dollar giants. Also, Sen. John Thune, an industry-financed asset who formerly was among the ranks of corporate lobbyists for railroads(!), has tried to derail even modest safety proposals following last year’s derailment, callously calling them a “stalking horse for onerous regulatory mandates and union giveaways.”

May I just say the obvious? These people are disgusting excuses for human beings.

What Happened to the ‘Miracle of Meatless Meat’?

“Step right up, folks, and bite into the wondrous future of meat!”

Cheap meat! Ethical meat! Animal meat you love — beef, chicken, pork, fish, etc. — all produced without animals! It’s the miracle of “meatless meat” — a viscous mass derived from “fetal bovine serum” and then grown not on ranches but in huge vats in corporate factories. Science marches on!

Until it meets reality. Just three years ago, lab-meat hucksters had bedazzled high-tech investors and gullible media commentators into believing the food future was now. Bill Gates, Peter Thiel and other tech billionaires had jumped in with big bucks, as did Tyson Foods and global hedge funds. A New York Times editorialist exulted, “This isn’t science fiction,” demanding that President Joe Biden “supercharge this industry” by putting our government’s “money and muscle” into “a moonshot for meatless meat.”

So … years later, where’s the beef?

Still on the hoof. The wondrous claim that food futurists could “grow” millions of tons of meat in only 15 days from a single drop of cells was just another pile of bovine excrement. They were raising money rather than doing science, so their billions of dollars and industrial vats of “cell slurry” have only produced a few sad strands of cultured protein. That’s not a hamburger … much less a future.

Even if these monetized technocratic “geniuses” could eliminate animals from animal agriculture, that’s not real change, for it leaves the monopolistic industrial structure and the profiteering anti-democratic ethic of today’s food system in place. Moreover, agriculture is not a technology; it is a rich blend of culture, history, family and community. Change will not come from the hubris and dull imaginations of plutocratic tech billionaires, but from long-term cultivation of these organic, grassroots sources of progressive policies.

Jim Hightower