The Awards of the Day

There are times that stretch one’s imagination when you have to wonder how far out of touch an individual (or even a group) can be from reality.  I’d like to say that today was one of those special days but, to be honest, there is no dearth of days where it is relatively easy to find one of those special people.   Looking back just a few months, it was Ricky Santorum who could be counted on to get the “Head in the Butt” award. Unfortunately (not really), he has pretty much disappeared from the public eye so it is time to look for other deserving souls.

Today, there was one obvious person who has positioned himself as an obvious contender.  A man who has continually stepped up to become a folk hero to those who have obviously lost their way – the Tea Party.  He continues to demonstrate phenomenal short-sightedness and baseless self-importance.  Aside from trashing the Supreme Court today for their decision on the Obama health care law, he gets this award for his continued attempts to basically blackmail the Senate by halting bills that are actually relevant and important with amendments that have no bearing or relationship to the issues at hand.  Paul has repeatedly insisted that Senate leaders schedule votes on amendments he’s pursuing on issues such as abortion or gun rights — or he’ll delay major, bipartisan legislation.  This week, Paul demanded a guaranteed vote by the Senate first on defining life as starting at conception, as part of a bill renewing national flood insurance.  Will this bring the country to its knees?  Not by a long shot but it is one of the reasons that Congress has an approval rating barely above 10%.  Without question, Rand Paul gets today’s “Head in the Butt” award.

Rand – take a bow!


For all those who might take offense and feel this is a bit over the top, I would submit that you too have likely made that journey where things look bleak and it is time to return to the past.  For those, I offer this thought –

credit to: Inc.


Time to buy some Oreos

As a followup to my last blog it makes sense to continue to recognize the companies that take a stance in this critical area of diversity.  While I believe it is increasingly important to not spend time and money on those anachronistic and medievil thinking companies, it is probably even more important to frequent and support those companies who take the risky stand of supporting the LGBT community.

For today, it is really all about Kraft Foods –

Image credit:


While I have always loved Oreos, this has been one treat that hasn’t played well in trying to keep the pounds in control – my issue being if one or two are good, then 9 or 10 are even better.  When I make the choice of where I spend my calories, I’ll have to admit it usually goes to ice cream and jujyfruits.  In staying true to my commitment to support those companies who support this cause, I’ll buy a package of oreos (one of the smaller ones given my lack of control) and have a few with a glass of milk.


Speak a bit louder with our Wallets

As anyone whom has followed my postings has read, I have considerable issue with those people who feel it is their right and their collective duty to make sure that everyone in our country follow their rules and beliefs.  While we have made progress as a country in some areas, there remain those individuals and groups who yearn for days of old – when actually the lives of most anyone other than white, protestant men pretty much sucked a good deal of the time.  Given the collective stupor that many of the people in this country walk thru life with on a daily basis, I get increasingly scared of what might happen with this next election.  The Republicans speak to this being probably the most important election of our lifetime – and I am inclined to agree but for obviously different reasons.  We have made progress and as a society I would submit we are more open and less condemning in many ways – most credit to our young people but also a bit of credit to those of us who came of age in the 60’s, didn’t forget everything that decade was about, and brought up children who can think and feel and can accept that which doesn’t necessarily mirror their own image.

But it is time to help push back on those who don’t see a path forward for the minorities in our country.  In specific, I want to make it known to those so clearly supportive of withholding the rights of individuals who are part of the LGBT community.  While society is definitely moving (albeit slowly) in the direction of universal recognition of the individual’s rights in this situation, it is time to turn up the pressure where possible.  Not a new notion at all but we now need to employ every tool and option available to make our collective voices and wants known.  That one tool that rarely fails is the economic one – and in this case it means we need to make clearer decisions about where we shop and what companies get our dollars.

MSN recently took this to task on their website and it gave me the opportunity to learn a bit more about where I shouldn’t be shopping.  Some of the anti-gay companies are obvious and well known.  There are some that surprised me and I know there are many more I have not even found at this point.

I would hope that anyone who has actually taken the time to read this far is someone who is open-minded enough to consider this action.  I’ll assume that anyone who supports this discrimination stopped reading awhile ago – maybe a big assumption given what I believe the average education level of many of those so visciously against this idea.  Not sure many of them have ever used a computer or the internet – and more amazing that they are proud of that fact.

In any case, here is the data from that posting (and all credit to MSN) –

First, the bad –


The 2008 landmark Proposition 8 same-sex-marriage battle in California can be viewed as a line-in-the-sand, either-you-are-with-us-or-against-us moment. With record amounts of money raised, Prop 8 was the election-year’s cause célèbre on both sides of the fence, with every business intensely scrutinized for where it stood.

One business that felt a backlash in the wake of Prop 8 was Cinemark (CNK), the nation’s third-largest theater chain, after CEO Alan Stock donated $9,999 to the “Yes on 8” campaign. The donation prompted opponents of the referendum to initiate a boycott on Cinemark.

Exasperated officials of the theater chain pointed out that Stock’s contribution was a personal decision and that the company had not taken a position on the referendum.


S. Truett Cathy, founder of the popular chicken sandwich maker, is a devout Christian and his beliefs are reflected in how the private company operates. All Chick-fil-A restaurants close on Sundays and the company donates to community service organizations.

Not every community group can expect a donation from Cathy, of course. Late last year, the advocacy group Equality Matters examined the company’s charitable contributions and said it discovered that a large proportion of the aid went to organizations noted for their anti-gay beliefs.

In 2009, for example, through its charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation, Chick-fil-A donated $1.7 million to groups including the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Eagle Forum and others opposed to gay rights.

After news broke of where Chick-fil-A’s charitable donations were going, students at schools like Northeastern University and New York University protested the chain’s presence on their campuses. The administration at Northeastern eventually scrapped plans to bring a Chick-fil-A to its campus.

In response, Chick-fil-A vice-president Donald Perry published a letter in the Boston Globe in which he asserted that the contributions were made to assist faith-based organizations, and critics were wrong to assume that the giver was exercising an anti-gay agenda


Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) has yet to add gender identity to its employment nondiscrimination policy. Employees of the company also do not get domestic partner benefits, except in states where it is legally required. Because of that, Wal-Mart received a low score of 40 in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

Additionally, CEO Mike Duke stepped into controversy in 2008 when he signed a petition seeking a ban on gay adoption in the company’s home state of Arkansas.

More recently, the big box retailer stirred up controversy when it gave shelf space to a book about “overcoming homosexuality.”

Given that the book was by no means a best-seller, that Wal-Mart, which usually stocks popular mainstream titles, chose to carry it could be an indicator that it is throwing its weight behind one side of the issue.

Urban Outfitters

Behind Urban Outfitters’ trendy, liberal image lies a conservative core. Richard Hayne, the company’s founder and chief executive, made headlines last year when it was revealed that he had donated money to former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. The kicker? Haynes initially denied he ever made the donation. When presented with evidence, he said: “I’ll have to look into this. I don’t think this is right.”

Former tween queen Miley Cyrus, who has voiced support of equal rights for gays, has said she would boycott the store.

Because of the clientele it serves, Urban Outfitters is seemingly caught in an awkward standoff between appealing to its core demographic and its founder’s personal beliefs. Case in point: the company sold T-shirts saying “I Support Same-Sex Marriage” during the battle over California’s Proposition 8, but the merchandise was quickly pulled from the stores’ shelves. The move generated consumer complaints, which were not assuaged by the company’s assertion that the T-shirt was pulled because of low sales.


And which companies are least accommodating? The list starts with a company whose policies changed after a merger.

Before merging with Exxon, Mobil was one of the most progressive Fortune 500 companies, with a nondiscrimination policy that covered sexual orientation and a benefits policy that extended health coverage to employees’ gay and lesbian partners. Those benefits were rescinded when the merger went through, in 1999. In every years since, ExxonMobil (XOM) shareholders have attempted to get sexual orientation added back to the company’s nondiscrimination policy, to no avail.

Typically, the company lets the resolution be introduced at its annual meeting, recommends a no vote and lets shareholders shoot it down. This year, however, the Houston company asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to prevent a resolution from getting to the table, a request the regulatory agency denied. So another shareholder vote was conducted at the energy company’s annual meeting, in late May, and once again a motion to include sexual orientation in the company’s nondiscrimination policy was roundly defeated.

ExxonMobil has consistently received a score of zero in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index, which measures the level of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in American workplaces. This year, for the first time, the company received a negative score.

And now the good  –

Goldman Sachs

The Human Rights Campaign, a national organization that promotes equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, recently made Goldman Sachs (GS) chief Lloyd Blankfein its first national corporate spokesman for same-sex marriage.

His agreement to promote marriage equality has already cost Blankfein’s company at least one client, Blankfein told Out on the Street, a gay-rights advocacy group in New York’s financial district.

“They didn’t want to continue a relationship that they had with us in money management,” Blankfein was quoted as saying. Blankfein opted to protect the client’s anonymity, but his remarks suggest the account was a high profile one: “(I)f you heard the name, it wouldn’t surprise you,” he said.


More than a decade ago, the last place one may have expected to find forward thinking on the issue would be inside an aerospace and defense corporation. That’s why Boeing (BA) made headlines in 1999 for being an early adopter of same-sex domestic partner benefits for employees.

A decade later, Boeing took up the fight to extend domestic partnership rights in Washington state, where the company was founded and retains a significant manufacturing base.

Boeing supported a 2009 referendum on a domestic-partnership law approved by the state Legislature. Other Pacific Northwest companies, including Microsoft (MSFT), Starbucks (SBUX), Nike (NKE) and RealNetworks (RNWK), were quick to join Boeing in a corporate coalition to advance the cause. (Microsoft owns and publishes MSN Money.)

The state passed same-sex legislation earlier this year, but at the time of this slide show’s publication, a referendum overturning the law appears headed for a November vote.

A joint statement from the coalition read: “Overturning this law would undo years of equal rights progress made in Washington state. We do not believe that this step backward would be in the best interest for the future of our state.”

J.C. Penney

It’s unlikely that J.C. Penney (JCP) anticipated the level of controversy that ensued when it hired Ellen DeGeneres as a spokeswoman for a campaign aimed at revitalizing the brand.

Far from polarizing, DeGeneres is a mainstream figure, with a daily television talk show.  She has hosted the Oscars broadcast and served as a judge on such shows as “American Idol”.

But hiring a lesbian spokeswoman was the wrong move, cried the One Million Moms organization, a project of the American Family Association, which threatened to boycott J.C. Penney unless the retailer dropped DeGeneres.

J.C. Penney not only refused to cave to the group’s demands, the Plano, Texas, company sought to more closely align itself with gay rights, saying it “shares the same values” as DeGeneres. More recently, it featured gay men in a Father’s Day ad.


Californians voted in 2008 to keep same-sex couples from marrying. The ballot initiative (known as Proposition 8) was fought by several Silicon Valley stalwarts, including Google (GOOG), Apple (AAPL), Intuit (INTU), Adobe Systems (ADBE) and eBay (EBAY).

Apple donated $100,000 to the effort to defeat the proposition. Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, meanwhile, contributed a combined $140,000 to help defeat the Prop 8 campaign.

“While we respect the strongly held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality,” Brin and Page said at the time in a prepared statement.

Ben & Jerry’s

The self-described “activist brand,” owned by foods giant Unilever (UL), has often used its products to reflect its politics. When the Green Mountain State’s passed legislation sanctioning same-sex marriage in 2009, the South Burlington, Vt., ice cream maker celebrated with a makeover of its Chubby Hubby flavor, serving up Hubby Hubby sundaes at its Vermont retail locations.

In March, in response to the United Kingdom’s plans to grant gay men and lesbians the option of entering into civil marriages, Ben & Jerry’s began dubbing its Oh My Apple Pie flavor (not available in the United States) the matrimonially-minded Apple-y Ever After.

Ben & Jerry’s people “believe love is love”.

Just out of curiosity – why do they always look like this?

As I did some looking beyond MSN, I found some additional information that adds a few names to list of where not to shop.  I came across an organization that will of course be condemned by many whose beliefs run contrary but the data is the data.  The Human Rights Campaign (taking liberally from thier web page) is the “largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, the Human Rights Campaign represents a force of more than one million members and supporters nationwide — all committed to making HRC’s vision a reality.  Founded in 1980, HRC advocates on behalf of LGBT Americans, mobilizes grassroots actions in diverse communities, invests strategically to elect fair-minded individuals to office and educates the public about LGBT issues.”   The organization publishes their CEI report, released each fall, which provides an in-depth analysis and rating of large U.S. employers and their policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.  Companies are rated on a scale from 0% to 100% reflecting the level of their support – 0% being pretty much no support.

The actual report can be downloaded from here –

or you can access the virtual publication –

Here is the link to a report from 2011 where HRC lists those companies that scored 100% – the ones we should all be supporting with our purchases/

At the other end, here are some companies on the Fortune 500 who managed to score a 0%  – run, and run away fast from these – remind them equality is important.

II.   35 “Gay Un-Friendly” Fortune 500 Companies (0% on the HRC Index),   2011
Company Name Fortune 500 Rank City State
Exxon Mobil Corp. 2 Irving TX
International Assets Holding Corp. 49 Altamonte Springs FL
CHS Inc. 91 Inver Grove Heights MN
Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. 128 Houston TX
United Services Automobile Association 132 San Antonio TX
Community Health Systems Inc. 191 Franklin TN
KBR Inc. 193 Houston TX
Dollar General Corp. 195 Goodlettsville TN
Liberty Global Inc. 210 Englewood CO
Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea   Co. Inc. 247 Montvale NJ
Anadarko Petroleum 260 The Woodlands TX
Icahn Enterprises LP 290 New York NY
Huntsman Corp. 293 Salt Lake City UT
SYNNEX Corp. 294 Fremont CA
Family Dollar Stores 305 Matthews NC
Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation 317 Pittsburg TX
Commercial Metals 327 Irving TX
WellCare Health Plans, Inc. 328 Tampa FL
Western Refining Inc. 330 El Paso TX
Global Partners Waltham 368 Waltham MA
Pantry Inc., The 382 Cary NC
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 388 Dallas TX
Cameron International Corp. 399 Houston TX
Tutor Perini Corp. 407 Sylmar CA
Auto-Owners Insurance Group 418 Lansing MI
Western & Southern Financial   Group 420 Cincinnati OH
Universal American Corp. 425 Rye Brooke NY
SPX Corp. 427 Charlotte NC
Holly Corp. 431 Dallas TX
BlackRock 441 New York NY
W.R. Berkley 463 Greenwich CT
Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc. 466 Coraopolis PA
AbitibiBowater Inc. 472 Greenville SC
Frontier Oil Corp. 488 Houston TX
MDU Resources Group, Inc. 498 Bismarck ND

And here is a list of the top 20 companies on the Fortune 500 and how they scored –


You choose – whose initiatives and what causes do you want you hard earned cash to support?

Inspiration – Beyond the Hype

I spend a considerable amount of time either sitting on an exercise bike or on a treadmill and have done so for a good number of years.  While the health benefits are obvious, that is not the point of this post.  While at some level I enjoy this often uncomfortable 45-50 minutes, it isn’t something that I could successfully maintain without some other form of diversion to take away some of the discomfort it inevitably brings.  While I have often managed to use my iPod to take away complete attention on the minutes or miles remaining. it is really having a TV in front of me that helps the time pass most easily and I often find myself viewing programs I might not typically watch at other times – mostly a result of channel surfing given the time of day varies and  the TV offerings also are usually varied.  I’ll usually give most any show that looks interesting (and that could also mean different) as shot for at least a few minutes.  As a result, I often find shows early on in their run, often before they become “hits” – like Pawn Stars or Deadliest Catch.   I also sometimes stumble across something that piques my interest, intellect or emotions enough that it stays with me beyond my exercise routine that day.  Today was one of those days.

I have often felt I could have done more with my life if I had more motivation or drive.  I’ve done great and have accomplished much beyond anything I ever imagined.  But, as an individual, you always wonder about what more you could have done with a bit more discipline, less excuses, not as much rationalization.  I think we, individually and as a society, find no shortage in reasons why we can’t do something or why things aren’t different.  We imagine obstacles to be bigger than they often are.  We find excuses at every turn.  And I am not that different.  When things are tough and I think a situation or problem is really a big deal, when I’m thinking clearly I manage a perspective about how easy I really have it and how lucky I really am in most every aspect of my life.  I try to teach my kids the same thing – when you think you have it bad, look around.  It’s not hard to find something or someone who really has challenges and whose attitude and approach to life is one to not only admire but from which to take inspiration and perspective.   Today on the exercise bike I watched one of those shows that made it very clear.

As I moved up the channels as I got into my routine, I stopped on one of the ESPN channels this morning as I saw on the TV screen a young man in a gym wrestling.  Not something I would usually spend a second on.  But this young man had an obvious physical disability.  He is an amputee – not always immediately obvious but this one was as he is a congenital  amputee.  He has no forearms and no legs.  But here was an person who overcame something that would have been a great excuse for not achieving most anything.  I won’t try to share his story as there is entirely too much I would likely miss.  His name is Kyle Maynard and he now works as a speaker for the Washington Speaker’s Bureau, specializing in motivational speeches.  He spends considerable time with our severely disabled from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.  I suggest a stop at his website to get the entire story – .   His story and the triumphs in his life are food for thought and lessons and perspectives we can and should keep in front of us when we think times are tough.  For the vast majority of us, they never really are.

Here is a video that should start your inspiration….