Drinking And Driving And Why We Can’t Swig Directly From The Marathon Spigot

Drunk driving is no laughing matter, as well the good folks at Archer Daniels Midland know.  As a world leader in renewable fuels, the Decatur, Illinois corporation is committed to (I quote) ‘increasing awareness among all colleagues of the importance of being vigilant and keeping safety top-of-mind…’

parking lotAs such, the all-altruism-all-the-time alliance between ADM and MADDMothers Against Drunk Driving—results in huge tax-free grants being given to the formerly-grass roots, currently out of control MADD bureaucracy.

Now, this generosity may be part of Archer Daniels Midland’s sincere effort to protect drivers from the very substance of which they produce 2 billion gallons of annually: Ethanol.  Or it may be a blustery public relations gesture intended to whitewash the fact that, despite its wholesome façade and philanthropic Mission Statement: ‘Connecting the harvest to the home and transforming crops into products that serve vital needs for food and energy’—a horn which they further blow by claiming (again I quote):  ‘We know that our purpose is noble, our work is essential, and we find meaning and satisfaction in serving vital global needs’, Archer Daniels Midland is among the most corrupt corporations to have ever darkened our national door.

Brazilian soy fields surround tiny remaining patch of rainforest.

Brazilian soy fields surround tiny remaining patch of rainforest.

Videlicet:  In 1999, three of ADM’s top officials, including vice chairman Michael Andreas, were sentenced to federal prison for a global price-fixing scam involving lysine, an animal feed additive.  Two years earlier, the company had been fined $100 million in the largest antitrust lawsuit in U.S. history. Since 2001, ADM has paid more than $4.5 million in fines for violating federal clean air regulations, and has very publically anted up another $6 million to support environmental projects, even though the juggernaut jerk-offs are among the world’s largest major purchasers of, and traders in, agricultural commodities grown in places that used to be unprofitable rain forest but are now cash-cow soybean fields.

Not only that but, in 1996 alone, OSHA fined Archer Daniels Midland nearly $700,000 for labor and human rights violations in their various workplaces.

rats graibnNeed more?  According to a report by the Cato Institute, ‘ADM has cost the American economy billions of dollars since 1980 and has indirectly cost Americans tens of billions of dollars in higher prices and higher taxes over that same period. At least 43 percent of ADM’s annual profits are from products heavily subsidized or protected by the American government. Moreover, every $1 of profits earned by ADM’s corn sweetener operation costs consumers $10, and every $1 of profits earned by its bioethanol operation costs taxpayers $30.’

Oh, and my favorite:  Mark Edward Whitacre, president of ADM’s biotech division, was arrested for embezzlement while he was an informant for the FBI.  He lost his immunity and spent the next eight years in prison.

I could go on, but why?  Like yours, my patience is finite and I have miles to go before I sleep.  If you, like me, are a consummate dirt-digger, check out James B. Lieber’s excellent ‘Rats In The Grain’.

Besides, I have not yet begun to lambaste MADD.

DAMM: Drunks Against Mad Mothers

Lucifer in the sky with diamonds

Lucifer in the sky with diamonds

Recalling that Lucifer began his career as ‘The Son of the Morning; The Shining Star’, a heralded angel and one of God’s top niggas, MADD’s first decade was pretty commendable.   The non-profit organization, formed in 1980 by Candice Lightner after her 13-year-old daughter Cari was killed by a drunk driver, was almost single-handedly responsible for turning American attitudes on ‘one for the road’ on its collective heels.

Then, as now, the stated goal of the organization is ‘…to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.’

So, What Happened?

I’ll tell you, shall I?  Ever been to a Passover Seder where at the end, some kid opens the front door, ostensibly to admit the Prophet Elijah?

L.: Elijah R.: Mammon

L.: Elijah
R.: Mammon

Well, MADD did the same thing, only instead of Elijah the Prophet coming for a glass of wine, Mammon the Profit came into the sober Seder for a mocktail… and that was the game-changer.

Now, I have five daughters and the idea of losing any one of them for any reason whatever is a nightmare beyond comprehension, so I would not dare question the original motives of Candice Lightner.  My heart bleeds for her.  So rather than interject emotion into the following paragraph, I will stick with facts.  Beginning with the fact that Candice Lightner dropped out the group in 1985, unhappy with the direction they were taking.

Carime Anne 'Cari' Lightner

Carime Anne ‘Cari’ Lightner

Nor am I.  Since, by MADD’s own admission, thanks largely to them, by 1997 juiced jalopy-jockeying had become socially and legally untenable in the United States, and President Katherine Prescott released a statement suggesting that the domain of drunk drivers had been reduced to ‘a hard core of alcoholics’ who do not respond to ‘red ribbon campaigns and slogans’.

And so, MADD changed tack and began targeting social drinkers—people (probably like you, reading this piece) who may have a glass of wine with dinner, but who are miles away from being drunk.  The group rhetoric shifted from ‘Don’t Drive Drunk’ to ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’.

And it gets worse.  In March, 2004, MADD went full-court-press on legally sober, conscientious drinkers, calling for ‘a mandatory provision in every divorce decree that prohibits either parent from drinking and driving with minor children in the vehicle.  Violation of this provision  should result in license suspension, jail, or even the termination of parental rights.’

And so Lightner’s righteous campaign, which began as an attempt to prevent parents from losing their children to drunks, devolved into a neo-prohibitionist lynch mob demanding provisions which could cause non-drunk parents to lose their children.

Go Figure…

Nothing to figure at all, unfortunately, especially if you have access to a calculator.  Right after the Seder, Mammon took over the MADD reins and made fundraising the primary mission of the group.  In the course of a single year (according to Money magazine), a telemarketing firm hired by MADD raised over $38 million dollars, in part by spouting inflated numbers, flawed reports and junk science that even pro-MADD Wall Street Journal reporter Robert Reynolds calls ‘…sloppy, inadequate and embarrassing.’

Potential donors, lissen up: Forewarned is forearmed.  Of the $38 million raised, the telemarketers kept half (as their fee), and of the $16 million that MADD stashed, $12 million went toward salaries, pensions and expensive fringe benefits, $2 million for members to travel, and the rest—all but a meager $150,000 lobbying budget—was funneled back into more fundraising.

MADD canadaInterestingly, although MADD Canada claims that 83.6% of donated funds are used to finance their programs, the Canada Revenue Agency’s Charities Directorate puts the actual figure at under 19%—a discrepancy which arises because MADD Canada counts the cash they pay professional fundraisers as ‘charitable work’, because the telemarketers have to ‘educate potential donors’ before they can suck them dry.

But why listen to me?  Listen to the American Institute of Philanthropy, who recently downgraded its MADD evaluation to a ‘D’, stating, Mothers Against Drunk Driving spends most of its time in self-perpetuating fund-raising efforts. We’d like to see MADD spend a lot more money on things other than asking for a lot more money…’

Now, if I am Candice Lightner, the only horror that this vale of tears and sin can offer that could come close to losing a child to a shit-faced shit-heel is a scenario where a bunch of my former friends and colleagues are using my daughter’s murder to get rich.

And Now, Gentle Reader, I Will Tie Up All Loose Plot Ends…

Patricia A. Woertz

Patricia A. Woertz

What do Mel Gibson, Mickey Mantle, Betty Ford, Philips Seymour Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Edgar Allen Poe and Patricia Woertz have in common?

You guessed it.  Ethanol.

All but the last may be household names, and all but the last at least made an effort to atone for their countless lapses in judgment.

The last one, however, whose name you likely don’t recognize, is the third most powerful woman in the country according to Fortune magazine, with an annual salary, including bonuses, stock options and base salary, of a little more than $20 million.

She is the hyper-ambitious CEO of Archer Daniels Midland, and if she drinks too much, it is in the privacy of her own home, not while partying at the gas station pump.

That is because automotive-grade ethanol, chemically identical to the stuff that makes you beat up your Chevy and drive your girlfriend into a bridge overpass, has been denatured—a process by which grain alcohol is systematically poisoned so that if you try to use it for recreational purposes, you die.

E85 logoWhich is sort of nuts when you think about it.  If any corporation ever has displayed a total disregard for federal regulations and subsequent lawsuits, for human rights violations and subsequent fines, for voracious expansion and subsequent destroyed planet, it is ADM.   Figure that at the liquor store, the nearest thing to E85 (abbreviation for a flex-fuel blend that’s 85% ethanol) Everclear, which also averages 85% ethanol.  Difference is, Everclear runs $20 a gallon, while E85 is selling at my local Marathon for $3.17 per gallon. I cannot believe that Ms. Woertz has not heard this proposal bandied behind closed doors at the shareholder’s meeting.  There are more than 12 million alcoholics in the United States, and the idea that they could bring Dixie Cups, intravenous-solution bags, work thermoses, half-gallon milk containers, orange Home Depot buckets—hell, even fifty-gallon limousin casks—to the Marathon and ‘fill ‘er up at the pump’?   An untapped, massive, marketing multitude.

drunkardOn the other hand, it may already be happening.  Three bucks to a wasted piss-head on the street is about twenty seconds worth of panhandling, which leaves  twenty-three hours, fifty-nine minutes and forty seconds of quality inebriation time before the date changes.  So what if the methanol added to the stuff is poisonous?—these guys have been known to drink Sterno through a cheesecloth.  Health concerns are not a major day-to-day priority.

Low-hanging fruit

Low-hanging fruit

And as for minors?  I see kids with lawn-mowing gigs filling up gas cans pretty regularly, and never once has some pimple-faced counter coxswain asked to see I.D.

I really, truly believe—from the bottom of my boogity-boogity shoot heart—that the whole MADD grant thing was just a smokescreen to disguise the fact that the ADM is hell-bent on destroying us as a nation, as a people, as the third rock from the sun.

And seriously, where better to start than with our drunks—or, as they say in the agribusiness boardroom, the ‘low-hanging fruit’.

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