A look at Philip Morris Companies, Inc.
When I was a kid growing up in Richmond, Va., several of my friends’ parents worked for the big tobacco company in town, Philip Morris. Virginia is, after all, an original tobacco state, where you still see people smoking just about everywhere, from restaurants and airports to gas stations and doctors’ offices. And no, you don’t see glorious fields of tobacco, just large, corporate buildings.

Kids I knew in the ’80s started smoking between 13 and 15 years of age for whatever reason, not least of which was that cigarettes were easy to come by. Their relatives who worked at Philip Morris were given several cartons each week to take home, so they always had smokes in their freezers being “kept fresh.” Workers from top brass down were encouraged to be proud of the product and smoke away.

Since the much-publicized public hearings in which top employees illustrated the depth of their soul-sucking loyalty, just about everyone knows that the Philip Morris has no qualms about profiting off the death and misery of people around the world (in 2000, the company had $80.356 billion in revenues). Stockbrokers I know will tell you: Want a sure thing? Go with proven heavies like Philip Morris.

What most citizens don’t know is that corporations like this one use the judiciary branch to shield themselves from accountability. “Limited liability” means that the bigwigs, who can afford squadrons of lawyers, have effectively put a price tag on human life, and one of their jobs is to consistently weigh the costs of paying for lives or changing business practices (from targeting children to adding dangerously addictive drugs to products).

And, though you might not know it, you likely support Phillip Morris yourself, even if you are not a smoker. Although the corporation has since changed its name to Altria Group (Latin for “high”), its empire covers a wide spectrum of common food and beverage products.

Do you eat Boca veggie products, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Miracle Whip, A-1 steak sauce, Corn-nuts, Planters peanuts, Shake-n Bake, Handi-Snacks, Lunchables, Oscar Meyer, Claussen pickles? Do you give your dog Milk Bone dog biscuits? Do you eat Altoids, Life Savers, Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Ritz crackers, Honey Maid, Grape-Nuts, Raisin Bran, Toasties, Shredded Wheat, Golden Crisp, Great Grains, Louis Rich, Tombstone Pizza, DiGiorno, California Pizza Kitchen, Cr#&232;me Savers, Tobler, Taco Bell products, Velveeta shells & cheese, Chips Ahoy! Cheese Nips, Cool Whip, Jell-O? Do you drink beers such as Miller’s, Foster’s, Weinhard’s, Mickey’s, Old English 800, Magnum, Red Dog or juices such as Kool-Aid, Tang, Capri Sun or Country Time?

If you use these products, then you do your part to support the world’s largest cigarette makers and a corporation that stands as a shining example of how people are simply objects in a world where the fastest-rising religion is big business.

Weekly props
1. Watch the FCC

2. Karaoke at Asian Buffet

3. “Expecting to Fly” on grand piano (Neil solo tour ’03)

5. ZZ Top at Sleep Train 6/6