Doing What’s Right!

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/bryce-casavant-bear-cubs-canada_n_5ee51ac9c5b6d2d117167dc9

Let’s start with a story. (The one linked to above.)

A Conservation Officer was fired for refusing to kill two bear cubs. Bryce Casavant was ordered to kill a mother bear and her two cubs. The mother bear had been eating garbage and had become habituated to humans. However, Mr. Casavant saw no evidence that the cubs ate garbage or had become habituated to humans so he placed the two cubs with a wildlife group that raised them and released them in the wild.

For not killing the bear cubs as ordered he was fired.

This story in a way had a happy ending. Going back to work in a job environment where you have been fired and there was a legal process that took roughly five years that your employer lost, — well, don’t expect a cake on your birthday.

In high school we are assured that talent and merit are rewarded. Sometime television and certainly fairy tales support the idea the we should always do right because we will be given benefits.

That was all nonsense. The simple fact of the matter is that doing right is hard. It is seldom rewarded and often badly rewarded.

Should you do right? Absolutely.

Why? For the good of your soul. And not just that it is a cry of significance of self importance and the fact that you made a difference.

When you look back upon your life, those times when you did what was right without reward are the times to be treasured, the times when your life gained its full meaning.

James Pilant

Dead and Unimportant?

We like to think that we are personally important, that our lives have meaning and that if something happens to us, people will be upset. But for much of our leadership class we are less than numbers, less than cattle, routinely dismissable and unimportant.

For a portion of our leadership, the fact that many of us are sheltering at home and protecting ourselves is an unacceptable assault on prosperity and all other economic activity.

Doubt me? What about the politicians quoted in the article below?

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/22/us-reopening-politicians-volunteering-peoples-lives-coronavirus

If you have children and I have a son, the words of the Governor of Missouri are particularly chilling:

“When they go to school – they’re not going to the hospitals. They’re not going to have to sit in doctor’s offices. They’re going to go home and they’re going to get over it … We gotta move forward,” Parson said in an interview on local radio.

The most casual reading of the symptoms and effects of the coronavirus and the occasional press reports of dead children might give one pause from such claims. But what is the life of your child compared to “we gotta move forward?”

If you can’t read between the lines here, let me explain it to you. Your children’s health and lives are secondary and I mean really secondary to the economy of the State of Missouri or the larger nation for that matter. And that is what this politician and the other politicians in the article are clearly saying.

Now, I don’t have to explain to you the economic positions of these statesmen. You can reason out the political party and how the basic precepts of making money for our ruling class became their focus whatever the penalties imposed on American citizens including their and your deaths.

Some have found a way to speak out for their dead relatives and sometimes the dead leave messages. Here, read this article:

https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/21/us/texas-obituary-covid-abbott-trnd/index.html?fbclid=IwAR0OdTQTf-4z4LRY_Ssr4_iUIZOC8SPprg9BXCPwRUgPvhCxmqNnnzYkjPA

People are using their and their relatives’ obituaries to cry out their significance and their contempt for the political leadership that helped end their lives. Here’s a quote.

“Isabelle was a giant, and powerful in her kindness. She made a difference each and every day in many people’s lives. And like hundreds and thousands of others, she should still be alive today,” Tulip wrote.

“Her undeserving death is due to the carelessness of the politicians who continue to hedge their bets on the lives of healthcare workers through a lack of leadership, through a refusal to acknowledge the severity of this crisis, and through an inability and unwillingness to give clear and decisive direction on how to minimize the risks of the coronavirus,” she said.

I applaud these individuals who claw back some kind of significance from those to whom their deaths were and are unimportant.

I never really thought that I would hear politicians say out loud how little important our lives had for them. But they are not even shy about it. I suppose expressing public loyalty to the health of the business community is more effective in recruiting campaign funds than expressing concern for dead citizens who after all have little money to spend.

It is unethical to place economics ahead of human life.

It’s wrong.

Every elected official is a public whose first concern should the welfare of the American people and the preservation of our lives.

James Alan Pilant

I am a COVID 19 Long Hauler

It has been weeks since I had the flu and I still suffer symptoms, some new and some old.

I got the virus back in May and figuring two weeks of suffering from my internet research carefully counting the days in a notebook. Once past the two weeks, I added another week of quarantine again according to my sources on the internet. And in a general sense, I am better but I still stay at home avoid all social interactions go out only for food.

However each day is a surprise. Some days are good and some days bad. And I get new symptoms and lots of old ones. My perception is that I’m taking liver and kidney damage. Since my chest aches a lot of the time, my heart is probably also involved and since I’ve had episodes of confusion I may have brain damage.

Before I explain any further, I want you to know that an intelligent and capable response to the virus like they did in many other countries would have saved me from this ghastly experience. Our national buffoon through his incompetence has severely injured me and may yet kill me.

The up side is my intelligence is slowly recovering. I know this because I could only read a paragraph or so before losing the thread. This was back in June. Now I can almost get a chapter down before I get to tired to continue and it seems every day that I can cover a little more ground. I believe that his mirrors my physical status and I am recovering but it may take months.

There was a time when I worried that this state of affairs would be permanent.

Writing about business ethics and the failures of companies and individuals has had a certain detachment. I wasn’t a victim and I didn’t know anyone involved nor was I in sight of the effects.

Now I am on the frontline of an epic failure of governance, an abdication of responsibility without equal in the history of the nation. We may lose as many as a hundred thousand more Americans before a new President in January can impose federal leadership over this nation and stop the spread of the pandemic.

But there was more to this disaster than the buffoon in the White House. I was astonished to discover politicians who proudly announced that the elderly as well as many others must be sacrificed on the alter of profit. As a bit of a historian and raised in the church, the fact that I was actually seeing human sacrifice to the golden calf of the Old Testament was difficult to absorb.

I knew as a writer of business ethics that American businessmen and corporate officials are not a very worthy bunch – and their bought political servants merited and still merit little more than contempt. But to actually allow people to die for profit, for commerce, demonstrated an absence of Christianity as well as basic human morality that was stunning in its scope.

That some politicians actually suggested that the elderly sacrifice themselves for a strong economy made the predictions of “Brave New World” and “1984” pale by comparison.

But that wasn’t and isn’t the bottom. Fueled by Fox News and the irresponsible policies of tech giants like Facebook, Americans have indulged themselves in denialism, conspiracy theories stupid beyond all human belief and crass willingness to sacrifice the lives of their fellow Americans so they can go maskless, drink alcohol and live their lives as if nothing is wrong.

The spirit of rationalism and the belief in science and expertise is under attack all over this nation. We are an object of pity across the planet as our uninformed and uneducated factually challenged class of bloviators tells us to disregard the evidence of our eyes and ears and embrace lives of meaningless aggrandizement.

As a victim of the disease, the idea that it is a fraud cooked up by the deep state must be pretty comforting but only if you haven’t got it yet or none of your loved ones has died or having the most passing of acquaintance with actual health care workers whose outrage at our national lack of action and their consequent suffering and casualties may have made them a little angry.

This is a turning point in the history of the United States. I may not get to see much of it, but some of you will. Treasure the new beginnings and changes that come of the deaths of so many who were so precious to so many others but valueless obstacles to a strong economy for some of our political class. Remember the names of these wicked people and their enablers. The blood of the dead cry from the earth for justice.

James Pilant

Facebook Refuses Change

In America there is a view that capitalism fixes things. In Britain, government usually acts. The Lords select committee on democracy and digital technologies last week was correct to say it was a mistake to allow social media firms to grow unimpeded by regulation. This, the peers said, had “become acutely obvious in the current Covid-19 pandemic where online misinformation poses not only a real and present danger to our democracy but also to our lives”. Facebook cannot be allowed to remain beyond the restraints applied to the rest of society. This message has been received by the UK’s competition authority, which has proposed forcing Facebook to give consumers a choice over whether to accept targeted advertising and even suggested breaking it up.

From – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/05/the-guardian-view-on-facebook-and-democracy-real-and-present-danger

And so the Guardian pleads with us to act, to stop Facebook from being a real and present danger to our democracy and our lives. And it is essential that we act.

Certainly, capitalism is not going to solve this problem, Facebook makes money from conspiracy, hatred, misinformation and lies. The more the merrier, so to speak. When we ask them to change, we are asking them to change a business model that while subverting our government and our lives has made them many billions of dollars.

Members of the organization, Stop Hate for Profit, met with Zuckerberg on the 7th of July:

“#StopHateForProfit didn’t hear anything today to convince us that Zuckerberg and his colleagues are taking action. Instead of committing to a timeline to root out hate and disinformation on Facebook, the company’s leaders delivered the same old talking points to try to placate us without meeting our demands,” Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González said in a statement.

https://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-ad-boycott-organizers-meeting-with-zuckerberg-was-disappointing/

In the past I have expressed my doubts as to Facebook’s willingness to change, and as I predicted, confronted by serious critics with valid claims, he has nothing more to offer but empty platitudes.

And just in case, you have any doubts about Facebook’s inability to control and limit hate speech, you can now see a two year audit of the platform’s performance. Let me quote once again:

The report blistered with criticism of Facebook for prioritizing free expression over civil rights concerns such as equality and nondiscrimination. It raised concerns over the social network’s policy of treating speech by politicians as exempt from rules other users are required to follow.

“Elevating free expression is a good thing, but it should apply to everyone,” the report said. “When it means that powerful politicians do not have to abide by the same rules that everyone else does, a hierarchy of speech is created that privileges certain voices over less powerful voices.”

https://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-slammed-in-audit-for-heartbreaking-decisions-that-set-back-civil-rights/

It may very well not be possible to change Facebook by boycott or pubic activism. So what’s left?

The law — we change the legal environment so Facebook is penalized repeatedly and with serious monetary penalties for subverting our democracy and our lives.

For instance, if Facebook could be held liable for lives lost due to the COVID 19 misinformation on its platform, I would bet real money that content will disappear.

If appealing to Facebook’s better angels is unavailing, then what else is left but regulation and penalty to bring it into line with civilized behavior?

James Pilant

Can Facebook Find a Soul?

There’s an old joke about a man who sold a mule. The buyer harnessed the mule but no matter what he said or did, the mule wouldn’t go. So, he got the seller and he said, “What gives? You sold me a mule that doesn’t do anything.” The seller didn’t say a word. He picked up a great big board and wacked the mule right between the eyes. Then he said, “Now tell it what you want it to do.” The buyer said go and the mule went. The seller said, “It will do what you tell it to do, you just have to get its attention first.

And so it is with Facebook.

Facebook often features content that damages the nation, its people and their sanity. Here take a look at this article:

https://www.cnet.com/news/coronavirus-blm-protest-conspiracy-theories-collide-on-facebook-and-twitter/

Is this not just disgusting? Conspiracy mongering dimwits are spreading the idea that the virus is a hoax but not stopping there they want you to believe that the killing of George Floyd is a staged event to take away their freedoms. And this is just a temporary aspect of Facebook’s continuous flow of online sewage.

Facebook is the go to place for every kind of lie and nonsense. Hate speech clogs it from minute to minute, hour to hour and day by day. But all this hate speech and all this nonsense just serves to get Facebook more hits, more attention, and more money. But that money flow may no longer be that secure.

Here we see – Pepsi stopping its advertising on the platform – Starbucks ending its advertising – and today, Microsoft stopped its advertising on Facebook.

https://thehill.com/policy/technology/504940-pepsi-joining-facebook-advertising-boycott-report

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-53214291

So, have all these advertisers gotten Facebook’s attention and convinced them there is a problem? Yesterday, Facebook agreed to an audit of its hate speech controls. There is supposed to an online announcement to advertisers this morning.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-facebook-ads-boycott/facebook-agrees-to-audit-its-hate-speech-controls-idUSKBN2412CR

In America, we use the corporate model indiscriminately. We try to run schools, colleges, social services, etc. like some kind of profit making scheme. But it is not always appropriate. In the case of Facebook, there’s nothing wrong with Facebook profiting from running some kinds of ads. But there is a lot wrong with indiscriminate practices in content and advertising.

An online service that provides sharing and commentary has to be regulated. You can’t let Nigeria use it for scams, Russia to disrupt elections and lunatics to smear and subvert.

The corporate model of Facebook has no soul. That’s pretty obvious but is there enough leadership to make the necessary changes?

That we will see.

James Pilant

June 21 – 27: Business Ethics Roundup

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/cyclone-amphan-electricity-microgrids-solar_n_5ef2fa8dc5b6aa825ac903f9

In a week of a dramatically increasing rate of infection and federal government inaction and incompetence, I want to start with positive story.

A community in India was hit by a powerful cyclone, yet unlike the other cities hit, it kept its power on. How? The community had invested and continues to invest in solar power and the micro-grids used to store energy were still able to function in spite of the storm.

Apparently solar power uses smaller and more diverse grids that store power independently. Hurricanes and other storms as well as sabotage can knock modern grids down totally across hundreds of thousand or maybe even millions of residents and businesses.

But a more modern grid based on solar and wind power is more resilient and more immune to these kinds of shut downs and attacks. This could end much of our power grid’s vulnerabilities.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/27/loreal-to-remove-words-like-whitening-from-skincare-products

As anti-racism action happens all over the world in one corporate board room after another. The legendary European cosmetics firm, L’Oreal, is removing the word, whitening and many of its adjectives from all of its products.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53207649

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/princeton-renaming-school-woodrow-wilson_n_5ef79875c5b612083c4e5888

Woodrow Wilson’s name will be removed from the Princeton University building where it stood.

There is a lot to like about Woodrow Wilson. He is one of the greater American speakers of his era and I often find his writing delightful.

On the other hand, he brought the “Jim Crow” system to the federal government and he was an unapologetic racist.

That’s hard to forgive.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/rich-people-own-rivers-new-mexico_n_5ed90a4fc5b63cce95110234

In New Mexico, a rich person can take possession of mile of river and own it. He can then barb wire the whole thing and deny entry to everyone except his friends or people willing to pay him.

The public powers of the state used to enhance the ownership abilities of rich private citizens.

Gonna’ have to go with probably more organized theft than anything else. I could see a state lease for environmental purposes but outright possession is a huge power grab from citizens of the state.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/covering-racist-tattoos_n_5ef4b36dc5b615e5cd3a23cb

I always want to include at least one example a week of positive business ethics. Doing more than what is legally required because of a moral or ethical stance — and here is a good one.

This tattoo shop will cover racist tattoos for free. People often make mistakes when they are young and many of those mistakes are tattoos. The little firm will help you solve that problem. Wonderful!

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-53196487

Facebook reacting to widely developing boycott throws a band aid on the problem. Not enough. Facebook is the home of conspiracy theories, flat earthers and anti-vaxers. Why? Because the company has a product that was supposed to enable families and friends to share experiences but is now basically a giant outrage machine where every kind of vicious libel and nonsense has a home. With just a little bad luck, in time Facebook may end this nation’s experiment in democracy.

So, Facebook – take some real action to fix your problems. Anything else is compromising with evil.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-53174260

The Stop Hate for Profit movement is building steam as more advertisers quit Facebook. Good for them, they are on the side of the angels.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-53204072

And here, Coca Cola, joins the boycott. Let’s see what Facebook does now.

Conclusion

There were some positive ethical actions in week but they pale in significance with our rising rate of infection here in the United States. This is could have all been avoided if the federal government had taken effective early action and it did not – and because it did not, thousands are going to die.

My kind readers, please stay safe, wear a mask when you got out, and remember to do the right thing – not because it’s rewarding – not because someone might see you do something wrong – not because you might be rewarded — but just because it is right.

God Bless.

James Alan Pilant

June 14th – 20th: Business Ethics Roundup

Let us begin with two truly epic business ethics failures. One the most important businesses in the United States is getting people elected. The various campaign firms, polling sites, think tanks and advertising bureaus spend billions each year.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/18/business/trump-video-twitter-manipulated-media/index.html

  1. We have the Trump campaign taking a heartwarming demonstration of cross racial friendship, and turning it into just the opposite with the bizarre claim that if you look at it without any previous knowledge, you would find it funny. The epic leap into poor taste demonstrates a total lack of ethics. It is difficult to conceive what kind of human being would do something like this.

https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/6/18/21295226/facebook-trump-campaign-nazi-symbol-antifa

2. Once again, we have the Trump Campaign. That’s right. Not content with altering heart warming videos of children, the Trump campaign thought that using Nazi imagery would be a good idea. They issued 88 ads. Do I need to tell you the significance of 88 in right wing circles? It symbolizes “Heil Hitler.” These 88 ads featured the Nazi concentration camp symbol of the upside down red triangle used to denote communists or social democrats.

I bet that if we ask the Trump campaign, they will claim it is a coincidence and we had a sense of humor, we would find it funny.

I don’t find it funny or a coincidence.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/19/tech/north-face-facebook-ads/index.html

3. The North Face, the outdoor apparel brand, joined the boycott of Facebook over its repeated failures to regulate hate speech and misinformation.

Whether this leads to more companies joining the boycott or Facebook finding a soul or a sense of morality remains to be seen.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/18/business/gm-lordstown-ohio-tax-breaks/index.html

4. GM closes Lordstown plant after taking 60 million dollars in tax breaks to keep it open. They were supposed to keep it open until at least 2028 and they took the money.

They lied and they want to keep the money. A simple direct failure of business ethics.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/18/tech/zoom-end-to-end-encryption-video/index.html

5. Zoom will offer encryption to its users. This is a great move for privacy and should allay the fears of many users about the risks of using the service.

Ethically, this is just marvelous. We have a company here acting to make its users more protected. This is positive business ethics – doing what’s right when no one is making you.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53116593

6. It may well be that we hire health care workers to care for those suffering trauma or illness. In this case, however, they were running a betting pool on the blood alcohol level of indigenous admissions to the emergency room.

Unethical, discriminatory and pathetically stupid. Let us have a lot of dismissals.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-52968716

7. As energy sources go, coal is disastrous, dirty and outmoded. If you read a lot, the signs of its obsolescence have been clear for some time.

And this is absolutely a business ethics issues. Why use this environmentally destructive source of energy when we have better choices? It is very obvious. The people that own these coal reserves have no intent of going quietly into that good night. Their lobbyists and their campaign contributions speak loudly. They talk of “clean coal,” an obvious oxymoron.

We, in this current generation, have an opportunity to make better choices for our descendants and our planet.

James Alan Pilant

June 7-13, Business Ethics Roundup

It would be hard to find a week of greater business ethics activity.

  1. The operators of Facebook are very upset with the President’s use of their platform. However, that does not mean that they are planning on doing anything. Concern without action – a business ethics fail.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/12/tech/zuckerberg-chan-trump-facebook-posts-intl-hnk/index.html

2. Tucker Carlson is losing advertisers. Whether this is due to his stated belief that in regard to Black Lives Matter: “Remember that when they come for you, and at this rate, they will.” Or it could be his attacks on Sesame Street. Either way his show is suffering some exodus of advertisers.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/12/media/tucker-carlson-ad-boycott/index.html

3. Jobs are lost for insensitive or racist talk or posts.

Greg Glassman

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/09/business/greg-glassman-crossfit-resignation/index.html

Nancy Lublin

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/12/tech/crisis-text-line-ceo-terminated/index.html

Adam Rapoport

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/08/media/bon-appetit-adam-rapoport-resigns/index.html

4. On a normal week, that Ford Motor Company was recalling two million cars because the doors could open while the vehicle was in motion would have been front page news but against the Black Lives Matter headlines and corporate America’s reactions, it’s just a minor item.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/12/business/ford-recall-faulty-door-latch/index.html

5. Ben and Jerry’s goes full anti-racism demanding change. During this eventful week many businesses issued statements of support for Black Live Matter and against racism. But very, very few of these can rival “Ben and Jerry’s” for its dramatic and direct content.

https://www.benjerry.com/about-us/media-center/dismantle-white-supremacy

6. The confederate flag is banned at NASCAR and in both the Marines and Navy. This is something I never thought I would see in my life time and absolutely not during the term of the current President.

NASCAR

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/10/us/nascar-bans-confederate-flag-spt-trnd/index.html

The United States Marines and the United States Navy

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/09/politics/us-navy-ban-confederate-flag/index.html

I’m Alive

About three weeks ago, I came down with the flu. Considering the symptoms which included chest pain, light headedness – and other symptoms of the Coronavirus, I’m pretty confident that is what I had.

The flu itself last for two weeks, fourteen days. There were days when I did not think it likely I would emerge.

But I have.

So, now what. I have been given a gift few experience, a life threatening event and survival.

What now? I’ve been writing this blog with varying degrees of intensity since 2006. Sometimes, I used to write four or five times a week and more lately a few times a year.

Now, I want to write about twice a week and this time I want to write about the basics of business ethics. What they mean and what they are about.

I read about a book some years ago about the French Existentialists. Many of them participated in the Resistance. And when Paris was liberated they celebrated madly and believed with all their hearts and souls that the world was going to be different. But in the days that followed they resumed their routines of drinking and the delights of the opposite sex – and their new world never materialized.

It takes a great deal of commitment to actually change. We’ll have to see if I have what it takes.

James Pilant

Falling Upward

The same old story over and over again!

Once again, it is demonstrated that for certain members of the business class, failure is simply not possible. I call the phenomenon, “Falling Upward.” White males of the upper class are simply unstoppable. It does not matter the size of the disaster, the width of the incompetence or the cries of the dead. They prosper. We tired business ethics experts will be studying and explaining this horrifying series of disasters to new generations of students. They will ask who paid for the mistakes of the CEO. And I will tell them, “Everyone but the people responsible, passengers died, the company and its community suffered but the CEO got a golden parachute of an incredible size and magnitude.” And that will be the story.

What in the name of God, are we doing? Shouldn’t abject failure have a punishment? There are hundreds of dead people and hundreds of aircraft sitting on the ground unflyable.

How did all this happen? That’s an interesting story. Boeing was presented with the choice of building a new aircraft or heavily modifying an old one. They opted for the latter. There were financial incentives for not having any new training. So, they added new engines to the chassis and told their buyers that the only new training necessary could be done a laptop or even an I-pad. The weight had shifted forward and that made flying the plane tricky, so they added a computer program that threw the nose down when a single sensor was triggered. And for an unknown reason decided to put it on a cycle where it repeated every few seconds. So, the pilot was flying a plane that should the sole sensor malfunction repeatedly tried to fly into the ground.

Now you may have noticed that the decision to not design a new aircraft was based on money, and in fact that was the key decision making at all points in the development of this modified chassis. The company decided to make an aircraft not on the basis of engineering judgment but on how much money they could save. And they took an aircraft with a very fine safety record and designed a more lethal version.

The CEO went in the direction of the numbers guys, their judgement, their calls. And when you do that and take it away from the engineers, bad things happen. Numbers guys are basically fools. I admit they are useful fools. You see them in every part of modern corporate decision making – television shows, movies, companies of all sorts – and they mess up all the time. Why, because numbers are only one aspect of decision making. Planes require people expert in the science of engineering to fly and keep aircraft safe.

In my strange world, experts particularly scientists should make as many decisions as possible but we don’t live in that world. We live in the one were the bean counters rule and people die because bean counting is only one part of decision making.

James Pilant