For Want of a Shoe!


For want of a shoe.

i_00i_115_tnThere is an old children’s story about a lost horse shoe causing a kingdom to fall. It says that the loss of the shoe meant the horse couldn’t fight, so the mounted soldier couldn’t fight and his company lost without his presence up the chain until the kingdom is destroyed with the originating cause being a defective horseshoe nail.

I haven’t written in quite some time. I am similar to the aforementioned kingdom in that it is simple matter to describe the problem and in terms of weight it is very small indeed.

I have a shattered right lower molar and it is causing swelling across my face and some stomach distress. My ears, sinus cavities and the glands in my neck are all causing me pain in the wake of this tooth problem.

I am scheduled tomorrow to have this tooth out and some reconstructive work done. Kind thoughts are appreciated.

If all goes well, I will be writing again very soon.

Thanks!!

James Pilant

The Ethics Sage Addresses Unintended Consequences


The Ethics Sage Addresses Unintended Consequences

In an article entitled, Unintended Consequences of the H1-B Visa Program and sub-titled: Are American Workers Adequately Trained to Fill High Tech Jobs?, Steven Mintz, better known as the Ethics Sage, discusses the likely impact of a coming Trump executive order.

Here is (what I think is) the most critical paragraph –

Trump is taking a short-term view of a long-term problem, which is our colleges and universities are not training an adequate number of American students to fill jobs in technology and the sciences to meet the growing needs of American companies. However, no one is addressing the real problem which is American colleges and universities give preference to foreign students, especially public institutions. The reason is they pay about four times the tuition of residents of a state. Given the magnitude of state budget cuts for public colleges and universities in the aftermath of the financial recession, foreign students are highly sought out for their financial wherewithal thereby crowding out American students.

The Ethics Sage
The Ethics Sage

As always, when I give you a brief selection from Steven’s work, you should take the opportunity to go to his site and read the whole thing. I am confident my quick summaries of his work and choice of selections never do full justice to the quality of his efforts.

I have not decided quite how to deal with the new administration and I’ll probably wait to see the executive order itself since I’m trained as an attorney, I firmly believe the devil is in the details. So, it could be just as Steven says, worse or (most likely) a whole lot worse. The drafting of these executive orders has not been impressive. In fact, there is a theory running about that they are Leninist political maneuvers designed to divert attention from the real issues while damaging and dividing enemies of the new administration. I don’t know, myself, whether this is true but I will be watching to see if a pattern forms.

Please LIKE, Favorite and re-blog if you like.

I enjoy the attention and any allies I can find who believe in business ethics are very welcome to join the struggle.

James Pilant

The Single Star Edition


The Single Star Edition

IMD will shut down discussion boards in two weeks. It appears that the site was the target of negative reaction to minority films. Below is the trailer for the documentary, I Am Not Your Negro.

I Am Not Your Negro Official Trailer 1 (2016) – James Baldwin Documentary – YouTube

Here is a review from You Tube in which the film is described as extraordinary –

I Am Not Your Negro – Official Documentary Review – YouTube

Now let me quote The Hollywood Reporter:

The decision to shut down the discussion boards comes at a time when IMDb’s user-driven feature is coming under fire.

The viability of IMDb’s user voting system has been called into question, as the ratings of movies by minority filmmakers receive a disproportionate amount of negative ratings, which are measured by stars on a scale from one to 10. Today, some Twitter users have singled out Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, as a recent example of this issue.

The doc hit theaters today and already has received 409 one-star votes from users, compared to 318 10-star votes, with a nominal number of in-between votes.

Based on the information provided do you think that the film deserved 409 one star ratings as opposed to 318 ten star. I don’t either. It appears that the message boards are now vehicles for a new and sinister force online. The boards are now an opportunity for white supremacists and others of that ilk to damage the careers and films of minorities. The choice of giving a single star for a very bad film is now used as a weapon against very good films. The quality is not the issue. The maker is.

This is the right decision on the part of IMD. In the wake of Gamergate and other actions, it appears that the online landscape is increasingly subject to abuse. It is better to stop the boards now before the online trolling becomes more serious ultimately culminating in death threats and other abuse. Business ethics demands that this kind of trolling be stopped.

So far, my small web presence has gone unnoticed but I am a fervent believer in the equality of all human beings. And there will come a time when humanity will either become one race or diverge through technology into a variety of hybrid human species. It will be interesting to see this take place although I have little expectation of surviving to witness any great part of it.

So, it may be that someday I too will get to shut down commentary and retreat behind the heaviest online defenses I can find or like many others give up blogging altogether. But little has happened yet along those lines.

 

Rick Lucke’s Guest Column!


Rick Lucke‘s Guest Column!

Fellow Blogger Rick Lucke has written a long comment which I have posted here. He’s got some good thoughts and I want to share them with all my readers.  jp

I’m not sure which part of my comment is unclear. I’ll expand a little on the individual points.

“…we have a system that betrays the concept of democracy, it undermines the concept of one-person-one-vote, and shreds the concept of majority rule.”

The concept of “democracy” is undermined by the fact that the candidate who wins the office does not often win a “majority” of votes, as we’ve seen once again in 2016. As a result, the democratic concept of one-person-one-vote is virtually neutralized by a system that not only nullifies so many votes, but also discourages so many from bothering themselves to vote. This is accomplished through the Electoral College system as well as through approaches like “closed primaries” in which only registered members of “the party” are allowed to vote to nominate a candidate, which reduces the process to a matter of something like “club membership”. The concept of political parties and factions was recognized even by the Founders as a problem and many were opposed to the idea.

Then there is the problem of “big money in politics”. The impact of big money is manifold and undeniable, despite not necessarily guaranteeing election victory.

“… this system that effectively allows the majority to be oppressed by the minority is a complete travesty.”

As we watch Trump make cabinet appointments which are in clear opposition to the majority views of various issues, we see the majority becoming oppressed by the minority. This is in direct opposition to the concept of democracy and to the protections against that oppression that the Founders attempted to provide.

“…the Democratic National Committee’s corrupt nature was exposed …”

The revelations during the Democratic primary campaign of the DNC’s clear bias in favor of one candidate over the other was, in my view, a definite strike against not only the Democrat Party, but also their preordained candidate of choice. Even as Bernie Sanders consistently drew considerably larger crowds at his rallies and was shown in virtually every poll to have a far better likelihood to defeat Trump and Clinton was shown to be more likely to lose than Sanders would be, the DNC continued to undermine Sanders and his supporters, along with the major network media outlets that seemingly did everything they could to ignore Sanders’ campaign successes.

“…neither major party candidate was qualified …”

Trump presented as an ill-informed dolt with no clear plan for governing and who, according to the former communications director of Trump’s now-defunct Super PAC, was never serious about becoming president but was, instead, merely running as a “protest candidate”. Consider the following:
====================
In an open letter to voters supporting Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary, the former communications director of Trump’s now-defunct Super PAC said that the former reality television star not only never expected to be the Republican nominee, much less president, but never even wanted to be.

Writing for the website xojane.com, Stephanie Cegielski said that when she was brought aboard as communications director for the Make America Great Again PAC last summer, the instructions from Trump Tower were to make sure that Trump finished a respectable second in the GOP primary. It was made clear that Trump was running not as a serious contender, but as a “protest” candidate.

“I don’t think even Trump thought he would get this far,” she wrote. “And I don’t even know that he wanted to, which is perhaps the scariest prospect of all.
http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2016/03/28/Ex-Trump-Insider-Donald-Doesn-t-Want-Be-President

The “open letter” she wrote can be found here:
http://www.xojane.com/issues/stephanie-cegielski-donald-trump-campaign-defector
=====================
Hillary Clinton’s record of being on the wrong side of virtually every issue she ever voted on or spoke in support of and then later changing her rhetoric when it suited her or evading some issues altogether prove her to be one of the worst candidates the Democrats have ever nominated. Of course, that statement depends on whether or not a person agrees with the progressive agenda Bernie Sanders presented, which Clinton began referencing after she noticed the success Sanders was having with voters.

That sort of waffling and evasionary tactics do not impart a sense of trust, thus she lost many voters from within and from outside the party. Another aspect related to undermining a sense of trust of the Democratic Primary that discouraged many from supporting Clinton was the pledging of support for Clinton by the party electors before the primary election process had taken effect.

In the end, it seems the only voters who viewed either candidate as worthy of the office were voters who were either religiously faithful to party name, Democrat or Republican, or voters who were too ill-informed to realize the lack of qualifications most of us would expect in a presidential candidate, not to mention the loss of integrity of the entire process. I see this election as a major turning point in American society – what it means for our future is impossible to know at this point.

Dangerous Neoliberalism Edition


Dangerous Neoliberalism Edition

Sometimes you find a paragraph that says what you would like to say brilliantly and this is one of those paragraphs.

Many times I’ve tried to explain the impact of free market fundamentalism, Hayek, Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand, all of whose combined effect might well be summed up by the word, neoliberalism.

!!@@#dddddd444hmlbr35
Dangerous Neoliberalism Edition

I strongly agree and endorse the following statement from George Monbiot in his essay from The GuardianNeoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems.

“Perhaps the most dangerous impact of neoliberalism is not the economic crises it has caused, but the political crisis. As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts. Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, people can exercise choice through spending. But some have more to spend than others: in the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed. The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle. As parties of the right and former left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement. Large numbers of people have been shed from politics.”

I think Donald Trump is President now due in part to feelings of powerlessness on the part of the middle class due to their loss of economic and political power — and much more due to Hilary Clinton’s embrace of this maniacal philosophy more worthy of a James Bond Villain than someone wanting to be the leader of a free people.

James Pilant

The Globalisation Collapse Edition


The Globalisation Collapse Edition

It has only been a few days since Donald Trump saved a thousand jobs or so at Carrier, a company that makes air conditioners and other appliances. I have heard a great deal of criticism directed at the deal but I cannot agree.

It’s just a thousand jobs!

Oh, the criticism is generally quite correct. It’s just a thousand jobs they say and to many like Paul Krugman, that’s just a drop in the bucket. Apparently the damage done to the surrounding community is just collateral damage. There is this assumption that the forces destroying American jobs, American communities and American lives are caused by natural economic forces and simply are a matter of time. This is nonsense. Virtually every aspect of economics is either man-made or a set of policy decisions made by human beings.

The simple fact is those jobs could have been moved to Mexico at any point during the modern era to workers making a fraction of their American brethren. Why didn’t it? Because the belief system that money was a value that trumped patriotism and national borders had not yet taken root and put into policy. The current philosophy of business is that of predators and prey and it is unworthy of America and Americans.

Yeah, Trump’s agreement is a bad deal. It sets a bad precedent. And yet there are a thousand jobs that aren’t going to Mexico. Which part is history going to remember, that this is where the destruction of the American working class might be slowed or even stopped or that is was a bad deal?

i_00i_077_tnAnd that simple fact is very important. It is a gauntlet thrown in the face of classical economics and the neo-liberal elite who are either cheering on or actively participating in the destruction of the American middle class. And it has been a very successful war for their side. There is hardly a middle class job that offers any form of job security or bright future. It has been taken away.

Paul Mason writing for the Guardian suggests that liberal democracies may be on the edge of collapse comparing them to the Soviet Union in 1989. He writes

Since Trump’s victory in November 2016, it has become possible to believe a similar collapse will happen in the west, to globalisation and liberal values.

The parallels are obvious. We too have lived for 30 years under an economic system that proclaimed its own permanence. Globalisation was an unstoppable natural process; free-market economics simply the natural state of things.

But when the country that designed globalisation, imposed it and benefited from it most votes against it, you have to consider the possibility that it is going to end, and suddenly. If so, you also have to consider a possibility that – if you are a liberal, humanist democrat – may be even more shocking: that oligarchic nationalism is the default form of failing economies.

The values of lifetime employment, job security, regular hours, pension and medical insurance are doable policy. They are the policies of good people who take their responsibility to their fellow citizens, their fellow human beings seriously.

And that is business ethics, not a careful examination of the narrow subject of shrinkage on the job although that has its place. If we don’t talk about this subject from a moralistic global perspective we are always going to be losing to the amoral scum who assume the Easter Bunny like chimera of the free market will justify their evil.

James Pilant

Industrial Policy Edition


The Industrial Policy Edition

I was reading an article in Internet Magazine, The Week, by Jeff Spross (one of my very favorite writers),  entitled “Donald Trump is already picking winners and losers in business. Good,” when I realized I had found a very pointed comment regarding business ethics.i_00i_281_tn

You see we live in the age of the Chicago School of Economics, a school the school itself would argue is devoted to free men, free choice and the free market. And I would argue is devoted to the destruction of every human value not directly priceable in dollars.

One of their beliefs is that if a company wants to move American jobs overseas, that is just ducky, more power to them. Spross argues in favor of industrial policy, (the same position I take and here is a brief selection from his article directly on this point. –

First off, politics is still politics. So industrial policy still happens, but just on a “pork barrel” basis, changing from industry to industry and locality to locality. Mainstream economic skepticism didn’t kill off industrial policy, it just made it scattershot and incoherent.

It also made industrial policy far more pro-corporate. The U.S. government could use the sticks of higher taxes, tariffs, and regulation, or even the brute force of its own spending power to build up certain industries. But mainstream economics pooh-poohs this approach. So instead industrial policy defaults to carrots: tax breaks and de-regulation that entice businesses to put jobs and investments in certain places. That drives up inequality, makes it harder to pay for social programs, and gives those businesses more freedom to exploit the public. This practice is especially rife at the state level, where governments routinely offer tax breaks and such for companies to relocate within their own borders.

But mainly, skepticism of industrial policy created a world where many Americans feel like the government’s attitude toward their lives, families, and towns is benign neglect. And of course, once we abandoned industrial policy, GDP growth still slowed down, wages stagnated, unemployment became a much bigger problem, and small towns and the countryside began to die economically.

All of which is a big part of why Trump won.

For the last thirty years business and industry have united to move jobs overseas justified by an economic school of belief which thinks it has moved beyond such petty ideas as those of good and evil. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, communities have become impoverished and the resultant concentration of economic power in the hand of the few has perverted our government.

This is evil.

We have a responsibility under Western Civilization, as fellow citizens and human beings to look after one another. We are not atoms bouncing about and only free when self interested. Life has responsibilities beyond economic predatorship.

Please think about these things. The idea that everything has its price is an easy mode of analysis that seems to make sense but do I even need to explain that subtlety, nuance, morality and ethics have their place as well?

James Pilant

The Universal Basic Income Edition


The Universal Basic Income Edition

i_286My good friend, Jason Michael McCann, has taken on this difficult topic and says this on his blog, The Random Public Journal

A Universal Basic Income is in the pipeline for a trial in Fife. People, regardless of how much they earn, will get an annual basic sum in cash to spend as they please. Experiments over the past forty years have shown that it works. Lucky Fife.

We’re all getting poorer. As it is the economy pretty much everywhere is structured in a way that benefits a tiny minority of the global population, leaving the rest of us to work for a living with stagnant wages in an environment where the cost of living is rising. What was once the dream of science fiction is increasingly becoming reality; smart technology is doing more of the jobs we used to do, giving people free time they can ill afford. Employers are selling the idea that flexi-time and zero-hours contracts suit workers better because these arrangements give us the free time we have always wanted, but there’s a catch – we have less money to spend.

Governments don’t want to broadcast the fact that the majority of people receiving state benefits are the underemployed and the underpaid – the working poor. This trend towards weaker employment contracts, fewer hours, de-unionisation, and lower pay has been developing for a few decades, and right now, all around the developed world, we are reaching crisis point. Here in Scotland this shift in the economy has put an unbearable weight on the welfare system. It is exactly the same story in England and Wales, and the Westminster government knows that it can’t go on blaming the victims for much longer. We have cottoned on to the massive wealth transfer from the bottom to the top, and we’re not going to let them off with it for much longer. Something has to give.

Now, of course, there is more from Jason but I don’t want to spoil your surprise and delight when you visit his web site for the rest.

What does this have to do with business ethics? Unfortunately what is ethical depends in part on circumstances. What is fair pay? What is a fair return for labor? If we are entering a time in which labor is almost valueless and our economy is job based, how are people to make a living and how is economy supposed to function? Is this a solution?

I don’t know. What I have seen is interesting and something along these lines may become necessary. It is obvious to me although not to too many others that modern capitalism is in crisis and perhaps even close to collapse or, more likely, reconceptualization. (Did I just invent a word??) Again, it is obvious to me that free market fundamentalism is based on flawed and nonsensical assumptions. So, reality is busily destroying the modern assumptions of globalization and international elites, and currently there is nothing to replace the current set of beliefs.

James Pilant

The Judge Robin Camp Edition


The Judge Robin Camp Edition

i_00i_243_tnBusiness ethics suffers by comparison with judicial ethics. Judicial ethics has actual legally enforceable rules. Business ethics floats in a sea of belief systems where morality may or may not exist and the laws are often ignored.

That doesn’t mean that judges don’t make ethical mistakes. It just means that we have a much better idea of when a violation takes place and the significance of that violation.

Should we incorporate a code of business ethics into the law? The “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing” are in a way a standard of business ethics applicable from the law but the interpretation and application of this standard vary widely in how binding these standards are.

Today, we deal with an alleged ethics violation by a Judge Robin Cook and it is from the Canadian judiciary rather than the American. Nevertheless, it is very relevant because the mistakes he made has been heard in American courts as well.

From MACLEANS

In June 2014, Camp took on the second sexual assault trial of his career, that of Alexander Scott Wagar, a homeless man accused of sexually assaulting a homeless 19-year-old Cree woman at a party, atop a washroom sink. When interrogating the complainant, Camp asked, “Why didn’t you just keep your knees together?” and “Why didn’t you just sink your bottom down into the basin so he couldn’t penetrate you?” Elsewhere in the trial, he remarked that “sex and pain sometimes go together… not necessarily a bad thing.” He appeared to question Canada’s rape laws, and he urged the accused male to tell his friends they have to be “more gentle” and patient with women, to “protect themselves.”

After Camp acquitted Wagar, the Alberta Court of Appeal last fall ordered a retrial, writing that the judge’s decision suggests he misunderstood aspects of sexual assault law and bought into discredited sexual stereotypes and myths. He’s not the first judge to provoke outrage once his conduct was revealed. But in the world of judicial tenure and near-untouchability, he’s the first federally appointed judge whose mishandling of a sexual assault trial has placed his job on the line.

Amid Camp’s time-out from Federal Court hearings, he received personal mentoring and counselling from a leading judge, a feminist law professor and a psychologist expert in gender biases and the judiciary. All three women testified Camp earnestly strived to root out his unconscious biases and become self-vigilant. “I wish every judge could have an education as good as that, and I wish they could make it before they make a mistake like the one that Justice Camp made,” says Emma Cunliffe, a University of British Columbia law professor.

Whether or not he will be removed has not yet been decided but this is an important development. The fact that he is in danger of removal for remarks that would not have been considered out of the ordinary a generation ago is significant. Change in our views of rape as a crime have been happening with some rapidity over the past twenty years and I think for the better. In my mind, rape is a criminal violation not something women invite.

I’ve written many times that business ethics are a sub-set of a society’s larger ethics and if I am right in this, an improvement in our understanding of crime and women’s rights are both changes in the larger ethics environment that will have visible reflections in business ethics in time.

Change is not always positive. Nor can it be guaranteed that changes will remain in place. The struggle for morality and ethics is constant and never-ending. There are no permanent victories.

This is a small step in the right direction.

James Pilant

The Emily Yoffe Edition


The Emily Yoffe Edition

i_00i_248_tnWhat’s good business ethics? There are a lot of ways to talk about business ethics but let’s simplify. When you buy something, take it home and it works perfectly right out of the box, you are experiencing a form of good business ethics. Unfortunately not all products come in neat boxes or can be unpackaged in a physical way.

Such is writing. We absorb a lot of writing every day. I read at least two hours every day and on most days a lot more.

This morning there was a lot of amazing things on the web. I spent close to thirty minutes reading about the Guardian’s expose on the John Doe investigation in Wisconsin. And there was a lot more. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume and power of the business ethics issues presented today.

And then I came across an article in the online magazine, Slate, “The Woman Who Taught Me Prudence.” 

Here’s a paragraph –

There’s another thing, too. As we were becoming friends, I had just become a mother and was still trying to figure out how to put that together with the vagaries of freelance journalism. One of Marjorie’s great subjects was the intersection for women of family and work—she was writing brilliantly about the dilemma I felt I was figuring out badly. One day, stuck at the veterinarian’s office trying to corral my miscreant beagle and my 3-year-old daughter, a Washington talk show appeared on the waiting-room TV, and there was Marjorie. She looked glamorous and was dropping bon mots, and I felt the sharp sting of jealousy. I hated myself for it, especially since I knew that Marjorie’s success was earned. How well I knew this was demonstrated by the fact that before I undertook any writing of my own, I would read something by Marjorie. Not to copy her voice, but to help me find my own, to be inspired by her tart precision.

This is good writing, very good. Follow my advice and go read the whole thing.

So today, instead of or in addition too, writing about various horrors perpetrated on the American people and this is important. I’m going to let it take a back seat to writing about the glory and wonder of doing it right.

Emily Yoffe wrote well today.

James Pilant