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

Boeing Fires CEO

Boeing fires CEO.

Shouldn’t they have done that after the two crashes? I mean letting the numbers guys determine the design of a “new” plane was a stroke of anti-genius that will be studied in the annals of both business ethics and engineering.

I’m just an old fashioned guy who thinks that giant airliners that transport millions of human being should be designed by engineers, you know, people who love the miracle of flight and have respect for the dangers.

But no!! We live in the modern age when any business graduate can be paid immense salaries to squeeze every last dime out of design while overruling experts in their field (and the can also outsource all the computer programming to people working for 8 dollars an hour).

The idea that our business graduates can work in any field, govern in any endeavor, and impose their judgement over experience and skill is probably the most pernicious of this new century.

James Pilant

Myths and Nonsense

Myths and Nonsense
When I was a little boy in the evangelical church, they would show us articles about Noah’s Ark being found. Sometimes, it was explorers, sometimes U.S. Air Force reconnaissance – but the story always had the same purpose validating literal interpretation as a way of viewing the Bible.

It was all nonsense of course, just a useful myth to give the kiddies a theological push in the right direction. I am sure the adults who pushed this stuff never thought they were doing any harm.
But teaching children nonsense is wrong and unwise. At the very least when we grow up and find that we’ve been mislead, we might be angry and resentful.

The article below talks about the myth of the black confederate soldier. I wish that it would finally exterminate the vile idea that Black men fought against the Union. But I don’t think it will have that effect.

There’s an old joke in business that if your job depends on believe nonsense, you’re going to believe nonsense. For many the idea that the South fought a noble cause is part of their self image. It’s hard to face the fact that slavery was the motivating cause that resulted in the deaths of 625,000 Americans.

The rise of the myth of the Black confederate soldier is part of the fascist and neo-fascist revival we are seeing on social media and on the streets of some of our cities. Fascism is a disease of the mind. For many people are unable to develop their own significance. Doing a good deed, analytical thinking and having strong experiences, the three gateways to self development is beyond them. So, they grasp the final empty straw of racial superiority and it must feel wonderful. You rise in the morning and the task of proving yourself and your value is done. You look in the mirror and see yourself as the end result of history, perfect in every way. It must be intoxicating.

These kinds of myths have long life spans and go away only after centuries. When the Normans conquered England it too centuries for the idea of Norma superiority to gradually merge into the idea of equality between the resident Anglo-Saxons and the Normans became the rule.
And so it will be here. We have some centuries to go. But one day, our descendants should we manage the job before of us of saving our planet, will be one race and one people.

James Pilant


Claims of “White Privilege”

Claims of “White Privilege”

My title is taken from the article below which has a longer title: “Felicity Huffman’s two-week jail sentence triggers claims of “white privilege.” I just cut a little piece out for my title.

You see, my eyes bugged out at the word, “claim.” Being not afraid to call a spade a spade, I’m going to say that is white privilege thrown directly in your face. This is an overt example of privilege mashed and gooey all over your newsfeed. All over the internet, this fraud is being compared to minor crimes resulting in years of punishment for women of color.

She paid thousands of dollars in bribes to inflate her daughter’s SAT scores. That’s right and when someone gets a coveted slot at a major university, someone else doesn’t.

We’re supposed to live in a meritocracy. This often seems comedic given the incredible effects of money and birth but the idea of a fair playing field keeps the lower classes in check and makes the remnants of our democratic system more palatable.

One of the elements of our enduring meritocracy are standardized tests. These keep the unworthy out of the good schools. Of course, the unworthy strangely enough come almost entirely from the lower classes. Having a stimulating home environment with two parents, more and more an upper middle-class phenomenon as salaries have collapsed over the last forty years, is a critical factor in later success. Two working parents barely able to make ends meet or not quite making it creates a stressful upbringing without the benefits of summer camps and special classes for the young.

But they believe.

Many of these parents encourage their children to read, to study – to work hard. They read countless books, buy test prep books by the dozens and take college courses while still in high school. And sometimes, their children get into a good school.

But the upper classes do not believe in merit. They believe in money and connections. For in the real world, we all know that who you were born to and who you know are the major elements of success. And the treadmill of study and test prep is just a diversion to keep the masses in check with the idea that there is some element of fairness.

So, when the children of the privileged are mediocre and incompetent, it is simply of money and the right people to call. Underachievers suddenly find themselves long term participants in sports. Special test sessions can be arranged and most commonly and most easily large sums are donated to the appropriate schools. The spreadsheets of the parental donations are carefully examined by the admitting bodies of many significant schools.

This is called corruption and along with legacy admissions and other treats for the already wealthy diminishes opportunity and stultifies real talent. The destruction of the best chances of the tens of thousands of the poor but talented is the great crime here. For in our society, it has been decreed that the old payola beats talent every time.

Wait, you say, you saw on the web some minority child gets admitted to a half dozen ivy league schools and, of course, that means the system is fair. Back in the 19th century, hucksters would sell sealed bars of soap on the street for a dollar each. A plant in the crowd would produce a ten dollar bill or a twenty or whatever amount was best considering crowd size – and the suckers would line up. Now, obviously this child is real and is actually going to one of the schools, but it is the exception that proves the rule. And when I read about these children, the sacrifices they made and the often incredible work they did, I have to wonder how much of a childhood did they have.

I think their sacrifices to play this awful rigged game show just awful it is.

This is America, the land of opportunity. Every child should have a fair chance at a good school and not be shunted into second choices based on accident of birth and an unfair game they can’t win save in rarest of circumstances.

James Alan Pilant Felicity Huffman’s two-week jail sentence triggers claims of ‘white privilege’

The Death Spiral of Modern Capitalism

The Death Spiral of Modern Capitalism

Toshiba is testing the genetics of its Japanese employees. I suppose this kind of monetization was inevitable. Toshiba has left the semi-conductor business and needs a new form of endeavor. They believe that by focusing on just the Japanese, they can make a simpler, cheaper form of testing.

Of course, that is an incredible taking. Literally the genetic existence of tens of thousands mapped. This needs to be stored so that it cannot be used but its effects will trickle down to all descendants and is subject to misuse in countless ways.

Make no mistake. Something of real and tangible value is being taken here.
Monetizing the genetic information of one’s employees is a logical step if you’ve been educated in exploitation. I suppose and suspect that blood and internal organs will be next. Employees will simply become sources of value to be shorn like sheep on perhaps a semi-annual basis.

I mean, why not? The banks went from storing your money and giving you interest for it to a fee charging service. A world of retail was converted into immediate value by “investors.”

We live in a period of monetization, the death spiral of capitalism.
Once you get past early capitalism’s focus on producing goods and services, you move toward maximizing profit for as a little effort as possible. Let me give you a simple example, Enron’s purchase of the water rights in Bolivia. Enron literally bought the rights to the rain! The government attempted to stop its own people from collecting rain water. Enron, of course, collapsed before its fantasy of worldwide control of water resources could be realized. But it was a precurser to much of what is happening now.

This is a hardcore modern capitalism. Get a hold of a resource people have to have and charge a fee that they must bear. Be it insulin, water, a transportation hub, the grasping hand of modern ruthless ethicless capitalism is clearly visible.

Get a hold of David Halberstam’s book, “The Reckoning,” and watch the struggle between the desire to make good cars and just to make money – and the suffer the pain of watching those who want to make a good product defeated time and again.

It’s important for a society to be creative and to make things. Cars, boats, refrigerators, toys, etc. because they are real things with real value. Our culture mainly moves money in the form of magnetic impulses. Do you have any concept of how hard this is going to be for future societies to understand? It’s as if we are all involved in a giant value destroying conspiracy where we take real items of real value and our most important cultural ideas like religion and convert them into money. Churches become mega-churches where you can also buy insurance and day care while factories lie empty and rusting because the money freely moved overseas or just migrated to some offshore isle.

Our system is near the end of its time. Our pampered ignorant elites live a no fault existence of summer homes and calculated investments while ignoring their obligations to live lives of some relevance and toying with the concept of eternal life perhaps as those self/same computer impulses by which they exchange money. Huge tracts of the United States are barren of government and private investment. Only small enclaves on the coasts have booming economies while the rest of us are forgotten and the rage of this is changing all of our politics for the worse.

There are three ways this can end. We can have war. The government can collapse. Or they can be renewal as in the Green New Deal where we find our way as a great people again and cast the ghastly philosophy of Libertarianism into the depths where it can reside along with other useless and counterproductive philosophies like the divine right of kings.

James Pilant

“Harry Potter” Banned at Private School

“Harry Potter” Banned at Private School

My son grew up with Harry Potter. We bought the books and read them together – and then we went to the theater and saw the movies. Later we acquired the movies on disks and other media.

I’m sure it helped him develop his reading skills. (In grade school, he got a certificate for the million words read challenge.)

And now, we have this, a school banning Harry Potter. I guess where “he who must not be named” failed in eliminating the young wizard, the school has taken up the challenge. But I don’t think they are going to do any better.

I have to admit the story piqued my curiosity. Did they ban the works of C.S. Lewis, let their charges attempt escape from their dreary teachings through a portal in a wardrobe? Did they ban “The Hobbit” and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy? We may safely assume that all of Douglas Adams work is not in the school library.

It is entirely possible in their tireless pursuit of witch friendly materials, these muggles may well have banned reruns of televisions, “Bewitched” and the many episodes of “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.”

You have to admire their tenacity. There is something of the frustration of the game of whack a mole in trying to cleanse our culture of the hope of something beyond our reality.

Of course, I find the school system and their ban to be nonsensical. They’ve made themselves ridiculous or should I say ” Riddikulus ?”

And you have to wonder – if their faith is so frail that it can’t stand the entertaining saga of Harry Potter, how well are they likely to fair against the challenges of the real world?

James Pilant

P.S. The link at the top of the page appears twice – except when you try to edit the article when it only appears once! I can kill both of them or none – so I’ve decided to leave the twin links up. jp

A Period of Transition?

A Period of Transition?

I have a link below to a review of the documentary “Untouchable” about the Harvey Weinstein matter. Strangely enough I’m not talking about him today but something else.

We used to have a lot of newspapers and they served as a check on bad behavior – of the government, the wealthy and the influential. The newspaper is gradually disappearing and has been for some time. I’ve noticed on my You Tube feed increasing numbers of short videos, five – ten – fifteen, sometimes as long as thirty minutes. They talk about everything. In my case, ships, guns, history, social issues, science fiction. Much of the time, they are essentially short documentaries.

And that is my point today, the world of the press is moving online. These short pithy takes on every subject under the sun will in time become more organized, more subject driven and more influential. Some are self financed but many are funded by supporters online who like what they’re doing.

Periods of transition like this are very difficult and complex. Almost a hundred years ago, people thought that mail order education would replace or augment regular colleges and universities. After false starts the education my mail movement has few adherents left. But that is the risk in change, that things will not work the way we expect.

James Pilant


Video Games Are Not The Problem

Video Games Are Not the Problem

Wal-Mart is removing the display of violent video games in its stores. There is no evidence that violent video games have any effect on violence in society. And I don’t think there ever will be. I play video games regularly and I promise you I have never at any time had any desire to shoot up a Wal-Mart.

This is a public relations move. They want to be seen as doing “something” even if that something has nothing to do with anything.

Some years ago, there was a movie called “They Might Be Giants.” It starred George C. Scott and Joanne Woodward. It’s premise is that the crazies might have a point. But that 1971 movie never envisaged the crazies in positions of power executing public relations strategies for the sole purpose of being seen to do something about a problem.

This is just a symptom of a larger problem. Logic, reason and experience seem more and more disconnected with our national life. There was a time when science told us that certain things needed to be done and we tried to do them. Now, if the science is inconvenient, a legislature will ban the mention of the research or its name or both.

Our current government is a slave to irrationality as long as that organizational stupidity is driven by campaign dollars.

And here we find our similarity, our guiding principle, money, the long green, the little greenback – the fly in our ointment. Money is the driving force in our hapless march to irrationality and destruction. It was the tobacco companies that taught us that evil can prevail simply by confusing the issue, buying their own experts, writing their own publications, and our energy companies continue the tradition.  

Wal-Mart wants to be seen as doing something but not any something that would cost them money. So, they ban the displays of violent video games but not the violent video games. They point their finger of blame at video games while not discussing their weapon sales. They point the finger at violent video games while selling pro-gun t-shirts on their web site. They are willing to advocate as long as there are no costs. They are willing to reform just as long as they have to do just about nothing.  

James Pilant

The Piper Cub

The Piper Cub

A program I often watch on YouTube is “The History Guy.” His theme is exploration of little known historical stories. The one that I link to below is about The Piper Cub.

Generally writing about business ethics is similar in a way to policing, that is, police very often see people at their worst. I, writing about business ethics, often see businesses, corporations and owners at their very worst.

Policeman have to be careful not to become jaded believing that every human being is a crook and a scoundrel. After reading thousands of articles about misbehaving companies, it is difficult at times to give companies the benefit of the doubt. One can begin to believe that every business owner is a crook and a knave. 

Here is a story of a product and a company that did much good. I’m sure there are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of stores like these. But here is a company that made an innovative and successful product which was an enormous benefit to consumers, the public at large, the American military and a nation at war. 

So, once in a while, I like to talk about positive business ethics and the importance of not just doing what’s right but going beyond the needs of just the moral minimum, not breaking the law. This is a good example. 

Piper Aircraft built an inexpensive airplane that was suitable for training new pilots and an inexpensive new plane for those new pilots. When the war started, the plane became part of the war effort and a little less than half a million pilots were trained on the aircraft over four years. So, it is known in some circles as “The plane that taught America to fly.” 

A company made an innovative product that helped American win a war. That is a business ethics success.

James Pilant

The History Guy tells the story of the Piper Cub.

No Real Choices!?

In the article linked to at the bottom of the page, Richard Reeves shows in a series of bar graphs how many of our economic choices are limited to only a handful of suppliers. 

It’s very clever and more than clever, significant. For if our economic choices are often illusory where are the benefits that capitalism claims to confer? 

The “free market” we are told under the tenets of Neo-Liberalism is the most efficient organizers of economic goods. That means we live in a wondrous world of constantly innovating companies developing new products while ceaselessly improving the old ones! It’s a virtual heaven, this economic paradise where the “invisible hand” faultlessly arranges salaries, benefits, and every other kind of economic good with surgical precision.

But is this really what’s going on? I mean aside from the occasional little blip like insulin costing six dollars a bottle to make and costing some poor soul $1200 to $1500 a month, where are all these choices? Take a look at Reeves’ graphs.

We should have significant choices in price, quality and capability. Yet for many of our choices, the least is basically identical to the most expensive. What’s the deal? The deal is that once a market share is carved up, rocking the boat and endangering your share with innovation and pricing could be counterproductive so the massive engine of “free enterprise” is usually geared to “idle.” — and we all suffer for an illusion instead of the promise.

Organizing economic goods through capitalism is a difficult problem because the fact is, capitalism tends to move money into fewer hands over time and if unchecked even fewer and fewer hands after that. The reason that capitalism has been successful in many senses up till now is because we as a nation limited its actions, for instance, by having a minimum wage or forcing companies to pay for worker injuries. This distributed its benefits more evenly.

If we lived as wild animals, complete and constant competition and the uneven rewarding of economic goods would make sense. But we are cooperative species bound by the limits of law and the dictates of our conscience and continuing development of civilization.

Let us cooperate to have a wide distribution of economic goods and sense of citizenship and cooperation.

James Pilant

Starbucks v Dunkin’: how capitalism gives us the illusion of choice

Richard Reeves