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

We’re Being Invaded by Killer Toddlers??

Reality is a funny thing. I look at three year old children and think of what they might grow up to be, you know, that sort of thing. But some people apparently view migrant toddlers as criminals or a national security threat. The distance between these two points of view is breathtaking. The Grand Canyon is minor puddle by comparison. These tiny individuals seeking asylum in the United States are being separated from their families and kept in despicable conditions on the grounds that somehow they pose a threat to the nation.

One of the things about ethics and morality is that they really require a good strong grasp of reality. And if you’re seeing a three year old child as a prospective security threat, your imagination has run away with you in truly Olympic class style.

The United States is a wealthy country by any standard and at the very least we should be able to treat children with kindness, and kindness means regular showers, soap and gentle supervision. And if the government doesn’t want to do this, there are many charitable services willing to help.

Now, I am not a young man and I understand what’s going on here. We have a deliberate policy of cruelty and public nastiness against these small children to make the President’s backers feel that action is being taken against what they consider a horde of invaders.

The cruelty is the point.

Back in the 1930’s this nation closed its doors to those fleeing tyranny. Many were killed, tortured and imprisoned. And now we are beset by immigrants desperately fleeing horrifying conditions in central and south America. Morally and ethically we should be providing asylum to these sufferers. It is doing what is right.

And that is what we should be doing.

Because Great Nations do what’s right.

James Pilant

Top CBP Officer Testifies He’s Unsure if 3-Year-Old Is “a Criminal or a National Security Threat”

A Great American and an American Tragedy

Jon Stewart is an American hero. His continuous efforts on behalf of those rescuers who suffered injury have finally resulted in funding for their medical bills. I am in awe and I admire him for his work. 

Now, to the troubling part. Why did such obviously deserving American heroes need an advocate like Jon Stewart? What is wrong with a political system that can’t do simple justice for the brave and self sacrificing among us? 

Rewarding heroism and self sacrifice is an ethical and moral duty. It’s how you build the fabric of a nation. It’s why we have benefits for veterans and honor our dead. From the most ancient times, celebrating bravery and a devotion to patriotism and honor have been part of government functions.

There is no way these people would have gotten a dime without Jon Stewart’s public shaming of the Senate. And to add insult to injury, he had to shame them twice! 

It appears to me that the 9/11 responders lacked the most basic element necessary for action on the part of our government, the ability to contribute large sums of money to their political campaigns. Our leadership in this nation could not bring itself to spend money unless there was a direct political benefit. The system is rotten to its very base. 

Jon Stewart imposed a political cost on these people. Otherwise they would never have acted. And right now, these venal politicians are patting themselves on the back for doing what simple justice demanded as if they were statesmen. 

We Americans deserve a better government than this. 

James Pilant

The Hays Code

One of my favorite things in the world is to watch pre-code films. Before the Hays Code was adopted to stave off congressional censorship of films, there was an era of adult talk and intelligent plotting in motion pictures. I like both those things. The Pre-Code era ended in 1934 and we all suffered for it.

The effect of the Hays Code was felt on television far longer than in the motion picture industry. That’s why two single beds in a married couple’s home were the rule until “The New Dick Van Dyke Show.” That’s why we were flooded with widowers like Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show) because people aren’t supposed to divorce or separate so it was easier just to kill off the woman.

You could argue that profanity and sex – and many other things should be censored. I disagree. Many awful things are part of our lives and can be discussed. There are things that should be censored like reality shows. I don’t mean specific lines. Reality shows should not exist. Putting television cameras on real people who are exorted to act out is detrimental to the viewers, the victims and everyone else. Watching an episode of “Survivor” was one of the worst experiences of my life. The people were placed on an island to plot, connive, cheat and lie for the amusement of the viewer. It was pathetically degrading.

The ethics of censorship in films and television are an enormously complex area of analysis. I’d like to talk about it some more in the future. Gene Roddenberry used to write about executives constantly interfering with his science fiction programming and his comments were the beginning of my interest in television censorship.

I’ve got a link below to a young gentleman who has made a film about the Hays Code and its effect on four motion pictures. In my opinion, he did a great job and I found his ideas compelling. So please give it a watch. I hope to see more of his work.

James Pilant

4 Cinematic Victims of Hays Code Era Censorship

What You Say Can Define You as a Racist.

When I was a little boy about the time they were using high power on peaceful black marchers in the south, I remember watching on television people saying that all though they opposed black people voting and using the same schools and sidewalks as whites that they weren’t racist.
This has continued to the present day. Apparently virtually no act and nothing said can define one as a racist according to these people. 
Werner Horn, a legislator from New Hampshire, says that owning slaves doesn’t make you racist. 
Much like a Salvador Dali painting, we have arrived at a point at which all reality is simply melting like so many clocks. 
Horn says that it was an economic decision. No, it is a crime against man and God. It is a savage act that defines one for all time as a depraved monster and, yes, a racist. 
That slavery was legal means nothing morally and ethically. That many people did it is no more a justification than it is for anything else. That those that held slaves were once important members of the government and did great things does not excuse their behavior. Slavery is wrong and the very definition of racism. 
That in the beginning of the 21st Century, that I feel it necessary to reiterate the basic moral rules around racism is a pitiful statement concerning our public discourse. This is a difficult time in America but I believe there will be better times in the future where Americans will realize their purpose and better heritage. 
James Pilant

Broken Heart Syndrome

What does business ethics have to do with broken heart syndrome? Quite a lot. You see we live in a world where there are many who want to tell you that we are individual atoms, or self interest seeking enlightened or patrons of choice – or some other nonsense. The actual facts are very simple. We are a cooperative species and our love, our kindness and empathy are major factors in the quality of our lives. That self seeking greed is an empty life of callous destruction and that we can see this every day in the lives of our ruling class.

Here we have a study showing a likely relationship between a broken heart and cancer. Well, of course, there is. We are not make of stone except in Randian fantasies and “kick them in the teeth” diatribes about getting ahead.

I want you to understand that many of the best things in life are about family and nation and togetherness and cooperation and faith in each other. I know these values are often hard to hold on to in the face of the public evils indulged by our current leadership. Having faith in American and its people in spite of what has been happening may seem foolish. But it is a foolishness I intent to practice and I urge you to do the same.

James Pilant

Broken heart syndrome and cancer are connected, scientists say