Business Ethics Roundup: Sept. 6th – 12th

We begin with the wave of fires creating waves of destruction in the American West. Governor Gavin Newsom says the debate over climate change is finished. He says in these California fires you can see the results of climate change with your own eyes. I strongly agree but I felt that the fires in Australia last year should have ended the debate. This is further evidence.

Climate change is going to be a continuing issue in business ethics. How are businesses, particularly, the international corporations, going to act on this issue? Their responses will be as important as that of many medium size nations.

Sir David Attenborough tells us in his latest documentary that 60% of the vertebrate animals have disappeared since 1970 and the rate of natural extinction has been accelerated 100 times.

Many businesses impact species extinction. The international trade in animals and animal parts is savagely destructive of the earth’s species. And we have only a limited time to act.

Let’s segue to a somewhat nostalgic and yet current note, that is, vinyl records have outsold CD’s for the first time since the 1980’s. That may be just a chimera though since streaming services are seizing the lion’s share of the market.

There is a famous insurance fraud case making the rounds on social media. A woman in Slovenia cut off her hand with a band saw claiming it was an accident that happened while cutting branches. Unfortunately for her claim, she had just taken out five insurance polices which would have resulted in an award of more the equivalent of more than a million US dollars. This was certainly suspicious but her boyfriend’s internet searches on artificial hands done before the loss clinched the case for fraud.

Apparently another case of stupid criminals but a very sad one (although the hand was reattached).

California’s legislature faced with a shortage of firefighters and inmates showing bravery and tenacity fighting the wave of fires has passed a law making it easier for them to expunge their records and become firefighters.

As a form of positive business ethics, I am impressed by the act. It seems to me simple justice that those on the frontline of fighting these terrible and now increasingly regular fires should be rewarded.

Rio Tinto’s CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques, is going to resign following the destruction of sacred aboriginal sites. The company attempted to deal with the crisis by canceling bonuses but considering the harm done this was a non-starter.

This was an appalling crime and there is no real penalty. Under the law, they could destroy at will any cultural artifact on the land they controlled. The Juukan Gorge rock shelters had shown evidence of continuous human habitation for 46,000 years. They were an irreplaceable evidence of human history completely unique.

What kind of people are these to disintegrate and destroy cultural artifacts at will? And what kind of nation allows its cultural treasures to be annihilated without a hint of caution or penalty?

And finally, I would like to add my voice to Emily Stewart‘s writing in Vox. She is calling for providing all citizens of the United States with Internet. I strongly agree. If we are going to advance as a nation, that is a minimal requirement. Further, in a crisis like the current pandemic we have already seen the importance of being connected.

But please read the article, the author is detailed and impressive.

James Pilant



A Bright Orange Crayola

A Bright Orange Crayola

I’ve always thought children were wonderfully intelligent but what I like most about them is their honesty, that they are genuine. They haven’t learned the dangers of showing your real feelings or real thoughts.

And they’re bright. Children are learning at incredible rate. Did you know that that by the time a baby is five months old, it has learned to match the facial expressions of an adult? By the time a child is five, its ability to understand facial expressions is almost as good as an adult. And they are clever. How clever?

Let me tell you a story.

On the wall of my office is a picture from a coloring book marked with a bright orange crayon.

There was a five year old and I gave her a piece of candy, something to color and some Crayolas to color with. I expected her to be gone for a while but she came back very quickly and asked for more candy. I from the very heights of adult wisdom told her she could have one as soon as she finished coloring her picture. She said, “That’ll take forever!” and left apparently depressed. She then returned very quickly with the entire picture colored with broad strokes from the aforementioned orange Crayola. She wasn’t very much in the lines but she did color the whole picture.

She out foxed me. I told her to color the picture. I didn’t specify how or in what manner or even that she should use more than one color. She had held to the strict terms of the agreement and defeated my intent that she spend at least ten minutes coloring. It was a triumph of lawyerly reasoning and I the actual lawyer was on the short end of the stick being out reasoned and out thought by a little girl.

Of course, the stakes were very small. I keep a good amount of candy in my office. Being a diabetic I can’t eat it myself so it all goes to the occasional visiting child and sometimes a co-worker comes by and gets one. Since I can no longer eat candy, I buy the expensive dark chocolate and caramels and live vicariously through other people’s happiness while eating them.

But even thought the stakes were small, a loss is a loss, and being clobbered in a David vs. Goliath style struggle is pretty unsettling when you play the Goliath role. Nevertheless, I admire her for it. She was clever and knew how to think and that’s at five years of age.

Of course, the sporadic visits of children to the office are not my only experience with the learning power or reasoning of the very young.

I have one son who is now twenty-four. When he was just a small boy, instead of telling him no all the time, we made a deal. If he could give me a good reason to have something. I’d buy it for him. At first he was clumsy and made poor arguments but very rapidly began to develop real negotiating skill. And I kept the bargain. If he argued well, he got toys, and as time went by, the toys became video games and then movies and books. A few years ago, I watched him negotiate with his buddies while playing a D&D style game. It was like watching a shark in a pool full of minnows.

With children, it’s important to listen to them and cultivate their abilities. I know it is hard. They often repeat arguments, have outlandish ideas and no experience. But if you stay with it, pay attention and talk to them like adults, it pays off.


Business Ethics Roundup Aug. 30th – Sept. 5th

This week had some interesting aspects. After a deluge of foreign seeds began arriving in the United States, Amazon was caught without an appropriate policy. Well, now they have one. You can’t send seeds by Amazon. Looks like they went for simplicity in their policy making.

John Oliver’s feud with Danbury, Connecticut is reaching a crescendo. Will the city rename its sewage treatment plant in his honor? Will the feud come to a peaceful outcome? Stay tuned.

The Atlantic story about our president’s general contempt for veterans has made major waves in the political world. However, the editor of the magazine says there is more to come! More dramatic news than this is hard to imagine but nothing about our current political climate can be described as normal. Next week should be interesting.

An alligator skin handbag worth roughly $26,000 was destroyed in Australian customs for lacking a permit. This calls attention to the crime of animal parts being marketed to our jaded upper class. The struggle against this kind of nonsense is critical to preserving endangered species.

To close on a somber note. deaths in the United States due to our pandemic may reach 400,000 by the end of the year.


Hilary Clinton and History

Hilary Clinton and History

This week Hilary Rodham Clinton gained enough delegates to be the Democrat’s nominee for President of the United States. This is a truly historic moment but as far as I can tell it is being greeted with a subdued yawn in most circles.

Why isn’t there more positive response to these events? Why isn’t there wild enthusiasm for the first woman to helm a major party ticket?

I believe there are three reasons for this lack of enthusiasm.

First, we have her husband, Bill Clinton, whose baggage includes extra-marital affairs, the Marc Rich pardon, etc.

Second, Ms. Clinton is very much a “more of the same” candidate. She does not call for radical change and does little to appeal to those who believe that the system isn’t working for them. She is a creature of the system and her millions of dollars of income would tend to indicate that she believes the current system and works well.

And third, the Sanders campaign. The campaign for the democratic candidacy was plagued by Clinton favoritism. The scheduling of the democratic debates on weekends and against sporting events was designed to minimize other candidate’s exposure. Could she have beaten him in a straight up contest without super delegates and other nonsense? We’ll never know but it leaves a sour taste.

There can be no doubt that Clinton is hard, cold calculating politician. Certainly, there are many and I am one of them that hoped the first woman nominated by a major party for the presidency would be more of a transformational figure. But there is nothing radical or even original in her positions. Anyone who reads the beltway media like the Washington Post can predict her campaign positions with accuracy.

So, she is not a transformational figure and not much perceptible will change should she be elected in terms of woman and men and the United States. But a line will have been crossed; a change made that will echo across the centuries and its implications will have real effects. For the next woman in pursuit of power, position or just simple significance, the struggle will be easier; the goals more clearly marked and change more easy to effect.

James Pilant

Voting and Power!

Voting and Power!

There is a genuine disgust and cynicism about the government and how it functions here in the United States. I share that disgust and like so many find many other institutions in this society lacking.

However, we can vote. It is a slender reed but it may yet prove to be important enough to inaugurate some kind of meaningful change in a system rigged against us.

If you can vote in a primary, please vote. But above all vote in the November election. “They” are always saying that this is the most important election in your lifetime. But this time, it looks like that is the call. We have a history making election that could change all of our lives in so many different ways.

I know that there are those who want to blow up this system. And to you, I say, I understand. I get the pain of feeling that the government has forgotten you, sold your jobs and your future. But there is still time, there is still hope, there are still possibilities.

Vote one more time. This is great nation that has forgotten that all must share in economic benefits not just the wealthy and the well-connected. But that can be just temporary forgetting. The path is still here. The course is still to be found. We can get back on track and have a government that serves the interest of us all.

I ask you to give it another chance and participate in this election.

One of my friends, (from Ireland and Scotland) has written something about voting a power that I like and value. Maybe you’ll like it too.

002-1The excerpt below is from Random Public Journal, the web site of my good friend, Jason Michael McCann, the essay in question being Overthrowing this Kingdom.

Voting? What was that? What sort of silly loon would waste their time casting a vote? Those that did, marked their paper and chucked it down the pan – for all the good it would do in making things any different for them. In our 300 years of London rule the ballots of Scotland had as much use in Westminster politics as toilet paper. Voting on polling day was the ruin of a decent walk. Change only came about when we re-opened our own parliament up in Edinburgh, and then the transformation began. It turns out, after all, that we are genetically programmed to make political decisions and think political thoughts. Somewhere it was written:

Today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.

These were always highfalutin words, best kept I thought for school assemblies, until it dawned on me that they were speaking about us. We’ve only been kept in chains by our own consent; be that as working people under management and ownership or a nation under the heel of an empire. It was we ourselves who put up the red stones on John Finnie Street, and it was our own people who broke the backs of nations to prosper imperialists, and just as surely as we did all that we can rip it all back down and build it again to the prosperity of ourselves. It is us who have been appointed over our nation, to pluck up and pull down a kingdom, to overthrow it and utterly destroy it, and plant and build up a nation for ourselves.

He does have the eloquence, doesn’t he? I’ve told him some day I’ll have to come hear him preach. (That’s the American way of talking – preaching, etc.) I think they minister in Ireland.

But he has the same message as me. This is a good time to participate and make your vote felt.

James Pilant

Bye Paul Krugman

Bye Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman was the first web site I read every morning for years. I didn’t read the column so much as his blog which seemed more personal and in depth.

Many, many times, his clever observations on economics delighted me.

i_286All went well for many years, he wrote – I appreciated. But then Bernie Sanders ran for President.

It seemed to me like just another Democratic primary. I’m for Sanders but to Krugman, it appeared as if a horned helmeted barbarian was stomping in his yard, and he took to his column and blog in outrage.

At first, I thought this was a phase that would pass. Somebody would take him aside and say, “Hey Paul, try not to get too excited about this guy, remember there are a lot of people who side with your economic view who are also supporters of his.” But apparently no one did and the columns became more and more – well, just weird. Try this one – My Unicorn Problem or this one, Sanders Over the Edge. I would have appreciated a little neutrality in the race particularly considering that Hilary Clinton and her former President spouse seem to have precious little use for him or his economic views.

I can’t see being a Democrat and being a Clinton supporter as having to be the same thing. I think I can be a more progressive Democrat and back another candidate for the nomination.

So, bye Paul! Enjoyed the columns.

James Pilant

In case, you think I’m alone in my estimates of the Krugman columns – read below-

Paul Krugman, who has turned his New York Times column into a mouthpiece for Clinton talking points, told us (not for the first time) that Sanders and his supporters were ill-informed about how things worked in the real world, and needed to get off his lawn.

Paul Krugman has been waging a one-man war against Bernie Sanders, lobbing bombs and missiles from his perch at the New York Times, in column after blog post after column. It is interesting that has chosen to repeatedly smear Bernie, ad nauseum, rather than try to promote some positive qualities about Hillary Clinton or her record, about which he has said very little. Perhaps it is because for Krugman, who is neither a moderate Republican nor a conservative Democrat, nor a neoconservative militarist on foreign policy, it’s not so easy for him to promote Hillary.

But to argue, as Krugman does, that the Sanders campaign has “lost its ethical moorings” by going after Clinton’s relationship with fossil fuel lobbyist is wrong-headed and misses the entire point of his campaign. Sure, we can quibble about the specific amount of dollars Clinton has accepted from the industry, and perhaps Sanders has exaggerated on this front, but there’s no question money has indeed been exchanged.

And last, from the web site, Beat the Press:

I have tremendous respect for Paul Krugman. I also consider him a friend. For these reasons I am not eager to pick a fight with him, but there is something about his criticisms of Bernie Sanders that really bothered me.


A Second Chance?

I looked at the blood pressure machine twice, not quite believing what I was seeing – 200 over 110.

“That’s not good.” I thought to myself.

It was a little after eleven at night. I was about to moisturize my face. When you reach the age of fifty-nine, your face attempts to dry out, locking in a scary expression and probably eventually sliding off your head. It’s just like everything else at this age that seems to be going badly wrong. I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed a clearly visible blood vein under my left eye. “Never saw that before,” I thought. So, I went and searched in the back of a drawer until I found my blood pressure monitor.

200 over 110 – what to do?

A Second Chance?

I remember thinking. “You’re going to die, James. Maybe not this minute but probably soon, and if you don’t die, you’ll probably have a debilitating stroke, and live the life of a plant. You know, spoon fed lots of jello and rice pudding, if they remember to feed you.”

I had suspected that fear of death focused the mind but once I was there looking at death from the range of a close acquaintance I knew I was fiercely concentrating and focused.

I spent the next twenty minutes researching on the Internet and developing a plan. The hardest part of that night wasn’t studying and planning, it was trying to go to sleep. I kept thinking that I might not wake up.

The next day, I purged salt from my diet discarding a variety of canned and frozen foods. I went to the store and bought fruits and veggies. I decided red meat had to go but fish would probably be okay.

It was at the store I found evidence that God had a deep and abiding fondness for me. I had been looking for a reclining exercycle for months, and had repeatedly refused to buy one at full price. And yet, here I was ready and determined to buy one at full price and the store had a dinged one for half off, which I immediately purchased, hauled home and assembled.

While at the store, I tried out their blood pressure machine to see if I could get a different result. It declined to give me blood pressure numbers, merely putting up a message that I should get to a hospital immediately. “I already know that.” I observed to myself.

Since then, it has been a struggle. On the positive side, eating fruit everyday has been nice although grapes are just way too expensive. On the negative side, food choices are a little bland and I crave salt particularly in the form of potato chips. I can’t figure out what to eat guacamole with, if not chips? I put the exercycle next to the computer and move it into viewing position, watch a nice you-tube video (usually a history documentary) for about twenty or twenty-five minutes at a time.

I didn’t re-check my blood pressure for the first week and the next check showed a drop of about twenty points. After that, I splurged and bought a little wrist blood pressure monitor. I test my blood pressure like I’m supposed to, after ten minutes of sitting quietly but after a while I became curious and starting testing it after exercise and meals, in the morning, at night, etc. I wanted to see how much it varied and why. It became readily apparent that the most important factor in whether it was high or not was my salt intake.

So, currently I’m getting readings at my usual time and after proper rest of about 140 over 90. That’s not great but it is more in the yellow zone of taking care of yourself and less of the “my head is about to explode” zone.

So, is this a second chance? – a new lease on life? I don’t know. I know it changed my behavior. I look, feel and live a lot harder, a lot more intensely, and that remains. Sometimes when I walk out a door, I pause and just look at the sky and the trees and the people. I let the wind blow my hair and feel the warmth. I marvel at my students who seem half asleep and walk the halls like zombie extras but then I wander down to the mall and see their elders are even deader, consumers studying the products, eyeing the next bargain ignoring any and all human interaction.

I’m blunter, more friendly and probably a much more engaging lecturer than I have ever been before. I listen a lot better because I want to know what other people are saying and thinking because I’m curious why they keep going on living when I have doubts that I should or can.

One theory has been advanced. My Tuesday-Thursday Business Law class claims that I was preserved among the living so that I could give them all A’s. I told them that should a celestial choir awaken me from sleep to tell me of me of my grand purpose, it was highly unlikely that giving them all A’s would be the name of the tune.

I think that maybe I should go back to where I began in Northeastern Oklahoma and remember what my beginnings were, try out the old trails once again. Maybe that is my purpose, but even if it is not, it is still a path with heart, and that sounds pretty good right now.

James Pilant

High Noon

High Noon

The Sheriff walked tall into the town meeting, a gun strapped to his hip. He tells the meeting that strangers have come into our town and our county. They’ve threatened my life. My wife has had to leave town because of the threats and now they’re threatening my elderly parents.

Was this some old Western flick I watched?

!!the sheriff on the trail from Zane Grey novel
From the novel, The Mysterious Rider by Zane Grey

No, this is Harney County in Oregon – Last Night.

Yesterday, a county sheriff asked his fellow citizens for help. Sheriff David Ward asked for help because of these strangers that have come to town.

Now, I ask you – Is he just talking to his citizens or all of us? Because we can listen right now or we can wait till later when a whole bunch of heavily armed hooligans march into your town and demand you cooperate in whatever “protest” or “seizure,” they’ve got on their very small minds.

And if you don’t cooperate, they and their friends on the Internet are going to make you. And right smack in the middle of everyone of these tragicomedies is law enforcement – men and women tasked with defending your life and liberty confronted with heavily armed strangers.

What are you going to do?

I’ll tell you what you should do. First, protect and back your law enforcement. Because it is right and because they back you and they’re part of your community. Second, you have a responsibility as a citizen to make sure that justice is served, that people even heavily armed people have to obey the law.

Someday, every one of you may find yourselves in a community where thirty or forty armed men come in and demand you cooperate. And then you get to choose whether you have the guts to back your law enforcement or you’re gonna hide. What’s it going to be?

James Pilant

Thirty-Two Million Dollars and Justice

Thirty-Two Million Dollars and Justice

We spend a lot of money on a lot of things in this country, but how much are we willing to pay for justice?

Is it not written in Amos 5:24 that – But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream?

064-1Evil men have committed evil acts. Are we willing to seek justice, even if it costs thirty-two million dollars?

There are 13,000 untested rape kits in the State of Florida. It is estimated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that it could cost anywhere between nine and thirty-two million dollars to test all the kits some of which have been stored in police departments for years.

Every rape kit needs to be checked and checked as quickly as possible. Why? Here’s an excerpt from the article found in the Guardian –

(From the story, More than 13,000 rape kits remain untested in Florida, officials say – -)

Testing old rape kits usually leads to a torrent of new prosecutions. Several law enforcement agencies have found that the rape kits point to serial rapists.

After Detroit processed a backlog of 11,000 rape kits, police identified more than 100 serial rape suspects.

And here is a quote from the report itself –

In 2000, the City of New York initiated the process of inventorying and testing all previously unsubmitted SAKs without regard to the status or facts of the case (forklift approach). Testing of 17,000 SAKs resulted in over 2,000 DNA matches and 200 cold case prosecutions across New York City. Those offenders are now serving more than 900 years in prison. Similar results have been reported in Michigan where the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office identified 188 potential serial rapists and obtained 15 convictions. In Houston, Texas, testing of 6,663 untested SAKs resulted in 850 matches in the federal DNA database and the prosecution of 29.

Many rapists are serial rapists. Testing a large number of rape kits from a single geographical area often pulls up the same name many times. A serial rapist can rape hundreds of women during their criminal career. Testing rape kits connects the dots in eminently prosecutorial format.

As a criminal justice professional, these kits are a tool to rid society of many of these repeat offenders.

This is a worthy goal and it is worth thirty two million dollars.

James Pilant

Progression of Women by Casey Dye

(This is a guest column by Casey Dye, a colleague.)

i_005Women, since the 19th century, have seen a dramatic increase in the quality of life in most parts of the world. Oppression of women in the form of equality began to subside as women continued to prove they were not inferior to men on an intellectual standpoint. Women were once looked at as property, then as females who couldn’t own any property, to being able to own their own property and have the ability to have their voice heard. The culture of domesticity has faded from today’s society almost entirely, and leaving women to venture after their dreams. Many of these dreams included the furthering of the power of the women’s voice whether it be a movement to end the drunkenness of the American man (Prohibition), or the ability to vote. With the right to vote came the possibilities of a woman being able to divorce their drunk abusive husbands and save their children. From here women began to take control of their lives from who they married, to where they worked, to what they wore. Fashions began to change to create more sensible attire for women in the work force. More than fifty years after the American government freed the slaves they gave women the right to vote showing this was no easy task, but with this new freedom women are now able to enter the public sphere for the first time. This continued to chip away at the idea the women belonged in the home. Social reform through freedom of press and speech for women, along with the increase in capitalism, gave them the opportunity to prove their equality rather than just preach it. Now women hold leader positions in fortune five hundred companies and in those circumstances are getting paid better than most men.

To say women’s fight for equality is over is far from the truth, but for as far as they’ve come they have just steps to go in hopes for true equality. I for one believe in this movement whole heartedly. My mother is a strong independent woman who raised me with respect for women. With this message being passed along we might see true equality in our lifetime.