The United Airlines Edition


The United Airlines Edition

United Airlines has acted outside the norms of business ethics. They have done so in a manner the requires the guilty be punished.

Let me list some links so you can get a grasp of the actions of what calls itself an airline:

United Airlines passenger forcibly removed from overbooked flight

Passenger dragged off overbooked United flight

Man Violently Dragged Off Plane After United Airlines Overbooks Flight

Or my favorite –

Video shows man forcibly removed from United flight from Chicago to Louisville

I’ve thought about this since I first saw the headlines and I gone from rage to lamenting the sorry spectacle of human stupidity.

The Fire Everyone Edition

Here we have what purports to be a business overbooking flights and using the way the contract is worded to get rid of the unwanted passengers. You notice I don’t call them customers. It’s obvious that the “airline” doesn’t consider them to be that big a deal. Maybe the words, victims, suppliants or some other word the implies a human being considered as nothing more than temporary way to turn some coin might be found to fit.

I suppose the company might have been within its contractual rights to drag everyone off the plane using whatever force it considered reasonable. Maybe the passengers are lucky that didn’t occur to the leadership at United. It’s possible the the company would have considered the unhappy publicity a small price to pay for compliant and obedient passengers in the future. I don’t know.

What I do know is this – somebody has to be fired. In fact, a lot of people need to be fired. This sorry spectacle shows what happens to people when corporations can use the law to enforce their whims. The company took a simple civil dispute and converted into a tragedy. It appears they dragged a doctor off a plane and injured him for not giving up his seat and attempting to assert his rights under the law of this nation.

What we see here is raw power on display.

Did they intend to explain to us who really matters and who doesn’t? It doesn’t matter. The lesson is clear. If you fly United, be obedient and servile or they can drag you from your seat and throw you off the plane like garbage.

Fire everyone. That’s one it is going to take for the lesson to take hold. And what lesson it that, you might ask.

We’re Americans, a proud people and we don’t have to obedient to any company’s whims, and they shouldn’t be able to harm us for standing up for our rights.

I think that’s important. Don’t you?

James Pilant

The Sugar Industry Follies


The Sugar Industry Follies

I was reading an article from the web site, The Week, entitled: How sugar became Public Enemy No. 1.

The Sugar Industry Follies

The article tells a story of an industry that shapes our diets with its products and its advertising. A couple of decades ago this industry had a factual problem, that is, sugar makes you fat and you should probably avoid it in almost all eating. According the staff at The Week, the sugar industry decided to create research indicating that fat was the real culprit and then induced the federal government to get on the scent like a bewildered blood hound chasing the wrong villain and launch a nation wide campaign against fat that had no discernable affect on Americans’ weight.

Here’s an excerpt:

The industry launched an aggressive advertising campaign in the 1970s to convince Americans that sugar actually helps you lose weight by suppressing the appetite. “Sugar can be the willpower you need to undereat,” one ad asserted; another recommended eating a cookie before lunch each day. That campaign, combined with work by the Harvard researchers, helped muddy the scientific waters enough to keep dietary sugar guidelines vague. The American Heart Association approved of added sugar as part of a healthy diet, and millions of Americans embraced low-fat, high-sugar diets. Consumption of added sugars soared 30 percent between 1977 and 2010. It’s no coincidence, many nutritionists say, that obesity rates more than doubled over that same period.

If the article is true and I believe it to be, then the industry and the federal campaign it inspired resulted in Americans gaining weight.

This is what I call “negative business ethics.” You do the wrong thing with planning, skill and certainty in execution and you make bundles of money. It’s the kind of immoral lesson conveyed almost incessantly in the business press and much of the media. Yes, the industry did a bad thing but its leadership got multi-million dollar retirements and get to choose among multiple homes how to spend their lives. Their influence in government is immense and people flock to work for them.

Yes, they behaved badly and their actions diminished the lives of millions of Americans and almost certainly led to many deaths but what’s a few Americans compared to the wonders of the free market in action? After all, there is no apparent illegality in misleading the government as to the cause of obesity and, of course, you can always pretend like global warming deniers that the science is still up in the air.

Where is justice in this case? There is none. And businessmen and business schools will absorb the lesson of this. And the lesson is that if you make a product that should or is regulated, you can finance some studies, contribute to some politicians and maybe even get the government to act on your behalf and not only can you evade regulation – you can increase your market share.

James Pilant

 

The Importance of Character


The Importance of Character

Today, I want to talk about my friend, Steven Mintz and his recent post, Character and Free Speech Go Hand in Hand. Steven has rightly pointed out that character is a critical value and below is a little segment from his essay (which of course in no way does it justice).

The Josephson Institute identifies Six Pillars of Character. They include: trustworthiness; respect; responsibility; fairness; caring; and citizenship. I define them a bit differently and place them in six categories I call “The Magnificent Seven Core Ethical Values.”

Truthfulness: Be honest and non-deceptive: don’t hide important facts from others.

Trustworthiness: Keep promises, be reliable, treat others faithfully.

Responsibility: Be accountable for your actions; learn from your mistakes.

Fair-mindedness: Treat others equally, impartially, and objectively.

Respect: The Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Caring: Be kind to others; be sensitive to their needs; show empathy for others.

Civility: Listen to others attentively; don’t be rude or disrespectful.

All of Steven’s writing is constructed in carefully organized format and reading these little pieces does not give you the full flavor of his writing so please journey to his web site and read them all in full.

I think that character is often manifested in civic virtue and patriotism. One of things that pains me about modern society is the willingness of many businesses to casually discard American workers and Americans interests such as patents and trade secrets as long as the money is good enough. This kind of thinking is the opposite of character and is evidence of narcissism and greed.

It seems to me that we should actively seek to build character by rewards. Shouldn’t it be possible in our policies of taxation, in our rules admitting people to attend training or schooling that we could introduce the concept of rewarding virtue, not just good grades but good actions and living with others in mind?

If we want to have a society where we want the rules to be followed, shouldn’t we reward those that follow the rules? And rewards do not have to be money. It can be honor. Napoleon once wrote that a man wouldn’t give you his life for any sum of money but would gladly yield it up for a piece of metal on a ribbon but isn’t his little story more an example of how we wish to be thought of, and the sacrifices we are willing to make to others to appreciate and value our contributions?

Can we do something along those lines at this time in this society?

James Pilant

 

The Possum Magic Edition


The Possum Magic Edition

Possum Magic is picture book for children written by Australian author, Mem Fox. As a business ethics writer, you might think I was about to take up the topic of her book, its sales, and whether or not it is a good read.

i_00i_243_tnBut no, it’s because of this – (from the Guardian)

The Australian children’s book author Mem Fox has suggested she might never return to the US after she was detained and insulted by border control agents at Los Angeles airport.

Fox, who is famous worldwide for her best-selling books including Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and Possum Magic, was en route to a conference in Milwaukee earlier this month when she was stopped.

She told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she was questioned by border agents for two hours in front of a room full of people – an experience that left her feeling like she had been physically assaulted.

“I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness,” Fox said.

“I felt like I had been physically assaulted which is why, when I got to my hotel room, I completely collapsed and sobbed like a baby, and I’m 70 years old.”

The author attributed the aggressive questioning to border police who had been “turbocharged” by Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban.

Fox said she was questioned over her visa, despite having travelled to America 116 times before without incident. She was eventually granted access to the country.

 

It appears that the ongoing militarization of American policing is proceeding with great speed. Do you really need me to explain that getting tough with a white haired seventy year old children’s book author is bad and incompetent policing? Do I need to say that the two hours spent grilling this elderly woman might have been better spent on an actual criminal justice matter?

Empowered to Act Foolish?

I have read elsewhere that some law enforcement feel empowered by the election of Donald Trump and indeed, they have been doing some interesting things lately. Let’s make a little list:

Let’s begin with the son of Muhammad Ali.

On 7 February, border agents at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood international airport held the son of boxing legend Muhammad Ali for two hours. According to his lawyer, they repeatedly asked him about his religion.

Just last June, the world mourned the passing of his father, perhaps the most famous Muslim on the planet, as an American hero. Eight months and a presidential election later, Muslim Americans, including those with notable fathers, can’t even return to their own country without problems.

But, they keep telling us, it’s not a Muslim ban.

Then there is the case of Henry Rousso who was almost deported in spite of the pesky little fact that he was here legally.

A French historian on his way to a conference in Texas was detained for 10 hours by US border officials and threatened with deportation.

Officials at Texas A&M University said Henry Rousso was going to be returned to Paris as an illegal alien “due to a visa misunderstanding”.

The university stopped the deportation with help from a law professor, local news website The Eagle reported.

President Donald Trump has pledged to tighten US border controls.

“I have been detained 10 hours at Houston International Airport about to be deported,” Mr Rousso, 62, confirmed in a tweet on Saturday.

A British teacher who appears to have been blocked for the “crime” of being Muslim.

British Muslim teacher Juhel Miah was on a school field trip when he was escorted off an Icelandair flight to New York and told he was denied entry into the U.S.

And here’s the case of cinematographer Khaled Khateeb

The Department of Homeland Security has blocked a 21-year-old Syrian cinematographer who worked on an Oscar-nominated documentary about the country’s civil war, The White Helmets, from entering the country. The Associated Press saw some “internal Trump administration correspondence” in which officials decided to block Khaled Khateeb’s entry into the United States. Khateeb was scheduled to arrive Saturday in Los Angeles via Istanbul, but U.S. official reportedly found “derogatory information” on Khateeb. “Derogatory information is a broad category that can include anything from terror connections to passport irregularities,” reports the AP.

Dare to be stupid!

I remember a lovely title that just as soon as I heard it I wished I’d thought of it. It was “Dare to be stupid.” What’s our law enforcement doing? And should we even be using that phrase “our” in front of them? Once they just start doing their own thing, they are not really our law enforcement.

What are these guys doing? Have they seen too many episodes of 24? Is there an idea that if we are rude and mean enough to professionals from allied nations and on occasion, the child of an American icon, terrorists will get scared? Because I think this nonsense is just foolish. It’s unprofessional, anti-law enforcement and petty.

It is strange to think that the United States should welcome friends and allies? What do we stand for here? Because petty harassment, anti Muslim sentiment and simple nastiness to foreign visitors are not American values.

James Alan Pilant

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.

 

The Real Continuity Edition


The Real Continuity Edition

The brief selection below is from an article by Zach Carter from the Huffington Post called: Wall Street Is Even More Craven Than We Thought and sub titled: The new alliance between financial executives and Donald Trump.

Democrats used to see Jamie Dimon as one of the good guys on Wall Street. Once hailed as a “progressive” by The New Republic, the JPMorgan Chase CEO counted himself friends with two different chiefs of staff to President Barack Obama and traveled to the first black White House no less than 16 times. In 2009, The New York Times described him as “Obama’s favorite banker.” He has publicly supported same-sex marriage and the legalization of undocumented immigrants.

Dimon gave hundreds of thousands to Democratic Party candidates, the party itself, and even the Center for American Progress, a think tank advancing the ideas of Bill Clinton and Obama.

But there was Dimon on Friday, sitting at a table surrounded by other wealthy corporate executives, being praised by President Donald Trump ― a man who publicly supports war crimes and is already flirting with a constitutional crisis as he implements a campaign promise to impose “a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

In my case, the title is wrong, I was under no illusion that the giant investment banks had any limit on their willingness to cut deals with anyone, anywhere, anytime. The only difference is that they were already part of the new government if it had been Hilary and now have to scramble. I find it hard to sympathize with their plight.

!!!i_00i_009_tnBut this is the American way of banking. Homeowners may be cheated out of their possessions, economies crashed, strange overseas deals and money laundering take place and yet, the American Investment banks dwell at the heart of our government shaping laws and policies. It’s like Mom and Apple Pie, if Mom and Apple Pie were immoral cancers eating out the heart of our democracy.

Let me point out that many of these Investment banks have pleaded the equivalent of no contest to charges that would put a normal human being like you or I in prison for millions and millions of years. Yet, there they are at the heart of our government cutting a new set of deals making the world safe for financial speculation of the American kind.

If Obama had pursued criminal prosecutions against the banks in the aftermath of the financial disaster of 2007, their political power might very well have been broken as they were in the aftermath of the Great Depression. Instead for many years to come they will play politicians against each other like chess pieces on a board while preying on the poor and the middle class. Obama’s failure to pursue justice against the malefactors who came within an ace of destroying our economy is his greatest failure.

The “What Now?” Edition


The “What Now?” Edition

And so we arrive at the end of the Barack Obama administration by my account and that of objective reality – a business ethics disaster. The villains who almost destroyed the world economy found not justice but money and friendship in the Obama Administration. The financial criminals who did so much to destroy the fabric and any sense of honor in this society walk the streets as free men and, in fact, take their places at the highest levels of government in our new administration. Barack Obama failed at one of the most critical duties of the President of the United States. He failed to bring evil men to justice.

And now some of those same evil men will be making policy in the new administration. That was easily predictable.

I refused to support Hilary Clinton because many of those same bankers were part of her campaign and would have been part of her administration. When given the opportunity to speak to the criminal scum that endangered our society and have destroyed the economic lives of millions – this was her approach:

Far from chiding Goldman Sachs for obstructing Democratic proposals for financial reform, Clinton appeared to sympathize with the giant investment bank. At a Goldman Sachs Alternative Investments Symposium in October 2013, Clinton almost apologized for the Dodd-Frank reform bill, explaining that it had to pass “for political reasons,” because “if you were an elected member of Congress and people in your constituency were losing jobs and shutting businesses and everybody in the press is saying it’s all the fault of Wall Street, you can’t sit idly by and do nothing.”

Of course, she tried to keep this boot licking approach secret by refusing to release the transcripts of the speeches. In the foolishly moral like me, it would seem speaking in secret with a message of government servitude to the banking industry while saying something different to us would be wrong but her lack of ethics and morality were apparent to only people like me. There were many that were willing to overlook this kind of behavior on the grounds that the other guy was worse. I decline to do so. And I made the right decision. This administration will be terrible but the kind of sustained think tank, contributor controlled, Democratic Leadership Council inspired oligarchy, could have continued for decades. She could very well have made this Neo-liberal monstrosity a permanent part of our institutions.

I do not think it is irrational behavior on my part to wait for a candidate who is willing to enforce the law against the banking industry. I do not think that expecting a President to defend the nation from those whose financial excesses endanger the common good and the economic lives of millions should be surprising or outside the bounds of our politics.

So what now, am I willing to hold Donald Trump to the same standards I expected of Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton? Yes I will. I do admit there is a level of strangeness in the new President that I find daunting. Let me explain.

I have taught for many years and I have my students write essays. A good portion choose to do no research before writing, not even the most casual internet browse. And it’s like talking to your neighbor over the offense or in the bar with a fellow drinker. They just write their gut feelings which are very often just ill conceived nonsense. And that is the sense I get from President Trump. Further, I sense no intellectual depth at all. His behavior is almost primal.

People often want to put me in some kind of ideological box. I am supposed to be a liberal or a progressive or something. People are astonished at my criticisms of Obama because “Well, isn’t he your president?” He was President of the United States and I voted for him the first time and refused to vote for him the second time. In my mind, following the party line is wrong whether it is that of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party or any other party. I am a passionate advocate for women’s equality and I have come to a point where I consider racism such despicable nonsense that those espousing it are no longer in my judgment ladies or gentlemen.

I have no illusions that the stranglehold of contributors on the Democratic Party establishment will be broken or that the Republicans will find a sense of purpose beyond winning and servitude to the wealthy.

I speak for business ethics and that is enough.

James Alan Pilant

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.