Ethics Newspaper Columnists – Round Up 7/30/10


Keith Chrostowski writing for the Kansas City Star has an article contemplating the likelihood of deflation, an economic malady, an unknown experience for Americans as the last time it happened was before our generation and the generation before that were born. He hopes that optimism in the minds of consumers will avert this but looking at his story I am more struck by the enormous cash reserves held by major corporations and their unwillingness to invest it in this country.

Edward Lotterman writing for Twin Cities has a wonderful article explaining a basic concept of economics, comparative advantage. It is also used as an argument for free trade. Whether you believe in free trade or not it is a good read by a very competent teacher of economics. (Warning – Lotterman’s Twin Cities web site does not allow me to link you to the individual articles just to his columns as a whole, so you may have to work your way into the archives unless you are reading this before he writes his next column.)

Jon Talton writing for the Seattle Times explains the concept of indigenous innovation rules. Read his explanation but it all boils down to they can sell to us but we can’t sell to them.

Barry Ritholtz writing for the web site, The Big Picture, explains that we are really just pants wearing monkeys (really) and that knowing and understanding that can keep us out of trouble. (He may be writing provocatively here.)

Newspaper Ethics Roundup 6/30/10


Loren Steffy wonders if British Petroleum naming a drilling rig, Crazy Horse (not the smartest move), decided to misrepresent to the tribes in Colorado the amount of oil it was getting out of the ground.

Jon Talton explains how the loss of manufacturing jobs makes the recovery more difficult and may cause long term damage as our position as a manufacturer deteriorates as opposed to other powers such as China.

Keith Chrostowski writes about creative capitalism.

Jay Hancock discusses the importance in the electronics field of an excellent knowledgeable sales force (particularly if you fired the ones you had).

Edward Lotterman discusses “external costs” and “imperfect information.” These are important and basic economic concepts. He discusses them accurately, simply and in a straightforward manner. If you read any of these pieces, read this one.

David Moon explains scientific research into where in the brain investment decisions are made and why we like to agree with others.

What’s The Verdict – Financial Reform?


Loren Steffy of the Houston Chronicle writes, “Most of the provisions that would have forced Wall Street to change its ways were compromised out of this law weeks ago.”

John Talton of the Seattle Times chooses this title: Financial ‘reform’: Big bankers cry all the way to the…

David Moon writing from the Knoxville Biz entitled his blog entryFinancial reform is a political charade. The rest of the article is even tougher.

I was looking at this newspaper’s web site and discovered they had no new column on the financial reform disaster but they did make an excellent prediction and for that I must honor them. Read below.

In its June 23rd editorial, the St. Petersburg Times said, “Congressional negotiators have a choice as they hammer out the final details on much-needed financial reform. They can stand for financial reform with real teeth and stand up to the pressure of the banking lobbyists. Or they can bow to those deep-pocket financial interests that have sponsored more than 800 fundraisers over the past year for members of the congressional banking committees. A weak reform bill that offers too little oversight and too many loopholes would not be in the nation’s best interest.”

I will follow up with more newspaper comments. I have looked at a dozen newspaper business pages after checking the ones above. It appears that the editorial pages have not caught up with the news. So, I will return to the subject probably on Monday.

James Pilant

Rogue Columnist!


“My aim has been to achieve the best in hard-hitting newspaper news column writing, a special and dying craft outside of a few places. I often fall short. But at its best this involves trenchant writing, a distinctive and compelling voice, backed by the facts (as Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “you are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts.”), analysis, context and pointed commentary.”

This is from John Talton’s latest column on his blog. This is one I read regularly and I recommend it to you.

I wrote him a short note by e-mail –
I put your latest column on on “Digg.” I am in the middle of writing something positive about it on my blog. When I was reading your piece I noticed that you said that writing a regular blog was grueling. Yes. Absolutely. I write on ethics usually twice a day. It feels like swimming up a waterfall. Increasingly we seem to live in a world devoid of honor. Well, enough of my musings. You probably get tired of hearing this, but I very much enjoy your columns. The only reason I don’t refer to them very often is that most people in NW arkansas (I’m only a few miles from Wal-Mart corporate headquarters.) have no idea what you’re talking about and a lot of your stuff is squarely in-state material.
My best wishes!
James Pilant

Read James’ entries on Pilant’s Business Ethics Blog
https://southwerk.wordpress.com/

You will notice I end my message with a shameless reference to my own blog. I feel bad about having done that but not bad enough to quit doing it.

James Pilant

Newspaper Columnists – Ethics Roundup 6-9-10


Loren Steffy (Houston Chronicle) asks the rhetorical question: “Should BP be paying its shareholders a dividend?”

Ben Bernanke predict a sort of, kind of, maybe, might be, probable recovery. (I’m overjoyed.) Jon Talton feels the same way. Discussing Bernanke’s testimony before Congress, Talton writing for the Seattle Times laments the paralysis and stupidity of our political class. He points out the easily discernable budget busters and then points out there is no one willing to deal with them.

Jay Hancock of the Baltimore Sun argues that increasing taxes on manufacturing makes no sense in the light of the enormous losses of those jobs in the Baltimore area over the last years.

Edward Lotterman writing for Pioneer Press argues that even with a good number of bank closings, there are many choices left for those seeking banking services. I’m a little surprised he didn’t discuss the ramifications of his state of Minnesota losing six banks this year.

Ethics Round Up – Newspapers – 6/8/10 Tuesday


Tony Pugh in a new article he wrote for McClatchy cites a new report that calls for reorganization at the Food and Drug Administration, a new emphasis on enforcement and a focus on detecting food problems before they get into distribution.

McClatchy was kind enough to include links to two other reports, The Long-Term Health Outcomes of Selected Foodborne Pathogens and Enhancing Food Safety: The Role of the Food and Drug Administration.

Don Blankenship of Massey Energy goes on the offensive stopping just short of claiming that the federally mandated fan system for clearing methane gas caused the accident in the coal mine where 29 miners died. (The comments to this article are not friendly and as of this time, he has not a single supporter.) This is a pdf file of the letter Blankenship sent to four governors.

Mitchell Schnurman writing on McClatchy’s home page section commentary suggests that since this country is in budgetary trouble that we stop giving money to private corporations. (Sounds good to me.)

Loren Steffy writing in the Houston Chronicle discusses the probably bankruptcy and end game for British Petroleum.

Jon Talton discusses the effect a massive increase in city fees for a skyway might have on a department store. It’s business ethics at its most basic level. Who should pay taxes? How much? How should the amount be calculated?

Keith Crowstowski writing for the Kansas City Star explains the corrosive effect of crony capitalism. This is some fine writing. I strongly recommend it.

Ethics Roundup – June 7th, 2010


Josh Lipton writing on Minyanville discusses the major historical bills regulating Wall Street as compared to the current effort. (It’s got a video!)

Karl Stephan writing in the Engineering Ethics Blog (his blog) talks about the lessons of Nuremberg for engineers and everyone else. The Nuremberg trials were the war crimes trials held by the victorious Allies at the end of the second world war. Many prominent Nazi’s and other war criminals were sentenced to death or to long terms of imprisonment. Stephan believes that the primary lessons of Nuremberg were the reduction of human beings to objects to be manipulated. He says that culminated in abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research.
(I am quite familiar with the Nuremberg Trials and the death camps and many other Nazi not to mention Japanese and Italian war crimes. I in no way agree with Karl Stephan’s conclusions. Nevertheless, it’s a good read.)

Simon Propper writing on the web site, Ethical Corporation, discusses the corporate responsibility movement and British Petroleum. BP was an enthusiastic user of the CR model and things have not worked out well. Propper discusses the ramifications of these events.

Epic.org, the Electronic Privacy Center, wants it known that internet privacy has become a major issue in the California governor’s race.

Loren Steffy writing in the Houston Chronicle predicts a high likelihood of skyrocketing oil prices in the wake of British Petroleum’s disaster.

Chris MacDonald writing on his site, the Business Ethics Blog, discusses the phenomenon of “Greenwash.” (I recommended an article from the site, Ethical Corporation, which discusses some of the same issues. I recommend reading MacDonald’s take and then checking out Simon Propper’s views.) MacDonald’s perception is tough on BP and accurate.

David Gushee writes about marriage. Normally I would just have gone on by his article since its relevance to business ethics is very limited. But Gushee is excellent in his analysis of ethical issues from a Christian perspective and I want to encourage that. So I include it.

Jon Talton writes about a world in which “entire professions have been vaporized.” I boil with rage over off sourcing, temps instead of real jobs, – every kind of pain placed on the producers in this economy and it never stops. It has gotten worse every year that I have been alive and it shows no sign of improvement. Can we live in a country without well paying jobs and far too few of any kind of job? This is not a problem of personal initiative or re-training. This is a political problem only solvable by action at the national level. But even in Talton’s article he quotes another writer thusly,
“You have to stay on top of what’s changing, how that affects your industry and your specific job and how you’ll remain relevant and valuable. Most people don’t change until they feel the heat. Sometimes, that’s too late …” Also, “Prepare for ‘hurricanes, sinkholes and manana,’ which is all about what to do so you’re not caught off guard, but instead prepared.” As for older workers, “look for ways to demonstrate you’re ‘not old’ in your thinking, in your attitudes, in your skills and how you look.”
When whole professions have been vaporized, personal initiative is useless. When there is one job for every six applicants, there is no amount of personal drive and guts that can get more than one of those six that job. When the entire economy of the United States and the world has been severely damaged, telling everyone to tighten their belt and get tough is no cure. It’s just nonsense. At what point do you look at an international catastrophe and stop saying if we individually get tough enough we can ride it out. At what point does the nonsensical cure of personal initiative, of there’s always dawn after the darkness, light at the end of the tunnel, only thing left after you hit bottom is up, think and grow rich, have optimistic thoughts and opportunity will find you and this continuing empty drivel of self help, when the only thing that can make a difference is collective action. Is it just impossible to say that the government should implement policies to protect American jobs? It is too radical to suggest that shipping American jobs overseas is unpatriotic and counter productive? It is just plain bizarre to suggest that making the absolute last dime is not the most important thing for an individual, a company or a nation? Can we think seriously about the problem or just stay in a land of fantasy where the exercise of a mythical absolute free will makes us demi-gods upon the earth?

Ethics Round Up – June 4th 2010


Karl Stephan writing on his blog, Engineering Ethics Blog, discusses the flap over facebook and privacy. The article is far more philosophical than you world expect from an engineering blog. He refers to the phrase, digital suicide, which is so mind grabbing and delicious I can barely wait until Monday to try it out on the poor college freshman in Business Law I.

One of the editor’s picks on the web site, Ethical Corporation, is an opinion piece by Mallen Baker discussing BP recent shift to corporate villain.

Timothy Egan writing an opinion piece in the New York Times say that the “millennials” should save us. He might be right. As a 53 year old, I find my generation disappointing.
(I was going to link to an article by The Ethicist, Randy Cohen, but he chose to write about a woman who was 36 but wondered if maybe she should falsify her age on her online dating profile as 34, so you’re getting Timothy Egan.)

I just found a web site called Principled Profit, created by Shel Horowitz. His latest blog entry recommends the Department of Justice get ready for criminal investigation into the British Petroleum catastrophe. One of his subtitles is “award winning blogger.” I can’t claim that one. Maybe someday. (One of the guys who does good work in the Business Ethics field linked to me on his blog just a couple of days ago, so I am moving up in the world!)

Jonathon Tasini writing in his blog, Working Life, has some unkind things to say about Wal-Mart. (He is referring to a New York Times article.)

Loren Steffy of the Houston Chronicle discovers that the federal government’s Minerals Management Service sometimes means no when they say yes.

Chris MacDonald writing on his site, The Business Ethics Blog, has a new post up before I got finished with the last one. (I still have to read the attached paper, An Adversarial Ethic for Business or When Sun-Tzu met the Stakeholder, which he tells me is amazing so you better click on the link.) MacDonald’s new post deals with the issue of alternative medicine and is a “meta blog,” a compendium of the current blog and all previous related blogs. (You watch, one day I will have a meta-blog of my own!)

Jon Talton of the Seattle Times discusses a jobless recovery.

Jay Hancock of the Baltimore Sun discusses underfunded pensions in a video.

Rod Dreher of BeliefNet offers a simple but moving take on the crisis in the gulf.

The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports that state BP filling stations are starting to feel the discontent.

Sri Sri calls for spiritual values in corporate culture –

Ethics Round Up – June 3rd 2010


Loren Steffy at the Houston Chronicle tells how to get your ideas to fix the spill to British Petroleum. (No, I’m not kidding.)

Jim Denison writing for the Associated Baptist Press reviews To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.

Jon Talton in the Seattle Times explains why the recovery doesn’t feel better Here’s a quote from the article: “Many of the economic imbalances that led up to the crash were also pretty much frozen in place, instead of the painful but ultimately healthy cleansing that recessions usually bring. More dolorous trends were accelerated, such as offshoring of jobs, increased used of temporary and contract labor, stagnant or falling wages, and rising income inequality.” If you get the idea he is not optimistic, you’re on point.

Asher Meir writing in the Jerusalem Post concludes a three part discussion on the morality of bankruptcy in the light of Jewish law.

Jay Hancock of the Baltimore Sun writes that if you stop paying your mortgage it takes about a year to get kicked out of your home so he asks if you’re in financial trouble why not default and essentially get a years free rent. (I do not approve, but I want to include it because if some clever business or ethics student sees it, they will have a dynamite article to take to class.)

Edward Lotterman writing for Twin Cities press does a good analysis of the question of what duty does an investment broker have to his client. He discusses this in the light of a case that on Wednesday reached a verdict and awarded 30 million dollars to several non-profits from Wells-Fargo.

From Business Ethics, the Magazine of Corporate Responsibility, we have a piece by Jake Bernstein analyzing the likelihood of a wider circle of fraud in the Madoff fraud case. Even if you only do a casual reading of the story, you get an immediate impression of how much research went into it. I was impressed.

Here’s Elizabeth Warren (who should have been appointed to the Supreme Court by Obama) discussing small business in the light of the COP report.

The Economic Indicators That Matter


The Economic Indicators That Matter

Jon Talton admits that unemployment is a serious problem and an indicator of economic health but he wants to be sure that appropriate attention is focused on wages and incomes. His concern is highlighted by a USA Today study that indicates that private sector pay checks are at the lowest level of proportion of income in history.

I would ask the following questions – Can a nation prosper continually seeking the cheapest labor? Can a nation prosper when jobs are continuously cycled outside the country? Can a nation prosper if over time a larger and larger proportion of its workers are temps, sub-contractors, or part timers?

What happens when there are no manufacturing jobs here? What will happen when income continues to drop? How will the nation pay for things? What will we do for a tax base? What will we do if we go to war and we can’t make anything? Can we throw money or perhaps credit cards at an advancing army with tanks and planes and expect them to leave?

Do you really want to live in a country where the only jobs are service industry jobs that cater to fewer and fewer people as incomes drop?

Can  we do something different here in the United States besides letting this happen?

jp