Unleash the Pain Within?

Unleash the Pain Within?

It should be an axiom of standard business practice to do no harm to your customer. Most people would agree that killing or injuring your customer base will damage your long term prospects.

Unleash the Pain Within
Unleash the Pain Within

This weekend, thirty individuals suffered burns at a Tony Robbins seminar entitled “Unleash the Power Within.” According to press reports, there were some 7,000 participants so proportionally the casualty rates are fairly low. Nevertheless, I have been to various seminars over the course of my life and the burn injury rate has been very low.

There have been accusations that those who were burned were not in the proper frame of mind or lacked focus. I’m very sorry but being burned is a matter of science not faith. If you are exposed to a certain amount of heat over a long enough period, you will be burned. Most fire walking experiences involve brief exposure by walking quickly over a short distance on coals that have been allowed to cool.

Apparently, there is an idea that if you can do the “impossible” task of fire walking, you can shatter the mental barriers keeping you from success. Of course, if you are going to revolutionize your life in a three day seminar, probably some kind of dramatic activity is necessary. Three days out of your entire life is a pretty tight, small chunk of time. I tend to think that while you can change rapidly that it is better to focus on long term change such as mastering skills and new ways of thinking. Every day is a part of the process of change if you are thinking and learning.

What about expert advice and fire walking?

Here’s a comment from a medical professional on the subject from the Dallas Morning News –


But a burn expert at Parkland Memorial Hospital says it’s no wonder five people were hospitalized and dozens more were treated at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center after the fire-walking session.

“Just don’t do it,” said Stephanie Campbell, the hospital’s burn program manager. “Coal-walking is not an activity that we would ever recommend. We don’t believe there is any safe way to do it.”

And from further down in the same article:

Campbell, however, said feet are no match for burning coals, no matter how focused the participant might be.

“The skin is our body’s major barrier against bacteria and fluid loss,” she said. “When it comes into contact with a heat source that is high enough to cause damage to the skin, it disrupts this barrier. … Full burns can actually require surgery with skin-grafting.”

Maybe we shouldn’t focus on short term revolutionary ways of changing? Maybe change is something we have to do to cope with changing circumstances and that change done with awareness over time may be healthier and more effective than the short term and dramatic? Maybe.

Whatever your feelings about change and the speed and drama of change, I think we can agree that all of us should avoid harming our customers.

James Pilant



The Tribune Publishing Company is now called tronc. Once again George Orwell is fully vindicated. Corporate speak has now dropped to such low levels of intelligence that company names bear strong similarity to minor Disney villains.

There is suspicion in some quarters that the name was changed to make a corporate buyout more difficult and I see the reasoning. Who wants to go their shareholders and say, “I just offered 425 million dollars for tronc?” It sounds like you tried to corner the market on a rare Malaysian spice.

This is the same kind of thinking that produces Hollywood sequels and short term profit seeking like stock buybacks.

Some people are amused – Tronc: The 30 best jokes about Tribune Publishing’s new name


Some are not – Tronc May Make Journalists Snicker, but Shareholders Aren’t Laughing – Fortune


What are the business ethics here? I can’t help but feel that taking a historical reputation that took a lot of work to make and turning it into a lame joke may be a dis-service and an insult to everyone involved. That probably constitutes a serious ethical violation. I also can’t help but think that when you can only talk in meaningless corporate jargon that the mental equivalent of five year olds have way too much influence in this economy and the larger nation around it.

James Pilant

From Around the Web –

On #Tronc, Journalism, and Its Value | First Draft on WordPress.com – 3rd solution


(I am starting to think one should always vet one’s corporate strategies through Twitter. Just throw ideas out there. See which ones immediately combust in a conflagration made of 4chan and Anonymous and Gamergate.)

I laughed along with the rest of them, but: I know good people at Tribune Publishing. Friends, and ex-friends, people I know to be decent whatever assholes they happen to presently work near. I know lots and lots of good journos, and they deserve better than to watch the place they put their hands and their minds and their blood and their days turn into a national fucking joke.

What’s in a brand? A tronc (Tronc) by any other name … | The Buttry Diary


When we announced TBD’s name, the Washington Post mocked it as “totally brain dead.” As though you should want a brand name the competition would like. Others liked it.

I may blog someday about the branding of TBD, but I’ll tease a bit now with some of the names we didn’t choose (that people actually recommended): WashDay, MonumentaList, IMBY. I’m serious. Branding isn’t easy (unless you already have a long-established brand such as Tribune Publishing …).

But here’s something I said when we were trying to choose a name for TBD (and blogged here when the St. Petersburg Times rebranded itself in 2011): The name doesn’t make the brand, the company’s performance in the marketplace makes the company. 

Should College Professors Assign Papers to Improve Content on Wikipedia? (The Ethics Sage)

(Today is a guest post from my friend and colleague Steven Mintz, The Ethics Sage.)

Should College Professors Assign Papers to Improve Content on Wikipedia?

Should college professors assign Wikipedia content reviews and edits for course credit? It is an important question because traditionally most college freshmen are told that they shouldn’t use Wikipedia. It’s an unacceptable source for term papers and to assign students a project to check the accuracy and reliability of information on such a site makes me wonder whether professors in their ivory towers have lost perspective on what the purpose of writing is.

The Ethics Sage
The Ethics Sage

In a recent example, students at Emerson College are responsible for Wikipedia’s “theatre and disability” page. The encyclopedia article on minor depressive disorder was revamped by a student at North Dakota State University. And if you ever look up the Wikipedia page on vaccination policy most of what you’re reading comes from a sophomore-level chemistry class at the University of Michigan.

It has been reported that more than 14,000 students have created or edited 35,000 Wikipedia articles as part of a program run by the Wikipedia Education Foundation. The three-year-old nonprofit, a spin-off of the Wikimedia Foundation funded in part by the Stanton Foundation and Google, is determined to convince professors and students that — counter to everything they have ever been told — Wikipedia actually belongs in schools.

In a L.A. Times article on June 20, 2016, Susan Alberts, a biology professor at Duke University who has used Wikipedia in her classroom for the last five years is quoted as saying: “It’s so much better than a term paper, from a student’s perspective. This way, when students write something, someone besides their teacher actually reads it.”

This sounds like a rationalization for a questionable act from my point of view. To say someone else reads it and mean the Wikipedia people makes me wonder what these universities get in return. Is there a financial relationship between those universities that assign Wikipedia projects and the Wikipedia Foundation?

Wiki Ed has developed a program that makes it easier for new classrooms to join up and for hundreds of classes to participate at once. The organization takes care of training students on Wikipedia’s expectations and interface. After that, it works with professors to oversee students as they draft, edit and submit articles, often over several weeks.

I dislike having someone from the organization that is the beneficiary of the writings review those writings as part of the editing process. I believe objectivity may be lost – in appearance if not factually. It’s like having an academic journal work with professors as they write research papers and later decide whether to accept them for publication.

The Wiki Ed website says their Wiki Ed program creates a world where any learner can contribute to open scholarship and education for all and that writing for Wikipedia challenges students into analyzing and interpreting information for fairness, accuracy, and reliability.

I doubt the claim that scholarship improves mainly because, as a professor, I don’t see updating Wikipedia information for accuracy and completeness as a scholarly activity. There is no meaningful analytical dimension to such assignments. Divergent ideas on a subject matter are not analyzed for their relationships. Persuasive arguments are not made. This is the essence of creative writing. By its very definition it is not a creative exercise because the thoughts come initially from content on Wikipedia, not from the minds of the students.

Creative writing should help to stimulate “mental motivation” in which students complete a set of writing exercises that combine expressive writing with goal-setting. What is the goal of Wikipedia assignments? It’s a stretch to say it stimulates the minds of students as they go through the process of researching content they did not first identify. Instead, this is content already there. What meaning does it have for students? Perhaps they feel good about improving content on a major site that college students routinely use in their writings. If so, this is not enough to qualify for a rigorous writing assignment.

Other concerns that I have from an academic perspective are Wikipedia assignments should not replace traditional assignments where writing ability is a critical component of the grading process. In the end, Wikipedia assignments are geared toward adding or enhancing encyclopedic content. Contributions to Wikipedia do not contain original research.

To be fair, I suppose one valid way to use Wikipedia assignments could be to assign an independent research project that requires tight writing, neutral tone and relevant citations and then have students present their research in class. Students would write analytical papers and take that content and use it to update Wikipedia. Professors can then grade the paper and include a comparison with the updates to Wikipedia.

Writing at the college level is a process of writing, editing, revising, editing, re-writing, and so on. Writing pieces for Wikipedia fails to meet these standards although I concede that imaginative professors may be able to structure such an assignment in a useful way.

By Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage. Dr. Mintz is Emeritus Professor from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at www.workplaceethicsadvice.com.

Ordered to Dump these Barrels!

Ordered to Dump these Barrels!

This You-Tube video shows men dumping barrels of what appears to be industrial waste. They say they’ve been told to do it and they will lose their jobs if they don’t. “God, forgive us.” One of them says as they dump the barrels.

A voice explains that they have been ordered to dump them and then burn the last two inches of waste material in the bottom.

It is clear from the context that the men doing the work believe they are being ordered to perform an illegal act. If my recollection is correct, the date they give is March 4th.

If any of my kind readers know more about this – please let me know.

If what we’re seeing is as portrayed, we have multiple failures of business ethics. First and foremost we have a simple unwillingness to follow the law. It looks like public dumping of toxic waste is being filmed here. And ordering your employees to dump compounds the offense.

James Pilant

Illegal dumping by nv company

Hilary Clinton and History

A Truly Historic Moment for Women

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, Hilary Clinton 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

Other points of view:

I Used to Be In Love With Hillary Clinton – theindependentthinker2016

Women, Get Empowered: Hillary Clinton Has Made History | a mad man on the run



The System Affects Morals

The System Affects Morals

Circumstances have an effect on what we do. We can build systems that support and reinforce morality or we build systems that weaken and destroy morality.

Take this example from India. This is from an article entitled: – If no one helps you after a car crash in India, this is why.

Kanhaiya Lal desperately cries for help but motorists swerve straight past him. His young son and the splayed bodies of his wife and infant daughter lie next to the mangled motorbike on which they had all been travelling seconds earlier.

The widely broadcast CCTV footage of this scene – showing the suffering of a family of hit-and-run victims in northern India in 2013 and the apparent indifference of passers-by – troubled many Indians.

Some motorcyclists and police eventually came to the family’s aid but it was too late for Lal’s wife and daughter. Their deaths sparked a nationwide debate over the role of bystanders – the media hailed it as a “new low in public apathy” and worse, “the day humanity died”.

Why do people just walk away and do nothing in the face of such suffering? Are citizens of India evil and oblivious to suffering? Certainly not.

Then what’s going on?

In India if you assist a traffic victim the police assume you must be doing it out of guilt and they will likely arrest you and if they don’t you may wind up as a witness in a legal case. And in India, legal cases can drag for many years.

If that isn’t enough In India if you take someone to the hospital they are very likely to try to make you pay for their medical care.

There are efforts underway to change those rules and they are having an effect. India is re-writing its laws.

There are a lot of differences in our system compared to theirs. No one is likely to arrest you for calling an ambulance in an emergency or assume you caused the accident. If you take someone to the hospital they don’t try to bill you if you don’t know that person.

And the results are clear. When you encourage rescue, people get rescued. When you encourage people to not get involved, people die.

Are there examples where Americans are changing systems to encourage a lack of morality?

Absolutely, corporate and governmental decision making is increasingly divorced from any kind of moral code.

The sole concern of business is to make a profit for shareholders. It doesn’t matter whether or not you make a product, accomplish a goal, do good or even stay in compliance with the law. Money is all.

You can read articles where people discuss the idea that the only function of business is to make money. It’s an amazing experience. They hold the idea up of money (and sometimes greed) as the sole goal as if were a philosophical diamond, shining in the light. They talk about it as if they had found truth like King Arthur’s knights searching for the Holy Grail. As if it were obvious to any thinking human being that every other value was subordinate to money or to say it slightly differently, shareholder value.

What do we get when we train people to think only in terms of profit?

The System Affects Morals

What’s happening now is what we get. Corporations that have no loyalty to anything that doesn’t make money. They evade taxes; refuse any responsibility for the communities and nations that have nurtured them. They have become moral free agents or more correctly amoral free agents. Like the superman of Friedrich Nietzsche, they are beyond the rules and expectations of lesser men.

I subscribe to another view. This is from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation,EVANGELII GAUDIUM, section 55:

One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

Corporations were created in nations like the United States to allow investors to come together to create great economic projects that could live beyond their creator lifetimes. They were not designed to be our masters or our destroyers.

Each system to encourage right actions and morality has to be based on an ethical system. If India can change its laws to encourage people to save the injured in car accidents, we can change our focus from simple profit to wider moral concerns that include a respect for law and an abiding loyalty to the United States.

James Pilant

The Strange Truth about Fat

The Strange Truth about Fat

One of the key things about ethics is the necessity of truth. There has to be a basic respect for the truth particularly in the form of facts.

One of the most basic human questions is, “what should we eat?” That query has been debated for all time and it is of vital importance. The more you get it right, the more likely you are to live healthier and longer and the more you get it wrong the more likely you are to feel bad and live briefly.

The Strange Truth about Fat

A classic example would the brief popularity of radium dosed health drinks in the early years of the twentieth century, one particular drink being on the market from 1918 to 1928, with the side effect of radiation poisoning which could rise to a fatal dose. We know now that this was a very bad choice, indeed.

But many of our food choices are not so easily resolved. Take the subject of fat. By conventional wisdom, fat is bad – you eat too much and you gain weight. But the conventional wisdom is wrong. The strange truth about fat is that it sort of depends on the circumstances. Read this from the Guardian section on health

Fear of fat is misplaced and guidelines that restrict it in our diets are wrong, say the Spanish researchers who have followed more than 7,000 people, some eating 30g of nuts or 50ml of extra virgin olive oil a day while others were put on a standard low-fat diet. Their research, they say, should put healthy fats – from vegetables and fish – back on the menu, changing attitudes and the way we eat.

A couple of years ago, I began eating avocados and was shocked to read how much fat was in them but then my follow up studying on the subject indicated that while they did have a great deal of fat in them, this did not seem to translate into weight gain. This was a big challenge to my “fat bad – protein good” diet ideas of the past.

I’d been taught as a child that weight gain was simple mathematics. If you ate more calories than you burned, you gained weight. But now it appears that all this is conditional based on a number of factors.

I know of one diet where the benefits are concentrated on your abdomen, the Abs Diet. The concept here is that certain kinds of food bring fat to certain parts of the body but not necessarily to others. You eat the right ones and exercise and the fat changes locale.

Now, this is not my field and I don’t know and I don’t expect to know absolute answers to that basic human question, “What should we eat?” But I do know that science moves and that facts can change and that as, a thinking human being, I have to move with the facts.

It’s a vital moral lesson. Unless morality and ethics are discussed and reasoned through using the best and most accurate information possible we will ere and not do what is best.

In a way, the discussion of food is a microcosm of all other vital subjects. Some facts may be in disputer. Other beyond. There is and will be a great deal of controversy. And yet, decisions must be made and they will be imperfect as we lack total information. But we have a duty as moral creatures to act on the best information possible.

Our duty is not to be always right but to try to do right.

James Pilant

My Colleague, Jayaraman Rajah Iyer, Responds to the Ethics Sage

My Colleague, Jayaraman Rajah Iyer, Responds to the Ethics Sage

Yesterday, I posted a brief segment from The Ethics Sage’s blog post,  The Ethical Link Between Our Beliefs and Our Actions. Afterwards I received the selection below from Jayarman Rajah Iyer. He tells me it is from one of his books and is copyrighted but gave me permission to post it as a standard blog post, which is what we have now. 

Jayaraman Rajah Iyer
Jayaraman Rajah Iyer

Please read the work of my distinguished colleague. 

James Pilant

Dilemma exists because of the truth. Truth is paradoxical; it contains the opposite values. That’s why Truth is illogical. “Logic” means something, which doesn’t have an opposite, which is straight, which is not paradoxical. Truth is always paradoxical; and so it has opposite values, and therefore there is a moral dilemma.


When X^2 = 4, what is x?
X = √4, going further
√4 = ?
√4 Ξ ±2.
Ξ, is a symbol with three dashes meaning – identically equal to. Without this symbol Ξ, the equation is not accurate.
In this equation X acquires two values that are not just equal but identically equal to +2 as well -2.

X acquires two opposite “values” and not opposed to each other. They are in the same plane.
±are two aspects of a single movement, like a pendulum. One second it could be sitting in one and the next at the other end. When we stand on the equator and look at North Pole and South Pole they are so far apart. But it is no different from a small coin having two sides head and tail, when North and South Poles are watched from the moon. Poles apart, true but Earth is a single indivisible unit. Genghis Khan and Gandhi are in the same plane but with different values. Both belong to the same species. It is like identifying left hand and right hand but they are part of the single inseparable unit. That’s the truth. Truth always and completely involves opposite values, and then only it can be truth.

Prof. Mintz writes: Q: “What are Donald Trump’s true beliefs? Does he love Mexicans and employ thousands of them as he says even though he will act to build a wall at the border and he disparages a judge with a Mexican heritage? What about Hillary Clinton? She seems to say one thing one day (i.e., supports the Trans-Pacific Pipeline deal) just to change her position on the TPP like a chameleon and pledge to veto it simply because Bernie Sanders adopted a position against it that appeals to the general Democratic electorate.” UQ

Opposite values give a clue. Illustratively: “I used to smoke 40 cigarettes a day, now I don’t”. There is something missing in this statement that could give raise to some doubts. When the person is found smoking a few minutes later one can get a reply: “I used to smoke 40 earlier, now I smoke 45 cigarettes a day”. The statement has a shortfall that none of the other reasoning would be able to dig out the truth. Inference would at the most, confirm that this person doesn’t look like a nonsmoker. If a person wants to make certain to the other person to communicate clearly, then he has to say: “I used to smoke 40 cigarettes a day, now I have given up smoking”. A clarity is clearly evident in the statement without any doubt. In the said statement: “I used to smoke 40 cigarettes a day, a. now I don’t and b. now I have given up smoking”, ‘giving up smoking’ gives the clarity for the opposite value.

Let us view the statement: “The fat Mr.X doesn’t eat during daytime”. Though Mr.X does not eat during daytime, he still remains a fat fellow. How? We guess that he must be eating at night. There is something contradictory about an individual not eating and still not being thin. Our guess that he eats at night does not belong to the category of inference. To make an inference there must be a hint or clue in the original statement itself. There must be a “reference” like smoke from fire, thunder from clouds. Here there is no such reference.

Donald Trump never categorically stated that he hates Mexicans. He only said he would build the wall to protect employment within. Trump said U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had “an absolute conflict” in presiding over civil fraud proceedings against Trump University because he was “of Mexican heritage.” Does it mean Trump says all Mexicans hate USA?

Jayaraman Rajah Iyer

The Ethics Sage Explains Cognitive Dissonance

The Ethics Sage Explains Cognitive Dissonance

My friend, Steven Mintz, better known as the Ethics Sage, has a new posting on his web site, entitled: The Ethical Link Between Our Beliefs and Our Actions.

Cognitive dissonance is one of the important concepts in ethics, how so often our actions and ideas are in conflict and how we manage to reconcile what to so many would seem simple hypocrisy. Mintz explains the concept and its significance in a brief and clear essay.

Below are the first two paragraphs from the blog post –

Cognitive Dissonance and Ethical Decision-Making

A highly ethical person knows his or her values, principles and beliefs. Those values, principles and beliefs would then determine one’s actions when faced with an ethical dilemma. A person who does not understand or fully know his or her values, principles and beliefs, might act in an ethical situation without thinking through the consequences to others, known as System 1 thinking, rather than first considering how our actions affect others, or System 2 thinking. Later on, rationalizations may be used to reconcile actions to ethical beliefs and reduce cognitive dissonance, that is, the disconnect between what our belief says we should do and what we actually do.

A person who always justifies or rationalizes his actions has a flexible belief system or is lacking in the moral virtues and consistency in behavior. In effect justifications and rationalizations become the belief system of that person and relativistic’ situational considerations inform decision-making rather than sound ethical principles.

As always, in the case of this author, I recommend that you visit his web site and read the full article. And maybe stay and look at some of his other work.

James Pilant

The Ethics Sage
The Ethics Sage Explains Cognitive Dissonance

Business Ethics Roundup 6 10 2016

Business Ethics Roundup 6 10 2016

Item one –

House financial committee chair to propose overhaul of Dodd-Frank law

If you read, overhaul, and instead saw the word, abolish, in your mind, you are reading the article correctly. The House Financial committee lives in a world where the virtuous capitalist bankers who came within a hair of destroying the world economy in 2007 are being victimized by (well, people like me) regulators when in reality, they are the engines of wealth who if liberated will make us all happy and free.

The house would recreate the conditions that produced the disaster. It appears that facts and history have no place in this discussion. The idea that the “free market, “ a myth similar to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, will right all wrongs and make us free has many adherents in the House of Representatives.


Item two –



This is a very sad article about the degradation of the one of the world’s natural wonders and the Australian government’s role in the ecological disaster. I recommend you read it in full.


Item three




The Koch Brothers Are Trying To Handpick Government Officials. We Have To Stop Them. – is the title of the article. It explains how the Koch Brothers are using the influence to choose candidates for various government posts. It’s a damning indictment of a government being primed to run for the benefit of billionaires and their lackeys.


Item four




Business Ethics Roundup 6 10 2016

Entitled – Another Giant Pension Fund Divested From Oil, Coal, And Gas Companies, this article talks about the surprising and growing success of the effort to divest funds from fossil fuels. This is a form or opt out shareholder democracy similar in some ways to the South African economic boycott of thirty years ago. Is there a strong moral element in this movement? I think so and it is vital if capitalism is to survive along with societies that use those means of running an economy that a solid conception of right and wrong be returned to decision making.