Women Make Gains in California

Women Make Gains in California
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Women Make Gains in California

California’s legislature: Led by women, passing laws to help women.

The California Legislature passed nine bills aimed directly or indirectly at “women’s” issues. Calling them women’s issues seems inaccurate since they are quite legitimately society’s issues.

California is just one state but it is actually larger than most nations on earth and in the United States, its policies have at times become national policies. These legislative acts are in a real way an historical landmark, a turning point. And this follows my recent theme of women’s issues being the most important ethics issues before us. This is a time in which real change can happen. Social change often takes place in leaps. There is rarely constant and continual social change on any issue. When it come to progress, women’s issues have come to the front only for a few years at a time often followed by a bitter reaction.

But if my classes are good examples, the young women of today are angry and aware. That’s a good combination. They’re going to make things happen and as women gain more power, there may well be a kind of snowball effect with change forcing more change, something we’ve never seen before. I’d like that.

A lot of these are business ethics issues, for instance, airports must have private spaces for breastfeeding and there will be three guaranteed paid sick days a year.

An appreciation of the talents, skills and rights of all members of humankind strikes me as a good rule for all business ethics.

James Pilant

From the article:

Here’s what passed:

A bill requiring the state’s commercial airports to offer a clean, private space for mothers to breastfeed or pump.

A bill barring the sterilization of prison inmates

A bill establishing timelines for local law enforcement to process rape kits.

A bill expanding the definition of the word “harm” for the purposes of a restraining order to include and protect minors who were present during an act of domestic violence.

A bill making it easier for pregnant graduate students to finish their studies.

A bill bolstering Title IX enforcement.

A bill strengthening the California attorney general’s oversight of hospital mergers (mergers that could limit access to abortion services).

A bill requiring colleges to adopt an “affirmative consent” model in their sexual assault policies.

A bill ensuring all California workers have the right to earn and use three paid sick days a year.

via California’s legislature: Led by women, passing laws to help women..

NFL Thought We Wouldn’t Find Out

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NFL Thought We Wouldn’t Find Out

NFL Thought We Wouldn’t Find Out

Ray Rice elevator video was sent to the NFL three months ago, source says | World news | theguardian.com

A law enforcement official says he sent a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee to an NFL executive three months ago, while league officers have insisted they didn’t see the violent images until this week.

The person played the Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

via Ray Rice elevator video was sent to the NFL three months ago, source says | World news | theguardian.com.

A Common Sin

A common sin in the world of business ethics is to make a stop gap measure and hope to avoid the full consequences of what happened. If the NFL indeed had that video for three long months, we are dealing with that scenario.

The NFL when confronted with a player’s misbehavior did a minor penalty and expected to ride out the controversy. But then the video came out. Now apparently having new evidence of more serious conduct the organization fired the perp. Except it wasn’t new evidence. They knew that the film was devastating but as long as no one else saw it, they would be fine.

Justice?

What was the NFL doing? They apparently knew that their man had acted abominably and that the video would the put the League’s actions under a blaze of hostile media coverage. But no one knew and they were comfortable with that. And they should not have been. They were evading their responsibility to do justice for their members and to be seen doing justice by the public at large. It’s wrong to take a half measure when presented with evil. It’s wrong to judge a crime an inconvenience that can be overlooked. It’s wrong to reward reprehensible conduct with a minor penalty. And above all, it was wrong to imply that battering a wife is no big deal.

A Failure Both of Judgment and Morality

This is a business as usual problem. Undoubtedly the League got away with this kind of stalling tactic before. But the world has changed. We are moving from a society where beating women is just something people do, often a matter of some humor,  to a society that takes crimes against women seriously. The boy will be boys crap is going out of style.

And there is the added factor of technological change. Increasingly we are under surveillance at all times in all places. You’d think the League would have had enough intelligence to figure out that there was a high probability of another tape. Probably they didn’t care.

The lesson here is plain. Do justice. Be accountable. Of course, the tendency to take the apparent easy out will usually take precedence, human nature being what it is.

James Pilant

Power From Below!

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Power from Below

Power from Below

Power From Below!

From the Guardian Newspaper.

Swaziland’s royal family have long kept their distance from the paparazzi in a way British royals can only dream about. Not any more, thanks to the rise of Swazi Leaks, an online group determined to expose the opulent lifestyle of Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The movement, inspired by Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks, frequently publishes pictures of King Mswati and his family living the high life. One recent post says: “Our taxes pay for the king’s children to party in Los Angeles in the USA, will we struggle to eat here in Swaziland.”

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/29/swaziland-king-facebook-exposure-swazi-leaks

The Little People’s Power

What is meant by “power from below?” It is the ability of those with little economic or political power to actively oppose the current order. One way is by publicizing the flaws of the system. That is what is being done in the article quoted above.

As economic and political power has concentrated in the hands of the one percent, this type of activism is becoming more and more important. It may in the end become the only vestige of democracy remaining.

Net Neutrality

One of the arguments for net neutrality is that if there are fast lanes and slow lanes, the non-commercial side of the net, politics in particular, will operate at a handicap. This is a serious problem. It would take a lively, vital and continually developing medium of democracy and neuter it.

Business interests often find democracy to be an obstacle in their path. Communities seem attached to neighborhood schools. Thus school boards can be a problem when privatizing or “incentivizing” public education. Some towns prefer fracking to not take place within the city limits.  And so companies react by lawsuit, massive campaign contributions and from time to time, simply destroying the elected body, in particular school boards.

Is there a business ethics problem here? In the minds of many corporatists, democracy is the problem. Can you imagine their pleasure in a two lane internet? The first lane for the commercial interests at full speed. The interests of corporate business enshrined. The second lane for the public. The interests of the public consigned to a ratty, ill-used dirt road – the very epitome of second rate.

Often, we get the impression that multi-national corporations prefer the the sweet guarantees of totalitarian dictatorships over the democratic societies where they were born and nurtured. And this in spite of the fact, that the dangers of such deals are well documented.

Is it wrong for a corporation to hamstring the will of the people using its massive financial advantages and its many friends in politics, academia and the church? Sometimes, corporations use their power to secure tax money, evade taxes and other responsibilities. Sometimes they take the regulated and convert it to the unregulated (fracking). Sometimes they blackmail cities and states for one benefit or another.

The Jesse James Theory of Citizenship?

The Jesse James Theory of citizenship is when a corporation desires and expects the protections of a nation state while at the same time declining any responsibility toward the welfare of that same nation state.

Corporations are under the fascinating concept that they are in a real sense, independent nations. Currently under American auspices they are seeking treaty making powers. Having nation status without a geographic presence, or a military might sound ridiculous and it is. What is happening is the desire of the modern corporation to exist between nations without any responsibility save for its own interests.

In times to come, there will be attempts to set up corporate utopias on abandoned oil rigs or perhaps even an island. The power of even the smallest criminal gang to annihilate one of these intellectual exercises is not understood by those who have lived in the protection of an organized society. They understand “the real world.” This is, in spite of its name, a bizarre fantasy where they are the tough, realists who understand how everything works. When these overpaid, over-praised denizens of the skyward reaches of organized societies are casually plundered by “unorganized” societies, the rest of us less favored ones will find it difficult to generate sympathy.

We don’t live together in societies to oppress the creative classes as in an Ayn Rand fantasy. We exist in societies, nation states, because they have demonstrated over hundreds of years the ability to protect their citizens and organize economically. The word, parochial, has been used to describe the attitude of those of us who find the willingness of corporations to abandon a nation a demonstration of a lack of patriotism. But we do consider ourselves Americans, Canadians, Frenchmen, etc. It is a rabid and selfish form of self interest that pushes for this kind of corporate abandonment of national and ethical responsibilities.

Self-interest is not the key to utopia. In morals and ethics the distance between self interest and raw evil is only a matter of scale.

James Pilant

 

A Comment from “Why We Are Screwed”

(The original post being commented on is at http://pilantsbusinessethics.com/2014/08/28/business-ethics-women/)

Why We Are Screwed

Why We Are Screwed

Hi James,

It’s your friend over at “Why We Are Screwed” again.

I wanted to reply to your posts, “Women Scared of the Big Issues?” and “Business Ethics and Women”. Thank you for posting them. I wanted to share a few personal experiences with you and your readers.

I spent the last number of years working in an area of science/engineering consulting. Most recently, I had to deal with harassment, wherein I was the unfortunate recipient of an inappropriate sexual remark made by a male coworker, who was attempting to mock and disrespect me. I subsequently left this position because of this and many other reasons; either way, I did not want to continue working in that type of environment and I’ve now been unemployed for many months.

Although overt harassment, toxic workplaces, etc. are issues that affect women, (and not just women of course), the less overt male behavior I observed was probably more disappointing because it was more prevalent yet more difficult to identify since it was just under the surface of the company culture, e.g. a bunch of isolated occurrences/behavioral observations. Let me elaborate.

One manager I worked with always talked about sports with the guys around the office common areas, but never engaged with women in the same way because he just didn’t know how. When the annual company golf tournament approached, this manager made sure to “stack” his team with the best male golfers so he would have a shot at winning, which was obviously much more important to him than encouraging teamwork or just having fun. During one golf tournament I attended, this manager made a comment in front of me at a table of mostly men that he was “able to play 27 holes of golf” and something to the effect of, “women could only do 18 holes or less because they’d be too tired to do more than that”. I’m quite sure he was trying to show off in front of his buddies by blurting out his completely irrelevant comment, and was probably attempting to get a dig in at me because he was upset that I was no longer working in his office. I was the only one to speak up (none of the men at the table would bother, I mean, it didn’t affect them, right?), but none of the women said anything either. I replied sarcastically, “Oh, is that it? Women just can’t do it?”. After I made this comment, there was total silence at the table.

This same manager actually asked a female colleague if she was pregnant during an annual performance review. One could hardly think he was effective at his job, and yet, no one would bother to do anything about it, because well, the business was making money, he’d just been with the company for a long time, and, the company was run by men.

I’ve watched women have children and later leave their jobs, or, after being overlooked for promotion, elect to work part time after having children. There is nothing wrong with this option of course, but is working part time a free choice a woman makes, or is it the result of a workplace refusing to accommodate parental needs? It was absolutely true that some managers thought that it was not possible to promote any woman who was aged 25-40ish, if married and childless, into a management role, since she might potentially have a baby (I emphasize the word potentially, not even pregnant). The problem was, no one thought to ask these women whether they would want to consider taking on more responsibility.

On a positive note, I’ve noticed Generation X/Y and onward males often have a better attitude towards women in the workplace, and thus I hope that the culture will slowly change for the better.

And by the way, since I worked mostly with men, I wore pants to work, but I made sure to speak my mind. It was already challenging enough being a woman in the workplace, let alone reminding other men I was a woman by looking more like one. When in Rome…

(From James Pilant – Pilant’s Business Ethics: “Why We Are Screwed” is one of my favorite web sites to visit and it features a wise and witty author. Please visit it often.)

Bankrupt in Thought ?

Bankrupt in Thought

Bankrupt in Thought

Bankrupt in Thought

San Bernardino blues: Bankrupt city flailing amid financial overhaul | Al Jazeera America

What the city will spend money on is a new redevelopment guru to attract business investment to an area that turned the former Norton Air Force Base into the San Bernardino International Airport — an airport with a spanking-new passenger terminal to handle flights but, so far, no scheduled service from any airline.

via San Bernardino blues: Bankrupt city flailing amid financial overhaul | Al Jazeera America.

Confused?

I don’t understand. If the city is bankrupt, why is it spending money on business ventures?

San Bernardino is bankrupt but continues to spend money on business projects of an apparently dubious nature. The San Bernardino International Airport appears to be a major example of a very large expenditure designed to attract business without proper planning. The article below might give you an idea of the planning for this airport (there’s another airport 23 miles away).

http://www.insidesocal.com/aviation/2014/03/05/have-you-ever-heard-of-san-bernardino-international-airport/

Or this article –

http://www.insidesocal.com/aviation/2014/04/09/san-bernardino-international-airport-a-quick-chat-wit-hteh-director/

But I’ve seen this before, many times. Cities will give out tax breaks to businesses, use eminent domain to seize property for private development and allocate some taxation powers to new malls, etc. Essentially they are getting rid of their own tax base. In addition, cities are building projects designed to attract business. There seems to always be politicians who are willing to invest tax money in dubious enterprises or as a reward for support. After all, it’s not their money. Furthermore, officeholders in cities may only serve for a few years. After that you need a new job. It’s good to have friends and one way to make friends is to give out lots of money.

Rahm Emanuel, the current mayor of Chicago and one of the most aggressive masters of the corporate handout, has little to fear if he loses his next election. He will no doubt find a safe harbor in a minimally six figure salaried job with any number of organizations that benefited from his “kindness.” Those benefits came straight from the taxpayers while he hammered those same taxpayers’ services.

http://preaprez.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/rahm-emanuel-worst-mayor-ever/

or

https://davestieber.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/hide-your-schools-hide-your-children-hide-your-homes-cause-hes-wrecking-it-all/

All over the United States, city political offices have become corporate benefactors, and by the time the citizens realize their city is being looted, the elected official has moved on to greener pastures.

If public service is your reward in a society where many people believe that money is the only thing of value, that’s a pretty thin reward. If you believe that money is the only thing of importance and that those fools who elected you should have known better, then why not close the public libraries and the schools so you have money to build a new stadium or an airport? Why not sell the right to collect money from the city’s parking meters and turn highways into toll roads administered from Dubai?

Do businesses have a moral obligation not to loot the cities and states they live in? Or is that just “business.”

Or are we seeing a new wave, a new movement? A new corporate attitude? Let’s loot the cities. Let’s loot the states. And then move our headquarters to Canada (or Ireland).

Is it parochial to believe that corporations should pay taxes and avoid collecting welfare from governments?

James Pilant

Women Scared of the Big Issues?

Women Scared of the Big Issues?

Women Scared of the Big Issues?

Women Scared of the Big Issues?

Labour MP Austin Mitchell Says Women Shy Away From ‘Big Issues’

Austin Mitchell has suggested that women prefer to discuss family and “social issues” rather than “big issues like ‘should we invade Iraq?’.”

The veteran Labour MP, who is standing down next year, made his controversial remarks as he told BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour why he did not think it was a good thing for there to be more women in Parliament.

“I think the problem is simply this, that parliament with more women is going to be more anxious to discuss issues relevant to the people, that is to say family issues, social issues,” he said. “And less inclined to discuss big issues like should we invade Iraq.”

via Labour MP Austin Mitchell Says Women Shy Away From ‘Big Issues’.

Important Issues?

It is fortunate that this elderly dinosaur is moving on to a place outside the public eye. But his belief is not uncommon and that takes us to business ethics.

How can women be treated with some level of equality when in the minds of many men they have the “wrong” priorities. And what do we mean by wrong? Are family and social issues unimportant or are they just less important to men?

Do women have different perspectives than men about what are important issues? Election year polling certainly indicates this. It may be assumed that reproductive capacity, a comparative lack of testosterone and mistreatment in the workplace would have an effect on a person’s judgment. But does that mean that women’s judgment is worse or just different?

If the contention is that the big significant issues are all about wars, conflict and death – and that is where males excel, there is really something unflattering about that. That is not much of an excuse to massage male pride. And the idea that family and social issues are background concerns that males have “appropriately” relegated to the back burned is not an edifying concept either.

What our misguided parliamentarian seems to be saying in essence is that males have a much better grasp of the ways of violence and that violence related issues are more important than women’s concerns like family and education. It’s a stereotype similar to the caveman concept where the man hunts and the woman takes care of the children, sews skins together and develops agriculture.

Perhaps as a nation we can do some reflection and if we do, I’m sure we’ll find that war and social issues can be successfully and intelligently debated by both men and women, and that each sex having a say will make for a fuller and better understanding of these issues.

James Pilant

Supporting Evidence – below:

Women Get Much More Negative Feedback In Their Reviews | ThinkProgress

Seventy-one percent of the reviews had critical feedback, but women got more of it: about 88 percent of women’s reviews had criticism, versus about 60 percent of men’s. On top of this, critical feedback given to men was “heavily geared towards suggestions for additional skills to develop,” she writes. For women, on the other hand, much of it focused on their personalities. Seventy-one of the 94 critical reviews had such personality-based feedback, compared to just two of the 83 critical reviews for men.

I think this is clear evidence that women are judged on a different set of standards that their male counterparts.

via Women Get Much More Negative Feedback In Their Reviews | ThinkProgress.

Women Executives Are Stuck In Jobs That Don’t Lead To CEO | ThinkProgress

Women hold just 24 of the top roles the 500 companies on Standard & Poor’s index, and they still hold less than 15 percent of the CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies and less than 17 percent of board roles. Last year was the fourth year with no improvement for CEO positions and the eighth with no change in board positions.

Women are relegated away from the corridors of power on a consistent basis.

via Women Executives Are Stuck In Jobs That Don’t Lead To CEO | ThinkProgress.

Business Ethics and Women

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Business Ethics and Women

Business Ethics and Women

Business Ethics and Women

It seems the awareness of women’s treatment in business, politics and culture has never been at a higher pitch. And I can’t seem to escape the thought that women’s issues are the most important business ethics issues of our time. Considering the competition, that is a pretty extreme statements. Corporations are busily seeking the status of independent nations. A prominent bank paid the government ten billion dollars with six point six billion more “devoted” to the injured to avoid prosecution for tens of thousands of crimes. Studies are showing that fracking is destroying the health of many and literally destabilizing the earth beneath our feet. And yet here I am claiming that women’s issues are the most important.

Why?

We’re at a cultural crossroads. You can feel it. Certainly, my female students are expressing a greater degree of confidence and awareness than I have seen before. The essays on the internet and national headlines are all beginning to reflect an awareness and urgency to these issues.

For instance, I’m seeing a fairly constant stream of writing about the rape crisis in India and rage over the official indifference to the problem. This from a country where a month long corruption crisis merited a single brief column in the New York Times.

Misogyny is at an almost incomprehensible level. Sometimes, I think that every single woman hating male has his own web site. And what they say borders on the hysterical rantings of the paranoid. You get the real impression that they believe women are “organized’ against them, in a conspiracy to deny them status and sex, their rightful deserts for being male and straight.

And this Misogyny, this hatred of women, is the strongest sign of women’s changing status. This incoherent rage is not a sign of strength. It is a sign of weakness. It is similar to the scream of angst of the segregationists fifty years ago. That too, in the minds of the privileged was an assault on the very nature of things. Their fear is palpable and very real. They do not understand how to deal with a changing world in which they no longer command respect and awe for simply being male.

Are there counter motions in the culture? Absolutely, some of them bizarre beyond rational belief. Virginity promises are forced on ten year olds. In the same tradition, there are virginity balls attended by fathers and daughters. What rational merit does virginity carry? What value does it have beyond assuring insecure males that they are the first and only sex partner for women? Women and men are capable of having sex on regular basis and so we ration it for women with the idea that it’s better like soup from an unopened can?

If you want to see full scale hard core objectification of women, attend an abstinence meeting where females are compared to wrapped presents, candy bars, roses, chewing gum and packing tape. Because these objects are just like women, once they are used they become less attractive. This is ridiculous and it is time to start calling these fools out. Women can have sex and carry the same value that they had before. Female sexuality should not frighten anyone anywhere. It’s natural for women to be sexual and to have sex.

Once again, these are desperate rear guard actions by people who realize that culturally they are losing ground. Confidence does not make a ten year old girl promise something she cannot understand. Confidence does not censor works of art or worry that a naked breast on television will result in sexual perversion across the nation. Fear and insecurity does those things.

These are all business ethics problems because we live in a nation of employment at will. Employers have the right to fire anyone for virtually any reason. Our cultural beliefs about women makes their employment conditional on their willingness to conform to our stereotypes. How many women today avoided some kind of behavior from wearing a dress or conversely slacks at work, to not speaking their minds, to not asking for time off for pregnancy or children and often just to appease some ridiculous male who’d happily give a male two weeks off to go fishing? How many women work in underpayed professions like nursing, teaching and child care? And how many women are unwilling to go into one profession or another because they know they will be treated badly?

This isn’t a business ethics problem. It’s a business ethics crisis. For goodness sakes, in the United States, more than half the population is affected.

It’s not just unfair. It’s not just wrong. It is counterproductive. It lowers the value of women’s contribution to society and does immense harm which we try to undo in small part with therapy and drugs. But far beyond that, in a world where woman cannot live at their potential, we all lose. Because in a society where people are valued and realize they are valued, we are all better off. Cruelty and unfairness are toxic and travel through the entire society like an infection diminishing us all. When these things change for the better, this nation will be a healthier place to live. We will have a better opportunity to have a richer emotional and spiritual lives.

That’s worth a struggle. That kind of world is worth fighting for.

So, I believe that women in the workplace are going to be the most important business ethics issue in our time.

James Pilant

Do Women Not Run for Office Because They’re Scared of Being Judged?

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/08/13/why_more_women_don_t_run_for_office_a_new_study_says_they_don_t_like_being.html

After all, the reason that women are more afraid to offer themselves up for public judgment isn’t because women are inherently timid, as shown by their willingness to volunteer in the random selection groups. The likelier explanation is that women know, from experience, that the process of having a group evaluate your worthiness is a much more punishing experience for women, because you have to endure greater and more candid scrutiny than men do, a gender disparity that any foray into social media or parenting or Hollywood easily demonstrates.

I can’t help but observe that running for office in the United States is a bizarre trying experience in which women are often walking targets for cruel tactics. Perhaps women are not frightened but too smart to subject themselves to that kind of nonsense? jp

BYU’s Sex Ban Is Terrible for Victims of Sexual Assault

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/08/14/byu_s_sex_ban_keli_byers_speaks_out_in_cosmo.html

As a teenager, Byers was sexually assaulted by a man who had just returned from a Mormon mission. When she told her bishop about the assault, “I was banned from church for a month,” she writes. “I was punished because a man had touched me.” And now, at BYU, she is being shamed yet again by policies that have more consequences for women than men, like the dress code that’s framed as a way to “help men control their thoughts.”

When sex is not supposed to happen, it always seems to me that the rules are applied unequally with women expected not to give in to their base urges while boys will be boys. Inherent and obvious unfairness in role expectations have gone on too long.

Why These Women Who Saved Themselves For Marriage Don’t Masturbate

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/12/marriage-masturbation-women-save_n_5673198.html

“For me, and I think what the Bible shows us is that, the pleasure that comes from sex is part of something that is reserved for people who are married,” Velthouse said. “It’s one of the joys that comes from committing your whole life to a person. So sexual pleasure comes from my husband. When he’s not around, that’s not around either.”

It is entirely possible to get people to internalize behavior. Some of it is useful. For instance, I still look both ways crossing the street and I still signal a turn while driving even if there are no other cars there. However, it seems to me that this behavior, this absolute ban on sexual pleasure can’t help but complicate matters when sex does eventually happen. If your own body is a mystery to you, how are you going to be comfortable with somebody elses?

Girls on Film: The true cultural legacy of Sex, Lies, and Videotape

http://theweek.com/article/index/266366/girls-on-film-the-true-cultural-legacy-of-sex-lies-and-videotape

Even in the most masculine moments of Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Graham and John are powerless. They have their own particular techniques to assert their superiority — Graham’s seductive curiosity, John’s roaring sense of entitlement — and each is easily defeated. Graham is powerless against Ann’s questions and John’s violence; John tries to be powerful when he assaults Graham and kicks him out to watch Ann’s tape. They both push the women to a new understanding of themselves, and suffer the results.

Women have a lot of power. Even now. But it’s not across the board. But the power of sexuality is quite significant and as women assert their right to choose sexual partners and have pleasure on their own terms, a lot of other power will probably come their way.  jp

 

President Obama is Killing Net Neutrality

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President Obama is killing net neutrality
President Obama is Killing Net Neutrality

I received an e-mail the other day. It was from the Daily Kos. They called upon me to “Thank President Obama for supporting net neutrality.”

I’m not signing.

The President said many times during the 2008 campaign that he was in favor of net neutrality, sometimes with great emphasis.

It is a trite phrase to say “Actions speak louder than words.” I believe the current phrasing is “He can talk the talk but can he walk the walk.”

Yes, Obama said the wonderful words, very important to me, a regular blogger who didn’t want his work placed on the slow lane.

But when it came time for action, he appointed Tom Wheeler as Chairman of the FCC.

Here’s a brief quote from Wikipedia?

Prior to working at the FCC, Wheeler worked as a venture capitalist and lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry, with positions including President of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA).

So, when it came time to put the soaring rhetoric into action, he found not a stalwart defender of the open internet, but an industry lobbyist, the proverbial fox in the chicken house.

Not surprisingly, new rules that allowed for the creation of fast lanes (not to mention enormous profits for the cable giants) were written. And there has been a tremendous outcry among we the people (defined as not well heeled corporate lobbyists) in opposition to those rules.

And the President once again leaps to the defense of net neutrality.

It is possible that having heard the public outcry that the President may actually envisage exerting some pressure to keep the open internet and preserve net neutrality. It may be possible that he can persuade the former industry lobbyist to defend the public interest.

It is possible but I recall the promises from before and I am not optimistic.

Is this a business ethics issue?

Yes, net neutrality is an issue of fairness, that all users be treated equally. But it is also a question of power. The huge cable companies will be able to pick and choose among users who is favored and who is not, like some great medieval king awarding fiefdoms to their followers. It will be one of the greatest transfers of power in the history of the world, power and money beyond the wildest dreams of avarice. A toll road for every message, every magnetic impulse on the information superhighway.

I exaggerate? We have some net neutrality now but when Netflix was negotiating with Comcast for higher speeds they found out who was boss. They were given an object lesson in just how slow things can become for the unfavored. And that’s not the only way, the big internet providers are putting the hammer down.

Who is more important here?

It would be nice to think that democracy could effect this issue, that more than million comments would sway the FCC from its path. But how much power is there in a mass of citizens as opposed to cable operators? Each one generates billions of dollars in profits. Each one has a team of corporate lobbyists and makes lavish campaign contributions. This year Comcast alone has made political contributions of $3,402,202 for the current election cycle and spent $18,810,000 on lobbying last year.

Citizens United has changed the power dynamic. Now corporations can literally bury the voice of the opposition. It’s a form of “corporate” democracy where the disputes are between corporations and the citizens are incidental factors. Net neutrality may be the beginning of the end for effective citizen participation.

I can’t help but feel insignificant in this struggle.

And what’s worse, if the world is changing in this direction, what will become of business ethics? Will we will settle in for a new limited form of business ethics designed to discourage employee theft and absenteeism? Will we discourage whistle blowing as an act of betrayal? Will the tales of Enron and World-com, and the tragedy of Bhopal be written out of our books as unfortunate but understandable aberrations?

This is a critical point in the history of business in the United States and the larger world. I don’t know what’s going to happen.

But I do know net neutrality is important and I know the President isn’t on our side whatever he says.

James Pilant

 

 

The Expert, Francesco Schettino

The Expert, Francesco Schettino
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The Expert, Francesco Schettino

On July 5th, a two hour lecture was give at a University in Italy. It was part of a course in criminology and forensic science. The talk concerned the management of panic control. It’s not unusual to have a guest speaker. I’ve had guest speakers and have heard them in the classes I took when I was in college.

But this was different. The expert, Francesco Schettino, is famous but not for his academic expertise.

Francesco Schettino, formerly, Captain Fransesco Schettino, commanded the cruise liner, the Costa Concordia.

On January 13, 2012, the ship suffered a mishap. That night, the Captain took manual control of his vessel. Taking manual control of a 114,000 ton ship with a highly computerized navigation system may be considered unwise. He ran his ship too close to shore striking a rock which cut a gash in the hull across so many watertight compartments that saving the ship was impossible. Schettino declined to order abandon ship for about an hour even though it was obvious that the ship was sinking. As time passed, some officers and crew disobeyed the Captain and began loading life boats and evacuating passengers. This is called mutiny.

After an hour, the Captain notified port authorities that the ship was sinking and after a few more minutes ordered an evacuation. By then the ship was listing badly and it was very difficult to launch lifeboats. While the evacuation was ongoing, he abandoned ship and refused to reboard in spite of being ordered back aboard by the Coast Guard. Six hours later the evacuation was largely complete.

Thirty-two passengers and crew were killed. Sixty-four were injured and a member of the salvage team died later. However, it should be noted that the wind drove the ship back on shore where it grounded. If it had capsized and sank in the main channel, a high proportion of the more than 4,000 passengers and crew would have perished making the Titanic a distant second for loss of life.

Schettino is currently awaiting trial for manslaughter and causing the loss of the ship. He is seeking a plea deal.

The Expert, Francesco Shettino?

Is this incident ethical. It can be assumed that using those awaiting trial for severe moral failings and incompetence as an enriching experience for the young and impressionable is wrong. Why use bad examples when there a so many good, kind and successful people who could provide a better presentation? Teachers like myself have a responsibility to attend to the moral and ethical development of our students.

So, we can safely conclude that this may not have been the best person to give a lecture on panic management. Of course, it might be said that he is “experienced.” But it appears to be the wrong kind of experience.

I’m sure there are those who would treat this optimistically. I prefer satirically – like this:

There are many, many failures in many walks of life. The prisons and sometimes, asylums, are full of them. This might be considered (certainly by the instructor who invited Schettino) as an under utilized resource.

Bernie Madoff could lecture on securities and protecting your money.

Jeff Skilling could explain financial accountability.

Bruno Michel Iksil could have lectured on responsible trading.

It is a pity that this idea did not originate earlier as entire generations of criminal and financial failures have been lost to us without ever having delivered a single guest appearance before a college class.

James Pilant

 

FCC F-bombed 4,377 Times

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FCC F-bombed 4,377 Times

FCC F-bombed 4,377 Times

I, too, am unhappy with the recent decisions of the FCC. However, I did not use the F word or any obscenities in my written comments to the regulatory commission. Whether or not this is an effective means of persuasion in this case remains to be seen. But ladies and gentlemen do not use this word outside of the bedroom or during exciting events like a car accident. So, I would counsel my dear readers to avoid such melodramatic choices when writing to the Commission.

In total, there were 1.1 million comments made to the FCC on this topic. According the web site, Tech Crunch, the main topics of the comments were “free speech, ISP’s and anger.”

The website, SingleHop, has what they call “A Neutral Guide to Net Neutrality.” I prefer hotter blood when writing but it is an accurate view of the facts and if you are a student writing on the subject, it would be a good starting point if only for the good references.

I can’t but believe that this is a major business ethics issue. Giving an oligarchy of companies the ability to charge for different speeds is unfair. And as a practical matter, it makes it more profitable to not expand internet speed and band width. The United States is 12th in the world in internet speed. I have complete confidence that with the end of net neutrality we can descend down the ladder a long ways.

At this moment, a free market absolutist is reading this and thinking, “That ridiculous, if anything it is an incentive to increase services. This author is a crude leftist with no understanding of economics.” How about a little history of market manipulation? Here, here, and here, are examples of electric utilities cutting supply to push up prices. For simple price manipulation, I can easily pull up hundreds of cites. I believe in the lessons of history. If historically people have limited supply to make more money, it will be done again. The only way to stop that kind of exploitation is through regulation and in this case, that regulation’s name is net neutrality.

James Pilant

 

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