Bizarre Experts Are No Accident

Bizarre Experts Are No Accident


Bizarre Experts Are No Accident

Recently Fox “News” had a televised disaster, a terrorism expert whose knowledge and expertise were laughable.  But this cannot be a surprise to those of us who pay attention to the content of cable news.

(At the bottom of the page is a piece from Addicting Info in which a capable journalist discusses the problem.)

In the far off past of the 1960’s, television news lost money. It was supposed to. The news was a return to the public by the networks in return for the use of the airwaves. It was required and expected by the law creating the FCC and part of the administrative rules of the agency.

How times have changed.

The networks were released from these responsibilities to provide a public service. This was in the name of the free market. Because we all know that only when business is freed from regulation and responsibility to the public can real benefits be expected. After all businesses are self-regulating. They will not act against the public interest – Didn’t you read Milton Friedman?

And what benefits we have reaped! Now we have the opportunity to watch “news” programs where facts, reasoning and any semblance of respect for reality are expendable.

So what’s surprising about experts on terrorism who couldn’t cross the street without a map and a boy scout? People who have no concept what they’re talking about are often far more interesting (provocative?) than real experts. After all, you go to college for years and then work in a field for more years, write scholarly papers in an almost inscrutable form of scholarly and bureaucratic English, you tend to be wordy and cautious. This is boring. Since news must turn over the big bucks – (boredom kills profits.) We gotta’ have action. That means extreme statements, and they have to be loud and certain – because that generates ratings.

And if your network has an ideological basis, any real expert is verboten. We’re not just selling news, we’re selling ideology – a one-two punch of certainty  for a specific demographic.

So, by converting to a free market formula for news and giving up any responsibility to the public, we have the opportunity for a representative democracy in which a majority of the population believe nonsense, in which science is ridiculed, conspiracy theories treated as legitimate news and demogogary elevated to an art form.

This is bad business ethics.

James Alan Pilant

Addicting Info – Watch This Journalist’s Brilliant Take Down Of Cable News Experts (VIDEO)

During an interview, Scahill told CNN’s Hala Gorani:

“CNN and MSNBC and Fox are engaging in the terrorism expert-industrial complex, where you have people on as paid analysts that are largely frauds who have made a lot of money off of portraying themselves as terror experts and have no actual on-the-ground experience. … Some of your paid analysts, that you have on this network or other networks, basically are just making money off of the claim that they’re experts on terrorism and really don’t have the scholarly background or on-the-ground experience to justify being on your network or any other network.”

via Addicting Info – Watch This Journalist’s Brilliant Take Down Of Cable News Experts (VIDEO).

Obama’s Wonderful Words

Obama’s Wonderful Words

Tom Wheeler is Chairman of the FCC. Tom Wheeler before becoming Chairman of the FCC was a lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry. Tom Wheeler was appointed by President Obama.

Obama's Wonderful Words

Obama’s Wonderful Words

President Obama is calling for strong protections for net neutrality with his usual eloquence and newsworthy phrasing. Where was this concern when he appointed Tom Wheeler?

If the President says he wants something done and he appoints someone who is not on the same page, whose fault is it? And how seriously should we take a President who says wonderful, wonderful things but whose actions are not in sync with those same wonderful words?

I believe in net neutrality. Without it, this web site and many others like it will load slower and probably eventually disappear from the net altogether. The President appears to be on my side. It is well said that appearances can be deceiving. If he really wanted net neutrality he would have appointed a stalwart defender of the concept and not an advocate for the cable companies to the commission.

What he wants it to have it both ways and he’s getting it. He wants to be seen as being on the right side of the issue but doesn’t want that right side to become law. So, the President puts on his game face, calls us to battle and then does nothing while keeping up appearances.

It’s called being played and I don’t like being played. I’m not tired of his talk – I’m disgusted with the talk. I believe in the power of words. I’m a teacher. But words are only one element of leadership. Sometimes words are the only things you have but this is the President. He actually gets to appoint people and direct policy. You would think that there would be synchronicity between the two things but with this President, you would be wrong.

I want to see Net Neutrality enshrined in law. The President says he is on my side. How much he means and how much it matters remains to be seen.

James Pilant

Obama Net-Neutrality Stance May Spur Fight With GOP – WSJ – WSJ

Mr. Obama specifically called for the Federal Communications Commission to go beyond its previous proposals and explicitly ban broadband providers from blocking, slowing down or giving preferential treatment to some websites. To achieve that, he said, the FCC should classify broadband as a utility or common carrier, which would open up the industry to greater regulation.

via Obama Net-Neutrality Stance May Spur Fight With GOP – WSJ – WSJ.

From Around the Web –

The bottom line is that there is no way around net neutrality if we want a free and open internet. The internet must be explicitly protected. We cannot rely on the mythical free market fairy to do something that is the job of the FCC. (This is a great article – I have to be careful how much I quote or Google penalizes me, so please go and read the whole essay!)

As we’ve learned in other spheres, however, corporate executives are not ones to let virtue stand in the way of profit, and today’s telecom tycoons are no different. For some time, they’ve been scheming to dump the idea of net neutrality, viewing its public benefit as an unwarranted obstacle to their desire to grab greater profits.

Isn’t it peculiar how everyone agrees that things like “Internet fast lanes” are bad except for the companies that stand to directly benefit from these net neutrality-bending ideas, and the lobbyists on their payrolls? The debate rages on, and net neutrality shot into the spotlight yet again earlier this week when President Obama came out in opposition of fast lanes, and in support of Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which would reclassify Internet service providers as utilities.


The Billionaire Price Index

The Billionaire Price Index

Paul Singer, a billionaire, believes inflation is a serious problem and he is dumfounded by government data that show otherwise. According to him, the evidence before his eyes shows there is a high rate of inflation. He tells us that he has personally witnessed a dizzying increase in the price of up-scale real estate and high-end art prices.

Obviously, this is a silly conclusion based on the most fragmentary evidence, but why is it a business ethics problem?

Simple. Mr. Singer is a billionaire, for many, a fount of wisdom. And the fact is, he is far more influential than thousands of voters (or bloggers). Politicians shake with fear that he might give to their opponents and hope upon hope that he will give to them. Financial publications, business television and newspapers breathlessly publish his words as if he were a newly minted Old Testament Prophet.

But here, he, a major figure in the financial world, shows that he does not understand inflation. What’s wrong with his analysis?

First, the top 1% are doing extremely well right now having captured the lion’s share of the income gains since the financial crisis of 2007. So, obviously prices will increase for high end items when high end incomes are increasing dramatically. That’s pretty simple.

But his analysis is worse. If you’re looking for inflation outside the numbers presented by the CPI, such analysis would seem to include a look at major nation wide prices on such things as energy. Further, if there is an actual high rate of inflation, shouldn’t it be reflected in the currency markets as well as in the countless economic transactions like those on the Chicago Mercantile?

Reasoning and logic are basic to business ethics. Before you can analysis the ethical and unethical, it is a necessity to understand what’s going on. Mr. Singer is calling for dramatic changes in economic policy. These would have the effect of more protection for already accumulated capital and make the labor market more difficult across the country causing hardship for millions. His reasoning is nonsensical but his influence is vast.

It seems to me that disregarding evidence and making policy based on that disregard is irresponsible and unethical. The billionaire price index is a self serving fantasy for those whose accumulated wealth is threatened by any inflation. But these individuals are powerful enough that their fantasies can make policy. It shows that they are out of touch with basic economic reasoning and the lives of the vast majority of Americans.

It also implies that the “ruling class,” the “beltway,” and the “very serious people” (all very much the same group) have a loose grip on reasoning but a hard and strong grip on ideas that favor protecting their interests.

James Pilant


The Billionaire Price Index

An Excerpt from The Washington Post -

This billionaire thinks the Fed is missing the hyperinflation in the Hamptons – The Washington Post

Which brings us to Paul Singer. He’s the hedge fund billionaire who’s made a small part of his fortune buying bonds from countries on the edge of default, and then suing them to get paid in full.* (This hasn’t worked quite as well with Argentina). Well, it turns out that he has some very idiosyncratic ideas about what inflation actually looks like. His latest investor letter recycles all these ideas, inveighing against the Fed’s “fake prices,” “fake money,” and “fake jobs,” before zeroing in on where inflation is really showing up — his wallet:

Check out London, Manhattan, Aspen and East Hampton real estate prices, as well as high-end art prices, to see what the leading edge of hyperinflation could look like.

That’s right: Paul Singer thinks Weimar-style inflation might be coming because he has to pay more for his posh vacation homes and art pieces.

via This billionaire thinks the Fed is missing the hyperinflation in the Hamptons – The Washington Post.

Relevant comments from other web sites:

This guy is called “the Vulture” for a good reason. I didn’t give him the nickname. He’s called that by everyone in the banking community. What he does is he buys–he finds old debts that were considered long settled by nations that were in a civil war, like the Congo or Argentina, or the U.S. auto industry, okay? And what he does is he then–after a deal has been worked out, he waits about ten years, and then he suddenly shows up and says, hey, wait, you owe me! Well, how much? Oh, say, 10,000 percent more than I paid.

Testing Madness

Testing Madness

Testing Madness

Students attending Holyoke public schools have their test scores posted in their classrooms on the walls. (See the article at the bottom of the essay.)

“Under Dr. Paez’ direction, teachers are currently required to post student data including test scores, reading levels and other academic scores and information in their classrooms and other public areas of schools,” said Paula Burke, of Lawler Street, parent of a third-grader at Donahue School.

Humiliation used as a means of social control? – or for “encouraging students?” It sounds like a Dickens novel.

That’s not teaching. That is corporate culture. Teaching encourages learning and has a deep and abiding concern for the psychological welfare of the students. Because we that teach know that a damaged learner gets few benefits from an education. Corporations post results to force competition and winnow out the winners and the losers.

But these are not corporate pawns made to suffer psychological abuse to make them push for higher sales. These are children.  We’re not supposed to be dividing them into winners and losers. First, of all, they are children. Children going to school can have good and bad years, good subjects and bad subjects, etc. Second, designating human beings in the midst of the development of their skills and judgment is bound to be wildly inaccurate. Is is simply not fair.

But what does fairness have to do with testing madness? It is designed to determine winners and losers – principally losers.

But what is the matter with the truth? After all they earned those scores, they should know where they stand?

No, they are not adults with a capacity to absorb criticism. This is because adults have formed self perceptions with defenses. These children are very young and they have little to filter out the devastating effects of early stigmatization. This is a definition of labeling theory? – Do you see the connection?

Unwanted descriptors or categorizations – including terms related to deviance, disability or diagnosis of a mental disorder – may be rejected on the basis that they are merely, often with attempts to adopt a more constructive language in its place. A stigma is defined as a powerfully negative label that changes a person’s self-concept and social identity.

There is a perception among many that labeling people as losers particularly early in their lives has an effect on the rest of their lives. That testing partisans are willing to curse children by stigmatizing them does not speak well of the testing movement.

What is this competition thing, anyway? I’ve heard people speak of competition as if it were the natural process of life that everything revolves around. There have to be winners and losers. Not always. There are some things in our society that lend themselves to that but many, most, don’t. We don’t educate children into winners and losers. We educate them to have basic abilities like reading and writing but principally we educate them to be good citizens because that is what makes for successful democratic societies.

We cooperate in social settings, in obeying the law and doing such complex tasks as driving. To get to work, to successfully achieve our goals, cooperation is generally more important than knocking the other guy down.

Sometimes we compete but most of the time and in most situations we cooperate. Generally speaking education is a cooperative endeavor.

Turning it into a meat processor devoted to dividing students early and often into groupings of success and pain is only good to the most twisted of minds.

This is corporate thinking and corporate processing aimed at the most impressionable of our population. It calls into question the judgement and intelligence of our corporate elites. This kind of formulaic, one size fits all, group think is not an indicator of ability. It’s an indicator of a pervasive lack of thought. In short, an inability to understand business ethics and apply ethical thinking to the world at large.

Over and over again, I see simple business ideas of dubious quality applied to every situation apparently because if it is an idea from business it must be good.

I believe in a reliance on facts and reasoning. That is how you make good judgements in life and in education.Formulaic thinking has good results when luck and chance favor it. That’s not good enough.

James Pilant

“Poster child for tenure”: Why teacher Agustin Morales really lost his job –

Last February, Morales and some of his colleagues, as well as parents whose students attend Holyoke public schools, spoke at a school committee meeting (the equivalent of a school board) and protested a directive from higher-ups to post students’ test scores on the walls of their classrooms, complete with the students’ names. Paula Burke, parent of a third-grader at Donahue, called the walls “public humiliation.” Some teachers questioned whether posting data publicly violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. As I reported at the time for In These Times, the superintendent tried to turn the tables on teachers, saying that they were never told to use students’ names and that the directive did not come from the administration, but the teachers released a PowerPoint from their training session that clearly showed photos of sample data walls, with first names and last initials.

via “Poster child for tenure”: Why teacher Agustin Morales really lost his job –

An additional note from the Washington Post –

Today’s version: data walls, where teachers are making lists of all kinds of data — very often student test scores and grade data — and putting them up for display so everybody can revel in the glory of data. The use of “data” to “drive instruction” has become a mantra among many school reforms in recent years, and, as one manifestation, teachers in states across the country are being encouraged to create these data walls. They are even getting professional development in how to create them. Some include the names of students — even kindergarteners — while some don’t.

A Good Person, Really?

A Good Person, Really?
A Good Person, Really?

A Good Person, Really?

At the bottom of the page is an excerpt from “War Machine’s” suicide note. For whiny self indulgence, it would be difficult to exceed. In his mind, he is being persecuted, apparently for being a “real” man.

What does this have to do with business ethics? Haven’t you noticed that men’s sports seems to involve on a routine basis, a level of misogyny more appropriate for the Dark Ages than 21st century America? It’s not an aberration. It’s part of the win at any cost mentality. It’s part of a male centered system in which moving a ball around an enclosed area is somehow of critical importance.

A lot of this is about money. A hooked customer is much better than a thinking one. But on the other hand, a lot of it isn’t. The feeder teams, the high schools, have only limited money incentive to compete (aside from the enormous costs to education) yet here too we encounter misogyny on an incredible scale. Rape victims are re-victimized. Hazing of a particularly deviate kind is considered a “boys will be boys” problem. Parents rush to defend football programs where the players act more like a youth gang than a sport.

It results in attitude’s like War Machine’s note. War Machine is a victim in his view – a very high level of Freudian projection. The woman he seriously injured is persecuting him. When she broke up with him and moved on, she had the nerve to have sex with someone else. You can almost hear an orchestra of tiny violins. And he’s unfairly being charged with crimes because he’s a guy living in the wrong era. Ah, if only there was a good Viking raiding party needing a few good men, maybe some horde ready to ride out of the wilderness and destroy a fledgling civilization. But unfortunately, he lives in a nation where there is some law and he will be held accountable.

This bleeds over into schooling, work and politics.

One of the worst elements of misogyny that seems to leak into every part of work and play is the amazing capacity for males to blame women for male behavior. Be it rape, pregnancy, or spousal abuse, every single time, no matter what the circumstances, “she” should have done something else. She should not have been out that late, She should not have worn those clothes. She should not have talked back. She should not have resisted or she should have resisted. She should have known what to expect. She should not have been drinking.

Or on the job – she should not have been so aggressive. She should not have applied for the job if she was just going to get pregnant. She should not have joined a job if she couldn’t take being or not being in the “boys’ club. She shouldn’t take so much time off. She shouldn’t have so many children.

See, it’s all the women’s fault. You might think rape is an affirmative act requiring decision making and physical action on the part of the perp, but no, men are lured into rape by the siren call of cunning, conniving women. You know, the root of all evil, cursed by poor negotiating skills with snakes. And women get pregnant by themselves. And beat themselves up, etc.

A new era is upon us. We are going to have to think about these issues. The note from “war machine” is a wake up call to the rest of us about the costs of misogyny, the macho culture of sports and the stupidity, the self-righteousness of some men.

James Pilant

Addicting Info – War Machine’s Suicide Note Blames Men’s Oppression For Making Him Beat Ex-Girlfriend

However, his attitude changes later in the letter as he admits to “crying like a lil’ bitch” and blames Mack for the “f*cking ridiculous” allegations that have ruined his life. He wrote:

“They wanna charge me with battery and domestic violence? Fine, do it, but don’t railroad me with B.S. fantasy charges like: Rape! Attempted murder! Kidnapping! And Burglary! It’s making it impossible for for justice.

I’m a good person with a huge heart and everyone who knows me know that, especially Christy.” (source)

War Machine seems to have forgotten that he fractured Mack’s rib, ruptured her liver, knocked out her teeth and broke her nose. Not to mention that he attempted to kill her, and would have succeeded if she hadn’t run away. Instead, he suggests that Mack’s “scumbag agent” is pressuring her to testify against him for cash.

Toward the end, War Machine again whines about men’s rights, saying:

“Society has killed men, I was never meant to live in this era anyway. Follow your dreams and think for yourselves.” (source)

via Addicting Info – War Machine’s Suicide Note Blames Men’s Oppression For Making Him Beat Ex-Girlfriend.

A Few Relevant Comments from my fellow bloggers -

Now, it wasn’t as if I was personally attacked by someone of the opposite gender on this mundane monday afternoon. God, no, I doubt I even had an encounter with the beast we call “men”. But after checking twitter, and deciding to look on an individual’s account (granted, I have no fucking idea how to use twitter), I was shocked horrified and downright confused. Do boys like this even talk to their mother?

Hysteria, the root of the word “hysterical,” was used as a medical diagnosis into the Victorian age, almost up to present times. Throughout history, women were frequently connected with the misogynistic theories of the Greeks that set them out as being the weaker sex. Christian Europe purported that women were weaker than men, that they were more fragile and prone to “demonic possession.”

No matter how often women try to explain about the discrimination, the abuse, the pain, the fear, and the hate that women are subjected to in our society, a man will try to knock her down some more.  Well guess what guy?  I’d rather spend the rest of my life alone than submit myself to the likes of you.  Bring on the negative comments!

The Fourth Estate is Vacant

The Fourth Estate is Vacant

The state wants to spy on us – but is it up to the job? | Technology | The Observer

Many moons ago, shortly after Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA first appeared, I wrote a column which began, “Repeat after me: Edward Snowden is not the story”. I was infuriated by the way the mainstream media was focusing not on the import of what he had revealed, but on the trivia: Snowden’s personality, facial hair (or absence thereof), whereabouts, family background, girlfriend, etc. The usual crap, in other words. It was like having a chap tell us that the government was poisoning the water supply and concentrating instead on whom he had friended on Facebook.

via The state wants to spy on us – but is it up to the job? | Technology | The Observer.

The Fourth Estate is Vacant

The Fourth Estate is Vacant

The Wasteland of American News

I was reading a joke the other day. It went like this:

CNN was changing its name from “The Most Trusted Name in News” to “Holy crap, we’re all going to die.” This is from the Borowitz Report from the New Yorker Magazine. This is only a short distance from the truth. The media coverage of the spread of Ebola has been sensationalism at its worst. The 24 hours new cycle has been turned over to know-nothing commentators, crank conspiracy theorists and a band of insipid hosts who appear to have given up on even the appearance of journalism. From time to time an expert appears only to be ignored or marginalized or both. It would be hilarious if the subject wasn’t so important and the stakes so high. I’m seeing comments on Facebook talking abut the millions of dead from the Spanish Flu Epidemic and classroom talk of death dealing sneezes.

The Fourth Estate is Vacant

I have graduate hours in journalism. I’m not seeing much in this crisis. It’s been replaced by a corporate inspired search for higher ratings and for at least one network, political attacks of the most base kind. It’s all about the money. And as long as it is, the money will be on lies, exaggeration and the fomenting of panic, anything to keep the gullible and uninformed glued to that empty screen and these substitutes for competent professionals.

Surely, this tells us as a society, as a people, that glorifying greed carries a terrible price. Just when we need the truth we receive ratings fodder. Can it be any clearer that honor, fairness and truth are the basic foundation of a successful society?

If every human endeavor is only worthwhile if it is profitable, if success is measured only in coin, then this kind of “journalism” is fully justified. If a company’s only responsibility is to increase its profits, the public be damned. Even when misinformation kills, it sells.

Is business ethics just a joke? Certainly, when I tell people what I do, I get a lot of ironic smiles, chuckles and looks of pity. Maybe that’s all I deserve, a voice in the wilderness who sees Americans increasingly devolving into prey animals, narcissists who hunt for the last dollar from the last of their fellow citizens.

If common humanity, if simple human decency, cannot compel responsible journalism, how far has the nation’s moral fabric decayed?

James Pilant

Here are some linked quotes from other bloggers whose writing is superlative –

The Fourth Estate as we know it is in its death throes, fighting for a last breath before meeting its maker.

Journalism is a slippery slope. In order to uphold the fourth estate and provide the public with current news, ethical issues arise left, right and center. News-gathering, interviewing and reporting are areas of journalism where ethical conduct is imperative at all times in order to maintain the respect for the media as a reliable source of public information.

Journalism is not public relations. It’s goal is not to spin stories and appease audiences for personal gain, but of course, corruption is everywhere in this world even if we choose to ignore it. Unnamed sources can be fishy for a number of reasons, with the biggest one being that it encourages lazy journalism. 

This is currently being threatened by the same conglomerates that overtook television and made it the face-rotting advertisement box are trying to change the rules so companies can pay extra money for an ‘internet fast lane’.

The last one is a little peripheral, but damn, what writing! (jp)


The Three Percent!

The Three Percent!
The Three Percent

The Three Percent

Spare me your “femvertising”: The advertising industry’s weird, persistent woman problem –

Recently, at New York’s Advertising Week, a hedonistic celebration of all things commercial, a half dozen panels focused on women. Discussion topics ranged from the instructional, namely how to avoid insulting women when you’re trying to sell them stuff, to the philosophical, which asked tough questions to the tune of, essentially, “Could it be women’s fault they’re not being promoted?” Panels with titles like “Women Aren’t Creative?” readily recognized that women make 80 percent of household purchasing decisions.  What the smiling executives at center stage were a little slower to acknowledge is that women are only 3 percent of the creative directors making decisions about how to best sell things to these millions of shopping ladies. The word “femvertising” was thrown around a lot, but never the word “feminism.” Perhaps that’s because in an industry famous for being sexist, feminism is scary even if it sells.

via Spare me your “femvertising”: The advertising industry’s weird, persistent woman problem –

Where are the women?

Women might be smarter when it comes to selling things to other women. Certainly, they would bring experience to the table. There are differences in male and female shopping. But does “The Three Percent” reassure you that women are being represented?

Yes, in the advertising field, only three percent of the creative directors are women. And this is in a world, a nation, where women go to college and graduate in larger number than men. Is it easy to believe that women are just not applying for these jobs? – that they are just no qualified – that women lack creativity and useful knowledge about marketing to women?

There has to be a suspicion about hiring practices and employment in the industry. Suspect “like hiring like” or an “old boys network” or a” set of frat connections,” there is something wrong.

Can it be that the constant horror of ads in garish poor taste directed at women is a result of women’s absence in key roles in advertising? (1)

You want to pound your head against a stone wall. How can people be comfortable with a field dominated by men when every day we have solid, clear and compelling evidence that when it comes to women, they just don’t get it. Three percent is not an accident, not a statistical anomaly; it’s a conscious decision by hundreds of men to not hire women. And by not hiring women, they damage their ability to make money and please their customers. So, this kind of hiring misogyny is foolish and counterproductive.

Surely, someone, somewhere, can view this statistic and make a better decision. It’s time to hire some women to sell to women.

James Pilant


 (1) Given advertisers’ complete willingness to exploit women’s fears and insecurities whenever necessary to promote a product — especially when that product is edible — I wasn’t terribly surprised this morning when I walked onto a Manhattan-bound R train and saw this advertisement …

One Child, One Teacher

One teacher, one student

One teacher, one student

One Child, One Teacher

12 incredible Malala quotes that will make you want to give her the Nobel Peace Prize all over again –

“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”

via 12 incredible Malala quotes that will make you want to give her the Nobel Peace Prize all over again –

The Importance of Teaching

Teaching changes individuals and societies. The idea that human beings who were not aristocrats could improve themselves is an Enlightenment concept(1). This is a relatively new idea in history and hopefully an abiding one.  Those of us who teach have a responsibility to shape minds and character. Many teachers transmit either willingly or unconsciously their own biases. But the real revolutionary act is to transmit the basic skills of a respect for facts and the ability to use reason.

A developed mind, fact and reason oriented, is a lethal weapon against stale tradition, incompetent leadership and, above all, complacency. It tends to activate the mind and invigorate the recognition of self-importance and action.

We live in an age where conspiracy theorists, internet come-ons and manipulative business practices are common. We can try to knock them down one by one or we can seek to create in a student’s mind the intellectual skills necessary for self-defense. The skills that help a student understand the risks are very similar to those enabling them to recognize opportunities, and that empowerment is another goal fulfilled when the student-teacher cooperation toward learning occurs. Remember education is not purely a matter of teaching skill. The student can always choose to past tests and ignore the rest of the content.

An undeveloped mind is a playground for manipulators, whether corporate flacks, PR experts or venal politicians. A critical thinking human can learn to protect himself from scams, false claims and other nonsense.

As Americans, we always need to ask ourselves what kind of people are we creating? What are we conveying in the way of culture to our posterity. One of the perils of an increasing “incentivized” is the very real peril of conflating money with success. If money becomes the only measure, who will be wise, brave or committed. And without the wise, the brave and those committed to the higher good through public service, what kind of society, what kind of nation will we live in?

For an educator, a teacher, that is the mission. To raise a human being from a state of understanding less to understanding more. In itself this is a life and society changing event.

James Pilant


(1) Leading educational theorists like England’s John Locke and Switzerland’s Jean Jacques Rousseau both emphasised the importance of shaping young minds early. By the late Enlightenment there was a rising demand for a more universal approach to education, particularly after the American and French Revolutions.

Are Corporations an Achilles Heel?

Are Corporations an Achilles Heel for the United States?

Achilles was a Greek warrior at the siege of Troy. He was immune to all harm except on one heel. He was shot and killed by a poison arrow in his one vulnerable spot.

The United States has an Achilles heel. There is an American vulnerability that other nations even those with little credible military power can exploit.

!!!Molesw-hellsangelsTo disrupt the German economy during the Second World War, the Americans used strategic bombing. They targeted key industries like ball bearing plants and oil production. There were attacks on infrastructure like bridges, governments offices and railroads. The effort required great sacrifice on the part of the Army Air Force. The 8th Air Force alone suffered 47,000 casualties with 26,000 dead.

One of the greatest missed opportunities of the campaign was the German electrical system. American intelligence did not realize how stretched German resources were and appear to have never considered the German grid a worthwhile target. But in this internet age, such vulnerabilities will be much more apparent and they are vulnerable to other to more than aerial assault.

Bombing the United States presents serious problems to any potential aggressor. The distance is prohibitive for almost all the other nations on earth. Flight time would be measured in hours.

But strategic attacks can be made at the speed of an electronic transmission.

You can attack infrastructure through corporations, both domestic and multi-national. They possess critical targets held as data and in other systems like control of the electrical grid. Instead of physical attacks on infrastructure, hacking attacks with the same purpose would take place instantaneously and in multiple locations.

Of course, this could be considered wild speculation of the worse kind, a “chicken little” diatribe aimed at the weak minded. Unless you note that such attacks have already happened and are happening now. Unless you reflect that such cyber attacks are based overseas and have every appearance of state sponsorship, apparent trial runs for the “real thing.”

Currently Burger King is moving its headquarters outside the United States to evade taxes. It’s hard to think of fast food place as a matter of strategic interest to the United States but the fact is this company holds several million credit card records including pin numbers as well as a considerable amount of employment information as well as corporate gateways to large financial institutions, lobbying organizations and other companies like suppliers. Throwing all this on the internet for the free market of theft would be a form of sabotage but a foreign hacker would probably gather many company’s data before launching a concerted attack to disrupt the economy by making credit card use difficult or impossible while crippling commerce and banking, a strategic attack without the loss of a single man.

What kind of vulnerabilities do we as a nation have to these kinds of attacks beyond financial information? Here’s some examples:

Hacker uses an Android to remotely attack and hijack an airplane

Hackers Find Open Back Door to Power Grid With Renewables

Hacking Hospitals: The Present and Future Threat to Your Data

What nations are interested in hacking American or multi-national companies? Here’s some examples:

Russian hackers attacked US financial system stealing gigabytes of data in suspected retaliation for Ukraine sanctions

Iranian Hackers, Getting More Sophisticated, Target U.S. Defense Companies

US Report: China Hacked Into Key US Defense Contractors Site

So, are corporations an Achilles heel in the defense of the United States?

It is obvious that American corporations should act to help defend the country and themselves from these kinds of attacks. According to some, however, corporations are people. Are these “people” patriots or citizens with responsibility? By the tenets of free market fundamentalism, there is no problem of patriotism or duty here. The profit motive will solve these problems simply and easily. Hacking causes problems that cost money, thus the companies will act to defend themselves. So far, so good. But a great deal of money and expertise has already been expended and American data seems to be hacked daily. It is quite likely that companies will attempt to defend themselves. On the other hand, will they defend themselves with the depth of commitment necessary for a infrastructure asset of the United States?

If a corporation has no patriotic duty. If its only duty is to its shareholders. If demands that it act in loyalty to the national interest be described as parochial then there is no need for preventive action in accordance with a nation’s needs. It is difficult and requires the outlay of money and time to defeat this kind of highly skilled and apparently state sponsored attack. Any company embarking on such a program of defense would be placed at a competitive disadvantage with its fellows. While, it would be acting in the interest of the United States and acting in accordance with the duty expected of any American citizen, this would not be in accordance with the “only” real purpose of a corporation, that is, to act only for shareholder value.

What do we do?

By the tenets of neo-liberalism, the market should solve this problem. Perhaps, Russian, Iranian and Chinese, etc. will find having access to American markets more important than exploiting our vulnerabilities? Perhaps will just be lucky – which is apparently our primary mechanism of defense so far.

Or we could demand and establish by law a responsibility to act in concert to act as patriotic citizens on all American corporations and fully prevent them from moving to other nations to escape the obligations of American citizens. After all a corporation, is created by the state and its benefits depend on state protection. While many find the idea of corporate personhood persuasive, I do not. But in any case, they don’t have human mobility and thus their geographic presence can be regulated in a way that human movement cannot.

Patriotism and responsibility for vital national assets like credit card numbers, defense secrets, etc. should not be a matter of choice for a corporate board, but expected behavior from fellow Americans.

James Pilant


Hackers’ Attack Cracked 10 Financial Firms in Major Assault –

Questions over who the hackers are and the approach of their attack concern government and industry officials. Also troubling is that about nine other financial institutions — a number that has not been previously reported — were also infiltrated by the same group of overseas hackers, according to people briefed on the matter. The hackers are thought to be operating from Russia and appear to have at least loose connections with officials of the Russian government, the people briefed on the matter said.

via Hackers’ Attack Cracked 10 Financial Firms in Major Assault –

Women Make Gains in California

Women Make Gains in California

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..

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