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

 

Buckets of Small Change

01Buckets of Small Change

Insurance broker pays out $21K settlement to 73-year-old in buckets of small change

This is not just a business ethics violation, it is a failure of judgment. This act is petty and vindictive.

Adriana’s Insurance Service agreed to a settlement but following the letter rather than the spirit of the law acted with the maturity of a seven year old. They delivered the money in buckets of small change.

Besides being simply foolish and a failure of civil behavior, the act calls into question the business judgment of those running the company.

I tell my students that if they act as reasonable people and bend over backwards to conciliate those few clients whose reaction to a business problem is overwrought, they are virtually never going to be sued. I tell them that this may involve apologizing when you’re not wrong and returning money when you don’t have to. But avoiding conflict is a good long term strategy for a business, and besides, shouldn’t at the very least businesses act reasonably? And you are not in business to make enemies, you are in business to build trust and make friends and allies who cooperate with you in a quest for mutual advantage.

This organization obviously doesn’t mind conflict even at the most childish level. Are they making other decisions using this kind of judgment? Would you feel comfortable as a client knowing that if you have a dispute with the company, this is how they are going to act?

Bad business ethics, poor judgment and a failure to act as ladies and gentlemen is poor business practice. It is a failure of that common duty of civility we owe all other citizens.

James Pilant

 

The Crisis of Capitalism, Connect the Dots?

The Crisis of Capitalism

The Crisis of Capitalism

The Crisis of Capitalism, Connect the Dots?

Reading the business news and political commentary over time clues you see certain controversies over and over again. In time, you begin to see the relationships between those controversies. Below are listed six links to stories about the economy. They cover different subjects in different ways sometimes in different formats. For instance the lead article on median household income is a statistics based economics analysis, while the second item is a professional discussing what attitude he should take in encouraging his students to pursue higher education. Nevertheless, they all tie together. They tie together evidencing the crisis of capitalism. And by this I mean capitalism as practiced in the United States. Let me explain how. ( The essay will pick up after the six links.)

Middle-Class Death Watch: The Median Household Is Now Poorer Than in 1984

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/07/31/middle_class_poorer_than_in_1984_housing_wealth_has_crash_debt_has_risen.html

American Dream Fraud: Confession of a Stupid Idealist

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larry-strauss/college-costs_b_5641798.html

The Frightening Growth of Suburban Slums

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/08/01/suburban_poverty_it_s_becoming_more_concentrated.html

Is There Any Way That Weak Employment Numbers In Europe Might Bolster Concerns That Most Economists Are Right About Government Stimulus

http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/is-there-any-way-that-weak-employment-numbers-in-europe-might-bolster-concerns-that-most-economists-are-right-about-government-stimulus

Wall Street Has Raked In Almost A Billion Dollars Helping Companies Move Overseas To Dodge Taxes

http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/07/29/3465206/wall-street-inversions-overseas/

Think everything on a dollar menu costs a dollar? Think again.

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/08/01/think-everything-on-a-dollar-menu-costs-a-dollar-think-again/

Median Household Wealth Falls.

The first story is a economic tragedy, an incredible one. The middle class wealth of Americans has fallen below the level of 1984. And it didn’t fall a little bit, it is twenty percent less, one fifth.

Let me put this in perspective for you. The Gross National Product in 1984 was a little more than four trillion dollars. As of 2012, it was sixteen and a half.

That means that this nation increased the amount and value of its good and services roughly by a factor of four and during that time of growth, the middle class actually lost ground. Where did all that money go? And why did the bedrock producers of wealth, the American worker, get less and less of it?

Currently the one percent hold 38% of the nation’s wealth. Their income rose from 1979 to 2007 at a rate of 275%.

Well obviously, it must be that the one percent produce enormous economic gains while what workers produce is worth less and less. Do they really? Between 1979 and 2007, worker productivity in the United States went up 240 percent. American workers more than doubled their productivity and were rewarded by declining income.

So, from the first story we can conclude that the middle class is becoming poorer while the wealthy accumulate more and more wealth.

Is College Worth It?

The second story is by Larry Strauss.  He’s a teacher and he begins the essay talking about his family coming to America in years past believing in the American dream and through hard work and brains made it into the middle class. But now he finds himself in a quandary. Is a college education a road to the middle class for his economically disadvantaged students? It’s hard to encourage a student from that background to take on an incredible amount of student loan debt on a promise of economic advantage when the job market is so hideous and whole idea of economic advancement may be questionable. His students from four or five years back talk abut owing massive student loans while being lucky if they can find any job at all. Some have moved back in with their parents.

He is confronting with courage and commitment a new conundrum of our age. While college becomes more and more expensive while becoming more and more a corporate form based on profit and dubious numbers, the promise of upward mobility may be overblown if not a mirage. It is entirely possible that large groups of Americans will in the future be permanently consigned to the class they were born in.

Poverty in Suburbia

A new phenomenon, the urban slum, is appearing all over America. First reported during the dot.com burst, by about the year 2000, there were significant numbers. But now their population outnumbers those in the inner city slums. Poverty has moved from the underclass to the middle class.

If the news that urban poverty had increased dramatically wasn’t bad enough, that it is in the suburbs is a human tragedy in itself. An inner city can get services to people easily by comparison with an urban environment. In an inner city, you can walk from one place to another, public transportation is common and facilities such as soup kitchens, government offices, etc., can be centralized for greatest access. The urban landscape was designed around the automobile. Housing developments were laid out between broad sweeping roads with access to home with lots of parking and big garages.

Poor people have trouble keeping cars and if they have a car, the cost of maintenance, insurance and fuel will often make it unusable. So, the urban often go without food and government services. And the scattered community and its implied culture of success makes the support of neighbors and even friends difficult. It’s hard to maintain self-respect in a culture which even in the darkest of economic times blames unemployment and poverty on defects of character.

The Intellectual Poverty of the Ruling Class

The response of the government in the United States and Europe to the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression was austerity. This was an odd response. The great body of economic thought in both the United States and Europe was that in a time of economic calamity the government should step in and stimulate economic activity while alleviating the suffering of the people. This was ignored. A handful of economic studies and a privileged band of economists gave credence to the idea that austerity promoted growth. It was a bizarre theory now and after its continued disastrous failings, even more bizarre now.

Look at the problem from the perspective of the people. The collapse was caused by a relatively small group of banks on Wall Street. Once this catastrophe happened, millions of people lost their jobs and the businesses that served those people perished as well. They suffered while having no responsibility for what happened, and when it might be expected that the government well aware and having aided and abetted the actions of these investment bankers would take some pity on their plight, they were thrust from the concerns of the government, abandoned to the invisible hand of the market which was intent on preserving and maintaining their suffering. Many unemployed people felt that it was strange that the banks did not suffer while they were considered to have failed in a fundamental way, that if only they were more ambitious, more careful and displayed more grit, they could lift themselves out of the economic crisis, and thus shift from “takers to makers.”

In the United States, the cash strapped local and state governments cuts services, while the President created a stimulus package half the size of what was necessary. After that the President began making cuts joined by Congress. Nevertheless, the United States has done better than the European Union which intent on punishing the “unworthy” imposed draconian cuts on its weaker members, many of which have suffered terrible economic losses. Meanwhile, the so extravagantly promised wonder growth from austerity has failed to materialize.

Why did a doctrine contrary to basic economic theory gain such traction? It was convenient. In the United States, the “very serious people” as well as the economic elites had wanted to cut benefits such as social security for many years. They wanted to impose discipline on the people. Newspapers, in particular the Washington Post and to a lesser extent the New York Times provided (and still do) a constant diet of horror stories about deficits and the costs of benefits. For elites, disaster, catastrophe, human suffering, even calamities caused by or enabled by their actions are opportunities to enact their agendas. And they saw the economic disaster as an opportunity. So, on fragile but well publicized evidence, they proceeded to impose austerity. Their actions produced human suffering on a vast scale while crippling the recovery.

Facts, evidence and expertise are not important in Washington. When facts and evidence prove inconvenient, they are ruthlessly attacked. The attacks often verge on the hysterical.

The ruling classes in the United States place little importance on objective evidence and reasoning when creating public policy. Their disregard has produced great human suffering and bodes ill for the continued existence of the middle class.

The Wages of Sin are almost a Billion Dollars

The next story concerns the movement of American companies’ headquarters overseas to avoid taxes. It’s called inversion. A large American company purchases a small foreign company and then takes on their tax identity and from then it does the same things it did before just without paying taxes in America.

Here we have corporations, created in the United States, its employees trained in American institutions, its rights protected by the laws of the United States, moving to  foreign country not actually but symbolically – just enough to avoid taxes. Millions of Americans have suffered and died for this nation. Millions more have paid taxes to support the legal and physical structures (like roads and schools) that made these corporations possible. Their profits are often subsidized by government contracts and by a myriad of laws that support established businesses.

And yet they abandon any responsibility to the United States, to simple morality and the demands of patriotism.

This is a tragedy, perhaps in a real way, the first direct evidence of nation in the throes of self destruction. But the greater tragedy right now, is that no one is going to do anything about this. There has been a bill submitted to Congress to end the practice but it is dead on arrival in the House of Representatives. No one is going to do anything about this, the people who are evading these taxes are more important than the interests of the American people.

Right now, a compliant press is busy churning out pro-tax evasion articles. Because no matter what a business does in the United States, it has stalwart defenders in the press if only in the business press.

A Dollar Menu, it depends how you count.

Many workers in the United States make little money. A full time worker on minimum wage gets 290 dollars a week. The United States has the highest proportion of low paid workers in the developed world. Seventy-three percent of those on food stamps are working Americans. And of these working Americans a good number work in fast food. Since their salary is insufficient to support a family they have to resort to state and federal aid. This is in a real way a subsidy paid by the taxpayer to companies paying the minimum wage. If the workers had little chance of meeting basic human needs while working at one of these places, they are hardly likely to stay. Fast food businesses as well as big box retailers are able to maintain their work force through federal and state benefits for the poor and their children.

So, what does a dollar hamburger cost? And what would it cost if the worker were paid enough and given enough hours to not need benefits to have a decent life?

Summing Up

Those are the stories I found in one day on the web

Here are the factors we seen in the stories:

1. The middle class has been denied a share of the growth in production and profits from 1984 to the present time.

2. The traditional route of social and economic advancement, education, is losing its capacity to generate social mobility, and the crushing burden of student loans calls into question, whether or not higher education is worth pursuing.

3. The traditional middle class environment, the suburbs, once a symbol of economic success, are now suffering the same blight as the inner city.

4. The governing elites no longer concern themselves with issues related to the population at large but focus their concern on the “wealth producers.” And in that pursuit, facts and ideas that contradict their goals are simply ignored.

5. The corporate movement to avoid taxes is organized, profitable and continuing.

6. Many corporations are paying such low wages that government benefits are necessary to provide basic necessities to their workers, and that this constitutes a massive de facto transfer of money from the government to these corporations.

This adds up to a bleak picture of the future. We have a middle class declining in numbers and wealth while the means of upward mobility increase in expense while becoming less useful. The leadership we have is unconcerned with these problems and in fact, these kinds of issues are peripheral to their interests. Corporations are no longer content with their privileges and power but have abdicated all responsibility for participation in an organized society. These organizations now live by the philosophy, “It’s just business.” And that justifies any crime and any breach of duty with the nation that sired you.

In conclusion I believe that the crisis of capitalism is upon us. I believe that capitalism as practiced in the United States is concentrating wealth and income among a very small group of people while diminishing wages and opportunities gradually diminish the middle class resulting in a huge permanent underclass locked into permanent income insecurity.

It’s going to be a few days.

I have an ear infection. The doctor says my eardrum is close to bursting and it could still happen. The pain has been pretty good and I’m not able to even do something as watch television for more than a few minutes at a time. So, it’s going to be the weekend before I begin writing again at least.

Best Wishes to my kind readers!

James Pilant

The Ethics Sage and the Ethics of Affirmative Action

The Ethics Sage and the Ethics of Affirmative Action

The Ethics Sage and the Ethics of Affirmative Action

The Ethics Sage and the Ethics of Affirmative Action

Ethics of Affirmative Action

(A Guest Blog by My Colleague, Steven Mintz. Visit his site here!)

University of Texas Affirmative-Action Program is upheld by a Federal Appeals Court

Are considerations of affirmative action ethical policies for a university to follow? This is the overriding question to be addressed in evaluating race-based decisions about admission to colleges and universities. I raise the issue because a federal appeals-court panel handed at least a temporary setback to critics of affirmative action last Tuesday by ruling that a race-conscious admissions policy at the University of Texas at Austin had passed a strict-scrutiny analysis ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Critics of the ruling might believe that the ethical principles of justice and fairness work against race-based policies because people should not be treated differently because of race. The ethical support for this kind of opinion holds that equals should be treated equally and unequals should be treated unequally. In other words if there are legitimate reasons to treat one group differently than another, then such treatment is justified.
The problem with this argument is by saying one group (i.e. minorities) should be given preference over another group (i.e. whites) we give credence to the idea that certain groups are inferior because we then assume that the favored groups cannot reach the required level of achievement through their own efforts. Moreover, affirmative action policies lead to lower standards since some less qualified candidates will be admitted if race is allowed to override general standards applied to all.

Opponents of race-based policies hold such views because they value the equal treatment of every person on the basis of common standards. It’s hard to argue this position from a fairness point of view. On the other hand, I believe a diverse population in colleges and universities add to all students’ experiences as they learn in their classes how some groups historically have been discriminated against. I believe the motivation for affirmative action is to right a past wrong and not to give one group preference over another in admissions decisions.

The federal appeals court decision that brought to the fore the affirmative action policies of the University of Texas means that consideration of some applicants’ race are necessary to achieve sufficiently diverse enrollments there. In a 2-to-1 decision revealing continued disagreement among the judges over the appropriate standard for evaluating such policies, the panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit In response to an overwhelming Supreme Court decision Supreme Court decision that faulted the Fifth Circuit’s previous endorsement previous endorsement of the undergraduate admissions policy as too deferential to the university, the two judges in the majority said the policy withstood stricter scrutiny than applied before.

The appeals-court panel affirmed, for a second time, a 2009 summary judgment by a U.S. District Court dismissing the lawsuit brought by Abigail Noel Fisher, a white applicant who had accused the Austin campus of illegal discrimination after being denied admission as a freshman the previous year.

The ruling Tuesday’s ruling in the case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, almost certainly does not mark an end to the legal battle over the policy. the legal battle over the policy. The Project on Fair Representation, an advocacy group that brought the lawsuit on Ms. Fisher’s behalf, said it expected to appeal the decision all the way back to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

“This panel was proven wrong last year by the Supreme Court, and we believe it will be proven wrong once again on appeal,” said Edward Blum, the organization’s director.

Judge Emilio M. Garza, the dissenting member of the Fifth Circuit panel appeared to lay some of the groundwork for an appeal with an opinion arguing that the majority had again failed to treat the university’s assertions with sufficient skepticism.

“By holding that the university’s use of racial classifications is narrowly tailored, the majority continues to defer impermissibly to the university’s claims,” he wrote, adding that such deference “is squarely at odds with the central lesson” of last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the case.

In that ruling the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 6-2, that Michigan voters have a right to amend their state Constitution to ban racial preferences in admissions at public universities. In so doing, the court affirmed laws in eight states that have 29 percent of America’s high-school population and more than 40 percent of its Hispanic residents.

In the case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the court’s only Hispanic member, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, wrote a widely acclaimed dissent, in which she challenged Chief Justice John Roberts’s colorblind approach to college admissions as “out of touch with reality.”

A new report by the Century Foundation and the Lumina Foundation, suggests, however, that the concerns of both justices can be met: Alternatives to race-conscious affirmative-action, if properly structured, would produce more diversity than just concentrating on race.

According to a chapter by Anthony P. Carnevale and his colleagues at Georgetown University in the new report, The Future of Affirmative Action: New Paths to Higher Education Diversity After Fisher v. University of Texas, using socioeconomic preferences and/or plans that admit a top percentage of students from every high school, if structured properly, could produce even higher levels of black and Hispanic representation at the most selective colleges than racial preferences now achieve. That approach would work because it reflects economic disadvantages that are often shaped by racial discrimination.

Sotomayor’s dissent in Schuette is a strong reminder of the importance of race. “Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up,” she wrote. “Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: ‘I do not belong here.’ ”
In Schuette, Sotomayor wrote that preferences provide the only realistic path to racial inclusion in higher education, correctly noting that race-neutral alternatives have failed to produce adequate diversity at three high-profile institutions—the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at Los Angeles.

The question of whether affirmative action policies, whether based on racial differences, to right past wrongs, or socio-economic considerations, is a complicated issue from an ethical perspective. Like most contentious issues each position can be argued from different points of view in part, I believe, because the motivation for such preferences underlies the issue of ethical ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness.’

In virtue ethics, motivations are an integral part of the ethical equation. If we can say the motivation for race-based decisions is the inherent goodness of such policies, then the Fisher ruling is ethically supportable. On the other hand, doesn’t Fisher have an ethical right to be given preference based on higher achievement of admissions criteria (i.e. SAT scores)? Doesn’t the University of Texas have an obligation to Fisher to admit her because she was more qualified and denied admission based on socio-economic factors that enabled less qualified candidates to be admitted?

These are difficult questions to answer. I am conflicted because each argument has some merit. As a college professor I have seen first-hand how having a diverse population in my ethics class adds value to the learning experience of all students. On the other hand I can understand the position of a student denied admission because other considerations allowed another student to be given preference for whatever reason.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on July 22, 2014. Dr. Mintz is a professor in the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at: www.workplaceethicsadvice.com.

 

Is Vitamin E Beneficial?

Is Vitamin E Beneficial?

Is Vitamin E Beneficial?

Is Vitamin E Beneficial?

Whether or not vitamin E should be taken or avoided is a continuing discussion. From what I see, there is no clear answer. Below I have listed three articles, one a study and two news articles reporting studies, that report negatively on the effects of vitamin E.

Vitamins E and C in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Men: The Physicians’ Health Study II Randomized Trial

This study found no long term benefits to vitamin C or E in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin E Supplements Raise Risk of Prostate Cancer

This AARP newsletter references research showing that 400 I.U. of vitamin E increased the chance of prostate cancer.

Taking vitamin E linked to osteoporosis: research

This article from Yahoo news discusses a Japanese study showing vitamin E increased the rate of osteoporosis in mice.

Are Vitamins Useless?

In my last post – Are Vitamins Useless? – I discussed whether or not selling a product like vitamins whose main effect seems to some authorities as being nothing more than a placebo is ethical. My primary interest was in the business ethics implications. I freely admit that it is obvious that well supported arguments can be made for and against vitamins. There are countless studies on the subject.

However, supplements are a 12 billion dollar a year industry. They sponsor research and buy enormous ad time and quantity. There is little incentive to study from the opposite angle and no money at all in any commercial sense in opposing the sales. If this were a sponsored site with paid advertising, it might well have been a subject I would have been advised to avoid.

Under these circumstances, I am going to lean toward the skeptics. When there is an incredible amount of profit to be realized, I become suspicious. I am also well aware that selling a good and effective product is difficult, and by implication a useless and ineffective product is much easier to generate a profit from as long as you can keep the science confused and governmental regulators at a safe distance.

None of these products should be on the market without proof of their usefulness, their safety and their contents. The very sad tale of the young man dead of a caffeine overdose is a case in point.

Taking supplements is dangerous. You can overdose many vitamins with health effects ranging from discomfort to death. But at least vitamins have a long track record (however varied). The other supplements can be placed on the market without pre-clearance by any agency. Generally speaking, if they don’t cause harm, they don’t get investigated. So, how do you tell which one works and which one doesn’t? You could use yourself or your family as guinea pigs, and hope you can reason out the placebo effect. And since there are thousands of these product, it will take you several lifetimes and careful record keeping to come to some conclusions – although your sample size is too small to count as scientific evidence.

We should not be buying products based on the chance that the seller is telling us the truth about its contents and effects. We should buy products where there is some proof offered of usefulness and safety.

Vitamins and other supplements should be pre-cleared by the Food and Drug Administration before they can be sold.

James Pilant

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