Pilant's Business Ethics

Business Ethics Blog

Tag: new york times (Page 1 of 2)

Dimon Screwed Up, Got a Raise Anyway!

Dimon Screwed Up, Got a Raise Anyway!

I apparently misunderstand the theory of the free market. I thought that successful performance was to be rewarded. And that disastrous or failing performance was to be penalized. But I am mistaken. For Jamie Dimon, failure is not failure, disaster is not disaster, life is good all the time – great job if you can get one!

Business ethics!! Do you reward constant business ethics violations? If you count settling multiple regulatory settlements in the billions of dollars as business ethics violations which apparently JPMorgan’s board does not, it might make you uncomfortable. Apparently in the mind of JPMorgan, business ethics is a matter of opinion, right?

Once again, I have another negative example to show my students. Instead of virtue being rewarded I have an example of rampant misconduct involving incredible amounts of money being rewarded. It makes my job more difficult.

But it’s not just me. Everyone who values justice, everyone who believes in right and wrong, everyone who believes in the value of business ethics, is being slapped in the face by this decision.

It is a blatant reward for misconduct and incompetence. It’s wrong. It’s destructive. It’s the wrong example for every human being on this planet.

Do we live in such a morally bankrupt system that not only do we have to suffer massive financial lawbreaking but watch it being rewarded too?

James Pilant

Jamie Dimon gets raise despite JPMorgan’s massive regulatory fines – Salon.com

JPMorgan Chase’s “punishment” was short lived. Last year, following the egregious “London Whale” scandal — a multibillion trading loss by the bank (which led to $1 billion in regulatory fines) — Dimon’s salary was cut in half to a measley $11.5 million.Wall Street memories are evidently as short as its pockets are deep. Dimon is getting a raise again. The New York Times reported:

JPMorgan’s board voted this week to increase Mr. Dimon’s annual compensation for 2013, hashing out the pay package after a series of meetings that turned heated at times, according to several executives briefed on the matter.

… JPMorgan’s directors may have decided that Mr. Dimon, as his peers may, should get a raise, but to ordinary Americans — and possibly to regulators — the decision to increase his compensation may seem curious given the banner penalties that federal authorities have extracted from the bank. It is not unheard-of for chief executives to lose their jobs when their companies have been battered by regulators.

via Jamie Dimon gets raise despite JPMorgan’s massive regulatory fines – Salon.com.

From around the web.

From the web site, A Means to an End.

http://meansstotheend.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/jamie-dimon-strikes-again/

I guess either Jamie Dimon, his personal attorney or someone from chase noticed my latest blog post Taking What’s Ours Part 6 .

Our Attorney along with the Federal Judge in Indianapolis received a notice Friday morning December 20th that a petition had been filed against us in New York by Jamie Dimon’s personal attorney.

What was the petition?

It was a cease and desist petition to keep us from talking and writing about what we were doing to Chase Bank any further.

The Judge placed a conference call with our attorney and Jamie Dimon’s attorney.

The conversation was recorded and on the record.

Dimon’s attorney proceeded to tell the Judge and our attorney that his client was at fault for all of this and that we could continue seizing assets until we had ALL of our money. Mr. Dimon just didn’t want us to write about it anymore.

The Judge proceeded to tell Mr. Dimon’s Attorney that the case was in his Federal Court and that he wasn’t going to allow a petition to hinder our Freedom of Speech.

This was a failed attempt to silence us and we will continue writing about our experiences.

I would like to thank Mr. Dimon’s attorney for admitting your client was at fault for all of this on the record. I’m sure this will prove valuable to us with any future lawsuits we have against Chase and your client, Mr. Jamie Dimon.

Enhanced by Zemanta

You Have To Prosecute Individuals

 

You Have To Prosecute Individuals

There has been much anger in the financial press about JPMorgan having to pay a multi-billion dollar fine. It has been strangely charged that this is a government attack on capitalism. No, actually the bank broke the law and failed over and over again to act in an intelligent manner about its investments or its clients. But Gretchen Morgenson is absolutely right. This kind of fine isn’t really getting tough with the banks. It’s merely carrying on the long tradition of banks paying some proportion of the losses they caused while criminal prosecution as individuals is off the table. 

There is no real penalty here. The billions are just the cost of doing business. The bank has paid out fines before. The bank will pay out fines again. The fun and enormous profits of reckless speculation will remain.

There will only be an effective deterrent when wrongdoers are punished personally by fine and imprisonment.

You can’t attack prevent crime by attacking organizations with minor financial penalties. You could effectively if you were willing to pull the corporate charter from the bank and destroy it, or seize all of its assets. But I see no willingness to do that. The only effective tool present is the power to prosecute individuals.

It is bizarre to tell students to act with business ethics when they can read everyday in the news of the incredible money being made by individuals under the cover of banks deliberately, knowingly breaking the law. But even that is eclipsed by the simple and horrible fact that we do not impose penalties on individuals.

Without justice, how we expect people less favored than bank executives to believe in the law?

James Pilant

Why JPMorgan May be Getting off Easy

In a criminal investigation, JPMorgan Chase is facing action from federal authorities who suspect that the bank turned a blind eye to Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. That’s yet another headache in a week of migraines for America’s largest bank; last Friday JPMorgan Chase reached a tentative $13 billion settlement with federal prosecutors for its alleged manipulation of mortgage securities, which helped trigger the Great Recession. There may be more pain to come as the megabank faces litigation on a number of fronts.

http://occupyamerica.crooksandliars.com/diane-sweet/why-jpmorgan-may-be-getting-easy#sthash.lIimWj0v.dpbs

From around the web.

From the web site, Democracy Now!

Banks Too Big for Justice

img137Banks Too Big for Justice

Eric Holder Admits Some Banks Are Just Too Big To Prosecute

When the Attorney General of the United States admits some banks are simply too big to prosecute, it might be time to admit we have a problem — and that goes for both the financial and justice systems.

Eric Holder made this rather startling confession in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, The Hill reports. It could be a key moment in the debate over whether to do something about the size and complexity of our biggest banks, which have only gotten bigger and more systemically important since the financial crisis.

“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy,” Holder said, according to The Hill. “And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.”

Holder’s comments don’t come as a total surprise. His underlings had already made similar confessions to The New York Times last year, after they declined to prosecute HSBC for flagrant, years-long violations of money-laundering laws, out of fear that doing so would hurt the global economy. Lanny Breuer, formerly in charge of doling out the Justice Department’s wrist slaps to banks, told Frontline as much in the documentary “The Untouchables,” which aired in January.

Eric Holder Admits Some Banks Are Just Too Big To Prosecute

I have said several times before that there are two standards of justice in this country. If you had any doubts as to the truth of that statement, this should end them.

It is a sad day when certain corporations have essentially gained the powers and immunities of sovereign states.

What horrors, what crimes, are we yet to suffer, when the law cannot protect us?

James Pilant

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

A Business Etiquette Video for My Students

A Business Etiquette Video for My Students

Business Etiquette – SCPD CBA CSULB – YouTube

One day, I discussed with the class my idea for teaching upper class communication skills to the business students. They asked me to go further with it, so here is the first video in what will be a series discussing the social class skills necessary for business success.

James Pilant

Gary Cooper

Gary Cooper – Upper class mannerisms.

From around the web –

From the web site, IndiTech’s Blog:

Realize that online networking is similar to real life networking. In real life networking, you make connections one person at a time. The same is true for online networking. Don’t be seduced into thinking that you can create meaningful relationships with a lot of people at once, simply by posting updates about what you do.

A better approach would be to consider the online social networks as tools to provide you more access to more people, from the comfort of your home or office, while realizing that the basic relational skills when making a connection remains comparable to both online and offline. In other words, meet a lot of people, but meet them one by one.

From the web site, Quite Continental:

I think the best way to start a business is to look at what you love and think about how you can formulate that into a plan. It’s important to ask questions, always take calculated risks, and develop the ability to recognize an opportunity when it presents itself.There are no failures if you learn from the mistakes you made along the way. I think a bit of self-reflection always helps to build the foundation of a company and let it take shape. Passion, Hard Work, Kindness, Generosity and patience are definitely some of the key factors in making something successful.

It is always important to remember that a business is built in a series of blocks or stages. Slowly but surely it all comes together over time.

 

 

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

HSBC Avoids Criminal Charges

HSBC Avoids Criminal Charges
HSBC Avoids Criminal Charges

HSBC Avoids Criminal Charges

Insight: How Colombian drug traffickers used HSBC to launder money | Reuters

In a typical transaction, a middleman in a drug cartel would offer to deliver consumer goods, such as computers or washing machines, to Colombian businesses on favorable terms. Another person in the United States would buy the goods from firms using funds from drug trafficking, and fulfill those orders.

Money launderers exploited the laxness of HSBC in policing shadowy money flows, the Department of Justice said earlier this month. Failures included not conducting due diligence on customers, not adequately monitoring wire transfers or cash shipments and not having enough employees to run anti-money laundering systems. U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer called the lapses “stunning failures of oversight.”

The situation was so bad, according to the Department of Justice, that in 2008, the head of HSBC’s Mexican operations was told by Mexican regulators that a local drug lord described the bank as “the place to launder money.”

The Chaparro probe, led by ICE and the Justice Department, converged over the past two years with two other investigations – led by federal prosecutors and investigators in West Virginia and by the Manhattan district attorney – resulting in this month’s settlement with HSBC.

HSBC and its employees avoided criminal indictments, as the bank agreed instead to a deferred-prosecution deal that forces it to strengthen controls and accept a compliance monitor.

Insight: How Colombian drug traffickers used HSBC to launder money | Reuters

Where to start? This bank has committed crimes on a scale almost beyond comprehension.

Our first question; is this good business ethics? Under Friedman analysis that a corporation’s sole purpose is to serve the shareholders, the HSBC’s actions were a marvelous success. The bank paid a fraction of its profits on its wrongdoing. Further it evaded any prosecution and the resulting loss in prestige and publicity damage that would have resulting from actual criminal punishments. But even more important when looking at the profit side of the ledger, a precedent has been set that if a bank has reached a certain size, it is beyond prosecution. This insures that banks of this size can in the future launder money with confidence that it will both be profitable and free from criminal charges.

Is this bad business ethics? The bank laundered about nine billion dollars in drug money from the Mexican cartels. These financed the drug trade smoothing the shipment of drugs into the United States and other countries. It paid for assassinations and kidnappings, bribery of public officials, and the creation of large heavily armed criminal mafias capable of exerting control over large geographical areas. The was at the very least a subversion of the government and economy of Mexico. Similar but smaller effects were felt in the United States.

However, this is not the whole story, the banks also laundered money for Saudi and Bangladeshi clients who were highly likely involved in terrorists activities and in some cases known have links to terrorists. I don’t think I need remind you that the United States has embarked and continues a “war” against terrorism. The bank actively subverted that war. In addition, the money helped finance rogue regimes like Iran in defiance of American sanctions, strengthening the nation’s enemies, and making those regimes more able to resist reform and democracy.

There can be no doubt that the religions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism and a giant list of smaller religions would find these acts in violation of their rules of ethical conduct.

Philosophically, unless you consider Friedmanism, a legitimate source of wisdom, almost all philosophical schools with the probable exception of Nietzsche, would condemn the bank’s actions.

Capitalism is in a crisis. This is not an isolated example of few individuals’ greed. This is a giant financial institution deliberately acting against the interests of its host countries and financing murder and mayhem around the world. But further, have we not seen banking incompetence and law breaking on a massive scale on a regular basis since the 2008 financial crisis. This hardly seems to be passing phase.

This particular bank makes more money than most of the nations on earth. Its power to cause harm is enormous and it deliberately, over a long period of time, with direct knowledge of its leadership, caused that kind of harm.

This is a moral and ethical bankruptcy that is not just wrong but endangers the long term welfare of citizens in the United States and the rest of the world.

It’s hard to think of any phrase more sad when have knowledge of these crimes than, HSBC Avoids Criminal Charges.

James Pilant

From Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

Though this was not stated explicitly, the government’s rationale in not pursuing criminal prosecutions against the bank was apparently rooted in concerns that putting executives from a “systemically important institution” in jail for drug laundering would threaten the stability of the financial system. The New York Times put it this way:

Federal and state authorities have chosen not to indict HSBC, the London-based bank, on charges of vast and prolonged money laundering, for fear that criminal prosecution would topple the bank and, in the process, endanger the financial system.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the reasoning here is beyond flawed. When you decide not to prosecute bankers for billion-dollar crimes connected to drug-dealing and terrorism (some of HSBC’s Saudi and Bangladeshi clients had terrorist ties, according to a Senate investigation), it doesn’t protect the banking system, it does exactly the opposite. It terrifies investors and depositors everywhere, leaving them with the clear impression that even the most “reputable” banks may in fact be captured institutions whose senior executives are in the employ of (this can’t be repeated often enough) murderers and terrorists. Even more shocking, the Justice Department’s response to learning about all of this was to do exactly the same thing that the HSBC executives did in the first place to get themselves in trouble – they took money to look the other way.

From further down in the article:

On the other hand, if you are an important person, and you work for a big international bank, you won’t be prosecuted even if you launder nine billion dollars. Even if you actively collude with the people at the very top of the international narcotics trade, your punishment will be far smaller than that of the person at the very bottom of the world drug pyramid. You will be treated with more deference and sympathy than a junkie passing out on a subway car in Manhattan (using two seats of a subway car is a common prosecutable offense in this city). An international drug trafficker is a criminal and usually a murderer; the drug addict walking the street is one of his victims. But thanks to Breuer, we’re now in the business, officially, of jailing the victims and enabling the criminals.

This is the disgrace to end all disgraces. It doesn’t even make any sense. There is no reason why the Justice Department couldn’t have snatched up everybody at HSBC involved with the trafficking, prosecuted them criminally, and worked with banking regulators to make sure that the bank survived the transition to new management. As it is, HSBC has had to replace virtually all of its senior management. The guilty parties were apparently not so important to the stability of the world economy that they all had to be left at their desks.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/outrageous-hsbc-settlement-proves-the-drug-war-is-a-joke-20121213#ixzz2GhlpEBQs
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

From around the web –

From the web site, Wall Street on Parade:

The following are findings from the Senate report:

  • HSBC Bank USA, N.A., known as HBUS [pronounced H-Bus] functions as the U.S. nexus for HSBC’s worldwide network. HSBC has 7,200 offices in more than 80 countries and 2011 profits of $22 billion; HBUS has 470 branches across the United States with 4 million customers. HBUS provides accounts to 1,200 other banks including more than 80 HSBC affiliates.
  • In 2010, HSBC was cited by its federal regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), for multiple severe anti-money laundering deficiencies, including a failure to monitor $60 trillion in wire transfer and account activity; a backlog of 17,000 unreviewed account alerts regarding potentially suspicious activity.
  • HBUS offered correspondent banking services to HSBC Bank Mexico, and treated it as a low risk client, despite its location in a country facing money laundering and drug trafficking challenges. The Mexican affiliate transported $7 billion in physical U.S. dollars to HBUS from 2007 to 2008, outstripping other Mexican banks, even one twice its size, raising red flags that the volume of dollars included proceeds from illegal drug sales in the United States.
  • Foreign HSBC banks actively circumvented U.S. safeguards at HUBS designed to block transactions involving terrorists, drug lords, and rogue regimes. In one case examined by the Subcommittee, two HSBC affiliates sent nearly 25,000 transactions involving $19.4 billion through their HBUS accounts over seven years without disclosing the transactions’ links to Iran.
  • HBUS provided U.S. dollars and banking services to some banks in Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh despite links to terrorist financing.

From the web site, Hue and Cri:

The HSBC deal includes a deferred prosecution agreement with the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the Justice Department. The deferred prosecution agreement, a notch below a criminal indictment, requires the bank to forfeit more than $1.2 billion and pay about $700 million in fines, according to the officials briefed on the matter. The case, officials say, will claim violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and Trading with the Enemy Act.

Prosecutors found that HSBC had facilitated money laundering by Mexican drug cartels and had moved tainted money for Saudi banks tied to terrorist groups.

On November 11 HSBC said it had “reached agreement with United States authorities in relation to investigations regarding inadequate compliance with anti-money laundering and sanctions laws.” The bank is also expected to reach a settlement over the matter with Britain’s Financial Services Authority, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

November 10, federal and state authorities also won a $327 million settlement from Standard Chartered, a British bank. The bank, which in September agreed to a larger settlement with New York’s top banking regulator, admitted processing thousands of transactions for Iranian and Sudanese clients through its American subsidiaries. To avoid having Iranian transactions detected by Treasury Department computer filters, Standard Chartered deliberately removed names and other identifying information, according to the authorities.

And finally from the web site, LIVINGLIES:

But HSBC is not being indicted and nobody will be criminally prosecuted because of the perceived or projected threat to the financial system if such a large bank and its officers were penalized criminally for commission of crimes that everyone agrees did take place. Why? Because HSBC is too big to indict.

The obvious answer here is to dismantle the mega banks that are so big that their every move produces swings in the financial markets. Instead DOJ and other law enforcement agencies have given a green light to anyone who can build a bank that big. They can now commit crimes with impunity, which is to say that we are guaranteed to see repeat behavior. Now when a smaller bank engages in the same illicit schemes, it too can point to the fact that law enforcement decriminalized what is clearly a crime under all applicable statutes.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Alec Foege Calls for Change

Alec Foege Calls for Change

Alec Foege Calls for Change“The Tinkerers”: How corporations kill creativity by Alex Foege – Salon.com

In August 2010, Paul Krugman published a piece in the New York Times titled “America Goes Dark.” He described how the United States, “a country that once amazed the world with its visionary investments in transportation, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System” was now dismantling its infrastructure.

Krugman’s main point was that the U.S. government was not investing stimulus funds in the tools needed for our own economic growth. Three decades of antigovernment rhetoric had convinced many Americans that spending taxpayer funds on anything was a waste of taxpayer funds. But government—the US government, specifically—had built this country into an innovative economic powerhouse by investing in “lighted streets, drivable roads and decent schooling for the public as a whole.”

I would take Krugman’s point one step further and argue that the American government and people helped the country grow both by investing in innovation and by committing themselves to the traditional tinkerer spirit. A sophisticated, cutting-edge infrastructure was the perfect crucible for the kind of innovation the United States embodied.

The point about the devolution of tinkering in American life is not that we have lost a physical connection to the work that we do. It’s that the notion that we can fix any problem or achieve any goal that we set for ourselves has deteriorated into a sanitized, corporatized version of what constitutes achievement.

Corporate America has grown rigid as it has grown larger. Despite the dot-com era’s many images of creative whizzes reweaving the very fabric of innovation, it remains extremely difficult for the freethinking alchemists of today to perform their peculiar strain of magic and thrive while doing it.

“The Tinkerers”: How corporations kill creativity – Salon.com

This was a great article much longer than the brief excerpt I have placed here. If at all possible, please go to Salon and read the whole thing. The gentleman has several books out, so you might want to look into acquiring those as well.

I have been told by people flying into the United States how run down the place looks. There are reports that say this country needs about 2.2 trillion dollars just to get even in terms of infrastructure. 

Yet, these pressing needs seem to register very little as a governmental concern. We’ve already had collapsing dikes and bridges. What kind of crisis will it take to make this a critical issue that gets addressed?

Maybe the flesh is willing but the spirit is weak? Where’s that “can do” spirit that built buildings, monuments and wonders of technology? Where has that gone?

I like to read yearbooks from the 1960’s, Britannica, World Book, etc. and in them I find a spirit of optimism and a certainty of success that no longer is predominant in our culture. Much of our current angst can be traced to the thought that things are only going to get worse. 

I agree with Mr. Foege, we need change.

We need to act and we can’t wait for the “road fairy” to repair out problems.

James Pilant

P.S. You could argue that there is no business ethics here. After all we aren’t speaking of deliberate sabotage of America’s infrastructure. Certainly I hope not. But business ethics is also a positive force. Good business ethics would embrace creativity and long term growth as manifested in infrastructure development and preservation.

From around the web,

From the web site, ASCE, American Society of Civil Engineers:

In mid-January, the American Society of Civil Engineers (asce) convened a series of five roundtables in Washington, D.C., that were
conceived as in-depth discussions of how best to address the nation’s significant infrastructure deficiencies, which threaten not only the safety
and welfare of the public but also the nation’s economic growth and competitiveness. Each roundtable had its own moderator and slate of
participants, and the participants included well-respected political leaders, policy leaders, and members of asce who are well versed on the
subject of critical infrastructure. The starting points for these discussions were the five key solutions outlined in asce’s 2009 Report Card for
America’s Infrastructure, which was released in March 2009. In essence what these roundtables were striving to achieve was to develop a
framework for giving full dimension to these solutions and securing for them positions of high visibility and high priority on the national agenda.
which was released in 2003. The 2001 report card conferred an overall grade of D+; the 2005 report card, a D; and the 2009 report card, a D. The 2003 progress report
also conferred a grade of D. These assessments have trained a spotlight on the fact that America’s critical infrastructure—principally its roads, bridges, drinking
water systems, mass transit systems, schools, and systems for delivering energy—may soon fail to meet society’s needs. The underlying threats—and these threats are quite significant—are those of deteriorating
economic strength within the global marketplace and a diminished quality of life across the spectrum of American society.

From the web site, Class Warfare Blog:

Now is the time to act to bring up the level of repair of our infrastructure. The reasons?
• the cost of borrowing the money to do this is approximately 0%. We will never get a better deal.
• the number of out-of-work construction workers is huge which has depressed the cost of labor.
• the money paid to the architects and engineers and laborers and suppliers of raw materials and truck drivers will be spent almost immediately by those folks which will stimulate the economy. Plus there is time for the money those folks spend to be spent again (by the subsequent recipients) before the next year is out, amplifying the effect. (Economists call this the multiplier effect. In this case $1 spend on construction creates well over $1 of economic activity.)
• the problems with our infrastructure will only get worse and will cost even more as time goes on. It is not like they will “heal themselves” like a cold will if you just wait.
• all of the expenditures will go to Americans and American companies. The jobs cannot be “outsourced.”

If China is willing to lend us the money to make this nation stronger, creating jobs that generate more than enough tax revenue to pay off those loans, we will be fools if we don’t act. The more we wait the more it costs us in the long run.

From the web site, Reboot Illinois:

“Over the next several decades, Illinois’ infrastructure needs will likely exceed $300 billion, yet the state does not have a comprehensive plan to address this critical need. There are real costs associated with underfunding of infrastructure: shipping and travel delays, congestion, pollution, and diminished economic growth.” State Budget Crisis Task Force Illinois Report.

And finally, from the web site, Save America’s Infrastructure:

For the U.S. economy to be the most competitive country in the world we need a first class infrastructure system—transport systems that move people and goods efficiently and at reasonable cost by land, water and air; transmission systems that deliver reliable, low-cost power from a wide range of energy sources, and water systems that drive industrial processes as well as the daily functions in our homes. Infrastructure is the foundation that connects the nation’s businesses, communities and people, driving our economy and improving our quality of life.

ASCE urges the administration and Congress to focus on policies that will create jobs and continue to grow the economy. ASCE will work with the new Congress and the President to rebuild and revitalize the very foundation of our national economy. Roads, bridges, levees, and dams not only provide security, but also allow businesses to move goods, reach global markets, grow their market share and create new jobs.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Gun Research Limited by NRA

back-fGun Research Limited by NRA Sympathetic Legislators

From the New York Times:

The amount of money available today for studying the impact of firearms is a fraction of what it was in the mid-1990s, and the number of scientists toiling in the field has dwindled to just a handful as a result, researchers say.

The dearth of money can be traced in large measure to a clash between public health scientists and the N.R.A. in the mid-1990s. At the time, Dr. Rosenberg and others at the C.D.C. were becoming increasingly assertive about the importance of studying gun-related injuries and deaths as a public health phenomenon, financing studies that found, for example, having a gun in the house, rather than conferring protection, significantly increased the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.

Alarmed, the N.R.A. and its allies on Capitol Hill fought back. The injury center was guilty of “putting out papers that were really political opinion masquerading as medical science,” said Mr. Cox, who also worked on this issue for the N.R.A. more than a decade ago.

Initially, pro-gun lawmakers sought to eliminate the injury center completely, arguing that its work was “redundant” and reflected a political agenda. When that failed, they turned to the appropriations process. In 1996, Representative Jay Dickey, Republican of Arkansas, succeeded in pushing through an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the disease control centers’ budget, the very amount it had spent on firearms-related research the year before.

One of the ways industry protects itself is by destroying or limiting research. The gun industry uses its political clout to make sure that evidence that it might find offensive is never done. This is very similar to using the government to eliminate competition or gain subsidies. Are any of these ethical? It depends on the circumstances. All over the world, trains (public transportation) are subsidized because of the many benefits they provide to society. And I could go on. But it seems unlikely that the kind of research that this legislation killed was inaccurate or unfair.

At a time when we need accurate information about the effects of guns in our society, one of the chief players in the controversy has worked hard to take facts off of the table. Gun research is a legitimate field of inquiry by the CDC. It is a public health crisis. It will continue to be.

James Pilant

Some fascinating quotes from around the web –

This is from the web site, Fundamentally Connie! (This is a very fine article and I strongly recommend it.)

Only modestly mentioned in weekend media coverage is attention to the effect of a tragedy such as this upon emergency responders. This is PTSD at its worst. I am a teacher; a researcher by choice; a parent, grandparent, a spouse, and with enough experience to clearly envision the horror they came upon; the classroom scene, the aftermath of devastation suffered by those whose call was answered. Few have mentioned the unimaginable job of the veteran Medical Examiner, working through the long and difficult night to categorize, identify, and document the extent of catastrophic bullet wounds suffered by tiny, innocent sons and daughters, grandchildren, parents, brothers and sisters; playmates silenced forever and removed quietly; …”attired in cute children’s clothing”, he noted, when asked.

From digiphile

My Facebook feed is full of people offering prayers, voicing anger and frustration, and, happily sharing pictures of their own children. One of my friends announced the birth of his first child. Amidst grieving, new life and joy.

As the reality of this tragedy settles in, this moment may still be too raw to decide exactly what the way forward should be. In the wake of dozens of mass shootings in the past several years, there’s more interest in doing something to prevent them.

What, exactly, we should do to prevent more mass killings should be up for debate, but losing 18 children like this is unbearable. What science says about gun control and killings is not clear, though the literature should inform the debate.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Prosecutors Enabling Debt Collector Misconduct

Adam Levin: The Alarming Ties Between Debt Collectors and District Attorneys

Consider what’s happening here. The debt collection companies are using the letterhead of the prosecutor’s office to threaten consumers with criminal prosecution and possible jail time. In reality, they’re in no position to back that threat up — but from reading the letter, the consumer has no way to know that. The truth is that in the vast majority of cases, the prosecutor’s office has no idea when these letters are mailed or who is receiving them, and has conducted no investigation to determine whether the claim of unpaid debt is actually true. Thus, the debt collectors are apparently mailing official letters without effective oversight — and often without even having the evidence they would need to prove that the recipients actually owe the alleged debts. In short, no case.

“I would say that roughly 90 percent of the credit card lawsuits are flawed and can’t prove the person owes the debt,” Noach Dear, a civil court judge in Brooklyn who sees up to 100 such cases a day, told the New York Times.

This is, indeed, outrageous. To have prosecuting attorneys renting out their letterhead to private companies at all diminishes their office and, at the end of the day, betrays the public trust. To do this without weighing the merits of each individual case betrays the fundamental American ideal of due process and turns the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” on its head. Finally, to allow private companies to use the power and prestige of public office to coerce consumers, using the fear of criminal charges and imprisonment to bully them into compliance — well, that is so clearly abusive that it’s hard to imagine how anyone could defend it (not that they haven’t tried).

Adam Levin: The Alarming Ties Between Debt Collectors and District Attorneys

Debt collectors have a terrible reputation in this country for misconduct and often direct law breaking. For prosecutors to form an alliance with them, loaning them some of the powers of the state, is simply unconscionable.

I’m not the only one that thinks so – here’s J.F. Quackenbush from the web site, Disinformation:

So here’s the deal, it’s a crime to write a bad check if you know that the bank isn’t going to honor the instrument. But in most states, in order to be convicted the State has to prove that you knew the check was going to bounce when you wrote it. That’s hard which is as it should be, because the crime here is not owing a debt, it’s fraud. We don’t do debtors prisons anymore, and for good reason. Bankruptcy law is explicitly mandated by the Constitution because it has long been understood that not all debts are equal, and sometimes it’s for the best in our society if we just let people off the hook and give them a clean financial slate to start over.

This, of course, drives the vampires of the collection industry, who make money by buying debts for pennies on the dollar and then brutalizing the people who owe those debts who can’t afford to pay them, and in the meantime making all manner of threats and coercive promises to keep those debtors out of bankruptcy so that the vampires can continue to feed.

And here are some more thoughts on the subject from Caveot Emptor, Seeking Justice for Consumers

Prosecutors’ job is to enforce the law. One important part of that job is exercising some discretion over who to prosecute. That’s especially important in bad check cases. People bounce checks all the time, usually unintentionally. That doesn’t make them crimes. So a prosecutor’s job is to sort out the crimes from the accidents. Under the new arrangement, everybody gets contacted by a debt collector, which then demands even more money for a budgeting class — the profit from which goes into the collector’s pocket.

Here are some thoughts from Naked Capitalism

The excuse for this program is that district attorneys’ offices were overwhelmed with merchant requests to go after bounced checks where they were unable to collect the debt and alleged fraud. Um, what about saying “no” unless the amount at issue was significant, say at least a few hundred dollars, or having the merchant provide evidence of intent? Instead, this scheme allows the debt collectors to get a windfall from people who’ve stuffed up on relatively small checks (the two examples in the article were each under $100) as well as contributing to erosion of public faith in the legal system.

Consumer attorneys did succeed in getting one debt collector that engaged in this practice, American Corrective Counseling Services, to file for Chapter 11 in the face of class action suits. But its successor CorrectiveSolutions carries on with the same dubious practices and has “partnerships” with more than 140 district attorneys’ offices.

And here is a comment from Tech Dirt
The DAs office, it appears, is literally selling the use of their stationary. In exchange for letting debt collectors appear both a lot more official and for falsely suggesting that law enforcement is pursuing criminal action, the debt collectors “sell” a “financial accountability” class, from which some of the proceeds get kicked back to the DAs’ offices.
Enhanced by Zemanta

The Poor Suffer Media Neglect

Media Neglect makes it less likely the poor will live like other Americans. They are cast from the garden.

Media neglect results in the issue of poverty in America is never treated as an important issue even though 15% of all Americans suffer from it.

Take at look at this quote from the a study from FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

Discussions of poverty in campaign coverage were so rare that PBS NewsHour had the highest percentage of its campaign stories addressing poverty—with a single story, 0.8 percent of its total. ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, NPR’s All Things Considered, and Newsweek ran no campaign stories substantively discussing poverty.

The New York Times included substantive information about poverty in just 0.2 percent of its campaign stories and opinion pieces—placing it third out of the eight outlets, behind PBS and CBS.

By contrast with other issues that have received wider attention in recent campaign coverage, “poverty” was mentioned at all, with or (most often) without substantive discussion, in just 3 percent of campaign stories (309 stories) in the eight outlets. This compares to “deficit” and “debt,” which were mentioned about six times as often, in 18 percent (1,848) of election stories.

Even throwing a wider net, to include stories that mentioned “poverty,” “low income,” “homeless,” “welfare” or “food stamps,” turned up just 945 pieces, 10 percent of total election stories—still well below the rate at which “debt” and “deficit” were mentioned.

News coverage focuses concern on issues covered. Media neglect results in important subjects failing to become subjects of concern.

Why isn’t the subject covered? Why is media neglect so prevalent on this problem. Is it not sexy, lurid or violent enough? Is this the result of editorial decisions made at the corporate level? This is a failure in journalism, an ethical failure. The lives of a sixth of Americans are of virtually no concern to the media. The vital issues of the day have to be covered for democracy to function. Media neglect harms our ability to have the knowledge to function as effective citizens.That is wrong.

Is poverty a serious issue? Look at this quote from the same study cited above.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 report (9/11), poverty in 2010 was at a 19-year high, affecting 46 million people, or 15.1 percent of the population. That’s up sharply from 11.3 percent in 2000, and 12.5 percent in 2007. And several groups feel the effects of poverty at a much higher rate than the national average. According to the 2011 census, more than one in five children (22 percent) live in poverty, as do more than a quarter of all blacks (27 percent) and Latinos (26 percent). A 2011 Brookings Institution study (9/13/11) predicted that as many as 10 million additional Americans will join the ranks of the poor by 2014.

The Census Bureau counts a single person under 65 as being in poverty if they make less than $11,702; for a family of four, the cut-off is $22,314 a year. These thresholds—calculated since the 1960s simply by multiplying estimated food costs by three—have been criticized for failing to account for the increased costs of necessities like housing, transportation and childcare, so the official poverty rates may grossly understate the number of families actually living in poverty. The National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University (6/08), for example, estimates that “families typically need an income of at least twice the official poverty level ($42,400 for a family of four) to meet basic needs.”

A recent AP report (7/23/12) summarized the dire predictions of economists, academics and think tanks about poverty’s current trajectory: “The ranks of America’s poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.”

The economic status of 46 million people is important but these human beings are invisible. They have less media existence than a good car chase, a celebrity wardrobe malfunction or a funny cat video. The result is an impoverishment of political, commercial or religious dialogue. A critical matter is placed in the background of public discourse.

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” or in this case, 15% of Americans, fellow citizens, human beings, and brothers and sisters before the eyes of God. The marketplace of ideas is where Americans have traditionally found solutions to our problems. Impoverish our dialogue. Limit our thinking. Keep this issue off the front burner, and the problem will have little chance of any positive outcome. It will linger like the poor on the margins of our society.

Democracy thrives on the application of reason and judgment. When a subject is neglected to this extent, the dominant themes will be those based on myth, opinion or lies. There can be no defense if there is no discussion. Facts and evidence are little used and thus, welfare Cadillac’s and women having children to qualify for more money dominate the discussion.

The media should take its responsibilities seriously and give Americans a chance to consider the plight of the poor amongst us.

James Pilant

Enhanced by Zemanta

Penn State Students Riot on Behalf of Morally Disgraced Coach

A number of students at Penn State have rioted over the firing of legendary football coach, Joe Paterno. I am very disappointed in their behavior. From the grand jury report alone without any other media report, it is obvious that Paterno breached his moral duty by not reporting a cruel act of pedophilia and allowing the culprit to go free and possibly continue his criminal career for nine more years. Apparently some are arguing that since Paterno told his superiors, he had fulfilled his duty!

There was never any doubt in my mind that he and the college president had to be removed. The issues here are not grey, they are not indistinct; we are looking at a clear issue of right and wrong. These rioting Penn State students are making a statement here, that they do not understand the basic responsibilities of a citizen in our society.

From the New York Times

After top Penn State officials announced that they had fired Joe Paterno on Wednesday night, thousands of students stormed the downtown area to display their anger and frustration, chanting the former coach’s name, tearing down light poles and overturning a television news van parked along College Avenue.

Now, let’s hear at least one person’s argument on behalf of the fired coach –

Again, from the New York Times story

“I think the point people are trying to make is the media is responsible for JoePa going down,” said a freshman, Mike Clark, 18, adding that he believed that Mr. Paterno had met his legal and moral responsibilities by telling university authorities about an accusation that Mr. Sandusky assaulted a boy in a university shower in 2002.

Run this phrase from the paragraph above across your mind – “met his legal and moral responsibilities” Say it out loud and see if there is any way you can mean it.

There are those who believe when they have met the very least of their legal responsibilities, their moral duties are also fulfilled. I do not hold to that. My perception is that our moral responsibilities only begin there at the moral minimum of obedience to the law. We have duties to our fellow citizens and our nation. You could add duties to religion and civilization with no argument on my part.

I teach law enforcement courses. One of the principles of American law enforcement is public support. With the public’s active participation, law enforcement is not possible. The police do not cover enough ground that they can know about any worthwhile percentage of crime. So, the bedrock of American law enforcement is the willingness of citizens to provide information and sometime testify in criminal matters. Without that cooperation, we descend into chaos.

Did Joe Paterno violate the law? Here is the relevant portion of Pennsylvania statute in question –

§ 42.42. Suspected child abuse—mandated reporting requirements.

 (a)  General rule. Under 23 Pa.C.S. §  6311 (relating to persons required to report suspected child abuse), licensees who, in the course of the employment, occupation or practice of their profession, come into contact with children shall report or cause a report to be made to the Department of Public Welfare when they have reasonable cause to suspect on the basis of their professional or other training or experience, that a child coming before them in their professional or official capacity is a victim of child abuse.

 (b)  Staff members of public or private agencies, institutions and facilities. Licensees who are staff members of a medical or other public or private institution, school, facility or agency, and who, in the course of their employment, occupation or practice of their profession, come into contact with children shall immediately notify the person in charge of the institution, school facility or agency or the designated agent of the person in charge when they have reasonable cause to suspect on the basis of their professional or other training or experience, that a child coming before them in their professional or official capacity is a victim of child abuse. Upon notification by the licensee, the person in charge or the designated agent shall assume the responsibility and have the legal obligation to report or cause a report to be made …

Now I am definitely no expert in Pennsylvania law and there can be other statutes that may apply that I am unaware of. But based on what I have here I think it is pretty clear that under this disclosure law, Paterno fulfilled the state required minimum by reporting the incident to his superiors. Now be aware, the question as to whether or not a college football coach comes into contact with children so regularly that he has a reporting responsibility is a separate issue.

So he fulfilled his legal requirement based on a very simple layman’s interpretation of the law of the State of Pennsylvania. But did he fulfill his moral responsibility?

Let’s just make that second question as simple as possible? –

Do you call the police when you have discovered someone was anally assaulting a small boy in the locker room of your team?

If you can truthfully answer that with a “no,” I guess you have reason to riot.

James Pilant

Enhanced by Zemanta

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén