Pilant's Business Ethics

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Tag: United States (Page 1 of 18)

Ban the Box Picking Up Momentum?


Ban the Box Picking Up Momentum?


“Ban the Box” is a movement in States and communities to have employers eliminate questions about whether or not an applicant has a criminal background. These questions keep millions of people from even being considered for employment.


America’s passion for imprisonment driven by the “war on drugs” has resulted in a truly incredible proportion of the population with a criminal background.


So, we as a nation are confronted with a policy decision, “Do we make them unemployable as former criminals with all the costs that entails or do we facilitate re-entry into society?” It’s an important decision. The productivity, the potential, of millions of Americans is huge. Equally, the loss in tax money and social disruption of creating a permanent underclass is also huge.


I worked in criminal justice for some years. When I’m teaching my classes, I tell my students that it’s okay to tell me if they have committed a crime but never tell their classmates. I get that people who commit crimes have to re-enter or be some kind of pariah. Most people don’t. Media stoked fear of the other is a vicious ratings builder.


If someone has done their time and paid their penalty, they should have a second chance. Second chances are in a real way what America is about.


James Pilant


Target Will Stop Asking People Their Criminal Histories On Job Applications | ThinkProgress


The big box retailer Target will stop asking prospective employees about their criminal records on job applications, the company announced over the weekend. The decision signals an important move toward helping former inmates who struggle to find work because of employment discrimination.

via Target Will Stop Asking People Their Criminal Histories On Job Applications | ThinkProgress.


From around the web!


From the web site, Out and Employed ( I recommend this site – quite good. jp)




No More Salmonella

No More Salmonella

This is not a problem that requires deep analysis. What’s in the balance? On one side, people’s lives and health and on the other profits from selling chicken. I think holding the industry to higher inspection standards is not going to double the price of chicken. This is not a problem that can’t be successfully dealt with. Let’s have the poultry industry finance a testing program to eliminate salmonella contamination. If other nations can do it, certainly we can.

It’s good business ethics to protect one of the principle stakeholders in your business, the consumer. We may safely assume that sickening or killing your customer base is unethical, and probably unwise.

Some will claim that the market will solve this problem, a concept I have ridiculed with some regularity. People will stop buying chicken from a company when that chicken makes them sick?

But the average consumer doesn’t know which chicken brands are safe and which are not. The safety can vary from one shipment of chickens to another from the same company. It’s a job only the government can take on. We, as consumers, cannot police the market. We may not often know what’s making us sick.

We live in the richest nation on earth. Surely we can afford to inspect chicken for salmonella poisoning.

James Pilant

Keeping salmonella out of chicken


Sweden has virtually eliminated salmonella in store-bought chicken, even though poultry there is industrially produced, just like in the United States. And even in this country, a 2010 Consumers Union study found no salmonella in the organic store-brand chickens it tested.

In other words, consumers shouldn’t have to accept salmonella-tainted chicken as just one of those unavoidable things. ..

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/10/22/206084/keeping-salmonella-out-of-chicken.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/10/22/206084/keeping-salmonella-out-of-chicken.html#storylink=cpy

From around the web.

From the web site, Salmonella enterica WILL RULE THE WORLD. (This purports to be Salmonella’s actual web site – I had no idea bacteria could type!)


Hi, I’m Salmonella enterica! I’m plotting my way to rule the world, so if you don’t watch out… One of my masses of minions will INFECT YOUR SOUL. BWAHAHA. Ahem.

I’m a gram negative rod, and I’m working hard on mutating so I can
infect you no matter what you are! My goal isn’t a W death curve that
everyone seems so worked up about… MY GOAL IS TOTAL INFECTION. EVERYONE


China Attacks Academic Freedom

English: China, Peking

English: China, Peking (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

China Attacks Academic Freedom

Shouldn’t this case cast a little doubt on so many American Universities’ desire to build branches in China? Won’t they insist on running schools in their country they way they run the current ones?

After all, they are communists who run a dictatorship.

Yes, that is not a nice thing to say, and the fact that literally thousands of American corporations are aiding and abetting this regime is regrettable but under free market fundamentalism perfectly understandable.

I mean, does it really matter if the nation is an enemy of democracy when there is money to be made?

The business ethics implications are fascinating but largely undiscussed. For all you students out there, this is primo paper territory. If you want to write something controversial, this is where to go. Think of it, business ethics and American Investment in the Chinese economy. If I were you, I would start the story by going back to China just a few years after the Great Cultural Revolution as its economy lurched from one disaster to another. Start the story there and then begin the American involvement, investment and then sharing patents and partnerships. Compare job losses in the U.S. to job gains in China. Discuss the willingness of the Chinese government to simply not bother with environmental and worker safety problems. Put in some material on a couple of the bigger coal mine disasters. Faculty love stories. Then, when you reach the end, wonder out loud if the regime could have survived with American corporate money. I bet it’s a solid A. (If you would like to see it published once it is written, send me an e-mail – we can work something out!)

James Pilant

SHANGHAI: China’s Peking University fires professor who criticized government | Asia | McClatchy DC


One of China’s top universities has notified an economics professor known for his outspoken criticism of the Chinese government that his colleagues have voted to expel him from the institution.The move against Xia Yeliang, who teaches at Peking University in Beijing, appears to reflect a crackdown on liberal academics that’s become more severe since President Xi Jinping came to power in March.Several well-known universities – including the London School of Economics and Yale and Cornell in the United States – have partnerships with Peking, though few have taken up Xia’s cause. Other institutions, including New York University and Duke University, have opened campuses in China recently or are about to amid worries that they’ll sacrifice academic freedom for the sometimes lucrative opportunity to partner with Chinese institutions.

via SHANGHAI: China’s Peking University fires professor who criticized government | Asia | McClatchy DC.

From around the web.

From the web site, educhina.


The news quickly spread out through internet with the titles like “high school student changes the speech under the national flag” or “high school student criticizes education system” and caused heated discussion among Chinese netizens in Sina microblog as well as in other social networking sites. Many people thought Chenbo Jiang was courageous to speak out the “truth” and they agreed that Chinese education was problematic. On April 20th, 2012, Nanfang People’s magazine, an influential weekly magazine of Southern China Press, published a commentary on this event. The report compares Chenbo Jiang to the boy in The Emperor’s New Clothes who points out the truth that no one wants to acknowledge.

I’m Beginning to Like Josh Barro

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

Ted Cruz speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m Beginning to Like Josh Barro

This guy can take this kind of nonsense and instead of being hurt or offended, he turns it into informative and, in a way, defiant essay. I’m impressed.

And he has a good point, this kind of passion (hatred, rage?) is frightening. As a fellow writer, I find this kind of thing daunting but as a politician it must be far more threatening because not only do these people wield influence power in the party, encountering them personally must be an exciting and memorable experience.

James Pilant

One Look At These Emails, And You’ll See Why Republicans Let Ted Cruz Lead Them Off A Cliff


Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-why-congressional-republicans-let-ted-cruz-lead-them-off-a-cliff-2013-10#ixzz2i1i1VxFE

The people whose letters I’m printing below are literally the people Republicans depend on to re-elect them to Congress. Keeping these people happy is their job — which is why the Republican Party has become so inept and crazy.

Jim Kennedy says I’m a “low information voter” in league with “the black racists”:

Senator Cruz is right on. I am one of those “crazy people” the liberal left does not like, being former Marine, a supporter of Tea Party, college graduate, member of NRA, member of Sons of Confederate Veterans. It is you low information voters and the black racists that hate us conservatives. Watch out in 2014!

William Neisser found me on Facebook and sent this frank message:

do you really believe the crap coming out of your mouth so 2 million people who think this Obama care isn’t good are wrong and living on another planet wow. life for you must be hard when did it become American to make people eat there vegetables. everyone has something to say but please stop talking your breath stinks like the crap you write come back to reality like the 2 million that are wrong an don’t like Obama’s health care academy for idiots thank you again yours truly screwed middle class living on another planet oh an have a great day

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-why-congressional-republicans-let-ted-cruz-lead-them-off-a-cliff-2013-10#ixzz2i1hj93is

From around the web.

From the web site, The Left-handed Nib.


The GOP’s Messiah Complex

To paraphrase Dana Milbank, the Republican Party is Cruzifying itself.

Lots of good reads on Cruz in the last few days:

  • Josh Barro writes at Business Insider that “Ted Cruz is living on another planet” — and the Tea Party base is more than willing to hang out with him there.
  • This AP article is one of many I’ve seen lately that talk about how fed up establishment Republlicans are with Cruz and his Tea Party fellow crazies. But look at the establishment Republicans they’re quoting by name! …

Buying American Un-American?


Buying American Un-American?

(see Hoenig’s quote below)

No, it’s not. Buying American is patriotic, puts jobs here and honors the strong work ethic that Americans have always practiced. But Jonathan Hoenig says that buying American is Un-American. Read below for the exact quote. This is what passes for intelligent analysis on a news show?


Up is down. Black is white. What is this? If you say it long enough and often enough, does stupidity and simple nonsense become persuasive?


Oh, I get the message. What Hoenig is saying is that free market fundamentalism is the actual real American belief system and all this patriotic stuff is on a lower intellectual and thought level. I get it.


Buy American is a business ethics idea, the idea that by rewarding your fellow countrymen for their efforts you build a better nation. Free market fundamentalism is a quasi-religious movement that says we will all be happy and prosperous once we stop trying to do the right thing and chase the money.

Well, I’m not ready to give up doing the right thing. So, I’ll buy American.


James Pilant


Why does Fox “news” hate Americans? During their Saturday “business block,” Cashin’ In guest host Eric Bolling and most of his panel did their best to do an infomercial for Walmart — and to trash the protesters who have been out there demanding higher wages for their workers. And if that wasn’t bad enough, their regular, libertarian wingnut Jonathan Hoenig called the very notion of companies like Walmart buying made in America products “un-American.”


I’m not going to transcribe all of this mess, but here’s some of the worst of it, where they were blaming the protesters for Walmart deciding to expand into China, and attacking labor unions, which is their favorite sport along with attacking poor people on Faux “news” on Saturday mornings. …


(The relevant remarks below)


HOENIG: I’m actually against that Eric. I think this whole notion of buy American is actually un-American. American companies should buy the lowest quality product… excuse me, the lowest price product at the highest possible quality. If they happen to be made overseas, that’s even better. It allows Americans to save money and those resources to be more deployed, and more profitable in productive ways.

From around the web.

From the web site, Buy American Challenge.


Josh Miller’s new documentary is an inspirational reminder that the words “Made in USA” still matter. While Americans from Main Street to the halls of Congress struggle to cope with our sputtering economy, Miller reminds us that the answer to reclaiming a prosperous future may lie in the long-forgotten rallying cry to “Buy American.”

As Miller demonstrates in his month-long trek across the United States, a sure-fire way to create American jobs is to stimulate demand for American-made products. While conventional wisdom once told us the jobs that left our shores would never return, as is so often the case, that conventional wisdom is now being turned on its head.


Eric Idle on the Shutdown

Actor Eric Idle at a meet and greet after his ...

Actor Eric Idle at a meet and greet after his show at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland, Vermont 2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Eric Idle on the Shutdown


I think the coming default is a totally irresponsible act, an extra-constitutional effort to take power when elections failed to deliver. It is apparent that this act us making the nation looks ridiculous from the virtually any rational viewpoint. You would think simple patriotism would deter people from plunging the nation into chaos, but that is not the case.


James Pilant


America the Half Beautiful / Eric Idle




The Mad Haters Tea Party throws everything overboard, not just the tea. The captain, the crew, the ships dog… Pirates could hardly do worse.It seems especially perverse that people purporting to be Christian, a religion that vows to help the poor and heal the sick, should be so violently against helping the poor and healing the sick. Followers of a religion that preaches forgiveness and turning the other cheek, demand the right for the outright insane to own more and more weapons. Nuts, Im afraid.Now some people get very angry when a non-American like me dares to talk about America. “Well, piss off then, go somewhere else,” they say. Forgetting that we who live amongst you are the ones who like you the most, and if you dont listen to what we think, then the ostrichisation of America will continue. Bend over, head in sand, hand on heart, salute flag.The great thing about America has always been your ability to rally round in difficult times, especially under attack and create new solutions to modern problems. Of your current state the Founding Fathers would be horrified and terrified. Nobody asked the Mothers. You may need to re-evaluate. The Constitution may need updating. Its not the Bible. Then, neither is the Bible.We need you to prosper. You can rule the world, or you can ruin it. Time to wake up.


via America the Half Beautiful | Eric Idle.


From around the web.


From the web site, Conrad Brunstrom.




The shutdown is the work of the people who failed win their argument
through the acknowledged channels of government and are therefore
prepared to pull the plug on government rather than wait and win the
elections needed to reopen political and legislative debate.  Of course,
this has happened a number of times before, though this is the first
time this century.  It is able to happen because of a register of
patriotic rhetoric that sees “government” as something to restrain
rather than something to use positively.  In the USA, many politicians
use the word “Washington” in the same way that Eurosceptic British
politicians use the word “Brussels” – as a synonym for something that
must be resisted at all costs.


This kind of defiance of federal government authority was first
tested in the 1830s – during the South Carolina nullification crisis. It
was subsequently tested in 1860, resulting in more than 600,000 deaths.



The Real West From the Smithsonian

True Grit (2010 film)

True Grit (2010 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


This is a documentary about the factual side of the novel, True Grit, and its two movie versions. I found it illuminating and I think you’ll enjoy it as well.


In America, we often assume that in the past was a nation of bedrock religious belief, hardworking, nose to the grindstone solid citizens and just general goodness. It wasn’t like that. It was messy and cruel – and for much of American history, religious beliefs were simply not that big a deal. Lincoln, for instance, was elected in spite of the fact, he was not a church goer, did not believe in life after death and possessed many other beliefs disturbing to the religious minded. Robert Ingersoll stood a good chance of being elected to the Presidency in spite of the fact, he is also known as the “Great Agnostic.” Don’t believe me – look these things up – find that reality that is American history. The Real West is not the West we have been seeing on our televisions, it’s far more complex and nuanced.


Here’s my promise: if you study American history in detail and with a determination to understand from the point of view of a regular citizen, you will find a complex story full of sex, scandal and intrigue; and you will also find an incredible saga of courage and determination to build a nation unlike any other. I promise you that will love this country more as you work to understand it.


James Pilant



From around the web.


From the web site,




I can’t recommend reading the novel highly enough – both films fail to
capture much of the story, although because it’s a short book with vivid
dialog, both do follow it faithfully far better than Hollywood usually
follows an original novel.  The novel is dense with fictional details
that just don’t come out in the movies.  Also, the novel is all about
the voice of Mattie Ross, and neither movie captures that.  Movie makers
consider voice over narration the kiss of death, but I wish they could
have put more of book Mattie’s thinking into movie Mattie’s
performance.   And strangely Portis sense of the dramatic appears
superior to each set of movie makers because when each film diverts from
his plotting and scene setup they suffer.  Portis had a keen sense of
plotting and drama that both films wisely copy fairly thoroughly. 



Subverting Pensions for Profit

 Subverting Pensions for Profit


There are real plots, real conspiracies. It’s a sad thing that people sometimes unite not for ethical or moral principles but for the destruction of people’s lives, for predation, for money at any cost.


One of the constant themes in the lust for profits has been the conversion of public goods into private possessions: public and charity hospitals often run by churches converted into private property; parks, highways, parking meters, converted into private ventures, America’s public lands opened up for fracking in the one of the greatest land grabs in all of recorded history … I can go on and on. Subverting pensions for profit is just the latest fad in the series.


Here is another one, public pension funds being converted into Wall Street Piggy Banks, looted with fees and then fed into speculation for anyone’s profit but the pension fund’s. It is as if the national looting of the last generation, the conversion of pensions into the predatory and vicious 401K’s didn’t generate enough profit, we must never stop looting, never stop stealing, never stop creating fictitious crises to be exploited.


Maybe this one can be stopped. I would like to see that.


James Pilant


The right’s sinister new plot against pensions – Salon.com




As state legislatures prepare for their upcoming sessions, you will no doubt hear a lot about public pensions. More specifically, you will hear allegations that states are going bankrupt because of their pension obligations to public employees. These claims will inevitably be used to argue that states must renege on their pension promises to retirees.This is what I’ve called the Plot Against Pensions in a report I recently completed for the Institute for America’s Future. Engineered by billionaire former Enron trader John Arnold, championed by seemingly nonpartisan groups like the Pew Charitable Trusts and operating in states throughout America, this plot is not designed to strengthen pensions or to save taxpayer money, as its proponents claim. It is designed to slash public employees’ guaranteed retirement income in order to both protect states’ corporate welfare and, in some cases, enrich Wall Street.Consider the math of state budgets. According to Pew’s estimates, “The gap between states’ assets and their obligations for public sector retirement benefits (is) $1.38 trillion” over 30 years. As the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes, this gap was not caused by benefit increases, as conservatives suggest. Data prove that most of it was caused by the stock market decline that accompanied the 2008 financial colla


via The right’s sinister new plot against pensions – Salon.com.

From around the web.

From the web site, Brave New World.


Finding: Conservative activists are manufacturing the perception of a public pension crisis in order to both slash modest retiree benefits and preserve expensive corporate subsidies and tax breaks.


States and cities have for years been failing to fully fund their annual pension obligations. They have used funds that were supposed to go to pensions to instead finance expensive tax cuts and corporate subsidies. That has helped create a real but manageable pension shortfall. Yet, instead of citing such a shortfall as reason to end expensive tax cuts and subsidies, conservative activists and lawmakers are citing it as a reason to slash retiree benefits.


Finding: The amount states and cities spend on corporate subsidies and so-called tax expenditures is far more than the pension shortfalls they face. Yet, conservative activists and lawmakers are citing the pension shortfalls and not the subsidies as the cause of budget squeezes. They are then claiming that cutting retiree benefits is the solution rather than simply rolling back the more expensive tax breaks and subsidies.


According to Pew, public pensions face a 30-year shortfall of $1.38 trillion, or $46 billion on an annual basis. This is dwarfed by the $80 billion a year states and cities spend on corporate subsidies. Yet, conservatives cite the pension shortfall not as reason to reduce the corporate subsidies and raise public revenue, but instead as proof that retiree benefits need to be cut.


Finding: The pension “reforms” being pushed by conservative activists would slash retirement income for many pensioners who are not part of the Social Security system. Additionally, the specific reforms they are pushing are often more expensive and risky for taxpayers than existing pension plans.



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Here on Planet Earth.

The distance between the supporters of the shutdown and their “perspective” on public support and actual polling data could not be more stark. It may be that in this nation, threats to destroy the nation’s economy to gain political ends may be considered “going over the top” of what is reasonable. Certainly, I feel that way.

James Pilant

Ted Cruz Is Living On Another Planet – Yahoo Finance


Meanwhile, back on planet earth, the public hates the shutdown, Americans are 20 points more likely to blame Republicans for the shutdown than Obama, the Republican Party is scoring its worst poll numbers on record, Cruz’s colleagues in the House and Senate hate him, and they’re preparing to cave to the president by reopening the government and funding Obamacare.

Cruz is betting that his supporters are too stupid to notice that his strategy is failing and was doomed to fail. He’s probably right.

Lots of people thought that when Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election after months of conservatives proclaiming that the polls were “skewed” and he was on course to win, the party’s base might start to evaluate whether it misunderstood the world around it.

Remarkably, conservative delusion about facts on the ground is more intense than ever. The appetite for stories like the one Cruz is telling is unending, impervious to facts and sustainable no matter how far the Republican Party’s poll numbers fall.

When constituencies become aggrieved minorities, seeing themselves as under attack by the establishment, they are vulnerable to hucksters like Cruz, because they disregard outside warnings and evidence that they are being had.

via Ted Cruz Is Living On Another Planet – Yahoo Finance.

From around the web.

From the web site, Attention Deficit Politics.


Texas Senator Ted Cruz is defiant towards the needs of the American

people. Ignoring the fact that 48 million Americans were uninsured in

2012, ignoring the fact that Americans with health insurance were

footing the bill for the emergency room vists of the uninsured (by way

of high healthcare costs), he is defiant in an attempt to cloak the

universal health coverage (emergency room visits) formerly provided via

high health and insurance costs.

From the web site, Market Failure.


I would note that Mancur Olson would disagree with

the “strategic irrationality” viewpoint, seeing this as a collective

action problem.  Namely, political entrepreneurs like Ted Cruz see great

advantage from forcing a shutdown in terms of publicity, donations,

position within the party, and so on.  This is causing the entrepreneurs

to act in their own best interest, to the detriment of the party as a

whole.  In this story, the devolution of funding power from party

organizations to third-party funding like SuperPACs has destroyed the

coercive element necessary for the party to act in its own best

interest.  In a neat little irony, the GOP’s relentless attacks on

campaign finance ultimately hampered their ability to do pretty much

anything.  Let’s call this “group irrationality“.  Perhaps the Democrats should be glad that their superPAC infrastructure is so much less developed.


Exploitation More and More Prevalent in Higher Education

Exploitation More and More Prevalent in Higher Education

I’ve heard this same story several times. Being highly educated and a vital part of an educational institution is no guarantee of job security or a significant salary. it’s driving good people from the field and diminishing the value of higher education.

Increasingly society is viewed through a Neoliberal prism where immediate results and marketization are valued over long term success and more traditional value systems. The church, the school and the press are being increasingly infected with the idea of measurable profit over more difficult to measure values. I would argue that intellectual inquisitiveness, love, honor, culture, and an inclination toward an intelligent development of public policy might have values in a civilized society but my voice in increasingly being shouted down by the fine print in budget statements geared toward the short term and quite often the counterproductive.

I think business ethics are tied in with the higher values of Western Civilization. Once those values are thrown away by crass economic doctrine, there will be a decline of society to a system based on power and wealth until the inevitable turn of the wheel and an new society is born.

Exploitation More and More Prevalent in Higher Education

Exploitation More and More Prevalent in Higher Education

James Pilant

“Exploitation should not be a rite of passage” | Sarah Kendzior


Everyone benefits from a more diverse and even playing field, so I try to draw attention to unfair labor practices in these professions. Exploitation should not be a rite of passage.

via “Exploitation should not be a rite of passage” | Sarah Kendzior.

From around the web.

From the web site, This Ain’t Livin.


Increasingly, adjunct faculty are doing the teaching in the US education system, particularly at the community college level. This is because they are cheap. Much, much cheaper than tenured faculty. They are often paid by the unit, instead of receiving a salary, and don’t get benefits. It’s cheaper to higher multiple adjunct faculty members than one tenured professor. Some community colleges don’t even have a full time faculty member supervising some departments. The entire English department, for example, may be part timers.

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