Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Monday, July 25, 2005

National Board Calls for CPA Ethics Requirement

Some good news for a change: National Association of State Boards of Accountancy is calling strong ethics coursework requirements as a requirement before taking the CPA exam.

In all the talk about business ethics, it's important to remember: the crooks need crooked accountants to carry out their crimes. As the most obvious example, Enron's shenanigans would never have reached such proportions without the active assistance of auditors at Arthur Andersen--once the most prestigious accounting firm in the world.

This is an excellent idea, and let's hope it's not only adopted nationally, but that some pressure is put on the profession to require the training in order to maintain an existing CPA certification. After all, there are thousands of CPAs already practicing--most of them honorable, to be sure, but not all.

Personally, I'd also love to see a flood of CPAs signing the Business Ethics Pledge.

Note: I am leaving for vacation (no e-mail) for two weeks. If you leve a comment, I'll respond later.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Buying Journos, Censoring Watchdogs: Old Story--But No Less Wrong

Buying Journalists: A 70-Year Tradition of Dishonor and Corruption With all the news about Armstrong Williams and other paid lobbyists masquerading as pundits, it's important to note that this disgusting practice has been going on for years, both in industry and in government.

All the way back to 1936 and 1937, Hill & Knowlton was paying journalists to write favorable stories for its steel-industry clients, as chronicled in the new book, The Voice of Business: Hill & Knowlton and Postwar Public Relations, by Karen S. Miller (The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London, 1999), and reported by Eveline Lubbers of Spinwatch.

She writes:
Hill and Knowlton sponsored antiunion messages appearing in the news media. George Sokolsky, a columnist for the New York Herald Tribune and periodicals such as the Atlantic Monthly received $28,599 from H&K from June 1936 to February 1938, chiefly for consultation to the American Iron and Steel Institute. When writing against the steelworkers union, his articles failed to mention his connection to H&K or the Institute.
A decade later, the New York Times on a Pulitzer for its post-Hiroshima reportage--a series of articles lauding the nuclear program, written by William Laurence.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, along with her brother David, are calling for the Times to be stripped of its Pulitzer, because...
It turns out that William L. Laurence was not only receiving a salary from The New York Times. He was also on the payroll of the War Department. In March 1945, General Leslie Groves had held a secret meeting at The New York Times with Laurence to offer him a job writing press releases for the Manhattan Project, the U.S. program to develop atomic weapons. The intent, according to the Times, was "to explain the intricacies of the atomic bomb's operating principles in laymen's language." Laurence also helped write statements on the bomb for President Truman and Secretary of War Henry Stimson.
(And for those who might accuse me of an anti-GOP bias, please note that this was during the Democratic administration of Harry Truman.)

Censors as Well as Spinners

Meanwhile, another disturbing trend: government policy wonks are inviting large corporate interests--or bureaucrats who came through the revolving door and used to work for the industries they're supposed to regulate--to edit repots before they're made public. We saw this in the widely-reported story about White House staffer Philip Cooney editing out "negative" references (i.e., those that gave credence to the idea that global warming is a serious problem).

Turns out similar things are going on at the international level, in a climate change report prepared for the G8 summit that not only removed unfavorable references but presented nuclear power (the worst energy generation system ever invented, IMHO) as the shining knight of sustainability. Eeeeew!

But wait--there's more! Can you believe that Andrew Gallagher, the spokesperson for West Virginia's Environmental Protection department, had to run a press release on DuPont's toxic emissions by the company first? And that he first softened the statement and then withdrew it entirely as a result? And that it was official state policy to give DuPont a shot at all such materials before their release?

And let's not forget the US Department of Labor's blatant attempt to help push through the CAFTA agreement by censoring its own contractor's report on working conditions in Central America.

Do we have a problem with foxes in the henhouse, or what?

Note: I discovered all these stories reading one of my favorite blogs, "The Weekly Spin."
I especially like it because it's available in e-mail form. Sign up or read on line at

Monday, July 04, 2005

On the 4th of July: Why Dissent is Patriotic

Happy Independence Day to all readers in the US. Happy Interdependence Day to all citizens of the world, including those in the US

Yesterday, just in time for the 4th of July, I was amazed and astounded to see this comment on a discussion list where I participate actively:

"Too bad the Libs of this list will always turn a blind eye to truth and historical perspective, glaze over facts, and continue on with their anti-Bush, anti-military and anti-American agenda."

As one of those so-called Libs, I responded thusly:

I'm not going to let that little bit of foolish namecalling go by. I will let the other lefties on this list speak for themselves--and speaking for myself, I am very definitely motivated by patriotism. I want to make this great country the best it can be--even as every government of my conscious lifetime has been a deep disappointment. You have no business assailing the patriotism of those who disagree with you; that's a trick out of the fascist and totalitarian-Marxist playbooks. In fact, the compulsive need to attack dissent as unpatriotic is one of the deep concerns I have about the Bush administration. This country developed the best system of government that had been tried at that time, 229 years ago.

I have made choices to spent a significant portion of my time--of my life--trying to keep this country on a mission of social justice, environmental stewardship, and peace. I act out of love for my country. I could have used that time instead to pursue endless material wealth and the hell with anyone in my way, or to tear down our entire social structure and replace it with something nastier. But I am a patriot. I am motivated by my love of this country and my sincere desire to see it live up to its potential.

I do not see the following actions as patriotic, but as destroying the very fabric of our system, and also destroying our positive perception by the rest of the world. It is Bush and his henchmen/puppeteers who have created a "rogue state," and as a Patriotic American, I consider it my duty to do what I can to reverse the damage:
  • Violating international law in order to fight the oil-and-testosterone war in Iraq (and in the process create the terror network they claimed was there to begin with, but wasn't
  • Lying to the American people, and the world, repeatedly
  • Blowing a CIA agent's cover because her husband, a US Ambassador, turned in an honest report debunking the whole thing when he was asked to investigate whether Saddam was buying uranium from Niger
  • Attacking the First Amendment with a ferocity not even seen in the dark days of the Nixon administration
  • Tearing up the environmental and financial checks on big business that were carefully negotiated over a period of many years, and damn the consequences
  • Letting crooked and greedy people with vested interests like Enron's Ken Lay create policy (he was on Cheney's energy task force, you'll recall)--and in turn, creating policy that directly and corruptly benefits their cronies in the private sector (one need only look at Dick Cheney's own company, Halliburton, and its amazing ability to win no-bid and highly lucrative contracts, even after it was shown that the company was mismanaging the contracts it already had, at substantial cost to the American taxpayer
  • Refusing to accept intelligence reports if they ran counter to the hoped-for findings--not letting truth get in the way
  • Condoning torture at the highest levels

I submit that true patriots are opposing the hostile takeover and destruction of our system of government by the radical-right fringe now in power. And BTW, I still do not grant that either the 2000 or the 2004 election was actually conducted honestly. Bush's presidency will always be under a cloud. Compare what happened in Florida in 00 and in Ohio in 04--both situations in which the senior official in charge of the election, the Secretary of State, happened to be a senior leader in that state's Bush campaign (something that shocks my European friends) with what happened in the Ukraine this past winter, when extremely similar voting irregularities brought hundreds of thousands of people out into the streets and forced the government to do the election over. It is a sad commentary on the American people that we allowed our presidential election to be stolen not once but twice.

[I quoted the original poster, who claimed that the torturers of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo were acting alone and were already being disciplined, and that the Newsweek article "fuel the fire for anti-Americanism around the world," and that we should not blame Bush or Rumsfeld for the bad behavior of a handful of soldiers."]

Sorry to burst your bubble, but there's substantial evidence that the highest levels of this administration deliberately developed policies based on torture. I am talking about Rumsfeld, Gonzales, and by implication, Bush. Under the Nuremberg and Serbia precedents, among others, these men are war criminals.

As for the Newsweek article; they were merely reporting what had been widely known--in fact, the story of Koran abuse surfaced at least as far back as March, 2004. I don't condone the riots in Afghanistan, but it was not Newsweek that caused it--it was the desecration of another religion's holy books. I've blogged on this at some length at and

And on that note, I again wish you all a very happy 4th--one that is informed by the same principles of struggle for justice that imbued the Founding Fathers with such spirit, and left us a vital legacy of democracy. Let's reclaim that proud heritage.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Vengeance vs. Ethics: Rove and the Plame Case

Lawrence O'Donnell claims in the Huffington Post (Ariana Huffington's open blog) that Bush's senior strategist and Chief of Staff Karl Rove was the leaker who blew CIA agent Valerie Plame's cover--an apparent act of revenge after her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was asked, in the run-up to the Iraq war, to investigate claims that Iraq was buying weapons-grade uranium from Niger. Wilson found no truth in the allegations, said so publicly, and then conservative columnist Robert Novak put Plame's name and true occupation in his column. And that he, O'Donnell, has known this for some time.

His documentation is a bit thin, but he says it will be in the next Newsweek, now that Time magazine has turned over reporter Matthew Cooper's sources, after the Supreme Court declined to give reporters protection.

A lot of permutations here:

1. Let's start with the most obvious: revealing the name of a CIA agent is a federal crime, and rightly so--it puts the operative's life in danger, and endangers others who may have had dealings with the operative. Coming from a White House Chief of Staff, it could conceivably be considered an act of treason, a very high crime indeed.

2. The Administration attitude of "don't tell us anything unless you can tell us good news, on the party line" is suicidal and homicidal. This is part of how we got into the Iraq mess in the first place--because when the top strategists received reports that weren't what they wanted to hear--that Saddam had nothing to know with 911, that he wasn't buying uranium, that he no longer had WMDs, and that the war would not be winnable--they either ignored them, doctored them, or excerpted the small parts that lent themselves to "positive" spin.

3. The Supreme Court ruling was on Matthew Cooper from time and Judith Miller from the New York times--neither of whom actually used the news leak in their reportage. If you're going to investigate anyone, why not Novak, who actually wrote the column? And it's particularly odd that the goon squad went after Judith Miller, who was perhaps the most influential cheerleader for the war, and whose failure to verify was so embarrassing that the Times eventually--two years late--issued an apology to its readers about misleading them on the validity of the pro-war arguments.

4. Meanwhile, the war drums are beating again. Having made a complete mess of Iraq, they're now looking at Iran. I have to wonder whether the stories about Iran's new president and his possible membership in the terrorist group that kidnapped 20 Americans in 1979 is another disinformation campaign. I believe it was the Times that ran the allegation, but also ran interviews with two of the known hostage takers who said the guy hadn't been involved, though he'd asked to join them.

5. And let's not forget the departure of Sandra Day O'Connor opens a fight for the lifeblood of this country. If that seat goes to a radical-right head-in-the-sand friend of GWB such as torture apologist (and now Attorney General) Antonio Gonzales, it'll be time to make sure your passport is in order. And time to reread Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Don't think it can't happen here.

If the Rove allegation is true, this is yet another reason to stop cooperating with this government. It means the President either knew or should have known. International law, and the Watergate precedent in our own country, both show clearly that the chief executive can be held responsible for the actions of subordinates. Of course, the same principle should apply with the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo torture, among other abuses.

It was only a few months ago that the people of the Ukraine brought down their government and demanded a new election, with far less cause than we have here.