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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Friday, September 30, 2005

Berman: The Hammer Gets Hit

Please read this article by Ari Berman about the ethics troubles of Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, and the general Bush administration climate of corruption and brute force. All I can say is, "I agree."

Same author earlier put together a nice chronology of DeLay's accusations--and his "pithy" responses. Makes interesting reading.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Fox Gives Lessons at the Chicken Coop

I'm reminded of the old Doonsebury book title, "But The Pension Fund Was Just Sitting There!"

The above link is a Toronto Globe & Mail article about convicted embezzler Paul Coffin, who stole $1.55 million from the Canadian government. Somehow, the courts decided that partial restitution ($1 million) and community service were an appropriate punishment. So now he's in front of a class of 180 McGill University undergraduate business students.

He described Ottawa's sponsorship funds as a "cookie jar" that kept on giving.
"I seemed to just keep going back to the cookie jar that seemed to have no bottom and no lid," he said, according to several students.

He said the program failed to provide checks and balances. "The carte-blanche system played to my weakness."
Duh! It's not exactly rocket science that any government or private entity should have strong accounting safeguards, and that crooks will exploit weaknesses of those that don't.

Surely, having talked his way out of prison with community service, this man should be expected to provide some value for his "students"--and lessons applicable to the wider world.

I hope someone is holding him accountable--this time.

Friday, September 23, 2005

US Senate: Now the Fox is *Building* the Henhouse!

Hoo, boy! They just really think the public is asleep at the switch! The above editorial castigates the Senate for sneaking a provision into a transportation bill that would allow incumbent senators to raise:

...An incumbent's donation to the national party would be free for recycling right back through the new loophole as found money for the donor's own campaign. Allowing that would circumvent the three-year-old reform limits and establish dual campaign standards: a free and easy one for incumbents, and a tight one for challengers, barred from running "leadership" kitties. Challengers would be restricted to collecting $4,200 per person for a campaign, while a senator could collect $34,200 per donor for the same race.

Hello! Earth to Senate: this is not OK! Can you say "double standard?" Incumbents already have a tremendous advantage, including the ability to send out vote-for-me propaganda disguised as constituent newsletters, at taxpayer expense; this would skew the field beyond anything that could be called a democracy.

Action time: call and write your Senators. Let them know you want this provision stripped out of this bill, and that you'll be watching the vote.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Human Cost of Corruption

As Dennis Kozlowski, former Tyco CEO, heads off to a well-deserved extended "rest" in the slammer, and news reports show that a billion dollars was stolen from the Iraqi people in the form of crooked contracts, it's time to remind ourselves that corporate theft is not a victimless crime.

Real people--innocent people--get hurt. Like the unfortunate former Enron employees whose pensions were wiped out.

In the case of the Iraq story, people will die because a well-organized fraud ring left soldiers to fend off attacks in decrepit armored cars that can't even resist an ordinary bullet. In New Orleans, people died because a cronyistic corrupt appointment left someone in charge whose previous experience had nothing to do with disaster planning, and because a legalized theft of the money--and the National Guard personnel--that should have been going to repair and protect the levees was siphoned off into a certain unjustified and very expensive war. Yes, add to the nearly 2000 US dead and tens of thousands of Iraqis killed in an empty chase of WMDs, hundreds of New Orleaneans whose lives could have been saved if the money hadn't been stolen from flood control, and if the Guard were at home where they belong, helping in a domestic crisis.

Oh, and speaking of cronyistic corrupt appointments, did you see what happened when the Bush administration tried to name a veterinarian as acting Director of the FDA's Office of Women's Health? They backed off in three days, and then denied they ever did such a thing. This is to replace the principled Dr. Susan Woods, who resigned because she could no longer publicly represent an agency that was stonewalling on a reproductive freedom issue. At least the new appointee, Theresa A. Toigo, has a 20-year background at the FDA and knows health issues. Good luck, Theresa--you'll need it.

Back to Mr. Kozlowski: My question to you and your ilk: was it worth it? Were those ill-gotten gains that you enjoyed for a few years worth utterly destroying your company, your reputation and for the next 8 to 30 years, your own personal freedom? You were already one of the highest-paid executives in history. Did you really need to plunder beyond that? Couldn't you have still afforded a $6000 shower curtain, if that's how you wanted to waste your money?

In spite of these clowns, I still believe that nice guys don't finish last, and that in the long term, business success means building a company (or a government) based on ethics and on building real long-term relationships created with honesty, integrity, and quality. Please visit my website if you'd like to know more.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

FEMA's Gulag and Administration Opportunism special/10contracts.html

These three articles together paint a deeply disturbing picture. I see a very chilling future, in which the poor are shipped off to gulags, the tattered remains of the once-vaunted safety net go up in smoke, and war profiteers get richer on the backs of those in the camps.

It sounds alarmingly similar to some of the events during the
German occupation of much of Europe in the 1940s.

The first link is apparently the journal (with photos) of a member of a conservative Southern church who tried to bring supplies in to a refugee camp in Oklahoma--a camp that she knew, because her church had a cabin there. Not only were her supplies refused, but she saw and documented evidence that detainees will not be allowed to leave. And there have been wide reports of help and supplies refused; as one example, our local paper yesterday ran an interview with a local doctor who flew down and had to cool his heels in Baton Rouge while exactly one doctor was trying to handle the entire medical needs of the New Orleans Convention Center evacuees. (To view the story, you'll have to register)

As a journalist, I'm trained to be skeptical, and that this detainee camp journal is posted on a conspiracy site makes me suspicious. But as far as I can tell (I'm no Photoshop expert), the pictures and the narrative are genuine.

If this is really true, it would appear the government is setting up prison camps for the poor and homeless people who were unlucky enough to live in Katrina's path.

This is simply unacceptable. Those who lived near the Soviet Gulags and the Nazi extermination camps claimed they did not protest because they did not know. If this turns out to be true, we must protest loudly and consistently.

The second and third links are stories from the New York Times. First, that some people in the GOP have seen the storm as an opportunity to advance their social policy: tuition vouchers for evacuees attending private schools, an attack on "prevailing wage" laws, and a fast-track green light for industry. Given that we have made no informed decision as a country on how and where to rebuild New Orleans, the other overdeveloped coastal areas, and the wetlands between the city and the Gulf of Mexico, the fast track for new construction is a concern.

Don't get me wrong. Like everyone else, I want to see jobs created, infrastructure rebuilt, and some sense of normalcy restored. But I want to make sure we treat these delicate and storm-prone coastlines and wetlands with respect, and that we think long and hard about how and where to build without just rushing blindly forward to destroy more of the barrier islands and wetlands and places where no sane person would build.

Coming on the heels of what we now know about how first, the Bush administration repeatedly slashed budgets for shoring up the levees, second, stood idly by as the hurricane swept in, and third, completely mismanaged the disaster response (where they do share the blame with local officials), it's particularly scary. Did you know that while the government was doing essentially nothing to get ready, Wal-Mart mobilized a fleet of trucks, filled them with relief supplies, and positioned them close by but outside storm range so they could respond instantly? I am, to put it mildly, not generally a fan of Wal-Mart--but in this case they were terrific. And if they could be so organized, surely the federal, state, and local governments could have done a lot to minimize the catastrophe.

Finally, the article about high-powered well-connected lobbyists lining up to make sure their clients have a place at the trough. The story, by John Broder, says,

Hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts have already been let
and billions more are to flow to the private sector in the weeks and months
to come. Congress has already appropriated more than $62 billion for an
effort that is projected to cost well over $100 billion.

Some experts warn that the crisis atmosphere and the open federal purse are
a bonanza for lobbyists and private companies and are likely to lead to the
contract abuses, cronyism and waste that numerous investigations have
uncovered in post-war Iraq.

Not surprisingly, Halliburton has already pushed to the front of the line; its Kellogg Brown & Root subsidiary landed a $500 million contract. Yes, these companies are capable of doing the work. But the ethics questions are, to say the least, troubling given the sordid history of these companies in Iraq and elsewhere, and their close ties to the Bush administration.

All in all, the whole thing--the situation that these three articles each reveal one slice of--is very troubling: a triple attack on America's core values of decency, democracy, and charity.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Action Proposal: Rebuild New Orleans (Elsewhere) as a Model City

Like everyone else, I am horrified by the devastation in New Orleans and Mississippi and along the Gulf Coast. Frugal, I would point out, does not mean stingy. I made a generous donation to the Red Cross and notified someone who was offering to match the gift (he has reached his maximum--this was a friend, not a company). Even if you feel tapped out after whatever you gave after last winter's tsunami, I hope you find room in your heart to open up and give again.

I have been to New Orleans and experienced its grace and charm--but also its grinding poverty and the big disparity between the successful and the have-nots, more glaring than anywhere else I've been in this country. It is the poor who were left behind during the evacuation, and who were met by the pathetic and inadequate response of a government that had several days to prepare, and didn't make it a priority--in fact, a government that had systematically cut funding for repairing the levees, months ago, even as the city has been sinking for decades and even before Katrina, was well below sea-level. This is nothing short of a crime against the American people.

My hope is that A New New Orleans can be created, but not in the same spot. There must be some higher ground nearby where a new city can be built. And wouldn't it be great if that city was created by planners who really understand the challenges of the 21st century: who design in such a way that not only does the city have the grace and charm of the (still miraculously surviving) French Quarter, but that it's built to be sustainable environmentally, socially, and economically: that it's designed from the ground up to create neighborhoods that people *want* to live in, that it's set up with shopping and traffic patterns that minimize the need to use cars, that's it's built on a human scale and using the latest renewable energy techniques to have the whole city live lightly on the land and be as food and energy self-sufficient as possible.

That would be the best memorial to those who were swept away in the rising tides.
If any of you have newsletters aimed at writers, there's an incentive immediately following from my colleague, Dee Power--please go ahead and reprint it.

As you may know we have started a fund raiser for the Red Cross, so far it's raised
over $1000. If you publish a newsletter, belong to a discussion group or bulletin
board, would you consider including this announcement.

Help Us Help The Red Cross

Make a donation of any size to the American Red Cross and we will give you our list
of 300 literary agents with names, addresses, and email addresses, a list of nearly 200
newspaper and freelance book editors and reviewers, the email addresses over 500
independent bookstores, and a format for a press kit and news release. Make your
donation at the Red Cross Website

by credit card or send your check to American Red Cross P.O. Box 37243
Washington, D.C. 20013 or call (1-800-435-7669).

After you've made your donation, email Please
include your first name and it would be nice if you would tell us the amount of your
donation, but it's not mandatory. This is strictly on the honor system. Your email
address, or that you contributed will not be shared by us with anyone. After you
email us you'll be sent directions on how to download your gifts.

Please pass this message on.

Thanks Dee Dee Power (Ms.) is co-author with Brian Hill of "The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories from Authors and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them" March 2005, Dearborn Trade, ISBN 0793193087 Coming October 2005, "Over Time," the novel, ISBN 0974075418