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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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why Voting Machine Paper Trails Aren't Enough

The always-thought-provoking Washington Spectator has a very good article in the January 15 issue, explaining exactly why it’s not enough to provide paper-based audit trails to electronic voting machines–that instead we need actual paper ballots.

Among the reasons:

  • If the ballot is initially generated electronically, it is still hackable. If the ballot is generated by the voter marking a durable paper and then electronically counted (the system that has been used in my own town of Hadley MA for years), it is not.

  • Electronic machines that generate a paper receipt have various problems with paper jams, difficulty of data retrieval from a huge spool, etc.

  • Many of the receipt systems use thermal printing–that same icky unstable technology that becomes unreadable after a week in your wallet!

  • Electronic ballot systems with paper backup have caused numerous problems in actual elections, where voters reported that their choice didn’t show up on the screen, where tens of thousands of ballots didn’t register a vote (as in Sarasota County, Florida, or simply where the system is not well designed to enable voters to easily check their wishes against the receipt (and what happens when a voter wants to report problems anyway?). None of these issues even occur if we start with a marked paper ballot.

  • Most importantly, the physical paper ballots can always be recounted by hand if there is suspicion of problems. If they were generated electronically, however, and there’s fraud or error in the set-up, we have much less of a guarantee that the ballots represent actual voter intent.

  • Of course, scanners and tabulators can be hacked as well. Thus, I would hope for nationwide legislation not only specifying paper ballots on durable stock with durable ink, but also mandating a hand-count before certification; electronic scanners, counters, and tabulators should be considered nothing more than a preliminary, unverified, indication of the results–good for generating news reports but not to be relied on to actually elect people.

    Oh yes, and I think the cost of switching to these much more reliable systems should be borne by the companies that brought us these unreliable machines in the first place. It should not fall on the taxpayer to pay for the clean up of this very preventable mess.

    Saturday, January 20, 2007

    Can We Trust Book Blurbs?

    An article in today’s SpeakerNet News (scroll down to “Do book testimonials work? — Ian Percy”) posits that many, if not most, book blurbs are signed by people who’ve never examined the book.

    I surely hope Mr. Percy is wrong! Certainly, when I’m asked for a book blurb I spend some serious time with the book and read at last several sections as well as the Table of Contents, index, etc. I will confess–I don’t generally read the whole thing–but I read enough of it that I can comment accurately. I find it scandalous that some people apparently consent to blurb a book without looking at it at all.

    Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to them that ultimately, it’s *their* reputation at stake as well as the author’s. To endorse a book you don’t actually believe in is asking for trouble on both moral and practical grounds.

    And when I request a blurb from someone else, I want that person to give me something based in honesty and a true appreciation of the content of the book. The blurbs I get, as a result, have enough substance that they actually do sway a sale. Yes, I believe readers can tell the difference between an honest enthusiastic blurb and a fake. (In fact, I spend some time explaining what makes a good blurb and how to get them, in my newest book Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers).

    Blurbs are a crucial tool in creating a marketing buzz, and one that helps equalize the playing field between those books published by big houses and those published by small independents. Let’s not cheapen them, please!

    Tuesday, January 16, 2007

    Happy MLKing Day--Much-Celebrated in Memphis

    I'm just back from the National Conference on media Reform in Memphis, where much honor was deservedly poured on Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated in that city just a few blocks from the conference (now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum).

    My reports on the 2005 conference in Saint Louis are posted on my Frugal Marketing site; I'll try to get at least some of my '07 coverage up this week.

    Thursday, January 11, 2007

    Green Business Stories, Including a Good Initiative from Wal-Mart

    I’m a frequent reader of Chris MacDonald’s Business Ethics Blog, and through Chris, I found Joel Makower’s list of Top Green Business Stories of 2006.

    This is must reading for those interested in sustainability and how the business world addresses it/markets around it.

    Chris himself explored one of those 10 issues,

    Sunday, January 07, 2007

    Some Observations on Business in Mexico

    I’m writing this from Guanajuato, Mexico; we’ve been traveling and studying Spanish since December 26. My wife and I were also here 22 years ago for an extended trip, and I notice differences in the business world since then.

    The most obvious is how much more advanced the infrastructure has become. A few examples:

    Making a long-distance call within Mexico had been rather an ordeal. In 1984 and 1985, a person would contact the operator, you’d get a call back in an hour or two when the line became available, and the sound quality was iffy. These days, just buy a phone card, slide it in, and dial, and usually get a good clear signal. However, you may have to try two or three phones before you find one that likes your card. And everybody that we met had a cell phone; many also have land lines. In the old days, most people had no phone at all.

    Intercity bus travel has become a joy (other than the constant barrage of poorly chosen TV and movies). Luxurious seats, immaculate restrooms, even a snack.

    Banking has been computerized, and transactions such as changing travelers checks that used to take half an hour or more now take only a few minutes.

    Purified water is common, and a healthfood consciousness has begun to be felt in the culture. A few examples–even Wonder offers packaged whole wheat tortillas…natural foods stores, though small, are easy to find…a few restaurants and cafes proclaim that they use organic ingredients.

    However, there are some less attractive changes as well.

    It seems that the strong local traditional culture is harder to find. Norteamericano fashion boutiques have replaced many of the traditional clothing vendors, and we saw almost no one wearing Mexican styles. And, like so many other parts of the world, some of the U.S.’s worst cultural exports have begun to crowd out local stores. We saw several Wal-Marts, McDonald’s, and–in picturesque downtown Guanajuato–even a Domino Pizza. And despite the wonderful varieties of Mexican soda and beer, Coke is enormously popular.

    Worse, Coke owns at least a few of the brands of bottled water, and that could be a dangerous trend. I beleive firmly that water rights and water privatization will be major focal points for the struggle for economic justice, increasing in intesity to the point that water may be the oil of 2020 and beyond. And it should not be yanked out from under the local populace by multinational corporations.