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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Saturday, August 25, 2007

US Punishes Iraq Corruption Whistleblowers–Shameful!

No matter what your position on the Iraq war, I thought we could all agree that…

It’s a good idea to keep weapons out of the hands of insurgents
Fraud and corruption that costs taxpayers millions of dollars should be stamped out
Well, apparently the federal government doesn’t agree. A shocking AP article (as reprinted in the Santa Barbara News-Press) details severe repression against several whistleblowers who reported just such things in Iraq–ranging from demotion and harassment to 97 days in prison outside Baghdad!

For daring to report illegal arms sales, Navy veteran Donald Vance says he was imprisoned by the American military in a security compound outside Baghdad and subjected to harsh interrogation methods.

There were times, huddled on the floor in solitary confinement with that head-banging music blaring dawn to dusk and interrogators yelling the same questions over and over, that Vance began to wish he had just kept his mouth shut.

He had thought he was doing a good and noble thing when he started telling the FBI about the guns and the land mines and the rocket-launchers - all of them being sold for cash, no receipts necessary, he said. He told a federal agent the buyers were Iraqi insurgents, American soldiers, State Department workers, and Iraqi embassy and ministry employees.

Shameful, absolutely shameful.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Wikipedia Scanner Reveals Sculduggery

Knowing that any entry in a Wiki can be changed by any reader, I’ve always been a bit suspicious of what I read on Wikipedia. Still, I find that Google often points me to Wikipedia articles, and most of the time, they seem pretty authoritative and accurate (if I’m at all suspicious, I verify with other sources, and it usually checks out).

Now it turns out I was right to be suspicious. Virgil Griffith, a grad student at CalTech, invented a system to track the IP addresses of people who change Wikipedia entries–and the results are scary. While the majority of changes are innocuous–correcting typos and that sort of thing, a number of well-known entities have deliberately distorted facts. A few among many examples:

According to the Wired article (one of several from mainstream news sources, including BBC and ABC),

Griffith thus downloaded the entire encyclopedia, isolating the XML-based records of anonymous changes and IP addresses. He then correlated those IP addresses with public net-address lookup services such as ARIN, as well as private domain-name data provided by

The result: A database of 34.4 million edits, performed by 2.6 million organizations or individuals ranging from the CIA to Microsoft to Congressional offices, now linked to the edits they or someone at their organization’s net address has made.

So who’s been playing fast and loose with the truth?

The CIA edited entries about Iranian President Ahmadinejad
Diebold, the voting machine company, removed incriminating material about its machines and faulty election results
Someone at a Democratic Party computer edited the entry about Rush Limbaugh to call him Limbaugh “idiotic,” “racist”, and a “bigot”–and about his audience, “Most of them are legally retarded.”
Microsoft listed its MSN as a “major competitor” to Google, whle adding deprecating material to Apple’s entry
Wal-Mart toned down criticism of its labor policies
Even the Vatican removed passages about Sinn Fein’s Gerry Addams that linked him to a 1971 murder.
Needless to say, this raises a lot of ethical questions. As a start, it would seem logical that Wikipedia should keep a running, public list of any IP addresses that altered a particular entry–right on that page. And also, perhaps, each page could display its history, so that previous versions would be visible and readers could draw their own conclusions.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bob Lutweiler: An Extraordinary Life

I’ve had the good fortune to meet many people over the years who’ve truly made a difference in the world. I met another one today, in a nursing home in Bellingham, Washington.

Bob Lutweiler is 87 and ill with cancer–but he still talks about the alternative school he’d like to start. He demands a lot from his visitors: hearty, probing conversation that goes deep about personal lives and about the state of the world, punctuated by references to various books and magazines that surround his sickbed. He sprinkles his conversation with several snippets of other languages, an we have a long talk about whether to be optimistic that people will come out of their self-centered cocoons in time to avert the coming environmental crisis (I’m more optimistic than he is)–and about life in the post-Word War II, pre-NATO Denmark of alternative folk schools, peace, community, and an excellent safety net.

Bob is the founder of Servas, an international traveler/host network that fosters peace through international communication. As a member of this organization since 1983, I have enjoyed fabulous times both as a traveler and a host–and when our host offered to bring us over, I was delighted. It has made traveling not only much more affordable, but also much more of an experiene of abundance (I strongly recommend this organization–here’s an article I wrote about the basic concept, and another describing ten of my favorite homestay moments–scroll down past the response to 9/11 article). Servas was started as a peace organization after Bob (who has been to 53 countries and speaks something like seven languages) experienced that remarkable culture of Denmark in the days following World War II, and now offers no-cost homestays in over 140 countries. We’ve enjoyed this very special way of travel in four different continents so far, including stays in Paris, London, Prague, Athens, Jerusalem, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and numerous small towns, backwoods cabins, and more.

Knowing that he was ill, I expected we’d visit for 20 or 30 minutes–but Bob didn’t want to let us go. He seemed thrilled to have a deep conversation, and when we finally excused ourselves after an hour and a half, he wa deeply disappointed. He said he wanted to know us better and asked if we could come back another time before we leave the area. (Postscript: he called the following morning to tell us that our visit had been “the greatest gift of the last six months.”)

Clearly, this man who has accomplished so much has a lot more he’d like to do before his time is up.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cruise Ships and the Environment

For my wife’s 50th birthday, her parents sent us on a cruise through Alaska’s Inside Passage–a magnificent trip.

But it got me thinking–surely there are more eco-friendly ways to run a cruise ship. There ae astounding issues of waste aboard ship, and with so many ships plying these waters, the impact on fragile ecologies in these beautiful locations we all want to visit can be quite significant–and quite negative. And then I found out that on top of issues like food waste, ship sewage gets dumped into the water! There’s got to be a better way.

So, while still on the ship, I started working on a business plan for an eco-friendly cruise line that would serve as a lab for (and be funded initially by) the traditional cruise lines, developing new Green practices and technologies that the whole fleet could adopt. And maybe the land-based hotel industry could get in on it as well.

Making this a reality is a bigger task than I could take on on my own but if any one has ideas as to how to make this a reality, I’m very willing to listen, and to share my thinking. E-mail me through my contact form on

And hey, I’d love to be Marketing Director if such a line ever launches . Let’s reinvent this industry together.