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, November 30, 2007

A New Discovery…And a Web 2.0 Moment

I love discovering fresh, articulate voices who discuss important things. And today I discovered Mike Wagner, of He writes elegantly on the brand as based in the customer’s own experience. I particularly enjoyed his story of the broken minor promise that cost a hotel $30,000 in lost future revenue, and also of the receptionist who made him feel special.

What especially interests me is the way I found him. I participate fairly passively on several Web 2.0 social networking sites. This morning, I logged onto Plaxo and found that someone in one of my groups had posted a link to the Thinking Blogger Awards. And Mike was one of the five honored Thinking Bloggers. Is that cool, or what?

If you’re not starting to harness Web 2.0 in your own business, maybe it’s time to start.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

One Democrat Who Understands How to be On Message

A Democratic Congressional staffer wrote a piercing and widely circulated memo showing that the Republicans know how to frame things, while the Dems gather ’round the policy-wonk water cooler and talk to themselves in dull messages.

This of course is nothing new. Back in the ’90’s, Newt Gingrich unleashed the “Contract With America” (which many progressives quickly dubbed “Contract On America”, as indeed, it turned out to be).

The last really powerful Dem to be able to sound-bite a key message so it becomes a rallying cry was probably Lyndon Johnson, with his Great Society, War on Poverty, etc.

Yeah, so read the article. And read books like George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant, or other books on persuasion. While social change takes more than sloganeering, it definitely helps if you can frame the discourse. Failure to do so is why both Kerry and Gore were close enough to defeat that the election could actually be stolen from them, and why their weak and ineffectual attempts and keeping their victories fell flat.

I think it’s also interesting that what led me to this article was a blog post by copywriter Ben Settle (I read a lot of copywriting newsletters called Democrats Suck at Copywriting? Didn’t hear about this one from any of my progressive pen-pals.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Score: Homeland Security, 1; Organic Herbs, 0

A friend of my daughter’s was planning to visit her at college over Thanksgiving weekend, and we took advantage of this to courier a large book. While we were at it, and since my daughter was planning to cook a big holiday meal, my wife prepared a bottle of dried organic basil, rosemary, and oregano from our garden.

And then it hit me: the student is from Venezuela. TSA or Homeland Security might think it was drugs, and my daughter’s friend could be arrested or even deported. Ummm, let’s not send the herbs. And then, in a fit of paranoia, I decided that even though we’re 50 and Caucasian, maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to bring the other bottle of herbs to my brother-in-law in Minnesota. After all, we also have to go through airport security!

I notice a few changes in my behavior. If I’m reading a magazine like Mother Jones (progressive politics), I’ll actually fold it open so the cover is not visible. And I very consciously don’t wear political t-shirts on airplanes. This is not paranoia; I’ve heard of a lot of cases of people stopped for wearing a shirt that had a harmless phrase in Arabic, or a peace message. If I’m going to be on the no-fly list, I want it to be for my writing and speaking, and not for my taste in fashion.

And TSA is consistently bizzare and inconsistent anyway. Once, my son was stopped because he had a set of tiny screwdrivers (about two or three inches long each) to adjust his oboe–like the sort of screwdrivers opticians use to tighten a pair of glasses. TSA said we couldn’t bring the set, but we could bring one of them. I asked if we could each take one, since there were four of us, and four screwdrivers. No, we had to throw the other three away. But somehow, I once discovered a week into my vacation that there was an actual knife in my carry-on bag (a remnant from a potluck where I’d brought a loaf of fresh bread), and that went through security, no problem.

Oh yes, TSA also once made me eat my leftover broccoli and rice noodles that I was planning to have for lunch hours later–at 5:30 a.m.–because I happened to put it in a cottage cheese container! I managed to choke down a few mouthfuls, but it really wasn’t my idea of breakfast–and then I had to buy lunch later. Grrrr!

So, you can rest safe and secure in the knowledge that no terrorists in either Minnesota or Ohio will be smoking our rosemary. doesn’t that make you feel much better?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

On Being Wrong and Admitting It

Yesterday, I thought I’d invented the word “jargonaut.” Then I found out it already existed.

And in today’s world, there’s no excuse for my not checking. It was, after all, a pretty obvious coinage, and William Safire used it 27 years ago.

So my two lessons here are:

1. If you think you’ve invented something, check on Google. and you won’t feel like an idiot if someone beat you to it. Many good ideas were developed independently by researchers/inventors in different locations, but they didn’t have the luxury of the Internet. I do and should have used it.

2. If you make a mistake, own up to it. I made a mistake. It’s not life-threatening but I do have to backtrack to all the places where I made the claim, and correct it. And then it’ll be done.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wonderfully Scathing Attack on “Jargonauts”

Jargonaut: noun: someone who expresses him or herself in meaningless babble. Word invented by Shel Horowitz (that’s me) as I commented on Drayton Bird’s Bird Droppings blog.

He has a fabulously funny essay about jargonauts. Go read it.

Disclosure and Objectivity on IAOC Blog

Finished out my week as a Guest Blogger for the International Association of Online Communicators with another look at the Blogger’s Code of Ethics, specifically the part about disclosure, differentiation.

Also a pleasant a ramble through the question of whether journalistic objectivity actually exists.

Now, if I can just get people to start posting real comments on my own blog…

They Can’t Claim Innocence: Cheney on Iraq, 1992

Astounding! In a speech made in 1992, Dick Cheney, then Secretary of Defense under the first George Bush, outlined all the reasons why a ground war in Iraq to force out Saddam would be a really dumb idea.

Sadly, all his predictions came true in the present war. I am once again grateful to Democracy Now for digging this up. And if you go to the link above, you can actually hear Cheney say this.

AMY GOODMAN: As we talk about how President Bush and Vice President Cheney made the case for war in Iraq, I want to turn to comments made by Dick Cheney in September of 1992. At the time, he was President George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense. During an address at the Economic Club of Detroit, Cheney was asked why the United States didn’t bury Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War. This is how he responded close to fifteen years ago.

DICK CHENEY: At the end of the war in the Gulf, when we made the decision to stop, we did so because we had achieved our military objectives — that is, when we decided to halt military operations. Those objectives were twofold: to liberate Kuwait and, secondly, to strip Saddam Hussein of his offensive military capability, of his capacity to threaten his neighbors. And we had done that.

There is no doubt in my mind, but what we could have gone on to Baghdad and taken Baghdad, occupied the whole country. We had the 101st Airborne up on the Euphrates River Valley about halfway between Kuwait and Baghdad. And I don’t think, from a military perspective, that it would have been an impossible task. Clearly, it wouldn’t, given the forces that we had there.

But we made a very conscious decision not to proceed for several reasons, in part because as soon as you go to Baghdad to get Saddam Hussein, you have to recognize that you’re undertaking a fairly complex operation. It’s not the kind of situation where we could have pulled up in front of the presidential palace in Baghdad and said, “Come on, Saddam. You’re going to the slammer.” We would have had to run him to ground. A lot of places he could have gone to hide out or to resist. It would have required extensive military forces to achieve that.

But let’s assume for the moment that we would have been able to do it, we got Saddam now and maybe we put him down there in Miami with Noriega. Then the question comes, putting a government in place of the one you’ve just gotten rid of. You can’t just sort of turn around and away; you’ve now accepted the responsibility for what happens in Iraq. What kind of government do you want us to create in place of the old Saddam Hussein government? You want a Sunni government or a Shia government, or maybe it ought to be a Kurdish government, or maybe one based on the Baath Party, or maybe some combination of all of those.

How long is that government likely to survive without US military forces there to keep it propped up? If you get into the business of committing US forces on the ground in Iraq to occupy the place, my guess is I’d probably still have people there today, instead of having been able to bring them home.

We would have been in a situation, once we went into Baghdad, where we would have engaged in the kind of street-by-street, house-to-house fighting in an urban setting that would have been dramatically different from what we were able to do in the Gulf, in Kuwait in the desert, where our precision-guided munitions and our long-range artillery and tanks were so devastating against those Iraqi forces. You would have been fighting in a built-up urban area, large civilian population, and much heavier prospects for casualties.

You would have found, as well, I think, probably the disintegration of the Arab coalition that signed on to support us in our efforts to eject the Iraqis from Kuwait, but never signed on for the proposition that the United States would become some kind of quasi-permanent occupier of a major Middle Eastern nation.

And the final point, with respect to casualties, everybody, of course, was tremendously impressed with the fact that we were able to prevail at such a low cost, given the predictions with respect to casualties in major modern warfare. But for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it was not a cheap or a low-cost conflict. The bottom-line question for me was: How many additional American lives is Saddam Hussein worth? The answer: Not very damn many. I think the President got it right both times, both when he decided to use military force to defeat Saddam Hussein’s aggression, but also when he made what I think was a very wise decision to stop military operations when we did.

So why, knowing exactly how things were going down, did Cheney push this idiotic war?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Self-Policing Vs. Regulation, and the Free Speech Bridge Controversy

My guest blog today is on whether the Code of Ethics, and self-regulation among bloggers generally, may help keep regulators out of blogs.

Also, my previous posts on that blog have attracted comments. In my response to one of yesterday’s comments, I brought up the strange saga of the insults hurled at members of the U.S. championship women’s bridge team, who have been accused by other bridge players of treason and sedition for holding a sign at the awards ceremony in Shanghai, declaring that they did not vote for Bush.

Well, it may not be to the liking of some conservative bridge players, but it’s a long way from the definition of treason or sedition. One could actually make more of a case that bush and some of his cronies have committed treason.

Last time I checked, it as enshrined in the Constitution (specifically the First Amendment) that Americans have a right to free speech. Whether or not this was an appropriate forum could be discussed (especially in the context of the self-regulation versus outside regulation question I raised on the IAOC blog), but the right not to be silenced is guaranteed, at least in theory.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

2nd Post on IAOC Blog: Do No harm

Continuing the discussion of the Blogger’s Code of Ethics: an examination of what it means to minimize harm to the people you write about.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Latest issue of Ethical Corporation magazine

Bunch of interesting stuff in the latest issue of the British publication Ethical Corporation, all available online.

Among the goodies:

A rather jaundiced view of Apple’s treatment of its customers and the Steve Jobs mystique–also referred to as the “reality distortion field”

A look at diamond mining giant DeBeers and its partnership with Botswana. This is a company much-criticized by activists over the years. Who knew they even had a corporate citizenship department or a board member from the Botswanan government? I’m not ready to award them a Positive Power Spotlight any time soon but I’m glad to see they’re not completely evil.

An examination of Starbucks’ relationships with its workers amid charges that the company that prides itself publicly on social responsibility is in some ways a less union-friendly climate. On one statistic–percentage o employees covered by the corporate health plan–it compares unfavorably with the notorious union buster Wal-Mart.

Blogging on Ethics for IAOC

Today through Friday, I’m blogging daily on the Blogger’s Code of Ethics at the blog of the International Association of Online Communicators (IAOC).

My first post identifies which of the numerous codes of ethics we’ll be working from, and focuses on the biggest ethics issue I see: disclosure.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Why You Should Never Trust Automated Translations

I use automated translations frequently to get a rough idea of what someone is talking about, and some pages of my sites offer free translation. But I know better than to rely on them for anything that really matters if I’m translating more than a single word.

Here’s an example of why. I am quite sure that a human translator would have rendered this very differently:

The material that we include has expressed you the aspirations of many people with longings to change radically the transforming processing that the art has in the human beings. If, by any motive, it not out of your current interest or possibilities of participation, a lot we will thank transfer this anxiety to your close persons.

One More Reason NOT to Trust Big Gov and Big Corp

The San Francisco Chronicle interviewed a retired AT&T worker, Mark Klein, who claims he actually observed AT&T diverting copies of pretty much all email–not just the foreign stuff to the National Security Agency.

In an interview Tuesday, he said the NSA set up a system that vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the cooperation of AT&T. Contrary to the government’s depiction of its surveillance program as aimed at overseas terrorists, Klein said, much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic. Klein said he believes the NSA was analyzing the records for usage patterns as well as for content.

He said the NSA built a special room to receive data streamed through an AT&T Internet room containing “peering links,” or major connections to other telecom providers. The largest of the links delivered 2.5 gigabits of data - the equivalent of one-quarter of the Encyclopedia Britannica’s text - per second, said Klein, whose documents and eyewitness account form the basis of one of the first lawsuits filed against the telecom giants after the government’s warrantless-surveillance program was reported in the New York Times in December 2005.

How did it work?

The diagram showed splitters, glass prisms that split signals from each network into two identical copies. One copy fed into the secret room. The other proceeded to its destination, he said.

“This splitter was sweeping up everything, vacuum-cleaner-style,” he said. “The NSA is getting everything. These are major pipes that carry not just AT&T’s customers but everybody’s.”

I urge you to contact your representatives i Congress and the Senate (I’ve written to mine) and tell them NOT to allow any amnesty for telecom companies that illegally turned over data to the government.

It as a crime when Google and Yahoo helped send a Chinese activist to jail by giving their records to the Chinese government and it’s a crime that AT&T turned over our e-mails to an agency not authorized to see them.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Conservative Authors Accuse Publisher of Cheating Them

Most book contracts give the publisher the right to sell at a deep discount to book clubs, and to pay much less to the authors on those sales. However, the assumption is that the book club is a distinct and separate entity.

For example, if one of my publishers, Chelsea Green, sold my Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World to Book of the Month Club, I’d get lower royalties, reflecting the deep discount.

But here’s the ethics problem: The New York Times reports on a lawsuit filed by several authors against their publisher, Regnery Publishing–probably the dominant name in books for those with a conservative worldview.

The authors (Jerome R. Corsi, Bill Gertz, Lt. Col. Robert (Buzz) Patterson, Joel Mowbray and Richard Miniter) accuse Regnery of essentially forming a book club of its own with the express intent of defrauding authors out of royalties due, by channeling as many sales as possible into its book club and other wholly-owned enterprises.

In the lawsuit the authors say that Eagle sells or gives away copies of their books to book clubs, newsletters and other organizations owned by Eagle “to avoid or substantially reduce royalty payments to authors.”

This is a rather nasty form of self-dealing, given the small share authors get even under the best of terms. (Yes, I’m a publisher. I know how much publishers have to invest in a book, yada yada–but I’m also a member of the National Writers Union and I’ve seen the way things are stacked against authors in most book deals.)

While I totally disagree with these authors’ view of world and national politics, if what they say is true, I totally support their drive to get their fair share. Selling inventory to oneself in order to pay pennies on the dollar is unethical and disgusting.

Yeah, Blogs Can Be Gorgeous–45 Great Examples

OK, so I’m a word guy. I use the power of copy to inform, persuade, and hopefully make a difference. When I’m forced to create a layout, it tends to be barebones–the minimum work necessary to get my words to appear.

Still, I have a lot of respect for good design as a component of good marketing. Here’s a link to 45 prize-winning blog designs. Most of them are easy to rest your eyes on, eye-catching, and still easy to read.

If my assistant and I can figure out something easy, maybe this blog will start looking nicer. But then again, I’m a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of a guy, so maybe not.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Oprah Example: How A Class Act Accepts Responsiblity

Hey, big CEOs with ethics problems–learn a lesson from Oprah Winfrey. Yes, Oprah, the talkshow queen of daytime television.

She started a leadership school for girls, in South Africa. When she discovered that 15 girls accused a female staffer of sexual assault, she first immediately removed the suspect from contact with the children (and then, noting a climate of fear and intimidation still existed, removed all the dorm matrons and replaced the with faculty), quietly initiated an investigation (in conjunction with law enforcement officials), brought in American experts to help, made several visits to the school, provided counseling and support, etc.

As soon as an arrest had been made, she called a press conference, outlined the steps she had taken, conveyed deep, sincere apologies, and outlined preventative measures for the future.

Here’s a piece of her statement:

This has been one of the most
devastating if not the most devastating experience
of my life. But like all such experiences,
there’s always much to be gained and I think
there’s a lot to be learned. And as Mr. Samuel
said, we are moving forward to create a safe, an
open, and a receptive environment for the girls
and I’m also very grateful to their parents and to
their guardians and their caretakers for their
continued trust and their support in me and also
in the school.
What I know is, is that no one, not the
accused, nor any persons can destroy the dream
that I have held and the dream that each girl
continues to hold for herself at this school. And
I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to make
sure that the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for
Girls becomes the safe, the nurturing, and
enriched setting that I had envisioned. A place
capable of fostering the full measure of these
girls’ productivity, of their creativity, and of
their humanity. It will become a model for the
world. With each girl who graduates, we will show
that the resilience of the human spirit is
actually stronger than poverty, it’s stronger than
hatred, it’s stronger than violence, it’s stronger
than trauma and loss, and it’s also stronger than
any abuse. No matter what adversity these girls
have endured in their short lives, and let me
assure you, they have endured a lot, their lights
will not be diminished by this experience.

Joan Stewart of has a good piece on this.

Kucinich Way Ahead in DFA Poll

In a field of nine candidates within the Democratic Party, Dennis Kucinich, arguably the most progressive of the bunch (with the possible exception of Mike Gravel), finished well ahead of the pack in a straw poll conducted by Democracy for America, with 31.97 percent.

The only other “candidate” to get more than 20 percent was Al Gore, who is not actually running at the moment: 24.77 percent. Edwards and Obama were next, with 15.6 and 13.86, respectively. Hillary Clinton, probably the most conservative of the Democrats, was a very distance fifth with just 4.21 percent.

This organization is definitely on the left edge of the Democratic Party, but there’s a very important message to candidates here: Democrats cannot take the Left for granted. Our support has to be earned. Kucinich, with consistent progressive positions on every issue I can think of, has earned that support–and he carried 41 states in the poll. Those who voted for a more centrist but still liberal candidate they feel could win went to Gore, Edwards and Obama, and not to Clinton.

I have to say, it was a thrill to vote for Kucinich in the 2004 primary (and to hear him speak at the University of Massachusetts that year). The last time there was an opportunity to vote for a serious candidate in one of the two major parties whose positions were so much like mine was for George McGovern–and I wasn’t yet old enough to vote!

I fully intend to vote for him again in the 2008 primary. he is a man of great courage and conviction:

A consistent and forthright opponent of the existing war in Iraq (right from the beginning, in 2002), the apparently forthcoming war in Iran, and the highly repressive Patriot Act
A visionary who has proposed a Cabinet-level Department of Peace and a European-style single-payer health plan
A man so unafraid to kowtow to the administration that he has introduced an impeachment resolution against Cheney and has promised to do the same to Bush
A man who sees the connections of energy policy, war, megacorporatism, and their impact on human rights, social justice, and economic well-being
To learn more about his campaign, or to get involved, visit his website.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Power Grabs, Abdications Around the World

Not a good day for news.

In Pakistan, Musharaf has declared a “state of emergency” akin to martial law, apparently because he’s worried that the courts would rule he was not a qualified candidate in the recent presidential election because he kept his post as head of the military.

In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez–who can sometimes be a very class act, as when he offered heating assistance to Boston’s poor a few years ago–is also trying to grab more power. I don’t like it when the culprit is on the left any more than when it comes from the right.

Meanwhile, the Mexican state of Tabasco is appealing for aid after massive flooding that left 500,000 homeless and 80,000 trapped.

And two key liberal democratic US Senators, Feinstein and Schumer, say they’ll support Mukasey’s nomination as Attorney General even though he wont repudiate waterboarding (and then the Democrats wonder why I turn down their fund appeals). Leahy at least is strong enough to say he will vote no.

About the only bright spot is Guatemala’s surprise rejection of the military strongman who was expected to win the presidency.

All this in today’s five minutes of news headlines from Democracy Now. And where is the mainstream US news?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Nader: Democratic Party is Undemocratic–I’m suing

Ralph Nader is suing the Democratic Party, claiming a deliberate attempt to force him off the 04 ballot in multiple states and to bankrupt him in the process.

According to one of Nader’s lawyers, Carl Mayer, interviewed in Democracy Now, the Dems pretty much admit it:

Robert Brandon, who’s one of the defendants, and he’s a consultant to the Democratic Party. And he held a meeting at the Democratic Convention in 2004 with Moffett, Holtzman and a group of other high-ranking Democrats, and they said, our purpose is to keep Nader off the ballot. And they went, and they proceeded to do it, spending millions of dollars.

And when will the US woke up to the idea that the 2-party system isn’t working here. Most other democracies abandoned it long ago, if they ever used it. Multiparty parliamentary democracies have a lot of advantages, IMHO.

Two New Initiatives for Citizen-Student Election Coverage

The New York Times reports something exciting: two different citizen-journalist initiatves aimed at broadening coverage of the ‘008 election while maintaining journalistic standards–and training the student reporters in them.

One of them,, is backed by Ariana Huffington and her Huffington Post. The other,, has a number of well-known advisors from NY Times columnist Frank Rich to Senator Joe Lieberman.

I wish them both well. The more perspectives shared and the more people with journalism skills, the better I like it.