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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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Racists in America Increasingly Nasty Around Obama

Warning: I’m about to share a link to something filthy, vile, and disgusting. We all knew that if Obama turned into a serious candidate, as he most certainly has, that the racists would get down and dirty. I already heard William Bennett on the radio talking repeatedly about “Barack Hussein Obama”–and yes, the emphasis was in the original.

But Alec Baldwin shared a clipping on Huffington Post from his small-town Long Island (NOT Mississippi) newspaper that is incredibly audacious in its hatred––thank you, Alex, for pointing out the barbarism we’re up against. It was written by the publisher of the paper, so don’t expect any firings. But a nice boycott might be in order. And wouldn’t it be nice if the publisher saw fit to enroll in a course on civil rights, ethics, or both?

I personally find nothing funny in this “satire.”

For whatever it’s worth, I had planned to endorse Obama in this space anyway, now that Kucinich is out of the race. I hereby endorse him–not because of this racist screed, but because I’d already made the decision (and actually last night authorized my name on a signature ad in our local paper). And I hope when people start to confront the racism of their own neighbors, that he will receive many, many more endorsements.

Saddam, Bin Laden, and Climate Censorship

I don’t dip into Alternet as often as I should. But I did today, and I found the juxtaposition of two stories very interesting:

1. The FBI agent in charge of interrogating Saddam Hussein for seven months says that not only was there no link between Saddam and Al Qaida, but Saddam saw Bin Laden as a dangerous and destablizing force.

2. Months after the scandal first broke (or is it years), government honchos are still interfering with scientists who try to speak out on climate change.

These two stories share a pattern: a White House administration that sees truth as an inconvenient obstacle, but one it can easily climb over. See my post earlier today about the 935 documented lies on just one issue, in just two years.

How Many Times Does Bush Lie? 259 on Iraq Alone, in Two Years

While I was still feeling nauseous after the smug hypocrisy and misleading statements that filled last night’s State of the Union address, I followed a link to a study released this week by the well-respected Center for Public Integrity.

That study documents 935 false statements by the Bush administration just about Iraq, counting only the two years beginning 9/11/01. 259 of these lies were straight from the lips of George W. Bush. That means Bush lied about Iraq (either about WMDs or the imaginary Al Qaida connection) once every 2.8 days–and his administration lied more than once a day.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the last president impeached for telling one single lie, about a personal matter that affected only his immediate family and a few others. Yes, that was wrong. But how much worse is it to tell almost a thousand lies on just this one topic (who knows how many others?), and have on your conscience some 4000 dead Americans, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, that country in ruins and our own a rogue state that can’t meet its own people’s basic needs, and our reputation as a great nation in tatters.

Madame Speaker Nancy Pelosi, what will it take to convince you that the time is long past to put impeachment back on the table?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Why Are They Calling These Nonviolent Revolutionaries Imperialists?

Throughout history, far more lasting, positive social change has been accomplished through nonviolent (though often massive) organizing than through coups, violence, military dictatorships of the left or the right.

Need examples? Just in my own lifetime, there are many. A few to tickle your memory:

• The US Civil Rights movement
• Abolition of apartheid in South Africa
• The Solidarity movement and the dismantling of the entire Soviet empire
• Getting the US out of Vietnam

The skills involved in this kind of organizing are not necessarily intuitive, and if you only look at traditional history sources, they aren’t well documented. However, plenty of people’s history exists, and numerous courageous individuals have spent their lives studying these skills, and building them in others.

I didn’t know Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Dorothy Day–but I have been fortunate to know personally some of the leaders of this movement. The late Dave Dellinger was a personal friend for a few years. And I knew George Lakey and Stephen Zunes when I lived in a nonviolent study and action community in Philadelphia. Stephen and I even collaborated as the principal authors of a paper on future directions for the peace movement.

I bring this up not to name-drop but to be able to speak from personal experience that these are people of very high integrity.

So I was a bit shocked to get an e-mail from Stephen calling attention to criticism he and Gene Sharp (author of the definitive analysis of nonviolent social change, The Politics of Nonviolent Action), and others. Apparently, they are being targeted by certain elements of the left who sees them as tools of imperialism–including Hugo chavez of Venezuela.

Stephen has posted a long rebuttal to this absurd claim on the Foreign Policy in Focus website.

Stephen points out that the consulting he and other nonviolent activists do focuses on helping democratic opposition to totalitarian groups favored by US government interests, and not on destabilizing governments the US doesn’t like. In fact,

…The only visit to Venezuela that has taken place on behalf of any of these non-profit groups engaged in educational efforts on strategic nonviolence was in early 2006 when I – along with David Hartsough, the radical pacifist director of Peaceworkers – led a series of workshops at the World Social Forum in Caracas. There we lectured and led discussions on the power of nonviolent resistance as well as offered a series of screenings of a film ICNC helped develop on the pro-democracy movement in Chile against the former U.S.-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet. The only reference to Venezuela during those workshops was how massive nonviolent action could be used to resist a possible coup against Chavez, not foment one. In fact, Hartsough and I met with some Venezuelan officials regarding proposals that the government train the population in various methods of nonviolent civil defense to resist any possible future attempts to overthrow Chavez.

I very much like Stephen’s analogy of nonviolence training and the appropriate technology/green development movement:

Just as sustainable agricultural technologies and methods are more effective in meeting human needs and preserving the planet than the conventional development strategies promoted by Western governments, nonviolent action has been shown to be more effective in advancing democratic change than threats of foreign military intervention, backing coup plotters, imposing punitive sanctions, supporting armed rebel groups, and other methods traditionally instigated by the United States and its allies. And just as the application of appropriate technologies can also be a means of countering the damage caused by unsustainable neo-liberal economic models pushed by Western governments and international financial institutions, the use of massive nonviolent action can counter some of the damage resulting from the arms trade, military intervention, and other harmful manifestations of Western militarism.

Apparently, there will be some kind of action campaign in support of Gene Sharp and others. I Not in the article but in the letter, Zunes writes,

I’ve recently posted an article which critically examines these claims that popular indigenous pro-democracy struggles and Western nonviolent activists who support them are somehow collaborators with U.S. imperialism… Among the things I address is the irony that so many on the authoritarian left ˆ after years of romanticizing armed struggle as the only way to defeat dictatorships, disparaging the potential of nonviolent action to overthrow repressive governments, and dismissing the notion of a nonviolent revolution — are now expressing their alarm at how successful popular nonviolent insurrections can be, even to the point of naively thinking that they are so easy to pull off that it could somehow be organized from foreign capitals. (One would think that Marxists would recognize that revolutions grow out of objective social conditions…)

Anyway, I will shortly be sending all of you an open letter in support of Gene Sharp and other folks who do this kind of work I hope you will consider signing on to.

When I get the link, I’ll post it here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Kucinich Drops His Presidential Bid

Facing a tough race for his own seat in Congress, Dennis Kucinich is ending his presidential campaign.

This is very unfortunate. I heard Kucinich speak during the 2004 campaign, happily voted for him in the primary, and was appalled to see the way mainstream media refused to acknowledge his candidacy.

In fact, Kucinich and the similarly ignored Ron Paul are the only ones to raise any truly visionary ideas in this campaign (unless you count Huckabee’s idea to rewrite the Constitution as a Christian fundamentalist document––ugh!). Kucinich’s platform included single-payer health care, a dramatic shift toward renewable energy, and many other things we progressives have advocated for years–and which the mainstream media cloaks in invisibility, so candidates with something fresh to bring to the table get no coverage, and people have to hear about them through their own personal networks and brave media outlets like Democracy Now.

I question the ethics of a media empire that decides which candidates we should listen to, sanitizes those remaining, and ducks out on intelligent coverage of real issues. The whole system is deeply broken.

To me, Kucinich was the first person since George McGovern and Shirley Chisolm that I could vote for with a smile and a light heart, as someone who actually represents my views, and I wasn’t old enough to vote for McGovern.

He and Ron Paul have been the only ones willing to speak truth to power. Gravel has good politics but he’s been reaaaaly quiet!

The country is poorer for him being forced out.

Amazing! An Airport Bookstore with Great-Sounding Books!

Maybe there’s hope for our society. I stopped into Simply Books in the C concourse of Atlanta’s massive Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, not expecting much. After all, most airport bookstores, and even a lot of chain-owned downtown and mall stores lately, cram their shelves with trashy mass-market novels by the likes of Danielle Steel.

I don’t mind a good yarn; I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the Harry Potter books, Kite Runner, and even the occasional Stephen King–but when I dragged myself through one of Steel’s, I found it one of the most uninteresting and poorly written novels I’d ever encountered.

This bookstore, despite its very limited shelf space, was great. I saw literally dozens of books I’d have been happy to read–including some you may eventually read about in my monthly review column. In my brief foray, I saw these among others:

• Giving, by Bill Clinton
• Gary Hirshberg, founding CEO of Stonyfield Yogurt, writing about socially/environmentally conscious companies
• The Zookeeper’s Wife, a novelized account of a true family that risked their own lives to hide dozens of Jews in the zoo during the Nazi era
• About five of Jeffrey Gitomer’s entertaining and acerbic sales books
• A Thousand Splendid Suns, sequel to Kite Runner
• Meatball Sundae–the latest unconventional marketing rant from mega-guru Seth Godin

It is soooo refreshing to see an ariport store whose buyer values intelligent discourse! (And don’t worry, there were plenty of beach novels, too.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wow! I Made the Enemies List!

When Richard Nixon’s secret list of “enemies” (very broadly defined) became public knowledge, I was much too young and unimportant to be included–and I confess I was a bit jealous of some of my older friends who made the list. And a few years later when I lived with a paid staffer for a leftist peace magazine, we were pretty sure our phone was tapped.

But I discovered today that I have made it onto at least one more recent enemies list, put out by a Jewish right-wing hate site. 7000 of us, in fact, described by these modern-day McCarthyists as self-hating Jews. The language they use is racist, homophobic, and “my way or the highway.” The list includes celebrities like Woody Allen, most of the famous progressive rabbis I’m aware of, and even the very pro-Israel pundit Christopher Hitchens. My wife, who’s written an award-winning book whose protagonist is a Jewish teen who flees the ghetto of World War II to go live in a forest camp with partisans, makes the list by being married to me.

I’m rather amazed. I get a whole paragraph about me, while my friend Stephen Zunes, who has published probably hundreds of articles opposing Israel, gets only his name. Stephen and I collaborated back in 1981 on a white paper outlining strategies for the US peace movement. It was never published, but I’m very glad to have gotten a chance to work with him.

My crime? Saying publicly that I don’t necessarily think the “security fence” Israel is building is such a good idea. Just for the record, this is accurate. I’ve also said that I don’t think much of the similar fence the US is trying to erect to close of Mexico.

If they’d dug a bit deeper, they might have found out that I spent much of my 20s writing and organizing around Middle East peace issues and have published articles about the Israeli peace movement, and that one of my websites contains several pro-peace articles.

Fortunately, these people don’t run the wonderfully pluralistic societies of either Israel or the U.S. I shudder to think of what they’d do if they were in power.

I thought about linking to their site, but I decided that I would not be benefiting the causes I support by giving them an undeserved link from a well-ranked site. Nor do I want Google’s computers to think that I endorse them in any way.

Speaking of endorsements and link love–I was amused to see that my wife’s mention was linked to the Amazon page for one of my books (I presume it’s an affiliate link)–so these people are not above making a few shekels off the people they despise, although the book they chose to link to is actually out of print.

I guess I’ll have to start blogging more on Middle East peace issues, in order to properly earn my place on the list (wink)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Is Bill Gates More Moral Than Mother Teresa?

In a very long piece (7823 words) in the New York Times Magazine this week,Steven Pinker makes the case that Bill Gates might be more moral than Mother Teresa––because he’s using his fortune to deal with problems like malaria in developing countries.

Well, I’m not sure I’m ready to agree. But it certainly is nice to see moral issues getting lead-story placement in the Times Magazine.

It’s also fascinating to see how the author, a Harvard professor, manages to explore moral questions in some depth, and yet manages at the same time to keep his own viewpoints remarkably hidden. We don’t know if he’s liberal or conservative, and we don’t even know if he thinks Gates or Teresa would win the morality contest.

Another of his examples is how the difference between Islamic Sudan and the secular West had near-disastrous consequences for a well-meaning schoolteacher.

And because we don’t know his position, it’s easier to accept his premise that morality can create a common ground between Left and Right, or between people of widely disparate cultures.

An example of the former:

But in any conflict in which a meeting of the minds is not completely hopeless, a recognition that the other guy is acting from moral rather than venal reasons can be a first patch of common ground. One side can acknowledge the other’s concern for community or stability or fairness or dignity, even while arguing that some other value should trump it in that instance. With affirmative action, for example, the opponents can be seen as arguing from a sense of fairness, not racism, and the defenders can be seen as acting from a concern with community, not bureaucratic power. Liberals can ratify conservatives’ concern with families while noting that gay marriage is perfectly consistent with that concern.

This insight, about 90% through the article, is simply brilliant. I’ve seen it in action many times, but never so clearly expressed, except perhaps by legendary community organizer Saul Alinsky. It’s a principle that every agent of social change should internalize.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Greenwashing Increases the Corporate Credibility Gap

Thoughtful article by Mallen Baker in the UK publication Ethical Corporation, discussing a number of specific companies who’ve been called on the carpet for greenwashing: claiming to be more ecological than they really are.

As one among many examples:

Shell, which said “we use our waste CO2 to grow flowers”, was in breach of the advertising code because the wording could be seen to imply that all the company’s waste CO2 was so used, not just 0.33 per cent of it.

The result of this corporate misfeasance is not surprising. As Baker notes,

According to a recent survey, 80 per cent of Britons now think that companies simply pretend to be ethical in order to sell more products. Widespread cynicism over all the claims has set in, and is hardening with every ill-judged poster or TV ad. Nobody can see an ad with flower petals floating from the exhaust of a motor car and be anything other than cynical.

Oil companies are often making green claims, which I’ve learned to treat with skepticism. Yet I admit to being fooled occasionally. I once profiled BP as the socially responsible company of the month in my Positive Power of Principled Profit newsletter on the basis of its stated policies and actions on environmental responsibility. Later, I found out that BP still has quite its share of environmental problems, even disasters.

Colorado Mainstream Journos Try to Block Alt Reporters from State House

Seems to be a day for absurdist stories. First the FBI phone tapping gets shut off for nonpayment, and now this: some print journalists in Colorado want to keep “political activists posing as journalists” out of the legislature. and they’ve actually gotten a really dumb policy enacted.

Translation, as I see it: keep the bloggers and other riff-raff in the indy media out. Just as Kucinich and Paul were kept out of the New Hampshire debates, becuse neither of them follow the party line.

Let’s hope this gets reversed quickly, before it makes a lot of people look stupid.

FBI Wiretaps Shut Off for Nonpayment

Big Brother is Big Broke? One more bit of incompetence from the bizarre GWB administration:

The FBI lost a whole bunch of its wiretaps for failing to pay its enormous phone bill, USA Today reports.

Of course, since a lot of government wiretaps didn’t bother with such niceties as FISA warrants, this might turn out to be a good thing.

But don’t you feel so much safer?

Needless to say, some bloggers have been having some fun with this:

Fast Silicon

Because incidents like this make it all too clear that “Big Brother” rides the short bus and frequently forgets to take his meds.

This same blogger referred to the FBI being “outed as morons.”

Then there’s this delicious satirical piece by James Dickerman on Huffington Post:

When the ACLU complained initially to the phone companies, talking about some constitutional hooey, the phone companies said that they were just trying to do their patriotic duty to help the FBI find terrorists between phone conversations about The Office. It made a lot of sense. Now though, the ACLU is saying, “Hey hey, phone companies. If you’re really so patriotic, why are you shutting down the wiretaps?” It’s a ridiculous idea that completely contradicts what the phone company is up to. Can’t the ACLU see that if the phone company had to shut down the wiretaps in order to protect our way of life?

If you want more, here’s the whole Google listing for fbi phone bill.

Oh, and wait till you see the FBI’s official excuse–one of the best examples of how not to write a press release I’ve ever seen:

The FBI is confident that the Department of Justice effort to create a Unified Financial Management System for all DOJ agencies will greatly strengthen oversight and controls over financial programs, including confidential case funds and the related costs associated with telecommunications services. While there is widespread agreement that the current financial management system, first introduced in the 1980’s, is inadequate, the FBI will not tolerate financial mismanagement, or worse, and is addressing the issues identified in the audit. Every effort is being made to either implement the recommendations or otherwise put in place corrective actions to ensure appropriate oversight.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Spin Doctoring: Lessons From Mitt Romney

This exchange between Mitt Romney and John McCain, and the follow-up dialogue with George Stephanopoulosshows everything that’s wrong with the bland, I-didn’t-mean-what-I-said-and-in-fact-I-never-said-it, duck-the-real-issues treacle that U.S. presidential politics has become.

Could you ever imagine Hugo Chavez spouting that sort of junk?

I’m no fan of McCain, but Romney should be ashamed of himself–except that he has made it abundantly clear to me for years that he has no shame. He specializes in the flip-flop.

And a lot of the other candidates imitate this crap. We, the American people, ought to flat-out reject it. We should demand that our candidates say what they mean, mean what they say, and be held accountable when they screw up or retreat into this sort of meaningless blather.

Columnist Chris Kelly analyzed it like this:

And then remembers that it’s probably on videotape somewhere. So he clarifies:

I would never stoop to accusing you of doing the horrible things everyone knows you do. I’d just insinuate it.

But it’s even more remarkable than that. Mitt Romney has the power to reverse-insinuate. Sometimes when he directly says something, it turns out he’s really just hinting.

He can unsay things by saying them. Don’t ask me how that’s possible. It resists interpretation, like abstract expressionism.

BTW, I’m using “treacle” as Lewis Carroll used it–to describe a bland, unappetizing mishmash–think of it as Muzak(TM) without music. I actually do like molasses.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Busting The Myth of Eco-Friendly Hummers and Eco-Toxic Priuses

Is it outright deliberate deception, bad science, or merely urban legend run amok?

The widely cited study that claims the manufacturing and transport of Prius batteries has worse environmental impact than building and driving a Hummer has serious flaws:

• It bases assumptions on the Hummer being driven for 379,000 miles, while the Prius gets retired after just 109,000 miles (and having owned many Toyotas, I can tell you that most of them are just hitting their stride at 100K); this alone is enough to completely invalidate the study
• The issues about nickel mining are taken out of context and based on 30-years-obsolete data
• In general, life-cycle issues related to cars skew 85% toward use over the vehicle’s lifetime, and only 15% to manufacturing and distribution–so even if the Prius energy consumption has a higher front-load than typical, it’s not likely to be enough to overwhelm the energy savings during the car’s useful life
• Oh yes, and no independent researchers reviewed the data

Two good articles with real data: This very readable one from the Sierra Club, and this more technical one from Pacific Institute(it’s a PDF).

I would be very curious about what economic interests were behind the original claim–which got picked up by George Will, among many others.

Friday, January 04, 2008

What the Iowa Caucus Results Mean

Obama has a commanding lead.. He is a remarkable orator, a very charismatic figure. His record is not quite as progressive as his rhetoric, but if he (or Edwards) is the nominee, I would vote Democrat in November. If it’s Clinton, with her hawkish politics and defense of extremely antilibertarian legislation such as the Patriot Act, I’ll vote for Cynthia McKinney on the Green ticket.

Edwards’s second-place showing is remarkable given the way he was outspent.

The marginal voices are being squished out. Neither Kucinich nor Mike Gravel got any showing at all, and Richardson, Biden and Dodd together couldn’t muster 3 percent. Ahead of time, Kucinich threw his support to Obama in the caucuses, and Nader to Edwards. Following the results, Dod and Biden dropped out.

Speaking of outspent, the very scary Mike Huckabee ran away with the GOP side, 34% to Romney’s 25, and Romney outspent him 3:1. And Ron Paul got 3 times as many delegates as Giuliani.

Much as I love the idea that you don’t have to spend your way to the nomination, I am extremely troubled by Huckabee’s beliefs. I don’t trust him to be the president of all of us.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Social Networking for Journalists

This is cool: a new social networking venture that has journalists–both mainstream and New Media (e.g., bloggers) judging the relevance of stories and filtering them to the world at large. Sort of like Digg but covering a much broader sphere, since absolutely every field has its own journalists.

The venture, called Publish 2, is fronted by Scott Karp of the very nicely done Publishing 2.0 blog.

I was not familiar with Scott, with Publishing 2.0, or with Publish2 (which was announced back in
August)–but in true “social proof” fashion–this is why search engines are less important than they used to be–I followed a link from Joan Stewart’s excellent Publicity Hound, which I’ve been reading since she interviewed me many years ago, to a long article by Howard Owens on bringing non-wired journalists up to speed, and he had a link to Publish2.

Wow, no wonder I’m falling behind on my work! The Web is just too darned seductive for an info-junkie like me. :-) I’ve got a client project to get done today–but first, off to request an account at Publish2.