Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

The NY Times “Ethicist” says stealing is OK if it’s only “technical” stealing. Well, not 100 per cent OK, but 96 per cent.

June 30, 2013

stealing plantsChuck Klosterman, who the Times labels “The Ethicist,” absolved a couple who took several cuttings from plants in a shopping center to transplant on their patio. He explains that since the owner of the plants was not damaged, then no harm, no foul:

“So here is my analysis: you technically stole, you technically committed vandalism and you should have asked the shopping center’s permission before trying this unethical act… But if I were to place unethical acts on an ascending continuum of 1 to 100, I’d give you and your wife a 4. Maybe a 3.”

The Ethicist is sliding down a slippery slope. Is an act that rates 4/100 on an unethics scale OK? How about a five? Perhaps he would settle for an unethics score of 49/100 as acceptable: that would say it’s OK to steal (or lie or cheat?) if the offense isn’t more than halfway to total lack of integrity.

Slippery slopes are hard to negotiate. Clarity of principles makes for easier decision making. When it comes to stealing I’d recommend my formula over The Ethicist’s. It’s one of my unenforceables:

What’s not mine is not mine.

Simple, huh? I think The Ethicist would give it a perfect unethics score of zero.

 

Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart

April 21, 2012

After Top-Level Struggle Confronted with evidence of widespread corruption in Mexico, top Wal-Mart executives focused more on damage control than on rooting out wrongdoing, an examination by The New York Times found. 

The headlines are from Saturday’s New York Times. The news article details how Walmart de Mexico—that nation’s largest employer—regularly paid huge bribes to Mexican government officials to approve permits for new stores; how senior management of the Mexican subsidiary was party to the bribery; how Walmart headquarters in Arkansas investigated the allegations of bribery, and how, when the investigations turned up hard evidence, hq proceeded to bury it.

“It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” So goes the conventional wisdom, but in this case it was both: the crime was committed by top management of the Mexico subsidiary, and the cover up was by top management of the parent company.

In my business ethics courses we use Walmart as a case study: Is the company ethical or unethical, and is it good or bad for America.

On the plus side Walmart gives employment to hundreds of thousands (more…)

Hooray for Apple CEO Tim Cook for seriously addressing labor issues in China. When will Nike follow suit?

April 2, 2012

 

Business ethics presents a dilemma when it comes to purchases from low-wage countries. Cheap labor in China makes cool iPhones for us, and cheap labor in Indonesia makes snazzy Nikes. But should an ethical person buy these products? More specifically, are Nike and Apple unethically exploiting the people who make the products they sell so profitably?

I’ve written before that Nike’s business practices are unethical, while Apple seems to be trying to do right by the workers who make its products. A January New York Times article highlighted abusive working conditions at Foxconn, a major supplier of iPhone and iPad parts in Shenzen, China. In response Apple requested an independent audit of Foxconn,and Foxconn announced an immediate pay raise.

Now the New York Times reports that Tim Cook, ,Apple’s CEO, has actually toured a Foxconn factory where its products are made, and the audit he requested has slammed Foxconn for over-long hours and dangerous working conditions. In response, Foxconn promised to make substantial improvements and bring their plants into conformance with Apple’s code of conduct.

The Times notes,

“Mr. Cook’s appearance at a facility where Apple devices are made was an illustration of how differently Apple’s new chief relates to an issue that first surfaced under his predecessor, Steven P. Jobs.

“Since Mr. Cook became chief executive last fall, shortly before the death of Mr. Jobs, Apple has taken a number of significant steps to address concerns about how Apple products are made.”

This is encouraging. Tim Cook looks headed in a very different direction than Steve Jobs, and very different from Nike’s Phil Knight and Mark Parker. Cook actually WENT there. (Thanks to Rick Cole for the link.)

I buy Apple products. I don’t buy Nike.

 

Syrian uprising claims the lives of two intrepid American reporters

February 22, 2012

 

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Jefferson would have especially valued Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times of London and Anthony Shadid of the New York Times, both of whom died this week in Syria.

Colvin was killed in a savage artillery bombardment of a residential neighborhood in Homs, Syria’s third city. In her last report, filed hours before she was killed, she explained to CNN’s Anderson Cooper why it was important to show video of a two-year old boy dying of shrapnel wounds to the chest.

“I feel very strongly that it should be shown. That’s the reality: there are 28,000 defenseless civilians being shelled. That baby will probably move more people to think ‘What is going on and why is no one stopping these murders that are going on every day?’

“The Syrian Army is shelling a city of cold, starving civilians.”

Shadid died of an asthma attack as he was walking out of Syria to file his latest report. He knew of the danger he faced, and (more…)

Report from Zuccotti Park, and what’s next for Occupy Wall Street

November 18, 2011

 

I’m back from my annual ballet trip to New York, and back to my computer. Along with four wonderful performances by American Ballet Theater I got to visit Park 51, the Islamic Center three blocks from Ground Zero (about which more soon), and Zuccotti Park, the home of Occupy Wall Street.

Zuccotti Park was a friendly place, surprisingly orderly, contrary to expectations from television. People sweeping, others staffing the free food tent, others reading or cheerfully chatting with visitors like me. There was a library, several pet dogs (apparently OWS is dog-, not cat-friendly) and a few baskets seeking donations. I saw lots of American flags and posters, but nothing ugly or much beyond run-of-the-mill progressive political ideas.

OWS aspired to being a good neighbor (photo): zero tolerance for alcohol, drugs, or abuse of people or public property. Everybody I saw seemed to be compliant with the proclaimed good neighbor policy.

But Mayor Bloomberg decided, reasonably enough, that Occupy Wall Street was becoming a nuisance and a threat to public health, and ordered the NYPD to evict the occupants from the park in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday. Most of OWS went peacefully, if sleepily; about 200 held their ground and were arrested. The park was cleared, cleaned, and the occupiers were readmitted, this time with tents and sleeping bags prohibited.

The police action may have reinvigorated a movement that had begun to bore the media and the public. Yesterday, the two-month anniversary of the start of the protest, the demonstrators (more…)

Warren Buffett calls for fair—that is, higher—taxes on the super-rich

August 15, 2011

The battle in Congress over America’s budget problem is both practical and ideological. People on the left argue that the budget can never be brought under control without a blend of tax hikes on the rich and spending cuts. On the right tea-party-fueled passions oppose any tax increase on the grounds that the rich are already paying more than their fair share and, moreover, that raising their taxes will stifle job creation.

Into this battle rides Warren Buffett, the world’s third richest person with assets of $50 billion. In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, headlined “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich,” Buffett demolishes both arguments against higher taxes for the super-rich.

First he explains how under-taxed the wealthy are: his tax rate of 17.4 % of taxable income is the lowest of the twenty people in his office, including his secretary. And that’s not uncommon for the super-rich. His summary:

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks.

And as far as the argument that higher taxes will slow down investment by the super-rich in new jobs, America’s most successful investor puts it this way:

People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. (more…)

Ex-Auburn Prof Jim Gundlach gets a mythical Sam Goldwyn award* for speaking truth to power—to Auburn football

January 6, 2011

 

Auburn’s football team is rated #1 in the nation as it prepares for the national championship game Monday against the Oregon Ducks. Academically its team is rated #85 out of 120. It was rated #4 until a sociology professor spoke truth to power.

According to an article in today’s New York Times, one day in 2006 professor Jim Gundlach saw on TV that an academic player of the week was a sociology major. Gundlach had never had him in class, and two other sociology professors said they hadn’t either.

Gundlach smelled a rat in the football world, and dug around to expose widespread academic fraud in the Auburn football program. The Times broke the story back then, and Auburn, under pressure from the media and from the NCAA cleaned up its act—some—to publish honest academic ratings.

Gundlach didn’t get hero status at Auburn for correcting the football program: he was hounded out of the university by hate mail and calls assailing him for hurting the university. Gundlach doesn’t see it that way. The Times quotes him this way: “The things that I did in the process of going out was one of the best things I’ve ever done for Auburn,” (more…)

The mosque, the imam, 9/11, and six degrees of separation

July 22, 2010

I feel for Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who has devoted his life to building bridges between Islam and the West, and is now leading the effort to build a mosque in New York 2-1/2 blocks from Ground Zero. When I was nine years old I learned to defend myself against bullies who beat me up because I had killed Christ. I didn’t know what the accusation meant, but I knew I was being picked on because I was Jewish, and I’d better learn to fight off these guys.

Most of the opposition to the mosque is because Imam Rauf killed 3000 Americans on 9/11. Or if he didn’t personally do it, his people (“they”) did it. Just as everybody is connected within six degrees of separation to Kevin Bacon, all Muslims are connected within six degrees to some terrorist. Or to someone who gave money to a charity that gave money to terrorists. Or who has a cousin who once said that Hamas had a point.

In the 1950s Senator Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee tarred innocents with guilt by association. Today’s haters don’t even need association to make their accusations, they just need something within six degrees of separation.

Thursday’s New York Times has a good analysis by Robert Wright of the accusations against Imam Rauf, (more…)

Which is worse: Lying or jumping to the defense of liars? Time for Connecticut Democrats to be counted.

May 18, 2010

The Democrats had the Connecticut Senate seat sewed up, the one being vacated by Chris Dodd. Nate Silver’s authoritative website,  http://fivethirtyeight.com, rated the seat at greater than 95 percent likely to remain Democratic. Until this morning’s New York Times ran a front-page piece headlined, “Candidate’s Words on Vietnam Service Differ From History.”

And how!

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Democratic candidate, has been running 13-25 points ahead of possible Republican opponents. But he’s been claiming that he served in Vietnam, and that, “When we came back, we were spat on; we couldn’t wear our uniforms.” But Blumenthal never served in Vietnam. He got five deferments from the draft, and when they ran out he did the only thing that would save him from having to go to Vietnam: he joined the Marine Corps Reserve, where his most intense action was the Christmas time Toys for Tots” program. (more…)

Furor erupts over American Jews’ plan to build a synagogue near Ground Zero

May 12, 2010

Some Americans are up in arms over the prospect of a big new synagogue in the old Burlington Coat Factory site near Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center towers destroyed on 9/11. There’s even a Facebook page called “1,000,000+ people who disapprove of building a synagogue at Ground Zero!” It has 20,389 members, up from about 7,000 two days ago. The word is spreading virally on the internet, and people are thronging to the site to sign up.

The site’s self-description reads,

Jews want to put a SYNAGOGUE WITHIN 600 FEET “GROUND ZERO”! This page’s opinion is this synagogue is a symbol of conquering America; they could have put it somewhere else away from Ground Zero – hallowed ground – but they chose this spot for a reason.


Join us, and show America – and the Jewish world – that is an insult, and cannot stand!


This groups is NOT about attacking Judaism or Jews; it’s about the appropriateness of putting such a building in that location. Also, Obama has nothing to do with it; if you want to blame someone, blame Mayor Bloomberg – he approved of it.

The man leading the effort to build the synagogue is Rabbi Frank Rubenstein, who explained to The New York Times, “We want the world to know we condemn 9/11. In my congregation are many people who died on 9/11.” The Times described the rabbi as following a path of Judaism focused more on spiritual wisdom (more…)


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