The Beneficiaries of 9/11


To this day I still remember exactly what I was doing when I heard that the World Trade Centers had been attacked.  I was at lunch with my friends when some boys came up to us shouting that terrorists had just blown up New York City.  I didn’t initially believe them.  I mean, nothing even remotely similar to this had ever happened before in my lifetime, and seeing that I was the ripe old age of eleven, I thought they must be lying.  It all sunk in though when we were called into an emergency assembly.  I remember being in shock, not being able to wrap my mind around the reality of the situation, and I know I was not alone.  The events that transpired on September 11, 2001 left many people scared and confused.  They didn’t know what to think or believe, the world as we knew it was unraveling before our eyes.  What would happen next?

Unfortunately, times like these tend to attract individuals that exploit people’s fears to gain traction for their own interests.  For example there have been a few claims that the U.S. government was behind the attacks all along and that they were instrumental in orchestrating them.  But what is interesting is that most of the conspirators that claim this also have deep-seated hatred toward the U.S. government.  Does it not seem suspicious to anyone else that these people have a vested interest in turning the public against the government?

Overall, I think it is pretty obvious to the public at large that most of these conspiracies theories regarding 9/11 are works of fiction.  So you can imagined how surprised I was when I came across a conspiracy theory that I thought could actually have some truth to it.  This conspiracy focuses on some very sketchy financial transaction transactions that were made on Wall Street in the week leading up to the attack .  The premise of this theory is that there were individuals (most likely the terrorists themselves) that purchased large put options for major companies that ended up being affected financially by the attack.  Basically what this means is that in the week leading up to 9/11 a group of individuals purchased options, known as puts, that bet against the stock prices of some of the major firms affected by the attacks. These kinds of investments are usually very risky unless you have insider information indicating that something is going to happen to cause the stock price to plummet.  So is it just a coincidence that there was a huge spike in put options  for the four most negatively impacted corporations of the attacks just a week prior? Take a look at this 2-minute clip I found of an ABC new segment on this controversy.

So first of all I just want to note that this information was reported on the ABC evening news.  This was the initial fact that made me think, “Okay well if a respected news channel is reporting on this then maybe it does have some truth to it…”. As we learned earlier in the semester with the Mike Daisy case, journalists, at least in our country, value the facts.  Therefore it is unlikely that one of the country’s most respected new channels would put their reputation on the line to report false report facts, which makes me trust, to a certain extent, what they are saying.  While the Peter Jennings seems hopeful that some justice would come out of the SEC investigation launched after these allegations were made, I could not find any information showing that any real progress in bringing the individuals involved to justice.   So let me ask you this, do you think its fair that these people were able to get away with profiting from the worst terrorist attack to take place on American soil?  Personally, I think this proves as another example of the greed and unethical behavior to take place on Wall Street in the early 2000s, but I am interested to hear what you all think?

 

Sources:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=76ZVvMU4UO4#!

http://newsone.com/742485/the-11-most-compelling-911-conspiracy-theories/

http://cdn.ebaumsworld.com/picture/AFDoomsday/Greed.png

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Tim vs Steve


Tim v. Steve

 Until Steve Jobs’ death in late 2011, Apple had always employed a policy of secrecy when it came to what information, about the company, they released into the outside world.  This policy was pioneered by Jobs, and was a cornerstone of company policy during his time as CEO.  Jobs thought that if they kept all of the details of their business model successfully hidden, then they could continue to stay ahead of the competition.  The problem is that we live in the 21st century and that is not how stakeholders like to see businesses run.  In a time that has seen the downfall of major corporate powerhouses like Enron and Lehman Brothers, the public has grown weary of what a businesses’ true intent actually is. 

            While I understand the theory behind Jobs’ policy, and agree that keeping R&D under a veil of secrecy is important, I still believe that businesses should be required to release statistical information about their business practices.  We need a way to keep these companies honest and progressive.  While gains are definitely being made on that front in terms of enacting more legislation, we have not seen a huge change in the situation within the past 10 years. So, while I agree that Jobs was probably the most innovative person of his time, he did not do much to show the public that Apple was a socially responsible. 

Apple_logo_Think_Different

            So where is the company today?  Well for one thing they have a brand new CEO, Tim Cook.  Tim Cook replaced Jobs after Jobs passed away from pancreatic cancer in late 2011.  Most Apple followers were terrified what this would mean for the company’s future, seeing as it was Jobs’ innovative vision that had brought the company so much success.

So what about this Tim Cook, what is he doing for Apple?  Since Cook took the position as CEO he has already started a renovation of the company’s image. Cook, having worked as Apple’s COO before becoming CEO, was well aware of the company’s previous policy of secrecy and agreed the company needed an image makeover.

            Cook has began this process by reviewing the way that the company treats its employees.  Cook realized that they needed to be able to attract the best young minds in their fields in order to remain competitive and innovative.  An attractive working environment will not only incentivize employees to want work for the company, but it also helps retain employees, which promotes productivity.  This effort to address and take steps to make Apple a better place to work shows that Apple cares about their employees and is taking efforts to improve this relationship. 

            Another stakeholder Cook has reached out would be the community at large.  Under Jobs’ reign Apple “didn’t do charity”.  Jobs believed that, that money would be better spent on R&D.  Well guess what?  The public cares are community service, and admires corporations that work with charities.  Cook saw this weakness as an opportunity to improve and recently announced that they will now be participating in a charity-matching program.  What this means is that Apple will now match, dollar for dollar, employee donations of up to $10,000 per year.  For a company that “didn’t do charity”, this seems like a pretty positive step in the right direction. 

            Cook has also addressed the issues with their suppliers overseas.  Cook was actually the individual that was sent over to China to inspect their supplier’s factories when the controversy arose.  Cook was not pleased with what he saw and hired a nonprofit auditing organization, the Fair Labor Association, to conduct regular audits of the company’s supplier’s factories.  However, according to recent reports it does not appear that too much has changed on this front.  There are still numerous violations found during every single audit.  While, I understand that Apple does not have much authority over these matters because they do not directly control these factories, they do have a certain amount of influence over the people that do.  In the future, Apple needs to take a stronger stance against supplier violations.  They need to make it clear to these companies that inhuman behavior is unacceptable. 

            Overall, Apple appears to be moving in a positive direction under new CEO, Tim Cook, but there is still room for improvement.  Cook definitely needs to do more to make sure that their Code of Ethics are actually being enforced in supplier factories, and perhaps even enforce harsher punishments for violators.  I am usually not an advocate of using “punishment” as a solution, but because what these companies are doing is unethical and inhumane they need to realize that there are consequences for treating their employees poorly. 

 

Sources:

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2012/09/14/corporate-responsibility-spotlight-apple/

http://www.imd.org/research/challenges/corporate-social-responsability-apple-opportunity-rosa-chun.cfm

http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/04/tech/innovation/apple-tim-cook

 

Pictures:

http://blog.laptopmag.com/tim-cook-vs-steve-jobs-new-ceo-acts-like-a-leader-but-wheres-the-magic

 

Blog 6 Prompt: Where are they now?


Prompt 6: Where are they now?

For this week’s blog prompt you will be taking a second look at one of the companies or people we have already covered in class or one related to one we have studied.   In the past we looked at these companies from a historical perspective; however, what we want you to do this week is to look at where these companies or executives are now.  Did they learn from their mistakes or are they still engaged in unethical activities?  Has there been any initiatives taken so that previous mistakes are not repeated?  Or was their situation so dire that they are considered obsolete?

From the society and values side of the class, you can look at whether laws have changed, or social pressure, or media representations, or some other element of what we call social change.

In essence we want you to choose a company or a specific manager who had a major impact at the firm.   Then using your own ethical standards assess how this company or their executives have adjusted after they were accused for immoral practices.  Please use your blogging “muscle” to support your conclusions, such as rating, pics, and polls!

Be sure to use GOOD sources.  For examples, there is this page of news and blog resources on our blog.  This includes Global Issues in Context, an excellent resource you can ONLY GET through Bucknell.  It combines news, blogs, academic articles and so on.  Try putting your chosen case or organization in and see what you get.

Here are some examples to get the ball rolling… you can add to these.  If you do, please be sure to tell us how your example is linked to the original case or example we looked into.

  • Apple: Apple, Foxconn, Mike Diasey, This American Life
  • Nike: Michael Moore, Phil Knight, Jeremy Ballinger, Fair Labor Association, Reebok, adidas, the Aspen Institute
  • Enron: Arthur Anersen (and its partners), Skilling, Richard Causey, SOX law
  • Weekend: Goldman Sachs, Lehman Employees, Tim Geithner, Hank Paulson, Bernanke, Fannie Mae or Freddy Mac
  • Occupy or Tea Party
  • Housing Bubble: Mortgage originators.  Countrywide Financial.  Anything that has been done around trying to either be fairer about foreclosures or to help people avoid foreclosures (I think there may be some class action lawsuits…).
  • AIG: Hank Greenberg, Willumstad, AIG Financial Products Group, Office of thrift Supervision, Ratings Agencies
  • Dodd-Frank, the Volcker Rule, or the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau

Title and Tag Line Contest!

In addition, we are also hosting a competition to see who can come up with the best new title and tag line for the blog!  The winner will be exempt from doing one question from the next weekly homework.  If you wish to participate, please post your suggestion as a comment on this post.  Best of luck!

Are You a Dope?


Ethical conduct has always been a source of contention in the world of professional sports.  This makes sense once you realize that these individuals are being paid to win.  It is no surprise then that many individuals have turned to illegal or unethical means in order to ensure their victory.

Most of you are probably familiar with the recent doping scandals that have rocked mainstream sports organizations, such as the MLB and NFL.  In the twenty-first century doping has became a major issue for all professional sport organizations, not just the mainstream ones.  Being a professional athlete has become such a glorified career path with so many perks, including fame and extreme wealth, it is no wonder that some people have done whatever it takes to stay at the top.  So how does this relate to me?

Well, I am an equestrian (horseback rider for those of you who have not heard that word before). Most people don’t know much about the equestrian sport and therefore most of this organizations dealing go unnoticed by the general public.  However, I am here today to give you a little idea about why the horse industry has the potential to be corrupt at times. 

I have been riding and showing horses since I was five years old. I have traveled all over the country with my horses to various nationally recognized competitions.  While, I was not (nor am now) a professional, I was regularly competing against and being trained by top professionals.  Being in this environment I heard and saw a few things that still make me cringe to this day.

 I know what most of you are thinking, horses on steroids?  What a silly thought.  But it is true.  What many people don’t realize is that the equestrian sport is a multimillion industry.  Horses are expensive, and I mean expensive.  To buy one of the best horses in the country today, no matter what the discipline (jumper, dressage, eventing, etc.) would cost you more than most people spend to buy their first house, and that’s just what you are paying to buy the horse.  After that you have to pay all kinds of monthly maintenance fees such as care and board, insurance, and training fees.  It all adds up quickly, and needless to say, the more valuable the horse and the better facility you are training at, the higher your bill will be at the end of the day.  Ultimately, the people that are competing at this level have a great amount of capital invested in these animals, and the money trail doesn’t end there.  Besides just the projected sale value of your horse, there are major financial prizes for winning top competitions.  For example, there is a competition held in September in Saugerties, New York, where the total prize money for ONE class is $1 million, with the winner walking away with $350,000.  Not too bad right? 

Well, with all this money up for grabs it is no surprise that some individuals have become greedy, willing to go to whatever lengths necessary to win.  In my time as a rider I have heard some absolutely terrible stories about the things trainers and/or riders have done to give them that “competitive edge”.  Some of the horrible things that occur at competitions regularly include trainers giving horses dangerous drugs for anything from trying to effect energy levels to trying to mask an injury; or trainers injecting the horses legs with a drug that makes it causes pain to make the horse jump higher.  So what do we do then to ensure that these horses are treated humanely? 

Well the equestrian community has already created the FEI (the international governing board of equestrian competitions) and the USEF (the domestic governing board) for this very purpose. Both of these organizations have an ethical code of conduct that all equestrian participants pledge to uphold when competing at their events.  Both the FEI and USEF officials do not take these issues lightly and send individuals that work for both organizations the horse shows that they sponsor in order to conduct random drug and welfare checks on competitors and their mounts.

Drugging in the sports world is a serious and widespread issue.  While authority figures are doing all that they can to ensure the health and welfare of the horse community, it is ultimately up to the caretakers of the animal to do the right thing.  I hope that with the recent publicity surrounding unethical behavior in professional sports that people will continue to be encouraged to behave responsibly and if all else to scared of repercussions to act otherwise. 

Riding a horse is not so easy…here is a video of the 2009 competition to break the world record for the tallest jump cleared by a horse and rider combination.  Skip to the end of the video and see the winner clear 6’7″.

Cited Sources:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRFPlaN1JvA

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/22/sports/22iht-olydoping22.16375787.html?_r=0

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_z9xJw6i_6bQ/TAMHXKS6urI/AAAAAAAAAI4/4VnunLNS84k/s1600/rabbit+jumping.jpg

http://www.usef.org/documents/highPerformance/driving/USEFEthicsCode.pdf

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/21/sports/21riding.html?_r=1&

http://www.fei.org

Cory Doctorow–Embrace the Information Age…or get left behind


internet_campaigning

Source: http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/politicalcartoons/ig/Political-Cartoons/Internet-Campaigning.htm

I, like many of my classmates, went into this blog post with an interest in a few individuals that did not make the list.  I originally thought of Tina Fey because I recently read her autobiography Bossypants and was inspired by her drive and ability to succeed in a male dominated industry.  However, Tina Fey was not on the list so I move on…

Most of the names on the list I will admit I did not know.  I searched a couple of names and decided on Cory Doctorow.  Cory Doctorow is a Canadian blogger/ journalist/science fiction writer who is a strong advocate of loosening the vice-like copyright laws currently enforced by the U.S. government both domestically and abroad.  Cory Doctorow is the co-editor of the blog “Boing Boing”, a blog similar to WIRED magazine, except as he points out, for the fact that his blog is substantially cheaper to produce.  Doctorow has written many books addressing the ideas of the internet and its current U.S. regulation, which he personally feels is ridiculously stringent.  In the video I have provided below, he goes into further detail about his disdain for extreme copyright laws that often result in lawsuits against children that are unaware of the serious repercussion this can result in.  I found this particularly interesting because of the current time we are living in. 

We live in an information age.  In his talk below, Doctorow provides a great example of how dependent we have become on technology.  He talks about his recent experience trying to find a nutritionist.  The first thing he did was to search Yelp for nutritionists with good quality reviews.  After finding someone that fit his criteria, he then plugged in her address to Google maps to get a map of where she was located, and finally entered the address into his GPS for turn by turn directions straight to her business.  This is a great example of just one of the many ways that the American public has become dependent on the internet for everyday life. 

While I realize that many of you will probably not watch the entire 56 minute video that I have provided below, I would encourage people to watch at least the first 5 minutes.  He does a great job laying out what he is going to talk about in his introduction, which will definitely give you a good feel for what Cory Doctorow is all about.  While I am not sure that we would be able to get him to come speak us, but I feel that his talk would be very valuable to everyone in the class.  The internet, and the privacy/copyright issues that have come along with its rise, are at the center of government policy today.  This is an issue that affects every single one of us.  I mean do you know anyone who doesn’t use the internet at all and is not left behind in today’s society?

Video is from Authors@Google Series hosted by Google at their headquarters in CA on May 21, 2007.

Information gathered from:

http://craphound.com/

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12581.Cory_Doctorow

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/02/rebooting-computer-crime-law-part-2-protect-tinkerers-security-researchers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgXwmXpaH2Q&feature=player_embedded

What Constitutes the Truth?


What do you think that it means to be ethical?  This is the issue that is being called into question in regards to the Mike Daisey scandal.  Mike Daisey, a well-known author and performer, who has been publically ostracized by many because of his intent to deceive the American public with his monologue, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.  In this one-man show Daisey performs a monologue based on his thoughts and experiences after visiting Foxconn, one of the main suppliers of Apple, based in China.  Daisey performed this monologue all over the country, in different theaters, to sold out audiences.  His story became a sensation and brought the issue of poor working conditions in sweatshops to the forefront of the American public’s mind.  And, why wouldn’t it?—Daisey’s performance is supposed to be a true account of his experience.  It even says in the program, underneath the title of the show, in all caps, ‘THIS IS A WORK OF NONFICTION’ (Huffington Post Article).  This, the world has come to discover, is false.  In fact, most of the monologue never happened.

This controversy began when Mike Daisey agreed to have his monologue aired on the popular radio show, This American Life.  Up until this point everything seemed to be going well for Daisey, as the entire American public was happily digesting every one of his lies.  However, he should have realized that his lies would eventually catch up with him, now that they were out in the world for anyone to fact check and disprove.  Well, that is exactly what happened.  After hearing Mike Daisey’s monologue on the radio, Rob Smitz—an American journalist living China, reporting for the popular radio show, Marketplace—began to question the validity of a lot of Daisey’s claims.  Because Smitz was a reporter living in China at the time, he knew what the actual Chinese culture and customs were like.  It is this knowledge that allowed Smitz to catch Daisey’s lies.

Most of the lies Daisey fabricated were not in fact, “fact” lies, but more “experience” lies.  In an effort to clarify his suspicions, Smitz, went out and found “Cathy”, Daisey’s translator for the duration of his visit, in an effort to clarify things.  After Smitz found Cathy, Daisey’s entire story began to unravel.  While Cathy, herself, was unaware of Daisey’s monologue, Smitz soon filled her in on exactly what Mike Daisey had claimed happened during his trip.  The first thing he asked her was whether or not Daisey’s claim that the security guards were carrying guns when they approached the gates of Foxconn was true.  Cathy tells him that there is no way that, that is accurate because it is illegal for security guards to carry guns in China.  Then he starts checking other basic statistic Daisey used with Cathy, such as how many factories they visited and how many workers they talked to.  All of Daisey number differed drastically from Cathy’s.  After realizing that his sneaking suspicion that Daisey was lying about some of the facts of his trip was in fact true, Smitz wondered what else was he lying about?  This was when the truth finally came out.

After questioning Cathy it became clear that most of the events Daisey claimed actually happened were exaggerated or completely made up.  Some of the most prominent lies were made in regards to the secret union of workers Daisey claims to have talked to; his conversations with workers who had suffered injuries from a dangerous chemical, n-hexane; and even arguably the most powerful moment of the whole monologue, Daisey’s encounter with the man whose hand had been crushed while on the job.

So where does this put us now?  This was not Daisey’s first publically performed monologue.  So what do you do when you discover that someone you thought you could trust, someone who was well known for his “honest” monologues, is caught lying?  Was Daisey’s behavior completely unethical or did he do what had to be done to bring this issue to the forefront of American conscious?  Personally, I think Mike Daisey is, to quote the prompt for this blog, “an unethical liar”.  I apologize to anyone that supports him, but there are better ways to get your voice heard then duping the entire country, and world for that matter.  I agree, sweatshops are an enormous issue that should and must be addressed.  It is logical that any behavior not condoned by U.S. values and laws, by U.S. companies, should not be condoned; however, I do not believe that this excuses Daisey’s lying.

But, not all American’s agree with me. In fact, Justin Snider, a reporter for the Huffington Post, suggests, “Were it not for Daisey, we—the general American public—wouldn’t be talking about Foxconn.” (Huffington Post Article).  This is true in some ways, although, other well-publicized cases, such as the Nike case, were already beginning to educate the American public on the horrors of third-world sweatshops.  It is not the fact that Daisey lied that really bothers me, it is how Daisey behaved after he was caught lying that made me question his motives.  What Daisey should never have done in the first place was to claim that his show was, without a doubt, nonfiction.  Yet, what was really the icing on the cake for me, was that even when he was caught blatantly lying, he tried to deny it.  This completely destroys his credibility in my mind, period.  He completely discredited himself and made himself look like a pathological liar when he was unwilling to come out and admit he lied.  It is not ethical to lie to society just to get the public to react the way you want them to.

One of the other questions raised by this scandal, is what constitutes art, journalism, or truth?  And who gets to decide this?  As a society we have created cultural norms that individuals reference when making decisions.  For example, truth in our society is defined as  the events that actually transpired and nothing more.  This does not include anything that has not happened.  Truth is absolute and irrefutable.  There is nothing that can change true events.  The study of journalism is based on this concept of truth.  Journalists, in the United States, are expected to only report actual, truthful events.  If they didn’t then how would the public know when they were exaggerating or telling the truth?  While this does not mean that journalism is completely void of biases, as biases are a part of human nature.  But journalists are expected to only report the facts, not an embellished version of what actually happened.  Therefore for Daisey to claim that his show was a work of nonfiction is ludicrous, and only makes every other reporter associated with him look bad.  Art, on the other hand, could be defined as one’s own interpretation of the truth.  Art is a form of self-expression, and does not prescribe to the same strict guidelines that both journalism and the truth do.  Daisey is an artists, not a journalist.  However, this does not change the fact that it was unethical for Daisey to claim that what he wrote/performed was true.  Just because he is an artist does not excuse his lying.  If he had been smart he would have appropriately cited his story as “based on true events”, not as a work of nonfiction.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/justin-snider/why-mike-daisey_b_1361270.html