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Friday, March 23, 2018

Corporate Social Responsibility Is Not Altruistic: The Case of Amazon Prime

In a doctoral seminar on corporate social responsibility (CSR), the professor turned to me, perhaps because by then I was also taking courses in the religious studies department, and asked, “What is enlightened self-interest?” In my answer, I argued that such self-interest is distinctly oriented to the long-term, rather than, for example, immediate profits. Alternatively, I could have stressed the ethical connotation of the word, enlightened, but the self-interest component would seem to invalidate an ethical basis. In line with the notion of love as caritas, which is human love (eros) sublimated up directed to God, as distinct from agape, which excludes lower, self-interest inclusive, love, doing good can go along with long-term self-interest. In other words, doing good has value because good is done even if self-interest is salient in the motive. In regard to CSR, the self-interest that coincides is long-term-oriented. Amazon, for instance, giving the poor (i.e., Medicaid recipients) 50 percent off on the monthly charge for Amazon Prime is in line with gaining full-paying customers eventually, for it usually takes a while for poor people to move up the economic ladder.

The full essay is at "CSR at Amazon."

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Is Scientology a Religion?

I contend that other domains have encroached on religion, or religion on them, such that the native fauna in religion’s own garden is scarcely recognizable. In this essay, I distinguish psychology from religion using Scientology as a case in which the two domains have been obfuscated. In other words, I want to remove the troublesome category mistake that allows psychological matters to be reckoned as religious. 

The full essay is at "Is Scientology a Religion?" For more on weeding category mistakes out of religion, see the booklet,  Spiritual Leadership in Business.

Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook’s Unjust Strategic Leader in a Crisis

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook (and Instagram) “remained silent” during the two days after the data-breach scandal broke in March, 2018 as E.U. and U.S. lawmakers “pummeled Facebook and its stock price” dropped 9 percent.[1] The company lost $50 billion in market value in just those two days![2] Beyond the self-interested investors and the demoralized employees, the company’s 2 billion users—the suppliers of the raw content (to be mined as well as shared)—and the world (i.e., societal level) looked for ethical (i.e., atoning as well as protective) leadership from the company’s CEO. To be just, I submit, the leadership could not have been a mere reflection of Zuckerberg’s or Facebook’s immediate self-interests.

The full essay is at "Leadership Lacking at Facebook."

Employees look for leadership in the midst of a demoralizing crisis. (USA Today)

See also the booklet, Taking the Face off Facebook

1. Jessica Guynn, “As Facebook Reels from ‘Catastrophic Moment’ in Cambridge Analytica Crisis,” Mark Zuckerberg Is Silent,” USA Today, March 21, 2018.
2. Kevin Roose and Sheera Frenkel, “Missing From Facebook’s Crisis: Mark Zuckerberg,” The New York Times, March 21, 2018.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Oligarchic Social Media Companies: Willowing the Internet Unethically

Too much power in a few hands is inherently dangerous. That goes for private as well as public, or governmental, power. In the world of social media, the companies that own and control the platforms are essentially governmental in nature in that the executives promulgate rules and, ideally, see that they are enforced. The downsides to too few platforms—each with an extraordinary amount of power—involve a constricting of ideas, or content, on the internet, and potentially unanswered violations of the rights of the social-networks’ respective users. The public policy repercussions, I submit, include applying anti-trust law to social media companies such that none gets to become as massively dominating as Facebook had been allowed to become.

For more on this topic, 

See the essay, "Facebook: A Distrustful Company."

See also the booklet, Taking the Face off Facebook

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Founder of Theranos: A Flawed Charismatic Vision and Leader

“Theranos rose quickly from being a college dropout’s idea to revolutionize the blood analysis industry to a hot tech bet that accrued $700 million in funding and many famous names for its board.”[1] Elizabeth Holmes, the company’s founder, was stripped of her position at the company in 2018 after the SEC discovered her deep involvement with the fraud at the company. Her “smarts, fierce determination and Steve Jobs-inspired look . . . were critical” to her being able to perpetuate the lie that the company had a device that could do blood tests with just a scant amount of blood, obviating the unpleasant experience of having blood drawn by needle.[2] Although Jack Welsh, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs accomplished enough to warrant their fame, I submit that companies are too prone to create “champions”—even strangely calling them “rock stars.” In other words, even though charismatic vision is of value to a business, neither such a leader nor his or her vision itself should be overplayed. Business, I submit, has a marked tendency to do just that, and often with impunity.

On leadership vision, see Skip Worden, The Essence of Leadership: A Cross-Cultural Foundation

[1] Marco della Cava, “Behind the Scenes of Theranos’ Dramatic Rise, Fall,” USA Today, March 16, 2018.
[2] Ibid.

Facebook: A Distrustful Company Projecting Distrust

Cambridge Analytica, political data firm founded by Stephen Bannon and Robert Mercer, and with ties to U.S. President Trump’s 2016 campaign, “was able to harvest private information from more than 50 million Facebook profiles without the social network’s alerting users.”[1] The firm had purchased the data from a developer (a psychology professor at Cambridge University in the E.U.) who had developed a personality test that Facebook users could take, and whose purpose was supposedly academic. The developer violated Facebook’s policy on how user data could be used by third parties. The data firm “used the Facebook data to develop methods that [the firm] claimed could identify the personalities of individual American voters and influence their behavior.”[2] In other words, Cambridge Analytica used the purchased data to manipulate users to vote for Donald Trump for U.S. president in 2016 by sending pro-Trump messages. Although Facebook had not known of the sale of the data to Cambridge Analytica at the time, the social network, upon learning Cambridge Analytica’s political use of the data in 2015, failed to notify its users whose data had been compromised. Although 270,000 Facebook users took the developer’s personality test, “the data of some 50 million  users . . . was harvested without their explicit consent via their friend networks.”[3] It bears noting here that those of the 50 million users who had not taken the personality test should definitely have been informed. At the very least, Facebook’s management could not be trusted to not only  keep users informed, but also protect users in the first place by adequately enforcing the third-party-use policy. So it is ironic that Facebook’s untrustworthy management could be unduly distrustful of ordinary users.

The full essay is at "Facebook: A Distrustful Company."

For more on Facebook, see Taking the Face off Facebook

1. Matthew Rosenberg and Sheera Frenkel, “Facebook Role In Data Misuse Sets Off Storm,” The New York Times, March 19, 2018.
2, Ibid.
3.Cambridge Analytica: Facebook ‘being investigated by FTC,’” BBC News ( accessed March 20, 2018).