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Friday, November 28, 2014

Wales Compromising Scotland: Should Britain Keep Its Promise?

A few months after residents in the Scottish region of the E.U. state of Britain voted not to secede from the state by a margin of 55 to 45 percent, a state commission announced proposals for the regional assembly to have more authority. David Cameron had promised on behalf of the state government that the Scottish region would be given more power provided the residents reject secession. To be sure, replying on such a promise in political matters is hazardous at best, as changing political winds can easily erode such sand castles. At the very least, political players with their own agendas can succeed in obfuscating the understood validity of such a promise.


The full essay is at “Wales Compromising Scotland

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Political Theater Undermining American Democracy

To be viable, a representative democracy needs a virtuous and educated citizenry. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams agreed on this point in their exchange of letters in retirement. Their assumption was that an electorate would be able to apply judgment informed by virtue and a broad knowledge to not only matters of public policy, but also the candidates and incumbent office-holders themselves. To the extent that the people in power use it to present a false image, the judgment by the popular sovereign is unavoidably marred. The democratic system itself falters even if it is being portrayed as strong by those at its helm. I contend that the extent of political theater being orchestrated by U.S. office-holders compromises the democratic legitimacy of public power at the federal level.

The full essay is at “Political Theater

Monday, November 24, 2014

Banks Too Big To Jail: A Systemic Conflict of Interest

When a blatant conflict of interest is ensconced in a regulatory system, the public can expect to be insufficiently protected from being harmed. Such a people is probably too tolerant of such conflicts, or else too weak to effectively counter the concentrated power of the vested interests benefitting from the sordid design. I submit that the relationship between U.S. banks and the Federal Reserve is plagued by a clear conflict of interest, and furthermore that the refusal of the Fed and the U.S. Justice Department to go after fraud committed at the big banks is a direct result.


The full essay is at “Banks Too Big to Jail

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Heaven Is For Real: Applying Kierkegaard to a Film

In Heaven Is For Real (2014), a film based on Todd Burpo’s best-selling non-fiction book of the same title, the evangelical Christian minister becomes convinced that his son, Colton, actually visited heaven while in surgery. Todd cannot make his faith-held belief intelligible to even his wife, Sonja. She misunderstands her husband and questions his obsession and even his sanity until Colton tells her something about heaven that applies to her uniquely. Then both parents are uniquely related in an absolute way through faith to the absolute—to the absurd, in Kierkegaard’s parlance. How Todd deals with his realization can be unpacked by applying the work of the nineteenth-century European philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard.


The full essay is at “Heaven Is For Real

Friday, November 21, 2014

Wall Street Banks in Commodities Businesses: An Inherently Unethical Conflict of Interest

Writing to the bank’s board of directors, an executive at Goldman Sachs wrote that the bank’s commodities division would achieve higher value “if the business was able to grow physical activities, unconstrained by regulation and integrated with the financial activities.”[1] According to Sen. Carl Levin, Goldman’s goal here is “to profit in its financial activities using the information it gains in the physical commodities business.”[2] The integration could be achieved in part by using the bank’s access to nonpublic information from the banking or trading operations to manipulate the price of a commodity by artificially restricting or adding to supplies through ownership at the production or storage stages. This structure contains a conflict of interest. Because resisting the temptation to exploit the conflict would put the Goldman bankers at odds with the bank’s financial interest, I contend that reliance by the public on intra-bank firewalls (i.e., policies) separating the commodity businesses from the bank’s trading operations is too weak to protect the public, including buyers of the commodity.

The full essay is at "Wall Street Banks in Commodities"




[i] Sen. Carl Levin, “Opening Statement,” Wall Street Bank Involvement in Physical Commodities Hearing, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, U.S. Senate, November 20, 2014 (accessed November 21, 2014)
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ethical Theory in Business Ethics Courses

It may seem like an oxymoron, but faculty administrators at even research universities can be hopelessly narrow-minded regarding knowledge and how it is to be conveyed. For example, how often are faculty members encouraged to give a lecture or two re-teaching material largely missed on exams (followed by another, shorter examination on that material)? Do faculty administrators work with faculty members in professional schools to see to it that the applied courses are not severed from their basic (i.e., more theoretical substratum) discipline? One of the secrets in the “sauce” at Yale’s professional schools (e.g., Law, Divinity, etc.) is this salience of the respective basic disciplines (e.g., political theory and theology, respectively). Synergy comes gushing through once the false dichotomy is recognized. Before I went to Yale, I was a masters and doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh, where the dichotomy was alive and well in the university’s social reality; I had to “walk back” the dichotomy myself as I discovered philosophy (and religious studies) while I was still studying business.

The full essay is at “Ethical Theory in Business Ethics” 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Missing Out on Reducing the Carbon Footprint: Human Reason Lapsing on Opportunities

Wind farms and solar panels—these alternatives to coal and natural gas could play a larger role in reducing the human impact on climate change were it not for missed opportunities. That any would be passed by when the species itself may hang in the balance points to a certain recklessness in the reasoning process akin to ill-afforded complacency.


The full essay is at “The Carbon Footprint

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Faith Leadership and Ethical Leadership

Leadership under religious auspices can be distinguished from ethical leadership. The shift from ethical to religious principles is more involved than merely swapping one kind for another. The dynamics pertaining to faith are distinct. Kierkegaard makes this point very well in his text, Fear and Trembling. In short, an individual of faith must go it alone when the paradox of faith violates ethical principles.


The full essay is at “Faith Leadership and Ethical Leadership

Monday, November 17, 2014

Homelessness in the U.S.: A Reflection of American Values

According to a report by the National Center on Family Homelessness in 2014, nearly 2.5 million American children were homeless at some point in 2013.[1] The U.S. Department of Education had reported that 1.3 million homeless children were going to school. California, which accounted for one-eighth of the U.S. population at the time, had one-fifth of the 2.5 million, which comes out to nearly 527,000. The relatively high cost of living and shortage of low-income housing, along with a largely stagnant minimum wage, are the more visible factors behind the gap.

The full essay is at "Homelessness in the U.S."



1. David Crary and Lisa Leff, “Number of Homeless Children in America Surges to All-Time High: Report,” The Associated Press, November 17, 2014.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Adieu to Florida’s Gold Coast: Beyond Money and Politics

In October 2014, the City of South Florida passed a resolution in favor of South Florida seceding from Florida and becoming the 51st State of the United States. Vice Mayor Walter Harris, the resolution’s sponsor, told the city’s commission that the government of Florida had not been addressing adequately the issue of the sea-level rising. Already, Miami was subject to regular flooding at high tide. This reason for secession has a serious downside, however; a better rationale may ironically come from the perspective of Floridians in North Florida.


The full essay is at “Adieu to South Florida

China’s Increasing International Role: A Historical Departure

Historically, China was isolationist. The Opium Wars in the mid-19th century is a good illustration of why. From this context, China’s announcements of a series of international trade and finance initiatives by which China would assume a larger leadership role internationally are stunning. Doubtless the enhanced role is in line with China’s geopolitical and economic interests. After all, political realism is hardly a dead theory in the 21st century. Even so, the impact of the reversal on the culture is significant, and thus worthy of study. Specifically, the traditional mistrust of foreigners is likely to diminish. As it does, the Chinese will be more likely to consider and even advocate for economic and political principles, such as liberty and rights, that are valued elsewhere in the world but not so much in China. The result could be increased political instability. In short, the initiatives timed to coincide with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in November 2014 could eventually weaken the Chinese government’s grip on power. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sen. Mitch McConnell Re-elected: A Washington Insider Sustained by the Establishment

The human brain is likely hard-wired to assume that tomorrow will be like today. This coping mechanism effectively narrows the window of our cognitive and perspectival range. The status quo not only endures; it is dominant, whereas reform must push hard to see the light of day. In politics, establishment interests, made wealthy in the status quo, bet their contributions on the political insiders—the establishment politicians who embrace the status quo. As a result, an electorate is manipulated and mislead by branding ads to the extent that it cannot be said that the real will of the people is done. The ensuing public policy is also not of that will; rather, legislation protects the vested interests in return for their contributions. A republic in the grip of this self-sustaining cycle can be said to suffer from a kind of hardening of the arteries. As times change, such a ship of state becomes increasingly unmoored from its people. Eventually, the ship sinks, after the pressure of incongruity has reached an unsustainable level. I contend that the 2014 U.S. Senate election in Kentucky between the Senate’s minority leader, Mitch McConnell, and his Democratic challenger, Alison Grimes, illustrates this political illness in action.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Pope Francis Goes on the Offensive against Conservatives: Credible Christian Leadership?

Credibility is absolutely essential to viable leadership, whether in religion, politics, or business. A leader who undercuts one of his or her promises effectively expunges it of any worth and is essentially a “lame-duck” leader thereafter unless he or she puts difficult effort into becoming worthy of being trusted again. It does not take long for followers to get the message if one of them who relied on the promise is punished for doing so. Chairman Mao is infamous for having made such a promise in the Hundred Flowers movement. Unfortunately, he killed many Chinese who relied on Mao’s word. A similar dynamic, though much less extreme, occurred just after a synod in 2014 called by Pope Francis, who in this respect can be likened to Mao. Fortunately for the Catholic pope, his own religion offers him a way out.


The full essay is at “Credible Christian Leadership

Narrowing Public Debate: Political Narrative as Fact

For ordering his men at Gettysburg to keep firing at over 10,000 Virginian infantrymen in what is now known as Pickett’s Charge, Alonzo Cushing—who died in the battle—was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Barak Obama on November 6, 2014. As a result of that charge, Pickett lost his entire division. In the 1984 film, Gettysburg, General Lee tells Pickett after the battle to look after his division. “But General Lee,” Pickett counters, “I have no division.” Suddenly Lee is confronted with the true magnitude of his military blunders at Gettysburg. From this point of view, Cushing’s military honor looks rather different than from Obama’s point of view. As conveyed by the media, that vantage point enjoyed a virtual monopoly, and thus the interpretation could easily be taken as true rather than relative. I submit that much from the political discourse as sourced or conveyed by the media is projected as truth when it is highly subjective and thus subject to question and debate.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pope Francis Goes on the Offensive against Church Conservatives: A Question of Christian Credibility

Credibility is absolutely essential to viable leadership, whether in religion, politics, or business. A leader who undercuts one of his or her promises effectively expunges it of any worth and is essentially a “lame-duck” leader thereafter unless he or she puts difficult effort into becoming worthy of being trusted again. It does not take long for followers to get the message if one of them who relied on the promise is punished for doing so. Chairman Mao is infamous for having made such a promise in the Hundred Flowers movement. Unfortunately, he killed many Chinese who relied on Mao’s word. A similar dynamic, though much less extreme, occurred just after a synod in 2014 called by Pope Francis, who in this respect can be likened to Mao. Fortunately for the Catholic pope, his own religion offers him a way out.
 
The full essay is at "Pope Francis Goes on the Offensive"