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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Could a Middle Eastern Union Cool the Isreali-Palestinian Conflict?

I contend that thinking outside the box can go a long way in getting past the stalemate on Israeli-Palestinian relations.  The key, I believe, lies in relativizing the conflict by shifting the paradigm by looking outward, at the region as a whole. If the autocracies in the Middle East are indeed on the way out--to be replaced by true republcs not in name only--then, at least according to federal theory, they could form a federal union somewhere on a spectrum with the AU, EU, and US. For example, one would not expect it to be as consolidated as the EU. Even so, Israel might just feel more comfortable with there bieng other democracies in the region, such that it might agree to join a union as long as there are strong minority rights (yet without too many areas subject to vetos, which tend to render a union impotent).  

The full essay is at "Could a Middle Eastern Union Cool the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?"

Free Speech in the EU: On the Judgement on John Galliano's Anti-Semitism

On March 1, 2011, Sidney Toledano, CEO of the French fashion house Christian Dior, wrote that he was dismissing its chief designer, John Galliano, after the surfacing of a video that showed "his anti-Semitic outbursts at a Paris bar." The word choice of outbursts by The New York Times is interesting, for the actual video shows him in a rather mellow, notably intoxicated, "well you know" mood. The article's writer admits that the designer had used "a slurred voice." Galliano was telling a Jewish couple that they should feel lucky that their ancestors were not killed by the Nazis because so many did not survive. He said ‘‘people like you would be dead,’’ and  ‘‘your mothers, your forefathers’’ could have all be ‘‘gassed.’’ Although applying a rational criterion to a drunk man, I wonder in what sense he meant ‘‘I love Hitler.’’ Considering that Galliano is gay and Hitler sent homosexuals to concentration camps, I suspect that Galliano was lying simply to hurt the couple in what was undoubtedly a back-and-forth in a verbal fight.  Indeed, it takes two to tangle, and the rest of us might do well to recognize the difficulty in interpreting a snipet without having observed the entire contest.

The full essay is at "Free Speech in the E.U."

Financial Sector Lobbyists Put the Republic at Risk: The Case of the U.S. Senate Bill on Financial Reform in 2010

Considering the gravity of the risk in Wall Street banks being too big to fail, the financial reform bill passed by the US Senate in 2010 may have been influenced too much by the financial interests. It can thus serve as a good case study for how a republic can be subject to too much influence from the moneyed interests. It could be asked, moreover, whether there is an inevitable trajectory that a polity undergoes from being a republic to becoming a plutocracy (ruled by the wealthy).


Sources:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/us/politics/23lobby.html?scp=2&sq=financial%20lobbying&st=cse ; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/24/business/24reform.html?hp ; WSJ (May 26, 2010).

Betraying an Electorate: On President Obama's Deal with Drug Companies

While campaigning for the U.S. presidency in 2008, U.S. President Obama decried the greedy Republican lawmakers acting at the behest of the drug companies to keep drug prices artificially high. A year later, those same drug companies wanted Obama to oppose a Democratic proposal that was intended to bring down the prices of medicine. Beyond betraying those voters who voted for him based on his campaign rhetoric on drug prices, Obama belied the trust that is necessary for a viable republic to function democratically.

The full essay is at "Betraying an Electorate."


Religion and Politics: Russian Orthodox Patriarch Helped Syria’s Assad Regime


In the wake of yet another Syrian massacre of civilians, including families being shot at close-range in their own houses, the New York Times published a report in 2012 that claimed that Russian priests and theologians commiserated with diplomats from Damascus at the opening of an exhibition devoted to Syrian Christianity in a cathedral near the Kremlin. While it is understandable that the Kremlin would not want to lose its “longtime partner and last firm foothold in the Middle East,” it is perhaps less palatable for Christian prelates and doctors of the Russian Orthodox Church to essentially look the other way on atrocities so the Syrian Christians, many of whom are Orthodox, won’t be pushed under the bus in a wave of Islamic fundamentalism that could be unleashed should Assad fall from power. The Syrian Christians were reluctant to join the Sunni Muslim opposition to Assad for fear of being persecuted by the Sunnis should they gain power.


                                     Clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church                                  NYT

The full essay is at "Russian Patriarch Helped Assad."

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Veto Power of the U.S. President

On September 12, 1787, in the U.S. Constitutional Convention, Gerry claimed that the "primary object of the revisionary check on the President is not to protect the general interest, but to defend his own department" (Madison, Notes, p. 628). Gerry was stressing the value of maintaining the separation of power that was to exist between the three branches of the U.S. (General, or federal) Government. I believe he was inordinately fixated on his point--missing the presiding function of the U.S. President. Also on September 12, Madison averred that the "object of the revisionary power is twofold. 1. to defend the Executive Rights 2. to prevent popular or factious injustice" (Madison, Notes, p. 629). In addition to be an advocate of the separation of power within the U.S. Government, Madison was concerned that a large faction in the majority might oppress a minority faction and he viewed the expanded republic of the union as a means to minimize such tyranny. He too was slighting the presiding role of the president.

The full essay is at "The Veto Power of the U.S. President."


Source: James Madison, Notes in the Federal Convention of 1787 (New York: Norton, 1987).

Judicial Ethics: Friendship and Philanthropy

Harlan Crow was a Dallas real estate magnate and a major contributor to conservative causes. He did many favors for his friend, Clarence Thomas, “helping finance a Savannah library project dedicated to Justice Thomas, presenting him with a Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass and reportedly providing $500,000 for [Virginia] Thomas to start a Tea Party-related group.” The two friends spent time together at “gatherings of prominent Republicans and businesspeople at Crow’s Adirondacks estate and his camp in East Texas.” Crow also “stepped in at Thomas’ urging” to finance the multimillion-dollar purchase and restoration of the cannery that had employed the justice’s mother. Crow’s restoration “featured a museum about the culture and history of Pin Point that has become a pet project of Justice Thomas’s. . . . While the nonprofit Pin Point museum is not intended to honor Justice Thomas, people involved in the project said his role in the community’s history would inevitably be part of it, and he participated in a documentary film that is to accompany the exhibits.”

News “of Mr. Crow’s largess provoked controversy and questions, adding fuel to a rising debate about Supreme Court ethics. But Mr. Crow’s financing of the museum, his largest such act of generosity, previously unreported, raises the sharpest questions yet — both about Justice Thomas’s extrajudicial activities and about the extent to which the justices should remain exempt from the code of conduct for federal judges. Although the Supreme Court is not bound by the code, justices have said they adhere to it. Legal ethicists differed on whether Justice Thomas’s dealings with Mr. Crow pose a problem under the code.”

The code says judges “should not personally participate” in raising money for charitable endeavors, out of concern that donors might feel pressured to give or entitled to favorable treatment from the judge. In addition, judges are not even supposed to know who donates to projects honoring them. . . . (T)he restriction on fund-raising is primarily meant to deter judges from using their position to pressure donors, as opposed to relying on ‘a rich friend’ like Mr. Crow, said Ronald D. Rotunda, who teaches legal ethics at Chapman University in California.” On the other side of the argument, Deborah L. Rhode, a Stanford University law instructor who has called for stricter ethics rules for Supreme Court justices, said Justice Thomas “should not be directly involved in fund-raising activities, no matter how worthy they are or whether he’s being centrally honored by the museum.”

The ethical analysis is at "Judicial Ethics."



Source:

Mike McIntire, “Friendship of Justice and Magnate Puts Focus on Ethics,” The New York Times, June 18, 2011.

The Flemish and Walloons: Worlds Apart?

I contend that the cultural differences between the Flemish and Walloons within Belgium have been exaggerated to such an extent that the state government of Belgium has been paralyzed and solutions have eluded the Belgians. Reducing the fear-induced swelling of the admittedly real differences within Belgium may therefore facilitate relief from the paralysis. In other words, the added perspective from viewing the cultural differences as less traumatic can help the Flemish and Walloons to either live together or, ironically, be able to separate. That’s right—a more realistic assessment of the differences can actually facilitate the separation of Belgium into two (or three) E.U. states (or Flanders joining the Netherlands and Wallonia joining France—and the German-speaking area joining Germany). Exaggerating differences can snuff out consideration of such alternatives and enable continued paralysis.

The full essay is at "Flemish and Walloons."


                                            

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan’s extolling of individualism amid the problem that he saw as government itself resonated with the religious overtures of American divine providence as a city on a hill—a promised land akin to the New Jerusalem. Even as material self-interest taking advantage of unbridled markets under the guise of competition was not Reagan’s primary orientation, greed could easily trump the force of Reagan’s normative envelop, human nature such as it is.

The full essay is at "Ronald Reagan."

Banning Corporate Earmarks: Too Broad?

In March 2010, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee banned earmarks to for-profit companies. Had such a ban been in place in 2009, it would have meant the elimination of about 1,000 awards worth a total of about $1.7 billion. Many of those earmarks went to military contractors for projects in lawmakers’ home districts. The committee seemingly meant to end a practice that has steered billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to companies and set off corruption scandals. However, it is also possible that the vote was a “dog and pony show” not meant to result in any eventual law. Such a show would give the American public the illusion of Congressional effort to reduce the impact of business on the elected representatives.

The full essay is at "Banning Corporate Earmarks."


 Source:

 Eric Lichtblau, “Leaders in House Block Earmarks to Corporations,” The New York Times, March 10, 2010.

The Keynesian Drug: America’s Achilles' Heel

Keynes posited that government deficit-spending could boost an economy’s output of goods and services when it is short of full-employment. In the context of an economy near full-steam, tax cuts and/or more government spending could trigger inflation while adding little to GDP. To maintain balance in the government accounts, government surpluses during the ensuing upswing are used to pay off the accumulated debt. This is the theory. Unfortunately, it seems to be at odds with representative democracy. Specifically, a systemic bias exists in favor of recurrent deficits, and thus accumulating debt.

The full essay is at "The Keynesian Drug."

Sources:

Brutus, Letter 8, January 10, 1788, 2.9.95, in Herbert J. Storing, ed., The Anti-Federalist, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985).

Alan Simpson, Newsweek, December 27, 2010, p. 28.

On the Ethics of Legislating

The means by which a bill becomes a law are sometimes referred to “how sausage gets made” because they are not suited for public display.  The belief is that were the citizens to see what goes on in the process, they would demand that it be changed. Perhaps this means that it should be changed.

The full essay is at "On the Ethics of Legislating."

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A European Utility Re-Envisioning Energy: An Opportunity for Visionary Leadership

When Eneco began a business called CrowdNett in which the company would sell large home-batteries to people having solar panels, the Dutch electric utility was on the way toward putting its electricity-production business out of business. The company would continue, though radically transformed. The strikingly different strategic-course correction was based on a rather unique vision of a novel social reality in which homes generate their own energy and then some. In the context of climate change and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Eneco’s CEO had an opportunity in 2017 to lead not only organizationally, but societally as well by promoting the radical social reality already envisioned.

The full essay is at "Re-Envisioning Energy."

For more on visionary leadership and management, see The Essence of Leadership: A Cross-Cultural Foundation, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon. 

The University of Arizona: A Dysfunctional Police State

Imagine asking an organization's security employee to enforce a policy only to hear him refuse because such a policy is beneath him. Then on another occasion you find such employees in the locality enforcing local speed-limits. To be sure, speeding tickets are a lucrative business, but that usually goes for a city's police department. Imagine next crossing a grassy quad on a university campus as two campus security employees slowly pass on bikes--watching. Entering the student union, there is yet another. Then returning with a coffee back across the rectangular grassy area--which had been roped off all summer for "turf restoration"--you see a security employee passing on a motorcycle--again watching people. Then as you return to the campus library, you notice a "police" jeep slowly creeping along opposite from the quad. The resulting sense that students, staff, and even faculty are being perpetually watched far beyond the rationale of protection is common at the University of Arizona. Nevertheless, the administrative offices, including those of the VP for business affairs, the provost, and even the president, look the other way, which in itself can be regarded as passive aggressive. In flagging that university as highly dysfunctional, and thus to be avoided especially by scholars, I draw on my time as a visiting scholar at that university, where I was met with active and passive aggression and, more generally, regarded as less than a nobody by nonacademic staff having an overblown sense of entitlement undergirded with a lack of accountability. The University of Arizona can thus be regarded as "the poster child" for dysfunctional organizational culture. I submit that aggressiveness is nothing short of anathema to an academic atmosphere. That non-academic employees at a university would have so little respect for academia while the "academic" administration betrays its calling, whether out of cowardness, incompetence, or a sheer disvaluing of academic standards is squalid enough to justify whistle-blowing on behalf of academia.

The full essay is at "A Dysfunctional University."

Friday, August 18, 2017

The U.S. House of Representatives: An Aristocratic Democracy-Deficit?

The abrupt resignation of Jesse Jackson, Jr., from the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 only weeks after being re-elected gave Democratic politicians in Chicago a rare opportunity to get their hands on a Congressional seat. The New York Times observed at the time that such seats “in Democratic strongholds” of Chicago “do not come open very often, and when they do, a line forms fast.” According to Debbie Halvorson, who ran against Jackson, “If someone is thinking of becoming a congresswoman or congressman, this might be their only chance. Whoever gets this will have it forever, they say. That’s why everyone wants to take a chance.” In other words, the office is a sort of personal entitlement. From a democratic standpoint, this represents “slippage.”


Even though the U.S. House Chamber looks large, it represents 310 million people.   Source: Britannica


The full essay is at "An Aristocratic Democracy-Deficit."


Source:
Steven Yaccino and Monica Davey, “Illinois Sets Election Dates to Replace Jackson in House,” The New York Times, November 27, 2012.