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Monday, July 21, 2014

GM’s CEO: Ridding GM of Its Dysfunctional Culture or Enabling It?

Has GM's CEO, Mary Barra, been behind a "new GM," or has she actually been protecting the old guard?

The essay is at “GM’s CEO

Saturday, July 19, 2014


In the film, Philomena (2013), the audience is confronted with the spectacle of unjustifiable cruelty committed under religious auspices. Philomena is this victim, and she must struggle to come to terms with her past ordeal as a young mother at an Abbey as she goes on a search for her son in America. Her traveling companion, Martin, is a journalist writing the story from his perspective as an ex-Catholic. Philomena defends her faith against Martin’s sarcasm even as she comes to terms with just how cruel the nuns had been to her. In the end, she and Martin confront the nuns. The question is how, by which I mean, from what direction? The answer has value in demonstrating how outwardly religious hypocrites can be put in their place.  

The entire essay is at "Philomena"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Wall Street’s Maker-Taker Rebate: An Inherent Conflict of Interest

On June 14, 2014, the U.S. Senate Investigations Committee held a hearing on “High-Speed Stock Transactions and Insider Trading.” The issue at hand concerned the payments that wholesale brokers and exchanges make to brokers for going through the brokers and exchanges, respectively. An academic study had found that the broker or exchange that pays the most is not typically the most efficient, and thus in the best interest of the investor. Essentially, the payments give rise to a conflict of interest for the retail broker, who is supposed to put the client’s financial interest first, before his or her own. Is greater disclosure, such as Sen. Levin suggested, sufficient? I contend that a conflict of interest that is inherently unethical warrants complete removal, rather than merely countervailing measures.

The entire essay is at “Maker-Taker Rebate

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hardly a Fair Fight: Israel and Gaza

In line with the very nature of occupation, the superior power is especially inert to any normative constraints. That such power blatantly broadcasts an instance of unfairness as if it were fair (i.e., two commensurate offenses) demonstrates just how much cognitive dissonance a human brain consumed with the allure of pure power over other people can muster as if in self-defense. It would appear that human rights still face an uphill battle, given the effect that the elixir of power has on the human brain. So smart are we, and yet still so very primitive, thanks in large part to the incredibly slow pace of natural selection even amidst huge changes in social arrangements over a relatively short time. Hence we are the most dangerous of the species, especially unto ourselves.

The full essay is at “Hardly a Fair Fight

Saturday, July 12, 2014

An Expanding Business Encounters a Hometown's Dysfunctional Culture: A Case for Cross-Cultural Management

If distinctive enough, a dysfunctional culture in a geographical region or city can present a company expanding into the area with the need to engage in cross-cultural management. Rather unique challenges in human resource management, for example, can present themselves once the expansion has taken hold locally. That is to say, the local culture is likely to become infused in the new store(s). The initial managers of the store are likely to be implanted rather than from the locality, and thus not infected. While this is in the new store’s favor, such managers are unlikely to be aware of something as subtle as a mentality even if it is ubiquitous. It will be seen in customers before any recognition occurs that several of the local employees are infected. By that time, the attitude has likely gained enough traction among the employees that the “foreign” managers’ use of training, or tactic, to improve customer service likely won’t go far and deep enough, especially as the store is immured in the locality saturated with the dysfunctional culture.  I suppose the best a manager could do is anticipate by assuming that quirks shared by many customers are likely also shared by several employees. On one occasion while visiting my hometown in Illinois, I witnessed a case in which a manager of a Woodman’s grocery store—part of a Wisconsin-based chain—had clearly detected the imprint of a dysfunctional culture on many customers yet was still unaware that it had infiltrated the store through his local employees too.

The full essay is at "An Expanding Business Encounters a Hometown's Dysfunctional Culture"

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Labor and Stockholders: Applying Locke’s Notion of Property

John Locke’s view on how something becomes a person’s property could fundamentally alter labor-management negotiations in companies. Moreover, our assumption that management participates in the discussions may be upended. The key, I contend, lies in how we classify labor. I submit that the paradigm that has been handed down to us is deeply flawed in its fundamentals, and yet strangely we do not even question its contours.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Subscribing to RSS or via Email to Receive the Essays: Here or at the Sections

I am in the process of switching over to the sections I recently added (to improve the writing, I am editing the essays as I transfer them from the home page, so it is a slow process). As I post essays in the sections, I also post the first paragraph with a link on the home page. So if you are not interested in one or more sections, you can subscribe at the section(s) you like rather than here. Each section has its own subscription/email. You will only get the essays posted on the section(s) to which you have subscribed. Of course, if you want the essays from all of the sections, you can still subscribe here on the homepage (presumably you would get the first paragraph and link, which you could click for the entire essay), rather than or in addition to subscribing to any of the sections. I also post summaries with links at Google Plus (look for the Worden Report), linkedin, and a few other social media outlets, and you might prefer any of those means (a back-and-forth being possible). To those of you who have been and remain regular readers, you have my thanks and profound gratitude. Merci et Vielen Dank!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Can the Euroskeptic States Topple the E.U.?

Can we say that an E.U. state is Euroskeptic? If so, Britain would be a consistent candidate for the label. Yet what about when Tony Blair was the prime minister? Poland and the Czech Republic have also swung back and forth in line with the electoral winds within those states. If states are less fixed than typically thought with respect to being Euroskeptic, then what looks like intractable skepticism may in fact be more easily overcome at the state level. It follows that the E.U. itself has more chance than typically presumed to obviate its own decline and dissolution.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Distrust of the E.U.: Prompting European Integration?

A Eurobarameter poll conducted by the European Commission between 10 May and 26 May, 2013 found that the number of Europeans who distrust the E.U. had doubled over the preceding six years to a record high of sixty percent from thirty-two percent.[1] The trust was lowest in the “bailed out” states of Greece and Cyprus. The people polled cited the five bailouts, record unemployment, and low economic growth as significant factors. In the state of Britain, 68% of the residents said they have little faith in the Union. Yet there is reason to be cautious in predicting the E.U.'s demise. In fact, closer European integration may actually result. 

The full essay is at "Distrust of the E.U."

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hobby Lobby: On the Significance of the Case

For all the controversy stirred up by the case of Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius on whether an employer must comply with the mandate for contraceptives coverage in the Affordable Care Act, the significance of the decision handed down in a 5-4 majority opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court may be less than some commentators were predicting.

The full essay is at “HobbyLobby.”

Monday, June 30, 2014

On the Political Power of Nuclear Power: Japan's Radioactive Plutocracy

Reversing his campaign pledge to reduce Japan’s reliance on nuclear power even as he had just been elected as prime minister of Japan in 2012 (Tepco’s nuclear power-plant meltdown having occurred in 2011), Shinzo Abe announced that he would have more nuclear reactors built in Japan. “They will be completely different from those at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant,” he said in a television interview.[1] Adding a silver lining on to a rather gray, radioactive cloud, he said, “With public understanding, we will be building anew.”[2] This change in policy is dramatic, for the previous administration--that of Yoshihiko Noda—had sought to phase out nuclear power in Japan by 2040. In fact, Abe’s own party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), had in its platform the goal “to establish an economy and society that does not need to rely on nuclear power.”[3] That the shift took place within the LDP suggests a shift in its power-dynamics, with the pro-nuclear sub-faction astonishingly having gained the upper hand over its rival while memories of the tsunami-triggered meltdown were undoubtedly still fresh.

The full essay is at "On the Political Power of Nuclear Power"

1. Hiroko Tabuchi, “Japan’s New Leader Endorses Nuclear Plants,” The New York Times, December 30, 2012.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.

An Ethical Meltdown in Japan: On the Toxicity of Tepco's Nuclear Power

According to The Wall Street Journal, Japan’s largest power provider, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), faced the biggest challenge of its 50-year-history in "recovering from the damage done to its nuclear facilities and power systems by a devastating earthquake and tsunami." The New York Times reported on March 17, 2011, that "foreign nuclear experts, the Japanese press and an increasingly angry and rattled Japanese public are frustrated by government and power company officials’ failure to communicate clearly and promptly about the nuclear crisis. Pointing to conflicting reports, ambiguous language and a constant refusal to confirm the most basic facts, they suspect officials of withholding or fudging crucial information about the risks posed by the ravaged Daiichi plant."

According to The Wall Street Journal, when Tepco said early in the morning of March 16th "that a fire had broken out at the Daiichi plant’s No. 4 reactor, a reporter naturally asked how the fire had begun, given that just the day before the company had reported putting out a fire at that same reactor. The executive’s answer: ‘We’ll check. . . . We don’t have information here,’ he explained. After about two hours, the Tepco representative had the information: Turned out the smoke was coming not from reactor No. 4, but from reactor No. 3. If Tepco’s information had been delayed and vague, the reporters’ response was quick and direct. ‘You guys have been saying something different each time!’ one shouted. ‘Don’t tell us things from your impression or thoughts, just tell us what’s going on. Your unclear answers are really confusing!’"

The Wall Street Journal reported that "the fire confusion followed Tepco’s failure to confirm that the water level in at least one of its fuel-rod storage pools had plummeted, which the media had started reporting citing government sources. Only after several hours, by which point it had started pumping in new water, did the company finally confirm that the level was low. . . . (W)hen the company changed its explanation of conditions at the reactor, one frustrated reporter said, ‘You guys think we’re ignorant [about nuclear operations] so you can make your explanation very vague, but we are not!’ The government may not be any more satisfied than the press is with Tepco’s disclosure practices. Local media reports say the prime minister scolded the company’s executives for not calling him after an explosion at the plant. He had to learn about it from the TV.” On March 20th, The New York Times reported that questions had arisen on whether Tepco executives had "waited too long before pumping seawater into the plant, a measure that would ruin a valuable investment."

The accompanying analysis is at "An Ethical Meltdown in Japan"

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Rare Political Virtue in Citizen Kane

In Citizen Kane (1941), Charles Kane is not a replica of William Randolph Hearst. As a young, wealthy man running a newspaper, the character embodies a politico-economic ideal in both word and deed that Hearst only used as a campaign slogan. As per Kane's Statement of Principles, the young publisher is willing to diminish his own wealth held in stock in other companies in exposing the exploitive and corrupt money-bags in big corporations and trust who prey on the otherwise-unprotected working poor and presumably consumers too. For his part, Hearst merely published a daily oriented to the poor man.  As Kane's early ideal is a principle recognizable to, and even resonating with, virtually any audience, Welles' inclusion of the ideal in the film contributes to its endurance as a classic.

For the remainder of this essay, please go to "Citizen Kane: A Virtue Hearst Never Had"

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Residual Racism of a Hometown’s Aristocracy: A Country Club in Decline

I suppose racism found at a country club known locally for its “old wealth” should come as no surprise, even if the prejudicial excluding takes place at the onset of the second decade of the twenty-first century and in a medium-sized American city.  The surprise would likely come at a senior manager being so blatant, self-contradictory, and erroneous in defending the lack of any black members as late as the 1990s and only two more than a decade later. Such an aristocracy could only be artificial.

Friday, June 27, 2014

World Cup Soccer Frenzy in the U.S.: A Threat to the NFL?

First, 19 out of 20 brains of former NFL football-players showed lethal brain damage in autopsies. Then, it was 45 out of 46 brains.[1] Missed at first from the initial assumption that concussions from the occasional hard-hits—which make good television—have been the cause of the dementia-causing protein in the damaged brains, was the impact of the more subtle mini-concussions from regular play. A 21 year-old with dementia (CTE) had not had a concussion from a major hit.  Nor had a high-school senior football player with chronic (CTE) brain damage in the front lobe, and thus severe short-term memory loss, difficulty thinking, personality changes, and fits of rage. Suicides are not uncommon, not to mention an abbreviated life-span.[2] Meanwhile, the violence of the sport ironically continued to be the main draw to an American audience, with cheers at the most jarring clashes. What is going on here, and is there light at the end of this tunnel?

[1] Frontline, “League of Denial,” PBS, 2012.
[2] Ibid.