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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Is Humanism a Religion?

Is Humanism a religion?  I contend that Humanism does not qualify, but it is compatible with religious experience. Beginning with how religion was defined in ancient times, I argue that the element or aspect of transcendence is vital. I then look at whether transcendence is and could be in Humanism.



The full essay is at "Humanism"

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Washington’s Political Elite and President Trump: Obstruction of Democracy Going after Obstruction of Justice?

The political elite’s view of President’s Trump alleged obstruction of justice in the Flynn investigation may be more complex than what meets the public’s eye. As the existence of former FBI director James Comey’s memo on a talk with President Trump on the Flynn investigation came to light, the Republican elite began to buckle before it enforced party discipline. Yet there is reason to suspect that the elite as a whole supported the president, or would continue to do so, given the cascade of controversies spilling out of the White House. Very subtly, in fact, the Republican elite in Washington doubtless had little respect for the populist element of the president’s political base; that “such people” could have their man in the White House may have been a drag on the Trump presidency even with respect to his own party in Congress. Yet “such people” are American people, and thus part of the popular sovereign, so part of the tension may have been an eruption of what is normally rather subdued—namely, the antipathy between a political elite and the People, even in a democracy. In evaluating a political elite, I submit that a bit of translucent light never hurts, especially when charges of obstruction of justice are in the air.

The full essay is at "Obstruction of Justice."

James Comey, as director of the FBI, testifying before Congress before being fired by President Trump in part due to his handling of the Russian investigation. (Source: NYT)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Realive: A Film About Extending Life Absent God

In 2016, Robert McIntyre, a graduate of MIT, became the first person to freeze and then revive a mammalian brain—that of a white rabbit. “When thawed, the rabbit’s brain was found to have all of its synapse, cell membranes, and intracellular structures intact.”[1] The film, Realive, made that same year, is a fictional story about a man with terminal cancer who commits suicide to be frozen and revived when his illness could be cured. In the context of McIntyre’s scientific work, the film’s sci-fi demeanor belies the very real possibility that cryogenics could realistically alter fundamental assumptions about life and death even just later in the same century. What the film says about the life and death is timeless, however, in terms of philosophical value.

The full essay is at "Realive."

Monday, May 15, 2017

Is Undoing Financial Reform In Line with Free-Market Ideology?

Legislating on the basis of an aversion to government intervention in financial markets can paradoxically result in more massive intervention. The latter can come to pass even amid an anti-interventionist ideology on account of the emergency conditions that call for the extraordinary incursion of government into a market. Undoing the Orderly Liquidation Authority of the Dodd-Frank Act in the U.S. is a case in point.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The University of California: University Governance Gets an “F” on Trust

As part of the government’s 2017 audit of the University of California’s president’s office, California’s auditor, Elaine Howle, sent surveys to administrators at the university’s 10 campuses. The president’s staff directed administrators at the Santa Cruz, San Diego, and Irvine campuses to remove criticism of the office and give higher performance ratings in key areas. The interference was blatant, as it included even a systemwide conference call. As a result, Howle disregarded all of the results as tainted. The audit also uncovered $175 million in undisclosed reserves being held by the president’s office. Janet Napolitano, the U.C. president and former head of the U.S. Homeland Security Department, had betrayed the trust vested in her. The ineptitude likely ran higher, and lower. That is to say, the university’s governance itself was culpable.


The full essay is at "The University of California Flunks Trust."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Student Teaching-Assistants Hunger-Strike at Yale: Facing an Implacable Wall

During the Spring term of 2017, some graduate students at Yale began a hunger strike to pressure the administration to negotiate with their union. At the time, about 70 percent of the instructors at American colleges and universities were part-time—including adjunct instructors and graduate students working as teaching assistants. They were poorly paid and lacked “access to affordable health care, job security or a voice in their working conditions.”[1] I contend that we should not gloss over the real differences between adjunct instructors and teaching assistants, the latter contains an employment element that warrants representation by a union.


Graduate students who work as teaching assistants hunger-strike in front of Yale's administration building (to the right). Directly behind the protesters is the Commons dining hall (which I remember for the Belgium waffles...the gym being fortunately close by).  (Source: NYT)


The full essay is at "Hunger Strike at Yale."

Monday, May 8, 2017

Spirituality in Business Leadership

To be at its fullest, the notion of spiritual leadership applied to business should not shirk the religious basis of spirituality to make it somehow more fitting to business-or a certain rendition of business. Many of Gilbert Fairholm’s descriptions of spirituality risk embalming spirituality in a secular tomb in keeping with the bias typically found in the business world against anything religious. Fortunately, some of his other characterizations of the term provide an alternative basis for an invigorated notion of spiritual leadership applied even in the business world.

The full essay is at "Spirituality as Distinctly Religious."

Saturday, May 6, 2017

When a University Loses Its Way: Business as Usual

A university is clearly functioning sub-optimally when its departments operate with scant regard to any obligation to contribute to the good of the whole (organization). A university’s administration makes matters worse by viewing the university through the lenses of a business firm—seeking to remake what is innately academic in the guise of private enterprise. Fundamentally, when an organization’s management loses sight of the distinct basis of the organization, it is bound to founder from the confounded identity. I had the privilege of attending Yale, whose administration values and protects uniquely academic norms and mores. Unfortunately, university administrations far away from lux et veritas can lose sight of even the distinct academic basis of a university, preferring instead to remake it into something else—a business or, even worse, a conglomerate without a functioning headquarters. In this essay, I discuss one example of such a university, far, far away from the heart and soul of academia, yet where managers take advantage nonetheless of its good name.


The full essay is at "When a University Loses Its Way."

Melting Permafrost Unleashing Killer Bacteria and Viruses: Climate Change Heats Up

As the Northern climes warm, our species may soon be vulnerable to ancient—even beyond ancient— bacteria and viruses. We are familiar with pathogens to which our species has some immunity, built up from repeated prior contact. As a species, we could lose everything from illnesses in which the modern human body has no experience and thus no built-up defenses.



Thursday, May 4, 2017

Politically Partisan Clergy: A Cleft in the Bright Side of Faith


Citing religious liberty, President Trump signed an executive order on May 4, 2017, the National Day of Prayer, “directing the Internal Revenue Service to avoid cracking down on political activity by religious organizations.”[1] In particular, clergy could then endorse political candidates without fear that their respective churches would lose their tax-exempt status. It is a bit extreme that such status would be lost simply because a pastor mentions a preference for a political candidate or a particular public policy, for such references are not integral or central to a clergy’s message, which is religious in nature. Nevertheless, the risk of religious faith being usurped by the political merits an attentive watchfulness, at the very least.
The full essay is at "Politically Partisan Clergy."


[1] Michael D. Shear, “Trump Eases Political Activity by Religious Organizations,” The New York Times, May 4, 2017.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957), 251.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid, 252.
[6] Ibid.

Monday, May 1, 2017

President Trump: Revisiting Presidents Jackson and Lincoln on their Statesmanship

In an interview in 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump said he wondered why the issues leading to the U.S. Civil War “could not have been worked out” to prevent the republics from exiting the U.S.[1] “People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?”[2] In particular, “People don’t ask . . . why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”[3] The reigning assumption has been that President Lincoln could not have resolved the dispute short of going to war. Trump then suggested that had President Andrew Jackson been president rather than Lincoln, we “wouldn’t have had the Civil War.”[4] Aside from the point that Jackson was a Southerner, his feat in resolving the Nullification Crisis without a shot being fired suggests that Trump had a point; the war between the C.S.A. and U.S.A. could have been averted. More importantly, the mentality that won the war may not be as salubrious as we suppose.

The full essay is at "Presidents Jackson and Lincoln: Statescraft."


[1] Jonathan Lemire, “Trump Makes Puzzling Claim About Andrew Jackson, Civil War,” The Sacramento Bee, May 1, 2017.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Stockholders Retain Wells Fargo’s Board: A Low Bar for Corporate Governance

Corporate governance is supposed to hold management accountable. Slack in the mechanism enables not only a lack of managerial competence or ethics, but also an ineffectual board. Unfortunately, whether by proxies or connections—or just sheer power—a board’s chair and other directors can remain in place in spite of having failed to hold a management accountable. Put another way, it is not necessarily enough that an incompetent or unethical management (and other employees) is removed; replacing the derelict board may be more crucial and yet even more difficult.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why Do Atrocities Occur in the Name of God?

Why have atrocities been associated with religion—even having been committed under religious auspices? Four Crusades were fought, for example, by popes whose God is love—whose god-man extolls love of enemies and turning the other cheek rather than hitting back. In the modern era, Christianity has been tame, but terrorist acts have been committed in the name of God by people who presume that they cannot possibly be wrong in their beliefs. If Feuerbach is correct, the underlying problem inheres in the belief in God's very existence—that belief pointing us to a still deeper problem in the very nature of faith itself, to a vulnerability or susceptibility that has been overlooked or conveniently glossed over for as long as religion has existed on the face of the Earth.


The full essay is at "Monotheism and Atrocities."

Monday, April 24, 2017

On a New Era Dawning in the E.U. State of France


With Emmanuel Macron finishing first on the first-round of voting for the head of state in the E.U. state of France, the media declared a new era in the state politics was already a foregone conclusion. Yet the support of the political elites at both the state and federal level could be read as tempering any such landmark announcement.
The full essay is at "Macron in Europe." 


Friday, April 21, 2017

On the Spread of Private Governments in a Democracy: Should Churches and Universities Have Their Own Police Forces?

In mid-April, 2017, Alabama’s Senate approved a bill that would authorize Briarwood Presbyterian Church to create a police department. At the time, the church hired off-duty police employees to provide security-- “a common practice among nonprofit organizations.”[1] With 4,000 congregants, a K-12 school and thousands of events on its land each year, church officials had difficulty finding enough off-duty cops who were available. More important than being able to make up for any shortages, the proposed law “would empower a religious group to do a job usually performed by the government.”[2] That the group is religious in nature whereas police power is governmental (i.e., “church and state”) is less important than that the “job” had come to be viewed societally, as per the quote from The New York Times, as usually performed by government. In other words, the slippery, subtle slope is itself a red flag.

The full essay is at "Private Police Forces."



1. Ian Lovett, “Alabama Church Wants Police Force,” The New York Times, April 17, 2017.
2. Ibid.