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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Apparent Gains in Corporate Governance Accountability as the U.S. Economy Shifts

In 2016, Sacred Heart University purchased G.E.’s headquarters in Fairfield, Connecticut for $31.5 million. Gone were the Persian rugs and lavish artwork. The property acquired included the “Guest House,” the company’s 28-room hotel “to serve visiting executives and others, with no expense spared on the parquet floors, wood-burning fireplaces and a Steinway piano.”[1] Jack Welsh oversaw the ornate construction, leading to the obvious question of just what his sense of fiduciary duty to the company’s stockholders was. An artificial distinction between managers—only some being styled “executives”—was doubtless behind the luxuriant excess only for those certain employees “in the club.” From the standpoints of a board and its stockholders, “executives,” managers, and other employees are all employees. Why then should some of them be associated with luxury while they are at work? Historically, the aristocratic luxuriated precisely because those people didn’t have to work, and more importantly, they viewed work (and even their own money) as not worthy of much attention—there being finer things in life. “Executive” employees are not aristocratic, for they labor even when they could live off their accumulated wealth and pursue loftier aims, such as aiding humanity, furthering knowledge, or engaging in the arts with an eye toward advancing civilization. Bill Gates got this memo; Warren Buffett did not.


The full essay is at "Corporate Governance Accountability."





[1] Nelson D. Schwartz, “The Decline of the Baronial C.E.O.,” The New York Times, June 17, 2017.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Experience of Transcendence: The Core of Religion and Spirituality

Transcendence beyond the limits of human cognition, and thus reason and even religious beliefs is notoriously difficult for the human mind to grasp; even if as I suspect the human mind has an instinctual urge to yearn to go beyond cognitive and perceptual boundaries (i.e., beyond our ordinary experience), that same mind also has a dogged proclivity to cloth wholly-other religious objects (e.g., a deity) in familiar garb. Transcendent experience itself is immune, hence focusing on the experience itself is superior to getting caught up with the presumably certain divine attributes of a religious object, yet even such experience can be held back, or unduly circumscribed, when the transcendent reference-point is rendered conveniently familiar. Hence the dictum against graven images.  

The full essay is at "Experience of Transcendence."


The essay pertains to chapter 3, "Spiritual Leadership Revised," in Spiritual Leadership in Business: Transcending the Ethical, which is available at Amazon in print and as an ebook.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Spiritual Leadership in Business: Transcending the Ethical

In this essay, I provide a synopsis of my booklet on spiritual leadership in business. In the text, I suggest that while it may convenient in the business world to conceptualize spiritual leadership as being essentially ethical in nature, this convenient tactic does not do justice to the distinctly religious basis and connotations of spirituality. By religion, I do not mean only theism, or even just organized religion (i.e., religious organizations); rather, I have in mind religious experience—whether through prayer, meditation, worship, or another means that is oriented to yearning beyond the limits of cognition, sentiment, and perception—as if an inherently limited human brain were nonetheless “hard-wired” for beyondness itself whether or not a transcendent religious object (e.g., a deity) exists. Rather than expunging spiritual from its native terrain and reconfiguring it to fit within a secular context as ethics, we can relate the religious sense of spirituality to the secular world of business with due deference to their respective natures rather than muddling them into something murky.[1]

The full essay is at "Spiritual Leadership in Business."


The booklet, Spiritual Leadership in Business: Transcending the Ethical, is available at Amazon in print and as an ebook.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The U.S. Pulls Out of the Paris Climate Accord: North-South Redistribution as Unfair


The Paris Climate Accord, President Trump announced on June 1, 2017, “is very unfair at the highest level to the United States.” This goes well beyond the deal’s anticipated toll on the U.S. economy. The deal, the president, argued is fundamentally unfair. Indeed, the agreement may reflect more the old North-South differential in economic development than even the climate. In this regard, the president characterized the U.S. assent to the deal as a “self-inflicted wound” made out of weakness—perhaps even guilt foisted by the developing world.  “This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States,” the president said. More to the point—the financial bottom-line, “The agreement is a massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries.”

ECB Poised to Approve Italian Bailout of Monte dei Paschi Bank: An Instance of Federal-State Collusion?


Under the E.U.’s banking law enacted after the 2008 financial crisis, the state governments “are not supposed to inject fresh taxpayer money into a bank if it is deemed insolvent. When a bank gets into financial trouble, shareholders and bondholders, assumed to be sophisticated investors aware of the risks, are supposed to take the hit and bear the losses.”[1] Much of the banking reforms were intended, moreover, “to prevent banks from becoming so big and so risky that they could hold the global economy hostage. Politicians and policy makers didn’t want taxpayers to be on the hook for the banks’ mistakes.”[2] What about a mid-sized bank whose financial plight puts a state’s economy and reigning political elite in jeopardy? Should the E.U.’s central bankers look the other way and allow the state’s government to finance a bail-out so stockholders and bondholders need not feel the brunt?
The full essay is at "Italian Bailout."



1. Jack Ewing, Gaia Pianigiani, and Chad Bray, “Bailout for Italy’s Oldest Bank Tests Too-Big-to-Fail Rules,” The New York Times, June 1, 2017.
2. Ibid.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Goldman Sachs’ Venezuelan Bonds: Power Behind the Throne

Goldman Sachs paid about $865 million for $2.8 billion worth of bonds in May, 2017. This represents 31 cents on the dollar and translates into an annual yield of more than 40 percent.[1] The high yield is due to the high risk that is involved, for the bonds had been held by Venezuela’s central bank in what “the government’s opposition decried as a lifeline” to the regime then in power.[2] Indeed, the central bank’s foreign-currency reserves increased by $442 million to $10.8 billion the day the bond deal was completed, and the government needed to raise money it owed to key allies like Russia and China.[3] In indirectly aiding that government, Goldman Sachs risked the ire of the opposition. Writing to Goldman Sachs, Julio Borges, head of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature, indicated that he would “recommend to any future democratic government of Venezuela not to recognize or pay on these bonds.”[4] Hence, the high risk, high return. Though I submit that the risk might have been considerably less than meets the eye on account of the influence of the bank on the U.S. Government.

The fully essay is at "Goldman Sachs' Venezuelan Bonds."



1.  Kejal Vyas, Anatoly Kurmanaev, and Julie Wernau, “Goldman Sachs Under Fire For Venezuela Bond Deal,” The Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2017.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Violence at a Trump Campaign Rally Spurs Lawsuits against the Candidate: A Case of Incitement?

Is it natural for people to become enraged at other people at political events? Is violence simply part of the territory? Even if war stems from political differences, a political rally is a long way from being on a battle-field. The psychology, I submit, should be very different, and yet some people at campaign rallies cross the line as if they have no control over their emotions and behavior. That some protesters and a Trump supporter sued U.S. President Donald Trump for his role in inciting violence at one of his campaign rallies makes the matter of rage and violence at political events more public, and thus subject to analysis. The issue, I submit, goes beyond whether Don Trump incited violence against protesters at his political rallies. 

The full essay is at "Violence at a Trump Campaign Rally."

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Turkish President’s Men Attack Americans on American Soil : An Outlandish Presumptuousness at Odds with Human Rights


It is one thing to read about human-rights violations going on in another country; it is quite another to see such a country’s president’s men attacking people of another country in their own country. Besides the added perspective that such an act gives to people in that country, the mentality itself is made transparent in terms of its sheer presumptuousness. In other words, the presumptuousness that may be viewed as latent in a human-rights violation inflicted by government officials and their respective employees on their own soil is made particularly transparent, or obvious, when the violation is against foreigners on their own soil.

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."