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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Wealth Triumphs at the Kentucky Derby

Imagine running a race, and winning it only to watch the metal being given to your sponsor. “To Coke, our victor.” In enabling a runner, horse, or jockey to train, a sponsor is not the winner (for otherwise the sponsor would be enabling itself). While it is understandable that wealth is highly esteemed in the business sector, the imposing of this “top dog” in society itself distorts non-business activities into the prism of commerce. In the context of managerial capitalism, particularly where managers style themselves as “coaches,” it is no accident that coaches and trainers in sports come to be treated  as ends rather than means—as the winners rather than as facilitators on the sideline. It is important to remember that Art Sherman was not on the horse that won the Derby in 2014.  

The essay is at WR - Business & Society: "Who Won the Kentucky Derby?"

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Putin on Ukraine's National Sovereignty

On February 28, 2014, Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Yurly Sergeyev informed the Security Council that Russia had invaded the Crimean Peninsula, a semi-autonomous region of the sovereign state. Heretofore, in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons, Russia had agreed in a treaty to respect the territorial borders of the Soviet Union’s former republic. After briefly discussing whether Putin’s land-grab should have come as a surprise to the world, I take a critical look at the Russian president’s rationale for invasion. I argue that political realism (i.e., strategic interests of particular states being the signature feature of international relations) undergirds Putin’s geo-political view. This foundation is problematic as evinced by Putin’s inconsistencies on national sovereignty.

From: "Russia’s Putin on National Sovereignty: Ukraine v. Syria"

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stevens Testifies on Campaign Finance Reform

In his testimony before a U.S. Senate Committee in 2014, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens addressed the need for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving Congress and the States the power to restrict political campaign contributions. After listing leveling the playing field such that rival candidates have equal opportunity to persuade, freeing up elected officials from having to spend so much time raising campaign funds, and distinguishing constituents from non-voters (including unions, corporations, and people of other electoral jurisdictions in the U.S.), he stated his position in particularly clear terms. “Money is not speech,” he declared. “Speech is only one of the activities that are financed by campaign contributions and expenditures. Those financial activities should not receive precisely the same constitutional protection as speech itself.”  In short, even money given directly to a political campaign does not reduce to political speech. Although Citizens United (2010) and McCutcheon (2014) were being much cited at the time as baleful cases sure to transform the American democracy into a plutocracy, or rule by wealth-interests, Stevens went back to a 1976 case as the reason why a constitutional amendment rather a mere statute would be needed to place limitations on monetary contributions to political campaigns. In denying Congress the power to impose limits on campaign contributions, the Court in Buckley v. Valeo issued the infamous equivalence between money and speech. To Stevens, money is speech is the fundamental error promulgated by the Court in Buckley that has led successive majority opinions to eviscerate campaign finance limitations enacted by Congress. I submit that the ex-jurist could have drawn on the Buckley decision for support, thus undermining the resulting legal doctrine as a legal precedent for the Court. 


The entire essay is at "John Paul Stevens: Money Is Not Speech"

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Clippers Owner Faces Mob-Rule?

As the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court were looking at two cases involving cellphone privacy from the standpoint of police access, NBC Commissioner Adam Silver announced that he had banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from attending any NBA team practice or game for life and was being fined $2.5 million. Interestingly, given the tenor of the public discourse, the Clippers’ owner had not made a public pronouncement regarding his negative view of black people; rather, a tabloid had taped and broadcast a private cellphone conversation. That is to say, Sterling would have to pay a multi-million dollar fine for what he had said in a private conversation with his girlfriend. I contend there is reason to pause at this news, lest such public pressure establish the precedent wherein the passions of the mob is effectively given such reign as to render property ownership and the rule of law as so contingent that might makes right. 


The essay is at WR - Government & Markets: “NBA Team-Owner Faces Wrath of the Mob For Racist Conversation

Monday, April 28, 2014

Marnie

Some movies are remembered for their narrative; other films attract an audience out of sheer star-power. Generally speaking, both story and charisma can be of value to a film. The value of a charismatic actor playing a character of substance can be realized by watching the performance dubbed with the voice of another actor. Watching the film Forgiven once dubbed in French, I popped out the DVD even before the end of the first act because the voices of Gene Hackman, Clint Eastwood, and Morgan Freeman were gone. In the case of Marnie (1964)as well as the James Bond franchise, the flims would lose out without Sean Connery’s voice. Even so, a film that distorts or stretches a narrative to attract (and rely on) an actor’s charisma is also suboptimal. I contend that this excess compromises Marnie.


The essay is at WR-Film: "Marnie"

On Putin's Selective Recognition of National Sovereignty: Political Realism Undone?

On February 28, 2014, Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Yurly Sergeyev informed the Security Council that Russia had invaded the Crimean Peninsula, a semi-autonomous region of the sovereign state. Heretofore, in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons, Russia had agreed in a treaty to respect the territorial borders of the Soviet Union’s former republic. After briefly discussing whether Putin’s land-grab should have come as a surprise to the world, I take a critical look at the Russian president’s rationale for invasion. I argue that political realism (i.e., strategic interests of particular states being the signature feature of international relations) undergirds Putin’s geo-political view. This foundation is problematic as evinced by Putin’s inconsistencies on national sovereignty.

The essay is at WR-International Relations: "Russia’s Putin on National Sovereignty"

Corporate Social Responsibility in the Mega-Churches: A Fusion of Business and Christianity?

The ends–justifying-the-means rationale is a tricky business, justifying historically a myriad of offensive practices including torture. On the other hand, “good use” has been deemed a legitimate rationale for acquiring wealth under Christian auspices—the obstacle of the proverbial camel squeezing through the eye of the needle being assuaged by good intentions. Generally speaking, the “right use” rationale gained currency through the centuries of Christianity, leading to the Prosperity Gospel , which maintains that right belief rather than right use is all a believer needs to justify  acquiring and amassing wealth without being thereby excluded from the Kingdom of God. That Gospel, by the way, comes out of the Hebrew Bible, or “Old Testament.”  In this essay, I analyze the “good use” rationale in the context of incorporating businesses inside a church—a trend well-underway in the evangelical  Christian mega-churches as of 2014. Can the rationale survive the baleful implications of the proverbial camel Biblical passage? Further, what of Jesus’s over-turning of the sellers’s tables in the Temple?

The essay is at WR-Religion: "Right Use” of a Business in Church: Incorporating Corporate Social Responsibility"

Economic Sanctions: Weapon of Choice to Counter Russian Expansionism

A week and a half after government representatives from Russia, the E.U., the U.S., and Ukraine agreed to deescalate the political instability in eastern Ukraine, the U.S. Government imposed additional “targeted sanctions on a number of Russian individuals and companies” after concluding that the Russian government had not ceased from fomenting violence in eastern Ukraine.[1] With the official numbers on capital flight from Russia at $50 billion a month for the first three months of 2014, this announcement on April 28th is oriented to exploiting a Russian vulnerability. Moreover, the statement signals a step-wise, “surgical” approach premised on the value of money—a symbol of value. In relative terms, a broad military response looks almost primitive, if not (hopefully) antiquated.

The essay is at WR-International Relations: "High Finance Answering Putin’s Imperial Ambitions: A New Age?"