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Friday, December 30, 2016

A Self-Governing Chinese Catholic Church: Conflating Statecraft and Religious Authority

In late December, 2016, as the Chinese government was negotiating a deal to improve relations with the Vatican, Yu Zhengsheng, a senior Communist Party leader, “endorsed the notion of a self-governed Chinese Catholic church.”[1] The key point, I submit, hinges on governance. In what sense does governance apply rightfully (or fittingly) to a religious organization? This is a question to be put both to the Chinese government and the Vatican.

Yu Zhengsheng meeting Chinese Catholic religious authorities (Source: Yao Dawei/Xinhua)

The complete essay is at "A Self-Governing Chinese Catholic Church."



1. Javier C. Hernandez, “Catholic Churches in China Should Be Independent of Vatican, Official Says,” The New York Times, December 30, 2016.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Secular Films with Religious Meaning: Film as a Potentially Deep Medium

A film need not be explicitly religious to proffer spiritual meaning. In fact, gritty stories that wrestle with thorny problems that people have faced or may face in everyday life can be more gripping even theologically than stories based on religious idealism, such as The Greatest Story Ever Told and The Ten Commandments.  

Hidden Figures, for example, “has no obvious religious message. Rather, it is a feel-good drama about unsung black heroines in the NASA space race of the 1960s.”[1] Yet this didn’t stop Fox from hiring Wit PR to market the film to churches. Wit PR invited several “opinion-leader” pastors to watch filming, one cleric remarking, “I came away really interested in using film to explore faith.”[2] The “aspirational story about women who have faith in themselves” could be used as fodder in a sermon on the Christian theological virtues of faith and hope—the key being to keep having faith in spite of insufferable obstacles.

Yet just as secular films such as Hidden Figures need not have an explicit religious leitmotif or thesis in order to be conveyers of deep meaning, so too such meaning in such films need not be evoked in a religious context. That is to say, even secular films can bypass the religious organizations altogether to bring principles with religious import to people directly.

The Matrix, for example, prompted much discussion not only about philosophical solipsism, but also Neo as the One. Although non-Christian Plotinus utilized this term to mean God in the second century, the Christological reference would not be lost on many Christians. In the film, Morpheus is convinced that Neo is the One who would go on to save humanity from the clutches of the machines. Morpheus’s faith, even in spite of the apparent impossibility in Neo’s death, never wavers. Christian viewers would hardly need a sermon to drive the point home. For non-Christians, the critical question of whether the assumption that one person should save humanity isn’t artificial was debated far outside of explicit religious circles. 

Film is indeed an incredible medium in being able to render even ubiquitous assumptions transparent and thus able to be critiqued and discussed. That even a secular film can put religious assumptions in a new, and thus transparent, light—whether the implications are critical or affirming for a particular religion or religion itself!—brings cinema into the business of engaging deep meaning. In fact, with such meaning at the subterranean level in a secular film, assumptions can all the more readily come to light. It is a paradox that religious meaning from the pulpit is typically readily apparent and thus the undergirding assumptions are rarely exposed to the open air.

To be sure, assumptional analysis of religious beliefs can be explicit on-screen. In The Da Vinci Code, for example, Robert Langdon and his former colleague debate the theological import of whether Jesus had a child—unknowingly right in front of the last descendant of Jesus Christ. The debate is actually about whether the historical Jesus is the Son of God: the One (not in Plotinus’s sense of the word). Such an on-screen exercise is of great value too—to Christians and even non-Christians. Again, the value lies in rendering religious assumptions transparent so they may be realized and even thought over. Film is indeed a valuable medium in that it can flush out truth (and untruth) hidden in clear view.



[1] Brooks Barnes, “Secular Hollywood Quietly Courts the Faithful,” The New York Times, December 24, 2016.
[2] Ibid.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Snowden

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how many words are moving pictures worth? Add in a script and you have actual words—potentially quite substantive words—grounding all that pictorial worth. Moving pictures, or movies for short, are capable of conveying substantial meaning to audiences. In the case of the film, Snowden (2016), the meaning is heavy in political theory. In particular, democratic theory. The film’s value lies in depicting how far short the U.S. Government has slipped from the theory, and, indeed, the People to which that government is in theory accountable.

The full essay is at "Snowden."

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Squandering a Tradition of Ethical Leadership instead of Protecting the Accrued Reputational Capital: The Case of Ratan Tata in India

In India, Ratan Tata was a revered figure, dubbed Mr. Clean, until the end of 2016, by which time serious allegations of financial improprieties had cut into the stellar reputations of both the man and the famous company founded by J.N. Tata, who had intentionally applied his Parsee ethic to the founding of India’s first steel company with a zero tolerance for corruption. Generally speaking, strategic ethical-leadership and even the resulting reputational capital depend on the persona of whoever is in charge of a company, and not even family linage can be counted on to perpetuate a culture of ethical leadership and protect a company’s accrued reputational capital.


The full essay is at "Tata in India."

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Aleppo, Syria: A Complete Meltdown of Humanity

War is hell; everybody knows that. A ruling power of a government intent on depriving civilians of life during a civil-war battle in a major city can go beyond the typical battle casualties to cause what the U.N. has called a “complete meltdown of humanity.”[1] One question on the minds of civilians in rebel-controlled areas of Aleppo in Syria in December, 2016 was whether even eventual charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity were enough. From this standpoint, the world was shirking a basic human responsibility in not intervening to stop the intentional killing of civilians. Had the facts on the ground made going after war criminals after the fact a meager excuse for not having acted in real time? Does the world, in other words, have a duty to step in when a government has turned on its own people—not counting soldiers and their suppliers, or does internal affairs encompass even such governmental conduct?


The full essay is at "A Complete Meltdown of Humanity"




1. Reuters, “Battle For Aleppo Ends as Rebels Agree to Ceasefire,” The World Post, December 13, 2016.


Monday, December 12, 2016

How American Presidents Are Selected: Beyond Russian Interference

Most delegates in the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787 recognized the value of constitutional safeguards against excess democracy, or mob rule. The U.S. House of Representatives was to be the only democratically elected federal institution—the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Supreme Court, and even the U.S. Presidency were to be filled by the state legislatures, the U.S. President and U.S. Senate, and electors elected by citizens, respectively. The people were to be represented in the U.S. House and the State governments in the U.S. Senate. The Constitutional Amendment in the early twentieth century that made U.S. senators selected by the people rather than the governments of the States materially unbalanced the original design. In terms of the selection of the U.S. president by electors, the political parties captured them such that whichever party’s candidate wins a State, the electors there are those of the winning party. Even if the electors could vote contrary to the popular vote in a State, such voting could only be a rare exception given the party-control. Hence the electors have not been able to function as intended—as a check against excess democracy. The case of Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016 presents an additional use for the Electoral College, were it to function as designed and intended. Of course, this is a huge assumption to make, even just in taking into account the American mentality regarding self-governance.

The full essay is at "How American Presidents Are Selected."

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Aimee & Jaguar

Aimee & Jaguar (1999) is a film based on a true story centering on Felice, a Jewish woman who lived in Berlin until 1944 and belonged to an underground lesbian, anti-Nazi (spying) organization. To be a Jewish lesbian in Nazi Germany cannot have been an easy life, with possible catastrophe just around the corner on any given day.  In the film, Felice becomes romantically involved with Lilly, a mother of four and wife to a Nazi solder who is fighting at the eastern front. The film is essentially a love story between the two women. I want to draw out some of the ethical issues raised in the film—with the love story serving as my critique of two ethical theories—utilitarianism and duty-based ethics—that are implied in the film.  

The full essay is at "Aimee & Jaguar."

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Inferno: A Sequel that Goes Up in Flames

With the allure of additional profits to be had, Hollywood has been all too willing to torch high-quality brands as if with perfect impunity. A case in point is the film, Inferno, which followed The De Vinci Code and Angels & Demons in the Robert Langdon film series spanning ten years (2006-2016) based on novels by Dan Brown.

The full essay is at "Inferno."

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Golden Age of Innovation Refuted


“By all appearances, we’re in a golden age of innovation. Every month sees new advances in artificial intelligence, gene therapy, robotics, and software apps. Research and development as a share of gross domestic product [of the U.S.] is near an all-time high. There are more scientists and engineers in the U.S. than ever before. None of this has translated into meaningful advances in Americans’ standard of living.”[1] The question I address here is why.
The essay is at "Golden Age of Innovation."



1. Greg Ip, “Economic Drag: Few Big Ideas,” The Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2016.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Business Surtax on Income Inequality: Target the Proceeds


The medium compensation in 2015 for the 200 highest-paid executives at publicly-held companies in the U.S. was $19.3 million; five years earlier, the figure was $9.6 million.[1] CEO pay compared with the earnings of average workers surged from a multiple of 20 in 1965 to almost 300 in 2013.[2] “Income inequality is real, it is a national problem and the federal government isn’t doing anything about it,” said Charlie Hales, the mayor of Portland, Oregon in 2016 when that city passed a surtax on companies whose CEO’s earn more than 100 times the medium pay of their rank-and-file workers.[3] According to the law, set to take effect in 2017, companies whose ratios are between 100 and 249 would pay an additional 10 percent in taxes; companies with higher ratios would face a 25 percent surtax on the city’s business-license tax. Whether the new law would make a dent in reversing the increasing income-inequality was less than clear.



1. Gretchen Morgenson, “Portland Adopts Surcharge on C.E.O. Pay in Move vs. Income Inequality,” The New York Times, December 7, 2016.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Analysis of Italy’s 2016 Referendum: Beyond the Euro and the E.U.


The predominate axis of analysis in the wake of the Italian referendum in early December, 2016 centered on the euro, the federal currency of the European Union. For example, an article in The Wall Street Journal begins with the following: “Sunday’s referendum vote in Italy reinforced a widening split between the economics needed to sustain Europe’s common currency and the continent’s rising tide of populism.”[1] At the time, however, the populism in the E.U.’s states had more to do with immigration than the federal currency. Even so, analysts predicted that Italian parties antagonistic to the currency could be expected to benefit. Stephen Gallo at BMO Financial Group went so far as to claim, “Eurozone breakup risks are rising,” given “the political currents at work in the Eurozone.”[2] Although he makes a good observation in noting the lack of a political will in the States “to finish building the missing architecture of the single currency area”—implying that the underpinnings of the euro were inherently unstable—he overlooked the matter of the distribution of wealth, and in particular the element of fairness, which I submit is salient in the Italians’ ‘No’ vote as well as in the rising anti-establishment, or shall we say, anti-elite, populism of the day.
The full essay is at "Italy's Referendum."



1. Stephen Fidler, “Italy’s ‘No’ Opens Harrowing Year for EU,” The Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2016.
2. Jon Sindreu, “Euro Falls as Italian Reject Renzi’s Changes,” The Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2016.

Young Japanese: An Early Verdict on Climate Change


Is the verdict in, and have we, mankind, lost our own self-inflicted climate battle? Is this what Japanese millennials were saying in 2016 when, according to a government survey, only 75 percent expressed interest in climate change, whereas close to 90 percent of the same age group (18-29) had expressed interest just a few years earlier?[1] Their intuition may have been the proverbial canary in the coal mine.
The full essay is at "An Early Verdict on Climate Change."



1. Tatiana Schlossberg, “Japan Is Obsessed with Climate Change. Young People Don’t Get It,” The New York Times, December 5, 2016.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Business CEO’s Overstating Political Uncertainty in the United States


The impact on business of political uncertainty in countries that are seized by revolution can be substantial—so much so in fact that CEO’s and board directors are motivated to avoid the uncertainty itself. I submit that business analysts of political risk tend unwittingly to routinely overstate the uncertainty arising from incoming U.S. presidential administrations. If I am correct in this claim, CEO’s and board directors pay too much heed to political uncertainty itself in the making of major strategic decisions involving operations in the American context.

Modern Day Mercantilism: Donald Trump Intervenes at Carrier


The tension between the free-market philosophy and mercantilism (e.g., an industrial policy) has been longstanding. I contend that the philosophy of international business (or international economics) is flawed terms of how far comparative advantage is applied, even at the expense of full employment at the city or country level. The case of Carrier in Indiana points to the legitimacy of government intervention even at the expense of comparative advantage.

The full essay is at "Modern Day Mercantilism."
 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Springtime for China's Coal Industry: Is China Too Big to Swerve Enough to Avoid the Climatic Iceberg Ahead?


Even as Chinese government officials “called on the United States to recognize established science and to work with other countries to reduce dependence on dirty fuels like coal and oil,” China was “scrambling to mine and burn more coal.”[1] Notably, short-terms concerns were dominant. “A lack of stockpiles and worries about electricity blackouts” were “spurring Chinese officials to reverse curbs that [had] once helped reduce coal production.”[2] By December, 2016, coal mines were reopening, and with them coal miners were returning to work. The renewed activity would of course make it more difficult for China and the world to meet CO2 emissions targets, “as Chinese coal is the world’s largest single source of carbon emissions from human activities.”[3] In fact, China’s use of coal results in more emissions “than all the oil, coal, and gas consumed in the United States.”[4] The implications for being able to contain the global rise in temperature within 2 degrees C are not bright from this real-life scenario. It is important, therefore, to grasp the underlying dynamics behind China’s plight.
The full essay is at "Springtime for China's Coal".



1. Keith Bradsher, “Despite Climate Vow, China Scrambles for Coal,” The New York Times, November 30, 2016.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Law School Dean Offers Grief Counseling to "Hysterical" Students after Trump Wins: Legal Reasoning Suffers


Michael Schwartz, dean of the law school at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock announced in November, 2016 that he would resign the following summer. His accomplishments included a lawyer-student mentoring program, live-client learning sessions, and a low-income clinic in the Arkansas Delta.[1] The trigger for his resignation was a school-wide email he had sent to students just days earlier in which he announced that he was making counseling available to any student who was upset by the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President. Besides effectively normalizing over-reactions and failing to recognize normal venting, the dean’s email interjected partisan politics, albeit tacitly, into higher education. Rather than turn the popularized context into a teachable moment for assumption-analysis, the dean modeled what happens when unsupported assumptions run unchecked. In the end, the legal reasoning of students could suffer.

The full essay is at "Grief Counseling to Hysterical Students."



1. Emily Walkenhorst, “UALR Law School Dean to Exit Post,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 19, 2016.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Courts Go After Gerrymandering: Deconstructing a Conflict-of-Interest

In the U.S., the boundaries of both federal (e.g., U.S. House of Representatives) and state legislative districts are redrawn every ten years after the census to “ensure that each district contains roughly the same number of people.”[1] Both major political parties in state legislatures “often remap districts to favor themselves, either by cramming opposition voters into a single district or by dividing them so they are the majority in fewer districts.”[2] I contend that a simple majority vote is problematic, given the irresistible temptation to redraw the districts for partisan advantage rather than merely to take account of changes in population.


The full essay is at "Gerrymandering."


1. Michael Wines, “Judges Find Wisconsin Redistricting Unfairly Favored Republicans,” The New York Times, November 21, 2016.
2. Ibid.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Electoral College: Beyond the Conventional Wisdom


The matter of how the U.S. President is to be selected was a tough nut for the delegates in the Constitutional Convention in 1787 to crack. Mason observed the following in convention, “In every Stage of the Question relative to the Executive, the difficulty of the subject and the diversity of the opinions concerning it have appeared.”[1] The alternative proposals centered around the Congress, State legislatures, the governors, the people, and electors designated for the specific purpose as the possible determiners. Although the delegates were men of considerable experience, their best judgments about how the alternatives would play out were subject to error as well as the confines of their times. In re-assessing the Electoral College, we could do worse than adjust those judgments and rid them of circumstances pertaining to them that no longer apply. For example, the Southern States no longer have slaves, so the question of whether those States would be disadvantaged by going with a popular vote no longer applies; the alternative of going with the popular vote nationwide no longer suffers from that once-intractable pickle. Yet lest we rush headlong into a popular vote without respect to the States, we are well advised not to dismiss the points made by the convention delegates, for we too are constrained by our times, and we may thus not be fully able to take into account points that have been forgotten.

The full essay is at "The Electoral College."




1. James Madison, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison (New York: W. W. Norton, 1966): 370.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Trump Organization and a President Trump: Minimizing the Exploitation of Conflicts of Interest



In a matter of days after his being elected as President of the United States, Donald Trump decided to put his business empire in the hands of his adult children. Roughly a month later, in recognition of the intractable conflicts-of-interest problem even were his three eldest children to run his roughly 500 companies, he announced that he would sever his ties with his empire; after all, he would have his hands full as the federal president of another sort of empire: The United States of America. Even so, he did not mean to divest, suggesting that conflicts of interest involving his brand could be salient through his tenure as U.S. President. It is important to remember that nothing in federal law prohibits the President from continuing to run his own business; the conflict-of-interest rules that apply to other federal officials do not apply to the office of the president. Even so, enormous external pressure was being brought to bear on the president-elect to divest completely from his businesses.


The full essay is at "Donald Trump: Conflicts of Interest."

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Transforming Transformational Leadership: Foundations over Ideology

James Burn’s concept of transformational leadership is in essence a process in which “one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality.”[1] This includes a moral commitment to develop followers, especially morally. To Burns, transformational leadership is therefore “an ethical, moral enterprise.”[2] I contend that the term transformation is not inherently ethical, and so it can apply to leadership in an amoral sense. Freed up from the limitations of being viewed primarily or even exclusively as moral, transformation can be seen to apply to leadership in at least two, much more direct—or central—ways than morally: as referring to a leader’s own transformation and to a leader’s vision being transformational.

The full essay is at "Transformational Leadership."


1. James M. Burns, J. Leadership (New York: Harper & Row, 1978): 20.
2. Ken W. Parry and Sarah B. Proctor-Thomson, “Perceived Integrity of Transformational Leaders in Organizational Settings,” Journal of Business Ethics 35, no. 2 (January, 2002): 75.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Getting an Election So Wrong: The American Media and Pollsters in 2016

“After projecting a relatively easy victory for Hillary Clinton with all the certainty of a calculus solution, news outlets like The New York Times, The Huffington Post and the major networks scrambled to provide candid answers.”[1] The dynamics likely went beyond even candid answers from the media, with major implications for how much reliance Americans should place on their media-establishment for political information.

The full essay is at "Getting an Election So Wrong."


1. Jim Rutenberg, “News Outlets Wonder Where the Predictions Went Wrong,” The New York Times, November 9, 2016.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

California and Britain: “Calexit” and “Brexit”?


Nearly six months after a majority of British voters voted to secede from the E.U., interest was building among Californians on the possibility of a “Calexit” from the U.S.[1] In fact, supporters were proposing a referendum to take place in 2019. Although the two exits would be comparable—two large states of empire-scale unions (California’s economy being larger than that of France, and California’s population being larger than that of Poland)—the reasons for a Brexit are more fundamental than those for a Calexit. As a result, the secession of Britain from the E.U. would have a firmer foundation in terms of political theory.

The full essay is at "Calexit and Brexit." 



1. Eugene Scott, “Interest in #Calexit Growing after Donald Trump Victory,” CNN, November 10, 2016.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Societal Norms Understating Unethical Corporate Cultures: The Case of Wells Fargo


The case of Wells Fargo suggests that even when a massive scandal is revealed to the general public, the moral depravity of a company’s culture is skirted rather than fully perceived. Wells Fargo was fined a total of $185 million by regulatory agencies including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which had accused the bank of creating as many as 1.5 million deposit accounts and 565,000 credit-card accounts that for which consumers never asked. The bank fired 5,300 employees over the course of about five years after it was revealed those employees had opened the accounts and credit cards.[1] Wells Fargo's CEO at the time, John Stumpf, "opted" for a cushy early retirement after an abysmal performance before a U.S. Senate committee; he walked away from the bank with around $130 million[2], and none of the other members of senior management were fired, or "retired," obliterating any hope societally that any of the senior managers would be held accountable. This result is particularly troubling, given the true extent to which that management had turned the bank into an ethically compromised organization.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Organizational Conflicts of Interest and National Interest: The Case of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation

Organizational lapses, such as in non-profits or companies, regarding institutional conflicts of interest can extend in impact as far as distorting or impairing government policy and national interest if a principal of the organization also holds a high government office. Relying on whether a position in such a dual-role has scruples of character against exploiting conflicts of interest is vulnerable because people differ substantially in character. As a result, I contend that even the appearance of such conflicts should not be permitted. I use the case of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation to make my point.


The full essay is at "Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation."

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Iceland’s Pirate Party on Systemic Change in Developing Democracy

Rarely does systems theory become a political issue; instead, political parties and their respective candidates brandish policy positions geared to fixing particular issues (i.e., parts of systems). In Iceland, the Pirate Party proffered an exception leading up to the 2016 election. “We do not define ourselves as left or right but rather as a party that focuses on the systems,” said Birgitta Jónsdóttir, the party’s leader.[1] In other words, the party made the system itself the issue. “We stand for enacting changes that have to do with reforming the systems, rather than changing minor things that might easily be changed back,” she said.[2] Even if the minor things could not be easily changed back, I contend that fixing them is still sub-optimal when the systems of which they are part are warped, and thus deficient as wholes. Therefore, a political party’s emphasis on systems as themselves being in need of reform presents the world’s population with a practical way to redress systemic problems.

The full essay is at "Iceland's Pirate Party."




1. Kim Hjelmgaard, “Hacker-founded Pirate Party Could Win Iceland’s Election,” USA Today, October 28, 2016.
2. Ibid.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Wallonia Threatens to Veto the E.U.-Canada Trade Treaty: Complicating State Sovereignty in the E.U.



"The European Union and Canada signed a far-reaching trade agreement on [October 30, 2016] that commits them to opening their markets to greater competition, after overcoming a last-minute political obstacle that reflected the growing skepticism toward globalization in much of the developed world."[1] The obstacle may indeed have reflected increasing resistance at the time to globalization, but this veil can be pulled back to reveal the underlying political obstacle--that of states' rights in the E.U., taken to a crippling extreme.


1. James Kanter, "Canada and E.U. Sign Trade Deal, Bucking Resistance to Globalization," The New York Times, October 30, 2016.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

An Anti-Obesity, Anti-Poverty Philanthropist Joins PepsiCo.’s Board: A Case of Reform from Within

In October 2016, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, became the newest member of PepsiCo’s board of directors. Whereas Walker worked at the time for a more just and equitable society, Pepsi was making the bulk of its money by selling sugary drinks and fatty snacks and there being a well-established link between obesity and economic inequality. Would he be working at cross-purposes? “There’s a risk that he will be viewed as inconsistent,” said Michael Edwards, a former Ford Foundation executive at the time.[1] The company itself could also be viewed as being inconsistent—lobbying against anti-obesity public-health legislation while putting Walker on the board of directors.

The full essay is at "Philanthropist Joins PepsiCo.'s Board."



1. David Gelles, “An Activist for the Poor Joins Pepsi’s Board. Is That Ethical?,” The New York Times, October 28, 2016.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

CO2 Record-Level in Atmosphere: Implications for Human Population

In 2015, average global CO2 levels for the year surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time, the WMO revealed in its 2016 annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. At the time, any scientists regarded that ratio of carbon dioxide to other gases in the atmosphere as a “climate change touchstone.”[1] Curiously, however, 400 ppm was not considered a tipping point. It was still possible to reverse the progression of the ratio—yet no one seems to ask how long that would take. In this regard, the ratio’s accelerating rate is particularly telling. Practically speaking, 400 ppm may in fact be a tipping point.
The full essay is at "CO2 Record-Level."



1. Lydia O’Connor, “The Planet Just Crossed Another Major Carbon Milestone,” The Huffington Post, October 25, 2016.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

AT&T Buys Time Warner: An Expansive Strategy Amid Industry Uncertainty

After Comcast’s $30 billion takeover of NBCUniversal and Verizon’s acquisitions of the Huffington Post and Yahoo, AT&T agreed on October 22, 2016 to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion. The ability to produce content and deliver it to millions of viewers “with wireless phones, broadband subscriptions and satellite TV connections was not lost on either board.[1] At the time, AT&T sold “wireless service in a saturated market, while Time Warner [was] a content company whose primary assets, networks like CNN and HBO, [faced] tougher times in a cord-cutting world.”[2] Although AT&T’s board could be accused of empire-building wherein bigger is better (i.e., more powerful), the stabilizing impact of combining wireless service and content could hardly be ignored in a business-environment so full of change and uncertainty. In other words, with the traditional television industry facing such dire threats to its revenue-structure due to the proliferation of high-tech substitutes, having the wherewithal to formulate and experiment with different distribution means and even content was at the time a fitting strategy.

The full essay is at "AT&T Buys Time Warner."


1. Michael J. de la Merced, “AT&T Pledges $85 Billion To Acquire Time Warner,” The New York Times, October 23, 2016.
2. Farhad Manjoo, “AT&T-Time Warner Deal Is a Strike in the Dark,” The New York Times, October 24, 2016.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Apple’s iPhone and the FBI: Recalibrating the Right-to-Privacy

On February 29, 2016, a federal judge rejected the FBI’s request to unlock the work-issued iPhone 5c of Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife killed 14 people at a 2015 holiday gathering of county workers. The FBI and DEA cited the All Writs Act, a law passed in 1789 that authorizes federal courts to “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”[1] The U.S. Justice Department was demanding that “Apple create software to bypass security features on the phone.”[2] In other words, Apple was to “write code that overrides the device’s auto-delete security function.”[3] In response, Apple’s lawyers argued that the statute does not give the court the right to “conscript and commandeer” the company into defeating its own encryption, thus making its customers’ “most confidential and personal information vulnerable to hackers, identity thieves, hostile foreign agents and unwarranted government surveillance.”[4] Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO at the time, said the FBI “was asking his company to create a ’back door’ that could be used to unlock other phones, exposing customer data. Agreeing to the FBI's demand would set a dangerous precedent that could lead to other calls for Apple's help to obtain private information, Cook said.”[5] Only weeks later, the FBI abruptly dropped the case because the bureau had found an outside company with technology that could serve as a master key. The FBI could use the “key” to unlock any iPhone. This left customers fearful that their data was now less than private even though Apple had promoted the iPhone product as not having a “back door” In the end, (t)he iPhone fight exposed a rift between the FBI and Silicon Valley technology companies over encryption, and sparked a debate about the right balance between privacy and national security.”[6] I suspect that although a trade-off, or tension between the right of privacy and the national-security interest of the United States existed at the time, electronic privacy would become harder and harder to protect as a result of the FBI’s tactics.  

The full essay is at "Apple's iPhone and the FBI."





1.  Jim Stavridis and Dave Weinstein, “Apple vs. FBI Is Not About Privacy vs. Security—It’s About How to Achieve Both,” The World Post, March 8, 2016.
2. The Associated Press, “New FBI Head in San Francisco Was Key Figure in iPhone Hack,” The New York Times, October 5, 2016.
3. Jim Stavridis and Dave Weinstein, “Apple vs. FBI Is Not About Privacy vs. Security—It’s About How to Achieve Both,” The World Post, March 8, 2016.
4. Jim Stavridis and Dave Weinstein, “Apple vs. FBI Is Not About Privacy vs. Security—It’s About How to Achieve Both,” The World Post, March 8, 2016.
5. The Associated Press, “New FBI Head in San Francisco Was Key Figure in iPhone Hack,” The New York Times, October 5, 2016.
6. The Associated Press, “New FBI Head in San Francisco Was Key Figure in iPhone Hack,” The New York Times, October 5, 2016.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Saudi Arabia Beheads a Member of the Royal Family: Justice for All, Atrociously

On October 18, 2016, Saudi Arabia executed a member of the royal family for committing murder during a brawl. Prince Turki bin Saud bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabeer was put to death most likely by beheading in a public square—as this was the usual method at the time. As horrific as such an execution is, the point that law applies to everyone is laudable—especially “on point” for countries in which the rich can “get away with murder” by hiring the best (and most expensive) lawyers.  The atrocious means of execution coupled with the dictum that the law really does apply to everyone renders this case particularly difficult to analyze from an ethical perspective. 

The full essay is at "Saudi Arabia Beheads."

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Housing Bubble in China: A Rationale for Government Intervention

As of October, 2016, China was in the midst of a dizzying housing bubble. A month before, “economists at the Bank of China warned in a report that worsening asset price bubbles were adding to a frothy market that could result in trouble.”[1]  Shanghai’s average housing price was up nearly one-third from a year before; prices in major cities like Beijing and Guangzhou were not far behind.  The recognition of the bubble—which does not come easily—should have triggered counter-cyclical measures by the Chinese government.

The full essay is at "A Housing Bubble in China."

1. Neil Gough and Carolyn Zhang, “In China, Property Frenzy, Fake Divorces and a Bloating Bubble,” The New York Times, October 16, 2016.

Monday, October 17, 2016

U.S. Government adds $587 Billion to Its Debt in 2016: Revealing a Fault-line in Democracy

The U.S. federal-budget deficit for the fiscal year that ended at the end of September, 2016, represented a reversal on the six-year run of declining deficits. The $587 billion deficit is equivalent to 3.2% of GNP; the previous year’s deficit had been $438 billion, which is 2.5 percent of the GNP.[1] The underlying reason for the altered trend has to do with democracy itself—something notoriously difficult to budge.

The full essay is at "U.S. Budget Deficit of $587 Billion."


1. Jackie Calmes, “U.S. Deficit Increases to $587 Billion, Ending Downward Trend,” The New York Times, October 14, 2016.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Christian Leadership in Pope Francis’s Naming of Cardinals

In naming 17 new cardinals in October, 2016, Pope Francis moved closer to putting his stamp on the sort of cleric who would follow him as pontiff. Similar to a U.S. president’s power to nominate justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, a pope’s power to appoint cardinals who presumably can vote in the next concave is decisive in terms of leaving a legacy. With the additional cardinals, Francis had appointed 40 percent of the cardinals who could vote in the next conclave. The fact that cardinals tend to be old suggests, however, that any lasting legacy would not be long lasting. I submit that the cardinals’ typical age and even other qualities suggest that the rubric a pope uses in selecting clerics for the red hat says a lot about how the pope approaches Christianity. 

The full essay is at "Christian Leadership."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

E.U. Free-Trade After Brexit: Applying Domestic Requirements to International Trade

With the E.U. state of Britain set to secede from the Union, one major question was whether British businesses would continue to get unfettered access to the E.U.’s domestic market. I submit that subjecting free-trade negotiations to stipulations that are oriented to states rather than trading partners is unfair to Britain. Given the extraordinary influence of E.U. state officials at the federal level, this is a case in which the political influence of British business would be constructive rather than subversive of the public domain to private interests.

The complete essay is at "Free Trade After Brexit."

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The E.U.’s Border-Control and Coast Guard: Held Hostage by Confederalism

In policing its borders as late as 2016, the E.U. suffered the same plight as the U.S. did under its Articles of Confederation—only whereas in the case of the U.S. the States retained all of their governmental sovereignty under the Articles, some governmental sovereignty in the E.U. was already lodged at the federal level. I contend that this perplexing disjunction between extant federal competencies and state rights in the E.U. is not sustainable.

The full essay is at "E.U.'s Border-Control."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Political Ideology in the U.S. Supreme Court: Undercutting the Court’s Legitimacy

As the U.S. Supreme Court began its 2016 term with eight justices, the Court stood “at the threshold of an ideological transformation unmatched in nearly a half century.”[1] Not since 1968, when Richard Nixon was elected U.S. President, had such an opportunity presented itself. Nixon’s four nominations ended the liberal majority begun by Franklin Roosevelt’s eight.[2] The conservative majority begun with Nixon’s nominations was up for grabs with the 2016 presidential election. I submit that the legitimacy of the ideological dimension itself dwarfs the matter of which ideology is dominant on the Court.





[1] Richard Wolf, “Court at Brink of Transformation,” USA Today, September 30 – October 2, 2016.
[2] Ibid.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

E.U. Defense Post-Britain: Beyond Multinational Military Cooperation

Just months after the British voted to secede from the Union, the E.U.’s Counsel of Ministers discussed “proposals for increased military cooperation” amid concerns from the British state government as well as those of some eastern States that “such collaboration could undermine” NATO.[1] The proposals being discussed were “part of a push by European officials and diplomats to strengthen European ties” after Britain’s vote to secede.[2] I submit that both the expression, “military cooperation,” and Britain’s involvement in the discussion are ill-fitting and inappropriate, respectively.

The full essay is at "E.U. Defense Post-Britain."



1. Julian E. Barnes, “EU Pushes for Deeper Defense Cooperation,” The Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2016.
2. Ibid.