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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sitting U.S. Presidents Are Not above the Law

Imagine the following hypothetical: a U.S. president, while in office, sneaks out of the White House in a tunnel, walks a few blocks further, and shoots a passerby in the head. The president returns to the White House as if the incident had not occurred. The only hint of the murder lies in the pardon that he gives himself for any crimes committed while in office. Would such a president be on solid legal grounds? 

The full essay is at "Not above the Law"

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Unenforceable E.U. as Poland Legislates to End its Judiciary’s Independence

With a state government rapidly moving on legislation that would end the independence of that state’s judiciary, the E.U. Commission announced that it would invoke Article 7 against that state. An independent judiciary is a staple of democratic governance, and is thus required of a state (as well as at the federal level, in regard to the independence of the European Court of Justice from the other branches of the federal government).  If invoked, Article 7 of the E.U.’s basic (i.e., constitutional) law would deprive the state of Poland of its voting rights at the federal level. The independence of state courts is that important in the E.U., and yet for the article to go into effect, the European Council’s vote, excepting Poland, must be unanimous. Already, the governor of the state of Hungary had made clear that he would vote against invoking the article—that state having its own constitutional troubles with the E.U. Commission and being friendly with Poland.  In other words, two conflicts of interest came into play immediately, even as the Polish legislature was still voting on the proposed judicial reform.

The full essay is at "The Unenforceable E.U.."

Essays on the E.U. Political Economy: Federalism and the Debt Crisis

The collection of essays comprising The E.U. Political Economy looks broadly at the E.U.'s federal system, with particular attention to the states, including the matter of "Brexit," which refers to the secession of Britain from the Union. The text then turns more narrowly to the government-debt and banking crisis that occurred in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008. The backdrop of federalism is meant to convey the point that weaknesses in that political system hampered the E.U.'s handing of its states and banks that were in trouble with debt. Lastly, several essays are presented on some more general aspects of the E.U.'s political economy. Rather than being heavily theory-oriented, the essays draw on contemporaneous news reports to quote from practitioners from business and government.


Essays on the E.U. Political Economy is available at Amazon.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Referendum on Euro in Latvia: Core of Europe

Two decades after leaving the Soviet Union, Latvia was in 2012 an E.U. state preparing to adopt the euro currency. “We want to be a part of the core of Europe,” Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis said. Noting that the GDP was forecast to rise 5% in 2012, he could boast that his state would be an asset to the “Eurozone.” Indeed, only three of the 17 states using the euro—Finland, Luxembourg and Estonia—were expected to have budget deficits of less than 3% of GDP and debt of less than 60 percent—the two key requirements for joining the euro, which Latvia was poised to meet.
  Latvia's PM Valdis Dombrovskis wants to push forward on the euro without a referendum. At what cost politically though?         Getty Images

The full essay is at "Essays on the E.U. Political Economy," available at Amazon.

The Regensburg Domspatzen: Systemic Abuse of Kids in an Established Religious Institution

The utility from beautiful music for many does not justify the physical and sexual abuse of a relative few. Even though utilitarianism goes by the motto, the greatest pleasure (and least pain) for the greatest number, the severity of the pain to a few can, I submit, outweigh a more widespread, yet relatively superficial, pleasure for others. Surely the intensity of pleasure and pain must enter into the ethical calculus. I have in mind here the Regensburg Domspatzen, a Roman Catholic boys choir, in the E.U. state of Germany. This case points to the default power of established institutions and a religious psychology.

The full essay is at "The Regensburg Domspatzen."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

U.S. Senators: Falling Short in Representing their States

Like the European Council of the E.U., the U.S. Senate has polities rather than citizens as represented members. That is to say, in both cases, the states are represented. In the case of the E.U., the chief executives of the respective states represent them. In the U.S. case, the citizens of the states elect senators directly, who in turn are tasked with representing their respective states. From the standpoint of representing the polities, the E.U. case is tighter, for a U.S. senator is susceptible to the temptation to vote in the interests of the state’s citizens who voted rather than of the state itself. The two interests may overlap, but they are not identical, for citizens of a member-state may or may not be interested in protecting the prerogatives of the state (government). The Republican legislative responses to the Affordable Care Act (i.e., “Obamacare”) are a case in point. 

The full essay is at "U.S. Senators Falling Short."


For more on the U.S. Senate and the E.U. Council, see the book: Essays on Two Federal Empires

Friday, July 14, 2017

Spiritual Leadership in Business: Transcending the Ethical

The spiritual business leader who searches for personal and profes-sional integration is the chief beneficiary of this booklet, which can also be taken for a way to promulgate meagerly a new theory on the phenomenon of religion that stresses its uniqueness and distinctiveness. I begin with spirituality in order to find cleave distinctive nature off any reduction to ethics. In distinguishing spirituality from ethics, I look at religious experience of transcendence as a more suitable basis for spirituality. Next I’ll look at the business literature on spiritual leadership—scholarship that conflates such leadership with ethical leadership. I extract residue from that extant literature that can serve as a launching pad for an account of spiritual leadership that is grounded in transcendent religious experience.



Essays on the Financial Crisis

The financial crisis that peaked in the United States during the fall of 2008 is an excellent case study of what can go wrong with leadership and corporate governance in business, financial ethics, government regulation directed both to the firm level and that of the financial system itself, and legal accountability for the culprits. The collection of essays begins with a series of essays on Lehman Brothers, with particular attention on its last CEO, Richard Fuld. Given the fraud surrounding subprime-mortgage bonds at numerous banks, the second part of the book looks at why legal accountability was so elusive in the United States. Weaknesses in the financial regulation, with particular attention to whether agencies had been captured by their respective regulated firms, comprises the third part. The fourth part examines the culpability of the Federal Reserve Bank, which had perhaps been too close to its regulated banks to anticipate the crisis. The book concludes with essays on why business ethics had been so very weak. The careful reader will take from the book a sense that the financial system remained vulnerable even after government attempts to reduce the systemic risks of a big bank going under. 


Essays on Two Federal Empires

This collection of essays suggests that the E.U. and U.S. are both cases of modern federalism at the empire political-level and scale. Distinct attributes and dynamics apply, which do not apply at the state level. Unfortunately, too often today, people treat a state in one union as equivalent to the other union rather than to one if its own states. This category mistake ignores vital differences, and thus is apt to result in sub-optimal public policy and even governmental design. To be sure, each union faces its own risks--dissolution being a threat for the E.U. and consolidation for the U.S. Though correcting for the passage of time, dissolution is/was a risk for both the early E.U. and the early U.S. Such a basis of comparison is optimal. Americans and Europeans can indeed learn from each other, with more perfect unions resulting. 


Monday, July 3, 2017

Bribery at Barclays: Can an Unethical Culture Be Changed?

Amid the financial crisis in 2008, Barclays raised $15 billion from Qatar and other investors. The infusion of capital saved the European bank from needing a government bailout. Unfortunately, the bank may not have disclosed the $390 million paid to the Qatari government for “advisory services” as part of the fund-raising, and the $3 billion loan facility that Barclays made available to that government.[1] The bank, along with three of its executives at the time were charged in 2017 with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and providing unlawful financial assistance—in other words, paying a bribe to avoid needing an E.U. or state-level bailout. According to Amanda Staveley, a European financier, Barclays improperly favored the Qataris in the fund-raising. The relationship between the bank and the Qatari government rings of “mutual back-scratching.” Admittedly, any business deal involves both parties benefitting, and in much of the world bribery is de facto necessary cost of doing business. Nevertheless, Barclays may have had an organizational culture similar to that of Wells Fargo in which anything goes in pursuit of profit.

The full essay is at "Essays on the Financial Crisis , available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.





1. Chad Bray, “Former Barclays Executives Appear in Court Over Qatar Deal,” The New York Times, July 3, 2017.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

E.S.G. in the Boardroom: A Recipe for Confusion

What would business do without its faddish buzzwords? Is the bottom-line really so boring? Transformational leadership was once in vague, with little actual attention to raising subordinates’ moral compasses. Decades later, everything was about drivers—a power-aggrandized version of cause. Then consultants, dreaming perhaps of their kids’ little league, turned the profession into an analogy and suddenly became coaches. One difference is of course that most actual coaches have been players in their respective sports, whereas how many leadership coaches have been business executives or sat on a board? “Leadership assistant” is better, if in-house, otherwise "leadership adviser," assuming sufficient study or experience in leadership. Then amidst global warming and activist stockholders, “E.S.G.” could be heard in boardrooms with the frequency of a trope.[1] Must business be led by a herd-mentality? Such leadership is internally inconsistent, for leaders are by definition ahead of the crowd, leading it rather than squawking like lemmings. In the case of E.S.G., which stands for “environmental, social, and governance,” the chatter eclipses recognition of the befuddled condition of the combo. With such different things in the mix, it is no wonder that a study attempting to quantify E.S.G. came up with mixed results. So the metric and purportedly related financial performance may not be very useful after all.


1. Andrew Sorkin, “Can Good Corporate Citizenship Be Measured,” The New York Times, June 26, 2017.


The full essay is at "E.S.G. in the Boardroom."


The E.U. Goes After Google: Where Was the U.S.?

In fining Google a record 2.4 billion euros (2.7 billion dollars) in June, 2017, for unfairly favoring its advertisers in its online shopping service, E.U. officials went “significantly further than their American counterparts.”[1] At the time, Google held more than 90 percent of the online search market in the E.U. Why would the E.U. go further than the U.S. in pressing anti-trust violations against a technology company that could be expected to gain monopoly profits? Presumably Google was favoring its advertisers on searches in the U.S. as well. Americans would mind too when an advertiser’s higher-price product comes up rather than a comparable product at a better deal. Was the E.U. more interested in protecting consumers and less concerned about pleasing a large company? The company’s sordid, self-serving practice nullifies any contending claim that the government’s motive was to go after a foreign company. I submit that the E.U. government’s action unwittingly points to a pro-business bias in the corresponding American government. 

The full essay is at "E.U. Goes After Google."





1. Mark Scott, “Google Fined Record $2.7 Billion in E.U. Antitrust Ruling,” The New York Times, June 27, 2017.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Religion as Metaphysics: A Category Mistake

The claim that God is real, or even that God's existence is reality, is problematic chiefly because it incurs the category mistake of treating religion as through it were metaphysics. Rather than being an atheistic argument, obviating the mistake privileges God's radical transcendence.

The full essay is at "Religion as Metaphysics."

Related: Spiritual Leadership in Business: Transcending the Ethical, a short book that is available at Amazon in print and as an ebook.

Hedge Fund Set to Hack Nestlé Up: A Case of Sensationalistic Over-Kill

Does the fact that an earnings-per-share figure has not meaningfully improved over, say, five years justify an overhaul pushed by a hedge-fund activist investor?  Put another way, is a steady earnings-per-share tantamount to failure? Especially for an established company, steady numbers do not evince bad performance. An airline would only foolishly fire a pilot for not climbing once having attained a cruising altitude. Maintaining such an altitude during a flight is hardly a reason to turn a plane around or set it in a radically different direction. 

Dan Loeb of Third Point. Relax, Dan, Nestle is not on a nose-dive.

The full essay is at "Hedge Fund Activist."

Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere Outstripping the Planet’s Absorption: A Major Turning-Point

The human species has reached such a size—and with the population of Africa expected in 2017 to double by 2050 from an incredulous and oblivious fertility rate (i.e., as if there were no tomorrow) in spite of life-threatening impacts on that continent already from global warming—that profound changes to the planet can from now on hardly be avoided unless or until nature’s swift hand acts through pestilence, famine, or over-crowding conflict. Making matters worse, we are flying without having bothered to detail a navigation flight-plan, for even homo sapiens’ cognitive wiring has been outstripped by not only our inherent selfishness and preference for instant gratification, but also our sheer presumptuousness. In hindsight, we can say we have acted rashly in having polluted so in the twentieth century—the benefit of hindsight being shown in our shortcomings even in being able to keep tabs on the extent of the damage. 

The full essay is at "Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere."

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 "Essays on the E.U. Political Economy," available at Amazon.



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."

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.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Transgender Europeans: Activated by Political-Correctness or Human Rights?

The European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling on April 6, 2017 “in favor of three transgender people in France who had been barred from changing the names and genders on their birth certificates because they had not been sterilized.”[1] I submit that the use of the term sterilization is misleading. Such a framing gives the erroneous impression that human rights are at issue. In other words, it is possible for a human-rights activism to go too far.



The full essay is at "Transgender Europeans."



[1] Liam Stack, “European Court Strikes Down Required Sterilization for Transgender People,” The New York Times, April 12, 2017.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Company Police-States: United Airlines Attacks a Passenger

A manager of United Airlines boarded on the ground in Chicago to have three security employees of the Chicago Department of Aviation bloody and drag a physician off the plane to make room for an employee not on the flight’s crew. Although the airline was technically within its rights to forcibly remove the man for refusing to give up his seat, which he had paid for, removing paid passengers at the last minute to make room for additional, non-essential staff showed a lack of judgment. Accordingly, the police-power of the company is problematic and should be dialed back. In fact, the power of the industry, including its companies, may need to be reduced.

The passenger, a physician, was the victim of a disruptive and belligerent company manager and his henchmen. (Source: CNN)


The full essay is in Cases of Unethical Business: A Malignant Mentality of Mendacity, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Strategic Use of Regulation in Government: A Proposal to Split-Up the Big Banks

The strategic use of regulatory reform is no stranger to businesses—especially to the strongest both financially and, relatedly, politically. Such proposals of more regulation are crafted not to benefit the macro economy or even the industry; rather, the point is to enhance a dominant firm’s competitive advantage over rivals. It follows that such proposals are not counter-factual to the thesis that republics are susceptible to the gravitational pull of plutocracy, the rule of wealth. A case in point is the U.S. Trump Administration’s consideration of a legislative proposal to reinstate the main content of the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated commercial and investment banking such that a bank could not do both.

The full essay is at "A Proposal to Split-Up the Big Banks."

Gary Cohn, former number two at Goldman Sachs, talking to U.S. senators on behalf of the Trump Administration.
(source: Andrew Kelly, Reuters)