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Monday, December 31, 2018

Enabling Non-Empathetic Leaders: The Case of Paterno at Penn State University

In January 2011, the illustrious football coach at Penn State University, Joe Paterno, learned that prosecutors were investigating his longstanding assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, for sexually assaulting young boys in the football team’s locker room. Paterno even testified before a grand jury on the matter that month. He had been informed of the rapes back in 1998, yet he had kept the pedophile on even though additional boys would be at risk in doing so. 
That same month—January 2011—Paterno also began negotiating to amend his contract that would not expire until the end of 2012. By August 2011, Paterno and the president of Penn State reached an agreement in spite of the fact that both were by then embroiled in the Sandusky investigation. “Paterno was to be paid $3 million at the end of the 2011 season if he agreed it would be his last. Interest-free loans totaling $350,000 that the university had made to Mr. Paterno over the years would be forgiven as part of the retirement package. He would also have the use of the university’s private plane and a luxury box at Beaver Stadium for him and his family to use over the next 25 years.” 
The university’s board was kept in the dark. Directors who raised questions were “quickly shut down.” In the end, the board gave the family virtually everything it wanted. The board even threw in free use of specialized hydrotherapy message equipment at the university for Paterno’s wife. In other words, Paterno (and his surviving family, following his death in January 2012) got an even better deal as the scandal came to include Paterno himself.

 Joe Paterno, head football coach at Penn State, viewed by a student as "Pa" in PA        Matt Rourke/AP

The full essay is at "Enabling Non-Empathetic Leaders."

Nissan's CEO Caught in the Crosshairs of Business and Society in Japan

Ordinarily, courses that include business & society (with business & government, and business ethics material also included as if the three fields were somehow one) have been relegated to the periphery in American business schools. Perhaps the business sector and its sycophantic deans have simply assumed that little actual cost comes from business managements deviating from societal norms and values. Admittedly, such a schism decreases reputational capital, a long-term intangible asset. Even so, the long-term-oriented and intangible can manifest as immediate jolts to such capital, with actual, measurable financial costs kicking in. They are triggered by news-worthy incidents in which a company or even one high-level manager, such as a CEO, are perceived societally as being in the wrong. The general perception of wrongness in turn depends on how far a company or manager have deviated from societal norms and values. Crucially but typically ignored, even though societal norms and values can absorb certain ethical principles or theories, business ethics is a distinct field because reasoning from or to ethical principles or theories lies at the core there. That is, no philosophical reasoning is involved in business & society; rather, the norms/values of a business sector, industry, or company are compared or contrasted with relevant societal norms and values. In this essay, I analyze the case of Carlos Ghosn, who was CEO of Nissan, Renault, and Mitsubishi on November 19, 2018 when he was arrested “on allegations that for years he had withheld millions of dollars in income from Nissan’s financial filings.”[1]

The full essay is at "Nissan's CEO in Japan."



1. Amy Chozick and Motoko Rich, “The Rise and Fall of Carlos Ghosn,” The New York Times, December 30, 2018.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

American Businesses as Police-States: The Case of Hilton Hotels

Days before Christmas in 2018, Jermaine Massey was on a phone call with his mother. It being personal, he was in a remote area and was thus not disturbing anyone—that except for Earl, Doubletree’s security guard. Massey subsequently accused Earl of harassment. While the video that Massey took of the guard during the altercation shows Earl to be quite calm, the passive aggression was doubtless off the charts. The incident points to a growing problem at the time as American businesses were increasing their security presence, at the very least in terms of exposure, and last but not least, with considerable discretion and thus power. The incident shows that guards were well aware of how to mask personal power with the air of staid professionalism.  This only makes the latent authoritarian mindset more dangerous to the public.

The full essay is at "Businesses as Police-States."


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Weening the American Voters off Reliance on the Media in Selecting Candidates

How well do voters (i.e., an electorate) know and thus are able to assess people running for public office? As the proportion of people who know a candidate firsthand decreases, the importance of the campaign ads and debates increases. In other words, the candidate's marketing plays a greater role in who wins. At an empire-level, such as the U.S. Government, an overwhelming percentage of people in an electorate (e.g., voting in a U.S. Senate race, or that of the federal president) are significantly influenced by the candidates' respective media campaigns for lack of real knowledge. In a U.S. presidential campaign, financial contributions are vital in being able to orchestrate an empire-wide media campaign. Also, how a campaign manipulates the media coverage of the candidate is very important. The case of Sarah Palin, who ran as John McCain's running mate in 2008, illustrates the extent of distance that can separate what the public "knows" of the real person from the media-made candidate. When people learned of her shocking ignorance of government, the distance was suddenly transparent, and yet no electioneering reforms were subsequently put into effect. Americans still had to rely on presidential debates to get a glimpse of the "man behind the curtain." 

The full essay is at "Weening the American Voters."

Business and Religion: Financial Ethics Found Lacking in the Vatican's Institute of Religious Works

In probing corruption leads in the Vatican Bank, Italian financial police stumbled onto a plot in July 2012 to smuggle €20 million into Italy. The alleged culprits included a monsignor, a financial broker, and a former member of Italy’s secret service. For his part, the cleric was said to have had people pretend to give him donations of €560,000 so he could furtively pay the financial broker for his role. Crime, Italian politics, and the Vatican Bank: hardly a novel discordant tune even then. That not just any bank, but that of a church, could stray so far from what would reasonably be expected from a bank whose formal name is the Institute of Religious Works still boggles the mind. Even so, the intersection of ethics, religion and business is fraught with complexity.  A religious verdict from ethical premises is possible nevertheless.

The full essay is at "Business Ethics in the Vatican."

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas: A U.S. National Holiday Privatized by Logical Fallacy and Passive Aggression

On December 18, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order, the first section of which states, “All executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government shall be closed and their employees excused from duty on Monday, December 24, 2018, the day before Christmas Day.” Christmas itself had not been an official federal holiday until an Act of Congress was signed by President Ulysses S. Grant in June, 1870. That Act also declared New Year’s Day and the 4th of July would be national holidays too, yet by the 21st century a significant number of Americans, and especially business managers, were committing a gaping category mistake by treating Christmas as not commensurate with the other two holidays as public holidays. By Christmas in 2018, the self-ingratiating “mistake” was still not transparent. Hence, this essay.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Superficial Hospitality in Hospitality Management: A Weak Industry?

Staying at a motel or in a hotel can involve being at close quarters with people coming with various backgrounds and cultures, and with different lifestyles. A group of teenagers may be in one room, while an elderly couple is trying to sleep next door. It seems to me that hospitality management should take a look at Crowne Plaza's instituting “snore monitors” to patrol corridors in the designated quiet zones in the hotels in London, Leeds and Manchester in the E.U. While the monitors were apparently particularly oriented to detecting particularly loud snorers, such an understanding of the problem may be superficial, for most noise issues, I submit, involve others things, such as people shouting, or loud television or music. In short, the sheer extent of inconsiderateness toward strangers in society generally is doubtlessly reflected in hotels and motels. What may be surprising is the extent to which employees and even managers working in the hotels or motels are inconsiderate themselves in refusing or otherwise failing to enforce their own noise rules. This weakness may have a wider extent within the business sector, at least in the U.S., wherein employees and their supervisors act as individuals (with momentary power over customers) rather than as agents, for significantly less power is involved in the latter than the former role/mentality.

The full essay is at "Superficial Hospitality in the Hotel Industry."

Managing and Presiding: Leading as CEO and President

A manager does not preside. To manage is to be actively engaged in the operations of an organization; it is not to “sit before,” as in representing the organization itself externally and intervening in it only as needed in serving as guardian of its “constitutional” order. For example, if a company’s corporate governance system is about to implode, the President is there to preside as the board (and major stockholders) come to terms. In other words, the President would be oriented to maintaining the meeting foremost—intervening in the discussion only if a key juncture is likely to result in an implosion of the governance system.

Material from this essay has been incorporated into The Essence of Leadership: A Cross-Cultural Foundation, which is available in print and as an ebook at Amazon. 


On the Futility of Divided Government at the Empire Level: The Case of the U.S.A.

Rick Perry, when he was the Republican governor of Texas running for re-election, said his primary opponent, Senator Kay Hutchison, was spending tax dollars too freely in Washington. He meant that she was too Washington. He claimed that she didn't get what he called, “Texas values.” Then, he added something really telling—something that went beyond his electoral contest: “Washington’s one-size-fits-all approaches simply don’t work. They want more control of your dollars and your life, and they want it now. We surrender that to them with peril.” His statement is worthy of our reflection even long after Perry's re-election campaign.

The full essay is at "On Divided Government at the Empire Level."

On European and American federalism compared, see Essays on Two Federal Empires, available at Amazon. See also, "American and European Federalism, a short critique of Perry's book on federalism, Fed Up!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Russian Orthodox Church as a Political-Moral Force: A Case of Religion Overextended?

While visiting the Pskovo-Pechersky Monastery in northwestern Russia in 2000, Vladimir Putin wrote in the guest book, “The revival of Russia and growth of its might are unthinkable without the strengthening of society’s moral foundations. The role and significance of the Russian Orthodox Church are huge. May God protect you.” This statement is revealing concerning what has perhaps fueled the Russian president’s vision, at least ideally.
 Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, head of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow    NYT
The full essay is at "The Russian Church as Politico-Moral."

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Facebook Secretly Shared Users' Friend's Data with Business Partners: A Case of Betrayal

According to The New York Times at the end of 2018, internal documents generated at Facebook in 2017 showed that the company “gave Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify, and others far greater access to people’s data” even after having raised a privacy wall than Facebook had disclosed.[1] That is, Facebook effectively exempted some of its business partners from the company’s privacy rules without notifying users. In many quarters, this would be called lying, which in turn would suggest a sordid management at Facebook. The more subtle astonishment, I submit, is that 2.2 billion users had stayed with Facebook after the hidden use of personal data for political purposes. The partnership between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica had hardly been made in heaven. Why such enduring trust in spite of external data being clear grounds for losing trust and giving up using Facebook? How many betrayals would be necessary? In literal marriages, trust can be lost “like that!” Similarly, when a child even unconsciously loses trust for her parents, the solid basis of trust in a normal parent-child relationship is lost most likely forever. Why has Facebook—a distant business punctuated by lies—get a pass?

The full essay is at "Facebook Secretly Betrayed Users."

See also the booklet, Taking the Face Off Facebook, available at Amazon.


1. Gabriel Dance, Michael LaForgia, and Nicholas Confessore, “As Facebook Raised a Privacy Wall, It Carved an Opening for Tech Giants,” The New York Times, December 18, 2018.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Putin Likened Protesters to "Weak Birds"

At the conclusion of the 2012 Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Russia, the host president, Vladimir Putin, likened the birds that had not following his motorized glider south to the Russians who did not follow him. “Only the weak ones,” he quipped. “The weak ones didn’t follow me.” Elaborating, he added, “not all of the cranes flew, and the leader, the pilot, has to be blamed because he was too fast in gaining speed and altitude and they were just lagging behind; they couldn’t catch up.” In other words, the Russian protesters had been blaming him for what was in actuality their own weakness—not his. A leader must accept the inevitable misappropriation of blame because being erroneously blamed goes with being a leader.

Putin could not have been entirely objective on the protests against him.      
Source: Democracy Chronicles


Source:

David Herszenhorn and Steven Lee Myers, “For Putin, a Flight of Fancy at a Summit Meeting’s Close,” The New York Times, September 10, 2012.

On Nietzsche applied to power in business, see On the Arrogance of False Entitlement: A Nietzschean Critique of Business Ethics and Management (available at Amazon)

Religious Sources of Business Ethics: How Far Along Are We?

If Business Ethics for Dummies is any indication, the topic of religious sources for business ethics must have gained steam through the first decade of the twenty-first century. Increasing interest in such a topic in the midst of modernity is ironic, or counter-intuitive. For philosophers without any degrees in religion, the temptation might be to dilettante over to this topic in order to proffer an opinion. The result for the rest of us could well be a false sense of the extent of knowledge on the topic.

The entire essay is at "Religious Sources of Business Ethics"

For more on this topic, see God's GoldChristianized Ethical Leadershipand Spiritual Leadership in Business, all available at Amazon.

An Institutional Conflict of Interest at the New York Federal Reserve

According to The New York Times, even after taxpayers rescued Citigroup, regulators at the New York Federal Reserve failed to monitor the company adequately. The regulators, although adequately staffed and proficient in training, failed to move swiftly as the bank’s financial condition deteriorated from as early as 2005, and were overly optimistic about the bank’s prospects as late as December, 2009. From 2006 to 2007, decisions on poorly underwritten loans were changed from “turned down” to “approved.” As many as 80 percent of the loans that Citigroup sold to Fannie Mae, Ginnie Mae and other investors were defective. “Although the dedicated supervisory team is well-qualified and generally has sound knowledge of the organization, there have been significant weaknesses in the execution of the supervisory program,” according to one excerpt of the 2009 review. Tim Geithner, who as president of the New York Fed from 2003 to 2008 was in charge of overseeing Citigroup, went on to become the US Secretary of the Treasury.

The full essay is at Institutional Conflicts of Interest, available at Amazon.

Alan Greenspan on the Self-Regulatory Market

Two days after the LTCM bailout was agreed to in 1998, a worried Alan Greenspan, leaning toward raising rates at the time, cut the federal funds rate. It was not enough to calm the markets, and he cut it again three weeks later. . . . It was not the self-correcting powers of the markets but aggressive central bank intervention plus a new round of irrational speculation that provided a floor under the downward financial prices and the calamitous consequences of bad Wall Street decisions. It was not even the LTCM rescue alone by private banks that saved Wall Street” Madrick, p. 281). “Alan Greenspan learned no lessons from these events about the inherent instability of a completely free market in finance. He still insisted markets regulate themselves” (Madrick, p. 282).
For analysis, see the full essay at "The Self-Regulatory Market."
Source:
Jeff Madrick, Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present (New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 2011).

See also Skip Worden, Essays on the Financial Crisis, available at Amazon.

Burn Baby Burn: Moral Hazard & Fairness

On a call with another of the company’s traders when a wildfire in California was putting some electric wires at risk, an energy-desk trader at Enron quipped, “Burn Baby Burn!”  The loss of the electricity wires would have decreased supply, thus jacking up the price of electricity, which Enron was only too glad to provide.  Similarly, “Burn Baby Burn!” can be put in the mouth of any one of the firefighters of the South Fulton fire department in Tennessee who watched Gene Cranick’s home burn to the ground because he had not paid the $75 annual fee that residents outside of city limits had to pay in order to receive the “service.”  When Cranick called 911 as his house was on fire, he was essentially told, “I’m sorry, sir, but you are not on the list for that service. Have a nice day.” 

The full essay is in Cases of Unethical Business: A Malignant Mentality of Mendacity, available at Amazon.com.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Elected Representatives in a Republic: Is Any Sense of Duty Remaining?

I suspect the notion of duty had by 2018 taken a rear seat, pushed out by self-centered ambition, in many if not most democracies in the world. In the ancient world, office-holding by lot stemmed the impact of people desiring office. Of the latter, the desire for personal gain would, I submit, be more likely. In contrast, finding oneself holding an office by lot was more likely to be accompanied by a sense of duty rather than personal ambition. Of course, ordinary citizens could find themselves voting in councils or legislatures—but would that necessarily be so bad?
In the American experiment, office-holding was originally thought of as a civic duty of the wealthy class. Landless citizens were cut off from even voting. George Washington did his duty as the first U.S. president, then went home to Virginia; he had done his duty (and then some). Once he decided not to run again, he did not, while still president, call it quits even if he was personally done with the office. I submit that that sense of duty had been lost by the twenty-first century.

The full essay is at "Duty in Public Service."

Friday, December 14, 2018

Leading at the Top beyond Appearances: The case of John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

In the wake of President Obama's mission to execute Osama bin Laden, Speaker Boehner issued a statement complimenting his rival in the White House. In contrast, Sarah Palin gave George W. Bush all the credit. The Speaker, too, could have gone with political expediency. Therefore, for the Speaker to have publicly acknowledged Obama's victory as America's more generally involved political self-discipline. Speaker Boehner had sought to apply self-discipline, moreover, to his decentralized leadership style from the moment of his swearing in. Given the consolidating nature of power, such a leadership style in the U.S. House of Representatives faced considerable head winds.


The Full essay is at "Leading at the Top beyond Appearances."

See also, Skip Worden, Ethical Leadership, a booklet available at Amazon, and, more generally, Essence of Leadership, a book available at Amazon as well.

On the Eclipse of Russian Federalism: Implications for the E.U. and U.S.

Dmitri Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, fired Yuri Luzhkov in September, 2010, after Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow (legally a governor of a region), had questioned the president’s fitness to rule. The conflict turned into a highly unusual spectacle because such defiance of the country’s leadership by a senior official rarely occurs in public. “It is difficult to imagine a situation under which a governor and a president of Russia, as the chief executive, can continue to work together when the president has lost confidence in the leader of a region,” Medvedev said at the time. The state-controlled television channels, which rarely if ever voice criticism of party leaders, suddenly went after Luzhkov, signaling the Kremlin’s displeasure with him. They broadcasted programs that suddenly questioned his performance and suggested that he was responsible for corruption in Moscow.  To be sure, he had been criticized for reigning like an autocrat, muzzling dissent and allowing blatant corruption to flourish. During his tenure, his wife, Yelena Baturina, obtained much of the construction business in Moscow, becoming one of the world’s richest women. However, it was criticism of Medvedev, rather than corruption, that costed him his job.  We can conclude more generally that the governors of Russia’s regions, who are equivalent to the prime ministers of the states in the E.U. and U.S., were not free, at least in one case, of the federal government. It bears remembering that a consolidated governmental system is not a federal system. The U.S. might take note of that, considering the amount of power the U.S. Government has taken from the state governments; in contrast, the E.U. Government, like the antebellum U.S. Government, has suffered from a lack of power relative to that of the state governments. 


The complete essay is at Essays on Two Federal Empires, which is on the E.U. and U.S.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Mass Foreclosures as Fallout from Regulatory Capture: Banks in a Conflict of Interest at Treasury

During the summer of 2010, the Obama administration unveiled a $1 billion program to offer loans to help the jobless pay their mortgages until they could find work again. Even as it was to take effect before the end of that year, by April of the next year the program had yet to accept one application. The New York Times avers that this “could be an epitaph for the administration’s broader foreclosure prevention effort, as tens of billions of dollars remain unspent and hundreds of thousands of homeowners have been rejected.” By April of 2011, the existence of the main program, the Home Assistance Modification Program, had become a target of the Republican-controlled U.S. House.  On March 29th, the House voted to end the foreclosure relief program. Even though the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate vowed to pursue a rescue, even the Democrats there considered the program to be badly flawed. To be sure, the administration had failed to stem the wave of foreclosures.
The full essay is at "Essays on the Financial Crisis," available at Amazon. 

Public Accountants Betraying Clients: Insider-Trading on Client Information

There are two basic types of conflicts of interest: personal and institutional. In any conflict of interest, two roles conflict in such a way that one role can compromise the other. The role compromised is the more legitimate of the two. In this essay, I distinguish the two types and situate the public accountants involved in insider trading in the personal rather than institutional type. I discuss two specific cases, both of which resulted in the auditors being prosecuted, in order to distinguish that outcome from the failure of society to come to grips with some of the most important ongoing institutional conflicts of interest.

The full essay is at Institutional Conflicts of Interest, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.

Auto vs. Oil Industries on Emission Standards: Putting a Part Above the Whole

When a company or an entire industry skips over the good of the whole—the public good—in lobbying for legislation that only reflects the needs or desires of individuals (qua consumers only), the society itself (and even the Earth) is slighted and thus more at risk. For the good of the whole is more than just the cumulative needs and desires of individuals in part because the latter do not take into account the wider effects of their choices. When an individual company or industry takes this point into account and rebuffs favorable legislative proposals because they would do too much damage to society and/or the planet, social responsibility is at hand. Companies or industries that do not are thus irresponsible from the standpoint of the whole, which, through government, is justified in keeping an eye on them (especially in making transparent their efforts to influence legislation and regulation. The American auto and oil industries can be distinguished in this regard. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Young Messiah: A Film Rendering Religious Meaning as Distinct

The 2016 film, The Young Messiah, admits to being an imagined year in Jesus’s childhood. To be sure, history and even Biblical passages are drawn on, but the genre of the film is fiction. This label seems too harsh, for Josephus, an ancient Jewish historian, mentions Jesus, “the so-called Christ, and his brother James." Josephus was not a believer; he did not believe that Jesus Christ was (or is) the Son of God. So, given Josephus's intent to record history rather than write scriptures or, more specifically, faith narratives, scholars can conclude that at least one historical mention is made of Jesus and his brother as having lived. To be sure, the historian could have been wrong; he may have heard secondhand that Jesus and James did exist, and the teller might have had an agenda unknown to the historian. Even so, Jesus and James are mentioned in one historical account, just as the Hebrews having been in Egypt is mentioned on a historical tablet. We must be careful to distinguish these records from that which is in faith narratives concerning Jesus and Moses. We simply do not know whether that material has any bearing on the historical, as no historical accounts are (as of yet) extant. 
Very little from Jesus's childhood is in the Gospels, so the screenwriter had to use imagination to fill out the gaping holes. Crucially, they were filled with content consistent with, though not in, the Gospels. In other words, the film contains religious meanfulness that is admittedly from imagination in large part, and yet that meaningfulness is strong even so, and can be readily associated with Jesus's ministry. In other words, the film enables the viewer to see that religious meaningfulness need not be from faith narratives directly, and, furthermore, that they need not be conflated with historical accounts--something even the writers of faith and of history would not have done. How, then, can we override their intents, which are clear from their writings. Even today, theologians, for instance, do not regard themselves as historians, and vice versa.
In short, a distinctive religious meaningfulness can be separated from the domain of history without any loss, and history need not be used as a crutch. Human imagine, so informed as it will by both, can produce valid religious meaning. 


The full essay is at "The Young Messiah." 

Investor Assessments of Political Events

Although the various investors in the financial markets doubtlessly pay great attention to important political events, such as were a state in the E.U. to default on its bonds, I suspect that market analysts overstate the importance of more commonplace political events. For example, The New York Times reported in late September 2012 that investors were shifting their portfolios to reduce risk out of uncertainty regarding the upcoming American elections and the ongoing negotiations in Congress to avoid the huge budget cuts and tax increases set to begin automatically at the beginning of 2013 and run for a decade. Additionally, fears that E.U. leaders might hesitate on moving forward with the bailout program oriented to indebted states were prompting investors to be more risk-averse. Generally speaking, analysts were “anticipating that politicians may not act until forced,” both in the U.S. and E.U., “setting the markets up for weeks of angst.” In my view, this account is overstated.

 Does expertise on these make one an expert on politics?  

The full essay is at "Investor Assessments."

Source:

Nathaniel Popper, “Fearing Fiscal Cliff, InvestorsCash In and Seek Safety,” The New York Times, September 28, 2012. 

Mitt Romney’s “About-Face" in the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election: A Candidate’s Conflict-of-Interest

As was demonstrated in September 2008 as banks began to stop lending to each other even overnight, trust is the foundation, or grundlagen, of a market. The same is true in relationships between people. I would be surprised were a marriage ever the same after even a contrite spouse has had an extramarital affair. The same is true in politics; once the electorate has been lied to, it is very hesitant to remove the asterisk next to the politician’s name. The relevance of a politician’s extra-marital affair, such as the flowery lapse of Gary Hart or the sordid stains of Bill Clinton, is that the people conclude that they, like the wives, could be betrayed. Once established, a lack of trust tends to spread like an invidious cancer until it has encompassed the entire body politic. The shift is from justice to a lack of harmony on many levels.
Plato theorized that justice is the harmony within the rational psyche and polis (city, or country) as well as between the heavenly spheres (planets and stars)—the harmony between the rational and the vibrations of the spheres being in sync, which is justice itself. It follows that a person who lets his or her desires run rampant is in line with a squalid or aggressive city, and that neither of these shares in the musical/mathematic harmonious vibrations of and between the heavenly spheres. Lack of trust at the personal, business, or civic level can be said to be a symptom of the shift from the condition of harmony, and thus justice, to discord.
It follows that in a republic or union thereof, it is vital to maintaining justice (as harmony) that the electorate not be as sheep in taking in that which a politician claims regarding what he or she “really believes.” Once a candidate has stupidly lapsed in terms of trustworthiness, the electorate should be cognizant of the conflict of interest in the candidate later dismissing the substance of his or her real feelings or beliefs. In general, if a candidate’s statement is in line with him or her getting elected, a due dose of salt should be taken with that dish.
I have in mind Mitt Romney’s statement at a closed-door fundraiser in September, 2012 that nearly half of Americans don’t pay income taxes, view themselves as victims, and refuse to take responsibility for their lives, wanting to live off entitlement programs instead. 

Oceans Arising on Edifices of Arrogance

A study published in late November 2012 in the journal Science estimates that the melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland had raised global sea levels by 11.1 millimeters (0.43 inch) since 1992. That represents one-fifth of the total sea-level rise increase in that period. Other contributors include the expansion of the sea water from warming, and the melting of glaciers, as for instance on mountains. In the 1990's, melting of the polar ice sheets in the Antarctica and Greenland was responsible for about 10 percent of the global sea-level rise, but by 2012 the effect had risen to 30 percent.[1] The study does not, however, uncover the underlying cause, or association, lying in a complexity in human nature itself. Our species has vaunted to the top of the food chain and leveraged a brain capable of engineering technological advances that would have seemed magical even just in the nineteenth century, and yet we seem hard-wired to accelerate our course to a self-destructive extinction. This lack of balance is reflected in the increasing extremes in the global climate. In this essay, I begin with the study and steadily work toward uncovering the underlying, subterranean culprit, which would go on to produce record-high carbon-emissions in 2017.

The entire essay is at "Oceans Arising on Edifices of Arrogance"




[1] Gautam Naik, “Polar Ice Melt Is Accelerating,” The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2012.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Was Goldman Sachs Really Politically Impotent amid Public Scrutiny in the Wake of the Financial Crisis?

If the American financial houses on Wall Street are among the most powerful forces in American politics-- powers, as it were, behind the throne--does it make sense that the strongest bank would be politically impotent?  In other words, can a public blemish nullify the power of all that capital?

The full essay is at "Goldman Sachs: Politically Impotent?"

See also "Essays on the Financial Crisis," available at Amazon. 

Mr. Goldman Goes to Washington

After watching hours of the US House Government Affairs committee on Investigations’ hearing on Goldman Sachs in 2010,  I concluded--totally contrary to the disavowals by the Goldman managers who testified--that there was indeed a conflict of interest between Goldman’s proprietary and market-making functions.  By proprietary, I mean a bank trading on its own books beyond simply being the counter-party in its market-making transactions. In their testimony, Goldman managers presumed that all of the bank’s proprietary transactions are part of its market-making role. However, I contend that the bank has been both a market-maker and a player in those markets, and furthermore that the latter function has affected the former in ways that are intended to benefit the bank. That is to say, Goldman Sachs’ financial interest has been put before that of its customers. In some cases, Goldman’s employees refused clients’ requests for shorts related to the housing market so Goldman’s own profits in shorting the market  could be preserved. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said, “There is something unseemly about Goldman betting against the housing market as it is selling housing-related products to its customers.” Sen. Conrad, a more conservative Republican, echoed this sentiment.  The fact that Republicans on the subcommittee joined with Democrats rather than joined in Goldman’s paradigm points to a major disconnect between Wall Street “speak” and the discourse of the general public.  In other words, the financial managers and the politicians were largely talking past each other.  Even so, the two “worlds” can be translated into a common language that nonetheless finds Goldman culpable, while acknowledging some of the managers’ points.  In what follows, I discuss a number of the points raised in the hearing to bear out my contentions here.

The full essay is at "Essays on the Financial Crisis," available at Amazon. 

CEO Compensation: How Much Is Too Much?

From the previous year, the medium value of salaries, bonuses and long-term-incentive awards for the CEOs of 350 major American companies increased by 11% in 2010 to $9.3 million, according to the Hay Group.  Corporate net income increased by a medium of 17% and shareholders medium returns, including dividends, increased by 18 percent. Share prices also increased more than the CEO compensation. However, bonuses increased 19.7%, which is just barely more than the percentage increases in corporate profit and shareholder returns.


The full essay is at "CEO Compensation."

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Rosemary's Baby: The Supernatural in Religion

The film narrative centers on Satan impregnating Rosemary, a married woman in New York City. According to Roman Polanski, the film’s director, the decisive point is actually that neither Rosemary in the film nor the film’s viewers can know whether it was the devil who impregnated her. Beyond the more matter of being able to distinguish a psychosis from a more “objective” or external religious event, the importance of the supernatural to religion is also, albeit subtly, in play, according to Polanski.

The full essay is at "Rosemary's Baby."

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Gospel According to Dr. Goebbels

“What does Christianity mean today? National Socialism is a religion. All we lack is a religious genius capable of uprooting outmoded religious practices and putting new ones in their place. We lack traditions and ritual. One day soon, National Socialism will be the religion of all Germans. My party is my church, and I believe . . . " From his diary on Oct 16, 1928.[1]

The full essay is at "The Gospel According to Dr. Goebbels."

1. “The Goebbels Experiment” (2005). 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Essence of Leadership

According to DePree (1989, p.19), the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. This might seem metaphysically esoteric, but I believe DePree hit the nail on the head. Even though far less has been written in leadership research about the importance of viewing reality and interpreting it than about traits, styles and situational factors, defining reality is the fundamental task distinguishing leadership as a phenomenon (Caldwell, Bischoff & Karri, 2002, p. 153).

 Material from this essay has been incorporated into The Essence of Leadership: A Cross-Cultural Foundation, which is available at Amazon. 

Sources:

Caldwell, C, S.J. Bischoff, and R. Karri: 2002, “The Four Umpires: A Paradigm for Ethical Leadership,” Journal of Business Ethics 36, 153-163.
De Pree, M.: 1989, Leadership Is an Art (Doubleday: NY).

Industry Self-Regulation: Too Idealistic for Futures

At the time of MF Global’s collapse amid hundreds of millions of dollars in lost customer funds, commodities and futures trading had for decades been “largely policed by the exchanges where they trade, setting up a potential conflict of interest,” according to the New York Times. The paper continues by pointing out that those exchanges, including profit-making companies such as CME Group, the parent company of the Chicago and New York Mercantile Exchanges and the clearing house used by MF Global, “oversee the very futures firms they rely on for business.” The Times refers to this conflict of interest as one centered on industry self-regulation. 
 
The full essay is at Institutional Conflicts of Interest, available at Amazon.

The Market Mechanism: Complicit in E.U. Debt Crisis

According to The New York Times in late 2011, “How European sovereign debt became the new subprime is a story with many culprits, including governments that borrowed beyond their means, regulators who permitted banks to treat the bonds as risk-free and investors who for too long did not make much of a distinction between the bonds of troubled economies like Greece and Italy and those issued by the rock-solid Germany.” In going through these culprits and how they interrelated, it should not be lost that the market mechanism itself can be held as suspect, for at the very least it enabled the furtive games to be played for far too long. Indeed, the market itself did not do a good job for years in providing accurate risk-return relationships.

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


Decadent Management: Burger King Dethroned

When a major company like Borders or Pan American declares it is going out of business—bankruptcy being all too often just a way to force creditors and unions to renegotiate—the public is often stunned. Indeed even a week before such an announcement, managers can assure customers under the veneer of an expressionless face or even a comforting smile—that the company is focused on “driving strong expansion in its many markets around the world” and will “strongly position” its brand. Driving expansion? Strongly positioning? An astute person will instinctively detect the scripted, vacuous jargon as the patina of a rather strange, if conformist, mentality that presumes to invent or misuse words with impunity, as if from a superior position in society. The quoted expressions are from Miguel Piedra, a spokesperson of Burger King, reported in a Wall Street Journal piece on Wendy’s being “positioned” to replace “the King” as number two in sales. If Piedra’s bureaucratic response is not enough of a red-flag, a visit to a Burger King restaurant might give the impression of a company that—absent the cushions of name recognition and capital—is on the verge of going out of business.

The full essay is in Cases of Unethical Business: A Malignant Mentality of Mendacity, available at Amazon.com.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Risen

In Risen (2016), A Roman Tribune, Clavius, is tasked with overseeing Jesus’s crucifixion; more importantly, Pilote tasks his Tribune with making sure that no one steals the body out of the tomb so no one could claim that Jesus is arisen. This would put the Jesus movement within Judaism as much more of a threat to Pilote as well as the Jewish leaders. More than Christians can glean interesting lessons from the film. That is to say, it is by no means a remake of The Greatest Story Ever Told and Son of God.


The full essay is at "Risen."

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Evolution of Just War in Roman Catholic Social Ethics: The Case of Libya

According to The Catholic Herald, there were originally only three conditions laid down by Thomas Aquinas for a just war. According to The Catholic Herald, “The Church later added two more rules, though St Thomas usually gets the credit for them (and why not?). The first is that the conflict must be a last resort. The Catholic Herald describes the last criterion of Catholic just war theory as follows: “Lastly, the war must be fought proportionally. 

Christianity by State: The Religious Dimension of Federalism

According to the  2010 U.S. Religious Census of Religious Congregations & Memberships Study by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, less than 50 percent of the people living in the United States identified themselves as Christian adherents in 2010. There were more than 150.6 million out of 310 million. Even so, candidates for the U.S. presidency still felt the need to vocalize the fact that they are Christian (while the opponent doesn't quite measure up in that respect). President Obama made a point during his first two years in office to stress his Christianity as if it were the membership card to the Oval Office. It would seem that the litmus test was already antiquated and thus needlessly constrictive on potential candidates.

The full essay is at "Christianity by State."

Lawbreakers at the Mexico-California Border: Appealing to Law

At the Tijuana-San Diego border between Mexico and California on November 25, 2018, a “peaceful march by Central American migrants veered out of control . . . as hundreds of people tried to evade a Mexican police blockade and run toward a giant border crossing.”[1] In response, the U.S. Government shut down the border crossing in both directions and fired tear gas to push back migrants from the border fence. The American media made much of the use of tear gas, with convenient stories from migrants of their kids having been affected. To be sure, the suffering of innocent children is horrible, so at the very least the use of gas is debatable. Yet this focus came at the expense of another on the mentality and conduct of the adult migrants, including parents, largely from Honduras.

The full essay is at "Lawbreakers at the Border: Appealing to Law."




[1]Maya Averbuch and Elisabeth Markin, “Migrants in Tijuana Run to U.S. Border, but Fall Back in Face of Tear Gas,” The New York Times, November 26, 2018, italics added.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

God's Gold through the Centuries

In the wake of the financial crisis that came to a head in September of 2008, people might have been wondering if sufficient moral constraints on the greed on Wall Street are available, even possible. The ability of traders to create complex derivative securities that are difficult for regulators to regulate, much less understand, may have people looking for ethical or even religious constraints. It would be only natural to ask if such “soft” restraint mechanisms really do have the puissance to do the trick. Here’s the rub: the tricksters are typically the last to avail themselves of ethical or religious systems, and they the wrongdoers are the ones in need of the restraint. Blankfein said of his bank, Goldman Sachs, that it had been doing God’s work. About a week after saying that, he had to walk his statement back and admit that the bankers had does some things that were morally wrong. Although divine omnipotence is by definition not limited by human ethical systems, it is hard to imagine a divine decree telling bankers to tell their clients one thing (buy subprime mortgage derivatives) while taking the opposite position on the bank’s proprietary position (shorting the derivatives, beyond being a counterparty to clients). Divine duplicity seems to represent an oxymoron on a megascale rather than a justification for greed. As the crisis erupted and was subsequently managed by public officials in government and new managers brought in to salvage AIG, I was researching the history of Christian thought on profit-seeking and wealth. I have since published an academic text and a nonfiction book, which develops further on the treatise on the topic. As the book is too recondite for sane people (i.e., outside of academia), I am writing a non-fiction book on the topic for a broader readership. To whet the appetites of those of you who are waiting for something more readable than a recondite thesis, I present a brief account of my original research on the topic here. 


For the full essay, see "God's Gold through the Centuries."
________________________

See related essay: "Religious Sources of Business Ethics"

The academic treatise: Godliness and Greed: Shifting Christian Thought on Profit and Wealth