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Monday, December 19, 2022

Rockford University: On the Creepy Periphery of Higher Education

A young library supervisor of student workers at Rockford University insisted that Christmas is only a private holiday because it is exclusively religious after I, an early-retired yet still productive scholar visiting my hometown of Rockford, Illinois and using the college's library to read an academic book (by Kierkegaard, a theologian), said I wanted to finish the book by Christmas. When I pointed out that in this country (the USA) Christmas is recognized as a national holiday, the library employee said that it is only a holiday for the federal government (not the rest of us) and demanded that I define "country."

The full essay is at Rockford University

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thanksgiving as a Day of Mourning: On the Instinctual Urge of Resentment

 According to CNN’s website, the “sobering truth about the harvest feast that inspired Thanksgiving” is is the fact that colonists killed Indians. According to an analyst at CNN, the American Indian Day of Mourning, established in 1970 for the fourth Thursday of November, turned Thanksgiving “into something more honest” than the Thanksgiving mythos of a peaceful feast in 1621 suggests. The drenching of self-serving ideology in CNN’s “analysis,” like heavy, overflowing gravy obscuring the sight and taste of the underlying mashed potatoes, is something less than honest.

The full essay is at "Thanksgiving as a Day of Mourning."

Friday, November 5, 2021

Arizona's Governor Nullifies a Federal Law: A Secret Nullification Crisis

Even though the FBI had told me that it looks to local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal regulations, a supervisor at one of the police sub-stations told me that his department would not enforce the regulation. “Oh, so they want to dump it on us,” he said. Astonishingly, he claimed that only law passed by his state’s legislature is “real law in Arizona.” About a week later, a police transit supervisor told me that the chief of police had told the non-supervisory patrol employees not to enforce the federal regulation, and this directive had come down from the governor. 

The full essay is at "Arizona's Governor Nullifies a Federal Law: An Invisible Nullification Crisis."

On the Role of Business in a Societal or Global Catastrophe

While it is obvious that a business or industry can affect and be affected by its environment, such as by polluting a river and a hurricane, respectively, it is less well known that a business or an entire industry can cause or facilitate a societal or global crisis. Whereas polluting a river can be answered with government regulation, the very legitimacy (and thus ongoing operations) of a company or even an entire industry is arguably at risk in knowingly creating or significantly worsening a societal/global crisis. The latter role goes beyond the scope of government regulation and corporate social responsibility, although broadening or just enforcing anti-trust laws may be sufficient to deal with the lost legitimacy. That is to say, what I have in mind is another genre or type of problem.

The full essay is at "On the Role of Business in a Societal or Global Catastrophe."

Friday, October 22, 2021

On the Weakening of the Rule of Law in the U.S.

When law enforcement (i.e., police) conveniently exclude themselves from obeying law, the contradiction should, I submit, be sufficient for the perpetrators to be fired. It is not enough for their boss to chastise or even suspend the hypocrites, for they are inherently unfit for law enforcement, and should instead be treated as actual or potential criminals. What about when such a sordid mentality comes to proliferate through a police department, especially if it lies beyond the competence of a city government to hold even such a department accountable? What if a local political “law and order” culture tacitly exempts police and goes on to look the other way as the latter render the locality into a police state? I contend that the Phoenix metropolitan area, including the suburbs surrounding Phoenix itself, furnishes us with a case in point.
The full essay is at "Weakening of the Rule of Law."

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Arizona’s Dysfunctional Business and Governmental Culture Creates a Crisis in the Coronavirus Pandemic

On January 15, 2021, the New York Times reported that Arizona had the highest 7-day daily average per capita of deaths and new cases of the new coronavirus, covid-19.[1] On one day, Arizona had 11,324 new cases.[2] “We’re the hottest spot in the U.S. and among the hottest spots in the entire world,” said Keith Frey, the chief medical officer for Dignity Health’s Arizona division.[3] “If we don’t slow this down over the course of the next days and weeks, then we will be fully into that crisis zone,” he added.[4] It would be a crisis of the state’s own making, and thus preventable but for the local culture at least in the Phoenix metro area. In other words, the crisis did not happen to Arizona; rather, the crisis was in large part homemade, and can thus be used as a window into a dysfunctional culture in the United States. 

The full essay is at "Dysfunctional Arizona." 

1. Jordan Allen et al, “Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count,” The New York Times, January 15, 2021.
2. Alicia Caldwell and Ian Lovett, “Arizona Is America’s Covid-19 Hot Spot and on the Brink of Crisis,” The Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2021.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Riot at the U.S. Congress: A Threat to Democracy?

On January 6, 2021, protesters walked from a rally at the White House to the U.S. Capitol, the seat of the U.S. Congress. When the protesters reached the building, they entered it in order to stop the joint session of Congress from completing the count of the Electoral College votes for president. A few of the protestors and a Capitol policeman were killed. The political elite and their media quickly added hyperbole to the event, calling it an insurrection and a storming of the Capitol as if all of the protesters were armed and were intent on taking over the U.S. Government in a coup. Disrupting Congress is of course not appropriate, but that does not mean that it constitutes an act of war or terrorism. Although he undoubtedly inflamed the mob with incendiary rhetoric, President Trump was blamed as if he had explicitly told the protesters at his rally to ransack offices and become violent. He wanted the protesters to pressure "weak" Republicans during the Congressional count of Electoral College ballots (for President) rather than conduct a coup. I contend, therefore, that sedition is too extreme as a label to apply both to the president and the riotous mob at the Capitol. This is in no way to excuse what the president and the mob did do; rather, my point is that the American political elite and its corporate media were excessive in how they expressed the severity of the event. Meanwhile, the political elite and the media in the E.U. were more accurate, and thus reasonable, in referring to the incident as a protest that turned into a riot. Such a description is preferable because it allows for a more accurate assessment of just how compromised the democratic system was during the event. I contend that a more serious vulnerability to that system existed even though the American political elite and the corporate media have had an interest in not publicizing that problem. 

The full essay is at "The Riot at the U.S. Congress."

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Ethical Human Resources Management

Ethics applied to human resource management is typically thought to boil down to treating subordinates well. Kant’s categorical imperative, treat other rational beings not just as means, but also as ends in themselves, applies to this sense of ethical HR management. Specifically, human beings are not only cogs in a machine; they have lives outside of work that should not be expected to reduce to serving the interests of the employer. Another side of HR management also exists, however, that concerns the handling of unethical employees. Such handling can be ethical or unethical.

The full essay is at "Ethical HR Management."

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Hypocritical CSR during a Pandemic: O’Reilly Automotive, Inc.

In the retail sector, the behavior of managers and their employees at the store level is particularly relevant to customers. This relevance, I submit, outweighs the wider benefit of a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program if the behavior contradicts either the CSR wording or actual programs. Besides the obvious bad odor of hypocrisy that vitiates CSR claims, a company’s direct effects on its customers (and employees) have implications in terms of responsibility. I submit that these implications are more important than those of CSR programs that are geared to societal problems because they are less central to a business. In short, having a CSR program does not make up for irresponsible policies or conduct toward customers (and employees). O’Reilly’s Automotive serves as a good illustration.

The full essay is at "Hypocritical CSR during a Pandemic."

Monday, November 16, 2020

On the Rushed Sainthood of Pope John Paul II: Metaphysics and Ideology Triumphant

Just days after the death of Pope John Paul II, “cardinals eager to uphold his conservative policies had already begun discussing putting him on a fast track to sainthood.”[1] This alone could have alerted religionists as to the possible sanctification of an ideology within the Roman Catholic Church. The force of an ideology to its partisans can render them deaf to other considerations. The church ideologues clamoring for the ages-old process of canonization to be disregarded—hardly a conservative demand—chose not to hear the “notes of caution from survivors of sexual abuse and historians that John Paul had persistently turned a blind eye to the crimes in his church.”[2] Fifteen years later, the Vatican itself admitted that the former pope had known of the crimes of Archbishop (of New York) Theodore McCarrick yet refused to put a stop to them. “The investigation, commissioned by Pope Francis, who canonized John Paul in 2014, revealed how John Paul chose not to believe longstanding accusations of sexual abuse against [McCarrick], including pedophilia, allowing him to climb the hierarchy’s ladder.”[3] Rather than being a mere mistake in judgment, as some conservatives would argue, the decision to look the other way resulted in great evil. The foreseeable consequences meant that John Paul II allowed more rapes to happen. Besides the rather obvious point that a saint would not have done so, and thus the canonization of John Paul II was erroneous, this case suggests that the “two miracles” requirement for canonization is itself flawed.

The full essay is at "On the Canonization of Pope John Paul II."

1. Jason Horowitz, “Sainted Too Soon? Vatican Report Cast John Paul II in Harsh New Light,” The New York Times, November 14, 2020.
2.  Ibid.
3. Ibid.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Corporate Federalism: Did AOL Miss an Opportunity?

Citing twelve past and present AOL employees, The Wall Street Journal characterized AOL in 2011 as a “culture of clashing fiefs and personalities created by a rapid series of acquisitions that haven’t jelled.”[1] Just in managing the likes of Michael Arrington and Arianna Huffington, Tim Armstrong had his hands full as CEO. Both Arrington and Huffington were strong defenders of editorial independence in their respective units. Arrington started a venture capital firm partly financed by AOL to invest in tech firms even as Arrington’s division at AOL, TechCrunch, wrote on technology firms. The problems for AOL went well beyond acquiescing in a structural conflict of interest of TechCrunch writing on particular tech companies while investing in some of them but not others. A person familiar with AOL said that Armstrong “had a macro vision that was right but didn’t have the right plan to implement it.”[2] That is to say, his visionary leadership was good but his strategic management was bad. Strategic leadership demands better. AOL may have been a good candidate for a federal system of governance because the publishing units needed some autonomy even at the cost of foregone corporate cooperation. 

The full essay is at "Corporate Federalism and AOL."

1. Jessica E. Vascellaro and Emily Steel, “Culture Clashes Tear at AOL,” Wall Street Journal, September 10-11, 2011. 
2. Ibid.

Taxation and Economic Inequality

The top 1% of U.S. taxpayers had 19.4% of the total income in 2007 and paid 28.1% of all federal taxes. In 1987, the top 1% had had 11.2% of the total income and paid 16.2% of all federal taxes. The share of total income going to the wealthy (income over $353,000 in 1987) and the share of federal income taxes they paid increased. That the poverty rate hit 15% in 2011 while the real wages of the middle and lower classes were back to mid-1990s levels suggests that the rich were getting richer as the poor were getting poorer; income and wealth inequalities were increasing. Differential impacts of a taxation regime can have an impact on a growing inequality, and thus on whether a society should adjust its tax structure. 

The full essay is at "Taxation and Economic Inequality."

Monday, November 9, 2020

Bank One: Adding to Systemic Risk after the Financial Crisis of 2008

The financial crisis in September 2008 was indeed a crisis, and yet it is stunning how soon the American financial sector sought to undermine governmental efforts to guard against another such crisis. Exactly three years after the crisis, Republicans in Congress  repeatedly invoked the Dodd-Frank Act’s 848-page length and rules on trading derivatives and swaps as examples of government overreach at the expense of much-needed jobs. “Dodd-Frank is adding safety margins to the banking system,” according to Douglas Elliott at the Brookings Institution. “That may mean somewhat fewer jobs in normal years, in exchange for the benefit of avoiding something like what we just went through in the financial crisis, which was an immense job killer.”[1] To scrap the new law in order to save few jobs would thus be short-sighted even with regard to jobs. Wall Street's concern, however, was not jobs, but, rather, the loss of profit off high-risk trading. 

The full essay is at "Bank One and Systemic Risk."

1. Edward Wyatt, “Dodd-Frank Act a Favorite Target for Republicans Laying Blame,” New York Times, September 21, 2011. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

American Federalism Eclipsed by an Ideal of Democracy: Education Over Immigration as a Constitutional Problem

The U.S. Constitution includes immigration as one of the listed (i.e., enumerated) powers of the federal government. Education is not such a power; hence it resides with the States. Historically, the accumulation of power by the federal government has involved taking areas from the States even though those areas are not listed as federal powers. As a result, American federalism has shifted increasingly toward a consolidation of power at the federal level. Among other means, Congresses and U.S. presidents have used the power of the purse to gain control from the States. Education is a case in point, whether elementary, secondary, or higher education. That the U.S. Government has had trouble controlling the country's southern border with Mexico suggests that maybe adding education has come at the expense of the added attention and effort that could have been put on immigration. In business terms, an opportunity cost (i.e., the cost of foregone benefits) comes with each additional federalized area. U.S. President Obama on education presents us with a case in point. 

The full essay is at "Federalism Eclipsed by Consolidation."

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Right of Political Protest in the U.S.: Nullified in the Outback by Intimidation

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting . . . the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of Grievances.” Peaceable protest, even to protest a government or an official thereof, has come to be regarded as a staple of American democracy. In practice, however, the right can be eviscerated such that peaceful protesting is simply not worth the trouble. Such trouble can be orchestrated by a police force or even a government within the United States. Implicit in the right to protest is the value put on tolerating the expression of contrary opinions. Conservative and progressive views, even those of racists and anarchists, respectively, are generally accorded the right to peaceably protest in a public way. If a State is sufficiently one-sided, however, public officials, including governors, majors, and police chiefs, can reflect the dominant attitude of residents that protests on behalf certain political, economic, or social ideologies should not be allowed. If they must be allowed, then massive shows of police force can—it is assumed--legitimately be used to intimidate the protesters. 

The full essay is at "The Right of Political Protest."