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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Occupying Wall Street

At the “Occupy Wall Street” protest in Washington, D.C., a man was preaching the Gospel as protesters pleaded with him to stop. While I suspect that the hackneyed secular/progressive vs. right-wing Christian dichotomy is reflected in this dynamic, the protesters may also have been “policing” the contours of their movement as anti-corporate and anti-Wall Street. Yet one of the pleading protesters was holding a sign, “Create Peace,” which does not really get at the anti-business theme. Another of the protesters pleading with the evangelical had a bongo drum handing down from around his neck, which could suggest that he would be out for any left-wing protest. Still another protester, perhaps from the peace movement, held a sign “2 Wars equals = Deficits!” Even morphing into a protest against the horrendous debt of the U.S. Government would miss the mark on the anti-corporate, anti-Wall Street target.

The full essay is at "Occupying Wall Street."

A Syrian Offensive: Taking on International “Enforcement” of Human Rights

In Geneva on November 28, 2011, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria presented its report, which had been requested by the UN Human Rights Council. According to the report’s summary, the “deteriorating situation in the Syrian Arab Republic prompted The Human Rights Council to establish an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged violations of human rights since March 2011.” The Commission interviewed 223 victims and witnesses. The Commission was able to document “patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, including sexual violence, as well as violations of children’s rights.”One might suppose that the Syrian government would have been seeking to placate the international organization and other governments.

The full essay is at "Taking on International Enforcement."


Neil MacFarquhar and Nada Bakri, “Syria Calls Arab League Sanctions ‘Economic War.’” The New York Times, November 28, 2011. 

Protest Movements 101

David Johnston of Reuters opined on October 7, 2011, the Occupy Wall Street “protests show signs of sparking a major change in U.S. politics by creating common ground among people with wildly divergent views. The key to their significance will be whether they foster a wholesale change in political leadership in 2013 or whether Americans return a vast majority of incumbents in both parties at all levels of government.” But are “wildly divergent views” really represented, and did the movement translate dramatic camera-ready protest parades and sit-ins into grassroots work to get specifically anti-corporate candidates past the primaries and into office in 2012?  I contend that from the get-go, the Occupy Wall Street movement set itself on a trajectory antithetical to being able to answer both of these questions in the affirmative. In so doing, the movement’s “non-leaders” sowed the seeds of the movement’s demise—or at the very least of being relegated as partisan and thus contained as a sub-part in the system.

The full essay is at "Protest Movements 101."

Police Against Protesters: Sadism or Politics?

The day after several marches and rallies by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in New York City, The New York Times reported that “two dozen people were arrested at a Citibank branch on LaGuardia Place on trespassing charges. Some witnesses said that the protesters had tried to leave but were locked inside by bank employees. ‘They were trying to leave, but they wouldn’t let them,’ said Meaghan Linick, 23, of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She said one woman who had been inside and left was forced back inside by police officers. Citibank, in a statement, said the protesters ‘were very disruptive and refused to leave after being repeatedly asked, causing our staff to call 911.’ The statement continued, ‘The police asked the branch staff to close the branch until the protesters could be removed.’” The Times report does not mention whether the protesters were existing Citibank customers trying to close their accounts. The report does refer to this at a Chase bank. “Earlier, about a dozen protesters entered a Chase branch in Lower Manhattan and withdrew their money from the bank while 300 other people circled the block, some shouting chants and beating on drums. The former Chase customers, who declined to reveal how much they had in their accounts — though a few acknowledged it was not much — said they planned to put their money into smaller banks or credit unions.’ The more resources we give to small institutions, the more they’ll be able to provide conveniences like free A.T.M.’s and streamlined online banking so they can compete with the larger banks,’ said Hannah Appel, 33, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University.” The report does not indicate whether the former customers were arrested.

The full essay is at "Lawful Aggressors."

                                       Anthony Bologna of NYPD pepper-spraying protesters following his orders

Climate Seasons and Astronomy Confused: A Societal Blind-Spot

In the Northern Hemisphere, in the Northern E.U. and U.S., it is ludicrous to claim that winter begins not until December 21st. If we go by the claim, the Christmas season is in the fall—joined by Halloween (and Thanksgiving in the U.S.). Similarly, September sports autumn cooling off rather than three more weeks of summer. In many areas, leaves turn fall colors well before September 21st. As a matter of fact, “Climate scientists define summer as the three months from June 1 through August 31st.”[1] Why, then, do meteorologists on television, at least in the U.S.—that vaunted superpower—announce that fall officially begins on September 21st. They even show “fall begins” on the day of the 21st on the week of weather. Similar, the fools show “winter begins” just four days before Christmas, on the winter solstice. That solstice is in the winter—not the beginning of it.
The full essay is at "Weather Seasons and Astronomy."

1.Doyle Rice, “Can’t Sleep on It: Nights Are Hottest on Record,” USA Today, September 7, 2018.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Franchise: A Flawed Arrangement

The franchise arrangement combines the reach (and efficiency) of central advertising with the ability to respond to local differences. I suspect that the benefit from local flexibility is typically overdrawn, such that the value of the franchise arrangement itself is overstated. Meanwhile, the downside in local autonomy is, I suspect, understated. That downside includes the propensity to engage unethically based in part on lack of character-virtues and on the accurate perception of weak accountability within the franchise arrangement. The downside also comes into greater play than perhaps is realized because management on the local level can be rather bad in quality (from a managerial standpoint). In other words, slim pickings with regard to managerial talent can be a factor at the local level. Without mechanisms of accountability from “higher up,” front-line managers can get away with an astonishing amount of bad (and unethical) managing.

The full essay is at "The Franchise Agreement as Flawed."

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

7 Billion People Worldwide in 2011: Catholicism's Humanae Vitae Compromising or Protecting Human Life?

According to the Huffington Post, “Amid the millions of births and deaths around the world each day, it is impossible to pinpoint the arrival of the globe's 7 billionth occupant. But the U.N. chose on October 31, 2011 to mark the day of that occupant's arrival with a string of festivities worldwide, and a series of symbolic 7 billionth babies being born.” I contend that the milestone is nothing to celebrate; rather, it should have served as a wake-up call for us all, lest the species continue undaunted to maximize itself right out of existence. Both the slope and its relative abruptness, evident in a historical perspective, ought to have given us all pause in our assumption that our species would necessarily go on without either self-regulation or a drastic correction from nature. 

                                            Source: UN Population Division

Monday, September 10, 2018

Paul Volcker on the Market and Regulation

Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, may strike the conventional "wisdom" as an oxymoron regarding the market mechanism and government regulation. I contend that he could have taught that "wisdom" a lesson or two.

Just the Facts: Empirical Social Science Overplayed

Tilburg University in the E.U. is known to have an emphasis on empirical studies in the social sciences (including business). With this bent, the university is typically considered to be closer to the American academic tradition than that of Europa. So when Dr. Diederik Stapel, a psychology professor at Tilburg, acknowledged to having committed academic fraud in several dozen published articles in academic journals, the academic status of empirical research itself was thrown into question. Experts point out that Stapel “took advantage of a system that allows researchers to operate in near secrecy and massage data to find what they want to find, without much fear of being challenged.” Indeed, it is rare even for peer-reviewers of potential articles to demand to see the raw empirical data supporting a given study’s conclusions. According to Dr. Jelte Wicherts, a psychology professor at the University of Amsterdam, the problem of data being misused by the scholars who collect and analyze it is widespread in the discipline of psychology.

The full essay is at "Empirical Social Science."

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Greed Eclipsing Ethical Awareness

Lest it commonly be assumed that greed facilitates or results in unethical policies out of conscious choice, I submit that a focus on maximizing revenue can eclipse even the recognition of a policy being unethical. To the extent that this is so, correcting for unethical policies in business (and government) is more difficult that typically thought. I have in mind as a case in point the policies of bars regarding karaoke singing. 

The full essay is at "Greed Eclipsing Ethical Awareness."