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Friday, October 5, 2018

Deaf-Signing at Mandela's Memorial and Kavanaugh's Confirmation FBI Probe: Cover-Ups?

Watching U.S. President Barak Obama speak of his hero, Nelson Mandela, on December 10, 2013, something was distracting me; the rather large man signing for the deaf used such exaggerated gestures I had trouble concentrating on what Obama was saying. Little did I know that the interpreter was a “fake,” according to the Deaf Federation of South Africa. “It was horrible; an absolute circus, really, really bad, Nicole Du Toit, an official sign language interpreter, told the AP. “Only he can understand those gestures,” she added.[1]  I suspect that labeling the fiasco a “circus” skates over the underlying mentality in over-reaching and lying to cover it up. Years later, I wondered the same thing concerning Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Are we, the public, out of the loop concerning what really goes on inside governments? 

1. Kim Hjelmgaard and Marisol Bello, “Interpreter For Deaf Branded a Fake,” USA Today, December 12, 2013.

Connecting the Dots: Zuckerberg's Facebook Stock

Why did Mark Zuckerberg unload $2.3 billion of his Facebook stock? The complete answer likely involves more than meets the eye, at least relative to what business reporters and editors had to say publicly in 2013. What was not said is itself a story worth publishing. Beyond Zuckerberg’s stratagem, what the media didn't say might be more significant than what made it through the filters.
Part of the answer concerning Zuckerberg’s sell-off involves his need for cash to pay taxes that would be due from his exercising an option to purchase 60 million Class B shares in 2013. This move likely implies a belief that Facebook stock would not go much higher. Had Zuckerberg strongly believed at the time that Facebook was yet to cash in on advertising revenue beyond that which the market had already factored into the company’s stock price, the CEO would not have exercised the options in expectation of a wider spread. Even with the taxes coming due, the billionaire could probably have found an alternative way to come up with the cash. 

The organizational lifecycle. When Zuckerberg decided to sell a block of shares and exercise options, he already had a picture of Facebook already on the downward slope without much chance of revitalization. Image Source: www.sourcingideas.blogspot.com
The full essay is at "Zuckerberg's Facebook Stock."

Mandela’s Courage as Politicized Forgiveness

Whereas we grasp the interior sense in which Gandhi taught to forgive, the media promoted a false, politicized forgiveness as operating in Mandela’s case. I am of course impugning the aggrandizing press here, rather than Mandela himself. In claiming that Mandela “insisted on forgiveness,” John Mahaha uses the following quote from the man himself: “To go to prison because of your convictions and be prepared to suffer for what you believe in, is something worthwhile. It is an achievement for a man to do his duty on earth irrespective of the consequences.”[1] The suffering being referred to here is neither suffering for its own sake nor suffering unnecessarily. In regard to being willing to suffer for what he believed in, Mandela had Gandhi as a role model, though (and this is crucial) Gandhi's social-moral principle of nonviolence cannot be reconciled with Mandela's prescription of violence. 

Nelson Mandela reaching out to a former enemy. Political or religious forgiveness? (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The full essay is at "Mandela's Courage as Forgiveness."

1.  John Dramani Mahama, “Mandela Taught a Continent to Forgive,” The New York Times, December 5, 2013.
2. William Welch, “South Africa’s Leader Transformed Nation, Self,” USA Today, December 27, 2013.

Can the Federal Reserve Handle Banks Too Big To Fail?

The biggest banks operating in the U.S. reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Federal Reserve’s below-market rate of .001% on $7.7 trillion in emergency loans in the wake of the credit freeze in September 2008. Rather than using the additional funds to increase lending, the banks fortified reserves and paid bonuses out to executives. Had member of Congress had been able to anticipate all this, it is possible that they would have prescribed stronger medicine, perhaps even including breaking up the banks with over $1 trillion in assets.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Picking a President by Polls

It is one thing to say that something is broken; it is quite another thing to fix it. In such a case, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it doesn’t cut it. Any pathological fear of change must give way or the brokenness must be endured. During the last half of 2011, over a year before the U.S. presidential election, the election season was already in full swing. Without any primaries or caucuses, the media and “debate” (i.e., talking points) organizers divided the Republican candidates into two tiers. Besides being an artificial dichotomy given the spectrum of support revealed in polls, that they were being used to prioritize among the candidates in the “debates” and more generally in terms of electability is problematic. 

The full essay is at "Picking a U.S. President." 


U.S.Budget Deficits: Of Virtue or Vice?

Chronic government fiscal deficits, and thus debt, may suggest that a people is not up to self-governance. Moreover, the imbalance may be a drawback of democracy itself. That is to say, a people may not have sufficient will to constrain its own consumption to that which the people are willing to pay.
The full essay is at "U.S. Budget Deficits."

Democracy and Over-Population in India: Foreign Direct Investment

How well can the democratic form of governance serve as a means by which a society is circumscribed, or restricted in some way? In other words, can self-government be used to enact self-discipline on the body politic itself? Adding another level to this question, can elected representatives be expected to go beyond fixes that are perceived societally as sufficient to redress the underlying causes of governmental, economic, or societal problems? Far from urging or implying the supremacy of non-democratic forms of government, such questions invite improvement in democracy itself. In this essay, I reflect on these questions using India’s industrial policy as a case study.
Singh and Gandhi at a rally. It is clear who's the boss.   AP
 The full essay is at "India's Industrial Policy."

BP's Criminal Guilt in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Disaster

More than two years after the worst oil disaster in U.S. history, BP agreed in 2012 “to accept criminal responsibility for the . . . disaster that killed 11 workers.” What does it mean for an association to “accept criminal responsibility”? The notion seems unwholesomely anthropomorphic, if not chimeric in nature. Taken even just practically, holding a corporation itself criminally responsible may not be make sense, even as a deterrent. I contend that the notion of criminality applies only to human beings, whereas civil charges are suitable for associations including corporations.
The full essay is at "BP's Criminal Guilt."

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Seminarian

A closeted gay student at an evangelical seminary is a contrast with a rather obvious clashing point, with the predicted ending being that the student is kicked out and must find or come into his own identity free of exterior constraints. Yet The Seminarian (2010) smartly avoids that road well-traveled. Instead, the screenwriter risks giving theology a prominent, and perhaps even central place in the film. The venture is at odds with the bottom-feeder mentality of Hollywood represented in the film, De-Lovely (2004), in which Cole Porter’s bisexuality occupies center-stage. Comparing these two films, irony drips off the screen as De-Lovely, which is patterned after a theatrical musical, looks down on Hollywood and yet has a common theme, while The Seminarian is a film through and through and yet takes the high road by supposing that the viewers can and will stay through some substantive theology, which transcends social issues and even the dramatic.

The full essay is at "The Seminarian."