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Friday, November 9, 2018

The American Media Went “Nuclear” on the U.S. Senate's Filibuster: A Case of Hyperactive Marketing?

Is ending the filibuster on appointments to executive-branch offices as well as judicial appointments below the U.S. Supreme Court really “the nuclear option”? Is this expression simply rhetoric gone horribly over the top? Journalists would undoubtedly demur, at least publically, yet without feeling an ounce of shame.

The full essay is at "Going Nuclear on the Filibuster: Journalistic Over-Kill?

On the Nature of Principled Leadership

What is principled leadership? Simply whatever a leader decides? Or even worse, believes? If so, does the content shift with the sands from one leader to the next? This would seem to invalidate any means of comparing one leader's rendition from another. That it to say, leaving the "filling in the blank" to any leader who wants to be principled opens the door to leadership by convenience under the cover, or subterfuge, of ethics as a means of self-restraint. Ironically, do-it-yourself principled leadership may actually be unethical. So it is vital that we ask ourselves, is a durable definition even possible?

Kant claims that principles that can be universalized without contradiction should be universalized. (Image Source: builddiscipline.com)

The full essay is at "Principled Leadership."

Unnecessary Systemic Risk: Banks' Price-Fixing and Racketeering in Side Businesses

A lawsuit filed in a Florida district-court in 2013 alleged that JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, and the London Metal Exchange (LME) artificially inflated aluminum prices.  The plaintiffs accused the companies of anti-trust practices and racketeering, including the “manipulation of the aluminum market through supply price fixing.”[1] This sounds like what had led to the forced break-up of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, though in that case exactly a century before, the restraint of trade had to do with the company’s main line of business (i.e., oil). In the case of the banks, however, owning commodity assets such as storage facilities and trading in raw materials do not constitute banking. This point triggers a larger question involving the repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act.

Should we allow banks to expand even beyond these functions to owning commodities and related real-estate? What does this do to the banks' systemic risk?    Image Source: salisburyareafoundation.org

The full essay is at "Unnecessary Systemic Risk in Banking."

[1] Melanie Burton, “Glencore, JPMorgan Sued Over Warehouse Aluminium Prices,” Reuters, August 7, 2013.

Non-Positional Leadership: A Matter of Charisma?

The concept of non-positional leadership is typically associated with charismatic leadership.[1] The Hebrew prophets are a case in point, as none had any formal civic position.  To be sure, a non-positioned leader need not be charismatic; such a leader can be effective in utilizing persuasion to get his or her position (i.e., "vision") sufficiently adopted by followers to become the default.  Obviously, a positioned official, whether in the upper echelons of a large corporation, government, or religious institution, need not “stoop” to persuasion; power from authority can be sufficient for an official's will to be done. However, does that evince leadership or simply raw power?

Gandhi epitomized non-positional leadership. He never held a formal office in religion or government. Is the strength of non-positional leadership necessarily moral?  Image Source: Idleindia.com

The entire essay can be found at "Non-Positional Leadership."

1. On “non-positional” leadership, see David Burkus, http://theleaderlab.org/

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Does Refusing Rolling Stone Magazine's Use of a Criminal's Picture For Marketing Purposes Violate Corporate Social Responsibility?

In 2013, the editors at Rolling Stone must have been kicking themselves after several retail chains announced that they would not be selling the issue that displays Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as a young hottie. Criminal charges had been made against him for the Boston marathon bombing that took place in April of that year. Selling a magazine by playing off the good looks of a terrorist was more than several—but not all—retailers could stand. Were the offended retailers being socially responsible, or is the matter of CSR not as clear-cut as has typically been assumed.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Transcending Limited Notions of the Divine

When religion meets human nature, does the gravitational pull of me, me, me tend to encompass the journey downward in an all too comfortable direction? In his Natural History of Religion, David Hume proposes his theory that any religion begins with a focus on something akin to divine simplicity, but then becomes increasingly robed with anthropomorphic artifacts until the sheer weight of which brings down the tree whose inherently upward-looking striving succumbs to the increasing weight of the human.
In other words, is religion too weak to withstand the human, all too human ornaments that we conveniently adorn of our religions? The ornaments ultimate reflect ourselves, and thus are so convenient. So too is surrounding ourselves with others of like beliefs a matter of convenience. That is, religion can unwittingly become all about the self. Such religions or sects thereof can get sucked into a regular orbit of convenience without any of the congregants noticing the gradual and subtle slide.

Handouts in Averting the Fiscal Cliff: The Price of Politics?

What is that nebulous thing called politics? Might it be that the practice is essentially exploiting or creating what are known as principal-agent costs? That is, might politics boil down to a skill in the agent (elected representative) in putting his political or economic interests ahead of doing the bidding of his principal(s) (i.e., his constituent body).  
In the U.S. Senate bill in early 2013 to obviate the “fiscal cliff,” for example, the Democrats may have agreed to benefits for the Republican lawmakers’ campaign backers in exchange for going along with a more progressive federal income tax system. Among the added provisions were special expensing rules for certain film and television productions—no doubt those made by particular campaign contributors. The provision for tax-exempt financing for the New York Liberty Zone around the former World Trade Center may also have been a favor to a particular someone. Lest it is wondered what an extension of the American Samoa economic development credit was doing in an expedited measure to obviate the “fiscal cliff,” the answer may have had to do with a particular Republican lawmaker’s relationship with someone having an interest in American Samoa. I can only speculate here, as I was not privy to the actual relationships and negotiations. However, the sheer strangeness of such provisions in such a bill suggests that the particular political or economic interests of particular Republican lawmakers may have been the culprit.
 Is money the language of politics?    citizen.org
The full essay is at "Handouts in Averting the Fiscal Cliff."

Keeping the Palestinian Authority Down at the United Nations

In “defiance of retaliation threatened” by the United States and the state of Israel, the Palestinian Authority announced in November 2012 that it planned to hold a vote in the U.N. General Assembly on the Authority’s request to become an observer state. According to The Wall Street Journal, “(s)uch a designation would give the Palestinian Authority the right over its airspace and territorial waters.” The Authority could participate in General Assembly debates, sponsor resolutions, and nominate candidates for Assembly committees. The Authority would be able to accede to treaties and join specialized U.N. agencies, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Law of the Sea Treaty, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the International Criminal Court. The Authority could thus press charges against Israelis before the Court.

The full essay is at "Keeping the Palestine Authority Down."

The “Fiscal Cliff” in U.S.: Real or Hyped?

As the U.S. economy slogged through a recession following the credit crisis in 2008 and the E.U. was weighed down by the ballast of austerity in the most indebted states, developing economies, including those of China and India, kept the world economy afloat. As a group, those economies grew 7.4% in 2010, 6.2% in 2011, and 5.5% in 2012. In keeping with this trend, the Global Economic Outlook of the Conference Board predicted 4.7% for 2013. Fortunately, the Board also predicted a pick-up in consumer demand in the U.S. to pick up the slack. “The only really short-term positive impact that we can have is that we can see a faster return of demand, particularly in the U.S.,” the Board’s chief economist said. As of 2012, such a return was not necessarily “in the cards.” The pessimism can be seen in the projected world economic growth of 3 percent, which is lower than the 3.2% expected in 2012 and the 3.8% achieved in 2011. That the projected growth rate of only 1.8% for the U.S. in 2013 is less than the projected 2.1% for 2012 indicates that increased demand in the U.S. was not expected to fully pick up the slack for the slowing-down of the developing economies. Here I want to point to a major factor in the U.S.: the possibly impending “fiscal cliff” of cuts in the federal budget and the end of the Bush tax breaks  that were scheduled to begin on January 1, 2013 unless Congress and the White House could come to a legislative agreement beforehand on an alternative way of holding down the deficits. Presumably that way would have a less recessionary effect.

The full essay is at "The Fiscal Cliff in the U.S."