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Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Euroskeptic Ideology: Inherently Exogenous to the E.U.

At the root of the matter of Britain's secession from the Union, I submit, is a starkly Euro-skeptic, or Anti-federalist, ideology that viewed the E.U. as a network to which the sovereign state of Britain belongs, as PM David Cameron said before the secession referendum. Unfortunately, this view ran up against the reality of the E.U.'s federal system in which the federal level too had some sovereignty. Even the mechanism of qualified majority voting involves a loss of sovereignty for the state governments. The discordance can be heard in a speech given by William Hague of the British government at the end of May in 2013 in which he advocated that state legislatures should be able to block E.U. laws proposed by the European Commission.[1] At the time, a state legislature could use a “yellow card” to object to a proposal that could presumably be better legislated and enforced at the state level. Hague wanted a “red card” option that a state legislature could use to block legislation. This proposal reflects the Nullification Acts passed by the government of South Carolina in the early 1830s, which prompted the U.S. to resist strongly as the union itself could have unraveled. Aside from the exogenous ideology itself in the E.U., two problems with Hague’s proposal can be identified. I contend that the problems stem from, and thus can point to, the underlying ideology that is inherently at odds with modern federalism, in which dual-sovereignty is a prominent attribute.
Should the state legislatures dominate the EU's legislature?  The British state government says yes. Would the Union wither and die?  Source: mapperywordpress.com
The full essay is at "A Euroskeptic Government in the E.U."

1. “William Hague Demands Right to Show ‘Red Card’ to European Union,” The Huffington Post, May 31, 2013.

“No Loans” on Gun Sales: G.E. as Socially Responsible or Financially Savvy?

In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newton, Connecticut in late 2012, General Electric announced that the company would no longer finance consumers’ gun purchases. Russell Wilkerson, a G.E. spokesman, wrote in an email that the new policy was being adopted “in light of industry changes, new legislation and tragic events that have caused widespread re-examination of policies on fire-arms.” In other words, the policy shift was not simply a reaction to Sandy Hook. Rather, the company’s executives were adapting to changes in the organization’s environment, including the industry itself. This opens up the question of whether the new policy can be classified under the rubric of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Perhaps the adaptation was simply good business, with the appearance of “CSR” adding some reputational capital through a good public-relations campaign.
Do business principles mandate treating this product like any other?  Source: NBC News

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Karl Lagerfeld: An Artistic (and Marketing) Genius

Weeks after Karl Lagerfeld’s death at 85 in February, 2019, I poured over interviews that the eternally-modern yet classic Renaissance man had given. “I only answer questions,” he had said an interview in at a WWD conference in 2013. His answers provide as inside as possible a look at l’homme extradinaire.  He considered himself a fashion designer, a book publisher (regular and picture books), and a photographer, though he did much more. I’m not sure whether his books, interior designs, architecture, and photography can be considered marks of genius, but that he extended his method of fashion-design and did so well is a testament to the man’s inner-workings. His answers remind me of Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect from Wisconsin whose work so revolutionized homes from the Victorian era. Essentially, he ushered in open homes from the closed roomed Victorian houses. Lagerfeld was also innovative, taking the classic Chanel look and adding bits of modernity, such as in combining a black dress with sneakers. Both men produced homes/dresses that were inexpensive and expensive. Neither was beyond reach, yet as visionaries so far above most other people. Lagerfeld, like Wright, saw things differently than most of their respective contemporaries did. This is perhaps their shared mark of genius: not be so tied to yesterday, combined with being inspired to use creative freedom then expanding its application. This is all based in the inner constitution of the two men, which I suspect was similar. As Lagerfeld said, “I am down to earth—just not this Earth.” This is actually quite telling of genius, for such minds typically think "outside the box" and so can easily see through even societal sacred cows and thus proffer very different perspectives. The thinking, intuition and/or artistic perspective, in other words, innately go beyond the societal and individual assumptions that most people do not even realize they live by or hold. I contend that Karl Lagerfeld's artistic, or visual genius went far beyond fashion-designing. 

The full essay is at "Karl Lagerfeld."

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

As U.S. President, Was Obama Really Anti-Israel?

In a poll in 2011, only 22% of Jewish voters in the U.S. said they approved of President Obama’s handling of Israel. Dan Senor pointed to the erosion of Obama’s Jewish fund-raising as another sign that the president was losing Jewish support in the United States. A poll by McLaughlin & Associates found that of Jewish donors who donated to Obama in 2008, only 64% had already donated or planned to donate to his re-election campaign of 2012. While a politician would undoubtedly try to placate and mollify the unsatisfied electorate, a statesman acting in the American interest might conclude that those voters were wrong in their assessment that the president’s policy was “anti-Israel.”

The full essay is at "Was Obama Anti-Israel?"

Monday, March 4, 2019

President Obama's Proposal to Rescue States: Unattended Problems in American Federalism and Human Sustenance

In 2011, President Obama proposed "to ride to the rescue of states" that had borrowed billions of dollars from the federal government to continue to pay unemployment benefits during the economic downturn. His plan was to "give the states a two-year breather before automatic tax increases would hit employers, and before states would have to start paying interest on the loans." Many of the states had begun the recession with "too little money in their unemployment trust funds'" Those states "quickly ran through what little they had as unemployment rose and remained stubbornly high month after month. With their own trust funds depleted, 30 states borrowed $42 billion from the federal government to continue paying unemployment benefits." These states were facing an estimated $1.3 billion in interest payments to Washington due in the fall of 2011. The President’s proposal also included raising the minimum taxable wage base from $7,000 to $15,000 in 2014. "The rate of the federal portion of the unemployment taxes would then be lowered, so the proposal would not raise federal taxes on states that do not owe the federal government money. But it would speed the rate at which states that do owe money repay the federal government, and allow states to collect more unemployment taxes to rebuild their trust funds if they do not lower their tax rates." By February, 2011, eighteen states had already raised their minimum taxable wage base to $15,000 or more, according to the National Association of State Workforce Agencies. Iris Lav, an adviser at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that the unemployment system was “a constellation of problems" that needed to be solved." She added that the near-term problem was the economy, and "both the interest payments and the principal repayments are [were] cutting into employers, and it [made] great sense to postpone them." The larger question was how to "get states to solvency.”[1]

Analysis of the proposal is at "Proposal to Rescue States."

1. Michael Cooper and Sheryl Stolberg, "Obama Plans to Rescue States with Debt Burdens," The New York Times, February 8, 2011.