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Saturday, September 28, 2019

E.U. and U.S. Counterparts Met: A Basis for Comparison

President Barak Obama of the U.S., and Herman Van Rompuy and José Barroso of the E.U. held a news conference following the EU-US Summit at Lisbon in 2010. Even though the E.U. and U.S. are both empire-scale federal unions of states, and thus are equivalent in terms of political type or genre, they differ in terms of how their respective federal offices are arranged and constituted. This does not, however, nullify the basis of comparison.

The full essay is "The EU and US."

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Police/Security Over-Reaches: A Mentality Unfit for the Job

Absolute authority corrupts absolutely, according to Lord Ashton. On an organization or even local scale, people with authority can play considerably on ignorance (their own and that of others) to over-reach such that their actions are excessive. Seeing an off-duty police employee wearing a bullet-proof vest and standing next to a store security guard in a grocery store, for instance, can give at least new-comers an immediate sense of the excessive use of authority to intimidate even the innocent shoppers. In one grocery chain in Phoenix, Arizona, I was astonished to see such a policeman going aisle to aisle as a matter of routine. I saw a young mother, who was with her young daughter in one of the aisles, “freeze up” at the sight of policeman staring at them from the back end of the aisle. I myself could not believe my eyes. How does such ill-fitting excessiveness shift from inappropriateness to become the default—the status quo? Typically the underlying mentality is one of stubborn ignorance that cannot be wrong, backed up by an excessive and microscopic grip on real or invented authority. How is it that the more educated and broad-minded perspective in upper-echelon management comes to doubt even its common sense by being hoodwinked by the lower mentality? Excessive delegation to middle-and-lower levels of management, where the wider perspective can easily be lacking, may be part of the answer. Playing a supporting role, the value-system in the local culture may actually support the excess or look the other way in blind obedience to an ideology. Finally, if a practice beyond the pale gets its toehold in the status quo, then people can become blind to the excessiveness and treat it instead as normal. Excessiveness as the new normal. Dislodging an invasive or encroaching unquestioned trend can be very difficult given the nature of the status-quo default to act like cement. Two case studies demonstrate that an absurd over-reach by someone in the security field can occur. The first took place in Orlando, Florida. Accountability did occur, so the absurd was not allowed to become ensconced. The second was in Phoenix, Arizona. Such accountability is much more difficult there, so the aggressive over-reach of authority would likely become further ensconced in the conducive or enabling local culture. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Downton Abbey

Taking a story from a television series to a movie can present hurdles for screenwriters and directors, especially if they do not fully appreciate the qualitative differences between a movie and a television series. To be sure, well-crafted series such as Downton Abbey, The Crown, Game of Thrones, and House of Cards had narrowed the difference in terms of quality. Even so, a narrative limited to around two hours of play time is different than a narrative meant to be on-going. The financial resources are also more concentrated in the making of a film than an ongoing series (even if it ends after five or six years). I submit, therefore, that Julian Fellowes, the producer and screenwriter of both the Downton series and movie, erred in hiring a director of the series, Michael Engler, to direct the movie. Just because he had directed (just) four episodes of the series does not mean that he knew how to direct a movie. A seasoned movie director would have been a better choice.

The full essay is at "Downton Abbey."