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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Hypocritical CSR during a Pandemic: O’Reilly Automotive, Inc.

In the retail sector, the behavior of managers and their employees at the store level is particularly relevant to customers. This relevance, I submit, outweighs the wider benefit of a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program if the behavior contradicts either the CSR wording or actual programs. Besides the obvious bad odor of hypocrisy that vitiates CSR claims, a company’s direct effects on its customers (and employees) have implications in terms of responsibility. I submit that these implications are more important than those of CSR programs that are geared to societal problems because they are less central to a business. In short, having a CSR program does not make up for irresponsible policies or conduct toward customers (and employees). O’Reilly’s Automotive serves as a good illustration.

The full essay is at "Hypocritical CSR during a Pandemic."

Monday, November 16, 2020

On the Rushed Sainthood of Pope John Paul II: Metaphysics and Ideology Triumphant

Just days after the death of Pope John Paul II, “cardinals eager to uphold his conservative policies had already begun discussing putting him on a fast track to sainthood.”[1] This alone could have alerted religionists as to the possible sanctification of an ideology within the Roman Catholic Church. The force of an ideology to its partisans can render them deaf to other considerations. The church ideologues clamoring for the ages-old process of canonization to be disregarded—hardly a conservative demand—chose not to hear the “notes of caution from survivors of sexual abuse and historians that John Paul had persistently turned a blind eye to the crimes in his church.”[2] Fifteen years later, the Vatican itself admitted that the former pope had known of the crimes of Archbishop (of New York) Theodore McCarrick yet refused to put a stop to them. “The investigation, commissioned by Pope Francis, who canonized John Paul in 2014, revealed how John Paul chose not to believe longstanding accusations of sexual abuse against [McCarrick], including pedophilia, allowing him to climb the hierarchy’s ladder.”[3] Rather than being a mere mistake in judgment, as some conservatives would argue, the decision to look the other way resulted in great evil. The foreseeable consequences meant that John Paul II allowed more rapes to happen. Besides the rather obvious point that a saint would not have done so, and thus the canonization of John Paul II was erroneous, this case suggests that the “two miracles” requirement for canonization is itself flawed.

The full essay is at "On the Canonization of Pope John Paul II."

1. Jason Horowitz, “Sainted Too Soon? Vatican Report Cast John Paul II in Harsh New Light,” The New York Times, November 14, 2020.
2.  Ibid.
3. Ibid.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Corporate Federalism: Did AOL Miss an Opportunity?

Citing twelve past and present AOL employees, The Wall Street Journal characterized AOL in 2011 as a “culture of clashing fiefs and personalities created by a rapid series of acquisitions that haven’t jelled.”[1] Just in managing the likes of Michael Arrington and Arianna Huffington, Tim Armstrong had his hands full as CEO. Both Arrington and Huffington were strong defenders of editorial independence in their respective units. Arrington started a venture capital firm partly financed by AOL to invest in tech firms even as Arrington’s division at AOL, TechCrunch, wrote on technology firms. The problems for AOL went well beyond acquiescing in a structural conflict of interest of TechCrunch writing on particular tech companies while investing in some of them but not others. A person familiar with AOL said that Armstrong “had a macro vision that was right but didn’t have the right plan to implement it.”[2] That is to say, his visionary leadership was good but his strategic management was bad. Strategic leadership demands better. AOL may have been a good candidate for a federal system of governance because the publishing units needed some autonomy even at the cost of foregone corporate cooperation. 

The full essay is at "Corporate Federalism and AOL."

1. Jessica E. Vascellaro and Emily Steel, “Culture Clashes Tear at AOL,” Wall Street Journal, September 10-11, 2011. 
2. Ibid.

Taxation and Economic Inequality

The top 1% of U.S. taxpayers had 19.4% of the total income in 2007 and paid 28.1% of all federal taxes. In 1987, the top 1% had had 11.2% of the total income and paid 16.2% of all federal taxes. The share of total income going to the wealthy (income over $353,000 in 1987) and the share of federal income taxes they paid increased. That the poverty rate hit 15% in 2011 while the real wages of the middle and lower classes were back to mid-1990s levels suggests that the rich were getting richer as the poor were getting poorer; income and wealth inequalities were increasing. Differential impacts of a taxation regime can have an impact on a growing inequality, and thus on whether a society should adjust its tax structure. 

The full essay is at "Taxation and Economic Inequality."

Monday, November 9, 2020

Bank One: Adding to Systemic Risk after the Financial Crisis of 2008

The financial crisis in September 2008 was indeed a crisis, and yet it is stunning how soon the American financial sector sought to undermine governmental efforts to guard against another such crisis. Exactly three years after the crisis, Republicans in Congress  repeatedly invoked the Dodd-Frank Act’s 848-page length and rules on trading derivatives and swaps as examples of government overreach at the expense of much-needed jobs. “Dodd-Frank is adding safety margins to the banking system,” according to Douglas Elliott at the Brookings Institution. “That may mean somewhat fewer jobs in normal years, in exchange for the benefit of avoiding something like what we just went through in the financial crisis, which was an immense job killer.”[1] To scrap the new law in order to save few jobs would thus be short-sighted even with regard to jobs. Wall Street's concern, however, was not jobs, but, rather, the loss of profit off high-risk trading. 

The full essay is at "Bank One and Systemic Risk."

1. Edward Wyatt, “Dodd-Frank Act a Favorite Target for Republicans Laying Blame,” New York Times, September 21, 2011. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

American Federalism Eclipsed by an Ideal of Democracy: Education Over Immigration as a Constitutional Problem

The U.S. Constitution includes immigration as one of the listed (i.e., enumerated) powers of the federal government. Education is not such a power; hence it resides with the States. Historically, the accumulation of power by the federal government has involved taking areas from the States even though those areas are not listed as federal powers. As a result, American federalism has shifted increasingly toward a consolidation of power at the federal level. Among other means, Congresses and U.S. presidents have used the power of the purse to gain control from the States. Education is a case in point, whether elementary, secondary, or higher education. That the U.S. Government has had trouble controlling the country's southern border with Mexico suggests that maybe adding education has come at the expense of the added attention and effort that could have been put on immigration. In business terms, an opportunity cost (i.e., the cost of foregone benefits) comes with each additional federalized area. U.S. President Obama on education presents us with a case in point. 

The full essay is at "Federalism Eclipsed by Consolidation."

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Right of Political Protest in the U.S.: Nullified in the Outback by Intimidation

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting . . . the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of Grievances.” Peaceable protest, even to protest a government or an official thereof, has come to be regarded as a staple of American democracy. In practice, however, the right can be eviscerated such that peaceful protesting is simply not worth the trouble. Such trouble can be orchestrated by a police force or even a government within the United States. Implicit in the right to protest is the value put on tolerating the expression of contrary opinions. Conservative and progressive views, even those of racists and anarchists, respectively, are generally accorded the right to peaceably protest in a public way. If a State is sufficiently one-sided, however, public officials, including governors, majors, and police chiefs, can reflect the dominant attitude of residents that protests on behalf certain political, economic, or social ideologies should not be allowed. If they must be allowed, then massive shows of police force can—it is assumed--legitimately be used to intimidate the protesters. 

The full essay is at "The Right of Political Protest."

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Deficit Reduction and Tax Breaks: Rhetoric and Reality

Actions speak louder than words. A tree is known by its fruit. Where your treasure is, therein lies your heart. These three sayings each have at their root a value on integrity or authenticity that cuts through purported assertions designed to manipulate or otherwise mislead. Integrity here is consistency between word and deed. When members of Congress have cried that the sky was falling under the weight of the annual deficits and the accumulated debt of the U.S. Government, a person might ask by looking at the actual votes on legislation whether the representatives really considered the fiscal imbalances as so dire. If someone exclaims that her house is about to explode but does not act accordingly, such as in running out of the house rather than finishing dinner, it is reasonable to doubt that the person really believes that a blast is imminent. In protecting tax breaks even amid a deficit of over $1 trillion in 2011, members of Congress belied their own warnings concerning the American governmental debt crisis. The American people as a whole let their representatives get away with the Janus-like stances, and this in turn eventually allowed the U.S. Government debt to exceed $20 trillion. 

The full essay is at "Fiscal Rhetoric and Reality."

The Tyranny of the Veto: Eviscerating the U.N.

Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution on October 4, 2011, effectively tossing a life preserver, according to the New York Times, to Syria’s president. The toothless proposal would have condemned the Syrian government for its violent crackdown of popular protests in which more than 2,700 had been killed. The proposal’s language had been softened from targeted financial sanctions; the council would merely have been charged with considering unspecified measures after a 30-day period. Two reasons can be cited for the two vetoes: commercial ties and a vested interest in forestalling any more threats to the doctrine of national sovereignty.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

On the Ethics of Business Donations and Saving Souls

In the film, Major Barbara (1941), Barbara, a Major in the Salvation Army, has been raised with her sister and brother by their mother. She is legally separated or divorced from the father, Andrew Undershaft, who nonetheless finances the lavish lifestyle of his family. Even Barbara, the idealist Christian evangelical, lives on her father’s armaments wealth. Yet when she meets him after several years, she leaves the Salvation Army after Andrew and an alcohol producer donate large sums. Although Barbara recognizes that the Army in London needs the money, she believes that the Army has sold out because providing weapons of death and alcohol are sinful. “What price salvation, now?” a customer at the Army’s soup kitchen asks Barbara after she had taken off her Army pin and given it to her father. Barbara is not willing to continue with the Christian organization because in her mind it has sold out even though it admittedly needs the donations to survive. But has the Army sold out? Furthermore, does Barbara sold out in using her father's business to convert workers. Ironically, that may be more ethical than the Army's approach to saving souls. 

The full essay is at "Major Barbara."

Monday, October 19, 2020

Coronavirus Reveals Dysfunctional Culture in Arizona

In mid-October, 2020, when the coronavirus was again peaking in E.U. states such as France and Germany and U.S. states such as Wisconsin and New Mexico, public health experts were worried about how the upcoming flu season would interact with the new virus, especially as people gather more indoors when outside temperatures turn colder. On October 15, 2020, for instance, seven U.S. states saw record numbers of hospitalizations, according to the Covid Tracking Project, and fourteen states set records for their seven-day averages of new daily cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.[1] France and Germany had already instituted nightly curfews. On October 16, Tier 2 Restrictions went into effect in London, which include urging people to avoid public transportation. Because physical distancing is not always possible on buses, subways, and light rail, universal mask wearing was crucial. According to IHME projections at the time, universal mask wearing in general “could save the lives of more than 70,000 Americans in the next three and a half months.”[2] With New Mexico’s chief executive referring to the coronavirus situation as “the most serious emergency that New Mexico has ever faced” on October 14, it was very troubling that Arizona, which borders New Mexico, had failed to enforce laws requiring masks on public transportation. This failure is extraordinary because of the mentality behind it.

1. Christina Maxouris and Jason Hanna, “The US Has Reached 8 Million Covid-19 Cases, and the Pace of New Infections Signals a Tough Winter,” CNN.com, October 16, 2020.

2.  Ibid.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Religion as an Academic Area of Study

What is religion? What does the domain of religion cover? What is excluded? Does opinion eclipse knowledge in marking the boundaries? Should we allow empirical self-identification claims from self-proclaimed religionists to veto any offending established knowledge of what the religion is? I contend that an atheist who claims he is nonetheless a practitioner of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam does not alter the fact that the three Abrahamic religions are monotheist. Atheist Judaism, for instance, is an oxymoron born of an arrogant subjectivity that offends reason itself and therefore cannot be valid.

The full essay is at "Religion as an Academic Area of Study." 

Friday, September 25, 2020

On the Arrogance of Self-Entitlement during a Pandemic

In the midst of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, libertarians in San Francisco, California objected to wearing face masks. Other people there were simply fed up with wearing masks by late 1918. The libertarians, who objected on the basis of rights, actually prevented the Board of Health from renewing a mandate to wear masks.[1] In early 1919, another spike in influenza cases there led the board to put a mandate in place. So in March of 2020, the failure of mass transits and retail stores to enforce physical distancing and the failures a few months later to enforce mandates on wearing face masks to reduce the spread of the coronavirus can be seen as recklessness (and fecklessness) that could have been prevented by looking back a hundred years. But could the willful disregard of store policies and local law both by customers and store managers have been prevented had business had heeded history? I contend that human nature, which had not changed in such a short time by evolutionary standards, played the heavy, or anchor.

The full essay is at "On the Depth of Selfishness."

1. Kristen Rogers, “What the 1918 Flu Pandemic Can Teach Us about Coronavirus,” CNN.com, September 25, 2020.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsberg: Societal Change as the Mission of the U.S. Supreme Court

By chance, I watched RBG (2018), a documentary on Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a U.S. Supreme Court justice, on the day she died in 2020. Being just a month and a half before the U.S. presidential election, the sudden opening immediately became political. This is of course to be expected, given that the sitting U.S. president nominates candidates and the U.S. Senate confirms them. The role of political ideology on the bench and thus in court decisions, however, is considerably more controversial because the justices are tasked with interpreting the law rather than stitching their own ideologies into law as a means of changing society. The documentary demonstrates that changing society through law was precisely Ginsberg’s objective.

The full essay is at "RBG."

Saturday, September 12, 2020

On the American Military-Industrial Complex

A democratic republic affords many avenues for organized private interests to influence public policy. The fact that such interests are organized is enough to outweigh the influenced of an organized constituency. Add in the money available to organized interests and the imbalance is exaggerated. The military industrial complex—the “informal” alliance between a military and private defense-contractors is a case in point in the United States. 

The full essay is at "Military Industrial Complex."

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Britain's Obsession with Sovereignty Threatens Trade Treaty with the E.U.

Months after Britain seceded from the E.U., the government of the former state went rogue in intending to pass a law that would unilaterally change, and thus violate, the terms of the post-secession trading agreement between the UK and its former union. The bill proposed no new checks on goods going from the Northern Ireland region to the other regions of the UK. Whereas the British prime minister was claiming that the full sovereignty of the former state meant that Parliament could unilaterally change the terms of a treaty, the European Commission was saying, in effect, that an agreement is an agreement. I contend that the Commission was correct. Moreover, even before the UK seceded from the European Union, an obsession on sovereignty (then, states' rights) rendered Britain vulnerable to failing to grasp the costs.  

The full essay is at "Trade Treaties and Governmental Sovereignty."

Monday, August 3, 2020

Miracles as a Literary Device

The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) is known for being the first Hollywood movie in which the face of Jesus is shown. From the standpoint of the next century, the scandal in showing Jesus could only seem antiquated, if not outright silly. Rarely can such perspective on a scandal exist as it is occurring. In its own time, a scandal seems all-important and critically in need of being addressed lest life as we know it would otherwise come to an end. Ten years earlier, Nikos Kazantzakis' novel, The Last Temptation of Christ, had also been controversial, as was the 1988 film of the same name (and based on the novel) because Jesus imagines himself in the sexual act and he may struggle with mental illness. This scandal was more serious than was that which greeted The Greatest Story Ever Told even though the Jesus of Last Temptation ends up rejecting the temptation to avoid the cross and is thus faithful to his Father in the end. The viewer is left, however, without a decisive answer as to whether the film's Jesus suffers from mental fits because the film ends with Jesus dying on the cross. The theological validation of Jesus is made in Greatest Story, though curiously not chiefly in the usual way this is done in narratives about him. I submit that this deviation makes the film highly significant in that it emphasizes religious experience as a reaction.  

The full essay is at "The Greatest Story Ever Told."

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Satan in Film: In Light or Darkness?

Released in the last year of the twentieth century, The Ninth Gate is a film about the use of a book to conjure up Satan. The book's title is The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows. Between three copies exist nine engravings appropriated from a book written by Lucifer. The person who gets all of those engravings can conjure up the devil. The Kingdom of Shadows presumably refers to Satan's kingdom. At the end of the film, Dean Corvo, a dishonest book dealer, rather than his client, Boris Balkan, is welcomed into a castle in which Satan is located. As the castle's main doors open, a blinding light shines outward into the night. Although Thomas Hobbes castigates the Roman Catholic Church as the kingdom of darkness in his text, Leviathan, Satan's realm has typically been depicted as dark in Christian art. Indeed, the film's own reference to Lucifer's kingdom as that of shadows follows this motif. Yet how can we account for the white light inside the castle? 

The full essay is at "Satan in Film."

Saturday, July 25, 2020

False Christians as the Power-Elite of a Church: A Case of Human Arrogance

In what begins as a story about Bess, a mentally-ill (or cognitively challenged) woman who marries Jan, an oilman, Breaking the Waves (1996) is a film that ends on a distinctively religious note that is nothing short of miraculous. The viewer is meant to be skeptical concerning the authenticity of Bess's spirituality, especially as seems delusional in having two-way conversations with God. Even as one of her prayerful petitions seems perhaps of having been granted when Jan returns from the oil rig to Bess, albeit with Jan paralyzed from an accident, the overwhelming view of the characters in the story, including Jan, is that, as Bess's physician asks Bess, "Do you really think you have so much power?" Bess is blaming herself for Jan's serious medical condition. She could reply, "It's God's power, not mine," but she is slow. Yet she can love, unconditionally. When Jan urges Bess to sleep with other men then tell him about the experiences so he will have the will to live, Bess complies and is summarily kicked out of her church. Even Bess's mother, with whom Bess lives, locks the door. The church elders and the minister are judgmental hypocrites who presume that they can consign a person to hell. Even so, Bess's trust in God as a matter of faith continues, and she sacrifices her life by willingly submitting herself to a sadistic sailor so that God might then heal Jan. Meanwhile, the unbelievers are trying to get Bess to a mental hospital, given her "delusion." On the morning after Jan and his friends on the rig drop Bess's body into the sea, one of the friends wakes Jan to come outside and hear bells ringing even as radar shows nothing out there. The viewer now knows not only that God performed a miracle on Jan, for he is walking around and even back on the rig, but also that Bess's faith is vindicated as heaven's bells miraculously are chiming. The burial followed by bells ringing at sunrise reflects the story of Jesus' passion. The overall message seems to be that we mortals don't know as much as we think we do about God's ways, even if we do happen to have power in the governance of a church. 

The full essay is at "Breaking the Waves."

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Deforestation in Brazil: Exacerbating Climate Change

On July 17, 2020, satellite data from Brazil's space agency showed that deforestation in Brazil's Amazon was accelerating. "Nearly 3,000 square miles of tree coverage were lost in the 11 months that ended June 30 .That is a 64% increase from the year-earlier period, when 1,772 square miles of forest were destroyed."[1] The deforestation in 2020 was "likely to exceed 2019's total of 3,900 square miles by a 'wide margin," according to a senior scientist at the space agency.[2] Under normal circumstances, which the Wall Street assumed, we would consider the government's claim that not enough troops were available to patrol enough of Brazil's massive Amazon jungle to even slow the acceleration. According to Ricardo Salles, the environment minister, the government wanted to "attract foreign investors to fund sustainable economic development in the jungle."[3] That is to say, the matter boils down to (international) political economy. However, the circumstances were not normal.

1. Paulo Thevisani, "Brazil's Forest Losses Quicken," The Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2020.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Corona Crisis: Arizona in a “Free Fall” and “Out of Control”

On July 7, 2020, NBC News reported that Arizona had a record number of cases (105,094) and of deaths (1,927), with a four percent daily increase in reported cases. Also, coronavirus hospitalizations and related ventilators being used were also at record highs. A reporter with MSNBC stated, “Arizona is in crisis.” On the previous day, on MSNBC television, that same reporter had said, “Arizona is in free fall,” in that the number of cases was rising so fast. It had taken three months for the first 50,000 cases and only 23 days for the next 50,000. Observing that people were not wearing masks in downtown Scottsdale, he reported that “Arizona is out of control.” People there were not taking precautions, and the local and state authorities were not on top of the crisis. On June 22, 2020, a physician with the University of Arizona-Phoenix interviewed on The 11th Hour show on MSNBC asserted that the Arizonans who were saying, “No one is going to order me to wear a mask,” were being selfish because refusing to wear a mask, say on a bus or in a store or restaurant/bar puts other lives at risk. Also a salient ingredient of the crisis in Arizona was the anti-science contingent of the population. In an interview at the time, Alan Alda (of the TV show, MASH) pointed to “pockets of people who still think science is just another opinion” as having a mindset that “puts us all in danger.”[1] The rigors of scientific experiment, such as the use of control groups and random selection, render science closer to knowledge than are mere opinions based on ideology and a person’s own experience. Privileging one’s own ideology and experiences counts as self-embellishing, and perhaps even self-idolatry. Such people are not likely to accept knowledge that contradicts their respective opinions and experience. Living in Phoenix at the time, I had encountered a lot of anti-intellectualism and incompetence along with refusals to enforce virus-deterring policies and even laws. Just one year earlier, Arizona’s education system through High School (K-12) had been rated as 49 out of the 50 States, but this does not explain the sordid attitude that is pervasive there.

The full essay is at "Arizona Out of Control."

1. David Hochman, “Alan Alda Is Obsessed with the Power of Science,” AARP: The Magazine, June/July, 2020.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

A Tale of Two Republics: Arizona and California during the Coronavirus Pandemic

An educated and virtuous citizenry is essential for a republic to endure, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, two former U.S. presidents and rivals, agreed in an exchange of letters. Interestingly, both men died on July 4, 1826. Of course, the vote on independence had occurred on July 3, 1776 and the Declaration was signed over weeks rather than dramatically on July 4, 1776. Unfortunately, false narratives can take on a life of their own. Another example involves the U.S.'s "sun-belt" states, whose surging popularity from the 1980s at least through 2020 has masked the true conditions of the underlying cultures. Maricopa county, in which Phoenix, Arizona is located, was in the top 10 nationally for numeric increases in population from 2010 to 2020. Lest it be supposed that that county improved, a survey in July, 2019 listed Arizona as 49th out of the 50 States on elementary education (K-12th grade). 
Relatedly, Arizona's Medicaid system had a sordid reputation in terms of how well the subcontracting companies and non-profits managed themselves and were held accountable. As of 2020, Arizona still had a significant number of ideological voters who believed that Medicaid was a form of sordid socialism, which unjustly had taken the place of horrid communism. Because Medicaid had become the unwanted step-child in that political culture that still boasted that "taxes are theft," tight budgets and the State's bad education system resulted in subcontracting organizations, including medical clinics, conveniently embellishing their low-wage employees. Reports emerged of nurse-practitioners claiming to have the same training as physicians and even specialists such as psychiatrists and dermatologists, and of counselors misrepresenting themselves as being synonymous with therapists. In fact, Arizona's Medicaid tumor even reduced mental health to behavioral health so the cheaper behavior-trained counselors rather than therapists could be hired and relied upon. 
Furthermore, the organizations in Arizona receiving most or all of their funding from public-aid agencies like Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Medicaid were reputed to suffer from administrative incompetence without much accountability from either of those two government agencies. It was quite strange to read of the non-profit organizations and companies, including medical clinics, refer to themselves as agencies. Such lying with impunity also served to dissimulate any criticism of administrative incompetence. That low-class sub-culture of dependent organizations could count on the low education level in the state and its notable anti-science (and anti-intellectualism) ideology not to know better. In fact, no one would be likely to push-back on the Medicaid employees in the state who mispronounce the technocratic acronym for the state's Medicaid program, AHCCCS, as access rather than ah-kehs. In Arizona, the letter C is not hard (like a K) if an S follows, rather than just an E or I. You're wrong, ignorance that can't be wrong has the gall to say. You're wrong, I don't need to keep six-feet away from people. You're wrong, my people don't need enforceable government orders. Relative to California, we could rightly expect that Arizona would botch its management of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Integrity in Ethical Leadership

In the late twentieth century, many leadership scholars explored the link between ethics and leadership. The ethical component was portrayed not only as adherence to particular principles, but also as character giving rise to virtue ethics and integrity. Unfortunately, neither character nor integrity are leadership skills; hence our topic goes beyond the apparently easy fix of training. This puts the emphasis on the hiring process, which can be dominated by positional experience and a candidate’s vision for the organization. Upper-echelon leadership, such as of a business, government, religious organization, or university, involves the articulation of a broad vision that can include even societal norms and values.  Steve Jobs’ vision, for instance, was of a society in which communications would be done entirely differently. Although ethical principles and virtues were not salient in his vision, any head of an organization can highlight ethical principles in his or her vision.[1] Having such an emphasis and a societal-transformational vision can both resonate with people whose interests go beyond organizational effectiveness. Such visions are fun. My focus here is on integrity in ethical leadership, whether virtues or ethical principles are salient in the vision. Of particular difficulty is determining whether integrity has ethical content or is merely consistency between word and action. I contend that if integrity is interpreted as only the consistency, the ethical leadership may not really be ethical.

The full essay is at "Integrity in Ethical Leadership."

1. P. Madsen, “Managing Ethics,” Executive Excellence 7, no. 12 (1990): 11-12.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Reverse Racism: A Stealth Weapon

I take the expression, reverse racism, to mean at its core: racism against racists. Normatively, I contend that it is wrong to generalize to an entire group based on the mentality or behavior of a subset, and to make individuals outside of that subset suffer. Lest reverse racism be reduced to racism, the reverse version has its own dynamic, and thus its own toxicity, wherein fallacious attributions of racism are aggressively turned into a weapons, whether from oversensitivity or fabrication. In short, the statement, “You are a racist,” can be lobbed like a hand grenade with impunity. The statement is a foregone conclusion that skips over the need to first make an accusation. The person is declared guilty and consequences are demanded. As a response to racism, reverse racism stokes the fire of rage that racism originally sparked. The dynamics of reverse racism can be seen from an example at UCLA (University of California—Los Angeles).

The full essay is at "Reverse Racism on Campus."

Ancient Judaism on Wealth: It Depends

The early Hebrews considered wealth to be an integral part of human perfection and, moreover, what ought to be.[1] The ideal man was wealthy and leisured, and yet occupied with honorable work.[2] In the Torah, as long as the Hebrews as a people obey God, including dutifully acting as stewards rather than as selfish exploiters of the land that God has provided, poverty should be nonexistent in Israel. “There need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God.”[3] Blessed wealth is a reward for fidelity to Yahweh, whereas poverty here is indicative of, or even punishment for, disobedience, which will evidently always be the case in Israel, for, “There will always be poor people in the land.”[4] The conditionality leaps off the page, as does the notion of collective justice, and yet wealthy individuals, including business practitioners, are held to account. The ethic of work is upheld even though labor in Genesis is due to original sin, and poverty is eschewed as sin. 

The full essay is at "Ancient Judaism on Wealth."

[1]. Charles R. Smith, The Bible Doctrine of Wealth and Work (London: Epworth Press, 1924), 21.
[2]. Smith, The Bible Doctrine, 22, 33-34.
[3]. Deut. 15:4-5.
[4]. Deut. 15:11.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Pope Francis: Religious and Secular Arguments for Governments Subordinating Markets to Social Norms

The documentary, Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (2018) chiefly lays out the pope’s critique of economic Man. The film begins with references to climate change too loosely linked to the global population figure of 8 million humans, 1 billion of whom are unnecessarily living in poverty. The viewer is left to fill in the gaps, such as that because as biological organisms we must consume and use energy, the hyperextended overpopulation of the species is the root cause of climate- and ecosystem-changing CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans. Arguably, the salvific Son of God or the means into the Kingdom of God enjoy pride of place in the gospels, but compassion for the poor as well as outcasts and the sick is indeed a message that Jesus stresses in the faith narratives. Rather than being a sign of sin, poverty, especially if voluntary,  can permit the sort of humility that is much superior to the pride of the Pharisees. In the documentary, Jorge Bergoglio, who took the name Francis in becoming pope of the Roman Catholic Church in 2013, is a practical man who points to the sickness or temptation of greed that keeps humanity from riding itself of poverty, unnecessarily. Moreover, the hegemony of the market, with its culture of consumerism and commoditization, comes at the cost of the common good, which to Francis has a spiritual basis. Abstractly speaking, harmony, which inherently respects its own limitations, should have priority over greed and markets. Both of these can go to excess without enough built-in constraints as occurred before and during the financial crisis of 2008, with poverty plaguing humanity more rather than less as a result.

The full essay is at "Pope Francis."

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Strategic Leadership

Strategic planning is oriented to enhancing the bottom-line.  Leadership affects organizational performance as well.[1] Therefore, strategic leadership, which can be defined as the formulation and articulation of a vision depicting a social reality and incorporating strategic aims, can enhance a firm’s sustainable competitive advantage.[2] Strategic leadership is an intangible core competency that can give rise to a core capability differential involving reputation.[3] That strategic leadership is difficult to understand and therefore to imitate contributes to its value in no small measure. But a straightforward application of strategic leadership may be thwarted if a tension develops in its exercise.  In particular, the principles behind an enduring leadership vision can be at odds with pressing strategic interests, especially as these profit-interests change while the abstract vision still holds.

The full essay is at "Strategic Leadership."

[1]. J. A. Petrick and J. F. Quinn, “The Challenge of Leadership Accountability for Integrity Capacity as a Strategic Asset,” Journal of Business Ethics 24 (2001): 331; S. Finkelstein and D. Hambrick, Strategic Leadership: Top Executives and Their Effects on Organizations (St. Paul, MN: West Publishing, 1996); J. Ciulla, “Leadership Ethics: Mapping the Territory,” Business Ethics Quarterly, 5, no. 1(1995): 5-28; K. B. Lowe, K.G. Kroeck, and N. Sivasubramaniam: “Effectiveness Coorelates of Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta-analytic Review of the MLQ Literature,” Leadership Quarterly 7, no. 3 (1996), 385-425.
[2]. R. D. Ireland and M.A. Hitt, “Achieving and Maintaining Strategic Competitiveness in the 21st Century: The Role of Strategic Leadership,” Academy of Management Executive 13, no. 1 (1999): 43.
[3]. Petrick and Quinn, “The Challenge of Leadership”; J. A. Petrick et al, “Global Leadership Skills and Reputational Capital: Intangible Resources For Sustainable Competitive Advantage,”  Academy of Management Executive 13, no. 1(1999): 58, f.n. 2.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Police Brutality: A Symptom of a Brain Sickness Stimulated by Large Doses of Power

Behind the ornate rooms and regalia of a head of state, the stately appearance of legislative chambers, and even revered democratic constitutions, the basis of a government is its power—even if beyond authorized limits—to use lethal force against even its electorate peacefully protesting. As the results of the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971 show, human beings who have police power—even beyond the authorized—have at the very least a proclivity to abuse people without countervailing power. The students who were assigned as prison guards in the experiment because so abusive toward the students assigned as prisoners that the experiment had to be terminated after only 6 days in a two-week period. Even the experimenter, who took on the role of prison superintendent during the experiment, “had become indifferent to the suffering” of the students who were in the role of prisoners.[1] Lest it be concluded that college students are simply too immature to assume even what seems to be absolute power over other students, such behavior is arguably common among actual police employees. Lest it be further concluded that such behavior is part of an autocratic regime, even the known instances in republics suggest that human nature itself cannot handle such discretion as police departments and their employees have. Incredibly, even with the result of the Stanford study, no one seems to go to this conclusion; rather, primitive human nature may be poised to jump from incident to incident as if doing so enough would end the abuse of such power.
The presumptuousness that police departments and individual employees have in abusing their powers to harm even nonviolent protesters was on display to the world on June 4, 2020 as police in Buffalo, New York, pushed down a 75 year-old man who ironically had stood for peace and justice for decades. The violent act itself by two police employees was telling. Video shows Martin Gugino approaching an oncoming police employee in a nonviolent manner to talk—perhaps to ask a question. Another police employee immediately speeds up his pace—the first indication of possible aggression. Then he and another employee pushed Martin backwards. Incredibly, one of the employees who pushed Martin then shock his head back and forth as if the incident had been Martin’s fault, when the fault lied with the employee. Such shirking of responsibility is a convenient mental tactic by which the abusive mind seeks to justify/protect itself—the delusion being hidden to such a mind by the mind itself.

2.Buffalo Police Riot Squad Quit to Back Officers Who Shoved Man,” BBC.com, June 5, 2020 (accessed June 6, 2020).
3. Julia Mahncke, “Why Police in the US Are So Powerful,” DW.com, June 6, 2020 (accessed same day).
4. Ibid.

Friday, June 5, 2020

E.U. Trade Negotiations with a Former State: The Paradigm of Britain

The paradigm used by a former state can undermine any negotiations between it and a federal government. Even the reference to a federal government, if contrary to such a paradigm, can subtly undercut relations. The typical focus on the matters to be negotiated, such as new trade relations, easily miss the negative impact of a biased paradigm that is more based in Euroskeptic states’ rights (i.e., anti-federalism) that on the actual relation being between a former state and the European Union.

   Is a former State equivalent with the Union of States?

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Case for Christ: On the Problem of Extracting History from Faith Narratives

A film narrative oriented to an investigation of Christianity is tailor-made to illustrate the potential of film as a medium to convey abstract ideas and theories. In The Case for Christ (2017), a skeptical journalist—Lee Strobel—takes on the contention that Jesus’ resurrection in the Gospels was also a historical event (i.e., happened historically). Lee states the proposition that he will investigate as follows: “The entire Christian faith hinges on the resurrection of Jesus. If it didn’t happen, it’s a house of cards. He’s reduced to a misunderstood rabbi at best; at worst, he was a lunatic who was martyred.” The journalist’s initial position is that the resurrection didn’t happen historically; it is just part of a faith narrative (i.e., the Gospels). Lee wants to test the proposition by interviewing experts. The dialogues between the journalist unschooled in theology and the scholars of religion provide a way in which complex ideas and arguments can be broken down for the viewer and digested. The journalist stands as a translator of sorts similar to a teacher’s function in breaking down knowledge new to students so they can grasp and digest it.

The full essay is at "Case for Christ."

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Religious Themes Secularized Through Film

One approach to infusing religion in a film is to utilize a secular lens to keep overt religious content hidden such that only its messages that can be stated in a secular way come through. The basic values of a religion can be transmitted without specific religious belief-claims possibly turning off some viewers. Given the mass audience that a typical film can reach, the medium is a good means for presenting people with values that come out of religion but have their own intrinsic worth apart from the related religious belief-claims. Film can play a role, therefore, in enabling the values of a religion to survive the religion’s downfall. From watching the film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019), a viewer would not know that Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister. His wife says at one point in the film that Fred reads scripture and prays daily, but that is the only clue in the film that his religious faith is the source of his motivation for and messages on his show, “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

The full essay is at "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood."

Monday, May 25, 2020

Religion and Ethics: A Christian Interpretation Transcending a Film

Although dramatic tension is a crucial element of a narrative, the main point is not necessarily in the resolution of the tension. Dramatic tension may be used as a means by retaining viewer-interest through a film whose main points are made along the way. Such points can transcend plot and be even more important than the resolution of the narrative. Man from Earth (2007) is a case in point. In the film, John, an anthropology professor, has just resigned from his teaching position. The entire film takes place during the send-off party at his house just before he is to move away. As the discussion ensues, John admits to his university guests that he is actually a 14,000 year-old caveman. Because he looks about 35 or 40, he explains that once he reached a certain age, he stopped aging due to a biological abnormality (i.e., a genetic mutation). That his anthropological and biological lenses cover even religious matters makes his religious interpretations interesting and even useful to the viewer. I am assuming here that coming in contact with a different perspective can enrich a person’s understanding of a phenomenon. It is in this sense that the film provides valuable information to the viewer and is entertaining even beyond viewing the film. Indeed, a method for interpreting the faith narratives of Christianity, and religion in general, can be extracted and applied outside of the film.

The full essay is at "Man from Earth."

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Film in Biblical Storytelling

For anyone interested in filmmaking, a film that features the internal operations of a film studio—especially one during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood—is likely to be captivating. After all, as Eddie Mannix, the studio executive in Hail, Caesar! (2016), says, the “vast masses of humanity look to pictures for information and uplift and, yes, entertainment.” This film provides all three for its audience on what film-making was like in the studio system. With regards to the Christian theology, however, the result is mixed.  The film makes the point that theological information best comes out indirectly from dramatic dialogue rather than discussion on theology itself. In other words, inserting a theological lecture into a film’s narrative is less effective than an impassioned speech by which entertainment and uplift can carry the information.

The full essay is at "Hail, Caesar!"

Friday, May 22, 2020

The E.U. Court Says No to Hungarian Asylum Detention Camps: A Test for E.U. Federalism

On May 11, 2020, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the E.U.’s highest court, ruled against the state of Hungary on its detention camp near the Serbian border. The state had denied the asylum requests because the immigrants had come through Serbia, and the latter refused to allow them to reverse course. The immigrants were thus stuck, essentially detained in “prison-like conditions.”[1] The high court ruled that the “conditions prevailing in the Roszke transit zone amount to a deprivation of liberty.”[2] ECJ Advocate General Priit Pikamae had argued that the “unlawful detention” was due to the “high degree of restriction of the freedom of movement.”[3] The state of Hungary had argued that the immigrants could have stayed in Servia, as it was a safe-country of transit, and thus were not eligible for asylum in Hungary. Unlike Hungary, Serbia was not an E.U. state, which may be why the asylum-seekers did not want to remain in Serbia. Hence being a border state added to Hungary’s woes. Therefore, the E.U. had some responsibility to alleviate the pressure on Hungary. Yet the Union did not do so, showing its weakness, and yet the state government bowed to the ECJ’s ruling. To the extent that the E.U. relies on such self-subordination in the want of federal help, the E.U. could be said to be on borrowed time during which basic adjustments to the federal system could be made.

1. Deutsche Welle, “Hungary Illegally Held Asylum-Seekers, ECJ Rules,” DW.com, May 14, 2020 (accessed May 22, 2020).
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

An E.U. Economic Recovery Fund: A Federal Problem

On May 18, 2020, with the E.U. Commission having been no match for the states’ own interests in their own health and economic crises, the governors of France and Germany announced that they would support a recovery fund to help the states most in need. The €500 billion fund of grants (not loans) would be raised on the capital markets and guaranteed by the state governments. It would be part of the federal budget.[1] I submit that the imbalance in that federal system is evident; here again, the power of the state governments relative to the federal Commission shows the weakness of the latter.

The full essay is at "E.U. Recovery: Federalism."

[1] Katya Adler, “Politics and PR: Behind the Scenes of Franco-German Recovery Fund,” BBC.com, May 18, 2020.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

1917: The Film

Roughly a century before 2019, when the film, 1917, was made, the Great War, or what would subsequently be renamed, World War I, was raging in Europe. Incredibly, soldiers had to live in dug-out trenches for years. It is no wonder that the war would bring the Spanish Flu to both Europe and America. In 2020, roughly a century after that flu, the coronavirus pandemic was occurring globally, yet without any war to have incubated that virus. By 2020, Europeans and Americans alike could not have imagined what life must have been like in the trenches. The film’s finest contribution, I submit, is in capturing that context, which in effect does a great deal of the story-telling. The film is thus a good illustration of the role that context can play in story-telling in an audio-visual medium such as film.

The full essay is at "1917."