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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Can Ethical Leadership Be Taught?

In the typical business school, this question would be interpreted, or “refurbished.” Can students be trained to become ethical leaders? While often conflated contemporaneously, these two questions are indeed distinct. Instructors, professors and school administrators should first decide which question is more relevant to their purposes. The question chosen should fit with the education, pedagogical method, and philosophy of education of not only the instructor or professor, but also the school itself. In this essay, I distinguish the two questions in order to unpack them with their full significance.

The entire essay is at “Can Ethical Leadership Be Taught?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Son of God: Comparative Religion in Film

The 2014 film, Son of God, follows a familiar trajectory well-known to viewers who had seen films such as George Stevens’ The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). Watching the Passion story yet again, I could not help but take note of the repetitiveness from sheer likeness. Yet one scene sticks out among the usual denouement—that scene in which Jesus in the wilderness, the high priest in the Temple, and the Roman Pontius Pilate with his wife in their chambers pray in their own ways and with differing assumptions about divine intent toward a petitioner. The interplay of petitions plays like a tutorial for the ears and eyes on comparative religion, found here even within a religion.


The entire essay is at “Son of God.” 

Shepherd Leadership: Protective Caring Beyond Profit

Unlike the word servant, which has been so much applied to business leadership, shepherd is used in the New Testament exclusively in reference to leaders.[1]  Jesus is described as both “the great shepherd” and “the good shepherd.”[2] This is not to say that the analogy applied only to Jesus himself. After his resurrection, for example, Jesus tells Peter to do the work of a shepherd.[3] Peter in turn urges church elders to be shepherds of God’s flock.[4] So too does Paul at Ephesus.[5] Can a Christian CEO apply the attributes of being a shepherd to leading a business organization? I contend that such a fit can indeed be made.

The complete essay is at “Shepherd Leadership.”




[1] Richard Higginson, Transforming Leadership: A Christian Approach to Management (SPEK: London, 1996), p. 48.
[2] Hebrews 13:20; John 10:11.
[3] John 21:15-19.
[4] 1 Peter 5:2.
[5] Acts 20:28; See Higginson, Transforming Leadership, p. 48.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Scottish Referendum: A Political Analysis

Any political analysis of the Scottish referendum on secession from Britain should include not only the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Westminster, but also other large E.U. states and even the E.U. powers at the federal level. Such an analysis may leave the cynic wondering whether the question could even conceivably be decided by the Scots themselves—so much being on the line for state and federal officials and their respective institutions.


The entire essay is at “The Scottish Referendum: A Political Analysis

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Hometown Mentality Infused in a Walgreens Drugstore: Standard Procedure as an End in Itself

Sometimes what we consumers accept as required and thus as obligatory on our part is actually part of a store employee’s desire to dominate other people; in other instances, the motive may be sheer laziness. That even more possible motivations can be found suggests that office and retail functionaries who deal with the public have more discretion than we think. Such discretion can easily be filled by the dominant mentality in a locality’s dysfunctional culture. I found this to be the case at a Walgreens store in my hometown.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Scots Weigh Independence from Britain as the British Consider Leaving the E.U.

The debate over whether the Scottish region of Great Britain should secede from the UK extends beyond whatever provincial interests unite and divide the state’s regions; it "is also part of a larger question that extends well beyond Britain, to Texas and Colorado, for example, and elsewhere: What are the benefits and drawbacks of larger, politically diverse countries, compared with smaller, more homogeneous ones?"[1] Yet is Britain a large, heterogeneous country even as it is a state in the European Union? Texas is much larger, and yet it too is a state in a union of relatively homogeneous states.

The entire essay is at “Scots Weigh Independence




[1] Katrin Bennhold, "How Scottish Independence Relates to Larger Tax Fights," The New York Times, August 21, 2014.

Beyond Breaking California Up into Six States: A Federalist Alternative

In any epoch and in any culture, the human mind displays a marked tendency to accept the status quo as the default—being so ensconced in fact that efforts at real change almost inevitably face formidable road-blocks. In this essay, I analyze the 2014 failed ballot-petition that would have put the proposal of breaking California into six separate states to Californians. I contend that the proponents could alternatively have taken up a more optimal alternative—one much easier to put into effect. Interestingly, that idea comes from the E.U. rather than the U.S.


The entire essay is at “Beyond Breaking California Up

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ebola in Liberia: The Government’s Fault?

With the Ebola virus “spreading like wildfire” in Liberia, “devouring everything in its path,” Brownie Samukai, the state’s defense minister, went on to tell the U.N. Security Council on September 9, 2014 that “Liberia is facing a serious threat to its national existence.”[1] With more than half of the epidemic’s deaths in that state—1,224 out of at least 2,2296 in West Africa as of September 6, 2014—and new cases “increasing exponentially,” the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that “the demands of the Ebola outbreak have completely outstripped the government’s and partners’ capacity  to respond.”[2] Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that the illness had severely handicapped the mining, agriculture, and service sectors of the state’s economy.[3] Quite understandably, pleas for the government to do more peeled like frightened bells across the state. “The patients are hungry, they are starving. No food, no water,” a terrified woman told journalists. “The government needs to do more. Let Ellen Johnson Sirleaf do more!”[4] Even if valid, such blame is hypocritical to the extent that the people themselves had been refusing to do what is necessary to stop such a virus from spreading.

The entire essay is at “Ebola in Liberia



1. Abby Ohlheiser, “Ebola Is ‘Devouring Everything in Its Path.’ Could It Lead to Liberia’s Collapse?The Washington Post, September 11, 2014.
2. WTO, “Ebola Situation in Liberia: Non-Conventional Interventions Needed,” September 8, 2014; Elahe Izadi, “Ebola Death Toll Rises to 2,296 as Liberia Struggles to Keep Up,” The Washington Post, September 9, 2014.
3. Anna Yukhananov, “IMF Says Ebola Hits Economic Growth in West Africa,” Reuters, September 11, 2014.
4. Abby Ohlheiser, “Ebola.”

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Serving the Lazy: A Local Prejudice Pervades a Hometown's Food Pantries

It is one thing to study Christian ethics and quite another to see them in action. Likewise, writing on corporate social responsibility can fail to capture the reality "on the ground." So I ventured out of the stuffy ivory tower, somewhat as the Buddha left his parents' estate and found a world of suffering. In going to food pantries in my hometown, I observed a common thread, not a golden thread, but, rather, a tainted one well ensconced in the local culture. From this rather sordid case, I could only look back on the ideas as ideals situated as if white puffy clouds on a summer day, far above the earth-scorched dirt below. 


The entire essay is at “Serving the Lazy

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Letter to the Scots: Read between the Lines

The answer may be staring you in the face. Such might be the best feedback the rest of the world could give the Scots as they discern whether their region should break off from the state of Britain. How do the English feel about the Scots? The answer is presumably relevant, as who wants to remain where they are not liked? On this matter, the Scots could do worse than read between the lines of a poll done roughly a month before the referendum on what the English think should be Scotland’s relation to Britain if the region leaves and if it stays.[1]

The entire essay is at “Letter to the Scots



[1] YouGov conducted the survey of 3,695 adults living in England via the internet on April 11-12, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Natural Rights in Europe and America: Shoring-Up Each Other’s Weak Spots

The Declaration of Independence made by the thirteen newly sovereign American states in 1776 recognizes “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These rights are not dependent on any government, and thus exist equally so in the state of nature. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, made in Europe thirteen years later, omits any mention of a creator-deity. “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights.” The equality here is more limited, being solely in terms of rights, “man’s natural and imprescriptible rights” in particular. These “are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.” We can thus compare and contrast the two sets of rights, which important implications for public policy for both America and Europe.


The entire essay is at “Natural Rights in Europe and America

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Hometown's Christian Food Pantry: Some Not-So-Hidden Agendas

Having focused my dissertation study on the nexus of religion and business ethics, I went on to study “right use” as a way some theologians historically have claimed justifies profit-seeking and wealth without either necessarily being infected with greed. Charity, whether through the virtues of liberality or magnificence, has been a principal “right use” thought to justify holding onto most of one’s wealth.  In other words, there is no reason to get the proverbial camel through the eye of the needle if only part of one’s savings go to people in need. It being one thing to “theologize” about such things and quite another to see them in action, I had the idea during one of my visits to my hometown to volunteer at a local church's food pantry. As a college student, I had worked one summer in the city’s gardens. I developed the practice of driving discarded new plants to a local church, where I planted and maintained a garden on the grounds.  So it was on a subsequent trip back decades later, when I was engaged in post-doctoral research (i.e., quite poor), that I had the idea of not only volunteering at a food pantry, but also going to others for food.  What I found stunned me, and led me to question the historically-derived “right use” means of separating sin from acquiring and possessing wealth.
  
The entire essay is at "A Hometown's Christian Food Pantry"

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Emperor: Above the Clouds of Petty Protocol

In complex social arrangements, such as exist in governments, business firms, and religious organizations, a person must climb through many levels before reaching persons of sufficient height and occupational breadth that what had been said to be binding requirements suddenly become as though unfettered butterflies. Astoundingly, the mid-level subordinates may even object as the rules are relegated back to their true status as guidelines. Beyond the element of greater authority, a greater perspective in terms of what truly matters is profoundly important in this regard. Having many decades of lived experience, plus a certain maturity in place of pettiness, is also in the mix. A Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, for example, may be more likely to pick up on a sincere heart of the sort Jesus would praise than run through a laundry list of doctrinal requirements.

In the film Emperor (2012), religion and government are intertwined in the Japanese emperor, who was until shortly after World War II also officially a living god. Although his aides attempt to put General MacArthur into a straightjacket of protocol for the meeting with the emperor at the end of the film, both the general and the emperor are off sufficient maturity and perspective to disabuse themselves of the protocols and focus on the truly important stuff. To discern the petty from the profoundly important is a key feature of upper-echelon leadership.


The entire essay is at “The Emperor

Wage Theft: More Companies Flouting Trust

If you are playing by the rules, not trying to cut corners at others’ expense, you need not let the bastards get you down. Of course, if your detractors catch you with your hand in the cookie jar, then blaming them only confirms that a sordid character flaw undergirds the stealing. As a business strategy, accusing union officials of having an agenda simply because they have identified cases of wage theft by the company is not exactly good public relations; in fact, the ploy sends a message that the managers at the helm are more interested in shifting the spotlight onto distractions than “manning up” to take responsibility for the unethical and illegal conduct at the employees’ expense.


The entire essay is at “Wage Theft” 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Behind the 2014 Summer Movie Flops: It’s the Narrative, Stupid

With box-office revenue in the U.S. and Canada expected to come in at only $3.9 billion for the summer of 2014, or 15% lower than the year before, and no film hitting $300 million domestically,[1] the question is whether the dip could be explained by a cycle or some larger, irreversible trend. I contend that two factors push the answer past the typical response that most of the movie franchises would be out in force in the summer of 2015.

 The complete essay is at “Behind the 2014 Summer Movie Flops



[1] Andrew Hart, “Film Industry Has Worst Summer Since 1997,” The Huffington Post, August 29, 2014.