July 29, 2014
Bad Boy Banks Enabling Inversion: Can a Firm Be Patriotic?

The “corporate citizenship” literature has it that companies in the private sector can indeed be “good citizens.” Even though a company cannot vote or be drafted, citizenship is said to fit as an apt description of what is organizationally speaking a profit-seeking machine. To say that a company is a good or bad citizen is, moreover, to anthropomorphise (i.e., apply human characteristics to a non-human). Furthermore, in their managerial capacities, the people who run companies are duty-bound to act in the financial interest of the stockholders, and only then in the broader societal interest. Even so, an ethical basis does exist on which some of the banks can be viewed as culpable.

July 29, 2014

In her article in The New York Times, Gretchen Morgenson raises the possibility that Tim Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve from 2003 to early 2009 and U.S. Treasury Secretary during Obama’s first term, was a captured regulator, “a man locked into the mind-set of the very bankers he was supposed to oversee.”[1] I contend that while a shared mindset was part of the mix, he was actively doing the bidding of Wall Street, and one bank in particular, which he owed big time. That is to say, it is not just that he worked with Republicans such as Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Fed, and Henry Paulson, Bush’s Treasury Secretary. There is more to it in him being portrayed throughout his confirmation hearing for Treasury as “a tool of Wall Street.”[2]

The full essay is at “Timothy Geithner



[1] Gretchen Morgenson, “Geithner, Staying on Script,The New York Times, May 17, 2014.

[2] Timothy Geithner, Stress Test (Random House: New York, 2014), p. 2.

July 28, 2014
Timothy Geithner: A Regulator Beholden to a Bank?

Did Geithner refuse to cap the bonuses going even to mismanaging bankers because he was beholden to Wall Street—and to one bank in particular?

July 26, 2014
A Single Man: Multi-Layered Meaning in Film Narrative

Tom Ford’s approach in screenwriting and directing his first feature film, A Single Man (2009), which is based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel of the same title, can be characterized as thoroughness oriented to the use of film as art not merely for visual storytelling, but also to probe the depths of human meaning and present the audience with a thesis and thus something to ponder. As Ford reveals in his oral commentary to the film, that thesis is that we should live in the present, attending to it more closely, because today might be our last day of life. George, the film’s protagonist, supposes that in intending to commit suicide at the end of the day—the film being confined temporally to it—he chooses the final day. Yet though an exquisite use of prefigurements—foreshadowings that subtly anticipate. Just as a film with a depth of meaning operates at different levels in the human psyche, the prefigurements in such a film should also be hung at different levels with care—and varying distance’s from the tree’s center. For such meaning is nuanced, or multivalent, rather than entirely opaque and transparent. In this essay, I take a look at Ford’s use of prefigurements to anticipate George’s death as an event that is finally unanticipated, at least from the standpoint of George’s plan to kill himself at the day’s end.

July 24, 2014
The Worden Report - Film: Is the Horror Genre in Trouble?

Screenwriters who want to distinguish their work as riveting in terms of meaning and being thought-provoking can look to myths (living or dead), literature, and even dreams to gain depth and uniqueness. The lesson here may be that drawing on even well-known fables or myths need not deprive us of crafting unique stories that audiences will not view as formulaic. Put another way, a screenwriter is perhaps most fecund when he or she draws both deep within and on stories that have stood through oceans of time and thus are etched into our collective unconscious.

July 21, 2014
GM’s CEO: Ridding GM of Its Dysfunctional Culture or Enabling It?

I suspect that we tend to vastly underestimate the amount of energy, or raw force, sufficient to rectify an organization’s dysfunctional culture. The typical assumption is that replacing the CEO is not only necessary, but also sufficient. “A fish rots from the head down,” one might say. However, the head of a fish cannot necessarily stop, not to mention reverse, an infection spreading somewhere in the body. A sordid mentality can easily spread once it has taken hold in an organizational body. Indeed, such a pathogen can develop defense mechanisms geared to the standard antibiotics. To rely on the body to heal itself involves considerable naiveté. Relying on GM’s CEO Mary Barra to exculpate the mentality behind the faulty ignition-switch lapse and ensuing cover-up is thus arguably based on a faulty assumption of sufficiency.

July 20, 2014
Philomena

In the film, Philomena (2013), the audience is confronted with the spectacle of unjustifiable cruelty committed under religious auspices. Philomena is this victim, and she must struggle to come to terms with her past ordeal as a young mother at an Abbey as she goes on a search for her son in America. Her traveling companion, Martin, is a journalist writing the story from his perspective as an ex-Catholic. Philomena defends her faith against Martin’s sarcasm even as she comes to terms with just how cruel the nuns had been to her. In the end, she and Martin confront the nuns. The question is how, by which I mean, from what direction? The answer has value in demonstrating how outwardly religious hypocrites can be put in their place. 

July 16, 2014
"I only wish I were a pragmatist; Instead of being an assiduous idealist from Yale, I would most probably be rich, had my well-tailored MBA from a top ten school sufficed."

July 15, 2014
Wall Street’s Maker-Taker Rebate: An Inherent Conflict of Interest

Brokers and stock exchanges are tilting trades through inefficient routes at the expense of the investor. The inherent conflict of interest lies in the rebates that wholesale brokers and exchanges pay to retail brokers. Is more disclosure sufficient, as Sen. Levin suggests?

July 14, 2014
Hardly a Fair Fight: Israel and Gaza

In line with the very nature of occupation, the superior power is especially inert to any normative constraints. That such power blatantly broadcasts an instance of unfairness as if it were fair (i.e., two commensurate offenses) demonstrates just how much cognitive dissidence a human brain consumed with the allure of pure power over other people can muster as if in self-defense. It would appear that human rights still face an uphill battle, given the effect that the elixir of power has on the human brain. So smart are we, and yet still so very primitive, thanks in large part to the incredibly slow pace of natural selection even amidst huge changes in social arrangements over a relatively short time. Hence we are the most dangerous of the species, especially unto ourselves.