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Business CEO’s Overstating Political Uncertainty in the United States

The impact on business of political uncertainty in countries that are seized by revolution can be substantial—so much so in fact that CEO’s and board directors are motivated to avoid the uncertainty itself. I submit that business analysts of political risk tend unwittingly to routinely overstate the uncertainty arising from incoming U.S. presidential administrations. If I am correct in this claim, CEO’s and board directors pay too much heed to political uncertainty itself in the making of major strategic decisions involving operations in the American context.
The full essay is at “Business CEO’s Overstating Uncertainty

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Going Off-Shore, Dodging Sanctions, and Laundering Money: The World of the Richest of the Rich

On April 3, 2016, 2.6 terabytes of data—more than 11.5 million documents—leaked from Panama’s law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The documents show that the firm “helped heads of state, oligarchs and celebrities launder money, dodge sanctions and avoid taxes.”[1] Over 40 years, 214,000 offshore shell companies in 200 countries implicate individuals including the family of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and that of British Prime Minister David Cameron, several friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmunder Gunnlaugsson; financial institutions implicated include UBS, HSBC, and Société Générale.[2] I contend that the markets themselves had been tilted in the interest of the greater power (i.e., the rich), so systemic rather than incremental or piecemeal efforts would be necessary to solve the problem.

The full essay is at “Going Off-Shore.”

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Changing Governments and Time Zones: Why So Difficult?

Ever wondered why so much energy must be expended to dislodge a long-established institution, law, or cultural norm? Why does the default have so much staying power? Are we as human beings ill-equipped to bring about, not to mention see, even the “no-brainer” changes that are so much (yet apparently not so obviously) in line with our individual and collective self-interest? In this essay, I look at Ukraine, Spain, and Illinois to make some headway on this rather intractable difficulty.

Ukrainian President Yanukovych refused for months to budge then suddenly disappeared as if a teenager fleeing from a now-likely punishment. (Image Source: AP)

In Kiev’s central square, Ukrainian protesters braved bitter cold for months in late 2013 and early 2014 without any movement whatsoever in disgorging a divisive president who may gone on to surrender Ukraine’s sovereignty for money  in line with Vladimir Putin’s imperial dream of a restored Russian empire under the rubric of a “Eurasian Union.” It took twenty and then seventy deaths before the steadfast protesters would see the president replaced by an interim parliament-centered coalition government. After months of stalemate, the president actually fell from power quite suddenly once his partisan support in parliament had sunk below a threshold.[1] Until that point was reached, any trickles of power shifting behind the scenes did not register in the least as even a slight movement toward a resolution in the massive tug-of-war. Such ongoing intransigence, or gravity, that seemingly inheres in a default is itself an obstacle that can easily dissuade anyone who comes to view the way things are as not only contingent, but also, well, rather stupid. Such an individual might wonder why societal self-corrections in the public interest are so elusive even though they are rather obvious.

Even realizing that a given domain is subject to the rigid longevity of invisible sub-optimality can be difficult to achieve. For example, only after seven decades did the E.U. state of Spain seriously reassess Franco’s decree on May 2, 1942 moving Spain from the GMT time zone, which Spain had adopted at the International Meridian Conference in 1884, to GMT +1. Falling back an hour would put the dictator on the same time as Hitler’s Germany (and France) and Mussolini’s Italy. Seven decades later, in October 2012, the VII National Congress for Rationalise Spanish Time Zones proposed returning to GMT. With more daylight in the morning and less in the evening, state residents might not stay up so late on work-nights. Once the state had been bailed out by the E.U. federal government after the financial crisis of 2008, Spain could ill-afford the continued loss of 8 percent of the state’s GNP due to productivity losses from the nocturnal proclivity that coincided with another cultural icon, the siesta. For our purposes here, why did it take decades even to propose the easily-rationalized correction even though it meant returning to a rule that had been in effect for decades before the rise of Nazi Germany.

Let’s travel across the Atlantic Ocean to Illinois, whose major metropolis is the bewindowed city of Chicago. The latest sunset there is at 8:30pm (20:30 hrs), which occurs during the last week of June. The sun rises during that week at around 5:15am, though relatively few Chicagoans are awake at 4:45 to witness daybreak. Bentham’s rule of utilitarianism would have us believe that the greatest good for the greatest number somehow matters in life. Might it be rather obvious that taking an hour of daylight during the summer from early morning and depositing it at the other end of the day, prolonging evening from turning into night, would be more optimal? Perhaps it is merely common sense that many more people could enjoy the hour of light in question were they awake to see it. This point would not be missed by many tourists from Spain. Why is it so difficult for the people losing out to become aware of what they could have in a better life?

Even moving another hour of daylight, such that sunrises would occur roughly between 7:00am and 7:30 during June and July (daylight before 7) and sunsets would be after 10:00pm (22:00hrs) would not unduly fine “morning people.” Yet this would mean a three-hour shift from standard time. Achieving even a 9:30pm sunset would entail a two-hour change (not necessarily on the same days). Lest such a proposal seem too catastrophic, the PSOE, a political party in Spain, established the addition of another hour in summer beginning in the 1980s.

Perhaps the fear of the unknown is assuaged by the news of the same unknown being part of the default somewhere else. Furthermore, perhaps what does not work in a state of one Union may work just fine in a state in another Union; even within an empire-scale Union diversity of clime and custom justify allowances for interstate differences (e.g., via federalism).

Perhaps, moreover, members of the homo sapiens species are “hard-wired” to prefer “missing out” in the face of even a relatively simple change that would add appreciably to the good for the greatest number. In this case, the good to be had is in terms not only of summer enjoyment in a clime whose long winters can keep the door open to extreme cold from the Arctic, but also of improved health (from more exercise en plein air) and greater safety (i.e., fewer muggings and rapes). Perhaps the over-riding lesson here is simply that making life a little better—a bit more enjoyable—need not be so difficult.

Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz, could have used the magic slippers to return to Kansas at anytime. Unfortunately, she did not even ponder the possibility, and thus had to come to it the hard way. 
(Image Source: Hollywoodreporter.com)

I am reminded of Dorothy in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. The good witch of the North tells her at the end that she could have used her ruby shoes to return to Kansas at any time, but that she had to come to realize this herself. Perhaps the question for us is why we have such trouble in coming to realize that we, too, need not wait so long to effect change that we could have accomplished long before because it lies within our power. The pickle in all of this is that enough people in a given society must come to this self-empowering realization themselves for any movement to take place. For once a threshold is met, even a societal change can be effected surprisingly fast and much easier than expected or feared.

1. Jim Heintz and Angela Charlton, “Ukraine Parliament Boss Takes Presidential Powers,” GlobalPost, February 23, 2014.

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Online Sales: Breaking the Egg

Was the 2013 holiday season really a turning point in terms of online purchases? Can a business environment change so drastically from one Christmas to the next? If not, what can we say about a commercial system that buckles, at least at its weakest link, under the pressure of a moderate change in buying habits? Put another way, does such buckling necessarily indicate or point to the existence of a threshold point that has suddenly and unexpectedly been crossed? Alternatively, the system itself may be weak.

During the November-December holiday season of 2004, online sales revenue in the U.S. increased 25 percent from the year before.[1]CNN Money reported the increase as 29.5 percent—almost a third of total holiday sales.[2]This healthy numbers can be deceiving, however, if the base is low relative to the total. That is, if the online holiday sales figure as a percentage of total holiday sales is around 2 percent, an increase of 25 percent from the prior year’s online sales is immaterial in terms of the change in the percent of online sales to total from the prior to the current year. As shown below, fourth quarter percentages-of-total (rather than of increase) increased from roughly 1.7 in 2003 to 2 percent in 2004. This change is hardly earth-shattering.

Estimated Quarterly U.S. Retail E-commerce Sales as a Percent of Total Quarterly Retail Sales
4th Quarter 1999 to 4th Quarter 2004[3]

So let’s look at percentage-of-total figures specifically for the combined (November and December) season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, two of the major national holidays in the United States. In 2012, the season’s online sales revenue accounted for 19.3 percent of the total retail sales.[4] Keeping in mind the magnitude of the changes shown in the graph above (0.6% to 2.2% over five years), the change from roughly 20 to 25 percent in 2013—from just one Christmas to the next—seems relatively dramatic. Yet a shift from 20 to 25 does not in itself seem very significant. Even so, it was enough for journalists to label it a “sea-change,” “threshold,” “turning point, “and “major re-alignment, capable of unleashing a virtual tsunami.

One business practitioner interviewed on CNBC in mid-January, 2014 made the startling claim that the turning point had come quite unexpectedly in just one year. I contend that conclusion is overly dramatic, though I readily concede that the five-point difference was oddly too much for a part of the system. Specifically, “an unpredictably large number of packages overwhelmed UPS,” with thousands of Christmas presents left undelivered by Christmas Eve.[5] Natalie Godwin, a spokesperson at UPS, explained. “The volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network, as demand was much greater than the forecast.”[6] The network’s capacity itself became transparent as a constraint, as a result of demand having been much greater than anticipated. The words “capacity” and “much” point to, or intimate, a systems-level problem not just for the package-delivery company, but also for the U.S. (and perhaps global) system of commerce.

Crucially, that a percentage change of just 5 percent of total sales revenue represented as increased demand can pierce the capacity of a major link in the commercial chain from manufacturers to customers suggests not a pivotal year, but, rather, a system too (i.e., artificially) inflexible or hard. Rather than being able to adapt to changes in the environment, as any fit species does through the evolutionary process of natural selection, the American system of commerce lacks the built-in ability to stretch (and contract). By implication, reaching a threshold point, such as in demand for products sold online, is in terms of the system and behaves as a wall rather than a semi-permeable membrane. It is worth pointing out that a threshold point concerning the system of commerce also no doubt exists in terms of society (i.e., changes in daily life) and even in terms of products (i.e., transformative products as mainstays as a result of ecommerce). Just as the loud kids tend to get disproportionate attention, a rigid and complacent system gets noticed (i.e., becomes transparent as a system) more than its share. Relying on such a system warrants the warning: Watch out for the “big one”—a major earthquake of sorts capable of a truly dramatic land-shift.

1. Jennifer LeClaire, “Online Holiday Shopping Soars 25 Percent to $23 Billion,” E-Commerce Times, 4 January 2014.
2. CNN Money, “Holiday Online Sales Surge,” 5 January 2004.

3. US Census Bureau, The Department of Commerce, “Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales 4th Quarter 2004.”

5. Donna Leger, “UPS System Overload Delays Holiday Packages,” USA Today, 24 December 2013.

6. Ibid.

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On the History of Thanksgiving: Challenging Assumptions

We humans are so used to living in our subjectivity that we hardly notice it or the effect it has on us. In particular, we are hardly able to detect or observe the delimiting consequences of the assumptions we hold on an ongoing basis. That is to say, we have no idea (keine Anung) of the extent to which we take as unalterable matters that are actually quite subject to our whims individually or as a society (i.e., shared assumptions). In this essay, I use the American holiday of Thanksgiving, specifically its set date on the last Thursday of November, to illustrate the following points.


First, our habitual failure to question our own or society’s assumptions (i.e., not thinking critically enough) leaves us vulnerable to assuming that the status quo is binding when in fact it is not. All too often, we adopt a herd-animal mentality that unthinkingly “stays the course” even when doing so is, well, dumb. In being too cognitively lazy to question internally or in discourse basic, operative assumptions that we hold individually and/or collectively, we unnecessarily endure hardships that we could easily undo. Yet we rarely do. This is quite strange.

Second, we tend to take for granted that today’s familial and societal traditions must have been so “from the beginning.” This assumption dutifully serves as the grounding rationale behind our tacit judgment that things are as they are for a reason and, moreover, lie beyond our rightful authority to alter. We are surprised when we hear that some practice we had taken as foundational actually came about by accident or just decades ago.

For example, modern-day Christians might be surprised to learn that one of the Roman emperor Constantine’s scribes (i.e., lawyers) came up with the “fully divine and fully human,” or one ousia, two hypostates, Christological compromise at the Nicene Council in 325 CE. Constantine’s motive was political: cease the divisions between the bishops with the objective being to further imperial unity rather than enhance theological understanding.[1] Although a Christian theologian would point out that the Holy Spirit works through rather than around human nature, lay Christians might find themselves wondering aloud whether the Christological doctrine is really so fixed and thus incapable of being altered or joined by equally legitimate alternative interpretations (e.g., the Ebionist and Gnostic views).

Let’s apply the same reasoning to Thanksgiving Day in the United States. On September 28, 1789, the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking that the President set a day of thanksgiving. After an improbable win against a mighty empire, the new union had reason to give thanks. A few days later, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin.”[2] As subsequent presidents issued their own Thanksgiving proclamations, the dates and even months of Thanksgiving varied until President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation that Thanksgiving was to be commemorated each year on the last Thursday of November. Here, the attentive reader would be inclined to jettison the “it’s always been this way” assumption and mentality as though opening windows on the first warm day of spring. The fresh air of thawing ground restores smell to the outdoors from the long winter hibernation and ushers in a burst of freedom among nature, including man. Realizing that Thanksgiving does not hinge on its current date unfetters the mind even if just to consider the possibility of alternative dates. Adaptability can obviate hardships discovered to be dogmatic in the sense of being arbitrary.[3]

The arbitrariness in Lincoln’s proclaimed date was not lost on Franklin Roosevelt (FDR). Concerned that the last Thursday in November 1939, which fell on the last day of the month, would weaken the economic recovery on account of the shortened Christmas shopping season, he moved Thanksgiving to the penultimate (second to last) Thursday of November. He defended the change by emphasizing “that the day of Thanksgiving was not a national holiday and that there was nothing sacred about the date, as it was only since the Civil War that the last Thursday of November was chosen for observance.”[4]Transcending the common assumption that the then-current “last Thursday of November” attribute of Thanksgiving was a salient—even sacred, as though solemnly passed down from the Founders by some ceremonial laying on of hands—in the very non-holiday’s very nature, FDR had freed his mind to reason that an economic downside need not be necessary; he could fix a better date without depriving Thanksgiving of being Thanksgiving.

To be sure, coaches and football fans worried that even a week’s difference could interrupt the game’s season. In a column in The Wall Street Journal in 2009, Melanie Kirkpatrick points out that “by 1939 Thanksgiving football had become a national tradition. . . . In Democratic Arkansas, the football coach of Little Ouachita College threatened: ‘We’ll vote the Republican ticket if he interferes with our football.’[5] Should Christmas have been moved to April so not to interfere with college basketball? Sadly, the sheer weight being attached to the “it’s always been this way” assumption could give virtually any particular inconvenience an effective veto-power even over a change for the better, generally (i.e., in the public interest).

Unfortunately, most Americans had fallen into the stupor wherein Thanksgiving just had to be on the last Thursday of November. “The American Institute of Public Opinion, led by Dr. George Gallup, released a survey in August showing 62 percent of voters opposed Roosevelt’s plan. Political ideology was a determining factor, with 52 percent of Democrats approving of Roosevelt’s move and 79 percent of Republicans disapproving.”[6]Even though the significance of the overall percentage dwarfs the partisan numbers in demonstrating how pervasive the false-assumption was at the time among the general population, the political dimension was strong enough to reverberate in unforeseen ways.

With some governors refusing to recognize the earlier date, only 32 states went along with Roosevelt.[7] As a result, for two years Thanksgiving was celebrated on two different days within the United States. In his book, Roger Chapman observes that pundits began dubbing “the competing dates ‘Democratic Thanksgiving’ and ‘Republican Thanksgiving.’[8]Sen. Styles Bridges (R-N.H) wondered whether Roosevelt would extend his powers to reconfigure the entire calendar, rather than just Thanksgiving. “I wish Mr. Roosevelt would abolish Winter,” Bridges lamented.[9]Edward Stout, editor of The Warm Springs Mirror in Georgia — where the president traveled frequently, including for Thanksgiving — said that while he was at it, Roosevelt should move his birthday “up a few months until June, maybe” so that he could celebrate it in a warmer month. “I don’t believe it would be any more trouble than the Thanksgiving shift.”[10]Although both Bridges and Stout were rolling as though drunk in the mud of foolish category mistakes for rhetorical effect, moving up a holiday that has at least some of its roots in the old harvest festivals to actually coincide with harvests rather than winter in many states could itself be harvested once the “it’s always been this way” assumption is discredited. Just as a week’s difference would not dislodge college football from its monetary perch, so too would the third week in November make a dent in easing the hardship even just in travelling and bringing the holiday anywhere close to harvest time in many of the American republics. As one of my theology professor at Yale once said, “Sin boldly!” If you’re going to do it, for God’s sake don’t be a wimp about it. Nietzsche would undoubtedly second that motion.


Why not join with Canada in having Thanksgiving on October 12th? Besides having access to fresh vegetables and even the outdoors for the feast, the problematic weather-related travel would be obviated and Americans would not come to New Year’s Day with holiday fatigue. Of course, we wouldn’t be able to complain about the retailors pushing Christmas over Thanksgiving in line with the almighty dollar, but amid the better feasts and perhaps colorful leaves we might actually allow ourselves to relish (or maybe even give thanks!) amid natures splendors rather than continue striving and complaining.

To be sure, resetting Thanksgiving to autumn in several of the states would translate into summer rather than harvest time in several others. Still other states are warm even in the last week of November, and harvest time might be December or March. Perhaps instead of carving the bird along partisan lines, Thanksgiving might be in October (or even the more temperate September!) in the “Northern” states and later in the “Southern” states, given the huge difference in climates. Remaining impotent in an antiquated assumption that lives only to forestall positive change while retailors continue to enable Christmas to encroach on Thanksgiving reeks of utter weakness.

Giving serious consideration to the notion different states celebrating Thanksgiving at different times might strengthen rather than weaken the American union. Put another way, invigorating the holiday as a day of thanksgiving amid nature’s non-canned bounty might recharge the jaded American spirit enough to mitigate partisan divides because more diversity has been given room to breathe. For the “one size fits all” assumption does not bode well at all in a large empire of diverse climes. Indeed, the American framers crafted an updated version of federalism that could accommodate a national federal government as well as the diverse conditions of the republics constituting the Union. Are the states to be completely deboned as though dead fish on the way to the market at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial? Is it so vitally important that everyone does Thanksgiving on the same day when “by state” enjoys a precedent?

Engulfed in the mythic assumption that the “last Thursday in November” is a necessary and proper fit for everyone and everywhere, Americans silently endure as if out of necessity all the compromises we have been making with respect to the holiday? Perhaps changing the date or returning the decision back to the states would free up enough space for the crowded-in and thus nearly relegated holiday that people might once again feel comfortable enough to say “Happy Thanksgiving” in public, rather than continuing to mouth the utterly vacuous “Happy Holidays” that is so often foisted on a beguiled public. 

Like Christmas and New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving is indeed now an official U.S. holiday. This would also be true were the states to establish the holiday as their respective residents see fit. As push-back against FDR’s misguided attempt to help out the retailors and the economy, Congress finally stepped in almost two months to a day before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii (whose harvest time escapes me). The U.S. House passed a resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be a legal holiday known as Thanksgiving Day. The U.S. Senate modified the resolution to the fourth Thursday so the holiday would not fall on a fifth Thursday in November lest the Christmas shopping season be unduly hampered as it rides roughshod over Thanksgiving. Roosevelt signed the resolution on December 26, 1941, the day after Christmas, finally making Thanksgiving a legal holiday alongside Christmas and New Year’s Day.[11]Interestingly, the U.S. Commerce department had found that moving Thanksgiving back a week had had no impact on Christmas sales.[12]In fact, small retailors actually lamented the change because they had flourished under the “last Thursday” Thanksgiving rubric; customers fed up with the big-named department stores like Macy’s being so overcrowded during a truncated “Christmas season” would frequent the lesser-known stores in relative peace and quiet. Charles Arnold, proprietor of a menswear shop, expressed his disappointment in an August letter to the president. “The small storekeeper would prefer leaving Thanksgiving Day where it belongs,” Arnold wrote. “If the large department stores are over-crowded during the shorter shopping period before Christmas, the overflow will come, naturally, to the neighborhood store.”[13]This raise the question of whether a major legal holiday is best treated as whatever results from the tussle of business forces oriented to comparative strategic advantage as well as overall sales revenue.

Lest the vast, silent majority of Americans continue to stand idly by, beguiled by the tyranny of the status quo as if it were based in the permafrost of “first things,” things are not always as they appear or have been assumed to be. We are not so frozen as we tend to suppose with respect to being able to obviate problems or downsides that are in truth dispensable rather than ingrained in the social reality.

1. Jarslav Pelikan, Imperial Unity and Christian Division, Seminar, Yale University.


2.  The Center for Legislative Archives, “Congress Establishes Thanksgiving,” The National Archives, USA. (accessed 11.26.13).


3. The other meaning of dogmatic is “partial” in the sense of partisan or ideological more generally. Given the extent to which a person can shift ideologically through decades of living, might it be that partisan positions are not only partial, but also arbitrary?


4. Sam Stein and Arthur Delaney, “When FDR Tried To Mess With Thanksgiving, It Backfired Big Time,” The Huffington Post, November 25, 2013.


5. Melanie Kirkpatrick, “Happy Franksgiving: How FDR tried, and failed, to change a national holiday,” The Wall Street Journal, November 24, 2009.


6. Sam Stein and Arthur Delaney, “When FDR Tried To Mess With Thanksgiving, It Backfired Big Time,” The Huffington Post, November 25, 2013.


7. Ibid.
8. Roger Chapman, Culture Wars: An Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2010).
9. Sam Stein and Arthur Delaney, “When FDR Tried To Mess With Thanksgiving, It Backfired Big Time,” The Huffington Post, November 25, 2013.

10. Ibid.


11. The solely religious holidays in November and December are private rather than legal holidays. As Congress cannot establish a religion on constitutional grounds, Christmas is a legal holiday in its secular sense only. Therefore, treating Christmas as a legal holiday as akin to the private religious holidays (including Christmas as celebrated in churches!) is a logical and legal error, or category mistake. Ironically, Thanksgiving, in having been proclaimed by Lincoln as a day to give thanks (implying “to God”), is the most explicitly religious of all the legal holidays in the United States.

12. Ibld.


13. Ibid.

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Traditional To Online Publishing: Why Is the Transition So Gradual?

Forging onward to where no one had gone before, the second decade of the 21st century just catching its breath, the internet in 2011 was already generating the seeds that would subtly yet dramatically revolutionize the world of publishing. Even with traditional publishing houses already making plans to get into digital format as part of an envisioned hybrid market, the alternative of “blogging a book” (by subscription, or profiting off email lists or links to one’s “real” books or services) could be expected to reduce manuscript submissions.  Additionally, the higher royalty percentages proffered by digital publishing companies that minimize costs by adapting the old “vanity press” model (without charging authors) could be expected to take a big bite out of the editorial and proof-reading model of the traditional publishing houses. To be sure, even just from their initial adaptations to broaden out to the digital format, such houses were not necessarily expected to become extinct as a species. Nevertheless, the future of publishing could already be seen as happening on the web. The enigma here pertains to why the economic slope toward easier (i.e., sans gatekeepers) and more lucrative publishing has been so sticky.
The juxtaposition of very different technologies illustrates the tectonic shift underway. Image Source: Alphapublication.com
Undoubtedly, some people found the unfathomable possibilities glimpsed from the internet to be all too alluring. Meanwhile, others held on for dear life to the melting icebergs of traditional publishing as though out of some instinctual reflex hardwired into the human genome. Viewing the shift as a Hegelian leap forward historically in the unfolding spirit of freedom already from the vantage-point of 2013, I found myself mystified as to the sheer gradualness of the massive shift. Inertia? Fear of the unknown? Stifling incomprehension of things very different? Whereas global warming had seemed to hit its threshold rather quickly and the internet was travelling at a rapid velocity through change—perhaps even warping the time-space dimensions in its universe—I found myself wondering when the threshold point of water pouring in would finally sink the vaunted publishing houses that seemed only to be fortifying themselves by closing doors more on passengers deemed marginal (profitwise).
I don’t believe the nature of the holdup is merely the refusal of the status quo to give into new theories, as described in Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Rather, I think the answer goes back to the staying power, evolutionarily speaking, of tens of thousands of years when homo sapiens lived and passed on genes in a steady-state environment without the artifices of complex societies.  Simply put, just as global warming in the Artic was surpassing the adaptive ability of some northern ecosystems already in 2013, the pace of qualitative change in publishing opportunities was travelling past the speed of the human cognitive-neurological capacity of sense-making, not to mention comprehension and responding to the new stimuli.

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The Financial Crisis: A Systemic and Ethical Analysis

According to a study by the Dallas Federal Reserve, the financial crisis of 2007-2009 “was associated with a huge loss of economic output and financial wealth, psychological consequences and skill atrophy from extended unemployment, an increase in government intervention, and other significant costs.”[1]The study’s abstract goes on to “conservatively estimate that 40 to 90 percent of one year’s output ($6 trillion to $14 trillion, the equivalent of $50,000 to $120,000 for every U.S. household) was foregone due to the 2007-09 [sic] recession.”[2]
Interestingly, the Huffington Post “reports” the study’s finding in the following terms:  “a ‘conservative’ estimate of the damage is $14 trillion, or roughly one year’s U.S. gross domestic product. This is based on how much output was lost during the crisis and Great Recession, along with all the damage done to potential future economic growth.”[3] In fact, the article’s title claims that the crisis cost more than $14 trillion! Lest it be thought that the reporter and editor suffer from a learning or reading disability, the gilding here is notably in the direction of “selling more papers.”
Ironically, the Huffington Post also published an article pointing to the lack of accountability in that “the executives that [sic] were in charge of Bear’s headlong dive into the cesspool of subprime mortgage lending hold similar jobs at the most powerful banks on Wall Street: JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Deutsche Bank.”[4]
The upshot is that those stakeholders who played a role in the crisis, most significantly the people running the government, the media, and the banks, have gone on, relatively unscathed, while the systemic risk remained or has actually become even greater.  As a first step toward recovery, a systemic map depicting the interrelated parts in the systemic failure and a related ethical analysis can provide a basis for reforms sufficient to thwart another major financial crisis.

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1.Tyler Atkinson, David Luttrell, and Harvey Rosenblum, “How Bad Was It? The Costs and Consequences of the 2007-09 Financial Crisis,” Staff Paper No. 20, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, July 2013.

2. Ibid.

3.Mark Gongloff, “The Financial Crisis Cost More Than $14 Trillion: Dallas Fed Study,” The Huffington Post, July 30, 2013.

4.Lauren Kyger and Alison Fitzgerald, “Former Bear Stearns Executives Seemingly Unscathed by Financial Crisis They Helped Trigger,” The Huffington Post, July 31, 2013. The article was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity.


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