• One day after my blog appeared titled The Long Arm of the Law, there was this headline in the Wall Street Journal (9/29-30): “BofA Takes New Crisis-Era Hit.” The law wrenched from the Bank of America a settlement of $2.43 billion to appease claims it misled investors. This figure is the largest settlement of a shareholder claim by a financial-services firm since the financial crisis started. Even the WSJ acknowledged that the “deal is a sign that the U. S. banks’ battle to contain the high cost of the crisis continues to escalate, despite a four-year slog of lawsuits, losses and profit-sapping regulations.”
In this case, as in most others, an institution is being held responsible – not an individual or even a few individuals. Therefore, one might reasonably argue that this does not really count. No single person is being made to pay for the wrongdoing, but rather a large, amorphous organization – which means that accountability has been diffused. (Among ethicists this is referred to as the “problem of many hands.”) True enough – and it’s an important distinction. Still, diffused accountability does not mean zero accountability.
• It was announced that Cambodia has asked the U. S. to help it recover a 10th century Khmer sandstone statue from the Norton Simon Museum in California. It’s only the latest example of a major trend in recent years: relatively powerless countries seek to retrieve from relatively powerful countries what in the 21st century they have come to consider rightfully theirs. It is, if you will, a cultural leveling, in which countries of origin demand the return of various objects, usually art objects, that earlier were removed and taken elsewhere. In the past, such transfers were widely accepted, and in fact most of the world’s great museums, especially in Europe and America, were built in part on treasures that were, in today’s parlance, looted, stolen, or plundered. But times change. Such transfers are now often considered outright illegal, which is why countries such as Cambodia will not be mollified until they regain what they believe they lost. Egypt is at the forefront of this movement, having had retrieved in recent years objects of art from countries as various as the U. S. Australia, England, and Spain.
• Poor Tim Cook. For all his growing fame and fortune he has the bad luck to follow in the footsteps of the iconic Steve Jobs. Poor Tim Cook. This week, when users of the new iPhone 5 became more and more angry and then more and more vocal over Apple’s misguided mobile maps, Cook was forced to retreat. Poor Tim Cook. He felt compelled to apologize: “We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers, and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.” Poor Tim Cook. He was reduced to recommending the competition, map apps that were other than Apple’s. How much humbling can one man take? In this day and age, not much. Having been forced to eat humble pie this once, Cook cannot consume it easily again.
• In Spain and Portugal tens of thousands took again to the streets, raging against increased taxes, decreased government services, and high unemployment.