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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Should Same-Party-Affiliation Exclude Investigations on an Elected Official’s Misconduct?

A survey taken in February, 2017 of 1,571 political scientists on democracy in America reveals a possible problem regarding the extent to which government officials are sanctioned for misconduct. More than half of the respondents believed that the United States only partly meets or does not meet this criterion, whereas about 80 percent of the scholars insisted that the criterion is essential or important to democracy.[1] I submit that partisanship is a major obstacle to performance being able to meet expectations.

The full essay is at "Same-Party-Affiliation and Misconduct."



1. Claire C. Miller and Kevin Quealy, “Democracy in America: How Is It Doing?The New York Times, February 23, 2017.







Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How to Cure a Dysfunctional Company Culture: The Case of Uber

Valued at close to $70 billion and operating in more than 70 countries, Uber was giving traditional taxi companies a ride for their money in early 2017 when it came to light just how Hobbesian the company’s culture had become. In February, an engineer who had left the company two months earlier “detailed a history of discrimination and sexual harassment by her managers, which she said was shrugged off by Uber’s human resources department.”[1] Crucially, she claimed that “the culture was stoke—and even fostered—by those at the top of the company.”[2] Interviews with other employees and reviews of internal emails, chat logs, and tape-recorded meetings revealed incidents typified by one manager groping a woman coworker’s breasts at a company retreat, a director shouting an anti-gay slur at a subordinate during an argument, and another manager threatening to beat an underperforming subordinate’s head in with a baseball bat. The operative question is whether anything can be done about the accepted pathology.

The full essay is at "Dysfunctional Company Culture: Uber."



1. Mike Isaac, “Inside Uber’s Aggressive, Unrestrained Workplace Culture,” The New York Times, February 22, 2017.
2. Ibid.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Holding Back the E.U.: What Is It?

In addressing the E.U. Parliament in February, 2017, Canada’s prime minister, Justin Tradeau, claimed that the E.U. “is a truly remarkable achievement and an unprecedented model for peaceful cooperation.”[1] The only problem with the compliment is that it is not true. The U.S. is the precedent, as it was formed as an alliance in part to stave off war between its member states.
The full essay is at "Holding Back the E.U."

1. James Kanter, “Trudeau, Praising the E.U., Doesn’t Mention ‘Brexit’ or Trump,” The New York Times, February 16, 2017.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

On the Value of Business-Societal Linkages: Facebook’s Zuckerberg Opposing President Trump?

In a public letter in February, 2017, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, linked his company’s product, the online social network, to the societal and indeed global level in claiming that “progress now requires humanity coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community.”[1] The New York Times took this to mean that the CEO “stepped into the raging debate about globalization.”[2] Taking sides in a political or cultural debate can both advance and harm a business, hence the matter of the stepping into is worthy of analysis in its own right.



1. Mike Isaac, “Facebook’s Zuckerberg, Bucking Tide, Takes Public Stand Against Isolationism,” The New York Times, February 16, 2017.
2. Ibid.

Kierkegaard’s Socratic Task: Delivering a Christianity of Inward Faith

Kierkegaard learned from Socrates the value of (being) the single individual, especially in the subjective pursuit of truth. Before Socrates, truth (and morality) was to be found externally, in culture and tradition, and thus in an objective sense. Kierkegaard learned from Socrates the value of the individual’s subjectivity in the pursuit of truth; that truth can be internal without devolving into relativist nihilism. The Danish philosopher appropriated what he had learned from Socrates methodologically in the self-declared “Socratic task” of auditing “the definition of what it is to be a Christian.”[i] Behind Kierkegaard’s authorship is “the task of becoming a Christian.”[ii] This applies to helping others—as a Socratic midwife!—to become Christian and, relatedly, to Kierkegaard’s own willingness accept the inexpressible grace of being sacrificed by the Danish Church—those self-declared Christians actually oriented to money. Kierkegaard ironically exclaims, “I am not a Christian.”[iii] Such irony! “I do not call myself a Christian,” Kierkegaard wrote strategically, “but I can make it manifest that the others are that even less.”[iv] Herein lies the acceptance of being sacrificed in the interest of truth. Kierkegaard observed that “’Christendom’ lies in an abyss of sophistry that is even much, much worse than when the Sophists flourished in Greece.”[v] The success of comfortable pastors justifying their earthly wealth theologically under the auspices of the Prosperity Gospel renders the Socratic Kierkegaard still relevant today.[vi] Fortunately, Kierkegaard would assure us that the individual Christian can still find truth within rather than outwardly comprehending the doctrines that the pastors, whose claim to being Christians is dubious at best, claim to know. In this essay, I show how Kierkegaard appropriates Socrates’ method in service of this point. The Danish philosopher gained from his Greek model the tools with which to undercut the doctrines as knowable (by the theologians and pastors), so he could privilege becoming and being a Christian as a matter of personally discovered inward faith yet without positive epistemological content getting in the way.

The full essay is at "Kierkegaard's Socratic Task."



[i] Soren Kierkegaard, The Moment, in The Moment and Late Writings, Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, trans.  (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 341.
[ii] Soren Kierkegaard, The Point of View: On My work as an Author, the Point of View for my Work as an Author, Armed Neutrality, Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, trans. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 55.
[iii] Soren Kierkegaard, The Moment, in The Moment and Late Writings, Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, trans.  (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 340.
[iv] Ibid., 341.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] On the historical shift in theological interpretation from anti-wealth to pro-wealth, see Skip Worden, God's Gold (Seattle, WA: Amazon, 2016).

Saturday, February 11, 2017

One-Party Rule at the State Level: Federalism at Work

With Congressional Republicans appearing “flummoxed by the complexities of one-party rule, struggling with issues from repealing the Affordable Care Act . . . to paying for President Trump’s promised wall on the Mexican border, rising party leaders in the states seem far more at ease and assertive. Republicans have top-to-bottom control in 25 states now, holding both the governorship and the entire legislature, and Republican lawmakers are acting with lightning speed to enact longstanding conservative priorities.”[1] Not yet even a month after Donald Trump took the oath of office on January 20, 2017, Republicans in Kentucky had “swiftly passed laws to roll back the powers of labor unions and restrict access to abortion,” and were planning “sweeping changes to the education and public pension systems.”[2] In states from New England to the Midwest and across the South, Republican lawmakers had “introduced or enacted legislation to erode union powers and abortion rights, loosen gun regulations, expand school-choice programs and slash taxes and spending.”[3] That the media spotlight at the time was so focused on the federalism says something about just how eclipsed federalism itself had become on the national stage.

The full essay is at "One-Party Rule."



1. Alexander Burns and Mitch Smith, “State G.O.P. Leaders Move Swiftly as Party Bickers in Congress,” The New York Times, February 11, 2017.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.

The Founder

Tension between the founder of a business and the managers that eventually assume control is perhaps unavoidable. Such tension can be cut with a knife in the film, The Founder (2016), which tells the story of how McDonalds went from Dick and Mac McDonald’s restaurant in San Bernardino, California to a nationwide corporation headed by Ray Kroc. From an ethical standpoint, I submit that both the McDonald brothers and Kroc come out as less than salubrious.

The full essay is at "The Founder."

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Russia’s Putin beyond Constitutional Government: The Case of Aleksei Navalny

With a judge handing down a five-year suspended prison sentence, a fine of 500,000 rubles (about $8,400), and a ban on participating in the upcoming presidential election in 2017, Aleksei Navalny could feel just how power can be wielded by high government officials, including even presidents—power ultimately backed up by stern men with guns with the legal right to use lethal force. This, I submit, is what government comes down to—it’s bottom line.


The true look of a government's power. (Sergei Brovko/Reuters)


The full essay is at "Russia's Putin beyond Constitutional Government."

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Israel Legalizes Illegal Settlements on Palestinian Land: On the Toll on the Rule of Law


Israel’s legislature passed a law on February 6, 2017 retroactively legalizing Jewish settlements on privately owned Palestinian land. Incredibly, the state’s own attorney general said he would not defend the new law in court because he had determined the law to unconstitutional and in violation of international law. Anat Ben Nun of an anti-settlement group said the law was “deteriorating Israel’s democracy, making stealing an official policy.”[1] Specifically, the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including those offered financial compensation for the “long term use of their land” but without being able to reclaim their property under the new law, “are not Israeli citizens and cannot vote for candidates for Israel’s Parliament, or Kenesset.”[2] I submit nevertheless that the underlying casualty in this case is the rule of law itself.
The full essay is at "Israel Legalizes Illegal Settlements."



1. Ian Fisher, “Israel Passes Provocative Legislation to Retroactively Legalize Settlements,” The New York Times, February 7, 2017.
2. Ibid.

Being Partisan in the Pulpit: Going the Extra Mile


The Johnson Amendment, which became law in the U.S. in 1954 and was named for Lyndon Johnson, then a U.S. Senator, “is a provision in the tax code that prohibits tax-exempt organizations from openly supporting political candidates. In the words of the tax code, ‘all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”[1] I submit that it is in a cleric’s interest to expand this prohibition to include advocating for (or opposing) particular public policies. This general principle would of course be subject to exceptions in which a proposed or enacted policy is strongly anathema to the religious principles of the given religious organization or religion.



The full essay is at "Being Partisan in the Pulpit."




[1] Randall Balmer, “The Peril of Being Partisan at the Pulpit,” Stars and Stripes, February 7, 2017.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Can an Electorate Hold Its Political Elite Accountable: The Case of François Fillon

Can a political elite hold itself accountable? Left to its own devices, absent a virtuous citizenry, a political elite is able to exploit a conflict of interest in both wielding the authority of government and using that power even to constrain the elite itself. Unfortunately, even where an electorate is virtuous, the dispersed condition of the popular sovereign is an impediment to galvanizing enough popular will to act as a counter-power to that of a political elite, which is relatively concentrated and well-informed. In early 2017, the problem was on full display in the E.U. state of France, with little the federal government could do given the amount of governmental sovereignty still residing at the state level. So the question is whether an electorate can galvanize enough power to counter that of a political elite.

François Fillon in trouble for corruption amid an ensconced political elite. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

The full essay is at "François Fillon."

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Is Democracy Inimical to Prudent Government Budgeting: The U.S. and India Contrasted

At a time when the U.S. Government sported an accumulated debt of roughly $20 trillion, with continued deficits expected to add about $10 trillion more over the next ten years, the most populous democracy in the world, India, laid out a prudent budget proposal—one that had been “extremely well thought-out,” according to Deepak Parekh of the Housing Development Finance Corporation in India.[1]

The full essay is at "Prudent Government Budgeting."



1. Getta Anand, “Arun Jaitley, India’s Finance Chief, Aims to Spur Economy Hit by Cash Shortage,” The New York Times, February 1, 2017.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The French Socialist Party’s Proposal of a Universal Income Amended: An Economic Floor Providing Economic Security to the Poor

Benoit Hamon, “riding to victory” from political obscurity on a proposal to “pay all adults a monthly basic income,” defeated the recent Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, in a presidential primary runoff election of the Socialist Party in the E.U. state of France.[1] Although “Hamon wasn’t as tainted as Valls by Hollande’s unpopularity” because Hamon had “rebelled and quit the government in 2014,” whereas Valls served more than two years as Hollande’s prime minister in the state legislature, Hamon’s “proposal for a 750 euros ($800) ‘universal income’ that would be gradually granted to all adults also proved a campaign masterstroke. It grabbed headlines and underpinned his surprise success in the primary’s two rounds of voting.”[2] I submit that the proposal, although flawed from the standpoint of economic security, fits well with the industrial world of global capitalism.




1. Associated Press, “Hard-left Candidate wins French Socialists’ Presidential primary,” Foxnews.com. January 29, 2017.
2. Ibid.

A Federal Court Stays President Trump’s Muslim-Ban: Flawed Reportage?

Judge Ann Donnelly of the U.S. Federal District Court in Brooklyn, New York, issued a nationwide injunction on January 28, 2017 concerning President Donald Trump’s executive order barring people from seven countries from entering the United States. On the same day, BBC (America) radio reported that Trump had been stopped in his tracks. I submit that this instance points to the importance of investigative journalism prior to reporting. Alternatively, the case may illustrate a partisan or otherwise ideological penchant among journalists officially tasked with investigating and reporting rather than interpreting the news. 

The full essay is at "President Trump's Muslim Ban."

Friday, January 27, 2017

Brexit and Calexit: Excessive Democracy?

Ordered by Britain’s Supreme Court to get the state’s Parliament’s approval for the state to secede from the Union, the Prime Minister, Teresa May, faced the prospect of debate, amendments, and the votes themselves in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. In the latter chamber, May’s Conservative Party did not at the time have a majority. Some in her party “suggested that she should quickly appoint enough new lords to give her the votes she needs. But few say they expect that to be necessary: with little democratic legitimacy, the 805 lords are unlikely to dare to block” the referendum outcome favoring secession.[1] I submit that the democratic criterion is ill-fitting to the House of Lords.



1. Katrin Bennhold, “Ordered to Seek Approval on ‘Brexit,’ Teresa May Does So. Tersely,” The New York Times, January 26, 2017.