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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.