God and Man in Hollywood

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The meaning of Hail, Caesar!, the latest film from Joel and Ethan Coen, has been lost on the movie critics—most of whom, like their fellow journalists, are religiously illiterate. While dismissed as an “entertaining flight of fancy,” it actually delves into the deepest question, the question of God and our place in the universe.

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Hang in There, RBG: The Country Needs You

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Like Mike Rappaport and much of the broader world, I’ve been baffled by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s New York Times ruminations—though not in the same way. Many of her observations strike me as obviously right. (It is in fact high time to move to New Zealand, or some place with lower mountains and even less government). And why should we heap opprobrium on a public official who actually tells the truth? She is wrong, however, not necessarily as a general matter but on her own terms, in deeming a Trump presidency an unthinkable horror: it might be her finest hour. RBG…

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The Jurisprudence of Civil Asset Forfeiture

Hand grabbing money bag

The seizure by the state of assets connected to crime is a controversial subject. Asset forfeiture’s proponents—mainly law-enforcement agencies—view it as essential to fighting crime (especially the drug trade), because it deprives wrongdoers of the fruits of their illicit activities. Civil libertarians worry about the lack of due process for criminal defendants and the danger of official abuse of this crime-fighting tool.

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Why Religious Believers May Support an Irreligious Man

It has puzzled some that evangelicals and other religious people are supporting Donald Trump. He is twice divorced, boasts of many affairs, and seems to know nothing of scripture. In religious matters, he has reminded me of Rex Mottram, an industrialist turned politician and figure of fun in Brideshead Revisited, about whom it was said that “he has no religious curiosity or natural piety.”

But for those concerned about the religious rights, Trump’s indifference pales before Hillary Clinton’s hostility. Of course, Clinton does not say she is hostile, but her core beliefs and political coalition will collide again and again with religious liberty, as surely as have those of President Obama. It was his administration that filed an extraordinary amicus brief stating that churches should receive no more protection for their employment decisions than secular associations, despite the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses. It was his administration that has tried to force religious organizations to be complicit in advancing access to devices they deemed immoral, even though there were other ways of providing access.

There is every reason to believe that Clinton will continue to encourage government entrenchment on religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

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The Shell Game of “Tiers of Scrutiny”— Exposed, Once and for All

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We have absorbed over the last few weeks the burst of anger on the part of pro-lifers and conservatives over the Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

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Hong Kong

Recently, I visited Hong Kong and China for the first time.  Traveling to Hong Kong was a lifelong dream for me, as I have long admired the economic freedom that it possesses.  But how would the real Hong Kong appear to me, as opposed to the theoretical place that topped the Economic Freedom lists?  And would Hong Kong be significantly changed, given the 20 years it has been under Chinese control? I thought the real Hong Kong was incredible.  This city of skyscrapers was absolutely beautiful, with a skyline that rivals and perhaps surpasses any city in the world.  Hong Kong…

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Direct Democracy Produces Neither Wisdom or Enlightenment

Voting station

Britain’s experience of direct democracy by means of referendum has not so far been very happy. The first referendum ever held in Britain was in 1975, and also concerned its (then recent) membership of the then European Economic Community. The result was a decisive vote in favour of remaining, by two thirds of the votes cast; however, because of the high rate of abstention, this represented only 44.44 per cent of the population eligible to vote. Of historical interest is the fact that Scotland was considerably less enthusiastic about membership of the EEC than England: 68.7 per cent in favour in…

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The Improper Comments of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is now 83 years old.  One often hears it said that she ought to step down.  By now, Ginsburg has a set response to this criticism: She says that she is not the only old justice.  She notes that Kennedy is about to turn 80 and Breyer is going to turn 78.

I have no idea whether Ginsburg is too old to perform her duties.  What I do know is that Ginsburg appears increasingly prone to making politically inappropriate statements.

In an interview last week, Ginsburg made several improper statements. First, Ginsburg gave what the New York Times describe as “an unequivocal endorsement of Judge Garland,” who President Obama had nominated for the Court but the Senate has refused to consider.  It is normally considered improper for a Supreme Court justice to comment on a politically charged issue of this type.

In addition, Ginsburg also asserted that the Senate had an obligation to assess Judge Garland’s qualifications, stating “that’s their job” and “there’s nothing in the Constitution that says the president stops being president in his last year.”  Not only do I regard this comment as mistaken, it is once again inappropriate.  The President remains the President, of course.  The Senate has simply decided not to act on this nominee.  Ginsburg’s argument reads like Democratic Party talking points.

Second, Ginsburg made critical comments about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.  She stated “I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president.”  She also suggested that if Trump were elected, it would be time to move to New Zealand. 

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Criminalizing Politics

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Kimberly Strassel has written a timely, bold, and important book explaining why a great many people are supporting Donald Trump for President. You wouldn’t know it from the book’s title, however, because the title — The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech — reflects Ms. Strassel’s mission, which is to reveal the full extent of the threat to free speech and small d democracy brought on by the coordinated efforts of the political left since 2010 to silence conservative opposition.

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Tradition, Interests, and Principle in the Game of Thrones

I do not apologize for posting yearly on the Game of Thrones. Tens of millions of people watch the show and thus its analysis of the structure of politics reaches far more people in contemporary American than does that of Hobbes and Machiavelli. And its sketch of the political world is quite insightful and revealing.

This season ends with three forces contending for the Iron Throne of the Kingdom of Westeros and each of these forces sees the essence of politics completely differently.  For the Starks, one of the seven aristocratic houses in the Kingdom, political and social behavior should be guided by tradition.  Living in the most rural, northern part of the kingdom, they worship the old gods, and believe in norms of honor and reciprocity that have developed over centuries. As a result, they are the only noble family that behaves consistently nobly.  That wins them loyalty from many of their retainers.

But their adherence to tradition is also their tragic flaw.

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