Politics & Policy

Calm Down, Grenell Is a Strong Choice

There has been a lot of pearl clutching about Richard Grenell’s appointment as acting director of national intelligence (DNI). Evidently the appointment will be temporary; Grenell is staying as ambassador to Germany, and the White House is not going send his name to the Senate for confirmation as DNI.

It’s reasonable to criticize that arrangement. If Grenell is going to return to his duties in Germany, where he has done an outstanding job, I would prefer that he not be diverted from them now. But apart from that consideration, the appointment strikes me as a good one. Certainly there is no reason for the almost hysterical response that the choice has met in some quarters.

The Directorate of National Intelligence and the DNI position were created in 2005. Its purpose is to assist the president in evaluating the intelligence collected by the 17 agencies that make up what is commonly called the “intelligence community,” or the IC. The DNI doesn’t have budgetary, personnel, or command authority over the community he overlooks; his job is to assess the intelligence that the IC creates, ask tough questions in an attempt to expose weakness or uncertainty, and present the views of the IC to the president in a useful form. If possible, the DNI should mediate differences among the various agencies to create a consensus view, but not to the point of suppressing honest differences of opinion that might affect the president’s decisions.

In other words, the DNI is an evaluator, not an operator. Like top political leaders, he consumes rather than produces intelligence. The DNI doesn’t need to know how to run an operation or manage intelligence assets in hostile countries; in fact, he has no formal authority over those collection activities and would encounter immediate and ferocious resistance if he tried to interfere.

The DNI does need good judgment, an understanding of the global context that makes intelligence meaningful, and a good relationship with the president and the leaders of the most important agencies in the IC — chiefly the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the NSA, and the FBI. The relationship with the president is especially important, because the DNI typically gives the president his daily briefing.

If the president is going to sit with you for an hour every day, or most days, you had better be able to present information in a way he trusts and can use.

For all these reasons, DNIs do not need to be, and often have not been, career intelligence officers. There have been five Senate-confirmed DNIs since the job was created. Only two of them (Admiral Mike McConnell and James Clapper) came from the IC. The first DNI — John Negroponte — was a career diplomat and ambassador who went on to be deputy secretary of state. Another, Admiral Dennis Blair, came out of the Surface Navy and was a former commander of the United States Pacific Command. The latest DNI was Dan Coates, a well-respected Senator who had been a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The point is that DNIs come from a number of different backgrounds. What they have in common is long experience assessing intelligence and the ability to approach intelligence estimates the way presidents must approach them: in the context of broader national-security issues.

Grenell is in the mold of Negroponte. He has years of international experience at both the U.N. and as ambassador to Germany, as well as in private life. In those capacities, he has had ample opportunity to see the strengths and weaknesses of the IC. Grenell’s post in Germany, for example, puts him at the center of a vital intelligence node not just for Europe but for Russia and China as well. There are no doubt a number of IC attachés in the U.S. embassy and consulates in Germany. Technically, they report to Grenell, and while the actual relationship between ambassadors and attachés can vary, I’m certain that Grenell has been an eager, active, and (where necessary) critical consumer of the intelligence he receives, which is exactly as it should be.

I worked with Grenell on the Romney campaign in 2012; he is a clear thinker who adapts quickly to different roles. In addition, Grenell is close to the president, which as I said is a definite advantage; he has the courage of his convictions, which is always desirable; and he is willing to probe and question inertial bureaucratic assumptions, which for the DNI is a necessity.

Again, my main concern is whether Grenell will have enough time to have a real impact as DNI. Typically, acting DNIs have come from inside the intelligence community; everyone knows that they will return to their old job and will still be a presence in the IC. Grenell, on the other hand, will be leaving the IC and returning to the diplomatic world. The tendency will be for the IC to cut him out of the loop, given that its members resent the DNI at the best of times. But the president can help a lot if he makes clear to the other major players that they have to take Grenell seriously even though he will be there for only a relatively short while.

I well remember the legislation that created the DNI 15 years ago. The concern at the time was whether the new office would add real value or simply be another bureaucratic layer within the IC that presidents have to penetrate. The CIA, which had institutional reasons for not wanting a DNI, lobbied (though not openly — it is the CIA, after all) against the legislation on that basis. I eventually decided to vote to create the DNI, but it was a close question for me and many others in Congress.

The concerns are still relevant today. I hope Grenell at least has enough time on the job to formulate an opinion on such concerns. If he does, he will be in a good position, perhaps in a second Trump administration, to suggest changes that will make the DNI and the IC more effective. That would be yet another service that Grenell could perform for his country.

 

Elections

Bernie’s Huge Victory

Senator Bernie Sanders celebrates with his wife Jane at a rally in San Antonio, Texas, after being declared the winner of the Nevada Democratic caucuses, February 22, 2020. (Callaghan O’Hare/Reuters)

Bernie had a massive night in Nevada, with a diverse nomination-winning-type coalition.

According to the entrance poll, he won whites and Hispanics and did well among blacks. He won men and women. He won college graduates and did particularly well with non-college graduates. He won Democrats and independents. He won liberals and somewhat liberals and tied with Biden among moderates/conservatives. He won union voters and non-union voters.

His result in a multi-candidate field is comparable to his result in a one-on-one race in 2016:

This is a hugely impressive win.

The other story of the night is Biden showing a pulse. He won blacks, voters over 65, and voters who oppose single-payer health care, and he tied among moderates/conservatives. He’s still in the hunt to win South Carolina and become the (quite weak, presumably) alternative to Sanders. Although Bloomberg is waiting in the wings to dent Biden should he get any momentum. And it’s entirely conceivable that it is Sanders who wins South Carolina in a week, and an out-of-the-gate 4–4 (or 3–4 depending how you count Iowa) looks ready to sweep all before him.

Sports

The Miracle, 40 Years Later

The 40th anniversary of the greatest American sporting event of the 20th Century is upon us. The Al Michaels call is, of course, inspired:

We don’t have a video record of the epic Herb Brooks pep talk before the game, but I like to believe Kurt Russell nailed it:

Elections

Bernie’s Houses

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders campaigns in Richmond, Calif., February 17, 2020. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Mike Bloomberg scored a hit — a palpable hit — in the debate this week when he pointed back at Bernie Sanders and said: “What a wonderful country we have, the best-known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses.” Many conservatives laughed and cheered and wondered why Bernie Sanders hasn’t been called out on this more before. And it is true that at some point, Bernie Sanders dropped the “millionaires” as a rhetorical punching bag to focus on the billionaires. It is also true that Sanders has done well enough in American life that you might fairly ask whether the whole system really does need repeal.

I know some conservatives dislike that he has worked in public life most of his career. But I wonder if conservative pundits tagging him are inadvertently giving readers a financial miseducation.

The Sanders’ main Vermont residence was purchased for around $400,000 a decade ago. That amount will get you a great deal of house in Vermont. Sanders’s job as senator is what requires his second residence, the one-bedroom apartment in D.C., which is worth roughly three quarters of a million dollars. By Washington, D.C.’s standards, this is not all that far above the median home price. And the two residences together would put Sanders near the bottom of the scale for senatorial opulence.

So really this is about the lake house in Vermont, which was purchased in 2016. The purchase seems to have been preceded by his wife receiving a generous “golden parachute” package from her employer, and the proceeds from an inheritance. Sanders has also said proceeds from his book went into this house. And it’s a nice one. Sanders’s net worth doesn’t extend all that far beyond his real estate portfolio.

When I look at this, I don’t see a great deal of “capitalism for me, but not for thee” behavior. Despite a few years of living down and out, Sanders has had steady employment for 40 years. He has been in federal office for a little over thirty years.

Most people who have that kind of career invest a substantial amount of money in the market. Many legislators have suspiciously good timing in the market and make substantial fortunes as investors. Sanders hasn’t done that. Instead, he and his wife have pursued jobs with good benefits and pensions — the kind of benefits they’d like to see extended to all workers — they’ve lived modestly for their class, and Sanders has been blessed with unusual longevity and energy.

If you look at his life as a series of financial decisions, Sanders has consistently traded present comfort for long-term security. That’s consistent with his political instincts. So, no, I don’t see a great deal of hypocrisy.

But, when you consider that such wealth can accrue to a life with Sanders’s downs and ups, and his low-risk, low-reward behavior, I also don’t see a need to completely and utterly replace the American economic model with a utopian dream.

Law & the Courts

Our Abortion Jurisprudence Is Terrible

Planned Parenthood president Dr. Leana Wen speaks at a protest against anti-abortion legislation at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., May 21, 2019. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

Mississippi governor Phil Bryant signed a bill last March proscribing abortion after doctors could detect an unborn child’s heartbeat. The usual canticle of pro-choice outrage ensued and led to a protracted legal battle between two abortion providers and the state’s medical officials. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down its per curiam ruling this morning.

The appellate court relied upon its holding in a 2018 case, weighing the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that banned most abortions after 15 weeks’ gestational age. Since the Fifth Circuit held that the state’s 15-week abortion ban violated the Supreme Court’s ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey — the law was not “a mere regulation of previability abortions subject to the ‘undue burden’ test” laid out in Casey but instead was a “ban on abortion after 15 weeks, ‘which Casey does not tolerate” — the fetal heartbeat law is also unconstitutional, since it takes effect earlier in the pregnancy.

The relevant passage from Casey:

Understood another way, we answer the question, left open in previous opinions discussing the undue burden formulation, whether a law designed to further the State’s interest in fetal life which imposes an undue burden on the woman’s decision before fetal viability could be constitutional. See, e. g.Akron I, 462 U. S., at 462-463 (O’CONNOR, J., dissenting). The answer is no.

The Constitution, of course, proscribes no such thing. But then, all of our abortion jurisprudence is a constitutional house of cards. Roe v. Wade is not constitutional law in any meaningful sense, and necessarily begets such legal absurdities as the conclusion that placing an “undue burden on the woman’s decision” to kill her child “before fetal viability” is unconstitutional.

Some precedent.

Federal appellate courts are nevertheless bound by that precedent — legally if not ethically — so the Fifth Circuit cited its 2018 holding in striking down Mississippi’s fetal heartbeat law:

‘Fetal heartbeat’ means cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac.” The parties disagree about when that activity occurs during a pregnancy. The clinic contends it occurs at six weeks. Mississippi argues it can occur anywhere between six and twelve weeks. But all agree that cardiac activity can be detected well before the fetus is viable. That dooms the law. If a ban on abortion after 15 weeks is unconstitutional, then it follows that a ban on abortion at an earlier stage of pregnancy is also unconstitutional.

The notion that Mississippi has no compelling “interest in fetal life” once a heartbeat is detected is absurd, only outdone in absurdity by the suggestion that the Constitution somehow prevents the state from defending the lives of those unborn children.

Elections

Should Bloomberg Nuke Bernie?

Nate Silver wonders if the Bloomberg team is showing some leg on a potential anti-Bernie ad blitz:

If Bloomberg is serious about stopping Bernie, he should do it. It might not work, and it certainly it won’t help Bloomberg, but it’d at least have the potential to dent Bernie and is a much more realistic scenario than candidates dropping out or forming a unity ticket before Super Tuesday less than two weeks from now.

Elections

Why a Unity Ticket Isn’t Likely to Save the Democrats

Sen. Bernie Sanders attends a campaign event in Carson City, Nev., February 16, 2020. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

Tim Miller writes a good column over at The Bulwark, laying out the hard lessons learned by the Jeb Bush campaign and NeverTrump forces in the 2016 GOP primary, and more or less screaming at anti-Bernie Sanders Democrats that they have less than two weeks before the Vermont senator accumulates a lead in delegates that will probably prove insurmountable.

Miller lays out a variety of recommendations for anti-Sanders Democrats, and closes by offering one last-ditch maneuver that wasn’t tested in 2016:

The other gambit that wasn’t tried but may have worked was an attempt by Cruz to form a unity ticket with Rubio. (Marco rebuffed it. Because, of course.) Here is a situation where a candidate dropping out could be purely additive to another candidate: if they literally joined the ticket. Unlike the lanes theory — where the voters magically all go to one candidate or the divvy up the states theory — at least this play hasn’t failed yet.

The problem with the unity ticket idea is that Democrats would need to pick two of the other contenders who could conceivably put together more delegates than Sanders does. Pete Buttigieg and . . . Joe Biden? Biden’s already spent eight years as veep. Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar? The Minnesota senator appears to incandescently loathe the former South Bend mayor. Warren doesn’t seem to want to be the running mate of anyone other than Sanders. Bloomberg hasn’t won any delegates yet, and the rest of the field resents him for trying to buy the nomination. Pick any two of the remaining top five contenders at random, and you probably end up with a “unity ticket” without any, you know, unity.

“Unity tickets” are alliances borne out of desperation, and they aren’t likely to work unless both figures like and want to work with each other. A unity ticket is also an enormously unfair imposition upon the nominee. If you win the nomination, you’ve earned the right to pick the person you want to be among your most trusted advisors and a heartbeat away from the presidency.

You shouldn’t have somebody who you disagree with — and beat in the primaries! — foisted onto you, destined to be this contrarian, disgruntled, not-entirely-trustworthy force in your presidency.

Elections

A Warning for Democrats

Tim Miller develops the analogy between Donald Trump’s 2016 primary campaign and Bernie Sanders’s current one. A key point he makes: It’s later in the process than a lot of Democrats think, and those who want to stop Sanders had better act fast. The span between “let’s wait to see where this goes before doing anything” and “it’s too late to do anything” can pass in the blink of an eye.

 

Elections

Redlining and the Financial Crisis

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg gestures at the Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas, Nev., February 19, 2020. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Michael Bloomberg has come under a lot of criticism for remarks he has made about the origins of the financial crisis. In Slate, Jordan Weissman tries to give the former New York City mayor a charitable reading: Bloomberg wasn’t saying that ending redlining caused the crisis; he was saying that an overzealous effort to stamp it out did.

[H]e wasn’t trying to say that banks should have never been forced to lend to black people. Rather, he’s saying that government officials tried to fix the legacy of redlining by pushing banks to make loans to low-income Americans, which led them down a slippery slope to taking greater and greater credit risks. In other words, it’s a story about good intentions leading to government overreach.

Weissmann concludes that Bloomberg is wrong even granting this interpretation. Expert opinion has generally rejected the view that efforts to extend homeownership to the non-creditworthy played an important role in causing the crisis. It has often rejected that view vehemently. Only one of the ten members of the national commission on the causes of the crisis placed much emphasis on the issues Bloomberg has identified as central.

A minority view can, however, be correct. Let me suggest another one: It’s an error to look for the origin of the housing crash, or the financial crash, and treat that origin as the explanation of the sharp recession of 2007–2009. The sharp recession explains more of the housing crash and the financial crash than they explain of it. And the sharpness of the recession was largely the result of monetary-policy mistakes.

I made that case in NR around the tenth anniversary of the financial panic. I concluded by noting that there is a precedent for an economic catastrophe that was misunderstood for long after it happened.

Until at least the publication of Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz’s Monetary History of the United States, in 1963, the prevailing explanation of the Depression treated non-monetary factors such as stock-market speculation and banking problems as its major causes. Now we take for granted the centrality of monetary tightness to the Depression.

A similar reevaluation of our more recent economic misfortunes, with greater attention to monetary dysfunction, is in order. That reevaluation need not conclude with the wholesale rejection of other ideas about the crash. It may be that conservatives are right about the oversubsidization of housing, or that liberals are right about the deficiencies of financial regulation, before the crisis. We can also continue to debate whether the federal government handled Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers appropriately in 2008. But we should consider whatever other policy errors were made, of omission and commission, to be secondary to the great monetary failure of our era.

Bloomberg’s mistake in thinking about the origin of the crisis is thus deeper than even his critics have recognized, because it is a mistake most of them also make. (The only politician of note who has gotten these issues right, in my view, is Senator Ted Cruz.)

(Disclosure: I write a regular column for Bloomberg Opinion.)

Elections

Yet Another Overlooked Sanders Vulnerability

Jim listed four overlooked weaknesses of Senator Sanders as a general-election candidate for president. He has so many, it will be easy to overlook some of them. One that has gotten some attention but could get a lot more if he’s the nominee is his positions on criminal justice.

Barry Latzer wrote about some of them for NRO this week:

Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders propose to reduce by 50 percent the number of people incarcerated in the United States at both the federal and state level. This would be quite the lift. If by “incarcerated” they mean every prison (as opposed to jail) inmate, they would have to persuade the states (responsible for 88 percent of 1.5 million prisoners) to reduce the sentences for some very serious crimes, eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, and maybe even sharply curtail the use of recidivism as a sentencing criterion.

Since over half of all state prisoners are in for murder, rape, robbery or assault, and another 14 percent were sentenced for burglary, major theft or fraud, public enthusiasm for leniency would be limited. The public will be even less enthusiastic when they come to understand that three out of four prison inmates are repeat offenders.

And that’s not all. Sanders believes that felons should be allowed to vote — not just after they have served their time, but while they are in jail. Do you think the Trump campaign might be able to make something of these issues?

Economy & Business

30-Year Treasury Yields Reflect Long-Term Economic Headwinds

Police officers in front of a cargo container ship at a port in Qingdao, China, in 2018. (Stringer/Reuters)

The purchasing managers’ index (PMI), a key gauge of business activity, has hit its lowest point since 2013. The PMI reading of 49.6 means that U.S. output in goods and services shrunk in February for the first time in six years. “The deterioration was in part linked to the coronavirus outbreak, manifesting itself in weakened demand across sectors such as travel and tourism, as well as via falling exports and supply chain disruptions,” said the chief business economist of IHS Markit, which released the PMI numbers.

On Friday, the Chinese National Health Commission reported a total of 75,465 cases of coronavirus and 2,236 deaths, with cases rising in regional neighbors Japan and South Korea.

Until today, U.S. markets had performed well despite fears that the virus could disrupt global supply chains and hold back demand in key Asian markets. That changed Friday, when the yield on 30-year U.S. treasuries hit a record low and the S&P 500 stock index was slated to record its first weekly decline since January.

As investors grow bearish on the economy, demand for safe-haven assets such as U.S. government bonds increases. That demand drives the prices of those securities up, which means the yield — or return on investment — decreases.

While similar downward pressure on shorter-dated bonds is normal, since such bonds are subject to short-term economic volatility, the sharp downward turn of long-dated yields indicates that investors expect a protracted drag on the economy.

Markets are concerned not only about the virus but also about the 2020 presidential election. With Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren advocating sweeping changes to the U.S. economy, fund managers listed the election as their greatest concern in a survey last month.

In February of last year, the yield curve inverted — meaning yields on short-term bonds exceeded those of long-term bonds. Typically, a yield curve inversion indicates a recession is in the offing. However, the U.S. economy continued growing through 2019, and the yield curve stabilized. While it has still not inverted, it is flattening — a worrying sign for the economy.

Economy & Business

The Problem with Expanding Guest-Worker Programs

(Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

There’s a worker shortage looming. Take construction. A Reuters story from January relates the travails employers face in that industry: “62 percent of firms are already complaining they cannot fill key professional and craft worker positions” and “many firms report having a hard time finding qualified workers to fill project manager or supervisor positions, equipment operators, carpenters and laborers.” The economy is hot hot hot, and a lack of new workers could be a serious drag on future growth.

Oh, wait — that Reuters story is from January 2014. Six years later, over a million and a half new construction jobs have been added — and without a giant new guest-worker program. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual growth of hourly income in the construction sector has usually bounced somewhere between 2 and 3 percent in recent years (though it was a bit higher in 2018), and there’s some evidence that this income growth has slipped over the past year. Annual hourly income growth in this sector remains below where it was before the Great Recession. That is not exactly the sign of a labor market without enough workers.

The perpetual shadow of a “worker shortage” provides a context for the efforts of some Republicans — including potentially in the White House — to push for an expansion of guest-worker programs to remedy a supposed “shortage.” White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney lamented in England that the U.S. is “running out of people to fuel the economic growth that we’ve had in our nation over the last four years,” and Politico reports that Lindsey Graham, Thom Tillis, and others are involved in talks to expand guest-worker programs. (The Politico story even includes dire warnings from, yes, construction groups about labor shortages.)

There are both empirical and strategic problems with arguments for the need for expanded guest-worker programs.

While the economy is fairly solid, it is not — campaign press releases to the contrary — white-hot. Inflation-adjusted annual GDP growth in 2019 was 2.3 percent, which is a respectable number but well below the 3+ percent growth rates of the expansions of the Eighties and Nineties. Nor can this slump in overall economic growth be blamed on lower population growth. Real per capita GDP growth is also significantly lower than it was in prior expansions.

There is also some evidence to suggest that there is still more slack in the labor market. The employment–population ratio is down considerably from where it was prior to the Great Recession (let alone the early 2000s). The employment rate for prime-age males (25–54) was 89 percent in 2000; it was only 86.4 percent in 2019, which suggests that there are many prime-age men who could still be added to the workforce. While wage growth has improved since the depths of the Great Recession, it still lags behind the rate of the 1990s.

Then there’s the question of policy strategy. President Trump has portrayed himself as the champion of “forgotten Americans.” A tight labor market helps the paychecks of individual workers and their families, but it also provides other civic benefits. This demand for labor encourages an expansion of the labor pool, providing opportunity to those whose resumes might be otherwise ignored. Criminal-justice reform is a chic topic in the Beltway right now, and one of the biggest ways of helping those with criminal records integrate into American society is to have a tight labor market. Such a labor market will encourage employers to invest more in training their workforces, expanding opportunity for those with and without college degrees. Conversely, guest-worker programs can often be vehicles for undermining the bargaining power of American workers.

If the GOP wants to help secure its support among working Americans, expanding guest-worker programs would seem a step in the wrong direction.

National Review

Join Us February 24 in Palm Beach for NRI’s Regional Seminar

On February 24, National Review Institute’s Regional Seminar series will kick off at The Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla. The half-day conference will feature Charles C. W. Cooke, John O’Sullivan, Jay Nordlinger, and Kyle Smith, among others, discussing the perennial fight against socialism and the importance of culture. I’ll also be giving a talk about my new book, The Case for Nationalism.

We hope you will join us in Palm Beach for this special event. Tickets are $250 and we have several sponsorship opportunities available. All proceeds go to support NRI — the non-profit journalistic think tank that supports NR’s mission. Please click here for more information and to register.

Elections

Four Overlooked Weaknesses of Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Durham, N.C., February 14, 2020. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

Four frequently overlooked weaknesses of Bernie Sanders:

Another health issue, even a minor one, would end his campaign. Trying to knock off a candidate who has the largest plurality of delegates in a convention floor fight is an extremely difficult task … unless that candidate is 78 years old and has had two significant health incidents in a year. Sanders needs to stay visibly and indisputably healthy until the Democratic convention in mid-July. If Sanders suffers anything worse than a bad cold, he’ll give the superdelegates the excuse they need: “Of course we all love Bernie, but we just can’t risk nominating someone who could suffer another heart attack at any moment.”

He won’t, or can’t, vary his emotional tone. Bernie Sanders is a remarkably consistent debater, which brings advantages and disadvantages. Everybody knows who he is, what he stands for, and what he would try to do if elected. But Sanders pretty much has one setting: shouting that he’s not going to pay a lot for this muffler. He doesn’t do the tearful and empathetic tales of ordinary Americans he’s met on the campaign trail, he doesn’t tell stories from tougher times earlier in his life, he doesn’t crack a lot of jokes. We hear little about Jane Sanders or his son Levi. He doesn’t seem interested in the soft-focus or humanizing stuff. Maybe that isn’t as needed as it used to be now that we’re in the Trump era. But the contrast with, say, Barack Obama or Bill Clinton is striking.

He’s got one big theme and isn’t that interested in what doesn’t fit that theme. James Pethokoukis contends, “Literally every Bernie explanation for every problem is corporate greed. Makes it easy to do economic policy because you don’t have to know anything about economic policy. Or costs and benefits. Or trade-offs. Or unintended consequences.” When Sanders is taken far afield of U.S. economic inequality, his answers either start to get nonsensical or he steers back to the same themes in different contexts.

He sees the Sunni-Shia divide as akin to bickering neighbors. “We’ve got to bring Iran and Saudi Arabia together in a room, under American leadership, and say, ‘we are sick and tired of us spending huge amounts of money and human resources because of your conflicts.’” He contends that we’ve been fighting a war on terror through three administrations to distract the public: “Endless wars help the powerful to draw attention away from economic corruption.” Sanders’ plan to deal with rising authoritarian powers like Russia, China is to form “an international progressive movement that mobilizes behind a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people, and that addresses the massive global inequality that exists, not only in wealth but in political power.” I’m sure an argument that amounts to “only the international socialist movement can stop Russia and China” sounded better in his head.

His empathy is entirely abstract, not specific. Like any great centralized planner, Sanders’s ability to empathize with “the little guy” can be turned on and off like a light switch as needed. This week the great tribune of the working man made clear that those currently employed in fracking will understand that they must have their jobs banned because “the scientists are telling us that if we don’t act incredibly boldly within the next six, seven years, there will be irreparable damage done not just in Nevada, not just to Vermont or Massachusetts, but to the entire world.” Those workers do not believe that, and they are unlikely to just gently accept that they have to lose their jobs and paychecks for the greater good.

Law & the Courts

Florida Bill to Ban ‘Nature Rights’

I have been warning that “nature rights” would soon become part of the Democratic Party’s environmental platform. That hasn’t happened at the national party level — yet. But Florida’s Democratic Party has embraced the idea that nature should have rights that anyone can sue to enforce in its official platform.

Such a move would bring development and economic activity using the land to a screeching halt and open the door for environmentalist shakedown artists to soak private enterprise for “donations” as a means of avoiding litigation.

Right now, nature-rights laws in the U.S. are being passed at the municipal level, with more than 30 cities already passing such laws. Thus, I am very pleased that Florida Republican state representative Blaise Ingoglia has authored a bill to outlaw municipalities from passing nature-rights laws in the Sunshine State. From HB 1199:

A local government regulation, ordinance, code, rule, comprehensive plan, charter, or any other provision of law may not recognize or grant any legal rights to a plant, an animal, a body of water, or any other part of the natural environment that is not a person or political subdivision…or grant such person or political subdivision any specific rights relating to the natural environment not otherwise authorized in general law or specifically granted in the State Constitution.

It’s a sign of the times that such laws are necessary — as Ohio learned last year. I would prefer a law or constitutional amendment barring nature rights in the state altogether. But this will do.

The bill has been doing well in committee hearings. I hope it is soon on the governor’s desk. Bravo, Representative Ingoglia!

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Women’s Sports Should Be Women’s Sports

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The Chinese Communist government increasingly poses an existential threat not just to its own 1.4 billion citizens but to the world at large. China is currently in a dangerously chaotic state. And why not, when a premodern authoritarian society leaps wildly into the brave new world of high-tech science in a ... Read More

The Invisible Man Exposes the White-Male-Supremacy Monster

‘He is not the victim here!” screams Elisabeth Moss, heroine of The Invisible Man, the latest in the series that reboots Universal Studios’ classic 1930s scary movies for the gullible Millennial market. The film’s title now refers to the hidden threat of an unseen, yet lethal, patriarchy. But this movie ... Read More

The Invisible Man Exposes the White-Male-Supremacy Monster

‘He is not the victim here!” screams Elisabeth Moss, heroine of The Invisible Man, the latest in the series that reboots Universal Studios’ classic 1930s scary movies for the gullible Millennial market. The film’s title now refers to the hidden threat of an unseen, yet lethal, patriarchy. But this movie ... Read More

At the Debate, Only Losers

To be honest, I’d almost forgotten what they were like. Wednesday’s Democratic presidential primary debate was revealing: Mike Bloomberg was revealed to be unprepared, something for which a man with his resources has no possible excuse; Amy Klobuchar was revealed to be a stammering daisy, her big moment ... Read More

At the Debate, Only Losers

To be honest, I’d almost forgotten what they were like. Wednesday’s Democratic presidential primary debate was revealing: Mike Bloomberg was revealed to be unprepared, something for which a man with his resources has no possible excuse; Amy Klobuchar was revealed to be a stammering daisy, her big moment ... Read More