National Review

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On the home page, Rich makes a compelling case for why you should join NRPlus by taking advantage of this week’s pre-election subscription drive. But I just wanted to add a bit of extra perspective. If you were to join at the current discounted rate, it would bring the cost of NRPlus to just $0.11 per day.

That’s $0.11 so you can come here every day and read any article you choose without worrying about the paywall and while enjoying a limited ad experience without pop-ups. It’s $0.11 per day to have commenting privileges on articles, to be able to join regular calls with authors and newsmakers, and to get invited to meetups such as the one last week in Los Angeles. 

As Rich put it:

If you agree that we still need right reason, that we need to be engaged in the fight every day, but we should do it with facts and the best arguments, and that America is still the last best hope of Earth, then we have a publication just for you and that we believe deserves your support.

Subscribe here to take advantage of this limited-time offer.

Elections

Four Consecutive Polls Show GOP Hopeful Leading in Oregon Governor’s Race

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Gubernatorial Candidate Christine Drazan (R., Ore.) speaks during an interview (Screengrab KGW News/YouTube)

Christine Drazan, who’s running to be Oregon’s first Republican governor since 1987, has now led the field in four consecutive polls. Surveys from three separate polling firms, conducted September 19–24, all showed Drazan ahead:

And now, a poll from Emerson College released earlier today shows the same result:

This is still Oregon, of course — its history as a deep-blue state should temper overly optimistic Republican hopes. But if there’s any year for the Beaver State governor’s mansion to turn red, it’s going to be this one. 

 

Elections

GOP Surpasses 4 Million Voter Contacts in Texas

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Republican Mayra Flores talks to people during her watch party in San Benito, Texas, June 14, 2022. (Veronica G. Cardenas/Reuters)

Seeking to capitalize on its inroads with Latinos in 2020, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has made a concerted attempt at outreach with 21 Hispanic community centers across the country — each with its own staffer, hired from within the community and tasked with recruiting and training local volunteers. Four of those Hispanic community centers are in Texas — opened last year in Laredo, San Antonio, McAllen and Houston, respectively — where the heavily Hispanic south Texas region shifted significantly toward Trump during the last election cycle.

The strategy is already seeing returns: With more than 30 full-time staff — and upwards of 17,000 volunteers — on the ground across the state, the RNC surpassed 4 million voter contacts in Texas this past weekend. By Election Day, that number is projected to sit at seven times the number of voter contacts Republicans made in the last midterm cycle four years prior, a GOP aide on the ground in Texas told me. In the 90 percent Hispanic Cameron County, Republican turnout has increased by 137 percent since 2018. The 95.4 percent Hispanic Webb County saw an 87 percent increase and the 91.87 percent Hispanic Hidalgo County saw an 84 percent increase over the same period.

Across south Texas, the GOP has made significant gains with Hispanic voters over the course of the past few years. Five of the six largest Democrat-to-Republican county-level shifts from 2016 to 2020 occurred in South Texas, and — while Joe Biden still carried most of the region by healthy margins — all four of the counties in the 91.5 percent Hispanic Rio Grande Valley shifted toward Trump by upwards of ten points: In Starr County, the former president bested his 2016 performance by an earth-shattering 55 points. 

Other elections point to GOP inroads down-ballot, too. In 2021, McAllen — an 85 percent Hispanic city of 142,000, located just eleven miles from the Mexico border — elected its first Republican mayor in more than two decades, by a razor-thin margin of just 206 votes. (I sat down with the mayor, Javier Villalobos, in his McAllen law office last week to chat about his perspective on the state’s immigration politics). And this June, Mayra Flores, a Mexican-born Republican, won a special election in the state’s 34th congressional district — which stretches from the Mexico border up to San Antonio — by more than seven and a half points. It was a dramatic reversal: Two years prior, Joe Biden carried the district by four points, and its incumbent Democratic congressman carried it by 13.6. 

Three Hispanic Republican women — Flores, Monica De La Cruz, and Cassy Garcia, referred to as Las Tres Chingonas by local Republicans — are on the ballot in traditionally blue, but increasingly GOP-friendly congressional districts this November. I attended a rally for Garcia, who’s running in the state’s 28th congressional district, in Laredo this Sunday. “I think people are excited,” she told me. “People are ready for a better way forward for this district, and I feel like I’m prepared and ready to provide a new voice for them in D.C.” 

Religion

Finding Unity in Saint Francis

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Statue of St. Francis of Assisi at the Duomo of Assisi in Umbria, Italy (worldwidephotoweb/iStock/Getty Images)

Today is the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order and patron saint of animals, merchants, and ecology. Born in Italy around 1181, Francis is one of the most venerated figures in the Church and continues to be admired by believers and non-believers around the world today. 

In March 2013, when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was introduced to the world for the first time as “Pope Francis,” it confirmed the fundamental importance of that humble Italian saint to our own age.

Indeed, understanding the fullness of Francis — a man left-leaning commentators champion for his “pantheist language, scruffy clothes and campaign for social justice” and to whom traditionalists look for his joyful asceticism and profound devotion to Christ — might help us resolve some of the tensions within the Church today and see the virtues of our society, as well as what we are missing. 

To do so, we can look to the mutual admiration of St. Francis by two men whose supporters often find themselves on opposite sides of contemporary debates: G. K. Chesterton and Pope Francis. 

Chesterton — who wrote in his biography of St. Francis that “at no stage of my pilgrimage has he ever seemed to me a stranger” — thought that there were three ways to write a sketch of St. Francis for the modern English reader.

The first:

To deal with this great and most amazing man as a figure in secular history and a model of social virtues… He may say (what is quite true) that St. Francis anticipated all that is most liberal and sympathetic in the modern mood; the love of nature; the love of animals; the sense of social compassion; the sense of the spiritual dangers of prosperity and even of property. All those things that nobody understood before Wordsworth were familiar to St. Francis. All those things that were first discovered by Tolstoy had been taken for granted by St. Francis. He could be presented, not only as a human but a humanitarian hero; indeed as the first hero of humanism . . . his ascetical theology can be ignored . . . his religion can be regarded as a superstition. . . . There would still be a great deal to be said about the man who tried to end the Crusades by talking to the Saracens or who interceded with the Emperor for the birds. . . . In short, he may try to tell the story of a saint without God.

The second: 

He may go to the opposite extreme, and decide, as it were, to be defiantly devotional. He may make the theological enthusiasm as thoroughly the theme as it was the theme of the first Franciscans. He may treat religion as the real thing that it was to the real Francis of Assisi. He can find an austere joy, so to speak, in parading the paradoxes of asceticism and all the holy  topsy-turvydom of humility. He can stamp the whole history with the Stigmata, record fasts like fights against a dragon. . . . In short he can produce . . . a study of St. Francis . . . unintelligible to any one who does not share his religion, perhaps only partly intelligible to any one who does not share his vocation. . . . The only difficulty about doing the thing in this way is that . . . it would really require a saint to write the life of a saint.

But both these ways, Chesterton suggests, are “impossible.” 

Instead, he opts for the third way: 

He may say to the modern English reader: ‘Here is an historical character which is admittedly attractive to many of us already, bits gaiety, its romantic imagination, its spiritual courtesy and camaraderie, but which also contains elements (evidently equally sincere and emphatic) which seem to you quite remote and repulsive. But after all, this man was a man and not half a dozen men. What seems inconsistency to you did not seem inconsistency to him . . . by approaching it in this way, we may at least get a glimmering of why the poet who praised his lord the sun, often hid himself in a dark cavern, of why the saint who was gentle with his Brother the Wolf [legend holds that Francis tamed a wolf that was terrorizing the Italian town of Gubbio] was so harsh to his Brother the Ass (as he nicknames his own body), of why the troubadour who said that love set his heart on fire separated himself from women.”

By taking this way, Chesterton suggests that people can avoid the failure of following “Francis with their praises until they [are] stopped by their prejudices.” Only when we set these prejudices aside can we realize:

That when [Francis] said from the first that he was a Troubadour of a newer and nobler romance, he was not using a mere metaphor, but understood himself much better than the scholars understand him. He was, to the last agonies of asceticism, a Troubadour. He was a lover of God and he was really and truly a lover of men; possibly a much rarer mystical vocation. A lover of men is very nearly the opposite of a philanthropist; indeed the pedantry of the Greek word carries something like a satire on itself. A philanthropist may be said to love anthropoids. But as St. Francis did not love humanity but men, so he did not love Christianity but Christ.

All the “riddles” of St. Francis, Chesterton goes on to say “would easily be resolved in the simplicity of any noble love; only this was so noble a love that nine men out of ten have hardly even heard of it.” He continues: “To this great mystic, his religion was not a thing like a theory but a thing like a love-affair.” Chesterton clearly admires this love of Francis, and here, he and the current pope concur. As Pope Francis put in his controversial encyclical letter, Laudato Si’:

Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever [Francis] would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them ‘to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason.’ His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. . . . Such a conviction cannot be written off as naïve romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behaviour. If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.

So, on this feast day, may we set our prejudices aside and be united in our admiration for St. Francis, praying for his intercession and following in his example. 

Elections

Hey, Remember When Democrats Spent $130 Million Trying to Win a South Carolina Senate Race?

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Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.) speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 7, 2020. (Andrew Harnik/Reuters)

Last cycle, one of the odder phenomenons in the Senate races was the rapid rise and quick disappearance of Democrat Jaime Harrison in his bid to unseat incumbent Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Harrison more or less played the Beto O’Rourke playbook — pick a hated Republican senator from a southern state, and ride gentle press coverage and some very questionable polling to record fundraising haul. Harrison spent $130 million . . . and then finished ten points behind Graham.

Harrison is now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Apparently, Democrats aren’t getting their hopes up in the Palmetto State again. You can be forgiven if you missed that South Carolina GOP senator Tim Scott is running for reelection this cycle. How uncompetitive is this race? It appears only two public polls of this race have been conducted the entire cycle. A poll in March put Scott up by 32 percentage points over Democrat Krystle Matthews; a poll that ended September 7 put Scott up by 17 percentage points. That early autumn survey found Scott with a 51 percent favorable rating, 33 percent unfavorable rating.

Next time some Democrat tries to argue they have a chance to win statewide in South Carolina, there will be a lot of well-founded skepticism to overcome.

Immigration

Death at (and of) the Border

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The howling hypocrisy displayed by progressives and much of the media when Ron DeSantis flew illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard is dwarfed by their relative indifference to the explosion in the number of illegal immigrants who’ve died attempting to cross the border. Their indifference also stands in contrast to their professed concerns about the alleged housing of “kids in cages” by the Trump administration in 2018.

Reporters and Democratic politicians swarmed the border and immigrant detention facilities that year to highlight the issue. Photos of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sobbing at the sight of a chain-link fence were ubiquitous. Stories about the separation of children from parents abounded. Every media outlet larger than the Brecksville High School student newspaper had a substantial presence at the border.

Not so with respect to the current state of the southern border, which by  every comparative measure is an unprecedented disaster. The number of  border crossings has exploded from 396,579 in 2018 to a record high of more than 2.3 million in FY 2022 (not including “got-aways,” which likely increase the total by 40–50 percent). The number of individuals on the FBI’s terror watch list has risen from six in 2018 to 78 in 2022. The number of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. with a criminal record rose from 6,698 in 2018 to 10,763 in 2021.

The number of deaths among illegal aliens crossing the southern border has gone from 283 in 2018 to 748 in FY 2022. Curiously, no sign of Ocasio-Cortez weeping on site. Also, no sign of any other Democrat or member of the media (outside of Fox News). For them, border tragedies are relevant only when politically useful.

Expect the southern border to be rediscovered when a Republican resides in the White House again. Of course, expect also to discover that he or she is a racist.

Elections

Can Oz Out-Hustle Fetterman in the Final Month?

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Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz addresses attendees at former President Donald Trump’s rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., September 3, 2022. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

In Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz’s attack ads against John Fetterman have turned it into an actual competitive race, with the Cook Political Report moving the race back to “toss up” status. Part of that can be attributed to Oz’s aggressive attack ads, like this one that points to a 2015 interview in the Nation, where Fetterman said, “I’m pro legalizing marijuana, but I go even further than some of my colleagues because I’m for decriminalizing across the board.” That may not sound so appealing as Pennsylvania grapples with a fentanyl overdose crisis.

Ordinarily, the candidate under attack would go out and do a lot of campaign stops and interviews, responding and clarifying his position on drugs. But Fetterman . . . obviously still can’t campaign normally. Fetterman held his first rally in Philadelphia — the single most important Democratic stronghold in the state — on September 24. And he’s clearly nowhere near his usual self yet:

After coming onstage to AC/​DC’s “Back in Black,” Mr. Fetterman spoke to a crowd of about 600 for about 12 minutes, at times with halting speech and on occasion stumbling over at least one of his lines as he recovers from a May stroke.

As he sarcastically pledged not to pander, he joked that “the Eagles are so much better than the Eagles.” He clearly meant to say the Steelers. (The crowd rallied to help him, unleashing an E-A-G-L-E-S chant).

Fetterman will be in York County Saturday and Bucks County Sunday — with a campaign event scheduled early so as to not conflict with the Eagles game. Fetterman’s health is likely to keep him limited from now until Election Day.

Oz has the opportunity to out-hustle Fetterman in the final month — and sometimes this makes a difference. Back in 2013, in a special House election in South Carolina, Democrats thought they had a shot to knock off the somewhat infamous former governor, Mark Sanford. In the final days, Sanford did roughly twice as many events as his opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch. On election night, it wasn’t all that close, as Sanford finished with 54 percent and Busch finished with 45 percent.

Natural Gas: Winter Is Coming

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Steam rises above Kiev, February 2, 2012 (Anatolii Stepanov/Reuters)

It’s become something of a cliché to top stories about the coming energy crunch in Europe with the headline “Winter Is Coming” (in my defense, I rolled out the cliché earlier than some), but it does seem particularly appropriate in this case.

The Financial Times:

Europe could suffer a colder winter with less wind and rain than usual, according to the European weather forecasting agency, adding to the challenges for governments trying to solve the continent’s energy crisis.

Florence Rabier, director-general of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), said early indications for November and December were for a period of high pressure

Education

NYU Professor Gets Canned for Doing His Job Too Well

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Banner outside New York University in 2009. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Last year, the State of Oregon invited a firestorm of controversy when it announced that it was eliminating the requirement that high-school graduates have rudimentary arithmetic and literacy skills to graduate. Instead of ensuring that adolescents in the Beaver State are well-equipped for the labor market and adulthood, Democrats in Salem chose to kowtow to progressive zealots and prioritize “equity” over competency. Unfortunately, other jurisdictions and schools have followed suit, with supporters calling this a step toward overhauling discriminatory pedagogical methods, another battle in the never-ending left-wing crusade to reimagine everything.

In the latest sign of this worrying trend, it appears that the woke infiltration of scholastic standards has spread to my alma mater. Yesterday, the New York Times reported that organic-chemistry professor and notorious medical-school dream-killer Maitland Jones Jr. was discharged from NYU after his students started a petition against him, claiming his course was too difficult. Yet he was doing what he was hired for: to teach organic chemistry by challenging students to go beyond their comfort zones. Jones’s termination is the academic equivalent of ochlocracy and should concern everyone who cares about the preservation of meritocratic excellence.

It’s safe to assume that many “orgo” students will forget much of what they learned in the course except for the basics, which is enough to make one wonder whether advanced-level organic chemistry is truly necessary to be a good doctor, especially for physicians who aren’t going to become researchers. Nevertheless, Jones’s course, and others like it, served as a testing ground where the best and the brightest could appraise their mettle in high-stakes situations, a particularly valuable trait for people who will eventually be tasked with caring for those with life-threatening conditions.

More significantly, NYU has opened the door for students to protest their way out of taking a class because of how the content or complexity of the course material affects their self-esteem. This flies in the face of everything higher education is supposed to stand for.

Of course, this is nothing new for NYU. This is the school whose official student newspaper pulled an ad for a book by National Review editor in chief Rich Lowry out of concern it might offend some students’ precious sensibilities. It looks like the inmates will continue running the asylum in Greenwich Village for the foreseeable future.

Education

Making College as Close to Free as Possible

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Prominent Democrats have babbled away about their desire to make college “free.” That probably won’t happen, but they’ll come pretty close under Biden’s debt-cancellation program.

As Andrew Gillen of the Texas Public Policy Foundation explains here, there is much more to it than just “forgiving” a lot of student debts. Biden’s proposal uses every lever available to reduce the amount that students will have to repay.

Specifically, according to Gillen, Biden’s plan would:

• Increase the income exemption (under which loan payments are $0) to 225% of the poverty line (under existing plans, this is typically 100% to 150%);

• Lower the percent of income owed to 5% (under existing plans, this ranges from 10%–25%);

• Forgive loans after 10 years of repayment for undergraduates borrowing less than $12,000; and

• Waive any unpaid interest.

Gillen concludes, “In sum, the Biden repayment plan is a misnomer, as only token repayment is required. This plan makes a mockery of student lending, and if it is enacted, the entire student loan system needs to be scrapped at the earliest opportunity.”

To that, I would only say that the student loan system needs to be scrapped whether Biden’s plan is enacted or not.

Culture

Why Courtship Culture Works

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Michal Leibowitz, an editorial assistant at the New York Times, has written a piece titled, “Dating Is Broken. Going Retro Could Fix It.” Leibowitz met her husband at her synagogue, “a meeting point that helped ensure we shared common values and whose members supported (and sometimes vouched for) each of us as we began dating.” Remarking on a trend in the “secular mainstream,” she notes that many people seem tired of dating-app culture. Instead, they have “latched — tentatively, faddishly — onto traditional dating practices.”

Through conversations with traditional and secular daters, I’ve come to see three practices as particularly promising for people who are looking for committed, long-term relationships: meeting partners through friends, family or matchmakers rather than online; early, upfront communication around long-term goals and values; and delaying sexual intimacy.

Leibowitz asks, “Is it time to court again?”

As discussed in Louise Perry’s book The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, a courtship culture encourages men to compete for women’s long-term commitment in the form of marriage — marriage being the price of sex. Whereas, in our present setup, the hookup culture encourages women to compete for men’s short-term sexual interest. This is a terrible arrangement for women for obvious reasons. But it is also terrible for men as it locks them in a state of prolonged adolescence (what Perry describes as “cad” mode). And ultimately, this is bad for both sexes if their long-term goal is a happy marriage and a satisfying sex life.

Leibowitz notes:

A 2010 study published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology looked at the relationship between the amount of time a couple waits to have sex and the quality of their marriage. Researchers found that couples who waited until marriage reported not just less consideration of divorce but also higher relationship satisfaction, better communication and superior sex when compared with couples who began having sex within a month of their first date (or before they started dating). Couples who slept together between a month and two years after their first date — but didn’t wait until marriage — saw about half of the benefits.

National Review

Tell Us Why We’re Wrong

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National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. (National Review)

For only a couple of Hamiltons, you could subscribe to NR and gain commenting privileges. Then, from your favorite chair or chesterfield, you could inform us how and why we’re wrong every day for a year. 

For the price of twenty 75-grain HPBT 5.56 rounds, you could tell Charles C. W. Cooke why federalism is bogus.

For the price of a Red Sox cap, you could tell Rich Lowry why the Yankees are the worst franchise in baseball.

For the price of a Dune box set, you could tell Jack Butler that Caesarism is the best answer to encroaching Leftism.

For the price of a 24-pack of Spotted Cow, you could tell me, Luther Abel, that automotive hot takes are best left to people who drive anything other than a Toyota Prius.

What’s more, you could gain eternal glory as the top comment on an article about railway unions. Heck, we’ll even yank the ads and let you in on calls and meet-ups with writers and major political players. It’s a screaming deal, and we’d love to have you as a part of our NRPlus community.

Come join us. 

Culture

A Lady at the (Destruction) Derby

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A driver waits for her heat at the Nation-Wide Demolition Derby in Augusta, N.J., August 5, 2013. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

The New York Times ran a piece yesterday about the “Demo Derby Queen of Tennessee,” and it is delightful. Driving a vividly pink hulk recently dragged from a farmer’s field, Ashley Barber has found success in both the all-female and the men’s divisions of the demolition derby . 

Steven Kurutz reports for the Times:

Ashley Barber didn’t know there was an all-female class when she drove in her first demolition derby at the Tennessee State Fair, seven years ago. She competed in the men’s category that night, and lost her helmet from all the hard knocks but placed seventh out of more than 60 cars. The adrenaline, the competition and the supportive cheers of her husband made her a convert. She was back slamming into the guys the next night.

For Ms. Barber, 33, who competes in six to eight shows a year in Tennessee, her home state, derbying is a shared passion. Her husband, Atlas Barber, 35, buys the cars and does the mechanical repairs and bodywork, while she handles the stripping and painting. He also competes, sometimes driving in the same events as his wife. His cars are green; hers are pink.

“It’s probably why we’re still together,” Ms. Barber said with a laugh.

There are so many things to love about the story. A wife and mother, working alongside her husband and daughter, smashing into other cars with pink paint and manicures. The pioneer woman swapped out horse reins for a four-speed transmission and proceeded to tear stuff up. 

American women are awesome. 

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Wildfires

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Shawn Regan and Tate Watkins of the Property and Environment Research Center write about how government regulation hinders wildfire-prevention efforts:

There is now broad agreement among ecologists and fire scientists that forest restoration — including the use of controlled burns and selective thinning — preempts devastation by clearing brush and other vegetative fuels before they go up in smoke. All too often, however, environmental-review and permitting processes prevent this important work from being completed in time — and the homes, wildlife habitat, and air quality it is meant to protect end up damaged or even destroyed.

A recent study by our colleagues at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) found that from the time environmental reviews are initiated for U.S. Forest Service projects, it takes an average of 3.6 years to begin mechanical-thinning treatments on the ground, while prescribed burns take 4.7 years to start on average. Mechanical-thinning and prescribed-burn treatments that require environmental-impact statements — the most stringent category of analysis — are even slower, taking an average of approximately five years and seven years, respectively.

Read the whole thing here.

Larry Krasner’s Lies

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Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner speaks at the National Action Network National Convention in New York, N.Y., April 7, 2022. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Larry Krasner, the “progressive prosecutor” of Philadelphia, which seems poised to set yet another homicide record this year, told an incredulous local television host last week that the violent-crime problem in America is being driven by “MAGA states.”

Just to recap, there were 561 murders in Philadelphia last year. It was a record high, but one that probably won’t last long: The City of Brotherly Love passed the 400-murder mark for 2022 last week, with a quarter of the year left to go. The 2021 record outpaced New York City by a wide margin (the Big Apple saw 485 murders

Elections

New Poll: Democrats Losing Ground with Latino Voters but Still Enjoy Comfortable Lead

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Voters at a polling location in New York City, November 2, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

New polling from NBC/Telemundo has Democrats still comfortably leading among Latino voters, but with a substantially reduced lead from just a few years ago:

The breakdown for party preference also varies significantly by issue:

This is an important wrinkle to the ongoing discussion about the potential for a “Hispanic realignment” toward the GOP: As the folks on the FiveThirtyEight podcast noted last month, recent polling shows that while the GOP hasn’t made major gains with the demographic yet, Democrats have lost ground. Latinos are less loyal to the Democratic Party than they once were, but they’re still not sure about Republicans. That means the rapidly growing voting bloc is increasingly up for grabs — but it’s also a warning to the GOP to not declare victory too soon. 

World

Brazil Finds Itself Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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Left: Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during a debate in Brasilia, August 30, 2022. Right: Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures during a meeting with candidates running in Brazil’s general election in Rio de Janeiro, September 30, 2022. (Adriano Machado, Pilar Olivares/Reuters)

The 2022 Brazilian presidential election is starting to look like a Stealers Wheel song.

With no candidate reaching the 50-percent threshold, yesterday’s result produced a long-awaited runoff matchup between the incendiary incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, and former socialist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

There is no good option for Brazilian voters in this race. Bolsonaro is a demagogic figure who has cast aspersions on the legitimacy of Brazil’s electoral system. Many analysts believe he is attempting to sow doubt in the democratic process in an effort to execute a self-coup in the event he loses, similar to what President Trump tried to do in 2020. Lula, on the other hand, is a corrupt radical leftist who will unleash chaos and economic ruin on the Federative Republic.

“Lesser of two evils” narratives fall short when the choices are this bad. Brazilians are best off doing what National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru suggested in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and abstaining.

Sorry, Politico, but Taxpayer Money Is Not ‘the President’s Wallet’

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Left: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at CPAC in 2021. Right: President Joe Biden at the White House, January 19, 2022. (Joe Skipper, Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Charlie earlier pointed out how off-base it was for a Twitter user to portray Governor Ron DeSantis seeking federal hurricane-relief aid as “bending the knee” to President Biden. But Politico has woven this basic idea into a ridiculous story with a ridiculous premise:

The “president’s wallet”? What on earth are they talking about? The president may carry around a wallet for ice-cream purchases that provide fodder to a media that refuses to cover him critically, but taxpayer money that has been allocated to pay for federal disaster relief is not his personal piggybank. As Charlie put it, suggesting otherwise “is grotesque

Hey, Wasn’t Biden Supposed to Be the Democrats’ ‘Top Campaigner’ Right about Now?

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a Democratic National Committee rally in Rockville, Md., August 25, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

In late August, we were told that a new and improved, reinvigorated, charged-up President Joe Biden was “embracing the role of the Democratic Party’s top campaigner” and “that the president’s advisers are betting that he can help Democratic candidates despite the drag on his popularity.” You could be forgiven for being skeptical, as Biden’s job-approval rating had increased a bit, but was still in the low 40s.

And Biden has indeed done a lot of Democratic National Committee dinners and fundraisers. Unsurprisingly, wealthy Democratic donors are still willing to pay up to sit in a house or banquet hall and hear

Sports

Why 62 Is Hard

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New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) watches hits his 50th home run of the season against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., August 29, 2022. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

In response to 62 Ain’t Easy

Rich notes the difficulty that Aaron Judge has had at getting over the hump with his pursuit of 62 home runs. But it isn’t merely that hitting that many home runs is hard, or that the closer a player gets to that record, the more pressure there is on every at bat. There’s also the fact that pitchers, who don’t want to be remembered as the answer to a trivia question about giving up a historic home run, no longer are willing to give you any pitches to hit.

Consider this, from before yesterday’s game:

With so few hittable pitches, Judge has been left with a choice — either be patient and don’t swing at pitches out of the zone, or start chasing pitches. It’s no wonder he’s been alternating between walks and strikeouts as of late.

Law & the Courts

Jonathan Turley: Judge Ho’s Boycott Will Not Change Yale Law

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Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University Law School, testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry into President Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., December 4, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Last week, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Ho announced that he would no longer look to recruit clerks from Yale Law School (YLS) and encouraged others in the judiciary to do the same because of the university’s “closed and intolerant environment.” The nation’s top-ranked law school has undoubtedly been reduced to an intolerant cesspool hostile to anyone with heterodox views, as evidenced by last year’s infamous “Trap House” imbroglio.

But some prominent voices are casting doubt on the potential efficacy of Judge Ho’s decision. One of those skeptics is George Washington University Law School legal scholar Jonathan Turley, who claims this move will only exacerbate the plight of the besieged conservative students at YLS without inducing any difference in behavior. 

While believing that Judge Ho is “right on the merits” concerning problems at YLS, Turley disputes his means. In addition to rejecting the notion that Yale students “should be the subject of a boycott for the failure of the faculty,” he explains how the judge’s boycott will do little to fix the culture or administration in New Haven:

Even if the boycott were successful in dramatically reducing the prestigious clerkship for the school, it would likely not produce a change of behavior by the faculty. The sad reality is that many professors long ago jettisoned the interests of their students and their institution in favor of pursuing their own agendas.

Turley hits the nail on the head. Conservatives have tried this before in other areas. Elite woke-captured institutions resist incentives to change their illiberal ways not only because their unrivaled reputation has immunized them. They don’t respond to conservative public-pressure campaigns because the individual actors within them feel they don’t have to. Most professors at YLS lack institutional fealty. Their allegiance lies with the dogma to which they’ve wedded themselves.

Insofar as academics are willing to sacrifice institutional desiderata at the altar of intersectionality, conservatives are best off maintaining some skin in the game and rejecting the academic equivalent of the “Benedict Option.” Attempts to establish sanctuaries of normalcy like the Univerity of Austin are helpful but not a panacea. It’s better to play the game than to be an onlooker from the sidelines.

Sports

62 Ain’t Easy

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I’m still bullish on Aaron Judge breaking the single-season home-run record in the handful of regular-season games left, but his (relative) struggles since hitting 60 go to how hard this is and what an achievement it is to get up there with Ruth and Maris without flagrant cheating.

Politics & Policy

Re: ‘Mean Tweets’

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In response to ‘Mean Tweets’

I agree with everything that’s been said regarding Trump’s blast at McConnell and his wife: (1) It’s profoundly unworthy; (2) it’s intra-Republican fratricide of the crudest and dumbest sort on the cusp of an important election; (3) it’s part of the reason why Trump lost a winnable election in 2020; and (4) it’s one of the reasons he’d be more likely than any other Republican to lose a winnable election in 2024.

OPEC to Biden: Joe Who?

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President Joe Biden announces the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve at the White House in Washington, D.C., November 23, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

I have written before about the way that President Biden’s mission to persuade OPEC (and its associates) to boost production has not proved to be much of a success.

Here’s more, via the Financial Times:

The Opec+ oil alliance is planning a substantial cut in production to prop up falling prices, according to people close to the discussions, as the group prepares to meet in person for the first time since March 2020.

The oil group, which is led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, is expected to discuss a production cut that could total more than 1mn barrels a day at the meeting

Politics & Policy

Does Hurricane Relief Need DEI?

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One notable thing about Kamala Harris’s remarks last week concerning pursuing “equity” through hurricane relief is that she said them at all. A better politician with some experience appealing to genuine swing voters would have had a flashing “stop” sign go off in his or her head before getting anywhere close to saying what she did. And, remarkably, she got applause at the event (the DNC’s Women’s Leadership Forum). Harris largely exists in a progressive bubble, and it shows.

Culture

For Republicans, Transgenderism Is a Winning Issue

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I wrote a piece about how Republicans are winning the transgender culture war — and why this matters for the midterms.

Fiscal Policy

On the Necessity — or Not — of Income Taxes

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Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee (Aneese/Getty Images)

It’s conventional wisdom that individual income taxes are vital ways for governments to raise revenue. But as Chris Edwards points out in a Cato Institute blog post, nine of the 50 states don’t have an individual income tax. That’s enough of a sample for a simple comparison, and it allows us to see how state governments can manage without taxing individual income.

The nine states that don’t have an individual income tax are Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. Edwards notes that Alaska and Wyoming are unusual because they have small populations and generate so much revenue from taxes on the energy industry. “That leaves seven states without individual income taxes that others may seek to emulate,” he writes. Those seven states are of varying sizes, spread out around the country, and have different political cultures, from red Tennessee to purple New Hampshire to blue Washington.

Is it the case that not having an individual income tax means only that all the other taxes are higher to compensate? Edwards writes that the states without an income tax do have higher property taxes and sales taxes, but the overall tax burden remains lower. The total tax burden is 8.1 percent of personal income in the seven states, compared to 9.6 percent in the states with income taxes.

Edwards makes some specific comparisons between New York and Florida that are illuminating. “New York has the highest state‐​local tax burden in the nation at 13.9 percent, which is almost twice Florida’s burden of 7.2 percent,” he writes. Also, “New York’s bureaucracy is 34 percent larger than Florida’s, even though Florida has more residents.” In a sort of perverse way, New Yorkers are getting what they pay for.

Proposals to completely abolish a tax are commonly considered foolish or irresponsible, but it’s clear from experience that not having a state income tax is entirely manageable, and it may even contribute to smaller government overall. As Russ Latino wrote for Capital Matters earlier this year, Mississippi has been a leader on state tax reform, and politicians there are considering full repeal of the income tax as a next step. State leaders across the country should be encouraged by the examples of the seven states that Edwards highlights, and eliminating the individual income tax should be on the table.

Sports

For Female High-School Athletes, Injustice Continues

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One of the protections that Title IX was supposed to guarantee was that girls and young women would not face retaliatory punishment for reporting discrimination based on sex. Nevertheless, most members of a high-school volleyball team in Vermont have been barred from their own locker room and are even being investigated for harassment after expressing discomfort with sharing their locker room with a male trans-identifying student.

Blake Allen, a member of Randolph High School’s girls’ volleyball team, told WCAX that she “should not have harassment charges or bullying charges” made against her merely for “stating my opinion — that I don’t want a biological man changing with me.” According to Allen, the dispute began when the trans-identifying male made an inappropriate comment as the girls were getting changed.

Once again, the message to young female athletes is clear — shut up, step to the side, and accept that some young man’s feelings are more important than your right to privacy and safety.

The Supreme Court Joins the Section 230 Fight — Halfway

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A visiting school group walks along the plaza at the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., February 22, 2022. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

The past two decades have witnessed an enormous growth in social-media platforms, including platforms for discussion (Twitter and Facebook), search engines (Google), video (YouTube and TikTok), web hosting (Amazon), and fundraising and payment (GoFundMe, PayPal, Venmo). There has been an accompanying consolidation on a handful of platforms of political discussion, including journalism, debate, activism, fundraising, and advertising. Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act, enacted in 1996 at the dawn of the Internet age, has become a lightning rod for a larger public debate over free speech on the Internet in general and social-media platforms in particular. That debate centers

Politics & Policy

‘Mean Tweets’

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(Steve Marcus/Reuters)

As Jay notes, Donald Trump wrote this on his failing TruthSocial platform last week:

People who complain about this sort of behavior are often met with a retort that is supposedly self-evident in its meaning and importance: “mean tweets!” The idea behind this line is that Trump’s presidency was fine, except for the “mean tweets,” which, when compared to the ills we’re suffering under President Biden, ought to fade into obscurity.

But this is silly. For a start, “mean tweets” were not the only problem with the way Donald Trump behaved as president, and they’re not the only reason he lost the 2020 election. In effect, “mean tweets” is similar to “tan suit!” — which is what progressives tend reflexively to say whenever President Obama’s scandals are brought up. Obama had many scandals, and his wearing a tan suit was not among them. Trump had many terrible moments, and they cannot be usefully reduced to “mean tweets.” His “mean tweets” were certainly a symptom, but they were not the disease.

But, beyond that, “mean tweets!” isn’t actually a defense of anything, is it? What, exactly, is Trump achieving by tweeting — well, “truthing” — in that manner? He’s lying: McConnell has not been “approving all of these Trillions of Dollars worth of Democrat sponsored Bills,” and nor does McConnell support the Green New Deal. These are claims that have lost all contact with reality. He’s attacking a guy on his own side — a guy without whom almost all of Trump’s achievements as president would have been impossible. And he’s not only attacking a woman based on her race, he’s attacking a woman who served in his own cabinet. We’re told that Trump “fights.” But what is he “fighting” here? What does this do for Republican voters? Forget, for a moment, that it’s grotesque. What, in a purely amoral sense, is the point?

And why would anyone choose to go through it all again? I comprehend the argument that, once Trump has been chosen as the nominee, voters have a binary choice. I also comprehend the argument that, for example, saving unborn children is more important than what Donald Trump says on the Internet. I do not understand why, when one doesn’t have to, one would ever choose to elevate Trump above his current station. At the moment, he really does just have “mean tweets” to offer up. Let’s keep it that way.

Politics & Policy

Adam Kinzinger Is a Dishonest Clown

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Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) questions witnesses during a hearing, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., September 16, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch/Reuters)

Over the weekend, in the sort of Twitter episode we typically associate with a blood-alcohol-level that disqualifies a person from operating heavy machinery, Representative Adam Kinzinger decided that our own Dan McLaughlin was a stooge for Vladimir Putin.

Why? Well, that’s not really clear. “Here is what’s amazing,” Kinzinger wrote on Twitter. “In Ukraine they appreciate life, in Russia Putin gives you a car (lada) for your son. But he won’t spend time appreciating your sacrifice. Keep this in mind pro-lifers.”

So far, so incomprehensible. Then, somehow, it got worse. When Dan asked, “WTF does any of this have to do with pro-lifers?” Kinzinger responded: “I’m pro-life. But you all defend Putin for some reason.”

To make matters still worse, Kinzinger added:

Really? Dan McLaughlin “defends Putin”? Dan McLaughlin has been silent on Putin and his invasion of Ukraine? The Dan McLaughlin whose judgments of Putin have been — without exception — that he’s “a James Bond villain . . . who has invaded his neighbors before”; that he’s a “dictator” and a “strongman”; that he’s “the bad guy” who runs a “repressive state” on “brute force and bluster”; that he heads up a “revanchist Russia” that “seeks the extermination of the Ukrainian state”? The same Dan McLaughlin who has written that “Putin is the bad actor here; he’s what drives the war. If you’re morally indifferent to that, you’ve elevated neutrality above virtue or order”? The same Dan McLaughlin who has complained that, while most Republicans back Ukraine, a “fair number of Trump partisans in the media to see Putin as a friend in domestic American political squabbles”? The same Dan McLaughlin who has said of Zelensky that he “is everything you could ask from a man whose country is against the wall: emotional, determined, and specifically evocative rather than windy and general”? The same Dan McLaughlin who wrote: “Godspeed to Zelensky and his nation in this hour of need”? The same Dan McLaughlin who has observed of Ukraine: “Ukraine today is the face of how democracy, liberty, & national self-determination look in much of the world in 2022: fitful & flawed, but deserving of more chances to survive & improve. Russia is the face of the ancient enemy of all those things, bent on extinguishing them”? The same Dan McLaughlin who has proposed that “if your sympathies are visibly not with Ukraine against Russia in this war, expect people to lose respect for you”? The same Dan McLaughlin who has contended that “Putin’s regime is malicious and a malignant influence on the politics of the U.S. and other democratic nations”? That one?

Maybe Kinzinger mistook Dan for the editors of National Review? That seems unlikely, given that their stated views have been that: (1) Joe Biden erred by “inadvertently encouraging a Russian invasion of Ukraine”; that Putin’s case for the invasion was “delusional” and based upon “a fanciful version of history and a litany of grievances that only an ideological fanatic could consider legitimate,” and that they have opened “a new, more dangerous chapter in the history of the West, one that the U.S. and its allies will have to meet with urgency and resolve”; (2) that the “Senate was right” to spend $40 billion on aid to Ukraine, because “Vladimir Putin is waging a war of aggression that we should want to fail,” because “Putin is in a de facto alliance with China and Iran to end the global preeminence of the U.S.-led Western world,” and because “Ukraine deserves all the assistance we can reasonably supply it”; (3) that “we should continue to strongly back the Ukrainians,” that “it is Russia, of course, that bears the responsibility for all this,” and that “if there were justice in the world, every last Russian tank and rocket launcher would be ground to dust and Vladimir Putin chased from power”; and, most recently, (4) that it is a disgrace that the “Kremlin was planning to hold sham referenda in the occupied regions in order to claim a patina of legitimacy and legality for its brutal occupation.”

As for me: My clearly stated view of Putin is that he is “evil”; that his rule has been one of “perversion”; that he is a “tyrant who calls himself . . . president”; and that, while I worried about the likelihood of such an outcome, what I would like to have happened in Ukraine was that:

Outraged by Russia’s aggression, armed Ukrainians in both the country’s military and its spontaneously formed civilian militias are able to fight hard enough in all regions that the demoralized and confused Russian army retreats with its tail between its legs. Appalled by the spectacle, and vowing “never again,” the international community comes together to turn Russia into a pariah state — limiting its access to international institutions, weakening its economy, draining the country of talent, and making Vladimir Putin’s position untenable even within his own circle.

Alarmed by their vulnerability, previously unreliable nations such as Germany commit to increasing defense spending and to taking NATO more seriously. In the West, the tales of Ukrainian bravery become the stuff of legend, and in Ukraine, President Zelensky cruises to reelection as the new symbol of national resolve. In casual conversation, “Zelensky” and “Putin” become avatars of Good and Evil, while “invading Ukraine” becomes colloquial shorthand for “doing something stupid.” Putin is forced out of office, and Russia reforms itself. The experiment is universally deemed to have been a failure, and we learn that, despite all odds, the world has changed substantially since the mid 20th century.

But, of course, there was no mistaken identity here. There was just an incoherent statement, a desperate attempt to rescue it, and then the sort of weak, petty, characterless, monomaniacal refusal to admit error that Kinzinger seems to believe that he is above, but which, increasingly, he personifies all too well.

Law & the Courts

Where Does Georgia Go to Get Its Reputation Back?

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We have an editorial up on the ruling made by a federal judge last week shredding the Stacey Abrams case against Georgia.

 

 

Politics & Policy

‘Bend the Knee’?

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President Joe Biden participates in a briefing alongside Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, in Miami, Fla., July 1, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

This is doing the rounds:

As it turns out, this isn’t a recent photograph of Governor DeSantis and President Biden; it’s from their meeting last year, after the collapse of the condo down in Surfside. But forget that for a moment, and ask yourself, “What, exactly, is Tom Watson saying here?”

President Biden is the temporary head of the executive branch of the American federal government. He is not an emperor. His job, as defined in the Constitution, is to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” The idea that a state governor who wishes to use emergency funds that Congress has explicitly allocated for that purpose would have to “bend the knee” in order to obtain them is grotesque and fascistic. The laws of the United States do not create a federal slush fund that the president can condescend to dole out if he happens to like the governor who has requested help, and nor do they require those governors to like, agree with, or be polite to the incumbent president. There is nothing hypocritical — or even interesting — about Governor DeSantis’s working with the federal government in the area of disaster relief, and there is nothing hypocritical — or even interesting — about Joe Biden’s working with Governor DeSantis. Both men are doing their jobs.

The term “banana republic” is thrown around far too much in our politics, but, if this were the way it all worked, then we would, indeed, live in one. Evidently, Tom Watson believes that we do. Thankfully, President Biden and Governor DeSantis — both of whom have done a good job here — do not.

What If the Unthinkable Isn’t Quite So Unthinkable Anymore?

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Mushroom cloud of the first nuclear explosion, July 16, 1945, southeast of Socorro, New Mexico. (Wikipedia/Public Domain)

Some foreign-policy voices who follow the war in Ukraine closely seem genuinely unnerved about how Russians are now casually discussing, or even encouraging, the use of nuclear weapons.

The partial mobilization in Russia, the still-anonymous attack on the Nord Stream pipelines, Putin’s comment that Hiroshima established a precedent for using nuclear weapons in war: It definitely feels as if we’re dealing with a different Russia now — angrier, more desperate, more erratic.

“Where we are now after this Ukraine success in the north is not that point [of using nuclear weapons],” former national-security adviser John Bolton said on WABC, “but it is

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Cities

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Joel Kotkin goes in-depth on the future of cities and the trends that are changing the way they might look:

We seem to be at the beginning of a new epoch, much as occurred during the rise of mercantile cities after the Middle Ages and the emergence of industrial cities in the 19th century. Now we are seeing the fading of what Jean Gottman described four decades ago as the “transactional city,” an economy based on finance, high-end business services, and information. In this city, urban grandeur has been defined not by great cathedrals or palaces but soaring office towers. That made sense at the time, but now these ultra-tall buildings are becoming as anachronistic as the old factories that once drove urban economies. For one thing, notes one analyst, firms that once needed a whole floor just to tap their computing power can now perform most of their technical tasks remotely.

Read the whole thing here.

Education

Slavery and Prosperity

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To what extent is the current prosperity we enjoy due to slavery that ended a century and a half ago? It’s an article of faith among American leftists that the results of slavery are still very much with us. Students are often taught that in high school and go on believing so — unless they happen to mention it to one of the few college professors who can and will respond intelligently.

In this AIER article, GMU economics professor Don Boudreaux relates a conversation with a student who has been led to believe that American prosperity isn’t due to market competition and free enterprise, but is instead rooted in and tainted by slavery.

Read it to get a good sense of how high schoolers are being indoctrinated by clueless teachers who spout economic and historic disinformation.

Also, ponder what other beliefs this student probably holds on account of her “education.” I’d suggest that she believes that the country should pay reparations for slavery, that capitalism is an unfair, racist system, and that the Great Reset to replace the free market with a completely government-controlled economic system is imperative.

Is it any wonder that so many “highly educated” Americans now automatically support the Democrats?

Law & the Courts

Laurence Silberman, 1935–2022

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Judge Laurence Silberman (R) and former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb (L) of Virginia answer questions in Washington, D.C., March 31, 2005. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Sad to learn this weekend that Judge Laurence Silberman has died at the age of 86. The term public servant was made for Americans such as Silberman, but it barely begins to describe his significance.

He entered government service in 1969, in Richard Nixon’s Department of Labor, became Deputy Attorney General in 1974, and the American ambassador to Yugoslavia in 1975. He then worked in the private sector for a time (including as a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, alongside Antonin Scalia, Robert Bork, and others busy laying the intellectual groundwork for judicial originalism). In 1985, Ronald Reagan nominated him to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, often thought of as the second-highest court in the land. He was a full-time judge on that court for the next 15 years, and served as a judge in senior status for another two decades, right through this summer.

Silberman was among the most important judges never appointed to the Supreme Court, authoring influential opinions regarding gun control, the independent counsel statutes, the Patriot Act, the Commerce Clause, and other crucial legal and constitutional questions. His opinions were models of how to put the meaning of the Constitution and the laws above the wishes of the judge. And it was in that mold that he also shaped generations of originalist scholars, lawyers, and judges who served as his clerks — including Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Silberman never lost a step as a sharp and thoughtful legal thinker: A wonderful speech he delivered as a Constitution Day lecture at Dartmouth last month was just published in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. I had the privilege of spending a couple of days with him at a conference in August, where not only his intellect but also his charm, wit, and energy were impossible to miss. But above all, on that occasion and in general, it was his decency, humanity, and good humor that stood out. He loved his country and its people, and they were terribly lucky to have him. R.I.P.

International

Natural Gas: Russia Puts the Pressure on Italy’s (Likely) New Government

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The pipe-laying vessel Akademik Cherskiy, owned by Gazprom, which Russia may use to complete construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, in a bay near the Baltic Sea port of Baltiysk, Kaliningrad Region, Russia, May 3, 2020. (Vitaly Nevar/Reuters)

More, uh, “technical” problems for Gazprom.

The Wall Street Journal:

Russian gas giant Gazprom PJSC said it suspended its natural-gas deliveries to Italy over the weekend after it didn’t receive authorization for the pipeline flows via Austria.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the interruption was a temporary bureaucratic glitch, or whether Italy has now joined the growing list of European Union countries that have been cut off from Russian gas.

Austrian authorities said Gazprom had not signed up to changes in supply contracts required by regulatory adjustments that are made every year, and which Gazprom had known about for months. Gazprom, Austria’s government and Italian energy company Eni SpA said they were working to find a solution.

This may be only a coincidence, but the new Italian government looks as if it will be led by Giorgia Meloni of the “post-fascist” (a misleading description: Their post-fascism is more a matter of political genealogy than ideology) Brothers of Italy in a coalition with Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. While Meloni has thrown some bouquets Putin’s way in the past, she has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Reuters:

Meloni has been one of the few Italian political leaders to wholeheartedly endorse outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s decision to ship weapons to Ukraine, even though she was in opposition to his government.

And via CEPA:

Giorgia Meloni describes herself as an ardent Atlanticist. Together with the vast majority of traditional parties, including the League and Go Italy, she has indicated that the new right-wing government will continue to support Ukraine, maintain sanctions against Russia, and fulfill Italy’s international commitments. One prominent member of Brothers of Italy, Senator Adolfo Urso, visited Ukraine and the US earlier in September to reassure both countries about his party’s unwavering Atlanticism. A fifth package of weapons will likely be among the priorities of the new executive as confirmed by the recent visit of former Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini, when he promised Italy’s support for as long as necessary.

But (via Reuters):

By contrast, Meloni’s two political allies, the League and Forza Italia, which were both in Draghi’s coalition, have been much more ambivalent, reflecting their historically close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Underscoring the depth of those ties, Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi said last week that Putin had been “pushed” into invading Ukraine and had wanted to put “decent people” in charge of Kyiv.

It’s not too difficult to see the game that the Kremlin is playing.

Back to the Journal:

For Italy, the loss of remaining Russian gas deliveries would no longer be a major blow. Russian gas accounts for a single-digit percentage of Italy’s gas supply, following moves by Eni and the Rome government to secure increased gas imports from other suppliers, including Algeria, Norway, Egypt, Qatar and Azerbaijan.

Italy’s gas inflows exceed demand from Italian households and businesses, helping the country to fill its gas reservoirs to 90% ahead of winter and export surplus gas to other European nations. However, the high price of gas amid a pan-European scramble to fill reservoirs and replace Russian gas is imposing a heavy economic burden on Italy and other EU countries.

Analysts said it wasn’t yet clear if the gas would be able to arrive in Italy via another route through Switzerland. Though the gas doesn’t represent a huge loss to the Italian market, if it stops flowing to Europe altogether the cut could further complicate efforts by the EU to make it through winter without rationing fuel, they said.

Then again, there is the winter of 2023/24 to think of. In all likelihood, there won’t be any Russian gas to refill those reservoirs. And, in the meantime, Italy’s finances are a looking a little shaky. . . .

Law & the Courts

Judge Laurence Silberman, Iconic Jurist, Dead at 86

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Then-President George W. Bush (R) presents a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Laurence H. Silberman (L) during an East Room ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., June 19, 2008. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

One of the true titans of the federal judiciary, Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, has passed away at 86.

As it should be, reflections are pouring in. I recommend those of Josh Blackman at Volokh (which includes a great story about Judge Silberman’s views on keeping the judiciary out of politics) and Paul Clement in the Wall Street Journal. Clement, like Justice Amy Coney Barrett and our friend Professor John Yoo, is just one of the country’s brilliant and legal lights who was mentored by Judge Silberman before clerking on the Supreme Court. The Journal also has a great editorial on the judge’s life and, as Blackman observes, made a point Friday of publishing as an op-ed Silberman’s stirring talk last month during a Constitution Day event at his undergraduate alma mater, Dartmouth, on the vital place of free speech in American democracy.

One of the themes of Silberman’s speech was an opinion he wrote not so long ago — I’d say a notable and insightful opinion, but that would describe too many of his opinions to be very helpful — urging that the Supreme Court’s libel ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan be overturned. I wrote about the dissent shortly after Silberman issued it last year. Characteristically, it is rooted in the Constitution and a deeply principled grasp of the judicial role, which is more than can be said about the high court’s 1964 decision, so beloved by the media and by progressives who look to the judiciary to drive their policy preferences through the Constitution’s strictures.

Could Sullivan ever be overturned? Judge Silberman had a way of making the unlikely seem possible. That is attested by his opinions that laid the groundwork for the Supreme Court’s articulation of Second Amendment safeguards in Heller and for Justice Scalia’s great dissent in Morrison v. Olson, which dismantled the concept of prosecutors independent from the executive branch — wisdom that led Congress to let the statutory experiment lapse (after presidents of both parties had been burned by it).

Judge Silberman’s contributions to our nation transcend his stellar service as a judge. Silberman’s Dartmouth speech fondly recalled his time as American ambassador to Yugoslavia. As Charlie recently pointed out, it was Silberman who, as deputy attorney general in 1974, was assigned to review J. Edgar Hoover’s secret files, and was horrified by the extent to which the FBI’s founding director had exploited the bureau’s awesome powers for nakedly political and extortionate purposes.

The Journal’s editorial recounts Silberman’s service, in conjunction with former Senator Chuck Robb, on the commission that reviewed intelligence failures in connection with the Iraq War and refuted the partisan claims that the Bush 43 administration had deliberately misrepresented intelligence to justify the 2003 U.S. invasion. Blackman recounts how Silberman suspended his judicial work to serve on the commission, which — as the Journal’s editorial notes — the judge considered his most important act of public service.

The country has lost a great American patriot and a model jurist. Requiescat in pace.

Film & TV

Rodney and Other Marvels

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Rodney Dangerfield in March 2004 (Fred Prouser/Reuters)

In the title of a piece today, I call Harvey Mansfield “our professor.” What do I mean by that? I give the answer in the piece itself: “He is a conservative, one of the few at Harvard, if not the only one. We conservatives — wherever we live, wherever we have gone to college — value him highly.”

Mansfield has started his new school year, at Harvard, as he has been doing for quite a while. He matriculated as a freshman in 1949; he joined the faculty in 1962.

With him, I have discussed some key questions: “What is a ‘liberal,’ what is a ‘conservative’? Do ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ still have meaning? What is college for?”

There is also the question of manliness — about which Mansfield wrote a book, about 15 years ago. The question of manliness has been in the air lately: What constitutes a “real man”?

Let me publish a note from a colleague of mine, Nick Frankovich:

Mansfield gave a talk at Columbia shortly after Manliness was published. A theatrical left-wing student and then a theatrical right-wing student went at it and made some pitch for the audience’s attention. I forget what their pretexts were. I remember that Mansfield kept his composure, sense of humor, and grace.

I can picture it. Easy to picture.

In a column last week, I mentioned Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and, in particular, George F. Will’s opinion of it. Writing in June 1986, when it was playing in theaters, George called Ferris “the greatest movie of all time.”

He elaborated, “By ‘greatest movie’ I mean the moviest movie, the one most true to the general spirit of movies, the spirit of effortless escapism.”

A note from a reader:

Hi, Jay,

. . . I am writing to argue with George Will about Ferris Bueller. Ferris is awesome, but the best movie that year was Back to School, with good old Rodney Dangerfield. Thirty-six years later and I can still quote lines from it and almost laugh like a 13-year-old again. Here’s to the Triple Lindy and have a great day.

In May of this year, I published a picture by Hans Goeckner, a physics prof in Chicago. It was of a northern flicker. He has sent me a different picture — of the newly restored dome in the Chicago Cultural Center. An article about the restoration says,

Installed in 1897 as a feature of the Chicago Public Library, the 40-foot diameter Tiffany-designed stained-glass dome had become covered in grime and paint, and cut off from the natural light that brought out the brilliant colors of the glass.

Writes Professor Goeckner,

I was walking past the center last Friday and decided I’d never seen the dome in person. I had to put my phone (I didn’t have my proper camera with me) on the floor with the lens zoomed out to the widest angle to get the whole glass dome.

Just great. Thanks to one and all.