Politics & Policy

‘What if Trump’s Grip on the GOP Isn’t as Strong as It Seems?’

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I wouldn’t necessarily bet the house on it, but I wrote for Politico today how there’s a case that Trump is not as strong as he looks right now.

 

 

Politics & Policy

Manchin Must Be Thinking about It, or at Least Talking about It

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John and Dan discussed the Manchin party-switching report below. Playbook today goes into some detail why it credits the report:

We talked to Corn on Wednesday night and came away with the impression of a reporter who is 1,000% sure his story was correct.

“The sourcing was impeccable,” Corn said. “Even if he had told me it was bullshit the story still would have run.”

Corn contacted Manchin’s office early Wednesday telling his press secretary that he had a time-sensitive story and wanted to make sure he had a good Manchin contact who could respond. Manchin’s press secretary asked the reporter to send it to her.

At around 10:30 a.m., Corn sent her an email outlining what he would be reporting. No response.

At noon he followed up. “I said we are going to post soon, will you be getting back to me,” Corn told Playbook. “And silence — crickets.”

We’ve known Corn for a long time and we trust him. We’ve known his scrupulous editor Clara Jeffery for even longer. (Full disclosure: One of us was her intern in 1997!) Corn and Mother Jones did not invent this. Manchin clearly told someone the account that Corn relayed in his piece

UPDATE:

Manchin now says he offered to become an independent as a way to help the Democrats:

 

The full story is here.

Economy & Business

This Is Amazing . . .

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. . . and goes to show how fast things can change in an open, dynamic economy.

From Axios:

Amazon isn’t known primarily as a logistics company, but in 2020 the company shipped more parcels than FedEx, Axios’ Erica Pandey writes.

  • Why it matters: Amazon had zero share of the U.S. shipping market as recently as 2014.

Logistics is a $1.5 trillion business, and it has long been controlled by a handful of players — FedEx, UPS and the Postal Service.

  • Amazon has 21% of the U.S. shipping market — behind UPS (24%) and ahead of FedEx (16%). The Postal Service remains dominant — 38%.

  • All other shippers account for just 1%, according to Pitney Bowes.

World

China’s U.N. Interference Reaches a Brazen New Stage

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The United Nations logo is affixed to a window on a window in the United Nations headquarters in New York, September 21, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

China’s efforts to silence its critics reached a new stage. In addition to the behind-the-scenes political maneuvering that has, until now, marked Beijing’s efforts to sideline criticism of its policies, Chinese diplomats took a more aggressive tack during a U.N. debate on transportation happening in Beijing last week.

The Hindustan Times reports that an Indian diplomat’s microphone was cut off in the middle of remarks she gave criticizing China’s Belt and Road infrastructure-development initiative. The official, Priyanka Sohoni, said “No country can support an initiative that ignores its core concerns of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” just before her microphone was cut off:

The connection was restored after DESA under-secretary general Liu Zhenmin — former Chinese vice foreign minister — said it was a “technical problem” and asked Sohoni to “be patient”.

Sohoni finished her speech after the connection was restored. . . .

The short interruption seemingly allowed the Chinese transport minister, Li Xiaopeng, present at the session, to respond to the Indian diplomat’s criticism of the BRI. “I would like to extend my apologies for the technical glitch just now when the Indian delegate spoke,” Li said in Mandarin. . . .

“The BRI is open and inclusive. We tried to improve the connectivity and seek the development of all countries. In the past eight years, all the international communities have welcomed this initiative. Up to now about 141 countries and 32 organisations have signed more than 200 agreements with China,” Li said. . . .

A diplomat who has worked at the UN said that Li being allowed to seemingly respond to the Indian diplomat’s critical speech was a likely breach of UN protocol.

Much of the discussion about China’s increased U.N. influence focuses on elections, resolutions, and even the brazen harassment of Chinese dissidents and minorities on U.N. grounds — and rightly so. But this latest episode is a reminder that the Chinese Communist Party has so thoroughly coopted the U.N. system to the point that it can silence other countries’ dissent.

Politics & Policy

What Do Dems Do with Sinema and Manchin? 

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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (L) and Sen. Joe Machin (R) (Caitlin O’Hara, Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Democrats publicly say they are getting close to an internal party deal on the Biden Budget Buster, but privately, they are tearing their hair out.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Senator Kyrsten Sinema has told lobbyists she is opposed to any increase in tax rates on businesses, high-income earners, or capital gains. President Biden admitted yesterday that Manchin’s opposition to a clean-electricity program would require Democrats to abandon it.

The Journal reports that “losing the rate increases would punch a significant hole in the Democrats’ funding plans for even a shrunken version of their bill.” The corporate tax-rate hike is supposed to raise $540 billion over a decade, while the tax-rate increases on ordinary income and capital gains are pegged to raise nearly $300 billion.

Desperate progressives are floating all kinds of rumors trying to undermine or explain Sinema and Manchin. Mother Jones reported that Manchin has privately warned that he could leave the Democratic Party if the Biden Budget Buster is too big. He allegedly would change his voter registration from Democrat to independent, which would still allow him to vote in Democratic Party primaries and run as a Democrat. Left unsaid would be if he would still vote with Democrats and allow them to continue holding the Senate. Manchin has called the rumors “bull****,” but they are richly detailed and plausible.

As for Sinema, Arizona Democrats are actively recruiting Representative Ruben Gallego to primary her in 2024.

But Sinema knows it is entirely possible for her to win her primary even if most Democrats vote against her. Arizona law allows unaffiliated voters — one in three of those registered — to vote in any primary. In both 2010 and 2016, John McCain lost among registered Republicans in his party primary but prevailed by cleaning up with independents.

In retrospect, Democrats must wish they had spent a lot more time talking with Manchin, Sinema, and some of their colleagues before shaping a bill as radical as the Biden Budget Buster. Now that the legislative calendar is quickly shortening, they find themselves having to consider bowing to Manchin and Sinema’s demands as President Biden’s political clout shrinks by the day.

Elections

Suspicious Timing in Richmond

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Voters cast their ballots to vote in state and local elections at Robious Elementary School in Midlothian, a suburb of Richmond, Virginia, U.S. November 5, 2019. (Ryan M. Kelly/Reuters)

In response to The Richmond Public Schools Division Is Doing Terry McAuliffe No Favors in Virginia

As Charlie notes, the Richmond, Va., schools’ abruptly deciding that they need to close the days before and after Election Day (they already had Election Day off) for employee “mental health” perfectly captures the attitude of the schools that Glenn Youngkin is running against in the Virginia governor’s race. It does not take too much cynicism, however, to also notice that, as the race tightens in polls, Terry McAuliffe’s most faithful backers — the public-school bureaucracy and teachers — are suddenly freeing up their people, still paid on the taxpayer’s dime, to go electioneer and get the vote out the day before the election.

Sometimes, things with apparently suspicious timing really are just coincidences. But when the official explanation is so implausible that it insults your intelligence, a little cynicism goes a long way.

Elections

The Richmond Public Schools Division Is Doing Terry McAuliffe No Favors in Virginia

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Then-Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe addresses a church service in Charlottesville, Va., August 13, 2017. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Terry McAuliffe remains the favorite in Virginia’s gubernatorial election, but he’s clearly worried about his prospects, and one can only assume that stories such as this one from NBC are keeping him up at night:

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) – In an RPS Direct update on Wednesday evening, Superintendent Jason Kamras said the division will be closing school additional days the first week of November to help with employees’ mental health.

During the first week of November, students already had off Nov. 2 for Election Day, Nov. 4 for Diwali and Nov. 5 for virtual parent/teacher conferences. Now, the division will also close on Nov. 1 and Nov. 3, giving students the whole week off.

“I recognize I’m giving our families very short notice of this calendar change and truly apologize for the inconvenience it will cause. After very careful consideration, I made this decision because I think it’s essential for our employees’ mental health. And because of their mental health, I worry about significant staff absences on November 1 and 3, which could make it very difficult for us to follow our COVID-19 distancing protocols, putting student and staff health in jeopardy. Again, I sincerely apologize for the short notice and thank you in advance for your understanding,” Kamras said in the update.

Kamras said the decision comes after speaking with dozens of teachers and staff about how stressful the year has been so far.

This statement could have been designed in a laboratory to annoy parents. It has everything. The incessant repetition of “I” and “us”; unacceptably short notice; the rank prioritization of teachers over children; an acknowledgment that government employees often fail to do their jobs; and an absurd, safetyist rationale — namely, that if teachers don’t get even more time off, it will be “very difficult for us to follow our COVID-19 distancing protocols, putting student and staff health in jeopardy.” Oh, and later on, Kamras throws in an everything-is-the-pandemic argument for good measure, proposing that “many of our students faced multiple pandemics before COVID-19: poverty, racism, gun violence, and more.”

And all just in time for an election day that will, in all likelihood, be marked primarily by an ongoing debate over education. Lovely stuff.

What Else Is EcoHealth Alliance Hiding?

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(Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

We now know that EcoHealth Alliance, the American research nonprofit that was funneling NIH grants to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, was not entirely truthful when explaining to the NIH how its money was being used.

In a letter to Kentucky Republican James Comer, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, top NIH official Lawrence Tabak revealed that EcoHealth violated the conditions of a grant that was being used to fund gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. While he doesn’t use “gain-of-function” in his letter, his description of the work being done — testing whether

Health Care

Once Again, COVID-19 Hospitalizations Are Increasing in the North, Declining in the South

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A patient is wheeled into Houston Methodist Hospital amid the coronavirus outbreak in Houston, Texas, June 22, 2020. (Callaghan O'Hare/Reuters)

For the fourth straight week, the states that have COVID-19 hospitalizations increasing are almost entirely in the northern parts of the country, and the states that have COVID-19 hospitalizations decreasing are almost entirely in the south.

Some good news is that only four states had double-digit percentage increases in the COVID-19 hospitalization rate: Michigan and New Hampshire both saw a 25 percent increase over the past two weeks, while Minnesota had a 15 percent increase, and Colorado had a 14 percent increase. In fact, only five other states saw single-digit increases – Montana, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Wyoming, and North Dakota.

In every other state, the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 went down – and in some cases, dramatically. Tennessee saw hospitalizations decline 32 percent over the past two weeks, Georgia and Texas both saw 34 percent declines, Mississippi was at 35 percent, Alabama was at 36 percent, South Carolina was at 38 percent, Florida was at 39 percent, Louisiana was at 42 percent, and Hawaii enjoyed an astounding 48 percent drop in the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19. The Delta variant wave has passed through the southern parts of the country, and thankfully, COVID-19 patients are leaving the hospitals.

This is yet another batch of statistical evidence indicating that the spread of COVID-19 is at least partially driven by changes in behavior driven by temperature and weather. When it’s too hot or too cold, people spend more time indoors and are more likely to spread the virus; when the weather is nice, people spend more time outdoors, where they are less likely to get infected.

Media

Yes, Biden Is Proposing That the IRS Spy on Your Bank Records

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The headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in Washington, D.C., May 10, 2021 (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Here’s yet another example of why “fact-checking” is the most dishonest form of journalism.

To try and find an additional $7 trillion in taxes over the next decade, Joe Biden is floating a plan that would empower the IRS to access any account with $600 in gross transactions (Democrats upped the number to $10,000 this week, after considerable blowback.) In addition to more IRS oversight — scooping, spying, ferreting out, keeping tabs, what have you — Biden also proposed doubling the amount of IRS agents and funding the agency six times its present budget. The Washington Post’s Salvador Rizzo says Republican complaints about the policy are untrue.

First of all, I couldn’t help noticing that the second paragraph of the fact-check gives away the game:

After Democrats watered down his proposal in response to Republican concerns, GOP senators nonetheless took turns describing it as an unprecedented invasion of privacy.

Is he kidding? Democrats watered down the proposal because of public response to an unprecedented expansion of IRS power. At least seven House Democrats reportedly opposed the idea, and there were likely others. Democrats have never once even feigned to care about GOP opposition to any part of the reconciliation bill. The contention that Pelosi or Biden or Schumer are placating Republicans or scaling back proposals because of GOP objections is worthy of ten Pinocchios. This is a unilateral partisan effort.

Rizzo also accepts the Democrats’ premise that the bill is aimed at the wealthy (if this were so, Biden wouldn’t have targeted Americans with less than $1,000 in their accounts) and dismisses concerns that the IRS, an agency that can audit your every transaction going back years, would ever pry into your life. He not only links to an administration document to bolster this case, he deputizes a partisan liberal at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities to call Republican comments “fabrications.” Now, it’s possible, though unlikely, that I’ve somehow missed a Washington Post fact-check that gave Grover Norquist the ability to chime in on liberal tax policy.

Anyway, there is no fabrication. Senator Mike Crapo questioned whether there was “need to create a mechanism where the people of America have to give up their privacy on all of their financial transactions.” Senator John Kennedy said that the IRS would be privy to “intimate financial details,” which is the entire point of the bill. Senator Pat Toomey pointed out that Americans would “give all kinds of personal, private information about American citizens to the same IRS that famously discriminated against conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt charters?” Also true.

The Post fact-checker concedes that the IRS has trouble tracking all income sources, and then spends time reiterating why Democrats support expanding the agency’s power to see virtually all transactions, as if having a reason for it somehow undercuts or debunks the claims of critics. Rizzo’s semantic problems with the Republican use of words such as “intimate” or “personal” or “privacy” are subjective — and he is welcome to those opinions. But he doesn’t provide an impartial test of accuracy. He merely creates the impression that Republicans are misleading the public because they employ a tone he dislikes. That’s not a fact-check. That’s an opinion column.

Politics & Policy

Liberal Anti-Semitism Strikes Again

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Demonstrators display signs and a banner during a “No Climate, No Deal” march in Washington, D.C., June 28, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Caroline writes here about how the progressive climate-activist group Sunrise DC just withdrew from speaking at a D.C. statehood rally over the participation of Jewish organizations:

The Washington, D.C., chapter of climate activist organization Sunrise movement canceled its speaking appearance at a rally for D.C. statehood and federal voting legislation over Zionist Jewish groups’ participation in the event.

Sunrise DC cited the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism as groups that support Zionism and the State of Israel in its withdrawal letter.

“Given our commitment to racial justice, self-governance, and indigenous sovereignty, we oppose Zionism and any state that enforces its ideology,” the statement read.

The organization then accused Israel, which it called a “colonial project,” of illegally occupying Palestine and engaging in “violent oppressive tactics that go against the values we advocate for as a hub.”

Sunrise DC also urged a sponsor of the march to revoke the groups’ membership in its coalition.

This reminds me of an incident over the summer when organizers of a Philadelphia food festival disinvited the cooks behind an Israeli food truck, apparently fearing protests over their presence. In the fallout from this decision, the event, which was supposed to celebrate diversity, was canceled. An organizer also claimed they had to shut things down because a Palestinian food truck couldn’t also attend — creating a presumably unacceptable imbalance in what style of falafel people would chew.

The entire episode was idiotic and smacked of anti-Semitism. The same is true here.

Let’s look at the groups that Sunrise DC finds to be “incompatible.”

Jewish Council for Public Affairs: They support a two-state solution along with a strong U.S.–Israel relationship; they oppose the BDS movement; they speak out on behalf of climate justice and racial justice; they oppose policies like the Muslim travel ban.

National Council of Jewish Women: They seek to empower Israeli and American women; they advocate for abortion access; they fight “xenophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-refugee policies.”

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism: They advocate for racial justice, economic justice, and reform of the criminal-justice system . . . as well as “religious pluralism within Israel” and foreign aid for Israel’s security.

This is standard progressive-advocacy fare. The only areas out of alignment concern their focus on anti-Semitism and their open support for the existence of Israel and for its security (not necessarily for every action taken by the government of Israel), often balanced out with support for democracy, pluralism, and the peace process.

But that’s not enough. Groups such as Sunrise DC appear incapable of viewing Jewish-aligned groups — even chefs! — in America as distinct from the Israeli government and its policies. It’s the kind of generalizing they’re supposed to stand against. These outfits support Israel and its right to exist, without being in lockstep all the time; just this month, one organization affiliated with the Religious Action Center condemned attacks by West Bank settlers on Palestinians and pressured the Israeli government to investigate.

Surely, the many colors of the progressive rainbow could find room in their tent for such a group. Instead, they perpetuate a self-defeating and self-refuting cycle. Rigid enforcement of a narrowly defined doctrine of inclusivity and equality ends up excluding anyone holding even slightly differing views, in this case amounting to that one particular type of discrimination that just doesn’t rate these days.

NR Webathon

‘Keep the Heat On’

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

As of Wednesday afternoon, 821 of you have contributed to NR’s Fall webathon — raising over $100,000! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Your generous donations go towards supporting the best conservative journalism in America. It’s readers like you who allow us to cover the Biden White House, Capitol Hill, the chaos on the border, and the American heartland the way that we do. Your support is critical to our mission. Thank you.

  • Frank put $100 in the hat and writes: “Keep the heat on.” I can assure you, Frank, that we most certainly will.
  • Craig donated a generous 300 bucks, adding, “Keep up the good work and do not be dismayed, we will prevail.” With the help of readers like you, Craig, we can’t fail. Thank you.
  • Martha added $1,000 towards NR’s goal: “My small contribution for the never-ending battle against dangerous, utopian visions of what government should/can do.” Martha, your contribution is by no means small. We will spend every dime wisely. Thank you for your generosity.
  • “NR is a voice crying in the wilderness,” one anonymous contributor writes. “Since I am out in the wilderness as well, I appreciate the company.” At NR, we’re honored to have readers like you at our side.

If NR is a part of your life, please join us by subscribing to NRPlus or by making a generous donation towards keeping the mission of conservative journalism thriving. We couldn’t do this without our loyal readers. Thank you.

Elections

McAuliffe: Female CEOs Won’t Go to a State That Bans Abortion

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Terry McAuliffe participates in a campaign event at in Arlington, Virginia, July 23, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

In remarks at the Virginia Chamber of Commerce this morning, Terry McAuliffe proclaimed to the audience that “women CEOs” won’t bring their businesses “to a state where someone is banning abortions.”

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate boasted that, in his previous turn as Virginia governor, he had kept “all 16 women’s clinics open,” referring to abortion clinics, and promised that if elected again, he will keep Virginia “open and welcoming” when it comes to abortion laws. Earlier in the campaign, McAuliffe admitted that he would sign legislation permitting abortion, essentially on demand, up until birth.

This rhetoric is little surprise from a candidate endorsed and funded by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia — a pro-abortion group that has also called for defunding the police — and Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. According to campaign-finance records, since 2012 when he first ran for governor, McAuliffe has received more than $2 million in combined donations from various NARAL and Planned Parenthood PACs.

Needless to say, there are plenty of CEOs whose decisions about where to base a company have nothing to do with a state’s abortion laws, not to mention the countless female CEOs who would likely prefer to operate in a state with policies that protect the unborn.

McAuliffe’s remarks come just as polls show that the gubernatorial race in Virginia is still in a dead heat, with less than two weeks to go until Election Day.

Politics & Policy

In Defense of Treadmills

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A man jogs on a treadmill inside the Milan Gale Muskatirovic Sports Centre in Belgrade, Serbia, July 22, 2019. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

At a White House press conference yesterday, New York Times reporter Michael Shear was describing supply-chain problems that have affected international trade of late. He said that “people couldn’t get dishwashers, and furniture, and treadmills delivered on time, not to mention all sorts of other things.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to this by smiling and then snarking about “the tragedy of the treadmill that’s delayed.”

I will pass by the casual dismissal of serious economic problems that is becoming a hallmark of both the Biden administration and its media defenders. I will instead put a word in for treadmills, which I have used many times in my years as a runner. For it is not only the case that it is reasonable on the part of consumers to receive the goods they purchase in a timely fashion. That is true of just about anything.

The treadmill is a special case. As a facilitator of exercise, a treadmill is a good of a higher order. People purchase a treadmill, presumably, to get in or to stay in shape. To the extent such a purchase is driven by either or both of these desires, it is commendable. Coronavirus lockdowns dramatically circumscribed the scope for physical activity, and even more people than were prevented from doing the things they wanted to, such as going to (closed) gyms, took the signal from those actions that inactivity was to be encouraged. As a result, many Americans gained weight, which made them likelier to suffer seriously from coronavirus — the disease the lockdowns were intended to mitigate. This was true of children as well. Many Americans also took up more vices during the period. Those who had a treadmill during this time — and used it — may have done themselves much good. Those trying to get one now are setting themselves up for similar potential benefits.

All of which is to say that, yes, a delayed treadmill delivery is an unfortunate thing. The fact of its delay shouldn’t be an object of snark. And the underlying impulse of self-improvement behind the purchase of a treadmill is worthy of praise, not of mockery.

Politics & Policy

Maybe Joe Manchin Really Is Threatening to Leave the Democratic Party

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Sen. Joe Manchin in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2021 (Greg Nash/Reuters)

David Corn of Mother Jones has an exclusive report claiming that Joe Manchin is threatening to leave the Democratic party — not to become a Republican, but to re-register as an “American Independent.” Here is the core of Corn’s story:

He told associates that he has a two-step plan for exiting the party. First, he would send a letter to Sen. Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, removing himself from the Democratic leadership of the Senate. (He is vice chairman of the Senate Democrats’ policy and communications committee.) Manchin hopes that would send a signal. He would then wait and see if that move had any impact on the negotiations. After about a week, he said, he would change his voter registration from Democrat to independent. It is unclear whether in this scenario Manchin would end up caucusing with the Democrats, which would allow them to continue to control the Senate, or side with the Republicans and place the Senate in GOP hands.

There are three possibilities here: (1) Manchin is seriously considering leaving the Democrats; (2) Manchin wants it known that he is thinking about this, and that trial balloon (laundered through a progressive outlet) is intended to create ambiguity and put pressure on Democrats to his left to make concessions to keep him; (3) Corn’s sourcing is bad and none of this is happening. All three are equally plausible.

It is no secret that Manchin is out of step ideologically with much of the rest of his party, and that he represents a deep-red, MAGA Country state in which it is useful for him to be seen to be out of step ideologically with Democrats. Electorally, becoming an independent would free Manchin from the risk of a party primary, cement his un-Democrat brand, and put West Virginia Democrats over the same barrel that Alaska Republicans have long been over with Lisa Murkowski: Running a three-way race with Manchin in the center risks flipping the seat to the other party, with a very low chance of holding it behind anyone other than Manchin. At the same time, as an independent, Manchin would also be immune to a Republican primary challenge.

Manchin’s electoral position could be quite precarious when he is up for reelection again in 2024. In 2018, Manchin was held below 50 percent of the vote in a Democratic wave year, and only beat West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey by 19,000 votes in a race where the Libertarian candidate got 24,000 votes. Had he not voted for Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Manchin would very likely have lost. In 2024, with presidential turnout and Democrats controlling the White House, the West Virginia electorate will likely be redder than it was in 2018. Playing the center off against both sides could be Manchin’s only hope for survival.

Notice, however, that thus far, this is all about party registration. The far more important and unanswered question in a 50–50 Senate is whether Manchin would do what Jim Jeffords did in 2001 and leave his party’s caucus, thus throwing control of the Senate from Chuck Schumer to Mitch McConnell. The politics of that is much more complex, and even if we assume that Corn is correctly reporting this story, it would seem that Manchin prefers to keep everyone guessing. I would not bank on it happening unless we hear it from Manchin himself.

UPDATE: Manchin emphatically denies the story and denies planting it. Which doesn’t foreclose either possibility — politicians deny their own leaks and plans all the time — but it does make it less likely that Corn has his story right.

Politics & Policy

Why the Government-Shutdown Threat Works

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I’m old enough to remember a time when there was no such thing as a threat to shutting down the federal government. Now, however, we are hit with that every year. What’s going on?

In this excellent piece for AIER, economics professor Gary Galles nails the truth. The reason why the shutdown threat works is that the government now does so much that it should never have begun doing. And now that it does, that creates tremendous leverage for further expansions of the federal leviathan.

Galles concludes, “Government shutdowns can certainly create problems. But they should also remind us of when Albert Jay Nock observed that our octopean government has thrust all of its tentacles into virtually every part of our lives, often to our harm. The problems expressed in political shutdown posturing, and battles arising from government failure to perform duties it has arrogated to itself, provide no endorsement for placing even more power over us into government hands.”

The statists who control the Democratic Party always find more for the feds to control. Professor Galles, by way of illustrating his point, may have given the AOC types some fresh ideas, such as federal speech permits.

Mussolini’s vision was “everything in the state, nothing outside of the state.” We are rapidly approaching that point.

Fiscal Policy

Democrats Walk Back IRS Reporting Rule

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(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

When the White House proposed a new rule giving the IRS access to cash-flow data on any bank account holding more than $600, Treasury secretary Janet Yellen defended the low threshold as a means of ensuring “individuals can’t game the system and have multiple accounts.”

As we pointed out, that argument was ludicrous: “The administration is seriously arguing for a new oversight regime that would gather data on nearly every American on the off chance that a billionaire opens several thousand bank accounts.”

Senate Democrats seem to agree. They have raised the threshold from $600 to $10,000 and added new exemptions for wage deposits and payments under federal programs. That’s all well and good: Spying on almost everyone is slightly less bad than spying on everyone.

Still missing from the revised proposal, though, is a rationale for the new threshold. If $600 was unreasonably low, why is $10,000 the right number? Democrats argue that the higher threshold, coupled with the added exemptions, target the rule at “opaque” streams of income, such as those from partnerships or proprietorships, which accrue largely to the wealthy.

But if it’s the rich they’re after, $10,000 is as arbitrary as $600. A simpler, more effective way of targeting the wealthy might be to target the wealthy, say, by strengthening enforcement or reporting requirements specifically for those earning high amounts of “opaque” income.

That the Democrats haven’t considered such a measure suggests they are either obfuscating the purpose of the new IRS rule or else just want more power in the hands of federal bureaucrats.

Media

Hey, Paul Krugman, Why Aren’t You Writing about Florida Anymore?

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Paul Krugman attends The Russia Forum 2012 in Moscow February 2, 2012. (Anton Golubev/Reuters)

Today, Florida has among the lowest case rates in the nation and around 80 percent of its adult population is vaccinated against COVID-19.

In August, when the Delta variant was hitting Florida and the South, Krugman — a useful straw man on this issue — couldn’t stop tweeting and writing and speaking about the deadly Delta variant. Krugman, like many others, was adept at taking useful partisan snapshots of the pandemic. And his New York Times column often focused on allegedly nefarious policies that perpetuated the problem. COVID was a red-state crisis, he explained. By late August, Florida’s cases began to drop. You could probably most accurately measure the state’s COVID rates by simply checking in with Krugman.

I concede that the following is an unscientific survey of Krugman’s words — or, rather, just as unscientific as his COVID analysis. But, it seems, the last time the columnist tweeted the word “Florida” was August 19. The last time he mentioned “DeSantis” was August 27. (And he still deserves an apology.)  The last time Krugman mentioned the Republican “death cult” was September 28. The last time he mentioned COVID was October 1, and the “pandemic” October 7. The last time the Nobel Prize winner used the word “Delta” on Twitter was on September 6, noting that it was “amazing to me how many news reports on the Delta disaster manage to avoid mentioning ‘Republicans.’” Is it more amazing than a columnist writing piece after piece, tweet after tweet, blaming Florida’s allegedly nihilistic policies for spreading Delta but then simply ignoring the entire issue when it’s inconvenient? I think not.

Politics & Policy

GOP Hispanic Community Centers Are a Step in the Right Direction

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Trump supporters hold signs on the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 20, 2016. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

This Monday, the GOP officially opened its fifth Hispanic community center in the nation on the southeast side of San Antonio. Its fourth in the nation — and its second in Texas — opened in the heavily Hispanic border community of McAllen earlier this month, on the heels of the August opening of the first Texas Hispanic outreach office in Laredo. Two more centers popped up in Doral, Florida, and Milwaukee in October and September, respectively. 

Given the growing number of Republican-curious Hispanics — and the growing political necessity of the GOP reaching out to such voters to remain viable on the national stage — these centers are crucially important, and a welcome initiative on behalf of an institutional Republican Party that has often been sluggish or ham-handed in its attempts at making overtures to traditionally Democratic, nonwhite constituencies. As I wrote here last September, Hispanics “possess far more ideological diversity than partisans in either party establishment seem to believe.” By many metrics, they are far more culturally conservative than the modern Democratic Party line; on economics, they are certainly to the left of the national GOP, but so are many Republican base voters. A worker-friendly GOP that is friendlier to unions and and more skeptical of corporations — and an elite-oriented Democratic Party that is captivated by an increasingly extreme kind of cultural liberalism — could instigate a powerful rightward shift in the Hispanic electorate in the coming years.

To an extent, this is already happening. While Trump’s gains with Latinos on the national level were not quite the landslide that some had hoped for, he logged a healthy 8 percent increase in his share of the electorate from 2016 to 2020. And a state-by-state analysis shows a far more significant shift in Latino voters in certain areas of the country: While Trump lost a few points with Latinos in California and Pennsylvania, he gained twelve points with the demographic in Florida, 14 in Georgia, eleven in Ohio, and eight in Nevada. In Texas, he netted six, but the swings in the South Texas border communities were far larger: “Of the six counties in the entire United States where Trump made his biggest gains during [2016–2020], five were in South Texas,” NBC writes.

That’s good news, and the GOP should be eager to set up similar Hispanic outreach centers in the areas of the country where Latino communities have demonstrated their openness to the party’s message. In particular, Georgia and Ohio — the two other states where Trump improved his standing with Latinos by double digits outside of Florida — should be the target of an aggressive Republican ground game. At the risk of being naively optimistic, it seems as if the Latino alienation from the Democratic Party has been heightened by the Biden administration’s myriad failures: Yesterday’s Quinnipiac poll showed the beleaguered president polling at just 33 percent approval with Hispanics, compared with 51 percent disapproval. Republicans shouldn’t wait to capitalize on the opportunity.

U.S.

‘Truth, Justice, and . . . No Way’

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This week on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, Alexandra, and Jim discuss China’s disturbing recent missile launch, Colin Powell’s death, and Superman’s new woke motto. Listen below or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Fiscal Policy

The Dems’ Mess of a Child-Care Plan

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Yesterday at City Journal, I had a big-picture piece about the family policies the Democrats are wrangling over. As I explained, their debate isn’t just about how much to spend but also about how the government should shape the incentives parents face as they make important decisions about work and child care.

Here’s another point worth making: The day-care part of the existing plan is a complete and utter mess. Ultimately, it aims to cap day-care expenses at 7 percent of families’ income, which is tricky enough in itself to implement, but some technical aspects of the proposal would be disastrous.

As the lefty wonk Matt Bruenig explains today, the bill requires massive raises for child-care workers that could boost prices by $13,000 per year per kid, but the corresponding subsidies phase in over time:

In the first 3 years of the program, families with incomes that are just $1 over 100% of the median income (year one), 115% of the median income (year two), or 130% of the median income (year three) will be eligible for zero subsidies, meaning that they will be on the hook for the entire unsubsidized price, which as discussed above will now be at least $13,000 per year higher than before.

Angela Rachidi has also raised the alarm about the huge federal costs the plan will entail:

What is proposed is a new entitlement program, where every child in the US would have access to heavily regulated childcare, paid for by government-provided “certificates” with capped copayments at no more than 7 percent of family income. In high-cost markets like New York City, families earning $200,000 per year with one young child could receive government subsidies of $7,000 or more.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that the 7 percent cap on childcare costs alone would cost roughly $250 billion over 10 years, and that was before the House of Representatives’ markup process eliminated the income eligibility criteria from the original budget framework altogether. However, even $250 billion is vastly underestimated. It is impossible to know the actual costs of this entitlement program, let alone predict how expenditures will increase over time. And the federal government will bear the responsibility for almost all these new costs.

I’m not a fan of subsidizing day care at all, for reasons I laid out in CJ. But any policy to do so needs to be better-designed than this.

Politics & Policy

The No-Follow-Up Administration, Part Two

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks to members of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence nearby McLean, Va., July 27, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

On September 9 President Biden announced a vaccine-or-testing mandate for employers with more than 100 workers. Six weeks later, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is apparently still “weeks” away from issuing the specific regulations for the mandate, according to the Washington Post.

David Marcus observes that it has now been a month since President Biden and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas pledged an investigation and consequences for U.S. border-patrol officers who had allegedly whipped Haitian migrants; the person who took the infamous photo denied that the officers had whipped the migrants.

President Biden, September 24:

It was horrible what — to see, as you saw — to see people treated like they did: horses nearly running them over and people being strapped. It’s outrageous. I promise you, those people will pay. They will be — an investigation is underway now, and there will be consequences. There will be consequences. It’s an embarrassment. But beyond an embarrassment, it’s dangerous; it’s wrong. It sends the wrong message around the world.

On September 21 Mayorkas appeared on Joy Reid’s program on MSNBC and declared that, “We need this resolved swiftly. I anticipate that the results of the investigation will be available by the end of next week and I’ve committed to making the results public.”

Despite Mayorkas’s pledge, the investigation is not swift and the results are not public and Biden’s pledge “I promise you, those people will pay” is meaningless. (It is worth remembering Biden also pledged, “we will hunt you down and make you pay” to the terrorists who carried out the attack on Kabul International Airport. The only people killed by the U.S. military in the aftermath of that attack were aid workers, civilians, and children.)

Biden wanted to have a police reform bill passed by May and missed that deadline. At one point Biden wanted to have the infrastructure bill passed by September, and that deadline was missed as well. (Getting it passed by Halloween doesn’t look too likely, either.) After Kabul fell to the Taliban, Biden sat for an interview with George Stephanopoulos and declared that, “If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out.” That didn’t happen.

Those pledges are like Biden’s promise to not hold children in detention centers, his promise to send out $2,000 stimulus checks, his promise to establish a national commission on policing, his promise to not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000, his promise to punish Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, or his promise to end the use of standardized testing in schools. . . .

In light of all this, Joe Biden’s campaign-trail promise to cure cancer doesn’t look likely to be kept either.

Maybe Joe Biden just makes a lot of promises to a lot of people that he isn’t all that committed to keeping.

Elections

The ‘Right to Choose’ What, Terry McAuliffe?

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Then-Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe speaks to volunteers at the Remote Area Medical Clinic in Wise, Va., July 21, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Driving home yesterday evening, I was listening to the country radio station and generally minding my own business, when I was accosted by an ad for Terry McAuliffe, who’s running for governor as a Democrat here in my home state of Virginia.

The ad touts McAuliffe’s supposed bonafides on education, its primary point being the false claim that Republican Glenn Youngkin wants to cut public-school funding and redirect the money to private schools. Among his many attacks on his Republican opponent, McAuliffe also asserts that Youngkin will take away “a woman’s right to choose.”

Naturally, hearing this prompted me to shout to my entirely empty car, “A woman’s right to choose what?”

In this ad, McAuliffe indulges in one of the laziest arguments for abortion, refusing to name abortion at all, and instead cloaking the issue in fear-mongering euphemism. Youngkin, like any other pro-life candidate or pro-life voter, has no problem with women choosing. The trouble in the case of abortion is the thing being chosen.

It’s far easier for defenders of legal abortion to pretend that pro-lifers are motivated by animosity toward women than it is to defend abortion on its own terms. It’s easier defend some nebulous “right to choose” and invoke female autonomy than it is to acknowledge the reality of abortion and promote it anyway. No one wants to admit that abortion is an act of violence against an innocent human being, an act that likewise harms the women who choose it, and continue advocating it.

Instead, McAuliffe and his fellow Democrats rely on silly euphemisms like this one and hope that voters, filled with unwarranted fear about a Handmaid’s Tale America, will respond accordingly.

Science & Tech

Pig Kidney to Human Transplant

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( dusanpetkovic/Getty Images)

Xenotransplantation — that is, animal to human — organ transplants offer distant hope for ethically ending the long wait for a transplant. That hope came a big step closer recently as scientists were able to successfully attach a genetically modified pig kidney to the outside of a person who was brain dead and observed it function properly. From the MIT Technology Review story:

The pig had been genetically-engineered so that its organ was less likely to be rejected. The feat is a potentially huge milestone in the quest to one day use animal organs for human transplants, and shorten waiting lists.

The person used in the experiment was deceased, but the body still functioned with the use of medical technology:

The surgical team, from NYU Langone Health, attached the pig kidney to blood vessels outside the body of a brain-dead recipient, then observed it for two days. The family agreed to the experiment before the woman was to be taken off life support, the AP reported. The kidney functioned normally — filtering waste and producing urine — and didn’t show signs of rejection during the short observation period.

Was this ethical? If one accepts that brain death is dead — as I do — then, yes. After all, the deceased person’s organs could have been removed for transplantation. Thus, attaching an organ to the circulatory system was not causing any harm. Moreover, proper consent had been obtained from the family.

But could this be done ethically with a living patient? Not unless the hope was to save his or her life, it seems to me, and after the procedure was approved for human trials — which is still way down the road.

Is it ethical to use pigs in this way? Only animal-rights believes would say no. Human lives are more important than those of pigs. But animal rightists don’t believe that, and indeed, deny our right to use animals in any way for human benefit.

But animal rightists aside, I don’t see the issue. Moreover, pig-heart valves are already used in human patients without any ethical problem.

This experiment also doesn’t provide answers to a most important xenotransplantation safety concern, that is, whether transplanting pig organs into people could also pass a porcine virus for which we would have no resistance. That will be a very difficult problem to overcome because it can only be determined over extended time.

Some bioethicists have urged that we use cognitively disabled patients for such experiments who don’t need transplants, but to just observe them. No! That would be immoral because it would offer the experimented-upon person no chance of benefit.

These are difficult issues. We have to avoid crass utilitarianism as we strive to bring great human benefit to the clinical setting. But this is a hopeful step forward.

Education

A Dissent on College Exit Exams

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Last week, the Martin Center published an article arguing in favor of having colleges (or anyone else) administer an exit exam to show the skills and knowledge of their graduates.

Today’s article by UCLA’s Walt Gardner dissents from that position.

Gardner acknowledges that many students coast through college without learning much, but argues that administering an exit exam won’t help. He writes, “Nothing can replace motivation and hard work, not even a test. That’s partly why college exit exams, including NCEE [National Collegiate Exit Examination], are not a promising solution. They will not change student behavior. There is no reason they will under the present system.”

I think there’s a problem with that argument. While it’s true that many students treat college like an extended party, many others don’t. The hard workers would look far better on the exam than the goof-offs. That alone makes the test valuable. Also, some of the party types would probably adjust their behavior once word got around that it was helpful to score well on the NCEE.

Gardner is quite right that colleges are reluctant to embrace the NCEE because it might make them look bad, but that doesn’t make the concept bad.

I’ll give Gardner the last word: “In the final analysis, it’s time to admit that college is merely the most convenient place to learn how to learn. It is not an absolute determinant in students’ ability to gain new skills or secure a good job. The NCEE will continue to find great support from disillusioned and frustrated stakeholders, but it promises far more than it can deliver in practical terms.”

U.S.

Quinnipiac Survey: 52 Percent of Americans Say the Country Is Worse Off Than a Year Ago

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House in Washington, D.C., August 3, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

A long, long time ago… er, late August… we were assured that the only thing Americans would remember about Afghanistan is that President Biden brought U.S. troops home, once the debacle faded from the day’s headlines. Reuters wrote on August 20: “White House officials believe Americans’ horror over graphic images of the chaos in Kabul and pleas from Afghans who fear they will be killed by the Taliban will morph into support for the president’s decision to pull troops from the country by Aug. 31 after a 20-year war.”

I think it is time to declare that Biden’s-rebound-is-imminent narrative horsepucky, as the public perception of Biden dropped like a stone during the Afghanistan withdrawal, and has not recovered yet. In fact, Quinnipiac offered another horror show of a survey this afternoon:

A slight majority of Americans, 52 – 41 percent, say the country is worse off today than it was a year ago. There are sharp partisan divides. Democrats say 76 – 14 percent that the country is better off, while Republicans say 94 – 5 percent and independents say 56 – 38 percent that the country is worse off today than it was a year ago.

A year ago we didn’t have any COVID-19 vaccines! Then again, a year ago you probably had an easier time paying for gas and groceries. Heck, a year ago you could find almost anything you wanted on store shelves. And the border wasn’t a mess… and the Taliban wasn’t running Afghanistan…

Also in Quinnipiac’s latest survey:

Americans give Joe Biden a negative 37 – 52 percent job approval rating, while 12 percent did not offer an opinion. The number is essentially unchanged from the negative 38 – 53 percent job approval rating he received on October 6th.

A 37 percent approval rating? So much for last month’s 38 percent being an outlier.

Politics & Policy

Joe Biden Plays the ‘Inside Game’ Because He Doesn’t Have an Outside Game

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy and the Labor Department’s September jobs report at the White House in Washington, D.C., October 8, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Over at Politico, Christopher Cadelago and Marianne Levine offer the latest excuse for Joe Biden going quiet in public, in this case on the reconciliation-bill fight on Capitol Hill: He’s busy playing the inside game!

As Democrats on Capitol Hill brace in anticipation of a brutal midterm, Biden is spending an extraordinary amount of time and political capital behind the scenes to convince them to rally around a common framework for social and climate spending. His congressional huddles have accelerated, from phone calls on the White House veranda to one-on-one and group meetings — including two high-stakes Tuesday sit downs with moderates and progressives. He’s dialing up old friends to take their temperature about how his presidency is really fairing far beyond the Beltway. White House aides, in their own recent conversations with nervous allies, have repeatedly cited the flurry of presidential calls as a sign itself of Biden’s commitment to getting the bills over the finish line, at times bristling at claims that he hasn’t been involved enough. But Biden’s hours and hours of meetings don’t just reflect the precarious moment in which his presidency finds itself. They underscore the heavy reliance his White House has placed on an inside game, rather than the bully pulpit, to dislodge recalcitrant holdouts and move their agenda.

Note, just as an aside, how “a brutal midterm” for congressional Democrats is already a baseline expectation the authors don’t need to explain or justify. Why is the White House at pains to stress how much Biden is doing privately? Because he’s not out there convincing the voters to put pressure on Congress:

As Biden has worked on lawmakers in private — sometimes not putting a hard stop on his schedule so as not to stifle progress — he’s largely, though not entirely, resisted riskier public pressure campaigns that could backfire and are viewed as against his nature. Often, Biden has had just a single public event each day. Occasionally, there’s been no public interfacing at all. Eight times since Labor Day, the daily guidance issued by the White House has included only private meetings with Biden. . . . While Biden has held public events around the agenda, he has not done a formal press interview on it since Labor Day.

This is, I suppose, the spin you need to cover over the problem: Public arguments by this president don’t help. They persuade nobody of anything. The bully pulpit has been reduced to a walker. Nine months into his tenure, Biden is already a spent force that nobody listens to. In terms of his influence, he went directly from honeymoon to lame duck. It is still likely that the Democrats will pass something this year — and whatever they pass, Biden will sign, and everybody knows it, so his actual leverage is zero. It would truly be a political catastrophe for Biden, having invested so much of his presidency in these spending packages and so much of his image in being a guy who can get deals done on the Hill, if he comes up completely empty. But regardless of what gets passed, it is already apparent that Biden talking to the voters or answering questions from reporters would only make things worse. About the only thing Biden accomplishes these days by appearing in public is convincing people he’s still alive.

And there are still 39 more months of his term to go.

Biden Says He Is Fixing Supply Chains, But His Regulatory Actions Say Otherwise

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks about global transportation supply chain bottlenecks at the White House in Washington, D.C., October 13, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Last Wednesday, the White House convened industry leaders — from the Teamsters and AFL-CIO labor unions to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other business groups — to try and convince the American public that it has a handle on the supply chain. Following the meeting, it announced that the nation’s largest port — one of the least efficient ports in world — will join the Port of Long Beach in expanding its operation to 24/7. Okay, great.

But honestly, that measure sounds like the equivalent of trying to rescue a sinking boat with a solo cup. In fact, as reported in

Politics & Policy

Spoiled Consumers, Etc.

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In response to Washington Post Columnist to American Consumers: You’re Spoiled!

You know, Jim, that column did not strike me at all the way it struck you. To my ear, Micheline Maynard’s “We didn’t know how good we had it” sounds not only true but positively conservative. She writes:

The other day I found myself carrying home a loaf of bread in my bare hands because the bakery had run out of bags. Back when we didn’t know how good we had it — circa 2019 — I might have been annoyed by the inconvenience. Now I was just glad the bakery was still in business.

I have at times felt much the same kind of gratitude. Haven’t you?

World

ARC-Plan-B Shares Fantastic News: 374 Vulnerable Afghans Evacuated Out of Kabul

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Afghan women and children, who are among displaced families fleeing the violence in their provinces, stand at a makeshift shelter at Shahr-e Naw Park, in Kabul, Afghanistan October 4, 2021. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

After a long stretch of little news, no news, or bad news from many of the groups trying to get Americans and Afghan allies out of Taliban territory, Jean Marie Thrower of ARC-Plan-B brings some much-needed good news.

“CNN said the largest group left Kabul with 350. We had 374 people on Sunday.” Thrower shares “a great picture of the reason we are fighting to save our brothers and sisters.”

“This little one made it out on Sunday!” Thrower reports. “Plan B Afghan Rescue Crew, along with other non-governmental organizations, teamed up to evacuate 374 people – many women, children and allied family members. This baby waited since August 15th! And he is the child of a family approved for Special Immigrant Visas.”

Thrower is quick to emphasize that her organization, and all of the other groups helping with evacuations, still have a lot of work to do.

In ordinary times, Thrower runs Supplier Development Systems, her Birmingham, Ala.–based automotive consulting firm. But since the fall of Kabul, and the Taliban’s conquest of Afghanistan, Thrower, who served in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division as a transportation officer with support of operations in Haiti and Bosnia, has put the rest of her life on hold, working with the Afghan Rescue Crew. The ARC describes itself as a private group of U.S. veterans and civilians volunteering to save as many vetted at-risk Americans and Afghan allies left behind in Afghanistan as possible.

ARC is one of several private groups attempting to get Americans, green-card holders, and Afghan allies out of the country; others include No One Left BehindDigital DunkirkAllied Airlift 21Hearts and Homes for RefugeesSamaritan’s Pursethe “Pineapple Express,” and more. All of them are welcoming donations and other forms of support.

 

Film & TV

What Is the Future of James Bond?

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Daniel Craig as James Bond in No Time to Die. (Nicola Dove/DANJAQ, LLC/MGM)

Our in-house critics have already capably reviewed No Time to Die, the latest James Bond movie, directed by Cary Fukunaga and the last to star Daniel Craig. I suppose I lean more toward Kyle Smith’s takeaway than to Armond White’s, but I don’t intend to review the movie here. Rather, I have some more-abstract assessments of the movie, now that I have seen it.

The first is that it’s an extremely Millennial movie. Craig is now in his 50s, and many of the actors he performs around are firmly in the Millennial age range. I noticed this from the opening scene, in which a young girl is watching Wallace and Gromit and playing with a Tamagotchi. This is the young version of Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), Bond’s love interest. She’s a thirtysomething in the movie, so it all makes sense, but as a proud “’90s kid,” it’s still kind of jarring to see someone depicted as having a ’90s childhood in a flashback.

Rami Malek, Billy Magnussen, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, and Ana de Armas are all also Millennials. As the new 007, Lynch deals with the uniquely modern problem of “imposter syndrome,” when the old 007 returns to the fold and makes her question her own place. I also choose to believe that mistakes made by her and by Magnussen’s character are not plotholes but rather youthful oversights. All of this gives Bond in the movie a kind of avuncular aura, like he’s the uncle (or the father . . . ) at a family gathering or something. And I mostly enjoyed seeing him surrounded by youth.

And speaking of youth, No Time to Die does a few things I’d never seen in a Bond movie before. Sometimes it works well. One of the most interesting of these was to stage an action sequence with a young, completely helpless child in peril, adding distinct stakes to the kind of scene that has been in these movies many times.

Sometimes, however, the novelty of the movie’s narrative raised questions I did not consider in the moment, but that have stuck with me. Without revealing too much, it is enough to say that there are major-character deaths, including familiar names who have never actually died in a Bond movie before. This seems like the logical conclusion of the Craig run on Bond, which has strongly emphasized continuity and tried to humanize Bond. But now, in emphasizing that continuity, No Time to Die has, in some senses, broken with it more definitively than any past Bond.

It’s enough to make me wonder about the future of the franchise and character. For the most part, despite Fukunaga’s contempt for some of the Bond character’s historic incarnations, it didn’t seem like No Time to Die succumbed to wokeness. The choices made in the movie, however, leave Bond at a difficult crossroads, and I am unsure what direction he will take. Creative decisions that livened up the latest movie may prove difficult to reconcile with something like the Bond we have come to know and love.

Economy & Business

Washington Post Columnist to American Consumers: You’re Spoiled!

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Shipping containers sit on the dock at a container terminal at the Port of Long Beach-Port in Los Angeles, Calif., April 7, 2021. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Micheline Maynard, a contributing columnist for the Washington Post, contends that the supply-chain problem isn’t really an issue of missed and delayed shipments, higher prices, and a lack of goods on the shelves. No, it’s primarily a problem of the excessively high expectations of American consumers:

“I understand people are getting frustrated, but it’s time for people to take a chill pill,” says Lisa McDonald, owner of TeaHaus, an Ann Arbor shop selling tea and gifts. “I’m just not going to have the things that I usually have. Maybe they aren’t going to get the purple mug, but the blue one is pretty, too.”

The other day I found myself carrying home a loaf of bread in my bare hands because the bakery had run out of bags. Back when we didn’t know how good we had it — circa 2019 — I might have been annoyed by the inconvenience. Now I was just glad the bakery was still in business.

But the problem is not just a question of what color mug is available in the stores. For a lot of these businesses, a delayed shipment means they don’t have goods on the shelves to sell, which means they don’t have any money coming in from customers.

Denver’s public-school system says they are struggling to get enough milk for breakfast and lunch. Vintners can’t find bottles or labels for their wine. Hardware stores in the Pacific Northwest have half the goods they normally carry. Toy stores are warning they’re already out of Hot Wheels, Mattel, and Lego before the big holiday rush. Specialty-food stores are wondering what they’ve got to sell, with shipments delayed by months.

We built our economy on international supply chains and rapid transport of goods from the source to the manufacturers to the consumers. This system got goods where they needed to arrive for decades. Everything in this process was working fine before the pandemic. The pandemic is largely behind us. So why are there now 200,000 shipping containers gridlocked off the coast of Los Angeles? How did we go from a well-oiled machine to so many goods being delayed and in short supply in so many places so quickly?

Maynard’s column concludes, “American consumers might have been spoiled, but generations of them have also dealt with shortages of some kind — gasoline in the 1970s, food rationing in the 1940s, housing in the 1920s when cities such as Detroit were booming. Now it’s our turn to make adjustments.”

I would note that the food rationing in the 1940s was part of the war effort!

Still, credit goes to Maynard for coming up with a thoroughly fitting message for the party in power, as they approach the midterms: Democrats in 2022: Try to Lower Your Expectations!

Culture

Harambe Returns

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A statue of the Harambe gorilla, commissioned by Sapien sits across from the Charging Bull statue at Bowling Green Park in New York, October 18, 2021. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Harambe, the gorilla shot by the Cincinnati Zoo after he began roughhousing with a child who fell into the gorilla’s enclosure, has returned . . . sort of:

Five years after his death, Harambe the gorilla has found a new place to be memorialized— New York City.

A seven-foot statue of the gorilla, who was killed in 2016 by an emergency response team protecting a 3-year-old boy who fell into his exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, has appeared in New York City’s Bowling Green Park on Wall Street, opposite the famous Charging Bull statue.

According to local news reports, the bananas surrounding the bull statue are part of a protest from Sapien.Network, meant to illustrate how “bananas” Wall Street and the wealth disparity in the country has become.

In the five-plus years since Harambe’s death, the gorilla has become a meme, and a sort of bizarre Internet touchstone. But it’s worth remembering that the Cincinnati Zoo did nothing wrong when it killed him to protect the human life that was at risk.

Culture

Hollywood Finally Grants a Day Off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

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The Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, Calif. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Hey, welcome to the 1980s, Hollywood! Buried in the coverage of the settlement of a dispute between the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), a largely blue-collar union to which grips and stagehands belong, and the studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), was that IATSE has finally won the right to take a paid holiday on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The national holiday was signed into law by President Reagan in 1983 and started being observed in 1986; Arizona famously held out from recognizing it until 1992. Yet in fiercely pro-union and ardently pro–Civil Rights Hollywood, a very large union wasn’t granted a civil-rights holiday until just now. (The new agreement between IATSE and AMPTP is still being ironed out, but both sides say they’re on board.)

Just in the past two years, various Hollywood personalities have threatened to boycott Georgia twice (over election reform and abortion restrictions) and Texas twice (same reasons). Maybe Hollywood should have been boycotting itself all these years for not honoring MLK, or for stiffing its unions, or both.

An example I love to cite about Hollywood’s blindness to its own history is George Clooney bragging about the moral supremacy of his fellow La-La-Land liberals when he won an (entirely undeserved) Oscar for Syriana simply because he got fat for the movie and got tortured and advanced a left-wing message. Clooney boasted in his acceptance speech that Hollywood had given an Oscar to Hattie McDaniel way back in 1939 “when blacks were still sitting the in backs of theaters” but didn’t mention, or simply didn’t know, that McDaniel had herself been forced to sit against a far wall of the room on the night she was awarded the Oscar, at the segregated Cocoanut Grove nightclub, apart from the white nominees for Gone with the Wind, who sat together at a table up front. When Gone with the Wind held its premiere in Atlanta, the event was segregated, and the black stars of the film weren’t allowed in nor even mentioned in the program given out at the event.

U.S.

Everything Wrong with American Infrastructure in One Tunnel

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Platform at Union Station in Washington, D.C., in 2015.

Today’s Wall Street Journal includes a story about the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel on the Northeast Corridor in Maryland between Baltimore Penn Station and Washington Union Station. The 1.4-mile-long tunnel was built from 1871 to 1873 and is in terrible shape, the Journal says:

It causes delays for more than 10% of weekday trains on the line, and modernizing it isn’t viable, railroad officials say. Persistent water leaks require regular track repairs, including $71 million in fixes last year. During winter, workers use poles to knock icicles off the tunnel ceiling so they don’t freeze up the electric lines that power trains.

A new replacement tunnel would be waterproof, ventilated, and have emergency escape walkways, all standard features on tunnels today, the Journal reports.

Trains can go only 30 miles per hour through the current tunnel, which greatly increases travel times for Maryland commuter trains going between Baltimore and Washington. A new, modern tunnel would allow trains to go up to 100 miles per hour. The Journal says that would allow commuter trains to go from Baltimore to Washington in under 30 minutes, a 15-minute improvement.

The tunnel’s biggest user is Amtrak, which runs about two-thirds of the 150 trains that use the tunnel every day. The tunnel slows rail traffic all the way up the East Coast, and Amtrak has wanted to replace it for years.

There’s a very strong case that the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel needs to be replaced. Since Amtrak is its biggest user, there’s even a very strong case that federal money should be used to replace it. It seems like something Maryland could work out with the federal government. Maryland transportation officials and Amtrak officials could outline the need for a new tunnel and give a ballpark estimate for cost and time frame to the legislature and the public. Maryland politicians, both in Annapolis and in Washington, could make the case to voters that the tunnel needs replacing. There could be a debate on how much the state should fund and how much the federal government should fund, how that money should be raised, and how much the project should cost in total — the sort of questions that elected legislatures are designed to answer.

Instead, Maryland and Amtrak have to hope that some crumbs from the bloated $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill end up in their hands.

Our infrastructure process is completely backward. Politicians start by specifying an amount of money to spend, then figure out which projects to spend it on. The process should start by specifying which projects are needed, then figuring out how much they cost. If we did things in the right order, we probably wouldn’t have a 148-year-old leaky tunnel clogging up traffic on the most-used rail corridor in the country.

If we made a nationwide list of tunnel projects in need of funding, the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel would be pretty high on the list. It’s the oldest tunnel on Amtrak’s network. Amtrak owns the tracks that run through it. It slows down trains on the highest-speed passenger-rail corridor in the Western Hemisphere. Transportation officials have known it to be a problem for years, and a replacement is decades overdue.

Instead, Congress started with the number it wanted to spend for the entire country, then split it up into a zillion categories (many of which have nothing to do with infrastructure at all), and then wants states to apply for funding. Amtrak and Maryland want $4 billion, only $2.7 billion of which would be used for the tunnel.

Which brings us to the other major problem with American infrastructure: cost, both in time and money. Amtrak thinks the project will take up to twelve years to complete. The current tunnel, which was built by a bunch of guys with pickaxes and dynamite in the 1870s, took two years to complete. And though it’s outdated now, it has lasted 148 years, so it’s not like they did a terrible job. Somehow, despite all the technological developments that have completely transformed our lives since the 1870s, it now takes six times longer to build its replacement.

And $2.7 billion for the new two-mile-long replacement tunnel comes out to $1.35 billion per mile. To put this in perspective, consider the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland. It opened in 2016 and cost about $12 billion. That’s a lot more than $2.7 billion, but the Gotthard Base Tunnel is the deepest tunnel in the world, bored through the Alps, and it’s 35 miles long. That comes out to a cost of $343 million per mile. So, for roughly a quarter of the cost per mile that it takes the United States to replace an existing tunnel that’s only a few dozen feet underground, the Swiss can build a completely new marvel of engineering through a mountain range.

By going through the infrastructure package, politicians have effectively bundled funding for the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel replacement with funding for every other major project in the country, plus all the other non-infrastructure measures in the package, from green-energy subsidies to web welfare. A bill to fund a replacement for the tunnel would probably pass pretty easily. A giant bill linked to an even larger bill that represents one party’s entire agenda for a legislative session is going to be more politically dramatic.

American infrastructure is not crumbling, and there’s no nationwide crisis or emergency demanding a massive federal response. There is, however, a 148-year-old rail tunnel in Maryland that needs replacing. Funding that project should not require assent to a national political agenda, but our backward infrastructure funding process means it does. And our money-first, projects-later mentality means we end up spending lots of money on not a lot of projects.

NR Webathon

Update: The Five-Zeros Club

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At National Review, we all work every day to remain worthy of your readership and support, for which we will always be grateful.

And every day, you give us new reasons to express gratitude.

Just a few hours ago, my colleague Judson Berger asked for your support in reaching $100,000 for our fall 2021 webathon, to which you can contribute here. Lo and behold, with your help, we have made it into the five-zeros club.

Every dollar counts, helping us to maintain this intricate system of pneumatic tubes by which we transmit our important message out into the world. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this mission. Let’s keep this going.

As we continue our fight against the Left — the socialists, the tax-and-spenders, the critical race theorists, the cancel-culture kings, and others who together happen to hold the keys to the kingdom right now — know that we cannot do any of it without you. In fact, we are doing it for you, for this great country, and for the principles for which it stands. We still hold these truths, and we know that you do, too.

If you feel we have earned your financial support, you can donate here.

Law & the Courts

Nobody Cared About Biden’s Commission on the Supreme Court Because It Was Pointless

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Last week, President Biden’s Commission on the Supreme Court issued its report. And nobody really noticed.

Good. There was no reason for anyone to have noticed, because there was no reason for the Commission to exist, because there is nothing wrong with the Supreme Court.

That’s right: Nothing. There’s nothing wrong with the role the Supreme Court plays in our Constitution. There’s nothing wrong with the number of justices of the Supreme Court, which has been nine since 1869. There’s nothing wrong with the way that those justices are appointed or retire. There’s nothing wrong with the way the White House picks those justices, or with how the Senate confirms, rejects, or ignores those picks. There’s nothing wrong with the docket, or with the timetable, or with the way that opinions are published. It’s all fine. Sure, some members of the Court are good, and some are bad, just as some decisions of the Court are good, and some are bad. But ’twas ever thus.

The commission was ostensibly convened to present “an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform.” The commission was really convened because the Democratic Party simply can’t bear the idea that, for the first time in a long time, the Supreme Court is not in their pocket. This is not about institutional legitimacy. It is not about democracy. It’s not about stare decisis or the rule of law. American progressivism didn’t care about precedent when the Court was inventing all sorts of nonsense out of whole cloth, and it doesn’t care about it now. It cares about power, and it senses that with an originalist majority on the bench, it has lost one of its favorite political tools for a while. And so, as with every American institution that temporarily frustrates it, it has started talking about “reform” and “fixing” and “mending” and “correcting” it so that it ends up more likely to do what it wants it to do.

Thing is, though: Democrats being a little sad does not a crisis make. Hell, it does not even a problem make. A few years ago, Joe Biden understood this. Today, like the rest of his party, he does not. Happily, though, the total lack of response to the Commission suggests that a majority of Americans still do.

Education

Teaching History in Texas

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Texas State Capitol in Austin. (SusanRisdon/Getty Images)

Michael Gerson has a scathing column about the recently enacted Texas law on how public schools should teach history. If he is reading the law correctly, then his indictment holds up. But I don’t think he is reading it correctly.

Texas, he writes, “has forbidden the teaching of any ‘concept’ that causes an individual to ‘feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.’” He adds,

White children — really the White parents of White children — have been given an open invitation to protest any teaching on U.S. racial history that triggers their “discomfort.” Which for some parents will mean any teaching on racism at all. This will inevitably lead to self-censorship by teachers who want to avoid trouble.

Gerson links (under “concept”) to an article that has a very similar gloss on the law but quotes operative language that does not, I think, back it up. Said language: “A teacher may not make part of a course the concept that an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race.”

It seems to me that language leaves open, as it should, the teaching of material that causes discomfort. What it precludes is the teacher’s saying that white students should feel guilt based on their race.

The trouble with the wording is that it could also be read to preclude saying that there have ever been schools of thought that believe white people should feel such guilt, distress, etc. But that’s a somewhat different problem than the one Gerson raises, and the sort of thing that could be fixed with an amendment that preserved the intent of the law.

NR Webathon

The Five-Zeros Club

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

NR’s fall webathon is about to touch, and hopefully surpass, a milestone, but we need your help to get there.

As of this writing, the tally shows somewhere north of $96,000. Can we get to five zeros, to a cool $100,000? We sure hope so.

Many of you already have opened your wallets, your purses, your man-bags, or however you carry your currency and have contributed generously to our cause.

Here is but a sampling of the words of encouragement to accompany the coin:

“My small contribution for the never ending battle against dangerous, utopian visions of what government should/can do,” writes Martha, kicking in a grand. Wowza, that is grand indeed.

Craig throws $300 in the kitty with some happy-warrior advice: “Keep up the Good work and do not be dismayed, we will prevail.”

And one anonymous donor sends along $500 to help this “already outrageously talented team.” We are blushing, and our mothers are kvelling.

We thank you.

No donation is too small, or too large, or too just-right. NR’s writers, as part of this buck-raising marathon, have provided ample examples of the work we do with these resources.

So if the spirit moves you, that link, again, is here.

International

Energy: Russia Uses Weapon Handed to It (Unexpectedly!)

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Tthe Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project logo on a pipe at the Chelyabinsk pipe rolling plant in Chelyabinsk, Russia, February 26, 2020. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

It cannot be said that this is a surprise (via the Financial Times):

Russia’s Gazprom has damped hopes for additional gas exports to Europe next month as the continent struggles with record prices, despite recent hints from President Vladimir Putin that more could be forthcoming.

UK and European gas prices surged as much as 18 per cent on Monday after a keenly awaited pipeline capacity auction showed no increase from Russia either through the Ukrainian pipeline system or lines passing via Poland to north-west Europe.

Traders and analysts say the auction’s result is the latest indication that Russia is in little rush to send additional gas to Europe, leaving supplies tight as winter begins and raising the prospect of shortages if the weather is marginally colder than normal.

While Putin and Kremlin officials have hinted at sending more gas, they have also alluded to Germany’s approval of the start-up of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline — which bypasses Ukraine — as being key to boosting supplies, alongside companies being willing to sign more long-term contracts.

“Alluded to.”

Well that’s one way of putting it.

And keep an eye on that reference to “long-term contracts.” The Kremlin would like to see its European clients locked into longer-term contracts, rather than playing the spot markets. The latter strategy, of course (as Moscow has not been slow to point out), is not working very well at the moment.

The Financial Times:

[Natural gas] prices are more than five times higher than a year ago, posing a threat to the economic recovery from the pandemic, with energy-intensive businesses warning they may need to curtail production.

While gas supplies have tightened globally as demand rebounds from the pandemic, with Asian consumption soaring, the International Energy Agency said this month it believed Russia had the capacity to boost exports by about 15 per cent to Europe.

Putin last week denied playing politics with gas supplies but indicated additional sales would need to be on Russia’s terms. Gas industry executives and analysts have said that, while Moscow has fulfilled its long-term contracts, additional top-up sales have not been made available as they were in previous years.

Gazprom has also let its own storage facilities in Europe fall to very low levels.

Russian gas flows on the three main pipeline routes into western Europe had already declined in October to average 261m cubic metres a day compared with 302m cubic metres in September, according to Tom Marzec-Manser of consultancy ICIS.

“If all existing routes were fully maximised then western European flows would be closer to 360mcm [a] day,” he added.

But they are not.

With Ukraine still making a last ditch effort to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and with two of the parties likely to form Germany’s new coalition government unenthusiastic about the project, Russia seems to be taking advantage of the current supply crunch (and the approach of winter) to send a clear message as to who is really in charge.

It was given this opportunity in the first place by the willingness of NATO “ally” Germany to participate in the Nord Stream 2 arrangement (something to remember as Angela Merkel sets off on her long overdue retirement). The dependency on Russia created by Germany’s decision has only been compounded by its phasing out of nuclear energy, something that Merkel reaccelerated — it’s complicated — and by the country’s headlong and poorly thought-through rush into (unreliable) renewables, an error, of course, that it is by far from alone in making.

The Paris model for decarbonizing energy supplies is unlikely to do much for the climate, but it will do a great deal for Putin, OPEC, and, one way or another, Xi.

Should the U.S. really be going down that path?

(That was a rhetorical question.)

More on the energy mess here.

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