Economy & Business

July Jobs Report Shows Workers Under Strain

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A 7-Eleven convenience store has a sign in the window reading “Now Hiring” in Cambridge, Mass., July 8, 2022. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

At first glance, the July jobs report released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics looks like good news, and it certainly is better news than some recent reports, with a headline seasonally adjusted number of 528,000 new nonfarm jobs and the unemployment rate, at 3.5 percent, finally back to where it was before the pandemic. An ecstatic New York Times report by Jim Tankersley was headlined “The jobs report suggests President Biden is right about a recession,” drawing gratitude from White House chief of staff Ron Klain:

Much of the press coverage was similarly straight out of the Biden White House’s hymnal. But a closer look at the numbers suggests why a lot of workers are not feeling so thrilled right now. Comparing the seasonally adjusted numbers for July 2022 with the previous month, we see:

  • 71,000 fewer people working full-time jobs;
  • 384,000 more people working part-time jobs. There was an overall growth of 303,000 more people working part-time who would prefer full-time, driven by a growth of 331,000 more people in full-time jobs being cut back to part-time (what the report refers to as “slack” work);
  • 92,000 more people working multiple jobs;
  • 279,000 fewer people self-employed; and
  • 63,000 fewer people in the civilian labor force, after a decline of 353,000 in June. Overall, there are 623,000 fewer people in the workforce compared with February 2020, and the workforce participation rate dropped slightly, from 62.2 percent to 62.1 percent.

When you put these numbers in the context of an economy with high inflation, the stock markets down, interest rates up, and GDP sagging, you get a picture of a lot of people working either more than they want to (picking up a second job) or less than they need to (getting part-time work instead of full-time work), and fewer people working as their own boss — all while employers face a shrinking workforce unable to fill all the open positions.

Politics & Policy

Remember How the Filibuster Was Paralyzing Democracy?

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 at the White House in Washington, D.C., July 28, 2022. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

The D.C. press has recently lavished praise on the pace of new legislation moving through Congress. In an Axios story, Mike Allen touted Biden’s “success story” in scoring legislative wins on infrastructure and computer-chip production. CNN anchor Jake Tapper reflected on Twitter, “Between infrastructure, gun safety, CHIPs, and the PACT Act, all passed in less than a year, I can’t recall a period of so many big and substantive bipartisan accomplishments for Congress.” Many Democrats and progressive activists have eagerly shared both Allen’s and Tapper’s remarks.

Yet this narrative of bipartisan legislative successes contradicts what many critics of the filibuster were saying for the first year of Biden’s presidency: The filibuster was creating a “vetocracy” that paralyzed the Senate and American democracy. As one Guardian story put it, “What defenders of the filibuster want is . . . a government unable to deliver anything meaningful to its people.” Contrary to the Guardian’s accusation, defenders of the filibuster (including Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema) argued that the filibuster helped members of both parties find common ground — that the Senate functioned better with the filibuster and, more broadly, regular order.

Over the past year, it seems as though the filibuster has likely increased the influence of the Senate in legislative negotiations; for many of the bills that have passed, some bipartisan “gang” in the Senate has set the contours for the eventual bill. The spectacle of partisan trench warfare grows ever starker in the House, but the Senate remains a place of bipartisan deal-making (whether one agrees with the eventual deals or not).

Praising Biden’s legislative record might give Democrats a talking point for the midterms, but it also takes away the argument that the filibuster has absolutely paralyzed the Senate.

Culture

Vasectomy Bros

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I wrote a piece on the increasing popularity of sterilization in post-Roe America.

Monetary Policy

Quick Note on the Jobs Report

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Today’s jobs report showed that the labor market is still strong. The unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, which is just as low as it was pre-pandemic. The number of jobs now equals what it was pre-pandemic as well.

That’s a speedy recovery after a deep recession, and it is certainly better than the agonizingly slow labor-market recovery after the Great Recession.

The problem is that inflation is still at 9 percent. Nominal spending is still growing well above trend. The Fed still needs to tighten.

The Fed has been concerned about harming the labor-market recovery with its monetary policy. That’s a reasonable concern, and unemployment is part of the Fed’s mandate from Congress. But unemployment is looking just fine. Inflation is not. The Fed runs many risks right now; being too hard on the labor market does not appear to be one of them.

Film & TV

The Breaking of Batgirl

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A fan dressed in a Batgirl costume, displays her tickets to an evening screening of the film “The Dark Knight Rises” in Burbank, California July 20, 2012. (Fred Prouser/Reuters)

Bane broke Batman’s back, but it was the combination of DC’s new direction from Warner Bros. Discovery and exceptionally poor reviews from test groups that appear to have done in Batgirl, resulting in a $90 million loss.

Warner Bros. Discovery, under the leadership of David Zaslav, a man gifted with a name that sounds like a short-run Gotham villain, has been cutting costs at a frenzied pace ever since becoming CEO this spring, with Batgirl becoming one of many projects prematurely canned. He has already ended the fool venture that was CNN+ and has announced that HBO Max will be folded into Discovery+. One can expect more bloodshed from these quarters in the coming months, with a stated goal of trimming $3 billion from the books. 

Zaslav is reportedly pursuing a more traditional theater-first approach with DC-franchise films, modeled after Disney’s Marvel success. With their comic counterpart churning out money just as fast as VFX sweatshops can handle, DC has offered audiences inconsistent fare, the franchise suffering from uneven direction and quality and adding a heap of unwelcome virtue-signaling throughout. With Batgirl originally slated for release to streaming platform HBO Max, if one squints one can understand the cut in light of cinematic-release expectations — Batgirl wasn’t made for the big screen. 

But really? If the movie was even sufferable, I’m inclined to think that Warner Bros. would have released it in the theaters and on streaming. Comic-book movies can be heinous and make an easy $200 million. Long before Marvel was the $25 billion behemoth it is today, its 2008 release of The Incredible Hulk managed $264 million, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) somehow bagged $373 million. DC has but one movie that earned over $1 billion, Aquaman, beloved of David French. Other than that, it’s been slim pickings for a franchise with arguably far more compelling heroes and villains but no unifying vision (Marvel owns the rights to Vision). 

As the New York Post reported, Batgirl,

which was doing test screenings for audiences in anticipation of a late 2022 debut, would rank among the most expensive cinematic castoffs ever.  

Those tests were said to be so poorly received by moviegoers that the studio decided to cut its losses and run for the sake of the brand’s future. It’s a DC disaster.

“They think an unspeakable ‘Batgirl’ is going to be irredeemable,” the source said.  

More Hollywood-friendly (i.e., less inquisitive) outlets like Variety, Esquire, and the Hollywood Reporter chose not to mention the viewer feedback, instead focusing only on Zaslav’s cruel penny-pinching. But a day later, when asked about the Batgirl axing, Zaslav offered, “We’re not going to launch a movie to make a quarter and we’re not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it,” making it clear that Batgirl was dead and worth more to the company as a tax write-off than another flop. 

Good for Zaslav. May DC’s new direction eschew the uninspired woke tripe that has been the arch-nemesis of compelling cinema and profitability.

Media

How Big Media Institutions Unwittingly Helped Promote Alex Jones

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Alex Jones speaks at a rally near the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2016. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

In today’s Morning Jolt, I asked whether the malevolent actions of Alex Jones were partially fueled and exacerbated by the fact that he knew he had an audience, hungry for whatever nutty conspiracy theory he would offer. As I describe from witnessing him at the 2016 Republican convention, Jones’ rise and continued prominence was helped along by a literal pack of reporters following him everywhere and eager to showcase Jones’ lunacy to their own audiences.

Today Parker Molloy offers a spectacular tour of mainstream media institutions that gave Jones a short-lived soapbox, and asks whether any of these powerful media voices realized what they were doing at the time.

That is the message that seems to be lost on Jones’s many “I may disagree with him, but…” defenders. It doesn’t matter if 90% of your audience thinks he’s a nutcase. He doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter if you “win the issue” or “expose” him as a liar. None of that matters at all to him because he lives in an alternative reality. All that ABC, CNN, and NBC did in these cases was help make Jones a household name, guaranteeing him more subscribers and a larger profile moving forward. It’s a numbers game, and Jones knows it. If he goes on TV and gets “exposed,” that’s fine, too, as it gives him something he can go back to his viewers with. Remember: these are people who hear the lies and nonsense he peddles and watch him, anyway. He’ll do what he always does in these situations and go back to them so he can claim that “corporatists” and “globalists” sabotaged him; it will only harden his viewers’ resolve to trust him and only him.

It’s a game, and as long as you invite Jones to play, he wins.

As you’ve likely learned in your time on this earth, the world is full of bright, fascinating, original, thought-provoking, learned, creative, and sane people, who rarely get much time in the spotlight. We’ve all seen researchers, writers, authors, bloggers, scientists, artists, academics, and idiosyncratic geniuses who we feel should be more well-known and discussed than they are. But for some reason, our media world seems much more interested in the latest news about a Kardashian, or some so-called “social media influencers” or a provocation from a professional outrage-monger, like Alex Jones.

Molloy accurately observes:

The press is powerful, and when it elevates people with abhorrent views, it provides them with an opportunity that very, very, very few people get.

I’m not asking anyone in media to stop covering important individuals.

I’m not asking anyone in media to “ban” anyone.

I am asking people in media to understand that their editorial decisions, from who gets invited to appear on talk shows to what topics we actually hear about in the news (and how often), are not value-neutral.

We’re simultaneously told that a figure as abhorrent as Richard Spencer should be “deplatformed” from social media… and at the same time, that figure should be invited onto CNN to discuss whether Trump’s tweets are racist. (Spencer argued that Trump’s tweets were indeed racist, but he was disappointed that Trump’s racist words were not being backed up by racist actions.) Does anyone in media recognize the contradiction here? “These people must not be allowed to influence public opinion by showcasing their views on a large media platform… but it’s okay for us to have them as guests, to showcase their views.”

Elections

Should Republicans Be More Worried about the Ohio Senate Race?

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Republican Senate candidate J. D. Vance speaks to supporters at an election party after winning the primary in Cincinnati, Ohio, May 3, 2022. (Gaelen Morse/Reuters)

For much of the year, the conventional wisdom has been that Ohio is an increasingly red state that is drifting out of reach for Democrats. In 2018, a really good year for Democrats in the upper midwest, Mike DeWine won by about four percentage points. Trump won the state by about eight percentage points in 2020, suggesting it’s no longer a swing state. The state is currently represented by twelve Republican members of the House and just four Democrats.

And yet . . . since June, J. D. Vance has yet to lead a poll over Tim Ryan*, which is not what you would expect in such a seemingly red-leaning state. Whether we’re talking about big samples or small samples, registered voters or likely voters, Republican pollsters or Democratic pollsters, every pollster has found Ryan ahead so far, by anywhere from three to eleven percentage points.

Maybe the race is about to change; Vance and Republicans are about to launch a new ad campaign. (Ohio readers tell me they see Tim Ryan ads seemingly everywhere, but haven’t seen a Vance ad since the primary way back in May.) Last month, a Cincinnati radio talk-show host complained to the Daily Beast that Vance “is allegedly missing from many of the county fairs, party meetings, and campaign stops where candidates in this state are expected to be.” That too, may be changing:

On the heels of criticism that he hadn’t campaigned as actively as Ryan, Vance has scheduled a spate of in-state appearances over the past couple of weeks — including a Tuesday appearance at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, where he took a tour with the Ohio Farm Bureau after judging a ribs and pulled-pork contest.

Maybe this is just a summer slump, and Vance is about to catch fire. Tim Ryan is attempting to distance himself from the national Democratic Party, and Vance may well gain traction by asking Ohioans if they want a genuine Republican or a pretend one.

But if Vance doesn’t start showing some momentum by autumn, a lot of Republicans will loudly grumble that Mehmet Oz wasn’t the only Trump-endorsed celebrity candidate in the Rust Belt who turned out to be a lemon.

*The Vance campaign writes in, pointing to the Suffolk poll conducted May 22 to 24 had Vance at 42 percent and Ryan at 39 percent. A three-point lead in survey with a margin of error of 4.4 percent, conducted 73 days ago is better than nothing, but it shouldn’t really have Republicans breathing all that easier about this race.

Health Care

What’s the Matter with Kansas? Life in the States Post-Roe

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Join me for a discussion with our John McCormack later today. His pro-life reporting in D.C. and the states is consistent, reliable, a thorn in the side of Nancy Pelosi’s incoherence on abortion. We’ll talk Kansas and much more about life post-Roe — including John’s article in the current issue of National Review at 2 p.m. Eastern today. Sign up here.

This is the last in our Fridays for Life series. (There will likely be a new post-Roe series in the fall.)

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: SEC and Energy

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Bernard Sharfman of RealClearFoundation and the Law & Economics Center writes a follow-up to his last article about the SEC’s proposed climate-disclosure rules:

Materiality is a critical component in identifying the statutory limitations of the SEC’s regulatory authority. For the SEC to continue to pretend that its proposed emissions disclosures are material information for investors means that these disclosures are doomed to be vacated by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. It makes no sense for the SEC to take this approach.

Thomas Hochman writes about energy security as it relates to renewables, replying to an earlier piece from Jordan McGillis:

The most fundamental problem with McGillis’s article, however, is that the author largely fails to consider the question of cost in comparing and contrasting energy sources. He recognizes the importance of cheap electricity in the context of non-renewable energy sources, lauding the market’s “displacement of coal by lower-cost natural gas.” He further recognizes that when “markets fail to account for polluting emissions, it may be appropriate to accept a cost trade-off and implement a framework to account for them.” But in his thesis that a pivot to a cleaner energy economy would “introduce certain new energy-security vulnerabilities” vis-à-vis China, McGillis ignores the abundant cost benefits of renewables altogether. That’s a rather important omission — for energy economics and energy security are largely inseparable from one another. Different energy sources have very different price points, for example, and thus the makeup of our energy mix has a considerable influence on how much residential, commercial, and industrial customers pay for electricity. This has downstream effects, impacting everything from production costs to inflation to disposable household income. Reliance on expensive energy sources, then — as well as a lack of access to cheap alternatives — represents a significant energy-security vulnerability.

Woke Culture

Whither Tenure?

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Tenure used to serve as protection for professors against being fired or penalized for saying controversial things. These days, however, the forces of “progressivism” are undermining it.  Oh, sure — it still protects faculty members who espouse the wackiest or vilest sorts of leftist stuff, but not those who dissent from woke ideology.

In today’s Martin Center article, Professor Alexander Riley contemplates the future of tenure under these new circumstances.

He writes, “As the institutions of higher education are transformed by the ongoing DIE (Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity) revolution, tenure will no longer have the same meaning or practical effect it once did. Where it once served to provide some level of protection for scholars rigorously and unqualifiedly pursuing truth, tenure will be made toothless by shifting definitions of expertise and competence. Furthermore, it will serve as a mechanism for ensuring that any pushback against DIE extremism from outside the ranks of academia will be toothless.”

The reason for this change is that the academic ethos has shifted from one where scholars were expected to pursue truth and debate their conclusions in a civil manner to one where they are supposed to uphold the tenets of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DIE). We’ve moved from open inquiry to conformity.

Riley puts it this way: “DIE, then, has nothing in common with the pursuit of truth. It contends that the ostensible pursuit of objective truth is inextricably associated with reactionary exclusion and oppression. Our values must therefore be revolutionized in the interest of more diverse, inclusive, and equitable ways of understanding and changing the world.”

Our colleges and universities used to be socially useful institutions because of their commitment to the pursuit of truth. Under the new DIE regime, they’ll only be useful to the elitists who believe that they should control society.

International

Germany: A Stay of Execution for the Last of Its Nuclear Energy (Maybe)

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Clouds are seen over the cooling tower of the nuclear power plant Isar 2 in Eschenbach near Landshut, Germany, August 1, 2022. (Ayhan Uyanik/Reuters)

Reality is clearly beginning to bite rather deeply in Germany.

DW:

The German chancellor [Olaf Scholz] on Wednesday said it might make sense to extend the lifetime of Germany’s three remaining nuclear power plants. Germany famously decided to stop using atomic energy in 2011, and the last remaining plants were set to close at the end of this year.

I would have used the word “infamously” rather than “famously,” but that’s to quibble. It’s positive that Scholz is at least considering the issue. Christian Lindner, Germany’s finance minister and the leader of another of the three parties in the governing coalition, the free-market FDP, supports extending the life of those last three nukes, if only until 2024. Lindner’s position is backed by both the CDU (Angela Merkel’s party: It was, infamously, Merkel who reaccelerated the phaseout of Germany’s nuclear power) and the CDU’s partners, the more robustly right-of-center CSU. The CSU would also support reopening some nukes that have already been shuttered.  Sadly, that’s not going to happen, nor, sadder still, will there be a more general reconsideration of Germany’s rejection of nuclear power.

But when it comes to the last three nuclear power stations, Scholz’s problem is that superstitious dread over nuclear energy still permeates much of Germany’s politics. The third party (the Greens) in his coalition remains opposed, as, I imagine, would be quite a few members of Scholz’s SPD.

Still the mere fact that Scholz is pondering a reprieve for those three plants is encouraging, although it may be telling that he has downplayed the contribution that they could make to helping Germany through its energy mess. In fact, they account for about 6 percent of Germany’s electricity production. That’s not nothing. It’s about half the amount of German electricity that is powered by natural gas. At a time when Germany is trying to reduce its vulnerability to Russian blackmail by cutting back on gas consumption, that could come in handy.

DW:

The German government has previously said that renewable energy alternatives are the key to solving the country’s energy problems. However, Scholz said this was not happening quickly enough in some parts of Germany, such as Bavaria.

“The expansion of power line capacities, of the transmission grid in the south, has not progressed as quickly as was planned,” the chancellor said.

That’s a useful reminder that phasing out one form of energy without something reliable to replace it at, so to speak, the flick of a switch is unwise, something that climate policy-makers would like us to forget as they try force through decarbonization at a pace so unconnected to reality that it would embarrass a Soviet central planner.

Oh yes, there’s something else.

DW:

The [current] reduction [in gas supplied by Russia] is fueling fears that Germany will not have sufficient gas for the coming winter, with potentially disastrous effects for industry and the public.

To allay those concerns, the government has already given the green light for 10 dormant coal-fired power stations to be restarted and six oil-lignite-fired plants.

Another 11 coal-fired power plants scheduled to be shut down in November will be allowed to keep operating.

Ah.

Politics & Policy

The ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ Is Cynically Misnamed

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Which is one of many reasons I’m rooting against it, as I explain at Bloomberg Opinion.

In the week since he reached a deal with Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer on the “Inflation Reduction Act,” Senator Joe Manchin has been everywhere promoting it. One of the West Virginia Democrat’s top selling points is the promise to speed up permits for US energy production.

It’s a worthwhile idea. Stifling domestic production to send a message to the world about climate change has never made much sense. Indeed, it’s the best idea in the deal. Too bad it isn’t in the bill itself. . . .

Yes, Democratic Meddling Swung Peter Meijer’s Race

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Then-candidate for the House of Representatives Peter Meijer introduces Then-Vice President Mike Pence at a campaign event at Lacks Enterprises, Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich., October 14, 2020. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)

In the wake of Representative Peter Meijer’s loss to the Trump-endorsed John Gibbs in Tuesday’s Michigan Republican House primary, some have tried to give Democrats cover for meddling in the race. But that meddling did succeed in turning the race toward Gibbs, whom the Democrats believe their nominee, Hillary Scholten, can beat more easily.

The first of the disingenuous arguments trying to absolve Democrats of their role in the election’s outcome is that the TV ad on which they spent $435,000 was critical of Gibbs. True, the overall tone of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s ad is negative, but we have

Economy & Business

Visa Suspends Ad Payments on Pornhub and MindGeek amid Lawsuit

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An employee (L) of returns a credit card and a receipt to a customer in Seoul, S.Korea, February 5, 2009. (Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters)

Amid an ongoing lawsuit accusing Visa of facilitating the distribution of child pornography via Pornhub and other sites owned by parent company MindGeek, the credit-card company has suspended ad payments on Pornhub and other MindGeek-owned sites.

Separately, Mastercard suspended use of its cards for advertising payments on MindGeek-owned site TrafficJunky, a further step from its 2020 decision to suspend use of its cards on Pornhub. “New facts from last week’s court ruling made us aware of advertising revenue outside of our view that appears to provide Pornhub with indirect funding,” Mastercard said in a statement. “This step will further enforce our December 2020 decision to terminate the use of our products on that site.”

The pending lawsuit involves a woman suing Visa and MindGeek over the distribution of an explicit video of herself that her boyfriend filmed when she was only 13 years old. In the most recent action in the case, a U.S. district judge in California refused to dismiss parts of the lawsuit that contain allegations against Visa, determining that the credit-card company had continued recognizing MindGeek as an authorized merchant even though the company was aware of the presence of child pornography on its sites.

“Visa made the decision to continue to recognize MindGeek as a merchant, despite its alleged knowledge that MindGeek monetized child porn,” the judge wrote. “MindGeek made the decision to continue monetizing child porn, and there are enough facts pled to suggest that the latter decision depended on the former.”

Earlier this week, billionaire hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman publicly took issue with Visa over its continued monetization of Pornhub, despite the pervasive presence of child sexual-abuse material on the site. “There’s traditional breach of fiduciary duty when a company has a product or service that can cause harm,” Ackman said on CNBC.

“My interest comes from the fact that I have four daughters,” Ackman said. “When you think about the worst harm, economic, physical, mental harm you can impact upon a human being. It’s having a child trafficked . . . a video of the rape appear. I find it hard to talk about it.” Ackman said he is not a stakeholder in Visa, Mastercard, or any other payments company, but he offered to help finance lawsuits against Visa on these grounds.

This news is the latest development in a controversy that has been playing out for the past two years, ignited in large part by an investigative piece in the New York Times column by Nick Kristoff, which called attention the presence of pervasive child sexual-abuse content on Pornhub. The article caused a major firestorm during which Pornhub attempted to defend itself, while both Visa and Mastercard demonetized MindGeek sites. But Visa subsequently reversed that decision, leading to its inclusion in this pending suit.

Law & the Courts

Brace Yourselves for the Supreme Court’s Racial-Preferences Case to Be Argued Before Election Day

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U.S. Supreme Court Building (lucky-photographer/Getty Images)

The biggest Supreme Court cases of the 2022 term are expected to be the challenges to the use of race in admissions for Harvard and the University of North Carolina. The two cases were recently un-consolidated so that Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who promised the Senate that she would recuse herself because of her role at Harvard, could nonetheless sit on the UNC case. That upset one common assumption about the cases; a second was that the Court would not want to inject itself further into electoral politics by hearing the argument before the midterm elections. After all, the actual decisions are very unlikely to come until many months later, and the justices hate to have their questioning treated as a political football.

But that is now out the window as well: Yesterday, the Court released its argument calendar for October 31 through November 9, and lo and behold, the UNC case will be the first one argued, on Halloween — eight days before the election. And, after Justice Jackson then steps off the bench, the Harvard case will be the second. Brace yourself for what will undoubtedly be a weeklong campaign of dishonest racial demagoguery aimed at getting out Democratic voters.

Politics & Policy

Sinema and Sanders Raise Questions and Objections

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Kyrsten Sinema at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce’s Manufacturer of the Year summit in Phoenix, Ariz. (Gage Skidmore)

Two senators from opposite wings of the Democratic Party revealed some of the challenges Chuck Schumer faces in passing the Taxapalooza package he cooked up with Joe Manchin.

In a private call with business groups on Tuesday, Arizona senator Krysten Sinema asked if the bill’s proposed 15 percent minimum tax on corporations “was written in a way that’s bad.” She got an earful from those on the call.

Danny Seiden, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, said, “it gave me hope that she’s willing to open this up and maybe make it better.” He noted that as recently as April, Sinema had told the Arizona Chamber: “I am unwilling to support any tax policies that would put a brake on that type of economic growth, or stall business and personal growth for America’s industries.”

On the other side of the ideological divide, Senator Bernie Sanders blasted the Manchin–Schumer bill for abandoning parts of the Build Back Better plan.

The Vermont senator gave a floor speech voicing his objections to the bill. It “has some good features, but also some very bad features,” he said, and urged colleagues to support amendments to make it more progressive and anti–fossil fuel. Sanders had a message for voters, too: “This bill turns its back on you.”

No one doubts that Sanders won’t eventually support the bill, but his riling up the progressive base may make it harder for the bill to pass the House, where Democrats hold a tiny four-seat margin and need every vote then can get.

Economics

David Brooks Doesn’t Need to Apologize for Capitalism

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David Brooks (PBS NewsHour/via YouTube)

Recently, the New York Times opinion page has run an interesting series by some of its columnists in which they admit they were wrong about something. For Paul Krugman, it’s inflation. (He didn’t think it would be a problem.) For Bret Stephens, it’s Trump voters. (He says he thought too harshly of them.) And for David Brooks, it’s . . . capitalism:

It took me a while to see that the postindustrial capitalism machine—while innovative, dynamic and wonderful in many respects—had some fundamental flaws. The most educated Americans were amassing more and more wealth, dominating the best living areas, pouring advantages into their kids. A highly unequal caste system was forming. Bit by bit it dawned on me that the government would have to get much more active if every child was going to have an open field and a fair chance.

But writing for the Acton Institute, National Review contributor Samuel Gregg sets Brooks straight. In fact, many of the defects Brooks associates with markets are instead byproducts of government intervention:

Could it be, however, that Brooks has got at least part of the cause and effect the wrong way around? What if it is government—or, more precisely, people’s closeness to government and regulators—that at least partly drives large segments of the wealth inequality that Brooks is concerned about.

Gregg cites the cronyist economy that has been built up in and around Washington, D.C., as a prime example. In (and near) the Beltway, much of the wealth generated derives either directly or indirectly from government action, not from genuine market exchange. As Gregg notes:

The acquisition of such wealth in these parts of the country isn’t the result of the workings of capitalism. Instead, it is largely driven by “cronyism” or “crony capitalism.” This emerges when the processes of free exchange within a framework of property rights and rule of law are gradually supplanted by what I will call “political markets.” Instead of people prospering through freely creating and offering good and services to consumers at competitive prices, economic success hinges on people’s ability to harness government power to rig the game in their favor and secure preferential treatment from regulators, legislators, and governments.

And here’s the problem: The more you allow the government to intervene in the economy—whether through regulation, subsidies, tariffs, or industrial policy—to try and, say, diminish wealth differentials, the greater the opportunities for what economists call rent-seeking. This is when an individual or business tries to attain wealth by extracting resources from others (e.g., the government) but without actually doing much by way of economic productivity—in short, without adding value. There’s no reason why government interventions to address some of the wealth differentials and their effects that Brooks laments would not become yet another source of rent-seeking.

Gregg concludes that “at least part of the road to a more just economy and society” is “really about less government, rather than more.” In other words, apology not accepted.

World

Soft-on-China Think Tanker to Handle China Portfolio for Biden

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A news report of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is seen on a television screen in Hong Kong, China November 8, 2020. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

A think-tank expert who urged a primarily cooperative relationship with the Chinese Communist Party and North Korea now handles the State Department’s outreach to Congress on Indo-Pacific issues, a source familiar with the situation told National Review.

Jessica Lee, a former research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, recently joined State’s legislative-affairs bureau, as NR reported on Monday. Although she had been appointed to the role of “senior advisor,” the exact details of her assignment had been unclear.

The source said that Lee has been specifically tasked with engaging House lawmakers on issues relating to State’s bureau for East Asia and the Pacific. Prior to entering the think-tank world, Lee was a staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Notably, the Biden administration appointee’s new assignment resembles her previous efforts, while at the Quincy Institute, to engage Congress. Last year, Lee played a key role in the think tank’s campaign to weaken the Strategic Competition Act, which it warned would be seen as a “declaration of a Cold War on China.”

In a May 2021 essay co-authored with another former Quincy Institute scholar, Rachel Esplin Odell — who also left the think tank to work at State — Lee cautioned that the U.S. government’s warnings about Chinese Communist Party “malign influence” stoked discourse that is “alarmist in nature and could exacerbate McCarthyist attacks against Asian Americans.” Specifically, Lee and Odell warned that criticizing individuals and organizations linked to the Chinese Communist Party for those ties is unnecessary and harms U.S. national security.

They urged Congress to kill provisions of the Strategic Competition Act that would have allocated $300 million to a “Countering Chinese Influence Fund,” asked the president to “protect our democratic institutions and processes from malign influence from the People’s Republic of China,” and directed $100 million to the U.S. Agency for Global Media for the purposes of countering Chinese disinformation.

In a separate essay on the Strategic Competition Act, Lee bashed a provision endorsing sanctions targeting the North Korean regime. “In general, a more restrained posture that creates space for diplomacy with North Korea, rather than the threat of broad, indiscriminate sanctions, would better promote U.S. interests in a stable Korean Peninsula,” she wrote.

Progressive House lawmakers appeared to have taken stances similar to those Lee advocated in her work on the Strategic Competition Act. Representative Sara Jacobs (D., Calif.) urged her colleagues to oppose similar provisions on CCP malign influence and North Korea when the House considered the China package earlier this year.

When Congress passed the overall package that began with the Strategic Competition Act this year, none of those provisions were included in the final bill, and it’s not clear why they were excluded.

Separately, during an October 2021 webinar, Lee claimed that she had convinced the State Department to move away from its use of the phrase “malign influence” when referring to Beijing’s behavior.

National Security & Defense

Biden Imposes Sanctions on Iranian-Oil Sellers

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The Biden administration announced that it is imposing sanctions on individuals and entities who’ve engaged in the illicit sale and shipment of Iranian oil. The sanctions apply to 15 individuals and entities, in Iran itself and also in Vietnam, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Hong Kong, involved in millions of dollars’ worth of transactions.

This decision from the Biden administration comes after several failed negotiations on the renewal of the 2015 Iran deal. The Iranian regime has been uncooperative, with explicit violations of key tenets of the deal such as removing 27 cameras monitoring nuclear sites. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stressed the need for a diplomatic approach to Iran, stating that “the United States has been sincere and steadfast in pursuing a path of meaningful diplomacy.”

This new move by the Biden administration appears to mark an acknowledgment of the limits of diplomacy. It also raises yet more questions about the future of the nuclear deal. 

Elections

Truth or Consequences

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Rep. Peter Meijer (R., Mich.) speaks while awaiting election results in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. (Kent Nishimura / LA Times via Getty Images)

That was a game show, of yore: Truth or Consequences. But there is such a thing as truth and consequences: Tell the truth, and you will face the music.

If you’re a Republican and refuse to go along with the Trumpian claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen — there is music.

After the assault on Congress, ten Republicans voted to impeach President Trump. Trump and his people have pledged to chase them all out. Will even one of the ten return to Congress for the next term? We’ll see.

Evidently, some refer to these congressmen as “the traitorous ten.” Traitorous to what, or whom? Trump? The GOP? MAGA? I would call them more like the faithful ten: faithful to the Constitution and to their oath of office.

Peter Meijer, of Michigan, was one of the ten. He had just entered Congress (having been elected in November 2020). And virtually his first act was to vote to impeach a president of his own party. That wasn’t easy.

Nor had it been easy to vote to certify the election. Here is an excerpt from a piece by Tim Alberta on Meijer:

On the House floor, moments before the vote, Meijer approached a member who appeared on the verge of a breakdown. He asked his new colleague if he was okay. The member responded that he was not; that no matter his belief in the legitimacy of the election, he could no longer vote to certify the results, because he feared for his family’s safety. “Remember, this wasn’t a hypothetical. You were casting that vote after seeing with your own two eyes what some of these people are capable of,” Meijer says. “If they’re willing to come after you inside the U.S. Capitol, what will they do when you’re at home with your kids?”

On Tuesday of this week, Meijer was defeated in a primary — defeated by John Gibbs, a MAGA man who says that the 2020 election was stolen. Doing their part were the Democrats, who spent nearly half a million dollars boosting Gibbs. Their reasoning: He would be easier to defeat in the general than Meijer.

Meijer himself wrote about this, scaldingly, here.

The Democrats’ intervention was despicable, in my opinion. Unpatriotic, too. Also, they should be careful what they wish for, or what they boost: Gibbs might wind up in Congress. At the same time, Republicans are responsible for whom they nominate, and elect.

As an aside: Do you remember Operation Chaos? In 2008, Rush Limbaugh had his armies turn out for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primaries, thinking she would be easier to beat than her front-running opponent, Barack Obama.

This is an old game. People cheer it or boo it, depending.

In the media, I have seen Peter Meijer referred to as a “moderate.” I think this is wrong: He’s pretty much a classic conservative. But he’s not a seditious liar, which makes people think of him as moderate, which is a reflection of our times.

Enemy No. 1 for MAGA — and Anti-Anti-MAGA, a large and important camp — is Liz Cheney, of Wyoming. Her principal opponent in the Republican primary, Harriet Hageman, says, “The election was rigged. Absolutely, the election was rigged.” Kevin McCarthy, the GOP leader in the House, is a Hageman backer, naturally. According to reports, he will travel to Wyoming on Primary Day, August 16, presumably to spike the football in Cheney’s face.

Does McCarthy believe that “the election was rigged”? “Absolutely, the election was rigged”? Does it even matter, in our politics?

At the outset of the January 6 hearings, Cheney made a statement: “I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

Here is a headline from the Associated Press, dated yesterday: “Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers loses state Senate bid.” The article tells us,

Trump pressured Bowers to help with a plan to replace electors committed to now-President Joe Biden during a phone call weeks after Trump lost the 2020 election. Bowers refused.

Bowers insisted on seeing Trump’s evidence of voter fraud, which he said Trump’s team never produced beyond vague allegations. He recalled Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani later told him, “We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.”

Bowers was a major MAGA target, obviously, and now he is defeated. He said, “I’d do it all again the same way.” There’s an American. There’s a public servant. There’s a patriot.

Rusty Bowers can sleep well at night. He can hold his head high. So can “the traitorous ten,” or the faithful ten.

Arizona tells the story of the transformation of the GOP. Once: Goldwater, McCain, Kyl. Now: Lake, Masters, Rogers. A lot of people think this transformation is for the better; others of us don’t.

Ohio tells the tale, too. The outgoing senator, Rob Portman, is the Republican chairman of the Senate Ukraine Caucus. The GOP’s nominee to replace him, J.D. Vance, told Steve Bannon (of course), “I gotta be honest with you, I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another.”

Night and day.

But back to the business of truth and lies, concerning 2020. The old saying goes, “Magna est veritas et praevalebit” — Great is truth and will prevail. Well, ultimately . . .

Corporate America Isn’t Certain It Can Afford to Be Woke Anymore

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Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings (left) and chief content officer Ted Sarandos at a news conference in Seoul, South Korea, in 2016. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

Throughout the year, we’ve seen small but curious signs that corporate America is less interested in being woke than it was a few years ago.

In May, Meta — formerly Facebook — said that “discussing abortion openly at work has a heightened risk of creating a hostile work environment,” so it had taken “the position that we would not allow open discussion.” Progressive activists were surprised to see so many companies offering muted and generic statements about the Supreme Court’s recent abortion decision.

Earlier this summer, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos effectively told his employees that it was time to stop complaining about

Education

The Higher-Ed Establishment Circles the Wagons for ‘Affirmative Action’

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Harvard University President Larry Bacon speaks during Commencement Exercises in Cambridge, Mass., May 29, 2022. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

One of the biggest cases the Supreme Court will hear this fall is the challenge to the legality of racial preferences by colleges and universities brought by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA). As expected, the higher-education establishment is fighting tooth and nail to preserve its ability to use racial quotas to get student bodies that have the right racial mixture. (They don’t care about other student characteristics like religion, philosophy, musical preferences, etc.)

Commenting here on the spate of amicus briefs just submitted on the companion cases (one involving Harvard, the other UNC), Cornell law professor William Jacobson observes, “The statistics are shocking. As SFFA noted in its Harvard petition, ‘an Asian American in the fourth-lowest decile has virtually no chance of being admitted to Harvard (0.9%); but an African American in that decile has a higher chance of admission (12.8%) than an Asian American in the top decile (12.7%).’”

Federal law forbids racial discrimination by institutions receiving federal funds (including student aid money), but the schools say they don’t discriminate against Asians. They accept them — just not too many. They have come up with justifications for their obviously unfair admission policies. They Court has heard them before and (foolishly) deferred to the supposed expertise of the educators.

Jacobson reminds us that in an earlier case, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Despite all the wailing from the education establishment, maybe the Court will finally rule against racial discrimination.

Elections

The Least Surprising Development in the Michigan Primaries

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Then-gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley (R., Mich.) speaks to a reporter in Lansing, Mich., June 15, 2022. (Emily Elconin/Reuters)

In probably the least surprising development possible in Tuesday’s Michigan primary, Ryan Kelley, who was arrested at his home back in June for allegedly entering the Capitol during the January 6 riot, is rejecting the results of the gubernatorial election primary.

Kelley, who finished in fourth place behind Garrett Soldano, Kevin Rinke, and the victorious Tudor Dixon, posted on his Facebook page:

Looks like the “testing” was not testing after all, and it was a release of their preferred and predetermined outcome.

NOT CONCEDING!

Let’s see the GOP and the predetermined winner call for a publicly supervised hand recount to uphold election integrity.

Kelley lost to Dixon by almost 300,000 votes.

There is another dimension of hilarity to Kelley’s claim that the gubernatorial election was stolen from him. Although Kelley did his best to court Donald Trump’s endorsement in the leadup to election day by embracing the misdemeanor charges he received for his alleged role in the riot, he did not win the former president’s favor. Instead, a few days before the primary, Trump’s support went to Dixon, the winner.

So, according to Kelley, the 2020 election was rigged and stolen from Donald Trump, but then Donald Trump, in turn, rigged and stole the 2022 Michigan gubernatorial primary from Kelley, who was active in the “stop the steal” effort two years ago.

Talk about Dark MAGA.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Recession and Conference Notes

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Patrick Horan of the Mercatus Center writes about whether we’re in a recession:

It’s impossible to truly know if we’re going to enter a recession, or how severe such a recession would be. The unusually strong labor market may prevent (or at least ameliorate) a slowdown in economic activity in the coming months. On the other hand, the positive indicators the optimists cite may have peaked, and could soon follow the other trends and turn negative.

What is clear is that monetary and fiscal policy were too stimulative last year, and now policy-makers must deal with the repercussions: a slowing economy combined with high inflation not seen since the early 1980s. Let’s hope they interpret the situation correctly and get the next step right.

I write about last weekend’s American Economic Forum, an ISI conference in Washington, D.C.:

The American Economic Forum gave the platform of ISI, a premier conservative organization for young people, to some of those market-skeptical conservative voices. The ballroom at the upscale Omni Shoreham Hotel in Northwest, Washington, D.C., where the conference was held, was set for about 300 people, but the room was never more than half full. Young conservatives’ supposed enthusiasm for market skepticism had not translated into attendance, at least here.

Yet the message from many of the speakers amounted to an unreserved — and worrying — challenge to economic assumptions that have driven the Right for decades. With a few exceptions, their argument was that conservatives should be open to using the tools of government planning to achieve growth, with one guest even claiming that Chinese communism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic system.

Music

‘Tampering’

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Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) (© CORBIS / Corbis via Getty Images)

If you’re in the mood for a music podcast, try this: the latest episode of my Music for a While. (“Music for a While” is the title of a famous Purcell song.) (That song will outlive my podcast, for a long time.) I have some “conventional” things in this episode — if you can call Mozart conventional. If he is conventional, what is extraordinary? I also have some offbeat things — very.

Do you know that Stravinsky arranged and orchestrated our national anthem? He did. He did it in the early 1940s, desiring “to do my bit in these grievous times toward fostering and preserving the spirit of patriotism in this country.” One night, Stravinsky conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra in his arrangement of the anthem. He was to do the same the following night. But the local fuzz intervened, saying that Stravinsky was violating a state law against “tampering” with the anthem — which was bunk. In any event, police officers pulled the score from the musicians’ stands.

What else? You know the James Bond theme? Of course you do. Its composer, Monty Norman, borrowed from a song he had previously written, for a musical on the V. S. Naipaul novel A House for Mr. Biswas. That musical was never produced. Norman’s song, “Bad Sign, Good Sign,” is a corny novelty number, with an Orientalist twang and a sitar. His transformation of those notes into the James Bond theme is . . . inspired.

Anyway, you may get a kick out of all this — again, here.

By the way, as I’ve said elsewhere, A House for Mr. Biswas was one of the best reading experiences of my entire life. I told the author this at least twice, possibly three times (on different occasions, I assure you). And it was the last thing I ever said to him.

Elections

Mixed Results for Democratic Extremism in Michigan

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Rep Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill, July 15, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

The big story from the Michigan primary elections last night was the defeat of Peter Meijer by his Trump-endorsed challenger, John Gibbs. As such, the most attention was rightfully paid to the Republican races.

At the same time, there were significant races in the Democratic field, chief among them a challenge to Rashida Tlaib. The member of the progressive “Squad” in Congress faced a bit of competition from Janice Winfrey, a more moderate candidate in the primary for Michigan’s twelfth congressional district.

Though Winfrey toed the usual Democratic line on abortion and gun control, she attacked Tlaib on other issues. Winfrey “stands with Israel and democracies everywhere” and supports more police funding, not less, as well as “better training for our police,” her website reads.

Unfortunately for Winfrey, Tlaib proved too popular among her base. The incumbent won by 41 points, securing her nomination and likely her place in Congress, as she is running in a D+44 district, according to FiveThirtyEight.

But Tlaib’s influence in her incredibly blue district did not extend to another important race in Michigan. As a result of the state’s population decline recorded in the 2020 census, Michigan lost a House seat, so the legislature had to do some redistricting.

Some incumbents got a bit of a raw deal, seeing the partisan makeup of their districts change in such a way that hurt them. But no two were more unfortunate than Democrats Haley Stevens and Andy Levin, two incumbents who were forced to face off against each other in the eleventh congressional district.

The battle lines were quickly drawn, with more radical politicians, including Tlaib and Senator Bernie Sanders, favoring Levin. Stevens, on the other hand, received an endorsement from Hillary Clinton.

More interesting, however, were the interest groups, especially those surrounding Israel, that weighed in on the campaign. Considering that Tlaib, who supports the boycott, divest, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, put her support behind Levin, it is easy to predict which groups would endorse him.

J Street, though it rejects the Global BDS movement, which has ties to antisemitism, does “not oppose boycott, divestment, or sanctions initiatives that explicitly support a two-state solution.” The group endorsed Levin and spent $700,000 on television ads for him.

That contribution is ironic because Levin said at a rally July 31 that pro-Israel groups such as AIPAC “cannot buy our democracy.” (When Ilhan Omar said something like that, it was derided as antisemitic.) In fairness to Levin and J Street, their effort was in response to AIPAC, which spent about $2 million in the race for Stevens.

Despite the money that J Street put up for Levin, he lost to Stevens by 19 points. The main reason that Tlaib could win her own race but not successfully apply her influence elsewhere is simply that Levin’s district wasn’t as blue. Levin and Stevens fought for a D+14 district, one that, while very committed to Democratic policies, is not as receptive to the radical progressivism that Levin represented.

The lesson for the Democrats is clear: While far-left policies and ideologies may be popular in progressive bubbles, they lead to failure when they are exported to the rest of the country. Democrats dodged a bullet in this race. We’ll see if they learn from this election before the midterms.

Culture

Ron DeSantis Takes On Trans Activists

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At a press conference on Wednesday, Florida governor Ron DeSantis rejected “gender-affirming care,” gesturing air quotes as he said the phrase, explaining that “what they don’t tell you is that they are giving very young girls double mastectomies, they want to castrate young boys — that’s wrong.” He said he would like doctors performing these surgeries to be sued. “You don’t disfigure ten-, twelve-, 13-year-old kids based on gender dysphoria.”

What DeSantis gets right in his political approach is his reliance on plain-speaking English. There’s really no point in being anything but blunt when rejecting the demands of trans activism. You’ll be called transphobic regardless. Besides, once you’ve decided you don’t care about that, there’s not much else they can throw at you.

International

China and the Sovereign-Debt Crisis

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(Thomas White/Illustration/Reuters)

Writing for the Financial Times, Alan Beattie warns of a wave of defaults from developing countries around the world. The basic mechanisms causing the instability are inflation, rising interest rates in the developed world, and overall uncertainty about globalization due to geopolitical factors.

Creditor nations are not prepared for the fallout. Beattie writes:

There have been multiple attempts to regularise sovereign restructuring to achieve fair burden-sharing between creditors. The “London Club” of commercial banks was set up in 1976, when much sovereign borrowing was via bank loans, and was heavily used during the sovereign debt crises of the 1980s. But it hasn’t really been relevant after borrowing shifted to capital markets. For official creditors, the “Paris Club” was created in 1956 to address a debt crisis in — where else? — the serial defaulter Argentina.

The Paris Club played a key role in resolving episodes like the HIPC debt relief initiative, but has always struggled with compelling private sector creditors also to write down sovereign debt. Twenty years ago, the IMF heroically tried but failed to set up an official bankruptcy procedure (the sovereign debt restructuring mechanism) to bail in private investors.

Borrowers have increasingly added clauses to sovereign bond contracts to ease restructuring, but they have imperfect coverage and effectiveness. Sovereign bankruptcies with official bailouts and private creditors are still worked out ad hoc, sometimes with rival creditor committees. Resolution can get particularly protracted when litigious distressed debt investors get involved.

Making things worse, China is one of the dominant players. It isn’t part of the Paris Club and until now has not had to deal with a sovereign-debt crisis as a major lender. Paris Club countries ordinarily agree to forgive some of the debt when debtor nations default, in the interest of resolving the instability and getting the country back on its feet again. China so far has not taken that approach.

Just how big a player is China? Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald writes that “China has more money on loan to the world’s poor countries than the combined lending of the 22 rich nations that make up the Paris Club of creditor countries.” He notes that “most of the world’s poor countries — 60 per cent of them — are now in debt distress or at high risk, according to the World Bank.”

If many of those countries go bust at the same time, the consequences for China would be significant. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), considered by some to be a genius geopolitical strategy, is a big part of the reason for China’s exposure to risky sovereign debt.

Reid Standish of RFE/RL writes:

The globe-spanning scale of BRI, which was launched in 2013 by Beijing as the largest infrastructure program undertaken by a single country, has left it with a list of risky debtors around the world — including Argentina, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Venezuela, Zambia, and Iran — that hoped to take advantage of the surge in Chinese overseas lending but now find themselves struggling with a debt crisis the World Bank has warned could trigger a series of defaults not seen since the 1980s.

For China, this marks what analysts describe as a crucial inflection point after nearly 10 years of runaway lending under the guise of the BRI that has been exacerbated recently by rising inflation, soaring energy costs, and tightening global financial conditions due to the war in Ukraine and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. In such an environment, Beijing could be looking to streamline and scale back its hallmark initiative.

Standish notes that China has lent almost $1 trillion under BRI in the past eight years. Pakistan is the largest recipient of BRI financing, and China has been lending it even more money to pay back its loans. Standish writes:

But tensions over the implementation of BRI projects has strained relations for both Beijing and Islamabad. Still, Beijing has issued a string of loans aimed at averting a default, with a consortium of Chinese state banks lending $2.3 billion to Pakistan in late June.

Beijing has reportedly urged Islamabad to repair ties with the IMF and resurrect a loan program agreed in 2019, of which the fund has so far given only about half of the agreed $6 billion sum.

Pakistani Finance Minister Miftah Ismail told Bloomberg on August 1 that progress had been made on the loan, which could stave off a default, but analysts say Islamabad’s finances remain strained, and Mingey said that Pakistan is still a leading “domino to fall” after Sri Lanka amid the debt crisis and possibility of further defaults.

On top of these foreign concerns, China’s domestic markets aren’t doing any better. The Times of India has an excellent explainer on the instability in China’s housing-dominated financial market, which begins with this sentence: “When the world’s most populous nation begins selling apartments for garlic and watermelons, you know something is wrong.”

Indeed, and the Chinese government is to blame. The Times of India says:

In the late 1990s, the Chinese government began leasing out land to developers, who began a building frenzy. The government encouraged this by offering easy financing options for real estate developers like Evergrande. These companies relied on cheap debt to acquire land parcels at scale. This created an artificial scarcity and rise in property prices.

In cities like Beijing and Shenzhen, real estate prices tallied up to more than 50 times the average national income. A working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2020 estimated China’s real estate sector accounted for 29% of the country’s GDP ($4trn out of $14trn).

When prices rise so much, nobody wants to buy anymore — not speculators, not investors, and not even ordinary homebuyers. Real estate developers are now staring at a financial crisis, with the largest of them close to collapse.

How does the Chinese government plan to fix this problem it created? More intervention, of course. The government adopted a policy of “three red lines,” mandating that the largest real estate developers had have: 1) asset-to-liability ratios above 70 percent, 2) net-debt-to-equity ratios below 100 percent, and 3) cash-to-short-term-borrowing ratios below 1.

Instead of fixing the problem, the three red lines just hastened the market collapse, the Times of India says. In addition to the housing struggles, the economy is suffering from two other maladies that the World Bank says will slow GDP growth even further: “the country’s long crackdown against specific industries, such as fintech, online education and entertainment as well as perceived societal ills such as celebrity culture, gaming and effeminate fashion trends” and “the country’s rigid zero-Covid strategy that has led to stringent and extended lockdowns.”

Responsibility for each of those three problems lies with the Chinese government, the Chinese government, and the Chinese government, respectively.

The Times of India article concludes on this cheery note:

The government is scrambling to fix this and has asked banks to start lending to real estate firms, hoping this infusion of capital will help. But that could just be continuing the vicious cycle of debt and default that these companies are already in.

As more countries default on their debts, the developed world will feel the impact, but China is taking the most severe blow. China has been able to get away with a lot of poor decisions in a world of low interest rates; that world is gone now. Where the West at least has some processes and experience dealing with developing-world defaults, China has none and is dealing with its own crisis at home. Those who view China’s authoritarian structure as a strength because it allows the Chinese to “play the long game” better than a democracy should keep these government failures in mind.

Politics & Policy

The Pro-Life Movement Isn’t in Kansas Anymore

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Voter mark their ballots during the primary election and abortion referendum at a Wyandotte County polling station in Kansas City, Kan., August 2, 2022. (Eric Cox/Reuters)

The Kansas abortion referendum was, unquestionably, disappointing to pro-lifers and a morale boost for Democrats.

Ramesh notes some of the reasons why the framing of this particular referendum was unfavorable. I’d add two more. One, which I’ll discuss below a bit more, is timing. The status quo bias in favor of a “no” vote was helped by the fact that very few state abortion bans have been in effect for much time, if at all, yet. That made it easier to paint a “yes” vote as a leap into a hazardous unknown. The second, to which Ramesh nods, is that more so than most states, Kansas for many years has been considerably more Republican than it is conservative. That is not to deny that it has produced some very conservative figures, whether of the religious conservative sort (think Sam Brownback, who won all six of his statewide races between 1996 and 2014) or the Trumpier sort (think Kris Kobach, who won his primary yesterday to run for state attorney general).

But Kansas has deep ancestral ties to the GOP, going all the way back to its having been founded, in effect, by an armed wing of the Republican Party in the 1850s. Republicans have won the state by 20 or more points in 23 different presidential elections back to 1864; the Democrats have won it only six times, four of which were Democratic landslide years nationally (the exceptions being 1896 and 1916). One could cite chapter and verse at different levels of government, but the relevant point is that the state has been more Republican than not at every point in the past 160 years, through a lot of different ideological and issue environments. Few other states have such a deep reserve of Republican partisanship. As a result, Kansas moderates are a good deal more likely to be Republicans than moderates in other states — a fact reflected in the careers of people such as Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum and visible again in some of the state legislature’s fights with Brownback during his governorship. Thus, it is easy to overstate exactly how ideologically red Kansas is from its partisan lean. It’s not Mississippi or Utah or even Nebraska.

All of that said, there is no reason that pro-lifers should abandon Kansas or other states like it. The movement should, instead, learn some crucial lessons about strategy.

First, focus on securing the beachheads. There are many strategic lessons that pro-lifers take from the progress of the anti-slavery movement, but we should start with this one. Anti-slavery became a powerful force in national politics only after it had (1) convincingly won over the voters in the states where slavery was least popular, beginning with New England and Pennsylvania, (2) shown the practical workability of emancipation in states such as New York and New Jersey, (3) demonstrated the superiority of the free-state model, and (4) built a sufficient power base to keep the federal government from strangling political anti-slavery in new territories, at least in the Midwest and Upper Midwest. Trying to sell the nation on a complete federal ban on slavery in 1787 would have been lunacy for the movement, but by 1807, even a slaveowning president was willing to sign a ban on the trans-Atlantic slave trade. By the 1850s, however, freedom — not slavery — was the status quo in states housing 60 percent of the nation’s population. The prospect of adding more free states was frightening to nobody but the hard-core defenders of slavery.

That model can be followed by pro-lifers. It requires, in the short term of 2022–23, a laser focus on winning where the wins are within reach, and pushing no further than necessary. If it takes a 15-week, or twelve-week, or six-week ban, if it takes exceptions for rape and incest, or a larger “health” exception than seems prudent: so be it. Once the principle of life is established in a state, incremental progress can be sought later. This is best done legislatively, although that requires bypassing states (such as Kansas) where the judiciary has ruled out democratic lawmaking. The sooner a critical mass of states can be built up where abortion bans of any sort are thinkable and even acceptable, the better. Plant the mustard seeds now, and know that you can sit in their shade later.

Second, and relatedly, be willing to compromise. Compromise is painful when it means leaving some children to their deaths; no later progress can undo that. But it is how progress in a democracy works. And pro-lifers now have the advantage on that score. The pro-life ideology is that all human life is sacred at every stage and should be protected in law, but a law that protects some lives is better than a law that protects no lives. A 15-week abortion ban concedes nothing to principle, as opposed to political reality. By contrast, Democrats’ pro-abortion ideology assumes that any restriction at all is intolerable — even a limit on taxpayers subsidizing abortion — so even to engage in a discussion of compromise is heresy. As pro-lifers, we can use that contrast. Many Americans, perhaps a third of the country, are in the mushy eyeball-test middle on this issue: They aren’t willing to ban all abortions, but they also dislike taxpayer funding of abortion and see late-term abortions as barbaric. (Indeed, one argument made prominently against the “yes” position in Kansas was that the state already bans taxpayer funding, so doing so by referendum was unnecessary.) Dobbs itself illustrates the contrast: Mississippi was defending only a 15-week ban, while the abortionists and the Biden administration were stuck defending a “no compromise, no restrictions are possible” position. What we don’t need is people in deep-red states who are so eager to flex their pro-lifer-than-thou credentials that they push states into seeking uncompromising rules that produce blowback against the beachheads.

Third, fight the smears — and do so precisely by being visible about compromise. Nobody is against ending ectopic pregnancies, which are incapable of producing a live-born child. Nobody needs to draw a line in the sand around the most extreme cases: rape victims in their early teens, severe health problems. The abortion industry and its progressive flacks focus entirely on these cases because they know that the argument around the vast majority of abortions is much harder to defend. Win the cultural argument over those majority cases, and we will be in a much better position to have a conversation about the extreme cases.

Most of the great victories won by conservatives, Republicans, and Christians in this country have been long struggles with many setbacks. We knew, after Dobbs, that we would not win every battle ahead. But we should plan for the long game, because justice and mercy and common decency are still on our side.

Chuck Schumer
CBO: Over 90 Percent of Promised Deficit Reduction in Manchin–Schumer Would Come after 2026

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Left: Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 19, 2022. Right: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., January 12, 2022. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Senator Joe Manchin has been making the rounds promoting the deal he struck with Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer as inflation-fighting legislation, in part because it reduces the deficit through tax hikes and price fixing. But a closer look at a fresh analysis of the bill from the Congressional Budget Office shows that over 90 percent of the promised deficit reduction in the bill would come after 2026 — meaning it would do absolutely nothing to help reduce the current inflation problem.

The basic mechanics of Manchin–Schumer is that it spends hundreds of billions of dollars on green-energy initiatives and an Obamacare expansion, which is then offset by tax hikes, claimed savings from having Medicare fix drug prices, and increased IRS enforcement. Taken together, CBO expects these measures will reduce deficits by about $305 billion, of which $204 billion would come through the expected boost in revenue from the enforcement provisions.

But the way the bill is structured, the spending increases occur immediately, while the claimed savings take time to take effect — exactly the sort of “shell games” Manchin warned about last year when he blasted Democrats for not considering the permanent cost of expanding government programs (as this bill does with Obamacare).

Of the $305 billion in promised deficit savings over the next decade, CBO says just $21 billion will be coming over the next five years, when we’re in the midst of a historic inflation crisis, while the remaining 93 percent of the claimed savings won’t come until after 2026. Whatever else may be said about the bill, the idea that it will help address the current inflation problem is absurd.

Politics & Policy

Child Careless

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Senator Mitt Romney (R., Utah.) speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., April 26, 2022. (Al Drago/Pool via Reuters)

To the extent that Jack Salmon’s arguments against Senator Romney’s child allowance are sound, they’re arguments against some other proposal — not against Romney’s plan.

He complains that Romney’s plan does not deregulate child care to make it more affordable. But that misunderstands the point of Romney’s plan. It’s to help parents and children — including parents who care for their own children at home. Deregulating child care may be a fine idea, but it would do nothing to help that group, and there’s no reason to make it an either/or choice with Romney’s proposal.

Meanwhile, the sorts of criticisms that Salmon makes of child-care subsidies (they’re regressive, they are designed in ways that punish marriage, etc.) simply do not apply to the Romney plan — or, for that matter, to Senator Marco Rubio’s idea for paid family leave, which Salmon criticizes in passing. And neither of those plans amounts to “nationalizing child-rearing,” as he puts it in a final flourish.

Salmon’s cautions are worth saving for a target that actually justifies them.

Politics & Policy

Justice Department Subpoenas Another Trump White House Lawyer to Grand Jury

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Patrick Philbin (Screenshot via PBS NewsHour/YouTube)

I have a column on the home page about the Justice Department’s subpoenaing of Pat Cipollone, the former Trump White House counsel, into one of the grand juries that is investigating potential crimes arising out of the Capitol riot.

This afternoon, CNN has reported that Patrick Philbin, Cipollone’s deputy in the Trump White House counsel’s office, also has been subpoenaed. The CNN report relies on two unidentified “sources familiar with the matter.”

As my column relates, the Biden Justice Department is clearly weighing whether to indict former President Donald Trump and a circle of advisers — mainly, Trump’s private lawyers (i.e., not White House lawyers) — who developed half-baked schemes to reverse the presidential election and maintain Trump in office. Testimony and documentary evidence in various probes of the riot, and events over the two months leading up to it, have indicated that Cipollone, Philbin, and other White House officials had relevant conversations with the then-president and his private advisers, and witnessed key events. The White House lawyers appear to have been pushing against the private advisers and trying, without success, to nudge Trump into accepting his defeat.

The subpoenas of former White House lawyers raise questions about executive privilege and attorney–client privilege. As I explain in the column, the fact that the Justice Department is in the position of trying to pierce the president’s confidentiality protections, rather than its usual position of trying to uphold them, does not bode well for the viability of those privileges if there is an effort to invoke them.

Politics & Policy

Is Time on the Side of Senate Democrats, or Kyrsten Sinema?

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Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) departs after attending a bipartisan work group meeting on an infrastructure bill at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., June 8, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

It has now been almost a week since Democratic senator Joe Manchin announced he would support a hefty nearly half-a-trillion dollar spending package targeting energy and climate, health care, and increased taxes on the wealthy. But Manchin and Chuck Schumer hadn’t informed Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema about their deal until after it was publicly announced, and she represents the last serious potential obstacle. Our John Fund notes that there are reports of other Democratic senators with reservations about the legislation, but who aren’t willing to publicly oppose the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act.”

The fact that Sinema hasn’t signed on yet is a sign that if she becomes a “yes,” she won’t be an easy yes. She’s talking with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, discussing whether the bills proposed 15 percent minimum tax on corporations would be economically harmful, and those business groups won’t be telling her, “don’t worry, that provision will be fine.”

And CNN reports Sinema is in no rush.

On Wednesday, Sinema indicated to CNN that she was in no hurry to announce her position on the bill. “Taking my time,” she said. Her spokesperson reiterated that Sinema was waiting for the review by the Senate parliamentarian to be completed before announcing her position.

Sure, Sinema faces enormous political pressure to get on board now. But if the process drags out, and as we get closer to autumn, will pressure start to build in the other direction?

Is time on the side of Senate Democrats? The closer they get to the midterm elections, the more senators like Mark Kelly of Arizona, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and perhaps even Patty Murray of Washington or Raphael Warnock of Georgia may get antsy about voting for tax increases, as GOP attack ads will be flooding the airwaves.

You can envision the ads now: “America is in a recession, your grocery bills, gas bills, and rent have never been higher… and your senator voted to raise taxes again.”

NRI

Last Chance to Register for This Year’s NRI Cruise

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(NRI)

The 2022 NRI Eastern Caribbean Cruise is taking place from November 12 to 19. Hurry and book your cabin today, as there are only ten remaining! The deadline to register is August 8.

This fall, the National Review Institute is continuing NR’s 20-year tradition of memorable cruises. Come and take a trip around the eastern Caribbean with several NR writers and esteemed conservative-movement leaders.

Our seven-day adventure on the Sky Princess begins at the port of Fort Lauderdale and will include stops at Princess Cays, Bahamas; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; and Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos, before returning to Fort Lauderdale.

This year’s NRI cruise will be similar to past NR cruises but will also include exciting new programming, such as breakout sessions, book clubs, and exclusive 1955 Society events. The main-stage conference program will feature a variety of one-on-one interviews, panel discussions, and spirited, if friendly, debates. Broad themes include the economy, education, and the legal system, and you can be sure our panelists will be wrangling with the hot topics of the day.

This year’s cruise speakers include Charles C. W. Cooke, William B. Allen, Rich Lowry, Ramesh Ponnuru, Andrew C. McCarthy, and more!

One of the institute’s primary missions is to preserve and promote Bill Buckley’s powerful legacy. NRI president Lindsay Craig and several trustees will be onboard to discuss ambitious plans to celebrate that legacy leading up to the 100th anniversary of WFB’s birth in 2025.

Learn more here or contact Jason Wise with questions (jason@nrinstitute.org or 203-273-3628).

Elections

Trump Shouldn’t Celebrate Too Much in Michigan

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Then-President Donald Trump reacts during a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Mich., December 18, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Tuesday’s Michigan primary election was an overall win for former president Donald Trump. The candidates he endorsed, most notably, John Gibbs, who challenged Peter Meijer in Michigan’s third congressional district, were all victorious. But the fact is, many of his endorsements were inconsequential. And his biggest victory may hurt him in the long run.

Trump waited the longest to make an endorsement in the gubernatorial race. It wasn’t until July 29, only four days before the primary, that he endorsed Tudor Dixon. His decision to wait as long as he did allows him to pretend that his endorsement was influential, but that’s really all he can do — pretend.

What Trump did for Dixon is tantamount to jumping to the front of a parade in its last leg and pretending that he was leading it the entire way. The truth is that Dixon would likely have won with or without him. Some Republicans endorsed her immediately after the disqualification of presumptive nominee James Craig threw the primary into chaos.

CPAC, Right to Life of Michigan, and the family of former education secretary Betsy DeVos all threw their support behind Dixon when she was losing in the polls to Ryan Kelley, who was arrested in early June for allegedly entering the Capitol on January 6. After receiving those endorsements, Dixon climbed in the polls to become the front-runner. By the time Trump endorsed her, one poll had her at as many as 25 points ahead of eventual second-place finisher Kevin Rinke.

John James, a retired Army helicopter pilot running in Michigan’s tenth congressional district, also received a superfluous endorsement from Trump, and he demolished Tony Marcinkiewicz by 73 points. To his credit, though, Trump didn’t wait in the wings to see who would take the lead in that race, endorsing James in March.

While Dixon’s win was doubtful a few months ago, James always had it in the bag. Michigan Republicans love him. In 2018, he won the Republican nomination for Senate but lost the election to entrenched Democrat Debbie Stabenow. In 2020, he once again won a statewide Republican nomination, this time to face off against then-freshman Senator Gary Peters. He lost again, but not by very much. One could argue that Trump’s endorsing James in those two earlier races was significant, but the fact is James’s popularity among Republicans extends far beyond Trump, and his win yesterday is not a sign of the former president’s enduring influence in Michigan.

The defeat of Meijer, who voted to impeach Trump after the January 6 riot, is a legitimate MAGA victory. It signifies that a legislator, even if he is generally solid in pushing conservative policy, can be ousted if he does not display loyalty to Trump.

Still, this win for the MAGA movement is ephemeral. Because of redistricting that occurred as a result of the 2020 census, Meijer’s district has become much bluer. It went from R+9 to D+3, and its voters are unlikely to embrace Gibbs. Meijer’s loss gave Trump a win for his vanity within the Republican Party, but it will lose a seat in Congress that could have been used to carry on Trump’s policy agenda, which Meijer has praised.

All in all, Michigan’s primary was a victory for Trump, but it just wasn’t that meaningful.

Immigration

‘Build the Wall!’ Says the Biden Administration

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Illegal immigrants are detained after crossing into the U.S. near Yuma, Ariz., April 19, 2021. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Facing an ongoing crisis at the southern border, the Biden administration is resorting to a Trump-era policy — building more of the wall. The administration is going to fill four gaps in the wall along Arizona’s border, near Yuma, which has experienced a surge in border crossings: Border Patrol has encountered 235,230 migrants attempting to cross the border at the Yuma Sector in fiscal year 2022. Only Del Rio and the Rio Grande Valley have encountered more migrants — 326,177 and 377,994, respectively. 

Last Thursday, Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas authorized U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to conduct the Yuma Morelos Dam Project, sealing the gaps in the wall. According to the department, because of the area’s proximity to the Morelos Dam and Colorado River, the location presents safety and life hazard risks for migrants attempting to cross into the United States where there is a risk of drownings and injuries from falls. This area also poses a life and safety risk to first responders and agents responding to incidents in this area.” 

This is an interesting development, considering that candidate Biden vowed not to finish the wall as president. “There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration,” Biden proclaimed. 

Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy grilled White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on this reversal: “Why is the Biden administration building a border wall in Arizona?” Jean-Pierre denied that the Biden administration was finishing former president Trump’s border wall and blamed the Trump administration for the “mess”: “So, we are not finishing the wall, we are cleaning up the mess the prior administration left behind in their failed attempt to build a wall.” Doocy pressed Jean-Pierre: “But, President Biden when he was a candidate, said, ‘There will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration.’ So, what changed?” Jean-Pierre replied, “We are not finishing the wall.” Doocy responded: “By finishing the wall . . . by filling in, is this racist? Because in 2019, when the former guy was proposing a wall, you said that it was his racist wall. So how is this any different?” Jean-Pierre responded, “A border wall is an ineffective use of taxpayer dollars.”

The Biden administration cannot admit that it was wrong, and that walls do in fact workthat would be conceding a major defeat and giving credit to the prior administration, which they can’t do. But the administration sees the numbers: As of July 18, 1,634,104 people have been encountered at the border in FY 2022. Almost 1.05 million illegal aliens have been released into the interior of the country as of June — more people than the population of Biden’s home state of Delaware. National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd suggests that the Biden administration’s move to fill in the gaps in the border wall near Yuma is a political move timed to help Senator Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.) in his tough reelection bid this November. Kelly’s office says he has been pushing to fill in those same gaps for months and that he secured a “commitment from the administration to get this done.”

Whether it is to help a Democrat, as Judd contends, or because the migrant crisis is destroying Biden’s approval numbers — or even because the administration realizes the crisis is harming the country — building the wall, possibly the symbol most closely associated with the Trump presidency, has returned. How ironic. 

Sports

Vin Scully’s Verbal and Vocal Genius

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Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully smiles in a broadcast booth during the National League MLB baseball game in Los Angeles, April 25, 2007. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

So Harvey Kuenn is batting for Bob Hendley. The time on the scoreboard is nine forty-four. The date, September the ninth, nineteen sixty-five, and Koufax, working on veteran Harvey Kuenn. Sandy into his windup, and the pitch: a fastball, for a strike.

He has struck out, by the way, five consecutive batters, and that’s gone unnoticed. Sandy ready, and the strike-one pitch: Very high, and he lost his hat. He really forced that one. That’s only the second time tonight where I have had the feeling that Sandy threw instead of pitched, trying to get that little extra, and that time he tried so hard his hat fell off. He took an extremely long stride to the plate and Torborg had to go up to get it.

One and one to Harvey Kuenn. Now he’s ready. Fastball high, ball two. You can’t blame a man for pushing just a little bit now.

Sandy backs off, mops his forehead, runs his left index finger along his forehead, and dries it off on his left pants leg, all the while Kuenn just waiting. Now Sandy looks in, into his windup, and the two-one pitch to Kuenn: Swung on and missed, strike two.

It is nine forty-six p.m. Two and two to Harvey Kuenn. One strike away. Sandy into his windup. Here’s the pitch. Swung on and missed, a perfect game!

[Crowd noise for 40 seconds.]

On the scoreboard in right field, it is nine forty-six p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California, and a crowd of twenty-nine thousand, one hundred and thirty-nine just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years, and now he capped it: On his fourth no-hitter, he made it a perfect game — and Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flourish. He struck out the last six consecutive batters, so, when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that K stands out even more than the O U F A X.

— Vin Scully, Dodger Stadium, September 9, 1965

Those may be the most lyrical few minutes of baseball you’ll ever hear, Vin Scully’s narration of the last at-bat of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game. It’s hard enough to speak graceful sentences when you’re explaining what you already know and have thought out. Try doing it when you’re reporting what’s happening in front of you at a hundred miles an hour, the approximate speed of Koufax’s fastball.

Scully did more than find pretty good words, though that might have been achievement enough. He gave them his distinctive intonation. Above, you see the sheet music, as it were. Listen to the sound he gave it.

He was blessed with a great radio voice, clear and easy on the ears, and with a certain New York phonetic style — “accent” would be too strong a word — of making English words sound crisper and cleaner than they do in the mouths of some of us from other parts of the country. In the passage above, he twice says “forehead” and pronounces it as one syllable, or maybe a syllable and a quarter. It’s elegant.

Because music is what’s in the silence between the notes, Scully turned the microphone over to the crowd after the last pitch of the game, for 40 long seconds. They weren’t silent, but he was. The dramatic touch was suited to the moment. What a deft move.

He did the same for Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, which he called for NBC TV: “High fly ball, into right field. She is—gone!” and then for the next minute he let the 56,000 fans crammed into Dodger Stadium do the talking. (Gibson had entered the game, two out in the bottom of the ninth, with an injured left hamstring and an injured right knee — a Hail Mary pinch-hitter. Squirming in the left batter’s box, the count one and two, he was “shaking his left leg, making it quiver like a horse trying to get rid of a troublesome fly.”)

Scully’s naming the day, time, and place in the last inning of Koufax’s perfect game 23 years earlier lent his on-air improvisation of that event a stately tone, but that wasn’t his intention. He wanted to provide the dateline and some timestamps, that’s all. As Koufax took his perfect game into the late innings, Scully asked his sound engineer to start taping. (Few game broadcasts were recorded back then.) The idea was to give Koufax the tape as a keepsake and document of his feat.

The voice of the Dodgers for 67 (mostly) sunny seasons, and recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award (40 years ago already) at the Baseball Hall of Fame, within shouting distance of the plaque of fellow Fordham alumnus Frankie Frisch, Vincent Edward Scully died yesterday in Los Angeles, age 94. Requiescat in pace.

Politics & Policy

Los Angeles County to Allow Noncitizens to Hold Government Jobs

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California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during his meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the California Science Center outside the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, Calif., June 9, 2022. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted, without discussion, last Friday to allow noncitizens to hold government jobs. Because of state and federal law, citizenship requirements will still be required for those seeking to work as a peace officer or for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The motion was penned by chair Hilda L. Solis and supervisor Sheila Kuehl. According to Solis, as of 2018, there were 880,000 noncitizens living in Los Angeles County. Solis pointed out that while noncitizens are able to practice law in California, they are disqualified from the application process because of their noncitizen status.

“Barriers to employment based on cultural, racial, ethnic, or religious characteristics are contrary to our core values. Citizenship overlaps these demographic characteristics,” said Los Angeles County public defender Ricardo García. García continued, “This motion, by Supervisors Solis and Kuehl, will promote equity in hiring and give the Public Defender’s Office access to the most qualified applicants for employment, irrespective of their citizenship status.” 

How allowing noncitizens to hold government jobs will promote equity is unclear.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated for accuracy.

Politics & Policy

Let’s Stop Deferring to Academic ‘Experts’

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Increasingly, Americans turn to academics, especially those with glittering credentials from prestige universities, to guide policy decisions. And that, argues Ben Goldhaber in today’s Martin Center commentary, is a serious mistake.

He writes, “There’s an increasing tendency in mature democracies to outsource policy decisions to ‘non-partisan experts’ from academia. This is often billed as ‘believing the science’ or ‘trusting the experts,’ but, in reality, it’s a means of taking power away from the voting public and its representatives and putting it in the hands of unaccountable third parties.”

We have, for example, turned legislative redistricting over to “experts” only to find that they are biased in favor of one political party.

Goldhaber explains the roots of this problem: “The increasing influence of academic experts in the political process is likely the result of multiple factors, but one of the largest and least acknowledged is the growth in the number of people who are instructed in the ways of academia. We turn out far more master’s degree-holders and PhDs than ever before. While more people with specialized education can help craft good policy, it often comes at the expense of democratic oversight.”

The solution? Don’t rely on just one expert, but solicit input from several and allow the marketplace of ideas to work.

Politics & Policy

The Strange, Scrambled Politics Surrounding Pelosi’s Trip

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House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks with Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu before boarding a plane at Taipei Songshan Airport in Taipei, Taiwan, August 3, 2022. (Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via Reuters )

Nancy Pelosi’s recently completed trip to Taiwan scrambled the usual political lines.

It was odd enough to see Biden and his administration initially opposed, although Biden characterized it as the Pentagon being reticent.

But then a few high-profile Republicans took Biden’s side. Donald Trump rarely agrees with Biden, but Trump asked why Pelosi is visiting and declared she’s “always causing trouble.” Mitt Romney and Trump don’t agree on much, but the Utah senator said Pelosi’ trip was “ill-advised.”

A lot of left-of-center columnists and talking heads found themselves in the strange role of Pelosi critics. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman called her visit “utterly reckless, dangerous and irresponsible.” Former senator Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana who served as ambassador to China under President Obama, called the trip a “provocation.” The Washington Post editorial board called the trip “unwise.”

Even CNN’s Stephen Collinson offered the skeptical assessment, “Pelosi’s achievements in Taiwan are largely personal, symbolic and short-term.”

So who supported Pelosi’s decision to visit?

A lot of congressional Republicans, the editors of National Review, the Heritage Foundation, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, former national-security adviser John Bolton, and a whole bunch of other right-of-center voices who are used to denouncing Pelosi. Even Herschel Walker taped a short video, saying her visit “sends a signal to the world that we’re going to stand up to China.” Walker offered to be her escort to Taiwan because “I know what it means to stand up to tough opponents.”

I suppose almost everyone deserves credit for not seeing the issue through the usual partisan lens; left-of-center voices were willing to criticize Pelosi, and right-of-center voices were willing to defend her decision, based on the larger consideration of whether it was worth it for the speaker of the House to make a high-profile demonstration of American support for Taiwan. Vice characterized it as “The GOP Hates China So Much They Are Praising Nancy Pelosi,” but yes, that’s the point; there are forces in this world that we oppose more vehemently and resolutely than our domestic political opponents.

Republicans and conservatives — generally speaking — are bothered more by the idea of the U.S. backing down in the face of threatening messages from Beijing than the risk of a high-profile Democrat getting some bipartisan praise. Democrats and liberals — generally speaking — don’t want to antagonize China in general and particularly don’t want to rock the geopolitical boat anymore, just a few months before a big midterm election. (There also may be some Democrats who believe that when the president says a particular foreign trip is a bad idea, the speaker should acquiesce to the president’s will.)