Politics & Policy

McConnell Endorses Electoral Count Act Reform

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Senator Mitch McConnell in Washington, D.C., in 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS)

On Tuesday, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell endorsed the bipartisan Electoral Count Act Reform bill that was introduced in the Senate on July 20. 

From McConnell’s Senate floor speech:

“This afternoon, those of us on the Rules Committee will mark up a bipartisan package of updates to the Electoral Count Act of 1887. 

“I strongly support the modest changes that our colleagues in the working group have fleshed out after months of detailed discussions.

“I will proudly support the legislation, provided that nothing more than technical changes are made to its current form.

“I want to thank Senator Collins and Senators Capito, Murkowski, Portman, Romney, Sasse, Tillis, and Young for their intense work with Democratic colleagues to get this right.

“Congress’s process for counting the presidential electors’ votes was written 135 years ago. The chaos that came to a head on January 6th of last year certainly underscored the need for an update. So did Januaries 2001, 2005, and 2017; in each of which, Democrats tried to challenge the lawful election of a Republican president.

“Obviously, in every case, our system of government won out. The Electoral Count Act ultimately produced the right conclusion: Certainty, finality, and the transfer of power to the winning candidate. But it’s clear the country needs a more predictable path to that outcome.

“This bipartisan bill does not rashly replace current law with something untested. It keeps what’s worked well and modestly updates what has not. 

“The bill’s sponsors debated every provision and found bipartisan consensus. Bad ideas were left on the cutting room floor.

“The resulting product — this bill, as introduced — is the only chance to get an outcome and make law.

“Here’s what the legislation does.

“It raises the threshold for objecting to the electoral count — preserving options if something incredibly unlikely were to happen, but ensuring claims with hardly any support can’t paralyzing the process.

“It makes the already plain fact of the 12th Amendment even clearer: that the Vice President has never had, and will never have, discretionary powers over the counting.

“It protects states’ primacy in appointing their electors, but ensures they publicize the rules before the election.

“It rejects unwise changes like creating new causes of action that would leave every election up to the courts and create uncertainty.

“It makes modest technical updates to other pertinent laws, such as the Presidential Transitions Act.

“And Senator Collins’s bill does all these modest but important things without capitulating to our Democratic colleagues’ obsession with a sweeping federal takeover of all election law.

“I look forward to supporting the legislation as introduced in committee.”

Last week, a National Review editorial called on the Senate to vote on ECA reform.

Energy & Environment

‘Nature’ Gets a Seat on the Board

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Tourists with local guides search for jaguars at the Mamiraua Sustainable Development Reserve in Brazil, May 19, 2016. (Bruno Kelly/Reuters)

The anthropomorphization of “nature” continues apace, this time with a corporation that sells beauty products called Faith in Nature naming “Nature” as a member of its board of directors.

From the announcement:

We’ve put our faith in Nature for almost 50 years, both in our products and in our ethos. But 2022 calls for a different approach than 1974. So we’ve re-written our constitution to give Nature a voice and a vote on how Faith In Nature is run.

By making Nature a director of our company, we hope to make better informed decisions around topics that impact it. And let’s face it, everything does. That’s why this matters.

We have faith in a future where Nature’s rights are represented, and respected, in every business. So we’re sharing our process in the hope that others will do the same.

In one sense, this is silly. What aspect of “Nature” will be a member of the board? The rainforests? The oceans? Deserts? Mosquitoes? Viruses? Rivers? Granite outcroppings? After all, a decision made about one aspect of nature might very well deleteriously impact a different one.

Not only that, but board members are fiduciaries of the business with their duties owed exclusively to the corporation and its stockholders –not any outside constituency they might want to represent. And what responsibility would nature have toward the corporation itself? That’s a nonsensical question, of course, because nature is not a conscious, moral entity.

In actuality, the appointed proxy will merely be representing his or her own ideology and worldview. I mean, there would surely be a difference between the priorities I would further as nature’s proxy on the board and those that might be advocated by, say, the hard leftwing environmentalist Bill McKibben. So, the board will merely decide the path it wishes to tread and appoint the proxy accordingly.

Still, this story is worth noticing as a further demonstration of the growing power of the “nature rights” movement that seeks to anthropomorphize nature, subvert human exceptionalism, and undermine free market capitalism. In this sense, Faith in Nature’s proselytizing for nature to be granted a seat on corporate boards is both profoundly misanthropic and — if followed by more consequential businesses — potentially threatening to human thriving.

Politics & Policy

Joe Biden Won’t Talk to the Governor of Florida with a Hurricane Coming

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Left: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at CPAC in 2021. Right: President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., April 28, 2022. (Joe Skipper, Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Picture the media reaction if a Republican president refused to talk to a Democratic governor who was facing a major hurricane. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. When Donald Trump was president, he called Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló about Hurricane Maria in 2017 and visited the island in October. But two years later, Rosselló blasted Trump for not visiting the island to discuss its recovery. NBC News blared: “Trump refuses meeting over hurricane relief, Puerto Rico governor says. Rosselló said the White House declined his requests to meet with the president directly without giving a reason.” Vanity Fair was harsher: ” Trump Blames Puerto Rico for Inconveniencing Him with Another Potential Hurricane.”

Now, with Florida under threat from Hurricane Ian, the director of FEMA has spoken with Florida governor Ron DeSantis but confirms that Joe Biden hasn’t — even though Biden has spoken to two Democratic mayors (as well as a Republican mayor who has done appearances with Charlie Crist, DeSantis’s Democratic opponent). Biden was planning to do an event of his own this week to help Crist’s campaign. As Business Insider notes, the silence is unusual: “Presidents and governors typically hold a phone call at a time of natural disasters so presidents can offer federal support and bipartisanship,” and Biden last year was willing to meet with DeSantis following the Surfside building collapse. So, this makes Biden look petty and small. Then again, perhaps this is really just an implicit concession that Biden isn’t up to the call or is incapable of being of assistance.

Law & the Courts

Ninth Circuit Rejects Gavin Newsom’s Effort to Send Migrant Detainees from California to Other States

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California Governor Gavin Newsom makes an appearance after the polls close on the recall election at the California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, Calif., September 14, 2021. (Fred Greaves/Reuters)

In 2019, California governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB32, a bill to prohibit anyone — including a contractor with the federal or state government — from running a privately operated prison or detention facility within the state of California. Newsom’s sales pitch aligned the bill with the progressive crusade against policing, imprisonment of criminals, enforcement of the criminal law, and enforcement of the immigration laws: “During my inaugural address, I vowed to end private prisons, because they contribute to over-incarceration, including those that incarcerate California inmates and those that detain immigrants and asylum seekers. These for-profit prisons do not reflect our values.”

In practice, AB 32 makes it impossible for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house immigrant detainees in California, at least without a dramatic overhaul to how ICE handles detention. All of ICE’s detention facilities are privately operated, and the agency has neither the staff nor the training to operate its own. There are valid reasons for this: among other things, the wide fluctuations in the number of people detained for immigration violations make it impractical to build permanent federal facilities. AB32 allows existing private contracts to continue until they expire, but because ICE has renewal options up in 2024, the law could be construed by California authorities to ban ICE’s facilities as early as the year of the next presidential election, when Newsom may be a candidate. If ICE did not overhaul its detention system, that would mean it had to expel the migrant detainees from California and dump them into facilities in other states — courtesy of Gavin Newsom.

ICE and its private contractors sued Newsom and California in federal court to block enforcement of the law, arguing that it was unconstitutional for the state to effectively dictate federal policy by prohibiting a contracting practice that Congress has explicitly authorized. After a Los Angeles district judge (a George W. Bush appointee) refused to issue the injunction, ICE appealed, and a divided panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in ICE’s favor. On Monday, an 11-judge Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, struck down AB32 as unconstitutional. As the court reminded Newsom, citing a line of cases dating back to McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), “the Supremacy Clause precludes states from dictating to the federal government who can perform federal work.” For example, the Supreme Court held more than a century ago, in Johnson v. Maryland (1920), that states cannot penalize postal workers from driving postal vehicles on duty without a state driver’s license; it has since applied the same rule to building contractors on federal projects. Even longer ago, in a case involving a former Chief Judge of the California Supreme Court who was gunned down by U.S. Marshals while assaulting a Supreme Court justice, the Court held that federal law enforcement officers cannot be criminally tried in state court for acting on duty.

The Supremacy Clause does not bar all state laws from applying to private contractors with the federal government, but the Ninth Circuit found that AB32 clearly crossed the line: “AB 32 would give California the power to control ICE’s immigration detention operations in the state by preventing ICE from hiring the personnel of its choice . . . AB 32 would breach the core promise of the Supremacy Clause.” Much as Newsom may prefer to think otherwise, California does not have the right to nullify federal immigration law or dictate terms to the rest of the country. Nor does it have the right or the power to ask its neighbors to house migrants detained by the federal government.

A note on en banc cases in the Ninth Circuit: in most federal Circuits, when litigants ask the whole Circuit to rehear a case decided by a three-judge panel, it is heard en banc by all the active judges who have not taken senior status. Because the Ninth Circuit is so large, with 29 active judges, it selects 11-judge panels rather than have en banc cases decided by all of them. In this case, the panel consisted of 6 Democratic appointees and 5 Republican appointees, out of a court with 16 Democratic and 13 Republican appointees. So, the en banc panel was slightly less tilted to Democratic appointees than the full court. The opinion striking down AB 32 was written by Judge Jacqueline Nguyen, an Obama appointee; Chief Judge Mary Murguia, another Obama appointee, dissented, joined by judges Johnnie Rawlinson (a Clinton appointee) and Jennifer Sung (a Biden appointee).

International

More Business Shifts from China to India as the Rift between the Countries Widens

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends a news conference in Berlin, Germany, May 2, 2022. (Michele Tantussi/Reuters)

The shift of international business away from an increasingly authoritarian and economically troubled China is continuing with Apple announcing it would move more iPhone manufacturing to India over the next few years.

The latest iPhone model will be manufactured in a Foxconn facility near Chennai for sale in the Indian market, TechCrunch reports. Apple had previously only assembled older models in India.

What is now only a measure to assemble for the Indian market is set to expand, however:

Analysts estimate that Apple will turn India into a global iPhone manufacturing hub by 2025 as it slowly cuts its reliance on China, where it has been producing the vast majority of its devices for over a decade. In a report earlier this month, JP Morgan analysts said Apple will move 5% of global iPhone 14 production to India by late 2022 and expand its manufacturing capacity in the country to produce 25% of all iPhones by 2025.

Walmart is also looking to increase the presence of Indian companies on its online marketplace in the U.S. and Canada, according to Mint, an Indian financial publication. Walmart hopes to have $10 billion per year in exports from India by 2027.

This comes as China and India are becoming increasingly adversarial in their diplomatic relationships. China recently blocked a U.S.-led effort at the U.N. to add Pakistani terrorist Sajid Mir to a global terror list. It is the third time China has blocked an effort to add Mir to the list. Mir planned the 2008 Mumbai attacks that claimed the lives of 166 victims. China’s move prompted the editorial board of the Economic Times, one of India’s top English-language newspapers, to call China a “protector of global terrorism,” and external-affairs minister S Jaishankar suggested in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly that China was “defending proclaimed terrorists.”

This came as Asian leaders met in Uzbekistan for a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit. China and India are both SCO members, and Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi were both in attendance, but they had no one-on-one meetings. It was only the most recent evidence of the split between China and India, argues Shi Jiangtao in the South China Morning Post. He traces the frosty relations to the border skirmishes in the Himalayas in 2020 that resulted in a few dozen deaths. Xi and Modi have not spoken since then, and he writes that at the summit, “There was no eye contact, smiles or handshake between the neighbouring countries’ leaders.”

Gautam Adani, the Indian billionaire who is the richest man in Asia, also made headlines saying that China will be increasingly isolated in the near future:

Speaking at a conference in Singapore on Tuesday, Adani said “increasing nationalism, supply chain risk mitigation, and technology restrictions,” as well as resistance to Beijing’s huge Belt and Road initiative, would impact China’s global role.

Asia’s richest man said that “housing and credit risks” in the world’s second largest economy were also “drawing comparisons with what happened to the Japanese economy during the ‘lost decade’ of the 1990s.”

Adani is close with the governing party in India, so his comments are especially interesting from a diplomatic point of view. For more on the troubles of the Belt and Road Initiative, see my post from yesterday about Lingling Wei’s article in the Wall Street Journal.

More businesses are realizing that China is not a trustworthy partner, and they are increasingly looking to India as a promising alternative. New Delhi seems to be encouraging the trend, and the Indian economy is projected to do quite well in the foreseeable future, especially relative to the rest of the developing world. To all who are concerned about China’s malign presence on the world stage, this is good news.

Taiwan Has Ruled Out Wet Market as Covid Origin, Official Says

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Customers select seafood at a wet market in Dandong, Liaoning Province, China, in 2017. (Philip Wen/Reuters)

Taipei — A senior Taiwanese public-health official said that the Covid-19 virus did not likely originate at the Wuhan wet market, indicating that his government has all but ruled out that explanation of the virus’s origins.

“Our speculation is we think the Wuhan Huanan wet market is not the origin,” said Lo Yi-Chun, the deputy director general of Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control. “It’s probably just a very important step in the transmission chain. The origin is somewhere else.”

Lo added that while the wet market is not where the virus began, its true origin is still inconclusive and that the WHO

Politics & Policy

Myths about the Myths about National Conservatives

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the National Conservative Conference in Miami, Fla., September 11, 2021. (National Conservatism/Screengrab via YouTube)

Earlier this month, I attended the third National Conservatism Conference in Miami, Fla., hosted by the Edmund Burke Foundation. Yesterday, joined by Reason senior editor Stephanie Slade, I went on the Acton Unwind podcast, hosted by Eric Kohn and Dan Hugger of the Acton Institute, to discuss what I saw at the conference. Listen below, or at this link, which also contains shownotes that list articles referenced in the episode.

On the podcast, I focused on a piece written by David Brog, president of the Edmund Burke Foundation. Published before the conference, the piece mentioned, then allegedly dispelled, some myths about national conservatives (or “NatCons”), such as: they are isolationists; they oppose free markets; and they are just Trumpists. The rejoinders offered: NatCons offer a corrective to failed interventionist foreign policy, and favor strengthening alliances, such as our relationship with Ukraine, instead; NatCons “revere” the free market but understand that the national interest is paramount; many NatCons supported Trump but have time for any politician who supports their agenda.

There are NatCons who more or less embody these beliefs. But, as I detail on the podcast, there is no universal agreement about these things. Some NatCons, such as Chris DeMuth, favor Ukraine’s cause because it affirms the inviolability of national sovereignty, but others believe that the U.S. has no real stake in the conflict. Though free markets got some credit at NatCon3, there were a lot of “big buts” in the remarks of some speakers, who would make sure to note their belief in markets before qualifying said belief in such a way as to render it tenuous. And while Donald Trump did not appear at NatCon3 and several other politicians, such as Florida governor Ron DeSantis, did, Trump was identified in many panels as the biggest threat to what speakers called “the regime.” At the same time, DeSantis himself, in his speech, criticized the advice given to him by the White House at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and was introduced, with enthusiastic applause, as a future president. So things are more complicated than one might think.

I elaborate on these thoughts in the podcast, which is also replete with insights from the others who participated.

Politics & Policy

Upgrades for DeSantis: Meloni’s Passion

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks after the primary election for the midterms during the “Keep Florida Free Tour” at Pepin’s Hospitality Center in Tampa, Fla., August 24, 2022. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

My view is that DeSantis has been, even since before Donald Trump left office, the leader of the opposition to progressive America. I think he has several qualities that make him better than alternative leaders. He has a nose for where the political fight is going, he follows through, his provocations are well-chosen, and he has plans for out-maneuvering the political blowback. Perhaps most importantly, he has no familial relationship to Jared Kushner, and 81,292,916 Americans did not vote against him in a recent election.

But, as DeSantis closes in on reelection for the Florida governorship, I can’t help but notice certain features, or upgrades, he needs if he wants to be a national figure. He needs an articulated position on America’s economic model if he wants to ever compete in the Rust Belt. And it can’t just be a nationalized version of Florida’s model.

DeSantis also needs passion on social issues, which was made obvious this week when every conservative I know was sharing clips from Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni’s 2019 address to the World Congress of Families:

At his very best, Trump could make an emotional connection with voters. When he talked ruefully about the wasted sacrifices of our military in the Middle East or the gruesome reality of abortion, he didn’t just say what his voters believed — he showed them that he felt something of what they feel. Rhetorically, DeSantis tends to obscure himself in these fights. It’s as if he’s just making a contract with his supporters: I’ll represent you fairly. He’ll tell audiences what he did to limit or buffer progressive insanity on trans issues, but he will stop short and say something like, “I don’t think there are very many parents in the state of Florida that think that’s okay.”

That’s true. But it’s not the truth. DeSantis needs to learn to lead from the front. We aren’t defending our right to privately and irrationally believe in the existence of men and women, as if this were a shameful thing conceded to us by the overly generous workings of American constitutionalism. We are fighting for the recognition of reality itself and defending it as a precious, beautiful gift. This points to deep truths about the goodness of creation itself. These truths pulse through you like blood, or they aren’t in you at all. Don’t outsource all the moral initiative to Florida parents. Use personal pronouns, and use them constantly: We hold these truths. Be more than a mere representative, be a champion. Don’t just make a contract with me, show that your honor is at stake, that your guts are ripped up about the state of this country, and that you can’t rest until you’ve exhausted yourself in the cause. Our system of government is for channeling great political passions, not preemptively extinguishing them outright.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Scottish Enlightenment

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Erik Matson of the Mercatus Center writes about the relationship between economics and theology:

In the West, economics is one of our dominant modes of discourse about prosperity. That has not always been the case. For much of history, prosperity and human welfare were discussed in terms of Christian theology. Despite their apparent contrast, however, there is an important relation between economics and theology. They are not so distant as one might think. An appreciation of their relation helps us better understand the history of economic thought. That understanding can also contribute to thinking about our own moral obligations and orientations in public policy.

The science of economics has no precise origin. But a major stream of economic thought came forth in 18th-century Britain. In the British tradition, economics or political economy flowed partly out of the study of natural theology — the study of God and the created order through reason and the senses, as opposed to special revelation. Economics was not then perceived as a science of cold, soulless calculation, as it is sometimes depicted today. Rather, the study of commerce was frequently understood as an exploration of the providential order with direct implications for ethics and public policy. The theological, ethical, and political dimensions of economics come forth particularly in the work of a line of 18th-century Scottish philosophers, including Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, and Adam Smith.

Read the whole thing here.

Culture

Re: Why Do People Move to Hot Places?

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Rich asks why people move to hot places, and then correctly suggests that it’s because such “places have many things to recommend them.” Indeed so. The impending hurricane is a downside, yes. But, most of the time, it’s great. I can wear a t-shirt pretty much every day. I can make outdoor plans months in advance. I can drive a golf cart to most of the places I need to go. I can swim all year round. And, above all, it’s so light outside.

My least favorite thing about my country of birth was the grey skies. In August, England can be unbeatable. But, for most of the rest of the year, it’s not only overcast and dull, the sky feels as if it’s twenty feet above your head. Sure, it rains in Florida — and when it does, it can feel as if the world’s ending. But an hour later, the skies are blue again, there’s light flooding in through the windows, and it’s probably time for a cocktail.

Music

Sea Change

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I jumped the gun by writing my remembrance timed to the 20th anniversary of its recording, but this was the week in 2002 when Beck released Sea Change, his epic breakup album. Think Nick Drake on Benzedrine. I wrote about the post-9/11 vibe shift it represented in the culture, and what it meant for me personally:

Sea Change reflected a change in life for me, from the halcyon days of my teenage years in the 1990s to something more rotten and uncertain in the new millennium. I put the album on my Rio Riot MP3 player and used a cassette adapter to play it in the 1992 Saturn SL2. I’d open up the sunroof, make a left turn and watch the water that had leaked into the car from that sunroof spray out of the side window. Driving up and down the Taconic State Parkway late at night during an Indian summer, I would simply luxuriate in its melancholy and sadness. Lonesomeness at the right age can feel like its own adventure.

I remember the way my heart leapt when a beautiful young woman called out the bass line in “Paper Tiger” to me.

I tend to believe, and some data from Spotify seem to confirm, that rock and pop albums can imprint themselves in a peculiarly strong way on listeners who are roughly between the ages of 12 and 24. Sea Change was the last album that mattered to me in this way, and the last one that could.

Politics & Policy

Is There Any Way Out of the Student-Loan Fiasco?

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Biden has decreed that student-loan debtors won’t have to repay most of what they owe. A very bad, lawless move, but we’ve come to expect that from Biden.

As Professor Bryan Caplan points out in this post, however, most student debtors haven’t been paying anything on their balances for quite a while (thanks to the Covid “emergency” moratorium) and are unlikely to start paying again even if the moratorium should be lifted. His argument is that there will be safety in large numbers: So many of the student debtors will not resume paying that the government will choose to let everyone slide.

Caplan is probably right. This is how the Left will get its wish for “free college.”

What should be done? I like his radical thinking: Get the government out of student lending. “First and foremost” he writes, “this is a perfect time to end government-supported student loans forever. To say, ‘We thought we could avoid the slippery slope from subsidized loans to free college for all. We were utterly wrong, so we’re killing the program.’ At minimum, this is a great time to drastically raise the interest rate to compensate taxpayers for much higher repayment risk going forward.”

Yes. Government lending for college is one of the greatest blunders the United States has ever made, right alongside Social Security, the federal income tax, and fiat money. We ought to end government lending for college. In fact, we ought to end government lending for everything.

World

The People-Hunters

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A volunteer places a cross with a number at the grave of an unidentified person, killed by Russian troops, during a mass-burial ceremony in Bucha, Kyiv Region, Ukraine, August 17, 2022. (Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters)

From RFE/RL (standing for “Radio Free Europe” and “Radio Liberty”):

A Ukrainian man in the liberated city of Izyum said 62 people hid in a basement used as a bomb shelter during World War II. A woman said that for much of the occupation, people stayed hidden underground as Russian troops went door-to-door with lists of people they were hunting.

(Go here.)

You can imagine the terror in Ukraine — or we can try to.

• “Izyum” should be a name, like “Bucha” and “Mariupol,” that evokes horror, long into the future. Even today, the name “Lidice” sends a shiver down some spines.

The discovery of a mass burial site and evidence of torture in Izyum days after the city was retaken from Russian forces during Ukraine’s successful offensive in early September shocked Ukrainians and the international community.

Article here.

Said an official, “Some bodies have ropes on the necks, tied hands, broken limbs, and burn wounds. Several men had their genitals cut off.”

Many years ago, Elie Kedourie, the great Baghdad-born scholar, had some advice for David Pryce-Jones: “Keep your eye on the corpses.” This will tell you a lot, about a given situation.

• You have heard that Russian forces are staging “referenda” in Ukrainian cities and towns. On Twitter, Oleksandra Matviichuk circulates a video and says,

Try to imagine yourself in the place of these people. Their cities were occupied by a foreign army and now people with guns come to their apartments and demand to vote for joining Russia.

A key phrase: “try to imagine.”

• Last year, Dmitry Muratov won the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Maria Ressa, of the Philippines. They are both exceptionally brave journalists. Muratov, a Russian, is the editor of Novaya Gazeta. Six of his colleagues have been murdered.

“Ukraine will never forgive Russia,” said Muratov, according to this Reuters report.

Muratov said that modern technology had brought the horrors of the war home to people . . .

“You many want to forgive everything, but you click in the search engine: Mariupol, Irpin or Bucha. And you can’t forgive a goddamn thing anymore,” Muratov said. “Every step of this war, every crime and every shot, every torn scrotum will now remain forever.”

Some more:

Muratov said he has no intention of leaving Russia.

“We have 82 people staying here and naturally I am staying with them. And we are going to work here,” Muratov said, referring to the newspaper’s employees.

“We will work here until the cold gun barrel touches our hot foreheads.”

Can you imagine? What a contrast, between Muratov and his colleagues, and those who type in the Free West, cheering or making excuses for the Kremlin.

• From Matthew Luxmoore, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal:

Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, said in his Sunday sermon that Russian soldiers who die in Ukraine will be absolved of all sins, and compared them to Jesus Christ sacrificing himself for others.

(Go here.)

I think of a phrase: “spiritual wickedness in high places.”

• Here is something to know — from Jake Cordell, a reporter for Reuters in Russia:

Fight breaks out in the city of Omsk among men who’ve been drafted and local police forcing them onto buses. Draftees called on the police to come die with them in the trenches.

(Go here.)

Moving.

• And this, from Luxmoore:

Spoke to a Russian reservist who fled to Kazakhstan this weekend. He spoke of enormous lines, and said the Russian train he took to the border was packed with young Russian men. “I can tell you honestly those leaving are decent men, smart, educated, leaving wives and kids behind.”

• The partnership between Putin and Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus, is important. As RFE/RL notes, “Lukashenko has allowed Putin to use Belarusian territory to stage attacks on Ukraine since the Kremlin launched its invasion on February 24.”

• From the Associated Press:

Russia on Monday granted citizenship to former American intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who fled prosecution after he revealed highly classified U.S. surveillance programs to capture communications and data from around the world.

(Article here.)

Can you think of other Americans who, in a sense, have earned Russian citizenship? Or, more specifically, have earned Putin’s favor?

• Dan Bishop is a Republican congressman from North Carolina. A tweet from him yesterday summed up a mindset:

$12 billion for Ukraine’s border, while our own border is wide open. The definition of America Last.

Ukraine is struggling to hold on to its nationhood, its independence, its right to exist. Ukrainians are struggling for their very lives. A dictator, once more, is trying to redraw European borders by force. This has implications for all of us.

And note the congressman’s words: “for Ukraine’s border.” That’s all: “for Ukraine’s border.” Note, too, “America Last.” That phrase, that notion, seems to be making the rounds.

Earlier this year, Heritage Action put out a press release headed “Ukraine Aid Package Puts America Last.”

This is the spirit of America First — or America asinine. Will this mentality win out, in the end? If so, America will be much the worse for it, and so will others, if they matter.

World

Who Will Rid Me of This Meddlesome Pipeline?

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

Sometimes it takes a little while, but the Corner gets results, even in matters of geopolitical energy. Way back in February 22, under the headline, “Nice New Pipeline You’ve Got There. Shame If Something Happened to It,” I wrote of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline:

Still, halting the certification process is a temporary stop; the pipeline is still there, constructed, waiting to be used. It is not difficult to envision a scenario where the German government finds some excuse to reopen the certification process and start using the pipeline, after issuing the appropriate pro forma objections to Putin’s actions. Up until very recently, the German government didn’t seem all that troubled by the thought of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. And as Elliott Abrams laid out, the two most recent German chancellors, Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel put a lot of political capital into the Nord Stream 2 project.

Of course, if something happened to make the Nord Stream 2 pipeline unusable, it is a different story. Hey, what is Andreas Malm doing these days? Where are those eco-radicals when we really need them?

Who will rid me of this meddlesome pipeline? Sounds like someone listened!

Europe was racing on Tuesday to investigate possible sabotage behind sudden and unexplained leaks in two Russian gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea, infrastructure at the heart of an energy crisis since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the leaks were caused by sabotage, while Denmark’s prime minister and Russia, which slashed its gas deliveries to Europe after Western sanctions, said it could not be ruled out. But who might be behind any foul play, if proven, and a motive were far from clear.

Sweden’s Maritime Authority issued a warning about two leaks in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, the day after a leak on the nearby Nord Stream 2 pipeline was discovered that prompted Denmark to restrict shipping and impose a small no fly zone. . . .

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said sabotage could not be ruled out. “We are talking about three leaks with some distance between them, and that’s why it is hard to imagine that it is a coincidence,” she said.

A second European source, when asked if there was specific intelligence indicating sabotage, said: “Not specific yet, but it seems this pressure failure can only happen when a pipe is completely cut. Which pretty much says it all.”

Three leaks in two days? Wow, that’s a shame! Sounds like the pipeline’s falling apart and just won’t be a reliable way to get natural gas from Russia to Germany. I guess hopes of Germany and Russia eventually putting aside their differences over the invasion of Ukraine and reestablishing long-term German dependence on Russian energy just won’t happen for the foreseeable future. Just terrible luck for Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, who clearly thought a cold winter with limited energy supplies would make Germany and other European countries come crawling back to the negotiating table.

Just about anyone could have cut the pipeline, but whoever it was, they wanted to make sure the Nord Stream pipelines would not be an option for a long time.

The First Lawsuit Is Filed against Joe Biden’s Illegal Student-Loan Move

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President Joe Biden speaks to media before boarding Air Force One as he departs for Washington from New Castle, Del., September 11, 2022. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

This morning, the Pacific Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit against President Biden’s illegal student-loan executive order. The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The core of the complaint is that

the administration has created new problems for borrowers in at least six states that tax loan cancellation as income. People like Plaintiff Frank Garrison will actually be worse off because of the cancellation. Indeed, Mr. Garrison will face immediate tax liability from the state of Indiana because of the automatic cancellation of a portion of his debt. These taxes would not be

Law & the Courts

Is Hitting Democrats on Crime Racist?

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I wrote today on the home page about the perennial effort to rule crime out of bounds as an issue.

 

U.S.

Why Do People Move to Hot Places?

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Axios has an item on how “9 of the 10 fastest-growing U.S. major metro areas are getting significantly hotter — and many face danger from other natural disasters.”

We’re talking places such as Las Vegas, Nev.; Raleigh, N.C.; Austin; Boise, Idaho; and Fort Myers, Fla.

It continues:

  • Why it matters: This accelerating trend will strain cities’ water supplies and power grids, and put lots of Americans at risk of heat-related health crises, Axios’ Alex Fitzpatrick and Erin Davis report.

We defined “very hot” days as those with a high temperature in the top 5% ever recorded for that particular city.

  • Las Vegas, Austin and Raleigh grew the fastest in “very hot” days between 1991-2020, with increases of 115%, 553% and 59%, respectively

And then it adds:

Americans are flocking to cities with a high risk of inhospitable conditions.

  • In Florida, populations are booming up and down the state’s coasts, where hurricanes (including this week’s fearsome Ian) are an annual threat. Miami already struggles to keep up with rising floodwaters.

  • Houston has perennial hurricane danger.

  • Southern California faces growing threats from wildfires

So why would Americans be doing this? Perhaps because these places have many things to recommend them, and people figure, reasonably enough, that mitigation measures such as air conditioning are available to make any increased heat manageable, and that the risk of being directly affected by any given natural disaster is very, very low.

Science & Tech

We Don’t Live in an Era of Technological Stagnation, Cont.

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Charlie and I have talked a lot about this, but the notion that we live in an era of technological stagnation is shown to be absurdly false nearly every day.

The latest via the New York Times:

It’s the plot point for more than one Hollywood blockbuster: A rogue asteroid is hurtling toward Earth, threatening tsunamis, mass destruction and the death of every human being on the planet.

Humanity has one shot to save itself with brave, self-sacrificing heroes piloting a spacecraft into the cosmos to destroy the asteroid.

But that’s the movies. On Monday evening, NASA showed what the reality would be like.

There was an asteroid, but it wasn’t threatening the Earth. And there was a spacecraft, relying solely on sophisticated technology. The human heroes of the mission were actually at a physics and engineering lab between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

And there was a collision. In this case it was the final act of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, a spacecraft that launched in November and then raced around the sun for 10 months as it pursued its target — a small space rock, Dimorphos, seven million miles from Earth.

Politics & Policy

Time for Liz Truss to Zero Out Her Net-Zero Adviser

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Chris Skidmore outside Downing Street in London, England, in 2019. (Hannah Mckay/Reuters)

The U.K. is having a rough time of it at the moment. The pound hit record lows today (although sterling has bounced back a bit as I write), partly as an adverse reaction to a (mini) budget intended to be part of a series of badly needed supply-side reforms long neglected by the Tories. The panicked reaction ought, over time, to go into reverse, so long, that is, as the Conservatives move beyond tax cuts to broader deregulatory reform. To do that, the new prime minister, Liz Truss, will have, at the very least, to reset Britain’s net-zero (greenhouse-gas) targets in a fashion that renders them compatible with growth, prosperity, and a modern economy. And in calculating how that compatibility will be achieved, Johnsonian delusions of a green-jobs bonanza should be treated as the nonsense they always were.

The U.K. needs to develop an energy supply system that is no longer so unhealthily dependent on either the vagaries of the weather (the sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow) or the whims of unreliable authoritarian regimes. The long-term answer will have to be based on an expansion of nuclear energy. The shorter-term answers include expansion of domestic natural-gas production, including fracking. The extent of the U.K.’s potential fracking reserves is disputed, to put it mildly. They may well amount to not very much, but it would be irresponsible, in the current environment, not to see what can be developed.

However (via The Daily Telegraph):

Liz Truss’s net zero adviser has risked a clash with Liz Truss after he warned fracking will be a “non-starter”.

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore said he thought the practice was “not an opportunity for Britain” compared to emerging renewable technologies.

His comments appear at odds with the Prime Minister and her Government, who have talked up the prospects of fracking as it lifts the ban on the practice as part of a rush to shore up domestic supplies of energy.

Fracking, which involves blasting sand and water underground to release gas trapped between rocks, was in its infancy in the UK when it was banned in 2019 due to concerns about earthquake risk.

Lifting the ban last week, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the business secretary, said the UK needed to “explore all avenues available” to boost energy security.

“It’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realise any potential sources of domestic gas,” he added.

Mr Skidmore has been appointed by Ms Truss to lead a review into how to meet the UK’s legally binding target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

He said he did not plan to look at fracking in the review as it was “not an opportunity for Britain”.

He added: “I want to be looking at how we can focus on all these technologies that are going to deliver enormous growth.

The fact that Skidmore, a climate fundamentalist, was appointed to this job by Truss was, to say the least, dispiriting, and the fact that Skidmore is still peddling that ol’ green snake oil is embarrassing. Technologies! Enormous growth!

None of this is to say that money should not be invested on developing new technologies, or complementary technologies that can increase the usefulness of renewables, but hope is not going to power Britain away from the mess that greenery has made of its energy policy.

The Daily Telegraph:

Mr Skidmore’s net zero review was officially launched on Monday and will look at how the goal can be reached while delivering economic growth, energy security, and minimising costs.

Good luck with that.

Mr Skidmore, a former energy minister who supports the next zero target, said: “I don’t want net zero to be seen as something that’s done to people, that’s been sort of forced on people.

Sort of?

Given the coercion that comes with net zero, banning this, and forcing the installation of that, this may be an uphill struggle.

Time for Skidmore to go, I think.

 

Is Putin Calling the Shots in Ukraine?

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference following the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 16, 2022. (Sputnik/Sergey Bobylev/Pool via Reuters)

Over the weekend, I mulled over this report from the New York Times, which suggests that Vladimir Putin is involving himself in the gritty details of the Ukraine campaign and giving specific directions to his generals.

American officials briefed on highly sensitive intelligence said that behind the scenes Mr. Putin is taking on an even deeper role in the war, including telling commanders that strategic decisions in the field are his to make. Although Mr. Putin has accepted some recommendations from military commanders, including the mobilization of civilians, his involvement has created tensions, American officials said.

CNN’s Katie Bo Lillis reported a

International

The Belt and Road Initiative Runs into Trouble

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A worker stands at the construction site of East Coast Rail Link, a Chinese-invested railway project part of the Beijing Belt and Road Initiative in Bentong, Malaysia, January 13, 2022. (Hasnoor Hussain/Reuters)

Lingling Wei, chief China correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, has written a remarkable piece on the troubles now facing China’s vaunted Belt and Road Initiative.

The BRI was hailed by many as a new form of economic statecraft that the U.S. needed to contend with. China was supposed to have taken the lead in influencing the developing world, and it was winning more countries into its sphere of influence through BRI lending and infrastructure projects.

Now, China has $1 trillion sunk into BRI projects, and rising interest rates around the world mean a bunch of them could go bust.

How did China get here? Wei explains:

The program’s roots date back a little over a decade, when China saw an opportunity for its state-owned financial institutions to extend their reach and earn better returns on their cash holdings through investments overseas.

Authorities encouraged lenders to finance projects like mines and railways to enable developing countries with natural resources to better supply China’s market, and to create jobs for Chinese contractors.

After taking power in 2012, Mr. Xi expanded those efforts and promoted the initiative as part of his plan to expand China’s influence and build markets for Chinese goods.

In 2015, when a stock-market collapse in China damped domestic demand, Beijing used the initiative to export products in oversupply at home, like steel and textiles. The Export-Import Bank of China and China Development Bank often required countries that benefited from their financing to source from Chinese suppliers.

Unsurprisingly to anyone even slightly familiar with public-choice economics, politically motivated investment decisions did not turn out to be financially sound. And these weren’t just a few missteps. There were a cumulative $1 trillion of loans made to about 150 countries over a decade as part of the BRI, and 60 percent of those loans are now held by countries in financial distress, Wei writes.

The real tell that Beijing knows it’s in trouble is that it has changed the propaganda messaging around the BRI. Wei writes:

Beijing has also dialed down its rhetoric in state media. While it used to tout the economic benefits of Chinese lending for recipient countries, it now emphasizes managing risks and improving international cooperation, said Weifeng Zhong, a senior research fellow who tracks Chinese government propaganda at the free-market think tank Mercatus Center at George Mason University. “China is attempting a course correction,” Mr. Zhong said.

On the financial side, Chinese bankers have resorted to “extending and pretending,” which means extending the maturity of loans rather than restructuring them or accepting some losses. But that’s not going to work as current global economic conditions wreck emerging markets. China’s outsize exposure to developing-world debt is one of many economic troubles the country’s government-directed economy is facing.

What’s the CCP’s plan to overcome the foreign-debt problems of the Belt and Road Initiative? Belt and Road 2.0. “After nearly a decade of pressing Chinese banks to be generous with loans, Chinese policy makers are discussing a more conservative program, dubbed Belt and Road 2.0 in internal discussions, that would more rigorously evaluate new projects for financing, the people involved said,” Wei writes.

They can’t totally jettison the project because it would upset the paramount leader:

A full retreat on Belt and Road is unlikely. Mr. Xi, who is seeking to extend his rule for a third term at a Communist Party conclave next month, continues to believe it has an important role to play in promoting China’s role on the world stage, according to the people involved in policy-making and readouts of recent speeches he has made.

The inability of regimes to adapt is one of the biggest opportunities for government failure in authoritarian systems. As the market reforms of previous Chinese leaders continue to be undone, and the cult of personality around Xi Jinping intensifies, expect more errors and mismanagement. And remember that even in a country with a government immune from private-interest-group pressure, government-directed investment undertaken in the “national interest” is not a path to success.

Religion

‘American Catholics for the American Founding’

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Samuel Gregg, distinguished fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research (and National Review contributor), comments on a new initiative (of which I am a part) on American Catholicism in public life by urging “orthodox Catholics to look past the misrepresentations of the American founding being peddled by integralists and their fellow travelers to rediscover just how much the core ideas that defined the American republic echo truths long taught by the Catholic Church.”

Read his letter in the Wall Street Journal here.

Culture

Who Cares about James Bond’s ‘Inner Life’?

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Sean Connery as James Bond in Goldfinger, 1964 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios/IMDb)

The 60th anniversary of James Bond will be celebrated next month. And the movie franchise’s current producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, spoke to Variety about their vision for the next actor they cast in the role.

Both Wilson and Broccoli, who is a director of the U.K. chapter of women’s advocacy org Time’s Up, have left their mark on Bond, particularly in humanizing the once-womanizing spy and ensuring more fulfilling, meatier roles for the female stars of the franchise. These are qualities that will continue in the next films, says Broccoli.

The producers think that Daniel Craig “cracked Bond open emotionally” and brought audiences into the character’s “inner life.” Ian Fleming, who wrote the Bond stories, sometimes tried to lend the character some depth. For instance, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond falls in love with a woman, Tracy, but no sooner are they married than she is shot dead by Bond’s nemesis. And it’s just as well, really, since Bond isn’t exactly husband material. He’s basically a highly functioning sociopath whose ruthlessness proves useful to the British secret service.

The James Bond movies are entertaining not because of the protagonist’s “inner life,” but for the much more superficial reason that they are action movies. Bond kills “bad guys” (or at least, guys worse than him), seduces beautiful women, and drives fast and fancy cars. All this is entertaining — a cheap thrill that can be enjoyed as such without silly pretensions. Looking for moral depth in a James Bond movie is like trying to find a lanternfish in a rock pool.

Broccoli says that “Bond is evolving just as men are evolving. I don’t know who’s evolving at a faster pace.” What does this even mean?  The only thing that’s changed is Hollywood fashions.

Politics & Policy

Re: On Heartbeats in the Womb, Conservatives Are with Normal People

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( strelov/Getty Images)

Dan points out that the “fig-leaf distinction” upon which Stacey Abrams’s peculiar comments about fetal heartbeats rests is not one that is observed by “normal people” — or even by Planned Parenthood. Whatever differences might exist between the heart at six weeks and the heart at ten weeks, Dan notes, are not recognized by “most human beings” when “they are not trying to stay ideologically on-message.”

This is true, of course. And it raises an important question: Why does Stacey Abrams care in the first place?

When my two children were in utero, I didn’t care about the fine distinctions between their hearts at six weeks and their hearts at 20 weeks, because at neither of those junctures — or at any juncture, for that matter — was I interested in killing them. My view then, as now, was that my unborn children were alive, that they were worthy of my protection, and that, if they were left alone, they’d soon come join me in the outside world. Six weeks? Twelve weeks? Twenty weeks? All the same to me.

Some states care about the six week point, because they have used it as a marker after which abortion should be illegal. Crudely put, the view of these states — irrespective of whether that view represents a standalone moral case or a concession to public opinion — is that abortion is acceptable before the heart starts beating, but unacceptable afterwards, and that, as the heart starts beating at six weeks, the cut-off should be set there. In this context, the nature of the heartbeat does, indeed, matter. If, as Stacey Abrams claims, the sounds that parents are hearing at their six-week appointments is fake, then it doesn’t make sense to set “heartbeat”laws at six weeks. If what those parents are hearing is real, those laws make sense on their own terms.

But here’s the thing: Stacey Abrams doesn’t believe in any limits on abortion. During an interview with the Atlanta-Journal Constitution in May, Abrams said that she did not support any legal limits on abortion. “My support of abortion is grounded in the belief that this is not the role of our government, it is not the role of lawmakers,” Abrams said. “It is the responsibility of women and their doctors, women and their families, women and whomever they choose to bring into the conversation, but it is not the conversation for government to be having.”

So why does it matter to her when the heartbeat starts?

I’ll share my theory: Because the existence of a heartbeat is pretty inconvenient if your aim is to smother the question in euphemisms. Advocates of legal abortion love euphemisms: “pro-choice,” “reproductive justice,” “between a woman and her doctor.” They love detached phrases, too: “pre-viability,” “medical procedure,” “meaningless clump of cells.” As George Orwell noted, “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” But a heartbeat — the boom, boom, boom of a living person’s body — makes all that pretty difficult. “You want to kill that?” the euphemizer can be asked. And, when they are asked that, they have only a handful of options: To literally run away, to say “yes, actually,” or to insist that the “that” in the question isn’t actually a “that” after all. Abrams couldn’t choose the first two, so she picked the lattermost course. It was bad — but it beat the other two avenues hands down.

National Security & Defense

Edward Snowden’s New Russian Citizenship Proves Again He Is a Traitor

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Edward Snowden appears live via video during a student organized world affairs conference at the Upper Canada College private high school in Toronto, Canada, February 2, 2015. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Today, Russian president Vladimir Putin granted Russian citizenship to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who has been living in Russia since 2013 after he stole 1.5 million classified documents and leaked thousands of them to the media. Putin obviously made this move to thumb his nose at the United States in response to his growing isolation and the massive losses his military has suffered in the war in Ukraine.

Some Americans view Edward Snowden as a whistleblower and a hero because he leaked classified documents on the controversial NSA metadata program, which caused a public uproar.

However, the House Intelligence Committee disproved such claims and explained why Snowden is a traitor and a fraud in a rare bipartisan report in 2016. The report contained five stunning findings:

  • Snowden caused tremendous damage to U.S. national security;
  • Snowden was not a whistleblower;
  • Snowden was a poor performer and a disgruntled employee;
  • Snowden was and remains a serial exaggerator and fabricator; and
  • The NSA and other U.S. intelligence agencies have not done enough to prevent another massive unauthorized disclosure.

You can read about these findings in an article I wrote for National Review in 2016.

The unclassified portion of the House Intelligence Committee report was silent on the issue of whether Snowden was recruited by a foreign intelligence service. As I explained in my 2016 article, several other former CIA officers and I have long believed this. Putin’s decision to grant Snowden Russian citizenship – almost certainly at Snowden’s request – probably confirms our belief.

Let’s hope a future Russian government quickly deports Edward Snowden to the United States so he can stand trial for the damage he did to our national security.

Immigration

The Border Crisis and Low-Energy Republicans

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Asylum seeking migrants, mostly from Venezuela and Cuba, wait to be transported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents after crossing the Rio Grande River from Mexico into the U.S. at Eagle Pass, Texas, July 14, 2022. (Go Nakamura/Reuters)

Border security/ illegal immigration polls as one of voters’ top concerns along with inflation, crime, abortion, and the economy in general. GOP governors such as Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott are doing what they can to address the problem, but since border security is fundamentally a federal matter, their powers in this regard remain limited. The GOP minorities in the House and Senate also are limited in addressing the problem — constrained primarily to highlighting the problem and proposing alternate policy prescriptions. Nonetheless, given the scale of the debacle, congressional Republicans — with a few exceptions — have been far less vocal and energetic than the circumstances would predict. Consider:

  • More than 2 million illegal aliens have crossed the border this fiscal year; an estimated 3.5 million have crossed since President Biden took office. Historically, an invasion of this magnitude usually is a consequence of losing a war.
  • Among those who crossed in the last year were 78 terror suspects caught by  Border Patrol. Given that terror suspects have a unique interest in avoiding detection and apprehension, the true figure is much higher. In contrast, DHS reports that between 2017 and 2020 a total of eleven terror suspects were caught  crossing the southern border.
  • DEA seized 15,000 pounds of fentanyl at the border in the last fiscal year. That’s four times the amount seized in 2017. The CDC reports that last year there were a record 70,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. from opioids such as fentanyl.
  • Mark Krikorian calculates the cost to the American taxpayer of the increase in illegal immigration under the Biden administration at $100 billion. This includes costs associated with overwhelmed school systems, swamped benefit programs, and stressed infrastructure.
  • Illegal immigrants also are displacing Americans in the low-skilled labor markets. A hearing before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights more than a decade ago — when the scale of the problem was significantly smaller — showed that approximately 1 million black workers had been displaced by illegal immigrants, a cohort less likely to complain to OSHA, the EEOC, or the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor.

Over the last two decades, congressional Republicans — again, with a few notable exceptions — have been flaccid defenders of the southern border. Unfortunately, the consequences of their fecklessness are far graver than mere electoral underperformance.

Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Unwillingness to Deviate from Their Pre-2020 Agenda

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President Biden gives a thumbs up as he boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Md., August 10, 2022. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Bloomberg’s Joe Weisenthal notes that economic policy-makers have a willingness to accept economic pain that is not paralleled by a willingness to accept political pain.

Economic policymakers frequently talk about the necessity of “pain” or perhaps “medicine” — biophysical metaphors that imply some kind of initial discomfort in order to get to a place of health. That’s the story in the US with the rate hikes. Yes the expectation is that some people will lose their jobs in the fight against inflation, but Fed officials say it’s necessary to bring about price stability, and ultimately help restore growth and balance.

That being said, there’s another kind of pain that gets less attention, but which may be more relevant when thinking about how crises come to an end.

That’s the pain or discomfort of policymakers when they’re forced to do something genuinely unappealing to them. So for example during the Great Financial Crisis, TARP was a crucial moment. But politicians hate voting to bail out banks. In the euro area crisis, a crucial moment was when Mario Draghi created an implicit sovereign debt for all euro nations. This type of debt backstop was seen as a true political red line that couldn’t be crossed, and yet Draghi was eventually forced to do it.

There’s a similar factor at work in domestic politics: Every time something is going wrong for the Biden administration or congressional Democrats, it’s a sign that we need what they’ve wanted to do for a long time even more. Circumstances never seem to require Democrats to trim their sails; every twist and turn in the nation’s life, particularly in terms of economics, just further reinforces why they must get their way.

High inflation, which we insisted was transitory, just won’t go away? That’s just more evidence that we need another big-spending bill, renamed the “Inflation Reduction Act.”

Record-high gasoline prices? That’s why we need more wind farms, tax benefits for solar panels, and electric-vehicle mandates!

The Iranian regime is getting even more aggressive, targeting American citizens on American soil? That’s why we need to try even harder to restore the Iranian nuclear deal!

The pandemic is over? That’s why we need to give student-loan recipients $10,000 in debt forgiveness!

There’s no sequence of events that can spur Biden or his allies to say, “well, we would have liked to enact policy X, but based on the course of events, this clearly isn’t the right time.” When the news is good, it means it is time to enact the rest of their agenda. When the news is bad, it means it is time to enact the rest of their agenda.

American Liberals Can’t Help Themselves in Talking about Giorgia Meloni

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Leader of Brothers of Italy Giorgia Meloni poses with her ballot at a polling station during the snap election in Rome, Italy, September 25, 2022. (Yara Nardi/Reuters)

Newly elected Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni will be the first woman to lead Italy, a fact that is producing far less than the usual “girl power” cheers. That relative quiet is undoubtedly due to the fact that Italy now joins Great Britain (Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May, Liz Truss) and Germany (Angela Merkel) in having chosen female heads of the elected government only from parties of the center-Right or Right. Meloni is undeniably a figure of the social Right.

Is she a conservative? Is she a fascist or fascist-adjacent? It is always tricky to try to put the European Right on

Politics & Policy

The Martha’s Vineyard Migrant Meltdown

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We (and by “we,” I mean the Gen Z contingent at NR) are pleased to announce the launch of our first episode of “Happy Warriors,” an online show featuring the younger cast members of the editorial team and dedicated to the latest developments and dramas in politics and culture.

In the pilot, the panel tackles the ongoing debate over migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard.

Culture

On Heartbeats in the Womb, Conservatives Are with Normal People

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams speaks in Columbus, Ga., August 27, 2022. (Megan Varner/Reuters)

Much as with “Latinx,” the progressive position on the heartbeat of the unborn is deeply out of step with how most human beings discuss the question when they are not trying to stay ideologically on-message. Paige Winfield Cunningham of the Washington Post acknowledges this basic reality in a “news analysis” of the flap over Stacey Abrams’s describing the heartbeat in the womb as “a manufactured sound designed to convince people that men have the right to take control of a woman’s body.” As Cunningham notes, while “medical professionals note a distinction between the sound heard early in pregnancy compared with later further development of the heart” — a fig-leaf distinction seized upon by WaPo “fact checker” Glenn Kessler — that is not how normal people talk:

For women going through pregnancy, that’s not the message they get on popular pregnancy websites or even in their own doctor’s office. It’s common for OB/GYNs to check for a “heartbeat” on the first prenatal visit — and for women to experience an immense feeling of relief when a fluttering sound is heard. Consider this language from leading pregnancy websites describing embryonic development at six weeks:

  • TheBump.com: “Baby’s heart is typically beating away by six weeks.”
  • Whattoexpect.com: “Your baby’s heart has started to beat sometime between week 5 and now.”
  • BabyCenter.com: “Your baby’s heart isn’t fully developed, but cells in the heart tube have started beating fast, around 160 times a minute. You may hear the sound this week if you have an early ultrasound.”
  • Johns Hopkins places it even earlier, saying on its website that “the heart is beating” by the end of four weeks.
Government-backed websites in other countries also refer to a heartbeat by six weeks:
  • The U.K.’s National Health Service: “The heart can sometimes be seen beating on a vaginal ultrasound scan at this stage.”

  • Pregnancy, Birth and Baby, a website backed by the Australian government: “If you have an ultrasound in the sixth week, you may be able to see the baby’s heart beating.”

  • Public Health Agency of Canada: “The tissues that will form the heart begin to beat. The heartbeat can be detected with ultrasound at around 6 weeks of pregnancy.”

Cunningham cites the work of our own indefatigable John McCormack in pointing out that even Planned Parenthood acknowledged “a very basic beating heart” in an unborn child until it edited its website within the last several weeks to keep up with Democrats’ current talking points (a pattern of Orwellian rewriting that has become all too common on matters of leftist social orthodoxies).

The challenge for pro-lifers in dealing with the very earliest stages of pregnancy is passing what I call “the eyeball test” — the moral intuition of ordinary citizens, often formed without the sort of philosophical rigor we demand from opinion writers or jurists. But the reality is, just about any pregnant woman and anyone around her — including her doctors and nurses — talks and acts as if she is carrying a human child. Only when we turn to political and legal rhetoric in favor of abortion is that reality suspended. In the long run, I’d rather be on the side of reality.

Woke Culture

Maybe This Bathroom Business Stalls Out After All

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(Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Saturday was a beautiful day for an outdoor dance performance. The venue was a high-brow dance and cultural center that sits at the bucolic edge of a college town. It’s an area known for weekenders and second-home-owners from New York City.

Before the show, inside the center’s main building, a different sort of dance was taking place. If you went looking for the restrooms, you found yourself in a hallway facing two blank doors. Or rather, doors from which indicators had been removed — each had a small rectangular area of paler wood where (presumably) “Men” and “Women” signs had once been posted. Which to choose?

A white-haired lady in flowing linen and a chunky necklace was standing near me and similarly hesitant. “Well, let’s try one,” she said. She pushed open one of the doors, and I followed — only to see a stall and a urinal. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I don’t want to come out of the stall and see a man doing his business.” I seconded that, and we turned around and went over to the other door.

Inside, we found only women, and only stalls. My new partner in crime said something to the effect of, “Phew, this is better.” One of the other women, who had clearly had a similar adventure, said to us, “I just feel more comfortable going to the bathroom only with women.”

As I exited the shadow ladies’ room, one of the ladies said to me, with a gentle eye roll, “I guess we’re all the same.” I replied, “Whatever happened to ‘Celebrate difference’?”

Just then a trim middle-aged man was approaching the mystery doors and looked at us questioningly. “They don’t want us to know,” I told him. He said, with a touch of weariness, “Oh, they want us to be progressive.” I pointed him to the proper door.

Now, I’d bet my last dollar that this gentleman was a progressive. Just like the ladies I’d spoken to, and probably 98 percent of the audience that afternoon. These little passing encounters at the restrooms left me with a startled sense of things: People don’t like this bathroom business — even people who are surely left of center and more likely to buy into fashionable wokeness.

By now we’ve all been to restaurants with a pair of single-use bathrooms, with twee signs saying “Both” or “Either” or “M/W” with the letters designed to emphasize that one is the other upside down. Fine — it’s one at a time. But where it’s not single use, what if you have, say, a ten-year-old daughter, a girl old enough to go to the restroom on her own, so you send her off, only to find out she’d picked a door and stumbled upon a man, a stranger, at a urinal? The safety issues aren’t nothing. Protecting innocence is not nothing.

Having just observed people sorting themselves into the formerly men-only or women-only spaces — arrangements that used to be innocuous, commonsense, and obvious — I felt a glimmer of hope that maybe not everyone’s gone mad, that gender ideology may not, in the end, reorder the mundane necessities of daily life.

And I’m happy to say the actual dancing was marvelous.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: SEC and Climate

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Bernard Sharfman writes about how the SEC’s climate-disclosure rules will likely be struck down in court:

Nevertheless, just because three SEC commissioners may believe that climate-change disclosures will lead to climate-change mitigation does not mean they can go ahead and exceed their regulatory authority. The odds that the proposed rule will be subject to legal challenge and then vacated by the courts is extremely high. Until the SEC demonstrates greater respect for the limits of its disclosure authority, the likely result of such efforts will be a large waste of time, money, and resources.

Read the whole thing here.

Politics & Policy

Even Progressives Grasp That ‘Latinx’ Is a Liability

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Latino leaders and immigration reform supporters gather at the University of Colorado to launch “My Country, My Vote,” a 12-month voter registration campaign to mobilize Colorado’s Latino, immigrant and allied voters, October 28, 2015. (Evan Semon/Reuters)

The message may not have yet reached the likes of Jill Biden or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or woke corporations such as Amazon or woke private schools, but an increasing number of Democratic politicians and liberal and progressive commentators have acknowledged that the effort to impose the gender-neutral term “Latinx” on Americans of Hispanic heritage has been a colossal failure of public persuasion. The term reeks of condescending academia, is hard to pronounce, and runs contrary to the entire gendered structure of the Spanish language. Democratic Hispanic groups have been discussing abandoning the term because it alienates non-transgender Hispanic voters (which is to say, the vast majority of them). That debate has broken into the open.

Even online progressives are broaching the topic. Earlier this month, Michael Sokolove in the New Republic wrote that, “It’s confusing, even (or especially) to Latinos. It is a term hatched in academia and adopted by the left that doesn’t play on the street. Politically, it’s a net minus . . . a symptom of a broader problem — an inability to connect at gut level. When voters say they feel Democrats are talking over their heads, they’re not wrong.” On Sunday, even Salon published an article by Melissa Ochoa entitled “Stop using ‘Latinx’ if you really want to be inclusive.”

In July 2022, Argentina and Spain released public statements banning the use of Latinx, or any gender-neutral variant. Both governments reasoned that these new terms are violations of the rules of the Spanish language. Latinx is used as an individual identity for those who are gender-nonconforming, and it can also describe an entire population without using “Latinos,” which is currently the default in Spanish for a group of men and women. As a Mexican-born, U.S.-raised scholar, I agree with the official Argentine and Spanish stance on banning Latinx from the Spanish language — English, too…

The distinct demographic differences of those who are aware of or use Latinx calls into question whether the term is inclusive or just elitist. Individuals who self-identiy as Latinx or are aware of the term are most likely to be U.S.-born, young adults from 18 to 29 years old. They are predominately English-speakers and have some college education. In other words, the most marginalized communities do not use Latinx. Scholars, in my view, should never impose social identities onto groups that do not self-identify that way. I once had a reviewer for an academic journal article I submitted about women’s experiences with catcalling tell me to replace my use of “Latino” and “Latina” with “Latinx.” However, they had no issue with me using “man” or “woman” when it came to my white participants.

Ochoa argues for “Latine,” which, on the page, still looks uncomfortably close to “latrine,” and it is still a rearguard effort against reality. But the fact that this sort of thing is being published in places such as Salon and the New Republic shows that progressives know they’re not winning this one.

Education

Why Is It So Hard for Members of the Military to Get College Credits?

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Perhaps it’s better in other states, but in North Carolina, it is difficult for men and women who have served in the military to get college credits for what they’ve learned.

That’s the point made by Dan Way in today’s Martin Center article.

He writes, “Lawmakers and veterans advocates want to know why higher-education officials have failed for nearly a decade to fulfill the requirements of Senate Bill 761, which mandates a uniform system to award college credits for military training and experience. The General Assembly passed, and Gov. Pat McCrory signed, the law, dubbed Credit for Military Training, in 2014. But it wasn’t until May 26 of this year that Peter Hans, the fourth UNC System president since the law passed, finally issued a regulation directing all 16 universities to comply with its provisions.”

Evidently, getting around to complying with the law wasn’t a high priority with the state’s higher-education leaders. At least, the UNC system is now moving toward compliance, but the state’s community-college system continues to drag its heels. And, as Way explains, it’s important for both systems to work together on this: “It is crucial for the two higher-education systems to have articulation agreements for transferring military-based academic credits between the systems, because many students first enroll in community colleges to complete basic courses.”

Maybe the creation of a smooth system for military college credits is now in the works, but one suspects that this is not something that excites the mostly “woke” minions.

Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Problem, in Miniature

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Democrat Laura Kelly talks to her supporters after winning the governor’s race at her election night party in Topeka, Kan., November 6, 2018. (Dave Kaup/Reuters)

Rich notes that:

Kansas governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, released an ad last week saying, “You have seen my opponent’s attacks. So let me just say it: Of course men should not play girls sports. Okay, we all agree there.”

The Kansas City Star notes that, having done that:

The day after releasing an ad declaring “men should not compete in girls sports,” Gov. Laura Kelly clarified she believes participation of transgender student-athletes in girls and women’s sports should be considered on a case by case basis, as it already is.

This is the Democratic Party’s core problem in miniature. Kelly knows that progressives are lunatics on this question. But she’s also sufficiently scared of those lunatics that she felt the need to backtrack and muddy the water, lest prominent people say mean things about her in the newspapers and on late-night TV. Witness the Democrats’ well-honed suicide machine in action.

Elections

Laura Kelly, the Democratic Governor of Kansas, Is on the Run 

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I wrote about it today on the homepage.

Economy & Business

Politico: Reality Keeps Getting in the Way of Biden’s Rhetoric

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a Democratic National Committee event at the National Education Association headquarters in Washington, D.C., September 23, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

In Politico this morning, Adam Cancryn tells a sad tale of the economic and political injustices that are being suffered by our 46th president. “The White House,” Cancryn reports,

finally believes it has an economic story worth telling. Now, it’s trying to figure out how to get voters to listen.

Emboldened by a string of legislative victories, President Joe Biden has leaned into his record on the economy, increasingly confident that the nation’s outlook is brightening after months under a cloud of rising prices and consumer anxiety.

And the problem is?

But just as the White House was rushing to capitalize on its winning streak — in hopes of turning around an economic narrative that has dogged the administration from its earliest days — complications have arisen.

Oh, no! What are these pesky “complications,” which, unforeseen by all, have passively “arisen” before the executive branch’s weary eyes?

The lengthy fall in gas prices finally ended, inflation has stayed stubbornly high and a bleak global economic landscape has rattled the markets, with both the Dow Jones and S&P 500 nearing their weakest levels of the year.

So, the “complications” that have “arisen” are . . . all the things that have been a problem for a long time now, and that President Biden, who would rather do other things, has decided either to ignore or to make worse?

And no, passing a bill called “The Inflation Reduction Act” does not count as mitigation. Here’s CBS News, earlier this month, with an absolutely hilarious description of that legislation:

The Inflation Reduction Act is aimed at tackling a host of problems, from climate change to catching tax cheats, but there’s one issue it may not solve: reducing inflation.

Back to Politico:

The cross currents of economic and political news have left the White House in a tricky position. After spending much of his term battling inflation and fears of a recession, Biden has begun traveling the country touting long-term investments in manufacturing and climate.

The problem with this is that it isn’t true. Biden has spend much of his term coexisting with “inflation and fears of a recession.” But he has spent pretty much none of his term “battling” it. On the contrary: almost everything that he and his party have done — including his most recent move, the illegal “forgiveness” (i.e. transference) of up to one trillion dollars in student debt — has made inflation worse, made interest-rate hikes more likely, and made the “fear of a recession” more acute.

James Carville has thoughts:

“You can’t pivot away from the obvious,” said James Carville, the longtime Democratic strategist, of the inflationary challenges that have hung over Biden’s presidency. “You have to talk about how you’re trying to help people deal with the rise in the cost of living.”

What Carville means, of course, is that you can’t “pivot away from the obvious” and remain popular. But you absolutely can “pivot away from the obvious” — as Joe Biden has now been demonstrating for more than a year-and-a-half. The problem here is not that “inflation and fears of a recession” have suddenly jumped out of the ground, shocking everyone and upending Biden’s agenda. The problem here is that Joe Biden is bored by reality. As I wrote last week, a sensible president:

would have started planning for all this on January 20, 2021 — or even before then. Noting that the federal government had just spent an astonishing $4.1 trillion fighting Covid-19, the new president could have adopted a defensive posture from the start. “All presidents have agendas,” he might have told the public. “But mine has been reshaped by events. My task is to bring us out of the pandemic, to help fix the supply chains, to keep on top of the impending inflation crisis, and to restore our balance sheets to health. That is my calling, and I shall meet it with dispatch.”

But Joe Biden isn’t a sensible president, and didn’t do any of that. Of course he’s is finding it hard to take a victory lap. There’s no victory to celebrate.

One of the biggest challenges that Biden and his party now face is their near-total inability to distinguish between their narrow ideological agenda and the health of the country at large. I’m not just talking here about the Democratic Party’s grotesque tendency to equate its electoral victories with the health of “democracy” per se. I’m talking about this:

“Legislatively, the last 90 days have been nothing short of amazing — that’s just a fact,” said Robert Wolf, an Obama-era economic adviser who maintains ties to the Biden White House. “We have to be really feeling good about what’s taken place.”

Amazing for whom? As did the American Rescue Plan, the “Inflation Reduction Act” does, indeed, contain a lot of provisions that progressives like. But the country? Well, again:

The lengthy fall in gas prices finally ended, inflation has stayed stubbornly high and a bleak global economic landscape has rattled the markets, with both the Dow Jones and S&P 500 nearing their weakest levels of the year.

And:

the cost of staples like food and housing remain elevated. The grinding war in Ukraine means gas prices could spike again too. And the Federal Reserve’s aggressive attempts to ease inflation are prompting fresh worry that its tactics will steer the economy right into a recession.

But other than that, Mr. Biden, how was the rally?

Film & TV

Do Certain Critics Now Reflexively Dislike Apolitical Works?

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American actor Marlon Brando gestures at a table while American actor Robert Duvall sits behind him in a still from the film, The Godfather. (Paramount Pictures/Getty Images)

A few episodes ago on The Editors podcast, I recommended the Paramount Plus limited series The Offer, a dramatization of producer Al Ruddy’s experience of making the 1972 film The Godfather with Francis Ford Coppola. In Ruddy’s account of events, just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and he and his team constantly had to put out metaphorical fires and improvise solutions for every kind of conceivable problem. A few listeners have written in and said they’ve enjoyed it.

Chock full of, “Hey, it’s that guy!” character actors playing against type, the series almost parallels a heist film. You’ve got the mastermind — Ruddy, played by Miles Teller, and one by one, he assembles his crew of misfits: right-hand woman Bettye McCartt (Juno Temple), author Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo), director Coppola (Dan Fogler, who usually plays larger-than-life comedic characters and shows exceptional range here) and eventually, the eccentric but ingenious Marlon Brando (Justin Chambers). All if this is under the eye of Paramount boss Robert Evans, played by Matthew Goode, as a jovial, fast-talking, always-moving king of Hollywood. If Goode’s performance were any bigger, he would be Austin Powers. Burn Gorman, whom you know as the odd-looking sinister henchman from a bunch of your favorite films, plays the manic and mercurial CEO Charles Bluhdorn, and Colin Hanks, and who looks and sounds more and more like his father with each passing year, is the skeptical executive Barry Lapidus.

This is another case where, at least by the measuring stick of the website Rotten Tomatoes, the tastes of the critics and the tastes of the general public diverge rather sharply: Roughly 57 percent of critics liked it, while 95 percent of viewers who registered their opinion with the site liked it.

Now, perhaps that audience response is self-selecting, as those disinclined to like it wouldn’t watch. But if that was the case, then every movie and show on Rotten Tomatoes would have a similar sterling score.

And when I started looking for reviews of The Offer, it seemed like the ones I found hated it.

Rolling Stone called it “a total waste of time.” The Hollywood Reporter shrugged, saying, “It’s a whole lot of trivia and very little substance.” IndieWire sneered it was “a soulless, vapid piece of Content™ that’s about as far removed from ‘art’ as professionally produced television can get.” The AVClub went with the predictable declaration that it “sleeps with the fishes.”

A lot of the reviews seemed almost angry at the series for existing at all. Maybe it’s because they love The Godfather and its sequel so much — there was only one sequel, right? Right? — that they think the films will be harmed by the show.

But I couldn’t help but wonder if some critics were irritated that this fairly big-budget, big-cast, prestige TV offering wasn’t serving them one clear modern message — or “The Message™” as the sardonic YouTuber Critical Drinker calls it.

There are a few scenes that demonstrate how badly women were treated in Hollywood back then. (Boy, good thing that’s all fixed, right?) And the New York mob’s attitudes toward African Americans are as awful as you would suspect. But those are lines and scenes here and there, by no means the series’ central theme or message.

By and large, the message of The Offer is that sometimes it takes a bunch of impassioned oddballs to make a masterpiece. Ruddy and his team are quintessential underdogs — insufficiently experienced, insufficiently well-connected, scraping by on a minimal budget — and, as the story tells it, continually doubted, undermined, opposed, and underestimated. But they believe they’ve got the pieces of a spectacular movie in their hands, and they doggedly keep finding new ways to push the creation process forward.

The Offer isn’t perfect. It doesn’t stick the landing; the last episode or two run low on momentum; as the film gets closer to completion, the stakes feel lower.

But looking at the numerous scathing or near-scathing reviews, I’m left wondering . . . do today’s reviewers not merely reflexively dislike any work that could be construed as conservative, or do they instinctively dislike any work that is apolitical? Is it that, because The Offer doesn’t have much to say about the environment, race relations, gay rights, Donald Trump, or any other 2022 cause célèbre that certain reviewers just couldn’t find anything interesting in it?

The Offer is a really fun series that allows you to escape all of the political and cultural controversies of the modern day . . . and I think some critics really disliked it for being that.

Culture

Learned Hands

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(Natalia Shabasheva / Getty Images)

Today’s Impromptus is headed “God and country, &c.” I talk about Christian nationalism, America First — some old things that are new again. In a post last week, I had a note on cursive: the apparent demise of. On that, I’d like to publish some mail.

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,

. . . One of my most ardent causes is the revival of cursive. A little research has convinced me that the learning of cursive at an early age has extreme benefits. I recommend studies that identify significant advantages to medical and law students who eschew the laptop in favor of the legal pad and such.

In any event, I encourage all of my friends with young children to have them learn cursive before printing. It has many motor skills and cognitive advantages. I look always for young people who are willing to be correspondents and engage in cursive exchanges.

Finally, I find it possible, nay, simple, to avail oneself of the speed of light while communicating with a pen. I prefer to compose and correspond by hand; at my library desk, I prefer a dip pen and inkwell. However, we needn’t rely on the USPS . . . When I feel the need of speed, I simply scan a handwritten note and e-mail it to the intended. The recipient has my handwritten communication as quickly as e-mail!

Dang, that’s inspired.

Another missive:

Hi, Jay!

. . . As proud Gen Xers, my wife and I have taught our children cursive even though their schools don’t. As I explained to my son, at a minimum, you have to be able to sign your name on documents and checks. More importantly, almost no one else your age will be able to read cursive, so it’s like a secret code.

Heh. That’s inspired, too.

Finally,

Dear Jay,

. . . There was a time when a person’s signature was an item of identification. . . . As a personal-income-tax preparer, I can tell you that there is now a signature that is common to young men and women under the age of 30. It resembles the trace of a muddy milk cow’s swishing tail on a barn wall. This signature bears no resemblance to any sequence of letters. It identifies nothing save its author’s inability to write.

Cursive may not be at the top of my list. There are many things whose revival I hope for. But the revival of cursive — that would be kind of neat, and it would add some drops to the reservoir of beauty in the world.

Woke Culture

A Strong Dissent on ‘Allyship’

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One of the many ways the Left manipulates language to help achieve its goals is the concept of “allyship.” This is extolled as virtuous behavior for whites and entails blindly supporting any and every action of black activists. On the other hand, should a black individual work with whites, Asians, or people who just don’t fit into racial boxes to achieve mutually advantageous goals, that individual is not seen as doing anything praiseworthy. On the contrary, he’ll be denounced as a “race traitor” or some even more derogatory term.

Professor Erec Smith reflects here on the double standard involved. He writes, “Whenever a person of color does not express the right sentiments, he or she is automatically deemed inauthentic, an Uncle Tom, a dupe suffering from internalized racism. Conservative blacks like Tim Scott and Clarence Thomas know this all too well, but so do left-leaning blacks like John McWhorter, Van Jones, and yours truly. It seems that if a black person sticks so much as a toe over the line circumscribing the realm of ‘wokeness,’ he or she will automatically attract the label infamously attributed to Larry Elder during his political campaign: ‘the black face of white supremacy.'”

The Left doesn’t care to engage in debate generally and especially hates to debate people like Professor Smith who think on their own and disagree with many “progressive” tenets.

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