Biden’s “An Illegal” Remark Is More Than Just a Slip: The president has moved right on immigration. (Isabela Dias, 3/08/24, MoJo)

Biden’s impromptu flub echoed the direction of his policies—making immigrants, as a collective, seem lesser, somehow stripped of peoplehood.

“The rhetoric President Biden used tonight was dangerously close to language from Donald Trump that puts a target on the backs of Latinos everywhere,” Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas said on social media. “Democrats shouldn’t be taking our cues from MAGA extremism.” The National Immigrant Justice Center’s X account posted that “blaming an entire group of people for the alleged acts of one person is xenophobia which must not be tolerated in part of the US government.”

Naturally, Biden’s “an illegal” moment played right into Greene’s hands. The congresswoman took credit for making Biden “go off script” and telling the “truth” by admitting “Laken Riley was murdered by an ILLEGAL!!!” […]

Immigration and the border have been front and center this campaign cycle. Biden also took the opportunity to rail against Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers for tanking a bipartisan senate border deal so restrictive it would have previously been unthinkable for Democrats to stand behind it.


Can We Slash Carbon Emissions and Still Have Economic Growth? (AKIELLY HU & JOSEPH WINTERS, 3/10/24, Grist)

But the kind of decoupling needed to achieve international climate targets is called “absolute” decoupling, when economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions veer in opposite directions: GDP up, emissions down. More recent research has documented this in a number of high-income countries. The U.S., for example, saw a 32 percent increase in GDP between 2005 and 2021, while its overall CO2 emissions fell by about 17 percent.

Something similar appears to have happened in other developed economies like France, Sweden, and Germany—even when you account for so-called “consumption-based” emissions, which include emissions from the production of goods that are imported or exported. In other words, these countries seem to really be reducing climate pollution and not just offshoring it to the developing world.

Since 2016, reports from the World Resources Institute, the Breakthrough Institute, and independent researchers have shown more and more countries achieving periods of absolute decoupling, including their consumption-based emissions. Perhaps the splashiest analysis came in 2022, when a Financial Times data columnist reported that 70 countries—one in three worldwide—had experienced at least five consecutive years of absolute decoupling between 1990 and 2020. “Green growth is already here,” the columnist wrote.

SO FRENCH (profanity alert):

Run, Nikki, run! (Dan Hannan, March 7, 2024, Washington Examiner)

Such politicians are not exceptional. For example, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France is Trumpist, as is Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy. They, too, lean left on economics and right on immigration and have a weird thing about their leaders. It is hardly surprising that some Americans should be in that tradition.

The surprising thing, the thing I am still no closer to understanding after eight years, is how the GOP rolled over for someone who so obviously despised it. The most basic Republican principle is a suspicion of concentrated power. Yet the only nonnegotiable requirement to belong to MAGA is to grovel publicly before former President Donald Trump. Again and again, senior Republicans who had previously called Trump dishonest, vain, self-obsessed, cowardly, megalomaniac, or deranged have dropped to their knees before him. […]

It’s so un-American, this fawning, this cultishness, this Führerprinzip. Yet it has taken over a party that used to believe in the dispersal of power, the constraint of executive authority, and the equality of all adult citizens before the law.


Irish voters reject bid to rewrite constitution’s view of women and family (SHAWN POGATCHNIK, 3/09/24, Politico)

DUBLIN — Ireland’s effort to remove old-fashioned family values from its constitution suffered a double defeat Saturday as voters rejected the amendments on offer as maddeningly vague and threatening to property rights.

The leaders of Ireland’s three-party government conceded defeat as early returns from Friday’s referendums confirmed that an overwhelming majority of voters had said “no” to its proposed replacements for constitutional clauses on marriage and family care.

In final results announced Saturday night, the amendment to change the constitutional definition of family was rejected by 67.7 percent of voters. The proposed changes on family care took an even harsher drubbing, with 73.9 percent against — the greatest defeat of an amendment in Irish constitutional history.

It’s a heartening rejection of Identitarianism.


If Music Be the Food of Love: A Conversation With Composer Michael Kurek (Joseph Pearce, March 6th, 2024, Imaginative Conservative)

Alluding presumably to my interest in what he now thought of his early compositions, those which were influenced by musical modernism and postmodernism, Dr. Kurek spoke of the “elements of craft to be learned with skill and diligence, which I was required to learn and compose as a student (and even later as a professor, in order to successfully gain tenure).” Having mastered the craft dutifully, he began to see and realize that it was “a misguided craft, the pursuit of which, for its own sake and as an end in itself, only evinced an arcane musical alchemy of techniques that did not edify or uplift humanity”. The realization came as a revelation, an epiphany, which led to a rejection of the techniques he had learned. Feeling creatively revitalized, he began anew. “I started over from scratch, learning the old techniques, not from living teachers (there were no longer any) but from studying the musical scores of the great composers of the past, who became my teachers.”

Driven by a new enthusiasm, he now sought to write music that he would himself enjoy were he a member of the audience. Added to this unabashed populism, he also sought permanence or at least durability for his musical compositions, seeking to write music that people would want to hear more than once, “preferably many times over, even falling in love with its beauty”. There was also a sense of responsibility to the wider world and the living culture. “I wanted to write music that I hoped would mean that, after I die, I would be leaving the world a little more beautiful because of my creative contribution.” Last but indubitably not least, he sought to offer his gifts in thanksgiving to the Giver of the gift, “to honor God with a teleological narrative”, in which the music is seen to be working its way toward a climax or musical goal. “This, for me, reflects a goal of hope and ultimate salvation, unlike music that sounds random, aimless, purposeless, and Nihilistic or like Dada.”


Virtue in the Age of Neo-Machiavellianism: a review of Political Meritocracy in Renaissance Italy: The Virtuous Republic of Francesco Patrizi of Siena by James Hankins (Reviewed by Jesse Russell, 3/10/24, University Bookman)

One of the strongest currents in American literature and film is the interlacement between hard boiled detective novels and film noir. With such literary figures as Raymond Chandler and the more recent (perhaps too risqué) James Ellroy as well as such classic films as The Maltese Falcon (1941) and The Third Man (1949), the bleak world of noir revealed the allegedly corrupt underbelly of the American century. Noir is, of course, one of Machiavelli’s (and St. Augustine of Hippo’s) misguided offspring. But film noir, like all works in the Machiavellian tradition, does contain an accurate picture of how the world sometimes works. However, rather than giving into the bleakness of how things can be, it is perhaps better to heroically strive for moral goodness and political peace and order, and in Political Meritocracy, James Hankins provides a qualified but much needed road map for human flourishing.

Or, as Chandler put it:

“down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. […]

“The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”


How Oct. 7 is forcing Jews to reckon with Israel (Noah Feldman, March 5, 2024, Washington Post)

To see how this happened, and to get a sharper view of the Jewish love-struggle today, dive with me into one subtype of Jewish thought: progressive American Judaism. This worldview, prevalent today among Reform Jews (37 percent of the American Jewish population), Conservative Jews (17 percent), Reconstructionist Jews (4 percent) and many unaffiliated Jews, finds its roots among 19th century Jews living in Germany who sought to reform Judaism along the lines of Reformation Protestantism. Looking back to the Bible, they found a God who loves not only his people but all the peoples of the world; who wants social justice, not ritualized obedience; and who teaches that to be holy is to love your neighbor as yourself.

The social justice strand of progressive Judaism transferred well to the United States. An iconic photograph, taken on March 21, 1965, sums up its essence. Seven people, arms linked, lead the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery: John Lewis, Sister Mary Leoline, Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Bunche, Abraham Joshua Heschel and Fred Shuttlesworth. The Black men in the picture, all Southern ordained ministers except Bunche, a Nobel Prize-winning diplomat, are giants of the civil rights movement. Heschel, born in Warsaw in 1907, was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi and later earned a doctorate in Berlin. After fleeing from Poland in 1939, he became a renowned teacher and scholar of Jewish mysticism affiliated with the leading Reform and Conservative rabbinical schools. His participation in the march, and the progressive beliefs that put him there, stand for a vision of God derived from the ancient Hebrew prophets and the most foundational teachings of the rabbis.

In the past half-century, the progressive teaching of divinely inspired social justice acquired a slogan: tikkun ‘olam, literally, repairing the world. The phrase echoed the much older Kabbalistic, mystical idea that in creating the finite world, the infinite God contracted, then shattered and broke into a multitude of shards. In the aftermath of that cosmic disaster, the ultimate, mystical purpose of the Jewish people is to repair the universe and the Godhead itself by redeeming the sparks of divine light that were lost or hidden in the process. As adapted by contemporary Jewish progressives, tikkun ‘olam has a this-worldly, concrete meaning. It calls for human effort, alongside God, to make the world more just.

In the 1980s and ’90s, the social justice vision of progressive Judaism acquired two new theological pillars: the centrality of the Holocaust and the redemptive narrative of the creation of Israel.

The slogan “Never Again” gave social justice guidance to the intuition that the Holocaust determined Jewish uniqueness. Jews must never again allow a Holocaust to occur.

Zionism, for its part, came to offer progressive American Jews a supplemental account of post-Holocaust redemption. The modern state of Israel had been born from the ashes of the Holocaust, so Israel redeemed the suffering of its martyrs. From destruction came rebuilding. And Israel’s existence would prevent another Holocaust from occurring by providing an escape hatch for diaspora Jews should antisemitic pressures make life untenable.

Progressive American Jews could thus integrate Israel into their theological picture of the relationship between God and the Jewish people.

This pairing made some partial sense of the deaths of the 6 million. And it enabled progressive American Jews to organize for two main purposes: memorializing the Holocaust and supporting Israel. Today 16 Holocaust museums and hundreds of public Holocaust memorials exist in the United States, with more planned to open soon. The United States Holocaust Museum, built on almost two acres of land allocated by Congress near the Washington Monument, has hosted 47 million visitors since it opened in 1993.

It would be crude and inaccurate to argue that the role of the Holocaust in progressive American Jewish thought is to drive support for Israel. The lessons of the Holocaust museums are meant to be universal. Yet the idea of Israel nevertheless comes into complex interplay with the idea of the Holocaust in progressive American Jewish thought. In the Middle Ages, Jewish theology around martyrdom existed in a complicated relationship with Christian ideas, even as Jews were being martyred by Christians. Today, progressive Jewish theology also exists in a complex relation with American Protestant thought. Seen in comparative terms, the Holocaust might stand in for the passion and the state of Israel for the resurrection. The social gospel of tikkun ‘olam can sit comfortably alongside this implicit theology.

To be clear, no progressive American Jewish thinker ever consciously intended to re-create the theological structure of American Protestantism. God forbid.

Consciousness of the fact doesn’t matter any more than it did when we Reformed Catholicism or as we do so to Islam, Hinduism, etc. The point is that at the End of History Judaism is a religion, not a race. Clinging to the latter is Israel’s existential threat.


DeSantis faces pushback in Florida as voters tire of war on woke: Conservative lawmakers rejected a host of new culture wars proposals in the legislature (Lori Rozsa, March 9, 2024, Washington Post)

[I]nstead of sailing through the Republican-dominated legislature, the DeSantis-backed bill died a quick legislative death, making it only as far as one subcommittee.

It wasn’t the only culture war proposal from conservative lawmakers to end up in the bill graveyard during the session that ended Friday. One rejected bill would have banned the removal of Confederate monuments. Another would have required transgender people to use their sex assigned at birth on driver’s licenses — something the state Department of Motor Vehicles is already mandating. A third proposed forbidding local and state government officials from using transgender people’s pronouns. […]

But the pushback is growing.

Parents and others have organized and protested schoolbook bans. Abortion rights advocates gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot in Florida in November. A bill that would have established “fetal personhood” stalled before it could reach a full vote.

Judges are also canceling some of DeSantis’s marquee laws, including the “Stop Woke Act.” A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled Monday that the law “exceeds the bounds” of the Constitution’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression.

Even the governor recently admitted the state might have gone too far in trying to remove certain books from school shelves, suggesting laws on book challenges should be “tweaked” to prevent “bad actors” from having too much influence.