The Supreme Court Should Decide Election-Law Cases Before the Election

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE I n the era of stewardship by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court has fretted more about the public perception of the Court as a non-partisan institution than about doing what is most necessary to shore up its reputation: Do its job. Decide the tough questions in accordance with what the law requires, and stop worrying so much about what it looks like. The justices have no way of controlling how their work is perceived. The federal courts are insulated from politics by design, because the right answer is frequently not the popular answer. Indeed, as our Michael Brendan Dougherty deftly …

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COVID Cash Battles in Museum World

, 1625. Oil on canvas, Centraal Museum, Utrecht. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE I just read that Laura Lott, the president of the American Alliance of Museums, called President Trump “irresponsible and shameful” for suspending talks with Congress on the next wave of COVID-19 cash. Takes two to tango, but that’s another story. The Feds have already borrowed $2 trillion to address the Chinese coronavirus hysteria, but the museum community wants a few billion when the pig trough is replenished. There’s a bill circulating with a $4.9 billion price tag for arts organizations. Lott says 50,000 letters have gone to Congress demanding that a chunk of the cash to go to museums. Well, I’m …

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Social Media vs. the American Right

Three years ago, historian Niall Ferguson wrote about Silicon Valley’s determination not to get caught flat-footed again when it comes to Donald Trump. “Make no mistake: 2016 will never happen again,” he warned. Zuckerberg had been personally lobbied by Barack Obama on these matters. Governments in Europe were looking for their pound of flesh too. Suddenly, Facebook and other social networks got more active politically. They banned online ads in Ireland’s abortion referendum, which advantaged the pro-legalization side. Germany passed a law effectively siccing social-media companies on the government’s right-wing critics. While the headlines were about going after extremists and plots …

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If the Democrats Win Everything

According to a 2015 email, then–vice president Joe Biden met with a top executive at Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm that paid Biden’s son, Hunter, $50,000 a month to sit on its board. Earlier, the Burisma executive had asked Hunter to use his influence to quell Ukrainian government officials who were ... Read More

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How the Private Sector Is Shaping the Future of Nuclear Energy

Power lines in Hinsdale, N.H., lead away from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vt., in 2013. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)We should remain optimistic about the future of nuclear energy in America. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE L ast week, the future of nuclear energy got an immense boost. U.S. officials greenlit America’s first-ever commercial small modular reactor, to be constructed in eastern Idaho by a company called NuScale Power. The first will be built by 2029, with eleven more to follow by 2030. Nuclear energy already provides 20 percent of American energy production, representing 60 percent of all clean energy in this country. Yet nuclear energy has stalled for several decades now, having fallen by 9 percent in terms of global energy generation since 2006. Of the 60 plants in operation in the United States, nine have already announced that they are closing, 16 are “at risk” of closure, and five are already gone. Together, this represents 15 percent of all carbon-free energy production in America. Advertisement Yet NuScale Power’s recently approved design marks a landmark achievement for the future of nuclear energy: the move towards smaller, more high-tech nuclear reactors — a type dominated by private-sector competition. These small modular reactors (SMRs) represent a real chance for energy innovation in the United States, and an opportunity to lead the world. As we increasingly seek to move away from fossil fuels and toward carbon-free forms of energy, SMRs will play a crucial role. We simply cannot rely on renewables such as solar and wind energy alone yet, meaning that competitive, new-generation reactors can fill that gap and reverse the trend of nuclear decline. Not everyone is convinced by the potential of SMRs. One of the most common criticisms is that it is still very expensive, and that it will take decades to achieve any viable commercialization — with numbers such as $11.5 billion and 25 years being thrown around. Advertisement This interpretation, however, assumes that the government is leading the charge on these new-generation nuclear plants. Indeed, the old model of state-led nuclear research, demonstration, and commercialization, propelled by the Department of Energy, can be cumbersome, inefficient, and costly. But the opposite is true for SMRs. Advanced-reactor development and innovation is in fact being led by the private sector and supported with smart investments at key junctions by federal policies, such as the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act. As showcased by the Breakthrough Institute’s “How to Make Nuclear Innovative” report, these smaller, more entrepreneurial firms are leading on advanced nuclear innovation, far outpacing typical government timelines. Their success now depends on whether they can easily access initial markets to sell their energy. It would be eminently sensible for local, state, and federal governments to aid that transition. Advertisement It’s clear why SMRs are seen as attractive investments by the private sector. Because of their smaller size, most SMR parts can be factory-made off-site, and then shipped to the reactor’s location. Smaller reactors also require less funding for the first build, making them more economically viable investments for a wider range of utility companies. Moreover, their smaller scale also vastly simplifies the engineering, helping make the reactor easier to model and safer, as well as speeding up the licensing and commercialization processes. Advances in computing technology can also simplify, cheapen, and accelerate the plant-modeling process through high-tech simulations. Advertisement Smaller, advanced nuclear reactors also provide more options than larger, conventional ones. For example, they are much easier to place than larger plants. This could overcome the challenges of transporting energy over large distances. These challenges have hamstrung the potential of renewable-energy sources such as wind and solar, which require long-distance transmission lines to transport generated energy from remote locations to urban centers. Small modular reactors can be sited where energy is needed, from urban centers to far-flung mining communities in Alaska. Their small size makes SMRs more flexible than larger reactors as well. For example, where large reactors typically follow a standard size and output, SMRs can be scaled and adapted to the local energy needs where they are sited. As the U.S. slowly decommissions all of its coal-fired plants, an additional benefit of smaller reactors is that they can actually directly take the place of such decommissioned coal plants, located on previously developed plots of land that are no longer in use — also known as brownfield sites. 90 percent of these coal plants are considered “small” in size, under 500 MWe (megawatt electric) and many as low as 100. SMRs are defined as nuclear energy reactors below 300 MWe and could fit there; large reactors operate at over 1000 MWe. Advertisement Advertisement Because of their scalability, moreover, SMRs can implement designs that track energy demand, and respond accordingly with maximum economic efficiency. This could usefully complement renewable-energy development, which is inherently unreliable due to the intermittent nature of sun and wind. As such, nuclear could provide the base-load energy to the grid, and then adapt to demand as and when it rises or declines. The widespread economic and environmental benefits of SMRs suggest that the government should support the private sector in its innovation drive by not getting in the way aside from targeted and specific support. With the right policies in place, these new SMRs will not only assure future abundant energy, but they will also create an entirely new industry of exportable technological innovation. SMRs such as NuScale’s could create 7,000 jobs, generate $1 billion in annual sales, and power over 50,000 homes, according to one study. It is therefore crucial that we continue to encourage the private sector to pursue new-generation nuclear innovation. We should reform and modernize the licensing process to adapt to the changing nature of small-scale nuclear startups. We should also pursue more public-private partnerships, in which our national laboratory system gives private nuclear startups access to technical resources, necessary equipment, and detailed expertise. This should be accompanied by further targeted R&D funding, along the lines of the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act. Last week’s groundbreaking approval of the first-ever commercial small modular reactor in the United States fits a wider trend of private-sector leadership on nuclear innovation. We should strive to harness this further, and to remain optimistic about the future of nuclear energy in America.

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The First Bond — the Family — Is Weak

(Lacheev/iStock/Getty Images Plus)Without families, what stops babies from becoming barbarians? And what stops men from turning into burnouts? NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE S ometimes it’s worth taking stock of the basics. American conservatives sometimes call the family a “pre-political institution.” Usually they have in mind the idea of protecting the family from manipulation or intrusion by the state’s bureaucrats. But Cicero was more insightful when he observed that marriage and family are the foundation of political life: “The first bond of society is marriage; next, children; and then the family.” Advertisement The simplest things in life are actually profoundly important. The chaos of a family dinner table with young children, the cajoling, negotiating, and bartering — “One more bite, and you can be excused!” — are serious matters. They are social and political. It’s here that children learn to receive what others have done for them graciously. It’s here that parents learn patience and practice judgement. It’s here that we learn to build a common life together — of reciprocal duties, rights, and privileges. The young babe bangs his plate and throws his dinner to the dog. With years of practice, he learns enough to nuke the leftovers and set a table. With a few more years, he learns to be truly hospitable to others, even his own children. But even before we get around to turning barbarians into men of grace, there is the matter of the first bond. And according to the recent numbers, it is decaying. Advertisement The never-married population is at a record high, according to a new look at Census data by the Institute for Family Studies. In 1970, only 9 percent of Americans between the age of 25 and 50 had never been married. Today it is almost 35 percent. While many people in the younger part of that age range may yet still marry Pew estimates that nearly a quarter of all adults now will never marry. The Institute for Family Studies notes that a huge portion of the growth of never-marrieds is concentrated among Americans with low incomes. “More than 4 in 10 prime-age Americans in the bottom third income bracket (42%)  have never been married, compared with 23% of Americans in the top third income bracket,” writes Wendy Wang, the director of research at the Institute for Family Studies. “This marriage gap by income did not exist in earlier years.” Surveyed men say that lack of steady work is a major contributing factor to their never-married status. Advertisement If the family bond turns children from barbarians into men of civilization, the marriage bond prevents men from turning into a certain kind of burnout. In the first season of HBO’s True Detective, Woody Harrelson’s character, Marty Hart, recalls seeing the flophouse apartment of his partner Rust Cohle. “Past a certain age, a man without a family can be a bad thing,” he says. Cohle ruminates too much on the dark side of life. He drinks too much at the wrong time. Advertisement We know from endless studies that men without marriage are less likely to work or return to work, and men without work are less likely to marry. Nicholas Eberstadt has observed that the number of men in their prime age without work is steadily increasing in America. “By 2015, nearly 22 percent of U.S. men between the ages of 20 and 65 were not engaged in paid work of any kind, and the work rate for this grouping was nearly 12.5 percentage points below its 1948 level.” This is the group of men least likely to marry. And their lack of marriage leads to real atomization. Time-use surveys show that these men don’t join civic groups, act as caregivers to the elderly, or coach Little League baseball. Lacking the first bond of society, they lose all others. Advertisement Advertisement If you ever wondered why elected Republicans and a large constellation of political institutions bearing the label conservative “fail to conserve,” the answer is perhaps staring us in the face. Conservatism is the attempt to hold together the compact between the living, the dead, and the unborn. Even at the most basic, reductive, materialistic level, a man with a wife and three children has more DNA invested in the next generation than in his own body. That’s going to change the way he approaches life every single day. We see it again in the time-use surveys: He’s going to watch less TV — watch screens less altogether. He’ll drink less alcohol, do fewer drugs. He’s going to work harder and earn more promotions. He’s going to raise the ambitions for his own life because the fates of others are connected to his own. It’s going to make him more mindful of posterity. It will make him care for and appreciate his own cultural and political inheritance. This is as basic as it gets. And it suggests that the prospects that conservatism will “conserve” anything are dim until we address the primary bond of our society.

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On Surviving the Twitter Mob

(golubovy/iStock/Getty Images Plus)It doesn’t take much to find yourself with a target on your back these days. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE I n the last couple of days, I was caught in what is called a “Twitter sh**storm.” It started with a piece I read in the Guardian about Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and it ended, via Jean-Marie Le Pen, with the American-Dutch-Somali intellectual Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Let me explain from the beginning. Advertisement Eight days ago, in a piece titled “Nearly all Black Lives Matter protests are peaceful despite Trump narrative, report finds,” the Guardian reported that “the vast majority of the thousands of Black Lives Matter protests this summer have been peaceful, with more than 93% involving no serious harm to people or damage to property, according to a new report tracking political violence in the United States.” The fallacy inherent in this line of thinking should be obvious, but in case it isn’t, let’s apply the same logic to the 9/11 attacks: “On September, 11, 2001, almost all the airplanes in the sky reached their destinations safely, about 99.9 percent of all buildings in Manhattan remained undamaged, and most Manhattanites remained safe, just like their properties.” In the U.S., every day 7,600 people die from all kinds of causes: accidents, illnesses, murders. In the grand scheme of things, the number of people who died on 9/11 may be relatively low, but their deaths shook the West’s consciousness and completely changed our perception of the world. Everything was suddenly different, from how we go about protecting our nations from terrorism to how we say goodbye to our loved ones when they leave the house in the morning. The violence on the streets of America’s inner cities this summer has a had a similar kind of impact, if on a much smaller scale. Every business that has been destroyed by blind hate is a tiny 9/11 for the people who have worked for it, suffered for it, sweated for it. Advertisement The report on which the Guardian article was based was conceived by some academics at Princeton University. They examined 7,750 demonstrations that took place across the U.S. under the flag of Black Lives Matter between May 26 and August 22. Their conclusion was just as the Guardian said: 93 percent of the demonstrations were peaceful. Advertisement Do the math, and you find this means that 542 demonstrations during that three-month period were not peaceful. But to the report’s authors and the Guardian, this must have seemed beside the point: The phrase “despite Trump narrative” in the piece’s headline was what needed to be communicated; the misrepresentation of the underlying statistics was just a means to that end. And the gambit worked! I happened to listen to a radio program in the Netherlands, where I now live, and the participants did exactly what the Guardian and the Princeton researchers must have hoped: They used it as evidence that Trump’s narrative about the violence of the demonstrations was deceitful. After all, only 7 percent of the protests could be described as violent, and seven is almost equal to zero, isn’t it? Advertisement Naturally, by this point I was upset. So I did what one does when one is upset these days: I wrote a tweet. Translated from the original Dutch, it reads: “Just now on @NPORadio1, the message that in the US 93% of all BLM demos are peaceful. This is statistical juggling. 570 riots with violence on 220 locations brought misery for 1000s of people.” Alongside it, I linked to a short video of BLM protesters harassing people in Rochester, N.Y. Advertisement So far, so good. But I was worked up and felt another tweet forcing its way into my mind. The discussion was so laughable, the figures were so misleading, that I felt they warranted a bit of dark sarcasm. So I wrote it up and fired it off: “The Nazi occupation of The Netherlands was 99% peaceful. Did you ever think about this, you at @NPORadio1?” It wasn’t enough. I still was angry. So I made a third tweet: “The BLM demo’s were 93% peaceful, @NPORadio1 and @TomKleijnNL [a former Dutch correspondent in the U.S. who was a part of the radio discussion], and 93% of the buildings in the riot cities are still standing. Here’s a picture of a street in Kenosha; look carefully, only 5 buildings destroyed. This is all about nothing. Some wanted to have some fun. Trump lies.” At this point, I felt a bit better, having expressed how ridiculous I found the report and the coverage of it in properly pointed terms. But within minutes, I received some replies condemning me for downplaying the Nazi occupation. So I sent a fourth tweet: “If followers don’t understand ‘sarcasm’, please go someplace else. Definition: ‘Sarcasm is biting humor condemning exactly what it seems to praise.’” Advertisement I had no idea what would happen. I was soon to find out. A Dutchman teaching at the University of Georgia, a professor named Cas Mudde, had seen my Dutch tweets and evidently felt compelled to respond. He translated the last one, leaving out the crucial context of the second sentence with the tag of the radio station, and he added a line about Jean-Marie Le Pen. In so doing, he twisted my sarcastic invocation of the Nazi occupation into an endorsement: “Jean-Marie Le Pen: Holocaust was detail in Second World War. Leon de Winter: Nazi occupation of Netherlands was 99% peaceful.” It was a pretty low blow from Mudde, who had without a doubt seen the full chain of tweets and knew exactly what I had meant. Add that he also knows I am a Jew whose family was wiped out by the Nazis, and who thus despises Jean-Marie Le Pen, and his attempt to make me into some kind of neo-Nazi seems downright despicable. Inevitably, his tweet was retweeted. A wave of insults, condemnations, and misinterpretations washed over me. Mudde had touched off the “Twitter s**tstorm” I mentioned above, and I was feeling its full force. I’ll survive, of course. But if I had lived in the U.S. and held an academic position, I would have been chased from campus by angry crowds of students. If I had owned a business, it would have been destroyed by boycotts or outright violence. That’s how it works nowadays in America, thanks in no small part to ruthless leftist academics like Cas Mudde. While I was writing this, a friend asked me whether I’d ever had an encounter with Mudde before his recent attacks. I googled his and my names, and I found a four-year-old tweet he’d written about my friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the courageous and smart Somali activist and writer who now lives in the U.S. I had forgotten about this. Advertisement “O look, Germany now has a Hirshi [sic] Ali as well, ‘exotic woman’ who is allowed to spread prejudices on the basis of ‘expertise,’” he’d written, linking to an interview with a German Muslim woman who had published a book about violence by young Muslims. It is a disgusting tweet. One smells the hatred Mudde feels for this “exotic woman,” who, according to him, doesn’t have “expertise” in the way that he does, and makes a living spreading prejudices about female circumcision. Referring to the German writer as “A Hirshi Ali,” as if Ayaan were a certain type of fraud, only compounded the insult. I’d first read it a year later, in 2017, and replied: “Who is Cas Mudde? Under the mask of a multiculturalist, there is a leftist fascist and misogynist.” Reminding myself of this exchange brought Mudde’s motives into focus: The Twitter s**t storm he’d unleashed was his payback for my defense of Ayaan. And the way he’d mishandled my tweet proved my original point: Cas Mudde is a leftist fascist.

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Diana Rigg, of The Avengers, Combined Sensuality with Intellect

Diane Rigg and Patrick Macnee in The Agengers. (via IMDb)Whether playing a nun, a Bond girl, or the iconic Emma Peel, she was unforgettable. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE D iana Rigg, one of the most versatile actresses of the last half-century, died last week at age 82. Her career led her to such strong female roles as Medea, Mother Courage, a Benedictine nun, and Lady Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones. She was the only Bond girl to actually tie down and marry the roving James Bond in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Advertisement But she will be most remembered for playing the brainy, badass spy Emma Peel in the 1960s British TV series The Avengers. The show was an early example of spy-fi, a genre that combined espionage plots with science-fiction elements. It followed the adventures of John Steed, a bowler-hatted Edwardian-dressed special agent played by Patrick Macnee, and a glamorous self-defense expert played first by Honor Blackman, and then from 1965 to 1967 by Rigg. Steed was the ultimate Etonian. She was Cool Britannia. They had incredible on-screen chemistry. ”He was an old fogy who delighted in Emma’s newness, her nowness and her intelligence, while clearly enjoying her repartee and beauty,” Toby Miller, a New York University film professor who once taught a class on The Avengers, told the New York Times. Advertisement The Avengers never took itself very seriously, and it had charming banter that reminded one of a movie starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. The realistic dialogue was only enhanced by the fact that Macnee and Rigg made up some of their own lines right on the set. Advertisement The character’s name of Emma Peel was a play on the words “man appeal,” and she certainly had it. Author George R. R. Martin, who wrote the bestselling books that the TV series Game of Thrones is based on, was thrilled when she joined the cast of the HBO show. “She was the hottest woman on television ever,” he told The Guardian. “I was madly in love with her in The Avengers, along with virtually all the boys of my generation.” But Peel also was a role model for adults. With her stylish wardrobe, emancipated outlook, and wry humor, she represented the modern Britain of the 1960s. Advertisement The show’s writers knew she was a different kind of female character. Advertisement In a 1967 episode, a villainous character playing a crazed German movie director patterned after Otto Preminger, said to his adversary: “You are a woman of courage, beauty, and action. A woman who could become desperate, yet remain strong, become confused yet remain intelligent, who could fight back, yet remain feminine.” Feminine, yes, but also mysterious and independent. The show deliberately kept the relationship between Emma Peel and John Steed ambiguous. They always referred to each other simply as “Steed” and “Mrs. Peel.” “I don’t think they did have an affair,” Rigg once said. She called it “one of those glorious deeply intimate flirtations that spin off into infinity.” While Rigg’s character certainly was touted as an advance for feminism, she herself was ambivalent about her cultural significance. She certainly stood up for her rights. When Rigg learned that her salary (the equivalent of less than $100,000 a year today) was a third less than what the cameraman was being paid, she vehemently protested. “I kicked up a fuss and I became incredibly unpopular as a result because the English press absolutely latched on to it and I was made out to be mercenary and a jumped-up actress who should be grateful for her opportunity,” she told The Telegraph. But she held her ground and saw her pay doubled. But Rigg distanced herself from 1960s style feminism: “I find the whole feminist thing very boring. They are so much on the defensive that they dare not love a man because they feel assaulted by being dependent.” Advertisement A consummate professional, Rigg knew the public wasn’t particularly interested in the political views of actors, so she largely kept her own to herself. One of the few times she broke cover was in 2015, when she told the Daily Mail, “I’d shove most politicians into a cauldron and boil them up.” Both Diana Rigg and Emma Peel would know how to handle a cauldron if faced with one. In one Avengers episode, Peel finds herself back in 16th-century England in a dream sequence. A tyrant sticks her in a stockade, threatens her with hot irons, and calls her ”a heretic, a bawd, a witch — designed to drive a man to lust.’’ Mrs. Peel wasn’t fazed by any of this. She looked up, teasingly tossed her hair, and shot back: ”You should see me in 400 years.” I believe that The Avengers is one of those shows that — like Star Trek — has not only achieved cult status but will actually be studied by archivists many years from now. Not just because of its cultural significance but for the magnificent performance of Diana Rigg, a titan of the acting profession.

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American University Administrators Must Step Up to Fight Beijing’s Authoritarian Influence

The CCP seeks to make American campuses less conducive to open inquiry, and more dangerous for students and professors. It can’t be allowed to succeed.

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Civil-Asset Forfeiture Should Be an Easy Place to Start on Criminal-Justice Reform

Why has civil-asset forfeiture, which flies in the face of American expectations of due process, been allowed to persist in its current form?

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