Tuesday Edition



On the heels of last week’s special counsel report describing 81-year-old President Biden as an “elderly man with a poor memory,” an overwhelming majority of Americans think Biden’s age should disqualify him from serving a second term. (ABC News)

A new ABC News/Ipsos poll found 86% of Americans say Biden’s too old. Compare that to the 74% who said Biden’s too old in an ABC News/Washington Post poll from September.

A majority of Americans have similar concerns about Donald Trump. 62% say Trump, 77, shouldn’t be president because of his age. 59% of Americans think both Trump and Biden are too old for the White House.

Big picture, the aging of the country’s political leadership has coincided with declining trust in government and institutions. With Trump and Biden, the two trends meet.


There’s been a big shift in how state attorneys-general operate as the AG role becomes increasingly political and partisan. (The Economist)

The Economist: The job used to be about defending state laws and prosecuting cheats, fraudsters and corporate bullies. Today attorneys-general shape nationwide politics and policy by pushing strategic lawsuits through their favourite courts.”

How’d we get here? A 2007 Supreme Court ruling allowed state AGs to challenge federal government actions. That opened the door to AGs pursuing national policy changes through coordinated, high-profile lawsuits. As The Economist put it, “One federal judge’s injunction in their favour, and against Washington, could shut down a policy for the whole country until a higher court ruled on its appeal.”

Then came an infusion of cash into state AG races from political groups who wanted to influence policy via activist AGs. From 2008 to 2022, spending on state attorney-general elections increased from $17 million to $222 million. Democratic attorneys-general filed more lawsuits against the federal government during the four years Donald Trump was in office than they did in the previous 16 years, according to political scientist Paul Nolette.

The end result is openly partisan state AGs like Texas’ Ken Paxton and Letitia James of New York. From 2021 to 2023, Paxton refused to defend state agencies in court at least 75 times, often for ideological reasons. Meanwhile, Paxton filed almost 50 lawsuits against the Biden administration. James campaigned on going after Trump, calling him a “carnival barker” and vowing to to shine a “bright light into every dark corner of his real estate dealings.”

President Biden’s campaign has joined TikTok, despite the White House one year ago requiring federal agencies remove the Chinese-based social media app from all government devices. (Politico)

White House spokesman John Kirby said yesterday TikTok is banned on government devices because of concerns about the “potential misuse” of data collected by the company. Kirby declined to answer whether Biden is sending mixed messages about the app.

Congressional leaders from both parties have suggested banning TikTok, citing security risks, and more than half of U.S. states have prohibited it on government devices.

U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission member Jacob Helberg on why TikTok is a threat: “First, [the Chinese government] can leverage its influence over the company to ensure the ranking algorithm promotes the Party line, amplifying certain sources, viewpoints, or topics while burying others. … the CCP can distort information on TikTok and engage in censorship by way of firehosing: ‘malicious foreign governments spray so much information onto the Internet—as if through a giant fire hose—that it swamps everything else.’”

While cybersecurity experts don’t dismiss the possibility that the company poses risks, studies have found TikTok’s data collection practices aren’t any different than other social media apps, and there’s no evidence the Chinese government has accessed TikTok users’ data. An analysis by the University of Toronto cybersecurity group Citizen Lab determined TikTok does not contain “features that raise privacy and security concerns, such as dynamic code loading and server-side search censorship.” TikTok has downplayed its Chinese ties, claiming roughly 60% of ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, is owned by global institutional investors.


Texas has taken on much of the burden of combatting historic levels of border crossings into the U.S. (The Center Square)

Texas’ legislature has allocated a record-high $11.6 billion to border security over four years. The spending includes $3.1 billion for border barriers and Texas' own border wall, and $200 million for transporting illegal migrants to sanctuary cities.

State Rep. Greg Bonnen, a Republican: “When you look at the appropriations for border security under the four years of the Trump administration in Texas, that was $1.6 billion. For the four years of the Biden presidency, Texas is appropriating $11.6 billion to do the same thing.”

According to “border czar” Mike Banks, the state’s immigration measures have reduced its share of illegal border crossings to 30%, despite Texas representing about two-thirds of the border. Since the start of Operation Lone Star in 2021, Texas law enforcement has apprehended nearly 500,000 illegal migrants, made over 39,000 criminal arrests and seized over 458 million lethal doses of fentanyl.

State and city leaders from both parties have criticized the Biden administration’s response to the immigration crisis. Backed by more than a dozen GOP governors, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott got into a squabble with the federal government last month over border security jurisdiction. Abbott has said Operation Lone Star “continues to fill the dangerous gaps created by the Biden Administration’s refusal to secure the border.”

China’s experiencing a fertility crisis that may have been exacerbated by miscalculations used to push its one-child policy 40 years ago. (WSJ)

Chart: The Wall Street Journal

In the 1970s, top Chinese scientist Song Jian worked with a team to come up with a mathematical model to predict how China’s population would balloon to 4.26 billion by 2080, if the fertility rate remained constant. Jian presented officials with reports of his findings and argued the population explosion would prevent China from flourishing. China instituted its one-child policy in 1980.

China's fertility rate is now close to one birth per woman, far below the 2.1 replacement rate needed for population stability. Despite ending the one-child policy in 2015 and now encouraging up to three children, China is struggling to reverse the trend. Predictions by researchers from Victoria University and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences estimate China's population will drop to 525 million by the end of the century, a huge decline from its 1.4 billion current residents and down from a previous forecast of 597 million.

Wall Street Journal reporter Liyan Qi on what Jian got wrong about the need to artificially curb China’s fertility rate: “As the decades passed, a growing number of demographers and economists called out the [one-child policy] as outdated and flawed. China’s fertility rate would have gone down on its own as life expectancies rose and economic conditions improved, they say. One factor missing from Song’s population math was human behavior. The government’s sometimes brutal enforcement, including forced abortions and sterilizations, as well as decadeslong propaganda about the benefits of having a small family, left a lasting one-child mindset. The modeling also failed to take into account the traditional preference for sons.”

China has ascended to the position of global power and the world’s second-largest economy. But the country’s birthrate crisis, as well as an economic slowdown, are signs pointing to stagnation.

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