Thursday 29 June 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 29/6/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Court in the middle

Whether you’re a leftist or a conservative, there is a US Supreme Court ruling for you to cheer – or despise – among this term’s decisions, many of which are released this week. On the one hand, the nation’s top court rejected the Republican idea that state legislatures should have complete control over the running of elections without any oversight. The judges also refused a conservative challenge to the Biden administration’s prioritisation of immigrants who are deemed to pose the greatest risk to public safety or were picked up at the border for deportation. On the other hand, the left fears rulings that might limit university initiatives to admit more minority students and prevent Joe Biden from cancelling some student debt. Many also remain irked by Saturday’s one-year anniversary of the decision to end a federal right to an abortion.

What is striking about these rulings is that they should never have reached the Supreme Court at all. There isn’t another major court in the world with such an ability to dictate its country’s political direction under the guise of interpreting the Constitution. But that influence also comes from a total failure to legislate. Biden’s deportation policies are challenged because Congress has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform for more than three decades; electoral powers are taken to court because lawmakers can’t agree on electoral reforms. It is even the case on abortion: the decision to reverse precedent was controversial but the US was always an outlier (along with Canada) in legalising abortion through courts rather than via popular referendum or federal legislation.

Yes, justices on both ends of the spectrum have “legislated by the bench”, either through an overly liberal or an overly strict interpretation of the Constitution. But many decisions could be negated by acts of Congress if lawmakers could actually do their jobs and pass laws. Think about that the next time the Supreme Court, manipulated as it has been for political ends, makes a decision that you hate. Perhaps the target of your ever-growing ire is misplaced.

Christopher Cermak is Monocle’s Washington correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Reuters

Affairs / Russia

Narrative friction

While the Wagner group’s march on Moscow ended abruptly on Saturday, the battle to win Russian hearts and minds rages on. Long before the mutiny, the mercenary group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, had already entered the public discourse by using the messaging app Telegram to post vlogs and voice memos that were critical of the Russian military. The influence of his rhetoric was apparent over the weekend as crowds in the briefly occupied Rostov-on-Don cheered on the mercenaries (pictured).

“It’s a significant moment that reveals growing cracks in the Kremlin’s control of the narrative,” Lucy Birge, a specialist in Russian politics, tells The Monocle Minute. “Vladimir Putin has since admitted that the state had been funding the Wagner group, which is something that we never heard publicly before. It’s an attempt by the government to take ownership of the situation – but also to undermine Prigozhin.”

For the latest updates from Russia, tune in to Wednesday’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Alamy

Security / Australia & Solomon Islands

Friends and relations

Australia’s defence minister and deputy prime minister, Richard Marles (pictured), met the Solomon Islands’ premier, Manasseh Sogavare, yesterday for talks on security, infrastructure and improved labour mobility. As a major aid donor and long-term security partner of the Solomon Islands, Australia was alarmed when Sogavare signed a security pact with China last year, casting uncertainty over their relationship.

Beijing, which is trying to strengthen its position in the Pacific, has also taken on a growing role in training and equipping the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force. The Solomon Islands appear to be reaping the benefits of increased attention from both the East and West. Expect more announcements about good relations when Sogavare heads to China next week.

Image: Vaughn Ridley/Collision via Sportsfilee

Business / Toronto

Tech liberties

Collision, one of the world’s biggest technology conferences, wraps up in Toronto today. The four-day event gathered more than 36,000 attendees from 118 countries, as well as scores of technology start-ups seeking to boost their profiles and attract investors. Exhibitors showcased everything from autonomous vehicles to new artificial-intelligence software for use in medicine.

The conference also promotes Canada as an emerging leader in global technology recruitment: immigration, refugees and citizenship minister Sean Fraser (pictured) announced the country’s first-ever “Tech Talent Strategy”, a set of initiatives to attract people across the science, technology, engineering and mathematics sectors. His proposals include a new three-year open work permit for entrepreneurs seeking to launch their businesses in Canada, as well as improvements to the country’s start-up visa programme. It’s an ambitious step towards the country becoming a major destination for the technology sector.

Design / Amsterdam

Precious goods

When the Lebanese-Dutch Carmen Maria Atiyah de Baets decided to add a shop to her Amsterdam guesthouse, Carmen, she spotted an opportunity to support artisans and small brands from Lebanon, where many businesses have struggled since the 2020 Beirut port explosion.

The shop’s first summer collection includes fashion and design objects sourced from across the country: handmade soap from a factory in Tripoli, glassware from the southern town of Sarafand (pictured), pottery from the village of Assia and slippers by Kaslik-based label Boutique Relaxe. “They take me back to my carefree summers in Lebanon, wrapped in the pink glow of the sun,” De Baets tells The Monocle Minute. “The artisanal quality of every product highlights the value of slowing down when it comes to creative work.”

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

Cité du Vin, Bordeaux

Amy van den Berg explores a museum that is bringing tourism back to the city in one of France’s most famous wine regions.

Monocle Films / Media

Britain’s smallest radio station

Located in the northwestern corner of the Scottish Highlands, Gairloch is a coastal village of about 700 people that is known for its mountains, sea loch and rugged landscape. Monocle paid a visit to Two Lochs, reportedly Britain’s smallest commercial radio station, which is nestled on Gairloch’s shores, run by a handful of volunteers and has built a loyal fanbase of global listeners.


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