NR Webathon

How Much Is Courage Worth to You?

Pro-life activists celebrate outside the Supreme Court as the court rules in the Dobbs v Women’s Health Organization abortion case, overturning Roe v Wade in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

MBD had a good post on Friday urging people to give to our current webathon to support the work of Alexandra DeSanctis, who has been so stalwart on the issue of life. If you think we need advocates for our cause who have zero tolerance for BS, who are unfazed — indeed, amused — by the abuse hurled their way, who know much more than their adversaries, who refuse to get discouraged by the never-ending deceit and obfuscation thrown up by the other side, who are tireless and passionate, well, then, I humbly suggest you do the right thing and back Xan’s important work. Courage, persistence, and attention to detail are invaluable qualities, and we’re hoping you can affirm them with a contribution of any amount. Whatever you give will be instantly doubled because we have a friend who has generously agreed to match any contribution up to $100,000. Thank you!



White House

On the Jimmy Carter vs. Joe Biden Comparison


Joe Biden’s appalling tenure in the White House has gotten many people comparing him to Jimmy Carter.

In this Independent Institute post, Jon Miltimore of the Foundation for Economic Education argues that in terms of damage done to the country, it isn’t even close — Biden is far worse.

Crucially, Carter approved a number of important moves to deregulate the economy, whereas Biden has done nothing but expand the scope, power, and cost of the federal behemoth.

Now, Carter is responsible for one of the worst federal agencies, the Department of Education, but never contemplated anything so Orwellian as Biden’s Disinformation Board.

PC Culture

LEAKED: U.S. Navy Pronoun Directive

Navy Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) First Class Reymond Rallos launches an AV-8B Harrier attached to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit from the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, under way in the Atlantic Ocean, April 20, 2022. (Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Jesse Schwab/US Navy)

Editor’s Note: The following U.S. Navy pronoun directive was leaked to National Review at great personal risk. It would seem that the Navy’s recent pronoun training video has left many sailors confused about what pronouns are, how to use them, and why they should care. This document is super legitimate and comes from an anonymous leaker in the Navy and not from the desk of Luther Abel.

01 Jul 22

To:    Director, Surface Officer Distribution Division (PURS-41)
Via:   Commanding Officer, U.S.S. STACEY ABRAMS (KG 300)



  2. Subjective Personal Pronouns — he/she/they
    1. He — HE went to captain’s mast for mansplaining the CIWS system to the junior sailors.
    2. She — SHE avoided FOD walkdown by claiming that skating was mindfulness training.
    3. They — THEY identify as an attack helicopter and so will be provided a hangar bay berth and a ration of JP-5.
  3. Objective Personal Pronouns — him/her/them
    1. Him — “G**d*** these m*****f******. F*** HIM, and F*** you,” said MM2 Hernandez inclusively, as MM2 Abel and GSM2 Guerrero tardily stumbled into Central to assume the 0200 Sounding and Security watches.
    2. Her — “I’m giving HER all she’s got,” said the red-shirted engineer destined to receive 100 percent disability from the VA post-service.
    3. Them — “I would never gundeck like THEM,” said Seaman Timmy observing his nonbinary first class petty officer’s dirtbag demeanor. Seaman Timmy would days later would begin a long and storied career of gundecking maintenance, logs, and personal qualifications. He would retire a senior chief.
  4. Possessive Personal Pronouns — his/her/their
    1. His — HIS qualifications were signed off upon the training petty officer’s receipt of a Monster and a pack of Marlboro Reds.
    2. Her(s) — HER chain of command prolonged morning quarters by tactically piggybacking off of one another for a record thirty-eight hours straight.
    3. Their — THEIR coffee cup was host to new life forms, having been unwashed for seven deployments and three INSURV periods.

Adm. P. Nowne


Climate Policy, the Pre-Modern, and Rationing

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference at Downing Street in London, England, May 25, 2022. (Leon Neal/Pool via Reuters)

That Britain has become a poster child for the stupidities of the current state of climate policy does not say much for its governing (if that’s the word) Conservative party. That all Britain’s other major parties would push the climate agenda in roughly the same direction does not change that fact, or the increasing possibility that the Tories, having squandered their great victory in 2019, are headed for defeat in 2024.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, David Frost, a senior Conservative now sitting in the House of Lords, has a few things to say about where things are going:

The Government must realise that it faces a crisis. In the short run it must keep the lights on or pay a heavy price. It should then drop the mad dash for medieval wind power technology and focus on the only acceptably low-carbon form of power available – gas. Get shale gas extraction going, commit long-term to the North Sea, put in place proper storage – and build some new gas power stations. By all means commit to nuclear, too – but only gas solves the problems in a meaningful time frame.

Of course I don’t think this will happen. We will muddle along, and then, one day soon, when we realise we don’t have the energy our economy needs, whoever is in power then will resort to rationing.

Frost knows, but is, perhaps, too polite to mention, that it was power rationing that, more than anything else, destroyed the Tory government led by Ted Heath from 1970-74. In terms of personality or superficial political style, Boris Johnson could not be more different than Heath even if, at a deeper level, there are some interesting similarities. Nevertheless, there will be a certain irony if the prime ministers who, respectively, took Britain into and out of the EU (or in Heath’s case, what became the EU) are destroyed by energy rationing.

Read on, however, to find this:

I fear a different world view is now deeply embedded across politics. It’s one that sees industrial civilisation as damaging to the planet and low energy use as desirable. It’s one that thinks some form of original sin was committed in this country by James Watt and Richard Arkwright, for which we must now expiate – a view shared by the Prime Minister, to judge by his comments in Glasgow at Cop26.

There is no rational reason that climate policy had to go in the direction that it has, but one key reason has been the persistent power of a pre-modern millenarian fantasy that has, in one form or another (Marxism is one variant), existed for a very long time.

And such millenarian fantasies are often (although not in the case of some of Marx’s immediate heirs, a good number of whom shared a Promethean vision of a world reshaped by technology) accompanied by an urge to abandon technological advance. That’s one reason why so many of the solutions that would, as presented, solve the problems caused by a supposed climate “crisis” are rejected.

Lord Frost, however, is having none of it.

Modern civilisation needs energy, and lots of it. Abundant energy powered the Industrial Revolution and everything that came with it – proper housing, enough food, scientific and medical advances, economic growth that frees up time to do things you like doing as well as working.

I don’t like poverty, I don’t like artificial limits on human aspiration and potential, and when you don’t have enough energy you get a lot of both. That’s why we need to change tack now. We need an energy policy that delivers power, at acceptable cost, whenever we need it – because an advanced economy without that will not stay advanced for long.


Film & TV

Blade Runner at 40

Harrison Ford in Blade Runner(1982) (Warner Bros.)

The summer of 1982 was a pretty good one for sci-fi movies. In addition to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, there was John Carpenter’s The Thing, E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (the latter two an . . . interesting pairing), and, of course, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Underappreciated in its initial release (thanks in part to the version seen by most audiences at the time, which includes some rather amusing voiceover narrations from star Harrison Ford and a different ending), Blade Runner has grown in stature over the years. Its neo-noir atmosphere, enhanced by an indelible Vangelis score (R.I.P.) and dominated by giant cities, soulless mega-corporations, and synthetic humanoids, endures as a pop-culture landmark to the present day. Its influence can be seen in countless creations in a variety of media since (including a pretty good sequel directed by Dune director Denis Villeneuve and released in 2017).

As it came out 40 years ago this month, the retrospectives are now circulating. In Esquire, Tom Ward argues that Blade Runner “arguably defined not just 1980s science fiction, but in the forty years since its initial release, sci-fi films in general”:

Famously, the film was a critical and commercial flop in the U.S. with VHS sales and endless re-edits eventually leading to its cult status. (In 2004, it was even voted as the best science fiction film of all time by a panel of global scientists). Today, it’s difficult to picture a sci-fi film that doesn’t play homage. Would HBO’s Westworld have updated its 1973 film version so successfully and stylishly without Blade Runner paving the way both visually and in terms of its musings on free will? And, decades before Elon Musk looked set to take over the world, Blade Runner’s Tyrell Corporation (and indeed, Alien’s Weyland-Yutani) was inspiring evil empires from Resident Evil’s Umbrella Corporation to RoboCop’s Omni Consumer Products and The Terminator’s Cyberdyne Systems.

Meanwhile, at the Hollywood Reporter, Ryan Parker resurrects an old interview with co-star Rutger Hauer, in which Hauer claims that Roy Batty, the rogue android Ford’s Rick Deckard is tasked with exterminating (with extreme prejudice?), is not, in fact, a villain:

In an interview for the film’s 1982 release, the Netherlands-born Hauer, while being flattered by a journalist about his good looks, was asked why he would want to play a “villain” in the film when he was handsome enough to be the hero. A polite Hauer responded that he did not see his character, Roy Batty, in the same light.

“I don’t think this is a villain,” he began. “What is wrong with a man — from the point where they start chasing him, he just wants to live a little longer. He hasn’t done so much harm. You don’t see him do any harm, and then they start chasing him down. He has to fight once in a while because that’s survival.”

Whatever you think of Hauer’s ambiguity on this question — not even the most famous ambiguity about the film — Batty’s final moments are undoubtedly some of the finest in science fiction. The character’s dying monologue, written in collaboration with Hauer, achieved the immortality he himself cannot, and helped the film to do the same:



Fifteen Things That Caught My Eye Today: Christians in Pakistan, Getting Practical about Life after Roe & Much More

Pro-life demonstrators celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., as the Court rules in the Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization abortion case, overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, June 24, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters)

1. Christians in Pakistan are victims of rape, forced marriages, and violent mobs using blasphemy laws against them

2. Erika Bachiochi in the NYTimes: What Makes a Fetus a Person?

Another vision for women’s equality and liberty exists that challenges rather than accepts the ideal of autonomy. The 18th-century English philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, author of “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” and her heirs that were in the 19th-century American women’s rights movement sought civil and political rights so they might better fulfill their responsibilities to others. As Wollstonecraft reasoned, “The only method of leading women to fulfill their peculiar duties is to free them from all restraint by allowing them to participate the inherent rights of mankind.”

So while Wollstonecraft viewed persons as individuals justly protected by rights, as she vied for equality, she urged both women and men not to dismiss their responsibility to others. For her, maternal and paternal responsibilities began not when the child was born, but when he or she was still developing in the mother’s womb. Achieving the kind of moral maturity that would regard service to and care of others as life-giving and fulfilling was life’s goal.

As the nascent child shares her mother’s body, the mother depends upon many others for her own sustenance and flourishing. This is the case in every pregnancy, of course. But the need of the expectant mother becomes more acute when she is poor or ill, or her life or health is endangered by the pregnancy. The woman with child means two vulnerable patients for doctors to care for and for insurance to support; capacious workplace accommodations and financial assistance; paternal duties expected, not ignored.

Without robust societal support of pregnant women and child-rearing families, too many pregnant women will be left to regard their unborn children as trespassers on their already taxed lives rather than unbidden gifts that open new horizons to them. These women need society’s utmost assistance — not abortion, or scorn.

3. Naomi Schaefer Riley: Liberal policies return children like Julissia Batties, 7, back to their abusive parents

It’s about damn time. That’s the first thing to be said about the arrest in the murder of Julissia Batties by her mother, Navasia Jones, and her half-brother Paul Fine Jr. It’s been almost a year since the 7-year-old girl was found beaten to death in Jones’ Bronx apartment. And it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out who was responsible.

According to the district attorney, Fine assaulted her between Aug. 8 and Aug. 10, and Jones failed to get medical help while her daughter was dying. The beatings were so bad, they damaged her internal organs and she had bruises all over her body. Oh, and she was sexually abused as well.

But even if Jones and Fine spend the rest of their lives in jail, there is plenty more work to be done to fix the system that failed Julissia.

4. Nora Kenney: Former foster youth clap back against pro-choice narrative on TikTok

Let’s hear it for the former foster children on TikTok clapping back against the pro-abortion rights narrative that their lives are so miserable they’d be better off dead.

You know the narrative. It goes something like this: There are children conceived into bad situations, including abusive homes and cycles of poverty, and therefore, abortion must be legal to ensure their parents can end their lives and preempt their suffering.

“I have seen firsthand what happens to children born to parents who don’t want them,” one foster mother explained tearfully on TikTok. Her takeaway was clear: It would be better if the children had never been born, an outcome the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will threaten.

5.This is terrorism’: Molotov cocktail thrown into Tennessee pregnancy resource center

6. Virginia Catholic Church targeted with fire, graffiti after SCOTUS overturns Roe


8. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone: Our Task in Post-Roe America

Call up a local pregnancy center and commit to a monthly donation. Support political leaders who not only restrict abortion but provide new resources for mothers in crisis. Volunteer to accompany single mothers not only during pregnancy, but also beyond. Fast one day a week and donate the money you save to Catholic Charities or other organizations that provide for mothers in need. And men, answer the call to be a father to the fatherless.

9. Lauren Green McAfee: After Roe, How Do We Stand for Life?

Practical Ways to Engage

There are myriad ways we can practically apply our theology to the pro-life issue. As individuals and churches consider how to engage at this monumental moment, these suggestions are meant to be a starting point, not all-encompassing.

Unexpected Pregnancy and Pro-Life Support

Start an Embrace Grace group or discipleship group at your church to walk alongside single moms in unexpected pregnancies.

Lead a Bible study or Sunday school series studying the imago Dei or similar content and seek to develop a holistically pro-life ethic among your church body.

Partner with a pregnancy center near your church.

Create a resource closet or list of resources available for mothers in unexpected pregnancies.

Pray for pro-life ministries that provide care to women and families facing an unexpected pregnancy, and support their work.

Attend a pro-life conference with members of your church.

Provide community and care for single mothers in your church.

Help post-abortive women and men connect with ministries like Support After Abortion that provide support in the healing process.

Adoption and Foster Care

Prepare your church to step in and support families in crisis who are at risk of having their children removed from the home.

Start an adoption fund from your church through Lifesong for Orphans, so that your church can provide grants to families in your community who want to adopt.

Share about ways the church can pursue adoption with gospel-centered agencies.

Educate church members about how to get involved in your local foster care system.

Start an adoption and foster care support group for families in your church.

As the church engages abortion in a way that demonstrates our belief that all people are created in God’s image, our culture will be radically changed—even more than it has been by this Supreme Court ruling. This is an opportunity for the church to love people to Christ and help them in their journey. Let us not waste it.

10. Laura Wolk: Protecting Unborn Disabled Life in a Post-Roe World

In short, exposure to people with disabilities enables us to transform the abstract principle of human dignity into a lived reality. Thus, we cannot move from rationally understanding the value of life in all its diversity, complexity, and beauty to living it out in our actions unless we come to know, befriend, and yes, even dislike people with disabilities—that is, until we invite them into the entirety of the messy human experience.

Now more than ever, the pro-life movement must recognize and rectify our failures in this area. Unfortunately, many of us lack this necessary exposure to disabled people in our daily life, leaving us just as vulnerable as those who are pro-choice to subconsciously devaluing their lives. Access barriers and refusals to accommodate keep people with disabilities out of our social, educational, and employment spaces, including those run by pro-life entities. Fear and lack of familiarity cause us not to approach. And our squeamishness in the face of suffering urges us to avert our gaze. But if we don’t have disabled friends, loved ones, colleagues, church members, or customers in our lives, how can we ever hope to convince a terrified mother, newly armed with a life-altering diagnosis and bombarded by her doctors to abort, that there is another way? If we do not have a realistic understanding of the time, energy, and resources it takes to raise a profoundly disabled child, or if we have never walked the road with someone who carries a terminal child to term, how can our hearts possibly contain the compassion and charity necessary to assist a stranger?

If we do not take a serious accounting of our approach to disabled lives outside the womb, we stand a huge chance that the lives of unborn disabled children will remain a viable bargaining chip in state legislatures across the country. If we only understand the intrinsic worth of disabled lives with our rational intellect rather than also through our personal experiences, then we will lack the adequate drive to advocate their protection, and we will risk allowing the right to kill a disabled child to remain a temporary or permanent part of the compromises forged at the state level.

11. Marco Rubio: The Providing for Life Act: A pro-life plan for post-Roe America

12. Nicole Stelle Garnett: A Victory for Religious Liberty and Educational Pluralism

The Supreme Court rejects policies that exclude faith-based schools from private-school-choice programs.

13Ericka Andersen: Young people aren’t attached to religion, which could augur ill for their future giving.

14David Alton: Religious persecution is a hallmark of the CCP

A Chinese pastor who is currently in prison is Wang Yi. His pen name is Wang Shuya. He is the founding pastor of the Early Rain Covenant Church, a Calvinist house church in Chengdu. He is also a writer, editor, and social activist, and was a legal scholar at Chengdu University. In 2018 he was arrested along with dozens of church leaders as part of an continuing crackdown on all unauthorized religious groups in China. He was given a 9-year prison sentence for “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegal business operations”.


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Law & the Courts

A Needless and Mistaken Attack on Lochner v. New York


In Justice Alito’s opinion for the Court in Dobbs, he launched into a surprising attack on an old case, Lochner v. New York. That 1905 case involved a New York statute that put an upper limit on the number of hours that bakers were allowed to work.  The Court invalidated the statute on the grounds that the 14th Amendment protects the individual’s liberty of contract.

Generations of law students have heard that decision berated as wrong, an abuse of judicial power. Apparently, Justice Alito imbibed that view because he made a swipe at Lochner in Dobbs.

In this Reason piece, Damon Root argues that the 14th Amendment indeed does protect liberty of contract. I think he’s right. The 14th Amendment ought to protect people against special-interest legislation (as was the case in Lochner) that deprives them of basic freedoms.


The Problem of Gerontocracy

President Joe Biden delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., April 28, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Reuters)

There is a tendency in some of the more pessimistic corners of American political discourse to liken contemporary America to the late-stage Soviet Union. This is a ridiculous comparison, for all sorts of reasons. With one exception: The way that the Soviet Union seemed dominated by a gerontocracy of old Communist Party hands (Reagan joked that they “kept dying on” him until Gorbachev showed up) does bear a slight resemblance to the political situation of the United States. Duke University sociology professor Kieran Healy recently shared a striking chart showing the increasing median age for a member of Congress:

The chart shows Democrats being guiltier of this than Republicans. Likewise, a recent Spectator editorial focuses on the older Democrats largely in charge, chiefly President Biden himself, though admitting the counterexample of Trump for Republicans (it could have added Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, now 80, though not markedly changed from 20 years ago in his bearing):

The most powerful person in America not named Joe (no, not you, Kamala) is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who clocks in at eighty-two years of age. How long has Pelosi been around? She’s represented California in the House of Representatives for a fifth of the time California has been a state. Her counterpart in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, is a mere seventy-one years young, and no doubt likes to tease her with his spirited whippersnapping.

Also in the Senate is another Californian, Dianne Feinstein, who first came to national prominence when Harvey Milk was assassinated in 1978. At eighty-eight, Feinstein is older than them all, and according to the San Francisco Chronicle, it’s starting to show. She reportedly suffers from memory lapses and has difficulty following policy discussions. Until last year, she was the lead Democrat on the powerful Judiciary Committee.

Elsewhere we find Dr. Anthony Fauci, face of the government’s Covid response, age eighty-one; left-wing insurgent senator Bernie Sanders, voice of the millennial generation, age eighty; and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who turns eighty-three this month. How is America’s political pulse these days? It’s starting to feel a bit faint.

The Spectator finds it odd that a country so associated with youth and energy seems so dominated by the old. I think some of this is understandable; people are, as a rule, living longer and healthier lives today, and the strong correspondence between age and wealth that has built up enables the instantiation of existing hierarchies of power. Sometimes, this fact is even to be welcomed; the old have throughout history been looked to for their wisdom and experience. The very name “Senate” arises from “senex,” the Latin word for “old.” Conservatives, in particular, ought to have a reverence for what precedes them. As Abraham Lincoln once put it, “What is conservatism? Is it not the adherence to the old and the tried, against the new and the untried?” Often, the old can be more relied upon to serve as transmitters for proper inheritances, and bulwarks against fads and innovations that one should, in fact, resist. Moreover, many of them are great people, whose presence in one’s personal and professional life is to be welcomed.

But in other times and situations, this can get out of hand, as I think it has in modern politics. Much of our gerontocracy seems not to want to perpetuate proper goods but rather its own particular advantages and desires. (See, e.g., how existing entitlement programs steal from the young to give to the old, the former of whom have long, in my experience, ceased to expect any such munificence when we ourselves retire.) NR’s own Yuval Levin, also editor of National Affairs and director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at AEI, grappled with this problem as well in a recent New York Times essay.

Yuval argues, without wishing ill of the disproportionately elder people who dominate our political life, that their age has provided an enduring yet faulty framing for our nation’s self-understanding. As he puts it:

Consider what the country’s modern history looks like from the vantage point of an American born near the beginning of the postwar baby boom. Say you were born the same year as Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush and Mr. Trump, in 1946. Your earliest memories begin around 1950, and you recall the ’50s through the eyes of a child as a simple time of stability and wholesome values. You were a teenager in the early ’60s, and view that time through a lens of youthful idealism, rebellion and growing cultural self-confidence.

By the late 1960s and into the ’70s, as a 20-something entering the adult world, you found that confidence shaken. Idealism gave way to some cynicism about the potential for change, everything felt unsettled and the future seemed ominous and ambiguous. But by the 1980s, when you were in your 30s and early 40s, things had started settling down. Your work had some direction, you were building a family and concerns about mortgage payments largely replaced an ambition to transform the world.

By the 1990s, in your 40s and early 50s, you were comfortable and confident. It was finally your generation’s chance to take charge, and it looked to be working out.

As the 21st century dawned, you were still near the peak of your powers and earnings, but gradually peering over the hill toward old age. You soon found the 2000s filled with unexpected dangers and unfamiliar forces. The world was becoming less and less your own.

You reached retirement age in the 2010s amid growing uncertainty and instability. The culture was increasingly bewildering, and the economy seemed awfully insecure. The extraordinary blend of circumstances that defined the world of your youth seemed likely to be denied to your grandchildren. By now, it all feels that it’s spinning out of control. Is the chaotic, transformed country around you still the glittering land of your youth?

Yuval argues that, as a result of the dominance of something like this narrative in our political life, “our politics is implicitly directed toward recapturing some part of the magic of the mid-20th-century America of boomer youth,” both Left and Right. But he warns against replacing the wistfulness of the elderly simply with the energy and excitement of youth. Useful as those things can be in keeping D.C. and other polities running (the not-joke that Washington is really run by twentysomethings is confirmed by this recent New York Times article), youthfulness brings its own defects. Chief among the imperfections of the young are an impatience with existing forms and institutions, a bias toward novelty, an idealism (in D.C. often West Wing–inflicted) that can jell poorly with reality, and an abiding belief that history began the day they were born. with a concomitant ignorance of history. All such traits help explain why revolutionary movements throughout history have found their most-fervent devotees among the youth, and should make us skeptical of those who sell themselves primarily on their supposed youth or novelty. History — studied properly, not instrumentally — brings humility, another virtue that youth often lack.

Yuval’s preferred solution for a new dominant narrative of our national life would elevate Gen X’ers to supply a civic center between the excitation of the young and the regurgitation of the old. You’d think I, at 28, would resist such a self-interested call by a Gen X’er, but I do not. Younger Millennials and certainly Gen Z still have some maturation to do before they can properly assume control of national life. Gen X seems well positioned to steer it next.

If, that is, older generations ever get out the door.

Politics & Policy

Reminder: There’s An Easy Way to Avoid Constantly Litigating Details of January 6


“Did he or didn’t he grab the steering wheel of an SUV to try to join a mob marching toward the U.S. Capitol?” shouldn’t be a question that Republicans should want to ask or think about going into 2024. There’s a very easy way to avoid it, of course — nominating any of the many potential candidates who don’t have the vast and ever-growing baggage of Donald J. Trump.


Trump and the SUV

Former President Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Fla. February 26, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

I have to say I’ve been skeptical of the Trump SUV story since I first heard it. Maybe Cassidy Hutchinson did hear this story from Ornato, or legitimately believes she did, but I just don’t get how you grab the steering wheel from the back seat of a presumably quite large SUV. Andy, as usual, has been all over the various aspects of this story, so read his latest if you haven’t. Here’s the Washington Post account, and a relevant snippet:

Trump denied trying to grab the steering wheel, calling Hutchinson’s testimony “’sick’ and fraudulent.” Ornato and Engel were not asked about the incident when they testified to the committee, the person briefed on the Secret Service testimony said. . . .

Three agents who accompanied Trump on Jan. 6 are disputing that Trump assaulted or grabbed at Engel and/or the steering wheel, according to one current and one former law enforcement official familiar with their accounts. The three agents, Engle and Ornato are also willing to testify under oath to the committee about their recollection of events on Jan. 6 in the Secret Service vehicle, the two people said. The three agents do not dispute that Trump was furious that the agents would not take him to the Capitol.

If the committee has helped blow up Hutchinson’s credibility by not doing due diligence on this proverbial too-good-to-check story that’s not central to anything it’s trying to prove, it is political and investigatory malpractice of the first order.

Science & Tech

Where Are the Aliens? Are They Evil?

People watch the skies during a UFO tour outside Sedona, Ariz., in 2013. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

In May, Congress made a fitful, unsatisfying attempt to reveal what the government knows about what we are now calling “unidentified aerial phenomena,” but which used to be known as UFOs. It already seems to have been forgotten about, alas. But others continue to ponder the possible implications of extraterrestrial life at a more theoretical level.

At Reason, Ron Bailey reports on an article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society by astrobiologists Michael Wong and Stuart Bartlett that attempts to answer the question that has baffled scientists (who tend to discount virtually all “evidence” that is offered as proof of extraterrestrial life): Where are the aliens? First formally pondered by Enrico Fermi, the conundrum, now stylized as the “Fermi paradox,” wonders where all the aliens in our galaxy are if they are sufficiently advanced to travel the stars. My favorite “solution” to this is the “Zoo hypothesis,” which posits that humanity is deliberately insulated from interstellar goings-on because we are insufficiently advanced. Wong and Barlett offer two different explanations: Their civilizations either grow so large and complex as to become unsustainable, or those in charge of said civilizations realize their unsustainable course and restrain it, thereby stalling the kind of development that would beget spacefaring. As Bailey puts it, “No alien visitors to Earth have been detected because they either destroy themselves or they choose to stay quietly at home.” He is right to note a kind of xeno-Malthusianism to this.

But if another study is correct, even if we do encounter some extraterrestrials, we might not need to be that worried about them. Vice reports on a paper by Alberto Caballero, a Ph.D. student at Vigo University in Spain, that attempts to estimate the number of potential hostile extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. His conclusion:

Caballero concludes that the probability of a hostile alien race invading Earth is low—very low. “The probability of extraterrestrial invasion by a civilization whose planet we message is, therefore, around two orders of magnitude lower than the probability of a planet-killer asteroid collision,” which is already a one-in-100-million-years event, he writes in the paper.

He also said that there is likely fewer than one malicious extraterrestrial civilization in the Milky Way that has also mastered interstellar travel, which would make them a so-called “Type 1” civilization.

Caballero makes what he admits are some “questionable” assumptions in his paper, basing it on Earth’s history and how life is known to exist; another world’s history or other forms of life could confound his findings.

At any rate, for now, it’s all just speculation. Unless (or until?) the next UAP hearing reveals unexpected information — or an unanticipated guest.


‘Their Statesmanship Looked Beyond the Passing Moment’

(RoschetzkyIstockPhoto/Getty Images)

Happy Fourth of July! In celebration of this holiday of holidays, Rich, Charlie, Michael, and Andrew discuss various facets of this occasion for The Editors. The conversation largely revolves around the Revolution itself, and comparisons between it and other revolutions over the centuries. Rich quotes a moving Frederick Douglass line from his “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” speech, and Charlie uses it to explain what the Founders’ goal was — and was not. Listeners are also treated to interesting facts about Revolutionary-era figures — both the prominent and the under-appreciated — from this tumultuous and crucial moment in our history.

Our editors also touch on the theory that the U.S. is heading for a civil war (spoiler: It’s not) and wrap up with a meaningful discussion of America’s enduring strengths. 

Celebrate this Fourth with fireworks, beer, games, and this very patriotic Editors episode. 

Politics & Policy

It’s Been a Week Since Roe Was Overturned. Listen in on a Conversation: What Now?


You can watch my conversation with Maureen Ferguson, Ashley McGuire, and Leigh Snead about what needs to happen now at your convenience:

And do, of course, please feel free to share it.

Our conversation was co-sponsored by the National Review Institute and the Catholic Association. It’s the first in a Fridays for Life series NRI will be presenting virtually. Stay tuned in the coming days for information about next week’s edition.

And please consider RSVPing for a conversation on pro-life health care after Roe with Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann from MyCatholicDoctor, Chaney Mullins Gooley from Her Plan, and Louis Brown of the Christ Medicus Foundation. RSVP here.

Economy & Business

Abortion Benefits Won’t Protect Corporations from Woke Wrath

Pro-choice activists assemble in downtown Memphis, Tenn., May 21, 2019. (Karen Pulfer Focht/Reuters)

In the aftermath of the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, as well as the June 24 ruling itself, many companies outlined plans to subsidize travel by pregnant employees living in states with strong pro-life laws to obtain an abortion in states that don’t restrict it.

Few companies created benefits that covered abortion specifically or exclusively, though the timing of their announcements make their intentions quite clear. The day the decision was handed down, AT&T told employees that it would reimburse travel expenses for medical procedures that were unavailable within 100 miles, doing so without mentioning abortion. Its competitor, T-Mobile, created a similar policy at the beginning of May when the decision was leaked.

There is an interesting duality in the actions of these companies and others, one that progressives have already latched onto. At the same time that they are paying for their female employees to cross state lines for the purpose of obtaining abortions, they are also donating money to Republican political organizations.

The reason for this is most likely that companies have different needs in different regions of the country. AT&T’s national arms donate primarily to Democrats, according to Open Secrets, while many of its regional affiliates donate primarily to Republicans. AT&T Southeast, for example, operates in deeper-red regions, so it makes sense that this particular wing would donate more to the GOP.

Progressives who are up in arms about the Dobbs decision did not look at the situation with this sort of nuance. On Monday, Judd Legum compiled on his Substack a list of companies that pledged to fund abortion travel while simultaneously giving money to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA). He focused on donations to RAGA in particular because attorneys general are the ones who give the orders to enforce trigger laws that can legally go into effect in the absence of Roe v. Wade.

Legum called the practices “hypocrisy” and reported that AT&T and T-Mobile gave $125,000 and $100,000, respectively, to RAGA in 2021. Also on the list were Comcast, which gave $216,000, as well as Uber, Mastercard, and JPMorgan, all of whom donated $25,000.

Legum is not the only prominent leftist who is attempting to browbeat corporations into cutting off donations to Republicans. Two days before the court released the Dobbs decision, Jane Sumner, a professor at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, who has written a book on how consumers can influence companies’ political behaviors, published a column in the Washington Post detailing how activists can pressure AT&T into altering its donation practices.

Another piece in Bloomberg, published Thursday, focused on AT&T and other companies such as Amazon and Disney that have pledged to fund abortion travel while giving to Republicans. Left-wingers are not shy in their participation in public-pressure campaigns against political opponents, and these companies will likely face their wrath.

Secular progressivism is a demanding religion whose adherents believe in its tenets staunchly. And they can see past these corporations’ public-relations attempts. AT&T and the rest, by their own doing, are in a precarious position. They have alienated a number of pro-life customers while failing to placate abortion proponents. We will see what this situation holds for their business prospects.

Politics & Policy

Chuck Schumer’s Cynical Play on China-Competition Bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) faces reporters following the weekly Senate Democratic lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 29, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

The multibillion-dollar China-competition legislative package is at a critical juncture this month: After more than a year of deliberations, the bill — which has had many names and is frequently called the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) — is now with a bipartisan, bicameral conference committee charged with settling on a compromise text. Senate leadership wants to get it done by the summer.

For months, the administration and its congressional allies have hammered the message that this is an urgent, must-pass bill. It provides for $52 billion in semiconductor manufacturing subsidies, which Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and congressional leaders have said will determine the degree to which companies like Intel expand their operations in the U.S. In fact, Raimondo issued another statement reiterating the urgency of this bill earlier this week. For its part, Intel has said it may curtail its plans to open new chip-manufacturing sites in Ohio, depending on the outcome of the USICA legislative process.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is reportedly even organizing a political-pressure campaign in tandem with private industry. This week he told Axios, “If we don’t act quickly we could lose tens of thousands of good-paying jobs to Europe.”

Now, though, there are reports that Schumer may try to use the Senate’s remaining time ahead of the midterm elections to enact a trimmed-down version of the Build Back Better Act. That prompted the following threat from Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell:

Some progressive pundits, such as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, seem to be wishcasting, suggesting that McConnell’s threat to kill a Chinese-competitiveness bill to block legislation making prescription drugs cheaper will backfire.

Schumer is hammering that point, with his spokesman telling CNN that McConnell is holding the bill “hostage” to protect the pharmaceutical industry.

But Schumer should be viewed as the one hobbling USICA’s chances, by gumming up the Senate with a push to reanimate Build Back Better. As Allahpundit noted at Hot Air, citing me, McConnell seems to be banking on that perception:

I think Jimmy Quinn is right about what McConnell’s play here is. Schumer and Manchin are suddenly close to a deal on a scaled-down BBB bill that would reduce prescription drug costs for seniors, with Democrats hoping to pass the bill by the end of July. The House and Senate, meanwhile, have each already passed their own versions of USICA, a bill which the public broadly understands is necessary to shore up America’s supply chain. As Quinn says, McConnell is essentially daring Schumer and Biden to choose their economic bill over the Chinese-competition bill and then explain to voters why more domestic spending in an age of high inflation is of greater urgency than catching up to China in the important economic niche of semiconductor production.

Either Schumer truly believes that the USICA text under discussion is an urgent national-security priority, or he doesn’t.

As I reported recently, there’s a non-zero chance that Republicans may just decide to walk away in the end, given their political prospects. That possibility will grow if Build Back Better’s chances of becoming law also increase:

Waiting a few months may result in a better, narrowly tailored bill devoid of the climate- and DEI-focused provisions with which House Democrats loaded it up. But, as Allahpundit concluded, that delay might, in turn, have ramifications for Intel’s plans in Ohio.

Economy & Business

On Top of All These Problems, an Economic Recession?

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on administration plans to fight inflation and lower costs during a speech in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 10, 2022. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Right now Democrats are talking themselves into believing that they can mitigate the red wave of the midterms by focusing on abortion, gun control, and January 6.

One of their many problems is that Americans will regularly get fresh reminders about the other issues that are driving their irritation with the Biden administration — and not just every time they fill up their tank with gas or go shopping for groceries. Once a month, new Consumer Price Index numbers come out, reminding the country of just how high inflation is. Once a month, new U.S. Customs and Border Protection numbers come out, reminding Americans that hundreds of thousands of migrants are attempting to enter the country illegally each month.

And on July 28, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis will release the newest gross domestic product numbers. The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow measure, which tracks economic data in real time and adjusts continuously, expects second-quarter output to contract by 1 percent. This week the BEA offered its adjusted numbers for the first quarter, finding the U.S. economy decreased at an annual rate of 1.6 percent last quarter, a little worse than the earlier assessment of 1.5 percent. Two consecutive quarters of decline is traditionally defined as a recession.

There is a good chance that on the morning of July 29, the headline will be, “U.S. NOW IN RECESSION.”

Are there voters out there who will be more concerned about abortion, gun control, and the events of January 6? Sure. But those voters will be dwarfed by the number of voters who are irate about runaway inflation, high gas prices, high food prices, difficulty finding infant formula, lingering supply-chain problems, shrinking 401(k)s and the market, dwindling savings, and on top of all that, an economic recession.

Politics & Policy

Today in Capital Matters: Nicotine and Industrial Policy


Jessica Melugin and Ryan Young of the Competitive Enterprise Institute write about the federal government’s misguided crackdown on nicotine:

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a plan to limit nicotine in cigarettes and ban Juul e-cigarettes. A court quickly stayed the Juul decision, so Juul products will remain on shelves for now. But both measures, if they were to take effect, would create incentives for black markets.

E-cigarettes such as those made by Juul are a safer alternative to tobacco, and an effective quitting aid for smokers. Mandating that tobacco cigarettes have a lower nicotine content would encourage smokers to smoke more to get the same nicotine effect — or to go underground to look for higher-nicotine cigarettes.

And, as if the FDA hadn’t done enough harm, now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is getting in on the action.

Veronique de Rugy writes about an example of industrial policy from France:

And here the story of the Minitel, even though not a resounding failure, offers a great illustration of one of the problems with industrial policy. When thinking of the Minitel story, we are lucky to have a perfect product to compare it to: The iPhone. As Mercatus Center’s Dan Rothchild reminded me, the iPhone came out 15 years ago, and its evolution offers a sharp contrast with the Minitel. While the iPhone has changed and improved dramatically over the years, thanks to Apple investment and innovation, the Minitel pretty much stagnated. The difference couldn’t be more stark.

Capital Matters

California’s AB5 Set to Worsen Supply-Chain Woes

A truck picks up a shipping container at the Port of Savannah in Georgia. Savannah, GA. October 23, 2021. (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Supreme Court yesterday denied an appeal from the California Trucking Association about AB5, the new employment law in California governing independent-contract work. That means the law goes into effect today, and the trucking industry in the most important state for supply chains will face major upheaval.

“It is going to be a radically new world in California’s trucking sector with the imposition of AB5, and it isn’t clear what parts of the industry — if any — are ready for it,” writes John Kingston at FreightWaves. The law was enjoined by a lower court on New Year’s Eve in 2019, preventing it from going into effect for the trucking industry. In April 2021, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2–1 decision, overturned the injunction, allowing the law to apply to trucking, but it was still not in effect while the CTA appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. Now that the Supreme Court has denied the appeal, the law goes into effect today.

AB5 seeks to classify more independent contractors as employees under state labor laws. Most truck drivers are independent owner-operators who contract with trucking companies to make deliveries.

But AB5 makes it much harder for that arrangement to work. It imposes an “ABC test” to determine whether someone is an independent contractor. The “B” portion of that test, which says that an independent contractor must be someone who “performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business,” is the largest problem for truck drivers. Making deliveries is part of the usual course of a trucking company’s business, so it would be difficult to classify independent owner-operators as independent contractors.

The independent-contractor model is a major selling point for many truck drivers. They individually own their trucks and can choose to contract with whichever trucking company they would like. They have flexibility in setting their own schedules, and they’re small-business owners instead of large-business employees.

A piece from Truckinginfo describes the legal hoops that trucking companies will have to jump through to deal with AB5:

One option, of course, is using the same drivers as employees. “That’s presumably not very likely because most of those drivers want to be independent contractors,” [attorney Greg Feary] said. “They own their own trucks, they have their own businesses, and this really does throw a monkey wrench into their business model.”

Another option for motor carriers operating in California, he said, might be “to pivot to being a logistics company — a broker or freight forwarder — and using small motor carriers to deliver goods. The courts of California presumably would realize that property brokers are in a different trade/occupation/profession than a small carrier. You would hope that a California judge would understand that and recognize that.” . . .

“The only winners here will be the legal profession in my opinion,” [Western States Trucking Association leader Joe] Rajkovacz added, “as many motor carriers and brokers will need to ‘lawyer up,’ and frankly for the majority of small-business, they can’t afford the legal fees to try and defend themselves against a state determined to do the bidding of organized labor who believe they will financially benefit by increased membership.”

That last part is key: Unions are happy with AB5. Independent owner-operators aren’t unionized, and unions hope to be able to attract newly classified employees as members.

If the Biden administration gets its way, something similar to AB5 will be passed at the federal level. As Iain Murray wrote for Capital Matters last year, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh (himself a former union president) supports more independent contractors being classified as employees. That would significantly decrease worker freedom and threaten the entire “gig economy” that has flourished over the past decade.

For now, we’ll get to see how it works in California. The law could not have come at a worse time for the trucking industry, which now must reorganize itself on the fly while also dealing with backed up deliveries and a looming freight recession.

“Gasoline has been poured on the fire that is our ongoing supply chain crisis,” said the California Trucking Association in a statement after the Supreme Court declined to hear its case. California’s 70,000 independent owner-operators have seven days to restructure their entire business, it says.

The CTA’s argument was that AB5 violates the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (F4A), which, despite its name, applies to trucking as well since it is a federally regulated industry. F4A prohibits states from passing laws or regulations that interfere with “rates, routes and services.” While a lower court bought the CTA’s argument and enjoined the law on those grounds, the Ninth Circuit did not.

The total impact of the law is still unclear. But the last thing trucking needed right now is more California regulations. Trucking companies will be preoccupied with satisfying the state’s legalism, and plenty of drivers could have their livelihoods upended. And though AB5-style regulations aren’t federal yet, California’s outsize presence in the logistics industry means the entire country will feel their effects.

White House

A Terrible Answer: To Stop Russia, Biden Says American Drivers Will Pay More ‘as Long as It Takes’

President Joe Biden attends a working lunch with other G7 leaders to discuss shaping the global economy at the Yoga Pavilion, Schloss Elmau in Kuren, Germany, June 26, 2022. (Kenny Holston/Pool via Reuters)

The president in Madrid this week:

Q : The war [in Ukraine] has pushed [oil] prices up.  They could go as high as $200 a barrel, some analysts think.  How long is it fair to expect American drivers and drivers around the world to pay that premium for this war?

THE PRESIDENT:  As long as it takes, so Russia cannot, in fact, defeat Ukraine and move beyond Ukraine.  This is a critical, critical position for the world.  Here we are.  Why do we have NATO?

Brian Deese, the director of Biden’s National Economic Council, made similar remarks yesterday.

This is a terribly ineffective way to get the president off the hook for his policies that are generally hostile to oil companies and seek to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, and an inadvertently effective way to get Americans to doubt the value of supporting Ukraine against Russia.

Because high gas prices rank among the most dire problems facing the country right now:

Two-thirds of Americans say recent increases in the price of gas are causing them hardship, which is up from 52 percent feeling this financial pinch in April. Although more Americans say they are experiencing “moderate” rather than “severe” hardship, the percentage describing the hardship as severe has risen from 14 percent to 22 percent.

The latest results are based on a June 1-20 Gallup survey. The 67 percent experiencing hardship is among the highest levels Gallup has found when asking this question at other times of rising gas prices since 2000. The last time it was at this level was in May 2011.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, the war spurred a dramatic and unifying effect on American public opinion:

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a dramatic shift in American public opinion: 70 percent of Americans now consider Russia an enemy of the United States, up from 41 percent in January. And on this topic, Democrats and Republicans largely agree, with 72 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Republicans describing Russia as an enemy.

A new Pew Research Center survey, conducted March 21-27, finds that just 7 percent of U.S. adults have an overall favorable opinion of Russia.

But no one asked Americans whether they were willing to pay about $5 per gallon indefinitely as part of this conflict. (Note that U.S. gas prices did not reach these heights, even during conflicts in other oil-rich regions like Iraq!) Americans loathe Putin’s aggression and the Russian army’s barbaric brutality and war crimes.

The Russian invasion exacerbated rising gasoline prices, but these exorbitant prices are also driven by federal policies designed to discourage investment in fossil fuels, shutting down pipelines, insufficient refinery capacity, and rising demand after the pandemic. Scapegoating Putin for a severe energy crisis that is largely self-inflicted may well have the opposite effect than Biden intends.


The Speakable and Unspeakable

People wait to board a train to Dnipro and Lviv during an evacuation effort from eastern Ukraine in Pokrovsk, Donetsk Region, June 18, 2022. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

“Macron says Russia can’t win in Ukraine after strike on mall.” Can’t win? The article begins,

France’s president denounced Russia’s fiery airstrike on a crowded shopping mall in Ukraine as a “new war crime” Tuesday and vowed the West’s support for Kyiv would not waver, saying Moscow “cannot and should not win” the war.

“Should not,” for sure.

Here is another paragraph from the article I have cited:

As condemnation came in from many quarters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov struck a defiant note, saying Russia would press its offensive until it fulfills its goals. He said the hostilities could stop “before the end of the day” if Ukraine were to surrender and meet Russia’s demands, including recognizing its control over territory it has taken by force.

Sure, sure.

In recent days, Garry Kasparov has circulated the words of Thomas Mann, spoken to his fellow Germans from exile in 1941:

The resistance of England, the help it receives from America, are denounced by your leaders as “prolongation of the war.” They demand “peace.” They who drip with the blood of their own people and that of other peoples dare to utter this word. Peace — by that they mean subjugation, the legalization of their crimes, the acceptance of the humanly unendurable. But that is not possible. With a Hitler there can be no peace, because he is thoroughly incapable of peace, and because this word in his mouth is nothing but a dirty, pathological lie — like every other word which he ever gave or spoke.

• Further news:

Russian missile attacks on residential areas killed at least 19 people in a Ukrainian town near Odesa early Friday, authorities reported. . . .

Video of the pre-dawn attack showed the charred remains of buildings in the small town of Serhiivka, located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of Odesa. The Ukrainian president’s office said three X-22 missiles fired by Russian bombers struck an apartment building and two campsites. . . .

Ukraine’s Security Service said 19 people died, including two children. It said another 38, including six children and a pregnant woman, were hospitalized with injuries. Most of the victims were in the apartment building, Ukrainian emergency officials said.

Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff to President Zelensky, said, “A terrorist country is killing our people. In response to defeats on the battlefield, they fight civilians.” Well, they murder them, actually, but yes.

• “Don’t become desensitized to Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine.” That is the heading over a column by Dalibor Rohac, of the American Enterprise Institute. But desensitization has set in, for sure. In many people, I’m not sure there was ever sensitization in the first place.

• In mid-April, I published a post called “The Unspeakable.” It was about rape. A major part of the brutalization of Ukraine by Russian forces is rape. Two days ago, the New York Times published an article with the heading “After Rapes by Russian Soldiers, a Painful Quest for Justice.” Here it is, if you can bear it.

• Today, I have a column with an assortment of items, including this one:

Vladimir Kara-Murza has been imprisoned since April 11. He is a Russian journalist, politician, and democracy leader. He is also a friend of mine, and I wrote about him here. John McCain was a champion of Vladimir’s, and a friend. McCain asked Vladimir to serve as a pallbearer at his funeral, which he did. I wish Vladimir had a champion now. I mean, someone big, on an international stage. Vladimir Kara-Murza is one of the most admirable and bravest people I know. He ought to be a cause.

Maybe Mitt Romney could take it up? Maybe he could be Vladimir’s champion, in the absence of McCain?

• RFE/RL reports,

The Russian parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, has approved a bill that would allow it to define any person who receives financial assistance from abroad as a “foreign agent,” a change making it easier for the state to target its domestic critics.

(1) The Russian dictatorship certainly needs no excuse to target its critics — with arrest, murder, or whatever. (2) Isn’t it interesting that dictatorships, almost everywhere, feel the need to have pretend parliaments that pass pretend laws? It is a form of flattery, I suppose — a compliment that dictatorship pays to democracy, somehow.

• In my observation, our Putinists, here in America and in the Free World more broadly, say two things. They say that Ukraine is a limp-wristed little liberal state, where the people do nothing but read Heather Has Two Mommies. And they say that Ukraine is “Nazi.” Maybe they could, you know — pick a lane?

• Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R., Ga.) has called for a U.S. withdrawal from NATO. Trump will pass from the scene. But Trumpism? It is here to stay, for it represents a strain in American politics, which is sometimes down, sometimes up, but always present.

• Pope Francis said, “Every day, I carry in my heart the dear and tormented Ukraine, which continues to be scourged by barbaric attacks, such as the one that struck the Kremenchuk shopping center.”

• War makes things urgent. Imminent death, or the possibility of it, makes things urgent. Here is an article by Hanna Arhirova of the Associated Press with an apt title: “Carpe diem: In Ukraine, war turning love into marriages.” The article opens as follows:

When the couple awoke to the rumble of war on Feb. 24, they’d been dating for just over a year. Russia was invading and Ihor Zakvatskyi knew there was no more time to lose.

He fished out the engagement ring he’d bought but, until then, not yet been ready to give to Kateryna Lytvynenko and proposed. If death do us part, he figured, then let it be as husband and wife.

“I did not want to waste a single minute without Katya knowing that I wanted to spend my life with her,” Zakvatskyi, 24, said as he and his 25-year-old bride exchanged vows and wedding rings this month in the capital, Kyiv.

Long life to them, and to their country.


Words of Wisdom for These (and All) Times

Window in St. Peter’s Basilica. Taken February, 2018. (Kathryn Jean Lopez)

A good reminder popped up in the Liturgy of the Hours this morning:

Ephesians 4:29-32

Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them. Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.

Christians: “Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit” is a good rule to live by. That includes on social media and in political discussions — and everything.


National Review Institute’s Fridays for Life Series Begins Today


Join me, Maureen Ferguson, Ashley McGuire, and Leigh Snead to talk about life after Roe at 2 p.m. RSVP here. Today’s conversation is sponsored by the Catholic Association, where all three of my guests work.

Politics & Policy

The One Kind of ‘Diversity’ That University Officials Don’t Want


To hear most university leaders talk, the most important thing of all is increasing “diversity.” They say that it’s a great matter of justice and equity to ensure that all groups are properly represented on campus and all feel welcomed.

But the commitment to diversity does not extend to beliefs that clash with leftist orthodoxy. When a number of conservatives and libertarians sought to inject more intellectual diversity into the University of Texas at Austin, they ran into an administration that was determined to thwart them. In today’s Martin Center article, Professor Richard Lowery recounts the sad tale of the Liberty Institute.

He writes, “No other recent effort that I know of has boasted the same combination of ambition, near success, and, ultimately, abject and total failure. The effort was undone not through the machinations of the campus Left but through weakness on the part of supposed conservatives, a lesson that anyone else wading into reform efforts should learn.”

UT’s leftist president, Jay Hartzell, found ways to subvert the intentions of the Liberty Institute’s backers. His most blatant move was to put an advocate of critical race theory in charge of the committee that was doing the planning for the Institute.

Rather than killing the liberty Institute, Hartzell schemed to ensure that it would not provide the intellectual counterweight to the dominant leftism on campus.

Lowery concludes, “Thus, we now have the beginnings of an institute that will both be intellectually mediocre (at best) and have no ability to fulfill its mission to bring underrepresented but important ideas to campus. The extreme hostility of the faculty toward this project shows the desperate need for something serious along these lines. However, with the current administration at UT-Austin, nothing will be possible without far more direct state intervention.”


WFB, BNL, MLB, and More

Members of the music group Bare Naked Ladies arrive at the Shrine Auditorium for the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, Calif., February 24, 1999. (FSP/Reuters)

Impromptus today begins with the subject of secession. The Republican Party of Texas has adopted a platform plank calling for a referendum on secession in 2023. I used to think that secession talk was good clean fun (mainly); I think it is something darker now. In any event, I have some lighter items in today’s column as well.

Let’s have some reader mail.

Responding to a post about culture, a reader writes,

Years ago, WFB wrote about getting the autograph of his boyhood hero, Arturo Toscanini. I couldn’t help thinking that, in the schools of my youth, you would probably have gotten a wedgie for admitting that. Hell, I might have done the administering.

Responding to a column headed “Woke hell, &c.,” a reader writes,

It feels like the tide is turning. My wife and I attended the Bare Naked Ladies concert in Chicago tonight. You may not be familiar with BNL, but they are a Canadian pop group with very talented members who cross many genres of fun music. They sang a song called “Gonna Walk” and the lead singer was teaching the chorus to the audience so we could participate. The chorus goes, “Gonna walk. I won’t quit. Until I get to the bottom of your heart.” Pretty simple. Then the singer said to us — good-naturedly — “And if you don’t sing the chorus part . . . you’re racist.”

In the column I linked to, just above, I had an item or two about baseball. I asked, “Isn’t ‘Los Angeles Angels’ a redundancy?” A language-whiz friend of mine writes, “Yes, but ‘the Los Angeles Angels’ is a double redundancy” — because “the” and “los” are the same.


I published a letter from a reader who spoke of a taxi driver in Chicago, Algerian-born. The driver was thrilled that his son could be “an all-American boy.” A reader — a different reader — says that this reminded him of one of his favorite songs: “The Men That Drive Me Places,” by Ben Rector, an Oklahoman born in 1986. Here it is.

In an Impromptus last Monday, I spoke of Mitt Romney, and his vilification by all and sundry (or by many and sundry). A reader writes,

Dear Jay,

Regarding Mitt Romney: I am his age. My mother would have turned cartwheels if I had been half as successful as a student, businessman, and family man. (I think I am doing okay as a family man — 52 years of marriage.) Amazing that Mitt is so vilified.

In any case — on to the 53rd, and congratulations.

Lately, in a nostalgic mood, I have been penning notes about my home state. A reader writes, “I hear echoes of Bruce Catton’s ‘A Michigan Boyhood.’” Catton, one of the most famous historians in the country, wrote that in 1972. Here it is.

And my thanks — hearty thanks — to all readers and correspondents. Again, for today’s Impromptus, go here.


Starving the Planet to Save It?

European Union flag outside the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. (artJazz/Getty Images)

Priorities, priorities . . .

Reuters (June 20) (my emphasis added):

The European Union is divided on how to help poorer nations fight a growing food crisis and address shortages of fertilisers caused by the war in Ukraine, with some fearing a plan to invest in plants in Africa would clash with EU green goals.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted a global food crisis and fears of worse to come because of a drop in grain exports from Ukraine and a spike in prices of chemical fertilisers, of which Russia and Belarus are major producers.

The EU has for weeks tried to help its poorer neighbours in Africa and the Middle East to weather the crisis by offering them fresh funds, while trying to convince them EU sanctions against Moscow and Minsk are not to be blamed for the food emergency.

At a summit of EU leaders later this week, the EU was planning a new initiative that would structurally decrease poorer nations’ reliance on Russian fertilisers by helping them develop their own fertilizer plants.

But at a meeting with EU envoys last week, the EU Commission explicitly opposed the text, warning that supporting fertiliser production in developing nations would be inconsistent with the EU energy and environment policies, officials said.

The production of chemical fertilisers has a big impact on the environment and requires large amounts of energy. However they are crucially effective in boosting agriculture output.

Draft conclusions of the June 23-24 summit, seen by Reuters, urge the EU executive commission to devise a plan “to support the development of fertiliser manufacturing capacity and alternatives in developing countries”.

The text, dated June 15 and prepared by the aides of European Council President Charles Michel, is to be discussed and likely tweaked at a meeting of EU ambassadors late on Monday, officials said.

The Commission urged governments to change the text and refer only to a plan to promote alternatives to fertilisers or a more efficient use of fertilizers, officials said. The Commission had no immediate comment on the matter.

I turned to the memo that recorded the conclusions of what was agreed at the summit (formally the European Council). You can find it here.

The relevant passage appears to be here:

. . . to work on initiatives together with international partners to support the development of manufacturing capacity of inputs in developing countries, in particular sustainable fertilisers.

If I’m right that this is the correct text to look at, a lot may hang on that “in particular.” But even if (as I would hope) there is enough wriggle room in those words to allow for support for the production of conventional fertilizers in developing countries (I think that there is), the stance initially taken by the Commission (the EU’s bureaucracy) is not only a demonstration of how deeply green (and specifically climate) fundamentalism has become entrenched in some sections of that organization, but also of the mercilessness of that creed. No sacrifice, it seems, is too great.

Millenarianism can be like that.


Larry Arnn Is Right about Education Majors

(MachineHeadz/iStock/Getty Images)

A local CBS affiliate in Nashville thinks it has uncovered a scandal: Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, has been exposed — via “hidden-camera video” no less! — saying things in private that Larry Arnn often says in public, in this case that the people who become public-school teachers tend to come from low-performing academic backgrounds. From News 5 Nashville:

Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Michigan’s ultra-conservative Hillsdale College, also takes aim at diversity efforts in higher education, claiming people in those positions have education degrees because they are “easy” and “you don’t have to know anything.”

. . .“The teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.”

The thing is, Larry Arnn is right about this. Our friends from CBS should check out . . . CBS, which notes a strange outcome: Education majors enter college with the lowest standardized-test scores, but they finish college with the highest grades. Students majoring in math and science enter with relatively high test scores and finish up with relatively low grades. Why? Because education programs are not very academically rigorous. Drop a 3.9 GPA education major into a physics program and chances are that he isn’t going to finish at all. “Dr.” Jill Biden probably would have had a tough timing earning a doctorate in, say, mathematics.

The scandal isn’t that Larry Arnn says these things. The scandal is that these things are true.

Side note: The CBS reporter, Phil Williams, describes Hillsdale as “ultraconservative.” I wonder what he thinks that means? For comparison, Williams is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, which didn’t manage to admit its first black student until 118 years after Hillsdale did, Hillsdale having been open to African Americans from its founding by abolitionists in 1844. Hillsdale was also the second U.S. college to grant four-year degrees to women. It is true that Hillsdale emphasizes classical and Christian education, and that Larry Arnn is what you would call a “movement conservative.” I suppose Hillsdale is “ultraconservative” if your yardstick is Bryn Mawr, but why should we accept that as our norm?

(Disclosure: I once taught a seminar at Hillsdale as a Pulliam fellow. As I recall, the students were pretty good, and we didn’t talk much about politics.)


War Transforms the State


Aris Roussinos is one of the few Western journalists to actually embed with some of Ukraine’s right-wing nationalist militias. He’s done a stellar job of adding texture to his reporting. While having no illusions about the quality of Ukraine’s pre-war democracy, Roussinos makes a very important point in his latest dispatch for UnHerd: War changes the internal dynamics of a society and a state. A people may have tacitly accepted the rule of oligarchs in the past. But after the experience of volunteering and risking their life for the state, they are far more likely to take responsibility for whatever emerges from the war:

War has always been the father of innovation: a reset for societies forced to adopt whatever methods work just in order to survive. The outburst of voluntarism that has gripped Ukraine is a striking example: mutual aid groups, local volunteer organisations and local defence militias have cropped up, taking on many of the burdens of the overstretched state. We can almost term this a form of “war anarchism”, analogous to the “war socialism” that overtook industrial capitalism during the World Wars, paving the way for postwar social democracy. The relationship of the people to an often distant and dysfunctional state is being reset; new paths have perhaps opened up for postwar Ukrainian society, politically and socially more inclusive than the outward form of liberal democracy that came before, in which political power was in reality the plaything of rival oligarchs. The war against the invading Russians has many qualities of a revolution.

Read the whole thing.


Germany Plans to Allow Gender and Name Changes Once a Year


The German government plans to allow people to change their gender and first names on demand — as often as once a year — and to allow children age 14 and older to do so without parental permission. From the AP story (my emphasis):

Under the planned “self-determination law,” adults would be able to change their first name and legal gender at registry offices without further formalities

The proposed new rules provide for minors ages 14 and older to change their name and legal gender with approval from their parents or guardians; if they don’t agree, teenagers could ask a family court to overrule them.

In the case of children under 14, parents or guardians would have to make registry office applications on their behalf.

Paus said that after a formal change of name and gender is registered, no further changes would be allowed for a year, a provision intended to “ensure the seriousness of the desire to change.”

Allowing gender and name changes with the snap of a finger does not “ensure the seriousness of the desire to change.” Just the opposite.

I don’t understand how the transgender issue has gained such centrality in progressive politics and among our ruling class. But it is becoming a civilizational question. When subjective feelings and internal psychological states of being become the end-all and be-all defining society, chaos will surely follow.

Politics & Policy

An Abortion Dodge, à la Ted K.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy in 1986 (National Archives)

“Be a socialist or I’ll kill the kid.” That’s a line I regularly used about Senator Ted Kennedy, way back. I was brash. But I was trying to characterize (and perhaps caricature) his rhetoric on abortion. You could tell he was not keen to defend abortion. So he would say that people had to support this, that, or the other government program in order to oppose abortion. Otherwise, they would lack credibility. Otherwise, they would be hypocrites, or worse. “Oh, they want them to be born, but they won’t help them after they are born!”

I am hearing some of that rhetoric now. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s blatant. In logic, however, abortion has nothing to do with government programs: at the federal, state, or any other level. Either unborn life has a right to life or it doesn’t. Either unborn life is, in fact, life or it isn’t. That is the heart of the matter. Free-marketeers can oppose abortion or support it (support abortion rights, let’s say). Socialists can oppose or support. Same with everyone in between.

If people want to debate abortion, great. If they want to debate social-welfare programs — or civil society or what have you — great. But I doubt anyone thinks — sincerely thinks — “You know, abortion is the wrongful taking of innocent life, and it’s probably a stain upon our nation, but some of my fellow citizens won’t support the programs I favor, so what the hell.”

I often quote Gene Genovese — on a number of things, yes, but I’m talking about abortion now. I did so recently: in a piece I wrote called “Coming to Grips with Abortion.” (It is a personal account of doing just that: coming to grips with, forming a view on, abortion.) Gene’s wife Betsey — Elizabeth Fox-Genovese — was a historian, like Gene himself, and the founder of the Women’s Studies department at Emory. In a memoir, Gene wrote, “She gagged on abortion for a simple reason: She knew, as everyone knows, that an abortion kills a baby.”

Don’t you think it’s true? Or near true? That everyone knows, somewhere within himself? Let not the issue be obfuscated — including in the Kennedy way. Because he didn’t want to address abortion, he addressed government programs. Which was very effective — a good dodge. But a dodge nonetheless.

Politics & Policy

Jan. 6, Cont.

Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, former Elections Department employee in Fulton County, Ga., testifies, as her mother, Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman, looks on during the fourth public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to investigate the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 21, 2022. (Michael Reynolds / Pool via Reuters)

On June 21, I published some notes about January 6 and the relevant hearings. Here comes another set, for those interested. And those who are not — can click on a thousand other things. (Vive la liberté!)

In a column last December, I wrote, “Two women, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, mother and daughter, have filed a defamation suit against The Gateway Pundit, a website.” My column continued,

The women were election workers in Fulton County, Ga. In dozens of articles, the website claimed that the women had committed fraud in the 2020 presidential election — stealing the election from President Trump.

In his infamous phone call of January 3 to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, Trump brought up Ruby Freeman’s name 18 times.

That’s a lot of times, in one phone call.


Followers of The Gateway Pundit made the lives of Freeman and Moss a hell. The women received endless death threats. On the advice of the FBI, Freeman fled from her home. She also had to close down her online business (which sold fashion accessories).

A conclusion:

Lies are not mere fun and games. Not everyone knows we’re “jes’ playin’,” just performing. Gettin’ the clicks or whatever. These lies can have devastating consequences to actual people. Said Ruby Freeman in a statement, “I want the defendants to know that my daughter and I are real people who deserve justice, and I never want them to do this to anyone else.”

Can’t everyone relate to that, R and D alike, red and blue alike?

Yes, can’t they?

Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss have now testified before the January 6 committee. To read an account in the Washington Post, go here. That account is headed “Election workers describe ‘hateful’ threats after Trump’s false claims.” It makes for very difficult reading. All except the most tribal, the most partisan, will feel sympathy for these women, and be repulsed by those who lied about them and hounded them.

“Mean tweets, just mean tweets!” say many Republicans. No. Words have consequences. They can often lead to violence. We have seen this before our very eyes, as on January 6, 2021. And presidential words are of particular importance. They can move the world, for good or ill. Conservatives made this point constantly during the Reagan period. I believed them, and I still do.

“Jes’ playin’,” or “Jes’ blowin’ off steam,” doesn’t cut it.

• Liz Cheney asked General Flynn whether he believes the violence on January 6 was justified, legally or morally. He took the Fifth. She then asked, “General Flynn, do you believe in the peaceful transition of power in the United States of America?” He took the Fifth. To me, one of the worst things was that he did so while wearing an American-flag pin on his lapel. All these guys do this: go around with their American-flag pins and crosses. It adds insult to injury, in the eyes of some of us.

If you can’t say you believe in the peaceful transfer of power, at least rip that pin off your lapel.

• “Poorly served” is a phrase of our time. People say that Trump was “poorly served” by those around him. Is this so? If it is, it’s because Trump wanted to be “poorly served.” And if staff were not serving him poorly enough, he brought in others, who would. Trump ought to be accorded his volition.

• In June 2016, I wrote the following: “In my view, Trump is grossly unfit to be president, in both mind and character — especially the latter. Even if I agreed with him on the issues — even if I thought his worldview sound — I would balk at supporting him, owing to the issue of character.”

The other day, I was thinking about lies, the avalanche of lies (or more like the steady stream of them). Even if you shared all of Trump’s political beliefs — and he does have them, contrary to rumor (on trade, immigration, foreign policy, and other things) — how could you stomach the lies? If a politician shared all of my old-fashioned Reaganite beliefs, but lied his behind off, how could I stomach the lies?

Some conservatives turned away from McCarthy for that reason: They were anti-Communist, all right, and concerned about Communist influence in government, but they were repulsed by the lies.

• As we have seen in the January 6 hearings, there were Republicans at the state level — in Georgia, for example, and Arizona — who stopped the steal. They acted well-nigh heroically, and they received plenty of threats for their trouble. Raffensperger received death threats, his wife received rape threats. Par for the course.

Those resilient and patriotic officials: Will they be there next time, if there is a next time, like 2020?

• On Thanksgiving Day 2020, Trump said of Raffensperger, “He’s an enemy of the people.” Can Republicans please retire the ancient, smelly phrase “enemy of the people,” especially as it relates to, say, honest GOP officials?

• Listening to the hearings, you can see why Republicans, both in politics and in the media, worked so very hard to keep them from ever taking place. Ask yourself: Are they worried the hearings will convey false things? Or true things?

• “She’s a liar!” say many Republicans about Cassidy Hutchinson. Ask yourself: If everything Hutchinson has described were confirmed by video, would these same people defend Trump nonetheless, spinning their heinies off? They would, right?

• “Show trial!” people say. It’s a show trial, yes, in that the hearings are showing things that some people would have preferred to suppress. One writer compared Liz Cheney to Vishinsky. I am grateful — extra grateful — for this Jonah Goldberg column: “Quit Your Stalin: It’s morally repugnant to compare the January 6 hearings to show trials.”

• “Henry Hyde used to chair the Judiciary Committee,” I keep thinking. “He was the leading Republican on it.” Now that Republican is Jim Jordan, whom President Trump gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom, just before Trump left office. (He conferred the same on Devin Nunes at the same time.) The Republicans of the House Judiciary Committee have a Twitter account, which performs a running commentary during the hearings. Sample: “lol no one is watching this.”

Hyde was representative of the GOP of his time; Jordan is representative of the GOP of his — in thought, tone, everything.

• Liz Cheney gave a speech at the Reagan Library. According to an account in the Los Angeles Times, Cheney “was greeted warmly by the audience, which gave an extended standing ovation upon her entrance.” Welcome news, to some of us.

• “We have to choose,” said Cheney, “because Republicans cannot be loyal to Donald Trump and to the Constitution.” I’m not sure that’s good news for the Constitution.

• I don’t care whether Liz receives two votes in Wyoming — her parents’. (Or three, with Alan Simpson’s.) She has been noble in a critical period. Stand-up. The aforementioned Hyde used to give a speech to incoming GOP freshmen. In November 1990, he told them, “If you don’t know the principle, or the policy, for which you are willing to lose your office, then you are going to do damage here.”

• Character in office matters a lot. Conservatives stressed this, when I was coming of age, and learning about the world. Figuring out what I believed. They were so right, these guys (and gals). The thing about the old verities is . . . they are indeed verities. They’re true.

• I have read excellent articles about Trump’s potential legal culpability. Speaking personally, I don’t want him behind bars. I don’t need him to “face justice.” Though it is also true that, in this country, no one is above the law. We are a nation of laws, not men. The only justice I really want, however, is that the truth be widely known and acknowledged. And that lies be dispelled.

National Security & Defense

NATO Warns about ‘No-Limits’ Partnership between Russia and China

Chinese president Xi Jinping and Russian president Vladimir Putin attend a welcoming ceremony in Beijing, June 25, 2016. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

This week’s NATO summit was significant for a whole host of reasons that have already been picked over extensively. From an agreement paving the way toward the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO to President Biden’s decision to base U.S. troops in Poland, there were several notable announcements that resulted from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Another development worth pointing out: The alliance explicitly acknowledged the danger of the “no-limits” partnership between Russia and China.

The strategic-concept document that made reference to that alignment did not specifically use that language, which refers to the outcome of a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping on February 4. However, the strategy clearly took aim at the partnership they declared on that occasion.

The NATO strategy, which identified China as a security concern for the first time, ran through the numerous ways in which Beijing’s policies are a growing concern:

The PRC employs a broad range of political, economic and military tools to increase its global footprint and project power, while remaining opaque about its strategy, intentions and military build-up. The PRC’s malicious hybrid and cyber operations and its confrontational rhetoric and disinformation target Allies and harm Alliance security. The PRC seeks to control key technological and industrial sectors, critical infrastructure, and strategic materials and supply chains. It uses its economic leverage to create strategic dependencies and enhance its influence. It strives to subvert the rules-based international order, including in the space, cyber and maritime domains.

The document then proceeds to make a short statement to outline its concern about Sino-Russian alignment: “The deepening strategic partnership between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests.”

U.S. officials have said on multiple occasions that there’s currently no reason to believe that China has sent Russia weapons or equipment to aid its invasion of Ukraine. Nevertheless, the stated drive toward cooperation between the two countries, repeated multiple times over the past few months during conversations between their top officials, is rightly raising alarm in Western capitals.

This is a trend that some of the president’s likely conservative challengers have already integrated into their messaging on foreign policy, and it’s a worthwhile topic that he and his top aides also ought to put at the center of their efforts to educate Americans about the threat from these dictatorships.


Ten-Year Anniversary of Minitel’s End Offers a Reminder of the Limits of Industrial Policy

A stack of Minitel terminals being broken down into components for recycling in Portet-Sur-Garonne, France, in 2012. (Bruno Martin/Reuters)

Ten years ago today, France Télécom retired the Minitel service. I recount this history because Minitel was one of France’s less-disastrous examples of industrial policy. My colleague Adam Thierer reminds us of the service:

Minitel was France’s attempt to develop its own early version of the internet in the 1980s and ‘90s. Minitel terminals were distributed free of charge and eventually gave an estimated 25 million French citizens access to bank accounts, the yellow pages and various other services. But Minitel’s centralized and closed network model ultimately could not serve consumers as well as the wide-open global internet.  “It was the whole model that was doomed,” says Benjamin Bayart, the former head of France’s oldest internet provider, French Data Network. “Basically, to set up a service on Minitel, you had to ask permission from France Telecom. You had to go to the old guys who ran the system, and who knew absolutely nothing about innovation.” Users of Minitel also faced steep costs, roughly $22.95 per hour accounting for inflation, which has been noted as a major downside of the technology. As for the French government, the development of the service cost tens of billions of French francs

Growing up in France, the Minitel was a big deal to me. I remember the excitement when my family received ours. The problem, though, as I remember well, is that if you wanted to search anything, you had to go really fast because this service was so expensive. The bummer, of course, is that you paid twice for the privilege of Miniteling: once through your tax bill (whether you used it or not) and a second time through your phone bill.

Looking back, the Minitel was a glorified electronic phone book, which eventually upgraded to include the ability to check one’s bank account and movie schedules (and, I’m told, it also became the ancestor of adult chat rooms). It was also a place where retailers could advertise, like they used to do in the phone book. I have no idea if it paid off, since people never stayed connected long. The bottom line is that over several decades, the product barely changed, and if it did, the speed of innovation was so slow that no one noticed.

As far as industrial policies go, however, the Minitel wasn’t a total failure. After all, until its launch in 1983, it was fairly innovative, and it survived for several decades while enjoying a high adoption rate. But nor was it a success. And here the story of the Minitel, even though not a resounding failure, offers a great illustration of one of the problems with industrial policy. When thinking of the Minitel story, we are lucky to have a perfect product to compare it to: The iPhone. As Mercatus Center’s Dan Rothchild reminded me, the iPhone came out 15 years ago, and its evolution offers a sharp contrast with the Minitel. While the iPhone has changed and improved dramatically over the years, thanks to Apple investment and innovation, the Minitel pretty much stagnated. The difference couldn’t be more stark.

So there you have it. Even when industrial policy doesn’t fail, it doesn’t adapt. It stagnates. It often hinders innovation. The result is a mediocre product that’s unnecessarily costly. So think about the Minitel if you are tempted to argue for industrial policy as a solution to some of our problems, in particular in the area of technology.

Politics & Policy

Another Round of Stimulus Checks in California

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, Los Angeles, Calif., June 15, 2021. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

With inflation at a 40-year high, another round of stimulus checks might be the last thing economists would recommend right now. But that’s not stopping Governor Gavin Newsom from sending out checks of up to $1,050 to 23 million Californians. Newsom and legislative leaders are casting the inflationary stimulus checks as “inflation relief”: 

About 23 million California residents will soon receive “inflation relief” checks of up to $1,050 under a budget deal reached by Governor Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers on Sunday. 

The checks are part of a $17 billion relief package that will also suspend the state’s sales tax on diesel fuel and provide additional aid to help people with rent and utility bills, Newsom and Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a statement. 

The new round of checks was made possible by the $1.9 trillion “Covid relief” bill passed by Congress on a party-line vote in March 2021. That legislation sent $180 billion to California, including $42 billion in direct aid to the state and local governments in California. Last month, Newsom announced the state was running a $97.5 billion surplus.


Law & the Courts

Even Worse Gun History from that Joshua Zeitz Essay

Detail of portrait of James Madison, 1816. (White House Historical Association/Public domain)

Notwithstanding the length of my critique of the Joshua Zeitz essay in Politico against originalism and the Supreme Court, I could not hope to capture all of its distortions of fact and law. Here’s another one:

But to appreciate how the founding generation thought about firearm regulation, we can look at what they did, and not just what they said. James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, twice introduced state legislation in Virginia that would impose penalties on any individual who “bear[s] a gun out of his inclosed ground, unless whilst performing military duty.” You read that right. The author of the Second Amendment drafted statewide legislation that was effectively a forerunner to the New York state law that the Supreme Court just struck down. The bill, which was really aimed at regulating deer hunting, did not pass. But it clearly demonstrated that Madison viewed individual gun ownership as well within the state’s regulatory prerogative.

Actually, you did not read that right. Zeitz claims that Madison’s bill was “effectively a forerunner to the New York state law” under which citizens needed to prove a particularized need for self-defense in order to gain a license from the state to ever carry a firearm publicly. Madison, Zeitz would lead the reader to believe, treated the right to bear arms in public as so lightly restricted that he would ban the state’s citizens from carrying arms off their property unless on military duty, just to protect the lives of deer.

Law professor Jonathan Adler, however, offers what appears to be the text of the law in question, introduced by Madison in 1785:

This is simply a hunting law like any modern restriction on when and in what volume deer may be hunted. There is no restriction whatsoever on the general population carrying weapons. Instead, it restricts bearing arms as a penalty for a first offense:

Whosoever shall offend against this act, shall forfeit and pay, for every deer by him unlawfully killed, twenty shillings, one half thereof to the use of the commonwealth, and the other half to the informer; and moreover, shall be bound to their good behaviour; and, if, within twelve months after the date of the recognizance he shall bear a gun out of his inclosed ground, unless whilst performing military duty, it shall be deemed a breach of the recognizance, and be good cause to bind him a new, and every such bearing of a gun shall be a breach of the new recognizance and cause to bind him again.

There is a colossal difference between what rights may be restricted in general, and what rights may be restricted as punishment for a crime. This is rather as if Zeitz claimed that a law punishing criminals with imprisonment was precedent for rounding up whole populations for internment. It is no precedent whatsoever for the New York gun law.

Historian, heal thyself.




In case you missed it, I wrote about the floundering “bro-choice” movement in the wake of Dobbs. 

Politics & Policy

Why Democrats Didn’t Codify Roe When They Had the Chance

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference about the House vote on H.R. 3755, the “Women’s Health Protection Act” legislation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., September 24, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

On the home page, I take a look at why Democrats missed opportunities to enshrine in federal law a right to abortion when they held huge majorities in Congress at the start of both the Clinton and Obama presidencies:

Some reporters and pundits have said that Democrats in Congress simply lacked the votes to ever enshrine in federal statute a right to abortion. But a closer look at the last two unified Democratic governments — the first under the Clinton presidency in 1993 and 1994 and the second under the Obama presidency in 2009 and 2010 — shows there very likely were congressional majorities in support of a federal right to abortion. There just weren’t enough votes to enshrine a right as expansive as the one that activists wanted.

After Democrats swept to power in 1992, the same year that the Supreme Court upheld Roe by a 5–4 vote in its Casey decision, there was a concerted effort in Congress to codify Roe by passing the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).

“In the weeks following Bill Clinton’s election, abortion rights groups said they were confident that a bill to codify a woman’s right to an abortion would become law within the first few months of the 103rd Congress,” Congressional Quarterly reported in May 1993. FOCA had passed out of committee in the Senate, but by May of 1993 divisions had emerged that threatened the bill: Supporters of the bill “feared a flood of floor amendments that they said would undermine the bill’s intent.”

As CQ explained:

[FOCA] would have the effect of overturning existing state laws that require 24-hour waiting periods and would nullify some parental notice and consent laws for minors. Many House members and senators want to allow precisely those types of restrictions on abortion. But abortion rights groups and their allies in Congress are adamantly opposed to such limits.

FOCA’s legislative text made plain that no state could restrict abortion “at any time” in pregnancy so long as the procedure was needed to protect the “health” of the mother. The term “health” was left undefined, and an open amendment process could have narrowed its meaning, so that the bill would protect only those with serious physical — as opposed to psychological — health issues.

“I’m firmly pro-choice for the first three months of pregnancy,” Democratic congressman Paul McHale of Pennsylvania told CQ. “But I have a great deal of difficulty as a matter of conscience accepting elective termination [of pregnancy] at that last stage in the gestational process.”

“The position we’re caught in is allowing no amendments and having people vote against it because of that, and allowing amendments that make the bill unacceptable to pro-choice people,” Republican congresswoman Olympia Snowe of Maine said in the same report.


Human-Rights Advocates, GOP ‘Disappointed’ by Dem Lawmaker’s Secret Assad Move

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D., N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, arrives before a hearing with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield on the Biden Administration’s priorities for engagement with the United Nations on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 16, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

A secret, unilateral move by Representative Gregory Meeks (D., N.Y.) to shoot down a measure blocking U.S. recognition of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is attracting criticism from the human-rights community and congressional Republicans. As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Meeks exercised his power to block the proposal earlier this month during talks on the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

“It is disappointing that Chairman Meeks is blocking this NDAA amendment to further U.S. isolation of Bashar al-Assad,” Kenan Rahmani, a senior advocacy adviser at the Syria Campaign, told National Review. “Chairman Meeks should explain to the millions of Syrians whose loved ones were killed by Assad why the U.S. should keep any diplomatic channel open with this war criminal.”

The proposal was intended as an amendment to the must-pass defense-spending package, which lawmakers debated earlier this month. Although Meeks has publicly taken stances critical of the Syrian regime, he relied on a procedural technicality to block this measure from moving forward. His intervention could leave the Biden administration with the option to seek normalized ties with the Assad government in the future.

Throughout the decade-long Syrian civil war, Assad has presided over a system of industrial mass slaughter. Tens of thousands of civilians have been tortured and murdered in the Syrian government’s prisons during the war, to say nothing of the indiscriminate killing carried out by the Syrian army and its Russian and Iranian allies.

An eyewitness to Syrian government atrocities testified before the Senate last month, telling lawmakers that the regime is still filling mass graves.

Under the Biden administration, there’s been concern that the U.S. might once again recognize the Assad government and that the State Department has not acted decisively enough to prevent Middle Eastern countries from accepting Damascus back into their good graces. After Russia intervened in the conflict, the Syrian government has clawed back control of most of the country and is currently focused on reconstruction efforts.

Over the past year, the administration has denied that it would seek to re-establish official ties with Syria, though it moved to poke holes in the anti-Assad sanctions that the Trump administration vigorously enforced.

Then, earlier this month, Representative Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, proposed an amendment to the NDAA that would have prohibited Pentagon funds from being used to recognize Assad. Considering the widespread support in Congress for holding Assad accountable for his war crimes, it was expected to move forward.

But as the Armed Services Committee debated its version of the defense bill last week, Meeks, in his capacity as Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, refused to waive his jurisdiction, meaning that he blocked Wilson from sending the amendment to the other committee for consideration as part of the defense bill.

Wilson told NR that he’s “extremely disappointed” in Meeks’s decision, the rationale for which he still has not explained.

“The Biden administration’s inability to isolate this State Sponsor of Terrorism opens the door for others to normalize relations,” Wilson said. “I will continue to support legislation to hold Assad and his supporters accountable for the their atrocities.”

A senior Republican aide said this is part of a broader pattern, where Meeks’s team has summarily blocked debate on certain proposals that might otherwise have won bipartisan support. Last year, NR reported that Meeks blocked legislation that would have sanctioned Russia and required an official U.S. government determination on the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front political-influence networks.

In January, Meeks joined a bipartisan statement with other senior lawmakers, criticizing Arab countries’ recent overtures to the Assad regime.

Given his previous opposition to efforts to rehabilitate Assad’s global standing, it’s strange that he blocked this amendment. Meeks’s reasoning here is a mystery, as he hasn’t spoken about this stance in public, and his spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment.


Electric Vehicles: The Good News Just Keeps Coming

Electric vehicle charging units are pictured at newly opened MFG (Motor Fuel Group) EV Power service station in Manchester, Britain, August 31, 2021. (Phil Noble/Reuters)

As I’ve written before, there’s nothing wrong with the idea of electric vehicles. They could well be the future, and if the government wants to put a (small) thumb on the scales to encourage the development and adoption of what may be a promising, cleaner technology, that’s fine.

However, for governments to attempt to force through the adoption of these vehicles combines hubris with economic illiteracy, two flaws traditionally associated with exercises in central planning such as this.  EVs (and, critically, the infrastructure needed to support them) simply are not ready for prime time — and are highly unlikely to be so in 2030–35, the period in which, on both sides of the Atlantic, various mandates will put a halt to the sale of new internal-combustion vehicles. In the U.S., so far, this is confined to certain states, and in Canada the deadline, depending on the type of vehicle, will either be 2035 or 2040.  To stick to the timetable currently being pushed by climate fundamentalists looks like an invitation to disaster. The way things are going, it will be accepted.

So, a few more recent stories to add to a growing pile.


The world’s biggest car company, Toyota Motor Corp., reluctantly released an electric vehicle in May. Weeks later, it recalled 2,700 of them because there was a risk their wheels — the most fundamental component — would fall off. If that’s the level of quality and safety traditional auto giants are willing to commit to, then investors and regulators should increase their scrutiny.

Of course, recalls are not exactly a novelty when it comes to conventional cars either, as the author of the piece rightly mentions, and some of those are for engine fires (yes, I know we were talking about tires, not fires) but this was an interesting detail:

EVs, on the other hand, are a new breed — many models are still concepts and barely mass-produced. That means as more are made, more problems are bound to crop up. In the past two years alone, there have been thousands of recalls, costing billions of dollars.

“Forcing” a technology will do that, but that’s not the interesting detail; this is (my emphasis added):

[F]ires in electric cars are far worse and difficult to contain than those for traditional autos because of a process called thermal runaway, where the flames accelerate through chain reactions. General Motors Co. recalled all of the 142,000 of its electric Bolts sold because the risk of the battery — the core of the car — catching fire. LG Energy Solutions, with a market capitalization of $75 billion, made the fire-prone battery — the most expensive for green vehicles.

Meanwhile, the chief manufacturing officer of Stellantis, the world’s fifth largest automaker and a company led, as I’ve discussed before, by a CEO who is no fan of the way that governments are essentially mandating the switch to EVs, now has this to say:


Stellantis NV is aiming to cut the cost of making electric vehicles 40% by 2030, Chief Manufacturing Officer Arnaud Deboeuf said Wednesday. The producer of Fiats and Peugeots plans to manufacture some parts in-house and also pressure suppliers to cut the price of their products.

If EVs don’t get cheaper, “the market will collapse,” Deboeuf said at the company’s Tremery factory in France. “It’s a big challenge.” . . .

EV prices are going up at a dizzying pace these days. Tesla Inc. raised prices by as much as $6,000 per car this month, following similar hikes earlier this year from Rivian Automotive Inc. and Ford Motor Co. Rising raw-materials costs are rendering some battery-powered models unprofitable, Ford Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said at an investor conference earlier this month.

European Union countries this week endorsed a push to eliminate carbon emissions from new cars by 2035. With EU lawmakers in favor of giving up fossil fuels in the auto industry, it’s highly likely that most manufacturers will have to shift to producing EVs in little more than a decade.

While Stellantis will comply with the decision, policy makers appear to “not care” whether automakers have enough raw materials to underpin the shift, Chief Executive Officer Carlos Tavares said Wednesday.

Central planners are like that.

Meanwhile, writing from Canada, David Booth in the Financial Post (emphasis added):

The first variable, of course, is how rapidly we all buy into electric motors. [Canadians are] more than five years behind the Europeans in this regard, mainly because we insist on electrifying $80,000 pickups rather than econo-sedans that average people can afford, but that may be a good thing considering some of the side effects of the recent uptick in popularity in Europe. That wonderful grace period where everyone keeps charging prices low in the hopes of encouraging emissions reduction is wearing off overseas.

Even before the Russia-Ukraine war turned energy into the most important item on political agendas, some German roadside charging stations were charging as much to fill an EV “tank” as petrol stations.


That doesn’t quite fit the narrative.

And Booth has a couple of other things to say about charging (emphasis again added):

Public charging points are the other infrastructure problem that could be a roadblock to widespread EV adoption. Two issues exist here. The first is the speed of current chargers. Range anxiety is clearly an impediment to EV adoption. Less understood is that said anxiety is not based solely on how far a car can go on one charge, but how quickly all those cells can replenish when it does have to stop. Despite widespread claims of ultra-fast charging, topping up all those lithium ions is still a very slow affair, much slower than filling an internal combustion engine vehicle.

The second issue is that there’s simply nowhere near enough public charging points available to serve all the EVs the government hopes to have on the road. Nor are there nearly enough planned in the immediate future. The federal government recently made a big deal about committing some $700 million to build up to 50,000 new public charging stations. That number might initially sound impressive, but Canada is a huge country, one in which a significant portion of the year is spent in the gloom of winter, and low temperatures typically halve an EV’s range, making an adequate infrastructure imperative.

Fortunately, anyone who has basked in the warmth of, say, an Illinois winter will know that unlike chilly Canada, drivers in the balmy, more northern parts of the U.S. will never have to confront such problems. Frontiers can produce miracles. Manitobans may shiver through those grim winter months, but at that time of year neighboring North Dakota is merely a mildly more bracing Florida.

Booth goes onto to discuss just how many charging stations will be needed.

What he has to say is well worth reading. Takeaway: All is well.

Politics & Policy

No, We Don’t Want Women to Have the Same Rights as Guns

Pro-abortion demonstrators in march following a vigil in Alexandria, Va., May 9, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Nearly every time the pro-life movement achieves a significant legislative or judicial victory, progressives create either memes or protest signs riffing on conservatives’ commitment to gun rights. These takes were out in full force after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, both because of the magnitude of that ruling and because the previous day, in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Court struck down a New York law that required individuals to demonstrate a need to carry guns outside the home.

Leftists on Twitter said they wished that “women in America had the same rights as a gun.” They must have tweeted these wishes in fits of passion without really thinking about them, because putting women on the same legal footing as guns would be pretty sexist. If Democrats had their way in Bruen, women would have to demonstrate to the government a need to leave their homes. Here’s what else would happen if we were to treat women like guns:

Men would need a permit to bring women outside the home. While Bruen made it unconstitutional for the government to require people to demonstrate a need to carry guns beyond their doorstep, most states in the union require gun-owners to possess concealed-carry permits. The requirements for these permits vary from state to state, but most require applicants to be a minimum age (usually 18 or 21) and take a class on firearm safety. Putting such regulations on women going beyond their doorstep would seem more fitting for a country like Afghanistan than for the United States. 

Women would not be allowed to attend school. We often hear about gun-free zones after school shootings. The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 criminalizes the possession or discharge of a firearm in a school zone. If we were to treat women like guns, K–12 schools would become “woman-free zones.” Similarly there are many college campuses that do not allow students to carry on campus. There were times in our country’s history when men and women were not allowed to attend school together, and those were not good times. Progressives describe the decision in Dobbs as “going backwards,” but that would be more apt if we treated women the same as guns.

Women could be bought and sold. If we are worried about objectifying women, calling to give them the same rights as literal objects is not helpful. 

In short, this idea that “women should have the same rights as guns” would be more like The Handmaid’s Tale than any pro-abortion caricature of pro-life legislation ever imagined. Our political slogans are not meant to be the height of discourse, but we should expect them to be minimally coherent. 


A Regime Head Rolls in Iran

Flag in front of Iran’s Foreign Ministry building in Tehran (Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)

A senior Iranian intelligence official, Hossein Taeb, was removed from his position after countless failures due to Israeli intelligence infiltration, the New York Times reports. Taeb served as the director of intelligence for Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) for more than a decade, supporting the Iran regime in its domestic repression and in military aggression abroad. Once seen as “untouchable,” he was brought down by multiple mishaps and defeats, such as the assassinations of Iranian officials and attacks on nuclear sites thought to be at the hands of Israeli intelligence. On Monday, a cyberattack on Iranian steel factories supplying the Iranian military disrupted production. The group of hackers who claimed responsibility for the attack are connected to Israel, according to U.S. officials.

The Times notes:

Keren Hajioff, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of Israel, said in an interview that the strategy targeting Iran was part of Mr. Bennett’s “octopus” doctrine.

“This doctrine is a strategic shift from the past, when Israel focused on Iran’s proxy ‘tentacles’ across the region, in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza,” she said. The new tactic, she added, was “a paradigm shift: Now we go straight for the head.”

The final failure leading to Taeb’s downfall was “a botched Iranian effort to target Israeli citizens in Turkey, which caused an embarrassing diplomatic crisis with Ankara, a regional ally of Tehran.” Turkish and Israeli intelligence thwarted this Iranian plot against the former Israeli ambassador and several Israeli tourists. Although the Iranian regime denied involvement in the plot, the previous Turkish foreign minister and incoming prime minister slammed Iran, saying that the regime “is behind these attempted terrorist attacks. . . . We are not only talking about the murder of innocent Israeli tourists, but also a clear violation of Turkish sovereignty by Iranian terror” — in other words, not only an Iranian intelligence failure but a major diplomatic offense.