Religion

Joe Scarborough Is Full of It on Abortion and Christianity

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Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. (MSNBC/via YouTube)

On abortion and Christianity, Joe Scarborough doesn’t know what he’s talking about:

Here, for those who don’t care for the video, is what Scarborough had to say on the subject of abortion and Christianity:

Let me just say, as a Southern Baptist, I grew up reading the Bible, maybe a backslidden Baptist but I still know the Bible. Jesus never once talked about abortion. Never once. And it was happening back in ancient times, it was happening during his time. Never once mentioned it. For people perverting the gospel of Jesus Christ down to one issue, it’s heresy. Go, if you don’t believe me, if that makes you angry, why don’t you do something you haven’t done in a long time. Open the Bible. Open the New Testament. Read the red letters. You won’t see it there. And yet there are people who are using Jesus as a shield to make ten-year-old raped girls go through a living and breathing hell here on Earth. They’ve also conveniently overlooked the parts of the New Testament where Jesus talks about taking care of the needy. Taking care of those who are helpless, who live a hopeless life. Because they believe, these state legislators believe, that life begins at fertilization, and ends at childbirth . . .

The misconceptions (at best) here are myriad. The biggest one concerns Christianity’s treatment of abortion, on which Scarborough is misinformed, to say the least. The Church’s opposition to abortion is ancient, and consistent. As Catholic University of America moral theology professor (and executive director for the Institute for Human Ecology, with which I am affiliated) Joseph Capizzi wrote for National Review:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.” The Didache, written by Jewish Christians just decades after Jesus’s death, condemned abortion and infanticide. The communities organizing themselves around Christ shared the conviction that life is sacred at every stage of development. That conviction has remained constant over two millennia.

Scarborough could also use a refresher on biology, which Capizzi provides:

Contemporary science confirms this unanimous judgment of Catholic theologians and philosophers. From the moment of conception, a unique human being is present: composed of the contributions from both the father and the mother, this new being is also neither of them. The zygote (the cell formed by the union of an ovum and a sperm) is a new life, a new human being. Science actually provides us with greater grounds for respecting the earliest stages of human life than were available to the earlier theologians — who, to repeat, nonetheless prohibited intervention in the development of the human being. We now know what they did not: From the moment of conception, a discrete human being is present.

Scarborough also seems unable to comprehend that the unborn are “needy” also. And that, furthermore, pro-lifers are quite committed to taking care of children once they are born, through, among other things, the pregnancy resource centers that liberals like Elizabeth Warren are so keen on shutting down. Funny, that: The Left loves to say pro-lifers are only “pro-birth,” but then attack pro-life means of supporting children once they are born as well as their mothers.

Fortunately, Joe Scarborough is not the only interpreter of Christ’s teaching we have available. Readers might find IHE Voices useful; follow it on Twitter here.

Politics & Policy

Rubio Voices Concern about Tampa Bay Rays’ Funding of Sex-Change Drugs

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Senator Marco Rubio questions witnesses before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., January 29, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

In late August, I reported that 20 MLB teams were promoting or actively funding groups that either promote or directly perform medical sex changes for minors:

Under the auspices of LGBT-themed “Pride Nights” — fundraisers and charity partnerships that began in the early 2000s and were embraced, over the course of two decades, by almost every team in the league — many of MLB’s most prominent franchises have begun to promote or fund groups that encourage or provide sex-change procedures and gender-transition hormone treatment for minors as young as 12. Other organizations promote “social transitions” — i.e., nonmedical changes in “gender expression,” including the adoption of new names, pronouns, and clothing — for children as young as three…According to National Review’s analysis, of the 29 teams that held a “Pride Night” event this summer (Outsports reports that every team did except for the Texas Rangers), at least 20 have promoted or funded groups that advocate or are directly involved in child gender transitions. At least six of those teams promoted or funded organizations that lobby against restrictions on youth sex-change surgeries and for policies such as “gender-affirming” curricula for elementary-school children and “trans-inclusive” K–12 sports. Five other team Pride Nights promoted or funded groups that provide resources for, and often actively encourage, youth sex changes. Four promoted or funded groups that write referrals for or partner with clinics that perform medical gender transitions — either via hormone-altering drugs, sex-change surgeries, or both — on minors. And finally, five teams have promoted or funded clinics that do drug-induced or surgical youth gender transitions themselves.

Yesterday, Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) wrote a letter to the Tampa Bay Rays — one of the teams that was directly funding a medical clinic that provides sex-change drugs to minors — raising concerns about what I had reported about the franchise’s practices. Rubio wrote:

Major League Baseball (MLB) is woven into America’s cultural identity. Ted Williams joined the U.S. Navy Reserve during World War II in the prime of his career. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch in Game 3 of the 2001 World Series. Baseball isn’t just a game, it is an American institution that transcends politics, religion, race, and geography.

It is for this reason I was alarmed to learn that the Tampa Bay Rays donated $20,000 to Metro Inclusive Health (MIH) in the Tampa region. The National Review recently reported that MIH provides services to individuals who identify as transgender, “such as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), reproductive care, and specialist referrals.” As reported, these services are not exclusively provided to adults – MIH is also in the business of “prescribing gender-transition hormones for minors.”

Rubio went on to outline how “there is almost no safety data associated with the use of these so-called treatments,” as well as the fact that “the impact of these so-called treatments in young teens is irreversible.” “For whatever good MIH may do in providing care and mental counseling for vulnerable populations in Tampa Bay, it is engaged in extremely harmful and irreversible practices not backed by science,” he wrote. “The Rays Baseball Foundation’s goal of ‘improving the lives of those in need within our community, focusing primarily on education, youth development, wellness and social responsibility’ is a noble one. Yet, the donation made to MIH indicates a lack of awareness about the nature of the organization’s activities and the long-term damage it can have on the very people your foundation and MIH claim to serve.”

Read the full letter here.

World

The Queen’s Invigorating Aura

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Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II smiles during a visit to open the Sainsbury Laboratory for Plant Sciences in the University of Cambridge Botanic Garden, in Cambridge, England, April 27, 2011. (Andrew Winning/Reuters)

Was that fuzzy visage the queen?

To this day, I’m not quite sure. My own memory fades, but the view that morning was something less than clear anyway. I remember watching the motorcade, while a colleague at the time, an absolutely aces photog, Susan, was watching even more attentively, snapping away. Queen Elizabeth II appeared to be in the window, waving, as a queen does. Can’t be too sure though.

It was my only interaction with . . . any royalty, really. We Americans preemptively turn up our noses at those who might turn up their noses at us. It’s better that way. Ask the French. But QEII did engender a different sort of reaction here, a welcoming one, even. I was squinting to see the queen that day — that day being a Tuesday in May 2007, when she visited the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., part of my coverage area for a now-defunct weekly newspaper — because the entire visit had been in such high demand that I was unable to get a better seat. I had negotiated with local/national pooh-bah Steny Hoyer’s office for days to get access to the visit, and had come very close, but I was left off the list at the very end. Clearly, I never got over this, and I went to work in conservative media shortly thereafter. Is this my origin story? A question for another day . . .

So I was out on the street, literally, watching with my fellow plebes for the queen to share, briefly, our air. A crowd of locals had gathered, elated and enthusiastic, even though, if memory serves, it was unreasonably cold for May. This morning, I dug up the article I wrote, today buried in a stash of newspapers I kept for the singular purpose of this Corner post (worth it), and found quote after quote from onlookers claiming maybe to have seen her. And that was enough. The photos Susan took captured a certain serenity and satisfaction on the faces of those who made it out that day.

“We’re part of history,” one onlooker declared.

I can’t confirm that statement is a true statement, but I can confirm it felt that way at the time, such was the aura of this particular queen, someone whose face I may or may not have seen.

R.I.P.

Politics & Policy

‘Ultra-MAGA’ Now Means Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan

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Senator Mitt Romney (R., Utah) looks on during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., April 26, 2022. (Bonnie Cash/Pool via Reuters)

Joe Biden’s daily redefinition of what he means by “MAGA” — which, mind you, he has defined as “semi-fascism” and “an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic” — has now reached the point of self-parody. Biden tweeted this morning that

Republicans have pushed an ultra-MAGA agenda to:

—Threaten Social Security and Medicare
—Raise taxes on working families
—Give big corporations and billionaires tax breaks

Does that sound familiar? What was Joe Biden saying about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in 2012?

• “They are for massive cuts in Social Security for future generations.”

• “Gov. Romney proposes significant changes, that would result in beneficiaries getting considerably less in their Social Security check in the future . . . If Gov. Romney’s tax plan goes into effect, it could mean everyone, everyone, would have to pay more taxes on the Social Security benefits they now receive. The average senior would have to pay $460 more in taxes on their benefits.”

• “They’re pushing the continuation of a tax cut that will give an additional $500 billion in tax cuts to 120,000 families. And they’re holding hostage the middle-class tax cut because they say, we won’t pass — we won’t continue the middle-class tax cut unless you give the tax cut for the superwealthy.”

Leave aside the question of the accuracy of any of this — it’s Joe Biden, after all. He’s completely lost the plot. If “ultra-MAGA” means anything at all besides “Republican,” you’d expect it to be a term of distinction from the polite, suburban Republicanism of Romney and Ryan. Yet, Biden is using the exact same criticisms on the exact same issues. That suggests that he and his team know perfectly well that they’re just making the same old partisan election-year arguments and slapping a red hat on it.

Culture

Malthus and the Scarcity of Correct Predictions

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Wheat field in Dixon, Ill. (Jim Young/Reuters)

The good people at Kite & Key Media launched their fall series of cool videos with one taking Thomas Malthus and Paul Erlich and other Doomsday Apostles to the intellectual woodshed. For centuries, the compulsion to predict calamity, starvation, and resource depletion — all because there are just way too many people — has continued in the face of . . . facts. A refresher course on them is always good to have, and that’s what anyone will find in this most-welcome production titled Superabundance: How Humans Hacked Nature. Watch it here:

Media

Politico Columnist Is Puzzled by Decency and Perspective in Obituaries

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U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (tupungato/Getty Images)

Michael Schaffer of Politico wonders aloud why people who write obituaries of House Republicans don’t build them around their votes against certifying Joe Biden’s victory in 2020. This was not just a random bad take in a tweet; Schaffer wrote an entire 1,200-word column on the subject. I have a couple of questions.

First, has Schaffer ever met any human beings? “Don’t speak ill of the dead” is not an iron law, but it is typically observed as a guiding principle for organizing obituaries for a reason: most people have virtues and vices, and one need not whitewash the dead in order to start off by painting them in their most sympathetic light. Moreover, most people, even most people in politics, do not suffer from monomania, and the people who do are typically pretty unpleasant to be around. If Barack Obama died tomorrow, would you start his obituary with “Obama, who promoted the legal abortion regime that has killed 60 million innocent Americans,” or “Obama, who launched his political career in the home of an unrepentant domestic terrorist and named one of his books in honor of a racist preacher,” or “Obama, who droned an American citizen to death without a trial,” or “Obama, who ran on a ‘Hope and Change’ platform but left in place an oppressive capitalist structure dominated by Wall Street and did nothing to dismantle America’s racist system of law enforcement or stave off climate catastrophe”? Well, some people would, and they have moral arguments for doing so. But if you purport to do journalism from something resembling an objective point of view rather than that of a single-issue activist, you’re supposed to have enough perspective to distinguish between the things most widely seen as central to your subject’s story, and those that are significant but contested — and the traditional framework of starting most obituaries of elected politicians off on a positive note is a good way of organizing that information.

Second, in treating Republican votes against certifying Biden’s election as if they were indelible moral crimes on par with participation in the Holocaust, Schaffer does not bother to be even-handed. He does not suggest that Jamie Raskin’s effort to oppose certification of Donald Trump’s 2016 electors deserves the same treatment. He does not argue that the votes of James Clyburn, Maxine Waters, Bennie Thompson, Raúl Grijalva, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Ed Markey, John Conyers, John Lewis, and other powerful current and former House Democrats to oppose certification of George W. Bush’s 2004 electors should be given similar prominence. True, those were cynical stunts that were doomed to failure, but then, the Republican votes were also cynical stunts that were doomed to failure. We knew going into January 6 that there were, as in 2016 and 2004, not the votes to overturn Biden’s electors. We knew that there were, as in 2016 and 2004, not even semi-legitimate contending slates of electors. This is not to say that everything was identical in those situations; Donald Trump conducted a much more toxic campaign against the 2020 election, and that is absolutely a central fact about Donald Trump. So is the January 6 riot at the Capitol. But a major part of why Trump and the rioters bear particular culpability is that they tried to force an outcome for which there were not votes in Congress. The central fact about the 2020 objectors is the same as the 2016 or 2004 objectors: they took a dishonorable position in a symbolic vote, but they did so with the cynical moral calculus that their votes would not achieve the outcome they were voting for. Which is a thing that happens all the time in Congress. And besides that, the January 6 riot was terrible, but not everything that is terrible is equally so. It’s not September 11, no matter how hard some people in the Beltway press try to make it so.

Film & TV

How Rings of Power Could Still Do Galadriel Justice

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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. (Trailer image via YouTube)

In response to How <em>The Rings of Power</em> Gets Galadriel Wrong

Dan McLaughlin has written a careful, reasoned explanation, rooted in lore and fact and not in rash judgments or unmet expectations, of the ways in which the depiction of Galadriel in Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power does not line up with what J. R. R. Tolkien told us about her character. Indeed, despite what Dan accurately describes as my “cautious optimism” about the show, I noted in my initial review that “the character of Galadriel herself is changed considerably.” His assessment is difficult to challenge on factual grounds.

I would thus only submit a few partial defenses based on artistic license, which Dan accepts as a justification for change “so long as additions do not detract or subtract from what [Tolkien] has already created.” (Emphasis in original.) As I wrote in my review, the metric by which to measure the show’s treatment of Galadriel is “whether what becomes of her character so radically betrays her nature as to render her unrecognizable.” Dan is right that some of the ways she has been changed significantly alter her place in the story and her relationship to other characters, though I think much of that is an unavoidable byproduct of the way the show has decided to tell the story (time compression, choices of focus, rights access, etc.) Dan focuses on the absence of her husband Celeborn (and their family), and on the rejiggering of her apparent place in elven hierarchy that sees her essentially subordinate where she should be dominant, or at least more important. He is right to do so. But I think, from a storytelling perspective, that there is a case for showing Galadriel work her way toward these things over the course of a series, rather than have them from the get-go, even if it is not strictly speaking lore-accurate. If The Rings of Power is to show us a different time, it would be less interesting to depict the Galadriel we already know than it would be to show how she became that person (er, elf). That she does not have some of the attributes she should does not mean we won’t see her get them as the show progresses. The choice to make this progression visible to the audience may induce distortions of lore, but for the sake of allowing us to see them happen in real-time rather than merely to learn about them secondhand or in flashback.

There is a similar defense to make of Galadriel’s warrior status in Rings of Power, to which Dan does not object. I think it is quite possible, perhaps even likely, that the course of the Rings of Power over the tragedy of the Second Age will show why the fierce fighter we have thus far seen ultimately concludes that contesting evil through strength in arms is not the right path for her to take. Perhaps the triumph of that evil, or the setbacks endured by the good, will have even in some way been caused by her efforts in this area. A series that depicts such a journey for its main character would be thematically rich, and deeply consonant with the spirit of Tolkien, even if it plays fast and loose with some of Tolkien’s canon.

These judgments may ultimately prove mistaken. My cautious optimism about the show thus far amounts largely to a willingness to see what it does over time. Thus, I am, at this point, mostly laying down markers for future reference, against which to measure the show’s success or failure.

Health Care

Debunking Bad Arguments on America’s Declining Life Expectancy

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People walk past a mural praising the National Health Service in London, England, March 5, 2021. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Life expectancy in the United States has sadly dropped once again, and progressives aren’t squandering the opportunity to turn what should be a solemn reminder of the consequences of poor public policy and individual choices into a political win. Leading online liberal, novelist, and content creator John Green was quick to point out that all the countries above us in the life-expectancy index have some form of socialized medicine. This is a profoundly disingenuous and callous way of making a case for universal health care. Others peddled propaganda about how China’s life expectancy is higher than America’s.

For starters, it’s important to dispense with the notion that the Chinese have surpassed us in life expectancy. CCP apparatchiks have given us little reason to believe any of the statistics coming out of Beijing. We should be especially wary given all we know about the initial Covid outbreak in Wuhan. It’s sad to see academics and journalists serving as unwitting pawns of a genocidal regime.

Second, our health-care system is not a monocausal explanation of why American health outcomes are worse. This phenomenon is a product of individual choices and culture. The reality is that Americans eat more, shoot each other more, and drive more recklessly than the people of any other developed country. Injudicious lifestyle decisions, whose consequences have been exacerbated by the pandemic, not the health-care system, are to blame for health disparities between America and her counterparts. This is American exceptionalism, for better or for worse. The term is not always boastful, after all; it is often descriptive.

Third, while conservatives ought to consider adopting some aspects of Swedish or Swiss health care in their policy prescriptions, the notion that single-payer is some panacea for our ailing population is ludicrous. Government intervention in the health-care sector has made health outcomes in this country demonstrably worse.

Between regulatory barriers suppressing innovation, entitlement-induced cross-subsidization, lack of price transparency, and the consequences of fiscally incentivized employer-based health insurance, we’re left with a labyrinth of regulation that resembles anything but a robust free market.

Instead of creating an American NHS, we should eliminate the tax deduction for employer-based health insurance and expand high-deductible insurance plans and health-savings accounts. Policy experimentation, not mimicry of our OECD peers, is how to begin to rejoin the ranks of nations with high life expectancies.

Health Care

Contemplating the Updated Covid-19 Booster Shots

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A patient receives a coronavirus vaccine booster at the North Oakland Health Center in Pontiac, Mich., December 21, 2021. (Emily Elconin/Reuters)

A 67-year-old reader asks whether, after getting vaccinated and boosted, and having never had Covid-19 as far as he knows, he should get one of the updated booster shots.

First, if you really have serious concerns about getting a vaccination or booster, talk to your doctor, not your favorite senior political correspondent. I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV. With that in mind, here’s my best sense of where things stand.

I assume this reader did not have any serious reaction to the first shots or booster; if you had a severe allergic reaction to the first shot, doctors do not recommend getting a second one. Again, if you’re not sure if your past reaction counts as “severe,” or have concerns, ask your doctor.

The boosters are using basically the same ingredients and formulations as the first set of shots, but the new Covid-19 boosters add Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike protein components to the current vaccine composition. The list of ingredients in the booster can be found here. If you didn’t have a bad reaction to the earlier shots, you are not likely to have a bad reaction to the new boosters, but that’s not a 100 percent guarantee.

According to the CDC, as of a week ago, the most common variant of the virus is BA.5, which made up 87 percent of identified cases. This variant has steadily increased its share of reported cases since early July.

Neither the vaccines nor the new boosters prevent all infections and they do not prevent transmission of the virus. They do make symptoms less severe and aim to help you recover from infection more quickly, by giving your immune system practice at fighting off something similar to the virus.

I suspect the nation’s case numbers are getting less accurate over time. Many hospitals test all admitted patients for coronavirus even if they’re not experiencing any signs or symptoms of Covid-19 infection. This means anyone who tests positive is counted as a Covid-19 case, even if they’re in the hospital to treat a broken arm from a car accident or something completely unrelated to Covid-19. Should asymptomatic patients be considered Covid cases? Sure, but we don’t spend a lot of time worrying about pathogens that have no discernible effect on our health.

Meanwhile, lots of people who start to feel sick, buy a home test, and test positive never report their cases to doctors or public-health officials. So, we’re counting asymptomatic cases who show up in hospitals, while likely not counting quite a few mild cases in the general public.

This summer, a lot of people I know caught Covid-19, often after traveling on vacation. Maybe it was planes or airports, maybe it was crowded tourist destinations, or maybe it was just dumb luck. Just about all of the people I know had mild cases – cough, congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or fatigue, and the worst of it passed in a day or two. One person I know was treated with Paxlovid and it cleared up his infection pretty quickly.

I had planned on getting one of the updated boosters . . . except life threw a curveball at me recently. We came back from our vacation, my wife had a lingering cough, and eventually tested positive. (Her first test was negative.) This was in the final days before the kids went back to school, so she self-isolated from them and I became the household director of the getting-ready-for-school efforts. We weren’t that worried about our kids having a severe infection, we just didn’t want them missing those first few days of school.

Then shortly after she tested negative, she heard me coughing — and I cannot emphasize this enough — because while drinking coffee, it went down the wrong hole. She urged me to take one of our home Covid tests, and I told her she was being paranoid. To prove how ridiculous her concerns were, I relented, jabbed the swab up my nose, swirled it around until it felt like it was hitting brain matter, and waited for the test to prove how silly her worries were . . .

. . . and then the test showed the faintest pink line imaginable.

My wife theorized that a very faint positive result indicated I was either just finishing an infection or just starting one. Again, at no point in the preceding days had I felt sick or had any symptoms. Another test in the afternoon generated the same result — just enough of a line to dispel the idea that it was negative, but so faint when compared to the bright pink control line, it just barely counted as positive.

The following morning, I tested indisputably negative, meaning that for the preceding week or so, I had Covid and was completely asymptomatic. There were no signs the kids caught it either. Apparently, I’ve had BA.5 and fought it off, meaning my immune system is, at least for the next few months, well-practiced in fighting off that variant — making getting jabbed with the new booster less of a priority. That’s why I wrote “as far as he knows” above; I wonder how many people have caught BA.5, been asymptomatic, and never realized they’ve fought off the infection.

If I were 67, and didn’t have any good reason to not get an updated booster, I’d go and get it. Better safe than sorry. But all of us have different levels of tolerance for risk, and no one should get vaccinated or undergo any medical procedure against their will.

No need for the five stars, Vestigaliberal, just call them as you see them.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Ocean Shipping

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I write about how more businesses are shipping east to ship west:

West Coast supply-chain infrastructure is so inefficient and unreliable that businesses are deciding they’d be better off shipping their products to the opposite side of the continent instead.

The shift to East Coast ports in response to West Coast congestion is not new (I wrote a post on it last October) but it’s getting more attention now that the line of ships waiting off the coast of southern California has essentially disappeared.

The latest episode of the Capital Record podcast features Anne Bradley of The Fund for American Studies. Listen to David’s conversation with her here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

World

QE2

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Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II arrives for a Service of the Order of the Bath at Westminster Abbey in London, England, May 9, 2014. (Luke MacGregor/Reuters)

In Impromptus today, I open with privilege. What does it mean to have privilege, or to come from privilege? Is it merely a matter of money? (Not that money’s anything to sneeze at.) I then get into U.S. politics, the fate of democracy, and other messes.

I wrote my column yesterday before news of the Queen came. Maybe I can use this post to jot a few notes.

• She set a great example.

• “She never puts a foot wrong,” went a line for many years. Maybe once or twice she did. I think she did. But there is no reason to dwell on these things after nearly a century of splendid service.

• In 2010 — I’ve Googled — Charles Moore referred to Queen Elizabeth in print as “a beautiful old lady.” I loved that. I loved his boldness, his forthrightness, his truthfulness. That is exactly what she was: a beautiful old lady.

The fact that Moore said this gave me the courage — or the cover — to say it myself.

• Here is a favorite picture of mine:

• When I circulated the above photo on Twitter, Dalibor Roháč, of the American Enterprise Institute, offered this:

Reagan and Havel. Two great democrats. Havel’s hand, I was privileged to shake. Never had the opportunity with the Gipper. But for years and years, I have pestered those who knew him — Bill Buckley, Van Galbraith, Lou Cannon — for stories (and they have kindly obliged).

• Prince Charles — now King Charles — I have seen once in my life. It was in 1986, at Harvard. Charles was there to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the university. He was without his wife, sadly for me — everyone my age loved Princess Diana. I saw Charles in his Rolls-Royce, as he drove by, or was driven by. He gave a wave out the back window. I thought, “Much handsomer than he appears in photos.”

• Our Admiral James Stavridis (retired) tweeted something excellent yesterday, I thought:

Today we are all British subjects. Godspeed and open water to the Queen.

• Alan Cowell’s obituary in the New York Times is superb — magisterial. (I almost want to say “imperial.”) A great little bio. Fitting.

• In the House of Commons, Boris Johnson, who ended his premiership on Tuesday, delivered a tribute. I think of an expression from golf: “dead solid perfect.” It really is — here.

• The words of David Pryce-Jones, in a conversation with me, I will paraphrase: “She had the mystique of sovereignty. And, in the eyes of the world, Elizabeth embodied Britain. She was conscious of this, too, and behaved accordingly.”

Incidentally, P-J was patted on the head by Elizabeth’s father, George VI.

• My mother has a memory of Queen Elizabeth — then Princess Elizabeth — and her sister, Margaret, during World War II. Word got around that the princesses were doing without new winter coats. They were wearing their old ones. You could see in photos and newsreels that the sleeves were too short. That made an impression on little kids, even in a small Michigan town, far away.

God bless the Queen.

Education

Personal Initiative or Group ‘Equity’?

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For the last several years, we have constantly heard demands for “equity” in education, which means that everything must be apportioned so that the various racial and ethnic groups share equally in the goods. It’s a demand for comprehensive government social engineering based on the assertion that the U.S. is so hopelessly racist that fair outcomes can never happen except through coercion.

Scholars who dissent from that are apt to face reprisals, so it takes some guts to argue that black individuals should be individually responsible for their success. That is just what Florida State professor Michael Creswell does in today’s Martin Center article.

He writes, “To this end, many colleges and universities have begun changing their admissions standards to ensure there will be a representative number of black students on campus. One initiative is to no longer require applicants to take a standardized test. Colleges are also altering their curricula in ways designed to help black students do better in the classroom. Efforts along these lines include eliminating or relaxing academic requirements that some educators claim are racist.”

But that approach has not done and will not do any good. Black individuals have a responsibility, too, to do the work to close the racial achievement gap, beyond looking to institutions or government.

Why? For one thing, Creswell says, “Lowering enrollment standards in order to admit more black students whose academic skills are measurably inferior to those of other admittees inevitably consigns many of the black students in question to the lower spectrum of the academic performance scale. This cruel fate will surely undermine their self-respect.”

The “equity” movement merely breeds a sense of victimhood, although that might be the hidden purpose.

World

Thank You, One More Time

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World

Twenty-One Things That Caught My Eye Today: The Queen, R.I.P., Late-Term Abortion in D.C., Disney’s Demons, Vocation and Empty Nesters & More

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Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip view the nave of the Cathedral at St. Patrick’s Rock in Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland, May 20, 2011. (Reuters)

1. Father Matt Malone, S.J.: How Queen Elizabeth put forgiveness into action

At precisely noon on May 17, 2011, the 85-year-old daughter of the last king of Ireland touched down at Casement Aerodrome, a military airfield southwest of Dublin. For the first time in a century, a reigning British monarch set foot in what is now the Republic of Ireland but for centuries had been the impoverished vassal of its English overlords. The royal visit marked the full realization of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the international agreement between the British and Irish governments that restored home rule to Northern Ireland and brought an end to decades of bloody conflict.

For Queen Elizabeth II, the visit marked another milestone. After nearly 60 years on the throne and millions of miles traveled, she had never visited the Republic of Ireland. Yet she was determined to make the trip, motivated in large part by her sense of Christian duty to reconcile the estranged, to be a healer of the breach. “God sent into the world a unique person—neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are)—but a Saviour, with the power to forgive,” she said in her Christmas broadcast that year. “Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.”

Forgiveness, of course, is much more than a feeling. It is a series of small, often painful acts that culminate in a conversion of hearts that creates the very possibility of peace. Queen Elizabeth II put forgiveness into action. “With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all,” she said at the state dinner hosted by the Irish president, Mary McAleese. “To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy.”

That sympathy runs deep, for the queen’s visit to the republic was not just a moment of reconciliation between two long-estranged peoples, but her personal act of forgiveness. When Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed by agents of the Irish Republican Army in the summer of 1979, the queen suffered the loss of one of the most beloved members of her family, the uncle of her husband and the godfather of her first son. It was a truly extraordinary moment, therefore, when she laid a wreath at a memorial garden in Dublin dedicated to the memory of “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom.” She had somehow found the courage within her to forgive, to rebuild, to begin anew.

2.

3. Christianity Today: Queen Elizabeth II, British Monarch Who Put Her Trust in God

4.

5. New York Times: Egypt Files Criminal Charges Against New York Times: Four Journalists Over One Article

CAIRO — Four journalists from one of Egypt’s last independent news outlets were charged with criminal offenses on Wednesday, in the government’s latest attempt to intimidate and punish the publication for its reporting.

The charges — publishing fake news, misusing social media and insulting members of Parliament — stemmed from an article that the outlet, Mada Masr, published last week on a corruption inquiry and impending leadership shake-up in the political party that dominates Parliament, the Nation’s Future Party. The party is closely associated with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Under Mr. el-Sisi, who came to power after a military takeover in 2013, Egypt has stamped out even minor forms of dissent and has muzzled the news media, jailing dozens of journalists, using the security services to buy up outlets and blocking uncooperative news sites.

The sites blocked in Egypt include Mada Masr, an online outlet that is published in English and Arabic and that continued to offer hard-hitting reporting on Egypt when most of the rest of the country’s news media fell prey to government repression.

Continue reading “Twenty-One Things That Caught My Eye Today: The Queen, R.I.P., Late-Term Abortion in D.C., Disney’s Demons, Vocation and Empty Nesters & More”

National Security & Defense

Delayed Iran Deal 2.0 Negotiations Should Never Be Restarted

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Left: President Biden at the White House in February. Right: Iranian flag at the U.N. office building housing IAEA headquarters in Vienna in 2021. (Kevin Lamarque, Lisi Niesner/Reuters)

The Biden administration’s aspirations of an Iran Deal revival may be fading. This week, it has become apparent that efforts to resuscitate the ill-fated nuclear accord have reached an impasse. Senior EU diplomat Josep Borrell said that the latest confab between American and Iranian diplomats in Vienna “is not converging, it is diverging.”

Well, that’s a relief.

Many in the foreign-policy establishment contend that this deal is the least terrible of a set of execrable options. Don’t buy this narrative. The hastily conceived entente is not preferable to having no deal. It will only bolster the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, nourishing the mullahs hankering for jihadi adventurism, raising the risk of Middle East–wide conflict, and threatening Israel, our closest ally in the region. The paltry nuclear restrictions will sunset in a few years regardless, which will precipitate a regional arms race.

Those who argue that this deal will buy us time and enable us to focus on great-power competition with Russia and China are deluding themselves. This softer second iteration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would do the opposite. It will further destabilize an already tumultuous region and deepen Beijing’s influence in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia.

While Congress may be powerless to stop this from coming to fruition, voters can still voice their discontent at the ballot box. Initially, one could argue that the deal might be an electoral boon for Democrats, but with all the negative coverage it’s received, it’s no wonder the Biden administration may want to cease its efforts until after the November midterm elections. Its quixotic foreign-policy fantasies will have to wait.

World

Yes, Queen

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Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II attends a service for the Order of the British Empire at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, England, March 7, 2012. (Geoff Pugh/Pool/Reuters)

There is much to say about the death and extremely long and eventful life of Queen Elizabeth II. She was the last remaining head of state who had served in the Second World War. She was on the cover of Time magazine in 1929. Her 70 years on the throne spanned from Prime Minister Winston Churchill — who was born in 1874, served in the British Army under Queen Victoria, and was in the Cabinet at the outbreak of the First World War — to Liz Truss, who was born in 1975 (when the Queen was 49 years old) and whom the Queen met publicly two days ago, standing and smiling to greet her new prime minister. She was a model of duty and restraint and a great friend of the United States. Only Louis XIV’s reign exceeded hers in length among the world’s known monarchs, and Louis XIV was a child under a regency for over a decade.

Longevity is a virtue all its own. Over the final 30 or 40 years of her reign, Elizabeth made the monarchy seem steady and permanent simply by the fact that so many Britons had never known their country without her. That mattered in a world that increasingly regarded the monarchy as antiquated, the royal family as full of embarrassments, and the British Empire she once served as a relic or, worse, a barbarity. The new King Charles III, at 74, is not the man to bring any sort of constructive change to how the monarchy is viewed; he will be fortunate merely to keep it from unraveling without his mother. The immediate challenge will be holding together the British Commonwealth, many of whose members were held in place by personal loyalty to Elizabeth, and who may be rethinking things without her.

It has been a long descent for the British monarchy, which has had to prove itself adaptable on more than a few occasions in its history. Beginning in the 13th century — the Magna Carta in 1215, the first Parliament in 1295 — kings of England recognized publicly that they had to share some of their power with the aristocracy (this was never done by the monarchies of some countries, such as Russia). Starting in 1688, when William III accepted the crown from Parliament on Parliament’s terms, it has been openly acknowledged that the British monarchy is subordinate to Parliament, thus depriving it of the claims to sole and divine legitimacy that were common to kings on the European continent or emperors in Asia. During the reign of George III, the monarchy was stripped of most of its levers of influence. His spendthrift and dissolute successor, George IV, nearly destroyed the monarchy.

It took Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, to create the modern monarchy. Victoria was the first British monarch to be photographed, and she exchanged with American president James Buchanan the first telegraph messages across the Atlantic. Her predecessor was the last to try to assert the right to name a government unsupported by the House of Commons. Her accession to the throne in 1837 also freed Britain of a significant and archaic foreign-policy nuisance: the dual personal role of the king as the ruler of the small German state of Hanover (Hanover did not recognize the right of a woman to succeed to its throne). Albert, for his part, was a natural workaholic — a bad characteristic in a man whose only job was to refrain from doing anything important — and it was he as much as anyone who found the monarchy’s role as charitable patron and promoter of good causes outside of governance. The Great Exhibition of 1851 allowed Albert to lend the prestige of the crown to a festival of British commerce.

PHOTOS: Queen Elizabeth II

By the time Elizabeth took the throne, the Empire was being actively dismantled, and there was once again a felt need to “modernize” the monarchy to bring it into greater communication with the British people. It was Elizabeth’s role to strike the proper balance, using the intimacy of television while maintaining for the royalty a reserve of dignity and mystique, even as her children and their spouses seemed determined at times to destroy it.

Americans have long been fascinated by the British royal family, a fascination that has never much extended to the various other ceremonial monarchies that still dot much of Europe (the exception being Monaco during the time that its king was married to an A-list American movie star). The whole idea of a monarchy still strikes us as silly, yet it also serves a public function that our presidents have increasingly been incapable of filling. Nobody served that role better than Queen Elizabeth II. The most difficult part of her legacy comes now: Has she so dominated the idea of what a British monarch should be, while raising a family so poorly suited to fill her shoes, that she will be impossible to replace?

Politics & Policy

AOC’s Biggest Problem Is That She’s AOC

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) speaks outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C., September 21, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

I don’t know if the purpose of GQ‘s profile of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was to make its subject look like a whiny, cartoonish, spoiled, self-indulgent mediocrity, but that’s certainly the effect it had on me. At no point during the interview, it seems, did it occur to either the writer, Wesley Lowery, or his interviewee that the core problem that AOC faces is AOC — not other people. Take this line, for example, which represents just one part of a rambling, embarrassingly pseudo-eloquent answer to the question of whether, one day, she might be elected president:

People ask me questions about the future. And realistically, I can’t even tell you if I’m going to be alive in September. And that weighs very heavily on me. And it’s not just the right wing. Misogyny transcends political ideology: left, right, center. This grip of patriarchy affects all of us, not just women; men, as I mentioned before, but also, ideologically, there’s an extraordinary lack of self-awareness in so many places. And so those are two very conflicting things. I admit to sometimes believing that I live in a country that would never let that happen.

The reason that it is unlikely that this country will “let” AOC be president is not that she’s a woman. It’s that she’s a dimwitted socialist. This country is also not going to “let” Marjorie Taylor Greene be president. That’s not patriarchy; it’s taste. In his next paragraph, Lowery gets quite close to understanding this, but then swiftly backs away from the implications of his own words:

Even were she theoretically to become president, then what? She’d face a system—from the Senate to the Supreme Court—both empowered and inclined to thwart her most sweeping ambitions.

This is true. But it’s not because AOC’s a woman. It’s because she’s a fringe radical. Sure, the Senate would — will — “thwart” some of what AOC wants to do. Why? Because the Senate is elected, and because, absent some cataclysm in American politics, the people who elect it are not going to vote for AOC’s proposals — which, to bring it full circle, is why the American people are unlikely to “let” her become president. As for the Supreme Court: Yes, it is likely to block much of what AOC hopes to achieve, because much of what AOC hopes to achieve is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution that it exists to defend.

For some reason, AOC is as incapable of following her thoughts all the way through as is her interviewer. “Since I got here,” she complains,

literally day one, even before day one, I’ve experienced a lot of targeting diminishment from my party. And the pervasiveness of that diminishment, it was all-encompassing at times. I feel a little more steady on my own two feet now. But would I say that I have the power to shift the elected federal Democratic Party? No.

Right. Again: That’s because . . .

Elsewhere, Lowery complains that AOC’s “opponents on both the left and right have gleefully dissected her every utterance, hunting for ways to dismiss and ridicule her.” Here, the word “hunting” is doing a lot of work. Hunting is an active endeavor; AOC has opened a butcher’s shop. AOC is not dismissed and mocked because her critics are searching desperately for reasons to dismiss and mock her; AOC is dismissed and mocked because she’s highly dismissible and mockable. Hell, she’s even mockable throughout the very piece in which she’s complaining about being mocked.

Consider this little gem: 

“It’s my resolution that perhaps we can be engaged by the end of the year,” she recalled him telling her. “And I said, ‘Oh, really? Well, you’re going to have to woo me. You’re going to have to convince me, after all this time, why I should.’ ” Ocasio-Cortez told me that she never considered marriage inevitable. Her relationship with Roberts, who is white, raised its own particular questions about identity and belonging: She wasn’t positive that an intercultural, interracial relationship would be the right fit for her.

Sorry, what? Is there anyone in America who, having read these words, can still insist that AOC is treated unfairly? If anyone else in politics had told a friendly journalist that they were not positive that “an intercultural, interracial relationship would be the right fit for them, it would have yielded a hurricane of criticism. Per Gallup, 94 percent of Americans approve of interracial marriage — and by “approve, one must assume that they do not mean “. . . but only for other people. What the hell does “she wasn’t positive that an intercultural, interracial relationship would be the right fit for her mean in practice? And who, besides AOC, would be given the benefit of the doubt when one considered such a question. I’m sitting here trying to imagine the reaction if, say, Senator Tim Scott had said that. Or Glenn Youngkin. Or Marco Rubio. Or anyone. They’d have been crucified.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s her?

World

Elizabeth’s Era

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Queen Elizabeth visits the new headquarters of the Royal Philatelic society in London, England, November 26, 2019. (Tolga Akmen/Reuters)

London — The flag above Buckingham Palace now flies at half-mast: Queen Elizabeth II of England is dead.

The monarch died peacefully at her family estate in Balmoral, Scotland, this afternoon. She was 96.

Earlier today, outside the palace, a growing crowd of tourists and journalists were joined by ordinary Londoners waiting for more news after the announcement of concerns about the queen’s health. There was a somber mood of expectation.

Phoebe, 21, a Londoner, told me, “I love the queen, she’s been on the throne my whole life, and more . . . She’s so important to the country and brings everyone together. It’s such sad news.”

PHOTOS: Queen Elizabeth II

After news of her death became official, hundreds became thousands. Many are carrying white lilies and other flowers with notes inside. Given such a large number of people, it is eerily quiet.

Marcus, 26, moved to the U.K. from Brazil with his family when he was 13 years old. He told me, “I came to this country with nothing and my life has completely changed because of this country. And I know she’s not [the reason] for me being here, but it’s still her era that I came into. I feel so grateful.”

“I feel like this was the one constant thing we had through all the crazy things we’ve been through,” he added. “Scary times ahead.”

As he spoke, the crowd spontaneously began singing “God Save the Queen.”

Religion

A Light in the Darkness

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The Lamp is a delightful, eccentric, and challenging new Catholic publication, edited by the delightful, eccentric, and challenging editor Matthew Walther. I recently appeared on the magazine’s podcast to talk a little about what it was like being committed to the traditional Latin Mass before Benedict liberated it in 2007. Back when Trads were still Rad.

Education

NYC Cancels a Part of Childhood

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Snowplows remove snow from Times Square during a snowstorm in the Manhattan borough of New York City, N.Y., February 1, 2021. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

The city of New York has decided children enrolled in its public schools can do without snow days. NYC’s Department of Education decreed it will be replacing those winsome days of benumbing fun with interminable hours spent in front of a Chromebook. Children will be granted the new joy of staring out the window at the enticing snowfall while working from home like corporate drones in miniature. 

Timothy Nerozzi reports for Fox News:

According to New York law, students must attend a minimum of 180 days in school per year. Officials believe the shift from cancelations to remote learning will provide more opportunities for students to meet the quota.

“Over the years, the DOE introduced additional holiday observances as part of the school calendar, and has contractual obligations which limit the number of possible school days,” the city’s Department of Education said in a statement.

The department continued, “The pandemic has also created the ability to switch seamlessly to remote learning, and DOE central and schools have distributed hundreds of thousands of devices to ensure that learning can continue remotely during school closures.”

Children should have snow days. The frabjous wonder of flashing awake, taking a moment to pray while raising the blinds to assess the snowfall, and then sprinting to the radio to hear one’s school announced (or these days scrolling down a web page to see if it’s listed) is one that no kid should go without. The snow arrives at random to bestow such emancipation — a lesson that each day has the capacity for joyous upheaval. Snow days are an unexpected gift of a day dedicated to play amid the stupefying gray days of winter. 

Chesterton puts it this way:

The fascination of children lies in this: that with each of them all things are remade, and the universe is put again upon its trial. As we walk the streets and see below us those delightful bulbous heads . . . we ought always primarily to remember that within each of these heads there is [a] new universe, as new as it was on the seventh day of creation. In each of those orbs there is a new system of stars, new grass, new cities, a new sea.

Are we to show our children a world of drudgery even on the most heavenly days, when the world is stilled by God’s chill bounty? Shall we say, “Work, child. The world should not stop for good things; don’t acknowledge them.” It’s perverse. 

The education administrators cite “contractual obligations” and “additional holiday observances” for shuttering snow days. Now holidays are lovely things, but a quick glance through the roster of observed holidays, breaks, and recesses reveals a substantial layer of fat in the calendar. Furthermore, negotiations are under way with the city’s unions. Cannot the city mandate snow days be built into the calendar with these new contracts? Of course they can, and they should.

The adult who considers snow days an impediment to education and cannot conceive of frolicking’s qualitative value should be far removed from decision-making of any kind. As Roald Dahl put it, “A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.” One wonders if these adults were ever children, or instead spontaneously came into being full grown with a four-foot-long, three-quarter-inch-diameter red-oak dowel lodged in their intestinal tract. 

Let the kids build a snowman, because soon enough they’ll be stuck paying for our sins of indiscriminate spending. May they show us more charity than we have granted them the past three years.

Media

It’s Journalism When We Do It

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A man walks past The Washington Post building in Washington, D.C., August 5, 2013. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

I posed this not-very-hypothetical parallel yesterday about the treatment of the Libs of TikTok account in the pages of the Washington Post: “If an account posted TikToks from neo-Nazi or white-supremacist police officers and soldiers, would it be treated with the same hostility by Twitter or the Washington Post? We all know the answer.” I had not yet seen that the Post itself had published this Associated Press article yesterday morning:

The names of hundreds of U.S. law enforcement officers, elected officials and military members appear on the leaked membership rolls of a far-right extremist group that’s accused of playing a key role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, according to a report released Wednesday. The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism pored over more than 38,000 names on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists and identified more than 370 people it believes currently work in law enforcement agencies — including as police chiefs and sheriffs — and more than 100 people who are currently members of the military.

The Post and the ADL report name names. Either this sort of thing is journalism, or it’s harassment. It can’t be one standard for one cause, and a different standard for a different cause.

Science & Tech

The Case for Resisting Self-Driving Cars

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A fleet of Uber self-driving cars at a technology demonstration in September 2016. (Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)

Last week, NR played host to a lively debate about self-driving cars. It began with Luther Abel rejecting (with limited exceptions) Jordan McGillis’s praise of autonomous vehicles. This earned him a stern rebuke from Mark Wright, whose appropriately anecdotal rant lamented all the wasted hours of commutes, as well as a dissent from Rich Lowry, who noted that past sticks-in-the-mud have romanticized forms of travel we now consider obviously outmoded. Looming over it all was the wry specter of Kevin Williamson, who argued that debating the pros and cons was pointless: We are fools if we “think that the social engineers of the future are going to give them a choice about it.” In this prognostication, he was preceded by Charlie Cooke, who in 2017 predicted that “at some point in the future, be it years, decades, or a century hence, the federal government will seek to ban driving,” and thus proposed a constitutional amendment to forestall the possibility. And on the first episode of The Editors this week, Rich briefly revived the debate by praising Mark’s response to Luther.

Kevin and Charlie are, at the very least, right to be worried, and Charlie’s proposal is worth enacting. The car has been a bugbear of progressive planners for decades. During the high-speed-rail bonanza of the Obama administration, George Will explained why:

Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons—to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.

In the future, the self-driving car will distinguish itself from mass public transit only by the fact of ownership. But, as Kevin rightly notes, there is reason to worry that the self-driving car will lend itself quite well to top-down directives that will further elide this distinction. “Wait until you tell your car to take you to someplace the Man thinks you shouldn’t be going, and it replies, ‘I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that,’” he writes.

There are other objections to consider. Rich is right that sticks-in-the-mud (such as myself) have resisted past innovations and come to look foolish. Sometimes they have done so out of attachment to the old. Other times, more out of fear of the new; Russell Kirk, who never learned to drive, called the automobile a “mechanical Jacobin.” But the driven car may represent a kind of peak of human progress, beyond which we begin to fall back toward older modes of transportation, in spirit if not in form. A car, used properly, is a tremendous source of freedom — and a tremendous responsibility. Prior modes may have required similar responsibility but were less liberating (in that they had lesser capabilities); future modes may be more liberating but entail less responsibility (in that they demand less of the individual, or are less directed by the individual because of increasing technical complexity). How much of the American spirit is tied up in the centrality of the driven automobile to our culture? A great deal of it, I reckon. That is not so easily dismissed.

As for Mark: He is undoubtedly a busy man, and would gain time from the liberation of his commute. I do not doubt that he would use that time productively, as he has in the past. What of others? Technology has already so invaded our lives that the likeliest use for the time driverless cars give us will be to waste it on idle diversions. Driving remains a forced interaction with a reality that many are fleeing. It can be an unpleasant reality, to be sure, and sometimes an outright dangerous one. But it is a reality nonetheless, one we should not so readily discard.

Another point worth discussing is that the driverless car is not being forced on us, and will not be, but is rather being asked for, and demanded. The prerogative of the driver is being eaten away willingly at both ends by technology: Outside the car (and, far too often in it – and even at the wheel), distractions by devices beckon. And within the car itself, technical improvements — automatic parallel parking, blind-spot indicators, rear-view cameras, even cruise control — have gradually chipped away at the responsibility of the driver himself. I would respond to the former by urging a small, healthy dose of Luddism that would reduce driver exposure to phones (now a leading cause of accidents and deaths from driving). And I would accept the latter as means to enhance the safety of the driver experience short of a driverless car itself.

Indeed, despite my exhortation here, I would still be open — in theory, eventually — to a limited incorporation of driverless cars in our lives. I would want us to do so carefully and gradually; as Dan McLaughlin also noted last week, we still have much to learn about this technology and how it would change our society. Again, however, I have serious doubts that a moderate spirit of acceptance will be possible in this matter. This will likely prove an all-or-nothing proposition. Thus, the case for resistance remains strong.

On this, however, resistance may be futile. Already, younger generations are driving less. The freedom — and concomitant responsibility — of driving, and the rite of passage of getting one’s license, are apparently of diminishing value to young people. If the trend continues, then there won’t be much we can do to salvage this aspect of American culture. Laws might not even be necessary to affirm a culture-wide proscription. But if driven cars were ever to be banned, either de jure or de facto, and this literal engine of freedom to be taken away, I like to think I would not be alone in still finding attractive the possibility of riding around in “a brilliant red Barchetta, from a better, vanished time . . .”

 

Politics & Policy

The Democrats Sure Don’t Act as If MAGA Republicans Are a Threat to the Republic

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Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) speaks alongside President Biden and House speaker Nancy Pelosi on the South Lawn of the White House, August 9, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters)

My latest New York Post column looks race by race at the more than $44 million and counting poured by Democrats across at least eight states into Republican primaries to boost Trump-endorsed candidates and/or candidates who refused to accept the outcome of the 2020 election and punish members of the House who voted to impeach Donald Trump. (I’ve previously written on that behavior here and here.) They’re still at it in the New Hampshire senate primary, spending at least $3.2 million to back Don Bolduc over Chuck Morse.

What does this tell us? One, Democrats are utterly insincere in their efforts to claim that they are truly worried that Trump and “MAGA Republicans” are an existential threat to the Republic. That’s exactly why Joe Biden can’t even keep straight the difference between MAGA Republicans and the rest of the party: because he doesn’t really think the post January 6 Trump faction of the party is a real threat, so he is more interested in partisan point-scoring against Republicans as a whole. Two, and relatedly, leading Democrats, in their bones, do not regard what Trump did after the 2020 election as out of bounds. Given their long track record of attacking the legitimacy of elections they lose, top Democrats simply see this as how the game is played and could picture themselves doing the same thing if the roles were reversed. To me, that’s what, say, Josh Shapiro is saying by spending more money on TV ads to help Doug Mastriano than Mastriano himself spent, or what J. B. Pritzker is saying by doing the same for Darren Bailey: This is all just an accepted part of the game. It’s normal. They’d do it themselves. And if some of these Republicans win their races on the strength of the national environment, well, it was worth it just to elect a few more Democrats than would otherwise have won.

Three, of course, while this stuff is dirty pool, there isn’t any law against it, and it would be hard if not impossible to devise one that isn’t bad and unconstitutional, so Republican voters really need to get better at resisting it by being a lot more skeptical of candidates the Democrats are supporting financially. If you’re thinking of voting for Don Bolduc, ask yourself: Why is it worth millions of dollars to Chuck Schumer and Maggie Hassan to nominate this man? Republican voters have learned to mistrust the mainstream media, and even to mistrust many of their own party’s leaders and institutions. It’s time for them to learn to mistrust Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and DGA chair Roy Cooper.

Fourth, there is no substitute for leadership. Democrats have a large and ever-growing insane faction within their party, but they still have a party establishment capable of guiding their voters to pick the people the party sees as the strongest candidates and avoid the people the party sees as unelectable. We saw that vividly in the 2020 presidential race with the simultaneously orchestrated withdrawals of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar timed to consolidate the party behind Joe Biden against Bernie Sanders. As I noted in my latest magazine piece, while Trump is not the sort of strong party leader who can recruit solid candidates and impose discipline — voters have conspicuously rejected some of his choices — he now functions instead as a kind of anti-quality control, selecting his endorsees solely by reference to who is willing to do the most damage to their own credibility with the general electorate in service of Trump’s lies and delusions. Some of the more controversial Trump endorsees will likely win this fall anyway, given the national political tailwinds, but it is likely that Republicans will keep losing winnable races due to bad candidates unless and until the party has a leader who combines the desire to advance the party’s interests as a whole with the discipline and strength of will to get its various factions (of voters, candidates, donors, etc.) on the same page. No matter how badly the Republican Party establishment has failed — both the pre-Trump establishment and the Trump establishment — the idea of not having a party establishment at all is nuts. A successful party must have leaders and a class of professionals committed to the success of the institution, and those leaders and establishment figures must, for the good of the cause, remain in tune with their party’s grassroots and responsive to its needs and desires. The right leader will need to teach Republican voters to trust Republicans more than Democrats with the interests of the party.

World

Why Have the Three Female U.K. Prime Ministers All Been Conservative?

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At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday in the House of Commons, former PM and current member of Parliament Theresa May asked Liz Truss why she thinks it is that all three female prime ministers have been conservative.

It’s a good question. And an inconvenient one for the Labour Party.

National Review

Your FOMO Should Be off the Charts Right Now

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Charlie, MBD, and I are doing a Zoom call with a relatively small group of NRPlus members this afternoon — no agenda, just a free-flowing conversation. We’ve done these before and they are a lot of fun. If you want to be part of such calls and events going forward, it’s another reason to sign up for NRPlus.

Politics & Policy

How Close Is America to the ‘Tipping Point’?

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Storm clouds gather over Washington D.C.. (Willard/Getty Images)

In this superb Law & Liberty essay entitled “The Descent into Tyranny,” Daniel Klein (of George Mason University) and Michael Munger (of Duke University) ponder a troubling question: How close are we to the tipping point? That is to say, the point from which there is no righting our canoe, where the forces of statism have won and use their power to extinguish opposition to their power.

Our “progressives” are certainly doing their utmost to bring that about.

I particularly like the way the authors note that, before the Civil War, the unjust rulers in the South became increasingly authoritarian in their efforts at preserving slavery and that we’re seeing something very similar among our current crop of authoritarians in power.

The authors write, “A tyranny — once capacities for control and despotism are constructed, in some cases including expansive government employment, dependency, and largesse—can be nearly impossible to reform. The key to the descent into tyranny, and the stability of tyranny once it is achieved, is this: Tyrants use tyranny to fortify their keep and to protect themselves against the sanctions due them for their crimes.”

That is precisely what Biden, Schumer, Pelosi et al have in mind — using governmental coercion to cement themselves into permanent control. The cracking down on freedom of speech, the expansion of the IRS, the threats to judicial independence, the weaponizing of the federal bureaucracy against the opposition, etc. are all part of a project meant to solidify leftist control so it can never be reversed.

Read the whole thing.

Does AOC Want to Be Anything More Than a Celebrity?

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to the media before the “Get Out the Vote Rally” in San Antonio, Texas, February 12, 2022. (Jordan Vonderhaar/Reuters)

Ben Shapiro offers an astute observation, spurred by three glossy magazine profiles of famous women:

Ben sadly concludes, “we live in serious times, and we are led by completely unserious people. Our enemies are not. And they know this.”

My one quibble would be questioning whether any significant number of Americans really see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the ideal choice to lead Americans against dangerous enemies. No doubt, she has her ardent

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: ESG and European Energy

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Richard Morrison of the Competitive Enterprise Institute writes about the growing backlash to ESG:

For the last several years, much of the corporate world has, to a greater or lesser degree, adapted to the demands imposed by “environmental, social, and governance” (ESG) theory, and in that time, those three letters have created a minefield of unintended consequences. Despite the enthusiasm that has fueled the ESG machine, leaders in politics, policy, and the business world have begun to question where it is leading us, with high-profile critics from Tesla CEO Elon Musk to former vice president Mike Pence lining up to denounce it. While we’ve been hearing warnings of a backlash against ESG for some time, it’s worth reflecting on how we got here.

Jorge González-Gallarza of Spanish think tank Fundación Civismo writes about Europe’s energy-pricing problems:

Europe’s power sector is in a bind. Since harmonizing electricity markets in the mid 1990s, EU leaders believed that the comparatively higher price of natural gas in the wholesale market for energy would spur investment in renewables and thus aid the bloc’s transition to a net-zero-emissions economy. Indeed, the bloc’s “marginal pricing system” is designed such that wholesale electricity prices are set by the last power plant called in to meet overall demand on any given day, a role routinely played by the natural-gas power plants meeting approximately 20 percent of the EU’s electricity demand. The hope behind the pricing system was, in other words, that the forces at work in global energy markets would align with the EU’s ambitious environmental agenda.

But this pricing system is now under severe duress. After undergoing a planned three-day maintenance, Russia’s Gazprom announced on Friday that its Nord Stream 1 pipeline linking Russia to Germany underneath the Baltic Sea, which supplies about 20 percent of the gas Europe imports from Russia, would stay shut indefinitely. Gas storage has attained 80 percent of capacity across Europe, two months sooner than targeted. Meanwhile, the marginal pricing system is delivering too much of the results it was designed to deliver. Power plants running on renewable energy, for instance, are raking in windfall profits from selling power at a market price set by their gas-powered competitors.

Law & the Courts

Warrants and Evidence in the Trump Case 

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Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., in 2017. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

Brittany Bernstein has an excellent post on former AG Bill Barr’s latest public comments about the Mar-a-Lago investigation. You should read the whole thing, but I want to home in on one part of it because it pertains to something I’ve been asked about a number of times: items of former president Trump’s personal property that were seized by the FBI.

Many of the former president’s non-lawyer supporters understandably assume that (a) if the investigation is about government documents but (b) the FBI seized items of personal property that were not government documents (e.g., passports, medical records, tax information), then (c) the FBI must have gone beyond the lawful scope of the search warrant. That’s possible, but unlikely.

Preliminarily, it is indisputable that the warrant explicitly permitted the agents to seize non-government documents (see, e.g., the warrant’s Attachment B, para. a, permitting seizure of “containers/boxes that are collectively stored or found together with” documents marked classified). But let’s put that aside. Brittany relates Barr’s observation that investigators executing the search warrant were authorized to seize Trump’s personal items because they could constitute evidence of the way the government documents were stored. As he put it, “If you find very sensitive documents in Trump’s desk along with his passports, that ties Trump to those documents.”

This is an iteration of the principle that evidence of a crime is a concept broader than what we might call the corpus of the crime. For example, if the government were investigating the crime of selling cocaine, a search warrant would permit agents to seize not only the cocaine (the corpus of the crime) but also a container of plastic bags found near the cocaine. While the latter may be personal property that is ostensibly legal to possess, it is also evidence that the person intended to package and distribute the cocaine for sale.

Here, the former president is under investigation for, among other things, mishandling classified documents. This could implicate a couple of crimes under the Espionage Act (Section 793). Consequently, the fact that Trump was in possession of documents with classification markings is key evidence. But it’s not the only relevant evidence.

One Espionage Act crime (subsection (e)) requires proof that a person was merely in unauthorized possession of national defense information and willfully failed to deliver it to the government. (The information in question need not be marked classified, though it could be, and possession that started out authorized could become unauthorized if the information was not lawfully retained and safeguarded.) Under this provision, then, merely establishing possession of the documents might be sufficient to prove guilt. Yet, if the documents were also found under other personal items in a manner suggesting concealment, those personal items would be relevant evidence of intent to refrain from delivering the documents to the government.

(Note: I am not addressing here Trump’s potential defenses that his possession and storage were lawful. I am only talking about what the warrant authorized the agents to seize.)

A second crime (subsection (f)) applies, even if a person lawfully possesses national-defense information, if that person “through gross negligence permits [it] to be removed from its proper place of custody,” or delivered to anyone who is not entitled to see it. Clearly, it would be relevant on the issue of gross negligence, as well as the issues of permitting the information to be moved and seen by unauthorized persons, that documents marked classified were found interspersed with the former president’s personal property, or with other, non-classified records to which others at Mar-a-Lago had access (e.g., people who packed, stored, or moved containers).

The documents with classification markings are thus akin to the corpus of the crime — the things that were mishandled. But the relevant evidence includes not only what was mishandled but also any indicia of how the items were mishandled (e.g., the condition in which they were found, strewn among personal property and non-classified files), as well as personal property (such as passports) that shows who was mishandling them.

A court-authorized search warrant permits investigators to seize evidence of the commission of the crimes cited in the warrant (here, mishandling national defense information, unlawful retention of government records, and obstruction). The commission of a crime is proved not only by establishing the suspect’s possession of clearly incriminating items, but also by proving how those items came to be where they were found and how they were handled before being seized. Evidence is not a limitless concept, but it is significantly broader than clearly incriminating items.

World

Liz Truss on Transgenderism

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VICE World News reported that the new British prime minister Liz Truss “is trying to block Scotland’s plans to allow trans people to self-identify as male or female.” According to two government insiders, Truss is seeking legal advice on how to “pause or prevent” the Scottish government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

The Scottish government, which has devolved powers for equality legislation, intends to pass a law reducing the need for a medical diagnosis, lowering the minimum age from 18 to 16, and requiring people to live just three months as their “acquired gender” before allowing the legal switch.

A spokesperson for the U.K. Government Equality Hub said: “The Government is working with Scottish counterparts and other stakeholders to explore the considerations of the bill and any implications for England and Wales.”

Here are four reasons to be hopeful that Truss will uphold the biological reality of sex.

  1. Last year, when asked during an interview about the requisite sex organs for being female, Truss replied “women do have vaginas.”
  2. As equalities minister, Truss oversaw the decision to remove “gender identity” from the ban on conversion therapy.
  3. She scrapped “self-identification” proposals.
  4. Last month, when asked about medicalized gender transitions for minors, she said that “under-18s shouldn’t be able to make irreversible decisions.”
Religion

Hope after Roe for Women Who Are Pregnant and Scared, from the Sisters of Life

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(Prostock-Studio/Getty Images)

National Review alumna Katie Yoder wrote about my beloved friends the Sisters of Life last week:

“In the heart of every woman is the longing to be heard. To be understood. To be believed in,” Sr. Marie Veritas, SV, told [The Catholic News Agency]. “To be seen for her unique beauty and goodness . . . a beauty and goodness that all too often she doesn’t see in herself.”

Among other things, the Sisters of Life

dedicate their lives to serving women vulnerable to abortion, offering life-affirming support to pregnant women in need, hosting retreats, evangelizing, practicing outreach to college students, and helping women who suffer after abortion.

Katie interviewed Sr. Marie Veritas, who listed eight messages of hope that the sisters want to tell any pregnant woman who might be struggling and considering abortion. After she gets comfortable and settled and loved, the Sisters — and any one of us — should want a pregnant woman to know, “Your dreams are not out of reach.”

The interview continues:

There are real options that will get you back on your feet again, never regretting what might have been,” Sr. Marie Veritas urged. “You don’t need to feel pressured to have an abortion.”

She also stressed that “circumstances can change.”

“It may seem like this pregnancy could not have come at a worse time,” she said. “Perhaps, you know your family will be disappointed and you expect that they will not support you. You are terrified that your dreams and plans for the future will never be realized. The struggles of your current situation are real, but hope holds the promise of a new beginning.”

Before making a decision, she encouraged women to “Give yourself space.”

“Impulsive decisions may lead to regret,” she cautioned. “We make the best choices when our hearts are calm. Allow yourself time to research all the facts and think clearly through the options. There is time to make a plan that will bring you to a place of freedom and to a decision you won’t regret.”

At the same time, she said, women should remember that they have support: “Secret decisions lead to heartache,” she said, adding, “You are not alone.”

You can read the whole piece here.

And make sure all the young women and men know they have no reason to be scared of you if they find themselves pregnant and afraid. We must be available to help. And the Sisters of Life sure do.

Learn more about the Sisters of Life. Subscribe to their free magazine here. Donate to them here.

Film & TV

How The Rings of Power Gets Galadriel Wrong

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Morfydd Clark in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. (Amazon Studios)

Not to be out-Tolkien-nerded by Jack Butler, I feel compelled to rise to the defense of J. R. R. Tolkien’s creation against some poor choices regarding the character of Galadriel that are apparent in the first two episodes of Amazon’s The Rings of Power, to which Jack has given a cautiously optimistic review.

Let me get four things out of the way up front. One, I am not trashing the show; I generally enjoyed the first two episodes and am likely to stick it out unless and until it really decides to abandon the path of wisdom by breaking Tolkien’s work to find out what it is. Two, I’m not much invested in weighing in at length on the tempest in a teapot over multiracial casting; while I prefer casting decisions that are faithful to the original work and am skeptical of the motives of Hollywood in prioritizing “representation” of the audience over representing the actual characters as conceived by an author, the choice of actors in the first two episodes has fit comfortably within Tolkien’s vision. If anything, Tolkien emphasized the visible differences among the races of Middle-Earth precisely in order to demonstrate the need for their cooperation in a great cause in spite of their divergent natures and folkways. Interestingly, given Tolkien’s original vision of his work as an English mythology, the accents and behavior of the Dwarves and the proto-Hobbit Harfoots in this series seem to drive home that they are identified with the Scots and the Irish, respectively. Third, I am not such a purist that I object to adding new things to flesh out Tolkien’s story, which in the Second Age of Middle-Earth is especially sparse, so long as additions do not detract or subtract from what he has already created.

Fourth, my complaint with the presentation of the character of Galadriel is not about the choice to make her a warrior. We know, from Tolkien’s writings, that Galadriel was not a warrior in the wars with Morgoth that consumed the First Age, having instead spent most of that time in the peaceable forest kingdom of Doriath. We similarly know that she was not a warrior in the Third Age, having settled in the new, peaceable forest kingdom of Lothlórien in order to maintain it as a refuge. Nonetheless, it is consistent with the character of Galadriel for her to have spent much of the Second Age of Middle-Earth in armor fighting Sauron. We know that her personality is fierce and domineering, and that she was an implacable foe of Sauron who had been close with her brother Finrod Felagund, who died at Sauron’s hand. (The Rings of Power presents Finrod as having died “hunting Sauron,” which is incorrect; he died fulfilling a vow to Beren, but he nonetheless was killed by Sauron. This is an unnecessary but forgivable simplification.) We know that Elf-women are said to be equal in strength and agility to the men, and that they spent only a tiny portion of their lifespan in bearing children, so female Elf-warriors are not that hard to envision. We know that, while Tolkien’s view of women did not ordinarily depict them as soldiers, he was quite capable — witness the character of Eowyn — of writing fierce female warriors.

To Tolkien devotees, however, there are still two problems with Galadriel as she appears in The Rings of Power. The first: Where is her family? We know that she married Celeborn long before the end of the First Age, and that theirs was such a powerful love that she forsook her own kin — with whom she had braved the terrible crossing of the grinding ice of the Helcaraxë — in order to reside with Celeborn’s people in Doriath. It is further written, or at least suggested, that it was in the early centuries of the Second Age that she gave birth to her only child, her daughter Celebrían, who is important in the story because she eventually marries Elrond. Yet, when The Rings of Power shows Galadriel being sent off by Gil-galad to leave Middle-Earth and return across the sea to Tol Eressëa, there is not even the slightest suggestion that there might be a problem with leaving behind her husband and daughter. This is entirely inconceivable, either that it would be commanded or that her response would not focus on the separation of her husband. (For that matter, we get a scene where Elrond seems to be making goo-goo eyes at the woman who becomes his mother-in-law.) Even if we can accept Galadriel spending years at a time away from home on a military mission against Sauron, this makes no sense with the character Tolkien wrote. The only known example provided by Tolkien of a marriage separated by a return of one spouse to Aman is, ironically, when Celebrían returns without Elrond, and this is presented as a tragedy caused by her wounding by orcs.

The second problem is the relationship between Galadriel and Gil-galad. As High King of the Noldor, Gil-galad would enjoy great respect and significant influence over the deployment of Elven military forces. But it is ridiculous in two ways to present him as having the power to silence Galadriel and order her across the seas. One, that is not how the politics of the Elves worked. The Silmarillion is full of incidents that illustrate that the High King ruled more by consensus than by dictatorial power, and often had tremendous difficulty getting the other Noldorin princes to go along with his priorities. He was more like a Native-American war chieftain negotiating the allegiance of related tribes than like a modern generalissimo. He would be within his rights in reprimanding Galadriel for disobeying orders in where and how she led his warriors, but he could scarcely be expected to have the power to order Galadriel as to where she lived. Two, Galadriel is the first cousin of his father Fingon, a previous High King, and is thousands of years older than Gil-galad. She is, at the time depicted in the show, the only surviving member of the generation of Noldorin leaders who led their people in rebellion against the Valar and into Middle-Earth. She would accordingly be seen as an elder stateswoman with prestige and honor among the Elves unrivaled by anyone besides the High King himself. Ordering her around is about the last thing Gil-galad would do.

The richness of Tolkien’s world — which birthed the entire fantasy genre — is uniquely unsuited to being tampered with, and there is a powerful case both commercially and artistically against doing so. None of these decisions were in any sense necessary in order to tell a compelling story. Let us hope that the remainder of the series is more faithful to Tolkien’s vision (including the deeply theological Downfall of Númenor) in portraying the events of the Second Age.

Politics & Policy

Hillary Says She Won’t Run for President Again. Good Riddance

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Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the opening of “Vital Voices Women’s Embassy” in Washington, D.C, May 5, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Retuers)

Hillary Clinton recently remarked she would never seek the presidency again. Good riddance.

The former First Lady, senator, secretary of state, and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee has graced the national stage for over 30 years, and the country could not be more ready to see her depart. From stoking fears of a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” to denigrating millions of voters as a “basket of deplorables,” Clinton was undoubtedly one of the most divisive political leaders in modern American history . . . that is, until Donald Trump came along. She managed to lose to him, and probably is the only person who could have pulled off this impressive defeat.

On the subject of achievements, Clinton’s are few and far between. Liberal commentators will often go to great lengths to extol her résumé without ever actually discussing what she accomplished in these posts.

Scandals are a different story. From Whitewater to Email-gate, she certainly kept the country engrossed in her political and legal quagmires. But alas, the time has come for the country to wipe itself clean of her. Perhaps even with a cloth?

Culture

Tom Bombadil: Mystery Solved?

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Tom Bombadil as depicted in 1991’s Khraniteli, a Soviet adaptation of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Screeenshot via Пятый канал Россия/YouTube)

In July, I posed a question that has long occupied fans of The Lord of the Rings: Who is Tom Bombadil? Inspired by Jeremy Johnston’s review of In the House of Tom Bombadil by C. R. Wiley for Front Porch Republic, I took stock of all we know about the enigmatic figure J. R. R. Tolkien quite deliberately inserted into his work. I concluded about Bombadil that “some things are meant to remain unresolved at a more basic level, testaments to transcendent reality or meaning.”

Recently, I had a chance to read Wiley’s book, getting the full taste of his appraisal of Bombadil. Wiley does not fully attempt to “solve” the mystery, either, though he does run through some of the leading theories. “My hope is that you will come to love Tom for his own sake, and that the mystery of Tom will haunt you for the rest of your life,” Wiley writes.

Wiley does, however, attempt to make sense of Tom’s place in Tolkien’s story. As he sees it, Bombadil is set directly against some of the vices of the fantasy epic’s villains, especially the corrupted wizard Saruman. Bombadil is completely immune to the Ring of Power’s temptations, has a more holistic approach to knowledge, and prefers “dominion” over the natural world, living in harmony with it. He thus stands in direct contrast to Saruman’s lust to “become a Power,” his willingness to “break a thing to find out what it is,” and his preference to subjugate and despoil the natural world.

Though Wiley’s work is short, it ends up touching on some of the major characters, moments, and themes of The Lord of the Rings. That he can do so while never straying from a focus on a character so allegedly inconsequential as Tom Bombadil suggests that Tom might be important after all. Indeed, though Tolkien was famously averse to allegory, the last words Wiley includes in the book — a “postscript to the postscript” (though not supplied by a sub-sub-librarian) — might be of even greater significance: “The first time that Tom saved the hobbits it was at a tree, and the second time that he saved them it was at a tomb. For those pondering what Tom represents, that’s an even more encouraging thought.”

Indeed. Those interested in reading more of what Wiley has to say about Tom Bombadil and related matters should give his book a read. (It is unlikely to include spoilers for The Rings of Power.)

Economy & Business

You Can’t Fight Inflation by Reducing Output

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President Joe Biden speaks before signing into law the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 at the White House in Washington, D.C., June 16, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Biden tells us that he’s determined to fight inflation. Really?

We get inflation (i.e., generally rising prices) in part because the government has pumped up the supply of money relative to the production of goods and services. What is he doing with regard to those variables? Federal spending continues unabated, while Biden’s relentlessly statist economic agenda is driving down the output of goods and services. So, instead of “fighting” inflation, Biden is making it worse.

That is the argument Michael N. Peterson makes in this AIER essay.

He writes, “With this much federal spending and so little regard for its adverse consequences, something’s got to give, and that something is likely going to be the economy. If Biden’s policies continue apace, we could be marching toward a period of stagflation, defined by low economic growth and high inflation.”

Indeed. Peterson proceeds to enumerate some of the worst aspects of Biden’s economic (or perhaps anti-economic) policies: the disincentives for people to work, increased taxes, subsidies for college students, strengthening of unions, and so on. What Biden & Co. has in mind is the antithesis of supply-side economics. It’s redistributive meddling.

Peterson sums up: “The uncertainty that follows from Biden’s reckless and heavy-handed agenda is perhaps the greatest factor holding back the American economy. With no solid ground on which to stand, producers and consumers face a future defined by low economic performance and persistently high inflation expectations.”

Media

Coming Soon to MSNBC: Jen Psaki, Fact-Checker

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., April 6, 2022. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

It turns out that the recently canceled Brian Stelter was a prophet when he asked then–White House press secretary Jen Psaki, “What does the press get wrong when covering Biden’s agenda?”

At the time, Stelter got a decent amount of grief for asking the softest of softballs, and essentially asking how coverage of the White House could get even nicer and more flattering. But apparently Stelter isn’t the only person who thinks Psaki makes an ideal critic of media coverage of politics.

Because Jen Psaki will soon be on MSNBC, “debunking things, calling out BS.”

“First of all, my business is not rage,” Psaki said at Vox Media’s Code Conference in Los Angeles. “What I hope to do is bring that passion for explaining things, debunking things, calling out BS when you see it to my next job.”

That’s right, we’re about to enter the era of Jen Psaki, fact-checker. I expect this means we’ll get more declarations that the CDC director offers separate personal assessments of health policies, that President Biden meant to say the opposite of what he actually said, that the White House doesn’t have a view on whether it’s wrong to leak drafts of Supreme Court decisions, that it is “unfair and absurd” for companies to increase costs on consumers in response to higher tax rates, that anyone who criticizes a Biden speech is proving that the president struck a nerve, or that the supply-chain crisis is mostly a matter of treadmill deliveries being delayed.

If MSNBC wants to hire Psaki to be a left-of-center talking head who will defend whatever Biden says or does 99.9 percent of the time, that’s their right. But please don’t try to sell us that she’s offering a show that serves up explanatory journalism, debunks falsehoods, and calls out “BS.”

Oh, and in other news, regarding Biden’s Thursday night speech where he declared, “the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to this country,” Psaki said it was “bizarre” that some thought Biden’s speech was partisan.

Culture

Twelve Things That Caught My Eye: Pregnant People, a Mother’s Testimony, Inept Republicans, and More

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1. Freed Nigerian priest recounts details of his kidnapping by insurgents

2. My baby saved my life. Now I help save others.

“Danielle Nicholson’s daughter Lei’Lani helped put Danielle on the path to fixing her own life”:

There was something about that positive pregnancy test that motivated me, igniting a deeper drive than I’d ever known myself capable of possessing. Envisioning my future daughter struggling with the cycle of abuse and trauma that had plagued me for so many years, I broke down sobbing. “My daughter will NEVER be exposed or subjected to what I have been through,” I promised myself through my tears.

I knew right away that I needed to live a sober life, and that I couldn’t indulge in laziness anymore. I was determined to be strong and do whatever it took to change my life for her. But where would I even start?

That’s when I met Randy and Evelyn, the founders of a local maternity home called the Paul Stefan Foundation, who welcomed me with open arms. The next few years of learning how to take care of myself and my growing baby were the hardest of my entire life, but they transformed me and my future in an incredible way.

3. Charlie Camosy: If Republicans can’t run against Democrats on abortion, they can’t run against them on anything

If U.S. pro-lifers had been ready for the activist onslaught, we could have been creating a (true) counter-narrative about the fact that pro-life hospitals and OB/GYNs are 100% committed to saving the lives of women.

But not all the blame lies with activists. It is difficult to create a national counter-narrative, frankly, when the supposedly pro-life national party is running scared.

Gallup consistently finds, for instance, that about 8-13% of Americans want no legal restrictions on abortion after 24 weeks. To put this into perspective, the worst approval rating for a president belonged to Harry Truman: 22%.

The Democratic position on abortion is almost twice as unpopular as the most unpopular president in our history. If you can’t run against the Democrats on abortion, then you can’t run against them on anything.

4. California blocked from forcing Christian doctors to assist suicides

5.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should: A synthetic embryo, made without sperm or egg, could lead to infertility treatments

6.

7. Andrew Kubick: Why Religious Freedom Can’t Protect Abortion

No religion, or any adherent thereof, has the lawful or moral claim to kill an innocent human being in the name of that faith. To deny the tragedy of abortion and make a rights claim to defend abortion is not religious freedom; rather, doing this uses religion as a license for unconscionable acts. And a just political community and the whole of society ought to categorically reject that license.

8. CNN: The language we use to talk about pregnancy and abortion is changing. But not everyone welcomes the shift

From patient waiting rooms to the halls of Congress, the language being used to talk about reproduction is shifting.

Across the US, mainstream institutions such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and CNN are increasingly opting for gender-neutral terms such as “pregnant people,” “people who get abortions” and “birthing parent” in favor of “women” when referencing pregnancy, fertility and abortion.

These shifts in terminology signal an effort to be inclusive of transgender and nonbinary people who can also get pregnant. But the changes have also prompted pushback — not just from Republican politicians who are openly hostile to LGBTQ people but also from some cisgender women (women whose gender identity conforms with the sex they were assigned at birth) who consider themselves LGBTQ allies and who support abortion rights.

“We’re not just talking about the same people that we were before. We’re broadening the scope,” said Kristen Syrett, an associate professor of linguistics at Rutgers University. “And I think that’s where people get more uncomfortable because it’s so different from the way we’ve been thinking of reproductive rights and pregnancy for a long time.”

Debates about language can seem arbitrary at a time when so many no longer have access to abortion services in their home state. But at the crux of these debates are questions about who is targeted by restrictive laws and policies, who is affected and who is included in the conversation.

9. R. J. Snell: Don’t Panic

We remain just what we are: dependent rational animals, limited creatures within space and time, prone to error and confusion. But this reality, this impoverishment, is the condition of our freedom, our being human. This panic, irritation, and reluctance to forgive reveals a distaste for humanity. It betrays what Walker Percy among others has called “angelism.” I see this as a pathology of mind or spirit, and it is has infected the left and right, liberal and conservative, believer and unbeliever.

The antidote is not confusion or skepticism or uncertainty; rather, the cure is hope. Moral panic reveals despair at the state of things. Craving the fullness of the kingdom of heaven now, but upon discovering decadence and depravity—and who can deny our time’s troubles—too many respond with the sadness of despair. Despair cannot be overcome with certainty or eternity, but only by hope.

For the rationalist or fundamentalist character, hope cannot but seem inadequate, even corny. The world is in flames and you want me “to hope?” How quaint. But hope is not blind, or merely optimistic, nor is hope something we churn up in ourselves as a kind of subjective attitude. Hope, rather, is a virtue. It is a state that perfects us, makes us well, capable of thinking, living, and acting in the freedom of excellence, as flourishing human beings.

10.  I’m looking forward to Naomi Schaefer Riley’s Adoption After Roe event at the American Enterprise Institute next week (if you are not in DC, there is a livestream option)

11.

12. Sisters who survived Holocaust die days apart in Alabama

White House

A Terrific White House Portrait

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Former President Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama attend the unveiling of their official White House portraits in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., September, 7, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Even though it looks a little like an Apple advertisement, I love Barack Obama’s new, official White House portrait. Robert McCurdy has truly captured the defining political essence of his subject — his belief that he is the only thing that matters.

Culture

Attacks on Churches and Pro-Life Centers Are Attacks on Religious Liberty and Pluralism

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A fire-bombed pregnancy center in Gresham, Ore. June 13, 2022. (@LilaGraceRose/Image via Twitter)

Since the leak of the draft of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision on May 2, there have been criminal attacks on 63 pro-life organizations, in 26 states and the District of Columbia, according to a new report from the Religious Freedom Institute (as Wesley Smith mentioned earlier here).

There have also been 32 Catholic churches attacked since the Dobbs leak, and in 17 of those attacks it was clearly about abortion. But it didn’t start with Dobbs. According to the report: “Since late May 2020, attacks have occurred against at least 174 Catholic targets in 38 states and the District of Columbia, including arson, desecration and defacement, property destruction, theft, and other state and federal crimes.” This ought to be taken more seriously by government, law enforcement, and the media.

Join the National Review Institute for a webinar with Nathaniel Hurd of the Religious Freedom Institute and Dr. Grazie Christie, who volunteers at a pregnancy center that was targeted by “Jane’s Revenge,” moderated by me.

Our conversation will be hosted in partnership with the Religious Freedom Institute.

RSVP here to watch live — and ask questions — for tomorrow (Thursday, September 8) at 2 p.m. Eastern.

UPDATE: You can watch the conversation now at your convenience on the National Review Institute’s YouTube channel:

Education

Discrimination at Harvard, Part II

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The exterior of The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, January 30, 2020. (Katherine Taylor/Reuters.)

Segregated dormitories, programs, and graduations are proliferating on college campuses. That fact undermines, if not vitiates, the “compelling state interest” of educational benefits that are purportedly derived from colleges’ having a diverse student body, and which gives colleges legal permission to maintain racially discriminatory admissions policies.

Ironically, the racial preferences accorded to black and Hispanic applicants in admissions may be the very reason for the trend toward segregation.

Professor Richard Sander, who has studied affirmative action for decades, notes in his amicus brief in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard an interesting study by Duke University economists showing the evolution of students’ social interaction over four years of attendance. The study found the following:

Freshmen arriving on campus developed a significant number of interracial relationships—a good outcome. But over time, friendships became stratified by academic achievement; “A” students tended to maintain friendships with the “A” students, and “B-” students tended to maintain friendships with other “B-” students. These patterns developed independent of race, but (entirely) because of large admissions preferences, academic performance was also strongly stratified by race. The result was that friendships Duke students left college with were racially stratified—indeed, student networks were, on average, more racially stratified at the end of college than the students’ friendship networks had been in high school. In other words, large preferences counteracted a key purpose of the preference: they led to performance differences that pulled students apart rather than fostering close interracial exchange and understanding. [Emphasis added.]

You don’t need a degree from Harvard to figure out that racial discrimination might well lead to racial segregation. Indeed, the degree might be an impediment to clear-eyed analysis, if not just common sense.