Elections

Mike Pence Endorses Rebecca Kleefisch for Wisconsin Governor

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Then-Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch in 2018. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

Mike Pence endorsed Rebecca Kleefisch in the Wisconsin gubernatorial primary today, adding to the massive list of conservative individuals and organizations that have endorsed her over Trump-backed Tim Michels. The primary election will be held on August 9.

Kleefisch was lieutenant governor from 2011 to 2019, for both of Scott Walker’s terms as governor. She helped stand up to public-sector unions, who sent thousands of protesters to the state capitol in opposition to the state’s budget in 2011. That led to her recall, along with Walker’s, and they each won their recall election with larger margins than they won in their first election.

The GOP leadership in both houses of the Wisconsin legislature endorsed her, as have numerous other state legislators. She’s also been endorsed by Iowa governor Kim Reynolds, Senator Ted Cruz, former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, and, naturally, Scott Walker.

With the Supreme Court returning the issue of abortion to the states (where it belongs), it’s all the more important that Wisconsin Right to Life has endorsed Kleefisch. Crime is becoming more of an issue to voters, and Kleefisch is endorsed by the sheriffs of 40 of the state’s 72 counties. She’s rock-solid on gun rights as well, with the Wisconsin Firearms Owners Association supporting her.

Tim Michels, on the other hand, is endorsed by former governor Tommy Thompson and Donald Trump. And that’s pretty much it. Not one member of the state legislature and not one sheriff has endorsed him yet. One campaign mailer claimed he has been endorsed by the NRA — but he has not been endorsed by the NRA (source: the NRA). He has an “AQ” rating from the NRA, which is one grade below Kleefisch’s “A” rating. Wisconsin Right to Life endorsed him as well as Kleefisch, but unlike Kleefisch, who supported multiple cuts to Planned Parenthood funding during the Walker years, we don’t really know anything about Michels’s record on abortion. In fact, we don’t really know anything about his record on anything.

Michels ran for Senate in 2004 against Democrat Russ Feingold, losing by eleven points. Then, he essentially disappeared from any visible role in Wisconsin politics. He apparently spent a fair amount of time in New York and Connecticut, where his kids went to school and he purchased multiple multimillion-dollar homes.

Then, with the campaign already well underway, he parachuted into the gubernatorial election at the end of April and got Trump’s endorsement. He’s been self-funding his campaign and pledged not to take individual donations — which is a creative way to turn having no in-state conservative connections into an “outsider” campaign posture.

Given that nearly everyone else has supported Kleefisch, Trump’s endorsement is a bit puzzling. It may have had something to do with Trump’s pettiness and grievances over the 2020 election. Trump lost Wisconsin in 2020, but he continues to believe that he actually won it. One person he believes harmed him was Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Brian Hagedorn, who joined the court’s left-leaning members in declining to hear one of Trump’s legal challenges to the election. (Like all the legal challenges the Trump campaign brought in Wisconsin, it was baseless anyway.)

What does Hagedorn have to do with Michels and Kleefisch? Well, in 2019 Hagedorn’s son went to high-school homecoming with Kleefisch’s daughter, which apparently came up in conversation when Michels visited Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago before announcing his campaign. Even though Michels donated $5,000 to Hagedorn’s campaign in 2018 (Wisconsin Supreme Court justices are elected), Trump was reportedly “bothered” by the homecoming photo and subsequently announced his endorsement of Michels.

Trump had reportedly nicknamed Kleefisch “48 Percent Becky,” referring to the 48.5 percent of the vote she and Walker won in 2018, narrowly losing the election. Again, the unreasoning pettiness is something to behold: Trump is making fun of Kleefisch, who has won three of four statewide races in which she has run, while endorsing Michels, who is 0–1 in statewide races in his career and earned only 44 percent of the vote in that one and only election in 2004. And Trump himself earned a lower percentage of the vote in Wisconsin when he won the state in 2016 than Walker and Kleefisch earned when they lost in 2018. Walker and Kleefisch won with comfortable outright majorities in each of their three victories.

One of the only polls of this year’s race shows Kleefisch and Michels basically tied at around 25 percent, with many voters still undecided. The general election promises to be close, with incumbent Democrat Tony Evers raising plenty of money and the state being one of the most competitive in the country. It’s one of the top flip opportunities for the Republican Governor’s Association. Mike Pence is wise to endorse the only consistent and experienced conservative in the race, Rebecca Kleefisch.

Media

TPUSA Says The View ‘Smeared’ Its Students, Threatens Lawsuit over Nazi Comments

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Founder and president of Turning Point USA Charlie Kirk speaks at CPAC in Oxon Hill, Md., February 28, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

On Tuesday, Turning Point USA (TPUSA) founder and president Charlie Kirk announced that his organization would consider legal action against ABC’s The View after co-host Whoopi Goldberg falsely claimed that the student-focused conservative organization “embrace[d]” neo-Nazis at the group’s eighth annual Student Action Summit and mingled with neo-Nazis at the event.

Co-host Joy Behar said on The View:

Neo-Nazis were out there in the front of the conference with antisemitic slurs and, you know, the Nazi swastika and a picture of a so-called Jewish person with exaggerated features, just like [Joseph] Goebbels did during the Third Reich. It’s the same thing, right out of that same playbook.

Later on the show, The View’s legal team had co-host Sara Haines announce that TPUSA condemned the neo-Nazis and that they were not connected to the organization. Co-host Joy Behar then butted in, saying, “Yeah, but where was DeSantis is what I want to know.” Goldberg quipped, “But you [TPUSA] let them [neo-Nazis] in. You let them in, and you knew what they were. So, you are complicit.”

Following a commercial break, Goldberg made a “clarification” about what occurred, informing the audience that the neo-Nazis were outside protesters and were actually not in the building. Goldberg tried to defend her previous remarks, explaining that her “point was more metaphorical that you embraced them [neo-Nazis] at your thing, I felt.” 

At one point, #SueTheView was the 12th highest trending topic on Twitter. TPUSA’s profile picture on Twitter now is a black screen displaying #SueTheView. 

In a statement to the press regarding the neo-Nazi protesters, TPUSA said the organization “100% condemns these ideologies in the strongest terms.” The group stated that its security team tried to remove the protesters but could not because they were on public property. TPUSA said, “We have no idea who they are or why they were at the convention center. They had nothing to do with TPUSA, our event, or our students.” TPUSA representatives claimed their students initially confronted the protesters but eventually “took the mature route” and left the area.

TPUSA released video reportedly showing students from the convention arguing with the neo-Nazis. TPUSA put quotation marks around “Nazis,” demonstrating their skepticism of the identities of the protesters. The organization implied that the alleged neo-Nazis might have been connected to the left-wing protesters who showed up to condemn the event.

TPUSA sent The View a “cease-and-desist” letter, giving the show until Wednesday to retract statements tying the group to the neo-Nazi protesters before the conservative organization pursues legal action. The letter read:

The false statements of fact intentionally made during The View’s July 25th segment were unquestionably harmful to TPUSA’s reputation and brought the organization and its student affiliates into disrepute with the public, potential donors, and current and future business partners, posing a significant financial loss to the organization.

Today, co-host Sara Haines apologized for the statements made on the show. TPUSA noted that Goldberg still has not retracted her comments lumping the conservative group in with neo-Nazis:

A TPUSA spokesperson seemed unsatisfied with the apology, telling Fox News Digital, Whoopi is the one who said it. She should be the one to offer the apology.” 

Goldberg’s attempt to tie TPUSA to neo-Nazis is interesting, given that she was in hot water earlier this year for saying the Holocaust was not about race. She said in January, “The Holocaust isn’t about race . . . it’s about man’s inhumanity to man . . . these are two white groups of people.” Goldberg was suspended for two weeks following her false and antisemitic remarks.

The View, a show that conservatives love to hate, is known for its liberal co-hosts’ disdain for all things conservative. Unfortunately, given its large viewership, we have to keep an eye on it. The amount of misinformation that the hosts feed their audience daily is shocking and irresponsible. This latest slip is yet another embarrassing moment for the talk show. 

Economy & Business

Inflation Will Be above 10 Percent by November, Reaganomics Architect Says

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Arthur Laffer speaks at the Young America’s Foundation’s National Conservative Student Conference in Washington, D.C., July 27, 2022. (Young America's Foundation/YouTube)

The expert who designed the tax cuts and other economic policies of President Ronald Reagan gave a grim prediction for the country’s current inflation situation on Wednesday.

Economist Arthur Laffer spoke at Young America’s Foundation’s National Conservative Student Conference in Washington, D.C., where he told attendees that predictions from many Democrats that inflation numbers are on the cusp of improving were “nonsense.”

“There is no chance from here to Sunday, frankly, in my view of the world, that we aren’t going to see inflation pop up to above 10 percent by the time we get into the election,” he said.

With fiscal 2022’s Q2 GDP statistics set to be released on Thursday, Laffer also took issue with the Biden administration’s denial that a recession is characterized by two or more consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.

“We are already in the middle of a recession here in the U.S.,” he said. There are 500,000 fewer people employed today than there were in February of 2020, right before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Laffer, who told students that Americans are living in “one of the worst-performing economies I have ever seen.”

While he was giving his remarks, the Federal Reserve raised rates once again, this time by 0.75 percent, but, Laffer said, its efforts will be fruitless.

“There is no way that the Fed can do anything in the near term that would, in any way, shape, or form, tamp down that inflation in the system. It’s just not going to happen,” he said.

Although the administration has boasted of a recent mild drop in gas prices, the falling cost of gasoline and raw materials can be a harbinger of a recession, Laffer argued.

“One of the real problems of gas prices,” he said, “is that, when you’re going into a recession, copper, lumber, gas, and a lot of other products will fall going into that. That is exactly what you’re seeing now. We have one hell of a bad economy.”

He articulated to the students two theoretical ways of bringing high prices down. The first, which he called the Keynesian approach, relies on reducing demand. As some economists such as Lawrence Summers have suggested, the economy must first go into this type of recession before it can move into prosperity.

But there is also another way of curbing inflation, Laffer said, one that relies on increasing supply rather than decreasing demand. To illustrate it to the students, he drew inspiration from his experience in the Reagan administration, where he attempted to institute the “Five Pillars of Prosperity.”

Those pillars are low taxes, responsible spending, strong currency, minimal regulation, free trade, and generally getting the government out of the way and allowing the economy to solve itself.

After describing his ideal economic platform, Laffer drew parallels to the years just before the 1980 election, in which Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter, who was unpopular due to the combination of low economic growth and high prices, which we call stagflation.

Though there was a dramatic blue wave in the 1976 election after Reagan lost the Republican primary to Gerald Ford, voters saw the unfortunate effects of big-government policy, and they voted accordingly in the next election, allowing conservative economic policy to shine forth, and the same can happen now. 

“I think today is 1978 all over again. I was very depressed six months ago, but now I’ve, all of a sudden, seen the coming of the light. I have not been this optimistic in ages,” he said.

Politics & Policy

In This Term of the Court, the Constitution Made Quite a Comeback

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The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., March 20, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The Founders had lived through a lot of high-handed rule by unelected, unaccountable minions of the British crown and sought to eliminate the possibility of a return to such arrangements. Thus, the Constitution put limits on governmental authority, divided it, and sought to ensure that those who made the laws could be removed from office if the people were not happy.

Over time, however, their vision was eroded by the administrative state, Congress’s relinquishing of spending control, and accretions of executive power. If James Madison could look at the way Americans are ruled today, he’d be aghast.

Perhaps, though, the pendulum is swinging back, as Ivan Eland explains in this Independent Institute article.

He writes, “The nation’s founders believed that Congress would and should be the preeminent branch of the new government and created a semi-independent executive and judiciary to push back so that Congress would not become too dominant. Yet in the 234 years since the Constitution was ratified, Congress’s abdication of its duties and powers in important areas has led to a marked diminution of its vital role in the constitutional checks and balances system.”

Indeed, Congress has abdicated its duties, choosing to pass vague laws and turning the actual business of legislating and enforcing over to administrative agencies. The appointed administrators don’t have to weigh the pros and cons of their decisions as would elected representatives, and often they act with incredible arrogance. Just think about the way federal bureaucrats responded to Covid.

Eland nails the truth here: “Regrettably, Congress, no matter which party has control, has become nothing more than a platform for its members to showboat in the media, rather than instead legislating and take the heat or accolades for its actions.”

If the Court continues to decide cases in a way that re-establishes the constitutional framework, that’s certain to cause wailing from “progressives” who put their faith in governmental control (especially federal) over society. Too bad. Bloated, unaccountable government is every bit as undesirable for most people today as it was at the time of the Revolution.

NRI

30 Cabins Left on the NRI Cruise!

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Sky Princess (Courtesy photo)

They’re telling me the ship is now sold out for the NRI cruise, but there are 30 cabins remaining in our allotment until August 1. You can secure your spot today at nricruise.com.

The cruise will go around the Eastern Caribbean from November 12–19, with several NR writers and esteemed conservative-movement leaders. Join us for seven days of leisurely activities, fascinating lectures, and quality conversation. The cruise will be similar to past NR cruises, but will also include exciting new programming, such as breakout sessions, book clubs, and exclusive 1955 Society events.

We’ll be on the Sky Princess, and I’m told by people who know about cruises that she’s one of the best ships out there. Launched in 2019, she was built in Italy and is flagged in Bermuda. The Jones Act doesn’t apply to passenger vessels, but such a ship would be illegal if used to transport cargo within the U.S. — come see what the feds are keeping from us. We’ll set sail from Fort Lauderdale and will include stops at Princess Cays, Bahamas; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; and Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos, before returning to Fort Lauderdale.

One of NRI’s primary missions is to preserve and promote Bill Buckley’s legacy. NRI president Lindsay Craig and several trustees will be onboard to discuss ambitious plans to celebrate that legacy leading up to the 100th anniversary of his birth in 2025. As a former Buckley Fellow, that cause is near and dear to my heart.

Confirmed speakers include: Professor William B. Allen, Charles C. W. Cooke, Veronique de Rugy, Kevin Hassett, John Hillen, Rich Lowry, Professor Daniel J. Mahoney, Andrew C. McCarthy, John O’Sullivan, Ramesh Ponnuru, Jimmy Quinn, and, somehow, me.

I’ve never been on a cruise of any sort before, let alone one where I can talk about free markets with a bunch of other people who want to talk about such things. I’m grateful to NRI for letting me tag along and hope to see you there.

If you’re considering joining us and have any questions, please contact Jason Wise (jason@nrinstitute.org or 203-273-3628).

Health Care

Asserted Without Evidence

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Rachel (formerly Richard) Levine, Biden’s assistant health secretary, says: “Gender affirming care is lifesaving, medically necessary, age-appropriate, and a critical tool for healthcare providers.” Every single one of these assertions is false. To invoke Hitchens’s razor: “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

Film & TV

The Gray Man Is Excellent Entertainment for Action Enthusiasts

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Ryan Gosling in The Gray Man. (Netflix)

If you are like me, you have probably watched countless action movies and rewatched scenes with unique fight choreography and creative firearm use. Netflix’s The Gray Man, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, is the type of action movie that has fight scenes that you will watch over and over.

The fight scenes in this $200 million film — one of Netflix’s highest-budget films — are creative and engaging. While the characters and plot are relatively surface-level and unoriginal, the action scenes, the acting, visual effects, and revolutionary direction are truly entertaining.

The plot is typical for a blockbuster action film. The movie is about a former prisoner, played by Ryan Gosling, who is given a chance for freedom by participating in a government-sponsored kill squadron. Given the codename Six, he retrieves kompromat on high-ranking government officials, who spend the movie chasing and trying to kill him. 

The fight scenes are astounding and ingenious. One of the first takes place in a cargo aircraft between Six and a group of henchmen who have been directed by his mentor (Billy Bob Thornton) to kill him. The fight features complex mixed martial arts, and the protagonist displays something often overlooked in action films: situational awareness and ingenuity. The protagonist, Six, lights a flare and carries it while he fights off the goons, which allows him to hide his movements during the fight. Later, when Six is trapped in a hole by an enemy, he breaks a nearby water pipe, which allows him to escape the trap (and his imminent death).

Gosling is not the only actor with excellent moves. Famous South Indian actor Dhanush and former Marvel actor Chris Evans play compelling and captivating antagonists in the film. In particular, Dhanush displays incredible prowess as an action star and entertains the audience with fascinating moves. Perhaps Netflix’s goal was to broaden the audience for its high-budget film by employing him, and his inclusion makes the film much more interesting and engaging.

As mentioned before, the plot and characters are the movie’s weakest components. The plot has little originality, and most of the characters, namely Ana de Armas’s role, are barely fleshed out enough for the audience to care about them. Even the protagonist, with his rugged and indifferent personality, barely evokes sympathy with a disjointed and confusing abusive-father subplot. It is clear the Russo brothers wanted to emphasize the amazing action sequences, at the expense of plot and character development. 

Overall, the movie succeeds in its mission to be entertainment for action-movie fanatics. No complex plot, deep characters, or profound life lessons. But it delivers on its promise for incredible and unprecedented action sequences. Too often, we expect life-changing artistic movies, but it is important to remember that film is also entertainment. In that respect, The Gray Man surpasses expectations.

World

Who Is Our Ukraine Policy For?

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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky visits positions of Ukrainian service members in Dnipropetrovsk Region, Ukraine, July 8, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters)

Seven in ten Americans say inflation is “a very big problem for the country,” according to a May public opinion poll from the Pew Research Center. That makes the issue far and away the most pressing concern in the minds of the public — some 15 points above “the affordability of health care,” which 55 percent of Americans ranked as “a very big problem” in the survey.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky might not be reading American public-opinion polls, but he’s certainly aware inflation is a problem around the world. So it was odd for him to dismiss inflation as “nothing” in his interview yesterday with Piers Morgan. When asked about the “growing number of Americans who don’t think the country should be spending so much money on a war in Europe when there are so many problems domestically,” Zelensky responded that Ukrainians were “fighting for absolutely communal values” and that “therefore, inflation is nothing, COVID is nothing. Ask those people who lost their children, their peace, their property at the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion. Who is thinking about masks and COVID? Who is thinking about inflation? These things are secondary.”

It should go without saying, of course, that for the Ukrainians fighting for their lives, the financial concerns of Americans struggling to make ends meet here at home would seem trivial. High gas prices 4,000 miles away don’t mean much when you’re in a war for the survival of your nation. But Zelensky was talking about U.S. foreign policy. He wasn’t only arguing that inflation and Covid didn’t matter to Ukrainians in the face of Russia’s invasion. He was arguing that, relatively speaking, it shouldn’t matter to Americans; their domestic concerns should not affect their willingness to support the “communal values” for which Ukraine fights, values he believes “are professed in the United States and in Europe.” Zelensky adds that the “integrity” of the United States is at stake in the conflict.

With respect to Zelensky, he is not the one who gets to determine American foreign policy. Call me old-school, but I tend to think American foreign policy should be oriented toward serving the interests of the American people. We can unite in solidarity with the Ukrainian people’s struggle against Putin’s aggression, providing aid to help with their war effort, but our assistance should be dictated by — and directed toward — the American interest. As Ukraine’s leader, Zelensky is obviously going to want us to subordinate our domestic concerns to those of the country he leads. But America should think of its own interests first. Appealing to financially insecure Americans by downplaying their problems is, to put it mildly, not a recipe for winning over hearts and minds in the nation that has been Ukraine’s most generous backer during the war. (This, alongside a Vogue photo shoot, doesn’t strike me as prudent optics either.)

If Zelensky wants to make a case for continued American support, he should be able to explain why such policies are in the American interest. And he should explain it in concrete, material terms, without abstract appeals to vaguely-defined “communal values” or side-swipes at struggling working- and middle-class Americans who are already predisposed to wonder how sending billions of their tax dollars to a conflict in a far-away country is serving their communities.

Zelensky and the Ukrainian people have been courageous in their fight to resist Putin’s advances, and the moral case for their cause is unambiguous. But he should not be so dismissive of America’s own problems as he makes the case for continued American support. We are an exceptionally generous country, but not infinitely so. To Americans, inflation is not “nothing”; it matters a great deal. Zelensky should be able to convey that he understands this. If he fails to do so, he might find his cause suffering in America as a result.

Politics & Policy

Can the Republic Be Saved? We Should Bet That It Can

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(spukkato/iStock/Getty Images)

I am catching up to the spring issue of the Claremont Review of Books in extremely dilatory fashion. One of the highlights of this issue is, unsurprisingly, William Voegeli, CRB senior editor. Voegeli is always worth reading, capable of distilling complex issues and multiple works into a trenchant analysis, at once erudite and digestible.

This time, his subject is a modest one: er, conservatism. Surveying several recent books as well as current political developments, Voegeli charts a course between the Scylla of Lincoln Project–style anti-Trump monomania and the Charybdis of apocalyptic Trump adulation and late-republic political desperation. The whole thing is worth reading, but this part of his conclusion, addressed to many of his compatriots, is especially worthwhile:

How, then, do conservatives navigate the foggy question of whether or not a republic is too far gone to be conserved? The least bad approach, I submit, is a variant of Pascal’s Wager: faced with a quandary in which we do not, and fear that we cannot, know the answer to an important question, we should select the answer that will have the least damaging consequences if we turn out to be wrong. So, which would be the bigger mistake—to keep fighting to preserve a republic that turns out to be beyond resuscitation, or to give up defending one whose vigor might yet be restored?

The question answers itself, especially in the American context. Those who abandon conservatism for counter-revolution are either fighting to reestablish America’s founding principles, or for a new founding based on new principles that will prove more resilient than those of 1776 and 1787. In the former case, there’s no functional difference between conservation and counter-revolution. Both are interchangeable terms describing the effort to make principles proclaimed in the 18th century work as well as they can in the 21st. In the latter case, the counter-revolutionaries need to explain why their principles are superior to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s. The failure to provide such an explanation would not only show an indecent disrespect for the opinions of mankind but vindicate fears that the counter-revolutionaries are no less enthused about chaos and averse to clarity about ultimate objectives than the revolutionaries they war against.

The central conservative impulse is that because valuable things are easy to break but hard to replace, every effort should be made to conserve them while they can be conserved. Conservatives, opposed to assisted suicide as a medical procedure, should be equally reluctant to perform it as a political procedure on a republic that, however debilitated, has time and again proven resilient, confounding those prepared to write its autopsies and deliver its eulogies.

Wise words from a wise man.

White House

Biden One Year Ago: I Always Want to Hear the Truth, Even If the News Is Bad

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a visit to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in McLean, Va., July 27, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

President Biden, one year ago today, speaking to members of the intelligence community at the National Counterterrorism Center on the Liberty Crossing Intelligence Campus in McLean, Va.:

Give me your best judgment of what you think is — your best judgment is better than almost anybody else’s judgment in the whole world — even if the news is hard, even if the news is bad.

I can’t make the decisions I need to make if I’m not getting the best unvarnished, unbiased judgments you can give me.  I’m not looking to hear nice things.  I’m looking to hear what you think to be the truth.

By the end of the summer, we knew the president did not want to hear what the intelligence community believed about the situation in Afghanistan, and the risks involved with the withdrawal from that country:

Classified assessments by American spy agencies over the summer painted an increasingly grim picture of the prospect of a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and warned of the rapid collapse of the Afghan military, even as President Biden and his advisers said publicly that was unlikely to happen as quickly, according to current and former American government officials.

By July, many intelligence reports grew more pessimistic, questioning whether any Afghan security forces would muster serious resistance and whether the government could hold on in Kabul, the capital. President Biden said on July 8 that the Afghan government was unlikely to fall and that there would be no chaotic evacuations of Americans similar to the end of the Vietnam War.

The drumbeat of warnings over the summer raise questions about why Biden administration officials, and military planners in Afghanistan, seemed ill-prepared to deal with the Taliban’s final push into Kabul, including a failure to ensure security at the main airport and rushing thousands more troops back to the country to protect the United States’ final exit.

A few months later, Biden insisted no one had told him about the risk of the Afghan government collapsing, or the risks of withdrawal at that time.

LESTER HOLT: On the subject of American citizens, I have to draw your attention to that Army report, an investigative report that’s come out about the lead-up to the withdrawal from Afghanistan. It interviewed many military officials and officers who said the administration ignored the handwriting on the wall. Another described trying to get folks in the embassy ready to evacuate and countering, you know, people who are in essentially in denial of this situation. Does any of that ring true to you?

BIDEN:  No. No. That’s not what I was told.

 HOLT: You were told that the U.S. administration officials were prepared, they knew it was time to get out–

BIDEN: No.  When I was told, no one told me that. Look, there was no good time to get out. But if we had not gotten out, they acknowledged we would have had to put a hell of a lot more troops back in.

Biden went on to contend that withdrawal at any time included risks, which was not the question he was asked. Holt returned to the question of whether Biden was warned, or whether the administration ignored the handwriting on the wall.

HOLT: I just want to clarify, are you rejecting the conclusions or the the accounts that are in this Army report?

BIDEN: Yes, I am. 

HOLT: So they’re not— not true?

BIDEN: I’m rejecting them.

In fact, throughout Biden’s presidency, he often demonstrates the opposite of welcoming the truth, even if the news is bad. On inflation, on the border, on Covid testing, on the supply-chain crisis, on the baby-formula shortage, Biden often rejects bad news or ominous projections and insists that his approach is working.

Energy & Environment

Stifling Food Production in the Name of Saving the Planet

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Arulappan Ideijody, 42, plucks tea leaves at an estate, amid the country’s economic crisis, in Bogawantalawa, Sri Lanka, April 29, 2022. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

Global warming hysteria now has some governments forcing cuts in the use of nitrogen fertilizers to “save the planet.” But that will mean less food for hungry people and collapsing farm economies.

Witness: After Sri Lanka’s government restricted non-organic fertilizer use, the economy and government collapsed. From the Vox story:

Sri Lanka’s economy is in free fall. Runaway inflation reached 54.6 percent last month, and the South Asian country is now headed toward bankruptcy. Nine in ten Sri Lankan families are skipping meals, and many are standing in line for days in the hope of acquiring fuel.

Several causes led to this debacle — including restricting artificial fertilizers:

The agrochemical ban caused rice production to drop 20 percent in the six months after it was implemented, causing a country that had been self-sufficient in rice production to spend $450 million on rice imports — much more than the $400 million that would’ve been saved by banning fertilizer imports.

The production of tea, Sri Lanka’s literal cash crop — it’s the country’s biggest export — fell by 18 percent. The government has had to spend hundreds of millions on subsidies and compensation to farmers in an effort to make up for the loss of productivity.

Witness: The Netherlands is doing the same thing to its ag sector, sparking angry protests by farmers. From the Reuters story:

At the heart of the protest are targets introduced last month to reduce harmful nitrogen compounds by 2030, the latest attempt to tackle a problem that has plagued the country for years. read more

Reductions are necessary in emissions of nitrogen oxides from farm animal manure and from the use of ammonia in fertilizer, the government says, estimating a 30% reduction in the number of livestock is needed.

Witness: Not to be outdone, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to stomp on Canada’s food production capabilities too. From the Toronto Sun story:

Provincial agriculture ministers are expressing frustration with the Trudeau government over plans to effectively reduce fertilizer use by Canada’s farmers in the name of fighting climate change.

A meeting of federal and provincial ministers wrapped up in Saskatoon on Friday with several provinces saying they are disappointed.

The federal government is looking to impose a requirement to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizers saying it is a greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. While the Trudeau government says they want a 30% reduction in emissions, not fertilizer, farm producer groups say that at this point, reducing nitrous oxide emissions can’t be done without reducing fertilizer use.

These restrictions are being imposed just as the cost of fertilizer is soaring because of sanctions on Russia. From the Reuters story:

Combined, Russia and Belarus accounted for more than 40% of global exports of potash last year, one of three critical nutrients used to boost crop yields, Dutch lender Rabobank said this month. Additionally, Russia accounted for about 22% of global exports of ammonia, 14% of the world’s urea exports and about 14% of monoammonium phosphate (MAP) – all key kinds of fertilizers.

Sanctions have disrupted sales of fertilizer and crops from Russia. Many Western banks and traders are steering clear of Russian supplies for fear of running afoul of the rapidly changing rules, while shipping firms are avoiding the Black Sea region due to safety concerns.

It all amounts to a double whammy for the global food supply.

Add it all up: bankrupt farmers, empty market shelves, less food on the table, and dramatically inflated prices. Only the technocratic class could be this stupid.

Before the election, some enterprising journalists should ask President Biden and the Secretary of Agriculture if our government plans to similarly stifle food production by restricting the use of some fertilizers. This could be an important issue in the midterms.

Health Care

‘Father’s Milk’

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The most disturbing creep of trans activist language is in medicine. We’ve come to expect euphemisms in describing controversial treatments for gender dysphoria (e.g., “gender-affirming care”), but the use of activist jargon to describe women’s health issues is something else.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has released new guidance on inclusive language for those who do not “conform to a binary man/woman dichotomy.” The Times of London reports:

The document also says that trans women should be put on female wards despite controversy over the issue as some patients self-identifying as women retain male sex organs. It details best practice for pregnancies in transgender men — those who identify as male but can carry a baby as they were born with female reproductive organs.

The royal college urges staff to ask men whether they want to “chestfeed” their baby, adding: “For trans men who choose to chestfeed, offer chestfeeding support in the same manner as for cis women [women whose gender identity matches their sex].” This section on “infant feeding” contains seven references to chestfeeding, which is seen as a gender-neutral term, mentioning breasts or breast milk twice.

Similarly, a position statement from the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine suggests “father’s milk” as a “gender inclusive” term.

Politics & Policy

2012: What Might Have Been

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Then-president Barack Obama and then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney share a laugh at the end of the first presidential debate in Denver, Colo., October 3, 2012. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

It’s difficult to improve upon Dan McLaughlin’s exhaustive documentation of the 2012 presidential election campaign, and more difficult still to dispute his thesis: “If 2016 exposed the destruction of the post-war American political order, 2012 was the election that broke it.” I just want to add a few observations of my own about that time, as I’m young enough for it to have been the first presidential election I followed as a reasonably educated and informed adult, and to add a related thesis of my own: 2012 might have been America’s last chance for a “normal” politics.

The summer of 2012 was the first I spent in D.C. as a lowly intern. Somehow it was known which morning in late June the decision in NFIB v. Sebelius, the case assessing the constitutionality of Obamacare, would be decided, and I was there on the steps of the Court to see what was going on. I lived close enough to the Supreme Court that I partook in what has become a strange ritual of our post-congressional politics: the swarming of the Court on decision days.

I did not stay long enough to be present when the decision was announced. But I did get to see that guy who always shows up to things dressed in American colonial garb; this was the Tea Party era, after all. There was also an even-stranger sight: a woman belly-dancing in front of a flag that read “Medicare for All.” At that point, I had never heard of the idea; that it was being presented as literally exotic seemed appropriate. Now, of course, it is mainstream on the left.

A belly dancer dances for Medicare for All in front of the Supreme Court on the day of the Obamacare decision in 2012.

I only learned later that day, after initial confusion, that the Court voted 5–4 to uphold Obamacare. It took several days for the Right to process the bizarre jujutsu Chief Justice John Roberts employed to keep the statute on the books (after he effectively rewrote it, of course). In fact, we still haven’t really processed it; every frustrating Roberts decision or action since has merely reopened that old wound. Even Dobbs v. Jackson itself, in which Roberts would have kept Roe v. Wade on the books even as he upheld the Mississippi abortion law at the case’s center, reminded us that a majority separate from Roberts would be necessary for true constitutional victories to come from the Court.

As summer came to a close, I watched the 2012 Democratic National Convention somewhat in horror. And not just because of the Onion‘s deliberately hyperbolic parody of the affair (“Obama stated that his administration would then seek to make free, taxpayer-funded abortions legal at any stage of pregnancy, even up to one full year after birth, in order to supply his newly created ‘federal stem-cell harvesting plants’ with raw materials”). It didn’t seem that far off from the party’s leftward drift. It was also because the thematic takeaway of the affair seemed to capture Barack Obama–era liberalism well: “Government is the only thing that we all belong to.”

This attitude was perfectly consonant with the Obama campaign’s “Life of Julia” propaganda earlier that year. Julia, for those who don’t remember, was shown at all stages of her life being helped by government programs and virtually no one else (at one point, she even “decides to have a child” without the presence of a man in her life so much as being hinted at).

As Yuval Levin wrote at the time, “the Life of Julia is deeply telling of the view of American life underlying contemporary progressivism.” (See also “Linda,” Biden’s similar Build Back Better mascot from last year.) Having turned 19 that summer, I still wasn’t exactly sure what I believed . . . but I was pretty sure I didn’t believe in any of that.

Like many conservatives, I was also not completely sold on Mitt Romney as the nominee, having enjoyed the candidate merry-go-round that prevailed during that nominating cycle. (I even held out for Mitch Daniels, but he demurred.) But once Romney won, negative partisanship sufficed to make me share the journey of Romney’s presidential campaign, mostly by checking National Review, of which I was already a reader. A fan of Paul Ryan from his fiscal-focused duels with Obama and other technocratic mandarins during Obamacare and other budget battles, I was excited by Romney’s choice of him as VP. I attended Ryan’s first rally at Miami University (his alma mater, not far from my hometown). I also went to an Ohio Romney-Ryan rally at which Senator Rob Portman and now thrice-failed Senate candidate Josh Mandel spoke. I thrilled to Romney’s evisceration of Obama at that famous first debate; was perplexed that Joe Biden’s boisterous behavior at the vice-presidential debate was considered a “win” over the Midwestern politeness of Paul Ryan; was annoyed by Candy Crowley’s intervention on Obama’s behalf re Benghazi; and refused to understand why the smug Obamabros thought so highly of “the ’80s called, they want their foreign policy back” and feigned such offense at Romney’s “binders full of women.” And when the polls stubbornly resisted the possibility of a Romney win, I partook in that familiar loser’s fantasy: the polls must be “skewed.” (I was hardly alone in doing so, though I recall a distressing conversation with my father a week out from Election Day about the possibility that the polls might, in fact, be correct.)

So when the results rolled in, I, of course, ended up disappointed, as did many of my friends on the campus of Hillsdale College, where I was then a sophomore. But it took a while for some of the 2012 election’s more destabilizing effects to wend through our politics. The perception — not entirely unjustified — that Romney did not ‘fight’ hard enough eventually overcame the initial pessimism about the possibilities for the Right in the aftermath of Romney’s defeat, ultimately congealing into the ‘middle finger’ of Donald Trump in 2016. That middle finger owed much of its appeal and potency to the sort of trolling and triumphalism that the Left, convinced its coalition truly was ascending, began to display as Obama’s second term proceeded — especially after Democrats lost control of the Senate and the Left began looking elsewhere, both in the machinery of the state and in the commanding heights of the culture, for victories.

When recounting any history, recent or not, the temptation is to place it in a context of inevitability: x led to y led to z. And while sequence does matter and causality is real, so are contingency and coincidence. Much of what happened in 2012, and led to 2016, did not have to happen. And while it’s perhaps just my nascent nostalgia as someone unused to thinking of my life in terms of decades, I nonetheless look back on the 2012 election as a series of missed opportunities, a better pathway the country decided not to take. Don’t get me wrong: The Romney-Ryan vision for America was hardly perfect, and I myself have evolved away from the immature, incomplete fondness I once had for them and for it. And while not all of the debates conservatism has had internally since then have been productive, some rethinking was clearly necessary. But I still feel like an America without an Obama second term might have been a much saner and more stable place, circumventing much of the civic poison that has come since. (In private, some of my liberal friends have admitted the same to me.) That, however, is not the path we now tread, which is one of many reasons why the 2012 election should still loom large in our memory ten years later.

White House

Is Biden Really Poised for Big Wins in Congress?

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden at a signing ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., June 30, 2021 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

This morning, the front page of the Washington Post contends that “Biden poised for big wins in Congress.”

The supporting evidence for this surprising assertion is “the first major prescription drug legislation in nearly 20 years. More than $50 billion to subsidize computer chip manufacturing and research. A bill that would enshrine protection for same-sex marriage.”

Compared to recent months, and the seemingly endless merry-go-round that is the negotiations over Build Back Better, yes, the coming days and weeks look productive.

But what Washington Democrats – and for that matter, the national media – think is big and consequential legislation is not necessarily what the general public thinks is big and consequential legislation. Less than a week ago, Politico reported, “eight months after Congress cleared the landmark legislation to overhaul the nation’s roads, bridges, rails and broadband, only 24 percent of voters are aware it’s now a law, according to new polling by the center-left think tank Third Way and Impact Research that was shared first with POLITICO.”

More than $550 billion in new spending, a fairly bipartisan vote for passage in the Senate, a big signing ceremony, plenty of Biden speeches and trips outside Washington to tout it, lots of news coverage… and three-quarters of Americans didn’t even notice it!

You’re telling me that a giant bill giving money to the U.S. semiconductor industry is going to break through the noise of the news cycle? At least roads and bridges are the sorts of things that people see as they drive around their communities. Maybe the prescription drug bill or gay marriage bill will make bigger splashes. But these are side issues while the country struggles with runaway inflation, and the totally-not-a-recession-we-swear news about declining GDP.

By August 10, we’ll get new inflation numbers — reminding the country of the problem foremost in their minds. Eight months from now, will Americans be thinking about the semiconductor bill, or the gay marriage legislation, or the prescription drug bill? Chances are, those will be as well-remembered and widely-recognized as the infrastructure bill.

National Review

The Buckley Legacy, Defended

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William F. Buckley, Jr. at former Rep. Jack F. Kemp’s testimonial dinner, December 1, 1988. (Dirck Halstead/Getty Images)

William F. Buckley Jr., the founder of this magazine and one of the most important figures in American conservatism, was no stranger to controversy during his life, and even after it. But it is a bit more unpleasant to see him coming under fire from those ostensibly on his side, with volleys launched by those who find him or his vision for conservatism lacking, inadequate, or outdated.

Well, leave it to the incomparable Neal B. Freeman to set them straight. Writing for the American Spectator, Freeman — who is, among other things, a former editor of and columnist for National Review, producer of Firing Line, and aide to Buckley’s 1965 mayoral campaign — defends the Buckley legacy in the style of an interview with himself. (“I’ve been told that I’m the only person still living who worked closely with William F. Buckley, Jr., in his prime. A firsthand account might be useful,” he writes.) A sample:

TAS: The New Right seems to think that Buckley’s “standing athwart” approach was insufficient in his day and would be even more so in our day.

NBF: Buckley would agree with the latter part. His day and our day could not be more different. From the early ’50s to the late ’60s — Buckley’s prime — Democrat party-style liberalism advanced virtually unchallenged. Somebody had to draw a line in the sand. There was no call for philosophical nuance. Today, we seem to have room, at least in the fundraising space, for an infinite number of prefixed conservatisms — neos, nationals, paleos, revivalists, integralists, and the rest.

TAS: You sound skeptical about the prefixed conservatisms.

NBF: I am. They haven’t done their homework. Buckley read the Constitution and understood how James Madison had rigged the American political game. Buckley knew that, by Madisonian design, coalitions win and factions lose. He understood that, to join his coalition, every faction — every prefixed conservative — must believe that he had more to gain as part of a winning coalition than he stood to lose by sacrificing a measure of independence. Buckley’s conservatism was almost always procedural, rarely doctrinal.

TAS: And Buckley made the factionalists believe?

NBF: He was the most persuasive man I ever met. But it didn’t hurt that he was selling the best political product ever brought to market — ordered liberty.

There’s more where that came from. Read the whole thing here.

Media

The Washington Post Portrays a Black Pro-Life Activist as an Abortion Supporter

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(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Elaine Riddick is a black pro-life activist with a tragic life story. She was raped, became pregnant, gave birth to her son, and was subsequently forcibly sterilized by the state of North Carolina. The state’s eugenics board deemed her “feebleminded” and “promiscuous,” authorizing her sterilization.

She has the rest of her life crusading against these forms of injustice — and against the violence and injustice of abortion. A profile of Riddick from a few years ago described her as “passionately pro-life” and noted that she shares “her story at anti-abortion events around the country.” She has written at length about her pro-life views.

But a recent profile of Riddick, by Washington Post reporter Meena Venkataramanan, attempts to obscure Riddick’s pro-life views and paint her as a supporter of abortion and Roe v. Wade. The headline of the piece is “She survived a forced sterilization. She fears more could occur post-Roe.” The meaning we are supposed to take from this, of course, is that this survivor is a supporter of Roe, and therefore a supporter of abortion.

The piece shares Riddick’s story situated in the context of a post-Roe world, making it appear as though her advocacy work against forced sterilization will be hampered by the outcome in Dobbs. “With the Supreme Court’s decision last month in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, states now have full license to legally compel a person to continue a pregnancy,” is one such line, implying that somehow a law forbidding the direct killing of an unborn child is comparable to policies allowing rape or coerced sterilization.

The article goes on to say, without citation, that “some lawyers and activists worry that the use of forced sterilization could be expanded after the Dobbs decision,” and it describes Dobbs as a ruling that “compelled pregnancy.” The piece concludes by circling back to Riddick, who, once again, is cast as an opponent of the ruling in Dobbs, despite being pro-life:

As a survivor of forced sterilization, Riddick worries about the impact of Dobbs. Although she opposes abortion, she is concerned that the decision will lead to more forced sterilizations among Black women. She worries that the government could restrict family size for people receiving government assistance.

Ultimately, Riddick believes that “women should have control of their reproductive health” and that the government should not interfere with their decisions.

“I think a woman should have control of her body,” she said. “I didn’t have control of my body, and I have been devastated since I found out that this is what happened to me. I never had the chance to say yes or no.”

The article is error-ridden and full of the author’s opinions masquerading as facts. But what’s most appalling about it is how it uses Riddick’s story and life-long advocacy as a defense of abortion, despite the fact that Riddick herself is deeply opposed to the taking of innocent human life.

Politics & Policy

Congressional Republicans Demand Answers from CDC on LGBT Children’s Website

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(johavel/iStock/Getty Images)

Today, Representative Dan Bishop (R., N.C.), along with Republican colleagues Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, Mary Miller, Andy Biggs, Chip Roy, and Jody Hice, sent a letter to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky slamming the agency’s “unconscionable” promotion of a website that encourages children to question their gender identity outside the purview of parental oversight, and demanding that the CDC remove the page “as a suggested resource and provide us with information, documents, and communications related to the decision to include this website as a suggested resource in the first place.”

Earlier this month, Breitbart reported that the CDC was “promoting to youth an online chat space that discusses sex, polyamorous relationships, the occult, sex change operations, and activism, and is specifically designed to be quickly hidden while being used.” The forum, called “Q Chat,” is still featured on the CDC website’s LGBT Health Youth Resources page and “features conversations on ‘Gender Affirmation Surgeries,’ as well as on hormone replacement therapy,” Breitbart reported. “The chats are used in part to tell children ‘where you can find resources’ related to their transition.” 

Q Chat, which describes itself as a forum of “online discussion groups for LGBTQ+ and questioning teens ages 13 to 19,” hosts “live and chat based . . . conversations” between young children and LGBT activists “who work at LGBTQ+ centers around the United States.” Those conversations include any number of highly sexualized topics, including “Drag Culture 101” and “Having Multiple Genders,” interspersed with normal child-oriented content such as video games and Pokémon.

More concerning still, the site appears to have a number of built-in features designed to allow children to conceal its content from parents and family members: “Each section of the website has a large button on the bottom of the screen that says ‘Click/Tap here for a quick escape . . .’ and shows a stick figure running towards an exit,” Breitbart wrote. “When clicked, the button takes users to the Google homepage, hiding the site.” On top of that, the site offers users “discreet” text reminders that “do not include ‘Q Chat Space’ or the name of the chat,” designed to “keep confidentiality — what’s shared here, stays here.”

An academic article published by the National Library of Medicine “praised the service for its ability to be hidden from parents, saying that ‘The platform’s chat-based nature likely helps youth avoid concerns about family members accidentally overhearing their conversations,’” Breitbart reported.

In the letter to Walensky, Bishop and the others noted that “the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is the national public health agency of the United States and exists to secure the health and safety of the American people. Directing children to access online chatrooms that discuss sex, polyamorous relationships, white privilege, gender reassignment surgeries and LGBT activism is not among its many functions.” Furthermore, they wrote, the efforts to conceal the website’s content “from parents and family members” are “deeply concerning,” and the “interspersion” of “more innocuous topics that may appeal to children, including Q Chats regarding Pokémon, Star Wars, music, and pets . . . with conversations of a mature nature is cause for greater concern, not less. Despite Q Chat’s desire for confidentiality, it is important that Congress conduct oversight to protect children from a bureaucracy that is either unwilling to do so or views itself as instrumental in their ongoing corruption.” 

Law & the Courts

The Disingenuous Debate over Ectopic Pregnancy and Miscarriage

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(KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images)

In the months since the leak of the Dobbs majority opinion, the most popular argument from abortion supporters has been that pro-life laws are unclear about whether pregnant women can obtain necessary medical care for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages. Anti-abortion laws aren’t written clearly enough, they’ve insisted. These laws don’t have appropriate exceptions for necessary medical care, and doctors can’t tell whether they can offer treatment to these women without inviting legal action.

Never mind that for decades now, Catholic hospitals, which don’t perform elective abortions, have somehow managed to treat pregnant women with ectopic pregnancies or miscarriages. The message has rung out loud and clear from abortion supporters: Pro-life laws are written unclearly, and women will die.

So I took it upon myself to read every pro-life law currently in place, and I compiled my findings into an article, published on the homepage yesterday. My findings? Every pro-life law has an explicit exception allowing doctors to exercise their medical judgment and perform necessary procedures if a mother is at risk of death or substantial impairment. Many of the laws also contain a section noting explicitly that ectopic pregnancy and post-miscarriage treatment aren’t classified as abortion procedures.

But I might’ve known that the very people complaining endlessly about the supposed lack of clarity wouldn’t care about any of this. The responses I got to my piece all boiled down to one main complaint: The text of the laws doesn’t actually matter. It’s about the “chilling effect,” one activist told me. Others insisted, sans evidence, that these laws require investigations of doctors who care for women who’ve had miscarriages. Some went so far as to say that, no matter how the laws are written, abortion regulations of any kind will make it such that doctors can’t tell what they’re permitted to do.

In short, the activists who have spent months complaining about the text of pro-life laws don’t actually care about the text at all. Even with the text compiled neatly, illustrating without a doubt that they were incorrect about the supposed vagueness and lack of clear exceptions, they simply do not care. They’d like us to believe, simultaneously, that the text of pro-life laws is responsible for women dying and that the actual text of these laws is irrelevant.

How could both of these things be true? Because the people advancing this argument don’t want pro-life laws at all. Their complaint about a supposed lack of clarity was always disingenuous. It was never out of sincere concern for women’s health or sincere concern that pro-life laws might not be worded clearly enough. As they’ve all but admitted in response to my article, there isn’t a single way to craft a pro-life law that will be good enough for them.

The reason should be obvious: They support elective abortion. They wanted Roe to remain in place forever because they believe wholeheartedly in abortion on demand, for any reason, throughout all nine months of pregnancy. They’ve spent the past two months talking about ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage only because stoking fear about women with legitimate medical needs is far more politically palatable than demanding unlimited abortion without apology.

Sadly, their fearmongering and concern-trolling has caused the very confusion they claim to oppose, telling observers all across the country that women might not be able to get care for life-threatening conditions thanks to pro-life laws. In fact, pro-lifers have always known the difference between necessary health care and a direct, elective abortion, and pro-life laws are abundantly clear on this point. Abortion supporters are muddying the waters on purpose, with the sole aim of undermining pro-life laws — not through sincere debate and argument, but through a pack of dangerous lies.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Biden and Inflation

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Joseph Sullivan writes about Biden’s record on inflation compared to other presidents at this point in their tenure:

With the release of data for June, we have 18 months of data on inflation under President Biden. In terms of inflation, the Biden administration has already earned its place in history. Depending on your preferred point of reference, at this point in its tenure, it’s either the worst since the 1970s or the worst-ever on record.

At this point in his presidency, Biden has presided over more inflation than any president since Gerald Ford, who took office in 1974. But President Ford’s path to the White House was an outlier. He was never elected president or vice president. Among elected presidents, Biden has presided over more inflation than any since at least 1948, when data on seasonally adjusted consumer prices from the Bureau of Labor Statistics begin.

Read the whole thing here.

Education

An Appreciation of Mitch Daniels upon His Retirement

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These days, most higher-education leaders are insufferable leftist virtue-signalers, intent on making their institutions as “woke” as possible. That’s the way they climb the ladder to better jobs at more prestigious schools.

There are, however, a few exceptions. The best-known is, I would say, Mitch Daniels. The former Indiana governor took the helm at Purdue a decade ago and has improved the university. In today’s Martin Center article, Professor Rich Vedder discusses Daniels and his accomplishments.

For one thing, Purdue didn’t increase tuition. Vedder writes, “President Daniels is probably best known for freezing the tuition fees of Purdue for 11 years, through the next academic year. Since the Consumer Price Index over the same period will have risen far more than 20 percent, in an inflation-adjusted sense Mitch (which is what everyone calls him) has probably presided over the sharpest prolonged real reduction in major American university tuition fees in modern American history.”

Most college presidents are intent on squeezing as much money as they can from students and taxpayers to fund their empires. Not Daniels.

Also, he concentrated on educational programs that graduated students with skills that were in demand, not on churning out grads whose heads were stuffed with all sorts of progressive theories and a disdain for American values.

Vedder concludes, “Good leadership that can restore higher education’s positive role is desperately needed within universities, as well as in the organizations, especially governments, that help finance and increasingly regulate them.”

Regulatory Policy

Damned if You Do . . .

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The spillway at Lower Monumental Dam on the Snake River in Washington (stevelenzphoto/Getty Images)

Renewables, they said, are central to the energy transition, the “race” to net zero and all the rest. Essential.

But (via the Idaho Capital Sun):

A new draft report released by President Joe Biden’s administration last week found that breaching lower Snake River dams is “essential” to helping protect and recover threatened salmon populations.

The 20-page report is called “Rebuilding Interior Columbia Basin Salmon and Steelhead,” and it was released July 12 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with input from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nez Perce Tribe and the state of Oregon.

The report found removing four lower Snake River dams in Washington would lead to a significant reduction in direct and indirect mortality caused by salmon needing to pass through the dams during their migrations to and from the Pacific Ocean . . .

Predictably, reaction was divided in Idaho, where debates about dams, energy and salmon have raged for several decades.

In February 2021, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, shook the salmon debate up when he put forward a $33.5 billion dollar plan to help save salmon. Simpson’s team said his plan was based on three years of work and input gathered from more than 300 meetings. Breaching four lower Snake River dams located in Washington was one of the aspects of Simpson’s plan that many people key in on.

Pocket change.

The Idaho Capital Sun:

“I am not certain removing these dams will restore Idaho’s salmon and prevent their extinction,” Simpson said in a 2021 video promoting his salmon recovery plan. “But I am certain if we do not take this course of action, we are condemning Idaho’s salmon to extinction.”

But many Idaho Republicans oppose dam breaching, and Simpson’s plan has, so far, not advanced to become a bill or law. Several Republicans, including Gov. Brad Little, criticized the new NOAA draft report and reiterated their opposition to dam breaching when the report was released…

U.S Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, also criticized the report and said only Congress, not President Biden, has the authority to remove dams.

“In a time of record inflation and soaring energy prices, the Biden administration is endorsing a plan to rip out the Northwest’s clean energy assets while in the same breath asserting climate change is the largest existential threat,” Risch said in a written statement. “Even a study they commissioned acknowledged that energy replacement alone could cost over $75 billion, and unlike the comprehensive and public Columbia River System Operation review, this limited analysis was done in secret and without process.”

Several conservationists welcomed the report and said its findings confirm the need to take steps now to save threatened salmon…

On the other hand, Northwest RiverPartners, an organization that represents community utilities in Idaho, Washington, Oregon and other Western states, said removing the dams would cause energy bills to go up and lead to an increase in carbon emissions.

“A future without the lower Snake River Dams means billions of dollars in costs for millions of electricity customers across the Northwest,” Kurt Miller, the executive director of Northwest River Partners, said in a written statement.

So we can add a little greenflation to this tale too.

In some ways this is rather reminiscent of a story I discussed a month or two back. In that case, environmentalists were, with the Biden administration’s support, doing their best to block a lithium mine in Nevada because of the need to protect . . . Tiehm’s buckwheat.

What unites these two stories is the refusal to accept that a realistic environmental policy must include accepting that sometimes a choice has to be made between conflicting environmental goals, a choice that the administration seems determined to avoid, preferring instead that poor old humans should pick up the tab.

There’s a message there.

Politics & Policy

Trump and Pence Present Competing Visions to Conservative Youth

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Left: Former President Donald Trump speaks at the America First Policy Institute America First Agenda Summit in Washington, D.C., July 26, 2022. Right: Then-Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the 2020 Republican National Convention in Baltimore, Md., August 26, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger, Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Over the past few days, both former president Donald Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, have spoken at conservative student conferences, giving very different messages.

On July 23, Trump took the stage at Turning Point USA’s annual Student Action Summit in Tampa, Fla., where he proceeded to mock the January 6 committee, calling Representative Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) “unhinged,” lumping her in with other “political thugs” who “perpetrated the lies that I was an agent of Russia.”

Who were those of whom Trump spoke kindly? He gave a shout-out to Doug Mastriano, a “stop the steal” candidate whom Democrats helped to win the Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial primary.

He also called Matt Gaetz, who is under investigation for his alleged involvement in child sex trafficking, “a great guy and a tough guy and our friend.” At the same conference, Gaetz had remarked that “the women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions.”

“No one wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb,” Gaetz added.

Although he correctly touted his administration’s accomplishments and condemned the evil that the Left is perpetuating, affirming that there are only two genders, the vitriol and personality politics tainted his speech’s good sections, just as his conduct in the aftermath of his loss in the 2020 election stained his presidential legacy.

“I was the most persecuted person in the history of our country,” he said.

In contrast, today in Washington, D.C., Pence spoke to a crowd of students at Young America’s Foundation’s National Conservative Student Conference. There, he affirmed his commitment to being “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican — in that order.” 

He also outlined a new platform for the future of the conservative movement, a “Freedom Agenda,” which he had meant to unveil at the Heritage Foundation the previous night, though his flight into town was canceled.

“God must have had different plans for today,” he said. “In fact, He must have decided that a talk about the future, a talk about an agenda for the future, should be given to the rising generation. A talk about the Freedom Agenda should be given to the freedom generation.” 

First and foremost, he called for the movement to build on pro-life victories. He praised the justices who sent Roe v. Wade “to the ash heap of history.” Now, he said, the fight for life continues in the legislatures  of every state in the Union.

“We save the babies, we save America,” he told the students.

He also called for American educators to dispel the myths of critical race theory and for the states to supplement the effort with school-choice legislation, so that parents can give their children good opportunities, no matter their zip code.

He also called for Americans to rely on the system of free enterprise that has served the country so well and to support the freedom fighters in Ukraine who are standing up for their homeland against Russian aggression.

“I believe this Freedom Agenda provides a clear road map for conservative leaders like all of you to connect deeply with the American people on their top priorities,” he said.

Conservative students should take note of the actions and rhetoric of the leaders in the movement they choose to admire, as well as the student organizations that give them and their allies a platform.

The choice should be clear. They can either emulate lies and narcissism that poorly represented the conservative movement’s ideology and grand history, or they can embrace a message of articulating hopeful policy to help Americans for the future.

Elections

​​Democrats Aid Peter Meijer’s ‘Stop the Steal’ Opponent

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Candidate for Michigan’s 3rd Congressional district John Gibbs waves to the crowd as he comes on stage during a rally held by former President Donald Trump in Washington Township, Mich., April 2, 2022. (Emily Elconin/Reuters)

Democrats are running ads for a Trump-endorsed candidate in Michigan’s third congressional district, continuing their effort to aid those who claim the 2020 election was stolen.

John Gibbs, who is running to unseat Peter Meijer, one of ten Republican Congress members who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, gained support Tuesday from an unlikely source, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“John Gibbs is too conservative for west Michigan,” the voiceover in the ad says. It warns that Gibbs will support policies similar to those of Trump, including being “hard-line against immigrants at the border” and “supporting ‘patriotic education.’”

Although the ad is critical of Gibbs, it could serve to help him gain favor with the Republican base that will choose between him and Meijer in the state’s August 2 primary. Conservative voters will be more likely to gravitate toward the candidate that leftists see as “too conservative.”

The ad is part of a larger campaign by Democrats to help “stop the steal” Republicans, whom they believe to be easier to beat in the general election. If their favored Trump-like candidate does not win in the primary, they can still force the mainstream candidate to spend more money, weakening him in the general.

“The DCCC boosting John Gibbs is clear evidence of who Nancy Pelosi prefers in this race,” Meijer spokeswoman Emily Taylor told National Review in an email. “Democrats don’t want to face Peter Meijer in the November election because Peter is the best candidate to represent West Michigan in Congress, and he’s the only candidate who will put the interests of the Third District ahead of partisan priorities.”

“We are confident that voters will see through Democrats’ political games while Peter remains focused on the issues that matter most to the people he represents,” she continued.

The Gibbs campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

In an interview with NR back in June, Meijer appeared lucid with regard to Democratic meddling in GOP primaries. He cited the fact that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s political action committee ran similar ads for David Valadao in California, who also voted for Trump’s impeachment.

He predicted that Democrats would “wait until the last minute, until it’s too late to counter” to interfere in his own election. As it happened, he was correct, as his primary against Gibbs is only a week away.

“I will say,” he added in that interview, “there’s something pretty rich about Nancy Pelosi one day saying January 6 is the greatest threat to our democracy and must be investigated, and, at the exact same time, she’s greenlighting her super PAC to criticize Republicans who voted for impeachment and elevate their extreme primary challengers.”

In the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, Democrats spent more money on TV ads for Doug Mastriano, a stop-the-steal candidate in the Republican primary, than the Mastriano campaign itself, helping Mastriano win. Later, in Colorado, Democrats in the state undertook a similar effort to help stop-the-steal candidate Ron Hanks against the more moderate Joe O’Dea, though they did not succeed.

Democrats need to reckon with their inconsistency on the issue of 2020 election deniers. Taking Democrats’ public words and actions together, the American people can conclude that the party believes stop-the-steal Republicans are so dangerous that they deserve electoral help.

With these efforts, they have abdicated any moral legitimacy in the condemnation of Trump’s stolen-election lie.

Elections

Eric Schmitt Rising, Eric Greitens Fading in Missouri

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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt speaks to Reuters after a news conference outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., September 9, 2019. (Bryan Pietsch/Reuters)

Good news in the Missouri Senate race, where Democrats are banking on disgraced former governor Eric Greitens winning the Republican nomination to save them. Greitens, despite tepid fundraising and up-and-down polling in a three-way race, has remained stubbornly within striking distance or, at times, in the lead. Now, three recent polls in the race all show state attorney general Eric Schmitt pulling ahead.

  • Trafalgar has Schmitt at 26.5 percent, congresswoman Vicky Hartzler at 24.4 percent, Greitens at 20.2 percent, congressman Billy Long at 6.7 percent, 6.6 percent with minor candidates (Mark McCloskey and Dave Schatz), and 15.6 percent undecided.
  • Emerson has Schmitt at 33 percent, Hartzler at 21 percent, Greitens at 16 percent, Long at 5 percent, 8 percent for minor candidates, and 17 percent undecided. Sixty-one percent have an unfavorable view of Greitens, double the unfavorables for Schmitt and nearly double those of Hartzler.
  • When undecideds are pushed to choose, Emerson shows the race at Schmitt 39 percent, Hartzler 25 percent, Greitens 18 percent, Long 7 percent, and 11 percent for the minor candidates. In other words, a third of independents would pick Schmitt if they had to decide today, but barely more than one in nine would choose Greitens.
  • Republican pollster Remington’s Missouri Scout poll has Schmitt at 32 percent, Hartzler at 25 percent, Greitens at 18 percent, Long at 8 percent, and 7 percent with the minor candidates, with 10 percent undecided.

Collective action problems remain: Hartzler remains committed to the race, and for reasons that mystify me, so is Billy Long, who has no chance. With a significant undecided bloc, Greitens can’t be counted out quite yet, but Election Day is a week away, and Schmitt now leads Greitens outside the margin of error in Trafalgar and by double digits in the other two polls, with sky-high unfavorables and pulling a paltry share of undecideds when pushed by Emerson. That is not a recipe for success.

U.S.

Perspective on Perspective

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(Chip East/Reuters)

Paul Krugman writes:

In New York City, homicides so far this year are running a bit below their 2021 level, and in 2021 they were 78 percent lower than they were in 1990 and a quarter lower than they were in 2001.

That’s true, but I don’t think “New York City has fewer murders today than it did in the year when it had more murders than at any other point in its entire history” is as compelling an argument as Professor Krugman seems to think.

The 488 murders New York listed in 2021 are a lot fewer than it had in 1990, but a lot more than New York had in 2017 or 2018, years in which the numbers of murders were below 300. New York had thousands more felony assaults in 2021 than in 2020, thousands more grand-larceny offenses, about a thousand more vehicle thefts, etc. Total numbers matter a great deal, but so does direction.

Professor Krugman is writing about New York crime’s role in the national political conversation, and New York is pretty unremarkable on a population-adjusted basis. Beyond that, there are some more interesting comparisons. In recent years, New York has had a much lower murder rate than, say, St. Paul or San Antonio. But does New York, which boasts of being a city of global significance, really compare itself to St. Paul? Because New York’s murder rate is about twice London’s, six times Zurich’s, 17 times Singapore’s, and about 40 times Dubai’s, if you believe the official numbers.

Marseille, often cited as one of Europe’s most dangerous cities, has a lower murder rate than Madison, Wis., and a murder rate about half of Sacramento’s. Salt Lake City is more dangerous.

For all of our political crazy-talk, people in New York are a lot more like people in Fort Worth than the people of either city are like the people in Geneva, Edinburgh, or Abu Dhabi. We are Americans, and we are an extraordinarily violent people by most measures.

As the New York Times reports, the U.S. murder rate spiked almost 30 percent in 2020. It is inaccurate to make New York the poster city for American crime, but it is far from irrational for Americans to be concerned about the direction of crime in recent years.

NRI

Are You an Aspiring Writer? Enter the William F. Buckley Jr. Essay Contest

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(NRI)

At National Review Institute, we are always looking for rising stars! Our founder, William F. Buckley Jr., began his career as a public intellectual when he wrote God and Man at Yale, a scathing critique of his alma mater and its growing biases.

This year, National Review Institute is holding a student essay contest to promote thought and discussion surrounding William F. Buckley Jr.’s Up from Liberalism. The winning essay will be published on NationalReview.com. The contest is open to students who are currently enrolled in their freshman or sophomore year of college.

Learn more here.

Submissions are due July 31, 2022.

Education

As Usual, Biden’s Education Department Overreaches

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The folks running the U.S. Department of Education seem to think they have plenary power over everything educational. They don’t, but they’ll always err on the side of authority.

The latest confrontation is over accreditation, with the Biden camp aiming at a Florida law that requires its colleges and universities to switch accreditors periodically — perfectly in line with a 2019 regulation. No matter. If Florida wants it, it must be opposed!

In this Minding the Campus article, Andrew Gillen of the Texas Public Policy Foundation looks into the controversy and finds no merit in the Department of Education’s position.

Gillen writes:

Reading between the lines, the Biden administration is clearly trying to kill the Florida reform in two ways. First, they hope they can convince courts that the Florida law violates U.S. law by engaging in some truly astounding rhetorical jujitsu regarding the word “voluntary.” Second, the requirement for ED preapproval before a college can even apply to a new accreditor gives the Biden administration the ability to quietly circumvent the Florida law by simply never granting permission.

As Gillen notes, colleges only need accreditation because they want students to obtain financial aid from the government. It doesn’t do anything to guarantee educational quality.

We should cut this Gordian knot and do away with federal student aid.

World

‘A Normal Society’

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David Trimble, the Northern Irish politician who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998, gestures after a meeting with Philippine vice president Jejomar Binay at the Coconut Palace in Manila, November 14, 2012. (Romeo Ranoco / Reuters)

David Trimble has died at 77. For the New York Times obituary, go here. He was my kind of politician — a wonderful politician: clear-thinking, problem-solving, and brave. In 1998, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, with John Hume, his fellow Northern Irishman. Seldom has the prize been so well deserved.

Trimble and Hume won for the Good Friday Agreement. What was that? Here is a refresher, from my history of the Nobel Peace Prize, Peace, They Say:

It was a multi-party agreement that strove to build institutions for reconciliation and a lasting peace. . . . The agreement was meant to alter relations between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland; between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; and between the Irish and British governments. The agreement was signed on April 10, 1998 — Good Friday, as it happened. And it was ratified by voters in both Northern Ireland and Ireland on May 22. It was natural for the Nobel committee to bless this agreement — and further the chances of its fulfillment — later in the year.

Hume? “. . . a Catholic and nationalist — but a reform-minded, democratic, and peaceable nationalist. The description usually applied to him was ‘moderate nationalist.’” Trimble? A Protestant and the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. “He had no tolerance of extremists and killers, wherever they came from, but he was ready to deal when a deal was to be had.”

The following is the big point, I would say: “Both Hume and Trimble were despised by extremists: seen as compromised, because compromising.”

A bit more, on David Trimble (and let me hasten to say that John Hume was just as good, but it is Trimble whom we are eulogizing):

The cool, practical, and skeptical nature of Trimble was illustrated in his response to the Nobel announcement. He said that he was “a bit uncomfortable” about the prize. And “I hope very much that this award doesn’t turn out to be premature.” Someone should have told him — maybe someone did — that [Alfred] Nobel wanted his prize to go for honorable work done in the preceding year, plain and simple: whether that work was cinching or not.

Okay, some more:

Trimble gave a lecture that was smart, nimble, wise — and very funny. I count it one of the best in Nobel history. He said that many, many people had contributed to peace in Northern Ireland, and that many thousands of others were performing heroic work for peace around the world. “Having said that, I am at the same time anxious to allay any fears on your part that I might fail to pick up the medal or the check. The people of Northern Ireland are not a people to look a gift horse in the mouth.” Toward the end of his lecture, he said, “What we democratic politicians want in Northern Ireland is not some utopian society but a normal society.”

I just love that — sweet, blessed normality. You will remember that David Ben-Gurion and the other founders of Israel wanted, fervently, a “normal country” — a country in which one might live in peace.

The below words, I wrote in 2011 or so, but I think they hold up today:

Since 1998 and the Good Friday Agreement and the Nobel prize, there have been many problems in Northern Ireland, including terrorism and killings. But the Troubles have not returned, full-blown. Northern Ireland is pretty much a normal society (one of the highest conditions a society can aspire to). Many years ago, the American political writer George F. Will said that there were two “intractable” problems in the world: Northern Ireland and the Arab–Israeli conflict. And he said this well before the Cold War wound down, and the Soviet Union expired. The Arab–Israeli conflict is still with us — but the intractability of Northern Ireland seems to have been cracked. The 1998 Nobel Peace Prize was a very good award: given to good people who had worked hard and well to solve a terrible problem (and who had done this work in the preceding year . . .). People in Northern Ireland and elsewhere can hope that 1998’s will be the last Nobel prize concerning the Troubles.

There had been one other: that for 1976, given to Betty Williams and Máiread Corrigan. They are quite a story unto themselves. But this post is for the purpose of saying: Well done, Lord Trimble, and hearty thanks.

International

Lufthansa Workers Join the Transportation Strike Wave

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A Lufthansa Airbus A380 is pulled for technical maintenance in Frankfurt, Germany, February 12, 2019. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Lufthansa ground staff will be on strike tomorrow, adding to air-travel chaos around the world. Reuters reports that the ground-staff union wants a 9.5 percent raise and will be engaged in a one-day “warning strike” to pursue it.

The ground staff is represented by Verdi (short for Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft), the same union representing the Hamburg dockworkers who have been on strike multiple times already this year. The story of what led to the strike is similar to other stories worldwide.

From Reuters:

Verdi last month demanded a 9.5% pay rise, or at least 350 euros ($368) more per month for 12 months, for around 20,000 workers who it says are being squeezed by inflation and have been overworked due to staffing shortages at airports.

Lufthansa had offered an increase of 150 euros per month for the rest of this year and another 100 euros more from the start of 2023, plus a 2% increase from mid-2023 dependent on the company’s financial results.

Verdi rejected the offer, saying it was insufficient to offset soaring inflation, which hit 8.2% in Germany in June.

Inflation is the common denominator. Over the past few decades of low, stable inflation, companies have been accustomed to giving raises in the low single digits. Those raises no longer seem reasonable to workers because they now amount to a wage cut in real terms. But just because inflation is up doesn’t mean companies have enough extra money to give wage increases sufficient to compensate. Their costs have increased as well.

Despite the long-running trend of private-sector workers in the United States away from organized labor, transportation is one of the last sectors that remains heavily unionized. As I wrote late last month and earlier this month, transportation unions have the upper hand around the world right now, and they don’t seem at all ashamed about playing it, no matter the economic consequences.

Others are noticing as well. Augusta Saraiva and Bryce Baschuk wrote on Sunday for Bloomberg:

A surge in strikes and other labor protests is threatening industries all over the world, and especially the ones that involve moving goods, people and energy around. From railway and port workers in the US to natural-gas fields in Australia and truck drivers in Peru, employees are demanding a better deal as inflation eats into their wages.

Precisely because their work is so crucial to the world economy right now — with supply chains still fragile and job markets tight — those workers have leverage at the bargaining table. Any disruptions caused by labor disputes could add to the shortages and soaring prices that threaten to trigger recessions.

Add labor disputes to the list of reasons never to let inflation get out of control. The higher inflation we’ve seen over the past year is causing widespread turmoil in transportation by upsetting expectations about what constitutes a reasonable wage increase. And remember, West Coast dockworkers and freight-rail workers nationwide have yet to come to an agreement with their employers about new labor contracts.

Washington’s Waiting Game

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(Jim Young/Reuters)

Right now, it feels like just about everything going on in Washington is in a holding pattern.

It is theoretically possible that Senate Democratic leaders and West Virginia senator Joe Manchin could reach some sort of deal on a trimmed-down Build Back Better, in negotiations that seem to have gone in circles for the past year. But Manchin just tested positive for Covid-19, and he’s probably going to self-isolate for a week or so. Alaska GOP senator Lisa Murkowski also tested positive for Covid, so she won’t be around for any floor votes. On August 8, the Senate is scheduled to

International

Saudi Arabia’s 75-Mile Sideways Skyscraper

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announces a zero-carbon city called “The Line” to be built at NEOM in northwestern Saudi Arabia, January 10, 2021. (Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via Reuters)

Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman is continuing with plans for the Neom development, a luxurious skyscraper city with two mirrored buildings, 1,600 feet tall and extending horizontally, in parallel, for 75 miles. The project, known as the Mirror Line, is intended to house over 5 million people; it has enormous expected costs — over a trillion dollars — and some experts and architects have said that the project could take 50 years to complete. Neom will incorporate sports stadiums, a marina for yachts, and a high-speed train, and it will integrate vertical crops into the building. The elitist city sounds like a dream home for billionaires with too much time on their hands. 

The kingdom has had a hard time raising foreign investment for the project because of its human-rights abuses and the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi. But MBS, hoping to build up national infrastructure and hasten growth, has leveraged windfall oil revenues during the ongoing energy crisis to attract financial support for the project. He has set a 2030 deadline for a national transformation project in Saudi Arabia. 

These plans arrive at a time of greater diversification of the Saudi economy. For years, experts and critics have argued that a shortage in the supply of Saudi oil would result in economic recession for a country whose economy is so dependent on it. Consequently, MBS perceives his ambitious plans for Neom and national infrastructure as a means to diversify the economy and change the global image of Saudi Arabia, as well as increasing tourism.

Saudi Arabia is not the only Arab country that seeks to diversify its economy and reduce dependence on oil. For the past decade, other oil-rich Middle Eastern nations such as the United Arab Emirates have moved forward with plans to increase investment in infrastructure and development in order to boost their tourism industries. Moreover, the Abraham Accords, which strengthened relations between Israel and several Arab nations, are not only a political but also an economic agreement. Israel has a booming economy, with stunning success in technology, medical research and development, and financial services, and neighboring countries have taken note, especially those reliant on oil and other natural resources. MBS may see Neom and his infrastructure goals as the way to build something greater than an oil empire.

Health Care

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

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Dr. Fauci still says kids should be wearing masks at schools.

Seems crazy to me. Is there something we don’t know about? Are many children dying at your local unmasked summer schools and unmasked summer camps? Are the local emergency rooms clogged with juvenile Covid cases admitted because of Covid? I feel like the New York Times would be reporting on such a thing if it were true. Maybe even if it weren’t true, but just colorably believable by the gullible.

National Review

It’s Official: The New National Review App Is Here

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You asked for it, and now it’s here.

Last week, we relaunched the National Review app with a fresh design, enhanced user experience, and greater access to premium NR content. Simply put, it’s better and easier to use.

The app is available for download today on the App Store or Google Play.

The app is free to download, and all users can sample a limited number of articles each month. NRPLUS Members and app-only subscribers can access all app content, including premium articles, podcasts, and National Review magazine.

Here’s a sampling of the app’s new and improved features:

  • Ease of navigation: Quickly explore our latest premium opinion articles, news stories, and Corner posts, or get today’s edition of the Morning Jolt. It’s all at your fingertips.
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Download the app on the App Store or Google Play. To unlock unlimited app and website access, join NRPLUS today at our discounted rate. Other NRPLUS perks include ad-minimal reading, full commenting privileges, access to our members-only Facebook group, and exclusive invitations to monthly calls with NR writers and conservative leaders. NRPLUS Members can log in to the app and website with the same set of credentials.

Politics & Policy

Coalition of Major Conservative Groups Urges McConnell to Block Bill Redefining Marriage

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) speaks to reporters in Washington, D.C., July 19, 2022. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

A coalition of major conservative groups has sent a letter to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), asking him to stand firm against H.R. 8404, the absurdly titled “Respect for Marriage Act,” which aims to cement Obergefell’s radical redefinition of marriage and punish dissenters. Led by Alliance Defending Freedom, the letter features signatories such as Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation; Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center; and Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, among dozens of other leaders.

“The Act, which was suddenly rushed through the House without any public hearings or input, is an attack on millions of Americans, particularly people of faith, who believe marriage is between one man and one woman and that legitimate distinctions exist between men and women concerning family formation that should be recognized in the law,” the letter states.

It cites the majority opinion in Obergefell, which noted that many reasonable and sincere people of good faith around the world continue to hold this view of marriage. “But H.R. 8404 aims to shut down any disagreement, silencing those with the long-held conviction that marriage between one man and one woman is essential to human flourishing, a view that has existed from the dawn of time,” the letter continues.

The signatories argue that, while the bill “does nothing to change the status of, or benefits afforded to, same-sex marriage in light of Obergefell, it does much to endanger people of faith. . . . This legislation will only hasten and intensify hostility against them.” They also contend that the bill “goes far beyond merely codifying same-sex marriage in federal law” and extends into territory that includes harshly punishing dissenters.

They note that the bill “would require federal recognition of any one state’s definition of marriage without any parameters whatsoever,” including “plural marriages, time-bound marriages, open marriages, marriages involving a minor or relative, platonic marriages, or any other new marriage definition that a state chooses to adopt, including through undemocratic imposition by a state Supreme Court.”

The letter goes on to argue that the bill “effectively deputizes activist groups to sue religious individuals, organizations, and businesses that operate according to their sincerely held religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman and also act ‘under color of state law.’” The proposal would also empower the IRS “to strip 501(c)(3) organizations of their tax-exempt status if they continue to adhere to their belief that marriage is only between one man and one woman,” a possibility that President Obama’s solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, acknowledged during this debate in the past.

“In sum, the proposed Act is far more extreme than codifying Obergefell, just as the so-called ‘Women’s Health Protection Act’ goes well beyond codifying Roe, and it is dishonest for its sponsors to claim otherwise,” the signatories conclude. The letter closes by calling on McConnell “to reject H.R. 8404 and to urge your colleagues to thoroughly abandon this harmful and unnecessary legislation.”

Media

Rebutting Michelle Goldberg’s Mischaracterizations

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The New York Times Building in New York, June 29, 2021 (Brent Buterbaugh/National Review)

In a column last week titled “The Anti-Abortion Movement’s Contempt for Women Is Worse Than I Imagined,” New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg cited me as an example of the titular contemptuous pro-lifers:

Some in the anti-abortion movement insist that the doctors refusing to treat [women having a miscarriage] are mistaken about what the laws in their states say. “To the extent that doctors or attorneys are confused about whether necessary women’s health care is forbidden under pro-life laws, the fault lies in large part with pro-abortion activists, who have been intentionally muddying the waters,” tweeted Alexandra DeSanctis Marr, a writer for National Review and the co-author of “Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing.”

If that was the case, one might think abortion opponents would be eager to see their laws clarified. After all, the suffering caused by mismanaged miscarriages doesn’t serve the cause of fetal life.

While I appreciate that Goldberg saw fit to mention my new book, I was less appreciative of her selective quoting of my Twitter feed to bolster her argument. She saw no trouble, apparently, with using a single tweet supposedly to prove her point, yet she declined to include other recent tweets of mine on the same topic, including this one: “By all means, lawmakers should leave no room for confusion about medical emergencies or miscarriage care. But even when they do so, abortion supporters aren’t satisfied, because their goal isn’t clarity. Their goal is to stoke fear and confusion and undermine pro-life laws.”

As it turns out, Goldberg not only did an injustice to me by ignoring my actual views on the topic but she also did an injustice to her readers by misrepresenting pro-life laws as they pertain to miscarriage management. As I catalogue in a lengthy article on the homepage today, every state abortion restriction contains explicit exceptions for instances when a mother’s life is at risk and/or defines abortion explicitly to exclude treatment for a miscarriage. It isn’t pro-lifers or pro-life laws stirring up confusion and uncertainty about this; it’s Goldberg and her fellow abortion supporters.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Insulin and Energy-Policy Trade-Offs

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Susannah Barnes writes about how insulin-affordability legislation currently before Congress doesn’t solve the actual problems in the market:

The INSULIN Act aims to tackle this problem by capping the price of insulin at $35 a month. Insulin affordability is a worthy goal, but the INSULIN Act puts a Band-Aid over a bullet hole. Any legislation aimed at reducing insulin prices will be ineffective until legislators enact a structural overhaul to remove the administrative bloat surrounding insulin production.

Insulin has long been used as the poster child for the failures of a market-based health-care system. But as anyone who has taken an introductory economics course knows, when firms have to compete, prices fall, quality increases, and firms are more innovative.

Jordan McGillis of the Manhattan Institute writes about the trade-offs involved in energy policy:

The environmental case for instituting policy frameworks to reduce pollution from the electric sector is strong. But a tipping of the policy scales in favor of renewables, particularly absent crucial regulatory reforms, courts energy-security disaster.

Public policy is an exercise in trade-offs. Rarely can one commitment be fully endorsed without it coming at some expense to another. Issues pertaining to the environment invariably display this. For example, regulating the dumping of industrial waste into waterways improves health outcomes but elevates industrial costs and prices for consumers. While that is a worthy trade-off, it is a trade-off nonetheless. Sometimes, as the displacement of coal by lower-cost natural gas has shown, markets themselves will yield positive environmental outcomes, even if unintended. When markets fail to account for polluting emissions, it may be appropriate to accept a cost trade-off and implement a framework to account for them.

Religion

Pope Francis Is Primarily a Pastor in Canada

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Pope Francis apologizes to indigenous people for the residential school system in Canada during his visit to Maskwacis, Alberta, Canada, July 25, 2022. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

Canadian priest Fr. Raymond de Souza (who has written for us over the years) in the National Post is a good guide to Pope Francis’s pilgrimage up north these days. He writes of yesterday:

In regard to the history of Christian missionaries in Canada, which reaches back more than 150 before confederation and residential schools, Pope Francis insisted that “Christian charity was not absent, and there were many outstanding instances of devotion and care for children” on the part of clergy and religious communities.

That there were those who generously served in difficult conditions is not historically in dispute, but Catholic leadership in Canada has been largely silent on this matter, sacrificing the memory of their forebears in the face of opposition today. The Holy Father’s example suggests that they might revisit that approach.

That being noted for the sake of his fellow bishops, Pope Francis was blunt: “The overall effects of the policies linked to the residential schools were catastrophic. What our Christian faith tells us is that this was a disastrous error, incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” . . .

For Pope Francis, the degradation of Indigenous peoples followed precisely from an abandonment of Gospel values and witness. It is the most devastating indictment that a Christian pastor can deliver. It’s not that politics, or law, or history teaches us that we did wrong, but that we should have seen it first by our lights, or rather by the light of the Gospel.

Pope Francis, even while speaking to political leaders — both Indigenous and otherwise at Maskwacis — remains a pastor whose primary responsibility is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And thus, looking out at the many former residential school students before him, some with their children and grandchildren accompanying them, he spoke to them about the history of salvation, the Christian faith which he shares with a majority of Indigenous Canadians. . . .

Before the burden of history, good intentions and good actions can only do so much. The “open wounds” are sometimes too deep. The necessary healing can be assisted by important gestures — the elderly pope being slowly wheeled to the Ermineskin cemetery and former school site to pray — but it cannot be entirely accomplished by them.

“Our own efforts are not enough to achieve healing and reconciliation,” Pope Francis said. “We need God’s grace.”

The Holy Father brought what he could offer, his words, his presence, his apology. But he pointed toward what Christians — of all times and places — are supposed to bring, an encounter with the grace of the Risen Christ, who alone can bring “to fulfilment the deepest expectations of our hearts.”

His column can be read and shared here.

U.S.

Glenn Loury, Ian Rowe, and Robert Woodson Debunk Myths about the Black Experience in America

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If there were a Mount Rushmore of American black intellectuals, the three guests on this show would certainly be on it: Glenn Loury is a professor of the social sciences in the Department of Economics at Brown, a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, and the host of his wildly successful podcast, The Glenn Show. Ian Rowe is the cofounder of Vertex Partnership Academies and the author of the new book, Agency: The Four Point Plan (F.R.E.E.) for ALL Children to Overcome the Victimhood Narrative and Discover Their Pathway to Power. Robert Woodson is the founder of the Woodson Center, an organization devoted to “empowering community-based leaders to promote solutions that reduce crime and violence, restore families, revitalize underserved communities, and assist in the creation of economic enterprise.” In this wide-ranging conversation, the three men debunk the 1619 Project, advocate for the restoration of the black family and the black church, describe their own very different upbringings and formative experiences, and discuss the many reasons why they are optimistic about the future of black Americans, despite the narrative commonly expressed in the media.

Recorded on May 13, 2022, at the Old Parkland Conference in Dallas, Texas.

U.S.

Report: Abortion Rates Increased in 2020, Reversing Decades-Long Decline

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Signs at the 2017 March for Life rally in Washington, D.C. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

A common argument among many progressives, and even some conservatives, is that alarm about our liberal abortion regime is misguided or exaggerated because abortion rates have continued to fall for decades. In 2020, NBC argued that “abortion restrictions . . . aren’t a primary driver in the national decline of abortion rates” because “according to the most recent national data, the United States now has the lowest abortion rate since Roe v. Wade.” Writing at the Dispatch the same year, David French wrote that “the abortion rate and ratio continues to fall, and it’s fallen dramatically.” It’s a point that French makes often, as evidence for his argument that things are not as bad as many social conservatives seem to think. In February 2021, he reiterated:

The longer I’ve been engaged in the quest to eliminate abortion from the United States of America, the more I’ve become convinced that the core challenge rests not on the supply side—the availability of legal abortion access—but rather on the demand side. In other words, a nation or state that wants legal abortion will have legal abortion. And even in a nation or state that severely restricts abortion access, women who want abortion will find a way.

In fact, I’d argue that the best explanation for the long-term decline in the abortion rate is primarily decreased demand. The available data indicates that America’s abortion rate is now lower than it was when Roe was decided, when abortion was illegal in most American states. . . . Though there is evidence that the abortion rate increased slightly in 2018 (reporting on abortion rates tends to take time), the long-term trend is deeply encouraging. After an initial and expected surge in abortion rates after Roe legalized abortion from coast-to-coast, the rate has declined through every single American presidency, pro-life and pro-choice.

The bottom line is clear—there is no reason for pro-life Americans to simply presume this forty-year positive trend will change and every reason to believe that the most effective forms of pro-life engagement can and will continue, even under a Biden presidency. 

These trends, French argued, were proof that we live in “a nation that increasingly dislikes abortion.” But newer data call that thesis into question. Last month’s study from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, which has been tracking the national abortion rate for years, found that “the long-term decline in abortions in the United States that started 30 years ago has reversed . . . according to new findings from Guttmacher’s latest Abortion Provider Census—the most comprehensive data collection effort on abortion provision in the United States—there were 8% more abortions in 2020 than in 2017.” It’s not just the raw rate, either, but the ratio of abortions to pregnancies: “The abortion ratio (the number of abortions per 100 pregnancies) increased from 18.4% in 2017 to 20.6% in 2020, a 12% increase,” Guttmacher reports. “The number of abortions increased in all four regions of the country between 2017 and 2020. The rise was largest in the West (12% increase) and Midwest (10% increase); abortions increased 8% in the South and 2% in the Northeast.”

There is evidence that the abortion rate has continued to creep up over the past few years: “National abortion figures in 2017 reached their lowest level since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortions,” NBC reported last November. But “they rose 1 percent in 2018. The next year, the numbers increased 2 percent and the rate per 1,000 women of child-bearing age rose 1 percent.”

The explanation for this increase is surely complex and multicausal—well above my pay grade. But at the very least, it undermines the argument that abortion has become less of an issue in America over the past few decades—and underscores the enduring importance of an energetic pro-life movement.

NRI

At This Magazine, We Want to Help You Choose Life

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A pro-life protester holds an issue of National Review, End Roe, ahead of arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Anthony Bolognese/Capitol Hill Photo)

As the first issue of National Review after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision put an end to Roe v. Wade was about to head to inboxes and mailboxes, I found myself on the New York magazine part of the Web. There were a number of columns about abortion, one against adoption, but this caught my eye big-time:

Never have I been more grateful to be at National Review and the National Review Institute. Below is just a sampling of some of our pro-life covers over the years.

As has been said before and after Roe went down, our work has only just begun. A lie has been undone in our constitutional law, but there are so many others still in our culture, as you see us fact-checking here daily.

Telling the story of the facts of the pro-life movement and holding leaders accountable to truly support women and children and families is something that is taken seriously here. And we can’t do it without your support.

Do you subscribe to the print magazine? Do you support the National Review Institute? Here we want to help women and girls to be able to choose life for their babies. Where we educate and advocate for adoption and foster-care reform. At the institute, I am able to bring people together who sometimes don’t know one another and encourage them in a culture that can be hostile and demoralizing. Just last week we were able to host Archbishop Bashar Warda from Iraq in our offices in New York — introducing him to a conference table full of new people, some eager to help their cause. He’s a courageous man who has been able to build a future for people who had to flee their homes because of the ISIS genocide. (They’ve built a university and a hospital, among other things, and hosted a papal visit in a land where they have been since the beginning of Christianity, but whose future is still not certain.)

It’s a blessing at National Review and the National Review Institute to be able to focus not just on the headlines and politics of the day, but on the enduring things, on policy and witness that can inspire and help people live lives of virtue.

Do you subscribe to National Review? Check out your different print/digital/plus options here.

Have you ever considered sponsoring the work of the National Review Institute? I wouldn’t be able to work behind the scenes on pro-life and religious-freedom and other issues and have the conversations and convenings I do without NRI’s support.

Bill Buckley in both the magazine and the institute and in so much of what he did kept his eye on civil society and the eternal — not just the politics and the news of the day. Thanks to the National Review Institute, we’re able to continue in that tradition today.

As we live in this post-Roe reality, we need to highlight and support faith-based and other civil-society solutions to helping women and children and families like never before. We need people to know what the alternatives are, and how to get creative about innovation, whether in policy or the front lines. We need to educate and fight for conscience rights in the midst of disingenuous and angry frenzies and attacks. Please support us. Support for NRI is support for so much of the work you come here for, that you have come to rely on National Review for. And so much more you don’t necessarily even see on our pages.

Thank you to all who donate and make our work possible. Thank you to all who consider supporting us today. We couldn’t do it without you. I am personally grateful — and keep you all in my prayers.