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.

International

Europe’s Gas Crunch: Turbine-Charged Trouble

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Pipes at the landfall facilities of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline in Lubmin, Germany, March 8, 2022. (Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters)

In the most recent Capital Letter, I noted this:

“A number of EU countries have already been encouraging users to cut back on [natural gas] consumption, with a view to making it easier to fill [their storage] depots. It is, shall we say, far from clear that they will reach that target. Putin, meanwhile, will continue to play games [with the natural gas supply], as a none-too-subtle reminder of who is really calling the shots, or could be.”

Bloomberg:

“Putin has indicated that flows could fall to 20% as soon as next week. Only two turbines at a compressor station in Russia, which feeds the pipeline, are currently working, he said, and one of them needs to go for maintenance this month. Flows could drop unless a replacement component sent from Canada arrives in Russia soon, following sanctions-related delays, according to Putin.

But if this report from Reuters is correct, the games being played may also include Russia delaying the return of that turbine:

“A missing turbine that Moscow says has caused the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to pump less gas to Europe is stuck in transit in Germany because Russia has so far not given the go-ahead to transport it back, two people familiar with the matter said.””

Well, whatever the backstory, it appears that Putin has now made his next move.

The Financial Times:

Russia will slash gas supplies through its largest pipeline to Germany to just a fifth of capacity later this week in a move that threatens to leave the continent short of critical supplies ahead of the winter.

State-owned energy group Gazprom said it would cut existing flows on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in half to just 20 per cent of capacity from Wednesday, having already lowered them to 40 per cent last month. European politicians have decried Russia’s “weaponisation” of gas supplies.

The Gazprom move came as German business confidence fell to its lowest level for more than two years in the latest sign that Europe’s largest economy is teetering on the brink of recession…

Germany has been hard hit by inflation and the Russian gas crisis. Gazprom has blamed the availability of turbines for its cuts to supply but a spokeswoman for Germany’s economy ministry said there was “no technical reason” for the reduction…

Gazprom has put the volume cuts down to problems with turbines maintained by Germany’s Siemens Energy at a factory in Canada. However, Berlin and gas market analysts say Russia is using the issue of turbine repairs as a pretext for cutting flows.

European politicians and industry analysts have questioned whether any such problems would cause so steep a drop in gas flows. Russia has also declined to use alternative pipeline routes to maintain supplies.

Laurent Ruseckas, an analyst at S&P Global Commodity Insights, said Gazprom’s move fitted a “pattern that has been on display for months and months, which is continuing reductions of pipeline flows to keep supplies tight and complicate storage”.

By “complicating storage” Ruseckas means complicating European efforts to build up gas reserves ahead of the winter, an effort that could easily fail if Russia’s mischief-making succeeds. The consequences of that may well be very serious indeed (see the Capital Letter, but also the comments from Germany’s foreign minister quoted below).

Meanwhile, keeping supplies tight means gas prices go up, something that also benefits Gazprom.

The FT:

European gas prices shot higher after Gazprom signalled that the volume of gas flowing to the continent would be cut. They rose 10 per cent on Monday to trade at €177 per megawatt hour — five times higher than the price a year ago.

For Putin this is, I fear, a win-win.

The FT:

Gazprom blamed Siemens Energy, the turbine provider, for the problems. It said the company still had “open questions” about British and EU sanctions.

Canada this month waived sanctions restrictions on providing equipment to Gazprom in order to allow the return of the turbine to the company.

Now go to Canada, and this story from the Globe and Mail (my emphasis added):

Germany’s Foreign Minister said Berlin warned Ottawa that the EU country could be forced to suspend military and economic aid to Ukraine if a Russian gas pipeline turbine stranded in Montreal, a result of Canadian economic sanctions, wasn’t returned.

Annalena Baerbock said the German government told Canada that if the missing turbine led to a stoppage of natural gas from Russia, it could spark popular uprisings and force Berlin to halt support for Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is largely dependent on Western aid as it fights off a military assault by Russia that began in late February.

Baerbock was pressed on her claims about popular uprisings. She replied that it was “perhaps a bit exaggerated,” but said she was speaking of a scenario where “we had no more gas.”

What “no more” means is not altogether clear. It could be a reference to Putin turning off the taps, but it’s more likely that Baerbock was talking about a situation in which Putin switched off the taps for long enough that Germany’s reserves dropped to such a low level that keeping things ticking over on a basis roughly approximating to normal becomes an impossibility.

My best guess continues that Putin will turn off the taps, but not yet. For now, he is tightening the vise. Maybe he will loosen it again. And then tighten it again. Cat. Mouse.

Interestingly, Baerbock is not the only prominent European figure to warn of political trouble to come.

The Guardian:

Frans Timmermans, the second most senior official in the EU, said the threat of unrest this winter, a deliberate outcome of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, must take precedence over the climate crisis.

He said: “If our society descends into very, very strong conflict and strife because there is no energy, we’re certainly not going to make our [climate] goals. We’re certainly not going to get where we need to get if the lack of energy leads to strong disruption in our societies, and we need to make sure people are not in the cold in the coming winter.

Meanwhile, the German ambassador has been walking back some of what Baerbeck had said (sort of):

The Globe and Mail:

German Ambassador Sabine Sparwasser contacted The Globe and Mail, saying Germany never threatened Canada with the withdrawal of aid to Ukraine. She said Germany is strongly supportive of Kyiv but is concerned about having enough gas for the hard winter ahead.

Fair enough, but what Baerbeck said was that “popular uprisings” might force Germany to change tack on Ukraine. Even if the reference to popular uprisings was an exaggeration, it is far from clear that Germany will be prepared to stick with its current (not entirely convincing) support for Ukraine in the event of major economic dislocation this winter, dislocation that will inevitably bring political trouble in its wake.

And Putin knows that.

Elections

A DeVos Endorsement Is No Defect

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Then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks in Washington, D.C., January 24, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

With Michigan’s August 2 primary just over a week away, candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination to unseat Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer have been ramping up their condemnations of one another. One unfortunate line of attack has been the endorsements that candidates have received.

Former president Donald Trump has not made an official pick in the race thus far, so the most important endorsement has come from his secretary of education, Betsy DeVos. She and her family, a political powerhouse in Michigan, threw their support behind Tudor Dixon, a former businesswoman and political commentator of whom Trump has spoken kindly.

Dixon’s opponents have latched on to DeVos’s support and funding for her. In a recent ad, Kevin Rinke, who has the most to spend on the campaign, blasted Dixon as being “endorsed by the RINO establishment’s leading never-Trumpers” and compared her to those “who say anything to win President Trump’s support then betray him when it matters most,” showing DeVos’s face along with those of Mitt Romney, Adam Kinzinger, and Liz Cheney. The latter three have not endorsed Dixon.

In a debate earlier in the month, Garrett Soldano, who gained notoriety for pushing back against Whitmer’s draconian pandemic policies, accused Dixon of being “bought and paid for” because “the DeVos empire” supported her.

Dixon has attempted to counter these attacks. She received backlash for a now-deleted tweet noting that Florida governor Ron DeSantis has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from the DeVos family, arguing that it does not make him a “RINO.”

Although Dixon was mocked for the tweet, she was right to defend herself. DeVos and her family have done a serious amount of good for Michigan and the country.

DeVos has long been an advocate of school-choice policies in the state. All the way back in 2000, she supported a ballot proposal that would have allowed private-school vouchers had it been approved. She also worked with her Great Lakes Education Project throughout the early 2010s to lift the cap on charter schools that are allowed in Michigan.

Her successful career caught the incoming Trump administration’s attention after the 2016 election. DeVos then became secretary of education, where she moved to undo the “kangaroo courts” on college campuses created by the Obama administration, which violated the due-process rights of students accused of sexual assault. In the summer of 2020, several university presidents parroted left-wing talking points of institutional racism, claiming that their own colleges were racist. DeVos made them put their money where their mouths are, investigating them for their own claims of racism.

DeVos has a history of pushing for conservative policies, and she has been successful in doing so. Now she apparently sees a candidate in Dixon who can put in place similar policies. Dixon is not a perfect person or candidate by any measure, but her opponents should attack her based on her legitimate flaws, not for being supported by one of the most successful political families in Michigan.

Education will surely be an important issue for the state in 2022. With other states such as Arizona leading the way on school choice, Michigan Republicans should not be trying to discredit DeVos, a person who has achieved countless successes on the issue.

NRI

NR Is Setting Sail Again

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Sky Princess (Courtesy photo)

I’m very glad to inform you that National Review cruises are back.

This November 12–19 you can join your favorite NR writers and other special guests for a memorable vacation. National Review Institute is continuing NR’s 20-year tradition of cruises, setting sail for seven days in the Caribbean aboard the luxurious, all-new Sky Princess. Enjoy fine dining, entertainment, and excellent accommodations as you rub elbows with us and prominent conservative guests during panel discussions, breakout sessions, exclusive 1955 Society events, and more.

Destinations include the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Turks & Caicos.

Registration closes on August 1, which is rapidly approaching, so sign up today at nricruise.com or call us at 844-754-4566. 

We’ve made many long-term friendships on these cruises. If you’re a regular, we hope to see you again, and if you’ve never sailed with us before, I guarantee you that you’ll have a blast.

Markets

Oil-Tanker Orders at a Record Low

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Oil tankers docked at the port of Tuxpan, Mexico, April 22, 2020. (Oscar Martinez/Reuters)

With high oil prices, now may seem like a good time to invest in new oil tankers. But orders for new tankers are at a record low, reports John Konrad for gCaptain.

According to BIMCO, the global trade association for the ocean-shipping industry, orders for new tankers in the first half of this year were the lowest on record at 1.6 million deadweight tons. (Deadweight tonnage measures how much weight a ship can hold.) Translating from weight to number of vessels, that’s only 23 tankers for the entire world’s shipping industry over the first six months of the year. To give perspective on how low this half’s total was, the lowest half on record before this year was 3.0 million deadweight tons.

Konrad writes that the global fleet of oil tankers is likely to decline in size. The low building numbers are only half of the story. Ships are scrapped as they age, and the average age of the global tanker fleet has been increasing, which would indicate more scrapping upcoming. With few new ships being built, the global fleet is essentially below replacement level.

Many factors contribute to the hesitance for new orders. Shipbuilders have seen inflation just like the rest of us: The price of a new ship has gone up by 25 to 42 percent since 2020. The largest player in oil-tanker construction is South Korea, which has seen a shipbuilding-labor shortage this year.

BIMCO says that shipping companies may be unsure which type of fuel their new ships should use. Global environmentalist initiatives have encouraged transition away from bunker oil and toward liquefied natural gas and methanol as cleaner-burning alternatives.

Those global standards also involve reducing the speed of oceangoing vessels, in an effort to save fuel and reduce emissions. As ships go slower, expected profits to decline because ships will be able to complete fewer trips in a given amount of time than they used to.

A new oil tanker is very expensive, and the time horizon that companies use when making purchasing decisions is decades long. With some Western leaders essentially signaling that they plan to use government power to end the petroleum industry in its current form over the next few decades, industry executives are likely hesitant to make long-term investment decisions.

The possibility of a new kind of “peak oil” in the medium-term future is also likely stifling orders. In the ’70s, people were concerned about peak oil supply; now people are concerned about peak oil demand. If global oil demand begins to decline with the adoption of more renewable technology, investing large sums of money in oil tankers now won’t pay off over the decades-long time horizon.

The world’s leading petroleum producer, the United States, has many navigable inland waterways and lengthy bluewater coastlines on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico. Many U.S. refineries are located along these waterways. But the American domestic tanker fleet is small due to the Jones Act driving up costs.

A 2014 report from the Congressional Research Service found that the purchase price of an American-built tanker is four times greater than the price of a foreign-built one. On top of those fixed costs, the cost per barrel of oil shipped is also much higher on Jones Act ships than on foreign ships.

Most of the tankers that are compliant with the Jones Act are relatively small. Only eleven are the large type of ships more commonly used in international petroleum trade, and all of them are engaged in shipping oil back and forth from Alaska to the rest of the country. The world’s largest oil producer is effectively sidelined from purchasing oil tankers for its own market, which would contribute to the shrinking global fleet.

Global energy markets are experiencing tremendous uncertainty right now, which would also give reason for hesitance when ordering new tankers. In a different piece, Konrad writes about the expanding “dark tanker” sector. These are ships used to evade oil sanctions. More vessels are being used to ship Russian oil to new customers in India and China who aren’t following the West’s sanctions over the war in Ukraine. As global trading routes reshuffle, companies could be waiting to see how things shake out before placing tanker orders.

All of this does not portend positive news for energy prices. With fewer tankers to transport oil, flexibility will go down and prices will go up. We seem to be in the middle of a sort of reorganization of global energy markets. That makes hesitance to order tankers understandable, but it won’t help to make the reorganization any easier.

Film & TV

Black Panther without Black Panther?

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Marvel Entertainment/Trailer image via YouTube)

Black Panther, from 2018, tends to rank rather highly in general assessments of the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe. Though not above criticism, Black Panther won over audiences with its auteur-quality direction from Ryan Coogler, immersive world-building of the “Afrofuturistic” hidden kingdom of Wakanda, Michael B. Jordan’s compelling turn as the villainous (?) Eric Killmonger, and Chadwick Boseman’s assured, regal performance as T’Challa/Black Panther. A sequel seemed assured, and is in fact coming, in November of this year. But there’s one giant hitch: Boseman, who was presumably set to star once again in the sequel, died in 2020 (a John Cazale for our time, as Ross Douthat argued).

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever presses on nonetheless. But what will Boseman’s absence mean for the sequel? Its first trailer, out yesterday, gives some taste:

Instead of embracing some kind of gimmick to keep a character played by a deceased actor alive — something Disney is not above — it seems Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is going to kill off T’Challa, and that the movie will revolve around the consequences of his death. If so, this is an appropriate decision. Just from glimpsing the trailer, it seems like the sequel will share with its predecessor an eye for spectacle and visual storytelling that elevates it above the standard blockbuster. (Though I recognize that underwater, Mayan-tinged birth from somewhere . . . ) Aside from more Wakanda world-building, it looks like there will also be an entirely new underwater civilization, led by the mysterious, tempestuous Namor (Tenoch Huerta), with which Wakanda will come into conflict. At one point, Disney beating James Cameron to the punch (his Avatar: The Way of Water will come out a month later, after many delays) with underwater theatrics would have been interesting competition, but now Disney owns both franchises, so who cares? (Though it will be interesting to see how Marvel differentiates its underwater kingdom from that of DC’s Aquaman.)

My interest in Marvel is flagging somewhat (though not entirely) post–Avengers: Endgame, but I think this all has a lot of potential. One question remains unanswered, however: Who will step up as Black Panther? Boseman’s absence would have left a large hole in the movie even if it decided not to double down on that absence. The trailer indicates that someone will end up being a Black Panther. Will whoever takes on the mantle be a sufficiently engaging presence around which to anchor a Boseman-less sequel? We shall see. But if not, all the spectacle in the world may not be able to distract us from his absence.

Culture

Cannibalism Chic?

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(Kovshutin Denis/Getty Images)

If you haven’t seen this in the New York Times already, it is quite the sign of the times:

An image came to Chelsea G. Summers: a boyfriend, accidentally on purpose hit by a car, some quick work with a corkscrew and his liver served Tuscan style, on toast.

That figment of her twisted imagination is what prompted Ms. Summers to write her novel, “A Certain Hunger,” about a restaurant critic with a taste for (male) human flesh.

Turns out, cannibalism has a time and a place. In the pages of some recent stomach-churning books, and on television and film screens, Ms. Summers and others suggest that that time is now.

There is “Yellowjackets,” a Showtime series about a high school women’s soccer team stranded in the woods for a few months too many, which premiered in November. The film “Fresh,” released on Hulu in March, involves an underground human meat trade for the rich.

Lapvona,” Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel published in June, portrays cannibalism in a medieval village overcome by plague and drought. Agustina Bazterrica’s book “Tender Is the Flesh,” released in English in 2020 and in Spanish in 2017, imagines a future society that farms humans like cattle. Also out in 2017, “Raw,” a film by the director and screenwriter Julia Ducournau, tells the story of a vegetarian veterinary student whose taste for meat escalates after consuming raw offal.

Still to come is “Bones and All, starring Timothée Chalamet. The movie, about a young love that becomes a lust for human consumption, is expected to be released later this year or early next. Its director, Luca Guadagnino, has called the story “extremely romantic.”

Later on:

“I think we’re often drawn to the things that repulse us the most,” Ms. Lyle, 42, said. Mr. Nickerson, 43, chimed in: “But I keep coming back to this idea of, what portion of our revulsion to these things is a fear of the ecstasy of them?”

I’m sorry to be a broken record, but after 49 years of pitting a mother against her child, why would we have limits? We’re living at a time when people would rather get sterilized than consider having sex with someone they have a commitment to (and has made a commitment to them), and public-health officials can’t get themselves to suggest that not having anonymous homosexual sex with multiple partners would be good in helping to prevent the spread of monkeypox. So, hey, why don’t we throw in some cannibalism, because if you can think of it, you might as well go for it. 

The conclusion of the Times piece:

As to what may be fueling the desire for cannibalism stories today, Ms. Lyle, the “Yellowjackets” co-creator, said, “I think that we’re obviously in a very strange moment.” She listed the pandemic, climate change, school shootings and years of political cacophony as possible factors.

“I feel like the unthinkable has become the thinkable,” Ms. Lyle said, “and cannibalism is very much squarely in that category of the unthinkable.”

(Is there a limit on how many things climate change can be blamed on?)

The unthinkable is not only thinkable, but the new 50 Shades of Grey?

U.S.

Kalamazoo Goes Down the Toilet

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Looking southwest from N. Edwards Street in downtown Kalamazoo, Mich. (Public Domain/via Wikimedia)

Kalamazoo, Mich., has decided to decriminalize public urination, defecation, and littering, as well as other crimes, in the name of “equitable changes.” Last Monday, the Kalamazoo City Commission unanimously passed amendments to two dozen components of the city code of ordinances. Six crimes that used to be prosecuted as misdemeanors will now be charged as civil infractions.

City attorney Clyde Robinson tried to alleviate concern over the changes, saying, “They are still a violation of our ordinances; it just no longer carries a criminal sentence.”

Many businesspeople in the city of about 73,000 residents are staunchly opposed to the decision. Monte Janssen, owner of local restaurant Youz Guys Dogz, told WWMT Channel 3: “I think it would probably allow people to think they can do what they want and not get in trouble for it. I think it’ll take away the consequence and that’s the concern.” Cherri Emery, the owner of a coffee and chocolate shop in Kalamazoo, told “Fox & Friends First” what she has experienced as a result of lax enforcement of the law in the city: “One day, we kept smelling something in the back of the store . . . and it was human feces.”

This move mirrors the actions of other left-wing cities with leaders who believe public safety must be sacrificed in the name of “equity.” Both San Francisco and Los Angeles have been facing a public defecation problem for years. This is exacerbated by the homeless problem plaguing both cities. San Francisco has more than 8,000 homeless people, and tent cities have been set up throughout the city. According to a July 2022 report, Sacramento County had 9,278 homeless people in February 2022, a 67 percent increase since 2019. Of course, a surging homeless population leads to more public defecation, urination, littering, and drug use.

The idea that it is “equitable” to cease criminalizing certain offenses, and thereby incentivize more crime, is farcical. In no way does decriminalizing these offenses help homeless people in Kalamazoo. Encouraging this behavior will make Kalamazoo look more like San Francisco and Los Angeles, which no one wants.

This goes back to the problem with the social-justice warriors’ crusade to achieve equity in every corner of American life. Equity, which has replaced “equality” in the woke vocabulary, focuses on equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity. Moreover, it declares that all inequality can be chalked up to racism, sexism, or discrimination of another sort. It is impossible to achieve “equity” without taking radical government action that tramples on individual freedoms. The logical endpoint of equity is to burn down all of the institutions. The policies necessary to fulfill the far Left’s equity agenda are unpopular with Americans, as former San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin’s recall last month shows. If Democrats continue down this path, they will come to regret it.

Religion

Backstory of the Church in Canada Where Pope Francis Spoke Today

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From Father Raymond de Souza:

With anticipation growing for the arrival of Pope Francis in Canada, the rededication of a church in Edmonton last Sunday was a helpful reminder of the actual state of Catholic-Indigenous relations. Next week, an avalanche of politicized misinformation will likely obscure the progress that has been made.

In October 1990, Phil Fontaine — a future three-time AFN national chief — effectively broke the silence around residential schools. (Fontaine . . . went to Rome in March to meet Pope Francis.) He had been to a residential school operated by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), the Catholic religious order that ran 48 residential schools, a majority of the Catholic ones.

Nine months later, in July 1991, the OMI issued a comprehensive, four-page apology to some 15,000 Indigenous people gathered at Lac Ste. Anne near Edmonton, both for abuses in the schools and the rationale for the schools themselves. Pope Francis will visit the annual Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage on Tuesday.

Concrete action followed that initial apology 31 years ago. In October 1991, Sacred Heart in Edmonton, a historic and imposing church built in 1913, was declared by Archbishop Joseph MacNeil to be a “First Nations, Métis and Inuit parish.”

The OMI provided the priests who would minister in a parish dedicated to preserving and upholding the traditions of Indigenous Catholics. They have been doing so ever since.

It is a reminder that Catholic–Indigenous relations are not primarily a matter of the bishops and AFN political leaders. Given that many, if not most, Indigenous Canadians are Christians, it is a matter of healing within the community, not between rivals. That confounds media narratives that prefer opposing factions, and the political leaders who benefit from such polarization.

In August 2020, a fire ripped through Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples. It was caused by improper disposal of materials from a smudging ceremony, an Indigenous tradition long incorporated into worship at Sacred Heart.

Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton was quickly on the scene, and immediately promised to restore Sacred Heart — not an automatic thing, given the reality of parish closures. Indeed, a decision was taken to rebuild the interior of Sacred Heart with an emphasis on Indigenous traditions — a tabernacle in the shape of a teepee, and an altar laid upon a live-edge tree.

All of that was planned before the Kamloops discovery of probable gravesites last year. While that ignited a political firestorm that led to the current papal visit, the work at Sacred Heart continued. When it was decided that Pope Francis would visit it, work was accelerated so that the rededication could take place in time.

Fernie Marty, an Elder at Sacred Heart, spoke not of opposition but of harmony with European liturgical traditions. “We have a lot of similarities with our traditions and our customs and they seem to blend so well together, it’s amazing,” he said.

What does reconciliation look like at this Indigenous-led parish? The OMI are a dwindling order in Canada. So an Indian priest, Father Susai Jesu, ordained in 2000, was brought to Canada in 2007. He has spent 15 years serving Indigenous parishes here, learning to speak Cree. He is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish.

Reconciliation also involves the hard work of providing pastors for Indigenous parishes at a time when there is a shortage of priests. The OMI brought a pastor from the other side of the world to serve Indigenous people in their own language. How many, say, federal bureaucrats have learned Cree?

The government funds organizations, institutions, commissions and ever-expanding departments to manage Indigenous reconciliation. But bureaucracies set up to manage processes can become perpetuators of those same processes. Both bureaucracies and their clients can develop a dynamic of managing reconciliation processes rather than accomplishing actual reconciliation.

St. Paul teaches that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. The legacy of residential schools makes evident that sinful behaviour in Catholic institutions was all too abounding. Decades of patient, careful and determined work have brought grace to those wounded relationships. What took place on Sunday at Sacred Heart in Edmonton is a more dramatic version of what we see across the country on the local level, where Catholic parishes serve Indigenous communities.

There’s more. Click here.

Culture

Fridays for Life: The Witness of Healing After Abortion

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(Kathryn Jean Lopez)

Our culture is of the walking wounded. That’s why there is wailing about abortion after Roe v. Wade. Some of the anger — and even the outright lies — are wrapped up in the misery the gravity of abortion wreaks on lives. On Friday, I will talk with Theresa Bonopartis, who is on the front lines of addressing the pain. She runs a ministry called Entering Canaan, which she developed with the Sisters of Life, who do post-abortion healing ministry, too. Bonopartis is the author of A Journey of Healing through Divine Mercy.

I often get the honor of standing beside her praying outside abortion clinics in the New York metropolitan area. She often has a sign that says:

I had an abortion.
Life does not go back to normal.
Save your baby and yourself!

And she includes a phone number and the ministry’s website.

Theresa Bonapartis at a prayer vigil across the street from Planned Parenthood in Manhattan, July 2021.

Bonopartis will help any woman or girl who is pregnant to keep her baby. She knows the pain of abortion and she also knows that many of the women who are going for abortions are pressured into believing there is no other option.

Please consider joining us on Friday at 2. Register here.

Bonopartis was recently included in a New York Times piece:

Theresa Bonopartis had a legal abortion in New York before Roe v. Wade, and in the decades that followed, she said, she was tormented by guilt. She felt her father had pressured her into it, threatening to throw her out of the house if she went through with the pregnancy.

“I had low self-esteem,” she said. “I hated myself for caving in to the coercion.” She ended up in a bad marriage, dealing with depression and anxiety, and when she sought help from therapists, she said, they told her that her emotional problems did not arise from her abortion.

Finally, she said, she got help from a priest and a therapist who addressed her abortion.

Ms. Bonopartis, who is now 70, drew on that experience to start Lumina, a Catholic ministry in Westchester County that offers “post-abortion help.”

The American Psychological Association has long held that having an abortion is not linked to mental health issues but that being denied one is, a position supported by decades of research.

Ms. Bonopartis does not accept this view. “I understand that it doesn’t happen to everyone, but it happens to a lot of people,” she said. She said she gets calls from 200 women a year who say they are in emotional distress and need help. She refers some to mental health professionals, while others get spiritual counseling. It has become a quest for her, she said.

“It’s really crazy when you think about it. Women are made to feel like there’s something wrong with them if taking the life of their unborn child causes them to be upset.”

She has mixed feelings about the Supreme Court decision, she said, because “it was like saying, ‘Oops, we made a mistake’” in legalizing abortion for five decades. And even before the decision, she noted, Gov. Kathy Hochul committed $35 million to abortion providers in New York to help them deal with increased demand and bolster security. “People can’t afford food and gas, and she puts aside $35 million,” Ms. Bonopartis said.

“I understand why women are angry, but they’re angry about the wrong thing,” she said. “They should be angry about what abortion has done, not about overturning Roe v. Wade.

Again, you can register for our live conversation here.

Elections

Politico: VP Harris Set to Push Abortion on the Campaign Trail

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an event in the East Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., February 2, 2022. (Cheriss May/Reuters)

A report from Politico this morning takes a deep dive into Kamala Harris’s promise to become even more involved in the battle over legal abortion in the wake of Dobbs. As the report puts it, she’s aiming “to hit the campaign and fundraising circuit,” trying to make Roe v. Wade a central issue in the upcoming midterm elections.

One source told Politico that Harris wants to be “out in America three days a week,” traveling as part of a strategy to push the pro-abortion message on behalf of Democratic candidates. At an event for Pennsylvania gubernatorial hopeful Josh Shapiro, Harris drilled down on the importance of electing “a majority pro-choice general assembly” in the state. Here’s more from Politico:

For weeks, Harris has held meetings with lawmakers in states where abortion rights have been, or will be, greatly restricted. Those meetings have been a mix of listening sessions and opportunities to relay promises the administration will assist in the push back against restrictions.

But the next chapter in her strategy will get more aggressive. White House aides said the vice president is going to specifically head to red and purple states to call out “Republican extremism” on issues like abortion. On Monday, Harris will visit Indiana, as the state begins a special legislative session on abortion, the first in the nation since Roe v. Wade was overturned last month. The White House says she’ll meet with abortion rights advocates and state legislators during her trip. . . .

Democrats say Harris is uniquely qualified to make the push both as the first woman vice president and a past state and local elected official herself. Allies and attendees of Harris’ legislator meetings say she has leaned on that experience to stress that “she inherently understands the stakes”of state and local elections on abortion policy.

But there’s little evidence that a nationwide push in favor of unlimited abortion, let alone one led by the vice president, will be a successful strategy for Democrats. Multiple surveys in the wake of Dobbs suggest that few voters, let alone swing voters, were especially perturbed about the ruling. Instead, typical top-line issues, most notably the economy, inflation, and gas prices, continue to dominate voters’ minds.

Even before the economy got as bad as it is, there wasn’t much reason to think that support for abortion on demand is a position that swings elections. In Virginia’s gubernatorial election last November, Democrat Terry McAuliffe went all in on abortion, hitting Republican Glenn Youngkin repeatedly on the issue in campaign ads and even campaigning outside an abortion clinic. But the exit polls in the race suggest that, on the abortion issue, voters actually broke sharply in favor of Youngkin.

Meanwhile, Harris hasn’t proven herself the most competent spokeswoman on the issue. As a presidential-primary candidate, she marked herself the most radical in the field by pledging to instate a regime of “preclearance” under which her DOJ would block any state laws that it deemed in violation of Roe. Shortly after Dobbs came down, Harris implored voters to consider how the ruling would affect their sons: “If you are a parent of sons, do think about what this means for the life of your son and what that will mean in terms of the choices he will have.” It’s hard to find an argument better suited to confirming the point pro-lifers have been making for generations. And just yesterday, Harris offered this absurdity in an interview: “Listen, women are getting pregnant every day in America, and this is a real issue.”

Abortion isn’t going to save Democrats in November, and there’s no reason to believe that marching Harris around the country to talk about abortion will save them, either.

Politics & Policy

Rolling Mask Mandates . . . Forever?

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A man wearing a face mask looks out at the beach in Huntington Beach, Calif., July 23, 2020. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Last week, the University of California, Irvine and the San Diego Unified School District returned to mandatory masking. And all of Los Angeles County is expected to bring back its mask mandate this Friday, “absent a sudden turnaround in Covid tracking metrics,” the New York Times reported. “It would apply to indoor shops, offices, events, schools and more. The order would be rescinded once case levels begin to drop again.” The move, notably, has been endorsed by such high-level public-health officials as White House Covid coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. Anthony Fauci himself has been calling for a return to indoor mask mandates on a broad scale, telling CNN earlier this month that Americans “really should, in an indoor setting, a congregant setting, be wearing masks — it’s just the appropriate thing to do to protect yourself and your family, and those around you.”

Are rolling mask mandates going to go on ad infinitum? We’re reasonably confident that Covid, in some form, is here to stay; we’re no longer discussing “shutting down the virus,” as then-candidate Biden promised, but instead getting accustomed to living with it. For certain blue-state areas, spurred on by the counsel of public-health officials, living with it increasingly looks like recurring periods of masking amid Covid spikes, although it’s not clear how widely the practice will spread. (For now, it seems confined to California.) That’s a new development — we’ve been living with bad flu seasons from time immemorial, for example, but masks were never part of the conversation. Now that the door has been opened to mandating face-coverings as part of the public-health toolkit, however, it seems likely that local authorities in progressive areas will view them as a legitimate response to spikes.

I haven’t worn a mask for many months now, save for one short visit to a doctor’s office where I was asked to put one on. I don’t plan to in the future, either — and I suspect many Americans feel the same way. If blue cities, which are already seeing an exodus of residents tired of deteriorating living conditions, are determined to make life even more miserable, at varying intervals, for their citizens, that’s their prerogative. But no matter what Fauci says, it hardly seems wise.

Politics & Policy

Pro-Life Laws Don’t Punish Women

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

Articles covering state abortion laws often contain information like this, from an Associated Press report: “Violators could face up to five years in prison. Physicians and other medical professionals could lose their licenses and face administrative fines of $10,000 for each violation.”

Reading this, you could be forgiven for assuming that “violators” means “women.” In fact, pro-life laws uniformly target their penalties at those who provide abortion procedures or abortion-inducing drugs, not the women who seek or obtain them. It’s interesting that media reports on pro-life laws so often fail to include that fact, which is readily available just from reading the texts of the laws in question. As John McCormack has noted recently, the pro-life movement is nearly unanimous in the belief that targeting abortionists is the most appropriate way to enforce laws against abortion.