The Weekend Jolt

Science & Tech

Human Innovation Will Not Be Canceled

Jeff Bezos wears goggles owned by Amelia Earhart which he carried into space at a post-launch press conference after he flew on Blue Origin’s inaugural flight to the edge of space, in Van Horn, Texas, July 20, 2021. (Joe Skipper/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

It’s a neat forensic formula, in three steps: (1) Cite social problem X. (2) Invoke bothersome activity Y. (3) Demand to know why those pursuing bothersome activity Y aren’t instead confronting social problem X.

This recipe is what cooks up passages like this one from MSNBC, regarding the Blue Origin space launch:

Doctor bills and rent remain unalleviated, and the racial disparities . . .  seem ever starker, enshrined in new voter-suppression legislation around the country and in the disproportionate death toll of the pandemic on communities of color. But a new “flying circus” has arisen nonetheless — another race to space, even more ludicrous than before, with a rarefied circle of lily-white billionaires serving as well-heeled ringmasters.

The same basic construction works around the house: i.e., How can you think about poker night at Sean’s house when there’s a food desert in Akron and tax software isn’t universally free?

Anyway, Dan McLaughlin chops down the rickety stilts of this argument here. The point is that the private-sector space jaunt this week by Jeff Bezos, and before him (by a few days) Richard Branson, should be something to cheer. Not only is spaceflight unassailably awesome, these trips are a step toward future collaborations with NASA, the expansion of satellite Internet (a race that involves several companies), and, yes, a space-tourism sector that might or might not be thriving decades from now.

Yet this promise ran repeatedly into the notion that somehow the absence of these flights would resolve world hunger. Mostly, this juxtaposition was a jumping-off point to complain about Bezos’s tax payments or Amazon’s treatment of workers, which are fair-enough targets — but the fantasies about all the goodies that could otherwise be bought with Bezos’s fortune come at a time when deficit spending is so astronomical as to render tax revenue irrelevant to those decisions. COVID relief alone has totaled $6 trillion. Democrats are discussing another spending package totaling $4 trillion. Think Congress is holding out for an extra $6 billion in wealth taxes from Bezos? Thanks, Jeff, that can cover a week of interest payments.

America’s problem is not a drought of spending; quite the opposite, as Phil explains here. So if Jeff Bezos wants to drive a minivan to Mars, it is a pursuit with little bearing on our troubles on this planet.   

Let’s celebrate human innovation again. From NR’s editorial:

Critics of the two men have tended to suggest that there is something “selfish” about their endeavors. The opposite is true. Unlike with state-backed initiatives, the risks that were accrued here were almost entirely private. Both Virgin Galactic (Richard Branson’s outfit) and Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos’s company) have developed their technology at their own cost and under their own steam, and, in the process, they have revolutionized the space industry in ways of which America’s federal government could only have dreamed. Going forward, Branson and Bezos both plan to open up their products to paying customers. Virgin Galactic will begin accepting space tourists this year. In addition to its own passenger service, Blue Origin is already working on a number of projects with NASA, as well as with private organizations that are in need of its “road to space.” They will be joined in the arena by a host of other businesses — among them Boeing, SpaceX, and the Sierra Nevada Corporation — all competing with them for customers.

As an exercise, Rich wonders how today’s space cynics might have viewed past pioneers:

Couldn’t Samuel Morse have been less of a showboat about it when he sent his famous message on the new telegraph line between Washington and Baltimore, “What hath God wrought?”

Wasn’t it incredibly selfish of Henry Ford to build racing cars early in his career, when winning automobile races does nothing to improve the human condition?

Why did the Wright brothers waste their time flying a plane at Kitty Hawk, when they could have focused on the abuses in the meatpacking industry instead?

But there were upsides for the public to their innovations, and there are upsides now, including the development of cheaper rockets and cheaper satellites, in turn fueling more innovation. “Consider just one dimension,” Rich observes. “In any major conflict that involves rival militaries targeting each other’s satellites, the power that has the ability to launch new satellites quickly and easily will have an edge.”

Charlie shows no charity toward the haters:

“Why don’t they fix the problems on earth?”

Sure, they could do that, if they want to. But if they don’t? That’s fine, too. The thing is — and this seems to be the part that far too many people seem to struggle with — it’s their money. It’s not your money; it’s theirs. And you don’t get a say in how they spend it.

If Branson and Bezos want to build personal rockets that take them up to the edge of space, they can. If they want to lie in a golden bath and drink champagne all day, they can.

And even though Jim Geraghty was taking a break this week, your eagle-eyed weekday host was still thread-spotting — and flags this one that explains the benefits, in the form of jobs and reusable-rocket technology and more, of these ostensibly ostentatious displays.

Haters gonna hate, as Kevin says.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The Mississippi AG’s Supreme Court brief on abortion is a big one: Mississippi’s Case against Roe

Tariffs are back, this time in the name of fighting climate change. They’re still a bad idea: The Foolishness of Climate Tariffs

Biden’s ATF nominee comes from the ranks of anti-gun activism, and seems to exhibit a hostility to gun owners. Even Susan Collins is worried about this pick: David Chipman Is Unfit to Lead the ATF

Now that we mention it, Biden’s Education Department nominee has some baggage too: Biden’s Troubling Department of Education Nominee

ARTICLES

Charles C. W. Cooke: Against Jen Psaki’s National Social-Credit Scheme

Rich Lowry: The Assault on America’s National Identity

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Pope Francis Takes Aim at the Latin Mass — and His Own Faithful

Michael Brendan Dougherty: How to Reach the Vaccine Skeptics: A Booster Shot of Ideas

Kevin Williamson: Welcome Back, Carter

Tom Cotton: The Only Good Soros Prosecutor Is a Defeated Soros Prosecutor

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Did We Really Mean Never Again? The World Doesn’t Look Like We Did

Andrew McCarthy: Pelosi’s Capitol-Riot-Probe Power Play Saves Republicans from Themselves

Kyle Smith: The Olympics Are Stupid

Kyle Smith: The Un-canceled

Caroline Downey: Charlie Kirk’s Extreme Vaccine Death Extrapolations Don’t Hold Water, Experts Say

Marco Rubio: Biden’s Radical Budget

Frederick Hess and Tracey Schirra: The Bizarre Martyrdom of Nikole Hannah-Jones

David Harsanyi: Do You Really Want the IRS Preparing Your Taxes?

Jack Butler: Is Peter Thiel for Real?

Alexandra DeSanctis: Republicans Aim to Block Funding for Schools That Provide Abortion Pills

Luther Ray Abel: The Navy’s Debauchery Problem

Dominic Pino: 99.2 Percent of Biden’s Infrastructure Proposals Isn’t about Bridges

Ryan Mills: Missouri Teachers, CRT Advocate Plotted to Hide Social Justice Curriculum from ‘Trump Country’ Parents

Robert L. Woodson Sr.: A Better Way to Fight Critical Race Theory

CAPITAL MATTERS

Kevin Hassett is worried that we’re witnessing the “de-evolution” of economic thinking on the left: The Rise of De-Economics

And in a similar vein, Douglas Carr says enough with the quantitative easing: U.S. Economy to Fed: ‘No Mas’ QE

Here’s Jon Miltimore with a reminder that the embargo is not what’s crippling Cuba: The U.S. Is Not Responsible for Cuba’s Poverty — Communism Is

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

The documentary on Anthony Bourdain is a nice tribute but still doesn’t answer the central question surrounding his death. From Kyle Smith: The Anthony Bourdain Mystery

Kyle also marks 25 years since Danny Boyle’s tumble through addiction in Edinburgh: Trainspotting’s Lust for Life

Armond White helps explain who Olivia Rodrigo is: Sour Prom — Olivia Rodrigo’s Rapid-Onset Petulance

An acclaimed photographer gets a nice show at the Whitney, though the catalogue is a disappointment. From Brian Allen: Dawoud Bey at the Whitney: Great Art, Nice Show, Book’s the Dregs

And Charlie looks at the nostalgia factor in John Mayer’s latest album: John Mayer Moves Forward by Going Back

HOW DO YA LIKE THEM EXCERPTS?

Rich notices a disturbing trend emerging of an America dividing itself — a battle between national identities — the most recent evidence of which is the NFL’s decision to play the “black national anthem” before games:

This new American identity is, of course, getting pushed by every lever of elite culture. It is defined by “anti-racism” instead of the American creed, Black Lives Matter instead of, say, the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars, and new rituals, holidays, and heroes instead of ones that have been long established and, to this point, uncontroversial.

The national anthem? It will now compete with the black national anthem and, by implication, risks becoming the “white” national anthem.

Juneteenth is worthy of commemoration but is being set up as a competitor holiday to July 4.

1776, that most iconic year, is under pressure from 1619. . . .

Why does it matter? A nation is to a large extent defined by its symbols and associations, the holidays, rituals, heroes, and history — the mystic chords of memory — that constitute its collective self-understanding. This is how a nation tells itself what it is and what its priorities should be.

Down is up. Left is right. Fire is water, K-pop is alt-country, and time runs backward on Tuesdays. You need to enter this kind of topsy-turvy mindset to appreciate what Kevin Hassett diagnoses as de-economic thinking:

One might even say that a significant fraction of the Democratic Party no longer practices economics when formulating policy, but instead commits itself to de-economics. Frankly, it’s the only explanation for the ridiculous arguments that abound today.

Economics is, after all, founded on the principle that models of firms and workers can be very useful for understanding how the world works. These models begin with the idea that resources are constrained and incentives matter. . . .

Against this backdrop has emerged an enormously destructive de-economic view that incentives do not matter. Under this theory, one can lift the unemployment-insurance benefit to the heavens, and people will still go to work just as they did when the benefit was low. The individual income tax can be lifted, and people won’t respond by working less. The capital-gains tax can be lifted, but people will not invest less and the economy can still grow. The corporate tax in the U.S. can be, as President Biden proposes, lifted above the effective rate that President Trump inherited, and yet the economy will still grow. The minimum wage can increase, and nobody will lose their job. The Keynesian multiplier is two, so government spending can make society richer, but when government spending collapses by 10 percent relative to GDP — as it is currently scheduled to do — GDP will not suffer.

This of course makes little sense at all.

If you’re looking to understand the hubbub over Pope Francis’s recent restrictions on the Latin Mass, MBD breaks it down in plain English:

Last week, Pope Francis completely reversed the policy of his living predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, when it comes to the traditional Latin Mass. And he did it without warning his bishops, and while showily exhibiting his personal animosities and neuroses. . . .

Here’s the background. In 2007, Benedict declared that the liturgy as it had existed before the Second Vatican Council was sacred and good for Catholics today. He affirmed that it had never been forbidden, implying strongly that it never could justly be forbidden. He instructed bishops to make generous use of it, and to allow any of their priests to say it if they were serving a stable group of faithful who requested it. Numerically, this tiny movement grew a great deal, but it also remains small. Perhaps 4 percent of Catholic parishes in the United States have a regular traditional Latin Mass.

In 2021, Pope Francis now revokes all this permission, because he says that the traditional Latin Mass threatens the unity of the Church and is being used to weaken adherence to the Second Vatican Council. (What this adherence consists of is maddeningly unclear, and always has been.) In the recent apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes, he takes the extraordinary step of requiring every diocesan priest to essentially “reapply for permission” to his bishop. He obliges the bishops to be suspicious of Catholic laymen and priests who like the traditional Latin Mass. He demands that bishops who want to expand its use to another parish in their diocese first get permission from Rome. It’s almost impossible to overstate how audacious and invasive this regime of micromanagement and heresy-hunting is. It’s clerical McCarthyism. And his vision is to see the celebration of the old Mass eventually abolished.

Stunning, sad, weird, baffling, vengeful, and crazy barely begin to describe this situation.

And Kathryn brings us alarming and important stories from the International Religious Freedom Summit:

Mariam Ibraheem is a Christian from Sudan who has lived to tell the story of her death sentence. When she married a Christian man, she was informed she had broken apostasy law. She was raised by her Christian mother after her Muslim father abandoned her, so Sudanese authorities say she’s a Muslim apostate. For refusing to recant her faith, she was imprisoned with her nine-month-old son on Christmas Eve. While in prison, she unexpectedly learned she was pregnant; she was forced to give birth in shackles. She and her children were granted asylum by Italy in 2014, and they have since moved to the U.S. From the stage at the International Religious Freedom Summit, she declared, “My freedom is in Christ.” . . .

Before I even entered the conference hotel on the closing day, I met Father Joseph Fidelis Bature, a Nigerian priest who, with the help of Aid for the Church in Need, ministers to women who have been tortured by Boko Haram. When he and his bishop became aware of the horrific torture these women have undergone, he went to Italy for psychological training. He works with a team of counselors who occupy the women; most of Boko Haram’s victims are Christian, but some are Muslim women who wind up in the care of the Catholic church. Without going into details, he tells me that is it not unusual for these women to be raped in the most brutal ways — often involving a gun. He talks to me about his own faith and how God has been with him as he has faced the heart of evil and its ravages.

Shout-Outs

John Stossel, at Reason: Speech Is Not Violence

Andrew Stiles, at the Washington Free Beacon: The Grift That Keeps on Grifting

Daniel Johnson, at Law & Liberty: Whither the European Project?

Ian Birrell, at UnHerd: Did scientists stifle the lab-leak theory?

CODA

Let’s dip into some prog this weekend, outside the King Crimson/Yes/Rush holy trinity — for a band called Porcupine Tree. You may or may not have heard of them, but they were producing albums for 20 years. Their founder, Steven Wilson, had an auteur’s control over the direction of the band, later going on to forge a solo career . . . and along the way playing in a slew of other groups, remixing classic albums (including Yes albums), and helping produce one of the finest prog-metal albums ever made, Opeth’s Blackwater Park.

So he’s got credentials, okay?

Off their final studio album, The Incident, “Time Flies” is a song that proves its title. Easy-listening and immersive, it clocks in at over eleven minutes, and it doesn’t feel like it. Really. The lyrics, dealing with themes self-evident from the name, are eminently relatable for those of us who have made it past 35. And the solo is evidence that Wilson can make his guitar . . . do things . . . much in the way that David Gilmour can (rounding out the comparison, “Time Flies” sounds like an alternate take from Animals in spots). If impatience is your virtue, skip to the guitar stuff just past the six-minute mark. And the weird psychedelia of the video is the price of admission, sorry.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

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