To Boldly (But in Compliance With Applicable Regulations) Go

by Andrew Stuttaford

The prospect of the commercial exploitation of the resources that might be found beyond this planet of ours is beginning to worry some people.

In the course of reporting of an auction of some moon rocks, Bloomberg News is reporting that a “nonprofit called For All Moonkind is pushing the United Nations to protect the six Apollo landing sites….”

“What we need to do is to create, basically, a Unesco for space,” said Michelle Hanlon, a Connecticut attorney who is leading the effort, referring to the UN world heritage designation.

The last time I looked at the United Nations logo, it only covered this world. That said, I can see the argument for providing for some sort of terrestrial jurisdiction over this world’s satellite and, for that matter, this world’s immediate vicinity. And, yes, preserving the relics of the early space age is a praiseworthy objective.

 But 1967’s ambitiously-named Outer Space Treaty goes further than that.


The basic legal underpinning for space activity is the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which is administered by the UN’s Vienna-based Office for Outer Space Affairs. The agreement’s central tenet keeps space free of all national sovereignty or ownership claims—plus nuclear weapons—and restricts the use of the moon and other space bodies to peaceful purposes. (The U.S. signed it.)

And then:

In 1979, the UN General Assembly adopted the Moon Agreement, which says that the moon’s natural resources are a “common heritage of mankind” and that a new international body should govern the use of those resources “as such exploitation is about to become feasible.” (The U.S. and most of the countries that have space programs didn’t sign that.)

Some nations, including the U.S. and Luxembourg, have passed laws to recognize the legal ownership of resources private companies collect in space. And while legal scholars may disagree about whether such laws conflict with the Outer Space Treaty’s mandates against national appropriation, Hanlon said, the point is clear: Plenty of countries and entrepreneurs have grandiose plans for space, with the moon being just one of many commercial and scientific prospects.

Roughly 239,000 miles away, the moon is a large and relatively close target, rich with helium and other resources. At least five nations are actively planning to explore it with manned missions, and China is eager to assess the potential in mining helium-3, a nonradioactive isotope for nuclear fuel that is rare on earth but abundant in the lunar crust.

“It would be great to have those debates” about space commercialization, Hanlon said. “Right now, there’s nothing.”

There’s no need for a debate.  In this context, ‘finders, keepers’ looks like a sensible enough principle, not least because it ought to encourage adventurers, scientists, inventors and investors to get on with the job.  

And while we’re on this sort of topic, the Prime Directive has got to go.

Dutch Euthanasia is “Killing”

by Wesley J. Smith

Apologists for euthanasia in the Netherlands often lie by omission. Rarely, for example, do they fully admit that the mentally ill are being killed. Nor do they discuss the conjoining of euthanasia with organ harvesting. Perhaps it a case of not seeing what they don’t want to see.

A piece by Dutch journalist Hasna El Maroudi, reacting against a Wall Street Journal op/ed by a Dutch parliamentarian–warning that activists want to now extend authority for euthanasia to the healthy elderly who believe they have a “completed life”–is a classic case in point.

El Maroudi decries the use of “killing” to describe euthanasia. From, “In the Netherlands, Doctors Care How You Live and Die,” published in the Huffington Post.

Doctors don’t kill their patients, they assist them with ending their lives. The difference between the two might not be clear to the dense, but is of great importance. If doctors would kill their patients, they would be punishable by law.

By framing euthanasia as ‘killing’, conservatives have long tried to block legislation, unsuccessfully. They fought the battle and lost. Now that the kill-frame has proven a failure, they’re going with something new, trying to turn back the hands of time by using fake news. Or as I like to say: constructed lies.

Well, no. The definition of “killing” is “to cause death” or “to end life”–which is accurate and descriptive of what happens when a doctor injects poison into a patient’s bloodstream. Indeed, it is homicide–no different in outcome–e.g. killing–than if the doctor shot the patient in the head.

Euthanasia apologists try to convince people that because most of those are killed in euthanasia have proffered at least some level of consent, it isn’t really killing. Again false.

In the Netherlands, doctors put more than 400 people to death each year–perhaps El Maroudi will accept that descriptive?–who have not asked to die. It is called “termination without request or consent” in the Dutch euthanasia lexicon. 

Would El Maroudi agree those homicides–murder under Dutch law that are never prosecuted meaningfully–are “killing?” Or would she prefer to call it something else–something more soothing and deflecting–because doctors do the lethal deed to end a life they consider not worth the living?

Euthanasia is homicide, e.g., the killing of a human being. Legalized murder one might say, and when without consent, it is murder that goes unpunished.

If El Maroudi would like to see an example of “constructed lies,” she should read her own piece.

A University’s Anti-Free Speech Rules Upheld — For Now

by George Leef

The old saying, “You can’t win ‘em all” applies to the case Abbott v. Pastides.

It is a rather typical case involving a school’s policies that restrain students in the exercise of free speech. The school in this instance is the University of South Carolina. For years, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has been litigating with remarkable success against such policies, but in this case the first round went to the speech controllers, as I explain in today’s Martin Center article.

The case is funny in that the complaints about “discrimination” grew out of an event that was specifically about the problem of campus free speech, with posters that covered past cases where free speech had been at issue. The students behind the event (Young Americans for Freedom and College Libertarians) even got express permission from a university official for the posters they’d display.

Naturally, a few USC students griped about the event, claiming that they were upset at, e.g., seeing a swastika and reading the word “wetback” (which figured in one of the cases). Then the campus Office of Educational Equality got involved. It informed student Ross Abbott that he needed to make an appointment to see the director within ten days to answer the charges. He was also informed that failure to do so could lead to severe sanctions, such as mandatory “training” or even expulsion.

Abbott did as ordered, but stood his ground at the meeting, refusing to admit he had done anything wrong and defending each of the posters. Several weeks later, the university informed him that it would take no further action in the matter.

Still, the university’s policies are inconsistent with the free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, so Abbott sued (with the able assistance of FIRE). Unfortunately, the case was assigned to a federal district judge (a Clinton appointee) who decided that USC’s speech policies were reasonable. FIRE’s executive director, the attorney who handled the case and I disagree. The case will be appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

Breaking: Senate Health-Care Bill Won’t Defund Planned Parenthood

by Alexandra DeSanctis

The Senate parliamentarian has issued guidance suggesting that the sections of the Better Care Reconciliation Act that defund Planned Parenthood and prevent tax credits from funding abortion are subject to a 60-vote threshold. As a result of this preliminary determination, it appears likely that unless 60 senators vote to maintain those provisions, they will be stricken from the legislation.

Because Republicans hold a tenuous majority of just 52 senators — two of whom are moderate Republicans opposed to defunding Planned Parenthood — this decision would mean that the Democrats have the votes to block the pro-life provisions. Even if the bill is somehow able to pass, there is now no way for the GOP to defund the abortion giant without the votes of several Senate Democrats, which is more than unlikely.

This guidance is a setback to conservative Republicans and those in the pro-life movement, who have worked for years to remove Planned Parenthood’s annual $500 million in federal funding over the group’s provision of abortion. According to its own annual report, Planned Parenthood performed over 328,000 abortions in the last fiscal year alone.

UPDATE: This post has been updated since its initial publication to reflect the fact that the Senate parliamentarian issued guidance rather than a formal, final ruling on the Senate bill.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity

by Roger Clegg

The Left has been asserting for some time that there is no such thing as voter fraud: Not just that it is not widespread, or that there is only some of it, but that as a practical matter there is none of it at all.

There are a couple of reasons that the Left needs to take this dubious and extreme position. First, it is essential to its credibility in opposing ballot-integrity measures like voter ID. As long as there is (or even could be) at least some voter fraud, it is hard to see why measures taken to stop it are a bad idea. Second, if voter fraud is a myth, then any and all ballot-integrity measures can only be explained as racist, and this in turn makes it more plausible that we have to resurrect Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, incapacitated by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, to keep states from enacting these measures. And the resurrection of Section 5 (requiring federal “preclearance” of all state and local practices and procedures that affect voting) is important because it will enable the Left to block not only perfectly legitimate voting laws, but will also get it back in the game of requiring racial gerrymandering that is partisan driven and politically correct.

(By the way, I’m not saying that it is impossible for a state-enacted ballot-security measure to be racially motivated. But there are plenty of laws available to challenge them.)

So the Left has to discredit the new election-integrity commission. It says it is afraid that the commission will somehow falsely declare that there is widespread voter fraud, but really it would be fatal to the Left’s agenda even if the commission just found that there was some voter fraud. Conservatives, on the other hand, should be happy with the commission simply doing an honest job of documenting what the facts are. If it does so, it probably won’t find that, for example, fraudulent ballots cost Donald Trump the popular vote, but it would also be most unlikely to find that, as a practical matter, there is no voter fraud at all. And such a balanced conclusion would be not only perfectly reasonable — it would also shut up the Left.

So let the commission do its job.

Joe Rago

by Yuval Levin

The news today of Joe Rago’s death is just a horrible shock.

He was brilliant. A thoughtful, lucid, careful mind. And his writing—for the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page—was so often proof that the best opinion writing is unswervingly analytical: a function of the careful application of principle to fact. Joe’s editorials would make for a textbook of opinion writing. 

But he was most extraordinary for his decency. Joe was utterly unpretentious, and instinctively considerate. He was allergic to talking about himself. The unsigned editorial was the perfect form for him, where his brilliance could reflect on his beloved Journal. He never seemed to think of himself as the immensely influential writer he was, and would never have brought up the fact that he’d won a Pulitzer Prize before he was 30. 

I last saw him in person a few months ago. He had come to Washington for a briefing on Capitol Hill, which I attended too. He wasn’t satisfied with what we were told by the member of Congress who had called us together. He asked question after question—nicely, calmly, but persistently, and helped the rest of us see that we shouldn’t be happy either. In retrospect, his questions were a kind of preview of the problems Republicans went on to encounter on health care. 

We chatted a little afterward, and planned to get together when he was next in town. After I’d left, I thought I should have said how much I appreciated the care he had been taking to get into the details of health policy in his editorials this year—the enormous, patient service he was doing for all of his readers, and especially those in Congress, who passed his editorials around among themselves like canteens in the desert. He deserved to hear it. Next time, I thought. 

But no. Sometimes we don’t get a next time. And you should never wait to offer a good word to a friend who deserves to hear it. 

He will be sorely missed. 


Replacing a Bad Tax Idea with Another Bad Idea Isn’t Progress

by Veronique de Rugy

Sadly, over the years, I have come to question the free-market and small-government beliefs of many members of the Republican party — especially those elected to represent their state in the federal government. But it is as if since the elections (or maybe it started before), as the Democrats have moved far to the left of the political spectrum, the Republicans have filled the political space they used to occupy. Being openly for more spending, against repealing Obamacare and rolling back the Medicaid expansion, and paying for tax reform with a large tax increase are mainstream positions these days.

On the tax front, I have been fighting the terrible idea of a border-adjustment tax (BAT) that would impose a 20 percent tax on importers while exempting exporters. The tax is not just unfair, a large tax increase targeting importers, and an open door to getting a Value Added Tax down the road, it is also a clear embrace by Republicans of the idea that tax competition should be destroyed to guaranty that Uncle Sam can extract as much revenue as possible from taxpayers.

Faced with a strong resistance, Speaker Paul Ryan and House Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady have finally conceded that it may not be possible politically this time around and are starting to talk about alternatives. Sadly, the Republicans’ commitment to revenue neutrality and their desperation for more tax revenue have brought back to life the idea of a global minimum tax. Bloomberg BNA explains:

A global minimum tax is conceptually simple and intuitive compared with the House Republican proposal for border-adjusted tax reform. The idea is that no matter where income is earned or stashed, U.S. companies must pay some level of tax on it.

Seriously? This idea was a bad idea when former representative David Camp introduced it and it is a bad idea now. For a party desperate to keep companies in America, imposing a minimum tax on overseas earnings by U.S. corporations does nothing to stop corporate inversions (i.e., companies relocating their headquarters abroad for tax purposes). Depending on the level and complexity of the tax, and depending on the amount of business and income earned abroad by companies, it is easy to see how companies will reach the conclusion that being an American company isn’t worth it. What they will do then is they will invert and give up being American.

As Bloomberg BNA notes:

To critics and opponents, the relative ease and simplicity of the minimum-tax approach is a mirage, masking an important flaw — it is a residency-based approach, which puts tremendous pressure on the location of a U.S. company’s headquarters and inevitably leads to inversions and takeovers.

“The residency solution in a global economy is not going to be effective,” Bret Wells, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center, told Bloomberg BNA July 3. “In a free society, where we have free import and export of capital, it is difficult to create a wall high enough that prevents a company from being able to combine with a foreign-based company to achieve a corporate inversion.”

That last quote makes it sound as if freedom is a problem — but the preservation of freedom is the goal and prize. We need to fight to preserve companies’ and people’s ability to shift their activities around when the taxing authorities become too greedy.

Besides, those worried about tax avoidance seem to ignore the powerful effect that lowering tax rates will have on income shifting. Cato Institute’s Alan Reynolds had a really good article about this a few months ago. It is a must-read to understand the impact lowering the corporate tax has on avoidance and how other countries have done just that and not lost revenue. Reynolds expanded and summarized some of his findings here:

My previous blog noted that Treasury Department economists find the elasticity of corporate taxable income is 0.5 for smaller corporations, so when the tax rate goes down reported taxable income goes up. A paper for the Center for European Economic Research finds a higher 0.8 elasticity for multinationals: “Hence, reported profits decrease by about 0.8% if the international tax differential [e.g., between U.S. and foreign rates] increases by 1 percentage point.”

Lowering the super-high U.S. corporate tax rate will not reduce revenues from corporate and other taxes by nearly as much as crude rules of thumb may suggest, if revenues decline at all. And the reason is not entirely the result of greater investment, entrepreneurship, and economic growth, but also a reduction in myriad wasteful ways of avoiding this country’s uniquely dispiriting business tax.

All that being said, it is clear that the speaker and his crew are still hoping to force a BAT-or-nothing approach down members’ throats. Recent remarks reported by Politico Pro by Representative Mark Sanford of South Carolina confirm that they haven’t given up on the BAT.

In the final moments of a 12-hour budget markup, Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) abruptly attempted to offer a poison-pill amendment that would have blocked the contentious tax proposal the Freedom Caucus and other influential conservative groups oppose.

Sanford said he was seeking an official assurance that GOP leaders would not include the import tax in their overhaul proposal this year. That policy, which House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has favored, has the potential to be a major source of revenue for the GOP’s plan.

“I’m not saying there’s a guarantee of a BAT going forward, but increasingly, what I’ve seen over the last couple of days, puts it in that direction,” Sanford said. “That puts myself and others on this committee in a bad spot.”

CQ reported a similar story highlighting the fact that Freedom Caucus members are concerned about Ryan attempting to get his BAT anyway he can. It is as if he is committed to killing tax reform.

When speaking about the Republican leadership’s attachment to the BAT (but also their failure to repeal Obamacare) at FreedomFest in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Steve Forbes mentioned that it reminded him of the movie The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In our movie, it’s Speaker Paul Ryan whose body has been snatched and turned into a tax-and-spend Democrat. No kidding.

Radio Free Kudlow

by Jack Fowler

Saturday morning, the grass can wait, because The Larry Kudlow Show will have the nation’s airwaves agog with scintillating wisdom and aged-provolone-sharp analysis of things political and financial. On tomorrow with Lorenzo will be president-whisperer Newt Gingrich, there to discuss Understanding Trump, followed by health-care gurus Betsy McCaughey and the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Moffit, then cometh the market Wise Men, Jeff Kleintop and my paysan, David Bahnsen, to do their thing, ditto for economists Jimmy Pethokoukis and Steve Moore, and then Larry puts a bow on the entire shebang via a one-on-one gab with Representative Jeb Hensarling. Mackerels of holiness, it is not to be missed (but, if you do, or if you’ve missed any recent episode of TLKS, just circle back to the podcasts, always available here).

Joseph Rago, R.I.P.

by John J. Miller

He’s dead at 34, causes unclear. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his editorials at the Wall Street Journal when he was just 28. So he was already one of the great editorialists of his generation–and we were counting on reading him for a lot longer. If you don’t know his name, it’s possibly because so much of what he wrote appeared in the un-bylined “Review and Outlook,” or “Rando,” section of the newspaper. He led the Journal’s excellent opinion coverage of health-care policy and contributed in many other ways. When he won the Pulitzer in 2011, the judges said, “Not paying attention to these editorials was not an option for policymakers.” Here’s the Journal’s obituary. I imagine the opinion pages of tomorrow’s paper will include a fitting tribute to this outstanding young writer whose brilliant career was cut short.

Gove’s ‘Green Brexit’

by Andrew Stuttaford

The story of Britain’s Michael Gove is a sad one. Clever, able and a genuinely original thinker, he was a successful Conservative education minister (until moved on by David Cameron for annoying the wrong—which is to say right—people) and, later, a highly promising justice minister. Then came the EU referendum (Gove was a leading Brexiteer) and a botched plot against Boris Johnson in the chaotic aftermath of its unexpected result. He was relegated to the back benches by incoming Prime Minister Theresa May.

But Gove is not the type to give up easily.

In December came the self-criticism.

BBC (from December):

Former cabinet minister Michael Gove says Theresa May was right to sack him after she became prime minister.

“If I’d been in her shoes, I would have sacked me too,” he told the BBC.

Mr Gove said he regretted standing for the Tory leadership, saying he made “mistakes” in the way he withdrew his support from Boris Johnson. He now had to take the consequences of his decision, including the fact that an act of treachery has become widely known as “doing a Gove”, he said.


[H]e hoped to “make a contribution” in the future.


In February Gove wrote a newspaper article arguing that Value Added Tax (typically levied at 20 percent in the UK) should be imposed on private school fees. This was dressed up as an attack on the ‘plutocrats and oligarchs’ who send their children to some of Britain’s more exclusive private schools, taxes that those wicked creatures could easily pay, but which would cause real pain to less wealthy parents trying to do their best for their children.

Gove is not  a class warrior, but if taking the position he did might help win him some favor with May (no fan of Britain’s posher private schools), well, that, I suspect, was too much of a temptation to resist.

Then came Britain’s general election after which a weakened Theresa May brought Gove out of the cold and into the government as environment minister.

He has now made his first major speech in that new role. As would be expected from Gove, it contains some good material, but he also clearly aligns himself with the conventional wisdom of, for want of a better term, the climate establishment. There’s praise for the “Pulitzer-Prize Winning academic Jared Diamond” (whose Collapse is more contentious than Gove appears to know) and for nutty Lord Deben’s “excellent Committee on Climate Change” and, of course, there’s criticism of Donald Trump’s decision to quit the Paris Climate Accord despite the “current man-made crisis”:

It’s our planet too and America needs to know we can only resolve this problem together.

He reassures his audience that leaving the EU won’t mean any diminution of environmental standards.

[A]s the UK Climate Change Act shows, this country is more than capable of bringing in our own strong legislation to protect the environment, independent of the EU.

The Climate Change Act was a ruinously expensive exercise in virtue-signaling which will have next to no effect on the climate (full disclosure: I am a ’lukewarmer’ myself). As an act of legislative irresponsibility it takes some beating. It should be a source of shame, not pride.

Back to Gove:

Inside the EU, the European Commission and the ECJ [European Court of Justice] have provided enforcement mechanisms. Understandably, some are asking what could or should replace them. My view is that we have an opportunity, outside the EU, to design more effective, more rigorous and more responsive institutions and other means of holding individuals and organisations to account for environmental outcomes.

Translation: More regulation, not less. Yet another reminder that whatever form (hard, soft or whatever)of Brexit is adopted, it will not see a bonfire of controls.

Then we come to Gove’s final summation of his ‘Green Brexit’. You can already imagine how the clichés come tumbling out: Rivers, seas, planet, moral imperative, next generation, stewardship, global, champion, leader, advocate, national mission, and, of course, that phrase so beloved of priests, humbugs and Gutmenschen everywhere: “Social Justice”.

Well, Corbyn would be worse, so there’s that.

Jim Talent on the Trump Jr. Meeting

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Response To...

The Trump Jr. Meeting: A ...

Senator Talent writes, “If I were running in a close race against an opponent who had been credibly accused of using her foundation to do favors for foreign entities, and a contact from one of those entities had approached my campaign with an offer of information, I would have wanted my campaign to follow up, albeit with caution.” Fair enough. My questions for the senator: If the approach to your campaign came from an unfriendly government that said it wished to support your candidacy, would you have taken the meeting? Would you, a few weeks after the meeting, have gone on television to say that the idea that this foreign government was backing your campaign was a disgusting lie? Would you have said, nine months later, that you had not participated in any meetings that had been “set up” with people from that country? Would you, when people started asking about the meeting, have said that it was primarily about adoptions? I think I know Senator Talent well enough to guess that the answer to these questions is no.

An Immigration Horror Story

by Andrew Stuttaford

Trigger warning: This is strong stuff. The LA Times is running a horror story about the effects of a decline in available cheap immigrant labor on the agricultural sector.

The $47-billion agriculture industry is trying to bring technological innovation up to warp speed before it runs out of low-wage immigrant workers.

California will have to remake its fields like it did its factories, with more machines and better-educated workers to labor beside them, or risk losing entire crops, economists say.

Technological innovation.

Increased demand for skilled labor.

But, wait, it gets worse:

[W]ages for crop production have climbed 13% from 2010 to 2015 — a higher rate than the state average, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of Labor Department data.

And worse:

Growers who can afford it have begun offering savings and health plans more commonly found in white collar jobs.

NR Institute Seeking Regional Fellows in Dallas and San Francisco

by Jack Fowler

National Review Institute is seeking applicants for its Fall 2017 Regional Fellows Programs in San Francisco and Dallas. The ideal applicant will be a mid career professional, working in a non-policy professional setting. Past Fellows have represented diverse industries and professions ranging from oil and gas, venture capital, real estate, medicine, sporting industries, law enforcement, education, nonprofits, and the arts. The program takes place over eight moderated dinner discussions. The 2017 Class will run from mid September to mid November. Moderators include popular writers and speakers at National Review and leading academics at local universities. The cost? Free. The rewards? Plentiful, and lasting a lifetime. The deadline to apply is July 31. To do that, and to find more information about the Program, visit NRI here. And if you don’t live in Big D or SF, but know folks who do and who might be NRI fellow material, please share this with them.

Breaking: Sean Spicer Resigns

by Alexandra DeSanctis

This morning — just hours after news broke that the Trump administration had appointed Anthony Scaramucci to be communications director — White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced his resignation.

According to reports, Spicer told President Trump that he strongly disagreed with the appointment of Scaramucci, an entrepreneur and New York financier. It appears that Spicer resigned over that disagreement, despite the fact that the president asked him to remain on the team.

Spicer has served as White House press secretary since Trump’s inauguration in January, and his tenure has been marked by notable tension between him and the news media. Though he was highly visible in the early months of the presidency, his public role seemed to diminish over time as his combative style continued to cause conflict with journalists.

He also struggled over the last six months to defend some of the president’s more outrageous behavior, often to do with his bombastic tweets. On several occasions, Trump publicly contradicted Spicer, giving the impression of internal division between the president and his communications team. Several reports over the last few months have suggested that Trump believed Spicer was not doing enough to defend him to the media.

Spicer says he will stay on to help with the transition.

Update 2:30 P.M.: The White House has announced that deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will take over for Spicer as White House press secretary.

Will You Have the Back of Free Speech?

by Jack Fowler

The good folks at National Review Institute are determined to hold the line against the leftist onslaught against free speech, free worship, open debate, tolerance, due process, and all the other tenets that comprise those unalienable rights upon which our republic is founded. Hence the founding of the Center for Unalienable Rights, to feature the freedom-defending efforts and elucidating analysis (you must listen to The Liberty Files podcast) of NRI fellow David French. There is an objective: raising $100,000 by July 31. This will fund just some of the project. To date, very good people have contributed some $32,000 to help launch the Center. There’s still a ways to go over the next few days.

These too are the times that try men’s souls, so I’m hoping that all Francophiles, or anyone who is torqued by the madness of the multiculturalists and the shoot-first Thought Police, might see their way to making some contribution (tax deductible!) to this important effort. You can do so here.

Is There Such a Thing as Enough Winston Churchill?

by Jim Geraghty

On the op-ed page of today’s Wall Street Journal, the usually excellent Dorothy Rabinowitz offers a critical assessment of Christopher Nolan’s new film “Dunkirk,” in particular lamenting the fact that Winston Churchill does not appear in any scene.

“Dunkirk,” opening in theaters Friday, is noteworthy in many respects. Not least for its creator’s decision—on the interesting ground that it would make things clearer for audiences—to avoid any appearance of Churchill. Of, that is, the newly appointed prime minister central to this story: the voice of that embattled Britain whose citizens, answering their government’s call, set out to rescue its army, stranded on the beaches of northern France in May of 1940.

… It’s possible of course that a director less apprehensive about appearing old-fashioned might have risked an actual clip of the prime minister without undue harm to the audience.

In the bleak days of 1940, Churchill told his cabinet: “If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each of us lies choking on his own blood on the ground.” If Batman ever said anything remotely as interesting, he’d have our devoted attention.

Rabinowitz has seen the film and I haven’t, so maybe she’s right that Churchill’s absence feels strange, off-putting, or feels like a glaring omission. But let me offer one possible defense of Nolan’s decision.

In June, Churchill, starring Brian Cox as the title character, was released in theaters. In November, Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman as the prime minister, will be released. That’s two Churchill biopics hitting theaters within a few months, and the trailer for Darkest Hour suggests the Dunkirk evacuation is a significant plot point. This isn’t counting 2016’s Churchill’s Secret, where Michael Gambon played the prime minister, 2009’s Into the Storm, where Brendan Gleeson played Churchill, or Albert Finney portrayal of him in 2002’s The Gathering Storm. At one point, Kevin Spacey was attached to another biography film about Churchill entitled Captain of the Gate.

In other words, the types of audiences most interested in watching a World War II drama have seen a lot of distinguished actors play Churchill lately, and perhaps Nolan found that ground too well-trod cinematically to offer anything new.

There Is No Teen-Pregnancy Epidemic in Texas

by Michael J. New

Since Texas removed Planned Parenthood’s state funding in 2011, the mainstream media have been on a constant search for evidence of a resulting public-health crisis. A new study by Analisa Packham, an economics professor at Miami University, has nicely served that purpose. Packham’s study purports to show that recent funding cuts to the Texas Family Planning Program have led to statistically significant increases in both teen abortions and teen births in the state. A number of mainstream media outlets have covered the study, including HuffPost, the Dallas Morning News, and the Houston Chronicle.  

Packham’s study analyzes county-level data on teen births and teen abortions, and she compares both teen birth rates and teen abortion rates in a group of Texas counties to those of other counties around the country. Using regression analysis — holding constant various demographic and economic factors — she argues that cuts to Texas family-planning programs increased teen birth rates by 3.4 percent and increased teen abortion rates by 3.1 percent.

While Packham’s study is interesting and analytically rigorous, the media have missed the big picture. Based on the media coverage of this study, one would think that there was a teen-pregnancy epidemic in Texas. But the legislature cut funding to the Texas Family Planning program in 2011, and since then there have actually been large reductions in both the abortion rate and birth rate among minors in Texas. Specifically, between 2011 and 2014, the number of Texas minors who gave birth fell by over 24 percent. During the same period, the number of abortions performed on minor girls in Texas fell by 28 percent. This is the opposite of a public-health crisis.

If both abortions and births among Texas minors have fallen since 2011, why does Packham’s statistical model show a different result? There are a few possibilities. First, it is possible that demographically and economically similar counties outside of Texas might have experienced slightly larger declines in the teen birth rate. What’s more, Packham’s statistical model effectively analyzes percentage changes in both teen births and teen abortions. Some very low-population counties in Texas might have seen small aggregate increases but high percentage increases in either teen births or teen abortions, skewing the results.  

Packham’s study has apparently been accepted for publication by the Journal of Health Economics. Once it is published, other researchers will be able to request the full data, which could give scholars helpful information about the effects of family-planning programs. Until then, and perhaps even afterward, the mainstream media will likely continue repeating the misleading narrative that Planned Parenthood–funding cuts caused a public-health crisis in Texas.

You’re a Bad, Bad Man, O.J.

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week…

For one brief period on Thursday afternoon, we went back to the 1990s.

The good news is that at age 70, former football star, convicted felon and Totally-Not-a-Double-Murderer-He-Swears O.J. Simpson is less likely to represent a physical threat to anyone else. This is good, because he is likely to be walking the streets on parole this autumn.

The bad news is that once again we saw shockingly implausible claims made on his behalf in a legal proceeding, and those who sit in judgment of him just shrugged it off.

“I’ve basically spent a conflict-free life. I’m not a guy that ever got into fights on the street with the public and everybody,” Simpson told the parole board.

Are you kidding me? Even if we accept the jury’s decision on the charges of double murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, let’s take a look at that history of violence before the arrest for murder charges:

The reports say that when police arrived at Simpson’s North Rockingham Avenue house Jan. 1, 1989, they saw Nicole Simpson running out of some bushes, bruised and scratched.

“He’s going to kill me, he’s going to kill me,” she cried while running toward the officers, one of them wrote. “She kept saying: ‘You never do anything about him. You talk to him and then leave.”

During a fight after a New Year’s Eve party at the house, Simpson had punched and kicked his wife and pulled her hair and screamed, “I’ll kill you!” according to the documents. He had slapped her so hard, one police report said, that a handprint was left on her neck.

Four months later, when Simpson pleaded no contest to spousal battery charges, Municipal Judge Ronald Schoenberg overruled prosecutors’ requests that he serve a month in jail because of the severity of the beating and undergo an intensive yearlong treatment program for men who batter their wives.

Instead, according to the court documents and interviews with prosecutors Thursday, Simpson received no jail time and was allowed to pick his own psychiatrist and receive counseling over the phone, which prosecutors said was unprecedented.

Then the 911 call from Nicole Brown Simpson in October 1993:

911: Okay. You just want him to leave?

NS: My door. He broke the whole back door in.

911: And then he left and he came back?

NS: He came and he practically knocked my upstairs door down but he pounded it and he screamed and hollered and I tried to get him out of the bedroom because the kids are sleeping in there.

Then Simpson lost the civil suit about the wrongful deaths of Goldman and his ex-wife. And then he was convicted of kidnapping and robbery.

This may be only the second most shocking legal decision involving O.J. Simpson, but let’s face it, that top one is a high bar to clear.

O.J. Simpson is as “conflict-free” as Syria.

Krauthammer’s Take: McCain Is the ‘Spirit of Reaganism’

by NR Staff

John McCain represents the ideas of Reagan, Charles Krauthammer argued tonight, and there is no obvious successor to him within the Republican party.

Krauthammer explained why McCain is so special:

I think he’s sort of the spirit of Reaganism. Not only was he even more heroic than Reagan himself in his own life, but he carried the ideas of Reagan — this expansive, optimistic, aggressive American confidence in itself, and that I think is waning among Republicans, among the whole country. And I think there’s a kind of a symbolism in him being struck down in this sense by this illness. I think it reflects that waning. And we are going to miss him because he is the one — I don’t want to give an obituary — but I’m just saying over time, if you think who would succeed McCain, I don’t think he has a successor.


Yeah, Trump Is Probably Going to Fire Robert Mueller

by Rich Lowry

The Trump New York Times interview was, as Jim pointed out, a wholly gratuitous slap at Jeff Sessions (that aside, the interview is classic, madcap, highly entertaining Trump, e.g. “Napoleon finished a little bit bad”). The 3-D-chess theory of the interview would be that Trump is trying to force Sessions out in favor of a non-recused attorney general who can rein in Mueller, as outlined by Andy. The reality is almost certainly that Trump is still angry at Sessions and wanted to humiliate him a little more over his recusal. The most telling part of the interview is this section (excuse the long excerpt):

SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years [crosstalk].

SCHMIDT: But if he was outside that lane, would that mean he’d have to go?


HABERMAN: Would you consider——

TRUMP: No, I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company. And actually, when I do my filings, peoples say, “Man.” People have no idea how successful this is. It’s a great company. But I don’t even think about the company anymore. I think about this. ’Cause one thing, when you do this, companies seem very trivial. O.K.? I really mean that. They seem very trivial. But I have no income from Russia. I don’t do business with Russia. The gentleman that you mentioned, with his son, two nice people. But basically, they brought the Miss Universe pageant to Russia to open up, you know, one of their jobs. Perhaps the convention center where it was held. It was a nice evening, and I left. I left, you know, I left Moscow. It wasn’t Moscow, it was outside of Moscow.

HABERMAN: Would you fire Mueller if he went outside of certain parameters of what his charge is? [crosstalk]

SCHMIDT: What would you do?


TRUMP: I can’t, I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.

The reason I tend to think Trump will end up firing Mueller is that this almost certainly going to happen (for those keeping score at home, I asked the percentage chance that Trump will fire Mueller on The Editors podcast today: Michael Brendan Dougherty was 200 percent; Charlie was 50 percent; and I was 70 percent or higher). This kind of expansion of an investigation is what special counsels do, and there is nothing to indicate that Mueller is going to limit his work, in fact the opposite. Bloomberg is reporting that Mueller is already looking at Trump’s business transactions. Maybe that report is premature, but it’s probably where this is headed.

All sorts of people will tell Trump not to fire Mueller. But we can be pretty certain that Trump didn’t sign up for a free-floating investigation into his businesses and that he believes — and must feel confirmed in the belief — that fortune favors the recklessly bold. If Trump doesn’t fire Mueller, it will only be because every other day he’s talked out of following his instincts.