Our Best Stuff From a Week We Flew a Helicopter on Mars

Well, not us, specifically.

Happy Sunday! I’m thinking a lot about science this week. Regular readers probably know by now that one of my pet peeves is that everything is politicized these days. It consumes us and makes us cranky. Sometimes, it makes us stupid, like when Major League Baseball gets woke and ships the All-Star Game and its $100 million in extra economic activity from Atlanta—where 30 percent of businesses are minority-owned—to Denver—where less than 5 percent are—in the name of anti-racism. 

When it comes to science, the politicization is actually dangerous. Like with the pandemic, where some on the right decried masks as an affront to their personal freedoms and teachers unions remained hesitant to send their members back into schools despite evidence that it was reasonably safe.

But there’s a lesser problem that bugs me. It makes science less cool, and it makes us less curious about amazing happenings. Now, science was never one of my best subjects in school, but it was always one of my favorites. So let’s talk about that this week. 

First, as Jonah wrote about in his Friday G-File, the world could have a malaria vaccine soon. Now, that might not seem like a big deal in the U.S., but the disease kills 400,000 people in Africa each year. He gives a brief rundown on how mosquitos and the disease they carry have shaped the course of human history. It’s heady stuff. And now we could have a solution that would save hundreds of thousands of lives a year. 

And … we flew a helicopter on Mars this week. Just think about that. Not only have we perfected the ability to send a spacecraft 293 million miles away and land it on another planet, we are now equipping that spacecraft with its own aircraft. Meanwhile, over here in the Ohio bureau we’ve never even learned to fly a drone in our backyard. 

That’s not all. Just yesterday, SpaceX sent four astronauts to the International Space Station. It barely registered a blip in the news cycle. It’s good for us to pay attention to these stories. A malaria vaccine is a gift to all of humanity. And exploring the universe beyond our planet represents our curiosity, our quest for knowledge, our desire to understand what is out there. 

And celebrating those victories is way more interesting than wondering whether Marjorie Taylor Greene is serious about debating Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, or what various people in Congress are saying on Fox News, or whatever is happening on political Twitter. 

Now, for our best stuff from the week.

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‘It’s Not Difficult to Win an Election When Your Opponents Are Not on the Ballot’

The eyes of the world are on Russia, where this week thousands of people have protested the regime’s treatment of political prisoner Alexei Navalny. After spending five months in Germany recovering from a poisoning attempt, Navalny returned to Russia in January and was promptly arrested. Fellow Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza has also survived two poisonings at the hand of the Putin regime. Kara-Murza sat down for an interview with contributor Danielle Pletka in which they discussed his political career, the revolution of 1991, how the Putin regime works to shut out opponents, and what Navalny is going through right now. “We have now people in Russia who have been born, went to kindergarten, went to school, went to university, got married, got children, they started their first jobs and all this while, one and the same man has been staying in power,” Kara-Murza said.. “A mind boggling fact in itself. It’s just not normal, in a European country in the 21st century, for one man to stay in power for so long. And that’s actually the source of a lot of the recent shifts in public opinion against the Putin regime. It’s not even maybe specific policy disagreements or opposition to specific actions, it’s just the fact that people have had enough. “

Keep Social Justice Out of the Courtroom

A Minneapolis jury convicted Derek Chauvin on second-degree murder charges (as well as third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter) Tuesday in the death of George Floyd. While many Americans celebrated and others sighed in relief, the verdict was just not enough for some activists, who wanted to use the Floyd case to put the whole criminal justice on trial. Jonah points out the many flaws with this idea. “Whatever you make of various claims about ‘systemic racism,’ they have no place in a murder trial of a police officer any more than various claims about ‘black crime’ in a trial of an individual black citizen,” he writes. 

Don’t Create False Villains To Serve a Greater Good

On the same day that Derek Chauvin was convicted, there was a tragic police shooting in Columbus, Ohio. While some were eager to draw a parallel to George Floyd’s death and others--including the ACLU of Ohio--immediately called Ma’Khia Bryant’s death a murder, David cautioned against such kneejerk reactions. A Columbus police officer shot Bryant as she was  lunging with a knife at another young woman. David carefully describes the scene laid out by both the officer’s bodycam footage and a security video from a neighbor’s house across the street and writes, “To say that this video complicated the ACLU’s ‘murder’ allegation was an understatement. All at once, the narrative didn’t just change. It potentially flipped entirely. The available evidence indicated not only that the cop wasn’t a villain, he may be a hero. He may have stopped a murder.” David also walks through why it would have been bad for the officer to use a taser, shoot Bryant in the leg, or attempt to de-escalate the situation. “There are too many police shootings,” he concludes. “But it is simply wrong to try to force every police shooting into the same narrative. It is very wrong to treat cops who stop murders the same as we treat cops who commit murders.” 

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And the best of the rest:

  • In Capitolism (🔒), Scott Lincicome looks at the reasons there are so many job openings while millions of Americans are still out of work. One reason is the federal government’s enhanced unemployment compensation, as Steve wrote about last week. But there’s also the matter of workers feeling unsafe, especially in public-facing jobs in retail and hospitality, and the fact that parents (mostly moms) have left the workforce because schools and daycares have stayed closed or been limited in some places.

  • Congress has been kicking around police reform ideas since George Floyd’s death last May. House Democrats passed a bill, and Senate Republicans introduced their own legislation. But the Senate never voted on the House bill, and Senate Democrats blocked a vote on the GOP bill. In Uphill, Haley reports that GOP Sen. Tim Scott is working with Democrats Sen. Cory Booker and California Rep. Karen Bass on bipartisan legislation. Haley breaks down the various provisions in the House and Senate point by point. 

  • Chris Stirewalt points out that Biden’s refugee cap kerfuffle—when the administration announced it would not be raising the Trump administration’s low refugee cap and then quickly backtracked—highlights the problem the president has trying to govern while also appeasing progressive activists in his party.

  • Progressives like Elizabeth Warren and populists like Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley are both eager to curtail the power of Big Tech by changing antitrust laws. Trace Mitchell argues that abandoning the consumer welfare standard, and with it the idea that regulating mergers and policing business should benefit consumers rather than competitors, would be a terrible idea.

  • On the pods: Sarah interviews former U.S. attorney Zach Terwilliger on the Friday Dispatch Podcast about the Chauvin conviction and what to expect when Chauvin is sentenced. On Advisory Opinions, Sarah and David discuss the week at the Supreme Court and answer listener mail. And if you, like many of us, are still using “scare quotes” in reference to the Biden administration’s “infrastructure” package, you’ll enjoy Jonah’s conversation with economist Brian Riedl on The Remnant.