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TL(PM) DIGEST: New SpaceX rocket goes boom
Plus the Chicago mayor-elect's disappointing response on violent crime, Russian influence operations revealed in Germany and America, and Europe's new green protectionism
1. New SpaceX rocket explodes after launch
What happened? SpaceX’s new Super Heavy rocket carrying its Starship spacecraft launched yesterday to great fanfare. The rocket ultimately blew apart a few minutes after lift-off. As reported by The Economist:
Two minutes in, the rocket had reached an altitude of 20km (12 miles) and was travelling at 1,600kph, even though at least two more of its engines had shut down.
By minute three, though, it was clear that something was wrong. The rest of the engines had not cut off at the appointed time; the rocket seemed to be changing its orientation strangely; the separation of the second stage, a prototype spaceship called Starship, from the Super Heavy was not progressing as intended. As video showed the rocket continuing to tumble, John Insprucker, a SpaceX engineer providing commentary for the company’s live feed, delivered a technical understatement for the ages: “obviously…this does not appear to be a nominal situation”. A few seconds later, with the rocket clearly out of control, its “flight termination system” did what it was meant to and blew it up over the Gulf of Mexico.
Why does it matter? Although this test flight was unsuccessful, the Super Heavy rocket and the Starship spacecraft remain critical to NASA’s efforts to return astronauts to the Moon no earlier than 2025. While it didn’t go as well as SpaceX and many others hoped, the test flight will still provide valuable data that can help the company and NASA further refine their designs.
TLP’s take: Elon Musk deserves much of the criticism he gets, and it’s probably not a good idea to put too many public policy eggs into the basket of his companies. Still, he deserves credit for taking risks with ventures like SpaceX and Tesla, both of which receive significant public support to help further national priorities like space exploration and electric vehicle manufacturing.
2. Chicago’s new mayor-elect not off to a good start on violent crime
What happened? Hundreds of young people descended on downtown Chicago last weekend and violently assaulted innocent people. Two teenage boys were shot, cars were set ablaze, and area property was looted and vandalized in the mayhem.
Why does it matter? Like many other big cities, Chicago has a serious crime problem. In response to the violence and mayhem last weekend, Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson downplayed the actions and said the teenagers involved should not be “demonized” and deserve “investments.”
TLP’s take: Good luck with this naïve approach to crime. Political leaders are supposed to establish order and public safety—not undermine it. Citizens in all neighborhoods deserve to be able to walk their streets without fear of violent attacks from anyone, and people who commit these crimes should be held fully accountable for their actions, regardless of their age or background.
3. Russian influence campaigns persist in the U.S. and its allies
What happened? The Washington Post reports on leaked Russian documents that detail how Moscow worked to unify the far-right and the far-left in Germany around an “anti-war,” pro-Kremlin platform and stir up anti-Ukraine sentiment. On Tuesday, a federal grand jury in Tampa indicted four Americans and three Russian intelligence agents on charges that they “recruited, funded and directed U.S. political groups to act as unregistered illegal agents of the Russian government and sow discord and spread pro-Russian propaganda” for at least eight years.
Why does it matter? The indictment and classified intelligence shows that Moscow still engages in “active measures” against the United States and its allies, with the aim of mobilizing extremes on both left and right to serve the Kremlin’s foreign policy ends. It’d be wrong to attribute every such alliance to Russian machinations, but these recent disclosures are an important reminder that Moscow clearly intends to meddle in the domestic politics of America and its allies.
TLP’s take: Russian active measures campaigns against America and its allies are indeed worrying, but in the United States, at least, they have far less influence on our national debates than Putin’s echo chambers on both left and right. Loud voices in these echo chambers like Tucker Carlson and Glenn Greenwald are more than capable of carrying the Kremlin’s water on their own without any outside help—and as a result, they’re far more effective in advancing Russian narratives than any half-baked schemes cooked up in Moscow.
4. EU imposes world’s first climate tariffs
What happened? The European Parliament approved the world’s first climate-related import taxes this week, levying duties on products from countries that don’t put a price on carbon emissions. These tariffs aim to protect European businesses against rivals who can lower production costs by relying on processes and inputs—like coal-fired power plants—that emit carbon at higher rates.
Why does it matter? This protectionist measure aims to export Europe’s own stringent climate regulations, offering relief from climate tariffs to countries that adopt stronger rules regarding carbon emissions. As things stand now, however, American businesses—along with Chinese and developing nation exporters—will face European tariffs.
TLP’s take: For all the European complaints about the supposedly protectionist measures taken by the United States in the Inflation Reduction Act, the European Union has just enacted the most protectionist climate measure of all: direct climate tariffs on imports from other nations. That doesn’t mean these measures are a bad idea, however—but it does mean that European complaints about alleged American “protectionism” should not be taken very seriously, and that the United States and its allies need to better coordinate their industrial and trade policies in this new era.
Just one more thing…
Witness the “super bloom” of California wildflowers, an explosion of color brought about by cooler spring temperatures and an overabundance of water over the winter.