Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Darkest Hours

Darkest Hours

Plus: Pentagon abortion policy, renouncing DSA membership, AI chatbot problems, and more…


Ground invasion looking likely: “Every Hamas member is a dead man,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech yesterday, accompanied by his newly formed wartime cabinet, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and opposition leader Benny Gantz. “Hamas is ISIS, and we will crush and eliminate it just as the world crushed and eliminated ISIS.”

“Israel is in one of its darkest hours ever,” said Gantz. Following this past weekend’s massacre of Israelis by Hamas, the military is sending troops to the Gaza border, which signals the increasing likelihood of a ground invasion. Israeli airline El Al will, for the first time since the 1980s, fly on Shabbat, carrying army reservists back from around the world.

Hamas has abducted more than 150 people total—almost all civilians—and “threatened to execute them one by one and videotape the killings each time an Israeli airstrike hits Gazans in their homes,” per The New York Times. Some of the hostages are confirmed to be Americans, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on the ground in Israel now. (The total American death toll went up to 25 overnight.).

Meanwhile, power has gone out in Gaza after Israel blockaded the strip, cutting off access to fuel that’s used for the region’s only power plant. Generators are powering the main hospital, Al-Shifa, but authorities in Palestine say they only have three days’ worth of fuel, max, left. “It feels like the world is collapsing,” one Gazan told reporters.

Pentagon abortion policy? If you read Roundup yesterday, you’ll note that I mentioned that the U.S. currently has no ambassador to Israel. The reason why? Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R–Ala.) is protesting a controversial Pentagon policy that facilitates service members traveling to get abortions by reimbursing their travel expenses and allowing them up to three weeks of paid leave for this purpose.

As part of this protest, Tuberville is holding up the confirmations of not only the ambassador to Israel but also two nominees for Joint Chiefs and tons of high-up military promotions.

“Tuberville’s blockade is unique because it affects hundreds of military nominations and promotions,” reports the Associated Press. “Democratic leaders would have to hold roll call votes on every one to get around the hold, an unwieldy and time-consuming process in a chamber that already struggles to finish its basic business.”

For people with deeply held moral objections to abortion—like myself—the fact that so many workplaces (Meta, Airbnb, KPMG, JP MorganTesla, Disney, Amazon, Netflix) now offer “abortion benefits” in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision is disturbing. But more practically, it creates problems when those issuing such benefits are divided on their prudence and morality; Tuberville and many of his Republican colleagues clearly stand in opposition to the federal government providing such lenience for abortion-seekers, which has now resulted in the bizarre ambassador holdup as war breaks out in the Middle East.

“Partisan antics have gotten in the way of key nominations and military promotions for too long,” Sen. Chris Coons (D–Del.) said recently. Coons unfortunately seems oblivious to the idea that it’s actually partisan antics on both sides that have led to this situation.

Congressional kerfuffles: Representatives in the House remain unsure who they want to elect as speaker following the historic ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R–Calif.) last week. After meeting privately yesterday, Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R–La.) seems like the narrow favorite.

He “won the GOP conference’s nomination for speaker by a 113-99 vote, but he needs 217 votes to become speaker and thus can only afford to lose around four Republican votes on the House floor,” reports Axios.

That said, “if Republicans aren’t able to line up behind either of the two leading contenders to be speaker of the House—Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio—there is a third possibility that a bloc of Republicans favors: the former speaker, Representative Kevin McCarthy,” reports The New York Times. We will be living through Groundhog Day, forevermore.

Scenes from New York:

New York’s new short-term rental regulations have the most predictable consequences ever:
As one property owner told me last month, “The city is treating our private property as the city’s housing stock.”


  • One could also have chosen to renounce DSA membership because of the bloody record of socialism in Venezuela, Cuba, and pretty much everywhere else it’s been tried, but I guess I’ll take this too. Better late than never:
  • This:
  • Sussing out which reports from the Israel-Hamas war are false.
  • Tune into Reason TV’s YouTube channel to watch Zach Weissmueller and I interview terrorism expert Max Abrahms at 1 p.m. ET today.
  • “A federal judge cleared the way Wednesday for enforcement of a public health order that suspends the right to carry guns at public parks and playgrounds in New Mexico’s largest metro area,” reports the Associated Press. It’s stunning to me that this can be deemed public health.
  • “Country Garden, the largest Chinese developer by contracted sales last year, warned Tuesday that it doesn’t expect to be able to repay all its U.S. dollar bonds and other offshore debts—after missing a 470 million Hong Kong dollar loan repayment, equivalent to around $60 million,” reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • An extremely weak piece from The New York Times that sugarcoats the antisemitism on display in Times Square over the weekend.
  • How is Google’s AI chatbot doing?
  • Inside the human rights abuses in China’s fishing industry.
  • “[Michael] Lewis likes to write about figures who survey the informational landscape, weigh the probabilities, and, under conditions of uncertainty, take expensive gambles—which is exactly what Lewis himself has done,” writes Gideon Lewis-Kraus for The New Yorker on the author’s new Sam Bankman-Fried book.
Liz Wolfe is an associate editor at Reason covering tech, free speech, and China and co-host of the Reason Livestream. She has interviewed sex workerstattoo artistsventure capitaliststech CEOscrypto hype men, and the occasional restaurateur. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.


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