URLs du Jour

2021-07-18

  • One of the mantras I try to live by is lightly adapted from an old Elvis Costello song: I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused.

    It's not always an easy path to follow. Still…

    One of the things I'm amused by is illustrated by this recent juxtaposition at the WSJ editorial page:

    From the American Booksellers Association website, April 4:

    This year’s Banned Books Week, the annual celebration of the right to read, will be held September 26–October 2, 2021.

    Banned Books Week was founded in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community—librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, students, and readers of all types—in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas.

    From a July 14 statement by the American Booksellers Association:

    An anti-trans book was included in our July mailing to members. This is a serious, violent incident that goes against ABA’s ends policies [sic], values, and everything we believe and support. It is inexcusable.

    We apologize to our trans members and to the trans community for this terrible incident and the pain we caused them. We also apologize to the LGBTQIA+ community at large, and to our bookselling community.

    Yes, the proud opponent of book-banning three months ago is now making a groveling apology for not banning a book.

    Jerry Coyne has a good summary of the incident: The American Booksellers Association apologizes for mailing out Abigail Shrier’s book, calling it a “serious, violent incident”. Unlike (I'm sure) most of the critics, he's read the book:

    And of course we’ve talked a bit about Shrier’s book, which I’ve just read. It is neither transphobic nor full of hate; it simply raises issues connected with “rapid onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD), an exponentially increasing condition among adolescent girls in which they decide they want to be boys and, with the help of compliant parents, therapists, and doctors (and often without proper vetting) begin taking puberty blockers and then have hormonal and often surgical treatment. Shrier’s point was that this phenomenon may partly stem from social-media pressure and the valorization of being “trans”, which brings you attention you wouldn’t get if you simply declared yourself a lesbian. It may often be associated with mental illness, and in many cases may go away on its own. Further, ROGD is often not treated according to rigorous standards promoted by some medical associations.

    Shrier’s point, and that of Jesse Singal, whom we discussed yesterday, is that we have little data on the form of gender dysphoria which comes on quickly in adolescent girls (it’s much rarer in boys), and before we go injecting hormones and cutting, we need much more extensive medical and psychological data. Shrier’s book is valuable because it calls attention to a phenomenon that needs attention, and should promote not only discussion, but the necessary research.  Shrier’s book is thus a valuable contribution to a discussion.

    But many trans activists don’t want that discussion. Like [ACLU staff attorney in charge of gender issues] Chase Strangio, they want Shrier’s book banned, arguing that simply bringing up the issue is itself a case of “transphobia.” That’s as far from the truth as you can get, for if you read Irreversible Damage, you’ll see that Shrier is sympathetic to the plight of transsexual people and only wants to ensure that those with ROGD are treated properly.

    Yeah, you read that correctly: a lawyer working for the ACLU wants to stop "circulation" of Shrier's book. The American Freakin' Civil Liberties Union.

    No, I refuse to be disgusted.

    Many links and more discussion at Jerry's place. I haven't read the book myself. Despite its best-seller status at Amazon, it is of course unavailable at either Portsmouth (NH) Public Library, or Rollinsford (NH) Public Library.

    Nor does it seem to be available at our local "independent" bookstore, ironically named A Freethinkers Corner. Free Thinkers don't want to think about that!


  • Tough to be Amused About This, Though. Jacob Sullum at Reason notes A Record Number of Drug-Related Deaths Illustrates the Lethal Consequences of Prohibition.

    The United States saw a record number of drug-related deaths in 2020. The total exceeded 93,000, which was up 29 percent from 2019, according to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 2020 spike—the largest ever recorded—was largely attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic and the legal restrictions it provoked. But drug-related deaths already were rising before anyone had heard of the coronavirus, not just despite but also because of the government's efforts to prevent people from using psychoactive substances.

    The new CDC numbers confirm the folly of relying on supply control measures to reduce drug fatalities. Those policies are based on the premise that drug availability by itself causes drug-related deaths, which is clearly not true in light of the social, economic, and psychological factors that plausibly explain last year's surge. In any case, attacking production and distribution through legal restrictions, interdiction, seizures, and arrests rarely has a significant or lasting impact on prices or availability. Worse, those interventions drive substitutions that make drug use deadlier, as illustrated by the rise of illicit fentanyl and the crackdown on prescription pain medication, which accelerated the upward trend in opioid-related deaths.

    Jacob has been working the drug prohibition beat for many years, and I imagine he could have written the entire article in his sleep, just plugging in the latest available facts.

    But hey, there's good news for Granite Staters in the latest CDC OD stats: New Hampshire was only one of two states where deaths decreased from 2019 to 2020!

    But it's also bad news, because our OD deaths were already way high.


  • Cue Admiral Akbar! Robert H. Bork Jr. is sad to report: Conservatives Step into the Left’s Antitrust Trap.

    When Daniel Oliver, the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under Ronald Reagan, comes out in The American Spectator in favor of realigning antitrust law to break up large corporations — “big can be bad after all” — it should be news. The only thing more counterintuitive would be an Instagram post of current FTC chair Lina Khan engrossed in a copy of Free to Choose.

    Oliver’s change of heart, like that of many leading conservatives, is fueled by white-hot anger at woke corporations — social-media giants that cancel posts and stamp warning labels on conservative opinions, online retailers that blacklist books, and other businesses that throw their economic might behind progressive causes. While I am skeptical of Oliver’s claim that the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop cost Donald Trump the election, he’s not wrong to imagine woke legions in content departments always at work like diabolical elves, suppressing what they see as indefensible points of view. The result is an ideological bowdlerization of social media that ought to — and does — make every conservative’s blood boil.

    Oliver thinks that Robert Bork Sr. would be disowning his advocacy of the "consumer-welfare standard". Junior disagrees, and is pretty convincing. Antitrust should not be the tool to battle the wokeness of social media sites.

    He's not so convincing at his alternate solution: "fixing" Section 230 to put those sites on a liability hook for customer-posted content.


  • Because Moral Panic. Kyle Smith takes to the NYPost to wonder: Why must everything — from ‘Real Housewives’ to the NFL to yoga — be about race. It is toxic for America.

    “The Real Housewives of New York” has turned into a tiresome ongoing race spat, and has predictably been rewarded with record-low ratings. The National Football League is playing the “black national anthem.” That effort effectively rebrands “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a white national anthem and further divides America in what is supposed to be a unifying ceremony.

    Even yoga is now white supremacy, according to the new book “Yoke” (yoga meets woke, I guess).

    Celebrity yoga teacher Jessamyn Stanley told People, “I think that when you bring up cultural appropriation in yoga, everyone’s butthole clenches because everybody’s like, ‘Oh s—, I think I might be guilty of this,’ or, ‘I could be apart of this and that doesn’t feel good.’ ”

    Kyle's article is good, of course, but I found myself wondering … At the NYPost, you can quote someone saying "butthole" without hyphening-out letters, but "shit" has to be spelled "s---"? WTF?


  • Also, the Acid of Hypocrisy. Jonah Goldberg's G-File is pretty good this week, with a Deep Thought: The ‘Rust of Memory’ Is Corrosive to Our Politics.

    He meditates on Biden's (apparent) favorite slogan: "America is back." And wonders how it sounds to Afghans about to be, once again, under Taliban rule. "Excuse me, President Joe. Shouldn't that be 'America is leaving?'"

    But there’s another meaning to “America is back.” It’s an unsubtle dig at Trump and a subtle bit of liberal nostalgia all at once. It’s kind of a progressive version of “Make America Great Again.” It rests on the assumption that one group of liberal politicians speaks for the real America, and now that those politicians are back in power, the real America is back, too. But the problem is, there is no one real America. There are some 330 million Americans and they, collectively and individually, cannot be shoe-horned into a single vision regardless of what labels you yoke to the effort.

    Liberals were right to point out that there was a lot of coding in “Make America Great Again.” I think they sometimes overthought what Trump meant by it, because I don’t think he put a lot of thought into it. He heard a slogan, liked the sound of it, and turned it into a rallying cry—just as he did with “America first,” “silent majority,” and “fake news.” Still, when, exactly, was America great in Trump’s vision? The consensus seems to be the 1950s, a time when a lot of good things were certainly happening, but a lot of bad things were going on that we wouldn’t want to restore.

    Liberal nostalgia is a funny thing. Conservative nostalgia I understand, because I’m a conservative and I’m prone to nostalgia (even though nostalgia can be a corrupting thing, which is why Robert Nisbet called it “the rust of memory”). Conservatives tend to be nostalgic for how they think people lived. Liberals tend to be nostalgic about times when they had power.

    I'm nostalgic for 60s music. Except every so often, I hear something like "Yummy Yummy Yummy", and I realize that Sturgeon's Law applied even there.


Last Modified 2021-07-19 4:17 AM EST