URLs du Jour

2022-06-17

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  • Joe, I recommend you use our Amazon Product du Jour, the GloFX Hypno Levitation Wand, for your next effort. David Harsanyi notes that our president thinks David Copperfield runs oil companies: After Promising To Regulate American Oil Out Of Business, Biden Asking Them To Magically Lower Prices.

    Democrats have spent decades warning that the United States must stop using the most efficient and affordable energy sources or it will be consumed by heat waves, fireballs, and cataclysmic weather events. Every flood, every hurricane—every natural event, really—is now blamed on climate change. We have burdened our children with an irrational dread over their future. Then again, many in The Cult of Malthus won’t even have children.

    So, why, if we’re on the precipice of this apocalypse, if saving the planet trumps every other concern, is Joe Biden begging everyone to drill? On the days Democrats aren’t blaming Putin for rising gas prices (a cost the president not long ago argued was worth paying for “freedom”), they’re blaming oil companies for profiteering. Wednesday, as the national average hit $5.014 (nearly two dollars higher than last year), Joe Biden sent letters to refining companies threatening to once again abuse his executive powers if they do not immediately alleviate high prices—a political appeal to the imaginary “greedflation.”

    I watched the last (sigh) Norm Macdonald special on Netflix the other night, and he had a small bit about scapegoats. "You know who should be the scapegoats? Goats!"


  • I always fail those purity tests. Virginia Postrel writes perceptively on Purity, Sorcery, and Cancel Culture.

    In between other subjects and more pressing deadlines, I’ve been thinking about purity. Our public discussions have become obsessed with it.

    The pandemic has forced us to contend with a new and invisible contaminant, resulting in conflicts about monitoring, safeguarding, and defining purity. Is wearing a mask a vital shield or a violation of individual integrity? Does a vaccine protect against contamination or constitute pollution?

    The quest for purity informs cancel culture. It pushes partisans to ever-greater extremes, even when those positions are politically self-defeating. It turns historical heroes /into villains and closes nuclear power plants in the face of climate change. It makes the ideal the enemy of the improved, the perfect the exterminator of the better.
    If we want to understand our cultural moment, we need to think seriously about purity.

    A long and thoughtful essay, examining our purity desires. Or, I should say, the wacky purity desires of others. I'm completely above that.


  • ACLU stands for "Amusingly Clueless Leftwing Unreality". For some reason, I think one of those heavy-handed Facebook fact-checks, I found myself looking at Four Myths About Trans Athletes, Debunked from the American Civil Liberties Union. For the record (your honor), the four "myths" are:

    1. The participation of trans athletes hurts cis women.
    2. Trans athletes’ physiological characteristics provide an unfair advantage over cis athletes.
    3. Sex is binary, apparent at birth, and identifiable through singular biological characteristics.
    4. Trans students need separate teams.

    Let's take a look at the "debunking" of that second myth.

    Women and girls who are trans face discrimination and violence that makes it difficult to even stay in school. According to the U.S. Trans Survey, 22 percent of trans women who were perceived as trans in school were harassed so badly they had to leave school because of it. Another 10 percent were kicked out of school. The idea that women and girls have an advantage because they are trans ignores the actual conditions of their lives.  

    Note how the ACLU doesn't immediately address the specific issue of athletic advantage. Let's stipulate that trans kids have serious problems, OK? Let's stipulate that they should be treated with sympathy and respect, and their harassers should be disciplined, OK?

    Trans athletes vary in athletic ability just like cisgender athletes. “One high jumper could be taller and have longer legs than another, but the other could have perfect form, and then do better,” explains Andraya Yearwood, a student track athlete and ACLU client. “One sprinter could have parents who spend so much money on personal training for their child, which in turn, would cause that child to run faster,” she adds. In Connecticut, where cisgender girl runners have tried to block Andraya from participating in the sport she loves, the very same cis girls who have claimed that trans athletes have an “unfair” advantage have consistently performed as well as or better than transgender competitors.

    An unfortunate example. The relevant Wikipedia page notes that (back in 2017) Andraya Yearwood "won first place in the girls 100- and 200-meter dashes." Later that year, Andraya came in second in the 100-yard dash, losing to… another transgender student.

    “A person’s genetic make-up and internal and external reproductive anatomy are not useful indicators of athletic performance,”according to Dr. Joshua D. Safer. “For a trans woman athlete who meets NCAA standards, “there is no inherent reason why her physiological characteristics related to athletic performance should be treated differently from the physiological characteristics of a non-transgender woman.”

    Well, OK then!

    What's missing here? Statistics. Do trans women have an advantage over cis women in (say) running? This would be pretty easy to answer just by looking at the numbers. Averages, bell curves, stuff like that.

    The fact that the ACLU doesn't choose to "debunk" the "myth" of "unfair advantage" that way is, I strongly suspect, because they can't.

    Another clue: nobody's talking about trans men competing athletically with cis men.

    I also note that the ACLU threads a very small needle here. The arguments they make could very well be used to argue against any sex segregation of athletic teams. If (as Dr. Safer says) there's "no inherent reason" why "physiological characteristics" are grounds for putting people on different teams… why have separate men's and women's teams at all? Just let everyone compete against each other!

    Because, the ACLU's handwaving aside, the result would be … men's teams. (Soon followed by affirmative action, I assume. Let's make the Patriots' offensive line "look like America".)


  • Donald J. Boudreaux watches Commie TV, but I forgive him for that. He notes that This Old House Testifies to the Marvels of the Market Economy.

    There are few television programs that reveal the marvels of modern innovative markets as well as the long-running PBS show, This Old House. Revealing the wonders of markets, of course, isn’t the intention of the show’s producers, cast, or crew. But as Adam Smith would observe, they are led by an invisible hand to promote an outcome that is no part of their intention. Happily so.

    During each season of This Old House, now hosted by Kevin O’Connor, a handful of skilled carpenters, masons, plumbers, painters, electricians, and landscapers refurbish a few old houses into new, gleaming beauties. Over the course of several episodes, skilled craftspeople expose viewers to the latest techniques and products for repairing and improving homes. Viewers also witness the application of the specialized knowledge that each worker brings to his or her task.

    I'm like Don, continually amazed at people I see every day (and many more behind the scenes) who know how to do stuff and make stuff, generally stuff I would not have the slightest clue how to do or make.

    Even something as mundane as my morning Cheerios: the box, the inner bag, the completely uniform and delicious contents. The adhesive that holds the packaging together just enough so it doesn't fall open in its journey to my table, but still easy enough to open.


  • Let's make fun of WIRED again. A story on their website from James Briole wonders Can Democracy Include a World Beyond Humans? The subhed: "A truly planetary politics would extend decisionmaking to animals, ecosystems, and potentially AI."

    But James leads off with a pretty good story:

    There was once an orangutan named Ken Allen at the San Diego Zoo who was notorious for carrying out complex escape plans. He found every nut and bolt in his cage and unscrewed them; in his open enclosure he threw rocks and feces at visitors. On one occasion, he constructed a ladder out of some fallen branches, carefully testing his weight on the rungs. After that, the zoo raised his enclosure walls and smoothed them to remove handholds.

    Hoping to distract Ken, the zoo introduced some female orangutans. But Ken enlisted them as accomplices: While he distracted the zookeepers, his fellow inmate Vicki pried open a window. One time, Ken was caught waist-deep in water in the enclosure’s moat, attempting to inch up the sides, despite the fact that orangutans are believed to be intensely hydrophobic. As for the electrified wires on top of the enclosure walls, Ken tested them repeatedly, and one day, during a maintenance break, he tried to hop out.

    Unfortnately, it gets tedious from there. Bottom line:

    Like the resisting orangutans in the San Diego zoo, our demand is not that we are recognized by the state as existing—we exist already—but that we are truly free to determine the conditions of our existence. And that “we” is everyone—every singing, swaying, burrowing, braying, roiling, and rocking thing in the more-than-human world.

    Wow, man.