Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pick a Gender, Any Gender

Much of what Rebecca Reilly-Cooper has to say about gender identity is cogent and intelligent. At times, unfortunately, her argument goes off the rails and descends into the kind of paranoid and crypto-Marxist thinking that has bedeviled feminism from the onset.

Yet, she is far more enlightened than noted dimwit Judith Butler.

RRC sees that it all begins at birth, when you are assigned a gender. She sees that you are, effectively, the gender you are assigned at birth. Assigned because of the manifest appearance of your external genitalia. Despite all of the nonsense about gender, no one who has ever had a baby has heard the obstetrician or the midwife declare: it’s undecided.

Only someone suffering from a serious mental defect would say that gender is assigned arbitrarily.

Second, members of each gender are taxed with different duties. Being male or female confers obligations on each and every one of us. Since RRC considers herself a feminist, she does not note that, among these rules is a manly duty to protect women. Nowadays women have decided that being protected is demeaning, and that they are strong enough to protect themselves.

Well, not exactly. They can protect themselves with a myriad of new laws, with the suspension of due process for anyone they accuse, and with the awesome power of the state.

Note well:  since gender identity is based on an objectively observable reality, each person’s moral obligations are defined and assigned. Thus, other people will know for a fact whether an individual has fulfilled them.

If your gender identity is known only to you-- an absurd proposition that has become politically correct dogma-- then no one will know whether you have fulfilled your duties or not. And no one will ever really know who you are. If it’s all in your mind, you have no face. And having no face makes you a self-declared pariah. Why this should be desirable is beyond me.

Since human community-- like human DNA-- is structured in binary terms, blinding yourself to identifying gender markers spells the disintegration of community. It makes social anomie a policy goal. 

Third, today’s culture warriors have concluded that you should decide your own gender. You, as a splendid individual, have been granted the power to decide who you are and what you are. And you can do so without any reference to the way that others see you or your biological reality. RRC emphasizes a point that others rarely mention: it’s one thing to convince yourself that you are an elf; it’s quite another to force others to treat you accordingly. By definition, forcing people to act contrary to their observation of reality is oppressive.

The culture warriors believe that whatever your biological reality, you can change it reality by changing your mind. Thinking will make it so. The notion borders on delusional, and it becomes even more delusional when you decide that everyone else must see you as you have chosen to define yourself. 

Note also that the argument for gender fluidity ignores the best interest of society. It sets the individual off against the social good and social harmony, thus dooming the structure that sustains these deliria.

We to take the notion of gender fluidity seriously, RRC says, we would find ourselves with a reduction ad absurdum. There would be as many possible genders as there are people. And thus gender would be something like personality. She ought to have noted that no one really thinks that there are billions of different personalities or that you can make up any personality  you wish.

RRC summarizes the gender fluidity argument:

Once we assert that the problem with gender is that we currently recognise only two of them, the obvious question to ask is: how many genders would we have to recognise in order not to be oppressive? Just how many possible gender identities are there?

The only consistent answer to this is: 7 billion, give or take. There are as many possible gender identities as there are humans on the planet. According to, one of the main internet reference sites for information about non-binary genders, your gender can be frost or the Sun or music or the sea or Jupiter or pure darkness. Your gender can be pizza.

But if this is so, it’s not clear how it makes sense or adds anything to our understanding to call any of this stuff ‘gender’, as opposed to just ‘human personality’ or ‘stuff I like’. The word gender is not just a fancy word for your personality or your tastes or preferences. It is not just a label to adopt so that you now have a unique way to describe just how large and multitudinous and interesting you are. Gender is the value system that ties desirable (and sometimes undesirable?) behaviours and characteristics to reproductive function. Once we’ve decoupled those behaviours and characteristics from reproductive function – which we should – and once we’ve rejected the idea that there are just two types of personality and that one is superior to the other – which we should – what can it possibly mean to continue to call this stuff ‘gender’? What meaning does the word ‘gender’ have here, that the word ‘personality’ cannot capture?

RRC offers some good points, but she goes off the rails when she embraces the feminist view that we should decouple gender identity from reproductive function. Thus, she falls into the paranoid thinking, the kind that has bedeviled feminism from its onset. In it, gender roles were imposed on women by a vast patriarchal conspiracy.

Nevertheless she describes it well:

On this view, which for simplicity we can call the radical feminist view, gender refers to the externally imposed set of norms that prescribe and proscribe desirable behaviour to individuals in accordance with morally arbitrary characteristics.

The problem lies with the word “arbitrary.” If feminists believes that gender roles are assigned arbitrarily they must also believe, as RRC does, that these roles have nothing to do with anatomy, with reproduction, with biology or with reality.

If gender identities define men as being stronger than women, this is an arbitrary imposition. If you believe that you will believe anything.

Feminism needs this hypothesis because it sees social organization based on different gender roles as a massive right wing conspiracy to oppress women, to force them to have and to raise children, thus to deprive them of the full self-actualization they would achieve if they were captains of industry or tech oligarchs. Thus, thetranshistorical universal conspiracy has defined the female role as maternal, inner directed, weak, subordinate, passive, submissive, oppressed… what have you.

Oft times you get the impression that many of these women do not like being women. They have no conception of how women exercise power in relationships and in the world and have come to believe that the male way is the only way.

Anyway RRC explains:

Not only are these norms external to the individual and coercively imposed, but they also represent a binary caste system or hierarchy, a value system with two positions: maleness above femaleness, manhood above womanhood, masculinity above femininity. Individuals are born with the potential to perform one of two reproductive roles, determined at birth, or even before, by the external genitals that the infant possesses. From then on, they will be inculcated into one of two classes in the hierarchy: the superior class if their genitals are convex, the inferior one if their genitals are concave.

From birth, and the identification of sex-class membership that happens at that moment, most female people are raised to be passive, submissive, weak and nurturing, while most male people are raised to be active, dominant, strong and aggressive. This value system, and the process of socialising and inculcating individuals into it, is what a radical feminist means by the word ‘gender’. Understood like this, it’s not difficult to see what is objectionable and oppressive about gender, since it constrains the potential of both male and female people alike, and asserts the superiority of males over females. So, for the radical feminist, the aim is to abolish gender altogether: to stop putting people into pink and blue boxes, and to allow the development of individuals’ personalities and preferences without the coercive influence of this socially-enacted value system.

As I said, RRC simply goes off the rails. She ends up in a ditch where there is no gender, where biology does not matter, where facts don't matter, and where we will conclude that all of the social institutions that human beings have ever constructed were designed to suppress women. Thinking such thoughts must constitute a mania.

RRC concludes:

The way to avoid this conclusion is to realise that gender is not a spectrum. It’s not a spectrum, because it’s not an innate, internal essence or property. Gender is not a fact about persons that we must take as fixed and essential, and then build our social institutions around that fact. Gender is socially constructed all the way through, an externally imposed hierarchy, with two classes, occupying two value positions: male over female, man over woman, masculinity over femininity.

And also:

The solution is not to reify gender by insisting on ever more gender categories that define the complexity of human personality in rigid and essentialist ways. The solution is to abolish gender altogether. We do not need gender. We would be better off without it. Gender as a hierarchy with two positions operates to naturalise and perpetuate the subordination of female people to male people, and constrains the development of individuals of both sexes. 

Behold the moral blindness and ignorance. You would think that procreation is incidental to human life, that anyone can decide to mother or to father a child, that there are no maternal instincts and that human beings and their societies have no interest in being perpetuated. Without procreation there is no future, of our communities or of our genes. Without providing the best upbringing for children, the community will degenerate and ultimately disintegrate.

We might ignore the Bible and other religious texts. Have these people ever read Darwin? Do they understand nothing of evolution? Don't they see that you cannot base a human community on individual fantasies and delusions. 

If you do not like women and want to caricature them as weak and submissive and ineffective that is your constitutional right. But, be aware of the fact that you, by your storytelling are diminishing and demeaning all women who have considered it a valuable human enterprise to bring children into the world and to provide them with the best upbringing. Today’s women have far more opportunities than did women in the past, but they ought not to hold foremothers in contempt for not having said opportunities. The feminist attitude is grossly insulting, to mothers, to grandmothers and to all of the women who preceded them.

It's Better with Butter

What would we do without the Daily Mail?

Today, it reports on research from Tufts University, certainly a reputable institution, that demonstrates, after years of anti-cholesterol hysteria, that butter is not going to make you sick.

The story speaks for itself:

Butter is not bad for us and does not raise the risk of heart disease, a major study has found.

Scientists discovered eating one tablespoon of butter a day had little impact on overall mortality, no significant link with cardiovascular disease and strokes – and could even have a small effect in reducing the risk of diabetes.

The robust research - one of the largest meta-studies to be carried out on the health effects of butter - adds weight to growing calls for the end of the 'demonising' of the dairy product and other saturated fats.

It follows reports earlier this month that the Government is reconsidering its advice to restrict saturated fat intake to limit the risk of heart disease, after two recent studies found no link.

In the latest research, scientists from Tufts University in Boston analysed the results of nine studies published since 2005 from 15 countries, including the US, UK and Europe.

Results were based on nearly 640,000 adults with an average age of between 44 and 71 years old, tracked over a combined total of 6.5 million years.

In total, they studies included more than 28,000 deaths, nearly 10,000 cases of cardiovascular diseases and nearly 24,000 cases of diabetes.

By combining and standardising the results, researchers found a daily serving of butter – 14g or roughly one tablespoon – was associated with a 1 per cent higher risk of death.

Butter consumption had 'no significant association' with any type of cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke.

A smaller sample of results indicated a daily serving of butter was associated with a 4 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes - although researchers said this needed further investigation.

The paper said: 'Together, these findings suggest relatively small or neutral associations of butter consumption with long-term health… A major focus on eating more or less butter, by itself, may not be linked to large differences in mortality, cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

'In sum, our findings do not support a need for major emphasis in dietary guidelines on butter consumption, in comparison to other better established dietary priorities.

Question of the Day

How many of those who railed against democracy in Great Britain after the Brexit vote railed against democracy in Egypt when Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected president?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Angry Young (and Old) Feminists

Feminists are angry. Today’s feminists are just as angry as their feminist foremothers. At the least provocation they will pop off. When they do, you had best run for cover. If you are a man, that is. Because if you strike back the furies will descend upon you. If you retaliate it will all be your fault.

In many ways women have never had it so good. Yet, in some ways, in some cases, today’s liberated women are more miserable than their ancestors. And they let you know it. They never let you forget it.

They scream and yell. They throw things. They are protected from blowback by a band of matriarchs who will string you up by your whatevers if you dare say that they are behaving inappropriately or boorishly. If you think that the Donald is boorish, you should read about young feminist Casey Wilson. And you should also read about her mother Kathy Wilson.

Casey Wilson is an actress. She has often demonstrated appallingly bad manners. Apparently, she had been taught that it is better to act like a harridan than for anyone to think that you are feminine. She was raised by a Republican father and a Democratic mother. Her mother was not just a Democrat; she was a feminist activist. Kathy Wilson headed the National Women’s Political Caucus. Amazingly, Wilson grew up in a household where people delighted in being ill mannered. It was inevitable that she become an actress.

If you were curious to know why Casey Wilson and so many other young feminists are angry, we can read all about it. Wilson has written an article about her appallingly bad behavior for Lenny, a magazine that is being edited by one Lena Dunham. Yes, by that Lena Dunham. Happily, for those of us who wish her well, Wilson has shown how she has gotten herself out of the cycle of anger that her mother bequeathed her.

The first thing she tells us is that women’s anger is a cultural appropriation. By the lights of feminists, men are angry. Ergo, if women want to be more like men, they must be angry too. It will, presumably, grow some hair on their chests.

How angry was Casey Wilson? Glad you asked. She regales us with stories of her bad behavior:

When I was a waitress and a man tipped me in pennies, I addressed the entire restaurant and pointed at his wife and announced: "I just had to spend an hour, but I'm so sorry you have to spend a lifetime with him."

I tripped my college roommate after I overheard her say she didn't think I was "fun."

At sixteen, when my parents told me I couldn't go out, I pulled two heavy brass sconces out of the wall by hanging from them, leaving only dangling wires in my wake.

I have seriously contemplated driving my car through my home for "effect."

And yet I seem so mild mannered and sweet on the surface. But just underneath, I'm seething.

Charming, don’t you think? One is surprised to hear that Wilson has any friends at all.

Where did Wilson learn all of her bad habits? Surely, she did not learn it from people like me who inveigh all the time against saying out loud whatever is passing through your mind. Wilson was a living, breathing example of someone who is living by the mantra that you should never repress your emotions.

You guessed it: she learned it all from Mom and Dad. Surely, the two had suffered from far too much therapy. Theirs is an example of what therapy has wrought:

My parents were highly successful, funny, passionate people who taught me life should be lived out loud and all big feelings felt. My mom once tried to throw a dining-room chair at my dad's head, and I barely looked up from Mr. Popper's Penguins. My dad was arrested for screaming at a maĆ®tre d' because they wouldn't seat an elderly woman. Later, she told my dad that while she was grateful he had stuck up for a stranger, they hadn't seated her because she was waiting for someone. (Oops.)

Of course, the world is not quite as tolerant toward these outbursts, whether by parents or by daughter. Wilson is angry about that too:

I've realized that anger doesn't seem to be as palatable on a woman as it is on a man. And I'm angry about that. I'm angry at women who can't access their anger, or who cover it by masquerading as little sweeties, or those who display it and are off-putting. Which are all versions of myself I have spent my life trying to wrangle and negotiate.

Since this is just therapy writ large, Wilson does not find much help in therapy. In the bad old days, therapists were down with angry outbursts. They called them authentic and encouraged them. At some point they came to their senses and noticed that while anger felt momentarily cathartic, as soon as an angry young woman looked back at what she had been doing she was seized with anguish for having made herself look like a blithering fool. It isn’t that easy to turn off your moral sense.

Wilson writes:

In the moment, these eruptions felt fantastic. Nay, important. But afterward, I started feeling disproportionately upset about my behavior, and it then became about the emotional hangover the anger wrought. Where was this all coming from? I got into therapy with the hopes of figuring it out. It's too boring to blame everything on our moms, but I wonder if, maybe, the conservative wave of the early '80s is something I can blame?

Wouldn’t you know it? She was taught to shift the blame. After all, what good is the conservative movement or the Tea Party or the NRA if you cannot pin all your failures on them?

It’s a thought. But, refreshingly Wilson has another thought. She seems to understand that her feminist mother stoked her anger by raising her according to an ideology:

My mom was the president of the National Women's Political Caucus (an organization devoted to getting women elected) for the first several years of my life. I wonder if growing up with a mother who was so angry at the state of things she wore a pro-choice sticker while eight months pregnant with me played a role. She raised me to believe I could be anything I wanted to be. Which was liberating and wonderful. But perhaps this combination had me feeling a little too free to be me. I had become a subway ad: if I saw something, I said something. It wasn't a good look, but no amount of therapy or meditation (my mantra made me EVEN. ANGRIER.) or astrology retreats (I'm a Scorpio, doy) seemed to help with this particular issue. I couldn't get a handle on it.

How does feminism stoke anger? It is easy to understand. Feminism hands out advice. It tells women how to live their lives. It might tell them to postpone marriage and family until they are in their mid- thirties. It might tell them to do as they please, to hook up as much as they want, to express their feelings openly, honestly and shamelessly.

But then, when they discover that they have waited too long to have children or that last night’s hookup does not respect them in the morning, feminists tell them that this is a sign of sexism, misogyny, bigotry, hatred of women. When bad advice yields bad outcomes, feminists exploit it to recruit people for the cause.

As it happens, Wilson’s story has a happy ending—but not in the sense you are thinking—get your mind out of the gutter. She comes to her senses. Or, should I say, her mother’s death causes her to reflect on what she has been doing, to take a step back and to look at it from a more objective distance. Strangely enough, and sadly enough, her mother’s death liberates her.

Examine her testimony:

Surprisingly, the things that ended up helping me the most are arguably the things I have the most reason to be angry about. I was not asked back to Saturday Night Live. My long-term relationship ended poorly. My mom passed away. And yet when I received my things in a brown box from SNL and saw that bottles of alcohol had been thrown in with photos of my mom and everything had exploded all over, I didn't feel angry. I felt sad. When the former boyfriend declined my invitation to meet for coffee years later so I could apologize, I just felt deep regret. And when the woman who did my mom's makeup for her funeral came up to me in the receiving line and asked if she could grab the number of the doctor who had done my mom's eye lift ... I laughed. And gave it to her.

In the realization that life is ever tenuous, I suddenly became less angry. I found such joy in my work. I got married. I had a baby. Now, please note, I'm still an angry bird, to be sure. But now I'm acutely aware that things and jobs and people come ... and go. And I can't afford to destroy what and whom I have.

This tells us that the anger was an act, that it was put on, that it was adopted in order to play a role in an ideologically-driven script. When you come down to it, women are not angry and ought not to try to pretend to be angry. And, dare we say, men are not, for the most part angry either. Or, at least they would rather not be.

We applaud Wilson for having overcome her rage, or at least for having learned to manage it. Because, the only thing that it as wrong as being too angry is not being angry enough.

Feminism and Biology

To follow up on yesterday’s post about feminism and biology, here we have a transcript of a conversation between Camille Paglia (CP) and Christina Hoff Sommers (CHS). The exchange took place recently at the American Enterprise Institute. It comes to us from the Heat Street blog. Preceding it were two other posts, here and here.

Both Paglia and Sommers bemoan the fact that women’s studies have consistently ignored biological realities. For feminists gender is a social construct … end of story. If you don’t accept it, shut up.

So, forewarned is forearmed. Consider your as having received a trigger warning.

The transcript:

CP: The biggest gap in women’s studies is the failure to have a requirement about biology. There’s no reference to biology. You’ve now had 40 years of women’s studies where there is the social constructionist view of gender — without the slightest reference to hormones or endocrinology.

CHS: Forty years of women’s studies and I think we know less about gender than we did when they started, for this very reason. This dogma that men and women are the same; that we’re cognitively interchangeable…

CP: … we’re blank slates at birth and society inscribes gender on us. It’s absurd.

CHS: One feminist philosopher said many years ago — we’re all born bisexual, and then through socialization we are transformed into gendered human beings — one destined to command and the other one to obey. I went throughout that with my husband too and he said: ” Which one obeys and which one commends?”

CP: There you go. For heavens sake, I’m someone who was writing a dissertation on androgyny and I never for one moment in my entire life doubted that sexes are actually different. There are some very powerful hormonal compulsion that drives the sexes together for procreation, hello!

And, also:

CP: Men have on average 8 to 10 times the amount of testosterone circulating in their body than women do. There are consequences from that. But of course this subject is entirely untouched in gender studies. You can graduate from with a degree in women studies and know nothing about it.

CHS: Nothing! And anytime they find statistical disparity between men and women. Any field — if there are more male, particularly in engineering — it has to be discrimination.

CP: It can’t be women’s free choice for any reason. On average, women are interested in other things.

CP: Also women want more flexibility in life to allow for children. But that’s also not part of the feminist picture.

CHS: As if we don’t have a special bond with children. The denial of nature, of femininity and masculinity — which for most people is a source of enjoyment.

If you are conventionally feminine, you enjoy that typically. Same with men — you enjoy a masculine men. And all of that is now either denied, or there’s this aura of disapproval around conventional sexuality.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What Does Sex Have to Do with Procreation?

Women’s reproductive health, as it is gingerly called, has now been reduced to the right to an abortion. Supporters of Planned Parenthood insist that they want women to be able to choose when they are going to get pregnant, but sex education in schools today centers primarily on how not to get pregnant, how not to stay pregnant, how not to contract an STD and how to gain the most sexual pleasure.

What is missing from this picture? Procreation. Whatever they are peddling over at Planned Parenthood, children in American schools today are taught very little about procreation. One understands the rationale: procreation is what the dimwits are now calling heteronormativity. Thus, we are not allowed to connect sex with reproduction, because we do not want gays and the transgendered feel that their sexuality is somehow different.

For all the talk about reproductive choice, the only choice that contemporary culture warriors respect is the choice not to have a child. Unless, of course, the woman is in her late forties and magically conceives—with significant help from reproductive endocrinologists.

Freezing eggs is fine and good. Hormone treatments are great. Egg donors are wonderful. What is not wonderful is a young woman having a child the old-fashioned way.

Women have been hearing about the biological clock for decades now, but somehow the message has not gotten through. Thus, it comes as something of a surprise when actress Katherine Heigl gets pregnant for the first time at 37 and announces to the world that she and her husband were surprised that she still could. Apparently, her conscientious ob-gyn gave her information that many American women have been at pains to repress: namely that after age 35 female fertility declines precipitously.

Since male fertility does not obey the same timeline, culture warriors have worked hard to ignore the fact, lest anyone imagine that men and women are somehow biologically different.

As Bethany Mandel points out in an article about female fertility, sex education in American schools has systematically repressed the connection between sex and reproduction. It has emphasized: enjoying sex, not contracting an STD and avoiding pregnancy.

Mandel explains:

… what has been missing from health education in most schools for decades isn’t how to avoid becoming pregnant, but how to get pregnant, when the time is right. Instruction on birth control methods and the horrors of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) form the entire curriculum, but few women are taught the mechanics of their own fertility cycles, or anything about the realities of their biological clocks.

Young women know all about the shades of grey. Many of them have learned about sex education from watching porn or even from starring in their own porn movies. They know everything there is to know about pleasuring themselves. Yet, they know very little about their own fertility and do not much care to know.

This should not come as a surprise. Women today are brought up to put career ahead of family. They are taught that they must not get married young and must not have children young. Thus the norm for marriage and childbearing has extended into a woman’s thirties. From a feminist perspective, this is the only acceptable choice.

Of course, a woman who has a free and open sex life in her twenties is more likely to contract an STD. Some of the STDs compromise fertility. Yes, condoms help, but condoms are not foolproof and many young hookup artists are frankly behaving like fools. Telling women that using a condom will protect them against all STDs is a lie… and a lie that might cost them their fertility.

Mandel points out that thirtysomething women first start becoming fully conscious of fertility when they hear about failed pregnancies.

She explains:

With friends getting hitched and gestating left and right, women start hearing things we were never taught about school: most notably, that sometimes, for some women, getting pregnant isn’t so easy after all. We hear from married friends facing difficulties starting families, and we hear about infertility and miscarriage, which are more common than most millennials imagine. One in ten couples will face infertility, and as many as one in three pregnancies will end in miscarriage.

It’s not just about age. When women have careers that demand long hours and extensive travel, procreation becomes far more difficult. A stressed-out female body will have more difficulty conceiving or carrying to term.

Of course, no one discusses the point. Men do not have the same problem and we do not want anyone thinking that men and women are different. Besides, women must  work as hard as men do, and therefore asking a woman to slow down in order to facilitate fertility must be considered sexist.

As for the biological clock, Mandel describes its reality:

Fertility, the ability to get pregnant, goes into a steep decline around age thirty-five, and the risks of pregnancy increase beginning at the same age. At thirty-five, it becomes harder to become pregnant, harder to stay pregnant (miscarriage risk increases), and harder to have a healthy baby (birth defect rates also increase with maternal and paternal age). The number of eggs (women are born with a finite number) depletes, and the quality of the ones that remain decreases over time.

Of course, it is not just what is taught in the schools. Celebrity culture, Mandel notes, has been regaling us with stories of women in their late 40s or later who have gotten pregnant:

Celebrity culture offers us a seemingly endless number of stars who are apparently untouched by age-related fertility problems. This Mother’s Day, for example, Janet Jackson had extra reason to celebrate. At fifty years old, she was pregnant with her first child. Celebrity-watchers have been transfixed for years by the potential pregnancy of former Friends star Jennifer Aniston, now forty-seven. Just this week, yet another tabloid claimed the star was expecting a child with husband Justin Theroux. These examples are extreme, because the women in question are much older than the average American mother. But mothers in their late thirties or early forties, such as Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon, and Julia Roberts, are very much the norm in Hollywood.

And yet, Mandel continues, these stories never tell us the cost in terms of fertility treatments. They do not tell us whether these women are having babies using their own eggs. They do not tell us the failure rates of women using frozen eggs:

Just as Botox erases the signs of aging on the faces of celebrities, so too the celebrity pregnancy trackers ignore the fact that many of these women most likely had to avail themselves of expensive and painful fertility treatments to become mothers. And those celebrities rarely discuss those treatments, preferring instead to portray their pregnancies as happenstance (an exception: Sarah Jessica Parker, then in her forties, who talked openly about her use of a surrogate to carry her twin daughters).

And, of course, no one knows very much about the long term effect of fertility treatments, on a woman’s health and on her marriage. Strangely enough, our national conversation about abortion suggests that pregnancy is somehow or other unhealthy, while it says nothing about the potential health risks associated with radical hormone treatments.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Sore Loser British Elites

You might think that the biggest sore losers are the intellectuals who are bitterly clinging to their failed religion-- Communism. Not to be outdone, the British Remainders, those who lost the referendum on remaining within the warm comforting motherly arms of the European Union, are wailing uncontrollably about the stupidity of those who did not vote as they wished them to vote, who did not do as they were told.

Now that the British public has chosen to Leave the EU, because they refuse to allow their politics and policy be dictated by a bunch of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, British elites have risen up as one and, in a great cry of anguish, denounced Leave voters as idiots and fools, people who should probably never have been allowed to vote in the first place.

It’s sore loser Heaven with the losers in the Remainder camp calling for a do-over, another vote. Because democratic elections are fine as long as the intellectually inferior masses vote the way the philosopher-kings want them to vote.

People voted for Brexit because the ruling classes had been ignoring them. Now, in a grand psychological reprisal the elites are striking out in fury against the ignorant masses. As Brendan O’Neill explains it in The Spectator, the losers are howling against democracy.

O’Neill describes the scene in Great Britain:

There’s a delicious irony to Remainers’ branding of Leave voters as confused individuals who have simply made a desperate howling noise, whose anti-EU vote was a ‘howl of anger’ (Tim Farron) or a ‘howl of frustration’ (JK Rowling). Which is that if anyone’s been howling in recent days, it’s them, the top dogs of the Remain campaign. They are howling against the demos; raging against the people; fuming about a system that allows even that portly bloke at the end of your street who never darkened the door of a university to have a say on important political matters. That system we call democracy.

All things considered, the intelligentsia has come up with a series of cogent explanations for why people ignored their best advice. To the great minds of Britain, those who voted to Leave the EU were misinformed idiots, victims of a confidence trick, abused by a motley band of demagogues, led by their emotions, not their reason.

O’Neill explains:

No sooner had an awe-inspiring 17.5m people rebelled against the advice of virtually every wing of the establishment and said screw-you to the EU than politicos were calling into question the legitimacy of their democratic cry. Apparently the people were ill-informed, manipulated, in thrall to populist demagoguery, and the thing they want, this unravelling of the EU, is simply too mad and disruptive a course of action to contemplate. So let’s overturn the wishes of this dumb demos.

All of which dramatizes the reasoning of the proles who voted against the best interest of the toffs.

So, certain members of the political class, joined by certain members of the media and the intellectual classes are trying to see how they can overturn the vote. If that is not possible, they want the government to ignore it altogether.

O’Neill continues:

So it is that David Lammy has howled against the ‘madness’ of the vote. We can ‘bring this nightmare to an end through a vote in Parliament’, he said. That nightmare he’s talking about is the people having their say, the throng making a choice. The UN Special Representative for International Migration, Peter Sutherland, has also openly called for the crushing of the people’s will. British voters were hoodwinked by a ‘distortion of facts’, he says — because we’re that stupid — and ‘somehow this result must be overturned’. UN officials condemn African or Asian dictators who ride roughshod over the will of their peoples, yet seek to foment the same in Britain.

Of course, the media has been piling on. As has the professoriat, in the person of a distinguished Harvard professor named Kenneth Rogoff:

Media commentary has dripped with contempt for the moronic people. ‘Some of the oldest and whitest people on the planet leapt at a chance to vote against the monsters in their heads’, howled a writer for Esquire. There’s much talk about the people being ‘manipulated’ by lies and misinformation, as if they’re lifeless putty in the hands of the likes of Farage. Some have gone so far as to twist the definition of democracy in an attempt to rubbish the people’s will. ‘The idea that somehow any decision reached anytime by majority rule is necessarily “democratic” is a perversion of the term’, says Harvard professor Kenneth Rogoff. Sometimes, democracy means making sure the people ‘avoid making uninformed decisions with catastrophic consequences’, he says. So it can be democratic to thwart the majority’s wishes if we think they’re stupid. And they have the gall to talk about manipulation.

Enough with democracy. Enough with listening to the voice of the people. At the least we are seeing in action the totalitarian yearnings of the ruling elites in England. It resembles the attitude of American intellectuals.

In passing, one is constrained to point out that, in America, those who are less intelligent and less educated vote Democratic all the time. Apparently, voting for Democrats allows you to think that you are of one mind with the smart people.

As for the overeducated youth of Britain, they are not occupying the City, the center of British banking, but are demonstrating and remonstrating against the ignorant masses who voted for Brexit.

O’Neill describes the scene:

Youthful activists are adding a thin veneer of radicalism to this howl against democracy by taking to the streets to call on MPs to refuse to make Brexit a reality. A ragtag bunch of pro-EU youths shouted outside parliament yesterday. More marches are planned. Let’s be honest about what these are: marches against the people; streams of largely middle-class activists demanding that the will of the ordinary be kept in check. No number of colourful placards or PC-sounding platitudes can disguise the nasty, reactionary nature of such gatherings.

Sad to say it but the sore-loser leftists have no real use for democracy. They will tolerate it if they get their way. Otherwise they will lash out in irrational fury against those who would dare defy their will.

They respect the will of the people if the will of the people echoes their views. Just as American universities have been shutting down free and open debate, the better to become indoctrination mills, the British intelligentsia has been doing the same.

Last Thursday’s vote has shown that their efforts have not been quite as effective as they think and that they have lost the confidence of the people. The British public has voted no confidence in them and they are incensed to feel unappreciated. How dare these people—many of whom are loyal Labour voters-- say that they have not been doing a good job.

For the icing on the cake, take the example of a British media intellectual named Philippe Legrain. Writing in the New York Times Legrain has taxed Leave voters with economic ignorance. He tells them, in the same threatening tone that Remainders have been using, that they will soon pay the price of their ignorance.

As it happens, Legrain himself, in his wisdom, has been a great proponent of unlimited immigration from North Africa and the Middle East. He is like Angela Merkel in a suit and tie.  How stupid do you have to be to think that that is a good idea?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

What Is Religion Good For?

Apparently, Christopher Hitchens was wrong. Religion does not poison everything. The jury has still not decided whether atheism poisons everything, but while we are awaiting the verdict we note with J.D. Vance that religion plays a beneficial role in many peoples' lives.

This, from today's New York Times, of all places. Note that Vance quotes research conducted by one Jonathan Gruber. You recall that Gruber was the architect of both Romneycare and Obamacare.

Vance writes:

Research suggests that children who attend church perform better in school, divorce less as adults and commit fewer crimes. Regular church attendees even exhibit less racial prejudice than their nonreligious peers. The M.I.T. economist Jonathan Gruber found that for many of these traits, this relationship is causal: It’s not just that privileged kids who attend church skew the data, but that attending services produces good character.

These benefits apply broadly, across a range of faiths, so the phenomenon appears unrelated to doctrine or place. Undoubtedly, church fish fries and picnics help build social cohesion. It was at my dad’s medium-size evangelical church — my first real exposure to a sustained religious community — that I first saw people of different races and classes worshiping together. The church even collected money to help families in need and established a small school and home for single expectant mothers.

The Battle for Raqqa

OK, you know I’m kidding, there is no Battle for Raqqa.

As the Obama administration declares war on American gun owners, it prefers not to interfere in the daily lives of the people who live in the ISIS capital of Raqqa, Syria.

One might expect the administration to face down the terrorists where they live, to make their lives into living hell, even to do as Peter Quinn suggested, turning Raqqa into a parking lot. Instead, it is offering up large dollops of empathy.

Debra Heine has the story on Pajamas Media. No one else seems to have noticed. If they noticed, no one seems to care. It comes from testimony offered by an assistant secretary of defense to the House Armed Services Committee.

The question was simple: if we know that ISIS uses the internet to recruit jihadis and to set up operations, why have we not shut it down in Raqqa. Whatever happened to making war against their command and control centers?

Heine reports:

Rep. Martha McSally, a retired fighter pilot, posed the question to the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, Thomas Atkin: “We have known cells in Raqqa that are directing training, that are directing operations very specifically targeting against Americans,” McSally said. “Why is the Internet not shut down in Raqqa?”

Atkin noted that he would give a more detailed answer during the closed-door hearing in the afternoon, but answered in general terms. “Certainly going after specific nodes to hamper and stop the use of the Internet by ISIS is important, but we also have to respect the rights of citizens to have access to the Internet,” he said. “So it’s a careful balance, even in Raqqa.”

What is this business about “rights of citizens?” People who live under the caliphate are not citizens. They are being enslaved. Unless they are the ones doing the enslaving. Why are we showing a special level of respect to the people of Raqqa, at the expense of American lives?

And where does it say that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to the internet?

Chairman Mac Thornberry called out Atkins on his absurd response:

Later on in the hearing, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry expressed his concern regarding Atkin's answer about protecting the rights of citizens in Raqqa. “I understand the concept of proportionality,” he said, “but are you arguing that the citizens of Raqqa have some sort of inherent right to access the Internet that you all have to try to weigh?”

“Taking out the Internet” isn’t a straightforward operation, Atkin replied. The Islamic State and other guerrilla/terrorist forces often rely on civilian infrastructure, so shutting down their Internet service provider also cuts off legitimate civilian users in a wide area. “How that effect occurs has greater impact than just against the adversary and we have to weigh that into all our operations,” he said, “whether that’s a kinetic or a cyber operation.”

After some additional back and forth — ending with an awkward silence from the administration witnesses — Thornberry reserved further questions for the classified hearing. “Okay, well, we’ll talk more about it,” he said, “but, again, I am not yet reassured.”

The administration’s position is that cyber operations must follow the same laws of war as physical combat, and that cyber attacks require the same kind of review as kinetic strikes. That includes such considerations as collateral damage — e.g. in shutting down the terrorists’ Internet access, do you take it out for innocent civilians as well? — and proportionality — is the damage to civilians excessive for the military gain?

“Our operations in cyberspace are subject to the same rules as every operation, so we’re constrained by the laws of armed conflict and other limitations,” said Lt. Gen. Kevin McLaughlin, deputy commander of CYBERCOM. “We feel like we have the authorities and flexibility we need.”

Here again is a lesson in how not to fight a war. If you want to know why ISIS has been allowed to metastasize under the Obama administration, look at our rules of engagement. If we are that solicitous toward our enemies, that empathetic toward their concerns, we are showing them that they are strong and we are weak. Victory in war does not go to the squeamish.

Paglia: Transgenderism as a Symptom of Cultural Collapse

The article is slightly dated. Camille Paglia gave the interview in October, 2015. CNS News (a conservative network) reported it in November, 2015.

And yet, Paglia’s thoughts, if anything, are even more incisive now than they were then. Since they echo similar thoughts that I have offered on this blog, I find them especially relevant.

Paglia looks at America’s openness about transgenderism, in particular, and sees it as a sign of cultural collapse. A culture that enters a decadent phase is on the way to oblivion.

CNS offers a transcript of her words:

... Camille Paglia said in an interview last month that the rise of transgenderism in the West is a symptom of decadence and cultural collapse.

Most importantly, she recommends that while we are regaling ourselves with the thought of mandating transgender restrooms and while we have become especially tolerant of open expressions of homosexuality, we ought to ask ourselves how this all looks to the outside world, especially to the jihadis.

CNS continues:

“Nothing... better defines the decadence of the West to the jihadists than our toleration of open homosexuality and this transgender mania now,” Paglia said during an October 22interview on the Brazilian television program Roda Viva.

And also:

"So rather than people singing the praises of humanitarian liberalism that allows all of these transgender possibilities to appear and to be encouraged, I would be concerned about how Western culture is defining itself to the world.

"Because in fact these phenomena are inflaming the irrational, indeed borderline psychotic opponents of Western culture in the form of ISIS and other jihadists, etcetera," Paglia said. 

"Nothing... better defines the deadence of the West to the jihadists than our toleration of open homosexuality and this transgender mania now."

As for propagandists (like Judith Butler) who are militating for such decadence by promoting the notion of gender multiplicity and who believe that we can all decide which gender we are, Paglia offers up some cogent criticism, including the obvious fact that allowing hormone treatment to children, to say nothing of allowing surgery to teenagers is child abuse:

Paglia also said during the interview that “transgender propagandists” are overstating their case.

“I think that the transgender propagandists make wildly inflated claims about the multiplicity of gender,” she said. 

“Sex reassignment surgery, even today with all of its advances, cannot in fact change anyone’s sex, okay. You can define yourself as a trans man, or a trans woman, as one of these new gradations along the scale. But ultimately, every single cell in the human body, the DNA in that cell, remains coded for your biological birth.

“So there are a lot of lies being propagated at the present moment, which I think is not in anyone’s best interest.

"Now what I’m concerned about is the popularity and the availability of sex reassignment surgery, so that someone who doesn’t feel that he or she belongs to the biological birth, gender. People are being encouraged to intervene in the process.

"Parents are now encouraged to subject the child to procedures that I think are a form of child abuse. The hormones to slow puberty, actual surgical manipulations, etcetera. I think that this is wrong, that people should wait until they are of an informed age of consent.

“Parents should not be doing this to their children and I think that even in the teenage years is too soon to be making this leap. People change, people grow, and people adapt."

Note well: every single cell is coded for biological gender. Few people have had the nerve to stand up against the transgender propagandists. Hats off again to Paglia for telling it like it is and for speaking truth to power.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Daniel Hannan in Favor of Brexit

Via, American Digest, Daniel Hannan's address to the Oxford Union, defending Brexit. 

More Notes on Brexit

The New York Times has dedicated eight pages to Brexit coverage. The story is of historical significance and deserves that much space. Credit to the New York Times.

For my part, I have collected some salient and incisive commentaries from various places. I present them as a service, the better to provide useful information.

We begin  with the question of who is responsible. Writing in Slate Reihan Salam names the primary culprit: Tony Blair. It tells us why Blair was so crestfallen at the results of the referendum.

The former Labor Party prime minister began the process by opening Britain to more immigration. He was a great purveyor of a cosmopolitan worldview that has now been repudiated… often by Labour voters.

Salam wrote:

One gets the sense Blair understands, on a gut level, that Britain’s rejection of the EU is a rejection of his worldview….

As prime minister during the 1990s, he often made the case for deeper European integration. More broadly, Blair proved himself to be among the most emphatically cosmopolitan world leaders in recent history.

For the past twenty years Britain has been living under the Blair government’s policy:

Since 1997, when the Labour Party, under his leadership, swept into office in a landslide, British society has been transformed by a wave of immigration unprecedented in its history. Over the following years, roughly twice as many immigrants arrived in the United Kingdom as had arrived in the previous half-century. Many who arrived during that earlier era hailed from the Caribbean and South Asia, and by the early 1990s, 7 percent of England and Wales’ population belonged to ethnic minorities. By now, that share has grown to over 14 percent.

The EU compounded the problem by opening its doors to relatively impoverished Eastern and central European states.

Salam explains:

When a number of countries in Eastern and central Europe joined the EU, most existing member states put temporary limits in place on the freedom of movement to ensure they wouldn’t experience a large and potentially disruptive influx of new arrivals. Blair’s government decided not to do so on the assumption that immigration from the new member states would be relatively modest. In fact, immigration from the new member states far surpassed the government’s projections.

It was not just the immigrants. To be more welcoming  the Blair government’s decision offered many of the benefits of citizenship, especially welfare payments, to people who had just arrived:

Under Tony Blair, Britain greatly expanded the use of refundable tax credits as a tool for poverty reduction, and this strategy has been wildly successful. But under EU rules, Hungarian newcomers are just as entitled to these benefits as, say, a poor Welshman. Regardless of whether this is a good idea, it is easy to see why some Britons find it frustrating. The only way Britain can make itself less attractive to less-skilled European immigrants is by imposing labor market regulations and welfare reforms that would apply to everyone, including less-skilled British workers. If we’re going to curb welfare spending, some British voters are asking, why not start with European immigrants who’ve just showed up on our doorstep? If the European Union requires Britons and other EU citizens be treated the same, why not leave the EU and be done with it?

In The Atlantic David Frum offers more details about the immigration problem, with a special nod to Angela Merkel:

The force that turned Britain away from the European Union was the greatest mass migration since perhaps the Anglo-Saxon invasion. 630,000 foreign nationals settled in Britain in the single year 2015. Britain’s population has grown from 57 million in 1990 to 65 million in 2015, despite a native birth rate that’s now below replacement. On Britain’s present course, the population would top 70 million within another decade, half of that growth immigration-driven….

If any one person drove the United Kingdom out of the European Union, it was Angela Merkel, and her impulsive solo decision in the summer of 2015 to throw open Germany—and then all Europe—to 1.1 million Middle Eastern and North African migrants, with uncountable millions more to come. Merkel’s catastrophically negative example is one that perhaps should be avoided by U.S. politicians who seek to avert Trump-style populism in the United States. Instead, the politician who most directly opposes Donald Trump—presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—is doubling down on Merkelism.

A nice phrase that: Hillary Clinton is “doubling down on Merkelism.”

For the economics of Brexit we turn to George Friedman—no relation to Thomas. Formerly of Stratfor, George Friedman is one Friedman who is well worth reading.

Even though all of the world’s great economists and bankers backed Remain, Friedman points out that, for Great Britain, the EU was a mixed economic blessing:

Supporters of remaining in the EU made the case that there would be substantial economic costs. Opponents of the EU noted the obvious, which is that the EU is a dysfunctional economic entity that has been unable to address the economic problems that have developed since 2008. It has not addressed the condition of southern Europe, where unemployment has remained at more than 20 percent for years, nor the high unemployment in France. The profound difference between the lives of southern Europeans, including the middle class, and Germans, who enjoy 4.2 percent unemployment, is profound. Europe as a whole has stagnated economically.

Those who supported Remain—the Remainders—threated the public with the dire consequences, beginning with the end of London’s central role in the world banking system.

Friedman debunks the notion:

In the end, the Europeans need the financial services London provides. They will not lock it out. The European Union did not create the financial relationships that exist. Britain’s financial role goes back almost two centuries. The EU is a system that aligns with financial reality. It does not create it. The threat of consequences was not persuasive.

And of course, there was a class angle. Everyone knows that voters were repudiating the governing elites, the guardian class that had been ruling Europe by bureaucratic diktat. The British people were voting these unelected bureaucrats out of office:

The degree to which this was a vote that was directed against the British elite is vital to understand. Politicians, business leaders and intellectuals were all seen as having lost their right to control the system. The elites had contempt for their values – for their nationalism and their interests. This is not a new phenomenon in Europe, but it is one that the EU had thought it had banished.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal Fraser Nelson explains the influence of the bureaucrats:

The Brexit campaign started as a cry for liberty, perhaps articulated most clearly by Michael Gove, the British justice secretary (and, on this issue, the most prominent dissenter in Mr. Cameron’s cabinet). Mr. Gove offered practical examples of the problems of EU membership. As a minister, he said, he deals constantly with edicts and regulations framed at the European level—rules that he doesn’t want and can’t change. These were rules that no one in Britain asked for, rules promulgated by officials whose names Brits don’t know, people whom they never elected and cannot remove from office. Yet they become the law of the land. Much of what we think of as British democracy, Mr. Gove argued, is now no such thing.

Others are bemoaning the vote because they say that it has set off a grand financial crisis. David Goldman does the math and explains that, even if Britain suffers, Italy is a far greater danger to the global economy than a Great Britain that functioning outside of the EU.

Goldman writes:

This is NOT a global financial crisis. The hissing sound you hear is the air leaving various financial bubbles, but this is not 2008 all over again.

The British corporate sector has a strong balance sheet. Among the companies in the FTSE 100 equity index, net debt is only twice earnings before interest and taxes, slightly more than the S&P 500. Italian companies by contrast have net debt at nearly 8 times earnings before interest and taxes. The record fall in the pound sterling brings its exchange rate against the Euro to precisely where it was in 2014, before the pound rose against the European unit along with the US dollar. It’s a long-need correction that will benefit the British economy, which has suffered from an overvalued currency.

Financial authorities around the world warned of dire consequences were Britain to leave the Euro, but it’s hard to see what these might be. Britain’s auto industry is mostly owned by German companies, who will not stop producing or buying cars made in their British plants. The 2008 collapse had already cleaned most of the fluff out of the City of London, which shed more than 130,000 jobs in the years after the crisis. The global ambitions of European banks are long since gone and it is unlikely that a great deal of financial business will leave the already-shrunken City.

Britain contributes half a percent of its GDP to the rest of Europe each year, mostly to Eastern Europe; this drain on the British taxpayer will end. Most important, the ambitions of the European Commission to install a supranational government dictating fiscal and regulatory policy to its members have collapsed. Europe’s ambitions to field a common foreign policy also are in ruins after today’s vote.