Culture

No, Your Two-Year-Old Is Not ‘Transgender’

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( LemonTreeImages/Getty Images)

A British couple recently went on national television to explain that their very young daughter is really a boy because the small child said, at two years old, “I’m not a girl, I think I’m a boy.” And that, these days, is enough to make it so!

In his deposition to the James Younger trial, Dr. C. Alan Hopewell, the senior clinical neuropsychologist in the state of Texas, testified that a seven-year-old child “can’t make rational decisions” and is “very easily influenced.” This fact is “settled science,” he said — “at the level of Galileo’s statement of how the Earth revolves around the sun.”

Whatever confusion or bad advice they may be suffering from, these parents are peddling madness. This is dangerous for their toddler and for our culture.

World

Coping with Plagues

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A man runs past the funeral pyres of coronavirus victims during a mass cremation in New Delhi, India, April 26, 2021. (Adnan Abidi / Reuters)

Nicholas Christakis is a famed academic — to the extent that academics are famed. He was in the news in 2015, when he stood up to a student mob — literally and figuratively. He is a champion of free speech. And he is my guest on Q&A, here. Among our subjects is free speech, yes. Mainly, however, we talk about the plague: the epidemic that was inflicted on us more than a year ago. Professor Christakis has written a book on the subject.

Man, is he educated — with degrees from St. Alban’s, Yale, Harvard, Harvard again, and Penn. He has an M.D. from Harvard and a Ph.D. in sociology, from Penn.

Wait a minute: Medicine is hard — rigorous, scientific — while sociology is a joke, right? Akin to basket-weaving. Not necessarily, as Christakis explains in our podcast. In fact, not at all, when the discipline — truly, discipline — is done right.

Christakis has been a prof at Chicago, Harvard, and Yale. Today, he is Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale. He directs the university’s Human Nature Lab.

That’s a pretty big writ: human nature.

Christakis has now written Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live. In our podcast, he takes us through the opening of The Iliad, movingly.

The Achaean army is suffering from a plague, thanks to Apollo’s nasty arrows. Day and night, the funeral pyres burn.

Is not the same happening in India right this second?

Professor Christakis emphasizes that plagues are as old as man. They are new only to us, the living, and dying. Last year, I was talking with Mark Helprin, and wondering when the current plague would end. He reminded me that people used to speak of “the plague years” — plural. That was a sobering point.

Nicholas Christakis is a Greek American, who grew up in both countries. He speaks fluent Greek. His father — a nuclear physicist — lives in Crete (on Crete?). At the beginning of our podcast, Christakis talks about his family background, which is highly interesting.

He is a big brain, who has a big heart. You’ll love getting to know Nicholas Christakis. Again, here.

Education

Arlington’s Public-School System

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(maroke/Getty Images)

When it comes to public schools, this pandemic has made one thing quite obvious: Many in the public-school system have lost sight of the fact that their main goal is to educate children. Employing teachers, bus drivers, or others, and even distributing school lunches to low-income kids, is not what’s it about, even though they are all nice byproducts.

When you lose sight of this, you get a system that treats educating children as a byproduct of serving its employees. Unfortunately for Arlington public-schools kids, and many others, that’s the situation we are in. Though the teachers have been prioritized for vaccination — so that they could then safely return to school — as of May 7, only 39 percent say they preferred in-person instruction. I wonder in which private sector, where staying home inevitably produces subpar work outcomes, this would be tolerated.


Incidentally, Arlington also just announced the following:

Despite having offered financial incentives to teachers to teach summer school, there are fewer applicants than the number of students who are eligible for summer instruction at the elementary level, making it impossible for APS to offer summer strengthening support to all eligible elementary students. Summer School is optional for teachers, and previous communication about the program indicated that final enrollment is contingent upon staffing.

As a result, they will offer some summer-school education for a subset of children. This is the sign of a bad system. It seems crazy to me that they would not figure out a way to serve the children, especially after having reduced instruction so dramatically for over a year. Maybe pay the teachers more, or hire substitutes and cut spending elsewhere?

Unfortunately, we Arlington taxpayers are assumed to have no say in the matter. The superintendent probably thinks that parents will read the news and accept it without a fight. And many parents do. However, some parents have been fighting the system for over a year, while others have hired tutors or left the public-school system altogether. In fact, Arlington has been bleeding students, as 2,000 have left permanently in the last year alone — roughly 7 percent of the already-small school district.

But not everyone has this luxury. Many parents are captive in a school system that takes them for granted and does not make their kids its priority. If this is not a strong case for school choice, I don’t know what is.

How Serious Would This New Former-Republican, Anti-Trump Third Party Be?

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Former DHS official, Miles Taylor, appears in a Republican Voters Against Trump ad. (Screenshot via YouTube)

There will be a lot of scoffing – and some cheering – for the news that Miles Taylor – formerly known as “Anonymous” – has organized more than 100 Republicans, including some former elected officials, to sign a letter this week threatening to form a third party.

People will point out, accurately, that the signers are largely retired and, as far as we know, not intending to run for public office again anytime soon. “Reuters reported earlier that the former governors Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey will sign it, as will former Transportation Secretary Mary

Politics & Policy

Don Boudreaux on James Buchanan on Government Borrowing and Spending

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Sheets of $1 bills get rotated before being cut into individual pieces during production at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., November 14, 2014. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

If you took economics from a Keynesian, you might recall hearing that government deficit spending is sometimes necessary to stimulate an otherwise sluggish economy, and that there is no reason to worry about the debt because “we only owe it to ourselves.” That kind of thinking is currently espoused by Modern Monetary Theory advocates, as well as politicians who want to spend endlessly on their favorite things.

Such thinking is completely unrealistic, as Nobel Prize winner James Buchanan explained back in a 1958 book. In this AIER article, Professor Don Boudreaux applies Buchanan’s logic. After reading it, there is no excuse for maintaining the fairyland view that when government borrows there is no actual cost. Boudreaux writes, “Government borrowing changes the identities of the particular taxpayers who incur the costs of government projects; government borrowing does not, however, enable taxpayers — considered as a group over time — to escape these costs.”

So divorced from reality are many of our political leaders and opinion shapers that they have people thinking that government can (and should) borrow and spend without limit to achieve the wonderful society they envision. Boudreaux enlightens they as to scarcity and opportunity costs.

He writes: “But let’s assume, contrary to fact but for argument’s sake, that an actual government — an agency with a monopoly on the lawful authority to initiate coercion — can forever fund all of its operations with borrowed funds. This fairytale government repays and services all of its debts simply by borrowing, infinitely into the future. Contrary to the belief of many, this situation would be especially bad for freedom and free markets. Government would grow even larger and more intrusive.”

In other words, it would put us on track for, to borrow the title of a book by Ludwig von Mises, omnipotent government. That’s their goal.

All government actions shift resources from whatever they would otherwise be used for to the purposes determined by the rulers. Imagine a long-ago emperor who decides that he needs a lot of castles to protect his realm. He doesn’t have much money, so he decrees that thousands of workers must labor on them and that the stone, wood, and other materials will be seized from their owners.

The castles go up, apparently at no cost. But there was a cost — the loss of output from those workers and the materials consumed. It would be no different than if the emperor had taxed the people to pay for “their” castles or if he had borrowed from financiers or had created money through inflation.

Frederic Bastiat called government the great fiction through which we try to live at the expense of everyone else. It can try to hide the expense, but can’t make it disappear.

Politics & Policy

D.C. Statehood Debate

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I debated D.C. statehood on the New York Times’ The Argument podcast, hosted by Jane Coaston, defending the anti-statehood position in my National Review cover story, with Professor George Derek Musgrove making the pro-statehood case.

Economy & Business

Inflation Soars as Biden Pushes for $4 Trillion in More Spending

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President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 2, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Inflation has seen its largest increase in decades even as President Biden pushes another $4 trillion in spending at a time of historic U.S. federal debt.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday reported that the core Consumer Price Index increased 0.8 percent in April, meaning that it has now increased 4.2 percent over the last 12 months, which is the highest increase since 2008.

For several segments of the economy, one has to go back even further to find a comparable increase.

The index for all items excluding food and energy rose 0.9 percent in April, which was the highest monthly increase since 1982. The index for used cars and trucks rose 10 percent in April, which was the largest since statistics began being record in 1953.

These numbers come at a time when the U.S. debt level has eclipsed 100 percent of the gross domestic product for the first time since World War II. The government authorized about $4.1 trillion in spending in 2020 to fight the coronavirus and the economic effects of lockdowns.

Then Biden followed up with an additional $1.9 trillion upon taking office. And now, he’s pushing for another $4 trillion in spending. If passed, the government will have enacted $10 trillion in new spending in a little over a year.

This is completely reckless. The federal government does not have money to spend. The economy does not need more government spending, it just needs officials to step out of the way and allow businesses to completely reopen now that the vaccine is widely available.

The $1.9 trillion in spending that Biden signed into law already exceeded the output gap, or the difference between the economy’s projected performance and potential performance. To add $4 trillion when we are already seeing the signs of inflation would be absolutely reckless.

 

Education

The Decline of the American University — as Forecast in 1968

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Members of various anti-fascist groups yell at police officers on the campus of Michigan State University outside of a Richard Spencer speech in East Lansing, Michigan on March 5, 2018. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

The last few years have witnessed a lot of turmoil on our college and university campuses, but that is nothing new. Back in the late-60s and early-70s, they were wracked by riots, building takeovers, and even bombings. Talk about “unsafe places.”

A famous American academic, Richard Hofstadter, warned of trouble to come in a commencement address he gave at Columbia University in 1968. In today’s Martin Center commentary, Jay Schalin looks at his prescient thoughts on the direction we were taking.

Schalin writes, “Hofstadter had been a Communist Party member in his early career, but gradually shifted his political beliefs to more standard mid-20th century liberalism. The commencement address signified an even greater departure from his leftist past; he saw in the student protests the very sort of ‘anti-intellectualism’ for which he had often criticized the political right.”

Hofstadter correctly foresaw that strong forces were building up to turn American higher education away from the search for truth and into an engine of political change. In his view, education was about unfettered inquiry into all sorts of truths. He was right to see danger to that. Many questions are now forbidden because they challenge entrenched “progressive” ideology.

His mistake, in Schalin’s view, was in failing to see how the faculty (which Hofstadter regarded as “the university”) would turn away from academic norms and embrace radical politics.

Hofstadter also thought that our universities needed governance reform to “redistribute power.” That was a bad idea, Schalin notes: “Governance structures in place at that time gave little power to those who wished for universities to maintain their academic focus and to uphold standards of excellence. Any reform that has occurred since then has made the wrong constituencies more powerful, not less. As a result, truth has been sacrificed for more immediate concerns, and academia has become both more vocational and more political.”

True, and we are much worse off for it.

Culture

The Bitterest Class War . . .

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. . . is fought not by the poor but by the superrich-adjacent.

Why not headline this New York Times story — Stephen Colbert makes fun of Jeff Bezos’s new boat — something like: “Guy Who Is Paid $1.25 Million a Month Thinks Other Guy Has Too Much Money”?

Books

‘Andrew McCarthy’s New Memoir’

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Kyle, I was expecting this to be a story about the Omar Abdel-Rahman case and Rudy Giuliani.

Politics & Policy

Liz Cheney Goes Down Swinging: ‘Our Election Was Not Stolen’

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Wyoming congresswoman Liz Cheney has been quiet over the past week as the House GOP caucus decided to kick Cheney out of leadership because of her continued comments defending the legitimacy of the 2020 election and blaming Donald Trump for the January 6 attack on Congress. 

Ahead of tomorrow’s vote to oust her, Cheney spoke on the House floor Tuesday night to explain why she’s said what she’s said and why she will continue saying it. 

Some excerpts: 

A former president who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol, in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence. … 

Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy. …

We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen and America has not failed.

You can watch the full six-minute speech here: 

World

Yes, the Abraham Accords Were a Historic Success

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From left: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani pose for photos before signing the Abraham Accords with President Donald Trump at the White House, September 15, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

This is a popular talking point on the left today:

The Abraham Accords were predicated on the idea that the United States could broker peace between Israel and once-antagonistic Arab nations by bypassing the intractable Palestinians, who have actively stood in the way of every agreement since 1994. Though they are mentioned in passing, the agreement has nothing to do with Palestinians, who grumbled at the time, “Our Arab brothers have abandoned us.”

Jared Kushner, whose approach had more results than anything tried by the Obama administration retreads who now populate the Biden administration, never claimed the normalization deals would fix the Palestinian situation.

Here is what he said at the time:

You have 5 million Palestinians who are really trapped because of bad leadership. So what we’ve done is we’ve created an opportunity for their leadership to either seize or not. If they screw up this opportunity — which again, they have a perfect track record of missing opportunities — if they screw this up, I think they will have a very hard time looking the international community in the face, saying they are victims, saying they have rights. This is a great deal for them. If they come to the table and negotiate, I think they can get something excellent …

The Palestinian leadership have to ask themselves a question: Do they want to have a state? Do they want to have a better life? If they do, we have created a framework for them to have it, and we’re going to treat them in a very respectful manner. If they don’t, then they’re going to screw up another opportunity like they’ve screwed up every other opportunity that they’ve ever had in their existence.

Indeed, the Palestinians have extended their perfect track record of “missing opportunities” (really, more like blowing them up). And the fact that Iranian-funded Hamas rockets are falling on Jewish cities or that riots are being perpetuated by the Palestinian Authority only further proves that Kushner was right: Waiting around for the theocrats in Gaza or corrupt former PLO officials in West Bank is a foolish endeavor. Now, maybe Frum and others believe that those who indiscriminately fire Qassam rockets at civilians deserve their own state. But that has nothing to do with the Abraham Accords.

World

Why Is Twitter Letting Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei Incite Rocket Attacks on Israeli Civilians?

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks live on television after casting his ballot in the Iranian presidential election in Tehran June 12, 2009. (REUTERS/Caren Firouz)

As the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians intensified on Tuesday night, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who helps fund and direct Hamas’s actions, tweeted out the following:

Within minutes, the IDF reported sirens were sounding in Tel Aviv as one of its largest cities came under a barrage of rocket fire.

It’s worth remembering that when Donald Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter while still an office holder, Twitter cited, “the risk of further incitement of violence.”

Yet in this case Ayatollah is using Twitter to directly signal to his terrorist proxy group Hamas that they should continue attacking civilians. Why does that not count as inciting violence?

To be clear, this is not a one off tweet by Ayatollah. He has continually used the account to urge Palestinian terrorists to continue attacks on Israel. Here is a sampling of tweets over just the past few days.

Will Twitter apply its Trump standard and ban Khamenei? Or is Jewish blood just cheap to them?

Politics & Policy

‘Get a Job’

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the April jobs report from the East Room of the White House, May 7, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Today on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, Maddy, and Jim discuss Liz Cheney tenuous hold on her leadership position, waning COVID restrictions, the terrible jobs report, and much more. Listen below, or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Politics & Policy

Biden’s Infrastructure Bait and Switch

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Ron Klain arrives in the White House East Room in Washington, D.C., October 29, 2014. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

White House chief of staff Ron Klain is known as a master of numbers and details, which is why both former vice president Al Gore and President Joe Biden hired him to run their offices. That’s why it’s disappointing to see Klain mislead people about Biden’s massive $2.3 trillion spending bill.

Mike Allen of Axios challenged Klain during a Sunday interview on whether he could reconcile Biden’s claimed interest in working with Republicans with his big-government proposals.

I don’t think it’s big government to fix the ten bridges in this country that are most economically significant and are in serious disrepair,” Klain claimed.

“Most of these Republicans have stood in front of a Rotary Club or a Kiwanis Club and given a speech about how we need to fix our bridges, roads, our highways, our infrastructure. . . . It’s basic, basic things that we’re putting forward.”

Klain has to know better. The Biden bill proposes to spend $115 billion to “modernize” bridges and roads. That represents less than six percent of the bill’s total spending. Even if you expand the definition of infrastructure, Biden’s bill spends more on electric cars than on roads, bridges, ports, airports, and waterways combined.

In carnivals, what Biden is doing is called “bait and switch.” The con artist tries to bait the unsuspecting customer with an attractive offer he likes and then tries to sell him something else entirely. In this case, it’s a massive expansion of new entitlements with a thin veneer of road and bridge repairs slapped on to hide the real spending.