That Which We Call a Rose

Emma Watson’s United Nations speech on feminism last week generated a pretty enthusiastic response from much of the media, though it’s beyond me why: it’s not as if the speech was particularly bad, but it wasn’t very good, either; there were some decent parts about global women’s issues and some rotten parts that were composed of standard feminist boilerplate; altogether it felt like a wash. That didn’t stop a fifteen-year-old boy from penning what the Huffington Post termed an “amazing letter” in response to Watson, which read, in part:

Feminism is not about man-hating or female supremacy. It is, by definition, the opposite. It’s pretty simple really: if you believe in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes, you’re a feminist.

This is problematic for any number of reasons—it’s not clear what “the social, political and economic equality of the sexes” would look like, or what “believing” in it entails—but focus instead on the absurd implication: if you have the same philosophical inclinations of feminists, then you’re a feminist whether you like it or not. This is a hallmark of modern feminism, which in recent years has become comically desperate in its effort to grow its own ranks: feminists wish to preempt you from opting out of their ideology in any way, declaring you as one of their own even if you don’t want anything to do with them.

You could be a staunch advocate of gender equality and not call yourself a feminist; the wishy-washy but serviceable term of “humanist” would work just fine, for instance (it would work better, actually, given that it’s an explicitly de-gendered designation). However we choose to describe our own convictions, we shouldn’t feel bad when some whiny and irritating faction tries to describe us in their own preferred way. You should strive for a world in which men and women have the same opportunities, are treated with the same respect, and are on equal footing before the law and before society in general; that’s a great thing to work towards. You should also feel free to reject the label of “feminist”if you feel like it; if you don’t want to call yourself a feminist, you shouldn’t have to worry about a bunch of insecure, paranoid bullies calling you one anyway.

The Incredible Organic Food Famine Monster

One of the great contentions in the industrial vs. organic agricultural debate is that organic agriculture cannot “feed the world;” that is to say, if we “switched” to organic agriculture over its pesticide-and-chemical-fertilizer antithesis, we’d be treated to mass starvation because of organic agriculture’s lower yield per acre. I’m wholly doubtful of this hypothesis, mainly because there is very compelling evidence that it’s false. For the sake of argument, however, let’s assume that organic agriculture does in fact have lower yields than its industrial cousin; would a widespread shift to organic practices cause people to start starving to death? Color me doubtful yet again:

Supermarkets and restaurants serve up more than 400 million pounds of food each year, but nearly a third of it never makes it to a stomach.

With consumers demanding large displays of unblemished, fresh produce, many retailers end up tossing a mountain of perfectly edible food. Despite efforts to cut down on all that waste, in the U.S., the consumer end of the food chain still accounts for the largest share. It comes down to shoppers demanding stocked shelves, buying too much and generally treating food as a renewable resource…

A full 10 percent of the available food supply in the U.S. is wasted every year at the retail level, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and about 20 percent is wasted at home. That’s food worth more than $160 billion. And it’s food that could go toward feeding the estimated 1 in 7 American households that can’t find enough to eat.

The next time some Roundup Ready apologist throws the whole “starvation” thing in your face, let him know: the geniuses down at the supermarket can’t run a business without throwing away a tenth of their product, and the average shopper can’t get buy without chucking twice that much into the garbage bin at home. Industrial agriculture has been such a rollicking success that we’re stuck with a literal embarrassment of riches: it should be a source of deep shame and discomfort that we’re blowing thirty percent of our food supply because we’re apparently unable to shop smart and maybe push for a little more austerity at the local supermarket.

$160 billion is an astronomical amount of money in both absolute and relative terms: just under one percent of the entirety of the United States GDP, on wasted food alone. That money could do some real good by way of charity and investment if it weren’t being tossed in the garbage every year; it could also go towards buying higher-quality organic food, which would stand to be wasted less than the cheap industrial fare that people feel perfectly comfortable throwing away in incredible amounts. In the meantime, we’ll have to continue listening to ginned-up fears of famine and starvation while a third of our food supply rots in the landfill. At least we’ll have enough “unblemished, fresh produce” to look at.

The Unnerving Vegan Agenda

A while ago my piece at The Federalist, “Why You Should Eat Humane Meat,” sparked a response from PETA; the animal rights organization wanted me and everyone else to know that there’s no such thing as humane meat. I was a bit disappointed by PETA’s response—it wasn’t clear if they had actually read my article about humane meat, or even done much research on the topic whatsoever—but at least they gave it a shot. Their latest stunt, however, seems a bit much:

Animal rights group PETA has sparked fury from a local sheriff by demanding that an Indiana man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend and eating parts of her body receive a vegan diet while he is in custody, according to local media.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) sent a letter to Clark County Acting Sheriff Brian Meyer, encouraging him to provide a diet free of animal products for Joseph Oberhansley, reported the Jeffersonville News & Tribune.

Right. As the letter read, in part:

If Oberhansley did, in fact, kill Tammy Blanton and eat parts of her body, opting to feed him only vegan foods could diminish that bloodlust and might even help protect staff and neighboring inmates.

I’ve said it before, but it can’t be said enough: vegans are very weird people. They can also be remarkably callous of, and utterly cold-hearted towards, humanity and human beings in general: in this case, they’re claiming that eating human meat and eating animal meat are tangibly similar, driven by an overarching “bloodlust” that can only be mitigated by abstaining from all meat products whatsoever. There are no statistics that I’m aware of that show a correlation between meat eating and psychotic cannibalism, but PETA is evidently unconcerned with actually substantiating its claims; instead, they’re attempting to draw a moral equivocation between killing and eating a farm animal and killing and eating a human woman. Shame on them for this pathetic publicity stunt.


The Crumbling Climate Change Contingent

Over at The Week, John Aziz wonders:

Why mess with such a delicate, complex system as our climate? Humanity and human civilization evolved to function in a pre-industrial climate with far lower greenhouse-gas levels. This kind of denialism is playing Russian roulette with our entire civilization.

If John Aziz wants to return to the civilization of a “pre-industrial climate,” he’s perfectly welcome to do so; the rest of us enjoy our modern society, though, and moreover we’re fairly concerned at just how the climate change alarmist agenda would really play out. We know, for instance, that a growing number of global warming crusaders would be happy to throw climate change “deniers” into prison; these are not, generally speaking, the kind of people you want in charge of a convenience store cash register, let alone your economy and your energy infrastructure: their authoritarian impulses are too great, their potential for violent repression too likely. It’s not “Russian roulette” to engage in climate skepticism, at least when you consider that there’s a much greater chance of being shot in the head if you’re being ruled by these people.

The entire climate change debate is becoming increasingly uncomfortable, almost solely because the “non-denier” side of the debate is becoming increasingly desperate—though if your own pet cause were as tenuous and shaky as the global warming hypothesis is being revealed to be, wouldn’t you be a little high-strung about the whole thing? Particularly fascinating is the lawsuit of Mark Steyn by climate scientist Michael Mann, which has proven to be a kind of carnival of falsehoods and sneaky little deceptions: most of the claims Michael Mann has made in the suit appear to be flatly untrue. As Steyn put it:

I call [Mann] Doctor Fraudpants in part because he has kitted himself out in lies. One by one they’re all dropping off him and exposing the real Mann underneath.

It looks like this is the case—and it’s notable for another reason outside of the lawsuit itself. A few years ago, Virginia’s own attorney general Ken Cuccinelli went after Mann himself, launching a “Civil Investigative Demand” pursuant to the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act. Cuccinelli was convinced that Mann had lied about his own climate scientist research and had thus committed fraud against the state of Virginia regarding some taxpayer-funded research grants, so he was demanding access to a bunch of records related to Mann’s data and research. The investigation was eventually shut down before Cuccinelli could get his hands on any of the information. Most of the Left in Virginia considered it to be an embarrassing example of our anti-science anti-progress climate chaos denialist attorney general’s antediluvian Republican beliefs, and I confess I found it to be a bit like a counterproductive political show theater at the time—but now it makes you wonder. If Michael Mann really is as serial and as unabashed a liar as his own lawsuit is making him out to be, then maybe there was something to the attorney general’s lawsuit after all. If so, then poor Ken Cuccinnelli: he was just trying to help us out, and he was raked over the coals by a sneering progressive constituency that values environmentalist one-ups over the truth.

The Policeman is Your Worst Friend

I always find it both amusing and revolting to hear someone say that the average citizen does not “need” firearms; after all, that police have guns, and that should be good enough for everyone, right?

Sean Groubert, 31, who as a South Carolina State Trooper at the time of the incident shot Levar Jones on September 4 on Broad River Road, in Richmond County, Columbia.

Groubert ordered Mr Jones to show his driving licence. When he reached into his car to retrieve the document, Groubert started shouting and opened fire with his semi-automatic handgun.

Groubert shouted: ‘Get out of the car’, before discharging two rounds in quick succession. One of the bullets went through the side window of Mr Jones’ car and continued through the front window of a nearby filling station.

As Mr Jones retreated from the car, he raised his hands when Groubert fired two more shots, one of which wounded him in the hip.

So a police officer asked a driver to display his driver’s license, and when the driver complied, the cop opened fire; then, when the driver raised his hands in visible surrender, the officer continued to shoot at him, because, hey, why not? As it turns out, Sean Groubert was actually fired for his reckless, paranoid and violent behavior; I was quite surprised to find that out, because police officers are almost never fired for their often-injurious and sometimes-fatal incompetence: an internal review board usually finds them to have “acted appropriately,” and that’s that.

I’ve never really had any trouble from cops, but all things considered, your average police force is frequently useless and unproductive to a startling degree. Some time ago I bought a house in a decent-but-not-perfect area of Henrico County; a while after I moved in, there was a dead body found in the backyard of a run-down old crack house up the block from me—ho-hum, nothing Richmond hasn’t seen a hundred times before, but when you’ve bought a house and you’re on the verge of getting married and having kids, you tend to be a little more concerned when this stuff happens a few doors down. A few days later the dog woke us up at 4 AM, whining and grumbling to be let out; I took her out into the front yard, and while I was out there I saw an enormous Escalade pull up, and idle, outside of the drug house. After I brought the dog back in, I watched through the windows as the car sat there for a few more minutes, then finally drove away. The next day I called Henrico Police and explained the situation to them; was there any way, I asked, that a police officer might be able to drive by once or twice during the night to let folks know there was a police presence in the area?

“They can’t be dispatched unless there’s an active emergency, sir,” the operator told me.

Great: so when something terrible is in the process of happening, the police can easily show up after it’s over; but if you want them to hang around and maybe prevent a crime, well, you’re out of luck.

Now, maybe the argument is that the police can’t act as every citizen’s private security firm; they have to be as available as possible to the widest number of people and emergencies at all times. This is kind of a sorry joke, at least as far as the Henrico Police Department is concerned. Yesterday I was driving to Wal Mart and I saw, by the side of the road, a single police car behind a single “civilian” car; later, when I drove back, there were now three police cars pulled over behind the car, the latter driven by a girl who looked both terrified and younger than me. It couldn’t have been that bad of a traffic stop to warrant three different cruisers, I thought, so I took a look on the county’s police report website and found the following:


Got that? As far as we can tell, Henrico Police needed at least three grown men to deal with a simple instance of marijuana possession; meanwhile, they can’t dispatch a single cop to patrol a street with a known drug house—a house where a dead body was recently found and where suspicious activity has since been observed. It’s not that the cops are off performing vital functions elsewhere; it’s that they’re too busy with the overkill, surrounding a nobody pot smoker who had a couple of joints in her glove box. Honestly, I get the function that cops play in society, and I wouldn’t want to live in a world without police officers—but gracious me, police departments are so frequently incompetent and ineffectual, it sometimes makes you wonder why on earth we still have them.

The Whole World is a Farmers’ Market

If you’ve ever been into a Whole Foods, then you’ll know that the foodie giant retailer mostly trucks in what we call “Big Organic—” the slate of mega-conglomerate corporate outfits that sell organic vegetables and meat around the country. I don’t have a problem with “Big Organic” vegetables if I can’t get any local stuff, but I do prefer local; thankfully, even Whole Foods is getting on board with it:

Now, however, Detroit’s local food producers have another opportunity to sustain and grow their businesses: getting their products on the shelves of Whole Foods.

Why not? Whole Foods apparently has some exacting standards for its producers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, at least if—like me—you have exacting standards of your own. I’ll usually opt for a local store before Whole Foods, if only because there’s more accountability at the former than the latter, and I’ll go for on-farm stores and farmers’ markets before either of those, but Whole Foods isn’t that bad; most of the people there are nice, and the prices aren’t ridiculous. Of course, shopping at an evil corporation like Whole Foods is anathema to the the tattooed nipple-pierced purple-haired anarcho-communists that make up a great deal of the organic food constituency—but who listens to those weirdos, anyway?

The point is, for a local food outfit to be a success, it has to pursue as many venues as it can find—farmers’ markets, parking lots, small local stores, on-site retail outfits, and yes, maybe a big-time supermarket or two; so long as you don’t adulterate the product, there’s nothing really wrong with it. Joel Salatin disagrees, however, and his estimation of the situtation isn’t entirely unfair:

I think the supermarket is an inherently disconnected food distribution system. And because of its opaqueness and disconnection, it is simply a model that is incompatible with non-industrial food. Rather than trying to tweak it to make it compatible, I think we’d get much farther ahead to just scrap it and invent something better. And that is not necessarily farmers’ markets, even though I’m a big fan of them. The problem is that they require a special trip, only open certain times, and deny customers many of life’s staples: like milk, meat, and poultry. We need local collaboration and friendly regulations to make the new animal appear. We have an on-farm store. But we can’t sell a neighbor’s extra pumpkins without all the requirements of a Walmart. As soon as we sell a neighbor’s pumpkins in our farm store, we need an inspected building, commercial zoning, handicapped parking, public restrooms, etc. and etc. These are the kinds of things that are artificially and capriciously holding back integrity food, and I would much rather push to overturn these asinine restrictions than figure out how to crack the supermarket barrier.

Like I said, I don’t mind shopping at a Whole Foods that much, but in the end I’m with him—better first to knock down the inane government barriers to local food production than to resign yourself to the regulatory absurdity of the modern food bureaucracy. The mistake many people make when they think of local food is that it has to be limited to the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, but it really doesn’t have to be: if you have a large enough flock of backyard chickens, for instance, you can easily make some extra bucks selling your surplus eggs, and your neighbors can do their shopping without leaving home. Local food can come from just about anywhere, making it a great deal more dynamic and potentially more cost-efficient than the industrialized agriculture system, which is confined to operate solely through places like Wal Mart, Kroger, and Whole Foods. These big retailers are marvels of modern capitalism and food production, to be sure, but they have enough problems that I agree with Salatin: scrap them and invent something better.

There Will Be No Dissent From Abortion

Doubtlessly you’ve seen, at some point, the pro-life protestors who use graphic images of aborted babies as part of their protest literature; perhaps these demonstrations made you uncomfortable, even if you’re the most rabid pro-choicer around. Apparently one such pro-life group in Ohio has started picketing high schools in order to get their message across to the younger set, and Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon is not happy about it:

Whatever one’s personal beliefs about choice, let’s just be clear that this is not about educating students. This is about intimidation. This is about aggressive, unwelcome tactics, aimed at school children. It’s about trying to get attention in the worst way. It’s about provocation. Earlier this year, a University of California at Santa Barbara professor took the bait when a group displaying “overwhelmingly bloody and gory pictures” showed up on campus, and after a heated altercation it was the professor, not the protestors, who wound up sentenced to community service. That’s why it’s important to demand that students be protected from these bullies, but not engage directly with them.

In case you’re not clued in, the “professor” in this vignette is Mireille Miller-Young, a women’s studies teacher at UC Santa Barbara who lashed out and attacked several peaceful pro-life protestors because she did not like the content of their message. She “took the bait,” in Mary Elizabeth Williams’s words—that is to say, she perpetrated violence and intimidation upon a group of people who were not harming her in any way at all. Williams paints Miller-Young as the victim in this case, as if a grown woman is incapable of controlling her own violent impulses against some harmless pro-life activists.

“It’s important,” Williams thus concludes, “that students be protected from these bullies, but not engage directly with them.” That is to say, she believes our young minds should not be exposed to a variety of people—“bullies,” in William’s parlance—with a multitude of political views. It is unclear if Williams is genuinely concerned that photographs of butchered babies might create more pro-lifers out of  high school students, or if she’s simply close-minded and unwilling to tolerate differing viewpoints. I suppose it doesn’t matter, because her desired end result is the same in either case: to insulate young men and women from dissent and to expose them only to prevailing pro-abortionist orthodoxy. I wonder why she would want to do such a thing.

An Ecological Blockbuster

Our weekend is going to be filled with wedding planning—deciding on a date, a church, a reception venue, maybe nervously scanning the guest list—and if I have some extra time I may be able to build that chicken coop that Caroline’s always wanted; if I really work hard, though, I might could get around to “saving the planet;” all I’d have to do, according to Richard Eskow, is “Flood Wall Street:”

Wall Street is, in a very real sense, the epicenter of our environmental crisis. To ignore that fact is to risk dooming our other climate efforts to failure, or to use them merely as palliatives for troubled consciences. There’s no other way to say this: Capitalism, as practiced on Wall Street today, is an existential threat to humanity…

Today’s blatantly amoral capitalism is an anomaly in modern history, a throwback to the days of the Industrial Revolution. But it is an anomaly we can no longer afford. The skies of 19th-century Manchester, England, darkened with soot and smoke, but the planet survived. Today’s threat circles the globe and is already darkening our future. There is no escaping it — not in space or time.

Hmm, maybe I’ll put this off until next weekend. Actually, I’m not sure if this is a jeremiad against capitalism or if it’s the shooting script for the upcoming eco-action film Global Warming: The Movie. Climate change rhetoric really does feel more and more like a mock-up of a disaster flick trailer: the ominous predictions, the constant wailing that “we’re running out of time,” the portents of catastrophe. In the global warming movie, of course, the dashing yet sensitive eco-friendly hero would stem the tide of climate change by activating some kind of solar-powered deus ex machina that would suck all the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use a wind-powered electromagnetic pinch to shut down all the coal-burning power plants across the globe: humanity would learn to live without electricity under the benevolent leadership of a newly-instated Green Socialist world government. It would probably sell about as well as that climate change musical, but maybe it could enjoy an ironic vogue on Netflix.

Most disaster movies, of course, feature a character that attempts to warn the populace of the impending disaster, but to no avail; today’s environmentalist are filling that role nicely, with one important difference—they have the government muscle to back it up:

The Obama administration is preparing to introduce major steps to phase out production of a popular chemical coolant used in refrigerators and air conditioners, citing growing evidence that the substance is contributing to the warming of the planet.

The White House will announce on Tuesday a series of voluntary commitments by some of the country’s largest chemical firms and retailers to move rapidly away from R-134a and similar compounds used in nearly every office, home and automobile in the country, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the effort.

As we saw earlier this month, the European Union is looking to ban high-powered hair dryers in order to save the environment; over here, Democrats are trying to ban coolant. If the global warmists get their way, your hair will constantly be wet and your refrigerator will be perpetually lukewarm. Under an environmentalist regime, we’ll all have unhappier lives and much lower standards of living; it can be useful to laugh about it, but at the end of the day it’s a distinctly real and frightening possibility.

Rights, Rights, Everywhere

Over at the Daily Caller today, Daniel McElrath of NRA Family InSights has a column that purports to be “Busting the Top 3 Myths About the Second Amendment.” It’s always worthwhile to disprove some of the more noxious fabrications regarding American gun rights, but McElrath sort of misses the point on one of them:

Myth #1: You have to have a license to operate a car. Why shouldn’t you have to have one to own a gun?

Reality Check: Owning a car is not a right; it’s a privilege. Owning a gun is a right. There is no enumerated right to own or drive a car. A license generally isn’t required to own a car, or to operate it on private land. Also, gun-control advocates who make the “treat guns like cars” argument would probably be strongly opposed to a reciprocity system for those licensed to carry firearms that was as good as the reciprocity system for driver’s licenses. (And if they say guns are more dangerous, point out how many people are killed by cars every year.)

As a minor quibble, that’s not a “myth,” that’s an opinion. Anyway, his points about reciprocity and vehicle fatalities are excellent, but his point about cars is just disastrously wrong: owning a car is in no way, shape or form a “privilege;” it’s a right. When I got my license years ago, I had to stand in front of a judge with a bunch of other nervous pizza-faced teenagers; His Honor lectured us on how obtaining a license and driving on public roads was a “privilege” we should not take lightly. Sorry, judge, but that’s stupidly wrong. A car is simply a piece of property, and everyone has the right to acquire property; driving, meanwhile, is merely another form of travel, itself a right. It doesn’t matter if it’s “enumerated” or not, as the Ninth Amendment makes plainly evident. I have never understood the whole “driving is a privilege” crowd; I get that driving rights can be restricted in the event of lawbreaking, same as any other right, but that doesn’t mean driving or car ownership is a “privilege,” any more than any other right is a “privilege.” The NRA has been a stalwart defender of American civil liberties for decades, so it’s disappointing to see one of its employees peddling this bizarre falsehood about the right to own a car and drive it.

The Progressive War Against Contraception

At The Federalist today, you can find my latest piece: “Politicians Want You to Depend On Them For Birth Control.” As we’ve seen since the inception of the Obamacare contraception mandate, liberal politicians do want women to be desperately beholden to Democratic policies; they’ve been peddling a sham narrative for years that tries to paint women as helpless victims in need of “free” birth control to ward off the patriarchy or something. Shame on them.

As I explain in today’s article, one of the brighter aspects of this election season is the push from a number of GOP candidates to make birth control available over-the-counter. One such candidate, Cory Gardner, was a few days ago on the receiving end of one of those “fact check” pieces that determined in part:

[A]n act of Congress couldn’t move the pill to over-the-counter status. In fact, what Gardner — and other Republican Senate candidates, including Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Ed Gillespie in Virginia — is suggesting wouldn’t happen quickly or easily. A drug manufacturer would submit an application to the FDA, and the FDA would then have to review and approve it. “This is a decision-making process that’s driven by the FDA, it’s not driven by Congress,” Sneha Barot, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, told us in an interview. “It can be a fairly long and expensive process.”

This is dimwitted and disingenuous, even by FactCheck standards. Yes, the FDA currently operates with minimal Congressional oversight, and making the Pill over-the-counter falls under its purview alone—but “an act of Congress” could easily change that. Just yesterday, the Senate passed a bill that “requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to respond to current pending sunscreen ingredients within a shorter period of time” The bill was proposed months ago, so the crack team at FactCheck should have known about it. Contra the “facts,” Congress actually can require the FDA to do something—and it could  do so again regarding the Pill. FactCheck appears to believe that extant political circumstances are eternal and unchanging; what’s true with the FDA now will apparently always be true. This is just wrong, and disastrously so. Contraception politics are constantly being muddled—by liberal politicians who want women to feel helpless, and now by incompetent journalists who can’t even be bothered to do a little research.