This Time I Know It’s For Real

In case you missed it, the IPCC broke with tradition on Monday and issued a scary, alarming announcement on climate change:

Global warming is here, human-caused and probably already dangerous — and it’s increasingly likely that the heating trend could be irreversible, a draft of a new international science report says.

If only they’d been saying this over and over again for years! The IPCC’s latest warning is actually a fairly common trick. When I was a kid, I was really into R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” books, a series of children’s horror novels (featuring such Pulitzer-worthy titles as “Egg Monsters from Mars“). One of Stine’s tricks was to always end each chapter on a doubtful, slightly scary note: would the scrappy child protagonist be consumed by the Martian Egg Monsters, or would he get away to live a few more pages? Kids fell for the page-turner trick in predictable fashion, a literary device that the IPCC has wielded quite deftly: these boobs are always trying to top their last report by issuing another, more dire set of predictions the next time around. I’m still waiting for the press release that claims, “You’ve Literally Already Burst Into Flames, and You Just Don’t Know It Yet.”

Climate scientists have had to resort to such theatrics because they realize people don’t really care about the faux-threat of whatever they’re currently calling global warming these days. Give them credit, scientists are trying to lecture people about climate change in a fairly new and inventive way, by “talk[ing] about their feelings:

“It is my belief that we need to fight this battle on a number of fronts,” Duggan said. “So many people are apathetic towards climate change; they’re aware of its existence but they just can’t connect to it.”

“If people can’t connect with the statistics and data, maybe they can connect with someone who understands that data.”

It’s not working. The reason we can’t “connect” to “climate change” is because it’s mostly not that big of a deal, and never has been. The IPCC’s dreaded predictions will fail to materialize, everyone will go on with their lives, and all we’ll be left with are climate scientists talking about how sad they are that people don’t listen to them. In the climate science world, we’re forced to deal with annoying prophecies that never come true and weepy scientists upset that nobody takes these prophecies seriously. We can’t win.

Farm Like Your Downtown Depends On It

At The Federalist today, Gracy Olmstead makes the case forWhy Conservatives Should Care About Urban Farming.She’s right, they should—and when it comes to selling conservatives on urban farming, we have our work cut out for us. I’ve written before on how conservatives and libertarians seem to avoid farmers’ markets in part because of the leftist aura in which they’re often shrouded, and I think the same thing may be true regarding urban farming: the movement often seems dominated by dopey left-leaning hipsters without much business sense or practical skills. Olmstead shows how that’s increasingly not the case, and how urban farming can offer opportunities to both learn and make money:

First, urban farming presents an interesting opportunity for innovation and creativity amongst American entrepreneurs. Some aspiring urban farmers have built vertical farms and are using methods like hydroponics or aeroponics to cultivate produce with marked efficiency. Rooftop farms are also becoming very successful, and can yield as much as 20 times the produce of a traditional farm. Gotham Greens, a rooftop farm in Brooklyn, uses a computer control system—with sensors, lights, fans, shade curtains, heat blankets, and irrigation pumps—to grow vegetables year-round. Some may find these things strange and foreign, unseemly compared to more traditional forms of farming. But as long as they’re meant to supplement and not replace traditional modes of agrarianism, such efforts present opportunities for people to learn more about food production, and to harness new knowledge in an effort that benefits communities and fosters ingenuity.

All of this is true, though even if you don’t want to make a fortune off of it, urban farming is still an incredibly practical tool: Will Allen figured out a few decades ago that you can start a small, intensive urban farm in the middle of Milwaukee, of all places, and teach people a genuinely useful and applicable skill set. And it’s not necessarily as expensive as people make it out to be: a few years ago my brother and I crunched the numbers on our small flock of backyard chickens and found that a dozen of our chickens’ eggs were actually a good bit cheaper than a dozen eggs from the farmer’s market—still more expensive than a dozen “conventional” eggs, but of course the lattermost eggs are of fairly bad quality, so there’s something to be said for paying a little more if you can. 

Of course, your city or town might not allow backyard chickens; a lot of places are legalizing them, though some city councils are going about it oddly

Direct the city staff to develop a $15,000 pilot program for residents to keep chickens in backyards. That’s the recommendation of the Vacaville city staff, which would then present an outline of the pilot program for City Council consideration.

Why the hell do you need $15,000 to deregulate the backyard chicken industry? Why is it so difficult for politicians to just leave us alone? I can imagine a great many other things you could spend fifteen grand on besides a damn “pilot program” for domestic fowl. When Richmond legalized backyard chickens a while ago, they tacked on a “permit fee” and a system wherein some animal control goon has to come out and inspect your property to make sure it’s chicken-worthy. Come on, guys. Frustratingly, part of the problem with local urban farming is in getting local urban politicians out of as much of our business as possible. 

Bring Back Reasonable Discourse

Over the past few days, Elizabeth Bruenig has had a moderate Twitter meltdown over my Federalist piece, “Bring Back the Welfare Stigma;” it’s a little difficult to sum up how bad it’s apparently been for her, but thankfully she’s attempted to do so herself, leaving the narrow confines of Twitter to write about my apparent desire to “Let Them Eat Shame.” Give her mountains of credit, she’s constructed a fairly reasonable and readable criticism of my piece; several people have pointed out that the effort should center around stigmatizing welfare and not people, but she was having none of it:

If what he wants to claim is that we should stigmatize *things* — such as the use of welfare — and not people, that equally makes no sense. Stigma is relational; you cannot be stigmatized in private, isolated in a world of your own. There are no taboos and no stigmas without at least the vestige of a society, a kind of Greek chorus — internal or external — suggesting social censure of some kind. Therefore even if we explicitly condemn the stigmatization of children while advocating the stigmatization of what they do to live, that is, eat school lunches for free, then the outcome is going to be the stigmatization of children.

Suffice to say I find this logic flawed—I think you can successfully create a political and social atmosphere in which government handouts are discouraged while still sparing the feelings and the dignity of children, and people in general. I would never advocate for shaming people (especially children), or being cruel to them, simply because they were on welfare—something I’ve pointed out a number of times—but Good Lord, a little stigma attached to welfare isn’t a bad thing. A child could easily grow through his younger years into adulthood thinking both, “Well, it’s not wrong to eat free lunches if you really need it,” and “Being on welfare is a sub-optimal circumstance, and I’ll try and avoid it as much as I can.” It’s a delicate subject, but it’s really not rocket science. We should just refrain from normalizing welfare—which is the reason I wrote the article in the first place. It’s an open question of how we might go about “de-normalizing” welfare while still being respectful of impoverished people and communities, but that’s a practical matter, not a moral or philosophical one.

Anyway, this is a far cry from Bruenig’s original argument: she claimed, variously, that I wanted to “bully poor children,” that I wanted to “put poor kids in their place,” that I might consider poor children “leeches, worms, scum or parasites” and “leeching losers;” and that I considered poor kids to be “worthless.” I obviously made no such claims and self-evidently harbor no such beliefs. In an earlier post I referred to her as part of a group of “semi-literate dimwits;” this was a plainly uncharitable characterization of her, but I think at the very least she has some temper issues. Thankfully, it appears she’s gotten the worst of it out of her system—even if she’s still wrong about stigma.

Putting It On Repeat

Yesterday we saw the deluge that resulted from my bring-back-the-welfare-stigma piece at the Federalist; if you’ll remember, a fair number of Twitter lefties were self-righteously outraged over things that—as it turned out—I had never said at all. After I wrote a post defending the actual things I had actually written down, Jamelle Bouie tweeted:

When Jamelle Bouie calls you a “crybaby,” you know the gloves are off. Actually, I did stand by what I wrote; that was the entirety of the post, that was its whole point. To be fair, such a simple essay might be difficult to process for these people; Bouie and all these other whiz kids, after all, invented and are furious about a fantasy argument I never proposed. Good grief, but it’s draining. These people berated me for things I never said, then they demanded I “stand by” writing that I’d already stood by! These are the geniuses that want to run your healthcare, folks; isn’t that a comforting thought?

Speaking of miserable government healthcare management, the state of Oregon has lashed out at the company that designed its non-functioning Obamacare website:

Oregon has filed a lawsuit against software giant Oracle that accuses that company of fraud for its role in building the state’s failed health insurance exchange.

Oregon’s suit, filed Friday in state court, alleges that Oracle, the largest tech contractor working on the website, made falsely convinced officials to buy “hundreds of millions of dollars of Oracle products and services that failed to perform as promised.” It is seeking $200 million in damages.

If you read further in the article, you find that Oracle actually soaked the state for $240 million, which means Oregon’s lawsuit doesn’t even seek to recover all the money it spent. Even if the state wins every penny of the lawsuit, they’ll still come up $40 million short and be left with a website that doesn’t work. This is the future of American healthcare under the “Affordable” “Care” Act: millions and millions of dollars for stuff that doesn’t work at all. While we’re bringing back the welfare stigma, can we bring back the stigma against miserably incompetent bureaucrats ruining our health and our economy?

The Fury of the Chimerical

Apparently my article from earlier this week, on the need to bring back welfare stigma, has caught the eye of a few eagerly indignant leftist Twitter scolds; I mentioned that Richmond Public Schools was doing its children a grave disservice by “de-stigmatizing” free lunches, which produced this flood of rage:

 It’s a bit difficult to try and respond to accusations like these, given that they’re addressing arguments I never made in the first place, but I’ll give it a shot. I never advocated for “bullying poor children,” or “shaming hungry children,” or “kicking poor kids in their fucking stomachs;” in fact, I advocated for exactly the opposite, claiming that we should not

adopt a campaign of aggressive public shaming for anyone who goes on the dole,

and also pointing out that

Those who have truly fallen on hard times deserve our genuine sympathy, and we should not snarl at them for turning to as easy and accessible a source of relief as government welfare.

Does that sound like bullying, kicking, or shaming? It doesn’t—if, that is, you possess even the tiniest ability to read the English language, and it’s not at all clear that the semi-literate dimwits in the tweets above are able to read much past a pre-K level. Nor did I claim that poor kids were “worthless;” I didn’t even make anything resembling such an outlandish statement.

Of course, Jamelle Bouie really hits it out of the park by claiming that my “target” is “free lunches for poor schoolkids.” I mentioned en passant that an expanded free school lunch program is bad simply because of the food’s dismal quality, and that free lunch programs in general are “troubling,” but I did not “target” free school lunches in and of themselves; I merely spoke against removing the stigma from them, stating that

we shouldn’t create an atmosphere—especially amongst children—in which “free lunch” is a no-big-deal kind of thing.

As we’ve seen before, Bouie isn’t really all that great at coherent rhetoric, and neither, as it turns out, are many of his ideological compatriots: the biting criticism you see above ignores the arguments I did make in favor of arguments I never even brought up. I’m not positive that any of these people read the article itself past the headline. This is the Left in all its simpleminded glory, refusing to address real points in favor of phantom theories that nobody actually posited, all in order to affect a vacuous indignance that has nothing to do with anything anyone said. Sometimes this witless progressive wrath is fun, but I have to admit—most of the time it’s just exhausting.

The Gall of This Prudence!

At Bloomberg this week you can find an article about the intertwined phenomena of “hook-up culture” and the allegedly epidemic problem of campus sexual assault. There are a great many solutions proposed to counteract this so-called rape culture, and some of them are more sensible than others:

Some men feel that too much responsibility for preventing sexual assault has been put on their shoulders, said Chris Herries, a senior at Stanford University. While everyone condemns sexual assault, there seems to be an assumption among female students that they shouldn’t have to protect themselves by avoiding drunkenness and other risky behaviors, he said.

“Do I deserve to have my bike stolen if I leave it unlocked on the quad?” Herries, 22, said. “We have to encourage people not to take on undue risk.”

To answer Mr. Herries’s (admittedly rhetorical) question: no, you don’t “deserve” to have your bike stolen if you leave it “unlocked on the quad.” You are, however, drastically and willingly increasing the chance that your bike will be stolen if you leave it unprotected and unsecured. Which is kind of the tautological point: if you engage in risky behavior, you’re taking risks. Of course, Herries’s easily-understood and uncomplicated message was lost on at least one commentator:

Who says Herries’s mom doesn’t agree with him? Really, this is a stunningly obtuse reading of the argument the young man is making—and that’s no small feat coming from Jessica Valenti, who out-obtuses herself on a regular basis. Herries was not comparing a woman’s body to “a fucking object,” he was equating one type of unsafe, dangerous behavior with another, using the rhetorical device of analogy to underline the threat one faces when one is careless with one’s body or one’s possessions.  Neither Herries nor a drunk woman deserves to have his bike stolen or her body violated, respectively—but there are certain activities and behaviors that make both of these things more likely to happen. Until we fully solve the problem of both bike thieves and rapists, there will always be an attendant risk to both leaving your bike unlocked and getting sloppy drunk at a party full of strangers. You can scream, “People just shouldn’t steal bikes!” and “Men just shouldn’t rape!” all you want—and of course you’d be correct—but it won’t make a difference to the rapists and bike thieves of the world, who by definition don’t care what you think about their crimes. In this light, it’s perfectly reasonable—indeed, almost morally obligatory—to make sure women know of the serious risks associated with intoxication, and that staying sober and lucid is highly advisable, especially if you’re in a room full of people you don’t know.

With this in mind, it’s entirely legitimate to compare leaving a possession unattended and drinking yourself into a semicoherent stupor. This is not that difficult to understand—but Valenti’s definitely giving it her best shot. “The upside,” she wrote, is that “[Herries's] quote will haunt him when a date or potential employer does a Google search” Probably the lion’s share of potential employers and dates won’t be bothered by Herries’s uncontroversial and commonsensical remarks: Valenti assumes that most people are as close-minded and willfully ignorant as she is, but thank goodness that’s not the case.

The Food Stamp Coincidence of Wants

Yesterday at The Federalist I sounded a barbaric yawp in favor of bringing back welfare stigma: the public dole, I argued, has become socially acceptable at the gain of smug, self-serving bureaucrats and at the expense of poor people who desperately need to be nudged towards self-sufficiency. Charles Gasparino, on Fox News yesterday, feels the same way:

I don’t think Americans are against handing people a check if they really need it, if they’re starving, if they need welfare, if they need a helping hand. But we have a cultural situation in this country where it is more than that, where it is almost acceptable. The stigma is gone about accepting that check.

I couldn’t agree with you more, Charlie—I literally couldn’t, as I’ve already written the same thing. Actually, not to be pedantic, but it’s not necessarily a “check” to which many of our fellow Americans now feel blithely entitled; food stamps, for one, are now given via “EBT” or Electronic Benefit Transfer, which is basically a government debit card with a preset limit per month. Just because food stamps are now on a card, however, doesn’t mean they’re not easy to take advantage of:

In one online posting from Jacksonville, Florida, someone was asking for $100 cash in exchange for $228 in food stamps. One ad from Raleigh, North Carolina, offered 10 days of cooking and cleaning services in exchange for food stamps. A Charlotte, North Carolina, poster said he would trade food stamps for beer, and a Houston ad proposed exchanging food stamps for a catalytic converter.

Then there was the Worcester, Massachusetts, advertisement proposing up to $3,000 in electronic benefit food stamp transfers in exchange for art.

Leave it to the United States government to usher in a new era of crude bartering. These welfare recipients, after all, are not trading with a universal medium of exchange but with a resource severely limited in its applicability: you can only use food stamps to buy food stamps, after all, which is apparently viewed by many people as a terminal inconvenience. The illicit exchanges listed above are thus best viewed as a rudimentary coincidence of wants. That is to say, the United States Department of Agriculture set out to create a welfare benefit and instead instituted a highly outdated system of primitive economic exchange—right here in 21st-century America. Good Lord. I know I called for a return of “welfare stigma,” but it’s a wonder the USDA hasn’t pulled it off already. 

No Strings Attached

Over at The Federalist today, you can find my latest article: “Bring Back the Welfare Stigma.” As I argue, the welfare stigma was and is beneficial to the recipients of welfare themselves: the last thing poor people need is a cultural and political milieu that openly sanctions and even glorifies government dependency. My parents, working for the Richmond welfare department back in the seventies, saw this noxious transformation first-hand: welfare recipients went from speaking of their welfare “benefits” to their welfare “rights,” which is kind of the point: if you make the dole both socially acceptable and a civil prerogative, you’ll have them hooked. It’s good for the self-serving bureaucrats but not so good for everyone else.

Welfare, of course, is meant to ensure that people have the basic necessities—food, water, shelter—in order to survive. Private charity, particularly the centuries-old Catholic variety, has always undertaken to make sure people have enough—but when you get government involved into the matter, things become a bit weirder, as Jessica Valenti recently demonstrated:

We need to move beyond the stigma of “that time of the month” – women’s feminine hygiene products should be free for all, all the time.

Why not? The lazy logic of modern feminism, for one, dictates that for women to be “equal,” they must have access to a bevy of free stuff all the time; but more importantly, the logic of the modern welfare state inevitably leads to a world in which “feminine hygiene products” are “free for all, all the time:” if the government is going to pick up your rent and your grocery bill—if you have a “right” to such assistance—then the government might as well pay for your Tampax Pearl and your maxi-pad, too. As Jessica Valenti shows, it may be too late to bring back the welfare stigma; once you’ve started demanding free tampons, you’re probably beyond feeling any kind of shame over government handouts.

Obamacare Is Working! (Pretty Please, God?)

Paul Krugman, resident mock executioner for the New York Times, is giddy over the dwindling number of political ads “denouncing Obamacare,” and he knows why those ads are disappearing:

The reason is fairly obvious, although it’s not considered nice to state it bluntly: the attack on Obamacare depended almost entirely on lies, and those lies are becoming unsustainable now that the law is actually working. No, there aren’t any death panels; no, huge numbers of Americans aren’t losing coverage or finding their health costs soaring; no, jobs aren’t being killed in vast numbers. A few relatively affluent, healthy people are paying more for coverage; a few high-income taxpayers are paying more in taxes; a much larger number of Americans are getting coverage that was previously unavailable and/or unaffordable; and most people are seeing no difference at all, except that they no longer have to fear what happens if they lose their current coverage.

Whew! What a relief. Actually, it’s almost as if Paul Krugman has read nothing aside from Paul Krugman for the past four years or so—a not-outrageous proposition, really. Where to begin? “There aren’t any death panels” is at best an intellectually-vapid defense of this rotten little law and its death panel provision: the progenitor of the “death panel” euphemism was the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB. If you haven’t read about IPAB’s utterly outrageous and flagrantly unconstitutional powers, you can do so here. IPAB is the death panel—no plural—it is still fully extant (as Callie Gable recently pointed out), and it will assuredly be used at some point in the future to both ration and deny medical care in the United States. Paul Krugman will likely be spared the worst effects of Obamacare and its death panel, as will likely every other affluent, sneering progressive commentator, so it’s quite safe for him not to worry about such things—but that doesn’t excuse such dishonest and ignorant pontificating.

Next, Krugman claims that “huge numbers of Americans aren’t losing coverage or finding their health costs soaring.” This, too, is an ignorant and dishonest estimation of this disaster of a law. Millions upon millions of people were set to lose their plans last fall, and the only reason they didn’t is because Obama himself stepped in with anadministrative fix.The law itself was not working then, nor is it working today; it was temporarily (and unconstitutionally) “fixed” by a quasi-dictatorial proclamation from the head of the Executive Branch. Gee, thanks for letting us know, professor: “the law is actually working.” Some work! As for Krugman’s claim that “health costs” are not “soaring,” well, that, too, is essentially lazy historical revisionism masquerading as a serious argument: Obamacare was supposed to bring health care costs down, yet health care costs keep risingYou can honestly say that premiums are not “soaring,” but that’s one hell of an argument in defense of your favorite law: “I know we said health care costs would drop sharply, but at least they’re not rising very quickly.” Still, remember: “The law is actually working.” 

We could go through Krugman’s other claims and demonstrate how they’re either transparently false or slyly deceitful—you’re welcome to do so in the comments below—but marvel for a moment: Paul Krugman, a PhD-holding economist who writes for the New York Times, first whines about how the attack on Obamacare depended almost entirely on lies,” and then proceeds to tell several effective lies of his own which fall apart under even modest scrutiny. “The law is actually working,” in this case, reads more like a fervent prayer than a serious and believable bit of commentary. 

Homeschool All The Way Down

Parents decide to homeschool their children for any number of reasons, but it’s always delightfully poignant when that reason is a dimwitted government education policy:

Residents in North Carolina blame the national Common Core curriculum as the reason for their choosing to homeschool their children. The state has seen a 27 percent increase since the 2011-2012 school year.

“As of last year, 98,172 North Carolinian children were homeschooled; that’s 2,400 students more than the number who attended a private school,” writes EAG News while reviewing the spike in homeschooling…

“Common Core is a big factor that I hear people talk about,” Beth Herbert, founder of Lighthouse Christian Homeschool Association, told NewsObserver.com. “They’re not happy with the work their kids are coming home with. They’ve decided to take their children home.”

Good for them. Homeschooling is a demonstrably great way to make your kids smarter, but it’s also a wonderful act of civic affirmation: if you don’t like what the eggheads on the school board or in the government bureau are doing, you can take matters into your own hands. Given how plainly Common Core is shaping up to be an almost-comical disaster, it’s probable that we’ll see a lot more families opting out of whatever’s passing for public and even private education these days. American homeschooling is still not as deregulated as I’d like, but it’s worth being grateful over how relatively easy it is for parents and children to take educational matters into their own hands and do as they please:

Some parents set a very rigid schedule for their children, while others have a more relaxed school day.

“Everybody does it differently. Homeschooling is not necessarily school at home. Some people have the preconceived notion that the kids are sitting at the kitchen table looking at textbooks and writing, and I know some do it that way, but a lot of us do it differently,” Wiegel said.

Just so. The tremendous advantage to homeschool is in its structural anarchy: there’s no one right way to do things, and different families can approach education in a way that most benefits their children’s particular learning styles. This is a notion antithetical to institutionalized education—the closest that the education establishment comes to such radical freedom is by way of Individualized Education Plans, which are designed solely for “children with disabilities.” Everyone else gets the straightjacket. Whether or not you’re a books-and-pencils kind of family or something more akin to Sandra Dodd’s unschooling or Grace Llewelyn’s slightly weird yet still delightful Not Back to School Camp, homeschooling lets everyone to “do it differently” according to how they please. That is the prerogative of a free people. No standardized educational environment could possibly allow such a thing, nor do any of them want to. Down with the whole mess.

Speaking of institutionalized educational failures, the Department of Education—well, I guess we could technically stop right there, but we’ll go on: the Department of Education recently announced that public education in the United States is open to everyone, and they mean everyone:

All children in the United States are entitled to equal access to a public elementary and secondary education, regardless of their or their parents’ actual or perceived national origin, citizenship, or immigration status. This includes recently arrived unaccompanied children, who are in immigration proceedings while residing in local communities with a parent, family member, or other appropriate adult sponsor.

On its face this is an absurd proposal; “public” education is intended for the public, of which illegal immigrants are not a part—they are not officially part of the United States body politic, and in any event they are lawbreakers in perpetuity until they resolve their illegal immigration status. I’m in favor of a fairly open border policy and a streamlined immigration system, but the DOE’s reckless disregard of the rule of law is just offensive: nobody likes to turn away children, who have no control over their “immigration status,” but then again it is absurd to pretend that they are “entitled” to an education from a government of which they are not citizens. The DOE here is advocating not anarchy but lawlessness, which raises the question: why would we want to send our children to an educational establishment overseen by so ignorant and rotten a bureaucracy?