The Mr. Vice President Convention

The Mike Pence rule—whereby one does not dine alone, or meet behind closed doors, with a member of the opposite sex to whom one is not either married or related—is a fine rule, and you cannot reasonably begrudge anyone, man or woman, who follows it. The rule is meant to avoid both the temptation and the appearance of impropriety—it is meant to safeguard against sexual licentiousness and false impressions or accusations of the same. For advocating this sensible dictum, Mike Pence was pilloried as a patriarchal dictator, because that is the state of liberal politics these days.

A number of people have correctly pointed out that observing the Mike Pence rule would have had the happy ancillary effect of preventing a fair number of the alleged incidents of sexual harassment and assault that have come to the fore in recent months. Harvey Weinstein’s bait-and-switch trick, for instance—inviting actresses up to his hotel room and exposing himself upon their arrival—would be totally negated by following the Pence Protocol, as would the creeper behavior of Roy Moore. That’s not to suggest, of course, that the victims of sexual harassment and assault are somehow responsible for their victimization, or that the perpetrators are somehow not responsible; only that taking sensible precautions can make it much harder for criminals to take advantage of vulnerable circumstances. Anyone who disagrees will have to explain why they lock their front doors at night, or why they don’t walk through crime-ridden neighborhoods at 3AM.

At ThinkProgress, Casey Quinlan is not impressed:

The best way to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault of women and girls is for men not to sexually harass and assault women and girls. But conservatives appear to be less interested in finding ways to teach men how to co-exist with women, who comprise 47 percent of the U.S. labor force, than discussing how best to avoid women altogether.

This is silly—nobody is suggesting that men “avoid women,” good grief—but also there is such a cheerful naiveté to Quinlan’s proposal, the stuff that you often hear of in Reader’s Digest-style kids-say-the-darndest-things yarns. There is indeed a genre of gimcrack literature in which the simple unlettered “wisdom” of children is valued as something greater than itself: when a child muses, say, “Why can’t everyone just stop hating each other and love each other and give each other hugs and candy?” we are expected to view this as a profound and meaningful statement rather than, well, a merely childish one.

I want to suggest that Quinlan is engaging in a similar type of ultimately useless discourse. She is right that “the best way to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault of women and girls is for men not to sexually harass and assault women and girls.” Sure, stipulated. But that is both a circular and presently meaningless directive. Yes, it is critical and necessary that men not sexually harass and assault women and girls. But they do. At present this is a reality. Whatever solutions Quinlan and others propose to curbing incidents of harassment and assault—sexual assault prevention training, a public campaign, whatever—the time it will take to implement and realize them is surely not negligible, and that’s assuming it would work at all. A sensible rule like Mike Pence’s, in the meantime, can serve as a useful stopgap. What’s the controversy?

There is a persistent and popular strain of feminist thought that bristles at such practical suggestions. There is no area of political discourse that I am aware of that is as aggressively resistant to these workaday-type solutions as progressive feminism. Every law-abiding citizen, for example, wants to see the crime rate go down—but we do not, before it does, insist: “I shouldn’t HAVE TO lock my car door!” What is it about liberal feminism that turns people off to simple and reasonable proposals?

For her part, Quinlan believes that the Pence rule “is also deeply harmful to the careers of women in the workplace.” This is a consistent refrain from the opponents of the Pence rule, but it is a curious thing: nobody, so far as I am aware, has been able to produce a woman whose career has been “deeply harmed” by anyone, Pence or otherwise, who follows this protocol. You would think that, for all the harrumphing, we’d have at least some evidence! But maybe that’s asking too much.

If You See Something…?

I will admit that it is richly satisfying to see one alleged pervert after another get exposed and go down. I say “alleged,” though it seems like nobody doubts at this point that Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Terry Richardson, Mark Halperin, Louis C.K., Roy Price, and many other men actually did what dozens of women say they did. Indeed a number of these men have either outright admitted that they are perverts or else tactfully denied being perverts in a way that seems to affirm their pervo credentials.

Two things come to mind with each new revelation. The first is that, contra the insistence of many opportunistic conservatives, these nasty behaviors are not likely the result of the sexual revolution. Rape and groping and exposure existed well before the idiot cultural profligacy that started midcentury and continues today. Cultural licentiousness likely did not create more rapists and sexual abusers—the number of sex crimes has actually fallen since the end of the century, even as sexual immorality has become more fully realized.

The sexual revolution didn’t turn ordinary men into rapists; it rather made adulterers and fornicators out of ordinary men (and women). It is far easier to convince a man to cheat on his spouse, or a co-ed to give it away at a frat party, than it is to convince either of them to become sexual abusers.  We should all work to undo that revolution and the damage it wrought, but we would be kidding ourselves if we pretended that it would solve our national pervert problem.

The second, more dismal thing we have discovered in the wake of these exposures is the utter and calamitous breakdown in community that they signify. It is somewhat understandable when we discover that a young woman—traumatized, afraid, frightened by a powerful man—kept her mouth shut about a rape for twenty years. But it’s not just the victims that kept quiet in these cases. With each new scandal we hear the same old story, almost as if by rote: “Oh, sure, everyone knew about it.” The locals in Roy Moore’s town apparently knew he had a habit of hanging around malls and talking to teenage girls. Quentin Tarantino knew about Weinstein’s kiss-the-birdy routine. Seth MacFarlane joked about Kevin Spacey’s deviant behavior on Family Guy. Comedians kept their mouths shut about Louis C.K.’s behavior for years. “Everyone knew,” we’re always told—but nobody said anything. What is happening here?

There are usually two types of explanations: either a fear of personal repercussions (as many women have said about Roy Moore, a powerful figure in his hometown) or a fear of professional fallout (as was the case with Weinstein, Louis C.K., and other celebrities). The first is somewhat more understandable than the second. But neither excuse holds up in the long run. All that it would have taken was an anonymous phone call to, or a guarantee of anonymity from, a sympathetic newspaper reporter. In Weinstein’s case, his victims included numerous powerful, influential female celebrities, women who could have easily banded together years ago to expose their attacker; what’s their excuse? What about the people who clammed up about Louis C.K.—was it worth a middling career in back-end comedy writing to run interference for a sick masturbatory flasher? What did looking the other way on Roy Moore’s mall haunts ever get anybody?

We are called to do better than this. It is not always easy to do the right thing, and indeed there are sometimes negative consequences for speaking out. But, as we have seen time and again, the consequences for not speaking out are generally even worse. If the accusations against Roy Moore are true, then a sick man who once tried to have sex with a fourteen-year-old girl is mere steps away from the United States Senate. Louis C.K. has a net worth of $52 million, a fortune he amassed fifteen years after he first exposed himself to a pair of women in a hotel room. Harvey Weinstein has upwards of six times as much money as that, and he’ll probably never see the inside of a prison cell. Keeping silent allows dangerous men to amass power and influence and very likely continue their predatory behavior in the process. There is no reason to stay quiet—not out of fear, not for money, and certainly not for a career purchased at the cost of more victims.

Only What He Said

In my parish there is an enormous crucifix on display, of a size and stark stunning detail that could scandalize an entire Methodist Ladies’ Auxiliary picnic. But there is indeed something deeply scandalous about crucifixes, a perturbing kind of ethic about them that, being a few thousand years removed from 1st century Judaea, we are apt to forget. We should not. The crucifix is a good lesson in God’s deft hand, His long-form chessboard logic.

It is easy to forget, or else simply not know, just how terrifying the cross was to the contemporaries of Christ: it was a brutal, horrific, ignominious, shameful method of torture and execution, far less humane and far more savage than any of the still-savage methods we now use to take each other’s lives in cold blood. Today a cross is something you hang on your wall or around your neck or on your front door; it is a symbol used to denote religious nutjobs in network primetime drama shows and weak-willed spiritual hippies in Nicholas Sparks novels. On the rare occasions that a full-blown crucifix enters pop culture, it is to demarcate a particular religion—orthodox Catholicism, say—as particularly ancient, i.e. as existing prior to 1970, something baffling and pitiful but not scary. Few among us associate the simple symbol with one of the most fearsome and barbarous methods of state death in the ancient world.

But that’s what it was, so much so that, when it became clear where the whole public ministry thing was going, Jesus’s disciples—the men who believed him to be “Christ, the Son of the Living God,” mind you—excused themselves and got the hell out of Dodge. Nobody misunderstood what the cross represented in 33 A.D.; to hold it up as a symbol of God’s triumph over sin, as a representation of the Risen Lord, the Savior, was unthinkable, laughable, the modern-day equivalent of holding up an electric chair or a gas chamber and expecting to be taken seriously.

Yet Christians were taken seriously, up to the point that they converted an entire empire and from there the world. And, as with the historicity of Pontius Pilate, we must ask ourselves what exactly happened here, and what our answer says about the truth of certain things: namely, how did a bedraggled group of Middle Eastern peasants take a brutal instrument of tortuous death and turn it into the astonishing and life-changing symbol now ubiquitous throughout the planet?

The orthodox Christian response is well-known, though to be fair the countless Protestant denominations (and more than a few latter-day Catholic parishes) find the whole idea of a crucifix to be distasteful and unpleasant and ultimately unnecessary, maybe a bit like a periodic colonoscopy: necessary, to be sure, but best left behind closed doors and out of sight of polite company. There is a particular Christian ethos that sees the empty cross as more relevant to our religious instruction than the one with the crucified Lord on it. But they’re only half-right. Christ’s resurrection is indeed the turnkey for the entire Christian faith, but Christ’s example on the cross is the blueprint for the entire Christian way of life: total subservience to God, a life emptied of oneself, a willingness to say—even as you sweat blood and your halfwit disciples keep falling asleep on you—“Not as I will, but as thou wilt,” even unto brutal death. This is how we are supposed to live.

It is a point of great cosmic irony that the very thing used to execute Christ, the vicious tool used to slowly and painfully suffocate him to death, would become, in time, the most enduring representation of His victory. It is true that the cross did not become ubiquitously common as a symbol of Christianity and Christ until a few hundred years after his death—but the seed was plainly planted on Good Friday, as evidenced by Paul, who preached “nothing…except Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” and Peter, who, on the cusp of martyrdom, arranged for an inverted crucifixion, believing himself “unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord,” as Jerome put it.

Something happened to teach these men, and hundreds and thousands and eventually billions of other men and women, that something special had happened on the cross at Calvary. What was it?

You Might Want to Take The Ice Off That

Roy Moore was always a terrible choice to fill Jeff Sessions’s slot, and that has only become more apparent over the past few days. It is true that we do not know if the sexual misconduct allegations leveled at Moore are true—only Roy Moore and his accusers know that—but then again the accusations seem as credible as any you’re apt to find, corroborated as they are by compelling evidence and independent testimony. The Post‘s report is genuine crackerjack journalism—right down to the backstory of the report’s origin, which, if true, is movie-level stuff—and anyone who sincerely doubts Moore’s accusers must ask themselves what, exactly, it would take for them to at least consider that it could be true: a grainy 35mm film strip of Moore grinding up on a 14-year-old? Creepy old dog-eared mash notes?  Come on.

Moore will face the voters, and hopefully—felonious teenage groping or not—he’ll go out with a whimper and retire to the ignominy that he really deserves. But in light of his potential misconduct, and the ongoing perv-a-thon exposé that has gripped the political and celebrity world over the past few months or so, it is worth bringing up the perennial subject of Bill Clinton, who actually stands accused of far worse behavior than even Moore does.

Clinton’s own star status on the Left—and that of his wife, who years served the dutiful role of Chief Bill Apologist—is an embarrassing marker for progressives who claim that Moore’s alleged misconduct disqualifies him from even running for office. Bill Clinton, remember, has been credibly accused of rape—his accuser, Juanita Broaddrick, is at least as trustworthy as the accusers of Roy Moore, and she has the added advantage of being on-record with and consistent about her story for a few decades now. If you sincerely believe Roy Moore is guilty of trying to bang a young teenager, then why should you doubt that Bill Clinton is guilty of sexual assault?

In the face of this perfectly legitimate criticism, liberals have formulated what, to them, must seem like a clever response: “Bill Clinton isn’t running for office. Roy Moore is.” Which is true—and also, from the perspective of anybody who remembers the last twenty years of American politics, irrelevant. Yes, Bill Clinton isn’t running for office. But he has been valorized on the Left for decades now—years and years after Broaddrick’s accusations went public. And liberals voted for his wife—several times, including en masse for President of the United States—even as she herself stands accused of covering up an act of sexual assault.

To his credit, MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted last week: “As gross and cynical and hypocrtical as the right’s ‘what about Bill Clinton’ stuff is, it’s also true that Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him.” Let us so stipulate that there are indeed cynical hacks on the Right who are simply trying to leverage Bill Clinton’s sordid past as part of a tribalistic warfare volley. For the rest of us, the question is genuine and sincere: why should we care about allegations that Roy Moore attempted to have sex with a 14-year-old when we’ve been shown, repeatedly and unequivocally, that we shouldn’t care about allegations that Bill Clinton raped a woman?

I don’t know if the Left has an answer for this, beyond mumbling something about vast right-wing conspiracies. A very liberal gal I knew years ago once said to me, “Bill Clinton couldn’t keep it in his pants, but he sure was a good president!” Juanita Broaddrick would surely agree with the first part. Bill Clinton is out of reach of the voters, of course, and so his alleged dalliance has no bearing on whether or not he will be elected to office. But, as we move through this welcome and overdue new era of exposing and denouncing sexual predators, is it too much to ask that we apply the same standards of evidence to the Left’s all-time favorite politician that we apply to some scrub judge from Alabama?

If You Can’t Say Something Feminist, Don’t Say Anything at All

I really enjoy refusing to identify as a feminist, in large part because I simply do not identify as one—it is, by-and-large, a neurotic, intransigent, viciously ugly political movement dedicated chiefly to killing unborn human beings in the womb—but also, in a small but fun way, because refusing to call yourself a feminist drives actual feminists kind of crazy. They like to say something along these lines: “If you believe men and women should have equal rights, you’re a feminist. I’m sorry, but you are.” Don’t you dare try and say otherwise! It’s a rich and profoundly goofy irony that, in our society today, people with penises can identify as “women” and people with vaginas can identify as “men,” but those who believe in political equality between the sexes simply cannot, by golly, identify as anything other than what feminists say they can.

One is not apt to ever feel all that sorry for Taylor Swift, given that she has about a quadrillion dollars and ten or twelve New York penthouses, but nevertheless she has been put through the feminist wringer in recent months, and one imagines that—for someone who is so obviously concerned about her public image—it has caused her no small amount of anguish:

As proof of her feminist failures, editor Kadeen Griffiths listed Swift’s many faults: not criticizing President Trump, not “publicly support[ing] organizations” like Planned Parenthood and not attending the Women’s March (her tweet apparently wasn’t enough.) Outlet after outlet has pressured Swift to condemn the president in the name of feminism. In January, the Daily Beast went so far as to accuse her of “Spineless Feminism.” Swift may be the highest-paid artist in the world, but her decision to speak out on issues as she pleases rather than as others call on her to means she gets little credit for the space she’s made for female artists.

In other words, being a feminist requires speaking out on certain things in a certain way.

It does—and that is true of liberalism more generally in the Age of Trump: there is a certain way to go about these things, a long list of boxes you have to check off before your political opinions are acceptable. This is much more than an obsessive-compulsive and bullying way to force people to agree with you: it is, in the end, a way to hamstring public discourse, to kneecap the pretense of any kind of diverse political landscape. It is particularly insidious in that way: in the name of “equality,” Taylor Swift is apparently supposed to believe in all of the same things in which a narrowminded and relentlessly uncompromising political cohort believes. She’s free to be her own woman, so long as she filters her opinions through the judgment of these other women. See?

Everyone wants everyone else to agree with them, of course—I, for one, wish people felt the same way about Star Wars as I do—but there is something very strongly paranoid and hysterical about the more fervid strains of cultural progressivism today, an underhanded desire not just to say someone’s opinion is wrong but that the notion of a dissenting opinion is itself wrong in actu. That is why, for your average modern feminist, the very idea of not being a feminist is unconscionable—and why successful and influential women must be publicly browbeaten and nagged to conform to the abortion-loving, pussy-hat-knitting, Trump Derangement Syndrome-suffering politics of the feminist movement.

A Burden to Carry

In response to the suggestion that people should carry their firearms in church to protect against mass shooters, my Federalist colleague Tom Nichols has advanced “a much better solution. The United States should allocate funds for the purchase and distribution of bullet-resistant vests and body armor in every place of worship across our great nation.”

“If we are that concerned,” Nichols argues, “and we believe that every American in church should be able to survive the smallest possible risk of every possible eventuality, then this is a low-cost, low-risk solution.”

This is all in jest, of course, as Nichols himself admits; his point is that “America is not rational with guns,” and that the “American gun cult” has infected our national process of problem-solving, at the expense of rational risk assessment:

Most people will snort at the ridiculousness of packing every parishioner in Kevlar, and rightly so, because the risk of needing body armor on any given Sunday is so low it is pointless even to try to calculate the odds. The whole exercise is costly and stupid, and that’s why we won’t do it.

But offer up the chance for a heroic interlude from an action movie, and suddenly statistics and risk go right out the stained-glass window. It’s not sexy to help on Grandma with her ceramic plates, but the majestic, slo-mo imagery of reaching for that weapon as your fellow citizens dive behind the pews right as the lone madman bursts into the church during the Gospel reading is irresistible.

We live in a world full of risks. I have been the victim of violent crime; a member of my immediate family was shot at in a terrorist attack many years ago. And yet, I live my life, in both my small town and the big cities in which I work, mostly afraid of the things far more likely to kill me: texting drivers and slippery stairs. This is not because I am unafraid of terrorists or madmen, but because I passed high school mathematics.

There are a number of problems with this rather unexamined hypothesis, but first it is worth pointing out that this interpretation of people who carry concealed weapons—that they are interested in “heroic interludes,” “slo-mo imagery,” that they fancy themselves as heroes in “action movies”—does not readily comport with the vast majority of concealed weapon carriers, or at least those with which I have regular contact. Virtually every gun carrier I am aware of does not relish the chance to use his or her firearm; they do not find the thought of a shootout “irresistible.” This is a silly and nonfactual evaluation of concealed carry culture, the obvious product of having never spent that much time around people who carry weapons on a regular basis. Ignorance is very much a handicap in public debate, even when said ignorance is concealed behind sneering rhetoric.

Nichols’s hypothetical in this case also betrays a dearth of knowledge about the basic mechanics and even the economics of gun carrying. Wearing a Kevlar vest is bulky, hot, awkward, and uncomfortable; wearing a gun, assuming you have the right holster and you’re not packing a Desert Eagle, is none of these things. The price points are also wildly incomparable: outfitting everyone in a quality Kevlar vest would be far, far more expensive than a small handful of trained and qualified individuals buying handguns and bringing them to church (and those people probably already have handguns, rendering the whole point moot to begin with).

That leaves the consideration of what Nichols calls “mathematics:” we are apparently supposed to leave our guns at home because the “statistics and risk” tell us it’s a bad idea to carry a firearm in church (or I guess anywhere). I think we are supposed to believe that the odds of shooting oneself or someone else with one’s own gun is greater than the odds of using one’s gun to stop a mass murderer, and so we should leave our gun at home for the sake of safety (because “mathematics” tell us this is the right thing to do).

Let us stipulate that the odds of finding oneself in a mass church shooting are very low. They are also not zero, as the terrible events of last week proved. Of course, the odds of a negligent discharge are also not zero—but with one important caveat: you can control those odds to a significant degree. If you follow the four simple rules of gun safety at all times and wherever you are, the chances of you shooting yourself or an innocent person more or less turns into a rounding error.

One can exercise no such control over a mass shooter, however. We can pass certain laws (or enforce the ones we already have), but we can never affect the odds of a mass shooting in the way one can affect the odds of accidentally shooting an innocent person with our own firearms. The latter you can manage very easily; the former is much more difficult. All of which is to say: carrying your firearm in church, or anywhere else, makes sense so long as you’re doing it appropriately—and it’s not hard to do it appropriately. Those who are profoundly afraid of carrying guns—who think “high school mathematics” dictate that the risk is simply too much to bear—are welcome to not carry them. But it is perfectly sensible to carry a weapon if you so desire it and you are properly capable of doing so. Those who argue otherwise are interested in pushing an agenda, not logic and facts.

It’s Treason, Then?

In the perennial debate surrounding the American Civil War, a common assertion is that the politicians, generals and soldiers who comprised the Confederate States of America were “traitors” who were guilty of “treason.” It is a funny kind of meme, chiefly because it strikes at the heart of the American experiment, namely the right to self-determination, particularly through the institution of governments “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” as the Declaration of Independence puts it. That is to say, the Declaration explicitly advocates the very kind of “treason” that we’re supposed to abhor in the likes of Robert E. Lee.

In truth nobody cares all that much about the fact that the Confederates were “traitors,” inasmuch as that would require a level of deliberate, honest-to-goodness patriotism that is more or less unfashionable these days. People dislike the Confederates not because of “treason” but because of slavery—i.e. we are repulsed by the Confederate experiment not because it was an act of rebellion but because of what it was an act of rebellion for.

I am afraid we have lost the ability to make a distinction between the principle and the application in this case. In a recent column, Leonard Pitts referred to the Confederates and the Union as “traitors who fought to destroy America and patriots who fought to preserve it.” Which is a perfectly ridiculous way to sum up the political tactic of secession, particularly as it was exercised by the Confederate States. Whatever the CSA was up to, “destroying America” was not it, unless one wants to argue that the America nation is utterly inseparable from a handful of the states that comprise it. But you would be wrong: you can act as if the Union depends entirely on Arkansas or Louisiana remaining a part of it, say, but that idea is preposterous enough that even the Supreme Court has rejected it.

All of which is to say that, while the general opprobrium directed toward the Ordinance of Secession is a good and proper thing, we should not be confused as to just what it is to which we stand opposed. The hand-wringing over “treason” makes little sense in the context of American political history—our country was founded on rebellion, so much so that the leaders of the American Revolution would have been executed had they lost. It is worthwhile to learn to tell the difference between slavery (which is awful) and revolution (which is as American as apple pie).

Be Thankful for What You Don’t Have

Thanks to the garbage “Affordable Care Act,” at the end of this year I’m losing my health insurance for—oh, the second or third time, I’ve lost track I guess. This time is a bit different, because this time around I have a family, and family insurance—particularly under Obamacare, a law which has a curious tendency to drive health care prices up instead of down—is not cheap. We’re losing our already-pricey health insurance and we’ll likely be forced to buy even more expensive stuff, but hey—at least Barack Obama’s greatest domestic achievement is still intact. That is what really matters. “It’s the law of the land,” progressives repeated over and over and over back then. You bet it is—my family knows it all too well.

Somewhat related to our situation, at Vox, Jeff Stein declares: “The Virginia elections will decide if 400,000 people get health care.” Sounds like high stakes, but the matter is a bit more politically tedious than that:

If enough Democrats get elected to the legislature, they can expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Whether Democrats can regain the statehouse, redraw Virginia’s congressional districts, and fulfill one of Obamacare’s promises will depend on dozens of below-the-radar statehouse races. And despite a surge in interest from previous years, it’s still not clear Democrats on the ground have the resources to win.

Well, maybe they do and maybe they don’t, though after losing to Donald J. Trump, it is hard to picture the Democrats winning a lone-runner election for dogcatcher. Nevertheless, Stein is right: if they take Virginia, Democrats will almost certainly expand Medicaid to nearly half a million more state residents.

And that is a poverty, no pun intended: Medicaid, properly understood, is supposed to be a last-ditch resource for the most destitute among us. Expanding the program in the way that Obamacare has done—so that it functions as a substitute for private insurance for millions and millions of able-bodied working adults—is useful if you’re trying to tout the raw numbers of Americans who have gained “insurance” under the Affordable Care Act. What you don’t mention is that (a) it’s junk government insurance that fewer and fewer doctors are willing to take and (b) letting more and more people on it makes it overburdened, crowded, and less effective, particularly for the people who genuinely need it, i.e. very poor and disabled people.

So this is the real accomplishment of Barack Obama’s proudest domestic legacy: it has disrupted the health insurance market for millions of families, made it more expensive for virtually everyone, and “expanded” “health insurance” by blanketing millions of people with the worst public insurance program in the developed world. I want you to ponder this for a moment: every time Republicans mull over the (admittedly nonexistent) possibility of repealing the Affordable Care Act, the Left has a stunning, screeching meltdown, claiming that conservatives want to take us back to, variously, the 1950s, the 1920s, the Middle Ages, the recombination epoch, whenever: we’re told that repealing Obamacare will cast us all into a time when pregnant widows were forced to pay $7800 per month for health insurance and Fat Cat male supervisors could steal the diaphragms out of their female employees’ purses at will and only the super-duper top 0.00000000001% could afford quality health insurance.

All of this for a trash law that, by any reasonable metric, has failed in its stated purpose and continues to fail. If you’re one of the lucky ones whose health insurance hasn’t been disrupted by the Democrats’ good intentions, I’m happy for you. But there are a great many of us who haven’t been so lucky, and who continue to bounce from plan to plan in a volatile market without knowing when we’ll be dropped from one plan and what the next plan will look like or cost. I’m sort of sick of being told how great this stupid law is. The least Democrats could do is say: “Yes, this law sucks. And it’s our fault. And we’re okay with that.”

The World’s Worst Waiting Periods

Apparently Advocate, a gay interest magazine, knew of Kevin Spacey’s attempted sexual assault of a minor sixteen years before it hit the press, but they held back on revealing it because of their “no outing” policy, i.e. they would not publicly expose a person’s homosexuality without that person’s consent. Which is a perfectly appropriate and defensible custom—but one wonders what the hell it has to do with Kevin Spacey at all. This was not a matter of “outing” Kevin Spacey as a gay man, after all; it was a matter of “outing” him as someone who tries to have sex with fourteen-year-olds. Unless Advocate wants to make the claim that those two categories are synonymous, then their defense doesn’t really make any sense at all. You can out a man as a pederast without outing him as a gay man, after all; he may have some explaining to do afterwards, but that’s not your problem.

The politics of sexual assault are bizarre. Everyone knew about Harvey Weinstein for decades, but—as was the case with Ashley Judd—most people seemed too concerned about their careers to do much about it, even after the point where it would have been largely a no-risk venture to open up about it. James Toback harassed or assaulted allegedly hundreds of women, but the same principle seemed to hold: nobody wanted to risk the fame and the millions of bucks that fame brings with it. Kevin Spacey was safe by dint of being gay. All of these seem like perfectly reasonable reasons for keeping one’s mouth shut, I guess—if you consider rape and sexual abuse to be simply one factor among many that might inform one’s decision-making process, rather than a deciding factor sui generis.  But still it’s worth wondering: if a movie career is worth looking the other way while countless women are victimized by a corpulent pervert, then what is it actually worth? Put another way: if the rule you followed brought you to this—admitting that you knew about the rape and the exposure and the disgusting behavior for decades but did nothing at all about it—of what use was the rule?

In the wake of Spacey’s being revealed as an attempted child rapist, the reaction has been swift and ruthless: Netflix cancelled his long-running television series, the Emmys decided not to give him its Founders Award, a bunch of theaters have turned their backs on him. All of which is a fine response, of course…but also, so what? Spacey is worth nearly $100 million, and he amassed that fortune even as influential people knew about his perverted behavior yet looked the other way; Seth MacFarlane even openly cracked jokes about it on Family Guy, as if pederasty were just one more cultural mocking point rather than a serious and disgusting crime. Amassing a staggering fortune while everyone turns a blind eye to your attempted anal sex with a fourteen-year-old boy: it’s mostly irrelevant how many Emmys they take away from you, you’ve already sort of won at that point.

The point isn’t to try and get Spacey kicked out of polite Hollywood society; that’s going to happen, of course, but it hardly matters in practical terms, so long as he can retreat to a palatial mansion with more money than fifty of us will ever make in our lifetimes. What is more important is ensuring that the next guy doesn’t get a three-decade-long break and a chance to accrue tens of millions of dollars in the process, and that the people who are in a position to say something about these incidents, say something. It might mean risking a career—or even a “no outing” policy! But if your professional ambitions or your polite politics are holding you back from something like this, it’s worth it to consider abandoning them altogether.

Man! I Feel Like a Something

The British musician Sam Smith recently announced that he “feels just as much woman as he is man.” Well, okay, then. It seems like it was enough just a few short years ago that Smith’s hit single about a one-night stand with another man was transgressive enough for everyone. But these are heady times: it isn’t enough for Sam Smith to merely have the sexual preferences of women, his “gender identity” now has to encompass womanhood as well. Neat trick.

I’m not quite sure what this means in practical terms, but it seems like it might turn primarily on Sam Smith dressing up in high heels every once in a while—because, y’know, that’s what women do. In truth, Smith himself doesn’t really seem to understand his newly-announced woman-ness; “I don’t know what the title [for it] would be,” he says. At Teen Vogue, a magazine whose chief contribution to public discourse in the past year has been instructing thirteen-year-olds on how to stick things in their rectums, Brittney McNamara explains how we should interpret Smith’s nameless “gender identity:”

Sam Smith said he’s “as much woman” as he is a man in a recent interview. While it’s great that Sam felt comfortable opening up about his gender, he was clear that he doesn’t have a title for exactly how he identifies — in fact, he used those exact words.

“I don’t know what the title would be, but I feel just as much woman as I am man,” he said to the Sunday Time [sic]. Yet after the interview was published, Refinery29 points out that many were quick to label Sam’s gender identity, despite his clarity that he doesn’t have a label for it.

“That would all be fine if he had ever actually said he identifies as non-binary,” Kasandra Brabaw wrote for Refinery29 about publications saying Sam identifies as non-binary. “But Smith actually explicitly says in the interview that he isn’t sure of what label he’d use for his gender identity. And if he’s not ready to use a label, we should definitely not be forcing one on him.”

I guess that makes sense, at least by the logic of gender ideology, which thrives on this kind of incoherent resistance to rational discourse. Though on that note, it’s worth pointing out that, in the Sunday Times interview, the word “gender” is not mentioned even once. So why assume that Smith is even referring to “gender identity?” Maybe he doesn’t even have a gender identity, and his feeling like a “woman” is simply some other internal quality unrelated to gender. Why force a label on him?

I kid—but only very slightly. The same impulse that leads a man to declare that he “feels just as much a woman as a man”—the same relentless desire for ever-more-transgressive and ever-less-explicable ontological radicalism—also drives gender ideology to invent increasingly meaningless and incoherent ways of explicating itself. I think very soon the idea of “gender identity” itself will become too limiting, too constrictive for an activist base whose chief political aims are obfuscation and incomprehension. Within a few years it is conceivable that transgenderism—the idea that a man can “identify” as a woman, say—will very likely be dismissed by large swaths of the LGBT community as an outmoded and bigoted concept. I’ll bet money on it—hell, I’ll set up a PayPal to take bets.

I recently had a discussion with an eminent and respected psychiatrist who has dealt with this phenomenon for decades now. His own estimation was that it is little more than a psychiatric craze (“This happens once every 20 to 25 years,” he told me) that will eventually fade away as its self-evident absurdities become obvious to more people. I think that’s probably right. Just the same, it is a reckless ideology that can wreak a lot of havoc in peoples’ lives before it finally fades to dust. In a staggering interview at 4thWaveNow, a mother (a self-described “liberal, progressive, feminist parent”) shares a glimpse of the insanity she witnessed as her daughter considered “transitioning” to a “man:”

At my daughter’s request, we went to the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, where we met Jazz Jennings and ate pizza with hundreds of transgender kids and their parents. Dinner conversations between parents were clearly divided between stories of natal boys who’d “always been this way,” who “always liked pink” or sparkly princess dresses; who liked to play with dolls and wanted to wear nail polish, and born-girls who, on the cusp of puberty, often friendless, suddenly came out as “trans.” My daughter made a lot of new friends that night, some of whom now, two years later, have been on testosterone for a number of years; some have had mastectomies…

Ultimately, what brought her to the realization that she is not “in the wrong body” (about two years later), were endless, ongoing conversations about sex-based norms, gender roles and expectations, misogyny, and homophobia, between her and lots of other people, mostly women. NO ONE fits neatly into any stereotype associated with their “identity.” She came to understand that her suffering wasn’t because her body was wrong; she was suffering because growing up is hard! To her, “being trans” explained a lot of her discomfort and anxiety, but she came to realize that it wasn’t actually “being trans” that caused any of it…

She realized that her friends had healthy bodies but that their therapists, their friends online and in real life, and sometimes even their parents, were supporting them in the belief it was their bodies that were wrong because they didn’t match their personalities, their preferences, who they were supposed to love. When she realized this, she got angry. She felt tricked into believing there was something wrong with her because she didn’t want to be ogled by teen boys, or wear dresses, or because one of her favorite things was to talk about the difference between aquatic and terrestrial isopods.

Therapists, friends, parents, Internet hysteria—all of these people and things play a role in the zeitgeist we have before us, the cultural groundswell that has led young women to cut off their breasts and has put young children on synthetic hormone treatment in order to feed their delusions. If and when it finally collapses, it will not be pretty: a great many people, young and old, will realize that they have been “tricked into believing there was something wrong with them,” and they will have a simple question for everyone who encouraged their sickness and led them to mutilate themselves irreparably: “Why did you let me do this to myself?”