What’s Paused is Prologue

If you were under the impression that the near-twenty-year “pause” in global warming raised, I don’t know, a few questions about the validity of climate change predictions—well, Lindsay Abrams wants you to stop it right away:

The so-called 15-year “pause” in global warming is a climate denier myth that refuses to die, and it’s received a fresh take-down courtesy of a study published by McGill Univeristy physics professor Shaun Lovejoy…

Lovejoy’s new study concludes that there has been a natural cooling fluctuation of about 0.28 to 0.37 degrees Celsius since 1998 — a pattern that is in line with variations that occur historically every 20 to 50 years, according to the analysis. “We find many examples of these variations in pre-industrial temperature reconstructions” based on proxies such as tree rings, ice cores, and lake sediment, Lovejoy says. “Being based on climate records, this approach avoids any biases that might affect the sophisticated computer models that are commonly used for understanding global warming.”

Oh, good—the study avoids the standard bias-laden crackpot predictions under which climate science normally labors. Anyway, Abrams appears to be desperately looking for a zinger, so someone should let her down easy: the salient feature of the global warming “pause” is not what caused it, but that it was entirely unforeseen. That is to say, the pause eluded the legions of super-smart climate scientists in which we are placing all of our environmental policy hopes: for all its sneering pronouncements regarding “SCIENCE,” the global warming crowd utterly failed to anticipate almost two decades of interruption in, you know, global warming. There’s nothing really wrong with making an inaccurate scientific model, of course—such things happen in science all the time—but if climate scientists were unable to predict something as significant as nearly twenty warming-free years, it’s probably a sign that we should take everything else they say with at least a grain of salt, and we should regard the rest of their furious doom-mongering predictions with a healthy skepticism.

A Jagged Little Pill (With No Co-Pay!)

After the bombshell Halbig v. Burwell ruling this morning, Brian Beutler at the New Republic declared:

This Shamefully Dishonest Obamacare Ruling Could Blow Up in the GOP’s Face

Hey, good to know. Mr. Beutler is betting on the idea that conservatives may leverage the Halbig ruling to “leave something as deeply rooted as Obamacare permanently hobbled” (deeply rooted for all of four years, yes), which would allegedly result in inferior health care for the citizens of red states. He very well could be right—Republicans are nothing if not terrible at seizing an opportune moment to actually do some good, and it’s not impossible to imagine the GOP successfully “hobbling” Obamacare without really making anything better for uninsured Americans.

Nevertheless, it is telling that Beutler believes the miserable failure of Obamacare is somehow the Right’s fault. It’s the feet of the Left at which the disasters of Obamacare are to be laid; it’s the Left that has championed this deleterious and obnoxious law in spite of its repeated indignities and catastrophes: from the shameful, shameless way in which it the bill was passed, to Congress’s disgraceful abdication of lawmaking in handing the specifics of the law to the regulatory state, to the embarrassing Supreme Court ruling that simultaneously upheld and struck down the law (while eliminating one of its most coercive provisions), to the millions upon millions of people who lost their health insurance—people who were openly and brazenly lied to by President Obama, over and over again—to the catastrophic website rollout that fully exemplified the chronic failures of technocratic liberalism, to the humiliating abortifacient mandate strikedown, and now this latest court ruling—all of these things have been prime examples of the Left’s terminal inability to do much of anything right, and have been a wonderful bellweather of how fundamentally dense progressives truly are: they passed an impossibly complex law governing an impossibly complicated sector of an insanely complex economy—and they are befuddled and apoplectic when the law turns out to be an unpopular and unworkable disaster. Obamacare could blow up in the GOP’s face? Oh, boy.

As pleasant as it is to see progressives openly weeping over the unforeseen (yet plainly foreseeable) consequences of their actions, it is worth remembering that the Halbig ruling, if it sticks, will almost certainly have dire consequences for the people that the ruling affects: if an ameliorating policy cannot be put into place to help them, it will be disastrous for the people who will lose health insurance subsidies through the now-powerless Federal exchanges. But that, too, is unquestionably the Left’s fault; instead of going along with sensible, market-based, deregulatory solutions to the health care crisis, liberals went with Obamacare, and this is what happened.  They did this—and whether they like it or not, they now must own up to it. Let Brian Beutler whine all he wants about how the GOP’s going to take a hit over this; for most people, it is plainly obvious which political faction is at fault here.

Just Yell Sexism!

Over at The Federalist today, you can find my latest piece: “The Many Fabricated Enemies of Feminists.” Anyone familiar with modern feminism will know that it subsists primarily on fabricated enemies; a chat with a diehard feminist will often reveal a genuine inability to identify real, actual sexism or sexist problems, as well as a striking hostility towards reasonable debate and rational discourse—so much so that there is a growing movement best exemplified by the Facebook group “Women Against Feminism,” composed of women looking to distance themselves from the petty grievances and shallow navel-gazing of the modern feminist movement.

Pamela Smith, an “unapologetic feminist since 1970,” is having none of it:

A quick read through a Facebook group like “Women Against Feminism” (5,000+ members) where women are encouraged to hold up signs stating why they are against feminism show how woefully misunderstood and sadly demonized the F word has become. Feminism is the new “F*ck,” and it’s up to any person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes (ie. everyone) to reclaim it.

This would make sense if not for the fact that “feminism” had not already been reclaimed by the lunatic feminists that make up the modern-day movement: the word simply does not mean what it used to mean. “Women Against Feminism” is a perfectly reasonable response to an irrational, largely hateful and ugly corruption of a once-noble ideology.

Of course, sexism does still exist in the world today—anyone would be crazy to deny that—and it’s not strictly a Western problem:

Extra-wide parking spaces outside a mall in China designed for women have sparked a debate on social media in the country over allegations of sexism.

The mall, located in the northern Chinese port city of Dalian, has 10 spaces with an extra 30 centimeters marked in pink outside the main entrance that were provided after women had trouble parking in the standard basement slots, managers said.

“We just wanted to make things easier for women, who make up most of our customers,” said manager Yang Hongjun, a woman herself.

Wait a second, this isn’t a matter of sexism: the mall managers made the parking lot more accessible for their female customers, not less. Sexism is supposed to disadvantage women, not make their lives better. That’s not to say that all women are bad parkers—plainly they are not—but evidently enough women had enough difficulty parking at this particular mall to warrant a gender-centric reaction by the staff. “We just wanted to make things easier for…most of our customers,” said Yang Hongjun. So the larger parking spaces were an economic decision, as well. It’s just another example of the genius of capitalism, which increases the standards of living for everyone involved.

Let Me Shop in Peace

If you were waiting around for a reason to get excited, maybe you can use the USDA’s latest press release:

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has declared August 3 through 9, 2014, “National Farmers Market Week”. Throughout the week, USDA will celebrate our nation’s thousands of farmers markets, farmers who make them possible and the communities that host them.

The declaration was made via an official proclamation signed by Secretary Vilsack. This year marks the 15th Annual National Farmers Market Week recognizing the important role that farmers markets play in the agricultural and food economy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture began declaring National Farmers Market Week in 2000.

“National Farmers Market Week is a great opportunity for farmers markets across the country to host special events to showcase all the tremendous services they provide,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Farmers markets play a key role in developing local and regional food systems that support family farms, and help grow rural economies. They bring communities together, connecting cities with the farms that support them and provide Americans across the country with fresh, healthy food.”

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: what did we do during the dark days before 2000, prior to such “proclamations,” when the USDA remained silent on the crucial matter of National Farmers Market Week? I remember it as a time of great chaos and strife amongst the farmers, grocery shoppers and market managers—but then, my memory is a bit hazy: I took a compost-grown summer squash to the head in 1998 during the Second Battle of the Markets, and I’ve never been the same after that.

I wrote last week about the problems in mixing big government and local food, and how the perception of local food as a haven for heavy-handed progressive government probably scares away a lot of right-leaning or conservative folks from shopping at farmers markets and buying local. It doesn’t help when the USDA, perhaps the dumbest federal bureau in existence, comes out with stupid press releases like this. It would be delightful if they could simply shut up and stay the hell out of our business—and if they could fold up shop and deep-six the entire agricultural bureaucracy while they’re at it, that would be even better.

To be fair, for reasons I can’t explain, local food tends to bring out an authoritarian impulse in many people—and it’s not just American “liberals” who feel the need to combine localism and petty despotism. In Uganda’s New Vision today, columnist Enoth Mbeine has an essay offering a number of terrific and accurate reasons for buying local; he ends on a dismaying note, however, declaring:

So let us go out there and support our local farmers by buying their produce. The government should also come out to put restrictive policies on some market outlets so that they can reduce on the importation of foreign foodstuffs into the country.

Sorry, Bwana Mbeine, but no. Buying local food is, on the whole, better than buying “industrial” food at the supermarket—but people nevertheless have reasons for buying supermarket produce, and it is not the government’s job to decide if those reasons are legitimate or not. A person’s shopping decisions should be persuaded and dissuaded by words and ideas, not a moralizing busybody government that makes your choices for you. You can keep your restrictive policies, Tom Vilsak can keep his “National Farmers Market Week,” and we’ll all be better off.

Soccer vs. Liberty

I’m no big fan of Ann Coulter, but I must confess I found her comments about soccer to be both delightful and hilarious. Part of it was simply because I can’t stand soccer—it’s a terminally boring sport in which nothing ever happens and in which you’re guaranteed to stare dumbly at a screen for fifty-eight minutes before witnessing the score change. I’m with Bernard Goldberg, who termed soccer “a dull sport for dull people;” surely there are exceptions to the latter half of that formulation, but not, in my experience, very many.

Another reason I liked Coulter’s comments, and another reason I find soccer so tiresome, is because people often wax on about soccer in the vein of a slack-jawed Marxist college freshman: for every right-wing Ann Coulter denouncing soccer as anti-American, there are two left-wing bozos celebrating it for the very same purpose. Here’s Lev Mendes in (where else?) Salon, in an article with one of the most Salon-esque headlines I’ve ever read: “Ann Coulter’s real soccer nightmare: How the World Cup awakened our love of a collective:”

We live in an age of social media self-inflation and widespread financial deregulation; a disconnected age that prizes individual autonomy over traditional social ties. But if the record-breaking ratings for the Team U.S.A. games were any indication, many of us still yearn to identify with a group. Suddenly, an event like the World Cup comes along that feels exciting and alive and that reminds people just how meaningful it can be to fully commit to something as part of a collective.

Gee, if only I’d known, I would have sat down with the rest of those chumps and stared at a monotonous non-sport for ninety minutes at a time. Honestly, the progressive love of “groups” and “collectives” never fails to be tiresome and boring, kind of like soccer itself. For starters, most of us are part of “collectives” already, but it’s often the kind of “collective” that the Left openly despises: most of us work for a living, after all, but you never hear liberals celebrating the “collective” of a well-run Wal Mart or franchise restaurant. Many of us go to church, as well, which is usually more group-like and “collective” than even a stupid soccer match—what St. Paul called being “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment”—but given that progressives expend much of their energy attempting to stamp out religious belief, it’s wholly unsurprising that religious life would fail to qualify as part of a “group.”

So we have soccer—the sport which, Mendes claims, allows Americans to “fully commit to something as part of a collective.” Part of the progressive attraction towards soccer is undoubtedly in its subsumption of individual autonomy; Mendes gushes that the U.S. soccer team “was conspicuously lacking in individual aggrandizement,” which is precisely how the Left wishes society worked, and precisely the kind of civic life the most hard-line progressive societies have attempted to build: Soviet Russia and Communist China, for instance, both rested upon the philosophy of what George Orwell passingly referred to as “Obliteration of the Self.” Consequently, soccer is viewed as one of the consummate anti-American sports; as Mendes puts it, one of soccer’s chief functions is in “opening [Americans] up to foreign influence.” Given that said “foreign influence” consists of a boring, predictable, anti-individualist game that embodies the worst qualities of the rest of the world and dispenses with the best qualities of American culture, you can understand why the Left is in thrall to soccer, a sport which typifies and exalts their loathsome political tendencies. Meaningful, indeed.

Cisgendered Resistance is Futile

It was great to witness the (albeit moderate) victory for religious liberty in the Hobby Lobby case, if only because it re-affirmed America’s dwindling yet still extant protection of religious belief against the sociopathic excesses of American progressivism: there’s still a few reasons to celebrate the United States’s longstanding commitment to religious freedom, at least until Harry Reid and the rest of the thugs on Capitol Hill enact whatever bitter anti-religious indignities they’re currently cooking up. Let us not, however, think all is rosy on the continent; our neighbors to the north, after all, are daily subject to the ignominy of lefty-centric “human rights” tribunals:

Catholic schools in Vancouver have adopted a policy that could allow transgender students to use the pronouns, uniforms and washrooms that match their gender identity after a human rights complaint forced the local archdiocese to balance its religious teachings with the rights of transgender children.

The lawyer for the 11-year-old transgender girl behind the complaint says Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese appears to be the first Catholic school board in North America to implement such a policy.

Tracey Wilson’s doctors determined she had gender dysphoria, but the Catholic school she attended indicated it could not accommodate her request to be treated as a girl.

Well, it “indicated” otherwise quite quickly when a “human rights complaint” was brought before it; like the decapitated horse head left under an enemy’s bedsheets, a Canadian human rights inquisitorial brigade can make anyone change his tune: now the archdiocese must “balance its religious teachings with the rights of transgender children.” Three guesses as to how that will play out: if there’s one thing a new-age activist government utterly and completely despises, it’s a protected sphere of private action in which individuals may live out their beliefs free from state interference. That’s actually the point of private schools, especially religious ones. Bad luck for the Vancouver Archdiocese for assuming the notion still held up.

The Catholic superintendent’s affirmation of independence is almost quaint in its optimism:

“We are people of the Catholic faith. Our schools will be as inclusive as we can while still retaining our Catholic identity.”

Uh, sorry, no—you won’t be able to “retain” much of anything after these people are done with you, especially now that they have their gender dysphoric foot in your catechetical door: the Vancouver Archdiocese’s “Catholic identity” will doubtlessly be subsumed by whatever’s the next “gender identity” a la mode. Whatever else lays ahead, the Vancouver Catholic school system must now call a boy a girl in direct contravention of its own religious teachings; moreover, instead of contributing to a social and political environment where a severely confused and distressed young boy might get the help he needs, the Vancouver human rights goon squad has simply added to the problem and steamrolled over religious liberty in the process. “We are people of the Catholic faith,” says the superintendent. If I were him, I wouldn’t broadcast one’s “faith” too loudly; in the eyes of the fevered progressive “human rights” coterie, that’s precisely the problem, and they’ll snuff it out wherever they can find it.

Local Food Gets Big, Stays Local

If, like your humble correspondent, you’re a dedicated local foodie, then you’ll know the industry is taking off and developing in a number of superb ways, such as in Philadelphia:

A growing network of companies and organizations is delivering food directly from local farms to major institutions like Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in downtown Philadelphia, eliminating scores of middlemen from farm to fork. Along the way, they’re increasing profits and recognition for smaller farms and bringing consumers healthier, fresher foods.

Over the past five years, with more than $25 million in federal aid, these so-called food hubs have helped transform locally grown foods into a bigger business, supplying hospitals, schools, restaurant chains and grocery stores as consumer demand grows.

Major institutions like Jefferson have long relied on whatever giant food service companies provide, often processed foods that are delivered efficiently and are easy to heat and serve. But with a steady supply of locally grown food from the Common Market food hub, Jefferson now serves vegetables like bok choy and asparagus, creamy yogurts from Amish country and omelets with locally sourced cage-free eggs and spinach.

This is great news for any number of reasons, chief among them that the patients and employees of the hospital now have access to a wide array of healthier foods. But it’s also a veritable broadside for the ways in which good local food can be distributed through a variety of means: these “food hubs” that have sprung up in recent years are terrifically convenient methods for buying local food, and they’re a wonderful example of the ways in which a market can adapt to better serve consumers who desperately want the market’s products. Local food has been going this way for a while. Caroline and I buy most of our food from a couple of farmers’ markets, a few retail outlets and one far-flung “farm store” on the edge of the north forty; soon we’ll be trying out a great website that works as a digital food hub. If you live in even a moderately-populated area, it’s probably not that hard at all to buy local.

The perception of local food as an inconvenient and inaccessible product is one of its chief detriments—and I’m sorry to say that much of this perception is spread by many of my fellow conservatives and libertarians, who sneeringly believe that the farmer’s market is some kind of economic regression, and who believe that the sole aspect by which one should judge one’s food is in how much it costs. This is a flatly incorrect approach to the whole question of food, as anyone who’s done a little research will tell you, but in the meantime it’s sort of hard to fault right-leaning people for feeling leery about the local food movement: most farmers’ markets, after all, are staffed and patronized primarily by moderate to radical leftists who have insane, retrograded ideas of economic and social collectivization and who, if they could, would likely force the entire country to shop at farmers’ markets instead of leaving the whole thing as a voluntary arrangement (the $25 million in “federal aid” the food hubs have received is another good indicator of this kind of political philosophy). Farmers’ markets are not usually where the free market crowd shops, which is a shame because they’re usually among the freest markets around. For us liberty-loving folks who also value local food, part of our goal should be in diluting the ultra-progressive atmosphere under which much of local food currently suffers. Great innovations like the Common Market food hub can help do that.

The Way Climate Used to Be

In his ongoing effort to combat climate change through executive authority,” MSNBC declares, “President Obama announced Wednesday a series of investments to support communities across the country as they prepare for the worst effects yet to come.” Oh, thank goodness. “The vast majority” of the “investments” will be funneled towards “improving a nation’s rural electric system in eight states,” whatever the hell that catastrophe of a sentence is supposed to mean; but don’t let anyone tell you the president isn’t taking the long view: 

Other sizable grants will go towards educating and preparing Indian tribes for the extreme weather patterns and other effects of climate change and improving the 3-D mapping of the country to help officials plan for floods and coastal erosion.

Great, all of our bases are covered. Actually, if history is any indication, the Native Americans are already prepared for “extreme weather patterns;” 17th century Indians, after all, were able to survive the brutal winter weather that, in contrast, nearly wiped out the early English settlements. So Obama’s throwing money at something that was figured out hundreds of years ago.

Of course, it’s hard for the president to avoid the histrionics when the media have saturated us with dire predictions of doom-mongering and disaster:

Between July 2004 and July 2005, a year before Gore’s movie, the three networks only used the phrase “extreme weather” in 18 stories on their morning and evening news shows in that entire year.

Now, it is a favorite phrase of the networks. In the past year (July 2013 through July 2014), the same network news shows talked about it 988 percent more: in a whopping 196 stories. That’s more than enough stories to see one every other day on average.

During that time, extreme weather was frequently used by the networks to describe heat waves, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes and winter storms, and they often included the phrase in onscreen graphics or chyrons during weather stories. ABC even has an “extreme weather team” dedicated to covering such events. Some of those reports explicitly linked the events to climate change, but even when they didn’t the stories fueled the narrative of climate alarmism.

“One every other day on average:” Good Lord, who watches the three major networks that often? Anyway, whether or not it’s a cause of the media’s “extreme weather” obsession or a result of it, one definitely sees this kind of silly alarmism among the general population: a while ago, during a Spring hailstorm, I overheard a fellow remark, “I don’t remember this kind of weather when I was a kid. It’s climate change.” Climate alarmists are apparently given to believing that, prior to the early 21st century, weather was a highly-predictable, utterly foreseeable phenomenon that never deviated from a set routine and was essentially the same from day-to-day. It’s a lazy, intellectually-vapid way of looking at climate change: one views the climate of one’s childhood with rose-tinted glasses, certain that this wacky weather simply never materialized during the halcyon days when we were younger, even if extreme weather is less common now than it was then. Fanciful memories of one’s youth are a normal part of anyone’s life, of course—but when it comes to climate policy, which has the potential to do great harm to the economy and to everyone’s standards of living, it’s probably best if we look at weather with rational, scientific minds instead of irrational, emotional ones.

 

The Dumbest Carrot on the Stupidest Stick

Earlier today I asked if the TSA is the most incompetent American government agency ever known; I remarked that the United States Department of Agriculture might be a contender for the title. I find the USDA to be a flagrantly inept and corrupt bureau in virtually everything it does, yet nevertheless the department’s near-constant idiotic undertakings continuously surprise me:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is suggesting major changes to grocery stores to “nudge” Americans to purchase healthier foods when they shop.

The agency commissioned an “expert panel” to make recommendations on how to guide the more than 47 million Americans on food stamps into spending their benefits on fruits and vegetables.

The group released an 80-page report this month presenting their ideas, which include talking shopping carts and a marketing strategy for grocery chains that would feature better store lighting for healthier items.

“Most Americans, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants, do not purchase enough whole grains, dark green and orange vegetables, and legumes, and purchase too many items with excess calories from fats and added sugars,” the report said.

These are your tax dollars at “work:” the USDA brought together an “expert panel” to think up some real slick ideas: create a shopping cart that talks and put some studio lighting on the vegetable aisle. Meanwhile, the simplest idea—restrict SNAP benefits to healthy, unprocessed foods—eludes the assembled “experts.” It’s a good thing the study only cost $1 million, else I would feel the money had been wasted.

It really takes a lot of audacity to author a plan of action that is so aggressively steeped in stupidity: some of the USDA’s other genius ideas include “stores offering ‘SNAP-Ed cooking classes’ and consultations with dieticians,” as well as (for real)

“a point-based system where food stamp recipients could receive movie tickets in exchange for healthy food purchases.”

Bright ideas like these for a low, low six-figure price tag. Imagine what we could get for an another million bucks.

The USDA already prohibits numerous items from being purchased with food stamps: booze, cigarettes, nonfood items, pet food, prepared foods—and yet the utterly worthless department’s website explicitly states that “junk food” is eligible for purchase. Why not limit SNAP purchases to meat, vegetables and whole grains? Because that would be far too simple and effective, and a “point-based” movie ticket reward system makes the inept schmucks at the USDA feel as if they’re accomplishing something. Whether or not the USDA is the most incompetent bureau in American history, it’s assuredly the stupidest; given its competition, that’s no small feat.

The Bureaucratic Race to the Bottom

At The Federalist today, you can find my latest piece: “Is the TSA the Most Monstrously Incompetent Agency in History?”

To the Transportation Security Administration’s credit, the question is not rhetorical—the USDA is certainly a contender for the title—but the TSA is right up there. Staffed by quick-tempered petty little tyrants, fully embedded in and disruptive of an important and widely-used industry, assumed to be the only thing separating us from life and death—and they get to grope your private parts, too.

As I wrote, the TSA has decided that your electronic devices constitute “a massive new threat to domestic airline security:” the agency is demanding that you power up your phone or your laptop before you get on the plane, and if it doesn’t work, it can’t come with you. Naturally, a few business types have figured out that this might not be in the best interest of data security:

In an Association of Corporate Travel Executives email survey of travel managers, conducted July 10 to July 13, a greater percentage of U.S.-based travel managers (68%) than their European peers (57%) responded that they were “very concerned” about what would happen to proprietary information on the devices in the event they were seized.

For example, what could happen to a contract, financial document or sensitive email if it were on an electronic device that was seized, whether it might eventually be returned or not?

Who cares? Surely the TSA doesn’t; if you’ve got nothing to hide, after all, you’ve got nothing to worry about, except for maybe your highly important and sensitive data being thrown into a junk pile. What are you, some kind of terrorist?