A Climate For Every Season

One of the most useful features of “climate change” is that, like an expensive hooker, it can essentially do anything you want it to do: if you need something on which to blame global warming, just point to the nearest flood, or drought, or balmy winter, or cool summer: anything will do! Basically, if you’re mildly dissatisfied with the weather, you can just chalk it up to fossil fuel combustion. You no longer have to simply accept the weather; now you can blame it on cars!

Every few days another one of these headlines comes out: “Thanks to climate change, (x) is now ruined.” The implication is that, if we’d simply act on climate change and heavily circumscribe fossil fuel use, we’d be able to get (x) back, and our lives would be that much better. Take, for example, the recent series of headlines that trumpeted climate collapse’s latest victim, pumpkins:

Pumpkin pie may be missing by Christmas, thanks to climate change (the Guardian)

Pumpkin Lovers Face Slim Pickings, Thanks to Climate Change (Scientific American)

Climate Change Is Coming For Your Pumpkin Pie (ThinkProgress)

The assertion is this: due to climate change, a lot more rain has been falling on Illinois, and since too much rain is bad for pumpkins, the pumpkin yield in Pumpkin Capital of the World Morton, Illinois has consequently suffered. If this is true, it’s a shame—pumpkin pie is fairly tasty, perhaps the best of the seasonal pies (coconut is the best overall). In any event, at least from the pumpkin industry’s perspective, it would be much better if global warming created drought conditions instead of wet ones, right? Why can’t Illinois get the dry side of climate change? Well, let’s turn the clock back a few years, to 2012, in which “extreme weather conditions” were causing drought across the Midwest:

A farm in Morton, Illinois already has full pumpkins in their patch.

“Pumpkins do well in dry weather, they don’t get as many diseases or funguses,” said John Ackerman, Morton, Illinois, farmer.

Ah, okay. So a few years ago the climate conditions were such that Morton, Illinois had a bumper crop of pumpkins. Perhaps we should have stashed enough pumpkins in our root cellars in order to last out the Great Pumpkin Climate Shortage of 2015. But wait: when the whole drought thing was going on in 2012, outlets like ThinkProgress blamed it in part on global warming. So three years ago climate change’s principle contribution to the Midwestern agricultural climate was drought (and a glut of pumpkins); this year it’s rain (and a pumpkin shortage). In either case, you can blame it on global warming: no matter the symptom, the source is always the same—and the solution is always identical, as well. Global warming has become the blanket explanation for what was once understood to be the natural variables of human civilization.

This is kind of funny after a fashion, but in the end the implications are both serious and very troubling. A great many people are convinced that “climate change” is some kind of real, menacing threat, and a great many people in the media are committed to perpetuating this idea in whatever way they can, all with the goal of promoting and passing anti-climate-change legislation that would be both economically ruinous and, in the end, a harbinger of tyranny. So when you spot the hypocrisy of the hacks who run shoddy media outlets like ThinkProgress, you can laugh—but you should also be aware that these people very badly want to control some of the most important parts of your life, and they will use as many dishonest and intellectually bankrupt methods as they can in order to accomplish this.

The Winds That Blow

There is plenty to write about this week, but I unfortunately find myself unexpectedly busy with some personal matters. In the meantime, I invite you to take a look at my latest at the Federalist, in which I take a look at our deepening love affair with death: we live in a culture that increasingly values death over life, a culture that is working to remove every possible roadblock to both murder and doctor-assisted suicide. These are bad portents, and only a sustained pro-life effort—one which is thankfully underway already—can counteract this awful tide.

The Defense Rests

The Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage this past summer occasioned a lot of impassioned commentary on the subject, but one thing I was particularly struck by was this: many of the people who were allegedly on the side of so-called “traditional” marriage could barely articulate a forceful, coherent response about it. Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee mostly blew up about it, but Jeb Bush just mumbled something about how the Court should have left it to the states, and we should protect religious liberty but also “not discriminate,” whatever that means. Ben Carson also demanded that religious liberty should be protected, but he also pointed out that he supports “same sex civil unions,” so that’s cool. Rubio’s statement was a bit more eloquent, as Rubio is wont to be, but it still lacked any kind of animating panache as far as the fundamentals of marriage go, focusing mostly on religious liberty as opposed to gay marriage and its portents.

This is kind of a thing: instead of defending “traditional” marriage primarily as the necessary and irreplaceable institution in which to raise children—so basically the principle building block of civilization—many conservatives are more apt to genuflect towards “nondiscrimination,” say something about religious liberty, and talk about how the Next President should uphold the First Amendment. At no point are the most important participants in the institution of marriage—children—ever brought up. So the kids lose, and the GOP dishes out a nice focus-group-tested serving of pablum, and we all move on to the next Republican gaffe.

If this is how they want to run their campaigns, that’s up to them. But it’s worth pointing out that the Democrats aren’t doing this kind of tepid tip-toe around the issue. Barack Obama lit up the White House in gay pride rainbow-vision after the ruling. Hillary Clinton, just a few short years out from being against gay marriage, heralded the decision and also declared that there is still lots more work to be done: “We cannot settle for anything less.” Forward, comrades! The Democratic Party is not shy about this stuff; they’re not holding back about what they believe or how they want the world to look. The GOP’s heavyweight contenders are more or less unwilling to offer either a meaningful or a serious defense of our society’s most important institution. So the former will win, and the latter will lose.

This isn’t just the problem of the Republican Party, however: it is much more general, and much more troubling, than the crummy post-ruling statements of a bunch of presidential candidates. In New York, the opening of the city’s first Chick-Fil-A has apparently brought about some kind of minor controversy in which “a dozen assorted vegans and gay and transgender rights activists” stomped their feet and kissed each other outside the new restaurant. Chick-Fil-A, of course, is “notorious” for its leadership having promoted and supported “traditional” marriage activism in the past; but don’t worry, the management wants you to know that they’re not really into that these days:

The Atlanta-based chain became a flash point for all sides, with opponents of gay marriage defiantly buying sandwiches as same-sex couples staged kiss-ins. Since then, the company and its executives have retreated from public comments on the issue.

“What that does for us is really motivates us to demonstrate that this is a restaurant for everybody,” said David Farmer, vice president for menu strategy and development at the bright New York location, which featured the chain’s standard light fixtures made from peach baskets and coke bottles. “I don’t think we’re about a cause. That’s a perception we hope folks will realize is not an accurate one.”

All right, so, they’re not “about a cause.” That’s okay—most fast-food joints don’t really talk about it one way or the other. But Chick-Fil-A used to. Now they don’t. In the meantime, Target, Ben & Jerry’s, Cheerios, Macy’s, Snickers, Jell-O—they’re all firmly in the pro-gay marriage camp. They’re “about a cause,” and they’re absolutely not afraid to show it. So one of the few businesses that was vocal about “traditional” marriage has been browbeaten into shutting up about it; meanwhile, the rest of these guys are both unafraid and unabashed in their political views. This is not really a defeat; it’s more of an unconditional surrender.

As I said, the problem often seems to revolve around the inability of the Right to articulate just why “traditional” marriage is so important: when asked why he was opposed to gay marriage, John Kasich claimed it’s because he’s “old-fashioned.” That’s just not going to fly, not in a country and a pop culture that delightfully satirizes anything before 1975 as retrograded and irrelevant. “#LoveWins” is a shortsighted and misguided way to look at the issue, but the Left knows this: it works, and it will continue to work. What doesn’t work is a bunch of platitudes that really have nothing to do with the issue at hand. But that’s where we are with this debate right now—so is it any surprise which side is having more success?

The Doubt and the Disbelief

I have written twice this week about both the increasing absurdity of pro-abortion politics and the significant uphill battle pro-lifers have before them these days: the media are happy to bury the grim realities of abortion, while progressive pop culture is increasingly happy—even celebratory—over the thought of dead babies. “Nobody likes abortion,” goes the common refrain; meanwhile, the hashtag “#ShoutYourAbortion” trends on Twitter, proving—hey, look at that—some people do indeed like abortion.

I think we have become inured to the dishonest way in which abortion is presented and discussed in our society. When you actually stop to look at the way Democrats and liberals in general handle the issue when they’re confronted with it, you’ll be genuinely amazed. This week during her weekly press conference, Rep. Nancy Pelosi was fielding questions when one reporter asked her about her feelings on abortion. According to the Washington Post, Pelosi responded by “shut[ting] down” the reporter (initially referred to as an “abortion protester” by the Post):

Q: “Is an unborn baby with a human heart and a human liver a human being?”

Pelosi: “Why don’t you take your ideological questions…I don’t…”

Q: “If it’s not a human being, what species is it?”

Pelosi: “Listen, I’m going to say something to you. I don’t know who you are and you are welcome to be here in freedom of this press. I am a devout, practicing Catholic. I’m a mother of five children. When my baby was born, my fifth child, my oldest was six. I think I know more about this subject than you, with all due respect.

I do not intend to respond to your questions which have no basis in what public policy is that we do here.”

Sometimes you have to wonder: do pro-choice people ever feel mortified and embarrassed at how publicly pathetic and helpless their side can be? I mean that honestly—do people who support abortion rights ever blush at just how pitiful Democrats can sound when they’re asked about abortion? Nancy Pelosi was given a very simple question, and this is the best she could muster: she accused the reporter of asking an “ideological” question (it was actually a purely scientific one); she mentioned her religion for no discernible reason whatsoever; and she just blurted out the fact that she’s a mother of five children—and she still failed to answer the question. Indeed, she didn’t even come close to answering it: she stumbled her way through a laughable sequence of non sequiturs and then did not even attempt to respond to an incredibly simple question about an easy-to-understand scientific topic. If Nancy Pelosi were truly unashamed of her pro-abortion stance, and unafraid to defend it, she would not have given such an embarrassing display. Someone needs to ask the pro-abortion Left: is this genuinely the best you can do?

This is really an indication of two things. The first is that the Left is very, very aware that its position on abortion is indefensible: Nancy Pelosi knows that an unborn baby is indeed a human being, and so she has to answer in a transparently dishonest manner in order to avoid acknowledging that she supports a regime of legalized murder. The second is that—though we needed no more evidence of this—the media are plainly on the side of the pro-abortionists. Were Nancy Pelosi a conservative woman articulating a conservative opinion in so incompetent and dissembling a manner, the press would have her for lunch; indeed, you could probably find plenty of conservatives willing to criticize her in addition to the usual liberal lineup. But she’s being evasive about a policy matter—abortion—that many in the press hold very dear. So instead of a report about how Pelosi refused to answer a basic question, you have a headline that explains how she “shut down” a reporter for asking something to which a four-year-old would have no trouble responding. This is where we are now in terms of both our incompetent media and the abortion apologists for whom they carry water.

There Is No Middle Ground

America is at a unique sort of moment when it comes to abortion: the plain fact of our coast-to-coast industrialized baby-killing economy has never been more evident than it is now, and the two sides have never been more starkly in opposition to one another. On the one hand you have people who believe it’s wrong to kill babies. On the other hand you have a deeply entrenched, profitable, single-minded industry and social order whose sole purpose for existing is the termination of little lives on a nationwide scale: over a million babies executed every year for the high crime of being babies.

It is tempting to take the arguments of pro-abortioners in good faith: “They are terribly, terribly wrong, but at least they mean well.” But fundamentally they do not mean well—nobody can “mean well” by intentionally and needlessly killing a baby—and the vacuity and the utter dishonesty of their arguments betrays their bad intentions. The media have been reduced to caricatures of themselves trying to deny the existence of the undercover Planned Parenthood videos. Bill Nye outright lies about science in order to advance the pro-abortion agenda. The irritating Margaret Cho claims that, since “God created abortion,” it must be okay. Hillary Clinton—or whatever version of the robot that’s playing her this week—implies that the only abortion restrictions she might accept would be those found “at the end of the third trimester,” which is to say birth. A few days ago I spoke with Emily Crockett, a reporter at RH Reality Check, who dismissed the Center for Medical Progress’s video of the twitching aborted baby slowly dying in a petri dish; “We don’t even really know if it’s alive,” she said, “since bodies can twitch after death.” Oh, thank goodness; what a relief.

These are signs of a culture and a way of life that is digging itself in for the very, very long haul: faced with the enormous reality of Planned Parenthood’s selling butchered baby parts to the highest bidder, the response from the pro-abortion Left has been…to double down. There is still reason to believe that we can change hearts and minds on this subject—certainly plenty of people have reported turning pro-life in the aftermath of these recent revelations—but it is obvious that there exists a not-insignificant portion of the progressive base that is utterly and completely immovable on this topic. If you produced firsthand ironclad evidence that Planned Parenthood regularly delivers nine-month-old babies and grinds them up into Ol’ Roy Dog Food, you would likely not get much of a response from many of these people at all. The papers might not even run a squib about it. “God created Ol’ Roy,” Margaret Cho would drone, while the New York Times would deny that dog food is even a real thing.

It would be less discouraging if we could count on support from our pro-life elected officials; this, alas, is a dim possibility, for the pro-life faction of Congress appears to be made up mostly of either incompetents, cowards or incompetent cowards. Yesterday’s Congressional hearing was an unambiguous national disgrace: Republicans had Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards in the hot seat, under oath and without anywhere to go, and they accomplished nothing much at all. At one point Tennessee Representative John Duncan asked Richards, “Do you defend the sale of baby body parts?” She mumbled a confused “No” in response, and it was obvious that she immediately realized what she just admitted to. In the video below you can see so clearly in her eyes that she has recognized the trap into which she’s stumbled on live TV. At this point she might have truly been broken, with all her hypocrisy and dissembling and baby-body-part trafficking laid bare on national television:

Instead, immediately after she had declared that she would not defend the sale of aborted baby body parts, Cecile Richards was permitted to launch into a defense of selling aborted baby body parts.

“These hearings,” Michael Dougherty said, “[were] a designed failure.” What else are we to conclude? Ten minutes after it was over, nothing had changed, nor had anything happened that would lead to any change.

We should not despair: we are not meant to despair, for God does not want us to. But we might be permitted a certain amount of amazed misery. The fight to criminalize abortion—that is to say, the fight to extend the protection of the law to unborn humans—has been long, often thankless and incredibly arduous, and there are indications that it will continue to be so for many years to come. The task falls to everyone who is even remotely concerned with this topic: there is no middle ground. The lines have been drawn for years, and now they are carved in stone. This does not mean that we have to declare that everyone who supports abortion rights is our enemy; it simply means that we must recognize them as unambiguous enemies of unborn people, and demand—loudly, publicly, and without end—that they accept and acknowledge the merciless baby-killing machine to which they have yoked themselves. It is the least they can do.

Shoddy Science and the Science Guy

Bill Nye is a mildly annoying liberal pundit who occasionally shows up, says some mildly annoying liberal thing, and then disappears into irrelevancy once again. He had a television show in the 90s where he styled himself “the Science Guy,” which is basically like the progressive version of the Pontifex Maximus: if you’re a Science Guy, you’ve got it all, baby.

Nye’s latest foray into politics involves a demand that “Men of European descent” stop “telling women what to do with their bodies.” The pro-life argument, he holds, is based upon a “deep scientific lack of understanding:”

Nye explained that many eggs get fertilized, but don’t become human beings. “Sperm get accepted by ova a lot. But that’s not all you need. You have to attach to the uterine wall, the inside of a womb,” he said.

Therefore, he argued, the mere fertilization of an egg cannot be the standard for defining a human life. So many eggs are fertilized and then pass through a woman’s body. Do those all have the same rights as an individual?

“When it comes to women’s rights with respect to their reproduction, I think you should leave it to women,” he said.

How can anyone, he said, tell a woman to have a child when she doesn’t want anything to do with the genes of the man who fathered it?

The ignorance here—the genuine borderline illiteracy—is almost literally breathtaking: it almost literally takes your breath away. For starters, what on Earth does Nye mean when he says “that’s not all you need?” What does this even mean, from a scientific perspective? When Nye says that “you have to attach to the uterine wall,” he’s referring to pregnancy, not conception—which are two entirely different things. Conception is the beginning of life. A great many scientists affirm this, so if he wants to hold with his bizarre assertion, Nye is going to have to explain why numerous respected medical textbooks and journals fall victim to a “deep scientific lack of understanding.” Pregnancy, on the other hand, is what happens when  the fertilized egg—the new life—implants in the uterine wall. It’s a step in the development of life, not the beginning of life itself.

What Bill Nye has done here is exposed his own deeply unscientific underpinnings: ignorant of medical knowledge and convinced that implementation carries with it some sort of magical suprarational quality, he has reached the bizarre conclusion that life does not begin when life begins. This is not merely unscientific but antiscientific. He has also decided that, for some reason, men should have no say in what constitutes murder: “I think you should leave it to women,” he says. But civilized societies don’t let just one half of the population decide whether or not it’s okay to kill babies; the question is too vital for such fashionable cowardice. (As well, there are also a great many pro-life women; perhaps Bill Nye thinks these are just men in disguise.)

As to the idea that “men of European descent” are the principal antagonists of abortion rights: actually, a quick glance at the global state of abortion laws shows that the most stringent pro-life legislation shows up decidedly non-European places: Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia. In much of the Anglo-American sphere, abortion is freely available for any woman who wants it, and in many places it’s publicly funded. So in addition to being woefully under-educated when it comes to the origins of life, Bill Nye is apparently incapable of reading a simple socio-political map. If this is science, Lord save us from it.

The Guns of the Constitution

There is an enervating quality to much of the American gun control debate, a kind of suffusing mendacity that comes almost exclusively from the Left. Most if not nearly all progressives are incapable of speaking honestly about the First Principles of American gun ownership; they are much more content to lie, and to keep lying, and—when the brutal clarity of their dishonesty becomes apparent to even the most casual observer—they will lie again.

Take Dorothy Samuels writing in the Nation. Lamenting the landmark 2008 Supreme Court ruling of D.C. v. Heller, Samuels complains that the Roberts court “undermined sensible gun control,” that it “upend[ed] the well-established meaning of the Second Amendment,” and that it performed “an epic feat of jurisprudential magic.” According to Samuels, the majority opinion in Heller—which affirmed the individual right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment—reversed two centuries of the correct interpretation of the Second Amendment, which held that the right to keep and bear arms is a collective or state-based right.

The only quibble one can have with Samuels’ argument is this: she provides zero historical evidence that this is true, and her interpretation of the Second Amendment is absolutely, completely irreconcilable with the structure and the context and the history of the United States Constitution. Other than that, she’s on-point.

The lack of historical evidence is telling, because a cursory examination of contemporary thought during the constitutional debates of the late 18th century shows that, indeed, the Second Amendment deals purely with an individual right: take the writings of Tench Coxe, or James Madison, both of which explicitly recognize the necessity of safeguarding private gun ownership against the tyranny of state confiscation; Tench Coxe himself acknowledges that the Second Amendment does just that, and Madison—well, he wrote the Bill of Rights. You can also refer to contemporary debates surrounding the Fourteenth Amendment and the subsequent anti-KKK bill, which sought to enforce individual black peoples’ right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment—a right, according to Rep. Benjamin Butler, “which the Constitution expressly says shall never be infringed.” Rep. Henry Dawes also affirmed that the Second Amendment affirmed an individual right, not a “collective” one.

Gee, all of these rubes—the framers of the Constitution and the drafters of the landmark American civil rights policies of the 19th century—they couldn’t even grasp the plain meaning of the Second Amendment as understood by Dorothy Samuels in 2015.

Furthermore, as it applies to the strictures of the Constitutional framework itself, the “states’ rights” interpretation of the Second Amendment is just nonsense: as I have written, the assertion that the Second Amendment some how guarantees states the right to maintain their own militias flies in the face of established constitutional doctrine. The Constitution explicitly forbids the states from keeping troops, and it also grants the Federal government near-complete control over the militia; nobody has ever attempted to claim that the Second Amendment modified either one of these rules. (Some people also argue that the amendment grants individuals the right to serve in a militia, but this is just nonsense, assuming as it does that the Framers had meant to assert an inalienable right to serve in the armed forced: no such right exists and no serious person believes it does.)

This is roughly the extent of the Second Amendment debate today: one side—the pro-Second Amendment side—is dealing with facts, while the other side is dealing with lies, ahistorical illiteracy and a dogged obtuseness to the basics of our country’s foundational document. It is easy to poke holes in the shoddy anti-gun logic of the Left, but we must also be aware that they are determined to see things through, and that we must always be vigilant against the potential negative effects of third-rate intellectual arguments like those of Dorothy Samuels.

The Leg Irons of the Future

It is difficult if not impossible to deny at this point that the climate change debate is trending towards authoritarianism: furious and embarrassed that its predictions have been outright failures and its science is in many places very shoddy, the climate-obsessed Left is inching closer to criminalizing dissent on climate orthodoxy. Don’t take it from me; take it from nineteen eminent climate scientists writing to President Obama:

We appreciate that you are making aggressive and imaginative use of the limited tools available to you in the face of a recalcitrant Congress. One additional tool – recently proposed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse – is a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) investigation of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change. The actions of these organizations have been extensively documented in peer-reviewed academic research…

The methods of these organizations are quite similar to those used earlier by the tobacco industry. A RICO investigation (1999 to 2006) played an important role in stopping the tobacco industry from continuing to deceive the American people about the dangers of smoking. If corporations in the fossil fuel industry and their supporters are guilty of the misdeeds that have been documented in books and journal articles, it is imperative that these misdeeds be stopped as soon as possible so that America and the world can get on with the critically important business of finding effective ways to restabilize the Earth’s climate, before even more lasting damage is done.

There are a few instructive lessons here, not the least of which is the fact that climate change zealots—paranoid, angry, perpetually humiliated and dismissed by an apathetic public—are demanding that people who disagree with them be thrown into prison for it. One must also take note of the tired comparison they make between climate change and tobacco smoking, and one must also assume that, like the crusade against cigarettes, the crusade against these “corporations” will not stop with a simple RICO lawsuit. Even today there still arise semi-frequent battles to further punish both tobacco companies and cigarette smokers: prohibitive sin taxes, restaurant smoking bans (and even bans in private residences), graphic warning labels on cigarette packages, nagging public health campaigns. The smoking rate has tumbled greatly since the middle of last century—but it’s still not enough for the anti-smoking brigade. They keep thinking up new ways to punish people who disagree with them. Do we honestly think the climate change crowd, which is equally if not more single-minded about its raison d’être, will stop with a mere anti-racketeering lawsuit?

More subtly but just as important is this: the smoking rate has indeed plummeted, from nearly half of all adults in the 1950s to less than a quarter of all adults today. This is because the effects of cigarette smoke are in fact harmful, and demonstrably so: you can’t deny lung cancer, even as badly as the tobacco companies may have wanted to. Climate change, on the other hand, has been a disappointing no-show: warming has completely stalled since the turn of the century, and the prognosticated disasters that were supposed to ruin millions of peoples’ lives and throw us back into the stone age…haven’t materialized. As annoying as the anti-smoking brigade can be, at least they’re fighting against a legitimate and self-evident menace. The climate change brigade has no such evidence on their side—their predictions are all failures, and their unreliable projection models only promise things that might happen in the future but probably won’t—and so they’ve been reduced to demanding that “corporations in the fossil fuel industry and their supporters” be tossed in prison. Is that so surprising? If your hobby-horse crusade was a source of perpetual humiliation, wouldn’t you want to throw your critics in jail?

What Happened in Irving, Texas?

There is non-definitive but nonetheless troubling evidence that the fracas in Irving, Texas surrounding Ahmed Mohamed is, in some way, a hoax—a hoax of some strange and seriously premeditated and oddly successful variety. I don’t mean to imply that the school’s and the police force’s reactions were somehow faked by the Mohamed family—plainly nobody could pull that off, and in any event both the school and the police have affirmed their role in the arrest and mini-interrogation of Ahmed. You can’t manufacture that stuff. But there is troubling evidence to suggest that something is not quite right here.

I fully admit that this was not my first reaction. Many school officials, particularly public school officials, are notorious for overreacting to harmless and unremarkable behavior: one schoolkid got in trouble a while ago because he bit his Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun. When I first heard about Ahmed Mohamed’s arrest and suspension, I thought, “Yeah, that sounds like something that would happen.” But as the controversy exploded into insane proportions, and Ahmed became a worldwide celebrity with attention from industry leaders, top colleges and even the President of the United States, I started to look a little more closely at some of the reports. Some things do not add up. There are uneasy implications here. Probably they are perfectly explainable. But they are nevertheless, at the time of this writing, unexplained.

The most confusing and inexplicable revelation of the last week is this: there is incredibly compelling evidence to suggest that Ahmed Mohamed did not, in fact, “invent” a clock: he just took apart a clock and put it into a pencil case. This is, in and of itself, not very remarkable; it’s not self-evidently insidious or malicious or anything. But it doesn’t jibe with what we’ve been told about Ahmed: the entire controversy was predicated on the fact that he was a super-creative kid who builds things, tinkers with them, figures stuff out. He’s supposed to be something of a whiz kid with this stuff, which is why the story has pulled at so many heartstrings: here we have a little geek who just wanted to show off his invention to his high school teachers, but instead he gets arrested. Yet it turns out he didn’t have an invention; he just had a boring old clock, which he stripped of its casing and plopped into another box.

Again, this isn’t anything to write home about: lots of kids mess with stuff and take part old electronics to see how they work. So what? Maybe it’s nothing. But it’s nonetheless rather odd: why would a clever, creative young man think such a jackleg and extremely simple machine would “impress” his teacher at school? We have all taken that explanation at face value: that Ahmed wanted to “impress” his teacher. I suppose that’s entirely possible, and even probable—I can remember wanting to impress my teachers too (and failing at it most of the time)—but showing off a re-assembled clock in a pencil case is an odd way to impress anyone, let alone people who don’t really know you all that well (Ahmed was a newly-minted ninth grader and thus couldn’t have known his teachers much at all; if he did know them well, they’d have probably not called the police on him, right?).

So, to recap: Ahmed Mohamed claimed to have built a clock, but he didn’t really build a clock; and he took it to school for a strange, rather inexplicable reason, in order to “impress” people who probably didn’t know him and weren’t likely to be impressed by an unremarkable clock-in-a-box. What gives?

There is also a fairly significant discrepancy to be found in the narrative, one that might be easy to miss the first time around. From the first report of Ahmed’s arrest, we learn that the boy threw the clock together “in about 20 minutes before bedtime on Sunday;” he subsequently took it to school the following Monday morning, at which point it was confiscated from him; he thus had the clock in his possession for around twelve hours, give or take. Elsewhere, however, his father claimed that Ahmed “wakes up with [the alarm clock] most mornings.” This simply cannot be true: Ahmed allegedly only had the alarm clock for one morning. Perhaps the explanation is that Ahmed used to wake up with the original alarm clock before he disassembled it and put it in the pencil case, and his father was simply not speaking clearly. Pretty satisfactory explanation, right? Not so fast: on MSNBC with Chris Hayes, Ahmed claimed to have [pursuant to Hayes’s question] “bought [the clock’s] parts and put it together in [his] room.” These stories do not jibe.

I reached out to the Mohamed family last week to ask about how the clock was built; I received no response. Based on the information we have, then, there are three claims regarding the construction of the clock that do not mesh: (1) Ahmed claimed he tossed the clock together in a hurry Sunday night, (2) his father claimed he used the clock regularly before it was confiscated, and (3) Ahmed claimed he purchased the parts for the clock elsewhere before building it.

What gives?

There is also one more thing that jumps out at me: when Ahmed showed the clock to one teacher, he was told by that teacher that he should not show it to anyone else (the teacher apparently thought it looked suspicious). One assumes he intended to follow that order and keep quiet about the clock for the rest of the day—but the clock’s alarm beeped in the middle of his English class, annoying another teacher and leading Ahmed to show her the clock after class in order to explain himself (this teacher subsequently reported him, which led to his arrest). So the alarm went off and the teacher heard it. That’s a suitable pretext for showing her the clock, but it’s also—when you stop to think about it—really quite odd: why, after all, was the alarm ringing in the middle of the class? Did he program it to ring while he was in the classroom? If so, why? Again—I cannot emphasize this enough—there might be and probably is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why the alarm went off. But I’ve searched for such an explanation, and I can’t find it; all the reports I’ve read just claim the alarm “went off.” But alarm clocks don’t just go off: they are programmed to go off (clocks generally don’t just arbitrarily ring on their own; otherwise they’d wake people up all night long). Has anyone asked Ahmed why the clock was programmed to ring during his English class? Is it possible that the intention was for the alarm to ring—and for the clock to be discovered? It’s not probable, but is it possible?

There may be reasonable answers for all of these troubling questions. If the media get around to asking them, they could and probably would be resolved within three minutes, and we could get back to focusing on what I think was the perfectly ridiculous way in which Ahmed was treated. There’s no need to arrest a ninth-grader for a clock in a pencil case, even if it looks like a bomb (and honestly, Ahmed’s clock did kind of look like a bomb): barring any malicious intent, you just tell the kid not to bring the damn thing to school, and that’s that. There is no doubt that the official response was overreactive. But the most troubling and disquieting thing is this: was the official response provoked? There is slim but nonetheless distressing evidence that that was indeed the intent. Probably it’s not the case. But the media needs to do its job and ask these questions to the people who can answer them.

Mr. Trump vs. The Debate

The presence of Donald Trump in the GOP debates has added a mild sort of pathetic undertone to the whole thing. For Donald Trump it’s great: he’s more or less the star, everyone knows it, he knows it, he knows everyone is watching him and wondering what half-literate snippet he’s going to gurgle next. The other candidates at times appeared uncomfortably fixated upon his grunting, babbling personage. In a few cases Carly Fiorina was vaguely sycophantic towards him. Huckabee jocularly referred to him as “Mr. T.” At the outset, Rand Paul took Trump’s bait and ran with it, which is a sure sign of weakness: if you fall for Donald Trump’s traps, of all people’s, how can you possibly sell yourself as a capable diplomat? At one point Jeb Bush demanded that Trump apologize for an offensive remark about Bush’s wife; that’s a pretty tall order, given that Donald Trump has probably never apologized to anyone in his life, likely cannot even spell “apology,” and almost certainly doesn’t even have a rudimentary grasp of the definition of the word itself.

Ultimately Trump lowered both the standards and the intellectual credibility of the event itself: there were a number of strong contenders with excellent responses to tough questions—Rubio and Fiorina both did very well—but it is nonetheless difficult to stand that close to Donald Trump and not seem slightly foolish. Yet Trump’s presence is not simply an embarrassing indignation; his strange, inexplicable celebrity is also serving to drift the Republican Party leftward in both policy and philosophy, and at a time when the GOP badly needs to drift right in whatever ways it can. Witness the exchange between Jake Tapper and Donald Trump in reference to Jeb Bush:

TAPPER: [Jeb Bush’s] quote was, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” He said he misspoke. You said that that’s going to haunt him. Why do you think that?

TRUMP: I think it will haunt him. I think it’s a terrible. I think it’s going to haunt him absolutely. He came back later and he said he misspoke. There was no question because I heard when he said the statement. I was watching and he said the statement.

And I said, wow, I can’t believe it. I will take care of women. I respect women. I will take care of women.

In one sense this is simply Donald Trump lashing out blindly and without any real grasp of either his method or his target: he’s saying the things he’s dimly intuited he should say, and that’s that. The effect of this mindless attack, however, is this: Trump is poisoning the debate and the race, seizing on these nasty little identity politics that are the province and indeed the backbone of the Democratic party. I am no fan of Jeb Bush, but it’s fairly obvious that he misspoke, and he meant to refer to Planned Parenthood instead of “women’s health issues” generally. But Trump either did not or cannot think in such abstract terms, and so he goes for the jugular: “I will take care of women. I respect women. I will take care of women.” That’s the language of Democrats—patronizing, paternalistic, creepy, unseemly and unpleasant. This is the stuff that the Left’s failed “War on Women” narrative was made of. This kind of identity-soaked political gambit should be a disqualifying feature for any Republican presidential candidate—and yet Trump is still heading up the polls.

That Trump is a legitimate contender for the nomination (and it would be wrong to thing of him as anything else at this point) shows how far our politics have sunk, and how even the Right has slowly but surely become amenable to this kind of drivel. A healthy Republican electorate would dismiss Trump from the field and from respectable political company for this kind of talk—but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, and indeed if Trump has made it this far on the merits of his prior arguments, it’s going to take a whole lot more to get him booted from the GOP field.