An Ecological Blockbuster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rights, Rights, Everywhere

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

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

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

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

The Progressive War Against Contraception

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

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

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

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

The Horror of the Home-Cooked Meal

A while ago, Amanda Marcotte—of course it was Amanda Marcotte—lambasted home cooking, claiming that cooking and eating your meals at home is

expensive and time-consuming and often done for a bunch of ingrates who would rather just be eating fast food anyway.

Huh. When was a kid, and I sometimes complained that I’d “rather just be eating fast food,” my mother had a novel solution: the word “no.”

Anyway, farmer rock star Joel Salatin responded to what he called Marcotte’s “stratospheric whining:”

While extreme hardship does certainly exist — and my heart breaks for impoverished people who truly have no resources — let’s not excuse the other 98 percent from their responsibility on that account. If everyone who could do something would do it, perhaps we would all have enough left over to help the egregious hardship cases. Soccer moms driving their kiddos half a day one way to a tournament, stopping at the drive-by for “chicken” nuggets, and then dismissing the kitchen as “too stressful” is an upside-down value system. And how many of the men whining about not liking what they’re being fed spend their Saturdays on the riding mower managing a monoculture, fertilized ecological-dead-zone of a suburban lawn, rather than using their resources to grow something nutritious for their families and wholesome for the planet? When do we start talking about them? Hmmmmm?

This is fairly true: one of the biggest impediments to a culture based in good home cooking is the general laziness of a great deal of the population. Yes, there are single parents who work two or three jobs and find it extremely difficult to prepare meals at home for their kids, but there are plenty more people who are simply choosing to eat poorly; “I don’t have the time to cook” usually means “I don’t want to stop looking at Instagram or watching reality TV for thirty minutes to prepare a meal.” Cooking takes some time, but it really isn’t that difficult; you just have to familiarize yourself with a few core culinary principles, after which you can cook a great many things.

I’ve encountered a fair amount of libertarians, for one, who argue that modern conveniences such as prepared meals and fast food have “freed” people from the drudgery of cooking something from scratch; that is to say, all the labor saved by simply microwaving a pizza or boiling some Ramen noodles can go towards something more productive or desirable. The upshot is, most of that “saved labor” seems to go towards lounging slack-jawed in front of the television watching worthless TV shows (for nearly three hours out of every day) and mindlessly clicking on pointless Reddit posts and Buzzfeed lists for interminable lengths of time. People are perfectly welcome to spend their time this way, of course—but it’s silly to suggest that such activities somehow constitute a “better” use of time than cooking something healthful for yourself and the ones you love.

 

The Heavy Truncheon of Pop Science

A new Texas science textbook has rankled the feathers of a few climate scientists, who take umbrage at several allegedly unscientific claims within the schoolbook, such as a passage that claims

global warming will cause Earth’s temperature to rise for only a few years before temperatures will start to cool and eventually “even out.”

The [National Center for Science Education] report says, “We are not aware of any currently publishing climatologists who are predicting a cooling trend where ‘things will even out.’”

Okay, stipulated—no climatologists are currently predicting the “even-out” phase of climate change. Then again, no climatologists predicted the current global warming pause we’re in, either; as I wrote recently, climate science completely and utterly failed to predict the twenty-year “hiatus” in which we are currently living.  Maybe the Texas schoolbook is off-base—but then again, much if not most of climate science seems to be off-base, all the time, so I’m not sure why we’re supposed to feel confident about the NCSE’s proclamation of what counts as “good” climate science.

Speaking of bad science, the Yale Alumni Magazine reports on climate scientist Michael Mann, who is suing a great many people in order to defend himself and his “hockey stick” climate science graph from what he calls defamation:

Michael Mann is taking a stand for science.

Well, in the D.C. Court of Appeals, he’s currently “standing for science” by suing Mark Steyn for calling his hockey stick graph “fraudulent.” As Steyn notes, however, Michael Mann couldn’t get a single scientific organization to back him up with any amici brief, which wouldn’t seem like such a tall order if the science were actually sound. Ergo:

As yesterday’s deafening silence confirms. If you’re defending Michael Mann, you’re not defending science, or defending climate science, or theories on global warming or anything else. Defending Michael Mann means defending Michael Mann – and it turns out not many people are willing to go there.

Actually, this is a wonderfully handy summary of the whole “science” fixation that most people (particularly people my age) have these days: being obsessed with “science” is less about science and more about egocentric preening and vain self-promotion. It’s cool to drop the word “facts” into conversation these days as a way to dismiss your opponents, and to use the word “science” as a panacea for just about any argument: if you’re losing a debate, just say “science!” and you’ll immediately win. If you investigate a little, you often find that the people who repeatedly yell “science” are generally uneducated about scientific facts, if not wholly ignorant of them; the point isn’t to know science, but to use the concept of science to boost one’s fragile ego and flimsy political positions.

There are a number of standard-bearers who like to trumpet this silly conceited worldview—public figures to whom the “science” crowd can turn if they need a pithy one-liner to throw back at “deniers” and “anti-science extremists” or whatever. The pathetic Michael Mann is one of them; the scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson is another, as evidenced by one of his recent tweets:

This is just stupid and it doesn’t make any sense. What is a “belief system?” What does it encompass? How do you “found” it—what does the process of “founding” a belief system look like? What is the scope of the “decisions” that we “should not be making?” Can I make my kid breakfast if I’m not sufficiently grounded in “objective reality?” Am I allowed to be religious, or is that not “objective” enough? This is a tweet composed of utter nonsense; it really comes quite close to making no sense at all. Yet it’s been retweeted literally tens of thousands of times. This is another excellent summation of the philosophy of the “science is awesome” set: silly little one-liners that serve only to boost one’s own ego at the expense of honest debate. “Science” these days is increasingly being used as a cudgel to inflate one’s own fragile self-esteem; it’s why Michael Mann is suing Steyn, it’s at least partly responsible for Neil deGrasse Tyson’s mega-popularity, and it’s degrading scientific integrity and discourse in the public eye. That is a fact.

All the Money, And Then Some

I was in the Outer Banks last week and I’ve been playing catch-up since I got back, but while I was there, walking past some newspaper boxes on a run-down old pier going into the Atlantic, I saw some headlines relating to the NSA’s bullying of Yahoo, which—financially speaking—seems a bit excessive:

At the end of the year: the total [fines] would have been $7.9 sextillion. That’s equal to a stack of $100 bills (if that many actually existed) so high that it would go back and forth to the sun 28,769 times.

At some point you have to laugh at the inanity of these authoritarian goons—levying fines that exceed the total value of the planet by several orders of magnitude—but it’s also worth some despair, too. There are few things more illustrative of our unaccountable, thuggish Federal government than the NSA’s attempting to fine Yahoo out of existence by way of literally impossible dollar amounts: the point was less to make Yahoo cough up any valuable information, and more to subject them to the threat of a 7.9 sextillion-dollar working-over and send a message to any other tech companies who might show a little resistance. This is what our government does; when people clamor to giving this corrupt group of crooks even more power, I really have to marvel.

Saved? Not Hardly.

Over at The Federalist today, you can find my latest piece: “Yo, Slate, Get ‘Saved by the Bell’ Right.” Slate’s resident TV critic was a bit too gentle on the classic 90s teen sitcom Saved by the Bell, praising its “playfulness” among other laudable qualities—qualities that Bell plainly does not possess. In fact, as I show, Saved by the Bell is a fairly subversive show that celebrates many unpleasant and ugly facets of the human experience. Read all about it to find out!

Bad Economics and Emotional Delirium

At the Daily Collegian, Steven Gillard has written an article claiming that the ongoing fast food workers’ strike is “symbolic of laziness [and a] lack of accountability.” It’s not the most politic or diplomatic headline ever written, but the article itself makes some good points about how silly and counterproductive the strike really is. In passing, Gillard mentions that

Nine people were arrested in Boston for blocking traffic while protesting their low wages and demanding $15 an hour.

…which led C.A. Pinkham at Jezebel to gently protest:

“How dare they commit the heinous crime of blocking traffic over something so trivial as their ability to feed their family?! SUCH UNCOUTH BEHAVIOR FROM THE UNWASHED PROLETARIAT!” *pops monocle*

Thanks for that. The rest of Pinkham’s response is nothing short of a total nervous breakdown; the article claims that Gillard wrote the “dumbest possible op-ed on fast food wage strikes,” declares Gillard’s arguments to be “complete bullshit,” insists that “we know” Gillard’s parents paid for his college education, calls Gillard “objectively fucking wrong,” accuses him of “privilege-blindness and sanctimony,” states that Gillard’s argument is “unfathomably depressing,” inexplicably scolds him for using the word “indolence,” and on and on and on. This is fairly unsurprising. As we saw when I voiced a few uncontroversial opinions regarding welfare stigma, much of the Left is incapable of responding to conservative arguments with anything less than melodramatic irrationality. Still, we can treat Pinkham’s bizarre outburst as an interesting diversion from the real conversation of higher fast food wages; if we’re looking for some serious debate, however, we should probably seek out  some other, more reliable sources:

What the movement gets wrong, however, is the idea that there would be no downside to jacking up wages to $15 an hour in an industry where the top wage at present rarely exceeds $12. Obviously, there’s a risk that a $15-per-hour wage would force employers to hire fewer workers, or lay off some, or even to close marginally profitable stores. Mom and pop sandwich counters would find it hard to compete for labor. It’s not necessarily the case, as the president implied, that most fast-food workers work to “provide for their families.” In fact, 73.4 percent of them are childless, according to government data compiled by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. This stands to reason, since 60.7 percent of them are 24 years old or younger; people often use fast-food employment as an entry point to the labor market from which they gradually advance.

That’s from a little-known author known as “the Washington Post editorial board.” That is to say, while the writers at Jezebel have been busy passing out on fainting couches, the Post editors have actually been reading the literature, and they know the risk that a minimum wage hike could pose to the fast food industry and its vulnerable employees, along with the “mom and pop” non-chain-stores; they also know that a large majority of fast-food employees are not struggling with “the ability to feed their family,” something Jezebel’s crack team of writers and editors apparently couldn’t even be bothered to investigate.

Even the extremist, partisan, anti-government Ayn Randian CBO knows the potential consequences of artificially raising the wage floor:

President Obama’s call to raise the federal minimum wage could help lift 900,000 workers out of poverty, but at a cost of as many as 500,000 jobs, according to an analysis released today by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

So you might lift a bunch of people over a government-designated poverty level, but you’ll also lose half a million real, actual jobs—yet those 500,000 people would be super-grateful, because the Left would have successfully raised the minimum wage, even if half a million workers aren’t making any wage any more. Oh, well, why worry about real-world consequences in the face of progressive political fantasies?

In addition to striking employees, fast food restaurants are experiencing a worsening customer base, and the solution isn’t a particularly easy one:

“Your brand may be all over, but you can’t be all things. You really do have to stand for something in the mind of the consumer. Otherwise, loyalty for fast food brands is only going to move in one direction. Down.”

Maybe if McDonald’s raises wages to $15/hour, they’ll stick out as some kind of paragon for social justice: that would be “standing for something in the mind of the consumer.” I suspect, however, that their customer base would erode even further if it had to pay the resultant price increase for cheap, low-quality burgers and chicken nuggets. So McDonald’s would lose either way.

Eating With Feeling

A while back I had some fun at the expense of vegans when The Federalist ran my culinary declaration, “Why You Should Eat Humane Meat.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, my harmless ribbing kind of ticked off a bunch of vegans, and to be honest I don’t really have anything against them. Nevertheless, in my defense, vegans can be really, really weird:

Real Vegan Cheese, a team of San Franciscan bio-hackers are attempting to offer an alternative by working to create an authentic cheese without the involvement of animals. The plan: to involve synthetically expressing casein genes—a milk protein and major component of cheese—and placing them into the form of normal bakers yeast. From there, the yeast goes into a bioreactor where it’ll secrete the protein into a solution that will be purified to a point where there are no genetically engineered or animal organisms left. That pure solution is then mixed with a vegan lactose replacement, water, and vegan oil to create something that’s close enough to milk to be able to make cheese from.

One of the researchers on this team of “bio-hackers” makes it clear that they’re using both animal and human DNA to acquire the necessary caseins to make this “cheese.” The lengths to which vegans will go to to eat fake cheese is just astounding. Vegan cheese itself is a genuinely repulsive product, and in any event it seems ideologically dubious: if you’re an ethical vegan, why would you want to eat anything with the name “cheese” on it? Isn’t that making a mockery of your animal ethics? And if you’ll incorporate human DNA into your vegan-cheese-mongering, hasn’t your movement just become an awkward, uncomfortable gag of a philosophy?

I myself am not vegan, but I do actually eat vegan almost every time I go to a restaurant (though I’ve never gone so far as to suffer through “vegan cheese”). We figured out a while ago that if we were going to do the whole “humane meat” thing, then we should probably go ahead and do “humane eggs” and “humane dairy,” as well: industrial egg factories are savage, brutal places, after all, and industrial dairy outfits are no picnic either. Better to pass on a dish if you can’t confirm where the milk or the yolk came from. Recently, my brother engaged National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson on the matter of humane meat eating, and Luke received a reply we’ve heard, interestingly, from both meat eaters and vegans alike:

Which is kind of missing the point: the issue isn’t so much eating animals humanely but raising them humanely, with as little suffering and as much happiness as is feasible. There’s no reason an animal has to live in misery and torment before becoming our dinner; you can both raise them well and kill them quickly and rather painlessly, and you can do so without contradicting any of your values. Humans are both animals and rational beings, so it makes sense that we might engage in our animality in a different, more rational way than the lower animals, who eat without worrying whether or not their meal is suffering. It’s worth asking whether or not you want your pork chop, your burger or your coq au vin to have lived a miserable, painful life before it arrived on your plate. Then again, you could just avoid the messy question of eating animals altogether and opt for the “vegan cheese,” in which case you’ll have taken on all that pain and misery yourself.

Reading Into It

At Slate today, Katy Waldman has a terrific article on what she calls “reading insecurity,” or “the subjective experience of thinking that you’re not getting as much from reading as you used to:”

“I worry that, over the past few years of living much of my life online, my relationship to text—especially the spacious, get-lost-in-it kind—has changed for the worse. It’s called reading insecurity. Do you have it?”

No, I don’t—but I’ve certainly observed it in many people my age and even some of the older ones, as well: there’s a certain hipness surrounding “reading” and “books,” a kind of self-aware nerdiness in which many people like to indulge. Reading is supposed to be “cool,” in the same way that, for many hipsters, cooking is supposed to be “cool:” its modish utility is to be found in the abstract, not the operative experience. Reading and cooking both involve a commitment to a certain set of somewhat non-reflexive values: patience, a willingness to learn the same thing several times over, a tolerance for rather-solitary and isolated behavior. You can’t “share” a good paragraph on Twitter if you read it in a book; the only way to do so if by reading it to someone else or explaining it to them, which requires a bit more cerebral engagement than impulsively clicking “Like.” That’s not to say reading is very hard—it’s not—but it doesn’t offer the narcissistic self-actualization to be found on shallow social media platform.

And it’s not just the average “reader” that has this problem. Having survived the gauntlet of a four-year English B.A., I can tell you that the popular aversion to reading is found even amongst people whose college degree depends upon reading: you’d be amazed at how upset English majors will get over the prospect of reading an act of Shakespeare or a few dozen pastoral elegies. I always wanted to tell my classmates to grow up, though many of them were in their 30s, so it was kind of an awkward subject.

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In case you missed it, I was on Coffee and Markets this morning, talking with Brad Jackson about climate change hysteria and welfare stigma, and how the Left has promoted the former and downplayed the latter over the past few decades in order to serve their own selfish political motives.