The Oldest Trick in the Banned Book

It is assuredly the case that, under a Trump administration, we can expect a lot of the political excesses of the Obama years to become déclassé, at least for the Left: executive action, extrajudicial assassinations, a kind of smug unilateral prerogative—liberals have vigorously defended all of these things for eight years, and it’s safe to assume that these things are suddenly about to go out of style.

Take, for instance, one of the chief characteristics of the Obama administration: relentless political and rhetorical attacks on fundamental American rights. Are those suddenly unpopular again? You bet. Witness Donald Trump’s recent tweet on the subject:

Now, on the one hand, of course Donald Trump supports the criminalization of flag burning: he surely has a dim, vague, half-bright understanding that this position will make him popular with a wide swath of the body politic, and he probably also knew that this demand would cause people—liberals, mostly—to start burning flags in the spirit of public defiancesomething that makes the flag-burners look very bad and Donald Trump look very good. Trump may be a generally stupid fellow, but he has a canny political knack when it comes to this stuff.

Anyway, the New York Times responded by imploring “Mr. Trump” to “Meet the Constitution:”

Here’s where we explain what shouldn’t need explaining. Flag-burning is constitutionally protected speech. The Supreme Court has made this clear, in a ruling joined by Mr. Trump’s favorite justice, Antonin Scalia. It’s popular to want to punish flag-burners — pandering politicians, including Hillary Clinton, have tried. But the First Amendment exists to protect unpopular, even repulsive forms of expression.

It should go without saying that the New York Times is right and Donald Trump is wrong. For my money, Texas v. Johnson is about as good as it gets when it comes to First Amendment jurisprudence: even something as domestically hostile and offensive as flag-burning is protected speech. There is no place quite like the United States when it comes to free speech; most other countries, even the nominally “free” ones, are happy to criminalize various offensive behaviors, while in America we enshrine the right to those behaviors in our constitution. It is a fundamentally radical proposition; it is mundane to us only because we accept it as our birthright. And though Donald Trump is not quite bright enough to understand it, the facts nevertheless remain: in the United States, you cannot jail someone because they offend your delicate sensibilities.

That being said, it is interesting to see the New York Times lecture Donald Trump about what it is the First Amendment “protects.” The paper is on record as being openly hostile to free speech, claiming—somewhat ironically, given the editorial board’s recent pronouncement—that in affirming American speech freedoms, the Supreme Court was “disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment:”

The ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission radically reverses well-established law and erodes a wall that has stood for a century between corporations and electoral politics…

The founders of this nation warned about the dangers of corporate influence. The Constitution they wrote mentions many things and assigns them rights and protections — the people, militias, the press, religions. But it does not mention corporations.

Do tell. Neither does the Constitution mention “abortion,” but who’s keeping count?

In any case, the Times six years ago took a position that, philosophically speaking, is indistinguishable from Donald Trump’s today: they called for the criminalization of speech with which they disagree. It does not matter how many times someone says the word “corporation;” if they want to ban one part of free speech, then they want to ban free speech itself—full stop. It is of course worthwhile to point out that, say, the rights of “corporations” are in fact the rights of people themselves (who do the editors think runs corporations?); as well, it is helpful to perform some useful thought experiments in the vein of the Times‘s argument (if corporations don’t have constitutional rights, could they also be subject to unreasonable search and seizures? What about the quartering of troops on corporate property?); it is also useful to point out the illogical disparities in the Times‘s position (why should “corporations” be denied constitutional rights but “religions” should get them? Religions aren’t people!).

But in the end the only pertinent lesson here is the same one the Supreme Court has been teaching for decades: you cannot compartmentalize free speech. Every instance of free speech is a holon unto itself, simultaneously a part and a whole. It’s either free or it isn’t; you either have a First Amendment or you have something much worse.

This is not as axiomatically simple as it sounds: people have been trying to carve out exemptions for American speech freedoms since the ratification of the Bill of Rights itself, and fighting against the censorious impulses of American censors has been an ongoing, two-century-long battle. The same desires that animated the Alien and Sedition Acts at the end of the 18th century today animate both the New York Times and the President-elect. It is as old a fight as any in this country. The founders of this nation may have warned against “the dangers of corporate influence,” but you know what else they warned against—and specifically, what they made illegal? The suppression of free speech.

This is something Donald Trump doesn’t really understand but will nonetheless have to learn. And the New York Times—which is, let us not forget, a corporation—would do well to learn it, as well.

The Keys to the Dead Baby Kingdom

Democrats have a great many lessons to learn in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, but there are signs that they are refusing to learn any of them. Witness the conspiracy theories of Paul Krugman, for instance: rather than just accept that much of the country believes different things, many liberals are descending into Infowars-style ramblings about electronic voting machines. That’s not going to help moving forward (well, it won’t help Democrats, anyway).

Now the DNC appears to be considering a rather large mistake in this vein:

The president of the pro-choice advocacy group NARAL, Ilyse Hogue, hinted at a potential bid to head the Democratic Party in an email to Democratic National Committee members Monday.

“I believe the DNC has a critical role to play in regrouping after 2016, one that fully embraces the [Paul] Wellstone triad approach to change: public policy that reflects peoples’ needs, grassroots organizing that honors peoples’ lived experience, and an electoral strategy that brings both to bear to ensure victory,” Hogue said in an email, according to Politico.

Hogue continued, “The DNC can be not just a force every two years at election time, but also a daily presence in peoples’ lives, relevant in policy discussions and responsive to ideas and concerns of people where they live.”

Yes, the DNC should definitely style itself as a “daily presence in peoples’ lives.” That will endear them to the body politic.

In any event, this is a problem for the DNC not because NARAL is a group whose sole purpose is to promote and defend the killing of innocent human beings; or rather, it is a problem in that regard, but only as a matter of optics for the DNC itself (there are very few Democrats who have any compunctions about the killing of innocent human beings). Hiring the president of NARAL—a group whose acronym used to, and still essentially does, stand for “the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws”—would put the DNC’s leadership at odds with a great many Americans: in spite of what you may have heard, many Americans are still opposed to manic abortion politics of the modern Democratic Party.

It is true that, for the most part, Americans are mildly schizophrenic about abortion: they will label themselves “pro-life” and they will lodge a moral objection to abortion, but they’ll also often advocate for keeping it legal in some or even many cases: nearly ten percent of self-identified pro-lifers believe abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, while a large majority believe it should be legal “only” “in a few circumstances.” It is entirely possible, of course, that many of these respondents are either confused or uneducated about abortion. In any case, these views, muddled though they may be, are nonetheless diametrically opposed to the views of NARAL, which advocates abortion on demand without apology: “Politicians,” they write, “should play no part in this decision,” which is to say that NARAL believes there should be no abortion laws at all.

Letting Hogue take the top spot at the DNC would thus be a sop to single-minded abortion activists but something of a repellent to much of the rest of the country. For Democrats—an organization which is about as monomaniacal about abortion as you can possibly be—it would be a sign that the party is embracing the culture of death more tightly than ever. For the rest of us it would be…a sign of the same thing. The country should vote accordingly.

¡Viva La Revolucion!

Fidel Castro’s death this weekend sent a lot of nominally intelligent people scrambling to more or less justify the brutal dictator’s brutal dictatorship. Justin Trudeau expressed “deep sorrow” over Castro’s death, and praised the dictator’s improvements to Cuban health care and education. Ban Ki-moon praised him as “a strong voice for social justice.” Jimmy Carter “remember[ed] fondly” his visits with the man. You might expect the President of the United States to respond a little more forcefully to the death of a tyrant, but you’d be wrong: Barack Obama—a man as supremely dedicated to political cowardice as any American politician ever has been—simply pointed out that Castro’s death has evoked “powerful emotions” in the Cuban people, and noted for good measure the “countless ways” in which Fidel Castro “altered the course of individual lives, families and…the Cuban nation.”

It would be beyond the scope of this blog post to list all of the ways in which Cuba has been and remains the Castros’ personal hellhole, a terrifying hellscape of their own creation (though it is worth pointing out, just by tiny way of example, that this blog post itself would almost assuredly be banned in that country). It is enough for now to marvel at both the craven politics and the outright moral brokenness of these men: a despot who spent his life persecuting people has died, and the best that much of the global elite can muster is to write about “powerful emotions.”

But the best takes came from liberals on social media: I guess Castro is so potent a symbol of the failure of communist ideology that they feel the need to defend him from criticism even though he was—again—a despot. Emmett Rensin took to Twitter to point out that, hey, man, “capitalist states” do bad things too (somebody should inform all those Cuban refugees fleeing to capitalist Florida). Jill Stein claimed that Castro was “a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire” (Castro once advocated a nuclear first strike against the United States). I get that liberalism is primarily an ideological endeavor rather than a moral one, but the lengths to which the Left will go to defend a murderous authoritarian is rather jaw-dropping.

After Marco Rubio pointed out that “Well into the 1970s, #FidelCasto was imprisoning gays and long-haired young people in work camps,” the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah responded:

And your friend Mike Pence supports electrocuting Gay people to make them straight…

There is no evidence that this is true, which led Trevor Noah to change his accusation from “electrocuting” to “torturing.” But there is no evidence that Mike Pence supports “torturing” gay people either. Years ago he called for Congress to directing funding towards “institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” If that sounds like “torture” to you, then you should schedule a doctor’s appointment and a MEG scan. Whether or not you think homosexual behavior should be encouraged or discouraged, it is rather insane to compare voluntary behavior modification (which is what Mike Pence was encouraging) to actual torture (which is what Fidel Castro actually did).

The question is this: why would a presumably smart grown-up want to respond to a legitimate criticism of a tyrant with such histrionic and incorrect pablum? The most logical answer is that, as I wrote above, Fidel Castro represents a crystalline example of the rank stupidity of communist ideology: like every other communist endeavor, Castro effected a revolution and then promptly set to work imprisoning and torturing his opponents and ruining the economy over which he ruled. In Cuba you sometimes have to go weeks without toilet paper; you can also be thrown in jail if you publish something that offends a government official.

This is the fruits of the communist project, which is to say it strikes at the heart of much of what the Left believes in: centralized control, heavy regulation, bureaucratic expertise in managing the economy. These things are total failures; they result in poverty, misery and tyranny. Which is why liberals have to make stuff up about Mike Pence in order to distract people.

Of course, one can respond to Trevor Noah’s entire silly and meaningless proposition with a simple, easy-to-answer question: would you rather be a gay person living in Mike Pence’s America, or anyone—anyone at all—living in Fidel Castro’s Cuba?

The Year-Long Sale of the Year

Happy Black Friday from Trial of the Century! As a discount special, we are offering our official coffee mugs at a barn-burning sale of $13.00 per mug. That’s actually the same price as they always are, but order before midnight tonight and receive your mug autographed by Daniel Payne! (Dishwasher safe!)

Perhaps you are one of the many Americans that takes part in this manic hyper-consumerist holiday season. I stopped participating in all the madness years ago—it is too much work for deals that are really not all that great—but most people seem to like it. In fact, it’s such a popular occasion that in recent years it’s been drawn out over the entire month of November:

On Nov. 10, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. offered many holiday promotions online or within its mobile app. J.C. Penney Co. sent its Black Friday advertisements to users of its mobile app on Nov. 4, and started those sales on Wednesday, a day earlier this year than last year and one day ahead of the holiday itself.

Across the industry, retailers released advertisements of their biggest deals three days sooner this year on average than last, according to Market Track LLC, which analyzed emails, social media and retail websites. And the volume of emails that retailers sent to customers who opted to receive them increased 15% from October through Nov. 19, compared with the same period a year ago, Market Track found.

How about that: not only did J.C. Penney get a day’s head start this year, that head start already a head start from last year, when the sales begun a day ahead of the sale day itself. It kind of blurs the line, and I guess that’s the idea. In any event, it works: retailers saw a 3.5% increase in sales from last year. So I guess they’ll keep doing it.

But this really isn’t just a phenomenon limited to Black Friday. Retailers have been broadening the boundaries of holidays for years now—and just not holidays but non-holidaic cultural touchstones as well. The trappings of the Christmas season long ago crossed the Thanksgiving frontier; it is now becoming common to hear Christmas music played on the radio before Halloween, something that—at least until a few years ago—I assumed was a felony or at least a misdemeanor. What used to be a three-and-a-half-week experience has morphed into nearly a two-month one. And it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that it will keep arriving earlier each year. Halloween merchandise itself gets rolled out around mid-September. After Christmas you can expect Valentine’s Day junk to come out pretty quickly—by the first week of January at the latest, six weeks before the “holiday” actually arrives. From what I’ve observed, advertising for the big sales of the summer months—Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day—generally begin around three weeks before the holidays themselves. And—now this is something that really should be accompanied by jail time—I have watched with growing dismay as the “back-to-school” advertisements have begun earlier and earlier. A blitz that used to start in early August (already far too early) has been pushed back to mid-July. Repulsive.

On the one hand this is simply an indication that the American retail sector has, in recent years, become ever-more desperate to claw a few percentage points more from the cutthroat sales industry. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this, of course, inasmuch as the job of retailers is to sell things and they’re naturally going to find as many ways as possible to sell more things to more people. On the other hand, it’s kind of a sad indictment of the cultural mind state of the American people themselves. We shouldn’t really put up with this. Holidays are special times in no small part because they are narrow times: for a few brief periods throughout the year we used to celebrate something notably unique and specially fun, and then we would go back to “normal” life.  That’s not quite the case anymore. The last quarter of the year has essentially become one long advertising circular, along with six weeks of Christmas music that everyone is sick of after about three weeks. It’s really not that fun.

Maybe people just don’t care: perhaps it’s like background noise to most folks. Or maybe most people like it, the month-and-a-half of Christmas stuff surrounded by the month-and-a-half of jack-o-lanterns and the month-and-a-half of chocolates and big red hearts. But nevertheless this orgy of relentless advertising has diluted these special times, making them less than the should be, all in an effort to make a few more bucks. It’s sad. The good news is, if people stop responding to these kind of advertising shenanigans, retailers will stop doing them. But will people stop responding? I don’t know, and moreover I sadly doubt it.

This is What the Shake Looks Like

As you’ll recall, during the presidential debates, Donald Trump promised to appoint a special prosecutor to “look into [Hillary Clinton’s] [email] situation.” This perfectly reasonable campaign promise caused most of the established media to crap their pants:

The New York Times said that Trump had issued a “threat to jail Clinton.” CNN said the same thing.So did Business Insider. NBC News claimed that Trump had “pledged to ‘jail’ Clinton.” The Chicago Tribune claimed that Trump “threaten[ed] Clinton with jail time.” The Washington Post announced: “Trump says he’ll put Clinton in jail.” Slate’s Jamelle Bouie said that “Trump threatened to jail his opponent in [sic] national television.” And so on, and so forth.

This was all part of a well-calculated freakout intended to scare people away from Donald Trump. Well, it failed: he won. But guess what? Even in theory it wasn’t a justified fear:

During his campaign, Trump had issued incendiary calls for a special prosecutor to reopen the FBI’s closed investigation of Clinton’s use of a private server while secretary of state and had also urged investigations of allegations of corruption at the Clinton Foundation. He nicknamed the Democratic nominee “Crooked Hillary” and encouraged chants of “Lock her up!” at his rallies.

But Conway said Trump now sees things differently. “I think when the president-elect, who’s also the head of your party, tells you before he’s even inaugurated that he doesn’t wish to pursue these charges, it sends a very strong message, tone and content” to fellow Republicans, she said. “Look, I think he’s thinking of many different things as he prepares to become the President of the United States, and things that sound like the campaign are not among them,” she added.

“Things that sound like the campaign?” Notice the rather bizarre cognitive dissonance here: Donald Trump apparently draws a clear demarcation between the Trump of “the campaign” and the Trump of “the President of the United States.” The former was a practical, results-based persona; the latter is evidently one more focused on reaction. He seems to be saying: don’t pay any attention to all that stuff I told you a few months ago. I am thinking of many different things now. I don’t have time for all that.

This is nothing new, of course: politicians lie all the time, most frequently about the stuff they promise on the campaign trail. They will say anything to get elected. The difference, of course, was that Donald Trump was supposed to be different: he was the guy who “tells it like it is,” the one who was going to “drain the swamp” and “shake things up.” Well, here he is: he’s not really shaking much up at all, and indeed has renounced one of the more thing-shaking pledges of his entire campaign. A corrupt, lying, underhanded crook flouted her serial lawbreaking in front of the American people for well over a year, lying with effective impunity, and the guy who barely a month ago made an explicit promise to do something about it has decided: “Meh.” Already the Trump administration is off to a great start!

Maybe the problem is that, having won the election, Trump has recognized the political limitations of the office. That happens. I mean, it’s not like he’s going soft on us, right? Could it be? Well:

In an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, Kellyanne Conway, the former Trump campaign manager and a senior adviser to his transition, said the president-elect wanted to “move beyond the issues of the campaign” and confirmed that Mr. Trump did not want his promised Clinton investigations to take place.

“If Donald Trump can help her heal, then perhaps that’s a good thing,” Ms. Conway said.

Well, color me surprised. I’m a bit dubious about this proposition. See if you can follow me here: it’s not the job of the President of the United States to help a flagrant lawbreaker and abuser of political power to “heal.” It’s his job, to the best of his abilities and within the constraints of his office, to see that she is prosecuted and, if found guilty, imprisoned.

But this is what we have to deal with instead. And it’s an open question as to who is the dumber of the two political factions. Was it the guys who peed their pants and wept openly in the streets convinced that Trump’s perfectly legitimate campaign promise represented some kind of lurch towards dictatorship? Or was it the eager Trump supporters who genuinely believed that this fundamentally, aggressively dishonest man would actually follow through with a risky and contentious political pledge? The former could not tolerate the thought of a liberal being punished for obvious corruption; the latter could not imagine that a serial liar wouldn’t do something about it. In either case, here we are: maybe Trump can “help her heal.” So there’s that at least.

But wait, what about all the other stuff Trump promised? Aren’t we going to make things easier for the “forgotten man?” Aren’t we going to reverse the deleterious effects of Obama-style expansionist government? Oh, yeah, well:

Vice President-elect Mike Pence Monday outlined the agenda for President-elect Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office and explained how Congress could pay for a $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

“There’s a lot of ways to get to that trillion dollars,” Pence told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on “Hannity.” “Utilizing public and private partnerships, utilizing bonding authority and enlisting private capital, there’s ways that you can do this that are gonna be fiscally responsible, but also give us the resources that we need to rebuild America.”

Sounds familiar. It does not take much imagination to guess where “that trillion dollars” is going to come from, and it’s probably not “bonding authority” or a “private partnership.” They will either run a deficit big enough to choke a hippopotamus (which we’ll have to pay for down the road) or they’ll raise taxes (which we’ll have to pay for immediately). And if they raise taxes, it won’t just be on “the rich;” it never is. We elected a fellow to “drain the swamp,” and instead he’s clogging it up with $1 trillion dollars in new spending. But hey, at least Hillary will be “healed.” We were all really worried about that.

Journalists: They Get the Job Done

Consider two disparate scenarios: In the first, the President-elect of the United States of America settles a rather large fraud lawsuit for a rather large amount of money. After a publicly humiliating case against the POTUS-E’s self-branded “university,” he is more or less forced to admit that he defrauded many “students” and must pay out a sizable chunk of change to make the problem go away. The first presidential scandal has already turned over, and the man is not even in the White House yet.

In the second, the Vice President-elect goes to a musical on Broadway and is “called out” by the cast: they don’t like his policies and the policies of his running mate, so they deliver a sort of petty, hectoring, nagging speech to the man in order to get their point across. Annoyed, the President-elect takes to Twitter and rebukes the cast of this musical, demanding of them an apology.

Which one of these is legitimate news, and which is a piddling little blip in a legitimate news cycle? You already know the answer. But the media do not—not really, even after all this time. All they had to do was report on the right thing, but they couldn’t even bothered to fulfill the absolute most base-level function of their jobs. Even the New York Times‘s website gave Donald Trump’s silly little Twitter spat top billing over, you know, actually important and pressing information.

And guess what? It worked as you might expect: people stopped talking about Trump University and started talking about a thing that didn’t matter all that much. The media might have been able to ameliorate this debacle to some extent if they’d just ignored it, or treated it like the squib that it was. But they did not: modern American journalism prides itself on having absolutely no sense of scale or decorum whatsoever. Gabriel Sherman declared that “Trump’s Hamilton tweet is a terrifying glimpse of how he could attempt to suppress free speech.” Ryan Lizza advised Americans to “be afraid.” Jamelle Bouie ominously announced that Trump “[demanded] silence from political opponents.” Brian Stetler said that Trump’s tweet gave credence to people’s fears of a censorious Trump regime.

I have written plenty of times over the past eighteen months that, yes, Trump is a threat to American free speech: his own admissions on the campaign trail were sufficient to determine as much. Yet the idea that a bloviating tweet directed at a group of nagging theater performers somehow constitutes a “terrifying glimpse” of Trump’s inclination to censorship is just silly. It is perfectly reasonable to criticize a bunch of actors for hectoring a paying guest of their theater, after all, and while it might not be the most politically prudent thing for the President-elect himself to do, it is kind of flatly absurd to think that this means Trump is “demanding silence” from anyone. He yelled at some people on an Internet social media platform, partly because he’s an idiot and partly because he wanted to distract people from his embarrassing fraud case. For Pete’s sake, get over it.

I think this is less a “glimpse” of Trump’s coming free speech policy and more a “glimpse” of how our aggressively vain and self-important journalistic class will behave over the next four years. We may have forgotten how relentlessly neurotic the media were during the Bush years: everything that George W. Bush did—and I mean everything—was seen as a terrifying totalitarian power grab, a lurch towards an autocratic Texas despotism that would end in nuclear holocaust. After eight years of Obama, this style of journalism may be coming back into vogue: it is entirely likely that the media will treat everything Trump does with the same kind of breathless, fainting terror: “Be afraid.” In some cases this will be perfectly warranted, for Trump really does seem to be a dangerous and unstable man. In other cases—like when he tweets at the cast of a Broadway musical—the media should learn to develop a more measured response. Hopefully they can figure out the difference—if not in Trump’s first term, then maybe in his second one.

Tell the Truth and Shame Cecile

How do you normalize abortion, the intentional killing of innocent human beings? One way is through propaganda—think of the oft-repeated (and scientifically illiterate) claim that the unborn are “not human beings,” or the oft-repeated (and philosophically indefensible) claim that the unborn are “not persons,” two frequent assertions that are meant to justify abortion. These are tools that serve to make people comfortable with the mass-scale killing of innocents, which is what abortion is.

Another way is through pop culture, which can be weaponized as a form of propaganda, though a less overt and in many ways more clever form of it. Pop culture is also a more attractive form of propaganda, because you can make money off of it. People are a lot more willing to justify barbarity and bloodshed if they can make a little cash in the process.

The normalization of abortion through pop culture has been picking up some steam lately. As ThinkProgress noted last year, television shows have started addressing abortion more frequently. And there has been a noticeable trend in the way that abortion—the killing of innocent human beings—is portrayed:

This year, abortion wasn’t always portrayed as a dramatic or life-altering decision. In this season of HBO’s Girls, for example, one character casually mentions the fact that she recently had an abortion, a decision that she didn’t talk over with her boyfriend and that she defends against his negative reaction once he finds out. In the CW’s Jane the Virgin, one character calmly advises another to get an abortion rather than follow through with a pregnancy that was conceived through deceptive means. And on Scandal, Kerry Washington’s character gets an abortion without any discussion about the procedure whatsoever.

“We’re seeing more abortions treated as matter-of-fact and unapologetic. We’re not seeing a lot of the agonizing decision making that we would have seen even five years ago,” Sisson said. “Abortion is being shown a little more like just another part of women’s reproductive lives.”

(Note: abortion is not a part of a woman’s “reproductive life,” because by the time an abortion is undertaken, reproduction has already taken place. Abortion is not reproduction; it is destruction, and of a very specific kind.)

Anyway, a fair number of people really geek out when abortion is portrayed as “matter-of-fact and unapologetic.” (The CW television show mentioned above, Jane the Virgin, did end up featuring an abortion that was indeed unapologetic.) Abortion advocates really like it when fictional women get abortions and don’t really care about them. Case in point: another CW television show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend:

Because Paula is married and because she has children, she’s determined that abortion is ruled out for her. But later, after filing a legal brief on Rebecca’s behalf, she realizes that, yes, she wants to become a lawyer more than she wants to have another baby.

The next time we see Paula, she’s lying in bed, looking resolved though a little tired. The procedure has already happened and she shows no signs of regret or shame, nor does her husband or children. In fact, when the pizza delivery man rings their doorbell, her typically lazy teenage son casually remarks, “Mom, I’ll get it since you just had an abortion.”

Jezebel says this is a good example of the “importance of normalized depictions of abortions and the women who get them.” I’m not sure that the author really understands what “normalized” means, at least in this context. Given the high levels of regret experienced by abortive women—over fifty percent in some studies, with high percentages also experiencing other psychological, physiological and sexual side-effects—it would seem like “normalized” depictions of abortions, i.e. abortions that sufficiently reflect the population subgroup of the women who have them, should also include the women who experience serious remorse and sorrow after killing their unborn children. But you wouldn’t imagine Jezebel celebrating that kind of “depiction,” would you? Better to just have a “lazy teenage son” be totally cool with and laid-back about the stark reality of a dead sibling; better to have a mother want to “become a lawyer” rather than allow her baby to, you know, live.

At Vox, Constance Grady writes: “On these shows, abortion isn’t dramatic — and that’s what makes them so exciting.” Exciting. As she puts it: “It’s a sneakily political choice that’s all the more powerful for how understated it is. For these characters, abortion is not traumatic or horrifying in and of itself;” rather, “an abortion is just a medical procedure that fixes a problem.” A problem.

Reading all of these celebratory lauds to abortion pop culture, you begin to feel a niggling suspicion: many of these people know what’s what. They know what abortion is; they know that the unborn are as human as you or I, and that abortion snatches away from the unborn what is rightfully theirs: life. How could any reasonably bright and moderately reflective person believe otherwise? And surely they know that a very sizable number of women experience crushing grief over their abortions. But these same folks are also convinced that abortion is inextricably bound up in a woman’s quality of life, that a woman is not truly free unless she is free to obliterate a life growing inside of her, and that a pro-life regime would somehow make women into breedling livestock. So they are forced to cover up so much of the truth: to turn away from the frequent pain of abortion, and the truth undergirding that pain. It’s not murder, it’s “just another part of women’s reproductive lives.” Nobody is upset; even the teenage son is chill about it. I’m sure it’s very comforting to watch such a television program and have precisely zero of your biases challenged in any way at all.

Meanwhile, Sonya Saraiya at Vogue is delighted with the way things are going:

Perhaps not all of us would be as comfortable with these decisions; perhaps for us, it would not be an “abobo” followed by lunch. But in their cut-and-dried nature, the abortion stories of these three shows have a way of clearing the air around the debate, divorcing shame and anxiety from the experience to attempt to engage with them as they are regularly, daily, universally lived.

I hate to point this out to Ms. Saraiya, but abortions are not “universally lived” as they are portrayed on these television shows: as I wrote above, many women are decidedly miserable after abortion, and remain so for a very long time. Ignoring the grief and anguish of countless abortive women is not simply a cowardly thing to do; it is a nasty and opportunistic political ploy meant to hide the truth about abortion behind a veneer of simpleminded bubblegum pop-culture fairy tales. Abortion kills human beings, and there are plenty of women who grasp this and come to regret having done it. Do their stories deserve to be told? Or are these women simply a “problem?”

Up The Dried-Out Creek

I have written elsewhere that climate change is kind of the ballyhoo end-all-be-all of progressive political causes, mostly because it encompasses most of the other progressive political causes: the “solution” to global warming requires economic regulation, population control, environmental hysteria, anti-corporate mania, and not least of all a deeply puritanical and relentless style of moral nagging. It’s the total package.

So you can understand why, in spite of all the failed predictions of the climate lobby to date, they’re reluctant to let this go. It’d be like throwing away your Swiss Army knife in the middle of the Dakota badlands: why would you discard such a useful tool? And it is still genuinely astonishing to see, at this point, the ways in which they are willing to use that tool:

After a week that sent advocates of a habitable Earth reeling, new hope has emerged that could make way for substantial climate action in the near term—even during a Trump administration: The children and young adults suing the federal government for their right to a stable climate can now proceed to trial, an unprecedented move in the American legal system.

The path was cleared by a federal district court judge in Oregon who wrote an opinion preliminarily finding that a stable climate is a fundamental constitutional right. In the groundbreaking decision, announced on Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken ruled in favor of a group of 21 children and young adults in their suit against the federal government. In denying the government’s motion to dismiss, Aiken, based in Eugene, Oregon, opened a path for an eventual court-mandated, science-based plan to bring about sharp emissions reductions in the United States. The case, Juliana v. United States, will now go to trial starting sometime in 2017 and could prove to be a major civil rights suit, eventually finding its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This is going to be the trial of our lifetimes,” said Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, a 16-year-old plaintiff, in a statement.

At once there is a notably uncomfortable undertone to this entire stupid charade: a group of children (one as young as nine years old) is being cynically used by a cadre of opportunistic adults to advance environmental policy. You have to be a pretty shockingly exploitative person to manipulate the lives and opinions of a bunch of kids in order to force the government to do something you want it to do. It is entirely possible, if not probable, that these children will look back on this silly exercise one day and say, “Why on Earth did my parents let me do such a thing?”

But the climate change lobby is relentless. Indeed, having failed to produce any meaningful statutory “fixes” to theoretical climate change, they have turned to the courts, hoping to establish a constitutional “right to a stable climate.” A constitutional climate mandate would be much more binding than a mere statutory one, and that’s the point: they get it. They’re done debating. They’re fed up that the government has “permitted” “fossil fuel development.” And they want to make the government constitutionally obligated to forbid such development in the future. Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for a flourishing and prosperous society? What could go wrong? Nothing, right?

Ultimately there is a profoundly fascistic tendency to the more hardened devotees of climate alarmism: the use of children as political props, the insatiable desire to stamp out economic and political entities with which they disagree, the relentless marching, and the deep strain of anti-pluralistic authoritarianism that pervades much of the movement. This lawsuit is not likely to succeed, but if it did, it would enshrine that authoritarian impulse within the United States Constitution. And then we’d be treated to the joys of a “court-mandated, science based plan” to  fix a problem that even the climate alarmists can’t agree on. Can you imagine a brighter future than this?

All Of This For a Little Pill

I don’t have any real faith that President Trump will do much of anything to repeal Obamacare and start to fix our terminally broken American healthcare system; I am even uncertain that the House and Senate will make any moves in the right direction. Trump himself has been a supporter of government medicine in the past, and it would be somewhat unsurprising if the GOP squandered a gift-wrapped majority by more or less ignoring the Affordable Care Act.

There are, however, some people who are convinced that Obamacare is not long for this world:

More women are asking Planned Parenthood workers about access to birth control and other health care since Donald Trump was elected president, according to the organization’s chief medical officer.

Some women have taken to social media to discuss their concerns about the prospect of affordable access to women’s health care diminishing, with one long-lasting form of birth control called an IUD apparently attracting extra attention…

“Since the election, we have seen an uptick in questions about access to health care, birth control, and the Affordable Care Act,” said Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood. “While we truly hope that birth control methods will be available, accessible and affordable to all women under the Trump administration, we understand people’s real concerns about losing access to birth control, which is basic health care for women.”

Do tell. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but: maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to yoke the fortunes of American birth control to a stupid and unworkable national insurance law that most people can’t stand. I mean, call me crazy. Perhaps a better option would have been to make hormonal birth control available over the counter. Or if they wanted some other form of birth control, we could—now here’s a nutty idea—suggest that women get on an IUD payment plan and shell out the money themselves. I mean, look: I get that nowadays it’s crazy to ask women to pay for things out of their own pockets; I think such a request is now officially part of the Misogyny Canon. Liberals really go nuts if you suggest this, because they don’t think women are capable of doing such things. But I happen to believe that most women are fully capable of making a $40 monthly installment over the course of a year if they want to sign up for a LARC. No byzantine insurance law needed, no absurd DHS promulgation necessary. Maybe that should’ve been our approach from the start: tell women they have to invest in low-cost options on their own dime rather than on the sufferance of a behemoth piece of legislation that nobody likes. But we couldn’t do that, because, you know, “Patriarchy,” and “the 1950s,” etc.

As it turns out, a theoretical repeal of Obamacare would not actually be the last word on contraception in this country. A novel new option could come from—where else?—an app:

A company called Nurx provides birth control prescriptions, emergency contraception and HIV-prevention drugs. It’s been called the Uber for birth control, as it delivers on-demand care through the postal system. It offers two-day delivery, it’s free with insurance and as low as $15 per month without it. This ease of access and affordability is especially critical in areas where Planned Parenthoods aren’t accessible, where sex education is dismal and where doctors and guardians may shame women into believing that birth control is a sign of unacceptable sexual promiscuity.

If Nurx succeeds in making access to birth control as easy as hailing a car, it’s a sign that an emerging industry of health-care apps could become a beacon of hope in Trump’s America.

Ah, hold on a second here. You mean to tell me that there might be a better way to get birth control than by (a) passing a gargantuan and unworkable health care law, (b) forcing a bureaucratic rule on the entire country by executive-branch fiat, and (c) forcing elderly religious missionaries and other conscientious objectors to pay for things they find morally abhorrent? Look, this is all very shocking. Why didn’t anyone thing of this before today? I’m flummoxed.

If there are any upsides to a Trump presidency (and believe me, I’m looking for as many as I can find), perhaps this is one of them: it will force liberals to abandon the droning, ignorant, slack-jawed assumptions they’ve made about American women up until now. A week ago the Left insisted a gal couldn’t scratch together a few bucks to pay for her own Yaz; repealing Obamacare would consign her to the drudges of childbearing slavery and Medieval sexual servitude. A few days after we elect a new president, however, there’s a new “emerging industry” that could stand as a “beacon of hope” for all the women who, less than seven days ago, were wholly dependent upon the federal largesse and the federal bureaucracy. Incredibly, this new industry will make acquiring contraception “as easy as hailing a car.” It’s a miracle.

It’s almost as if—maybe—the point of the birth control mandate wasn’t wholly or even mostly devoted to making birth control more accessible to women; it seems like, I don’t know, it was more a sop to identity politics, an edict meant to galvanize a substantial portion of the electorate into voting Democrat. It seemed to work in 2012. In 2016, not so much. In the meantime, we have genuine market forces coalescing around a non-confrontational solution to the birth control question: the nuns would be left alone and the women who want birth control could get it. Maybe that sounds appalling if you’re a liberal, but I think it sounds pretty good to everyone else.

The World’s Worst Rumspringa

The full-scale, no-holds-barred liberal freakout over the past few days has been something to behold, and this is coming after nearly two decades of full-scale, no-holds-barred liberal freakouts: it’s just what the Left does these days. More and more it is the principal political language with which the liberal base and, increasingly, the liberal elite communicate.

On the one hand it’s not surprising. Progressives freak out if they can’t force elderly Catholic religious to pay for contraception, or if total government spending only increases 17.4% as opposed to 17.6%. On the other hand, the depth and breadth of the freakout has gone kind of above and beyond what we’ve come to expect, not merely in practice but in principle: Trump hasn’t even done anything yet, apart from convincing enough American citizens to vote for him, and already they’re burning him in effigy.

To be fair, I sort of get it—sort of. I’m a guy who spent the better part of the last year thinking up new and novel ways to call Trump a psychopath and publishing them in a widely-read political magazine. I’m as alarmed by the newly-minted Trump presidency as anyone. But, now that it’s finally come to pass, I’m not losing my mind about it. Neither should you, not yet anyway.

Many people are, though—not just the bystanders, mind you, but also the folks you expect to have a little more forbearance: the commentariat, say, or at least their editors. Consider Michelle Goldberg’s declaration from the pages of Slate: “Donald Trump’s Victory Proves That America Hates Women.” Go figure: now you have proof! What does this mean going forward, according to Goldberg?

I thought my daughter was not going to be consigned to a lesser life than my son. I no longer do.

Well, that seems a tad overwrought, though maybe I’m wrong. Look, here I’m just spitballing, but I want to make a small suggestion: if you feel like Hillary Clinton’s losing the presidency has “consigned [your daughter] to a lesser life than [your] son,” it probably means that, I don’t know, you’re not a very good parent. If the happiness and well-being of your child depended on a scandal-ridden, corrupt, lying crony capitalist career politician becoming the head of the executive branch of the United States, look: you’re doing parenting wrong. Just a thought!

At the New York Times, Lindy West describes crying into her breakfast cereal after witnessing Hillary Clinton vote on Election Morning. But tears of joy and pride were quickly replaced by something much less exhilarating: “Today doesn’t feel real. It is indistinguishable from fresh, close grief.” Actually, I’ll be honest: I felt pretty low on November 9th myself. But Lindy West really took it hard:

We have been weathering this hurricane wall of doubt and violence for so long, and now, more crystalline than ever, we have an enemy and a mandate. We have the smirking apotheosis of our oppression sliming, paw-first, toward our genitals. We have the popular vote. We have proof, in exit polls, that white women will pawn their humanity for the safety of white supremacy. We have abortion pills to stockpile and neighbors to protect and children to teach. We have the right woman to find. We have local elections in a year.

For Pete’s sake. Notice a few of the absurdist implications of these ideas: that if white women vote the way West doesn’t want them to vote, they’re “pawning their humanity” and are closet white supremacists to boot; that the right response to a lost election is to “stockpile” abortion pills (it is fittingly ironic that West worries about a “hurricane wall…of violence” at the precise moment she is vowing to commit violence against the unborn); that “the right woman to find” is a cogent and defensible political goal (not the right candidate, mind you, but the right woman—so long as you have a vagina, you’re good to go!).

You begin to understand the crushing heartbreak of Hillary’s loss much more clearly now. They supported her not so much because of the policy and the worldview she hoped to propagate; it was rather because she had the right kind of anatomy. When things descend to that kind of tribalistic impulse, I guess defeat hurts all that much more.

Perhaps most importantly, you can begin to see the hatred that people like Lindy West feel towards women not like them: voting against Hillary is looked on as an act of gendered treason, a sort of femicide-by-proxy. How dare they.

These are just a small number of instances of the liberal meltdown that’s taken place over the past couple of days, but they are excellent examples of the bizarre political theatrics that have engulfed the country since Trump won the election. And there is good reason to believe that these theatrics aren’t going away anytime soon; indeed they may last all four years of Trump’s term. It seems to me that, for the last eight years, liberals have been sort of pining for the righteous anti-authority zeitgeist that gripped American progressivism during the Bush years: the war protests, the marches, the chants, the calls for impeachment, the relentless insistence that Bush “stole” the election. Maybe they miss all of that, and maybe a few of them are delighted that, once again, they can start saying “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” (Once a Democrat gets elected again, they’ll stop saying that right away.)

As I’ve written, there is good reason to be genuinely alarmed at a Trump presidency. But if your response to that alarm is either (a) to set things on fire and break things, (b) insist that your daughter is now somehow a second-class citizen, or (c) claim that you need to “stockpile” medicine to help kill your innocent unborn offspring, then…well, look, maybe you just need to calm down a little bit, okay?