URLs du Jour


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  • You can't shout "Nazi" in a crowded Newsweek, or something. Dylan Croll recounts some history: Understanding MIT’s Free Speech Crisis.

    For the past decade the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has hosted a public lecture on climate science. To be invited to give “the Carlson Lecture” is an honor, an acknowledgment of the work of top scientists. Past lecturers have spoken on topics ranging from “climate change and deep-sea corals” to “climate change and armadillos.” In October 2020, MIT invited professor Dorian Abbot, a rising star in the field. He was to talk about “Climate and the potential for life on other planets.”

    Professors Daniel Rothman and Kerry Emanuel, the co-founders of the Lorenz Center, MIT’s climate research center, had previously invited Abbot, a tenured professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, to speak at MIT. “Dorian had come months earlier to give a department colloquium, and it had been very successful,” Rothman would later recall, “so we thought he’d be a great Carlson Lecture speaker.”  

    But then, nearly two years after he’d first accepted MIT’s invitation (the event was delayed by a year due to the pandemic) and about a month before he was scheduled to arrive in Cambridge, Abbot’s name appeared in Newsweek, in a co-authored opinion piece titled “The Diversity Problem on Campus.” Abbot and Stanford professor Ivan Marinovic wrote that they had grown concerned by what they saw as increasing illiberalism on college campuses. Arguing that admission should be based exclusively on merit, they criticized affirmative action and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices that had become common at American universities. They compared such efforts to Nazi Germany:

    Ninety years ago, Germany had the best universities in the world. Then an ideological regime obsessed with race came to power and drove many of the best scholars out, gutting the faculties and leading to sustained decay that German universities never fully recovered from. We should view this as a warning of the consequences of viewing group membership as more important than merit and correct our course before it’s too late.     

    Well, we know what happened next: Irate people took to Twittering. And the department chair cancelled the upcoming Carlson lecture, but as a "compromise" offered to have Abbot come talk to students a few months later.

    It's a pretty good history, taking "both sides" arguments, marred only by a reference to "free-speech fundamentalists". Also known as "people with principles".

  • I miss the good old days when "CRT" only stood for "Cathode Ray Tube". Stanley Kurtz sends up a warning flare: Bogus ‘Civics’ Bill Will Push CRT on States. And that would be Critical Race Theory, not cathode ray tubes.

    The misleadingly named “Civics Secures Democracy Act” (CSDA) — just now reintroduced in Congress — will allow the Biden administration to push Critical Race Theory (CRT) on every public school in the country. Over a six-year period, this $6 billion pot of competitive grant money will create a de facto national curriculum — just like Common Core. States desperate to tap into the federal gravy train will have to tailor their civics and history grant proposals to the Biden administration’s liking. And abundant evidence shows that Biden’s Education Department is pushing CRT. So why are some Republican senators eager to help Biden spread CRT? I can’t think of a quicker way to devastate Republican enthusiasm just before the midterms.

    It doesn’t matter that federal law and the bill itself disclaim the authority to formally impose a curriculum on the states. The strings that Biden’s bureaucrats will attach to these massive federal grants will suffice to lure states into adopting CRT. The left-leaning bureaucrats who staff education departments even in red states already favor CRT (those bureaucrats will write the grant applications and divvy up the money). And Biden long ago signaled his intention to prioritize applications that promise CRT.

    The congress.gov page for the reintroduced bill is here.

  • We must Do Something™. And this is Something. Therefore… Jeff Jacoby casts a skeptical eye on the latest panacea: 'Red-flag' laws raise some red flags.

    An enduring challenge in any free society is to strike the right balance between liberty and security — to protect the safety of the public while respecting the rights of citizens. The tension between individual freedom and communal security is as old as the American republic. Often, the infringements on liberty have been egregious: Think of the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Palmer Raids following World War I, and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

    Red-flag laws, also referred to as "extreme risk protection orders," offer a way, in theory, to get the balance right: to temporarily keep guns away from disturbed and antisocial individuals who show signs of being potential killers without trampling on the Second Amendment rights of tens of millions of law-abiding gun owners.

    The record to date, however, suggests that that is much easier said than done.

    The key problem is that the warning signs that mass shooters display — the "red flags" — are shared by countless people who would never use a gun to hurt anyone. Ross Douthat, reflecting on school shootings in his New York Times column, observes that "people drawn to this kind of terrorism are overwhelmingly of a type — young, troubled, socially awkward men." But there are millions of American men who are young, troubled, and socially awkward, and only the tiniest fraction of them will ever be tempted by thoughts of homicidal mayhem.

    I'm pretty sure that the only thing the pols really care about is getting reelected, and they think that can be accomplished by claiming to have Done Something™. Doesn't matter whether that Something works or not.

  • California circling the drain. Leor Sapir is dismayed by The Assault on Children’s Psyches.

    Patricia (a pseudonym) is the mother of a teenage girl who in recent years has come to identify as transgender. She lives in California, considers herself progressive, votes Democrat, and leads a group for parents of children with rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD)—that is, youth who suddenly experience distress with their bodies and believe that undergoing medical “transition” will make them whole again. When I spoke to her recently, she recounted how her daughter’s at-first-lesbian and then trans identity emerged in response to feelings of shame about being white.

    I have since spoken to more than a dozen ROGD parents and parent-group leaders who tell a similar story. Their schools compulsively tell their children how awful it is to be white, how white people enjoy unearned “privilege,” how they benefit from “systems” put in place by and for white people for the sole purpose of oppressing “people of color.” Plagued by guilt, the children—almost all of them girls—rush to the sanctuary of “LGBTQ+” identity. Once there, they are catapulted into hero status. According to Patricia, some teachers at her daughter’s school are more forgiving toward “queer” and “trans” kids who hand in their homework late.

    Parents who say "hey, wait a minute" can find themselves under scrutiny by Child Protective Services for being "abusive".

  • "Give me chastity and continency, only not yet." Modern-day St. Augustines are in the crosshairs of Bjørn Lomborg: The Rich World’s Climate Hypocrisy.

    The developed world’s response to the global energy crisis has put its hypocritical attitude toward fossil fuels on display. Wealthy countries admonish developing ones to use renewable energy. Last month the Group of Seven went so far as to announce they would no longer fund fossil-fuel development abroad. Meanwhile, Europe and the U.S. are begging Arab nations to expand oil production. Germany is reopening coal power plants, and Spain and Italy are spending big on African gas production. So many European countries have asked Botswana to mine more coal that the nation will more than double its exports.

    The developed world became wealthy through the pervasive use of fossil fuels, which still overwhelmingly power most of its economies. Solar and wind power aren’t reliable, simply because there are nights, clouds and still days. Improving battery storage won’t help much: There are enough batteries in the world today only to power global average electricity consumption for 75 seconds. Even though the supply is being scaled up rapidly, by 2030 the world’s batteries would still cover less than 11 minutes. Every German winter, when solar output is at its minimum, there is near-zero wind energy available for at least five days—or more than 7,000 minutes.

    That's a free WSJ link, so check it out. Forcing poor countries to avoid fossil fuels for electricity is condemning them to ongoing poverty. But it makes us feel better about ourselves, so …