URLs du Jour

2022-06-24

Hey, how about that SCOTUS? More on that tomorrow, I assume. Meanwhile… [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Kyle Smith noted the Center for Disease Control yet again failing to Control itself: The CDC Just Pushed Fake News on Covid Child Mortality.

    Only because “an internet rando is more knowledgeable and paying closer attention than our top scientists and doctors” do we know that the CDC just publicized false information about the deadliness of Covid-19 to small children. This misinformation, presented at a conference among top experts, went viral and was promoted, notes Substack columnist Matt Shapiro, by dozens of well-known physicians and other media commentators and specialists, including CNN mainstay Dr. Leana Wen and a former surgeon general of the United States. Wen’s promotion of the false claim is still up on Twitter as of 6:45 p.m. on June 22.

    The CDC displayed a slide at a conference that falsely claimed Covid-19 was the fourth or fifth leading cause of death for all pediatric age groups. A writer who is publicly known only by the name Kelley immediately saw that the claim was “completely and utterly false.” Among several errors, which are so blatant as to seem like intentional massaging of the numbers, Kelley discovered that all data from a 26-month period were being crammed into one year, and that deaths were attributed to Covid, regardless of whether the death was caused by Covid, if the disease was mentioned on the death certificate. The CDC slide, which cited a pre-publication British study that is now being re-examined, also bumped up the numbers by altering the definition of pediatric (ordinarily understood to mean under 18) to include 18- and 19-year-olds.

    I just finished reading The Constitution of Truth by Jonathan Rauch, where he firmly placed the CDC among the so-called "reality-based community". I'm sure that will be fixed in the second edition.


  • Also members of Rauch's "reality-based community"‥ would be the diligent Carrie Nations of the FDA. Elizabeth Nolan Brown notes the likely effect of their latest hijinx: Mandating Low-Nicotine Cigarettes Could Make Smoking More Dangerous.

    The Biden administration continues its misguided war on nicotine. On Tuesday, the administration revealed plans to require cigarette makers to severely cut the amount of nicotine in their products. A proposed rule change "would establish a maximum nicotine level in cigarettes and certain finished tobacco products." The idea, it says, is to make cigarettes less addictive.

    Nicotine is the substance in cigarettes that makes them physically addictive. But nicotine itself isn't what makes cigarettes so dangerous. (Some scientists "wonder if a daily dose could be as benign as the caffeine many of us get from a morning coffee," notes Scientific American.) It's the other ingredients in cigarettes, and the byproducts of combustion, that make smoking cigarettes so bad for you.

    This is one reason why the war on vaping is so stupid, and also speaks to the half-baked premises of the Biden administration's latest anti-smoking plan.

    It is odd indeed, to see the increased legalized use of "recreational" THC as opposed to the ramped-up prohibitions on nicotine.


  • Freddie de Boer, incipient libertarian. I know, he's a self-admitted Marxist. But when he writes articles like this, how long can that last, realistically: Ah, Carceral Liberalism.

    Ten years ago, let’s say fifteen to be safe, if you saw an essay titled “Consequences are Good, Actually,” you might naturally assume that it came from the political right. Conservatives, after all, believe in law and order, retributive justice, and the God of the Old Testament. But nowadays, it’s liberals who constantly call for consequences, liberals who sneer at the concept of forgiveness, liberals who stand for a Manichean worldview that permits no deviation from white-hat/black-hat morality. And so in that linked piece OG carceral feminist Jessica Valenti insists that the object of her ire deserves only hellfire, and this is quite in keeping with the contemporary progressive id in 2022. Valenti is reacting specifically to a New York magazine cover story about a teenager who shared nude photos of his girlfriend and the social consequences that followed for him and others. But she is reacting as she and her liberal peers react to everything: “someone has to burn.” She just does so in the vocabulary of a disapproving pre-K teacher.

    We’ve spent the past two years with the left-of-center world debating, and largely endorsing, quite radical ideas about ending policing and prisons. This would seem to suggest a certain predisposition to forgiveness and equanimity in human affairs, a communal understanding that life is complicated, all of us are sinners, and there but for the grace of God go we. But as the various groans about the New York piece show, the urge to defund the police etc. is really much less about a particular ethic of caring and much more about simply nominating a communally-approved target for progressive anger. It happens that the abstract category “the cops” is a good thing for people to target, but the broader point is that most liberal criminal justice reform energy isn’t derived at all from a desire to be more compassionate and understanding but simply to have a new designated hate object. And this condition is unhealthy, is my feeling. Because forgiveness is good and absolutely central to the left-wing conception of the world.

    At a certain point, Freddie might realize that forgiveness in the hands of the state is never going to work out the way he expects.


  • I also recently read The Quick Fix by journalist Jesse Singal. (My report here.) It's a moderate takedown of psychological fads, written in measured, yet devastating, tone.

    When he's not writing books, however, Singal can be hilarious, immoderate, and (still) devastating. Case in point from his substack: I Would Like To Thank Not Only The David Roberts, But All The David Robertses Out There. Background: a recent New York Times article from Emily Bazelon was a remarkably well-researched and balanced report on the controversy over "youth gender medicine". Basically, is it full speed ahead with snipping and hormones, or should we hang back on that?

    Balance is doubleplusungood for some. And one of those people freaked.

    Overall, I believed Bazelon’s piece to be a highly competent, well-executed treatment of an impossibly fraught subject.

    Believed.

    Then I came across David Roberts’ tweets. Roberts is a journalist who usually focuses on energy and the environment — he’s worked for The Grist and Vox, and like apparently everyone else, he now has a newsletter. Forever ago I interviewed him about his decision to take a yearlong break from social media because he didn’t like what all that time online was doing to him (a subject that’s definitely not relevant to this piece, nope, not at all).

    I don’t believe Roberts has ever written anything about youth gender dysphoria, if Google is any indication — this doesn’t appear to be an area of particular interest for him. And yet he issued a searing public condemnation of Bazelon. “The wild thing about this is that @emilybazelon is a great journalist on other topics,” he tweeted in response to Michael Hobbes (who we shan’t be discussing today), making sure to tag her. “Something about this just absolutely breaks people’s brains.” (Note that right around when I was finishing up this piece, a bunch of the tweets I’m going to be referencing disappeared, apparently deleted by Roberts. They were all live earlier today. I tried to archive them beforehand using archiv.ph but ran into some technical difficulties. Either way, I have screenshots of them — apologies if the archived links don’t work. It doesn’t look like Roberts offered any explanation for why he deleted the tweets, which had been up for almost a week, but if he does say anything I’ll update the piece here.)

    That's enough of an excerpt; kids, if you want to see how it's done, click on through.


  • Easy headline template for the next few years: "Biden's Demagoguery on       ". Today's instance is from Jonathan A. Lesser: Biden's Demagoguery on Gas Prices.

    Some politicians wear their economic illiteracy as a badge of honor. But President Biden’s economic illiteracy, together with his demagoguery about greedy oil companies, stands to make the nation’s economic situation far worse.

    When Biden took office in January 2021, the average U.S. price for a gallon of gasoline was $2.25 per gallon. According to the Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. price this week is just over $5 per gallon, or 120 percent higher.

    As prices have risen, the administration has changed its strategy. First, it ignored inflation, dismissing it as a temporary blip. As prices kept going up, Biden ordered releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, claiming that the move would ease inflation at the pump. Then he implored Saudi Arabia to boost production, while the Department of the Interior continued to slow-walk new oil and gas leases on federal lands and cancelled all new leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Now Biden is threatening oil companies. In a recent speech, he claimed that Exxon-Mobil “made more money than God this year.” In a series of letters to oil CEOS, the president claims that the companies can immediately increase output from their refineries, seemingly implying that they are deliberately restricting output. “Your companies and others have an opportunity to take immediate actions to increase the supply of gasoline, diesel and other refined product you are producing,” Biden wrote. He has tried this approach before, asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate collusion and price-gouging by retail gasoline stations. The FTC has found no such evidence.

    Really, is it only a matter of time before Biden goes full Leviticus 16 to address our country's woes? I think that would be preferable; a few slaughtered animals would be a small price to pay.


  • I like George Harrison's version better. Matt Ribel has the glum news: Here Comes the Sun—to End Civilization.

    To a photon, the sun is like a crowded nightclub. It’s 27 million degrees inside and packed with excited bodies—helium atoms fusing, nuclei colliding, positrons sneaking off with neutrinos. When the photon heads for the exit, the journey there will take, on average, 100,000 years. (There’s no quick way to jostle past 10 septillion dancers, even if you do move at the speed of light.) Once at the surface, the photon might set off solo into the night. Or, if it emerges in the wrong place at the wrong time, it might find itself stuck inside a coronal mass ejection, a mob of charged particles with the power to upend civilizations.

    The description of the 1859 "Carrington Event":

    Electrical current raced through the sky over the western hemisphere. A typical bolt of lightning registers 30,000 amperes. This geomagnetic storm registered in the millions. As the clock struck midnight in New York City, the sky turned scarlet, shot through with plumes of yellow and orange. Fearful crowds gathered in the streets. Over the continental divide, a bright-white midnight aurora roused a group of Rocky Mountain laborers; they assumed morning had arrived and began to cook breakfast. In Washington, DC, sparks leaped from a telegraph operator’s forehead to his switchboard as his equipment suddenly magnetized. Vast sections of the nascent telegraph system overheated and shut down.

    It sounds as if a tinfoil hat might not be enough protection.

    But if it happens, I'm sure President Biden will find some way to blame Big Oil.