Monday, October 31, 2022

An Extraordinary Medical Atrocity

Hopefully, his is not just one voice crying out in the medical wilderness. At a time when the medical profession has institutionally embraced the dogma of transgenderism, medical school professor and ethicist Michael Egnor is labeling it for what it is, “an extraordinary medical atrocity.”

The story comes to us from The Federalist, via The College Fix and Maggie’s Farm:

A medical school professor and surgeon with more than 30 years of experience described transgender surgeries and hormone treatments as violations of medical ethics comparable to eugenics in a recent podcast interview with The Federalist.

“Something I’ve come to realize with the growth of ‘gender-affirming’ surgeries and ‘gender-affirming’ medical care is that we’re right in the middle of an extraordinary medical atrocity,” Michael Egnor, a pediatric neurosurgeon and professor at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University in New York, told the news outlet.

Sadly, it is not the first time that our esteemed medical profession, inhabited by people who insist that they have science on their side, has claimed the such atrocities are clinically effective:

“I’ve taught in the ethics course here at Stony Brook,” Egnor, who is also residency director at the hospital, told The Federalist. “We teach the students and the young doctors about various ethical atrocities in medical history” such as eugenics, lobotomies for the mentally ill and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which medical treatment was withheld from black research subjects.

“We point out that at the time all these atrocities were widely accepted in the medical community,” he said.

“At the end of the course I ask them a fairly obvious question, and that is what are the ethical atrocities that we’re doing today? And they just gasp.”

The blindness is astounding. And yet, serious physicians, people of science, insist that theirs is the clinically correct analysis. And they gang up on anyone who dares offer a different opinion. 

“There’s been this enormous growth, this explosion of transgender ideology in the press and in the medical community,” Egnor said. “I’ve had parents come to me in panic asking whether there’s anything I can do to help on that.”

“Watching the news and knowing that the American Medical Association has endorsed this stuff, and the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association has endorsed this stuff, I really have come to feel over the past year or two that we are in a very dark episode of medical ethics and medical history.”

“I want to encourage others in the medical community, many of whom share my viewpoint, to speak out,” he said. “If more senior physicians won’t stand up and say that this is wrong, then I am ashamed of my profession.”

Nicely stated, and we surely need more physicians who are willing to take the risk of denouncing the atrocity. As of now, young surgeons are happy to do TikTok videos about how good it was to perform a double mastectomy on a fourteen year old girl.

The prescribed medical treatment, couched in deceptive language, is designed to seduce children into mutilating themselves:

Egnor spoke of the serious risks of drugs and surgery to treat gender dysphoria in young people: “The medical advice [parents and children] are getting regarding these treatments is malpractice. It is, in my view, basically criminal stuff.”

“Puberty blockers are very, very powerful medications that have a lot of side effects in themselves,” he said.

“There are institutions in this country now that are performing mastectomies on children. There are institutions that are carrying out hysterectomies and removal of ovaries on adolescent girls. There are institutions that are removing the genitals of adolescent boys.”

He is quite correct. A medical profession with the least moral sense would bow its head in shame.

As we have noted on this blog, the National Health Service in Great Britain is now trying to staunch the bleeding:

Egnor is not alone among professionals in his reservations. In particular, England’s National Health Service recently released draft guidelines that endorse a more cautious and conservative approach.

Otherwise, you and I know that this will all be resolved in a tidal wave of litigation. Dare we say that the physicians who are touting these treatments and who are performing them will deserve the opprobrium they receive.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Bring Back Standardized Testing

Recent results from the college entrance examinations called the ACT have elicited the normal amount of teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing.

Happily for us we know that the fault lies in the public school system,  mostly with those schools that followed the Siren Song of the teachers’ unions and deprived vast numbers of American schoolchildren of their education and their cognitive development.

We are an optimistic sort, so we believe that just a little tutoring and some remedial math will make it all better. It’s a soul-soothing thought, befitting a nation that has overdosed on unearned praise, that is, on self-esteem.

To which Michael Bloomberg has responded on his eponymous website, to the effect that America’s schoolchildren had been losing ground for years, and that it will be far more difficult to get them to a level where they can compete in world markets than any of us image. He adds a coda, to the effect that our poorly trained and inadequately educated younger generation is simply not ready for prime time. That means, all the high minded confidence and empty praise, all of the mania about diversity and equity has destroyed the mind of America’s youth.

Now, colleges and universities understand full well that if they admit students on the basis of test scores, that is, on the basis of merit, they will not have a class competition that reflects the composition of the population. Where anyone got that absurd idea, I do not know, but it is beyond stupid. If the outcomes are predetermined, the game has been rigged, and you are sending out a team of self-important mediocrities to compete against the best the world has to offer. How much to you want to wager on our chances.

So, if you don’t like the test scores, you do what any woke radical does-- ban the tests. At that point, no one will have systematically better test scores. Problem solved?

Bloomberg writes:

 The crisis in US K-12 public education continues to deepen, and decisions by many colleges and universities to abandon SAT and ACT scores are making it worse. Instead of demanding more accountability from high schools, colleges are expecting less.

He continues to point out that the test scores have been declining for years now:

Average ACT scores have declined every year since 2018, while the share of students failing to meet college readiness standards in any of its four subject areas — English, math, reading and science — has increased by 7 percentage points. With the exception of Asian students, teens of every race perform worse now than they did five years ago.

If you think that this cohort is going to onshore industry and manufacturing, you are not factoring in our lack of human capital.

But our educational system has found a solution-- it ignores the problem. Considering how much money we have poured into racial and sexual equity programs, we are not surprised. And we are not surprised that administrators are incapable of accepting that they have failed. Universities are certainly incapable of seeing that they should fire most of their bureaucrats and hire more STEM teachers.

The fact is: The US public school system is failing to prepare most students for college and careers, and the problem is getting worse. Yet colleges and universities are pretending not to notice. 

Since 2020, the number of schools that have stopped requiring applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores has nearly doubled to more than 1,800, including many of the country’s most selective colleges. As a result, fewer students are bothering to sit for the exams at all. Since 2018, the number of seniors taking the ACT has dropped by nearly 30%, even as overall college applications increased.

It’s almost as though we were to say that if you believe strongly enough that you were born in the wrong body, you were born in the wrong body. Thinking makes it so.

Bloomberg wants to return to standardized testing. An excellent idea, one that is not very likely to  be adopted by the woke educational establishment:

The failings of America’s education system threaten the country’s future as a global leader. In an economy that is more competitive and skills-based than ever, to walk away from standards is to limit students’ career opportunities and leave far too many dependent on government to make ends meet — or, tragically, enticed into criminal activities.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Tom and Gisele: The Last Chapter

Yesterday, as I was catching a few minutes of a couple of panel discussion shows on a conservative news network, I chanced to hear the ladies offering their commentary on the divorce of Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen.

Keep in mind, these are not movement feminists. They are presumably of a rather conservative bent. And yet, their sympathies clearly lay with Gisele. By their lights, Tom Brady blew up his marriage because he failed to obey the imperious command of his Amazonian wife. They did not understand that, being one of if not the greatest of all time, he could not just abandon the game because his wife had issued an ultimatum.

As it happened, she called it an ultimatum-- me or football? As a general rule, and I suspect that all couples counselors agree, it is a very bad idea to launch ultimata-- in the all-or-nothing sense of the term. Effectively, you cannot win.

If a woman’s husband gives in to the threat, she will no longer respect him. And she will resent him. If he does not give in, she will be facing the need to follow through on her threat. 

In principle, Gisele wanted Brady to give up playing football in order to spend more time at home. She wanted to make him a house husband. As the talking female heads kept saying, she has more money than him, and she has done her fair share of childrearing. Thus, he needs to languish around the house, letting his talent go to waste, because some feminist guru invaded and occupied her mind.

We note that these women offered not the least recognition of the importance of a man’s work, for his pride. And they did not understand the notion of loyalty to the team. There is more to life than money. And obviously, given the piles of cash lying in the respective bank accounts, in the hundreds of millions, we may dismiss the notion that Bundchen was exhausted for doing too many dishes and for mopping too many floors. 

So, it was not about sharing tasks equally. And it was even less so since Bundchen had retired from the catwalk. She was no longer working. And we must also remark that once Tom Brady retires from playing football, he will take up his new duties as a sportscaster and announcer. For that he will be paid a bit less than $40,000,000 a year. We assume that his new duties as a sportscaster will require him to be away from home during the season, roughly as he is now.

The more you put the pieces on the board, the less sense it all makes.

But, consider this. Brady has not been playing exceptionally well of late. His Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a very shaky start. So, Gisele threw Tom’s life into chaos, she disrupted all of his family routines and might very well have made it more difficult to focus on his game. The result: poor performance. Surely, it happens. Is this what feminist empowerment means?

What does make sense is that Gisele, a newly minted feminist culture hero, discovered a need to show the world that she is not just another pretty face and lithe body. One understands that a good feminist can very easily seduce a sufficiently insecure woman by telling her that there is more to her than her face and figure. Beneath that wondrous exterior lies a great mind, waiting to be exposed to the world. And, of course, if Gisele wants to show off her great mind she must become a feminist true believer. If you think what we want you to think you will demonstrate to the world that there is more to you than your body.

As for that other burning question, whether or not Gisele is going now to find a new lover, a new husband, a new whatever. Obviously, we cannot preclude the possibility. With that level of wealth you can probably buy yourself a husband or a wife, or a husband and a wife.

Friday, October 28, 2022

The Energy War

Normally, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman is a bit of a magical thinker. He loved the Green New Deal; he has been all-in with renewables; he loves clean energy and wants to save the planet by replacing dirty fossil fuels with nice clean energy.

In short, he is with the program.

And yet, Friedman concludes, after consulting his crystal ball, we are currently involved in an energy war with Russia. Don’t be quite so worried about the chance that Putin is going to drop a nuclear weapon on Kiev. Worry about him shutting down his oil and gas exports. It is a useful counterargument for those who moon over the glory of Ukraine’s fighting force and who mock the less than proficient Red Army.

If Putin does so, the result will be a spike in the price of energy and a lot of collateral calamities. So, let’s war game the situation.

Friedman begins:

As the Russian Army continues to falter in Ukraine, the world is worrying that Vladimir Putin could use a tactical nuclear weapon. Maybe — but for now, I think Putin is assembling a different weapon. It’s an oil and gas bomb that he’s fusing right before our eyes and with our inadvertent help — and he could easily detonate it this winter.

If he does, it could send prices of home heating oil and gasoline into the stratosphere. The political fallout, Putin surely hopes, will divide the Western alliance and prompt many countries — including ours, where both MAGA Republicans and progressives are expressing concerns about the spiraling cost of the Ukraine conflict — to seek a dirty deal with the man in the Kremlin, pronto.

As for energy policy, we, like most of Europe have a lot more magical thinking and adolescent aspirations than we do policy:

 In an energy war like the one we’re in now, you need to be clear about your goals and priorities. As a country, and as a Western alliance, we have no ladder of priorities on energy, just competing aspirations and magical thinking that we can have it all.

Friedman does not mention the drawdown of diesel fuel, situation that is an accident waiting to happen, but he does reject the Biden administration policy of drawing down the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

If Putin is as clever as Biden is not, he will want the United States to do what Biden is doing-- greatly enhancing out vulnerability:

It starts with getting the United States to draw down its Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It is a huge stock of crude oil stored in giant caverns that we can draw on in an emergency to offset any cutoff in our domestic production or imports. Last Wednesday, President Biden announced the release of 15 million more barrels from the reserve in December, completing a plan he laid out earlier to release a total of 180 million barrels in an effort to keep gasoline prices at the pump as low as possible — in advance of the midterm elections. 

Evidently, Friedman does not approve. No one really does:

People were really hurting from $5- and $6-a-gallon gasoline. But using the reserve — which was designed to cushion us in the face of a sudden shut-off in domestic or global production — to shave a dime or a quarter off a gallon of gasoline before elections is a dicey business, even if the president has a plan for refilling it in the coming months.

Next, the European Union is getting ready to ban crude oil imports from Russia:

Next, Putin is watching the European Union gear up for a ban on seaborne imports of crude oil from Russia, starting Dec. 5. This embargo — along with Germany and Poland’s move to stop pipeline imports — should cover roughly 90 percent of the European Union’s current oil imports from Russia.

The policy will be designed to fix the price of Russian oil. Will it work? Friedman says it will not:

My sources in the oil industry tell me they seriously doubt this Western price fixing will work. Russia’s OPEC Plus partner Saudi Arabia is certainly not interested in seeing such a buyers’ price-fixing precedent set.

If China comes back into the market in a serious way, it will increase demand and also prices:

Now that Xi has locked in his third term as general secretary of the Communist Party, many expect that he will ease up on his lockdowns. If China goes back to anything near its normal gas consumption and stops re-exporting its excess, the global gas market will become even more scarily tight.

And then there is the situation in Ukraine-- where Putin is hard at work destroying Ukraine’s ability to generate electricity-- a cold, dark winter beckons:

Last, as I noted, Putin is trying to destroy Ukraine’s ability to generate electricity. Today more than one million Ukrainians are without power, and as one Ukrainian lawmaker tweeted last week, “Total darkness and cold are coming.”

If, in December Putin halts Russian oil and gas exports to countries supporting Ukraine, the problems will be calamitous:

So add all of this up and then suppose, come December, Putin announces he is halting all Russian oil and gas exports for 30 or 60 days to countries supporting Ukraine, rather than submit to the European Union’s fixing of his oil price. He could afford that for a short while. That would be Putin’s energy bomb and Christmas present to the West. In this tight market, oil could go to $200 a barrel, with a commensurate rise in the price of natural gas. We’re talking $10 to $12 a gallon at the pump in the United States.

In the end, we seem to be preparing to be taught a rather dire lesson, of what happens when you shut down fossil fuel production and make yourself dependent on outside forces that do not necessarily have your best interests at heart. Friedman does not quite say that this form of energy war is the normal consequence of a grossly mismanaged government energy policy, but you and I know that it is. Increasing our dependence on renewables is whistling past the graveyard.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

How to Defeat Wokeness

People will be talking about Michael Lind’s Tablet article about how to defeat wokeness. We might be able to find some fault with it, but it does raise an important issue. For the record, Lind is a law professor at the University of Texas, Austin.

Wokeness has invaded many of the major cultural and professional and commercial institutions in America. And no one seems to know what to do about it, or better, how to undo it.

Universities, the school system, social media, online marketplaces, professional organizations-- they have all adopted the most absurd woke standards. If you do not adhere to these standards, by showing, for example, how much you support diversity, equity and inclusion, you will not be hired. If your book says the wrong thing about transgenderism, you might be thrown out of Amazon, which, in the publishing world, is the kiss of death.

Now, it is true enough that these draconian and despotic rules are being laid down by private institutions, it is also true that they have the government winds behind their backs. As Lind sagely notes, bureaucratic directives during the Obama presidency helped normalize transgender identity:

Then in 2016 the Obama Education Department suddenly threatened to cut off federal funding to K-12 schools that did not allow students suffering from gender dysphoria to use bathrooms reserved for the opposite sex. The Obama Justice Department threatened to sue North Carolina for passing a law requiring people to use bathrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. By the time it rescinded the law, HB 2, in 2017, the state of North Carolina had lost billions of dollars thanks to simultaneous boycotts by the National Basketball Association, the National College Athletic Association, Deutsche Bank, PayPal, and other corporations and financial institutions.

Of course, once anyone tries to reverse these edicts, the hue and cry threatens their business or profession. Given the generally worshipful adoration of one Barack Obama, criticizing him or trying to undo his legacy becomes heresy. As Lind points out, we are dealing with something like a secular religion, not with democratic politics.

Link continues to describe the long cultural march through America’s private institutions:

By the 2020s, at one university after another, applicants for faculty positions were required to submit “DEI statements,” listing the ways that they would personally advance this particular ideology through their work as teachers and researchers. Campus commissars were appointed to ensure that faculty reading lists and guest speaker panels had the appropriate race and gender makeup. In corporations, banks, universities, and government agencies, the relatively anodyne “diversity training” of the late 20th century, designed to minimize the possibility of racial or sexual discrimination lawsuits, gave way to DEI trainings. The goal of such exercises was not to promulgate knowledge of specific anti-discrimination rules and procedures, but to engage staff in Maoist-style struggle sessions designed to break down the personalities and identities of non-Hispanic white Americans and Asian Americans through confession of “microaggressions” and “racial privilege.”

You might say that the process underwent something of a hiatus with the Trump presidency, but the perpetual cries of outrage, the constant efforts at demonization, the unprecedented vitriol and hatred directed by the media and by Democratic politicians, against someone who dared to reject the Obama legacy, showed the world how dangerous it was to dissent. Dissent became heresy. Speaking ill of Obama or anyone who resembled him became blasphemy.

And then, American corporations jumped on the bandwagon. They saw themselves living in a theocracy and they wanted to manifest their virtue. At the least, it was good public relations. By this time, the social media titans had monopolized public discussion and debate. Those who said the wrong thing were instantly canceled. The concentration of media power, without any oversight, propelled the movement forward:

Meanwhile, large corporations and banks, universities and major foundations, and the Democratic Party—now the party of college-educated whites and most of the super-rich—ostentatiously signaled their virtue as one new social justice cause succeeded another: Black Lives Matter, climate change, gender radicalism. Ironically, the rainbow flag of the gay rights movement became the logo of U.S. corporations and U.S. embassies, even as gay men and lesbians who questioned the new orthodoxy were hounded out of the T- and Q-dominated LGBTQ+ acronym alliance for the sin of “transphobia.”

Whether they work for Amazon or Twitter, Podunk U. or Paypal, the people who control these organizations act as gatekeepers, in Lind’s words, to the national economic life.

One thing we are not dealing with is a free market:

As a result, they can “deplatform” people, including the president of the United States, at will—and those who have been deplatformed, canceled, or otherwise disappeared from the marketplace or the public realm have little recourse, except to a rubber-stamp board appointed by the platform’s executives, on the basis of “rules of service” that the corporate managers and their puppets make up and can change at any time. This combination of exemption from regulation with legal impunity would have been unthinkable in the age of AT&T and the three broadcast networks, before the rise of the tech sector at the end of the 20th century.

As for how we can tame these out-of-control private entities, Lind proposes a solution. You may or may not like what he proposes, but, the truth is, it is more constructive to recommend a solution to the problem than to continue whining about how there is nothing we can do about.

Lind’s solution-- increased power for the government regulators. 

Alas, only one solution to the threat of woke hegemony can possibly work: a massive and permanent expansion of the regulatory powers of American government. Because of the longstanding ideological habits and precommitments of those who broadly agree with the above diagnosis of the problem, this is typically the last solution that occurs to them. Paradoxical though it may seem, however, political intervention is necessary to depoliticize the institutions that have already been diverted from their limited missions and competencies. Reluctant but determined intervention by the elected branches of government can compel neutrality on the part of professional and commercial institutions that have been captured and weaponized by the new entryists.

He remarks that certain members of our political commentariat tend to oppose all such interventions. Whatever they call themselves, they are fervent believers in the free market and tend to see the government as the root of all political and socio-economic evil. 

Of course, we have traditionally turned to the government to bust trusts and to restore freedom to the free market.

If the delegation of authority by the government to private institutions empowers the activists who capture those institutions, then the solution is to repeal those delegations of authority and replace them with direct government regulation. The power of the AMA and ABA and other private associations to license professionals should be revoked. Professionals of all kinds should be licensed by government boards that are appointed by elected officials and subject to legislative oversight, and whose decisions are subject to judicial review.

We can object to many of these proposals, but, the problem is, do we want the American Medical Association, by edict to destroy medical education by making entry into medical school contingent on race, equity and inclusion? Dumbing down the medical profession is ongoing. Would it be worse if governments got involved in the process?

Of course, this raises an obvious objection. When government gets involved, why do you imagine that these trained bureaucrats, people who have no especial loyalty to free markets, will really make things better?

To which Lind replies that state governments should systematically refuse to obey edicts that promote wokery. Some do it today. Others should get with the anti-woke program.

Increasingly, state governments led by anti-woke elected officials have begun using state power to check the ideological excesses of corporations and banks. Far from being an assault on liberty, this is a healthy and overdue reassertion of democracy. Elected officials answer to citizens. Corporations and nonprofits answer only to their boards of directors and shareholders or donors. And as entities that can exist and do business only because of government charters, corporations and nonprofits must follow rules promulgated by representatives of the people.

Lind replies that government officials can be voted out of office. This is a dubious notion:

But if they do, their misdeeds will be easily identified and have clear remedies, unlike the hidden decisions of vast private bureaucracies. Abusive legislators and governors can be voted out of office, unlike the obscure individuals who belong to Facebook’s self-regulating bureaucracy.

Actually, the bureaucrats who constitute the deep state cannot so easily be removed from office. Congressional representatives, yes; unelected government officials, not so easily.

So, we can find some ways to question Lind’s proposal. But still, he addresses the problem and offers a way to correct the horrors of wokery. Surely, he is right that someone has to rein in these people, and if you think that someone other than the government can do so, let’s hear about your ideas.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Joe Biden Leaves His Basement

Apparently, the upcoming elections are a referendum on the first two years of the Biden presidency. Thus, the White House staff has trotted out Joe himself to be more present to the nation. They do not want the country to imagine that Joe Biden, cerebrally impaired as he is, is hiding out in his basement, avoiding the press and the public because he is afraid that they will see that he is a shadow of his former, diminished self.

Dare I say that it has been a strange few days for good old Joe.

For instance, the other day he was leading a ceremony to celebrate Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights. As you know, Great Britain has a new prime minister, one Rishi Sunak, who is the first Hindu to hold the office.

Of course, challenged to pronounce the man’s name, Biden could not do better than “Rashee Sanook.” It was embarrassing and insulting at the same time. Surely, the name was written on one of Biden’s cue cards, but Joe was not up to the challenge.

Keep in mind, and recall wistfully all of those commentators and pundits who declared that with the Biden presidency the adults were in charge. It would be more accurate to say that the idiots are in charge, but that is for another day.

As for America’s energy policy, apparently the Biden administration, with its allergy to fossil fuels, decided to limit the production of said fuels in America, thereby making it dependent on countries like Saudi Arabia.

In order to improve relations with Saudi Arabia, Biden got off to a somewhat shaky start by denouncing the country’s ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, as a murderer. Naturally, the Crown Prince did not take it lying down. When the Biden people called him to ask for him to increase petroleum production, he demurred. When the Biden people denounced the Saudis, their spokesmen declared that they were hardly responsible for the Biden administration’s energy policy.

And then, as though that did not suffice, MBS, as he is called, offered some comments about Biden to the Wall Street Journal:

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s 37-year-old day-to-day ruler, mocks President Biden in private, making fun of the 79-year-old’s gaffes and questioning his mental acuity, according to people inside the Saudi government. He has told advisers he hasn’t been impressed with Mr. Biden since his days as vice president, and much preferred former President Donald Trump, the people said.

We do not want to take such remarks at face value, but being inferior to Donald Trump in the eyes of a world leader must sting.

It is worth noting that relationships between countries are not distinct from relationships between the people who lead those countries. After all, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger got along with Mao Zedong. But for Joe Biden, the adult who is now supposedly in charge of foreign policy, the chance to call a foreign leader an assassin, regardless of what it does to our energy market, was too irresistible to miss.

As though that were not enough, as though you thought that the Biden administration and the Democratic Party was ready for prime time, a strange event took place the other day.

You recall the Squad, a band of brain-dead leftist radicals that has been in charge of energy policy, among other things. Now, the other day the Squad leaked a draft memo wherein they suggested that we try to resolve the conflict between Russia and Ukraine through diplomacy. That is, through direct talks with Moscow. Added to the four Squad members were the names of two dozen or so other Democratic legislators.

Now, this does not on its face feel unreasonable. Many others, from the political left and the political right, believe that the wholesale destruction of Ukraine, the current destruction of civilian infrastructure, ought to be stopped via diplomacy.

And then, before the ink was dry on the memo, its signatories, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, retracted the letter, not necessarily because it was a bad idea, but because it seemed to be cozying up to Vladimir. And the administration policy was to appear to be tough on Putin, no matter how many Ukrainians would die for the cause. The next time you are tempted to think that the Squad is principled, recall this incident and recall that they are just a bunch of political hacks.

To say that the Biden administration had the least clue about how to conduct foreign policy would be a gross overestimation. They have managed to embarrass themselves on the world stage and to render America a far-from-serious country.

And then there was a bring in the clowns moment. As you know, countries around the world are dialing back their embrace of the transgender delusion. They are no longer excited by the prospect of mutilating children. The National Health Service in Great Britain has offered new guidance, to the effect that transgenderism might just be a phase.

The Daily Mail reports:

Children who believe they are trans are probably just going through a short-lived phase, the NHS has told doctors.

The health service last week issued draft guidance on treating children and young people with gender dysphoria — those who feel their gender is different from their sex.

Doctors should be open to 'exploring all developmentally appropriate options' with youngsters who believe they are trans but be 'mindful that this may be a transient phase', it states.

Health chiefs noted that in 'most cases gender incongruence does not persist into adolescence'.

Its guidance says 'social transitioning' should no longer be viewed as a 'neutral act' due to the significant effects it may have on a child's psychology.

So, at a time when American parents are becoming increasingly agitated because schoolteachers are grooming children as young as kindergarten, by introducing them to drag shows and raunchy sexualized performance art, Joe Biden decides to invite a drag queen, trans activist to grace the White House.

Countries around the world are shutting down child genital mutilation and Joe Biden announces to the world, in the presence of one Dylan Mulvaney, a TikTok influencer, who is transitioning, or so he says, that it is immoral and illegal to prevent children from being mutilated. That means, Biden supports mastectomies and hysterectomies for teen girls. He supports castration, chemical and surgical, for young boys. 

And he pretends that young Mulvaney should be lecturing us all on what it means to be a girl, or, should I say, a woman.

Pathetic does not quite do it justice.

Anyway, that is a capsule summary of the Biden presidency and the state of the American nation.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Dumbing America Down

Let’s ignore the blame game for now. Yesterday, the National Assessment of Educational Progress announced that the last two years have seen American schoolchildren get dumb and dumber.

The Wall Street Journal reports the bad news:

The nation’s schools recorded the largest drop in math scores ever this year, with fourth- and eighth-grade students in nearly every state showing significant declines, according to Education Department data released Monday.

In the most sweeping analysis of test scores since the start of the pandemic, the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card, also revealed a nationwide plunge in reading that wiped out three decades of gains.

It was not entirely new:

Prepandemic declines in academic achievement intensified nationwide, and many longstanding gaps in student achievement grew.

Low-performing fourth-grade students saw larger declines in both math and reading scores compared with high-performing ones. Black and Hispanic students in fourth grade saw larger score drops in math than white students.

What everyone wants to know is: whose fault is it?

Apparently, school systems that stayed open more of the time had relatively equivalent learning loss. And yet, the complexities of the issue suggest that we do best not to jump to conclusions. Keep in mind, all of the children were taught by a band of incompetent teachers, teachers who seem more concerned with teaching critical race theory and gender identity politics than teaching math and reading.

And also, masking children did not help learning, socialization or emotional stability. And then there is the number of children in public vs. private schools. And we must also recognize that some children, when shut out of schools, joined study groups and kept up with their schoolwork. Some did not. As we have often noted, to our chagrin, minority children were most negatively affected by the school shutdowns-- because they did not have the same level of parental support.

The Journal explains:

States that returned to in-person learning relatively quickly, such as Arizona, saw declines along with those that stayed remote longer, such as California. Experts are divided on the degree to which policies such as remote learning affected student achievement.

“It’s extremely complex,” said National Center for Education Statistics Commissioner Peggy Carr. “We have massive, comprehensive declines everywhere.”

Dr. Carr acknowledged difficulties in teaching and learning caused by school closures and remote learning but said the causes of learning loss might also include mental-health challenges faced by students and behavioral problems at schools.

If New Mexico had the worst performing schools, perhaps the reason was that it had many migrant children, children who had not been educated in their countries of origin.

In any event, as we have often pointed out, our nation is involved in an international competition for the best future jobs. The more naive among us imagine that we will easily find educated adults who can do these jobs. As you know, I am doubtful, because America’s schoolchildren are not being educated. If we could analyze the data in more detail, perhaps we can find out how much of the problem was due to school shutdowns and how much of it was due to teachers who embraced the social justice agenda and thereby ruined children’s minds.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Declaring War on China

David Goldman opined recently that we are sleepwalking our way into a war with China. Hmmm. 

According to Niall Ferguson, we might already have crossed that Rubicon. While no one was paying much attention, we have declared war on China. Considering that nearly all politicians today and nearly all commentators, from the left and the right, are itching for a war with the Middle Kingdom, the story has largely been ignored.

The first volley was the Biden administration’s support and encouragement for the Ukrainian nation in its war against Russia. The point of that exercise, according to Ferguson, was to show China what we can do with sanctions and with a reserve currency.

Biden’s plan for Russia might be described cynically as fighting to the last Ukrainian, but to what end? Ostensibly the US is determined to “support Ukraine in its fight for its freedom,” but the real goal is “to degrade Russia’s ability to wage future wars of aggression.” That is why the administration has made almost no effort to broker a cease-fire, much less peace. The White House seems to want this war to keep going, though I suspect that will change after the mid-term elections.

And here’s the key point. Sanctions on Russia, Sullivan declared, have “demonstrated that technology export controls can be more than just a preventative tool … they can be a new strategic asset in the U.S. and allied toolkit.” In other words, the US-led economic war against Russia is like a demo for China’s benefit: 

This is what we can do to you, too.

Of course, things are not going swimmingly for the Ukrainians. Reporting tells us that a goodly part of the civilian infrastructure is being destroyed.

And besides, the purpose of the war is to effect a major strategic realignment, with Russia and China offering alternative reserve currencies, the better to undermine dollar hegemony.

In short, stay tuned.

But then, while all of this was distracting us and while China was running a grand show meeting, the Biden administration took steps to destroy China’s semiconductor industry. That is, whereas the Trump administration had imposed some sanctions against Chinese industry, the Biden team has upped the ante considerably,

 This is far from easy to understand, so I will pass the baton to Ferguson:

The remarkable thing is that the US has not waited for China to invade Taiwan to go ahead and do it. New restrictions just imposed by the US limit the transfer of advanced graphics processor units to China. (These are chips used in AI applications in data centers.) Washington has also limited the use of US chips and expertise in Chinese supercomputers, and China’s imports of chipmaking technology.

The aim is to impair Beijing’s ability to deploy artificial intelligence by driving up the cost of computing in China, whether for companies or the government. In short, the Biden administration aims to halt technological progress in China — rather in the way Trisolarans try to stunt Earth’s technological progress in Liu Cixin’s science-fiction novel The Three-Body Problem.

The restrictions are a declaration of war against Chinese tech industry:

As Edward Luce noted in the Financial Times, “The new restrictions are not confined to the export of high-end US semiconductor chips. They extend to any advanced chips made with US equipment. This incorporates almost every non-Chinese high-end exporter, whether based in Taiwan, South Korea or the Netherlands. The ban also extends to ‘US persons,’ which includes green card holders as well as US citizens.”

The most extraordinary thing about these measures is how little comment they have elicited in the media. Trump did nothing so radical.  As Luce put it: “A superpower declared war on a great power and nobody noticed.”

Well, we are strong and powerful, and why not impose these conditions during a grand and grandiose meeting of the Chinese Communist Party.

Ferguson suggests that this might be considered an act of war. And that it might precipitate a conflict. He draws an historical analogy;

Cutting China off from high-end chips today seems a lot like cutting Japan off from oil in 1941. And it is an especially hazardous move when more than 90% of the production of those chips takes place in Taiwan, an island that China claims as its own.

Now, as of today’s news Taiwan Semiconductor is cutting down its business with China. For the moment we do not know how China will react, and whether it will react subtly or overtly, as in Pearl Harbor. Clearly, the Biden administration believes that the lesson of Ukraine, directly toward China as much as anyone else, will act as a deterrent and will keep China out of Taiwan.

And yet, we are confident that China is not going to take this lying down. We do not know, and Ferguson does not tell us whether China will find ways to work around the sanctions regime. And yet, the Biden administration has cast the die. 

While no one is paying much attention, we are being led into a conflict, one that might not be quite easy to control as is the war in Ukraine. After all, Putin is not winning in Ukraine, in any conventional sense, but he is reducing that nation to rubble. In the meantime the European will to use sanctions to fight the Russian bear seems to be wavering. Our sanctions policy is being tested on the European ground, where its people are readying themselves for a long cold winter.

As of now, we await developments from China; we await its next move. Surely, a war against Taiwan is far more likely today than it was before the Biden administration decided to destroy the Chinese semiconductor industry.

To keep this all in some perspective, examine some of the facts on international trade between America and China. The two nations are interdependent at what many would call a frightening level.

For that we turn to Brent Sadler of the Center for National Defense:

But the ongoing problems at our ports and shop shelves drive home an even more disturbing truth: American prosperity and well-being have grown far too dependent on China and the whims of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Not only does China supply a tremendous amount of our consumer and commercial goods, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and vital raw materials, but it also controls a huge share of the world’s shipping fleet and commercial shipbuilding capabilities. Beijing’s domestic policies, therefore, exert tremendous influence on both the global shipping industry and the production and distribution of Chinese exports. This creates a double vulnerability for the United States.

It might be worthwhile keeping in mind that the Chinese Zero-Covid policies shuts down some supply chains and shipping. 

Sadler offers some relevant information,. 

While zero-COVID is employed as a rationale for shutting down supply chains, the CCP has shown itself willing to use its industrial might for political purposes, too. The Australians are enduring a steel embargo for bucking Beijing’s South China Sea territorial claims. Filipinos are being punished with a banana embargo for pushing back on China’s encroachment on its Scarborough Shoal. South Korean tourism has taken a hit from Chinese travel prohibitions imposed because Seoul is hosting U.S. missile defenses. And the Lithuanians are dealing with a complete Chinese embargo because they opened a diplomatic representative office using the title “Taiwan” instead of “Taipei.”

The war in Ukraine has heightened supply chain concerns over raw materials like phosphates for fertilizer and neon gas, which is critical in microchip manufacturing. In the wider competition over access to such resources, China has the ships and the economic wherewithal to assure its needs are met. U.S. consumers do not.

It would certainly be interesting to think that we are involved in a grand international chess game with China. It would be far more frightening to think that we are playing Russian Roulette.