Birthing Person of All Silliness

Bullying Americans to accommodate the demands of small minorities just invites more animosity.

Dear Reader (particularly whichever one of the Gateses gets custody of the tracking chips coursing through my veins), 

Here’s some good news: The CIA has a proud Latina woman, who can change diapers with one hand, who proudly tells the world, “I’m a cisgender millennial who’s been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I am intersectional, but my existence is not a box-checking exercise,” because “I refuse to internalize misguided patriarchal ideas of what a woman can or should be.”

I have many thoughts about this, most of them critical. Indeed, on another day, I could bang out a couple thousand harsh words on this with ease. But while I wouldn’t say I’m in a look-on-the-bright-side mood, I think it might be worthwhile to look at this from another perspective. 

Historically, one of the great things about America is that our culture is remarkably good at bourgeoise-ifying radicals and radicalism. I wrote about one example of this after I visited the Rock &  Roll Hall of Fame. Rock ‘n’ roll, punk rock, heavy metal, and hip hop all entered the culture like Viking pillagers sacking a seaside English village. And in a relatively short period of time, rock anthems are used to sell sneakers or soap or self-lubricating catheters. Gangster rappers go from talking about cop killing and busting caps in the nether-regions of their enemies to starring in sitcoms and game shows, or to cooking frittatas with Martha Stewart when they’re not complaining about their taxes.  

People on the fringes and margins of society enter mainstream culture as stereotypes—usually negative ones. But soon enough they become normalized. Will & Grace was hardly the first TV show with a gay character, but it was an important part of the assimilation of gay people into mainstream culture. It featured two gay characters: Jack (played by Sean Hayes) was basically the gay equivalent of a minstrel character, leaning heavily into all of the stereotypes of gay promiscuity. But Will (Erick McCormack), the title character, was a defiant rejection of those stereotypes. He was interested in monogamous relationships, even as he played the field the way any conventional heterosexual character would. He was the gay straight man, as it were, to Jack. Fast forward to Modern Family, and you’ve got a gay couple that spends much of their time arguing about work-life balance and figuring out how to get their kid into a good preschool. 

David Brooks identified this dynamic in his brilliant but flawed book, Bobos in Paradise. Everything “transgressive” gets “digested by the mainstream bourgeois order, and all the cultural weapons that once were used to undermine middle-class morality … are drained of their subversive content.”

This isn’t just a point about popular culture. Popular culture is merely an illustration, reflector, and catalyzer of the dynamic. Which brings me back to the CIA recruitment video. Yes, I could do without the strange psychological cocktail that has intoxicated so many elites these days that simultaneously invokes categorical victimhood while celebrating it as a form of identity and self-esteem: “I’m a member of an oppressed class and damn proud of it!”

But if you want to take the bite out of concepts like intersectionality, patriarchy, and the inherent illegitimacy of the imperialist, late-capitalist, cis-heteronormative military-industrial complex—or whatever the right word salad is in woke lingo—having the CIA brag about how they’re cool with your leftist-lifestyle intifada isn’t a bad way to go. 

To be sure, I have all sorts of ideological and practical objections if this woman is injecting ridiculous concepts into the decision-making process at the CIA. If she’s saying we can’t drone terrorists if they’re people of color, or we can’t use various forms of spycraft on foreign agents if doing so perpetuates modalities of oppression, that would be bad. But there’s no evidence for that, and odds are that if the CIA is using her as a poster-womyn for the agency, she’s probably not doing that. The institution is almost surely bending her to its mission more than she is bending it to hers (if she even has one). 

Consider Mormons, America’s Nicest Minority®.

In the 19th century, Americans were against Utah becoming a state because Mormons practiced polygamy. Then, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints got rid of polygamy and Americans were like, “Yeah, okay, come on in.” The minority bent to the majority and the majority bent to the minority. Today, by the way, Mormons are wildly overrepresented in the ranks of the FBI and CIA.  From my casual observation, this has not led to any enduring concerns of Mormon hegemony in the national security apparatus. 

This process of minorities bending to the majority culture and the majority culture bending back has been central to the American experiment from the beginning. From George Washington’s letter to the Jews of Newport, to the election of Barack Obama, to Donald Trump’s rhetorical outreach to the LGBTQ community, to Trump world’s flirtations with Caitlyn Jenner, majority America is in constant dialogue with minority America. (Even as the definitions of majority and minority swirl and change hypnotically like blobs in a lava lamp.) 

I’m not necessarily celebrating every compromise and evolution in that process—I can offer a long list of specific complaints and criticisms on that front—but what I am celebrating is the process itself. It’s often messy. It’s often scary, for minorities and majorities alike. It can go too far, or not far enough, which is one of the reasons why it is constantly unfolding, often in dialectic fashion. But that process is one of the things that makes America, and the West generally, so much better than the historical and present-day alternatives. 

Grievance is the birthing person of invention.

I’m also not saying the majority should always give in—or give too much—to the minority. Take the recent algae plume of stupidity on Twitter. Rep. Cori Bush referred to mothers as “birthing people.” This elicited immediate, and deserved, mockery from many folks on the right, including yours truly. NARAL—or, at least, NARAL’s Twitter person—rallied to her cause. 

Birthing-person-of-pearl! (Or for those of a certain faith, Holy Birthing Person of God!) This is a seamless disco ball of absurdity, radiating inanity from every angle. If one of the core tenets of the new Great Awokening is that the term “mother” is divisive or bigoted, then the Great Awokening is doomed (and deservedly so). Don’t tell me conservatives are too obsessed with silly and divisive culture war “distractions,” if in the next breath you’re going to lecture me on the need to erase the term “mother” from the English language. 

One of the most interesting divides on the left is between socialists and critical race theorists. Some of the best pushback on the execrable 1619 Project came from socialists who think making race, as opposed to class, the focal point of the progressive project is counterproductive. It’s a fresh opening of a fascinating old divide that had once been central to the left when Marxism was taken more seriously by serious people. Anything that distracts from the class struggle is a gift to what Randi Weingarten calls the “ownership class.” This argument was applied to everything from Mickey Mouse to the welfare state to slavery reparations. 

My point isn’t that mom-erasure sets back the class struggle, my point is that mom-erasure sets back the transgender cause, and virtually every other left-wing cause as well. People aren’t going to stop calling their mothers “mother” or “mom” or anything of the sort. Kids aren’t going to fall off a swing at the playground and shout, “Birthing person! I have an ouchie!” (And before you accuse me of perpetuating gender stereotypes, if dad is at the playground, they’re not going to shout, “Non-birthing person! I have an ouchie!” either.) And it’s absurd to ask them to, not just because it’s wrong on the merits, but because it’s an utterly doomed project that will invite 100 times more backlash against their cause. 

Rep. Bush discovered this the hard way. She’s very mad that conservatives pounced (yes, I’m using that term ironically) on her birthing person comment while ignoring her larger point about the very real problems faced by pregnant black women. 

I testified in front of Congress about nearly losing both of my children during childbirth because doctors didn’t believe my pain. Republicans got more upset about me using gender-inclusive language in my testimony than my babies nearly dying. Racism and transphobia in America.

This is bunk. Sure, transphobes and racists no doubt object to replacing “mothers” with “birthing people.” But you know who else does? Almost everybody. If Bush were more interested in communicating her actual message, she might have pondered that for a moment and used language that didn’t turn people off. 

I mean, do you think Mothers Against Drunk Driving or the organizers of the Million Mom March would have been more successful if they called themselves Birth Persons Against Drunk Driving or the Million Birthing Person March instead? At least the women who founded those organizations understood that there’s enormous moral power in the word “mother,” and utilized it to great effect. 

Think of it this way: If I wanted to rally popular support for improving handicap access to public transportation, I wouldn’t use words like “gimp” or “cripples” in my prepared remarks. You’re free to say that’s a ridiculous hypothetical because I’m using negative terms for a discriminated group. And you’d be right. But just because a category of people are in the majority, or the majority uses a term you don’t like, doesn’t change the obligation to show respect and deference. 

Sure, if the majority of people use the n-word, then it’s right and just to push back against that. But I shouldn’t have to tell people that the word “mother” isn’t the n-word. There’s no credible claim that it is—or ever was—intended as an exclusionary term save in the sense that it refers to women who have babies and not to women -- or men -- who don’t. And trying to turn it into such a term is not just Orwellian nonsense, it’s counterproductive Orwellian nonsense on the transgender movement’s own terms.

If you want to morally bully Americans (of all stripes, mind you—white, black, Hispanic, Asian, liberal, conservative, etc.) into throwing away the term “mother” to accommodate the feelings of (at most) 0.5 percent of the population, then you won’t just lose that battle; you’ll invite more animosity toward that very small slice of the population you’re trying to support. 

Similarly, if you want to convince all of white America that the term “white” is synonymous with the term “racist,” you are far more likely to make more racists

Mutually assured dickishness.

One of the things that makes the current moment so craptacular is that ideological minorities are great at talking about how they and their chosen allies are victims, but terrible at respecting other ideological minorities or majorities. You must agree 100 percent with us, or you are on the side of them.  

The Jews of Newport understood—thanks to millennia of lived experience and cultural memory—that minorities have the same obligations of tolerance and respect that they expect or hope for from majorities. It would be ludicrous of Newport’s Jews to demand that every ale house and tavern be kosher and that failure to comply would be anti-Semitic, just as it would be absurd for the Amish to demand I get rid of my car or air conditioning. Part of the wonderful implicit bargain of a liberal order is that everyone cuts everyone else some slack. 

That means the majority shouldn’t force nuns to buy birth control and minorities shouldn’t try to bully majorities into purging the word—or concept—“mother” from the culture. That means atheists, Muslims, and Jews should roll with it when someone says, “Merry Christmas,” and Christians shouldn’t set their heads on fire when someone says, “Happy holidays.” Very few things are worth being a dick over, and it’s never worth being a dick about everything.

But because we live in a time where elites are more willing to chastise other elites than the crazies on their own side, the people who are supposed to be showing moral and political leadership opt to pounce on the enemy pouncers than point out that the pouncers have a point. I do not believe for a moment that MSNBC’s female anchors, who are also mothers, will start referring to themselves as “birthing persons”—at least away from the cameras. Nor do I believe they will tell their kids to give their “grand-birthing-persons” a kiss when they see them. But I am entirely sure that none of them will take a moment of airtime to admonish Rep. Bush or NARAL for their absurd foray into lexicological social engineering. 

And yes, the same goes for folks on the right, including at Fox News, who would rather pounce on the overreactions of the left than chastise their own side for its excesses. 

Again, one of the greatest things about America is its ability to make Americans. But if your business model depends on claiming that America stinks—either because it’s racist, transphobic, or sexist, or because it has let “them” steal the country from “us”—then your business model is the problem, because to some extent it’s literally anti-American. 

Various & Sundry

Canine update: The girls are all doing great. I’m going to be alone with them for a few days starting Sunday, as the Fair Jessica and Lucy go on a mother-daughter (you’re damn right I said it) adventure. We’ve pretty much given up on the new treat dispenser for Gracie. She’s figured it out once or twice, but she’s decided it’s beneath her. Meanwhile, Zoë loves it. She comes from a long line of American dingoes that enjoy discovering treats with their shnozzles. At least these treats are shrieking in terror.  

ICYMI

Last week’s G-File

Last weekend’s Ruminant with the rat pack

What’s in a deal?

The week’s first Remnant: bingo card footnotes edition

I went on the well-named Saving Elephants podcast—it was fun

Is winning whining, or is whining winning? I always get it confused.

Cue the Celine Dion

Chris Stirewalt rolls up to the week’s second Remnant in his Mustang with the license plate that says “ARTWAR”

The Hawley Paradox: promoting your book about Big Tech on Facebook and Twitter

And now, the weird stuff

Princess Leia’s hair was probably based on female Mexican-revolutionaries

A musical VHS produced by a cult to market themselves in Japan

The saviors of the Reagan Library: 350 goats

Maybe the most ridiculous creature from any culture’s folklore?

A frog … with claws

Gaetz’s Rules of Disorder

When your ‘wingman’ writes a letter detailing illicit activities with a minor and hands it to Roger Stone.

Dear Reader (Including those of you who are Ancient Romans, in which case you would actually be “Dear Listeners” ),

So I started writing a very ambitious G-File about how the talk of a new progressive era is overblown. But it became too weighty and complicated to finish today. I figured I’d save it and move to some lighter fare. 

I’ll do that in a moment, but first I’d like to make one small point: I keep hearing about how the “Reagan era is over.” In fact, I hear it virtually every time I tune into MSNBC. Doyle McManus, writing in the Los Angeles Times—where I am a columnist—dubs President Biden the “anti-Reagan.” John Harris at Politico makes essentially the same argument. In fairness, this is a bipartisan observation; here’s former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker saying pretty much the same thing. 

The linchpin of this argument—which obviously has merit given Biden’s fairly radical plans to inflate the government and national debt—is that Reagan said “government is the problem,” and Biden thinks, to put it bluntly, that government is the solution. To what? Well, pretty much everything. 

Again, there’s truth to the argument, but it rests on a lot of sloppy assumptions and stolen bases. First, a lot of people forget the full quote: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” That’s a very different assertion. There’s this myth that government was cut to the bone under Reagan. Yet the government was bigger on Reagan’s last day of office than his first. He promised to abolish the Department of Education, but by the end of his presidency, its budget doubled. But that’s a topic for another time.  

Second, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, very few conservatives and Republicans disagreed that the government has a role in this present crisis. That’s why the Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Senate agreed to spend trillions on economic and public health efforts to mitigate the crisis. I’ve argued in this space countless times that pandemics, like wars, are supposed to be tackled by the government. The objection to Biden’s program is that he wants to spend trillions of dollars on policies that have nothing to do with the present crisis

But that’s all grist for another day. The thing I find fascinating is that there is only one topic that obsesses the liberals celebrating the “Biden era” of big government as the solution to all that ails us is. That topic—wait for it—is policing. To be sure, left-wingers don’t all support efforts to “defund the police,” but it is very rare to hear any of them push back against those who do. As I noted on Wednesday, they tend to let the “defund the police” crowd claim that police forces are modern incarnations of slave patrols without any skepticism. 

But here’s the thing: There is no more central institution to government qua government than policing. Police are part of this thing called “law enforcement.” And law enforcement is pretty much the essence of government. Governments make laws. Laws are meaningless if they are not enforced. 

The first states probably began as a form of “stationary banditry,” as Mancur Olson argued. But even then, inherent to the idea of government was the enforcement of rules. That’s what police do. You can change their name, you can take away their guns, you can do all sorts of things—good, bad, wise, or dumb—in an effort to reform policing. But if you want to make sure laws are enforced, someone’s gotta do the enforcing. 

George Washington probably never said, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” But whoever really did say it had a point. Let’s say Congress passes a nice, progressive law like a wealth tax on billionaires and Elon Musk refuses to pay. Eventually, after all the paper gets pushed and lawyers get paid, the police are going to knock on his door (assuming he doesn’t hyper-tube to some place without extradition) and either say “Pay up,” or “Come with us.” I guess you could rely on citizen arrests or posses instead of a traditional police force. But in a modern, diverse, and very large society, that sounds like a recipe for headaches. 

Now, I’m not arguing that, because you have to have police—and you do—their behavior can’t be regulated. I don’t know anybody of any ideological stripe who doesn’t agree that cops should follow some fairly strict rules. Anarchists of the left and right might stupidly think we don’t need cops at all, but even they agree that if we’re going to have cops, they should be constrained by laws and regulations. The only argument is what those laws and regulations should look like. 

And that’s the amusing irony. All of these people who mock the idea that “Government is the problem,” and giddily celebrate that the “Government is the problem” era is over, are simultaneously saying that the most central and concrete manifestation of government in America (and everywhere else) is a problem. They alternate between arguing that one set of government officials have too much power over the lives of Americans and arguing that another set of government officials should be given vastly more power. Of course, there’s a difference between federal bureaucrats and local cops, but power can corrupt bureaucrats too. And when it does, the bureaucrats aren’t the ones who knock on your door.  

Let’s stipulate that liberals are right when they say police abuse is the most pressing national crisis right now. Another way of saying that might be: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Bonfire of the dumbasses.

There’s a great scene in HBO’s The Wire in which Stringer Bell, played by Idris Elba, convenes a meeting of “The New Day Co-op,” a consortium of drug dealers. Bell wants to professionalize the drug trade and do away with all the messy gangster stuff. To that end, he invites a bunch of drug kingpins to form a cartel. That way they’ll be able to buy drugs of better quality and in greater quantity from New York, without all the gun play and price cutting. (This is a great nod to Adam Smith’s observation that “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”)

Anyway, as part of Stringer Bell’s Six Sigma reorganization of drug dealing, he runs the meeting according to Robert’s Rules of Order. And at the end, Bell sees one of his soldiers writing furiously on a legal pad. 

You can watch the scene here, but be warned: The language is not work-safe. In fact, it’s not even “news”letter safe, so I’ll tweak it a bit:

Bell: “[Maternalfornicator], what is that?”

Gang member: “Robert’s Rules says we gotta have minutes for the meeting, right? These the minutes.”

Bell: “[Taboo word that rhymes with “jigger”], is you taking notes on a criminal [fornicating] conspiracy? What the [fudge] is you thinking, man?”

The scene came to mind when I heard about Joel Greenberg’s letter to Roger Stone. Greenberg, is, to use The Daily Beast’s phrase, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz’ “wingman.” He’s also, if news accounts are even 5 percent accurate, an incredibly shady dude. To save time, here’s the first paragraph of his Wikipedia page. 

Joel Greenberg is an American politician and former tax collector of Seminole County, Florida. In 2020, Greenberg was arrested and charged with federal offenses. He has been indicted on 33 criminal counts, including theft, stalking, sex trafficking, cryptocurrency fraud, and Small Business Administration loan fraud. Greenberg was formerly a friend, associate, and ally of Republican congressman Matt Gaetz; after being arrested in 2020, Greenberg began to cooperate with federal investigators probing Gaetz.

Anyway, as you’ve probably heard, Greenberg reached out to his friend, pardoned felon Roger Stone, who was last in the news for claiming that North Korean boats delivered fraudulent ballots via Maine as part of the effort to steal the 2020 election from Donald Trump. 

Now, I bring that up for two reasons. One: I think it’s hilarious. As lies go, it’s like a “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” game. North Korea is on the Pacific Ocean. These ballot boats would have to either go over the Arctic Circle and all the way down the Canadian coast, or around the Horn of Africa, or through the Panama Canal and up the East Coast, to reach… Maine. A state very far from any place where Trump would need stolen ballots. They were then presumably transferred to trucks at the ready and deployed in key districts in the South and Midwest. And all of this went undetected—except, of course, by Stone.  

The second reason I bring it up is that I think it’s a useful shorthand for understanding the soundness of Roger Stone’s character and trustworthiness. And that’s important, because Greenberg fired his lawyers and opted to rely on Stone to get a pardon from Trump. Stone’s fee for delivering “justice” (I defecate you negatory, that’s his word) was $250,000, which Greenberg agreed to pay in bitcoin, the preferred currency of all the finest and most upstanding citizens. 

But first, Stone needed a letter from Greenberg detailing his crimes—whoops, sorry. He needed a letter laying out his burning need for justice. And here’s the fantastic part: Greenberg wrote it. In multiple drafts. Including an early draft in his own handwriting. Moreover, while they used encrypted communications to discuss all this, Greenberg made sure to take screenshots of the relevant bits, which sort of defeats the purpose of encryption. 

There are many wonderful things about the letter, beyond the fact that he wrote it and gave it to Stone, who is not a lawyer (or even a college graduate), and therefore there’s no privilege to the communication. Greenberg admits that he was the middleman for Matt Gaetz, procuring women, including a minor, for sex with both of them (“and others”). 

But Greenberg is too canny to use Gaetz’s name—gotta protect his identity!—so here’s how he describes him:

On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself.

Elsewhere, he refers to Gaetz as MG. 

Now, the FBI has screwed up a lot in recent years. But I am pretty sure that even their sniffer dogs could figure out that “the congressman from the 1st district of Florida” with the initials “MG” doesn’t refer to, say, Mel Gibson. 

But my favorite bit is how Greenberg blames the 17-year-old for lying about her age: 

Greenberg continued in the handwritten draft that he “confronted” the then-17-year-old and explained to her “how serious of a situation this was, how many people she put in danger.”

“She apologized and recognized that by lying about her age, she endangered many people,” he continued. 

And then my favorite line:

“There was no further contact with this individual until after her 18th birthday.”

Clearly, this man is in need of justice. 

Various & Sundry

Podcast updates: Before we get to the quadruped goodness, I should mention that it’s been a pretty interesting podcasting week for The Dispatch. Sarah and Steve got to talk to an obscure, minor Texas politician by the name of George W. Bush, which was pretty wild. Additionally, this week saw some punditry from a reliable force for good and long-time guest, A. B. Stoddard, which was followed by a delightful interview with the New York TimesRobert Draper, who I definitely need to have back on for more veteran journalism stories. 

Oh, and this weekend’s Ruminant will be an atypical one; I figured I should let the band of misfits who help me do the podcast out of their enclosed habitat to keep Amnesty International off my back. So I podcasted with fresh-faced Dispatch-er Ryan, our intern Guy (a fan favorite for his accent and his willingness to take abuse from across the Atlantic), and my research assistant Nick. It’s sort of a drive-time radio ensemble, or something. Let me know what you think. I can always put them back in the box. 

Animal update: All is mostly well in canine world. Zoë is fully recovered from her dental nightmare and her breath is now squarely back within normal pooch parameters. Pippa’s rather severe gastrointestinal woes have cleared up, and she’s a happy, silly girl once again. 

I say “mostly well” only because Zoë is enraged by our neighbor’s cat, Chester. As you may recall, Chester has taken to loitering on our doorstep waiting for treats from the Fair Jessica. Yesterday, I brought Chester’s presence to Zoë’s attention. Many people who’ve watched the video have asked whetherif Zoë was scared of, or angry at, Chester. My own reading of Zoë’s emotions is more nuanced. I’m a close student of the dingo, and I’m fairly confident that she wasn’t really angry with Chester (though I’d hardly say she was pleased with him). Rather, she was angry with me for allowing Chester within the outer perimeter of our domicile. She’s saying, in effect, “Are you frick’n kidding me? You should go out there and clear that thing out of here, or you should let me out so I can do it. But this détente crap is bullsh**t. The front porch isn’t Finland!” 

As for Gracie, she is stillstruggling with her new treat dispenser, but I think she’ll master it soon. Other than that, she’s still living the good life. Oh, and for Remnant listeners who want to see A. B. Stoddard’s new puppy—and why wouldn’t you?—behold Chief in all his doggie splendor. 

ICYMI

Last week’s G-File

Last weekend’s Ruminant

Biden’s superpower is being boring

The week’s first Remnant with a personal favorite, A. B. Stoddard

The Dispatch Podcast on everyone’s favorite arbitrary marker – the president’s first 100 days

A midweek “news”letter, brought out from behind the indomitable paywall

The Dispatch Live recording post-Biden’s address

The week’s second Remnant with first-time guest but long-time compatriot Robert Draper

A Dispatch Podcast with one obscure former politician named, uh, George W. Bush

What precedent did Congress set for Biden?

GLoP returns, but the damn Irish have #canceled Rob Long

And now, the weird stuff

We’ve found it, the craziest example of book-length academic gobbledygook

The Great Wall of China is held together by rice

 A single New Jersey deli is a prop company for a giant Chinese corporation

This week in: Is Everyone Trolling, Or Are We Screwed?

The story of Iron Maiden’s singer getting smuggled into Sarajevo during the 1994 siege

Outrage Overload

You will be assimilated into the rage machine.

Hi,

The York Minster Police are a small but proud lot. There are only eight of them (the North Yorkshire Police are the major crime fighting force in the area), but they do important work. They’re cathedral constables, charged with protecting the York cathedral, or Minister, and the surrounding area.

Some people compare them to the Vatican’s Swiss Guard. But that analogy is flawed in three ways. First, the Swiss Guard is fundamentally a military institution. Second, the York Minster Police are exactly that—police. In fact, in 2017, their power to make arrests was restored after an 80-year break.

And third, they’re much older than the Swiss Guard. Founded in 1275, the York Minster cops boast that they are the world’s oldest police force. That makes them a couple centuries older than the Swissies.

But that doesn’t mean policing began in 1275. Egypt’s Fourth Dynasty apparently had something called “The Judges Commandment of the Police.” Ancient China didn’t call them police but “prefects.” The Babylonian’s cops were called paqūdu.

Now, you might not be able to tell from my pleasant tone and demeanor, but I’m actually pretty angry that I have to tell you this (again).

The other day, I got into a little spat with Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of the 1619 Project, because she peddled to CBS the idea that modern policing has a “direct lineage” to slave patrols because, “in certain parts of the country,” slave patrols were deputized to catch slaves. She’s right about that—to a point. And we’ll return to that point in a second.

But in the course of our spat, she said that “no one has ever argued that global policing or policing as an idea was invented in the American South.” This was a strange thing for her to say, because she actually claimed to have read my column on this subject, which begins:

“Policing itself started out as slave patrols. We know that,” Rep. James Clyburn declared in an interview with Fox News’s Bret Baier.

As I noted, Clyburn was hardly alone. But here’s a more recent example, from last Sunday’s This Week. Angela Rye, the former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, said (emphasis mine):

The Columbus Police Department isn't about one bad apple. It's about an entire department. So we have to talk about qualified immunity without fighting with buzzwords, but really talking about how we solve for a system that by design from its inception was designed to capture and return and enslave people back to their masters. If we can't uproot what was intended, we will forever have this problem, and we have to be willing to have honest discourse.

I particularly love the “honest discourse” shoutout.

Let me type this slowly so everyone can understand: The Columbus Division of Police, established in 1816, was not founded as a slave patrol. Ohio was not a slave state. In 1841, it passed a law that runaway slaves were automatically free once they made it to Ohio. Similarly, the Minneapolis Police Department, founded two years after the end of the Civil War, wasn’t built upon slave patrolling and has no “lineage”—direct or tangential—to slave patrolling.

The police officer who shot a black teen about to plunge a knife into another black teen was not in any way connected to slave patrolling. Derek Chauvin was not living down to the legacy of slave patrolling. Even Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison conceded to 60 Minutes this week that prosecutors couldn’t find any evidence that Chauvin was racist or that his crime was racially motivated. If you know anything about Ellison, you’ll know he wanted to find such evidence.  

Even the connection to slave patrolling in southern cities is, at best, literary. Does anyone actually believe that Rodney Bryant, the chief of police in Atlanta, sees himself as part of some great unbroken chain in the long tradition of slave patrolling? Of course not. And not just because Bryant is black, or because cops are not trained and educated in slave patrol tactics, but also because slavery has been illegal in the United States for 158 years, three months, and 27 days.

(This goes for Houston, Charlotte, El Paso, Nashville, Memphis, Raleigh, Lexington, Kentucky; most of the big cities in Virginia, Baton Rouge, and Tulsa—just some of the cities with black police chiefs.)

Modern policing—or even policing qua policing—owes far less to slave patrolling than NASA owes to Hitler’s rocket program. And yet no one talks about the troubling Nazi roots of modern space exploration, or asks Elon Musk if he’s exorcised the ghost of Werner Von Braun from SpaceX.

I have seen this slave patrol thing brought up countless times in interviews, and not once have I seen an interviewer say, “Really?” never mind, “What the hell are you talking about?” It’s as batty as any conspiracy theory, and it’s a deliberate attempt to heap innuendo on policing in lieu of making an intelligent argument.

And that’s what frustrates me to no end. It’s the job of journalists to call out B.S. when it’s being thrown in their faces. 

The problem is that we are in the middle of a great arms race of bullshittery. Kamala Harris’ book isn’t being given to migrant children. The Columbus police officer didn’t arrive on the scene to execute a “black child.” Joe Biden hasn’t declared war on beef. Bill Gates didn’t test vaccines on African and Indian tribal children. Antifa didn’t lead the assault on the Capitol. Anthony Fauci doesn’t own half the patent in one of the COVID vaccines. Bill Barr isn’t working for Dominion Voting Systems. Georgia’s election law isn’t Jim Crow on steroids. Oh, and the election wasn’t stolen, FFS.

You must be angry.

I want to get back to policing. But first, a point of personal privilege. Last week, Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s chief fact-checker, authored a terrible piece on Sen. Tim Scott’s frequent claims that his illiterate grandfather dropped out of elementary school to pick cotton. I say it was terrible for all the reasons Eric Erickson lays out here, but also because Kessler, by his own admission, couldn’t render a verdict. The whole thing—whether intended or not—amounted to a white guy whitesplaining Scott’s family history.

I came to this typical round of internet culture war madness late—I’d been busy, and Washington Post fact checks are not my morning must-reads. The first I heard of it was when various Twitter trolls were responding to my dog tweets by denouncing my refusal to be outraged on their schedule. When I did read it, I tweeted:

This led to several days of people banging their spoons on their social media high chairs about how outrageous it was that I wasn’t more outraged, and that my Tweet rebuking Kessler was too civil. The gist of most of it was: You must be as mad as us, on our timetable, and you must express your outrage according to our standards. If you don’t, you are a hypocrite because you were outraged on other occasions at people we like.

There was also a lot of sanctimonious rhetoric about my complicity in Kessler’s purported racism and white privilege. (It’s amazing how quickly some right-wingers will use left-wing insults when it’s convenient for them.). It’s not good enough that I criticized Kessler, because I worked from the assumption that he might be decent enough to recognize he made a mistake. I make no apologies for that—or for any of it.

I bring this up in part because I think it was all incredibly stupid. But also because I think it’s a small pastiche of the Hieronymus Bosch-hellscape of double standards, tribalism, and what Julien Benda described as the “intellectual organization of political hatreds.”

If you want a chef’s-kiss example of what I mean, I refer you to this glorious piece at American Greatness by Peter D’Abrosca, a failed politician and alt-right peddler in “replacement theory” (because the Mayflower had so many D’Abroscas on it).

It should be in a museum wing dedicated to “Owning the Libs Über Alles” jackassery. The headline says it all:I Won’t Take the Vaccine Because It Makes Liberals Mad.” But I must say I particularly liked the kicker: “Perhaps you just want to go on a cruise vacation again. If so, call Bill Kristol or Jonah Goldberg and have your vaccine identification card ready. Godspeed.” So clever. So prolier than thou. (No one tell him that American Greatness’ star contributor, Victor Davis Hanson, has probably been on more cruises than Kristol and me combined. And not just for Hillsdale and National Review).

Anyway, a couple of nights ago, Tucker Carlson, who has become a kind of dashboard saint for many of the monkeys flinging their poo at me, attacked Tim Scott for being a lib taking his cues from the woke mob.

He listed a bunch of quotes from various liberals and corporate big wigs in the wake of the Chauvin verdict, all of whom offered some variation of “there’s more work to be done.” Then he said:

And by the way, it wasn't just Democrats. It was, let's say, Tim Scott, the senator from South Carolina, a Republican. The guy who is going to be giving the Republican response on Wednesday night to the president's speech to a joint session, somehow managed to mirror, Tim Scott did, the statement by Yale University's president, almost word for word, quote, "We know there is more work to be done," said Tim Scott. Yale's statement read this way: "We know there's much more work to be done." Not more work, much more work. So just between Tim Scott and the president of Yale, it was just one of degrees. Tim Scott said more. The president of Yale said much more.

That is kind of a difference from the two parties, isn't it? Just a matter of degrees.

Here's the amazing thing to restate, none of these people explained what all this work is. All that is clear is that you've got a lot of work to do.

Here’s an even more amazing thing than Carlson’s amazingly misleading claim: Tim Scott is not just some woke bloviator going with the herd, as Carlson insinuates. He’s the Republican point man on police reform (and his full statement wasn’t just reasonable, it was patriotic and laudable). His bill, which has pretty much the full support of the Senate GOP, was filibustered by Democrats last year and is at the center of negotiations right now. 

Carlson didn’t address the bill—or even acknowledge its existence—despite the fact it’s pretty full of specifics about what Scott has in mind when he says “there’s more work to be done.” He just made it sound like Scott is spouting woke boilerplate and—crucially—that this should make viewers very angry. On a personal level, I do wonder where the people who were mad at me for being insufficiently outraged by a Washington Post fact-checker taking an unfair shot at a black man suddenly disappeared to when Carlson singled out the same black man a couple of days later as some kind of wokescold telling Americans—you know, real Americans—“You’ve got a lot of work to do.” Maybe Twitchy’s power went out.

But there’s a much larger and more important point to be made here. Whether it’s Black Lives Matter and their apologists throughout elite left-wing media or the constellation of MAGA propagandists and their apologists throughout elite right-wing media, the order of the day has gone forth: You must be pissed off. You must think the other side hates you and you must hate them for it. If the facts help in that effort, great. But if the facts aren’t readily available, then don’t worry. We'll work around that or just invent them.

It’s like when Frederic Remington cabled William Randolph Hearst from Cuba saying there will be no war. Hearst replied, “You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.” But now it’s for domestic purposes. You furnish, burnish, or fabricate the facts, and we’ll furnish the culture war. 

Fixing Problems, Not Treating Them

Cure the underlying disease is always better than spending trillions treating the symptoms.

Dear Reader (Including people who have previously been left out of the “Dear Reader” gag),

Let’s start with some good news: It looks like there’s a vaccine for malaria.

This is huge. Huge.

Claims that half of all humans who ever lived died from malaria are probably overstated. But a lot of people have been killed by malaria.

So many people have been killed by malaria that it has bent the course of not just history, but human evolution.

The prevalence of sickle cell anemia—a disease that killed my sister-in-law last December—has to do with the fact that inheriting just one sickle-cell gene provides added protection against malaria (you get the disease if you get the gene from both parents). Sadly, if you have sickle-cell disease, not only do you not get the protection, you are more likely to die if you contract malaria.

The Roman Empire rose, endured, and then fell for all sorts of reasons. But one of its earliest advantages was that swamps around Rome were so infested with malaria that they served as a kind of bio-defense system against invaders.

In North America, Europeans brought malaria with them, and it (along with diseases like smallpox) devastated Native Americans. I learned from Charles Mann that the Mason-Dixon line dividing northern and southern states wasn’t just a political or jurisdictional border; it was also a natural dividing line between two climates and two sets of average temperatures. 

Above the Mason-Dixon line, it becomes more difficult for both the mosquitos that carry the malaria parasite, and the parasite itself, to survive or thrive. European indentured servants and Native American slaves were more likely to die from the disease. This was one of the factors that led to the use of African slaves in the South. They were more likely to carry that sickle cell-generated immunity. (Yes, there are obviously other issues involved. I’m just saying this was an important and underappreciated one.)

Also, the draining of swamps and wetlands as part of a malaria eradication effort changed the geography and environment in America and Europe in all sorts of ways. Even the environmental movement, launched according to popular lore by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring­, owes much to malaria, because DDT was largely developed to kill malarial mosquitoes. 

If the combined millennia of mass death (including some 400,000 deaths per year in Africa today), the Roman Empire (which, recall, helped spread Christianity and Monty Python jokes), the African diaspora in the Americas (which led not only to the evil institution of slavery, but also its undoing in the Civil War, the civil rights movement and, well, lots of other stuff, like jazz and barbecue), and the environmental movement don’t altogether sufficiently show that malaria has had a big impact, I’ll also note we wouldn’t have the gin and tonic without malaria.

So again, this vaccine is huge—in a really good way.

Lunar lunacy.

I shouldn’t have to point this out, but the great thing about vaccines is that they don’t just treat a problem, they fix a problem. Treating problems—minimizing their effects, curtailing their growth etc.—is often important and necessary. But fixing problems is always better, in the same way that putting out a house fire is always better than containing it.

Consider this: Alzheimer’s costs America an estimated $305 billion per year. Medicare and Medicaid spent $206 billion on it, and similar forms of dementia, in 2020 alone. As the population ages, both the total cost to society and our government spending on it, could cross the trillion dollar line. Arguably, curing Alzheimer’s would do more for entitlement spending than any reform proposed by the left or right these days (to the extent anyone is proposing anything of the sort).

I listened to Joe Biden’s climate czar John Kerry yesterday deploy one of the most annoying arguments in politics. I like to call it the argumentum ad apollum, more colloquially known as, “If we can put a man on the moon…”

I should clarify. I have no shortage of patriotic—and human—pride about the moon landing. (We did that, Russkies. We did that, dolphins.) But my longstanding rule is that, whenever you hear a politician begin a sentence, “If we can put a man on the moon …” you’d better watch your wallet. People only say this when they want to spend a whole lot of money on some pet project. To paraphrase Steve Hayward, you never hear a politician say, “If we can put a man on the moon, we can cut capital gains taxes.” 

Moreover, putting a man on the moon is simply a different kind of problem than 99 percent of the things people invoking the moon landing have in mind. “If we can put a man on the moon, we can…” eradicate poverty, abolish gun violence, make kale taste good etc.

My favorite usage was from the Wall Street Journal a few years ago: “If We Can Put a Man on the Moon, Why Can’t We Put a Man on the Moon?” (This is a great history of the phrase, by the way.)

But my most basic problem with the argumentum ad apollum is that, strictly speaking, “we” didn’t put a man on the moon—a couple thousand engineers and rocket scientists figured out how to do it. Sure, popular support was important, but the nature of the goal depended on the scientists, not our collective good feelings. This is an important point because, for the Apollo analogy to work, the goal needs to be similarly defined, technical, and immune to most of the problems of politics and economics.

Back to Kerry: He didn’t use the phrase, but he might as well have. Talking about reaching an incredibly ambitious carbon reduction goal, he said, “And think about it: We are the country that went to the moon. And we didn’t know how we were going to get there when President Kennedy announced that goal, but we did it.” (Note: We kind of did know how we were going to get there—with rockets.)

Ironically, climate change is one of the few policy areas where I’m okay with using the moon landing as an inspiration. I just have a problem with what Kerry and Co. want to inspire.

Work the problem.

Let’s stipulate that climate change is a real problem, roughly analogous to malaria. Why spend trillions on treatment rather than a cure? Nearly all of the proposals to deal with climate change involve simply slowing its advance and mitigating its worst aspects. CO2 spends a long time in the atmosphere—like 300 to 1,000 years. So a lot of damage has been done since the Industrial Revolution. We could curb our emissions drastically and the benefits will not only take decades or centuries to be felt, but we’ll have spent—both in terms of real spending but also in slowed economic growth—untold trillions.

Longtime readers know I am partial to geoengineering. I’m not proposing we do anything wild right now, or even in the near future, so spare me your Snowpiercer references. JFK wanted to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade (or “deck-aid” as he pronounced it). Setting a goal of launching an atmospheric clean-up operation by 2040 strikes me as something worth discussing.

Now, let me admit: I don’t know how to do it. Sure, I’ve got ideas. But Kerry’s we-didn’t-know-how-to-put-a-man-on-the-moon argument is better suited to my proposal than his, because my proposal is about actually working the problem.

If the planet has a fever, I’d rather cure the underlying disease than spend trillions treating the symptoms.

Still, I understand that lots of people think I’m wrong about this. There’s something about geoengineering that freaks people out so much they think it’s not even worth considering. They sincerely believe the only responsible course is the one Kerry advocates: We have to start radically reducing CO2 emissions right now, no matter what. That means dumping billions into electric car infrastructure, phasing out coal, and switching to solar and wind power. There’s no time to waste. This is an existential threat! An extinction level event! No time to argue!

I disagree, but fine. Let’s say they’re right. What I still can’t get my head around is why they also rule out nuclear power. If you want to stop depending on fossil fuels as quickly as possible, both for transportation and for power generation, nuclear power is the no-brainer solution. Yeah, I know nuclear power is icky. It’s all invisible and stuff. Three Mile Island, Fukushima, Godzilla, Lisa’s three-eyed-fish, Tromie, C.H.U.D.s, and all that. But I’m not the one saying that climate change threatens life as we know it and is an extinction-level crisis. Electric cars are cool, but if the electricity they use comes from coal or natural gas, they aren’t carbon neutral, they’re carbon-hiding.

Heck, you could even pursue a hybrid strategy where we don’t build a lot of safe nuclear reactors with existing technology. Instead, we launch an Apollo program for cold fusion. If we pulled it off, the nearly unlimited energy it produced might help power some new atmospheric CO2-scrubbing technologies (not to mention better desalinization, mass transportation, etc.) that are unimaginable today.

I’m not arguing for doing nothing. I’m happy to talk about policies like carbon taxes and investing in cleaner tech. But so much of the climate change stuff just happens to confirm progressive priors—many on the left suffered from petrophobia back when global cooling was still a concern. Oil is the lifeblood of capitalism and all that. The Green New Deal isn’t very expensive because Modern Monetary Theory and Keynesian multipliers can pay for it all with the right experts in charge.

But here’s the thing: Without capitalism—or at least the wealth that capitalism generates—you don’t get vaccines. You don’t get cures. You don’t get rid of poverty. You don’t get a man on the moon. The richer you get, the cheaper existing solutions become and the more possible as-of-yet unimaginable solutions become.  Progressives are absolutely right when they say the pursuit of prosperity has had environmental costs—“negative externalities” if you want to sound wonkish—but prosperity is also the thing that can fix these issues. So let’s do that.

Various & Sundry

Canine update: As I’ve mentioned before, Zoë has had some really terrible breath of late. I mean melt-your-eyebrows-off breath. Our vet suggested getting her teeth cleaned, which we’ve always been reluctant to do, in part because it’s expensive and often seems like the veterinary equivalent of that extra undercoating they try to upsell you at the car dealership. Indeed, vet trade associations suggest that you do it once or twice a year, which I think is borderline outrageous, particularly given all of the legal boilerplate you have to sign about how dangerous anesthesia is (“Your dog could die.” “Do you approve CPR?”) 

But we did it, and as our vet suspected, Zoë had some infected teeth and a cracked tooth as well. So they pulled three of her chompers. Fortunately, they were small and she didn’t use them for chewing. Still, that smile is her money maker, so we were sad about it. But not as sad as Zoë. I hate taking dogs to the vet almost as much as the dogs hate going. But dropping them off is even worse. Zoë, who spent weeks in an ICU as a puppy (see, “The Story of Zoë”) really doesn’t like going back there. She was terrified and acted like a scared puppy with me, which is just heartbreaking to see in a 75 pound dog. 

When I picked her up almost 12 hours later, she was still super groggy from the anesthesia. While I know I anthropomorphize my dogs for a living, I was sure she was furious with me. She wouldn’t look me in the eye. She went with me because—well, when released from the gulag, you’ll go with just about anybody willing to take you home. Last night was the first time I heard her whimper from pain—or sadness. Again, I know there are people who say, “They’re just dogs.” I have no use for such sentiments and—often—for such people. I love them. They rely on me and put their trust in me (and Fair Jessica), and it just kills me when I can’t explain why we let things like this happen. She’s definitely on the mend, but still more than a little depressed and traumatized (which is apparently normal). Meanwhile, Pippa is definitely confused, but she’s being good about giving Zoë her space. Gracie, on the other hand, really enjoyed having Zoë out of commission.

ICYMI

Last week’s G-File

Last weekend’s Ruminant

Marjorie Taylor Greene has Big Dumb Energy

The week’s first Remnant, with Riedl, really!

The members-only midweek “news”letter, where we’re reminded that social justice is not actually “justice”

The week’s first Dispatch Podcast, where we discuss the outcomes of Chauvin’s case

The week’s second Remnant with Vital Interests author Thomas Joscelyn

Making meaningful distinctions

And now, the weird stuff

Life comes at you fast

A bunch of languages call potatoes “ground apples”

The Dutch East India Company was such a gigantic corporation that it basically became a nation-state

A database of all the tapes collected by the FBI at Jonestown

Probably the most unconventional burrito ever made

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