What If You Googled For Once?

It seems to be Nazi Week in the media—my own local broadcast news outlet led with Nazi stuff for about six hundred hours yesterday, for instance—and I, for one, am not crazy about it, partly because Neo-Nazis are alternately insufferable and boring, partly because it seems deeply stupid to amplify a small and likely shrinking white nationalist movement to the point where they’re above-the-fold CNN headlines fifty-five minutes out of every hour. I have, regrettably, had some personal interactions with paranoid white power-ish types in the past, and they really are more or less unbearable to be around, alternating between exhausting racial paranoia and century-old discredited eugenicist crackpottery. I get that people like to build up Internet tweet cred by talking endlessly about how cool it is to assault white supremacists, but if you actually ever meet any of them, you’ll probably find them to be far less enraging than you’d imagine and far more likely to put you to sleep with their dumbass philosophy.

Anyway. While being careful not to fall into the Neo-Nazi Media Trap that has stricken just about every other outlet on the face of the earth, I want to look at a particular meme that flew around in the wake of the white power marches in Charlottesville last week. A fair number of commentators, pundits and journalists, watching the mob of angry white guys walk around the city streets with semi-automatic rifles slung over their shoulders, remarked, in various ways: “If black people tried to do this, do you think they’d be treated civilly by police officers? I don’t think so!

Which is a weird thing to say, because—well, we have the Internet. I mean, we’ve essentially left behind the age of speculation more or less entirely, and we’ve entered the age of instant confirmation. It is not hard to look up the answer to just about any question you’ve ever had. In some ways this can be kind of a bummer: it used to be sort of fun to, you know, wonder about stuff for a bit. In other ways—like, if you’re a hack journalist attempting to shoehorn some stupid identity politics talking point into a larger racial narrative you’re desperate to push by any means necessary—the Internet is wonderful. Because you can just look it up!

So what happens when a bunch of black people show up to a protest toting lots of heavy artillery? Well, let’s ask the folks of Dallas, where armed Black Panthers marched a few years ago; or the folks in Waller County, Texas; or Milwaukee; or surely a number of other places, if you bother to look for them.

I mean, there it is: black people have marched en masse while openly carrying firearms numerous times and…nothing happened. On its face the premise of this experiment was stupid to begin with: what, after all, do people think police officers would do if an armed group of black protestors showed up somewhere—start mowing them down with an M134? Police officers can be reckless and stupid, fatally so in many cases, but they do not, as a rule, open fire on small platoons of armed civilians, whether or not they happen to be black, nor will they likely arrest an entire group of people for carrying firearms—especially when it is legal to do so!

But we don’t even need to speculate that far. We have plenty of evidence that black protestors are perfectly free to open-carry while protesting. The repeated hypotheticals to the contrary are not based in reality; they’re based in fervent racial paranoia, and a misinformed notion of the way the world—and America—works.  In any event, is it honestly too much to ask for people to just do a few seconds of Google searching before inundating us with this dummy posturing? It would save them the embarrassment, and it would save us the grating irritation of having to listen to it.

Shouting Theater in a Crowded Fire

In the wake of the events in Charlottesville this past weekend—a neo-Nazi rally, a counter-protest, violence between the two factions, and ultimately an apparent vehicular homicide by a white nationalist against the counter-protesters themselves—I am struck by how quickly and how easily a society can begin to shed its civil norms and civic protections in favor of something worse. I am not speaking of the man who drove his car into the crowd, killing one person and injuring a few dozen; so far as I know his behavior is more or less universally condemned, even by the neo-Nazis. Nor do I mean the petty and stupid squabbling violence that took place between the Nazis and the counter-protesors, which seems to be kind of par for the course whenever the Left shows up to an even mildly contentious political event. I am speaking of something deeper and more troubling, a kind of eroding of the presumptions of the American civic fabric.

For instance: there appears to be a small but rapidly-growing effort underway to legitimize violence against people engaging in protected speech. “Punch Nazis” seemed to be the phrase of the day yesterday. One fellow on Twitter summed up the sentiment quite aptly:

He later emphatically reiterated this idea. Now, this is just one guy with less than six hundred Twitter followers. But the sentiment was also echoed by people with a lot more prominence: Rob Delaney, for instance, a world-famous actor with nearly a million and a half followers, and Jake Tapper, a CNN host with almost as many. This is actually sort of a continuation of the “punch Nazis” campaign that began in January, when white nationalist Richard Spencer was violently assaulted on camera, leading many people to celebrate the optics of violent assault; the Guardian, for instance, openly mused over “the ethics of punching Nazis.” One of Obama’s former speechwriters publicly admitted that he found the video of the assault to be hilarious.

There is, to be sure, a kind of grating middle school moral preening going on here: everyone knows that Nazis are bad, but some dudes desperately want you to know that they think Nazis are super bad—bad enough to be preemptively punched! When I was 7th grade my twelve-year-old friends used to say this kind of stuff too: “Hitler was a jerk, I’d like to kick his ass!” “Racist people are assholes!” It’s a kind of an exaggerated public playacting of a belief that everyone already holds, i.e. Nazis, and bigotry more generally, are bad.

But at its heart this growing impulse is a horrifying one: it is apparently gaining currency—in public, among prominent public figures and publications—that punching innocent people is an acceptable form of public discourse. (The obvious rejoinder—“They’re not innocent, they’re Nazis!”—is just stupid enough to not merit a response.) I am not sure what to make of it. On the one hand, the Left is, and has been for a long time, prone to violent behavior. This is nothing new. On the other hand, that violence has, at least in recent decades, tended to be clandestine, at least insofar as nobody with much sense wanted to be associated with it. That seems to be changing. And that is very troubling.

It would appear that this is not really an academic exercise so much as a practical public campaign: at a rally in Charlottesville yesterday, somebody did indeed assault a white supremacist, punching him in the face as he was giving a press conference. Maybe the “Punch a Nazi” liberals are okay with the possibility that their violent rhetoric might have contributed to this assault. I don’t know. I know I wouldn’t be comfortable with it, but then again I am not very comfortable with violence.

It is worth pointing out how easily “Punch a Nazi!” could and probably will transform into “Punch a Trump supporter!” or “Punch a pro-lifer!” or “Punch [insert a person disfavored by the Left]!” Progressives can rarely keep their violent tendencies confined to one class or group, as the Kulaks would tell you if they weren’t all dead. But even if this violent ethic never shifts to cover additional socio-political demographics, it is still something of a mild horror to watch this play out in real time. Yes, nobody wants to listen to a Nazi (aside from other Nazis, I guess). But the small yet growing public acceptance of punching Nazis in order to shut them up suggests something new and profoundly concerning, a degradation of our public discourse in a way that is uniquely dangerous. “Punching Nazis sounds like a great idea!” say a bunch of idiots, giggling at the idea of playing Indiana Jones for an afternoon. It never seems to occur to these childlike adults that punching a Nazi might, in the end, be worse than just walking away from the Nazi.

It is, in any case, rather amusing, in a dark kind of way, to see the political faction that once fainted over so-called violent rhetoric on the Right (“Sarah Palin put crosshairs on a map!!!”) begin to cheerfully embrace literal violence in an eager and public fashion.

The other takeaway from the Charlottesville affair is that there seems to be a sizable number of Americans that is opposed to free speech and would like to see it significantly attenuated. Leading up to the white supremacist march, for instance, a great many liberals were starkly horrified to learn that the ACLU supported the neo-Nazis’ freedom to hold the march. CNN host Eugene Scott claimed that “vocalizing white supremacy isn’t about exercising free-speech.” California GOP representative Kevin McCarthy appeared to suggest that “free speech…does not include hatred [or] bigotry.” The sentiment was echoed thousands of times on social media.

One friend texted me to say: “We don’t have to protect all speech if it’s clearly evil.” Which is kind of crazy, because that’s exactly the opposite of what the Supreme Court has held for nearly five decades—and as recently as a few months ago! In any event, I’m not quite sure what that would look like: would we send police in to arrest white supremacist speakers? Would we throw people in jail for giving Nazi salutes? This would be a sick affront to free expression and a gross perversion of what republican constitutional government is supposed to look like.

It is something of a wonder that people believe you can divorce unpleasant or hateful speech from civil protection and still have a “free speech” regime on which to fall back: if you’re opposed to neo-Nazis’ freedom to march in a park, then you’re opposed to free speech and in favor of censorship. It cannot be boiled down any simpler than that, nor can the fundamental hollowness of the censorious impulse be more clearly exposed. “I’m for free speech except for the really offensive stuff” is not a sentence that makes any sense at all, nor is it a position that can be defended without at least tacitly admitting the authoritarian compulsion that underwrites it.

In the end there will always be people uncomfortable with free speech and eager to stifle it. That is, of course, a worthwhile public debate to be had, if only so that the anti-free-speech position can be cleanly and publicly eviscerated. But if folks are still uncomfortable with the neo-Nazis’ First Amendment rights, I guess they can always try punching them and seeing how that works out: responding to constitutionally protected speech with violence isn’t a good look for anyone, but then again many liberals don’t seem all that concerned with optics these days.

Man Does Not Bake With Bread Alone

This week the Federalist published my essay explaining why you should bake your own bread. This piece, along with two others examining why you should eat humanely-raised meat and why you should raise backyard chickens, form the first three parts of a five-part domestic essay arc, the final two installments of which will be brought to you at some point in the future.

In this most recent Federalist piece I make clear the benefits of baking your own bread. But it is worth underscoring the benefits of taking more care over your food choices in general, specifically spending more money to secure higher-quality food for you and your family. There is a particular kind of consumerist ethic in this country—a widespread one at that—that believes food is exempt from the same kind of pecuniary and economic principle that we apply to virtually every other consumer product, namely: if it’s generally cheaper, it is probably lower-quality. Nobody denies such a principle when it comes to the price difference between, say, a Honda Accord and a Mercedes-Benz. But when most people see the higher cost of a local grass-fed pound of ground beef versus what you can get it for at Sam’s Club, suddenly such a concept goes out the window, and the two products are seen as identical but for price.

There is a difference, however—in buying the local grass-fed stuff, in raising your own chickens (or getting the eggs from a nearby farmer), in baking your own bread, in taking the slightly more difficult or expensive route in order to reap the superlative benefits of better food. There is, to be sure, a growing and very convincing wing of scientific discovery that continues to prove that such food is objectively better for us at the micro level—but we should not ignore the macro level, either, the intangible but still very real benefits that come with, say, knowing and forming relationships and friendships with the people who grow your food for you, or attaching a chicken coop to your property as an act of historical normalcy, or abjuring the garbage bread options of the supermarket in favor of making your own healthful homemade bread with your children or grandchildren (hell, even with just yourself). There is nothing sentimentalist about appreciating these benefits; it’s as practical a consideration as any, really. These things improve your life in measurable ways.

I have a challenge to my Trial of the Century readers: try making your own sourdough bread, say one loaf a week, for two or three months. In that amount of time you should be able to get reasonably good at it. As far as baking goes, a sourdough loaf is a relatively non-labor-intensive endeavor, inasmuch as most of the action in bread formation takes place when you’re off doing something else. There are a million ways to bake sourdough, but if you’d like to do it my way, you can follow my recipe, here. Do feel free to drop me a line, with photos, to show me your progress, and I’m always happy to give tips. If you find out you like it, then you’ll have a whole new incredibly value skill set on-hand. And if you find out you hate it, or you really stink at it—well, you can always feed all those loaves to your chickens. (Surely you’ve taken my advice, and you have a flock of chickens in your backyard—right?)

Laws for Funny People

Liberals do not particularly like free speech. That isn’t an opinion or an editorial statement; it’s just a fact. Consider, for example, a recent statement by comedienne Chelsea Handler:

“Laws…for people who think racism is funny” sounds an awful lot like, you know, censorship, which kind of runs counter to reams upon reams of First Amendment jurisprudence. In her defense, Chelsea Handler was apparently making more of a normative statement than a positive one—ostensibly she was claiming that it “would be nice” to have such laws, not that we could actually have them. Still, somehow I’m not sure if that’s entirely what she was getting at.

No, liberals do not like free speech—it is too complex, too irritatingly egalitarian inasmuch as it permits things liberals find offensive as much as it allows things liberals like. It is worth pointing out that the Left is increasingly as opposed to cultural free speech as it is to the constitutional variety: Google, for instance, recently fired a guy for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” in the form of an utterly reasonable and arguable sociological essay examining the “gender gap” in the technology industry. This doesn’t count as “censorship” in the same way that, say, governmental prior restraint does—but it accomplishes much the same goal, insofar as there is now one more thing people are afraid to say, one more opinion you can’t hold without suffering severe personal and professional consequences.

This is increasingly what the Left does: shuts you up. In that context, it is really kind of amusing to see the Left freak out over “Jeff Sessions’s attack on the media,” in the sense that anti-First Amendment sentiment is nothing new for American progressives. It was the Obama administration, remember, that argued in favor of government’s having the power to ban books, a principle the Left fully and repeatedly endorsed in the wake of the Citizens United ruling. Free speech is inimical to the ideal progressive society, which operates on the principle of rigid control and relentless government oversight. You can’t have people, you know, saying things all the time, things that are unapproved and potentially offensive. It’s too risky.

Chelsea Handler’s tweet, in this context, isn’t about “racism,” but control. A government which legally proscribes offensive speech will invariably, inevitably start to proscribe lots of other speech as well. That’s just how it works. The genius of the American political order is that it takes these questions largely out of the realm of statutory consideration and places them squarely within a redoubt of constitutional protection.  We would be wrong, however, to think that what is happening in Berlin and England and China and elsewhere could not happen here. What is necessary is “eternal vigilance,” as Thomas Jefferson put it, against people like Chelsea Handler, a woman who is ostensibly unthreatening but who would cheerfully snatch away your voice if given half a chance.

It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

There seems to be a growing effort on the Left to make it acceptable to turn children into sexual or sexually-self-aware beings, perhaps best exemplified by Teen Vogue‘s recent anal-sex how-to manual for thirteen-year-olds. There is very likely not a parent out there who would be okay with his or her thirteen-year-old engaging in butt sex. But the Left has apparently decided that it’s acceptable for the youngest adolescents among us to stick penises in their rectums, and so apparently we’re expected to go along with it. Liberals can mobilize remarkably quickly if, say, a high school won’t let a young man into the girls’ locker room, but when a very popular teen magazine encourages young boys and girls to do “butt stuff,” as Teen Vogue called it, then suddenly the hordes of protestors—outside of a few whacko right-wing prudes who are totally stuck in the 1950s, anyway—are nowhere to be found.

Funny, that. I take a dim view of sexually deviant behavior—it is generally either gross, or a sin, or else (and often) both—but I am not of the mind that it should be illegal between consenting adults, inasmuch as there are a whole host of other sins and perversions we do not outlaw. And yet. There is some reason to wonder whether or not a legal regime that errs on the side of sexual prudence might not serve some practical purpose outside of the actions it is meant to prohibit. Put another way: sixty years ago sodomy was illegal in every state. Fourteen years ago it become legal in every one of them. Last month Teen Vogue advised thirteen-year-olds how to “safely” sodomize each other. Is there a direct line running through these three events? Probably so.

To be fair, if you had asked an anal sex activist six decades ago whether or not he believed prepubescents should be coached on the finger aspects of butt sex, he probably would have given you an unequivocal “no” in response: old-school sodomists might have been down for just about anything, sure, but they still had standards. These days the cutting edge of things is to encourage girls to stick it up there possibly before they’re old enough to have had their first period. It’s interesting how things tend to grow over time—mission creep, they call it (with an emphasis on the “creep,” in Teen Vogue‘s case).

This phenomenon is getting worse, not better. Last week at the Federalist, my friend and colleague Bre Payton took a look at Planned Parenthood’s latest foray into child sexualization:

The nation’s largest abortion provider just released guidelines for parents instructing them how to talk to their preschool-aged children about gender identity.

Planned Parenthood’s new guide insists that telling a child that genitals differentiate the sexes is wrong.

“While the most simple answer is that girls have vulvas and boys have penises/testicles [writes Planned Parenthood], that answer isn’t true for every boy and girl. Boy, girl, man, and woman are words that describe gender identity, and some people with the gender identities ‘boy’ or ‘man’ have vulvas, and some with the gender identity ‘girl’ or ‘woman’ have penises/testicles. Your genitals don’t make you a boy or a girl.”

Now, on the one hand—according to contemporary “gender identity” philosophy, which is of course constantly in flux—this whole spiel is about “identity,” not sexuality: one’s “gender identity” is held to be a distinct concept from that of one’s sexual orientation. But does anyone really believe that this effort will not lead inexorably to the sexualizing of “preschool-aged children?” Why should it not? Transgenderism, in spite of the insistence of its partisans, is itself already a deeply sexual phenomenon: a great deal of practical transgender philosophy, after all, revolves around the manipulation and mutilation of sexual and reproductive organs, and partisans have always naturally placed transgenderism within the same activist sphere of lesbian, gay and bisexual concerns (hence the “LGBT”). I am certain that transgender enthusiasts are more than happy to assure us that, no, they are not trying to make preschoolers into sexual beings. And I am sure, five or ten or fifteen years from now, they’ll be saying, “What’s the big deal, anyway? Don’t be such a prude.” As I intend to continue paying the maintenance costs on this site for that long, you can come back here and refer to this blog post at that time, or else just send me a congratulatory letter in my remote Shenandoah survivalist cabin.

Transgenderism—the belief that one is a boy, or a girl, when one is clearly not—is at best a fleeting delusion and at worst a persistent mental illness. I will not take part in it. As a commenter said a few months ago here at Trial of the Century:

[T]he term “man” denotes a biological male, who we refer to as he/him; “woman,” biological female, she/her. These are just words we use to reflect hard truths, of which sex is one. The sticking point of the transgender argument—at least for me—is that I’m “supposed” to refer to a biological male as “she” because he wants me to. Since words matter, I will not do this, as it is categorically wrong. In the interest of comity, I would be open to not referring to this man as *anything,* if that would keep the peace. But, if pressed, I would not lie and join in the delusion and call him a woman. That’s my hangup.

Just so. I will not raise my own children according to the stupid and perverted directions of Planned Parenthood—an organization, mind you, that usually has the absolute worst interests of children at heart. If you take both your reproductive and child-rearing advice from Planned Parenthood, you are very likely going to end up with some seriously damaged children, if any of them make it to term, anyway.

The Curse of the Golden Reboot

I see that NBC has officially announced an upcoming Miami Vice reboot, while the CW is making a new Dynasty (this time with less homophobia!). There is also apparently a Hellboy reboot in the works—a reboot, mind you, of a series whose last entry was made in the dim dark faraway year of 2008. There is also evidently an effort underway to remake The Lion King, and next year they’re coming out with a Tomb Raider film that evidently functions as both a reboot of the 2001 Angelia Jolie vehicle and as the movie version of the video game that acted as a reboot for the original video game series.  So there’s a lot going on in the entertainment industry these days.

There are some very strong motion pictures and television series being made today. But there is a great deal more dreck, and much of it rests firmly in the reboot category, a nostalgia-soaked genre that functions mostly as a kind of masturbatory pop culture exercise for millennials and generation-Xers. There have been whispers that a Neverending Story reboot is in the works—the Neverending Story, a profoundly weird and silly movie of genuinely low quality, the remake of which could only be justified by appealing to the VHS-tinged sentiments of a thirtysomething’s childhood.

We are at an odd pop culture crossroads. To be sure, the latter half of the 20th century had its own share of reboots—Baby Boomers had Still the Beaver, an authentically unnecessary remake of the 1950s classic with very possibly the most grueling opening sequence in television history—but we are experiencing a glut of these things these days, with reboots in some cases separated from the original films by only a few years. For some reason our cultural creators are feeling compelled to revisit the same stories over and over again, and with an increasingly more narrow refresh rate. Probably there is already a reboot of the Tomb Raider game series based on the reboot film based on the reboot series.

It’s not just movies. There is apparently a rather large market for comeback Super Nintendos and Nintendos, those staples of 1980s and 1990s video gaming. These are both extraordinary game systems, to be sure, but it is a mystery to me why these all-in-one reboot packages are so wildly popular: it’s not as if you can’t get all of those games on Nintendo’s Virtual Console already, which is to say that the remade SNESs and NESs constitute a sort of gaming reboot of the original systems and a spiritual reboot of the virtual systems contained within the modern Nintendo Wii systems. There are levels of meta here that are difficult to comprehend, sort of like the ending of Total Recall (oh, they rebooted that a few years ago, too).

A great deal of this is surely motivated by millennial nostalgia, a profitable if rather stupid artistic vein to tap. But there are ways to do it right. Stranger Things, a quite wonderful Netflix original series, told a fairly interesting and captivating sci-fi story using a 1980s milieu as the backdrop for a fairly high-quality period piece. It would seem that the upcoming remake (of course) of Stephen King’s IT will do the same thing, placing the first half of the story in 1980s Downeast Maine. You can successfully leverage the environment of a particular time in a way that’s both tasteful and useful. But that’s not really what our current reboot scourge is after: many of these stories have been updated to take place in contemporary times, rendering the idea of a bygone setting moot (it is astonishing to me that Still The Beaver was as successful as it ended up being, given that its principal plot device—the bucolic 50s pleasantry of Mayfield—was nullified by its contemporary 80s backdrop). It looks like even Miami Vice will be transported forward to take place in contemporary times, a mystifying artistic choice, given that virtually all of Miami Vice‘s charm comes from the fact that it looks like a cross between a 1984 exercise video and an Art Deco revival guidebook.

As I said, there are plenty of good things being made today. But the market seems to be increasingly saturated with junk we’ve already seen before, to the point where it’s hard to know if you’re watching a genuine reboot or a reboot thrice times over. In a way, I get it: it’s fun to revisit a re-imagination of stuff you’ve already come to know and love. But surely there is more to art—even lowbrow art—than that. Once upon a time, even if a movie or a television show was crap, it was still likely to be fresh crap. Now you’re more likely to encounter stale crap warmed over twice in a retro microwave.

I mean, for goodness’s sake, they’re rebooting A Nightmare on Elm Street *again.* The first reboot was bad enough; the second one will likely be worse. I will let you know one way or the other when I see it…because surely, inevitably, I will.

Choice Beyond Reason

The Hill reports this week that “Democrats will not withhold financial support for candidates who oppose abortion rights,” a development that has sent Internet feminists into a bit of a tizzy. Jill Filipovic, for one, remarked: “What better strategy than to betray their base and reaffirm that women’s basic rights are negotiable and disposable,” while Teen Vogue columnist Lauren Duca claimed: “This is a betrayal of every woman who has ever supported the Democratic party.”

Sure, okay. It is to the Democrats’ credit that they recognize what the feminist guard is terminally incapable of seeing: that most Americans, while their views on abortion are decidedly incoherent and nonsensical, are still generally much less dogmatic and monomaniacal about abortion than the feminists are. And what dogmatism it is! Lauren Duca, for one, is on-record as believing that climate change is “the single most pressing issue facing humanity” and that it will “destroy the planet, if we do nothing.” So you’d think she’d be a little more open to some moderate political horse trading when it comes to the one political party that actually buys into the global warming hype. Yet no: abortion must reign supreme. You can believe that “the planet” is going to be “destroyed” if we “do nothing” about global warming, but if you try and soften your stance a bit when it comes to a moderately pro-life city councilman from Gribbler’s Wabe, Wyoming, then you’re suddenly a “betrayer.” Got it!

Abortion, in the end, is not about “women’s basic rights,” as much as pro-abortoinists may insist otherwise; it has nothing to do with bodily autonomy or “a woman’s right to choose” or any of the other pretty ways the Left dresses it up. It has always been principally about dead babies, specifically the convenience that dead babies engender. Increasingly, for example, there are respected and well-paid philosophers and medical officials who argue that it should be legal to kill babies outside the womb—and these arguments, it should be noted, are couched entirely in the terms already used to justify legal abortion. And now there is growing concern that the developing technology of “artificial wombs” could threaten abortion rights more than ever before:

In the future, [Harvard bioethicist I. Glenn] Cohen said, it stands to reason that this technology could save the lives of fetuses born even earlier. Imagine then, that you had made the decision to terminate a pregnancy at 18 weeks, but that such a technology technically made it viable for the fetus to be born at that point in development, then finish developing outside the womb. Would an abortion still be legal?

“It could wind up being that you only have the right to an abortion up until you can put [a fetus] in the artificial womb,” said Cohen. “It’s terrifying…”

Developing technology…tests the rhetoric surrounding the right to choose. A woman’s right to control her own body is a common legal and ethical argument made in favor of abortion. Under that logic, though, the law could simply compel a woman to put her fetus into an external womb, giving her back control of her own body but still forcing her into parenthood

Yes, what a “terrifying” thought. Indeed, the “rhetoric surrounding the right to choose” has always carried with it an unstated qualifier: it’s not just about choice, but about a specific choice, and more importantly the consequences of that choice. The purpose of abortion isn’t to give women the “right to control their own bodies;” if pro-choicers were genuinely as considered with bodily autonomy as they say they are, they would be marching on Washington every day demanding the wholesale shuttering of the FDA, the USDA, the DEA and every other agency that regularly and openly comes between American citizens and their own body choices.

Abortion is not just about “choice;” it is also, perhaps more so, about parenthood. A new technology that might preserve the former while underlining the latter will likely be seen as a direct threat to the underlying motivation for pro-abortion politics: a pro-choice regime that allows for “abortion” while saving the life of the baby is only half-effective, and the less important half, too.

It is good that Democrats are softening on abortion. And while I am not entirely comfortable with the idea of “artificial wombs,” I would be happy to use them for the purpose of saving unborn humans from abortion. But do not expect our devout and determined pro-abortion friends to take these changes quietly; judging by what we’re seeing, we might expect them to grow even more single-minded about abortion, even as public opinion shifts and the pro-life option grows ever-more viable. This is what you expect from zealots—the people who are both ideologically fanatical and immune to reason. But when you truck in dead babies, I suppose it is best to disassociate yourself from rational discourse.

Maybe Just a Cigarette More

I am generally an optimistic man, and I remain as much about the future prospects of the American experiment, but the dark and idiot specter of Obamacare does sometimes give me pause. The Republican party’s persistent inability to scuttle this deeply stupid law really seems to confirm what we’ve more or less known all along: that Barack Obama and his congressional Democrats knew very well that repeal was very likely going to be politically impossible.

To be fair, American political lexicon tends to equate “politically impossible” with “literally impossible,” but that’s not really the case: what it actually means is that anyone who axes Obamacare is going to have to deal with a bunch of angry voters and a possibly terminal election cycle. If the GOP believed any of its eight-year-long bluster, it would do a clean repeal of this miserable law, start working on some decent deregulatory fixes to the American health care market, and let the chips fall where they may in November. But we’re not getting that, because of “political impossibility,” i.e. the threat that Republican senators might have to justify acting on the things they’ve been swearing by for nearly a decade.

At Slate, Jim Newell offers a compelling theory that Republicans “never really hated Obamacare:”

Despite the aura around it, Obamacare, in its individual market reforms, is essentially just the idea that sick people should be able to purchase quality insurance at roughly the same price as healthy people. All of the law’s regulations, carrots, and sticks—guaranteed issue, community rating, essential health benefits, the individual mandate, subsidies, single risk pools, etc.—were put in place to make such a market feasible. To “repeal Obamacare” is to segregate sick people from healthy people, so that the healthy are not subsidizing the sick.

It turns out, most people don’t really want to do this. Which is why, in each chamber, when the conservative bloc would put forth a version of an amendment that would truly “repeal Obamacare,” it was met with a revolt from the rest of the party.

This is not a crazy hypothesis—the supposition, I mean, that Republicans “don’t really want to” repeal the Affordable Care Act. Surely there are a few among the more ideological wings of the party that want to see it go. But when you can’t rally enough members of the nominally conservative party to repeal the one law they all allegedly hate—and when you can’t even get enough members to vote to kinda-sorta-half repeal certain parts of the law for just a few years, as the “skinny repeal” promised to do—then surely it is worth asking: what do you people even believe in?

The idea that “sick people should be able to purchase quality insurance at roughly the same price as healthy people” is, of course, both economically illiterate and commercially ignorant: insurance does not, and cannot, and should not, work this way. The reason that sick people have generally paid more for health insurance is that sick people cost more to insure. The parameters of our healthcare debate have largely excluded this objectively factual characteristic of the health insurance market because we are under the impression that, if we simply say “Sick people shouldn’t pay more for insurance!”, then we can magically will it into reality. But this isn’t the case. A central platform of progressive government policy over the past dozen decades or so has been that you can wish away the hard realities of the medical economy without incurring some kind of negative externality in the process. But you can’t.

It should not be hard for a genuinely conservative party to repudiate such illogical ideology and substitute for it a more grown-up and honest look at the way the world works: yes, sick people are going to have to pay more for health insurance and health care, but if we focus on genuine reforms to bring down the price of both, then it won’t seem as outrageous as the Left has made it out to be. We have been denied such a discussion, however, largely because Democrats have re-defined the acceptable criteria of our healthcare debate: instead of one side proposing the idiot insurance regulations of Obamacare and the other side arguing for a more fact-based approach to health care policy, we have both sides largely arguing for the same thing: full-on Obamacare on the one hand, gradualist ACA-lite six-year-temporary-repeal Obamacare on the other.

Republicans, who might have spent nearly the past decade exposing the fundamental stupidity of Democrat health economics, have instead evidently accepted the premise of those economics, framing their legislative ambitions strictly within the Overton window established by Barack Obama in 2010. In a sense, then, I don’t blame them for failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act: if you’ve more or less decided that it’s a necessary part of federal policy, then why risk your congressional seat over it? The unpleasant side effects of Obamacare—the higher premiums, the useless coverage, the restricted market, the grossly expensive and unworkable health care economy generally—are not really their concern. It falls to us—the people they represent—to deal with it. And so we will; apparently there is no avoiding it.

The Dead Baby Express

A little while ago Freddie deBoer argued that, though he disagrees with our principles, “there’s one thing [conservatives] get right: they are correct when they predict the consequences of the next social change.”

This is true—well, aside from the “one thing” bit, anyway. Conservatives get stuff right. Consider, for example, the fact that infanticide is becoming a defensible position to hold:

A biologist at one of the most prestigious universities in the country has come out in favor of killing disabled newborn babies, declaring that “it is time to add to the discussion the euthanasia of newborns.”

In a post on his personal blog, University of Chicago Prof. Jerry Coyne expressed approval over the idea of killing “newborns who have horrible conditions or deformities, or are doomed to a life that cannot by any reasonable light afford happiness…”

“If you are allowed to abort a fetus that has a severe genetic defect, microcephaly, spina bifida, or so on,” Coyne asks, “then why aren’t you able to euthanize that same fetus just after it’s born?”

Comparing newborns to dogs and cats, Coyne claims that “some day the practice [of killing disabled newborns] will be widespread, and it will be for the better.”

Now, it would be easy enough for me to point out that, yes, we called this, we predicted it. Pro-lifers have been arguing for years that the pro-choice principle does not, in any meaningful way, exclude newborn babies from being killed: all of the arguments in favor of abortion—that unborn humans have no self-awareness, no desires, no consciousness, no hopes, dreams, aspirations, and that it is thus acceptable to kill them—apply more or less entirely to newborn babies. Indeed, this is an argument Coyne makes explicit: “[N]ewborn babies aren’t aware of death,” he writes, “aren’t nearly as sentient as an older child or adult, and have no rational faculties to make judgment.” Off with their heads! (Editor’s note: I know that doctors wouldn’t actually be beheading babies—it’s a figure of speech. They’d simply be injecting them with a lethal dose of barbiturates. Much cleaner.)

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Coyne is only arguing for killing babies with “horrible conditions or deformities,” or those who are “doomed to a life that cannot by any reasonable light afford happiness!” Our civilized culture would never sanction infanticide for healthy babies! But you don’t really believe that—not at this late date, not as a respected professor at a world-class university is honestly arguing in favor of a Sparta-style infant murder regime. In any event, Coyne has already given up the game: he justifies disabled-baby euthanasia by claiming that “you are [already] allowed to abort a fetus that has a severe genetic defect, microcephaly, spina bifida, or so on.” But that’s only half of it: you are actually allowed to abort for whatever reason you want—so why shouldn’t the same principle apply to killing your newborn?

This idea already has some currency in certain dank corners of academia; the British Journal of Medical Ethics some years ago ran a paper by two professors arguing for “after-birth abortion,” i.e. killing babies after they are born, “including cases where the newborn is not disabled.” I suppose, for now, it is largely still required that one qualify one’s infanticide with certain restrictions, e.g. that your baby should have spina bifida before you execute it. But that will surely change, and probably more quickly than you can imagine: in the next decade, if not less, we can probably expect more than a few of the enlightened progressives that run most of our academic institutions to come out in favor of  healthy newborn euthanasia, after which they’ll start working their way up to toddlers and eventually retarded and otherwise-disabled adolescents.

This will happen—it is not a question of “if.” And when it does, you can thank us conservatives for at least having the foresight to call it ahead of time, even if nobody listened to us. “Some day the practice will be widespread,” Coyne writes, “and it will be for the better.” He’s right about the first part.

Welcome to Progressive Utopia

At the Federalist this week I wrote about the depressing case of Charlie Gard and its horrifying implications: in the United Kingdom it is apparently official state policy for government officials to run out the clock on a dying boy’s life in order to force his parents to pull the plug on his medical equipment. It is a bizarre fact of life in modern Western civilization that this isn’t the scandal of the century; instead it’s treated as another ho-hum undertaking by a government that evidently has the power to dictate whether or not parents can seek potentially life-saving treatment for their children.

This is the kind of government our progressive friends want. Your garden-variety statist is generally happy to accept a certain amount of collateral damage in exchange for a healthy regime of statism: give them enough single-payer health care and enough hate-speech laws and they’ll happily look the other way when the bureaucrats sentence a baby boy to die by way of government-mandated attrition. And why not? I suppose once you’ve got “abortion free of charge on the NHS,” it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to mandatory passive baby euthanasia.

A great deal of the response to this scandal has run along these lines: “The treatment almost certainly wouldn’t have worked. It was overly wishful of the parents to want to take him to the United States when he very likely would have died either way.” Sure, stipulated—I believe both of those things. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that it was their call, not the government’s, not the doctors at GOSH, not the judge’s.

It is exceedingly difficult for liberals to separate an inadvisable undertaking from an illegal one: if a leftist thinks you shouldn’t do something, he generally thinks you shouldn’t be allowed to do it, either. But that’s not how a free society works, least of all where parental authority is concerned: the family unit, preceding the state and contravening its authority in a million different ways, should not be subject to the same idiot management prerogative that the government applies to its legions of bureaus and departments and offices.

It is more or less beyond question that, had the Gards been permitted to take Charlie to the United States for treatment without any fanfare, and had the treatment ultimately failed, nobody would be arguing that the British government should have forbid them from doing so in the first place. But the Left really only responds to power—above all government power—and so if the government says that something is bad and should not be done, most leftists are incapable of doing anything other than agreeing with it, even if they would have otherwise had no comment on the matter.

Perhaps aware that it more or less resembles a petulant small-scale tinpot fiefdom on the world stage, the Great Ormond Street Hospital issued a statement attempting to rationalize its valiant efforts to ensure Charlie Gard’s young death. It is almost uncomfortably pathetic, less a communique from a medical institution and more a whiny bully’s rationalization for why he hit someone much smaller than him. GOSH essentially says: “We decided Charlie Gard was going to die, so we determined that he should die.” At one point, justifying the hospital’s desire to unplug Charlie’s equipment so that he might die more quickly, GOSH claims: “Charlie shows physical responses to stressors that some of those treating him interpret as pain and when two international experts assessed him last week, they believed that they elicited a pain response.” Got it? “Some of those treating him” “interpret” some of his physical responses as pain; additionally, two other experts “believed” that they elicited a pain response from him. On this kind of irrefutable testimony the British government stole the Gards’ familial rights and allowed a boy’s last chance at life to whither away. Isn’t that an encouraging indication of the competency of the British government in the 21st century?

The hospital goes on to question the competency of the doctor who proposed to treat Charlie, up to and including a strong implication that he was only in it for the money; the evidence presented by the doctor, GOSH argues, “confirms that whilst [the treatment] may well assist others in the future, it cannot and could not have assisted Charlie.” Maybe that’s true. But it is astonishing that any civilized country could interpret such evidence to mean that the Gards should be forbidden by law from pursuing it. Note that the hospital is not delegitimizing the cure itself, as it would snake-oil medicine or quack remedies; rather, they are simply saying that the cure would not work in this one instance, which is ultimately a subjective opinion, and on a topic that should ultimately defer to the parents above all else.

I suppose such an idea is mildly outmoded, at least in England if not elsewhere. Earlier this week the Guardian published a piece by University College London professor Ian Kennedy, who—after expressing the customary politically-correct pieties regarding the Gard case—argued in all seriousness that “parents do not belong to their children.” This is a fashionable idea among progressives, argued by diverse minds from number-one American public intellectual Melissa Harris-Perry to the more zealous intellectuals of Red China during the Great Leap Forward. It sounds good on paper—if you’re a liberal, I suppose. In the end what you end up with is a baby boy wasting his brief and precious life away while a hospital dithers about his “best interests.” Maybe Charlie Gard would have died over here in America—in fact it’s likely that he would have. But decisions about his medical care were not mine to make, nor were they your’s, nor were they the hospital’s or the British court system’s. That right fell solely on his parents—who now must watch their baby boy die, knowing that they had a chance to save him, one that was stolen from them by their own government.