Steve Novella gets sex wrong; gets corrected twice

March 26, 2023 • 1:15 pm

The folks over at Science-Based Medicine (SBM) have decided that the hill they’ll defend (if not die on) is that sex in humans is a continuous trait, though there might be modes at “male” and “female”. This of course flies in the face of biology, which argues that there are only two sexes in vertebrates: i.e., sex is binary). While there is a low percentage of people (and presumably animals) having “disorders of sex development”, these individuals are not “third sexes” or “new sexes”, but simply those in which the developmental system has gone awry, and they are either sterile or produce sperm or eggs (but not both in a functional way).

I believe the denial of the sex binary is motivated by ideology—to show people who don’t adhere to a “male” or “female” identity that that’s is okay because there are different sexes in nature, too. If you think about that argument, though, you’ll find that it’s not only fallacious but also pretty irrational. Nevertheless, Steven Novella makes it in this article from last year. I’m writing a bit about it because only recently has the second of two rebuttals of Novella’s piece appeared (see below).

You may remember that a while back SBM removed from its website Harriet Hall’s positive review of Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage, a book that argued against a rush to “affirmative care” for gender dysphoric youth and also speculated that the rise in transgender youth (mainly girls claiming a male identity) could be partly attributed to social contagion. That rubbed Novella & Co. the wrong way, so they removed Hall’s piece and explained why. You can read about that here and here; Jesse Singal also criticized the SBM take on Hall (see links)

Click below to read Novella’s article from last year.

Novella gets it wrong right at the outset (below); no, the notion that sex isn’t binary is controversial, and not held by any biologist I know, though some of the “progressive” stripe have claimed this. But even their arguments rest on the same fallacies as Novella’s:

The notion that sex is not strictly binary is not even scientifically controversial. Among experts it is a given, an unavoidable conclusion derived from actually understanding the biology of sex. It is more accurate to describe biological sex in humans as bimodal, but not strictly binary. Bimodal means that there are essentially two dimensions to the continuum of biological sex. In order for sex to be binary there would need to be two non-overlapping and unambiguous ends to that continuum, but there clearly isn’t. There is every conceivable type of overlap in the middle – hence bimodal, but not binary.

And here is one of the big problems of Novella’s take: he wants to take sex as a multifarious but nebulous and undefined combination of many traits: gamete type, genitalia, chromosomes, and even stuff like gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation! No wonder that the bimodality of sex (based on whether you have small mobile gametes–sperm–or large immobile ones–eggs–) becomes confused. Here are a few quotes from Novella’s piece:

. . . .First we need to consider all the traits relevant to sex that vary along this bimodal distribution. The language and concepts for these traits have been evolving too, but here is a current generally accepted scheme for organizing these traits:

  • Genetic sex

  • Morphological sex, which includes reproductive organs, external genitalia, gametes and secondary morphological sexual characteristics (sometimes these and genetic sex are referred to collectively as biological sex, but this is problematic for reasons I will go over)

  • Sexual orientation (sexual attraction)

  • Gender identity (how one understands and feels about their own gender)

  • Gender expression (how one expresses their gender to the world)

. . . This is another concept that many people get caught up on, thinking in evolutionarily simplistic ways. The argument often goes that “sex is only about reproduction”, and since gametes are binary, sex in total is binary. This is incredibly reductionist, and misses the fact that traits often simultaneously serve multiple evolutionary ends. Sex, for example, is also about bonding, social relationships, power, and dominance. Think about this – what percentage of the time that humans have sex is the express purpose reproduction? How many people have no desire to ever have children, but still have an active sex life? Can there be romance without sex? Why are there so many aspects of sex that are not strictly reproductive?

We’re talking about gamete types, but Novella drags in bonding, parental care, and other traits—traits that ultimately flow from a difference in gamete types but are not definers of sex themselves.

And why is “reductionist” always used as a pejorative word? In fact, sex is reductionist, because evolution has worked on the gametes themselves to turn them down two pathsways–and only two pathsways, and from that everything else flows, including sexual dimorphism in appearance and behavior, difference in parental attentiveness, hairness and other secondary sexual traits, and so on.  Male vs. femaleness can rest on chromosomal constitution, rearing temperature, environment, the sex of others around you, and other factors, but it in the end it always results—in all animals—in just two outcomes: individuals with the reproductive equipment to produce eggs, or the equipment to produce sperm. We know why, too: evolution will take a system beginning with all gametes the same (isogamous) and turn it into a system into which there are two, and only two, types of gametes. The two-gamete system (“gonochorism”) is then stable against the evolutionary invasion of new sexes. That’s why there are just two sexes. All vascular plants, too, produce sperm and eggs, and more often than animals in fertile hermaphrodites, but you won’t see botanists claiming that plants have three sexes.

The website Quackometer has published two critiques of Novella’s misguided take in a pair of articles called “The muddling of the American Mind” part I and part II. They’re both by Andy Lewis; the first appeared of July of 2022 but the second just came out: on March 22 of this year. They’re not too long and can be read as a pair. Together they totally demolish Novella’s claim that sex is bimodal, showing that Novella really doesn’t understand the biology of sex (he even relies on Anne Fausto-Sterling’s ancient claim that there are five sexes in humans with the “new” three comprising 2% of the population—a claim that Fausto-Sterling herself later repudiated).

I’ll give just a few quotes from Lewis, but, as always, I urge you to read Novella’s claims, Lewis’s rebuttals, and decide for yourself. (I’m clearly in Lewis’s camp).

Steven Novella rejects idea that sex is “binary” and claims that is it ‘not even controversial’ that sex is “bimodal”. In doing so, he is saying that we can characterise an organism’s sex, not by a discrete classification, but by some degree along a continuum of maleness or femaleness. There is in essence no such thing as 100% male or female, but all organisms are some sort of amalgam of features and function from both ideals. It is though quite difficult to understand quite what Novella means by “bimodal” as his explanation is, at best , somewhat vague.

The killer:

The claim sex is bimodal suggests we can make a measurement on an individual and use that to plot them along a distribution. The most basic question you can ask about a bimodal distribution is “what is the measurement you are taking that leads to this bimodal distribution”? We are not told this in Novella’s blog. At least, not one that defines “sex”. If you are going to claim “sex is bimodal” you need to say what measurement characterises sex. No-one ever has.

About Novella’s conflation of sex dimorphism (the different appearance of males and females) with sex itself:

Perfect dimorphism is rare though in any given feature. There are very tall women (I have worked a lot in the Netherlands). There are males with small hands. But being a small handed male does not make you a lesser male on some sort of spectrum. A male is a male regardless of the size of your things. Morphological variation does not create a spectrum of sex and bimodal distributions of sex related traits does not make sex bimodal. The idea that you are a lesser female human for being more flat chested is as offensive as it sounds.

The dichotomy of sex is not equivalent to dimorphism in sex. These are two different concepts. Just because dimorphism may be low in humans, does not mean the sex dichotomy is weakened.

And although there are disorders of sex development in humans, there is one intermediate morphology we don’t see: one of  single individuals that produce both types of gametes, or hermaphrodites. These exist in some animals and many plants, but again: they are not a third sex, but a mixture of two sexes. Still, we don’t see them in humans; I’ve scoured the literature, and though I’ve found individuals that have both types of sex tissues, they are never fertile as both males and females, and I’ve only found one case each of a fertile male and fertile female hermaphrodite:

What is not observed is an individual who is fertile both as a male and female. If fertile at all, it will be as one sex. The cross-sex tissue is typically under-developed. No human is a true hermaphrodite (in the biological sense as being able to reproduce as both a male and female). Unfortunately, medicine also uses the term “true hermaphrodite” to describe people with these very rare disorders. Do not be fooled by this equivocation.


What we have seen is that biology understands how sex is a strict dichotomy of male and female based on anisogamy (two distinct gamete types). No peer reviewed biology paper has ever characterised sex as bimodal and shown how to create this statistical distribution from measured data of sex. At best the bimodal idea is a metaphor. At worst, it is handwaving nonsense. The idea has not come from biological science but from academics in “gender studies” with explicit political agendas.

. . . We have seen how in order to support the bimodal idea, various specious arguments about sex are made. We see muddles about sex determination and karyotypes. We see conflations of sex and development disorders. We see muddling of the continuous and varied nature of dimorphism in species with the categorical nature of sex. We see how exceptionally rare ambiguities of sex development are used to justify the idea we cannot classify any person with any rigour or objectivity.

And from the newly published part II. First, on Novella’s claim that sexual orientation is one factor involved in determining one’s biological sex:

But we can only recognise sexual orientation if we recognise sex first. We can only recognise, for example, homosexual behaviour if the male sex of the individuals is independent of their behaviour. Your sex comes first: as male or female. Your sexual orientation does not shift your sex – they are orthogonal concepts.

What is Novella trying to say here? That your sexual orientation shifts you along his “bimodal distribution”? That being gay makes you less of a male? A lesbian female is not as female as a heterosexual female? We used to call such ideas homophobic. I am willing to apply Hanlon’s Razor here and just put this down to deep muddle.

Lewis discusses at length Novella’s conflation of sex with gender (a quite common error), and I’ll give just one more quote as you should read the stuff for yourself. This is on the use of “reductionist” as a pejorative term, something that infuriates me because it’s arrogant and, usually, dead wrong. Yes, there are emergent properties that cannot be predicted a priori from lower-level properties, but they are always consistent with lower-level properties. The wetness of water is a famous example.

Novella’s dismissal of sex being about reproduction as “reductionist” is at the heart of his failure to think clearly about the science of sex. His explicit approach is to never let us look at the many aspects of sex as resolvable phenomena in a hierarchy. He is always pushing to mush back together sex and reproduction, sexuality, orientation, identity, variation and disorders into one “bimodal” fog. We are never allowed to see any of these aspects in their own terms.

In The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins said,

For those that like ‘-ism’ sorts of names, the aptest name for my approach to understanding how things work is probably ‘hierarchical reductionism’. If you read trendy intellectual magazines, you may have noticed that *reductionism’ is one of those things, like sin, that is only mentioned by people who are against it.

To call oneself a reductionist will sound, in some circles, a bit like admitting to eating babies. But, just as nobody actually eats babies, so nobody is really a reductionist in any sense worth being against. The nonexistent reductionist the sort that everybody is against, but who exists only in their imaginations, tries to explain complicated things directly in terms of the smallest parts, even, in some extreme versions of the myth, as the sum of the parts! The hierarchical reductionist, on the other hand, explains a complex entity at any particular level in the hierarchy of organization, in terms of entities only one level down the hierarchy; entities which, themselves, are likely to be complex enough to need further reducing to their own component parts; and so on.

Novella is comparing hierarchical explanations of sex based in evolution, development and reproduction to this imaginary baby eating monster. We cannot hope to understand the complexities of such things as the human experience unless we are prepared to create a hierarchy of explanations. Your body existing as an evolved reproducing organism that is male or female is a perfectly good hierarchical place to start for so many conversations. To dismiss this explanation as missing out on the “complexities of human experience” is to fall into Dawkins’ Baby Eating Fallacy.

Novella’s distortion of biology in the service of ideology does nobody any good, for it involves the fallacious idea that what you think is ideologically correct is what must be seen in nature. Sadly, nature does not conform to gender ideology, and sex is not a spectrum, nor even binary. It’s ineffably sad that Science-Based Medicine, a real goldmine of attacks on quackery, is no succumbing to a form of ideological quackery.

I’ll have more to say about this when our Big Paper comes out in late June, but embargos prevent me from saying more.

NYT: David French on disrupting speech and “the law of polarization”

March 26, 2023 • 9:30 am

This piece by David French, published in the New York Times on March 23, is another hopeful indication that the paper is becoming a little less woke. They’ve defended their publication of an objective article on gender transition and chastised their staffers who criticized the author, they’ve added John McWhorter to their list of regular columnists, and they’re starting to publish more articles like this, defending not only free speech but criticizing those who shout down speakers.

French is identified this way by Wikipedia:

David Austin French (born January 24, 1969) is an American political commentator and former attorney who has argued high-profile religious liberty cases. He is a columnist for The New York Times. Formerly a fellow at the National Review Institute and a staff writer for National Review from 2015 to 2019, French currently serves as senior editor of The Dispatch and a contributing writer for The Atlantic.

Click below to read:


This is one of many articles that appeared after students at Stanford Law School (SLS) shut down a talk by conservative Appellate Court Judge Kyle Duncan—not because they didn’t like his talk (which was to be about the relationship between his court and the Supreme Court on issues like covid and guns), but because they didn’t like his conservative decision and judicial philosophy. I don’t like them, either, but neither would I try to prevent him from speaking. Indeed, I’d probably go to hear him, mainly because his topic is of interest—and should have been of greater interest to law students.

French first goes after the students for disrupting a talk that should have been important to them:

. . . How do lower courts decide cases on legal issues in which Supreme Court case law is unsettled or changing?

It’s a particularly important topic for aspiring litigators, many of whom will argue cases in front of judges like Duncan, one of the hundreds of Republican-appointed originalists who account for a high percentage of the federal judiciary. After all, a lawyer’s job is to try to win over judges, no matter who appointed them and no matter their ideology.

Insights into a judge’s thinking are especially valuable if the judge is coming from a different ideological perspective. We often instinctively know how to reach people who share our views. It can be a struggle to understand our philosophical opposites.

Indeed, to the extent that the SLS students are going to litigate cases, they have to be able to listen to the other side, think about the other side’s best arguments, and then counter them. They cannot be rude nor interrupt, and above all they cannot go after the judge! SLS has to teach its students to respect free speech and, at least in court, give their opponents a hearing. The school is indeed creating a unit to teach the law students what free speech really means, though I’m not sure it will temper their juvenile tendency to censor opponents. French throws in a good quote by Frederick Douglass

Robust protest should be welcome in the academy, and it is entirely appropriate to ask any judge difficult questions during the question and answer session after a speech. But protests that go so far as to shout down or disrupt speeches or events aren’t free speech but rather mob censorship.

This is an ancient principle of American liberty. My right to protest does not encompass a right to silence or drown out another person. As the abolitionist Frederick Douglass wrote in 1860 after an antislavery event was disrupted in Boston by a violent mob, “There can be no right of speech where any man, however lifted up, or however humble, however young, or however old, is overawed by force, and compelled to suppress his honest sentiments.”

Douglass of course was black, and I’d be curious to see how the SLS students counter his arguments. In fact, perhaps SLS should, as part of its new program, hold a debate between those students who think it was right to shut down speakers like Duncan, and those who don’t.

At any rate, the chastising of law students is widespread now (I haven’t seen any articles approving of what they did), but French adds something more: a theory (which is not his) about why the SLS fracas occurred. He first establishes that “America’s elite law schools are overwhelmingly progressive”, citing a study showing how lawyer’s political affiliation is skewed to the left compared to the general population.

Below a diagram from Sunstein’s paper; on the X axis is the “conservatism score” of lawyers, based largely on their campaign contributions. They linked the public record of contributions with the national directory of attorneys, producing this histogram. The X-axis scale going from liberal (left) to conservative (right), and the height of the bars representing the number of lawyers in each class. You can see that this histogram is based on hundreds of thousands of lawyers. And you can also see that it’s skewed to the left. If you looked at professors in general, I’m betting it would be far more skewed to the left.

(from paper): Figure 1 displays the ideological distribution of all American lawyers, oriented from most liberal (negative on the CFscore scale) to most conservative (positive on the CFscore scale).9 The histogram bars here—and in subsequent figures presented in the article—represent frequencies. Taller bars mean that more lawyers fall within a given ideology, and shorter bars mean that fewer lawyers fall within a given ideology.

Given this, French then presents an idea floated by Harvard professor Cass Sunstein that, says French, explains why when you have groups or “tribes,” their association tends to make them more extreme. (I haven’t read all of Sunstein’s paper, but you can see it at the link below (download pdf here).


One of the most helpful frameworks for understanding American division and polarization comes from Cass Sunstein at Harvard Law School. In a 1999 paper he identified and described a phenomenon he called the “law of group polarization.” The law is well stated by the first sentence of the abstract: “In a striking empirical regularity, deliberation tends to move groups, and the individuals who compose them, toward a more extreme point in the direction indicated by their own predeliberation judgments.”

In other words, when like-minded people gather, they tend to become more extreme. If you’re opposed to gun control and gather with other gun-rights advocates, you’re likely to become more committed to gun rights. If you’re attempting to raise awareness of climate change and gather with other climate activists, you’re likely to become more committed to your cause.

This law of group polarization helps, as Sunstein writes, “to explain extremism, ‘radicalization,’ cultural shifts and the behavior of political parties and religious organizations; it is closely connected to current concerns about the consequences of the internet; it also helps account for feuds, ethnic antagonism and tribalism.”

The tie to the academy is obvious. A coalition of like-minded people who study together, often live together and learn from other like-minded people can often radicalize. And when they radicalize, they have trouble not just understanding opposing points of view but also seeing their opponents as decent human beings.

In a strange way, the culture of the legal academy is at war with the culture of the legal profession. While the profession is left leaning, it channels conflict into rules-based legal arguments that feature forced civility and grant each side the full opportunity to make its case. There is no such thing as shouting down opposing counsel in court. You certainly cannot heckle a federal judge into silence. There is no option but to fully understand your opponents’ legal arguments and grapple with them on their merits.’

Here’s how Sunstein explains it in his paper, and goes on to document this explanation and cite psychology experiments that support it:

Two principal mechanisms underlie group polarization. The first points to social influences on behavior; the second emphasizes limited “argument pools,” and the directions in which those limited pools lead group members. An understanding of these mechanisms provides many insights into legal and political issues; it illuminates a great deal, for example, about likely processes within multimember courts, juries, political parties, and legislatures – not to mention insulated ethnic groups, extremist organizations, student associations, faculties, workplaces, and families. At the same time, these mechanisms give little reason for confidence that deliberation is making things better than worse; in fact they raise some serious questions about deliberation from the normative point of view. If deliberation simply pushes a group toward a more extreme point in the direction of its original tendency, do we have any systematic reason to think that discussion is producing improvements?

Of course that argument militates against jury deliberation, as well as other things we take for granted.

What is French’s solution? How can we prevent debacles like the one at Stanford? He suggests a greater diversity of opinion in schools, and the teaching of a more “rational conservatism”:

There is no quick or easy fix for the problem of group polarization — in the academy or elsewhere. Law schools should make sure that they’re not discriminating against conservative applicants, either in admissions or in hiring, and as the Claremont McKenna College professor Jon A. Shields wrote eloquently today in The Times, progressive professors should intentionally start teaching the best of the conservative intellectual tradition.

Given the left lean of the entire legal profession, however, conservative students and scholars should expect to be in the minority. Yet no matter the ideological composition of the faculty or student body, students can still take the initiative to seek out the best expression of opposing points of view and listen respectfully even if they intend to challenge their opponents firmly.

It’s true that schools should strive for diversity of philosophy and thought, for, as Mill argued, you can’t really have faith in your own beliefs until they’re tested on the whetstone of opposing beliefs—and against the best arguments of your opponents. Debaters always prepare for debates by imagining what the other side is going to say.

There is a solid educational rationale for this kind of diversity, though ideological diversity isn’t the kind of “diversity” for which schools are striving. When a university says it’s “diverse” or “striving for greater diversity,” it  really mean either sex diversity (though now women predominate as students in higher education), and, importantly, ethnic diversity. But given the lack of evidence that different ethnic groups tend to have different (and within-group homogeneous) ways of looking at the world, the educational importance of ideological diversity would seem to be greater than that of ethnic diversity. (The latter, however, is important if you conceive as the mission of higher education to effect political and societal change.)

But what French’s solution doesn’t explaion—at least to me—is why things have become more polarized in recent years. After all, the titer of Republicans and Democrats in Congress (and voters on both sides), hasn’t changed much recently, so the tribes have pretty much existed in their present proportions. So why has everything become more polarized lately? (And surely it has!). And why would striking a greater ideological balance in colleges help alleviate the polarization? To me it would seem to increase it by creating larger tribes on the conservative side.

No, what French seems to be calling for is a more anodyne solution: students inculcated with the desire to hear their opponents—and do so respectfully. To me, at least, the “law of polarization” offers neither explanation of what happened at Stanford nor any kind of solution. But again, I haven’t read Sunstein’s paper, and perhaps reader can explain the fix that French suggests.

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 26, 2023 • 8:15 am

It’s Sunday, so we have a themed batch of birds from John Avise. John’s narrative and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

Alternative Plumages

Most birds molt their feathers at least once or twice per year, thereby changing their plumages with the seasons.  For many species, this can mean that their ”basic” (or winter or non-breeding) plumage can be very different in appearance from their “alternate” (or summer or breeding) plumage.  In many cases, this is especially true of males, who may be under intense sexual selection for brightness during the breeding season but benefit from being drabber and more cryptic at other times of the year.  This week’s post shows several examples of what I am talking about: species that look very different at different times of the year.  Experienced birders become familiar with these alternative appearances as the seasons change.

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana) in basic plumage:

American Avocet in alternate plamage:

Common Loon (Gavia immer) in basic plumage:

Common Loon in alternate plumage:

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata) in basic plumage:

Yellow-rumped Warbler in alternate plumage:

Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) in basic plumage:

Eared Grebe in alternate plumage:

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) in basic plumage:

Ruddy Duck in alternate plumage:

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) in basic plumage:

Red-breasted Merganser in alternate plumage:

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) in basic plumage:

Ruddy Turnstone in alternate plumage:

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) in basic plumage:

Spotted Sandpiper in alternate plumage:

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) in basic plumage:

Mallard in alternate plumage:

Sunday: Hili dialogue

March 26, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Sunday, March 26, 2023, and National Nougat Day.  Nougat is one of the few sweetmeats I have no use for, especially the white variety.

It’s also National Spinach Day, Solitude Day, Purple Day  in Canada and United States (“a global grassroots event that was formed with the intention to increase worldwide awareness of epilepsy, and to dispel common myths and fears of this neurological disorder”), and, in Hawaii, Prince Kūhiō Day  a Hawaiian prince (1871-1922)) who did a lot for the islands. As Wikipedia notes, “Prince Kūhiō Day is one of only two holidays in the United States dedicated to royalty, the other being Hawaiʻi’s King Kamehameha Day on June 11.” After U.S. Big Business overthrew the Kingdom of Hawaii, the Prince served in Congress as a representative of the Territory of Hawaii—the only Congressperson ever born into royalty. Here he is:


Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 26 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*The BBC reports that a Florida principal was forced to resign his position after he showed a statue of Michelangelo’s “David” to the students and an uproar ensued (h/t Gravelinspector). The story was also reported by ABC (h/t Dom). From the BBC:

A principal of a Florida school has been forced to resign after a parent complained that sixth-grade students were exposed to pornography.

The complaint arose from a Renaissance art lesson where students were shown Michelangelo’s statue of David.

The iconic statue is one of the most famous in Western history.

But one parent complained the material was pornographic and two others said they wanted to know about the class before it was taught.

The 5.17m (17ft) statue depicts an entirely naked David, the Biblical figure who kills the giant Goliath.

The lesson, given to 11 and 12-year-olds, also included references to Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” painting and Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”.

Principal Hope Carrasaquilla of Tallahassee Classical School said she resigned after she was given an ultimatum by the school board to resign or be fired.

Local media reported that Ms Carrasquilla did not know the reason she was asked to resign, but believed it was related to the complaints over the lesson.

They also said Ms Carrasquilla had been principal for less than one year.

So they fire her without telling her why, and the “why” is because the kids were exposed to naked bodies in classical art. It was, of course, in Florida. What a bunch of sniveling Pecksniffs!

Here’s a right-wing nightmare inspired by this event, sent by reader Barry:

*Shoot Me Now Department. If the Republicans didn’t threaten American well being, I would find items like this amusing rather than infuriating. Yes, the neuronally deprived Marjorie Taylor Greene is up to her publicity-seeking antics again:

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene swept into the District of Columbia jail to check on conditions for the Jan. 6 defendants, with Republican lawmakers handshaking and high-fiving the prisoners, who chanted “Let’s Go Brandon!” — a coded vulgarity against President Joe Biden — as the group left.

A day earlier Speaker Kevin McCarthy met with the mother of slain rioter Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran who was shot and killed by police as she tried to climb through a broken window during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

And the House Republican leader recently gave Fox News’ Tucker Carlson exclusive access to a trove of Jan. 6 surveillance tapes despite the conservative commentator’s airing of conspiracy theories about the Capitol attack.

Taken together, the House Republicans can be seen as working steadily but intently to distort the facts of the deadly riot, which played out for the world to see when Donald Trump’s supporters laid siege to the Capitol, and in the process downplay the risk of domestic extremism in the U.S.

In actions and legislation, the Republicans are seeking to portray perpetrators of the Capitol riot as victims of zealous federal prosecutors, despite many being convicted of serious crimes. As Trump calls for the Jan. 6 defendants to be pardoned, some House Republicans are attempting to rebrand those who stormed the Capitol as “political prisoners.”

The result is alarming to those who recognize a dangerously Orwellian attempt to whitewash recent history.

“There’s no question Marjorie Taylor Greene and other Republicans are attempting to rewrite history,” said Heidi Beirich, the co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. “They’re making light of what was a serious attack on our democracy.”

The tour Greene led at the local jail Friday comes as nearly 1,000 people have been charged by the Justice Department in the attack on the Capitol — leaders of the extremist Oath Keepers convicted of seditious conspiracy. The 20 or so defendants being held at the jail, many in pretrial detention on serious federal charges, are among those who battled police at the Capitol, officials said, in what at times was a gruesome bloody scene of violence and mayhem.

It’s as if these Republicans think the January 6 attacks were merely a bit of fun, but had the rioters actually encountered Democrats and their leaders, there would have been violence. It was nothing less than an insurrection.

*Like many of you, I’ve subscribed to newspapers or other services at a low fee, which automatically renews and goes up in price after a year—and you’re never informed.  I now have on my computer a list of when all these low=price come-ons are set to expire. In some cases it’s easy to cancel, in others it’s hard or nearly impossible (the FTC has fine companies for that), but none of them inform you that you “cheap time” is up.

That may change if the FTC imposes its “click to cancel” rule, which will not only make it much easier to opt out of renewal, but let you know before the subscription auto-renews:

“The vision is that it should be as easy for consumers to cancel subscriptions as it is to enroll,” Levine said. “If they enrolled online, the company should use online mechanisms to let consumers cancel. If they enrolled on the phone, they should be able to cancel on the phone without waiting on hold forever.”

Among other provisions, companies would have to provide an annual reminder to consumers enrolled in negative-option programs involving anything other than physical goods before they are automatically renewed.

In the process of trying to persuade you to stay — it’s referred to as a “save” — companies would have to ask whether you would like to consider such offers or modifications to your subscription plan. But once you decline, they must cancel the negative-option arrangement immediately.

The agency’s notice of proposed rulemaking is part of its effort to strengthen existing consumer protections in the negative-option space.

Unscrupulous companies have become incredibly clever in taking consumers down a rabbit hole where they can’t find their way to cancellation.

You can subscribe to the Federal Trade Commission’s notices about when rules like this take effect simply by submitting your email address here.*A r

*An article in the Jerusalem Post reports that CUNY (the City University of New York) has, in the last two years, become the “most systematically antisemitic school” in America. Take that with a grain of salt, since the report was prepared by a group at CUNY, but do have a look at the 12-page report (it’s free here) and judge for yourself the level of Jew-hatred. From the Post article:

The report, compiled by Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY (SAFE CUNY), an NGO that describes itself as an alliance of CUNY students or scholars, alleges that there are alarming levels of deep-rooted, systemic antisemitism at the highest levels of CUNY “perpetuated through lies, coverups, retaliation campaigns, intimidation against whistleblowers, and corruption that has penetrated the deepest corners and the most senior leaders of the university.”

Jeffrey Lax, the Orthodox Jewish business department chair at CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College and founder of SAFE CUNY, told The Jerusalem Post that the report took months to research, source, and uncover.

“We received many tips on our email tip line from incredible CUNY sources and this really helped us to expose what the report reveals,” Lax, who does not wear his yarmulke on campus, said.

“Shockingly, in a city of 1.7 million (20%) Jews, our report reveals that a years long campaign has in 2023 resulted in the total expungement of Jews from senior leadership positions at CUNY. After the retirements of Jennifer Raab and Senior Vice Chancellor Pamela Silverblatt, there are no longer any Jews among CUNYs top 80 senior leadership, including 0 of 25 campus presidents,” Lax continued. “In a city with a 20% Jewish population, it is unfathomable that the largest urban US university located in that city failed to employ any Jewish administrative leaders by happenstance,” the report says.

. . . “CUNY’s three most powerful leaders –the chancellor, the 23,000 member union president, and the head of diversity–  are all anti-Zionists, CAIR supporters, and/or BDS activists,” Lax said.

. . .While the report shies away from investigating or re-investigating the “relentless barrage of antisemitic incidents since at least 2015,” CUNY has made a slew of headlines in recent years for anti-Jewish occurrences.

Last year, The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) filed a Title VI complaint against CUNY, which has 25 college campuses across the five boroughs. It alleges that CUNY has ignored a sustained pattern of antisemitic activity.

The number of administrators who belong to CAIR and adhere to the BDS principles, both anti-Semitic initiatives, is shocking. In fact, CUNY’s top discrimination officer, Saly Abd Alla, is not only the former director of CAIR but also a BDS activist (remember that BDS has the goal of completely eliminating the state of Israel).  This kind of bigotry would never stand if it involved blacks, but it’s okay because it’s only the Jews.

*And, for your delectation, here are some of the National Book Critics Circle Awards for this year. They’re not as prestigious as the Pulitzer Prizes, but the NBCC awards are chosen by over 600 book reviewers and critics, and are a good way to find good books:

Beverly Gage won this year’s biography award for “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century,” which The Washington Post’s Book World named one of its 10 Best Books of 2022. In his review for The Post, Kai Bird wrote that “G-Man,” which drew on some previously classified sources, “now becomes the definitive work” on Hoover. “This new material is simply stunning, and Gage uses it to write a highly nuanced — sometimes even sympathetic — account of the man.”

Ling Ma won the fiction prize for “Bliss Montage,” a collection of stories that Michele Filgate called “uncanny and haunting” in her review for The Post. “These stories use fantastical situations to address the isolation and absurdity of being confined by labels.” (Ma’s previous book, a novel called “Severance” — no relation to the Apple TV Plus show — was published to acclaim in 2018.)

Hua Hsu, a staff writer at the New Yorker, won the NBCC prize for autobiography. In “Stay True,” another of The Post’s 10 Best Books of 2022, Hsu remembers his unlikely friendship with a college classmate named Ken. Hsu describes the devastating aftermath of Ken’s murder early one morning in 1998. While that tragedy is at its center, the book is also a wry chronicle of 1990s culture. “With warmth and humor,” Charles Arrowsmith wrote for The Post, Hsu has produced an “extraordinary, devotional act of friendship.”

The nonfiction award went to Isaac Butler for “The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act,” about the performance technique pioneered by Konstantin Stanislavski, prominently taught in the United States by Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, and utilized perhaps most famously by Marlon Brando, among the many boldface names who appear throughout Butler’s account.

. . . This was the first year the NBCC awarded the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize, which is shared by an author and translator; the inaugural winner was “Grey Bees,” a novel by Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov, translated by Boris Dralyuk.

I’m most keen on the Hoover biography; what a bizarre (and often odious) character he was, possessed of immense power for decades.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili must have had too much ‘nip (my photo!)

Hili: I had such a strange dream.
A: What about?
Hili: About appellate court for saints.
(Photo: JAC)
In Polish:
Hili: Dziwne rzeczy mi się śniły.
Ja: Jakie?
Hili: Sąd apelacyjny dla świętych.
(Zdjęcie: J.A.C.)

And a photo of Baby Kulka up in the trees:


From Jesus of the Day (note the text error):

From The Sarcasm Society via Stephen, food to share with someone you want to dominate:

. . . and from Stash Krod, a Gary Larson “Far Side” cartoon:

From Masih, the Morality Police don’t like dancing or music, or especially the absence of hijabs. The Google translation from Farsi:

Received video: “Hello, Christ, John I was dancing alone on the night of April 4th in the street of Rasht Municipality, when an intelligence agent (who is seen in the film in white clothes) came to record and kicked the poor old man who was playing music and threatened him to pack up. Face. At the same moment, he took out a wireless from his pocket and called the patrol to come there and said in front of me that there is a girl in a yellow dress and come and arrest her. I quickly ran away.

» Soon, the one who will dance and stay in the main squares of all the cities is us, and the one who will run away, this ISIS group who are enemies of dance and joy and afraid of all three words “#WomanLifeFreedom” #Mehsa Amini

From Luana, who says that to deter bike theft, they make bikes with a rod that sticks out when somebody who’s not the owner sits on it. The result:

From Barry, who says, “Nice haul! I wonder what it did with the money.”

From Simon, who can’t believe it. I can’t wait!

From Malcolm, the lynx in your cat:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a woman who didn’t make it:

Tweets from Matthew, the first one showing ducks popping up:

All is well in DodoLand!. Watch to the end.

And Pepper, one of the three cats Matthew serves, getting in the way.

An article in Science takes implicit bias (and its measurement) for granted despite the problems, and suggests interventions that haven’t been shown to work

March 25, 2023 • 11:30 am

Nearly all psychologists have lost their enthusiasm for the idea of implicit bias because of its manifold problems; and the most common test for implicit bias, the IAT (implicit association test) has largely been abandoned by its users. In light of this you’d think the idea and its IAT metric would have dropped out of sight in academics. But that’s not the way it works these days. If an idea like implicit bias fits into the academic Zeitgeist, and we can actually (pretend to) measure how biased people are when they don’t even know it, then it’s full steam ahead with the idea. Ferret out everybody’s bias, because we all have it! And ignore those niggling doubts about the IAT!

This, along with the often problematic notion of “systemic racism”, which persists in all of academia, are two examples of how the authoritarian Left will cling to a concept when it’s been found empirically useless, simply because the idea comports with their ideology.  And this article in Science—one of the world’s two most prestigious science journals—buys straight into the idea of implicit bias and IAT, hardly mentioning that they’re deeply controversial and have not been found to improve race relations. The article also assumes that inequities are due to racism (another dubious conclusion), and that the racism within science is a structural racism, not maniftested by biased individuals but baked into the system. Finally, the article raises the possibility of Big Brother-like monitoring of people to catch the implicit bias that we all know they harbor. (We discussed this suggestion the other day.)

There is no science journal I know of that has not gone in this direction if it’s weighed in at all on that ideology. Science is one and Nature is another.  It’s embarrassing how the two most prestigious journals concerned with understanding nature play so fast and loose with the facts.

Click to read:

The article’s largely about bias in medicine. I’ll give a few quotes showing how embedded the idea of implicit bias is in the article, how little the author and the IAT-users recognize the weaknesses, and describe new methods of measuring implicit bias in light of the IAT’s failure (which they don’t admit). The article is long, but is so similar to others of its ilk that I’ll be brief.

Note the immediate buy-in of the concept of implicit bias below. The article begins with the story of Chastine, a patient with autoimmune disease whose steroids made her gain weight, and then, she claims, doctors would assume that her extra weight was her primary medical condition. (This could, of course, be dispelled by the patient simply telling the doctor this at the outset).:

Stories like Chastine’s are unfortunately common, say researchers who examine how implicit biases—unconscious assumptions based on skin color, gender, sexual preference, or appearance—in health care providers affect patient care. Chastine, who is Black and queer, is now channeling her troubled experience with the medical establishment to aid studies of implicit bias and identify ways to counter it. She is part of a 5-year collaboration between various departments at both the University of Washington (UW) and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), in which a team is developing a tool to give physicians feedback in real time during patient visits—or shortly after—on what they can do to mitigate their unconscious prejudices.

Here comes the IAW as used by Janice Sabin, a researcher at the University of Washington:

Sabin used the well-known Implicit Association Test (IAT), which determines how strongly an individual associates a trait—such as race or sexual orientation—with a subjective value, such as “good” or “bad.” The quicker you match each concept to a subjective value, the greater the association and the higher your score, which broadly indicates a stronger implicit association between the trait and value.

Sabin found the doctors she tested—a few of them nonwhite—held the unconscious bias that white patients took their medication as prescribed more so than Black patients. It was one of the first studies showing health care providers had unintentional racial prejudices. “It was kind of scary because this was a concept completely foreign to [many] people at the time,” Sabin says.

As I said, the article does mention issues with the IAT, but doesn’t state that its problems (lack of replication, evidence against the unconscious nature of the bias, and the failure of the tests results to lead to effective antiracist programs) are so severe that serious psychologists have abandoned the test:

The IAT remains a standard tool for measuring implicit bias, although some have criticized it because it has to be taken several times to reveal a reliable result, as people’s scores could change every time they take it. Even when people come out neutral on race, most studies will reveal some kind of unconscious prejudice, such as an unrecognized preference of certain sexual orientations or religions.

. . . Scientists have long studied several kinds of interventions that attempt to “erase” implicit bias, but few of them have shown lasting effects. “There is a robust science around implicit bias,” Hardeman says. But, “There is no gold standard for how to intervene right now. It’s imprinted in our brains in ways that make it really hard.”

Simple interventions can dampen biases, as measured by successive IATs, but the changes are usually modest and don’t persist.

. . .Simply asking health care providers to take the IAT without providing context or tools can be counterproductive. A study in 2015 indicated that when medical students are told about their unconscious bias without direction on overcoming it, they tend to get anxious, confused, and nervous interacting with patients who belong to social groups different from their own. That’s why even a quick training on skills to mitigate implicit bias can go a long way, according to Hardeman.

But as the article says (and other articles agree) why measure bias in a way that’s counterproductive if there is no “gold standard about how to intervene” to mitigate bias? Is this all just performative action with no effect on what it hopes to change? And so researchers move on to the Big Brother tests:

That made him [Brian Wood, an infectious disease specialist] eager to take part in UnBIASED’s first experiments, which rely on cameras installed in exam rooms. The cameras in Wood’s Seattle clinic captured interactions between him and his patients, including close-ups of his and their facial features and body language. “I found quite quickly that the patient and I both forgot the cameras were there and just fell into our usual routine and conversation,” he says.

The UnBIASED team then used a type of artificial intelligence (AI) known as machine learning to analyze patterns in the recordings and identify nonverbal cues that could indicate implicit bias. In one of the clips Wood was later shown, he was talking with a patient while leaning forward with his arms crossed on the desk, body language he worries may have made him seem closed and unapproachable. “I reflected on my own as to how that body language might be felt and perceived by the patient,” he says. Wood, who hopes to improve his demeanor, says he welcomed such feedback and is eager for more.

“Reflecting on possible negative moments during a visit was not easy, but felt important and valuable,” Wood says.

The team is now working on translating the experiment’s results into feedback like “digital nudges”—such as an icon that pops onto the computer screen, a wearable device, or other mechanism telling physicians to interrupt patients less or look them in the eye more often. But the UnBIASED team still has challenges interpreting the data in the recordings. For instance, nonverbal signals are nuanced, Hartzler says. “It’s not always as simple as ‘more interruptions means bad.’”

Translation: this method doesn’t seem to work. But nevertheless, the article persists, describing other methods of measuring hidden bias, including clinical simulations of biases and “microaggressions”, constructing training exercises for physicians and nurses, and calling out people on the spot. The problem is that while the article describes a panoply of methods, with at least one “increasing their recognition of bias” in a way that lasted a year (but their own biases or other people’s?), none of the methods seem to have an effect on mitigating bias, conscious or unconscious.  Despite the failure of developing an efficacious program so far, they will persist—forever:

Getting buy-in from whole health care systems could accelerate the process. Recently, California, Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington state passed legislation mandating implicit bias training for the medical professionals they license. And since June 2022, Massachusetts physicians are required to take implicit bias training to get a new license or get recertified to practice.

Although researchers see this as a good step, they worry mandated training will become a one-off box-checking exercise. Sustained implicit bias training for physicians should instead be the norm, some emphasize. Hospitals also need to monitor and collect data on health care outcomes for different groups in order to monitor equity, Sabin says. “You have to know where the disparities lie and then begin to work backwards from that.”

It won’t be easy, Hardeman says, noting that, at least in the United States, centuries of white supremacy and other forms of bigotry have resulted in deep-rooted stereotypes and other implicit biases. “Every single person should be thinking about doing this work,” she says. “But if they’re doing it within a system that hasn’t addressed its own biases and racism, then it’s not going to be fully effective.”

Clearly, we’re going to have mandated training for the rest of our lives (much of it involving a form of compelled speech), and all of us who aren’t people of color will be told that we harbor implicit biases and participate in white supremacy, which is now structurally built into medicine.

And yes, of course some people are biased! I can’t help but assume that these people really do mean well instead of just trying to enact an ideology that they know won’t help the situation. But perhaps they should be using methods that work, and if they can’t show they work, they shouldn’t be part of mandated training. It’s not going to make people more “inclusive” to tell them all that they’re ridden with biases they don’t even know about the invisible Klan robes we all wear.

When this kind of palaver invades all of the prestige science journals—in article after article that all say exactly the same thing—you know that we’re in for a long haul.

If you want to measure your own implicit bias for race using Harvard’s IAT, try it here.

h/t: Steve

Caturday felid: Pet cougars and panthers try to wake owners; Loyal Sea Cat Herman; cat goes nuts on ‘nip; and lagniappe

March 25, 2023 • 9:30 am

Messi, the pet cougar in the video below, has his own Wikipedia page with lots of information, which notes this:

Messi (Russian: Месси; born 30 October 2015) is a pet cougar, model and Internet celebrity, owned by Russian couple Alexandr and Mariya Dmitriev. The Dmitrievs live with Messi in a two-storey house on a large plot of land in Penza, Russia. Messi was adopted in 2016 from a local petting zoo. In 2017, the Dmitrievs started an Instagram account and a YouTube channel for Messi, which became very popular by 2018 and continues to grow in subscribers.

He was, as you might have suspected, named after soccer great Lionel Messi.  People have argued that he should be put in a reserve or zoo because he could cause trouble, but the Dmietrievs say that Messi has already passed sexual maturity (he’s 7 years old) and is still tame, and he also requires daily medication.  Read more about him on Wikipedia, his Instagram page, and his YouTube channel (60 videos!), but here’s a cute video of Messi waking up Alexandr. Listen to that purr!

Messi’s just like a housecat—loud and insistent at breakfast time! It’s hard to ignore a giant paw on your face, though.

And here’s another zoo-rescue panther (presumably a melanistic cougar), named Luna. You can read more about her here.  Some facts:

Luna is an adorable panther that was born in a zoo in Siberia. For some unknown reason, her mother completely rejected her and refused to give her much-needed milk and care. Luna’s chances for surviving were slim, but thankfully, an amazing woman came to the rescue. The woman had experience with raising big cats and decided to help Luna survive by taking care of her and feeding her a diet filled with vitamins that she desperately needed.

Soon, the woman grew attached to Luna and decided to buy her from the zoo—but only because she knew that she could give Luna the life she deserves and needs. Soon, Luna became part of the family. She met the woman’s dog named Venza. After a long process of introducing them and making sure they get along, a beautiful friendship bloomed. They are inseparable, always together: playing, running, and exploring the world around them. They are best friends and look absolutely adorable together!

Look at that scratching post at 1:17! Luna is very sweet, and it must cost a pretty ruble to keep these cats in food!

Would you like to be awakened in this way? No need for a shower!

Luna has her own YouTube page with 12 regular videos and 6 “shorts”.


This Facebook page is about official naval cats, of which there were many (I’ve featured some before).  The U.S. Naval Institute has a comprehensive page about “Cats in the Sea Services,” but today we feature Herman from the FB page:

We’ve heard endlessly about military dogs, but what about their smaller four-legged companions, cats? Surprisingly enough, cats played a significant role on Navy and Coast Guard ships at one point in time. Andy Mitchell’s Inside the Mind of a Cat Netflix documentary highlights this point about our feline Navy cats. Specifically, it tells us about the U.S. Coast Guard “Expert Mouser” Herman the cat.

Here’s a trailer for the movie, which you’ll have to pay to watch (I haven’t):

More from the FB page:

Herman the Cat, Expert Mouser
As per Mitchell’s Netflix original, this practice long superseded Herman’s reign. According to Dr. Eva Maria Geigl, Paleogeneticist featured in the documentary, “Ships are probably the predominant means of spreading of the cat.” She would state, “With humans, the rodents went on the ships and the cats followed. So, there was not a single ship, probably, that went out of the port without cats.”

As surprising as it sounds, yes. In fact, British Navy ships all sailed with a cat on board until the 1970s.

In 1943, Herman the cat would officially be commissioned by the military as an “Expert Mouser.” His primary duty was to control and extirpate the rodent population aboard the vessel.

Herman officially became a member of the U.S. Armed Forces at eight months old. Just like any other Coast Guardsman, Herman was issued an identification card for his hometown in Baltimore on January 12. His ID was as legit as anyone else’s, having a formal serial number of 05225058 authenticated by pertinent officials.

So, what exactly was Herman’s job as an Expert Mouser? Well, the Maryland feline had unrestricted access to the port waterfront no matter the time of day. His job? Hunt every mouse, rat, and rodent aboard the ship to his complete satisfaction. Herman wouldn’t be the first cat to play such a role on a boat.

Here’s a video of Herman (spelled “Hermen”) in action and getting his ID card made:

Herman’s ID—note the pawprint. Height: 15 inches; weight 11 pounds (he was a big one!):


Finally, a tabby going nuts with a jar of “Cat Crack®” catnip.


Lagniappe: A meme from Merilee; the many expressions of a moggy:

h/t: Williams, Merilee

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 25, 2023 • 8:15 am

Reader Mike Canzoneri sent some photos of squirrel monkeys, which you can enlarge by clicking on them. He also sent a brief bio:

I was born and raised in the city of Chicago and have been a backyard zoologist since I was a little kid. I moved to Miami, FL in 1990 to be close to Everglades National Park (where I was a volunteer), then to Austin, TX in 1994 (for a better job) and finally to Costa Rica in 2005, where I spent my meager nest egg on three separate rain forest properties. I built a house on my southern Pacific coast rain forest property (about 100 acres) and live there most of the time.

Mike’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

This is my first submission to Why Evolution is True Readers’ Wildlife Photos: endangered black-crowned Central American squirrel monkeys (Saimiri oerstedii oerstedii).

In January and February, the females give birth and the babies stay on their mothers’ backs until well into summer. Once the babies are close to the size of their mothers, the mothers try to shake them off but the babies resist for as long as they can.

All shots taken with my Nikon D850 and either the Nikkor 300mm f/4 or 500mm f/5.6 PF prime lens, except this first one taken with my Nikon D750 and Nikkor 500mm f/5.6 PF.

The mothers wear the babies like backpacks as they run up and down the trees and jump from one tree to the next, and they get tired and need to rest from time to time. I caught this mother doing a face plant into the bamboo to take a 30 second power nap.

I notice that the mothers try to help each other and stick together. I was lucky enough to be ready with my camera when this scene played out in front of me, where two mothers, each with a baby, all engaged in a group hug.

I’m not sure what had this baby’s attention but I liked the way the photo came out.

This baby was pushed off by its mother so she could take a break. She didn’t go too far and the baby clung to the branch, frozen in fear, until the mother came back a few minutes later.

Here is a shot of a mother nursing her baby.

Taken about two minutes after the shot right above, here is the baby holding on tightly to the mother.

Here’s a juvenile squirrel monkey just hanging out in a small tree.

To end the set I chose this photo of a juvenile gazing pensively up at the canopy.


Saturday: Hili dialogue

March 25, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s CSaturday, March 25, 2023, shabbos for Jewish cats, and International Waffle Day.  (This corresponds to Vårfrudagen or Våffeldagen, “Waffle Day”, in Sweden, Norway & Denmark). Here’s a traditional Swedish waffle with cream and jam:


It’s a big day for holidays today, as it’s also Pecan Day, National Lobster Newburg Day, Tolkien Reading Day  (the date of the downfall of the evil Sauron inThe Lord of the Rings), Medal of Honor Dayi in the U.S., International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members (a United Nations day), Maryland Day (marking the arrival of the first European settlers in Maryland in 1634), International Day of the Unborn ChildEU Talent Day (European Union), Quarter day (first of four) in Ireland and England, and, finally this complicated holiday:  New Year’s Day (Lady Day) in England, Wales, Ireland, and some of the future United States and Canada from 1155 through 1751, until the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 moved it to 1 January (and adopted the Gregorian calendar. (The year 1751 began on 25 March; the year 1752 began on 1 January.)

Got that?

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 25 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*If Trump’s temper tantrums and juvenile calls for violence don’t turn off so many supporters that he becomes un-electable, then we Democrats have no hope. Now, as the NYT recounts, he’s been broadcasting threats of “potential death and destruction” if he’s indicted. What a crybaby! But the NY DA isn’t budging:

In an overnight social media post, former President Donald J. Trump predicted that “potential death and destruction” may result if, as expected, he is charged by the Manhattan district attorney in connection with hush-money payments to a porn star made during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The comments from Mr. Trump, made between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. on his social media site, Truth Social, were a stark escalation in his rhetorical attacks on the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, ahead of a likely indictment on charges that Mr. Trump said would be unfounded.

“What kind of person,” Mr. Trump wrote of Mr. Bragg, “can charge another person, in this case a former president of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting president in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a crime, when it is known by all that NO crime has been committed, & also that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our country?”

“Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!” the former president wrote.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Bragg did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In an email to his staff last week, Mr. Bragg wrote that the office “will continue to apply the law evenly and fairly, and speak publicly only when appropriate.”

“We do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York,” he added.

In connection with this, I’ve been wondering how the prosecutors can know that an indictment is likely when that decision nearly always rests in the hands of the grand jury. A friend told me that the grand jury has the power to call witnesses, and they’ve been calling witnesses right up to the top of the heap: first former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and now Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran. Corcoran can, of course, plead the Fifth, but that’s usually seen as evidence of guilt (even though it shouldn’t be). I think that’s the sign of an impending indictment..

*India, often called “the world’s largest democracy,” is moving ever closer to autocracy as the Hinduphilic but popular Prime Minister Narendra Modi shuts down opposition and dissent. His latest move is unconscionable:  he has removed Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru (India’s first prime minister) from Parliament. Gandhi was the leader of the opposition Congress Party and a vociferous critic of Modi. But there’s also a prison term involved for Gandhi—for nothing other than political criticism:

India’s top opposition leader and fierce critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was expelled from Parliament Friday, a day after a court convicted him of defamation and sentenced him to two years in prison for mocking the surname Modi in an election speech.

The actions against Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of India’s first prime minister, were widely condemned by opponents of Modi as the latest assaults against democracy and free speech by a ruling government seeking to crush dissent. Removing Gandhi from politics delivered a major blow to the opposition party he led ahead of next year’s national elections.

A local court from Modi’s home state of Gujarat convicted Gandhi on Thursday for a 2019 speech in which he asked, “Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?” Gandhi then referred to three well-known and unrelated Modis in the speech: a fugitive Indian diamond tycoon, a cricket executive banned from the Indian Premier League tournament and the prime minister.

Under Indian law, a criminal conviction and prison sentence of two years or more are grounds for expulsion from Parliament, but Gandhi is out on bail for 30 days and plans to appeal.

Opposition lawmakers rallied to his defense on Friday, calling his expulsion a new low for India’s constitutional democracy.

. . . Modi’s critics say India’s democracy — the world’s largest with nearly 1.4 billion people — has been in retreat since he first came to power in 2014. They accuse his populist government of preoccupying itself with pursuing a Hindu nationalist agenda, a charge his administration has denied.

“I am fighting for the voice of this country. I am ready to pay any price,” Gandhi, 52, wrote on Twitter.

Gandhi’s family, starting with his great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, has produced three prime ministers. Two of them — his grandmother Indira Gandhi and father, Rajiv Gandhi — were assassinated in office.

Gandhi has projected himself as the main challenger to the Modi government, but his Indian National Congress party has fared poorly during the last two general elections. He has been trying to woo voters in recent months by raising issues of corruption and accusing the Modi government of tarnishing India’s reputation for democracy.

In America, Gandhi’s mockery of the nation’s leader would be perfectly free speech, but not under Modi. Defamation and sedition have been revived by Modi as ways to silence his opponents, and newspapers are loath to print anything critical of the government or Modi himself. He is an awful leader, a theocrat well on the way to becoming an autocrat, and he needs to go. But that won’t happen because many Indians like him.

*Daniel Ellsberg, a hero to those of us in our youth for releasing the Pentagon Papers, has been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. He’s 91, and in the last months of his life gave an interview to Alex Kingsbury at the NYT. A couple Q&As:

Q. As you look around the world today, what scares you?

A. I’m leaving a world in terrible shape and terrible in all ways that I’ve tried to help make better during my years. President Biden is right when he says that this is the most dangerous time, with respect to nuclear war, since the Cuban missile crisis. That’s not the world I hoped to see in 2023. And that’s where it is. I also don’t think the world is going to deal with the climate crisis. We’ve known, since the 2016 Paris agreement and before, that the U.S. had to cut our emissions in half by 2030. That’s not going to happen.


Q. Robert McNamara, who was secretary of defense during the Cuban missile crisis, once said, “The indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will destroy nations.” Why haven’t we seen nuclear weapons used since 1945?

A. We have seen nuclear weapons used many times. And they’re being used right now by both sides in Ukraine. They’re being used as threats, just as a bank robber uses a gun, even if he doesn’t pull the trigger. You’re lucky if you can get your way in some part without pulling the trigger. And we’ve done that dozens of times. But eventually, as any gambler knows, your luck runs out.

For 70 years, the U.S. has frequently made the kind of wrongful first-use threats of nuclear weapons that Putin is making now in Ukraine. We should never have done that, nor should Putin be doing it now. I’m worried that his monstrous threat of nuclear war to retain Russian control of Crimea is not a bluff. President Biden campaigned in 2020 on a promise to declare a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons. He should keep that promise, and the world should demand the same commitment from Putin.


Q. How are you feeling?

A. Great. I was appreciating life even before the CT scan, and then a couple of weeks later had an M.R.I. and then an second CT and was told I have three to six months. It has been said that it’s good to live each day as though it were your last, but that’s not really practical. Living this month as though it is my last is working out very well for me, and I can recommend it. I thought it was pretentious to say publicly, you know, well, I have pancreatic cancer.

But my sons both thought I should share the news with friends, and that was also an opportunity to encourage them to continue the work for peace and care for the planet. As I said, my work of the past 40 years to avert the prospects of nuclear war has little to show for it. But I wanted to say that I could think of no better way to use my time and that as I face the end of my life, I feel joy and gratitude.

*Don’t miss Nellie Bowles’s weekly news summary at The Free Press this week called, “TGIF: Let them eat night cereal,” I’ll re-post three of her many items:

→ Night cereal: It’s hard that food corporations have only three meals a day to shovel corn and vegetable oil down our gullets. To solve for this, they have invented a new meal: bedtime cereal. “Post Consumer Brands is looking to help make your sleep dreams come true with Sweet Dreams—the first ready-to-eat cereal designed to be part of a healthy sleep routine,” the marketing copy reads. At 10 p.m., when you are watching YouTube, slack-jawed and looking like the peak of sleep hygiene, you might as well complete the scene with some Sweet Dreams Honey Moonglow.

In what can only be described as a hate crime against millennial women, they call the night cereal “self-care.” From that same press release: “ ‘More than ever, consumers are looking to embrace acts of self-care, particularly as it relates to bedtime routines and we believe a relaxing bedtime routine is key to a good night’s sleep,’ said Logan Sohn, Senior Brand Manager.” The worst part is that I ordered some.

→ Robin DiAngelo for segregation: The famous author of White Fragility has spent years arguing the case for racial segregation, but now people are starting to notice how creepy it is. Here’s this week’s installment from DiAngelo: “I’m a big believer in affinity space, in affinity work. I think people of color need to get away from white people and have some community with each other.” She’s asserting that it can be damaging for black people to be around white people all the time, especially during hard conversations. Reminder: DiAngelo is white. Imagine for a second that these exact words were said by a white conservative.

Anyway, Robin, just speaking Karen to Karen: if you’re gonna say things like that, you probably should give “people of color” a little space.

→ A large number of UN teachers celebrate genocide against Jews: Turns out, United Nations–funded schoolteachers around the Middle East (i.e., teachers we pay with our taxes) are super pro-genocide against Israelis. And quite open about it on social media. Here’s a great rundown of various cases from Hillel Neuer. It’s basically a bunch of UN staff teachers posting videos of Jews being slaughtered and then calling the killers heroes—also known as “just anti-Zionism.”

The UNRWA (United Nation Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), a branch of the UN, has effectively become a cheering squad for Hamas. And you are the one paying for them.

*This week’s edition of Andrew Sullivan’s The Weekly Dish is headlined “Culture war politics and the English Language” with the subtitle “Orwell and the mind-deadening neologisms of our time.” Now how could I not read something with that title? He begins with a reference to Orwell’s classic essay, which all readers here are expected to read (the link’s below and it’s free):

The relationship between language and politics — how each can inform or derange the other — was never better explored than in George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen-Eighty-Four, and his essay, “Politics and the English Language.” After reading these in my early teens, political writing became a vocational challenge of sorts to me. How to say things as clearly and honestly as Orwell? How to “let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about,” as he deftly put it?

Sully’s beef is about how the language involved in gender/sex activism is nebulous and variable among people, almost, he thinks, deliberately meant to make terms obscure (that was Orwell’s point):

. . . check out the new poll from the Washington Post yesterday, in which a big majority of transgender people do not consider themselves either a “trans man” or a “trans woman” at all. They prefer “nonbinary” and “gender-nonconforming” — and distance themselves from both sexes. Less than a third physically present as another sex “all the time.” The vast majority have no surgery at all.

Now read Masha Gessen’s recent interview with The New Yorker, and get even more confused. Gessen denies that transness is one thing at all. S/he says it’s a different thing now than it was a decade ago, and that “being transgender in a society that understands that some people are transgender is fundamentally different from being transgender in a society that doesn’t understand.”

S/he says that there are “different ideas about transness within the trans community … probably different trans communities.” S/he denies a “single-true-self narrative” as some kind of anchor for identity. S/he believes that transitioning can be done many times, back and forth: “Some people transition more than once. Some people transition from female to male, and then transition from male to female, and then maybe transition again.”

If gender is entirely a social construct, with no biological character, why do transgender people want hormones — an entirely biological intervention? Because “being trans is not a medical condition, but it marries you for life to the medical system.” Huh? By the end of the interview, you get the feeling that trans is whatever Gessen bloody well wants it to be, and yet at the same time it remains beyond interrogation.

In this gnostic universe, there is nothing “natural” about the human body, because nature itself is a social construction. It is a mere playground for the psyche to use and tweak, mix and match, subvert and shock.

He will get in trouble for stuff like this, but of course he’s never bridled at that possibility, and I admire him for it. A bit more:

And remember that the “+” in “LGBTQIA2S+” is utterly open-ended. Who knows what the “+” will reveal next? The consonants will keep coming, and you’ll be a bigot if you don’t keep up. Already, there is “aliagender” — “a nonbinary gender identity that doesn’t fit into existing gender schemas or constructs”; there’s “gendervoid” — “a term that describes someone without a gender identity”; and there’s “novigender” — “having a gender that can’t be described using existing language due to its complex and unique nature.” Like being a tree or a fish, I suppose. Notice, as Orwell did, that using Latinate phrases helps lend the meaningless an air of faux authority.

There will never be an end to all the oppressions, just as there will never be an end to all the nonsense genders. This is a machine for endless social revolution, not a one-off change to accommodate and protect a discrete, tiny minority. That’s why it is not a logical consequence of the marriage equality movement, as some conservative writers have claimed. It is, in fact, a riposte to the whole idea of it, which is why its leader, Chase Strangio, has described marriage equality as furthering an “inherently violent institution” and causing “significant harm” to society as a whole.

. . .The language is being re-written in order to make actual, informed debate harder and harder; to obfuscate and numb. In the face of all the neologisms, euphemisms and deceptions coming at you, I can only offer you Orwell’s admonition: “The worst thing one can do with words is to surrender to them.”

That’s why Hitchens called his book on the author Why Orwell Matters. His essay on the English language is pretty timeless.  And Chase Strangio is an embarrassment to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, editor Hili is really critical of Andrzej! (I took the photo.)

Hili: I don’t think that what you write is especially important.
A: The issue interests me so I’m trying to organize my thoughts.
(Photo: JAC)
In Polish:
Hili: Nie sądzę, żeby to co piszesz było specjalnie ważne.
Ja: Dla mnie sprawa jest ciekawa, więc próbuję uporządkować myśli.
(Zdjęcie J.A.C.)


I heard from reader Lou Jost, who, along with the EcoMinga Foundation, is saving the Ecuadorian rainforest and its species (including the rare Atelopus coynei) in Ecuador. He sent a page from a children’s book aimed at helping kids appreciate biodiversity:

Here is the book page with your frog, It’s not a coloring book but rather a book with paste-in photos that kids are supposed to collect and put in the book where there are spaces for different species and reading material about the species. The page with your frogs is a “Spot-the-__” for kids.
And MY FROG, which I’ve circled:

More from Lou:

I also attach a picture of the new city government truck, completely devoted to advertising our [EcoMinga’s]Dracula Reserve where your frog lives. It seems your frog is not among the ones painted on the vehicle, but it is still neat. Amazing that the local government is so supportive of the reserve! This is due largely to Tulcan’s wondeful mayor Cristian Benavides (and his staff member Gabriela Puetate, who previously was part of EcoMinga).

Click screenshot to go to original species description of MY FROG (be sure to read the part about how it got its name). Ken Miyata was my closest friend in grad school, but drowned in a fishing accident a few years after he graduated.

Isn’t the frog (below) lovely? (I’m self-aggrandizing today.) It appears to be hanging on in the area where it was first found, but Lou reports that there’s a pretty good crop of this frog in the Dracula reserve that EcoMinga has acquired. Photo by Jordy Salazar:

Two memes from Nicole:

A tweet from Masih; a revolution in Iran is still brewing. Sound up:

From Barry, who says it took him too long to get the reference. I’m not sure I do even now unless the water’s supposed to shake when there’s a dinosaur stomping nearby.

From Simon, a great headline:

From Malcolm:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a girl gassed on arrival at the age of ten:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. I’ve shown this first one recently, but I do love it. It’s a women helping her cat to chatter (I call it “machine-gunning,” and we still don’t know why they do it:

Another cat post, with weird medieval cat stuff going on. Note again that the cat is poorly drawn, looking like a human:

Is this for real? They’re too good!

McWhorter and Loury on equality vs. equity—and music

March 24, 2023 • 12:45 pm

Below is an hourlong of John McWhorter making his every-other-week appearance on Glenn Loury’s podcast, the “Glenn Show”.  The YouTube notes for this bit are indented (their bolding):

John McWhorter is back, and fresh off an appearance on Bill Maher’s Real Time that provides plenty of fodder for this conversation. It’s always an interesting experience comparing the relatively unrestrained version of John that I record with three times a month and the carefully crafted version of himself he presents on other programs, when he knows he only has a few minutes to make his point. This is something all of us who regularly appear in the media have to grapple with: How do we distill all of the thinking, reading, and writing we do within our areas of expertise into audience-friendly sound bites that will give some sense of our deeper reasoning? John has mastered this art, and I have to say, I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it, too!

We begin by discussing that Real Time appearance. John is turning into one of Maher’s regular guests, but he wasn’t always such a skilled communicator. He recounts an earlier Bill Maher appearance where he dropped the ball. John was invited on to talk about equity and equality, and we take the opportunity to talk more expansively about the difference between the two. We are both advocates for equality, and we both think that equity is a poor substitute. We also both think that black Americans have the potential to perform at the same level as everyone else, but the test scores tell a different story. So how do we know that potential is real and not just wishful thinking? It’s a tough question. The most zealous DEI advocates come from the ranks of educated middle and upper-middle-class blacks, and I’m reminded of E. Franklin Frazier’s classic critique, Black BourgeoisieWe move on to the question of standards in the arts, and John says it’s not such a big deal if African Americans don’t have proportional representation in classical orchestras and audiences.

We get a pretty unfiltered version of John in this one. Anybody who catches him only on TV or in the New York Times is missing out!

It’s a wide-ranging conversation, going from equity to music, and is well worth listening to. I’ll highlight just a few landmarks:

10:56: Equality vs. equity. McWhorter, who dominates this hour, argues that there’s a certain arrogance in pretending that “equity” just means “equality”, but it’s okay for the woke because the conflation “battles white power”.  He adds that only under equity is racial “tokenism” seen as okay, but the notion of equity creates a “wormy and arrogant social policy.”

16:57: Loury makes the devil’s advocate case for equity, saying that “equality” avoids the hard questions: how do you assess talent,  opportunity, and the moral obligations of society? What good, he asks, is equal opportunity if people start from different points of advantage and disadvantage? He then describes the cartoon below, which you’ve seen before:

19:30: McWhorter calls that cartoon not only misleading, but deeply insulting to black people, because it implies that people will think “black people are born dumb” (i.e., they start with a shorter box). My response is that the short box isn’t mental difference, but cultural difference that ultimately can be ascribed to slavery, oppression and bigotry and that results in lower performance on test scores.  McWhorter eventually does claim (and I agree) that black people are culturally rather than genetically disadvantaged. But his constant claim is that to overcome racial differences in achievement and test performance, black people must begin setting themselves standards and goals and meeting them—not kvetching that they’re disadvantaged by racism and need the compensations associated with equity.

It becomes clear that both Loury and McWhorter do believe that we should not relax standards of merit for promotion or achievement, but that black people, insofar as they don’t perform as well as whites, should simply work harder.  It sickens McWhorter, he says, to see the call for holding black people to standards different from those to which we hold white people.

McWhorter then mentions the tweet below, which I found on his website. He says he issued it deliberately, not to self-aggrandize but to make the point that “equity” is patronizing toward black people by holding them to different standards.  As he says (or maybe it was Loury), “we cannot exempt people from having to display competency.”

The last part of the discussion turns to classical music, one of McWhorter’s great loves. He deals with whether there should be equity in orchestras (no), whether symphonies should program music that more people of color would want to hear (no), and why classical music is so great.  But he then argues—and here I agree with him—that the only reason that opera is seen as more highbrow than many Broadway musicals is because opera is in a foreign language. He argues that there’s no reason to think Puccini any better than, say, the musical “Showboat,” and at that point I stood up and cheered.

Anyway, the hour is divided into two distinct parts: equity and music, and though they’re connected, it’s worth hearing the show simply because I love the way these guys interact.



And to show the greatness of musicals, here’s the inimitable Paul Robeson singing a song that always brings tears to my eyes. It’s “Old Man River,” and was written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, two white Jews. This is a scene from the 1936 movie version of “Showboat.”

Stanford Law School’s DEI Dean, currently on leave, argues that DEI and free speech can coexist

March 24, 2023 • 9:45 am

The DEI Dean of Stanford Law School (SLS), Tirien Steinbach, is now on leave from the University after helping escalate a disruption between law-school students and a visiting Appellate Court Judge, Kyle Duncan, invited by Stanford’s Federalist Society to talk about the relationship between his court and the Supreme Court.  It’s not clear whether Steinbach voluntarily took a leave, was forced to take a leave, or whether she’ll be fired (they’re pondering that now). No matter what, she is in trouble. The President of Stanford and the Dean of SLS, apologizing to Duncan, singled out Steinbach’s confrontational approach to the judge, and SLS Dean Jenny Martinez’s letter, sent yesterday to the SLS community, said this (her emphasis):

Enforcement of university policies against disruption of speakers is necessary to ensure the expression of a wide range of viewpoints. It also follows from this that when a disruption occurs and the speaker asks for an administrator to help restore order, the administrator who responds should not insert themselves into debate with their own criticism of the speaker’s views and the suggestion that the speaker reconsider whether what they plan to say is worth saying, for that imposes the kind of institutional orthodoxy and coercion that the policy on Academic Freedom precludes. For that reason, I stand by my statement in the apology letter that at the event on March 9, “staff members who should have enforced university policies failed to do so, and instead intervened in inappropriate ways that are not aligned with the university’s commitment to free speech.”

. . . First, Associate Dean Tirien Steinbach is currently on leave. Generally speaking, the university does not comment publicly on pending personnel matters, and so I will not do so at this time. I do want to express concern over the hateful and threatening messages she has received as a result of viral online and media attention and reiterate that actionable threats that come to our attention will be investigated and addressed as the law permits. Finally, it should be obvious from what I have stated above that at future events, the role of any administrators present will be to ensure that university rules on disruption of events will be followed, and all staff will receive additional training in that regard.

It’s clear from all the apologies and SLS correspondence that Dean Steinbach’s actions were regarded as disruptive and not conciliatory. (There’s also a swipe at the three other Deans in the room who did nothing.) But in a new op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (what a weird place to publish this!), Dean Steinbach tries to justify her actions by arguing that diversity and free speech can coexist at Stanford.  And that’s true, so long as free speech is given primacy. What cannot coexist is the current form of DEI initiatives, such as those represented by Steinbach, and freedom of speech, for free speech is perceived by many in the DEI community as offensive and harmful. Regardless of what she says, Dean Steinbach was not trying to harmonize DEI (represented by the upset students) with free speech; she was trying to be divisive.

In this op-ed, as in her remarks to Judge Duncan when he asked for an administrator to cool the disruption, she waffles—indeed, I see her remarks as deliberately disingenuous. She says she’s in favor of free speech, but then asks, as she did during Duncan’s talk, whether “the juice is worth the squeeze”. What she means is that we must ponder whether free speech policy produces results that we’re happy with. That totally undercuts her claimed defense of Stanford’s policy.  Remember, too, that the morning before Duncan spoke, Steinbach sent an email to the SLS community that started this way (read the full text here):

Today, Federal Judge Kyle Duncan (Fifth Circuit) will be speaking at an event on the topic of The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, Guns and Twitter.  While Judge Duncan is not expected to present on his views, advocacy or judicial decisions related directly to LGBTQ+ civil rights, this is an area of law for which he is well known. Numerous senatorsadvocacy groups, think tanks, and judicial accountability groups opposed Kyle Duncan’s nomination to the bench because of his legal advocacy (and public statements) regarding marriage equality, and transgender, voting, reproductive, and immigrants’ rights. However, he was confirmed in 2018. He has been invited to speak at SLS by the student chapter of the Federalist Society.

Yes, the topic was not about Duncan’s own legal decisions and views, but on this: ““The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, guns, and Twitter.”  Nevertheless, Steinbach could not restrain herself from criticizing Duncan’s political views and giving copious links. This email was one of several elements that brought a mob of SLS students together to disrupt Duncan’s talk.

Now, like Lucy, Steinbach has some “‘splaining to do,” and you can read that ‘splaining below. Click the screenshot to read:

As you can see from the title, she’s trying to hold two opposing positions at once: that free speech and diversity can coexist, and whether full-on free speech is really worth the reasons it’s become policy. Her entire whole post is a whitewash of what she did (and does not mentioning her inciting email). So she claims to favor free speech:

 I supported the administration’s decision not to cancel the event or move it to video, as it would censor or limit the free speech of Judge Duncan and the students who invited him. Instead, the administration and I welcomed Judge Duncan to speak while supporting the right of students to protest within the bounds of university policy.

As a member of the Stanford Law School administration—and as a lawyer—I believe that we should strive for authentic free speech. We must strive for an environment in which we meet speech—even that with which we strongly disagree—with more speech, not censorship.

I wonder what she means by “authentic” free speech. Is there “inauthentic” free speech? I think she’s implying here that Duncan’s views, if promulgated, would not be “authentic free speech”, because they would be harmful (see below).

Then she claims that she stepped up to the podium to “de-escalate the situation”, another lie:

As soon as Judge Duncan entered the room, a verbal sparring match began to take place between the judge and the protesters. By the time Judge Duncan asked for an administrator to intervene, tempers in the room were heated on both sides.

I stepped up to the podium to deploy the de-escalation techniques in which I have been trained, which include getting the parties to look past conflict and see each other as people. My intention wasn’t to confront Judge Duncan or the protesters but to give voice to the students so that they could stop shouting and engage in respectful dialogue. I wanted Judge Duncan to understand why some students were protesting his presence on campus and for the students to understand why it was important that the judge be not only allowed but welcomed to speak.

First, the verbal sparring match was initiated by the students, not by Duncan, though he did react angrily later.  Second, her job was to de-escalate, not lecture Judge Duncan about why some students were protesting his presence on campus. What she wanted to do was express her own views about Duncan, not educate him on why the students didn’t like him. Her claim here is yet another lie. I wonder where she learned her de-escalation techniques—from Donald Trump?

Steinbach then explains what she meant by asking whether “the juice was worth the squeeze,” saying it refers to “the responsibility that comes with freedom of speech,” which really means “the responsibility not to offend the SLS students.”

Finally, and most disingenuously, she claims that what happened during the lecture is a “microcosm of how polarized our society has become”, which she decries. Yet she herself is largely responsible for the polarization accompanying Duncan’s talk!  Finally, she ends this way:

Diversity, equity and inclusion plans must have clear goals that lead to greater inclusion and belonging for all community members. How we strike a balance between free speech and diversity, equity and inclusion is worthy of serious, thoughtful and civil discussion. Free speech and diversity, equity and inclusion are means to an end, and one that I think many people can actually agree on: to live in a country with liberty and justice for all its people.

God bless America!  Note that there is no “balance” to be struck between free speech and DEI. Free speech at Stanford and at all public universities is NON-NEGOTIABLE; it is not to be quashed or officially tempered so it comports with DEI. Yes, I do advocate civility, and trying to use free speech to create discussion and understanding, but if I have something to say about DEI that I consider worthy of discussion, yet others find it offensive, that’s too damn bad. Free speech trumps offense, non-physical “harm” and the hurt feelings of students.

If you want to see Steinbach’s lecture to Judge Duncan, follow the links from this piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, called “Stanford Law’s diversity dean is ‘on leave’ as controversy boils over a disrupted speech.”

The scene featuring Steinbach and Duncan — captured on video and audio — has been thoroughly scrutinized within and outside of higher ed for two weeks.

Watch and listen to the event itself, or you can read a transcript of Steinbach’s remarks at a link I’ve put below. First, a video of Dean Steinbach’s Moment of Glory:


You can read Steinbach’s remarks here (at FIRE).

To be sure, she does tell the students that SLS has free speech and that she’s in favor of giving Duncan space to finish his remarks. Then she chews the judge out in a way guaranteed to ensure that doesn’t happen. I’ve put that bit of Steinbach’s speech below the fold at the bottom.

If you read the comments after her piece at the SWJ, you’ll see that most of the readers aren’t buying Steinbach’s apologia. Here are four:

This would have been a thoughtful response if the video wasn’t in complete contradiction of what you wrote. This is all an attempt to cover the reprehensible and embarrassing behavior you exhibited, but it fails to do so and actually makes you look worse.

How about simply apologizing for your behavior instead of attempting to justify it.

Well said. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. This piece clearly wasn’t written by the same person who was at the event. Nice try.

Well said. Walter Middy couldn’t have recounted a better telling of the story than the Dean.

The hubris of today’s progressives is absolutely staggering. They believe they are so much smarter than everyone else that they can simply re-tell a story in their words and everyone—even those who saw the whole thing—will simply adopt their bent perspective on the world, event, etc.

This woman was no leader in de-escalating the situation; her intervention was a disgrace.

The students’ actions were a disgrace.

Stanford should be absolutely ashamed of this incident.

Belligerent, misbehaved children….


How we strike a balance between free speech and diversity, equity and inclusion is worthy of serious, thoughtful and civil discussion.

Ms. Steinbach resorts to the moral equivalence argument, typical of the left. It doesn’t wash. There is either free speech or there isn’t. No “balance” needs to be made. The students denied Judge Duncan his right to free speech and their tactics were rude and crude. And Ms. Steinbach caved in to the mob.

Finally, the lesson of this post is twofold:

1.) Free speech is not always compatible with DEI or its initiatives. When they conflict, free speech should win

2.)  Dean Steinbach is desperate to put a good face on her remarks by claiming that DEI and “authentic” free speech—whatever that is—are compatible. But all she does is get herself into a bigger muddle. Her best policy would have been to apologize for what she did. Now that would have flummoxed the SLS students!

Below the fold I’ve put a transcript of the place where Steinbach lectures judge Duncan. Click “continue reading” to see her word:

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