National Health Service ends “gender-affirming care,” replaces with “holistic and appropriate” care

October 25, 2022 • 9:45 am

The NHS has come to its senses and issued a whole new set of protocols for treating gender dysphoric youth. Previously, the Tavistock Clinic in London was the go-to place for these children, whose numbers have risen rapidly in the past few years, especially for females (graph below from here):

But there were complaints from patients, and a commissioned report on the Clinic by Dr. Hilary Cass damned the form of care practiced at Tavistock: “affirmative care,” which in practice meant affirming a child’s wishes about changing sex, which led to buttressing their wishes by giving puberty blockers to prepubescent youth, and ultimately adding hormone therapy and referring children for surgery to remove breasts and remodel genitals (the NHS never covered gender-transition surgery).

The problem was that many youth with gender dysphoria have mental problems or are simply distressed about their sexuality, and that lots of these difficulties resolve themselves without changing gender—often by becoming gay, which involves no drugs or surgery.

It was this rush to judgment and treatment, combined with a spate of pending lawsuits by former patients, that led to Tavistock’s downfall. Its functions will not only be farmed out to other centers, but the whole notion of “affirmative care” is being abandoned in favor of what I see as more sensible approach, which the article below calls “a holistic view of identity development in children and adolescents. Preliminary assessment will include “nonaffirmative” but supportive therapists, and there will be no “rush to hormones”;  puberty blockers (whose long-term effects are still largely unknown)  and hormones like testosterone administered only in clinical trials. The whole National Health Service protocol has been revised, and those who evade it by, say, ordering their own hormones, will not be further supported by the NHS.

These changes, following protocols already implemented in Sweden and Finland, are described in the article below from the Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine (click to read):


Here’s what the article says about why the Tavistock protocols were abandoned.

The reasons for the restructuring of gender services for minors in England are 4-fold. They include (1) a significant and sharp rise in referrals; (2) poorly-understood marked changes in the types of patients referred; (3) scarce and inconclusive evidence to support clinical decision-making, and (4) operational failures of the single gender clinic model, as evidenced by long wait times for initial assessment, and overall concern with the clinical approach.

And a bit about the new program:

The new NHS guidance recognizes social transition as a form of psychosocial intervention and not a neutral act, as it may have significant effects on psychological functioning. The NHS strongly discourages social transition in children, and clarifies that social transition in adolescents should only be pursued in order to alleviate or prevent clinically-significant distress or significant impairment in social functioning, and following an explicit informed consent process. . . 

The new NHS guidelines represent a repudiation of the past decade’s approach to management of gender dysphoric minors.  The “gender-affirming” approach, endorsed by WPATH and characterized by the conceptualization of gender-dysphoric minors as “transgender children” has been replaced with a holistic view of identity development in children and adolescents. In addition, there is a new recognition that many gender-dysphoric adolescents suffer from mental illness and neurocognitive difficulties, which make it hard to predict the course of their gender identity development.

“Social transition” comprises the acts of medical professionals facing children with gender with gender dysphoria and helping them change gender with puberty blockers and hormones.

There are ten highlights (i.e., changes from the Tavistock protocols) in the NHS’s new system. They’re described in the article, and I’ll put them below with one or two aspects of each intervention (there are more in the article). All extracts from the article are indented; my own comments are flush left.

1. Eliminates the “gender clinic” model of care and does away with “affirmation”

  • “Affirmation” has been largely eliminated from the language and the approach. What remains is the guidance to ensure that “assessments should be respectful of the experience of the child or young person and be developmentally informed.”

  • Medical transition services will only be available through a centralized specialty Service, established for higher-risk cases. However, not all referred cases to the Service will be accepted, and not all accepted cases will be cleared for medical transition.

2. Classifies social gender transition as an active intervention eligible for informed consent

  • The NHS is strongly discouraging social gender transition in prepubertal children.

They outline the criteria needed to address gender transition, which include “persistent and consistent gender dysphoria” and “a clear and full understanding of the implications of social transition.”

3. Establishes psychotherapy and psychoeducation as the first and primary line of treatment

  • All gender dysphoric youth will first be treated with developmentally-informed psychotherapy and psychoeducation by their local treatment teams.

This is one of the main ways the Tavistock model failed: it didn’t use therapists who would assess the patient objectively rather than push them into changing genders.

4. Sharply curbs medical interventions and confines puberty blockers to research-only settings

  • The NHS guidance states that the risks of puberty blockers are unknown and that they can only be administered in formal research settings. The eligibility for research settings is yet to be articulated.

  • The NHS guidance leaves open that similar limitations will be imposed on cross-sex hormones due to uncertainty surrounding their use, but makes no immediate statements about restriction in cross-sex hormones use outside of formal research protocols.

This is an important change because the long-term effects of puberty blockers, especially used in combination with hormones like estrogen or testosterone, are not known.

5. Establishes new research protocols

  • All children and young people being considered for hormone treatment will be prospectively enrolled into a research study.

  • The goal of the research study to learn more about the effects of hormonal interventions, and to make a major international contribution of the evidence based in this area of medicine.

These studies will be continued into adulthood, as they should be. It’s important to know whether there are delayed injurious effects of hormones, as well as psychological “desisting”, or regret for changing gender.

6. Reinstates the importance of “biological sex”

  • The NHS guidance defines “gender incongruence” as a misalignment between the individual’s experience of their gender identity and their biological sex.

This change and the others implicitly assume that there is such a thing as biological sex and that it’s not a social construct. They don’t say there are only two biological sexes, but I think that’s assumed.

7. Reaffirms the preeminence of the DSM-5 diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” for treatment decisions

  • The NHS guidance differentiates between the ICD-11 diagnosis of “gender incongruence,” which is not necessarily associated with distress, and the DSM-5 diagnosis of “gender dysphoria,” which is characterized by significant distress and/or functional impairments related to “gender incongruence.”

The DSM-5 is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition—the latest set of criteria used to diagnose mental illness. The addition of distress is important because without distress the panoply of treatments outlined for gender dysphoria aren’t used.

This is one of the most important changes, advocating a variety of expertise brought to bear on gender dysphoria, none of it dedicated to affirming the patient’s wishes:

8. Clarifies the meaning of “multidisciplinary teams” as consisting of a wide range of clinicians with relevant expertise, rather than only “gender dysphoria” specialists

  • The NHS guidance clarifies that a true multidisciplinary team is comprised not only of “gender dysphoria specialists,” but also of experts in pediatrics, autism, neurodisability and mental health, to enable holistic support and appropriate care for gender dysphoric youth.

  • Such multidisciplinary teams will be the hallmark of the new Service, into which challenging and risky cases may be referred. In addition to specific expertise in gender identity development and incongruence, the clinical leadership teams of the newly-established Service will include strong, “consultant level” expertise in a wide range of relevant areas:

    • neurodevelopmental disorders such as autistic spectrum conditions

    • mental health disorders including depressive conditions, anxiety and trauma

    • endocrine conditions including disorders of sexual development pharmacology in the context of gender dysphoria

    • risky behaviors such as deliberate self-harm and substance use

    • complex family contexts including adoptions and guardianships

9. Establishes primary outcome measures of “distress” and “social functioning”

  • The rationale for medical interventions for gender-dysphoric minors has been a moving target, ranging from resolution of gender dysphoria to treatment satisfaction.  The NHS has articulated two main outcome measures of treatment: clinically significant distress and social functioning.

These criteria are used for specifying treatment for other illnesses like depression.

10. Asserts that those who choose to bypass the newly-established protocol will not be supported by the NHS

  • Families and youth planning to obtain hormones directly from online or another external non-NHS source will be strongly advised about the risks.

The NHS will not support further treatment of those who obtain and take hormones outside of the NHS’s protocols.

Can anybody argue that these are not more sensible protocols than the ones used previously? Since most gender dysphoric children turn out to be either cis or gay if not given hormones and surgery, shouldn’t one take these kinds of precautions before injecting or cutting such people?

The premise, of course, is that many children who are dysphoric don’t need “affirmation” (especially if there’s social pressure to change their gender), but compassionate therapy to see how serious their problem is and how strongly they wish to change identity. If you can’t vote until you’re 18, why should you be able to start changing your hormones and body parts before then?  18 is just a subjective age, of course, but the protocol is based on not immediately accepting the views of children—or their parents, who can pressure kids destined to be gay into seeing themselves as transsexuals—that they’re in the wrong body. You don’t just affirm that right off the bat, but ascertain it with intensive therapy.

Of course there will be many objections to these protocols by trans activists who are of the “affirmative care” stripe, but I think that in twenty years we’ll look back on the present as a time when many children were harmed by improper medical and psychological care. That’s the basis of the more than 1,000 lawsuits likely to be filed against Tavistock.

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

October 25, 2022 • 6:30 am

Welcome to The Cruelest Day: Tuesday, October 25, 2022: National Greasy Food Day. For the best food in this genre, I would recommend, as did Anthony Bourdain, In-N-Out Burger:

It’s also Sourest Day, celebrating sour candy, World Pasta Day (didn’t we just have that?), World Pizza Makers Day, and International Artist Day.

Readers are invited to comment on notable events, births, and deaths on this day by consulting the October 25 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Well, as predicted, Rishi Sunak, formerly Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, will become the country’s Prime Minister today.

“There is no doubt we face profound economic challenges,’’ Mr. Sunak said in a brief appearance Monday afternoon. “We now need stability and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring my party and country together.”

The BBC reported that Mr. Sunak would become prime minister on Tuesday morning after meeting with King Charles III.

Here’s what to know about Mr. Sunak’s victory:

  • It puts him in the pathbreaking category of Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister, and Benjamin Disraeli, its only Jewish prime minister. But it also puts him in office at an acutely difficult moment.

  • Britain is suffering the global scourge of inflation, as well as the self-inflicted damage of Ms. Truss, whose free-market economic agenda, featuring sweeping tax cuts, upended markets and sent the pound into a tailspin.

  • Mr. Sunak still faces steep hurdles in trying to unify a demoralized and divided Conservative Party. Boris Johnson’s aborted bid and Penny Mordaunt’s unsuccessful challenge will leave many members angry. Some continue to view Mr. Sunak as his former boss’s political assassin.

  • The Conservatives lag behind the opposition Labour Party by more than 30 percentage points in polls. Calls for a general election have started and are likely to intensify as the new prime minister embarks on a belt-tightening economic program during a cost-of-living crisis.

Whatever he is Sunak is a damn sight better than Boris and Liz, at least looking forward. As reader Christopher noted, although Sunak is a “pathbreaker” in being the first PM of Indian ancestry, that’s not a big deal in the UK.

This is different from what it would be in the U.S., where the first President of color, Barak Obama, drove the media headlines wild. As Christopher emailed me:

I rather think it worth while to call out to the world at large that the UK has its first coloured/non-white/brown/BIPOC prime minister AND NO ONE CARES!I don’t live there any more, and maybe I am not the best person to comment, but it strikes me as interesting, at least, that this has happened. There seems to be no sense of violation by having a non-white in that exalted position, but rather relief, as Brits have become accustomed to seeing Indians as ultra-competent and not really foreigners as they shared in the experience of the Raj.

*And Sunak’s bloody rich, too!  Twice as rich as Queen Elizabeth was. As the Washington Post reports:

This may be the first time in history that the residents of Downing Street are richer than those of Buckingham Palace.

Brits are used to being ruled by elites — Boris Johnson was about as elite as they come — but Sunak is not just rich, he is super rich, which has prompted some to ask whether his vast fortune makes him too rich to be prime minister?

His backers, however, say it is precisely his background as chancellor and the years spent making money that qualify him to lead a deeply damaged nation during these economically tumultuous times.

Sunak, a former banker, and his wife, Indian tech heiress Akshata Murty, have an estimated fortune of about 730 million pounds ($830 million), according to the Sunday Times Rich List. On this year’s list, published before her death, Queen Elizabeth II was estimated to have about 370 million pounds ($420 million) by comparison.

The couple’s money comes primarily from Murty’s stake in her father’s company, Infosys. She also owns start-up incubator Catamaran Ventures UK and has shares in a half dozen or so other companies. The couple have at least three homes in Britain, as well as a Santa Monica, Calif., property valued at around $6 million.

According to the Guardian, the Sunak family — they have two daughters, Krishna and Anoushka — spend the week in their five-bedroom house in west London and weekends in North Yorkshire at a Georgian manor house. The paper said it has been “transformed into something of a wellness retreat with an indoor swimming pool, gym, yoga studio, hot tub and tennis court.”

I didn’t read the link above, but I can’t imagine that he’d be too rich to be Prime Minister. Why would he? Do Brits need to elect a working-class git to ensure that the PM’s “lived experience” makes him especially competent to govern?

*Remember the 2000 Presidential election, when George W. Bush defeated Al Gore even though Gore won the popular vote? The electoral vote was decided by the Supreme Court, which stopped the vote recount in Florida, giving Bush the top job.  Florida’s long been a swing state, but now it’s swinging towards Republicans, or so reports the Associated Press:

Democrats are increasingly concerned that Florida, once the nation’s premier swing state, may slip away this fall and beyond as emboldened Republicans capitalize on divisive cultural issues and population shifts in crucial contests for governor and the U.S. Senate.

The anxiety was apparent last week during a golf cart parade of Democrats featuring Senate candidate Val Demings at The Villages, a retirement community just north of the Interstate 4 corridor. It was once a politically mixed part of the state where elections were often decided but now some Democrats now say they feel increasingly isolated.

“I am terrified,” said 77-year-old Sue Sullivan, lamenting the state’s rightward shift. “There are very few Democrats around here.”

In an interview, Demings, a congresswoman and former Orlando police chief challenging Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, conceded that her party’s midterm message isn’t resonating as she had hoped.

“We have to do a better job of telling our stories and clearly demonstrating who’s truly on the side of people who have to go to work every day,” she said.

The frustration is the culmination of nearly a decade of Republican inroads in Florida, where candidates have honed deeply conservative social and economic messages to build something of a coalition that includes rural voters and Latinos, particularly Cuban Americans. Donald Trump’s win here in 2016 signaled the evolution after the state twice backed Barack Obama. And while he lost the White House in 2020, Trump carried Florida by more than 3 percentage points, a remarkable margin in a state where elections were regularly decided by less than a percentage point.

As my people in Florida would say, “Oy gewalt!”

*In 2005, when nominee Samuel Alito was trying to reassure Senators that he was qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, he reassured the late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy that he (Alito) heartily supported the decision in Roe v. Wade. That, of course, was a lie. But it turns out that he admitted he had lied before, when he was looking for a promotion during the Reagan Administration.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy looked skeptically at the federal judge. It was Nov. 15, 2005, and Samuel A. Alito Jr., who was seeking Senate confirmation for his nomination to the Supreme Court, had just assured Mr. Kennedy in a meeting in his Senate office that he respected the legal precedent of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court decision that legalized abortion.

“I am a believer in precedents,” Judge Alito said, in a recollection the senator recorded and had transcribed in his diary. “People would find I adhere to that.”

In the same conversation, the judge edged further in his assurances on Roe than he did in public. “I recognize there is a right to privacy,” he said, referring to the constitutional foundation of the decision. “I think it’s settled.”

But Mr. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat and longtime supporter of abortion rights, remained dubious that November day that he could trust the conservative judge not to overturn the ruling. He brought up a memo that Judge Alito had written as a lawyer in the Reagan administration Justice Department in 1985, which boasted of his opposition to Roe.

Judge Alito assured Mr. Kennedy that he should not put much stock in the memo. He had been seeking a promotion and wrote what he thought his bosses wanted to hear. “I was a younger person,” Judge Alito said. “I’ve matured a lot.”

Well, they all lie when desperately seeking a seat on the nation’s highest court. Even candidates nominated by Democrats lie, and we all know this. But Alito’s lie was particularly egregious, because most candidates would say they “can’t know how they’d vote without hearing the arguments. Well, the NYT says this about Alito:

Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion this past June in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the momentous Supreme Court decision that put aside 50 years of precedent and overturned Roe. Respect for longstanding precedent “does not compel unending adherence to Roe’s abuse of judicial authority,” he wrote. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.”

That’s how he “matured”: learning to lie even better.

*At UnHerd, Andrew Doyle (the creator of Titania McGrath, gives us “The liberal case against pronouns“.  Doyle declares that opposing mandatory or pressured use of pronouns is a liberal and not a conservative position. Why? (h/t Luana)

When you ask someone to declare pronouns, you are doing one of two things. You are either saying that you are having trouble identifying this person’s sex, or you are saying that you believe in the notion of gender identity and expect others to do the same. As a species we are very well attuned to recognising the sex of other people, so, for the most part, to ask for pronouns is an expression of fealty to a fashionable ideology — and to set a test for others to do likewise.

. . . Yet gender identity ideology is simply not a belief system that most people share. I do not identify as male; it’s a biological fact, as mundane as the fact that I’ve got blue eyes or that I’m right-handed. I am not here talking about gender dysphoria — those people who feel as odds with their sex and seek to adapt either through medical procedures or the way in which they present themselves — but rather the notion that we each have an inherent gender that has nothing to do with our bodies. This is akin to a religious conviction, and we would be rightly appalled if employers were to demand that their staff proclaim their faith in Christ the Saviour or Baal the Canaanite god of fertility before each meeting.

. . .It is often forgotten that many transgender people are opposed to pronoun declaration for a number of reasons. It draws needless attention to them when they just want to get on with their lives. It can have the effect of “outing” people against their will, particularly if they are in the early stages of their transition. It creates a false impression that gender identity ideology is the norm even though it is a belief system shared by relatively few. Most importantly, compelled speech is a fundamentally illiberal prospect, one that should always be resisted by all.

It is strange that the objections to pronoun declaration are so often construed as being “reactionary” when they are essentially progressive. Many who believe in liberal values will therefore feel uncomfortable in refusing to state pronouns at work. But until more people are prepared to make their feelings clear on this issue, it will continue to be misinterpreted as “a Right-wing talking-point”.

A refusal to participate in these rituals need not be antagonistic, and most employers will be happy to hear your reasons. There is always the possibility that you could be accused of transphobia or hate, but this is simply part of the coercive strategy. For all the awkward conversations that might arise, there is nothing Right-wing about standing up to ideologues who insist on imposing their values onto everyone else.

Well, I’m happy to call someone whatever pronoun they tell me they want me to use, but I will never state my own pronouns, as they’re bloody obvious, and if someone “mis-pronouns” me, well, I won’t be offended.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is making fun of people who look up stuff on the Internet:

Hili: Tits are starting to peck the winter apples.
A: And what does that mean?
Hili: I don’t know, you have to check it on the Internet.
In Polish:
Hili: Sikorki zaczynają dziobać zimowe jabłka.
Ja: A co to znaczy?
Hili: Nie wiem, musisz sprawdzić w Internecie.
And a blurry photo of Szaron in the tree:


From Facebook:

From Now That’s Wild: (you can see a video of the owl flying with the stick horse here)

Posted by Seth Andrews:

I’m not quite sure what God means here. . . .

From Masih. The attacks on Iranian schoolgirls continue:

From Simon we get a groaner:

From Barry, who says, “Poor bird hasn’t figured things out yet.” Indeed!

From Barry, who advises us, “Large snakes don’t make good pets.” The content isn’t very sensitive!

From the Auschwitz memorial: a boy gassed at eight years old.

Tweets from Matthew. I don’t know the answer to this one, but surely there’s a mallard in there. Answers are suggested in the thread, and birders are encouraged to try below (enlarge the photo first).

Another poorly-drawn medieval cat. Like many of these travesties, it has a humanlike face.

I suppose this is performance art, but I like it:

Livestream of upcoming academic freedom conference

October 24, 2022 • 1:00 pm

I previously announced and described the meeting on academic freedom on November 4 (Friday) and November 5 (Saturday) at Stanford University, and also gave the schedule of events.  Now, according to the announcement below (click to read), you can livestream it, seeing all the talks (and a panel with PCC[E]) in real time. (They’ll also be archived on YouTube.) Big fun, and the Woke are sharpening their knives and fangs. The site below reprises the schedule and speakers. Be there or be square!


h/t: Edward

Most Americans don’t think race should be an important factor in college admission decisions, but most favor racial diversity as good thing yet back a Supreme Court ruling banning affirmative action

October 24, 2022 • 11:45 am

The other day I summarized a Pew study of what factors Americans thought should be prioritized in making college-admissions decisions.  High-school grades and standardized-test results were by far the most important criteria, with extracurricular activities a ways behind and race or ethnicity far behind, with only 7% of Americans seeing it as a major factor in college admissions, 19% as a minor factor, and 74% as “not a factor”. (Remember, this is how people think things should be, not how they are.) Other factors were more important than ethnicity/race, including being the first in one’s family to go to college, while two were less important (gender and whether a relative attended the school).

This ordering of criteria held for all groups surveyed, including ethnic groups, Republicans and Democrats. The importance of criteria varied, with race/ethnicity—the subject of debates over affirmative action—being rated as a more important criterion for Asians, blacks, and Hispanics than for whites; but in no ethnic group did fewer than 59% of respondents see race/ethnicity as “not important” as a factor.

Today we have a related study from Inside Higher Ed (click on screenshot below), which gives nearly identical results from a different sample (and using different questions). The study was conducted by by The Washington Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. 1,238 adults were surveyed (Pew used 11,687).  The results are given in the headline:

There’s not much text, but the article gives two bar charts.  If we compare the “support Supreme Court ban on affirmative action” data below with data from the Pew study (using “race not important” as the equivalent of “support Supreme Court ban”, we get comparable but not identical results.  The comparison: of all US results, 63% here as compared to 74% in Pew, among whites we get 66% here compared to 79% in the Pew study, among blacks we get 47% here as opposed to 59% in the Pew study, among Hispanics we get 50% here as compared to 68% in the Pew data, and for Asians (plus Pacific Islanders) we get 65% below compared to 63% for Asians from Pew.

In all but one group, support for Supreme Court ban on affirmative action in runs lower than the data for those who don’t think race should be an important factor in admission (Pew)—almost surely because people coul be opposed to seeing their opinions made into law by the Supreme Court. And in fact more than half of blacks oppose a Supreme Court banning of affirmative action.

However, every group polled thinks that programs designed to increase racial diversity of college students are a “good thing”. This is not expected from the data above, in which most groups show support for banning affirmative action. This is somewhat of a paradox because affirmative action is one of the only programs that can increase diversity among college students.

The conclusion: Americans are to some extent confused. Most support the Supreme Court making laws banning affirmative action yet most think diversity is a good thing.  And most don’t think race should be an important factor in admission. Perhaps the conflict here is the coercion imposed by a Court ruling, or perhaps respondents saw other ways to increase the good of racial diversity on campus beyond a Supreme Court ruling. I suppose there are many explanations for this disparity, including simply different samples, or that, in the poll reported here, the respondents the way they thought the pollsters wanted to hear. Readers are welcome to comment.

I think racial diversity is a good thing, but my dilemma has always been that to increase it, one needs to reduce the “meritocratic” standards usually used for admissions.  I’m coming around to the view that affirmative action is tenable but on a socioeconomic rather than a racial basis. That kind of affirmative action will certainly increase racial diversity, but will do so without violating the upcoming Supreme Court decision that will ban race as a criterion for admission. (It’s almost a given that this decision will occur.)

Monday: Hili dialogue

October 24, 2022 • 6:30 am

Greetings on Monday, October 24, 2022, and National Bologna Day. (I prefer “Baloney”). It is tolerable on a sandwich, and can be fried, as it often is in the southern U.S.:

It’s also the start of Diwali, an important Hindu holiday that lasts five days, World Tripe Day, National Good & Plenty Day (a candy I used to eat in the movies as a child), Food Day, International Day of Diplomats, United Nations Day, the anniversary of the 1945 Charter of the United Nations, and World Polio Day.

Remember this Good & Plenty commercial?  If you do, you’re a geezer!


Readers are invited to add in the comments notable events that happened on this day; to do so, look at the October 24 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Da Nooz is not so good this week, unless you’re a Republican. But let’s start with something that seems a bit good. FIRE has forced the University of Minnesota Medical School to stop requiring a ludicrous ideological “white coat” pledge seen in the tweet-video below (I wrote about it here; FIRE writes about it here). But they didn’t do away with that batty pledge: no, the University only assured FIRE that no student would be punished for refusing to say it. I doubt, though, that they were punished before.  From FIRE’s report:

Thankfully, the senior associate general counsel at UMMS assured FIRE that students “who decline to participate in the oath are free to do so without pressure or repercussion.” We’re glad to hear the university clarify that “[f]irst-year medical students are not required to recite the oath or participate in it in any way, and their progress in medical school does not depend on the recitation of the oath.”

But were there “repercussions” before?

*The midterm elections are drawing nigh, and the closer we get, the better the prognostication for the GOP.  Here are some data from Five Thirty Eight, and if you’ve been following along in the past several months, you can see that the probability that the Republicans will win the Senate have increased (though still less than 50 out of 100 simulations), while the House seems more likely than ever to go to the GOP (80 out of 100 simulations).

In a three-minute video on the site addressing this shift, Galen Duke expatiates on”Why Republicans’ odds of controlling Congress have improved.” The answer is, as you expect, “it’s the economy, stupid!” Polling voters revealed that inflation and the economy were by far the most important issues: 44% of voters considered this the most important issue, while all other issues (including abortion) were in the single digits. The Republican party is viewed by American voters as being more “reliable” on the economy—by a long shot.

And the Master himself, Nate Silver, wrote a piece called “Why I’m telling my friends that the Senate is a toss-up.

But let’s get real. If a friend asked me to characterize the Senate race, I’d say “it’s pretty fucking close,” and emphasize that neither party has much of an advantage. Here’s why.

For one thing, as of Thursday afternoon, Republicans realized a slight lead (of 0.1 percentage points) in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot average for the first time since Aug. 2.

Obviously, a lead of a tenth of a percentage point isn’t much. The advantage may have flipped back by the time that you’re reading this. But the tied generic ballot overstates the case for Democrats. That’s because our polling average takes generic ballot polls as they come, which are a combination of polls of likely voters, registered voters and all adults. Our model, however, takes an additional step and adjusts polls of registered voters and adults to make them more similar to polls of likely voters, which this year have been more favorable to Republicans. So a tie on the generic ballot among all polls translates to a slight GOP lead with the likely voter adjustment.

. . . But the main reason why I think of the race for control of the Senate as a toss-up — rather than slightly favoring Democrats — is because there’s been steady movement toward the GOP in our model over the past few weeks. In principle, past movement shouldn’t predict future movement in our forecast and it should instead resemble a random walk. (We put a lot of effort in our modeling into trying to minimize autocorrelation.) This year, though, the forecast has moved in a predictable-seeming way, with a long, slow and steady climb toward Democrats over the summer, and now a consistent shift back toward Republicans.

. . . But the bottom line is this: If you’d asked me a month ago — or really even a week ago — which party’s position I’d rather be in, I would have said the Democrats. Now, I honestly don’t know.

*I suppose this is good news for Brits, though I really know nothing about Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer who’s the overwhelmingly favored candidate to succeed the ephemeral Liz Truss for Prime Minister now that Boris Johnson’s stated that he’s not having another go at the job.

In a statement, Mr. Johnson said he believed he had a path to victory in the contest to replace Ms. Truss. But he said, “I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do.”

Mr. Johnson said he did not believe he could govern effectively without a unified party in Parliament. Despite what he said were his efforts to reach out to Mr. Sunak and his other rival, Penny Mordaunt, “we have sadly not been able to work out a way to do this.”

Mr. Johnson’s decision ends a feverish couple of days in which he mounted a lively bid to reclaim the job he gave up three months ago amid a cascade of scandals. The former prime minister’s campaign never gained momentum, however, as prominent members of the Conservative Party threw their support to Mr. Sunak as a better option to try to reunite a deeply divided party.

Mr. Sunak, who formally declared his candidacy with a promise to “fix our economy,” had lined up at least 146 votes by late Sunday afternoon, according to a tally by the BBC, more than double the 57 votes pledged to Mr. Johnson.

Sunak is only 42, and previously lost to Truss in a contest for the Tory party leadership. I’m woefully ignorant of British politics, but I’m guessing he’d be the first Prime Minister of Indian ancestry.

*Over at the NYT, conservative columnist Ross Douthat analyzes what he sees as “The three blunders of Joe Biden.” Two of them involve his unexpected adherence to what the “progressive” wing of his party favors, the other one, according to Douthat, a failure to compromise with Republicans.

The first fateful course began, as Matthew Continetti noted recently in The Washington Free Beacon, in the initial days of the administration, when Biden made critical decisions on energy and immigration that his party’s activists demanded: for environmentalists, a moratorium on new oil-and-gas leases on public lands and, for immigration advocates, a partial rollback of key Trump administration border policies.

What followed, in both arenas, was a crisis: first a surge of migration to the southern border, then the surge in gas prices driven by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

. . .The second key failure also belongs to the administration’s early days. In February 2021, when congressional Democrats were preparing a $1.9 trillion stimulus, a group of Republican senators counteroffered with a roughly $600 billion proposal. Flush with overconfidence, the White House spurned the offer and pushed three times as much money into the economy on a party-line vote.

What followed was what a few dissenting center-left economists, led by Larry Summers, had predicted: the worst acceleration of inflation in decades, almost certainly exacerbated by the sheer scale of the relief bill. Whereas had Biden taken the Republicans up on their proposal or even simply counteroffered and begun negotiations, he could have started his administration off on the bipartisan footing his campaign had promised while‌ hedging against the inflationary dangers that ultimately arrived.

. . .The third failure is likewise a failure to hedge and triangulate, but this time on culture rather than economic policy. Part of Biden’s appeal as a candidate was his longstanding record as a social moderate — an old-school, center-left Catholic rather than a zealous progressive.

His presidency has offered multiple opportunities to actually inhabit the moderate persona. On transgender issues, for instance, the increasing qualms of European countries about puberty blockers offered potential cover for Biden to call for greater caution around the use of medical interventions for gender-dysphoric teenagers. Instead, his White House has chosen to effectively deny that any real debate exists, positioning the administration to the left of Sweden.

Then there is the Dobbs decision, whose unpopularity turned abortion into a likely political winner for Democrats — provided, that is, that they could cast themselves as moderates and Republicans as zealots.

Biden could have led that effort, presenting positions he himself held in the past — support for Roe v. Wade but also for late-term restrictions and the Hyde Amendment — as the natural national consensus, against the pro-life absolutism of first-trimester bans. Instead, he’s receded and left Democratic candidates carrying the activist line that absolutely no restrictions are permissible, an unpopular position perfectly designed to squander the party’s post-Roe advantage.

. . . A strong president, by definition, should be able to pull his party toward the center when politics demands it. So if Biden feels he can’t do that, it suggests that he’s internalized his own weakness and accepted in advance what probably awaits the Democrats next month: defeat.

There would probably be general Democratic defeats regardless of this, of course, because it’s the mid-term elections.

*I’d almost forgotten about the knife attack on Salman Rushdie that happened last August at a New York literary festival. For a long time many of us thought he wouldn’t make it. But he did, and lives on—minus one eye and the use of a hand.

Literary agent Andrew Wylie told the Spanish language newspaper El Pais in an article published Saturday that Rushdie suffered three serious wounds to his neck and 15 more wounds to his chest and torso in the attack that took away sight in an eye and left a hand incapacitated.

. . . Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, has been incarcerated after pleading not guilty to attempted murder and assault in the Aug. 12 attack on Rushdie as he was being introduced at the Chautauqua Institution, a rurally located center 55 miles (89 kilometers) southwest of Buffalo that is known for its summertime lecture series.

fter the attack, Rushdie was treated at a Pennsylvania hospital, where he was briefly put on a ventilator to recover from what Wylie told El Pais was a “brutal attack” that cut nerves to one arm.

 . .  Wylie told the newspaper he could not say whether Rushdie remained in a hospital or discuss his whereabouts.

“He’s going to live … That’s the important thing,” Wylie said.

. . . The attack was along the lines of what Rushie and his agent have thought was the “principal danger … a random person coming out of nowhere and attacking,” Wylie told El Pais.

In a jailhouse interview with The New York Post, Matar said he disliked Rushdie and praised Khomeini. Iran has denied involvement in the attack.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is on her own:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I delight in solitude.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tu robisz?
Hili: Rozkoszuję się samotnością.
And Szaron having a nosh:


A Leigh Rubin cartoon from Jesus of the Day:

An excellent Scott Metzger cartoon from Merilee:

From the B. Kliban Appreciation Society:

The Tweet of God. I don’t quite understand this one:

From Masih, showing another act prohibited by the Islamic Republic:

wish this were me!

From Gravelinspector: a tweet from the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, who inhabits 10 Downing Street:

From Malcom. Yes, this is the face of an ant, and it would make a good horror movie were it the size of Godzilla:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a family gasse:


Tweets from Matthew: A lovely stag:

Two Cats of Yore held by disgruntled women. There are more in the thread.

No wonder the Ukrainians are holding back the Russians!

What’s the right adjective: “gay” or “queer”? Pamela Paul unpacks David Sedaris

October 23, 2022 • 12:15 pm

I saw this video by writer David Sedaris on Twitter the other day, a video in which he wants to be called “gay” rather than “queer”; instead, he announces, tongue in cheek, that he’s now “heterosexual,” as that word doesn’t change. As he said, “I just don’t see why I have to be re-branded for the fourth time in my life. I started as a ‘homosexual’, became ‘gay’, then ‘LGBT’ and now “queer.”

This is when I learned that “queer” is quickly replacing “gay” as a more “inclusive” term.  I don’t understand that, as I thought, mistakenly, that they were synonyms (but see Pamela Paul’s piece below), but who am I to object to what others want to be called?; I’m a “staight” or “cis” male (or, as some say with snark, a “breeder).  I’m happy with calling people what they want to be called, but Sedaris, as a member of a sexual minority, isn’t all that happy with being called “queer”.  Watch this very short video:

And today’s NYT column by Pamela Paul (click on screenshot to read) explains the change. And that’s when I realized that Sedaris was going to get flak for his words.


First, the increase:

Last month, the new president of the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, Kelley Robinson, posted a six-and-a-half-minute video to introduce herself and frame the mission of her organization, which was founded 40 years ago by the gay activist Steve Endean to help fund political campaigns for pro-gay-rights candidates. In the video, Robinson talked about voting rights. She talked about transgender kids in school. She talked about abortion access and workers’ rights. She said a lot of things, including getting “to a world where we are free and liberated without exception — without exception — without anyone left behind.”

Not once, however, did she say the word “gay” or “lesbian” or “bisexual.”

She’s not the only one. The word “gay” is increasingly being substituted by “queer” or, more broadly, “L.G.B.T.Q.,” which are about gender as much as — and perhaps more so than — sexual orientation. The word “queer” is climbing in frequency and can be used interchangeably with “gay,” which itself not so long ago replaced the dour and faintly judgy “homosexual.

The shift has been especially dramatic in certain influential spheres: academia, cultural institutions and the media, from Teen Vogue to The Hollywood Reporter to this newspaper. Only 10 years ago, for example, “queer” appeared a mere 85 times in The New York Times. As of Friday, it’s been used 632 times in 2022, and the year is not over. In the same periods, use of “gay” has fallen from 2,228 to 1,531 — still more commonly used, but the direction of the evolution is impossible to miss. Meanwhile, the umbrella term “L.G.B.T.Q.” increased from two mentions to 714.

She mentions Sedaris’s video and then analyzes the kerfuffle in her characteristic straight-out style, which I like (she’s one of my favorite NYT columnists):

This raises a question for me, a language obsessive and someone interested in the ways word choices reflect and drive the culture: Why change the word for same-sex orientation? And to echo Sedaris: Who decides these things anyway?

Let’s start with the basic dictionary-sense differences between the words. “Gay” has a clear, specific meaning that applies to both men and women: “homosexual,” which is the first entry in most dictionaries. “Lesbian,” of course, bears the same meaning, but strictly for women.

Paul then digs into her dictionaries and notes that ““gay” and “queer” are not synonymous“, with “queer” having a multitude of meanings, including “odd” or, in this case, “a person whose sexual orientation or gender identity falls outside the heterosexual mainstream or the gender binary.” That, of course, covers a lot of territory, and also tells us why Sedaris doesn’t like being rebranded, because it makes his sexual orientation less specific—in fact, unidentifiable. And perhaps that’s the point of the change: to put everyone who’s not “cis” into one linguistic bag. Paul:

Confused? You should be! “Queer” can mean almost anything, and that’s the point. Queer theory is about deliberately breaking down normative categories around gender and sex, particularly binary ones like men and women, straight and gay. Saying you’re queer could mean you’re gay; it could mean you’re straight; it could mean you’re undecided about your gender or that you prefer not to say. Saying you’re queer could mean as little as having kissed another girl your sophomore year at college. It could mean you valiantly plowed through the prose of Judith Butler in a course on queerness in the Elizabethan theater.

(You have to be really valiant to plow through Judith Butler!)

But Paul’s real argument (I think she’s “straight”, since she’s married to a man) is more serious: she sees “queer” as having, among its many meanings, some that aren’t so cool, while “gay” is unambiguous.

But this is important: Not all gay people see themselves as queer. Many lesbian and gay people define themselves in terms of sexual orientation, not gender. There are gay men, for example, who grew up desperately needing reassurance that they were just as much a boy as any hypermanly heterosexual. They had to push back hard against those who tried to tell them their sexual orientation called their masculinity into question.

“Queer” carries other connotations, not all of them welcome — or welcoming. Whereas homosexuality is a sexual orientation one cannot choose, queerness is something one can, according to James Kirchick, the author of “Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington.” Queerness, he argues, is a fashion and a political statement that not all gay people subscribe to. “Queerness is also self-consciously and purposefully marginal,” he told me. “Whereas the arc of the gay rights movement, and the individual lives of most gay people, has been a struggle against marginality. We want to be welcomed. We want to have equal rights. We want a place in our institutions.”

Many gay people simply prefer the word “gay.” “Gay” has long been a generally positive term. The second definition for “gay” in most dictionaries is something along the lines of “happy,” “lighthearted” and “carefree.” Whereas “queer” has been, first and foremost, a pejorative. For a certain generation, “queer” is still what William F. Buckley, jaw clenching, called Gore Vidal on ABC in 1968 — “Listen, you queer” — before threatening to “sock you in your goddamn face.”

What I hear most often from gay and lesbian friends regarding the word “queer” is something along the lines of what Sedaris pointed out: “Nobody consulted me!” This wasn’t their choice.

Paul’s explanation is—you guessed it—academics (who gave us the odious term “Latinx”), along with the high percentage of Gen Z folks who identify as “LGBT”.  Paul hastens to reassure the reader that people can use any term they want to describe themselves, but some terms are less desirable than others. “Fat,” she argues, is a term that overweight people deeply dislike, along with “obese” and “chubby”. (They prefer terms like “overweight” or “unhealthy weight”.) Why not use the terms that offend people the least, at least in their presence?  And apparently, Sedaris prefers “gay” to “queer”.  As Paul notes,

Language is always changing — but it shouldn’t become inflexible, especially when new terminologies, in the name of inclusion, sometimes wind up making others feel excluded. In the case of “queer,” it’s especially worrisome and not only because it supersedes widely accepted and understood terms but also because the gay rights movement’s successes have historically hinged on efforts at inclusion.

Gay people, lesbians and bisexuals fought for a long time to be open and clear about who they are. That’s why they call it pride.

Well, I have no dog in this fight, either, and am happy to call people what they want to be called. I think that when someone tells you they’re gay, that’s the word you should use. Same with “queer”.  But will we now have to resort to asking people not only their pronouns, but how to describe their sexual orientation? (Actually, I think the person will nearly always tell you themselves without your asking.)

And, as I predicted to myself when I read Paul’s column, Sedaris is being roundly trounced by the Pecksniffs. Take a look at this article in Jezebel, for instance, which goes to great lengths to find flaws in Sedaris’s “argument”, comparing him to an old man yelling at a cloud. And there’s the Language Police at Advocate, saying that there’s simply so much to “unpack” in Sedaris’s claim, much of it offensive. And Queerty documents the social-media “firestorm” around Sedaris’s claim.

So be it. I saw Sedaris’s piece as a bit of humor, with a tiny grain of seriousness. After all, he’s certainly not a member of the class using the word he prefers: “heterosexual”!  But there’s no humor in the Woke Language Police. One could update the old cartoon, now showing a customer in a bookstore (who wants a funny book) being told by a clerk, “Sorry, sir, this is a Progressive bookstore. We have no humor section.”

Just remember—watch your adjectives. Don’t call a person who says they’re gay “queer”. Or vice versa.

Advocates of Mātauranga Māori request over $100 million dollars, part of which may be for woo

October 23, 2022 • 10:03 am

Below is the entirety of an article from the New Zealand Herald, and is relevant to our continuing discussion of Mātauranga Māori (MM), the Māori “way of knowing,” a mixture of practical knowledge (often acquired by trial and error), legend, word of mouth, ideology, theology, morality, and spiritualism. My beef is the continuing demand that the government make MM taught as coequal with modern science in secondary-school and college science classes. It’s not a valid claim, because MM involves far more than what we know of as “science”. But by all means it should be taught as part of the nation’s sociological and anthropological heritage, as it’s the belief system of the first people to settle on the island. But it shouldn’t be taught like it’s the same thing as, or as a complement to, modern science.

Now we hear that Māori advocates of MM are asking for $100 million bucks to use their belief system to combat rising sea levels (note: that’s about $60 million U.S. dollars, but still an immense amount of dosh).

Click on the screenshot to read the brief article:

And here’s the entire text. Note that this appears in New Zealand’s most widely circulated newspaper, but the piece is heavily larded with Māori language, almost none of which can be understood by the average non-Māori resident (this is likely a form of what I call “valorization of the oppressed”, since Māori constitute about 16% of the population, almost equal to the percentage of Asian residents.) At any rate, read on. (my emphasis below)

A contingent of Māori conservation leaders headed to COP27 next month in Egypt is calling for more than $100 million to fund Māori and Pacific initiatives to combat rising sea levels.

COP27 is the latest Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Conservation International NZ vice-president Mere Takoko will host the Māori delegation and says mātauranga Māori about the significance of tohorā to the protection of the climate is high on the agenda.

“Ko Hinemoana te koka atua o te au moana me nga tai. Kei a ia te orangatonutanga o tatou te iwi maori me nga iwi taketake o Hawaiki.”(Hinemoana is one of our sea goddesses. Our oceans are everything as Māori and as people of Hawaiki. Without her we are nothing.)

Te Pāti Māori co-leader, Rawiri Waititi, who hails from the Tai Rāwhiti iwi of Te Whānau a Apanui and Ngāti Porou, who have long-standing traditions involving many species of whales, agrees mātauranga Māori and indigenous knowledge need to be supported.

Blue carbon solution

“Ko te mate kē, kāore te Pākehā e mōhio he aha te take ka tae te tohorā ki uta. Kei a tātou ērā kōrero kua hoki te tohorā ki te kōrero ki ōna tuakana, ki ngā rākau i ōna haerenga katoa i te ao. Me waiho mā te mātauranga Māori me pehea te tiaki i te tohorā. (Pākehā don’t know why whales beach themselves but we do. They come to talk to their peers and to tell of their travels. We know about this, we know how to look after whales.)

“It is very new. We’re looking at all sorts of options. We’re looking at the potential of biodiversity credits and ocean credits.”

Supports funding call

Blue carbon is the carbon dioxide stored in the world’s oceans. It can also describe coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass meadows and salt marshes.

Overseas research shows these ecosystems can store up to four times more carbon than forests on land can on a per-area basis.

Green Party MP and spokesperson for the Oceans Teanau Tuiono is supportive of Conservation International NZ’s call for increased funding.

“Pai ki a au te whakaaro ki a whai huruhuru te manu kia rere, kia whai rauemi ngā Māori ki te tiaki o rātou whenua, te wao, te maunga, te awa, te moana. Ki te haere mai tētahi rōpū ki te āwhina tērā manako, e tautoko ana.”(I support the notion that there needs to be more funding to support Māori protect their whenua, forests, mountains, rivers and moana. If it means another group coming in to help do that, I’m supportive of that.)

COP 27 will be hosted by the Egypt government at Sharm El Sheik from November 6. Climate Change Minister James Shaw will represent the New Zealand Government.

Note the references to sea goddesses, and especially the claim that Pākehā (New Zealanders of European descent) don’t know why whales beach themselves but the Māori do. It’s so the cetaceans can talk to their peers! But why can’t they talk in the water?

And it is that kind of risible claim that should make funders look on the request for $100 million with a cold eye.  What claim do Māori conservationists, as opposed to any other conservationists, have on this fixed sum of money? It seems to me that if proposals are made to combat this very real problem, they should be funded based on merit and likely efficacy, regardless of the ethnicity of who’s asking. Clearly there needs to be substantial funding to prevent this result of global warming, but one should be wary about taking ethnicity into account when judging who gets the money, especially if they give a bogus reason why whales beach themselves and denigrate the knowledge science has in the process.

And of course that kind of “knowledge” isn’t really knowledge at all: that’s why it shouldn’t be taught in science classes.  As ex-pastor Mike Aus (now a non-believer, said—and this is part of his quote at the head of chapter 4 of Faith versus Fact,

“There are not different ways of knowing. There is knowing and not knowing, and those are the only two options in this world.”

Well, we know some reasons why whales beach themselves, but it’s not to have a chinwag on the sand with their mates.

Saturday: Hili dialogue

October 22, 2022 • 6:30 am

Welcome to cat shabbos: Saturday, October 22, 2022: National Nut Day, celebrating our last President. It’s also Eat a Pretzel Day, Wombat Day, INTERNATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY, and International Stuttering Awareness Day.

Speaking of stuttering,  you may remember the excellent movie “The King’s Speech“, dealing with the stuttering of George VI, who unexpectedly became King when his brother abdicated. The new King, severely afflicted with a stutter since age five, had to put the kibosh on his ailment so that he could address his nation without embarrassment. The movie nabbed 12 Oscar nominations, and won Best Picture and Best Actor for Colin Firth’s portrayal of George VI.  Here’s an absorbing segment from 60 Minutes on the movie and on the real King himself, with original footage of George VI stuttering and recently discovered letters between the King and his speech therapist. The genesis of the book that gave rise to the movie is fascinating. I highly recommend that you watch this 14½-minute piece:

Readers are invited to add in the comments notable events that happened on this day; to do so, look at the October 22 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*The Washington Post revealed that some of the “classified” papers retrieved in the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago were really classifiedand had some sensitive stuff in them.

Some of the classified documents recovered by the FBI from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and private club included highly sensitive intelligence regarding Iran and China, according to people familiar with the matter. If shared with others, the people said, such information could expose intelligence-gathering methods that the United States wants to keep hidden from the world.

At least one of the documents seized by the FBI describes Iran’s missile program, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation. Other documents described highly sensitive intelligence work aimed at China, they said.

Unauthorized disclosures of specific information in the documents would pose multiple risks, experts say. People aiding U.S. intelligence efforts could be endangered, and collection methods could be compromised. In addition, other countries or U.S. adversaries could retaliate against the United States for actions it has taken in secret.

The classified documents about Iran and China are considered among the most sensitive the FBI has recovered to date in its investigation of Trump and his aides for possible mishandling of classified information, obstruction and destruction of government records, the people said.

These documents could inform foreign governments about our methods of collecting top secret information, and their removal from the White House might constitute a violation of the Espionage Act. Remember that these papers are in the hands of the Justice Department and are not part of the group of documents being reviewed by the “Special Master”. That means they could be used in a criminal investigation, which is clearly going on, and perhaps (one can hope) in an indictment.

*Speaking of the Trumpster, yesterday the man was handed a subpoena by the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection.

The nine-member panel issued a letter to Trump’s lawyers saying he must testify, either at the Capitol or by videoconference, “beginning on or about” Nov. 14 and continuing for multiple days if necessary. The letter also outlined a request for a series of corresponding documents, including personal communications between Trump and members of Congress as well as extremist groups.

“We recognize that a subpoena to a former president is a significant and historic action,” Chairman Bennie Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney wrote in the letter to Trump. “We do not take this action lightly.”

The panel rooted its action in history, listing past presidents from John Quincy Adams to Gerald Ford who testified before Congress after leaving office — and noting that even sitting presidents have responded to congressional subpoenas.

It is unclear how Trump and his legal team will respond. He could comply or negotiate with the committee, announce he will defy the subpoena or ignore it altogether. He could also go to court and try to stop it.

Well, Steve Bannon ignored it, and he’s sitting in jail. Somehow the President seems to be above the law. The AP article continues:

If Trump refuses to comply with the subpoena, the panel will have to weigh the practical and political implications of holding him in contempt of Congress.

“That’s a bridge we cross if we have to get there,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican member of the committee, told ABC on Sunday. “He’s made it clear he has nothing to hide, is what he says. So, he should come in.”

If the full House voted to recommend a contempt charge against Trump, the Justice Department would then review the case and decide any further step.

Other witnesses have faced legal consequences for defying the committee, including close Trump ally Steve Bannon, who was convicted of contempt in July and was sentenced Friday to four months behind bars. But holding a former president in contempt would be another matter, truly exceptional.

HOWEVER, all Trump has to do is stall until January 3, when the current Congress dissolves, and he’s home free. That of course means there’s no chance we’ll see him testify.

*Yay! Nellie Bowles is back from maternity leave and has resumed her Friday news summary on Bari Weiss’s site. This week’s is called “TGIF: I’m back baby!” And has Bowles inimitable snarky take on the news. Here are a couple of items:

→ You’d be happy about the economy if you didn’t have kids: When an MSNBC News host suggested voters care more about economic issues than about abortion rights, Georgia governor candidate Stacey Abrams argued the two are entwined. Thread, meet needle.

“Let’s be clear: Having children is why you’re worried about (the) price for gas. It’s why you’re worried about how much food costs. For women this is not a reductive issue, you can’t divorce being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy from the economic realities of having a child.”

So, single, childless people care less about the price of gas? Abortions would make people more relaxed about inflation? My single friends are the ones buying those expensive plane tickets, complaining about hotel costs. I’m at home making frozen potstickers.

→ Trump is still the head of the Republican party: For anyone hoping the calm, buttoned-up Florida Governor Ron DeSantis takes over as the more civilized head of the Republican party, it’s not looking likely. At least not without Donald Trump’s gracious exit and selfless blessing. And if there’s one thing we all know Trump is great at, it’s gracious, selfless acts.

A new poll shows 47% of likely GOP voters would vote Trump if the election were held today, while only 28% would vote DeSantis. To get a sense of the internal conservative dynamics of this, watch Megyn Kelly break it down to Dave Rubin, who looks pretty sad about it. As Kelly bluntly says: “The only way DeSantis is going to become the Republican nominee is if Trump chooses not to run and endorses him or dies.”

We are all doomed to have Biden versus Trump for a thousand years. When they’re 500-year-old mummies, they will still run against each other. Candidates who are mummies or, otherly-living persons, are no less capable than you or me. To suggest otherwise is frankly ableist. Speaking of . . .

→ Spilled milk (and soup) for the climate: Eco-protesters this week did a few interesting actions to make people hate eco-protesters, mostly involving gluing themselves to things. First, they threw soup at an iconic Van Gogh painting of sunflowers and glued their hands to the wall. Then, they went into a grocery store and did what I guess is called “a milk pour,” just dumping milk jug after milk jug into the aisle to protest milk-drinking. The protestors are actually pretty articulate and compelling (watch one of the van Gogh girls explain herself here). They’re also funny. After a group this week glued themselves to the floor of a VW facility, they got upset that VW wouldn’t help them out, writing: “VW told us that they supported our right to protest, but they refused our request to provide us with a bowl to urinate and defecate in a decent manner while we are glued, and have turned off the heating.”

This was all in Europe. When climate activists blocked a highway in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, it went, well, a little differently.

“Move before I pull my gun out,” said one woman. “Test me, fucking test me.” .

*The Bad Nooz: Here’s a tweet that could be called “The Worst Angels of our Nature.” It links to a Substack article by David Rozado (h//t Reese).

An excerpt from Rosado’s analysis:

I have recently published a paper where we describe a chronological (2000–2019) analysis of sentiment and emotion in 23 million headlines from 47 news media outlets popular in the United States. We used Transformer language models fine-tuned for detection of sentiment (positive, negative) and emotions (anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, neutral) to automatically label the headlines.

Results show an increase of sentiment negativity in headlines across written news media since the year 2000.

The solid blue line shows the average yearly sentiment of headlines across 47 popular news media outlets. Shaded area indicates the 95% confidence interval around the mean. A statistical test for the null hypothesis of zero slope is shown on the bottom left of the plot. The percentage change on average yearly sentiment across outlets between 2000 and 2019 is shown on the top left.

Headlines from right-leaning news media have been, on average, consistently more negative than headlines from left-leaning outlets over the entire studied time period.

I knew the world was going to hell . .

*First, Republicans were ahead. Then, after the Dobbs decision, everyone said that abortion would break the GOP’s back. But now David Brooks explains “Why republicans are surging“. He says more than just, “It’s the economy, stupid!”:

It’s hard to win consistently if voters don’t trust you on the top issue. In a recent AP-NORC poll, voters trust Republicans to do a better job handling the economy, by 39 percent to 29 percent. Over the past two years, Democrats have tried to build a compelling economic platform by making massive federal investments in technology, infrastructure and child welfare. But those policies do not seem to be moving voters.

Democrats have a crime problem. More than three-quarters of voters say that violent crime is a major problem in the United States, according to a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll. Back in the 1990s, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden worked hard to give the Democrats credibility on this issue. Many Democrats have walked away from policies the party embraced then, often for good reasons. But they need to find another set of policies that will make the streets safer.

Democrats have not won back Hispanics. In 2016, Donald Trump won 28 percent of the Hispanic vote. In 2020, it was up to 38 percent. This year, as William A. Galston noted in The Wall Street Journal, recent surveys suggest that Republicans will once again win about 34 to 38 percent of the Hispanic vote.

It’s hard to win consistently if voters don’t trust you on the top issue. In a recent AP-NORC poll, voters trust Republicans to do a better job handling the economy, by 39 percent to 29 percent. Over the past two years, Democrats have tried to build a compelling economic platform by making massive federal investments in technology, infrastructure and child welfare. But those policies do not seem to be moving voters.

The Jan. 6 committee and the warnings about MAGA fascism didn’t change minds. That committee’s work has been morally and legally important. But Trump’s favorability rating is pretty much where it was at the committee’s first public hearing.

The Republicans may just have a clearer narrative. The Trumpified G.O.P. deserves to be a marginalized and disgraced force in American life. But I’ve been watching the campaign speeches by people like Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor in Arizona. G.O.P. candidates are telling a very clear class/culture/status war narrative in which common-sense Americans are being assaulted by elite progressives who let the homeless take over the streets, teach sex ed to 5-year-olds, manufacture fake news, run woke corporations, open the border and refuse to do anything about fentanyl deaths and the sorts of things that affect regular people.

Well, Brooks is a professional pundit. But it’s hard to make a case that the Democrats are surging. . . In my view, nobody is surging but politics is bubbling like the La Brea Tar Pits.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has become an identitarian:

Hili: Identity is important.
A: In what sense?
Hili: It’s good to know whom are you eating.
In Polish:
Hili: Tożsamość jest ważna.Ja: W jakim sensie?Hili: Dobrze jest wiedzieć kogo się zjada.


I found this photo on the Internet and am captioning it “Prince Charles (now the King) imitates Al Franken”:

From Merilee, a Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson (the d*gs will never figure it out, though cats have.

From Jean:

From God, and I can’t say I disagree with Him:

From Masih; a peaceful Iranian protester’s own cellphone recorded her death:

I found this tweet, which apparently shows the recording of the vocals on Sympathy for the Devil:

From Simon, who asks, “Is anybody looking for a short-term sabbatical?”

From Barry. This German news report is hilarious when you hear the English quote. In translation (spoken English in bold) it’s “”whereupon the deputy chief whip left parliament with the words: I’m fucking furious and I don’t fucking care any more. I won’t translate this now, but this a party,…”

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a 12 year old boy gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Matthew. An anagram here:

Remember the movie with this palindrome in it?

Yep, it’s supposed to say “arise”:

Academic freedom meeting at Stanford

October 21, 2022 • 12:30 pm

The Stanford Business School is having an academic freedom conference on Friday, November 4, and Saturday, November 5 at the business school’s Knight Management Center at Stanford. The good news is there are a lot of people whom I want to meet, many of them of the “heterodox” stripe. Some of these people I find sympatico, others I don’t care for at all, but I like the idea of the meeting and want to hear some of these folks. Be aware that some speakers have been extensively canceled or demonized, but I refused to be tarred by going to the same meeting with them, so please refrain from that.

The bad news is that the meeting is by invitation only, and I don’t think those who aren’t speaking, or haven’t been invited, can attend. (I think this is the policy of the Classical Liberalism Initiative, which is sponsoring the conference.) I’ll be speaking as part of one panel.

Click on the screenshot to see the details:

The conference description:

Academic freedom, open inquiry, and freedom of speech are under threat as they have not been for decades. Visibly, academics are “canceled,” fired, or subject to lengthy disciplinary proceedings in response to academic writing or public engagement. Less visibly, funding agencies, university bureaucracies, hiring procedures, promotion committees, professional organizations, and journals censor some kinds of research or demand adherence to political causes. Many parts of universities have become politicized or have turned into ideological monocultures, excluding people, ideas, or kinds of work that challenge their orthodoxy. Younger researchers are afraid to speak and write and don’t investigate promising ideas that they fear will endanger their careers.

The two-day Academic Freedom Conference, arranged by the organizing committee, aims to identify ways to restore academic freedom, open inquiry, and freedom of speech and expression on campus and in the larger culture and restore the open debate required for new knowledge to flourish. The conference will focus on the organizational structures leading to censorship and stifling debate and how to repair them.

A summary of the events, which are sequential rather than concurrent


Talk by Jon Haidt, “Why it has gotten harder to find the truth.”

Panel: “Academic freedom in STEM” with Anna Krylov, Luana Maroja, Mimi St. Johns, and me

Keynote speech: Peter Thiel

Panel: “Academic freedom: practical solutions” with Richard Lowery, Dorian Abbot, John Hasnas, and Peter Arcidiacano

Lunch talk by Lee Jussim: “The radicalization of the academy”

Panel: “Are the humanities liberal?/How to liberate them” with Solveig Gold, Joseph Manson, John Rose

Panel: “The economics of academic freedom” with Niall Ferguson, John Cochrane, and Tyler Cowan

Panel: “The state of higher ed: USA, UK, Canada” with John Ellis, Gad Saad and Eric Kaurmann


Panel: “Academic freedom applications: climate science and biomedical sciences” with Steve Koonin, Bjorn Lomborg, and Jay Bhattacharya

Talk:  “The war on the West”, Douglas Murray

Panel: “Academic freedom: What is it and what is it for?” with Greg Lukianoff, Nadine Strossman and Richard Shweder.   I’m especially looking forward to this one, as Greg is President of FIRE, Nadine Strossen is past President of the ACLU (now a professor at NYU Law School), and Richard Shweder is my colleague at the Law School here.

Lunch talk by Scott Atlas

Talk by Steve Pinker: “An (unnecessary) defense of reason and a (necessary) defense of universities’ role in advancing it.

Panel: “Academic freedom in law and legal education” with Ilya Shapiro, Michael McConnell, an Eugene Volokh

Panel: “The cost of academic dissent” with Joshua Katz, Frances Widowson, Amy Wax, and Elizabeth Weiss

I’ll take notes and report back on stuff of interest when I return. (I’ll be out of town for about nine days, as I’m visiting friends in Davis beforehand; posting will be light during that time.)

In memoriam: Dick Lewontin and Ed Wilson

October 20, 2022 • 11:45 am

The American Naturalist has just published short “in memoriam” pieces for two Harvard professors I knew: Dick Lewontin, population geneticist, evolutionary biologist, and my Ph.D. advisor, and Ed Wilson, naturalist, ant expert, and double Pulitzer winner. I knew and liked both of them, but in the end they thoroughly disliked each other. Curiously, Ed was instrumental in bringing both Dick and me to Harvard, but after the sociobiology battles began, Ed and Dick’s friendship was replaced by animosity. But I’ve written about all this before.

The obituaries are good ones, especially that of Lewontin (it’s the best one for him that I’ve read):

Click on the screenshots to read them; access is free.  I’ll give a brief excerpt from each piece.

Many academics, and perhaps scientists in particular, consider teaching a burden—a diversion from their “real” work. Lewontin loved it. Indeed, he taught more courses than required (the old-fashioned way, with blackboards, chalk, and transparencies), and after retiring he confessed to one of the authors that he regretted the decision because he so missed the experience of teaching. (At the request of a group of graduate students, he did continue to teach gratis a seminar in biostatistics.) He was proud of the many people he had mentored. Historian Michael Dietrich (2021) records how Lewontin deflected enquiries about his own career and contributions, focusing on his mentees: “When, in 1997, I asked him how I should write about his life, he pulled out of his desk a list of every graduate student, postdoc and visitor at his laboratory—more than 100 people—and said I should write about all of them.” Lewontin’s commitment to teaching extended beyond traditional academia; he wrote frequently (and wittily) for magazines of general intellectual interest, such as the New York Review of Books, and he published a number of popular science books (e.g., Lewontin 1982, 1991b, 2000; Rose et al. 1984).

That’s absolutely true. Lewontin was the least self-aggrandizing scientist of high reputation that I ever knew. I wrote my own “in memoriam” piece on this website.

Here’s a photo (taken by Andrew Berry) of Lewontin receiving homage from moi. Cambridge, MA, 2017

Many scientists have marveled that a single person could have managed to find the time to write at least 30 books on such a diversity of subjects in addition to hundreds of research articles, even aside from his other activities. The feat becomes more astounding when one realizes that Wilson never used a word processor; he did all his writing in longhand. The accomplishment remains astounding, but a good part of the explanation is that, beginning in 1965, he had a research assistant, Kathleen Horton, who worked with him until his death and promptly typed all of his writings. She quickly assumed much responsibility for his various projects, including handling virtually all of his correspondence, scheduling, and many of the chores associated with his research activities. Several remembrances noted her importance in Wilson’s work, and Rhodes (2021) provides some details of her life and contributions. Wilson was very aware and appreciative of her lifetime of support, and this account of his scientific contributions would be incomplete without recognizing her.

Indeed, it was Kathy who, guarding Ed’s office, got me in to see him when I showed up at Harvard with my dossier, begging to be admitted. (I was supposed to go to grad school at the University of Chicago, but found out when I returned from my Wanderjahr that Lewontin, formerly at Chicago, was moving to Harvard, and didn’t remember to ask for me to be admitted as his prospective student.) I thus had to get into Harvard on my own, and Ed was instrumental in setting up appointments for me with various faculty, who then voted to admit me after I filled out an application. I could never dislike Ed after that, plus he was always very gracious to me. (I was a t.a. for him twice in Introductory Biology.)

Here’s a photo I took of Ed in 2007 at a lunch during a symposium at Harvard: