German Study: Vast Majority of People Will Grow Out of Transgenderism Within 5 Years (Ben Johnson, 6/16/24, Daily Signal)

A massive, yearslong study shows the overwhelming majority of young people who identify as transgender will grow out of the diagnosis within five years.

A similar supermajority of trans-identifying people suffered from at least one other psychological condition, found researchers, who tracked all children and young adults diagnosed with gender dysphoria over a nine-year period.

It’s ideology, not medicine.


UNIVERSAL DARKNESS: On the definition of film noir. (Stanley Fish, 6/10/24, The Lamp)

Next year I shall be teaching a course in film noir for the first time, and I thought it might be useful to set down my thoughts about the genre. Definitions and lists of characteristics are not hard to come by. Many websites will tell you that film noir movies were shot in sharply contrasting black and white, made liberal use of flashbacks, and flourished between 1940 and 1958 with a number of “neo-noir” films, some in color, appearing even to the present day; that film noir heroes or anti-heroes are cynical, world-weary, bitter, and vulnerable to the seductive wiles of sensual and duplicitous women; that these men and women play out their doomed lives in a landscape of corruption, betrayals, double crosses, and plans gone awry; that everyone and everything in the film noir universe is at the mercy of chance, accident, and a general, even miasmic, malevolence; that these movies were especially appealing in the context of the pessimism generated by World War II and a post-war malaise brilliantly documented in a film that is not noir but has noir touches, William Wyler’s masterpiece The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).

But for my money, this list of noir elements casts too wide a net. As far as I am concerned, it’s not noir unless at its center is a moment when a line is crossed and someone, almost always a man, starts on a path that leads inevitably not only to his own destruction but to the destruction of everyone and everything he touches. It is tempting to speak of this moment as a choice, but it is better characterized as a slide, a slide from what had been a more or less ordinary existence to a toboggan ride down to hell with no hope of a reversal of motion. Edward G. Robinson’s Barton Keyes (Double Indemnity, 1944) puts it best when he says of the lovers-murderers he has not yet fully identified, “It’s not like taking a trolley-ride together where they can get off at different stops. They’re stuck with each other and they’ve got to ride all the way to the end and it’s a one-way trip and the last stop is the cemetery.”

The Hays Code gave us great art.


Electric Flying Taxis Are Quietly Sneaking Up on Us (STEVEN ASHLEY, 6/14/24, Scientific American)

When the electric air taxi revolution arrives, you probably won’t it hear coming. A remarkable feature of an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft is how quietly it flies, scarcely noticeable amid typical city traffic sounds. Unlike a helicopter, there’s no pounding, 90-decibel “thwop, thwop, thwop.” In contrast, eVTOL aircraft use multiple small propellers that spin half as fast as a chopper’s rotor—avoiding the annoying, low-frequency sound pulses created by the big whirling blades.

Electric motors, which are quieter than helicopters’ turbine engines, also help keep any racket to a minimum. “The latest air taxi designs, such as those from leading builders like Joby and Archer, deliver a 20- to 25-decibel reduction in noise levels compared to helicopters,” says Mark Moore, the trailblazing engineer who led the development of NASA’s X-57 Maxwell electric airplane. That means that eVTOLs could be four or five times less noisy to nearby listeners. Beyond offering quieter flights, these new machines should also be significantly safer, greener and cheaper to fly than helicopters. Moore maintains that electric air taxis are uniquely suited for what the aviation industry calls urban air mobility (UAM) services, enabling normally gridlocked travelers to “take advantage of the third dimension to escape the ant trails on the ground.”

More than two dozen major eVTOL builders have been founded in the past decade, and a few are nearing commercial certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration or its European counterpart, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

The future always happens faster than you expect it to.


A Book Club of Two: The Time I Started a James Joyce Reading Group in College (Kristopher Jansma, June 14, 2024, LitHub)

Our professor seemed unsurprised that we weren’t getting into it, even after he gave us a schema that explained the themes and explained that Joyce’s contemporaries had been similarly puzzled, until he’d given them this guide. We settled in with these charts that paralleled the chapters back to Homer’s Odyssey, and perused the maps with the paths of the characters throughout Dublin on the day—June 16th—now known as “Bloomsday” in honor of this wonderful novel. He brought out a big green Gifford annotation and had us read it alongside the original text so that we could see all that was wrapped up inside.

But I couldn’t get into it. An international holiday was nice, I conceded, but what the hell is the point of a 768-page book that even the author’s closest friends needed to read with a cheat key?

it’s a fascistic exercise in an author controlling rather than entertaining his “readers’. (No one has ever actually read it)


The Neo-Brandeisians Are Half Right (Kevin Frazier, 6/13/24, Law & Liberty))

American firms pay upwards of $300 billion a year to comply with the latest rules and regulations. Some firms, though, pay far more than others. The extent of the disparities in compliance costs by the size of the firm requires thinking through how firms actually go about complying with the latest government mandate. More than 90 percent of compliance costs are tied to labor. An accurate assessment of a regulation’s compliance costs, then, should turn on analysis of the labor hours and wages required to toe the new line. Based on that framework, economists estimate firms with around 500 employees incur nearly 50 percent more in compliance costs than smaller firms (fewer than 50 employees), but they also pay almost 20 percent more than large firms (more than 500 employees). By taking a labor-focused approach to analyzing regulations, this disparity might be lessened. This approach should also cause Neo-Brandeisians to pause before rushing ahead with regulations meant to bring down corporate giants that, once implemented, only serve to entrench and expand their bigness.

A more expansive administrative state benefits big businesses that can afford to capture staffers and submit comment after comment in rulemaking processes. A look back at the informal meetings held by EPA staffers from 1994 to 2009 reveals that industry groups were almost always the other attendees—in comparison to public interest outfits, industry groups tallied 170 times more informal communications with the agency. In addition to holding a near monopoly over staffers’ time, industry groups fill up an agency’s record in the rulemaking process by submitting the vast majority of comments during notice and comment periods. When the EPA sought input from the public on an air pollutants rule, industry groups filled the information void—submitting more than 80 percent of the comments received by the agency.

Increased regulation and, consequently, a larger administrative state undermines the democratic ideals that Neo-Brandeisians allegedly seek to advance. Congress alone, per Alexander Hamilton, must “prescribe[] the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated.” Though Congress is far from a perfect institution—it’s the institution the Framers intended to wield legislative power because its members are directly accountable to the people. Administrative agencies, in stark contrast, cannot claim to operate with the elective consent of the people.

What’s the point of encouraging people to vote and lowering barriers to the ballot if the people’s representatives are simply going to hand their legislative powers to unaccountable bureaucrats?


The Rise and Fall of American Integralism (Kevin Vallier, June 13, 2024, The Dispatch)

Liberalism has faced criticism since it emerged in the late 18th century, whether from socialists who thought it downplayed solidarity, fraternity, and equality, or from conservatives who considered it harmful to traditional institutions like the family, the local community, and the Church. But by the end of the 20th century and into the 21st, liberalism had seemingly defeated its opponents. Almost everyone in the West defended liberal institutions. Take the 2012 U.S. presidential election: Mitt Romney was no illiberal right-winger, and Barack Obama was never a socialist. They both were—to different degrees, certainly—liberals.

Things changed in 2016. Suddenly, immigration restrictions and aggressive right-wing approaches to the culture war became influential, if not dominant, in many liberal democracies. Culture trumped economics. In the U.S., questions of identity took over the “national conversation” that health care reform had occupied a few election cycles prior. The political right—now content with a large welfare state and eschewing fiscal discipline—started winning elections.

To comprehend the post-liberal project of the Right one needs to comprehend that the energy behind the Obamacare hysteria was just Identitarian too. After all, the model was the right’s own Heritage plan and Romneycare, while the supposedly small government Tea Party only opposed social welfare for “others”.


Reading dies in complexity: Online news consumers prefer simple writing (HILLARY C. SHULMAN, DAVID M. MARKOWITZ, AND TODD ROGERS, 5 Jun 2024, Science Advances)

Over 30,000 field experiments with The Washington Post and Upworthy showed that readers prefer simpler headlines (e.g., more common words and more readable writing) over more complex ones. A follow-up mechanism experiment showed that readers from the general public paid more attention to, and processed more deeply, the simpler headlines compared to the complex headlines. That is, a signal detection study suggested readers were guided by a simpler-writing heuristic, such that they skipped over relatively complex headlines to focus their attention on the simpler headlines. Notably, a sample of professional writers, including journalists, did not show this pattern, suggesting that those writing the news may read it differently from those consuming it. Simplifying writing can help news outlets compete in the competitive online attention economy, and simple language can make news more approachable to online readers.

Good writers communicate with the readesr, not themselves.


The Puzzle of Roe v. Wade (Mary Zeigler, June 14, 2024, Yale University Press)

This interest in Roe is even more puzzling given the scholarly criticism the decision has received. Almost from the start, commentators across the ideological spectrum have questioned the opinion’s reasoning, which did not draw on constitutional text, history, or other conventional sources of interpretation. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who would become the Supreme Court’s most vocal defender of abortion rights, often argued that Roe went too far too fast and undermined the prochoice movement’s earlier progress. Feminists like Catharine MacKinnon described it as paternalistic and unconvincing. Originalists, starting with Robert Bork, have found it little short of horrifying. It is surprising that we care so much about a decision that is criticized by so many.

The interest is a function of the fact that it was an exercise in power politics, not jurisprudence.


The Iraq War was a Success (Simon Maass, June 13, 2024, Providence)

In terms of its objectives, Operation Iraqi Freedom was a clear success. Saddam Hussein was deposed, tried and executed with ease. “We achieved our goals,” as John Bolton put it. Even so, the Iraq War is usually characterized as the poster child for American failure in foreign affairs, a perception based on questionable assumptions. […]

Eli Lake lists several indicators of Iraq’s progress since the invasion. In the two intervening decades, the country’s GDP ballooned approximately tenfold, while life expectancy, literacy rates, and the prevalence of cell phone plans also increased. According to the World Bank, Iraq’s GDP per capita declined from 2000 to 2003, but rose quite swiftly thereafter – that is, it actually started to grow following the invasion. Currently, it is nearly at an all-time high. The suicide rate remained roughly unchanged by the war, while infant mortality continued to diminish.[…]

As Alan Dowd writes, “it pays to recall that Saddam murdered 600,000 Iraqis.”If one includes deaths incurred during his war of aggression against Iran, that figure is reasonable. Human Rights Watch famously estimated the number of people “disappeared,” then killed, by the Ba’athist regime at “between 250,000 and 290,000 people.” This number was based on just the government’s major sprees of detentions and killings.

David French compares Iraq to neighboring Syria, which also had a Ba’athist dictatorship. That tyranny was not overthrown. When the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East, Syria was plunged into a civil war which has made the country “a charnel house.” We can supplement this point with some numbers. According to the UN, the decade from 2011 to 2021 saw over 350,000 deaths in the Syrian Civil War. Combined with Iraq Body Count’s figure, this implies that, despite having a smaller population, Syria experienced more deaths from falling into civil war than Iraq experienced from an American invasion. This illustrates that the lack of American intervention does not mean many people will not suffer. Furthermore, the Syrian Network for Human Rights currently estimates that “Syrian regime forces and Iranian militias” are responsible for 87% of the war’s civilian casualties. Note also that Syria’s population plummeted after its civil war began, whereas Iraq’s kept rising fairly smoothly after the invasion.

The critics generally prefer dictators keeping their Third World populations quiet to messy democracies.


We’ve never been richer: But we’re still quite cranky about the economy (Matt Phillips, 6/7/24, sherwood News)

The latest quarterly numbers from the Federal Reserve show that the net worth of the U.S. household sector hit a new high of $160.8 trillion in the first quarter, after rising $5.1 trillion during the first three months of the year. Net worth was up 8.8% compared to the first quarter of 2023, handily outpacing 3.5% rise in inflation over that period.

Hard to be the hero of your own story when the living is as easy as it is today. So we pretend times are hard.