Banning the Blockers (Bernard Lane, 25 Mar 2024, Quillette)

Gender clinics from Stockholm to San Francisco, from Florence to Melbourne, have been running an uncontrolled experiment on children, while cloaked in the mantle of human rights and denouncing any critics as hateful bigots. It will take time to understand the implications of this experiment. Even those gender clinicians who sold blockers as safe have generally acknowledged one dangerous side-effect: low bone density. Hormone-suppressed teenagers are unlikely to get full benefit of the surge in bone mass that comes with puberty; as a result, they may be prematurely exposed to the brittle bones and fractures normally seen in the elderly. And there is another lesser known but potentially more profound risk: the effects of blockers on the brain.

The NHS decision to ban blockers rested heavily on a 2022 interim report by paediatrician Hilary Cass, who has led an independent review of gender dysphoria care. In her report, she writes,

It is known that adolescence is a period of significant changes in brain structure, function and connectivity. Animal research suggests that this development is partially driven by the [natural] pubertal sex hormones, but it is unclear whether the same is true in humans. If pubertal sex hormones are essential to these brain maturation processes, this raises a secondary question of whether there is a critical time window for the processes to take place, or whether catch up is possible when [cross-sex] oestrogen or testosterone is introduced later.

This question is not new. In 2006, Dutch clinicians, who had pioneered the off-label use of puberty blockers for gender dysphoria—these drugs had previously been used for other, distinct conditions—stated that, “It is not clear yet how pubertal suppression will influence brain development.”

There was talk of a study to elucidate this, but it was never carried out. Despite this, by 2016, a key Dutch clinician was claiming that puberty blockers were “completely reversible.”

And this was the slogan picked up by gender clinics around the world as they adopted the puberty blocker-driven “Dutch protocol” for paediatric gender transition. A crucial unknown had been memory-holed.

Eugenics is science too.


Geothermal is the hottest thing in clean energy. Here’s why (Maria Gallucci, 25 March 2024, Canary Media)

Solar, wind power and battery-storage projects are already cleaning up the U.S. electrical grid. But energy analysts warn that these technologies might not be enough on their own to fully buck America’s reliance on fossil-fuel-burning power plants, which are the second-largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions after transportation. The grid also needs carbon-free electricity available on demand to guarantee it can provide the sort of 24/7 power needed by cities, data centers and industrial facilities like aluminum smelters or steel mills.

At the moment, however, these so-called ​“clean, firm” sources remain elusive. Recent advances in geothermal technologies, demonstrated by a handful of real-world projects, suggest that harnessing the earth’s heat could be among the most promising ways to solve this clean-energy conundrum. But that can only happen if it can overcome the sizable challenges that stand in its way.

“If we can crack the nut on this new-generation geothermal, it means we can put geothermal just about anywhere,” Cindy Taff, CEO of the Houston-based startup Sage Geosystems, said during a March 9 panel at SXSW in Austin, Texas.


WHEN THE DODGERS MOVED TO LOS ANGELES (John Wilson, 3 . 22 . 24, First Things)

I was just about to turn ten at the start of the 1958 baseball season; my brother, Rick, was seven-and-a-half. We were baseball fans, excited that the fabled Dodgers were moving from storied Brooklyn to Los Angeles, about twenty-five miles east from Pomona, where we lived with our mother and grandmother. Little did we know that our primary connection to the Dodgers would be Vin Scully, one of the best broadcasters ever.

Soon I had a “transistor radio” in the shape of a baseball—a birthday gift, one of my most treasured possessions. Rick and I had bunk beds, and we would often listen to the Dodgers there. I began to think that when I grew up, I wanted to be like Vin Scully, calling baseball games. In fact, of course, I was in most respects utterly unsuited for the job (just as, several years later, when I read Len Deighton’s novel The IPCRESS File and decided that I wanted to be a spy, I was ludicrously deluded). But my delight in and admiration for Scully never waned.

When I was older, I would sometimes jot down scraps of Vinnie’s commentary on a 3 x 5 notecard. While calling a home-game between the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres on April 26, 1980, he was reminded of his boyhood in New York, which prompted him to recall the idiom “rush the growler”: to hustle with a tin bucket to a nearby saloon for beer.

During a May 18 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he described the formidable hitter Bill Madlock making “small circles with the bat from the right side.” Noting the Pirates’ lack of a rarely varying set lineup (such as was then usual for championship teams), Vinnie quoted manager Chuck Tanner, “smiling and waving his hands,” who said “I play ’em all.” In the same game, speaking of the Pirates’ pitcher Jim Bibby: “Bibby looks in to Ed Ott, shuffling his cards behind the plate.” A game against the Cincinnati Reds, in Cincy, on August 8, 1980, was being played in “fire-escape weather,” Vinnie said; “you can wring this night out.” Every game elicited such commentary, wonderfully fresh, never pretentious or self-important, never straining for effect, always giving the listener a vivid sense of the moment.

You can listen to a number of Vin Scully game calls on Librivox.


Google DeepMind’s new AI assistant helps elite soccer coaches get even better (Rhiannon Williams, March 19, 2024, MIT Technology Review)

TacticAI uses predictive and generative AI models to convert each corner kick scenario—such as a receiver successfully scoring a goal, or a rival defender intercepting the ball and returning it to their team—into a graph, and the data from each player into a node on the graph, before modeling the interactions between each node. The work was published in Nature Communications today.

Using this data, the model provides recommendations about where to position players during a corner to give them, for example, the best shot at scoring a goal, or the best combination of players to get up front. It can also try to predict the outcomes of a corner, including whether a shot will take place, or which player is most likely to touch the ball first.

The main benefit is that the AI assistant reduces the workload of the coaches, says Ondřej Hubáček, an analyst at the sports data firm Ematiq who specializes in predictive models, and who did not work on the project. “An AI system can go through the data quickly and point out errors a team is making—I think that’s the added value you can get from AI assistants,” he says.

To assess TacticAI’s suggestions, GoogleDeepMind presented them to five football experts: three data scientists, one video analyst, and one coaching assistant, all of whom work at Liverpool FC. Not only did these experts struggle to distinguish’s TacticAI’s suggestions from real game play scenarios, they also favored the system’s strategies over existing tactics 90% of the time.


New report outlines surprising side effects of switching to electric vehicles (Leo CollisMarch 23, 2024, The Cool Down)

A study from the [American Lung Association] examined what the world would look like if all new vehicles sold by 2035 were powered by electricity rather than dirty fuel, and the results were promising.

This notable shift could lead to almost 2.8 million fewer asthma attacks among children and reduce upper and lower respiratory symptoms in kids by 2.67 million and 1.87 million, respectively.

That’s alongside 147,000 fewer acute cases of bronchitis and a reduction in the infant mortality rate by 508 cases.


In Defense of Plagiarism (Alex Tabarrok, March 23, 2024, Marginal Revolution)

If I use AI to help write this post, it’s not fraudulent because the primary purpose of this post is not, as it is with a student essay, to warrant the abilities of the author but rather to convey ideas to the reader. How those ideas came to be expressed in words is secondary and sometimes even irrelevant.

Indeed, using some else’s words and ideas is often how the world progresses.

And we should be preparing students to use AI in their jobs, not perform stunts on papers graded by other AI.


Judaism Is a Religion of the Heart (Shai Held, 3/22/24, WSJ)

We have all heard it a thousand times. Christianity is about love, we are told, but Judaism is about…something else, like law or justice. In a similar vein, we often hear that whereas Christianity cares about how you feel and what you believe, Judaism cares only about what you do. Judaism is a religion of action, we’ve been taught, not emotion; a religion of deeds, of rote rituals, not inwardness.

Centuries of Christian anti-Judaic polemics are not the only source of such distortions and misapprehensions; they are also part of a broader phenomenon in American Jewish life. Perhaps because of anxiety about assimilation, American Jews long ago began to define Judaism as whatever they thought Christianity was not. So because Christianity was about love, Judaism was, well, not about love. […]

The Torah issues three dramatic love commands. We are charged to love our neighbor, a fellow member of the covenant between God and Israel; to love the stranger, someone who lives among us despite not being part of our kin group and who is therefore vulnerable to exploitation; and to love God, who created the world, redeemed us from slavery, and gave us the Torah as an act of love and commitment. Later Jewish sources clarify that we have an additional obligation to love all human beings, who were created in the image of God and who are part of the same single human family as we are.


Why did it take so long to ban puberty blockers? (Patrick West, 22nd March 2024, spiked)

For too long, these drugs were handed out to mentally troubled youths, to confused young gay people caught up in vortices of social contagion and to children pressured into potentially life-ruining decisions by ideologically driven adults.

For this ban, we must thank Lucy Bannerman and Janice Turner of The Times, author Helen Joyce and the many other gender-critical feminists who campaigned tenaciously against the use of puberty blockers. But a troubling question remains: how on Earth was the practice allowed to continue for so long?

An intriguing answer comes from Helen Joyce herself. As she explains in a recent article for the Critic, the trick the radical trans movement played was to persuade people that according blanket rights to trans people was simply the next step in a narrative of liberation. The thinking among many has been that, ever since the Enlightenment, we have been on an emancipatory trajectory in the West. It began with religious toleration, then came the campaign for racial equality, moving on to women’s liberation and then, by the 1960s, gay liberation. With these goals achieved, the next step was surely liberation for the trans community. As Joyce explains: ‘During the past decade, the trans lobby has been stunningly successful in selling false analogies… [such as] that separate toilets for men and women are like racial segregation and that insisting people can change sex is “gay rights 2.0”.’ […]

The recent craze for mutilating children will most likely one day be put in that same category of warped, weird thinking. As will Butler’s belief, that both gender and biological sex are socially constructed.

The ‘Detransition’ Time Bomb (WILFRED REILLY, March 14, 2024, National Review)

More striking than the total numbers involved, to me, was their mappable rate of increase. The summed year-over-year increase rate, during only my five-year window of analysis, was 119.6 percent for the use of puberty blockers and 122.1 percent for hormone use. Conservatively applying the rate for the last year that I have on record to the next two, we would expect prescriptions for puberty-blocking drugs to keep rising to above 2,000 in 2023, and for hormone prescriptions to over 7,000 in 2023, with hundreds more mastectomies for teen girls across the same two years. Our 2017–23 totals would then indicate tens of thousands of minors were given some combination of puberty blockers, human sex hormones, and top surgeries.


Human Dignity and the Politics of Dune : Dune: Part Two contains conservative truths about human nature the fate of political faiths. (Kody W. Cooper, 3/22/24, Law & Liberty)

As the story progresses so does Jessica’s pregnancy, and the audience sees Paul’s fully human sister develop with striking visuals inside the womb, portraying Alia from her embryonic to later stages. At one point on the threat of death, Lady Jessica is forced to ingest a poisonous substance that the Fremen call the “Water of Life,” which sends her into life-threatening convulsions. But the Fremen did not know she was pregnant. When they realize they unwittingly endangered the baby girl, they lament: What have we done!?

Rarely has the silver screen featured such a powerful, if subtle, moral condemnation of chemically-induced abortion. Dune sends a clear message that human life has dignity from the moment of conception.


When It Comes To Fighting Poverty, We Actually Agree On A Lot (Josh Bandoch, 3/22/24, Discourse)

From left-of-center think tanks such as the Brookings Institution, Urban Institute and Progressive Policy Institute, to right-of-center public policy groups such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Alliance for Opportunity, there exists remarkable consensus on how to empower individuals to rise out of poverty and into prosperity.

This consensus centers on seven “macro” solutions to poverty:

1) Empower people through the dignity of work.

2) Prepare individuals for the future of work through education and workforce development. (This issue is widely overlooked in the research on poverty.)

3) Remove barriers to work, especially occupational licensing and burdensome regulations.

4) Ensure the educational system prepares students for careers, particularly in industries that need more workers, through effective workforce development programs such as apprenticeships.

5) Restructure safety net programs to empower people to rise out of poverty, including through rigorous program evaluation.

6) Promote affordable housing, including through zoning reform.

7) Promote family formation and stability, including by making it easier for people to follow the “success sequence” of education, job, marriage and then children.

While there are certainly disagreements about how to execute these solutions, this is greatly overshadowed by the overlap in approaches and the notable consensus that exists around the solutions themselves.