All posts filed under: Must Reads

COVID-19 Superspreader Events in 28 Countries: Critical Patterns and Lessons

In 1899, a German bacteriologist named Carl Flügge proved that microbes can be transmitted ballistically through large droplets that emit at high velocity from the mouth and nose. His method for proving the existence of these “Flügge droplets” (as they came to be known) was to painstakingly count the microbe colonies growing on culture plates hit with the expelled secretions of infected lab subjects. It couldn’t have been pleasant work. But his discoveries saved countless lives. And more than 12 decades later, these large respiratory droplets have been identified as a transmission mode for COVID-19. Flügge’s graduate students continued his work into the 20th century, experimenting with different subjects expelling mucosalivary droplets in different ways. Eventually they determined, as a 1964 report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine put it, that the quantity of expelled Flügge droplets varies markedly based on the manner of respiration: “Very few, if any… droplets are produced during quiet breathing, but [instead, they] are expelled during activities such as talking, coughing, blowing and sneezing.” A single heavy …

The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire—A Review

A review of The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease and the End of an Empire by Kyle Harper, Princeton University Press, 417 pages (October 2017) Why did the Roman Empire fall? The classic answer is given by Edward Gibbon (1737 — 1794), in chapter 38 of the third volume of The History of the Fall and Decline of the Roman Empire (1776 — 1789): The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. Kyle Harper, Senior Vice President and Provost of the University of Oklahoma, seeks to complement Gibbon’s account by emphasising the role of nature, and specifically climate change and infectious disease, in the fall of Rome in his provocative, exceptionally well-written book The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease and the End of an Empire. Is Harper correct? Were plagues and …

Romance, Race, and Retribution

I “This is a crisis of epic proportions,” wrote an alarmed Romance Writers of America (RWA) board member on Christmas Eve as the scenery started to collapse.1 Longstanding tensions within the trade organization had detonated the previous day when novelist Alyssa Cole revealed that RWA’s board of directors had suspended her friend Courtney Milan. The decision provoked a hurricane of condemnation from the membership, mass resignations from the board, and a spectacularly vicious frenzy of internecine bloodletting online. Milan’s suspension has been widely reported as the latest indignity suffered by a woman of color in an ongoing battle between RWA’s old guard and minority authors struggling against marginalization. In this version of events, Milan had exposed and confronted the scourge of racism within RWA and been crucified for it. For a few days, the 40-year old organization looked like it might tear itself to pieces, until what remained of the board agreed to commission an independent review of the events that led to Milan’s suspension. RWA retained multinational law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP …

The Two Middle Classes

Politicians across the Western world like to speak fondly of the “middle class” as if it is one large constituency with common interests and aspirations. But, as Karl Marx observed, the middle class has always been divided by sources of wealth and worldview. Today, it is split into two distinct, and often opposing, middle classes. First there is the yeomanry or the traditional middle class, which consists of small business owners, minor landowners, craftspeople, and artisans, or what we would define historically as the bourgeoisie, or the old French Third Estate, deeply embedded in the private economy. The other middle class, now in ascendency, is the clerisy, a group that makes its living largely in quasi-public institutions, notably universities, media, the non-profit world, and the upper bureaucracy. Standing between the oligarchs, who now own as much as 50 percent of the world’s assets, and the growing population of propertyless serfs, the traditional middle class increasingly struggles for survival against those with the greatest access to capital and political power. The power of this modern-day equivalent …

Sorry, New York Times, But America Began in 1776

The United States of America began in 1776, not 1619. That one sentence is the thesis statement of “1776”—a non-partisan black-led response to the New York Times’s “1619 Project” initiative, which launched last week at D.C.’s National Press Club. I am pleased and proud to be a part of 1776, along with founder Bob Woodson, Glenn Loury, Coleman Hughes, Jason Hill, Carol Swain, John Wood, Taleeb Starkes, Robert Cherry, and many others. From my perspective as a member, 1776 has three core goals: (1) rebutting some outright historical inaccuracies in the 1619 Project; (2) discussing tragedies like slavery and segregation honestly while clarifying that these were not the most important historical foundations of the United States; and (3) presenting an alternative inspirational view of the lessons of our nation’s history to Americans of all races. The first of these points is perhaps the least important, but still a weighty task. Many of the claims made by the 1619 Project, which attempts to link everything from non-socialized medicine to American sugar consumption to historical slavery, are …

Thatcher Warned Us to Go Slow on European Integration. Too Bad We Didn’t Listen

This November will mark 30 years since former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher left office. After she had narrowly failed to secure an outright win in a 1990 leadership contest triggered by a challenge from Michael Heseltine, her former defense secretary, the majority of Thatcher’s Conservative cabinet colleagues withdrew their support and forced her departure following what she described as “eleven-and-a-half wonderful years.” For Thatcher, the “coup,” as she referred to the events of 1990, had been unexpected. But as journalist Charles Moore explains in the third and final volume of his authorized Thatcher biography, Herself Alone (2019), the writing had been on the wall for some time. Thatcher’s style, which some considered abrasive, had turned senior figures against her. And many younger party members believed that if the party were to win a fourth consecutive election victory, in 1991 or 1992, it should be under a new standard-bearer (who turned out to be John Major). An important underlying factor was the long-standing policy conflict regarding the European Community (or the EC as the European …

Confessions of an Equity-Industry Propagandist

My artistic skills are nil, but my lettering is solid. So when I doodled a cartoon hand around an erect cartoon penis, it was the word inside the dick I was most proud of: DIVERSITY. As team members ran through their collective to-do list—tear down the patriarchy, tear down capitalism, tear down oppression—they shared their favorite Viennese hotels, yoga retreats and keto-friendly recipes (#OMG #SOGOOD). This was the nature of the quarterly meetings. I smiled through the video feed, nodding, adding little curlies to my diversity dick off-screen while jotting down a secret affirmation to myself: Do NOT let them add you in WhatsApp. I was their writer. The doodles were a cry for help. I’d hit the wall. Having worked in advertising agencies for more than 20 years, it’s always been my job to write in a way that sells. Products, services, brands. But over the last decade, I’ve found myself in the pay of a series of wokepreneurs. Thanks to word-of-mouth, I unwittingly specialized as the equity industry ballooned. I polished one social-justice …

The Public School Teacher Attrition Crisis

In spring of 2019, I finished a semester of student teaching, completed my Master of Arts in Teaching, and accepted a full-time job offer to teach high school English at a public school just outside of Salt Lake City. A couple of weeks ago, after teaching only one full semester, I quit. Although I loved teaching English and engaging with students, the current working conditions at my school—and in schools across America—are so poor that teachers are leaving in alarming numbers, causing a vast teacher shortage that has escalated to a crisis in many states. Considering that enrollment in teacher training programs is drying up and the teacher shortage is only set to increase, it is important to understand why teachers are leaving the profession. I can only speak for myself, but recent research and an internet full of anecdotal evidence support the idea that I am not alone. It goes without saying that we need talented, passionate teachers who can impact students positively, especially because teacher turnover harms student achievement and is expensive for …

Faced With Gender Propaganda at the Hockey Rink, One Coach Says No

Minivans stuffed with hockey gear and parents sipping drive-thru coffee rink-side are quintessential Canadian suburban scenes. But since 2018, the world of hockey moms and dads has become just another venue for the spread of what one Ontario hockey coach describes as culture-war propaganda. Actually, make that former coach: “I can’t coach. I can’t be on the bench. I can’t help on the ice—Even just to help on the ice, you need this training,” he explains. After having assisted on his son’s hockey team for three years, the father has been removed from all positions because he questioned the necessity of a mandatory gender identity training course imposed by Hockey Eastern Ontario (formerly the Ottawa District Hockey Association) following a 2017 legal settlement involving a transgender hockey player. The father has been interviewed by Quillette, and supplied documentation outlining his concerns and tracking his correspondence with other parties mentioned below. These concerns include the possibility that he will be taken up on accusations of transphobia merely for speaking with the media, which is why we …

All the Single Ladies

“Oh, he’s kind of cute.” My friend at Yale, swiping through Tinder, leaned over and showed me his profile. “Wait, no.” She moved her finger leftward. “Why not? He seems alright,” I reply. He goes to a local, less highly-regarded university, she explained. In other words, not Yale. Swipe Right for a Master’s Degree The dating market for women is getting tougher. In part, this is because fewer men are attending universities. Why would male enrollment in higher education matter for women? Because women, on average, prefer educated men. One source of evidence comes from women’s personal responses to dating profiles posted by men. Researchers analyzed 120 personal dating ads posted by men on the West Coast and in the Midwest. They found that two of the strongest variables that predicted how many responses a man received from women were years of education and income. Similar results have been found in Poland. Researchers analyzed how many women responded to dating ads posted by 551 men. They found that men with higher levels of education and …