All posts filed under: Politics

The Conservative Case for Cannabis Legalization

Last November, more than 75 percent of voters in Mississippi voted to legalize medical marijuana. By February, neighboring Alabama’s Senate had passed its own legalization bill for the third year in a row. Of Alabama’s four neighboring states, only Tennessee still treats all marijuana possession as a crime. If this is where weed stands in the deep south, its legalization recreationally in 18 states (as of this writing) should not be surprising. More than 128 million Americans now live in these states, including New Mexico, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Virginia, and nearly 224 million live in states that have legalized medical marijuana use. According to an April 2021 Pew poll, more than 90 percent of Americans (and more than 80 percent of self-described political conservatives) now support legalization in some form, with 60 percent in favor of recreational legalization. Given this reality, conservative leaders should reconsider their traditionally hostile approach to marijuana and embrace the end of state cannabis prohibition as both good policy and an embodiment of core conservative principles. As the conservative economist and …

The ‘Lab Leak’ Inquiry at the State Department

The following essay was originally posted at the author’s Medium blog here. In both journalism and policymaking—if not always in politics, or in the sordid world of score-settling by unemployed, second-rate apparatchiks—facts matter, and intellectual integrity matters. In light of the remarkable quantity of errant nonsense that has been written in the last couple of weeks about squabbles inside the US State Department about how to look into the origins of SARS-CoV-2 in the closing weeks of the Trump Administration, I hope this essay will help set the record straight for those who still care about things such as facts. I write this because, to put it bluntly, I’m tired of being the butt of stupid and paranoid conspiracy theories being promulgated by those who know better. I recognize that some of these conspiracy narratives are, for any thoughtful person, self-refuting even on their face. (As someone who has been warning the policy community since at least 2007 about threats to the United States and the democratic world from the Chinese Communist Party’s geopolitical ambitions—including …

Why Is the Society for American Archaeology Promoting Indigenous Creationism?

In April, one of us—Elizabeth Weiss—gave a talk, titled Has Creationism Crept Back into Archaeology?, at the 86th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA). The 87-year-old SAA identifies itself as “an international organization dedicated to research about the interpretation and protection of the archaeological heritage of the Americas.” The SAA board of directors includes professors, curators, and government archaeologists, all of whom presumably appreciate the importance of studying artifacts and human remains as a means to understanding the history of our species. The subject of the April 15th talk, co-authored with James W. Springer (who also co-authored this essay), was the threat of religious literalism being used as a means to insist on the repatriation of human remains (mainly skeletons) and artifacts to presumed descendent populations—i.e., present-day Indigenous communities whose members live near the location where such remains are discovered. However, our use of the term “repatriation” more broadly encompasses the new laws, ideological claims, and policies that serve to give Indigenous claimants control over remains and artifacts, as well as over …

One ‘Maverick’ Documents Another—Jason Riley’s Biography of Thomas Sowell

A review of Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell, by Jason Riley. Basic Books, 240 pages (May, 2021). Thomas Sowell is an icon. And, now, he has a biographer. While Sowell himself has written, by my count, 43 books, Jason Riley’s 2021 Maverick seems remarkably to be the first-ever major press biography of the heterodox African-American giant. Riley’s book sums up most of the key themes of Sowell’s thought, including the Anointed and Constrained visions of human behavior, the fact that the plain existence of racism does not explain most differences in group performance, and the idea of quantitative culturalism as an alternative to both “critical race theory” and genetic determinism. Sowell’s biographer also sums up two factual story-lines critical to an understanding of the man: how growing up outside the national elite allowed Sowell to become a truly innovative thinker, and how he (no doubt aided by revenues from all those books) remained a genuinely independent voice throughout his career—a conservative who never ran for office, rarely endorsed mainstream GOP candidates, and openly detested …

The Purposeless Society

Humans are wired to think in terms of purposeful social agents and their objectives, and to tell themselves stories. In every culture, there are myths that tell its members who they are and how they relate to one another, that help to structure life and give it order. The idea that there is a crisis facing the West is by no means unique to conservatives. Classical liberals and technocrats lament the rise of populism and the loss of faith in their policy prescriptions, while progressives claim that the societies in which they live are built on foundations of violence, and must therefore be destroyed and remade. Conservatives place the genesis of the problem further back. Where others see systems and structures that must be dismantled or that are under attack, conservatives believe that the dismantling has already occurred and that we are now suffering the consequences. The destruction of traditional social structures with their strictures and obligations divides the world into two groups. The first experience it as a liberation of the individual, and use …

Silicon Valley’s ‘Mission Protocol’ Revolution Is Beginning to Attain Critical Mass

In December 2004, during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, I spent a night in one of the many tents that had been pitched in Kiev’s central square. There were five of us inside, and it smelled like cigarettes, black tea, and sweat. Outside, it was snowing. It seemed that everyone—protesters and riot police—had a megaphone. The voices bounced off the square’s gray facades, blending with snippets of shouting, laughter, dogs barking, a couple in a nearby tent having sex. The 25-year-old travel agent who owned the tent I was staying in had taken the bus from the city of Vinnytsia, a few hours to the southwest, with some friends. The group included a medical student and a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy. “We wanted to see history happen,” the tent owner told me. The pregnant woman interjected: “But we didn’t come until we knew it was safe—until other people would be here.” In the former Soviet Union before social media, there was a calculus to demonstrating. If you wanted to demonstrate against the regime, and …

How the (Much Maligned) Mongol Horde Helped Create Russian Civilization

If the great nomadic regime born from the Mongol expansion of the 13th century were projected on today’s maps, it would stretch across a region occupied by Ukraine, Bulgaria, Moldavia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Russia, including Tatarstan and Crimea. The history of this Horde is therefore a shared legacy. That legacy does not belong exclusively to the national narratives of any of these nation-states, narratives centered on linguistic, ethnic, and religious communities that had very different experiences with the Horde and today invest those experiences with a range of meanings. As a result, the historiography of the Horde has tended to depend very much on the standpoint of the historian. Where nationalisms solidified in opposition to Mongol rule, historians have told one kind of story; where nationalisms presume continuity with the Mongol past, historians have told another kind of story. In Russian nationalist scholarship, the Horde is an alien entity with disruptive effects on the formation of the Russian nation. In the Soviet Union, the Russian experience of vassalage to the Horde was …

Could an Invisible Military Laser Steal Your Privacy?

In early 2006, I sat in the Pashtun tribal areas on the Af/Pak border. When not rinsing grit out of my teeth from the thick fog in the air, I awaited information from capricious “allies,” on whether their informant could identify a senior al Qaeda leader who I’ll call “The Moroccan.” At the time, he was al Qaeda’s regional operational commander and well worth removing from the board. I lusted for certainty on the whereabouts of the Moroccan. He remained stubbornly elusive, while I chafed with impatience aggravated by living conditions halfway between a prison and an armed bunker. I watched tantalizing video from “eyes in the sky” of vehicles associated with the Moroccan heading towards the funeral of a militant. The funeral was attended by hundreds of men, all sporting traditional bushy beards and the long, baggy shalwar-kameezs Pashtuns favored, topped by either a turban or pakol cap. Making a positive ID in that crowd was like locating a particular stalk of wheat in a bumper crop. Was the Moroccan there? Or in a …

Are Activists Protecting Asians from Hate—or Protecting Their Narrative of White Supremacy from Criticism?

Asia Society, the global NGO dedicated to “forging closer ties between Asia and the West through arts, education, policy and business,” recently shared a video in which activist Manjusha P. Kulkarni spoke about anti-Asian attacks in the United States. Kulkarni, whose own group self-describes as a “national coalition addressing anti-Asian hate amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” emphasised that anti-black bigotry was causing people to falsely attribute these anti-Asian attacks to African American perpetrators: And I will tell you that while we don’t collect ethnic specific data on perpetrators … we know that it is a very small minority that are African-American. And in fact, when we look at these broader types of discrimination, the ones that involve civil-rights violations, of course, we know that those are institutional actors, heads of businesses, et cetera, and that these are the folks who often, because of positions of power that they are in, are actually white. .@StopAAPIHate co-founder @KulkarniManju discusses the “white adjacency” of Asians and Asian Americans, anti-Blackness, and the misleading trope of the Black perpetrator. Watch the …

When Sons Become Daughters, Part VI: Asexuality, Intelligence, and the Trans Co-Option of Intersex Discourse

What follows is the sixth instalment of When Sons Become Daughters, a seven-part Quillette series that explores how parents react when a son announces he wants to be a girl—and explains why so many of these mothers and fathers believe they can’t discuss their fears and concerns with their own children, therapists, doctors, friends, and relatives. To find out more about how the author collected and reported information, please refer to his introductory essay in this series. Whether they exhibit autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, many trans-identified boys seem to be fixated on a hypothetical future self: Once brought to life, it is believed, this woman’s mere presence will resolve whatever existential crisis the young man is going through. In many cases, the boy will spend a lot of his time thinking about the differences between his status quo and his imagined (feminine) ideal. This “hyper-ruminative” behaviour is something many parents I interviewed discussed with me. From Milwaukee, Liz emails me a number of papers she’s found over the years …