What Happened Today: July 6, 2022
Dutch farmers protest government mandates; poetry in numbers; the real risks of gender education
The Big Story
Dutch farmers protesting government agricultural restrictions tangled with law enforcement on Tuesday night, with police firing at protestors and hitting a tractor and arresting several other demonstrators. The showdown was the latest escalation in a series of rallies and blockades carried out by farmers over the past several weeks to protest new environmental rules. Last month, to comply with national and European Union climate change goals, Dutch legislators announced new policies that will attempt to reduce the volume of nitrogen compounds produced by farms by 2030. To achieve their targets, lawmakers say farmers in certain provinces will need to reduce their nitrogen emissions by more than 70%, using significantly less fertilizer while liquidating roughly 30% of their current holdings of cows, pigs, and other livestock. But farmers say they haven’t been consulted to help shape the new policies, which might satisfy unelected E.U. officials but are divorced from the reality of running one of the world’s largest agricultural economies.
The complaint from farmers that the new policies will put many of them out of work was confirmed by the Dutch government this week. The “honest message,” according to an official statement from the government, “is that not all farmers can continue their business.” Last week, tens of thousands of farmers took to roadways in central Netherlands to demonstrate against the policies, with parked tractors and dumped hay bales backing up traffic for miles. Other activists have blocked food-distribution warehouses for several consecutive days, which has led some to fear that grocery store shortages are imminent. Such disruptions, as well as protestors gathering outside the homes of lawmakers, have engendered both some backlash from the Dutch public and significant backing, with coalition members underneath Prime Minister Mark Rutte coming out in opposition to the emissions plans.
Sieta van Keimpema, a member of the protest group Farmers Defence Force, says that farmers have shared plans with one another that would reduce their nitrogen output without radically undermining their current business operations, but that lawmakers aren’t interested in the discussion, in part because they don’t want to negotiate: “Our government sweeps farmers from the countryside and plants houses on the places where farmers’ barns are demolished and memories of agriculture are erased.”
At a rally over the weekend, one demonstrator stood in front of reporters with a bullhorn promising more disruptions to come: “This will happen more often. We will not give up. We will never give up! We call upon the people to stand with us.”
Read More: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/netherlands-emissions-plan-farmers-protest-explained-7999870/
In the Back Pages: The Real Risks of Gender Education
→ Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, red-state economies have fared far better than their blue counterparts. With voting patterns over the past two presidential elections used to define the red-blue breakdown, blue states were short 1.3 million jobs in May 2022 compared to February 2020, with red states adding 341,000 jobs in total. The ability to work remotely in more affordable or desirable locations, and preferences for how states handled pandemic restrictions, are likely the biggest drivers of how states have fared over the past two years. Between February 2022 and the previous February, some 46 million people relocated to a new zip code—the largest such migration in the United States in more than a decade. Florida, Texas, and North Carolina were three of the states that saw the largest uptick in new residents, and that bump in population has significantly increased state coffers, with Florida banking a record-high fiscal surplus that it’s already begun to pass on to residents with tax holidays that help offset inflation, higher teacher salaries, and new school construction.
→ Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chancellor and health secretary both resigned on Tuesday, and his minister for children and families and his minister of state for school standards followed suit on Wednesday, in an exodus that might mark the final blow to his struggling premiership. The departing cabinet members have pinned their resignations to Johnson’s mishandling of sexual harassment claims against one of his other cabinet members, Chris Pincher; Johnson claimed that he was unaware of past allegations against Pincher, an assurance his office was forced to walk back a few days later, with Johnson acknowledging that he had been aware of these accusations at the time he had nominated Pincher to a cabinet seat. “The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently, and seriously,” said the departing treasury chief, Rishi Sunak. “I realize that this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for, and that is why I am resigning.” If Johnson resigns, Sunak is rumored to be a contender to replace him.
→ Reports that The Jewish Agency, the largest Jewish nonprofit organization in the world and which helps Jews emigrate to Israel, has been ordered by the Russian government to cease all activities in the country are circulating through the media but have been denied by the agency. The alleged shutdown was supposedly in response to Russia accusing the agency of illegally collecting information about Russian citizens—a charge that comes amid escalating tensions between Russia and Israel related to Israel’s stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Israel has become cautiously critical of Russia—a country that has a sizable military presence in Syria, right on Israel’s border—while avoiding the full-fledged support for Ukraine urged by Kyiv and the United States.
→ Officials at TikTok have confirmed recent BuzzFeed news reports that some of their employees in China “can have access” to the data of U.S. users. That confirmation came in a letter the company sent this week in reply to questions from senators concerned that the news reports contradicted earlier TikTok statements about user privacy. TikTok officials say that even though employees there can obtain user data, the China-based company would resist calls to hand over its data to Chinese government officials. “TikTok has never shared U.S. user data with the Chinese government, nor would we if asked,” said a company spokesperson. While TikTok says it will run the U.S. version of its software off of Oracle servers in Texas, providing another firewall between the data here and the Chinese government, lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee say they no longer trust the social media platform and asked the Federal Trade Commission to open up a probe into its “repeated misrepresentations” about user privacy to Congress. Not only is TikTok one of the fastest-growing social media apps in the United States, downloaded at least 321 million times, but also it’s increasingly a tool for government messaging in the United States. Last March, for instance, the White House provided a briefing to TikTok “influencers” on the progress of the war in Ukraine.
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→ In northwestern Turkey, in a province with a population of less than 7,000, the country’s Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources has discovered 694 metric tons of rare earth materials, a huge trove of resources vital to growing green-energy technologies. The discovery—which is more than six times preexisting global reserves and enough to satisfy current global demand for more than 1,000 years—is sure to reshape the green economy, which is presently dominated by China. China made its view of this news clear in the Global Times, one of the country’s state-owned newspapers:
Although some questioned the accuracy of the data, many might think that the reported uncovering of a new large-scale rare-earth reserve could have certain impact on China’s position as a dominant player in the global rare earths supply chain. However, it needs to be pointed out that the reality is that China currently is the only country in the world with a complete industrial chain for producing rare earths, a processing advantage that will not be simply diminished by uncovering of any amount of rare-earth reserves.
Spoken with all the confidence of a state propaganda organ.
→ Americans have lost faith in almost every single major U.S. institution, including government, media, and business, according to a new poll from Gallup. Comparing this year’s poll to last year’s, Gallup found that the largest declines were faith in the executive branch (a 15% decrease since last year) and the judicial branch (an 11% decrease), while “organized labor” was the only institution that didn’t lose any faith over the past year—though it did not gain any credibility either. The only two institutions that a majority of Americans still believe in, meanwhile, are small businesses and the military.
Read More: https://news.gallup.com/poll/394283/confidence-institutions-down-average-new-low.aspx
→ Archegos Capital Management, an investment company run by Bill Hwang that launched in 2020 with $4 billion, grew nearly tenfold in value by March 2021. By April of this year, the company’s valuation collapsed to roughly nothing, and it’s now being sued by one of its former financial analysts for $50 million. The lawsuit is a glorious combination of “chutzpah and careful contract reading,” as Matt Levine put it in Bloomberg, and makes use of something called the “lookback option” in the former employee’s contract, which guarantees that, if he quits, he can withdraw his vested assets from the company as they were valued at any point in the 30 days prior to his departure. Archegos’ surging value was largely the result of its own repeated investments in the same dozen stocks: Hwang would invest heavily in a tech stock, watch its value balloon on the back of his investment, and then borrow more money against his new earnings to invest in that same stock yet again. Until, that is, the dozen or so stocks started falling, exposing Archegos as wildly overleveraged. As our contract-savvy analyst watched the company’s value collapse, he quickly quit Archegos, then sued for the sum of his vested stock options when the company was valued at some $36 billion.
→ QUOTE OF THE DAY: “For both women and men, higher education predicted a high masturbation frequency.”
From a recent paper published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, which questioned 4,160 Norwegians, aged 18 to 89, and analyzed their masturbation habits and sexual satisfaction. Aside from the finding that education levels tracks with enthusiasm for the act of self-gratification, the study also found that “both women and men with frequent pornography use were more likely to report high masturbation and sexual satisfaction,” but that “[w]hen comparing men characterized by relatively high masturbation frequency, those with greater pornography use were more likely to report being sexually dissatisfied.”
Read More: https://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-022-02305-8
→ A new analysis of California rainfall patterns found that between June 2022 and June 2019, the state has missed roughly a year’s worth of rain, a lack of water that has continually depleted reservoirs and put 58% of the state into an extreme drought, the fourth most severe drought category of five, according to California officials. Compounding the issue is that what rainfall is occurring is happening more in Southern California and less in the state’s north, where some regions have only seen half their normal rainfall over the past three years. That’s important because massive reservoirs in Shasta and Trinity catch the rain and send water down to Southern California farms and cities. Climate analysts say the state will need massive rainfalls to cover the gap, as current restrictions on water usage have failed to cover the difference. Last summer, a call for city residents to reduce water use by 15% over the next year led to a total 2% use reduction. The last big drought in California began in 2012 and stretched over four years, capped off by massive storms that overwhelmed the Oroville Dam and led to some $100 million in flood damages.
→ A failed poet and high school dropout has just won the Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics, for his contributions to the field of combinatorics. Professor June Huh, who teaches at Princeton, quit high school to read Hermann Hesse, wander the mountains near his home in South Korea, and become a great poet. After realizing that he wanted to “become a great poet” more than he wanted to sit and write poetry, he went back to school, drifting about in Seoul National University until he happened into an introduction to algebraic geometry class being taught by a visiting professor from Japan, Heisuke Hironaka, who won a Fields Medal in 1970. There, in that math class, Huh found the great poetry he’d been looking for. Math had a pure poetry that he had never found elsewhere. “You don’t think about your small self,” he said. “There’s no place for ego.” Some 20 years later, Huh now wanders the forests around Princeton and creates, as one colleague put it, “beautiful things” with numbers.
Additional reporting and writing provided by The Scroll’s associate editor, David Sugarman
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Today’s Back Pages is an excerpt from an article by Lisa Selin Davis, the author of Tomboy: The Surprising History and Future of Girls Who Dare to Be Different. Her Substack is lisaselindavis.substack.com.
Once, when she was younger, my daughter ran screaming from the women’s bathroom at the playground. Breathless, she tried to explain what had happened. “Lady—yelled—boy—” She couldn’t finish, but I understood. A woman was upset that “a boy” was using the girls’ bathroom, then enraged when my daughter—the boy—explained that she was a girl; she couldn’t process that the short-haired child in gym shorts standing before her was female. I rubbed my child’s back and repeated one of our family mottos: “Recover quickly.” But inside, I was shaking. It took me longer to compose myself than it took her.
That would become a recurring theme—the misunderstandings and the need to handle them. The need to make my children better at handling them than I am.
It’s easy for people on the sidelines of this battle or who feel dragged into it unwillingly to be dismayed about the intensity of the cultural focus on bathrooms. There are so many real and pressing problems: housing shortages and inflation and guns and a massive mental health crisis, especially among teens. And yet because of our cultural expectation of sex-segregated bathrooms, they are often the locus of discomfort and misunderstanding, the place where tempers flare around gender issues. Ask any butch woman and she’ll tell you a story of being treated the way my kid was in the women’s restroom.
I don’t believe that our current gender revolution has created more space for these naturally gender-nonconforming children. While some advocates of gender-affirming medicine and gender-identity ideology insist they are saving the lives of vulnerable children, in practice much of what’s taught to kids today about gender—especially the conflation of gender nonconformity—suggests to masculine girls and feminine boys that they need to “fix” themselves through medical or psychological interventions that have some irreversible effects, without guaranteed benefits.
There are many possible reasons why this is happening, including the lobbying efforts of transgender and civil rights groups, and the institutional incentives created by federal laws like the recent White House executive order on “affirming care.” But I believe another reason is our national zeitgeist shift toward snowplow parenting, in which parents believe their job is to clear obstacles out of their children’s way rather than to equip them with the skills to navigate those obstacles. We are terrified of our children’s suffering and teach them to be terrified of it, too.
The lessons children are learning about gender in schools, from our culture and on social media, may leave them fragile and thin-skinned, unprepared to withstand pain and conflict and confusion. Take, for instance, misgendering—in the alterworld of Twitter, it’s a worse crime than, say, libeling someone, which is the lifeblood that powers the platform. Children are being taught that misgendering is violence, that every person must be treated exactly as he or she (or they) wishes to be by others or else they’ve experienced discrimination, and that people who violate these rules must be punished, whatever their intent. Children are being taught that feelings are facts. That figurative violence is literal violence.
Children are learning that sex and sex stereotypes are interchangeable, that rejecting stereotypes means rejecting your body. Or they are not learning about sex stereotypes; the popular gender teaching tool, the Genderbread Person, makes no mention of them. They’re learning that puberty is an aesthetic choice they can make based on their level of discomfort; they are learning that discomfort cannot be withstood.
Instead of learning how to navigate discomfort, what we have now is a generation of nonbinary children—the vast majority of them female—who are identifying out of their sex. Looking to discard their femaleness, these kids are rejecting names or pronouns that are culturally associated with femininity, in the process reifying gender stereotypes by treating objects and words as if they had an innate connection to femaleness rather than just a culturally imposed meaning. Some nonbinary kids I interviewed would never have worn anything pink or purple when they identified as girls. It was only after they ceased to identify as girls that they felt free to partake of them …