Is there any social issue that elected officials don't think they can solve? Loneliness is a highly complex phenomenon, produced by an interplay of cultural components and personal psychological attributes. One senator thinks he can fix it with bureaucracy and "public awareness."
On Tuesday, Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy announced the introduction of his "National Strategy for Social Connection," a bill that would create "a federal office to combat the growing epidemic of American loneliness, develops anti-loneliness strategies, and fosters best practices to promote social connection," as Murphy put it.
The idea that the federal government can solve loneliness is naive and laughable. If there is an "epidemic of loneliness" in America—a big if—its causes are surely so diverse that no group of bureaucrats is going to dislodge it. And certainly not with the silly solutions Murphy proposes.
Murphy's bill would create an "Office of Social Connection Policy to advise the president on loneliness and isolation," order federal agencies to implement a "national strategy on social connection," and start a public awareness campaign to educate people about fostering connections.
"Similar to existing national guidelines on nutrition, sleep, and physical activity, the Office would issue research-based best practices on how to better engage and connect with our local communicates," Murphy's summary of the bill states.
U.S. nutrition guidelines, of course, have a long history of being ridiculously unscientific and plagued by cronyism. And whatever one thinks about nutrition and physical activity guidelines today, there's no denying that Americans are massively overweight and way too sedentary. So, I'd hardly call these things models of efficacy.
In fact, national guidelines on how to be less lonely are bound to work about as well as nutrition and physical fitness guidelines have: not at all.
The whole project seems designed to create work for people at federal agencies (and ostensibly good press for Murphy). They would be tasked with coming up with ways to promote "social connection" in areas including "transportation, housing, health, education, and labor," just like officials across federal agencies are now ordered to consider things like equity, race, and sustainability when designing or enacting any policies. Everything would take a little longer and cost a little more, with likely no discernible difference in the actual lives of Americans.
The most tangible thing Murphy's plan would do is give more money to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study loneliness—another effort that seems destined to increase government budgets but have little real-world impact on isolation or social connection.
Moving beyond the pointlessness of Murphy's proposal, there's also something a little creepy and dystopian about it. The federal government is meant to concern itself with national security and monetary policy, not whether Americans have enough friends.
What's next, a national trivia-night network? Social wellness screenings on public buses? Federal subsidies for bowling leagues?
Ohio Republicans introduce bill to ban drag shows in public. A new anti-drag performance bill introduced by Ohio Republicans is "similar to Tennessee's," reports WCMH. That Tennessee law was recently declared unconstitutional. But since when do crusading public officials let little things like constitutionality stop them from enlisting taxpayers in a culture war? Hence Ohio House Bill 245, introduced Monday, which would ban "adult cabaret performances" from public places.
The bill defines "adult cabaret performances" as material "harmful to juveniles or obscene" featuring either "topless dancers; go-go dancers; exotic dancers; strippers" or "entertainers who exhibit a gender identity that is different from the performers' or entertainers' gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts, or other physical markers; or other similar performers or entertainers who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest." Such performances could only take place in "a nightclub, bar, juice bar, restaurant, bottle club or similar establishment" that regularly features performances or art of a sexual nature.
"Reps. Josh Williams (R-Sylvania) and Angela King (R-Celina) are proposing the bill with the support of 41 out of 67 Ohio House Republican representatives," notes WCMH:
The 43 lawmakers outline the following penalties if entertainers are found violating the proposed law:
A misdemeanor of the first degree if a performance occurs in the presence of a juvenile under the age of 18.
A felony of the fifth degree if the performance is "obscene."
A felony of the fourth degree if the performance is "obscene" and occurs in the presence of a juvenile under the age of 13.
You can now celebrate "Taco Tuesday" freely (unless you live in New Jersey). The phrase "Taco Tuesday" was trademarked by the fast food chain Taco John's, but Taco Bell filed a petition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the trademark. Taco John's said Tuesday that it would no longer fight the petition because doing so was too costly. From the Wall Street Journal:
Taco John's has owned the trademark on Taco Tuesday since 1989 in every state except New Jersey. Gregory's Restaurant & Bar, a restaurant in the Jersey Shore city of Somers Point, owns the trademark in New Jersey.
Taco Bell filed a separate petition in May seeking to cancel Gregory's trademark as well. Greg Gregory, whose family owns Gregory's, said in June the restaurant would attempt to defend its trademark.
Any restaurant in the U.S. except in New Jersey can now legally use Taco Tuesday now that Taco John's has given up defending its trademark. Previously, Taco John's would send cease-and-desist letters to restaurants that used the term.
• "Last week, House members investigating origins of Covid-19 accidentally released a trove of Slack chats and emails between the authors of Nature's seminal paper from March 17, 2020, The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2," notes Racket News. That's the Nature paper that declared "it is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation." Now, Racket has "obtained a full complement of the 'Proximal Origins' communications examined by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, revealing a story far worse than previously believed."
• "Biden's latest student loan scheme has a bigger price tag than originally projected," warns Reason's J.D. Tuccille.
• Damon Linker gives us "a spot check on how the populist/nationalist right is doing around the world in the summer of 2023."
• "The Illinois Supreme Court upheld a measure on Tuesday eliminating cash bail in the state," reports The New York Times. "The Illinois law, which went beyond similar bail overhauls in other states, was part of a national push to reduce jail populations and end a system in which wealth can determine whether a defendant returns home to await trial."
• Here's Jesse Singal with a good diatribe about confusing "sex," "gender," and "gender identity."
• "Colleges—and the law—are impairing student education and resilience through too many accommodations," suggests Discourse magazine.
• New research finds school principals are more likely to call moms than dads, when contact information for both parents is listed and no preference is indicated. When a message indicated that dad had "a lot of availability" and mom did not, "74% of the time when a call is made, it is to dad; but still, 26% of the time, mom is called," notes Emily Oster. When the availability note is reversed, "90% of the time, mom was called."