Good Friday Morning! And I’m not sure how to feel about the newly announced Creed reunion tour on a cruise ship to the Bahamas with other bands of the era, including 3 Doors Down, Buckcherry, Fuel, Dishwalla, and more. Seeing the hard rock bands from your middle school/early teenage years on a reunion cruise is weird. I thought Linkin Park and Foo Fighters on “classic rock” stations was a shot at age. This cruise takes that feeling to the next level.
In any event, this week, I’m writing on a growing issue increasingly demanding society’s attention. It’s a combo of the increasing number of autism cases and the dangers we’re learning about microplastics. There’s an intersection between those two items; we’ll get to it below — links to follow.
- Bud Light sales are continuing to fall. Morgan Stanley analysts are now looking at the company as a potential buying opportunity in the stock market, hoping the bottom has finally been found. But they warn that August 2nd looms because that’s when Bud Light’s parent company reports results for the second quarter of this year. The analysts don’t believe Bud Light will recover headed into 2024. Gov. Ron DeSantis has floated the idea of a lawsuit against Bud Light’s parent company over the marketing campaign because the stock price bottoming out has hurt pension funds. DeSantis’s potential lawsuit would argue that the marketing campaign would breach the company’s fiduciary duty to pension shareholders. Meanwhile, Dylan Mulvaney has entered the college speaking circuit and continues blasting Bud Light for how it handled the situation.
- The Federal Reserve has launched its digital payment system called FedNow. Conceptually, FedNow is similar to apps like Venmo or Zelle and allows much faster bank-to-bank processing of customer funds. The goal is to speed up processing times like paychecks and other bank-to-bank transactions. Critics see it as a step closer to a Central Bank Digital Currency.
- If you want to see what AI is capable of, check out these two videos. The first is of Johnny Cash singing the song “Barbie Girl.” The second is of Elvis Presley singing “Baby Got Back.” In terms of voice accuracy and smoothness, it’s some of the best work I’ve seen in using AI to repeat sounds in someone else’s songs. And again, we’re just scratching the surface. These videos are just some content creators having fun and making some laughs. In terms of journalists, Google is testing an AI program that can write news articles.
Where you can find me this week
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[07/17/2023] Canada Embraces Death by Expanding Assisted Suicide Laws for the Mentally Ill – Conservative Institute
[07/19/2023] Congress Forced to Denounce Democratic Anti-Semitism. Again. – Conservative Institute
[07/21/2023] Democrats Continue Defending Racial Discrimination After Supreme Court Decision – Conservative Institute
Autism and Microplastics: Two Large Issues Looming for the 21st Century.
There’s a great piece in The Free Press written by Jill Esher, a former corporate lawyer and a mother of two adult autistic children who are developmentally incapable of functioning without her. It’s titled, “The Autism Surge: Lies, Conspiracies, and My Own Kids: Rates of autism are skyrocketing. The question isn’t just why—but what we need to do about it right now, and what’s holding us back.”
She hits the usual topics you’d expect in such a piece, the conspiracy theories around vaccines, the neurodivergent movement, and more. I highly recommend the entire article; it’s a good read. I want to pull on two threads in it because it involves things our society will have to deal with in the private and public spheres.
The first thread deals with the potential causes of autism and the environmental factors I believe are involved. And the second is how to handle the surge of people diagnosed with severe forms of autism as parental caretakers pass away.
On the first point, she lays out the numbers on autism and how it exploded over the last few decades. At one point, it was a fringe thing that occurred at the margins of human experience, whereas now it’s a growing disability. Here’s the data:
My state, California, is well known for keeping the best autism data in the nation, owing to its decades-old mandate to find and serve residents with developmental disabilities. The numbers are conscience-shocking and not remotely subtle. We have seen the autism caseload in our Department of Developmental Services (DDS)—which serves only substantially disabling autism that meets the definition of developmental disability, and not the full spectrum—soar from 3,262 in 1989 to more than 160,000 in 2022. That’s a 50-fold increase over 33 years.
Childhood data from earlier generations show that autism barely registered as a blip. For example, a massive and landmark study of children born from 1958–1965 found the rate of autism in seven-year-old children to be 0.0466 percent, or 0.066 percent when using a broader definition, with IQs reaching up to 82. Compare that to the CDC’s walloping finding that today, 0.5 percent of U.S. children have profound autism with IQs under 50, or who are nonverbal or minimally verbal.
CDC data also show that over just 12 years, from 2008 to 2020, autism increased across all categories of intellectual functioning. For cases with intellectual disability (IQ 70 and under), the prevalence more than doubled from 0.429 percent to 1.046 percent. School districts around the country have long sounded the alarm about the increasing cases of schoolchildren with autism in need of special education services. These aren’t just quirky kids, but kids who could not succeed in mainstream education. Even as the Los Angeles Unified School District experienced declining overall enrollment, its special education autism numbers surged sixfold over 20 years, from 2,784 in 2001 to 17,217 in 2021.
At one point, I looked at the autism data and thought it was more of an observation problem. For instance, in meteorology, some people claim we have more hurricanes now than in the past. That’s not necessarily true. In the South Atlantic, people thought no hurricanes occurred there for a while because we’d never witnessed one. That changed in 2004 when Hurricane Catalina hit Brazil. There have been around 88 tropical systems in that region, but our records are only good back to 1957.
Autism isn’t like that – there’s an unmistakable surge of diagnoses occurring, and it’s for people who are severely developmentally challenged.
There’s a problem here, too, because it’s getting harder to study autism as it impacts humans. Esher points out how the neurodiversity movement has shifted the attention from study to word policing:
The recent rise of the “neurodiversity” identity movement, where autism is reinvented as a natural difference to be celebrated, not investigated, prevented, or treated, has helped spread a fairy dust of complacency over the autism world. While rates continue to climb—to 1 in 36, or nearly 3 percent, of all eight-year-olds by the latest count from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—the world, except of course for parents like me, seems to be waving a white flag of surrender. It’s become de rigueur to normalize autism rather than treat it as the national emergency it most certainly is.
The examples are everywhere. The leading autism conference, INSAR (International Society for Autism Research), which once focused on serious-minded biological research, has drifted into something of a celebration of neurodiversity. In this reality distortion field, Lee Wachtel, MD, medical director of the Neurobehavioral Unit at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, which treats hundreds of autism patients, said to a group of us parents, “I work in a war zone, but here at INSAR you’d think autism was a celebration.”
Journals regularly publish papers by language–policing neurodiversity advocates urging a purge of common and useful terminology like deficit or disorder so as to reduce supposed stigma associated with autism. Even the leading autism journal now suggests authors avoid ordinary terms like disruptive behaviors or challenging behaviors, saying the journal is “decreasing the number of accepted articles focusing solely on weaknesses, problems, and deficits”—even though the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) defines autism by its very evident impairments. Apparently we are supposed to see our children, many of whom are among the most critically disabled people on the planet, as disabled only by a society that fails to understand them, and not by any biological deficit.
Worse, meetings of the federal autism advisory committee—the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, or IACC—chaired by the National Institute for Mental Health, and authorized by the Autism CARES Act, are notorious for becoming more social justice theater than as fora for addressing urgent questions. The IACC started life as the Combating Autism Act in 2006, but the title changed in 2014 to the Autism CARES Act after proponents crumbled to pressure from neurodiversity advocates.
I’ve talked with scientists in other fields who have witnessed similar problems in their areas. It’s getting harder to publish hard science that is peer reviewed and supported by research institutions.
And the reason this is important is that we don’t know the true cause of autism. There’s no substantial evidence that it’s hereditary, though some parental gene lines have it. We don’t have a strong candidate for an environmental factor either. But we do know that it’s present at birth. Esher writes:
In plain terms, autism is a brain organization disorder, though its manifestations may not appear until certain behavioral milestones are expected, or until the dynamic processes of infant brain development reach a certain point. With some exceptions, it is present at birth, but not identified until later.
By the time we start seeing the symptoms of autism, that’s usually the point childhood vaccines are given. For parents, it’s an observational problem. They see the problem appear and assume that’s when it started – which isn’t true. It was likely always there.
That means we have to identify potential culprits. I suspect it’s at least partially a new environmental toxin we’re just starting to understand: microplastics and nanoplastics.
As plastic decomposes, it doesn’t just disappear into the environment. If a dead tree falls over, it slowly decomposes into the dirt, and other things use that to grow. Plastic doesn’t do that, and microplastics are everywhere, including the bloodstreams of most people. Plastics break down into smaller and smaller particles and seep into everything.
And the problem with micro and nanoplastics is that we both ingest them orally and breathe them in. Two things stand out about microplastics:
In recent years, microplastics have been documented in all parts of the human lung, in maternal and fetal placental tissues, in human breast milk and in human blood. Microplastics scientist Heather Leslie, formerly of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and colleagues found microplastics in blood samples from 17 of 22 healthy adult volunteers in the Netherlands. The finding, published last year in Environment International, confirms what many scientists have long suspected: These tiny bits can get absorbed into the human bloodstream.
Babies might face particularly high exposures. A small study of six infants and 10 adults found that the infants had more microplastic particles in their feces than the adults did. Research suggests microplastics can enter the fetus via the placenta, and babies could also ingest the particles via breast milk. The use of plastic feeding bottles and teething toys adds to children’s microplastics exposure.
There’s some evidence this may be true. In 2009, there was a “baffling” study where Swedish children who lived around vinyl flooring had higher occurrences of autism. More recently, a 2022 study using mice found that force-feeding them one of the key microplastic toxins induced autistic symptoms.
It’s still far too early to call this the smoking gun. But it’s a promising thread on the environmental front on how plastics are causing developmental defects in babies in the fetal stage of development. And that’s just autism; we know these microplastics cause many other medical problems, which is why this is our new form of asbestos or lead that we’ll have to clean up heading into the future.
Learning about and cleaning up these environmental issues is critical. I’ll give you an example from the ancient past. Did you know that at the height of the Roman empire, elites in Rome channeled water into houses and buildings via lead pipes? Also, using lead for carrying water, drinking liquids from lead glasses, and more was considered a high-class move.
We obviously look at that aghast now – can you imagine getting all your water from a lead pipe? You’d get poisoned every time you took a drink. There’s even an interesting debate among some historians about whether lead poisoning helped lead to the downfall of the Roman empire. The evidence for that isn’t strong, but it’s an interesting theory because it forces you to imagine all the health and mental impacts of constantly drinking from lead pipes, vessels, and more.
One of my growing concerns is that we’ll end up viewing plastics and all its various derivatives in a similar light. The sudden modern surge of autism could be one of many issues caused by plastics, and we’ll likely have to spend the better part of the century cleaning up that single issue.
That brings me to the piece’s second point — which I won’t spend much time on because we’re already going long — and that’s how to handle the surge of seriously developmentally handicapped men and women. Esher’s point is straightforward:
But no matter what is causing autism, one thing is unequivocally true. We are woefully unprepared for the mounting demand for adult autism services. While revisionist histories have preached that autism is natural neurodiversity that has always been here but we somehow never noticed it, in the real world the numbers of disabled autistic adults in need of lifespan care are swelling, and fast. And where are the options? If autism has always been around and in these numbers, surely we would see the legacy of programs and housing services all around us. But we don’t. We must now invent a very complex and costly future for our loved ones. Because autism parents like me—we won’t live forever.
She’s right. We’re witnessing a surge of autism at a moment when we’re not prepared to care for these people. As parents and extended families disappear for the autistic, society will face a choice on how to care for them.
There are no institutions ready to take on this challenge. The existing private and public institutions are not made for the numbers we’re witnessing. We talk a lot about the challenge of caring for the growing medical needs of the baby boomer generation. However, that may pale in comparison to the long-term challenges of designing a system to care for those with autism or other challenges.
I don’t have the space to go through possible solutions on all these fronts — though I have been involved with litigation that involved the poisons of plastics and other dangerous chemicals. I once joked with a friend that the question in most of these environmental lawsuits wasn’t whether or not the company involved caused contamination with the various chemicals. It’s just about whether or not we can get them to pay or clean the sites up. Guilt is assured; paid-for solutions are less so.
These are just the challenges that lay ahead for 21st-century America. It’s best to start thinking now to get ahead of it. Because cleaning the environment of things like lead and microplastics is a critical issue, it wouldn’t shock me if future generations saw plastics in the same light as we do lead, asbestos, or cigarettes now.
Links of the week
There’s No Ban on Criticizing Israel – Abe Greenwald, Commentary Magazine
The Left Isn’t Even Pretending to Work within the American System of Government Anymore – Jeffrey Blehar, National Review
The Political Rise of Ultra-Orthodox Jews Shakes Israel’s Sense of Identity: Fast-growing group of religious conservatives allies with Netanyahu to take on Supreme Court, spawning mass protest movement; mandatory military service emerges as a key issue – WSJ
The Joe Biden bribe allegations need a special counsel, now – Miranda Devine, NYPost
My vagina is not a ‘bonus hole’ – ‘Trans-inclusive’ language is dehumanizing women. – Julie Burchill, Spiked
VIDEO: Epic correction. China destruct. Credit divergence. – Complete Intelligence
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Twitter Vs. Threads Vs. Shouting Into A Hole – The Onion
Black Metal Book Club on Twelfth Re-Read of “The Lord of the Rings” – The Hard Times
Thanks for reading!