Sunday, June 24, 2018

Julia Kristeva Responds to Slander

I have refrained from commenting on the slanderous accusations recently thrown at French intellectual luminary Julia Kristeva. She is an old and dear friend, as is her husband. I am strongly biased in her favor and reject any culture that attempts to destroy reputations on the basis of half-truths and lies. Especially, those produced by a state run on propaganda.

Kristeva now stands accused of having spied for the Bulgarian Secret Police during some of her time in Paris. You have to stretch credulity to imagine that such an eventuality, if it did occur, turned the tide in the Cold War.

Dare I say, most of those who have happily embraced the defamation did so without benefit of Kristeva’s own response to the accusations. They did not cover themselves in glory. In order to sustain their slander they even noted that Kristeva and her husband threw their support behind Chairman Mao during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

They fail to note that when Richard Nixon went to China in 1972 the American media elite was all gaga over the wonderful accomplishments of the Red Guards. Kristeva was not alone in being duped by Mao Zedong.

And dare we mention, that France itself was not a major player in world affairs at the time in question. One hates to say this, but a great deal of French intellectual politics was more show than substance, more drama than political action.

If you ask yourself what consequences were suffered by anyone over the political positions taken by Kristeva and Co. you will come up short.

For some reasons, Michel Foucault—also a personal friend—comes out of all this smelling like a rose. After all, Foucault reveled in the acts of Weatherman terrorists, and in the last stages of his life became a gay activist who embraced the regime of the ayatollahs in France. Of course, Jean Paul Sartre—France’s modern philosophical genius—happily supported the Baader Meinhof gang of terrorists who were operating in Germany.

No one much cared, because such support did not exert very much influence. If one wanted to see whichFrench philosopher exercised true political influence, one would look to Bernard Henri Levy, the presiding genie over the American policy of overthrowing the government of Muammar Qaddhafi. Recall that BHL persuaded French president Sarkozy to intervene on the side of the Qaddhafi opposition and that Sarkozy persuaded Obama and Clinton to lead from behind. The catastrophic consequences of this intervention are well known. No one really cares about the philosopher behind the curtain.

The real issue for the French intelligentsia after World War II was living down the ignominy of having chickened out of the fight. And, the real problem was living a great historical lie. France, for having sat out the war, declared itself one of the winners. De Gaulle barely ever acknowledged the American role in liberating France from the French. France turned away from the Anglosphere out of shame. It did not embrace the East as much as it sought an alternative to Anglo-American hegemony.

That, sad to say, was the only real issue in politically driven French intellectual life.

A Bulgarian immigrant to Paris in the 1960s, Kristeva supposedly became a spy for the Bulgarian Secret Police. Apparently, the Bulgarian Secret Police was overwhelmingly concerned about the doings of the Parisian intellectual scene. It takes very little intelligence to know that French intellectuals spoke openly and honestly about everything that passed through their minds. Thus, it was the last place you needed to put a spy.

Richard Wolin—a fine intellectual historian who saw fit to attack Kristeva for being pro-communist-- and Kevin Williamson—a fine writer who denounced Kristeva for being anti-capitalist both failed to note that Kristeva and the Tel Quel group she was associated with renounced Maoism and even Communism. They were among the first of the French intellectual elite to embrace capitalism in the late 1970s.

Now, to set the record straight, Kristeva tells her side of the story in great detail in the French Vanity Fair. The presence of the long detailed article in this magazine tells you that she is the subject of popular interest. I trust that Kristeva is telling the truth about what really happened and about how this calumny took root. I will not go into the details, though I regret that some of you will not be able to read the French.

Among Kristeva’s targets is the media. She points out, astutely, that today’s media, obsessed with the privacy of the personal information people share on Facebook, has no problem projecting your personal communications on the world screen. The media does not ask, Kristeva continues, whether a dossier put together by a Communist Secret Police might have been distorted to promote the careers of those who drew it up. Why did serious thinkers trust the word of a regime that was dedicated to propagating propaganda? Could it be that it was happy to smear the reputation of a woman who had renounced it.

Israel's "Tracks for Regional Peace"

No drama, no media attention. No one is noticing yesterday’s announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Standing with his Transportation Minister Netanyahu announced a new rail initiative that will connect Europe with the Jordan and Saudi Arabia, through Israel. Take note of the fact that the government of Jordan-- a Palestinian state, incidentally-- recently needed a bailout from Saudi Arabia. How do you think that this might influence the Jordanian attitude in the next Palestinian peace talks?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Israel Katz agreed this week to begin promoting their “Tracks for Regional Peace” initiative that will create a trade route connecting Europe with the Persian Gulf and Israel, Hadashot news reported Saturday evening.

“Tracks for Regional Peace” is based on the planned extension of railway tracks in northern Israel, which would link Haifa’s seaport to Jordan’s rail network, which in turn will be linked with that of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states.

The network is envisioned as creating a regional transportation system to enhance trade relations and promote peaceful coexistence.

We have made a habit of keeping watch on developments in the Middle East. We are heartened by Saudi liberalization and by the prospect of improved trade relations between regional powers. For those who have wanted to make Israel the theatre for a grand Marxist drama this is not very good news.

Introduced in a new PR video from Netanyahu and Katz’s offices, the initiative will see the eastward extension of the Haifa-Beit She’an rail line to the Jordanian border and will also include a stop in Jenin, connecting the Palestinians to the broader plan.

Goods would be shipped from Europe to Haifa, allowing them to bypass civil war-torn Syria.

“There are two central components at the heart of this initiative,” Katz explained when discussing the plan back in April. “Israel as a land bridge between Europe and the Mediterranean and Jordan; and Jordan as a regional transportation hub, which will be connected to a railroad system to Israel and the Mediterranean in the West; to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Iraq in the East and southeast; and to the Red Sea, through Aqaba and Eilat, in the south.”

Some good news for today.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Bullied to Death in Middle School

Just when you thought that it couldn’t get any worse, you read about a twelve year old schoolgirl, by name of Mallory Grossman, who killed herself because she could not stand any more bullying. Mallory was bullied to death.

It is difficult to hold her twelve-year old tormentors to immediate account. How could they know that she would do what they told her to do: to kill herself. The crux of the matter, the most important aspect of the story, is that school officials failed to do anything to protect her.

You see, Mallory’s parents reported the bullying again and again to the school principal and other officials. They did to nothing about. A last meeting between Mallory, her mother and the school principal triggered Mallory’s suicide. The principal humiliated the girl, refused to take her complaints seriously, made a mockery of her for being too weak. Mallory’s parents were so horrified that they decided that they would remove their daughter from school the next year. That afternoon, the girl, killed herself.

Too little, too late.

Now, Mallory’s parents are suing the school district, the superintendent and the principal. Apparently, they do not have a very good case… because the courts do not protect children from bullying any more than the school system does. And yet, the lawsuit brings things to our attention that we would rather not know about.

The extent of adult failure is terrifying. So, let’s examine some of the facts.

On the last day of her daughter’s life, Dianne went with Mallory to talk to [Principal Alfonse] Gonnella in a last-ditch attempt to get help for her child, the suit says.

During the three-hour meeting, the principal handed a poker chip to the preteen cheerleader and gymnast. He then directed the girl to inscribe her initials on the token and asked her: “Are you all in?”

Mallory was “humiliated,’’ the suit says.

Gonnella “lacked any suggestions to punish the offenders, but instead, placed the bulk of the responsibility on Mallory to rectify the situation,’’ the papers say. “His bright solution to nine months of bullying is a poker chip? And to have her write her initials and date it and to ask her if she’s all in? And hours later she goes home and dies?” the mom said.

The principal did not take the suffering of a child seriously. He did not grant credence to her complaints and suggested that she was overreacting. She showed that she was not. He failed a basic responsibility by refusing to address the perpetrators, by refusing to hold them to account, by refusing to talk to them or their parents, by laughing off their antics. Children who bully should be expelled from school. Their parents should be immediately informed and should be held to account if they do not take consequential action.

Why a poker chip? Was he gambling with her life? Was the poker chip like a headstone? Surely, that was the way the girl saw it. Being all in means putting all your chips on the table. Well, Mallory did put all her chips on the table. In a manner of speaking. But, shouldn’t a middle school administrator know how to speak with a twelve year old?

What constituted the bullying?

The mom said that meeting followed a full school year of cruel texts and Snapchat messages from other students.

One girl coldly asked, “When are you going to kill yourself?’’ in front of other classmates — just weeks before the suicide.

Another bully, identified in court papers by the initials A.B., took a surreptitious photo of Mallory by herself, then texted it to her with the caption “You have no friends,” the suit says.

In another instance, an unidentified student sent a similar photo to classmates via Snapchat with the caption “U have no friends” and “Poor Mal,” court papers state

Mallory’s parents had pleaded with other school officials. They too showed no concern for the girl and were unwilling to address the school bullies. Again, adults failures to impose discipline allow bullies to believe that they are doing something good.

Her mom pleaded with school officials to intervene “numerous” times during the 2016-17 school year, but the educators’ tone-deaf responses only made things worse, court papers say.

When the parents once complained about bullying in the lunch room, the school suggested their daughter eat in a guidance counselor’s office — “further isolating Mallory from the student body,” the suit states.

Another time, administrators had Mallory and her tormenters “hug each other” rather than actually discipline anyone.

Shared hugs… now that’s the solution that our empathy laden therapy culture prescribes. To imagine that society can regulate itself on the basis of feelings of a common humanity is an absurdist rationalization for the failure to offer a disciplined and structured social environment.

Lloyd Blankfein on Immigration

You might have been wondering what Wall Street thinks about the nation’s immigration crisis? OK, perhaps the thought was not on the tip of your consciousness. And yet, it’s always of some interest to read what important chief executives think of America’s chief executive. 

While the vampire squid called Goldman Sachs has contributed more than its fair share of Trump administration officials, it has generally been considered a very reliable source of Democratic campaign funds. Its nexus is in New York City and you do not get to be a power player in New York social circles by supporting any but the most anodyne Republicans. After all, former mayor Michael Bloomberg has now dedicated tens of millions of dollars to defeating Republicans in the next election. And media star Donny Deutsch has declared that everyone who voted for Trump is a Nazi. Obviously, nothing is going on between Deutsch’s ears, so he is competing for airtime with brain dead celebrities. Besides, Deutsch is suggesting that the renewed strong relationship between the Trump administration and Israel is a sure sign that Trump is a Nazi. Morons like Deutsch are respected in New York City. It’s all you need to know.

Anyway, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein stunned an audience at a New York Economic Club Tuesday by expressing sympathy for the difficulty of dealing with the immigration issue. He declared, openly and honestly, that there is no easy solution to the problem. His thought ought to be acknowledged.

Several other CEOs expressed their outrage at the Trump administration. Nothing new about that. Blankfein shed the light of reasoned skepticism into the mix. Why not be rational about policy… for a change? Especially when the facts of the case are barely in evidence.

According to the New York Times, Blankfein said:

It’s easy to criticize and it’s easy to say what you would do if you didn’t have to bear the consequences of what you decided.

The Times continues:

The options for how to handle thousands of undocumented immigrants at the border were all difficult, Mr. Blankfein said. He added that while he wouldn’t separate children from parents, it was unfair to castigate the administration for its actions.

In policy matters like this one, he said, “it’s never right against wrong or good against evil.”

“There are adverse consequences on both sides, that’s what’s really tough,” Mr. Blankfein continued, “and I have a lot of sympathy on the one hand, but appreciation for the decision-making, and when something doesn’t quite work out right, I don’t want to kill the person that made the decision.”

Important decisions are never black and white, good versus evil. To think so is to fail to see that executives earn serious money for having to decide the lesser of two evils. As an experienced chief executive looks at the problem and understands that there is no good solutions—just two courses of actions, each of which contains pluses and minuses, potential risks and potential rewards. At a time when the facts are anything but decided, this seems like sound advice.

Friday, June 22, 2018

A Word from Charles Krauthammer

A word from Charles Krauthammer (via American Digest):

Gender Deformity and the LSATs

If you were wondering why half of the country seems to have lost its mind, take a gander at this. It's from the form you have to fill out to take the LSATs. It makes the new madness about gender identity settled law. Aspiring lawyers must buy into the nation's gender deformity-- it's part of the price of admissions.

The Decline and Fall of Merkel

Given its importance for geopolitics, we have been covering the decline and fall of Angela Merkel for some time now. After all, Merkel is a remnant of what is called the liberal world order. But she was also a practitioner of the Obama-led univeralist open borders policy. I have mentioned it before, but will repeat now, those who are whining about Donald Trump’s failure to maintain good relations with the weak sisters of Western Europe and Canada do not  see that these nations have largely abrogated their claims to world leadership. With them, it's more about nostalgia than Realpolitik.

When Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, Germany, France and England objected. They did not care about whether Iran went nuclear or was supporting terrorism. They wanted to do business with Iran. As a result, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia told Germany that it had to choose, trade with Saudi Arabia or trade with Iran. The Crown Prince proceeded to cancel contracts with Germany.

Today we read Josef Joffe, an editor at Die Zeit, in the Washington Post:

But even if Merkel makes it through this precarious summer and endures to the end of her fourth term, in 2021, she is damaged goods. Her existential problem goes far beyond the intramural political warfare. The European stage she has dominated for so long is collapsing beneath her.

The liberal world order is an Enlightenment ideal, derived, one supposes, from Immanuel Kant. It promised world government based on warm humane feelings. It stood in defiance of balance-of-powers government. It has failed over and over again and is now on life support.

Nations that seek to lead the world are not following the example set by Angela Merkel.

Nor is it just the migrants who are battering the European construction. Merkel, this benign monarch, is being shouldered aside by a new cast of leaders: Donald Trump, Russia’s Vladi­mir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and, farther afield, China’s Xi Jinping. These characters prefer national advantage to world-order politics.

As for the European Union, it is collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions:

Closer to home, Britain is on the way out. In Italy, the anti-European populists of the left and right have grabbed power in a free election. Strongmen are running Poland and Hungary. In Austria, the far-right Freedom Party has muscled its way into the government. In much of the E.U., populist parties are scoring double-digit percentages of the vote.

One reason is that the Union has been coasting under the American defense umbrella. Now that Trump has called the bluff, alliances are starting to shift:

Europe’s cozy life under America’s strategic umbrella is turning nasty as Trump keeps growling: Pay up, or we ship out.

Of course, Merkel is doomed by her own absurd error, opening her nation to migrants, in a type of moral promiscuity:

Still, the deadliest threat to Merkel’s tenure preceded the advent of Trump. It began to close in on her in the early fall of 2015 when she opened her heart and her country to almost 1 million Muslim migrants. Determined to show Germany’s friendly face to the world, she refused to set limits. Her fans sported “Refugees Welcome” buttons.

It was virtue signaling, but it failed:

The welcome waned as the flow continued. Merkel’s fabled “Wir schaffen das” — “we can do it” — turned into the greatest miscalculation of her career. 

Nations across Europe are rejecting the Merkel model. And they are unwilling to bail her out by taking the refugee overflows:

Never has so much goodness spawned so much misfortune. Normally, embattled leaders seek refuge in foreign policy. But Merkel is running out of partners. Paris and Rome, Warsaw, Vienna and Budapest have opposed her “European solution” for three years. Sweden and Denmark reinstated border controls in 2016. In a new tripolar world, Trump would rather play with the big boys in Moscow and Beijing.

Joffe’s concludes, on a note that I have been sounding:

As the United States, Russia and China are recasting global politics, Europe, with an economy as large as America’s, has been demoted to a two-bit player. “Defensive nationalism” — keep them out — is sweeping the E.U. and the rest of the West. Merkel is frantically trying to stem the tide. Europe should hope that she can do better than King Canute.