Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Tuning the Mainstream Media Out

The Gateway Pundit has the story. (via Maggie’s Farm) The liberal media has shot itself in the head. For having transformed itself into the propaganda arm of the Resistance, the media has lost its credibility. It's so bad that the New York Times has noticed. Will a mea culpa follow?

Jim Hoft writes on his site:

The New York Times admitted on Monday that no one is listening to the liberal fake news anymore.

After three years of fake news and hysteria Americans are tuning out the fake news outlets.

The liberal media did this to themselves.

As Rep. Andy Biggs said, the leftist media has cried wolf once too often. People no longer believe in news reporting because news reporters no longer believe in news reporting. They learned from their college professors that everything is propaganda, so they do not believe in facts. In this The Times has led the march. Ted Koppel said that the Times had been slanting the news. Former Times executive editor Jill Abramson has said the same thing.

It’s good that the Times has noticed. It would be better if it revised its policy and started reporting information, dispassionately and fairly.

The Times reports on the devolution of the media:

The Democrats in Congress took their case against President Trump to the public last week. But after hours of testimony, thousands of news reports and days of streaming headlines, one thing was clear: A lot of Americans weren’t listening.

The Times trots out the usual suspects:

But just when information is needed most, to many Americans it feels most elusive. The rise of social media; the proliferation of information online, including news designed to deceive; and a flood of partisan news are leading to a general exhaustion with news itself.

It is right about this point:

The loss of shared facts can be corrosive for rational discourse, as in Russia, where political leaders learned to use the online explosion far ahead of the United States.

One suspects that it will continue until it shows up on the bottom line. As of now, the first glimmerings are starting to appear.

Scenes from the World of Therapy

We feel duty bound to keep a finger on the pulse of therapy. We are naturally interested in a disgruntled therapy patient’s letter to CarolynHax in the Washington Post. I will assume, for the sake of argument, that the patient is a woman. I trust that you will agree.

Herewith, the letter:

How do I get the "most" out of therapy? I want to start feeling and living better ASAP, and I know it's a process so I'm trying to be preemptively patient. But the two other times I've visited therapists, I feel like everything I never talked about in childhood jumped to the surface. None of it was relevant to what I was experiencing at the time.

I'm in a pretty low place right now, and I don't want to spend the first three sessions crying about my family dynamics. However, I'm not the expert! Should I just trust the therapist to navigate to the root of the problem?

In the old days everyone would have accepted unthinkingly that the purpose of therapy was to uproot the root causes of problems. That meant, talking about childhood trauma and development issues. Therapy has always imagined that the past repeats itself in the present and that escaping the past will magically allow patients to deal with their present problems.

It was a lie. It was a stupid lie. It did not work. Still and all, the letter writer has managed to find several therapists who cling to this lie, and who want to discuss matters that are not relevant to current concerns. She seems to understand that discussing the past will not magically lead her to negotiate the difficulties of everyday life. 

It would be like saying that you will find the right move in the chess game by regressing to infancy and recalling the bad mothering you received.

So, I am with the patient, and not with the therapists who continue to practice this way.

Hax has a more therapeutically correct opinion. She wants the patient to tell the therapist that she does not see the value in rehashing past traumas. Thus, Hax advises the woman to criticize the therapist's approach. How well do you think that that will be received?

Dare we mention, and perhaps even underscore, that cognitive and behavior therapies, now in the ascendant, do not pretend that your past life determines your present conduct. From the time of Aaron Beck, cognitive therapists have rejected that form of causality. It is not an accident that more and more patients are seeking out cognitive therapists… or even coaches.

Hax rushes to the defense of therapy, perhaps because she is prone to defend the institution. Perhaps she does not know any better:

Get the most out of therapy by saying stuff like this to your therapist out loud, upfront. If you get knocked off your point easily when the conversation changes direction — common problem — then either say that right away, or write it down and hand it over.

It’s okay if that feels weird. It’s therapy! It’s safe to be weird.

And, apologies for overstepping: If your past keeps resurfacing, then maybe it is connected to your present distress.

Certainly don’t “trust the therapist” to know intuitively what you need; be vocal about your treatment goals. From there, do trust the therapist to find a path for you, but speak up as needed.

Last thing, a general comment: The way to get the least from therapy is to hold back. Tell! The! Truth!

Good for you for getting the help process started. That can be the hardest step.

At times, there is nothing wrong with holding back. At times, being overly garrulous is a bad idea. Of course, the defenders of therapy have made a fetish of truth telling. They insist that they only want patients to do so in treatment. Yet, once you tell people always to tell the truth, and that it’s therapeutic to do so, they are very likely to follow the rule outside of treatment.

Hax does not understand that when a patient says that she does not want to forage through her buried past, many therapists will accuse her of resisting the truth. They will say that she is afraid to face the truth. They will not simply allow the patient to discuss things that the patient cares about. They do not allow patients to question their authority. And they do not allow patients to tune out of their mental processes in order to deal with real world problems. From the time of Freud therapists have bullied patients into getting out of their lives and into the fantasy world of therapy. 

Keep in mind, most therapists would not know how to help a patient to negotiate a difficult and complex moral dilemma. Their bailiwick is feeling. Their expertise runs from recovered memories to fantasies to dreams to desires. They do not know how to deal with reality because they do not know anything about reality. Thus, they are obliged to pretend that cleaning out those childhood memories will naturally and automatically make you a great negotiator or a great chess player. It is a ruse to dupe the gullible. The patient is correct not to fall for it.

Even if, as another commenter on the Hax site notes, you tell your therapist what you want to discuss in session, the therapist will most likely want to show you how your present dilemma repeats a past trauma or some such.

Then, a real therapist writes in to offer a more cogent piece of advice:

If they think the only way to deal with the present is a long psychological study of your childhood, then they are not the one for you. There are plenty of therapies that are solution-focused for the here-and-now.

Good news indeed.

Of course, there’s one in every crowd, so one person writes into Hax to explain how her awareness of the past cured her of her depression.

She writes:

I was suicidal for my entire life, until one day I suddenly realized my mother wanted me dead. As soon as that thought hit my gut, the suicidal feeling stopped. I had internalized her desire to kill me into my "desire" to kill myself. Twenty years of therapy with two highly recommended therapists didn't budge the core issue, my being suicidal, an inch. Because all the current stuff really reflected one core, deep, yet-to-be-realized issue.

If you start talking about your childhood the moment you get to the therapist's office, stop trying to force the "current" stuff. What's current is whatever is blurting out of you the moment you get to talk.

How much credence do you want to grant to this testimony? It is bizarre, to say the least. The woman—I am assuming that she is a she—spent two decades in therapy and remained as suicidal as she always had been. Yet, she was also alive, so let’s not be too critical of these highly recommended therapists.

And then, apparently, she had an epiphany. She recognized that her mother wanted her dead. At that point, the clouds lifted and she stopped feeling suicidal. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We know nothing about this person. We know nothing about what is happening in her life. We do not know where she is from or where she is going. That is, we do not know what else in her life that might have led her to cease wanting to commit suicide.

Thus, this is anecdotal, no more and no less. Without possessing any special expertise in the latest suicide prevention therapy, I am convinced that waiting for an epiphany about your mother’s desire to kill you is not on the list of cures.

The Wealth Tax in Action

In 2012 French socialist prez Hollande imposed a 75% tax on millionaires. What happened next: 1. 10,000 millionaires fled the country 2. Real estate prices and Capex collapsed, budget deficit soared 3. GDP did not print above 0.8% for 8 quarters 4. Tax was overturned in 2015
9:06 PM · Nov 18, 2019Twitter for iPhone

Monday, November 18, 2019

What Are Luxury Beliefs?

It’s an intriguing thought, well worth our consideration.  If you have ever wondered why people with gobs of money, who have ascended the economic status hierarchy are so prone to mouth incoherent radical leftist tripe, Rob Henderson offers one response.

They wear their beliefs like status symbols. Henderson calls them luxury beliefs because they believe that being being politically correct, however much it damages the nation, is a way to assert higher social status.

I would add that in an age where the national media and its attendant mob shuns anyone who expresses a discordant non-radical belief, spouting luxury beliefs is good public relations. It protects you from being branded a bigot and being expelled from public society.

Were I to speculate I would add that people who have conquered the marketplace and who have amassed great fortunes seem to have the unfortunate tendency to think that they must now become philosophers. They look for new words to conquer and they set their sights on the marketplace of ideas. Thus, they turn to those professorial and media intellectuals who seem to have status within the world of ideas. And they allow said intellectuals to manipulate their minds, to persuade them to think politically correct thoughts. They resemble the dupes in the Socratic dialogues, the rubes who easily allow the great philosopher to make them think what he wants them to think... and to persuade them that they are independent thinkers.

Luxury beliefs have taken the place of fancy clothes, large yachts, mega mansions and trust funds. They now signal membership in the upper class:

In the past, people displayed their membership of the upper class with their material accoutrements. But today, luxury goods are more affordable than before. And people are less likely to receive validation for the material items they display. This is a problem for the affluent, who still want to broadcast their high social position. But they have come up with a clever solution. The affluent have decoupled social status from goods, and re-attached it to beliefs. 

Henderson suggests that those who collect luxury beliefs also believe that they are possessed of superior righteousness, as though holding the right beliefs made them moral paragons:

 Not only do top university graduates want to be millionaires-in-the-making; they also want the image of moral righteousness. Peterson underlines that elite graduates desire high status not only financially, but morally as well. For these affluent social strivers, luxury beliefs offer them a new way to gain status.

Thus, high status in material terms becomes conjoined with high moral status. In material terms people show their status by wasting money. It might be by buying overpriced goods. It might be by spending money on leisure activities, like gambling. The goal is to designate oneself as a high status individual:

Veblen, an economist and sociologist, made his observations about social class in the late nineteenth century. He compiled his observations in his classic work, The Theory of the Leisure Class. A key idea is that because we can’t be certain of the financial standing of other people, a good way to size up their means is to see whether they can afford to waste money on goods and leisure. This explains why status symbols are so often difficult to obtain and costly to purchase….

Veblen proposed that the wealthy flaunt these symbols not because they are useful, but because they are so pricey or wasteful that only the wealthy can afford them, which is why they’re high-status indicators. And this still goes on. A couple of winters ago it was common to see students at Yale and Harvard wearing Canada Goose jackets. Is it necessary to spend $900 to stay warm in New England? No. But kids weren’t spending their parents’ money just for the warmth. They were spending the equivalent of the typical American’s weekly income ($865) for the logo. 

College students advertise their high moral status by mouthing the platitudes of political correctness. Thereby, they also protect themselves of any status lowering accusations of bigotry:

Your typical middle-class American could not tell you what “heteronormative” or “cisgender” means. But if you visit Harvard, you’ll find plenty of rich 19-year-olds who will eagerly explain them to you. When someone uses the phrase “cultural appropriation,” what they are really saying is “I was educated at a top college.” Consider the Veblen quote, “Refined tastes, manners, habits of life are a useful evidence of gentility, because good breeding requires time, application and expense, and can therefore not be compassed by those whose time and energy are taken up with work.” Only the affluent can afford to learn strange vocabulary because ordinary people have real problems to worry about.

Henderson is suggesting that no sensible and intelligent person could really believe this rot. Ergo, the wealthy students who do so are showing off their superior status, meaning their having been educated at America’s leading indoctrination mills:

Only academics educated at elite institutions could have conjured up a coherent and reasonable-sounding argument for why parents should not be allowed to raise their kids, and should hold baby lotteries instead. When an affluent person advocates for drug legalization, or anti-vaccination policies, or open borders, or loose sexual norms, or uses the term “white privilege,” they are engaging in a status display. They are trying to tell you, “I am a member of the upper class.”

And, of course, Henderson adds, the policies espoused by these high intellectual status individuals, cost them nothing. Poorer classes pay the price for this intellectual aberration:

Affluent people promote open borders or the decriminalization of drugs because it advances their social standing, not least because they know that the adoption of those policies will cost them less than others….

Advocating for open borders and drug experimentation are good ways of advertising your membership of the elite because, thanks to your wealth and social connections, they will cost you less than me.

Naturally, sexual license is high on the list of luxury beliefs. Nowadays, polyamory is all the rage. As it happened, upper class individuals who mouth this drool tend to maintain stable marriages. Lower class people who emulate them have far more broken marriages.

Polyamory is the latest expression of sexual freedom championed by the affluent. They are in a better position to manage the complications of novel relationship arrangements. And if these relationships don’t work out, they can recover thanks to their financial capability and social capital. The less fortunate suffer by adopting the beliefs of the upper class.

Henderson continues:

The Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam at a Senate hearing said, “Rich kids and poor kids now grow up in separate Americas…Growing up with two parents is now unusual in the working class, while two-parent families are normal and becoming more common among the upper middle class.” Upper-class people, particularly in the 1960s, championed sexual freedom. Loose sexual norms spread throughout the rest of society. The upper class, though, still have intact families. They experiment in college and then settle down later. The families of the lower class fell apart. Today, the affluent are among the most likely to display the luxury belief that sexual freedom is great, though they are the most likely to get married and least likely to get divorced. 

Upper class individuals cling to these beliefs until the same beliefs become too pervasive. Until, that is, lower class individuals, aka deplorables, adopt them. After all, being high status means that people of lower status will be likely to emulate you. An to act on your stated beliefs. At that point, those of higher status will feel obliged to change their luxury beliefs:

Over time, luxury beliefs are embraced down the social ladder—at which point, the upper class abandons its old luxury beliefs and embraces new ones. Which explains why the beliefs of the upper class are constantly changing. It’s easy to see how this works if we look at actual fashion. The author Quentin Bell, in On Human Finery, wrote “Try to look like the people above you; if you’re at the top, try to look different from the people below you.” The elite’s conspicuous display of their luxury beliefs falls into this pattern. Their beliefs are emulated by others, sending them off in search of new beliefs to display. The affluent can’t risk looking like hoi polloi, after all.

Moral fashions change over time for the same reason. Moral fashions can quickly spiral as more and more members of the chattering classes adopt a certain view. Once the view becomes passé, the upper class, aiming to separate themselves, then update their moral inventories.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Time to End the Engagement

You know what she should do. I know what she should do. Carolyn Hax knows clearly what she should do. The solution is not in question. The problem is the way people treat each other. In this case an engaged man makes decisions about who does or does not stay in their home without any concern for his fiancee’s opinion. He is a bully and a thug.

Here is the letter the put-upon woman sent to Hax:

My fiance's friend needed a place to stay for a night and I said okay as long as his girlfriend didn't stay. She is a miserable person who does nothing but complain about her life, and they fight all the time.

He stayed one night, and it was okay.

The next week he and his girlfriend stayed a night, which I was very unhappy about. Then two days later my fiance brings the friend over and tells me he needs a place to stay for two months, and my fiance told him yes without even asking me.

He slept on our couch last night and I couldn't even sit in my living room to read or watch TV. Anytime I wanted to get up to go to the kitchen, I had to get fully dressed. When he uses dishes, he just leaves them for me to wash.

I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the girlfriend is staying here.

I told my fiance I don't want him here and he got mad at me. What should I do?

— K.

Of course, it’s her home. She has veto power over anyone staying there. The point should not be subject to discussion or debate.

The solution: end the engagement and exit the premises. Without any further discussion. Hax writes:

Move out, call off the engagement, call yourself lucky he pulled this stunt before you married him. No joke.

There are a lot of problems couples can fix, but they all require listening to each other, caring about each other, and showing respect for each other.

You can’t fix someone who is openly inconsiderate of you and then “got mad at” you for it.

If anything, I am underplaying this. Save yourself. Get through the most painful part of this life upheaval by reminding yourself how much worse it was going to get, living with someone who treats you as if you don’t exist.

By the way, for next time: There’s no “it’s only a matter of time before the girlfriend is staying here.” Your power is in your ability to say no: No, she can’t stay here; no, I won’t live here if she’s moving in; no, I won’t marry or live with someone who makes decisions for me. Never throw your power away.

Of course, she might also have told her fiance’s friend that he was not welcome in their home.  The friend might have noticed how uncomfortable his presence made her. Such an intervention would have precipitated the crisis that she will be avoiding by moving out and ending the engagement.

One suspects that the boyfriend is dangerous and threatening. He has silenced her and probably threatens worse. Time to call off the wedding, without any further discussion.

That means, without giving him an ultimatum, of the sort: your friend moves or I am moving out… not just of the home but of your life.  As Hax suggests the matter requires no negotiation and no conversation. Time to act decisively, and to save herself.

How to Treat Heart Disease

Surely the study is noteworthy. It addresses an issue I know nothing about, so I will simply report the findings. The issue is the use of stents and bypass surgery to treat heart disease. While the study does not dispute the fact that patients who are suffering acute symptoms do well to receive surgical treatment, other patients do as well in the long run by taking medication and by improving their health habits.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the study.

Stents and coronary artery bypass surgery are no more effective than intensive drug treatment and better health habits in preventing millions of Americans from heart attacks and death, a large study found, shedding new light on a major controversy in cardiology.

Researchers and doctors have fiercely debated for years how best to treat people who have narrowed coronary arteries but aren’t suffering acute symptoms.

The standard treatment has been to implant stents—wire mesh tubes that open up clogged arteries—or to perform bypass surgery, redirecting blood around a blockage. Those procedures are performed even though these patients either have no symptoms or feel chest pain only when they climb a few flights of stairs or exert themselves in some other way.

The study is the largest and among the most rigorous research yet to suggest that while stents and bypass surgery can be lifesaving for people who are having heart attacks, they aren’t necessarily better than cholesterol-lowering drugs and other changes in health habits for most people with chronic, or stable, coronary artery disease, which affects about 9.4 million Americans.

“You won’t prolong life,” said Judith Hochman, chair of the study and senior associate dean for clinical sciences at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine.

But stents or bypass surgery work better than medicine and lifestyle changes alone in relieving symptoms for people who have frequent angina, or chest pain, the researchers found.

William Barr for the Administration

This past Friday evening Attorney General William Barr called out the radical left in a stirring speech to the Federalist Society. Republicans responded gleefully at seeing someone lay out the case against Democratic obstruction with clarity and precision. Democrats responded with calls for Barr’s impeachment. Being brain dead imbeciles they do not know how to do anything else.

For today, I will quote, without very much commentary, important segments from Barr’s speech. In it he reviewed the principles that governed those who wrote the Constitution and critiqued the way they are currently being subverted by the American left.

For instance:

Immediately after President Trump won election, opponents inaugurated what they called “The Resistance,” and they rallied around an explicit strategy of using every tool and maneuver available to sabotage the functioning of his Administration. Now, “resistance” is the language used to describe insurgency against rule imposed by an occupying military power. It obviously connotes that the government is not legitimate. This is a very dangerous – indeed incendiary – notion to import into the politics of a democratic republic. What it means is that, instead of viewing themselves as the “loyal opposition,” as opposing parties have done in the past, they essentially see themselves as engaged in a war to cripple, by any means necessary, a duly elected government.

As I have often pointed out on this blog, the French Resistance was a disloyal opposition. Too often the Democratic left has taken this point far too literally.

Barr continues that the Senate has been hard at work preventing the president from putting together a functioning government… and has then been criticizing him for not doing so:

A prime example of this is the Senate’s unprecedented abuse of the advice-and-consent process. The Senate is free to exercise that power to reject unqualified nominees, but that power was never intended to allow the Senate to systematically oppose and draw out the approval process for every appointee so as to prevent the President from building a functional government.

Yet that is precisely what the Senate minority has done from his very first days in office. As of September of this year, the Senate had been forced to invoke cloture on 236 Trump nominees — each of those representing its own massive consumption of legislative time meant only to delay an inevitable confirmation. How many times was cloture invoked on nominees during President Obama’s first term? 17 times. The Second President Bush’s first term? Four times. It is reasonable to wonder whether a future President will actually be able to form a functioning administration if his or her party does not hold the Senate.

While the Congress is obstructing and resisting, it cannot do its work of legislation:

Congress has in recent years also largely abdicated its core function of legislating on the most pressing issues facing the national government. They either decline to legislate on major questions or, if they do, punt the most difficult and critical issues by making broad delegations to a modern administrative state that they increasingly seek to insulate from Presidential control. This phenomenon first arose in the wake of the Great Depression, as Congress created a number of so-called “independent agencies” and housed them, at least nominally, in the Executive Branch. More recently, the Dodd-Frank Act’s creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Branch, a single-headed independent agency that functions like a junior varsity President for economic regulation, is just one of many examples.

Of course, Congress’s effective withdrawal from the business of legislating leaves it with a lot of time for other pursuits. And the pursuit of choice, particularly for the opposition party, has been to drown the Executive Branch with “oversight” demands for testimony and documents. I do not deny that Congress has some implied authority to conduct oversight as an incident to its Legislative Power. But the sheer volume of what we see today – the pursuit of scores of parallel “investigations” through an avalanche of subpoenas – is plainly designed to incapacitate the Executive Branch, and indeed is touted as such.

Constant harassment designed to cripple the executive branch.

The costs of this constant harassment are real. For example, we all understand that confidential communications and a private, internal deliberative process are essential for all of our branches of government to properly function. Congress and the Judiciary know this well, as both have taken great pains to shield their own internal communications from public inspection. There is no FOIA for Congress or the Courts. Yet Congress has happily created a regime that allows the public to seek whatever documents it wants from the Executive Branch at the same time that individual congressional committees spend their days trying to publicize the Executive’s internal decisional process. That process cannot function properly if it is public, nor is it productive to have our government devoting enormous resources to squabbling about what becomes public and when, rather than doing the work of the people.

Barr continues to make another salient point. Our radical left, pretending to be progressives, has made politics their religion. They want to remake the world and its people to conform to their ideals.

In any age, the so-called progressives treat politics as their religion. Their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the State to remake man and society in their own image, according to an abstract ideal of perfection. Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursing a deific end. They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end, regardless of collateral consequences and the systemic implications. They never ask whether the actions they take could be justified as a general rule of conduct, equally applicable to all sides.

Conservatives respect tradition. They want above all to get things done:

Conservatives, on the other hand, do not seek an earthly paradise. We are interested in preserving over the long run the proper balance of freedom and order necessary for healthy development of natural civil society and individual human flourishing. This means that we naturally test the propriety and wisdom of action under a “rule of law” standard. The essence of this standard is to ask what the overall impact on society over the long run if the action we are taking, or principle we are applying, in a given circumstance was universalized – that is, would it be good for society over the long haul if this was done in all like circumstances?

Barr continues to note, sagely, that we should not use the model of judicial decision-making when conducting our lives. Life is not a criminal court. It is not an adversarial process where the goal is to destroy the adversary. If not destroy, at least to incarcerate:

In recent years, we have lost sight of the fact that many critical decisions in life are not amenable to the model of judicial decision-making. They cannot be reduced to tidy evidentiary standards and specific quantums of proof in an adversarial process. They require what we used to call prudential judgment. They are decisions that frequently have to be made promptly, on incomplete and uncertain information and necessarily involve weighing a wide range of competing risks and making predictions about the future. Such decisions frequently call into play the “precautionary principle.” This is the principle that when a decision maker is accountable for discharging a certain obligation – such as protecting the public’s safety – it is better, when assessing imperfect information, to be wrong and safe, than wrong and sorry.

This counts as the first time a member of the Trump administration has responded substantively to the tactics and strategy engaged by the Democratic Party against the duly elected president. It was late in coming, but we welcome it as an important contribution to a political scene that the Democratic Party has turned into a circus.