Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Recovering from Divorce

One understands why the “experts” find divorce and job loss to be comparable. Both traumas disrupt your life in very significant ways.

Since the constellation of your daily activities constitutes your identity, it makes sense that losing your marriage or your job would produce an “identity crisis.” Anyone who suffers such a massive disruption to daily routines will reasonably feel that he does not know who he is, where he belongs or what he should do.

But then, the “experts” take a leap into the theoretical void when they declare that job loss and divorce can be “good” identity crises. You may recover from both major traumas, but calling them good feels a bit, dare I say it, insensitive.

They take a second leap when they declare, as Elizabeth Bernstein reports, that both traumas require a long period of self-reconstruction.

We probably did not need “experts” to tell us that a newly divorced individual does best to reconstruct his life before he launches into a new relationship. But, the same does not apply to job loss. When you lose your job the best solution is to get a new job, ASAP.

A new job will effectively mitigate the pain of job loss and remove the stigma of unemployment.

Elizabeth Bernstein’s “experts” offer misleading and destructive advice when they suggest that a worker who has lost his job needs two years to get over the loss.

Doubtless they were not thinking clearly. A moment’s reflection will tell you that anyone who takes two years to get back on the job market will have a more difficult time of it. Employers do not often hire people who have spent too much time unemployed.

If you lose a job and then get a new one, the new job will provide a new structure, new colleagues, new responsibilities and new routines. You need but learn to adapt to them.

Moreover, a new job is not filled with reminders of the old job. When you get divorced, your surroundings, real and virtual, still contain many mementoes of your time together. Obviously, this makes it more difficult to forget and to move on.

Recovering from a divorce is not the same as recovering from the death of a spouse. When your spouse dies you feel grief and you go into mourning. Your friends and family will be there for you. Since there is no stigma to losing a spouse, they will be there for you. The same is not true if you get divorced.

Surely, you will have to reconstruct your life after you spouse dies, but you will not suffer the emotion that accompanies divorce: you will not feel that you have failed.

Bernstein’s “experts” are too kind to say it, but one of the most difficult factors in overcoming divorce or in getting over job loss is the sense of failure.

Once you start seeing yourself as a failure, or once other people start seeing you as a failure, you will suspect that you are not sufficiently competent build a new life or even to get another job. That being the case, recovery is going to feel like hard work.

If you succumb to the stigma of failure, you will have more difficulty getting back in the game.

Worse yet, if your make it your mission in life to avoid ever having to experience the same trauma again, you might decide to ensure that you will never get divorced by not getting married again and ensure that you will never get fired by not getting another job.

It is good that the “experts” recognize the importance of psycho-social disruption. And it is good that they are telling people that all the negative emotions that accompany divorce or job loss are, fundamentally, NORMAL.

They are correct to point out that, when you get divorced, it’s not just your life that needs reconstructing. If you have adopted the habit of thinking of yourself as part of a couple, the absence of the other person will require that you reconfigure your mental habits, to think of yourself as a single person.

Clearly, it takes time. Just as clearly, it is probably not a good idea to jump right into a new relationship. I suspect that those who jump into new relationships are trying to retain the old routines with new partners. One or the other of the members of the new couple will eventually recognize that it’s like the masked ball. At midnight, he discovers that she is not who he thought she was and she discovers that he is not who she thought he was.

When it comes to divorce, the “experts” have declared two years to be the normal recovery time. Curiously, Bernstein offers the case of one Michael Hassard, a man from Alabama who negotiated his own divorce by attending classes on divorce in a church in Alabama. We’ve come a long way from therapy, don’t you think.

In any event Hassard was happy to hear that it would take him two years to get over his divorce. He set about making it a project. He charted his progress and worked his way out of it.

Clearly, the Church class helped Hassard, but so did his military training.

Bernstein reports:

He was sitting in class one night and began to see his recovery as the wall he'd had to scale on an Army boot-camp obstacle course. It was going to be tough. There was no way around it. But things would be better on the other side.

Of course, this does not prove that all people need two years to get over divorce. Many divorcees have not learned good habits in the military and are more likely to see the recovery process in terms of psychodrama.

Moreover, Hassard had been awarded sole custody of his children, so he was obliged to maintain a structure of home life, with routines and rituals that would support them.

As a general rule, I think it well that therapists stay out of the prophecy business. Some people might well benefit from knowing that recovery from divorce is like a two-year training course. Others will tell themselves that since it’s going to take two years to recover, they might as well hibernate and await their rebirth.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Andrew Sullivan on the Clinton/Weiner Scandals

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan offered a few choice words about the Clinton/Weiner comparison. He is especially agitated at the Clinton’s objecting to being compared with Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin.

Sullivan is not the first to point out that the Clinton scandals were far worse than the Weiner scandals. And he is not the first to point out that the Clinton outrage  is anything but honest.

But, he says it well:

So far as we know, Anthony Weiner has never committed adultery or sexually harassed or abused anyone. And Huma Abedin has not blamed a vast right-wing conspiracy for her husband’s libidinous indiscretions. None of that could be said about the Clintons. Bill lied and lied and lied again and again and again – until he was lying under oath, and lying to his own cabinet, telling them to go out and deny the very things he knew he had done. Bill didn’t send his dick pic to some activist paramour; he told state troopers to bring that hot woman he spied in the hotel lobby up to his room where he exposed himself to her and told her to “lick it.” And this creep has the gall to vent about Weiner.

And he adds:

As for recklessness, Bill Clinton, knowing full well that he was already being sued for sexual harassment by elements on the far right, went right ahead and had sex with an intern working for him at the White House – destroying the promise of his second term, and giving the hypocritical, extremist Republicans the political gift of a lifetime. Talk about betrayal of his supporters and everyone who had ever worked for him, including his cabinet. The Weiner affair is a trivial non-event compared with the Clintons’ reckless, mutual self-destruction.

Sullivan’s post is well worth a read.

Are Personal Trainers the New Therapists?

Frank Bruni believes that he has spotted a new trend. In the latest Woody Allen movie, Blue Jasmine, he sees no therapists and no mention of therapy. In their stead he finds a personal trainer.

Are personal trainers the new therapists?

Bruni explains:

What therapists were to the more cerebral New York of yesteryear, trainers are to the more superficial here and now: designated agents of self-actualization, florid expressions of self-indulgence, must-have accessories, must-cite authorities.

“My therapist says” is outmoded. “My trainer says” is omnipresent, at least in the coddled precincts of most cosmopolitan cities coast to coast.

Bruni may be a little ahead of his time, but I think that he is largely correct.

He is right to begin with a man who, more than anyone else in New York, had too much therapy. You know the story. After having undergone three decades of therapy Woody Allen managed to fall in love with his son’s adoptive half-sister, thus blowing up his family and alienating his son, seemingly forever.

Woody Allen is eminently qualified to have an opinion on the downside of having had enough therapy.

Bruni has a good point but, unfortunately, he drowns in it snide sarcasm.

He does not mention that many New Yorkers are still consulting psychiatrists. Mental health treatment has become medication-based, so most patients seek out psychopharmacologists rather than talk therapists.

Bruni makes a mockery of the role of personal trainer, but what makes you think that therapists are offering anything more substantive or insightful than the trainers.

Bruni writes:

The ranks of trainers metastasize and the adulation for them swells, even as their precise function grows fuzzier — or more variable from trainer to trainer and client to client. Trainers are the new priests. Trainers are the new escorts. They’re paid listeners, paid talkers: friends for hire, who charge by the hour, water not included. And they’re ludicrously apt emblems of, and metaphors for, this particular juncture in America, where people of means seem to believe that there’s no problem — from a child’s grades to a belly’s sprawl — that can’t be fixed by throwing money and a putative expert at it. Anything can be delegated. Everything can be outsourced, even perspiration.

Or this:

This is our great nation’s future: an army of men and women in Lululemon apparel, barking about the importance of a “strong core” and meaning muscle, not character.

He would have been more persuasive if he had pointed out that aerobic conditioning is recognized as an excellent treatment for depression. For all he knows, and he does not seem to know very much, New Yorkers have figured out that exercise is far more effective as therapy than the insights offered by your standard-issue therapist?

If you have had the misfortune to see the Bravo series LA Shrinks last spring you know what I mean. Is there anything that any of the three therapists said during the show that did not feel like a soul-deadening banality? The show demonstrated how far the therapy profession has fallen since the old days when therapists were trying to be serious professionals.

Bruni does not mention that training is hard work. Many people would not be able to get into shape without a personal trainer. If that is what they need and if they are happy with the results, why cavil?

You can make fun of those who swear by their trainers—though Bruni does have one himself—but their faith in trainers might be an expression of gratitude. You will feel a lot better after a training session than you will after an hour logged on the couch.

The therapy world is in flux; it is transforming. The old model of insight-based therapy is fast going by the wayside. It is being replaced by more practical, more empirically verifiable models. As it happens, cognitive/behavioral therapists who prescribe homework exercises are more like trainers than like LA shrinks.

[Addendum, From MarketWatch today, h/t Ari:

A little exercise goes a long way. In fact, the effect of regular exercise on mild to moderate forms of depression is similar to the effect of cognitive behavioral therapy, according to the co-authors of the book “Exercise for Mood and Anxiety,” Jasper Smits, associate professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and Michael Otto, a psychologist at Boston University. The two authors analyzed the results of dozens of published population-based and clinical studies related to exercise and mental health to arrive at their findings.

There’s little consensus on how or why exercise helps, but Smits says the public health recommendation for daily exercise — 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise or 150 minutes of moderate activity — should be more widely prescribed by mental-health care providers, especially as studies show that 25% to 40% of Americans don’t exercise at all. “Some professionals argue that exercise is the non-pharmacological antidepressant and may work in the same way as these medications,” he says.]

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Clintons Feel the Heat

The heat wave has broken, but New York politics has become enveloped in its own heat wave: the Weiner-Clinton saga. It’s not just the Weiners and the Clintons who are keeping the scandal in the news. Anthony Weiner’s inamorata, aptly named Sydney Leathers has been enjoying her fifteen minutes of fame.

For those who want a full accounting of the details, the London Daily Mail has become a go-to source.

Now the Clintons are beginning to sweat.

Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin have been doing their best Bill and Hillary Clinton impersonations, but, for now it is not helping Weiner at the polls. For the Clintons it is a nightmare; it has thrown unwanted attention on the Clinton scandals.

Fred Dicker reported in the New York Post this morning:

Worried about the potential impact on Hillary’s likely run for president in 2016, the political power couple has begun aggressively distancing itself from the crippled mayoral contender, according to sources.

Doubtless, Anthony and Huma feel betrayed. The Clintons had been treating them as their protégés. After all, Bill Clinton officiated at their wedding and Hillary treated Huma Abedin like family.

Weiner and Abedin have not hidden the fact that they are just following the Clinton playbook in dealing with the scandal.

Feeling the heat, the Clintons are beginning to use anonymous surrogates to do damage control.

Dicker explains:

Bill and Hillary Clinton are angry with efforts by mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner and his campaign to compare his Internet sexcapades — and his wife Huma Abedin’s incredible forgiveness — to the Clintons’ notorious White House saga, The Post has learned.

“The Clintons are upset with the comparisons that the Weiners seem to be encouraging — that Huma is ‘standing by her man’ the way Hillary did with Bill, which is not what she in fact did,’’ said a top state Democrat.

Weiner and his campaign aides have explicitly referred to the Clintons as they privately seek to convince skeptical Democrats that voters can back Weiner despite his online sexual antics — just as they supported then-President Bill Clinton in the face of repeated allegations of marital betrayals.

“The Clintons are pissed off that Weiner’s campaign is saying that Huma is just like Hillary,’’ said the source. “How dare they compare Huma with Hillary? Hillary was the first lady. Hillary was a senator. She was secretary of state.”

For some reason this Democratic operative seems to feel offended that anyone would compare Huma Abedin with Hillary Clinton. After all, Abedin was not the first lady, was not a senator and was not secretary of state.

Sorry to have to say it, but that is not an argument. After all, people naturally tend to emulate their betters. Who else but the Clintons would Anthony and Weiner choose to emulate?.

If the tactic worked for the Clintons, why wouldn’t it work for the Weiners?

The notion that Huma Abedin is not first lady is no more an argument than Hillary Clinton’s mindless effort to distance herself from the murder of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi.

Remember her immortal words: What difference, at this point, does it make? By this principle, we would never investigate any crimes and would never retaliate after being attacked.

The reasoning is astonishingly bad. Naturally, no one in the mainstream media will call her out on it.

Efforts to distance the Clintons from the Weiner scandal began last week with Michael Tomasky. Now, the Clintons have upped the ante. Soon, Dicker says, someone closely associated with the them, a Dede Meyers, will call for Weiner to drop out of the race.

In the meantime, New York Republicans are nowhere to be seen or heard.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Don't Share Your Marital Problems

When troubles arise in her relationship a young woman will naturally want to share it with her best girlfriends. Wasn’t that the point of Sex and the City and Girls?

At the first sign of troubles with her boyfriend, her husband or her inamorato, she will hie to the nearest coffee shop and, over a long brunch, confide in her friends.

Nothing quite like some commiseration to go with the Eggs Benedict. Some people even believe that the process is therapeutic.

But, now Yahoo Shine! offers some thoughtful analysis of the question and arrives at a strikingly different conclusion: think before you share. I applaud the fact that more and more therapists are discovering the virtue of discretion.

Columnist Charlotte Latvaia offers several reasons why sharing might well be a bad idea. Her argument is cogent and persuasive; it is a welcome counterweight to the therapy culture imperative to overshare.

Here, in summary form, are some of the most important parts of the analysis.

Why shouldn’t you share?

First, because once you put information into circulation you have no control over it.  You might think that Cindy Lou is your best friend and that she would never, ever betray a confidence, but the more you tell her, the more likely it is that she is going to let something slip to someone.

Occasionally, she will feel that the information you have told her is so alarming, so clearly a form of abuse, that she must tell everyone about it.

Second, sharing intimate details of a relationship with your friends is, as one therapist astutely notes, betraying a trust. It is also disloyal.

Since the glue that holds a relationship together is a mix of trust and loyalty you are not doing your relationship any favors by failing to manifest these virtues.

When you speak ill of your spouse to other people, you are submitting him to public humiliation. It may or may not ever get back to him, but you will know that you have done it, and you will know that you are less than trustworthy.

Even if he never finds out, your behavior toward him will likely change. Naturally, you will be thinking that if you could do it, he could do it too. Thus, you will confide less in him, share less with him… and  create more distance between the two of you.

Third, what might have been a manageable minor difficulty within a relationship will become a major problem when your spouse feels that other people are watching what goes on in the privacy of your home.

Latvaia quotes Jessie:

"Once, I impulsively complained to my sister-in-law about my husband's inability to show affection," says Jessie, who lives in Cincinnati. "She relayed the conversation to him, and he was horribly upset. It took us ages to get over it."

I promise you that Jessie’s sister-in-law repeated what she had heard because she was trying to be helpful. Remember the old line about good intentions ….

Fourth, your friends are not objective. They will be on your side. They will take the opportunity to demonstrate your loyalty. They will sympathize with you. They will shower you with empathy. Since they only know your side of the story they will cause you to become more convinced that you were right and that he was wrong.

Since marriage is based on negotiation, such moral support will make you feel less inclined to compromise or conciliate. Drama will inevitably follow.

Fifth, even if your friends are the soul of discretion, when you speak ill of your spouse, they will behave differently toward him. They might shun him; they might avoid him; they might look askance at him.

He will feel the difference but will not know what is causing it. Thus, he will take grievous and justifiable offense. At that point, a minor spat will have become a defining moment in your relationship.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Does Rehab Work?

Two weeks ago, fresh out of yet another stint in rehab Glee star Cory Monteith killed himself with an overdose of heroin and alcohol.

Sometimes it seems as though every one of your favorite celebrities has done time in rehab. From Charlie Sheen to Lindsay Lohan to Courtney Love many celebrities have made rehab a home away from home.

Now, the mayor of San Diego, Robert Filner is going to rehab to receive intensive therapy for sexually harassing the women on his staff.

Reading between the lines, we discover that Filner is a Democrat. Were he a Republican he would long since have been drummed out of office.

As rehab’s failures accumulate many are questioning its value. After all, rehab is very expensive, so people are naturally asking whether it provides value. Last week in The Daily Beast Lizzie Crocker asked why rehab doesn’t work very often.

It’s an important point. When politicians and pundits talk about how much they want to provide mental health treatment for everyone, they rarely mention its unconscionably high failure rate.

Since Crocker overlooks the reason why people need rehab, allow me to fill in the blank. When someone is addicted to alcohol or drugs, he often needs to detox under strict medical supervision. He needs to be in a controlled medical environment in order to clean out his system.

Thus, it makes sense that rehab facilities promote abstinence. When someone is detoxing you do not offer him a drink or two.

It also makes sense that rehab would take its cues from 12 step programs. These have, by and large, been shown to be effective for those who follow the steps. Unfortunately, many people do not keep with the program and end up back on alcohol or drugs or both.

With the press keeps reporting rehab failures like Cory Monteith, the people who run these facilities are starting to ask themselves what they might be doing wrong. Surely, they are right to do so.

If Crocker is to be believed, they have decided to blame 12 step programs because these are based on abstinence. As you know, the word “abstinence” has become a buzzword designating repression.

For the record, many psychiatrists and addiction counselors are comfortable telling their patients that if they can strictly limit their alcohol consumption to, say, two drinks a day, they need not abstain totally.  Unfortunately, many alcoholics cannot do it.

Crocker reports:

… many [rehab programs] continue to be built around traditional 12-step, abstinence-only programs despite a growing body of evidence that this approach doesn’t work for everyone

That sets a very high bar. If your goal is to find a program that is going to work for everyone, you have set yourself up for failure. Even if, as Crocker suggests and as professionals seem now to believe, rehab has not been offering enough medication to patients, medication only works when an individual takes it. It doesn’t take too much imagination to understand that addicts might abuse prescription medication… when they take it.

It is inconceivable that the professionals who run these facilities are not perfectly aware of this fact. Crocker does not report it.

In the past, Crocker reports, addiction had been considered a behavioral problem. Now science believes that it is a brain disorder.

Again, this is slightly misleading. To take an example, autism is a neurological condition, but it responds to cognitive and behavioral treatment. When you say that something is a brain disorder you should not therefore assume that the only solution is a new drug. If you tell an addict that a drug is the solution, why would he not tell himself that he likes his drug more than yours?

I suspect that when clinicians say that addiction used to be considered a “behavioral problem” they are implying that addiction was taken to be a sign of weak moral character, of a lack of self-control and self-discipline. When they declare it to be a brain disease they are removing the stigma and saying that the addict bears no responsibility for his behavior.

Since 12 step programs are God-based, their approach to treatment involves humility, self-control, and character building: making amends to those you have harmed allows you to take responsibility for your behavior.

But, once you remove both the stigma associated with drug abuse and the individual’s responsibility, what do you have left?

One does understand why rehab programs offer compulsory group therapy. They are trying to inculcate the habit of going to meetings. But, AA meetings are not really group therapy. For one, participants are anonymous. For another, participation is voluntary. You can come and go as you please and you can talk or remain silent as you please.

If you tell patients that they are suffering from a brain disease, you are also saying that they, using their moral resources, are powerless to stop drinking. Doesn’t that mean that a physician has no confidence in the alcoholic’s ability stop drinking? And doesn’t it open the possibility that an alcoholic might drink because he does not want disappoint his physician's expectations?

Celebrity patients have their own special problems. A celebrity who makes a spectacle of himself for abusing alcohol or drugs gains publicity. It’s not just that he is not stigmatized for bad behavior: he is rewarded.

If celebrities, as has often been argued, are gluttons for attention, if they fear anonymity more than anything else, making fools of themselves in public serves a psychic purpose.

A non-judgmental attitude is an addict’s best friend. If you destigmatize addiction you are inevitably going to get more of it. If you convince people that there is nothing they can do, of their own volition, to control their bad habit, they are not going to try.

If no one judges an addict’s bad behavior, he might have to reach what they call “rock bottom” before it dawns on him that he is doing something wrong. Even then, nothing about hitting “rock bottom” tells him that he  can, through his own efforts overcome the problem.

The effectiveness of rehab is limited in another way. An individual in rehab has been cut off from his normal social environment. He is in a safe house where, presumably, toxic substances are not available. He is surrounded by people who are also suffering from addiction.

But this means that he will not learn how to deal with the temptations that will inevitably arise once he returns goes back to socializing the people he got drunk with or took drugs with.

As it happens, AA does address these problems. It encourages people to substitute meetings for bar hopping. It provides some new, sober friends.

If a patient gets out of rehab and is on his own, armed only with a bright new prescription, everyone in his entourage will consider him to be a challenge, like a virgin who needs to be corrupted.

12 step programs don't work for everyone. Rehab certainly doesn’t. And medication probably won’t either.

[Dr. Joy Bliss makes an important point about this post on the Maggie’s Farm blog:

Neither rehab, nor AA, nor any other program "works." The person has to "work the program," and work it as if their life depended on it. Often, it does.

The questions of whether a program or plan "works" premises a medical patient model, a passive model, as if addiction and abuse were like pneumonia, curable by the best antibiotic. They are not. You do not "go through rehab" any more than you "go through AA."]

Friday, July 26, 2013


Deep thinking New Yorkers are pondering the deep question: do they want to have an aspiring porn star as their next mayor? And do they want as their next first lady a daughter of the Muslim Sisterhood?

Left thinking intellectuals and liberal media outlets want Anthony Weiner to exit the mayoralty race … yesterday. Some right thinking people are making the same recommendation, but they are not thinking very clearly.

As I suggested on Wednesday, this is not about Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin. It’s about Bill and Hillary Clinton.

At a time when Hillary Clinton was on a glide path to the White House, when it looked as though nothing could stop her, along comes Bill Clinton’s protégé, Anthony Weiner, and his wife, Hillary Clinton aide and confidant, Huma Abedin to remind everyone of what they did not like about the Clintons.

This time the Clintons cannot pin it on Ken Starr.

Huma Abedin has been doing her best Hillary Clinton impersonation, standing by her man and all that, but the more she does it the more people start thinking that her marriage is an arrangement. Then they start questioning its role model, the Clinton marriage.

Yesterday, reliably left thinking columnist Michael Tomasky explained that the Weiner situation has nothing whatever in common with the Clinton situation.

This means that Hillary’s supporters are worried that the stench from Weiner-Abedin has been impacting her own ambitions negatively.

To which Peter Beinart, no right winger he, responded this morning by extending an observation that I made in my last post. If Weiner’s scandals are not the same as Bill Clinton’s that is because they are not nearly as bad.

Beinart compares the press reaction to the Clinton scandals with the press reaction to the Weiner scandals:

 consider the Times’s treatment of candidate Bill Clinton. In late January 1992, in a press conference in New York, Gennifer Flowers claimed that she had been Clinton’s lover for 12 years. She released audiotapes in which Clinton apparently encouraged her to lie about the affair and urged her to file an affidavit alleging that Republicans were behind the story. She also said Clinton had helped her get a job in state government. Appearing with Hillary on 60 Minutes, Clinton responded by saying that Flowers was motivated by “money” and that her “allegation is false,” while acknowledging that he “had caused pain in my marriage.” That summer, The Washington Post’s Michael Isikoff reported that the Clinton campaign had paid a private investigator to head off what one staffer called “bimbo eruptions” but failed to disclose the payment in its filing to the Federal Elections Commission.

The Times’s response? Not only did the paper not demand that Clinton leave the race, but barely two months after Flowers’ press conference, it endorsed him for the Democratic nomination. After briefly reviewing the Clinton scandals, The Times declared that “some of these episodes have been unfair or exaggerated. Together they leave enduring doubts. But what’s been obscured in all the commotion is a record of accomplishment that gives credibility to the cogent [policy] program [Clinton] proposes.”

By any reasonable standard, Weiner’s behavior is less damning than Clinton’s. Yes, Weiner committed adultery (of a kind). Yes, he repeatedly lied about it. Yes, he humiliated his wife in an effort to save his candidacy. Clinton did all that, too. What Weiner, in contrast to Clinton, has not done—as far as we know—is use his office to reward his paramours. He has not publicly besmirched their character. He has not asked them to violate the law. And he has not violated campaign disclosure laws in his effort to keep them silent. According to legal experts, he has also not committed sexual harassment.

Why the double standard?

Beinart suggests, reasonably, that the Weiner scandal offers us visual evidence that is available to the world. This makes deniability that much more difficult. We are no longer in the world of he said/she said.

But it is also true that in both cases the leftist press is doing its job: promoting a Clinton candidacy.

The longer Weiner stays in the race, the more people start asking questions. As a commenter on this site asked, what is the nature of the Weiner marriage? It seems clearly to be an arrangement.

The more we hear from Weiner paramour Sydney Leathers the more we start thinking that Anthony and Huma had, at best, a very unconventional marriage.

Public perception aside, the real crux of this issue, as I suggested on Wednesday, is the relationship between Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin.

The New York Post reported this morning that important Democrats have been contributing to the Weiner campaign because they want to be on good terms with a woman who can provide access to the next president.

Whether Huma Abedin is considered to be one of Hillary’s closest aides, an “adoptive daughter” or something more, there is something about that relationship that does not work to Hillary’s advantage.

Here, the issue is not just personal. It involves government policy.

Everyone knows that Huma Abedin’s family has long and deep ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Andrew McCarthy has documented them extensively. It is less well known that when Abedin was working in the State Department with Hillary Clinton, American foreign policy took a radical turn toward the Brotherhood.

McCarthy describes what was happening:

… during that time, the State Department strongly supported abandoning the federal government’s prior policy against official dealings with the Muslim Brotherhood. State, furthermore, embraced a number of Muslim Brotherhood positions that undermine both American constitutional rights and our alliance with Israel. To name just a few manifestations of this policy sea change:
  • The State Department had an emissary in Egypt who trained operatives of the Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations in democracy procedures.
  • The State Department announced that the Obama administration would be “satisfied” with the election of a Muslim Brotherhood–dominated government in Egypt.
  • Secretary Clinton personally intervened to reverse a Bush-administration ruling that barred Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the Brotherhood’s founder and son of one of its most influential early leaders, from entering the United States.
  • The State Department collaborated with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of governments heavily influenced by the Brotherhood, in seeking to restrict American free-speech rights in deference to sharia proscriptions against negative criticism of Islam.
  • The State Department excluded Israel, the world’s leading target of terrorism, from its “Global Counterterrorism Forum,” a group that brings the United States together with several Islamist governments, prominently including its co-chair, Turkey — which now finances Hamas and avidly supports the flotillas that seek to break Israel’s blockade of Hamas. At the forum’s kickoff, Secretary Clinton decried various terrorist attacks and groups; but she did not mention Hamas or attacks against Israel — in transparent deference to the Islamist governments, which echo the Brotherhood’s position that Hamas is not a terrorist organization and that attacks against Israel are not terrorism.
  • The State Department and the Obama administration waived congressional restrictions in order to transfer $1.5 billion dollars in aid to Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory in the parliamentary elections.
  • The State Department and the Obama administration waived congressional restrictions in order to transfer millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian territories notwithstanding that Gaza is ruled by the terrorist organization Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch.
  • The State Department and the administration hosted a contingent from Egypt’s newly elected parliament that included not only Muslim Brotherhood members but a member of the Islamic Group (Gamaa al-Islamiyya), which is formally designated as a foreign terrorist organization. The State Department refused to provide Americans with information about the process by which it issued a visa to a member of a designated terrorist organization, about how the members of the Egyptian delegation were selected, or about what security procedures were followed before the delegation was allowed to enter our country.
  • On a trip to Egypt, Secretary Clinton pressured General Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the military junta then governing the country, to surrender power to the parliament dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the then–newly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, a top Brotherhood official. She also visited with Morsi; immediately after his victory, Morsi had proclaimed that his top priorities included pressuring the United States to release the Blind Sheikh. Quite apart from the Brotherhood’s self-proclaimed “grand jihad” to destroy the United States . . . the group’s supreme guide, Mohammed Badie, publicly called for jihad against the United States in an October 2010 speech. After it became clear the Brotherhood would win the parliamentary election, Badie said the victory was a stepping stone to “the establishment of a just Islamic caliphate.”
The question is not why Huma Abedin stands by her man. She is using a technique developed by Hillary Clinton to use her husband to advance her own political agenda.

The real question is Hillary Clinton's conduct of American foreign policy when she was Secretary of State. The more the nation is transfixed by the Weiner scandal the more it risks bringing up the Hillary-Huma relationship, not for what it may or may not have been in the boudoir, but for how it influenced American foreign policy toward the Muslim Brotherhood.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why Lisa Can't Run

Lisa Rosenbaum is a cardiologist who used to be an “avid runner.”

Naturally, when she injured a hamstring she sought the best medical care. As a physician she was well placed to find the best doctor.

But that’s not what happened. Writing in The New Yorker Rosenbaum compares her experiences with two different physicians, a man she calls Dr. D. and a woman who she designates as “my person.”

The two physicians took radically different approaches to Rosenbaum’s hamstring.

Here she tells her story:

I used to be an avid runner, but have had a slew of running injuries—the most enduring of which is a chronic hamstring problem that has made sitting uncomfortable, and running impossible. But for a long time, my approach to any given injury was simple: run through it.

In my quest for quick fixes, I have seen more orthopedists than I can count. But there was one doctor, Dr. D., who tried to teach me the error of my ways. He told me that the problem was not with my body but with my behavior. He said I didn’t need MRIs or steroid injections but rather to stop running and give myself time to heal. And I, in turn, found much that was wrong with him: he started late, didn’t return phone calls, had bad breath, typed with one finger, and, above all, didn’t seem to listen to me. I decided he was the worst doctor in the world and went searching for a new one.

Many months and doctors later, last year, I found “my person.” Most important, she told me I would run again. That she was so nice, so pretty, and so put together (and she injected my aching gluteal region with steroid every time I asked) only reinforced my sense that I was in the most expert of hands. I loved her as much as I wanted to be her.

If you had mailed me a satisfaction survey, you can imagine which doctor would have gotten a bonus. But in the end, it’s Dr. D who was right. I still can’t run, but had I heeded his advice, I’d likely be back to doing marathons.

If we were talking about an everyday patient with limited medical knowledge, her choice would be easily understood. Uninformed patients are more likely to allow themselves to be influenced by the packaging and the appearance. They do not know enough about the science so they respond to what they do understand.

Yet, how can a patient who knows science have so easily allowed herself to be seduced?

The cognitive scientists call this a “halo effect” and associate it with cognitive bias. But, isn’t this really just a modern variant on the idea that love is blind?

Many patients, no matter how well informed, choose the thrill of having the best dressed and best looking physician with the best decorated office.

It’s not just about love. It’s also about status. Rosenbaum’s preferred physicians seemed to have a much higher status. Thus, she could talk about consulting with her “person” with her friends and enjoy the benefits that accrue to someone who associates with a more important physician.

Apparently, these thrills compensate for the failure to get better.

To be fair, how many of us would also have dismissed Dr. D. out of hand? His poor manners, his bad breath, his failure to return phone messages… wouldn’t that have set off your mental alarms.

Shouldn’t someone tell Dr. D. that mouthwash will not compromise the way he practices medicine.

Rosenbaum is questioning patient satisfaction surveys. Apparently, physicians who tell their patients what they want to hear, who are better looking and more willing to give injections receive higher ratings than do those who tell the truth and offer the most effective treatment.

One must note that Dr. D. was not going to get rich advising his patient to change her behavior. Rosenbaum’s other doctor was undoubtedly doing much better financially by dressing up, offering a swanky locale and injecting steroids.

One might note, as Rosenbaum does, that oncologists, for example, find a therapeutic benefit in allowing their patients to believe that a treatment might be more effective than it really is.

But, Rosenbaum’s hamstring problem does not fit in that category. Besides, a new study suggested that patients who liked their physicians more spend more on medical treatment.  This produced higher mortality rates.

In her words:

But do higher scores on a satisfaction survey translate into better health? So far, the answer seems to be no. A recent study examined patient satisfaction among more than fifty thousand patients over a seven-year period, and two findings were notable. The first was that the most satisfied patients incurred the highest costs. The second was that the most satisfied patients had the highest rates of mortality. While with studies like this one it is always critical to remember that correlation does not equal causation, the data should give us pause. Good medicine, it seems, does not always feel good.

I think she is right not to jump to conclusions, but the next time you consult with a physician who has a perfectly appointed office and whose appearance oozes glamor, be skeptical. And the next time you consult with an unkempt, disorganized physician who offers advice that does not seem to benefit him at all, pay closer attention.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Extroverted Introverts

Extroverts are happier than introverts. People who are outgoing and gregarious, who interact easily with others and who cultivate relationships are generally happier than those who withdraw from human contact.

So, what’s an introvert to do? Studies suggest that it might be good for introverts to pretend that they are extroverts, even when this requires them to act against what feels normal.

To make sense out of the issue, we need to know what the researchers mean by introvert and extrovert. There things become less clear.

Sumathi Reddy offers some of the theories for why extroverts tend to be happier:

One theory is that being talkative and engaging influences how people respond to you, especially if that response is positive. Others speculate that people get more satisfaction when they express their core self and opinions. Another possibility: Happiness might come simply from having successfully completed a goal, such as giving a speech.

"If you're introverted and act extroverted, you will be happier. It doesn't matter who you are, it's all about what you do," said William Fleeson, a psychology professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

For my part, I agree with Prof. Fleeson. Self-definition is less important than what you do.

Unfortunately, the definition of introversion and extroversion are less than clear.

If extroversion involves connecting with other people, surely it contributes to happiness. And yet, some people are boisterous and bombastic, too outgoing and gregarious for their or anyone else’s good. Do you want to call them extroverts? Someone who mouths off about core opinions all the time is likely to alienate more people than he connects with.  

Many researchers believe that extroverts are more comfortable performing in public. Extroverts like to give speeches and feel at home in front of a crowd. And yet, being able to entertain people is not necessarily a good thing. Many natural-born entertainers are so into themselves that they fail to connect with others. They are always performing, so they never really involve themselves in conversation. It’s a “tears of a clown” syndrome.

And then, not all forms of introversion are the same. Sitting in a room looking at the walls is not the same as sitting in a chair and reading a good book.  

Introvert Clark Powell explains that he receives a great deal of pleasure from his solitary activities:

Mr. Powell says his sources of pleasure include learning new things and reading a good book. "I may not share my happiness as willingly as other people…but I consider myself just as happy and I'm extremely motivated to learn and grow as an individual."

Then again, Powell also forces himself to act like an extrovert. He pushes himself to give speeches and feels happy when he has succeeded in an activity that feels somewhat unnatural.

Moreover, some researchers define introverts as people who prefer to interact in small groups. Since there is a considerable difference between attending a small dinner party and dining alone,I do not see the value in affixing the same label to both.

Be all of that as it may, some people are more gregarious than others. Some people interact with others more easily. And some people are painfully shy and withdrawn, manifesting behaviors that make it difficult to connect.

Research suggests that those who feel handicapped by introversion can cure their condition by acting like extroverts.

They do it by identifying behaviors that characterize extroverts and adopting them. If introverts tend to avoid human contact, to skip out on appointments, to fail to respond to messages, then an introvert who wants to overcome his condition would do well to do the opposite of what will feel more natural.

As a treatment model this makes good sense. It belongs to the category of cognitive and behavioral treatments. The key to overcoming introversion is selecting replacement behaviors that counteract the tendency. It requires discipline and perseverance, but it does not require insight into the root cause of the initial problem. 

Trying to treat the problem with injections of insight reinforces the bad behaviors. If you believe that you can only change your ways by gaining insight you will have found an excuse for not changing your ways. And you will have unfortunately been persuaded that changing your behaviors does not require work, but is a spontaneous reaction to a change of heart or mind.

Anthony Weiner for President

New York deserves Anthony Weiner. And it deserves Weiner’s stand-by-your-man wife, Huma Abedin.

Who better to be mayor of New York than Bill Clinton protégé, Weiner. And, who better to be New York’s first lady than Hillary Clinton aide and confidante, Huma Abedin.

Who better to be mayor of New York than a man who suffers from compulsive sexting disorder and who lies to the people. And who better to be first lady of New York than a daughter of one of the founders of the Muslim Sisterhood.

It doesn’t get any better. Next stop, Pennsylvania Avenue.

Based on yesterday’s new revelations, the New York Times and NOW are calling for Weiner to withdraw from the race for mayor of New York. But, where were they when Bill Clinton got caught with the intern? In fact, they defended him to the death.

They believed what Hillary had told them, that Bill would never sexually exploit a vulnerable intern. It was all just a “vast right wing conspiracy.” Liberal media outlets and liberal activist groups defended Bill Clinton for having done things that are far worse than what poor Anthony Weiner did.

New Yorkers worship Bill Clinton. They worship Hillary Clinton. They are drooling with anticipation at the advent of President Hillary.

They deserve Anthony Weiner.

The media and the activists have turned on Anthony Weiner because he reminds everyone of Bill Clinton’s sordid escapades. Weiner’s dogged pursuit the mayoralty, with the full support of his Stepford wife, reminds people of the Clintons. And not in the good sense.

Yesterday’s news brought us the message that, having adopted the screen name of Carlos Danger, Weiner was sexting with a comely Democratic operative in Indiana. He was doing it while his wife was pregnant. He was doing it after he resigned from Congress. He was doing it after he swore to the world that he wouldn’t do it anymore.

At the least we now know that Anthony Weiner is not a man of his word. If Huma Abedin believes that when her husband goes back on his word to the electorate the problem is just between the two of them, she has her own problems.

Lest we forget, Anthony Weiner has been working on his problems in therapy. At the least, we can say that therapy taught him to express his feelings openly and honestly. How’s that therapy working out for you, Anthony?

When you think about it, New York needs Huma Abedin as its first lady. It would surely be the first time that the city had a first lady whose mother was one of the founding members of the Muslim Sisterhood. Huma Abedin would be the first New York first lady to have worked on a Muslim Sisterhood publication for eight years.

Of course, the MS is the woman’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood… you know how well that worked out for Egypt. Dr. Abedin is also the chairwoman of the International Islamic Committee for Woman and Child.

Nonie Darwish has reported on the policy positions that Huma Abedin’s mother’s International Islamic Committee holds. They make for compelling reading.

  • The IICWC position that the current laws criminalizing female genital mutilation be revoked.
  • The IICWC’s position demanding that the laws forbidding child marriage below the age of eighteen be revoked. No new minimum marriage age was given; the group stated that the marriage standard depends on the financial and mental ability and not dependent on a specific age.
  • The IICWC’s positions, as reported, demanding that the laws forbidding marital rape be revoked and that polygamy is a right for men.
  • The IICWC’s position that a health check-up before marriage be revoked since it is against religion and should not be part of the marriage contract.
  • The IICWC’s position that criminal responsibility triggering at age 18 be reduced to age 15.
  • The IICWC’s position revokes the right of a woman to register her newborn by herself for a birth certificate because Sharia states that a child’s lineage is given strictly to the father and his paternal line. The child belongs to the father even if it was the product of adultery.
  • The IICWC’s position revokes the criminalization of physical and mental abuse of parents against children, so long as the punishment does not cause a permanent deformity or the beating is too extreme.
If your mother-in-law held such positions, you would probably prefer that people be talking about your distended member.