Thursday, March 31, 2016

Zuckerberg Laments

I don’t know what is in the water at the Facebook offices, but, now that COO Sheryl Sandberg has stepped forth as an expert on military affairs, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has offered his opinions on how to fight back against terrorism. Zuckerberg posted his remarks in the wake of the terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan that murdered 70 people and injured over 300… most of which were women and children celebrating Easter.

Apparently, all of that time on maternity leave has softened up Zuckerberg. He posted this:

I believe the only sustainable way to fight back against those who seek to divide us is to create a world where understanding and empathy can spread faster than hate, and where every single person in every country feels connected and cared for and loved. That's the world we can and must build together.

When asked about Zuckerberg’s analysis, Jed Babbin mocked it on Fox Business. The Daily Caller reports the exchange:

[Jed] Babbin, former deputy undersecretary of defense for former President George H. W. Bush, pilloried Zuckerberg’s analysis as patently ridiculous.

“I can’t do anything but laugh,” Babbin said on Fox Business.

“This is a very common position among 12-year-old girls,” Babbin added.

The Tyranny of Feelings

Harvard Sophomore Rachel Huebner has offered us a glimpse into the belly of the beast. (via American Digest.) Since Harvard is one of America’s greatest institutions of higher education, it is frightening to see what it is doing to its students.

Camille Paglia once declared that American college students have minds like Jello. One would be happier if Harvard students and faculty were not working so hard to prove her right.

According to Huebner, Harvard students, with the support of empty-headed faculty members are more concerned about learning how not to offend each other than with learning anything. One suspects that will reject any fact and any opinion that contradicts the dogmas they have learned in the Church of the Liberal Pieties.

One does not know how much time it will take, but if this is what students are learning at Harvard, this will surely diminish the value of their degrees.

If students waste valuable time and mental energy policing the thought of everyone they encounter, they are not going to be very effective employees at any company.

To her credit, Huebner sees the problem in therapy culture terms. In particular, she analyzes it in terms of the tyranny of feelings. I and a few other people have been warning against the dangers of defining yourself in terms of your feelings—you are what you feel—and it is good to see an undergraduate articulating the point.

More than a few dimwits in the therapy world are averse to thinking, probably because they do not know how. They fall back on feelings and believe that they are being totally professional when they ask idiot questions like: How did that make you feel?

In more advanced therapy they share their own feelings, explaining that this makes them empathetic. If you review my post about failed therapy a few days ago to see how bad this gets.

Meanwhile, back at Harvard, and surely not just Harvard, when you dispense with any objective frame of reference, when you ignore facts in favor of feelings, you will soon discover that everyone is the ultimate authority on what he or she feels. When this is taken to its logical extreme each person gains the right to assert the value of his feelings and to tyrannize anyone who would dare injure them.

In the old days this would have been a sign that you were thin-skinned. Today, we call it depression. As Huebner points out, this habit of thought has either produced or aggravated student mental health problems. It mimics the way depressed people think and if you mimic depressive thought you are likely to become more depressed.

What constitutes a Harvard education? According to Huebner, too much of it is about learning what you are not allowed to say in order not to offend anyone. Naturally, the more diverse the class the more you need to worry about offending someone. No one is pointing it out, but if diversity causes so many problems for so many students, someone somewhere is going to get the idea that we should go back to the bad old homogeneous student body.

More specifically, it should be obvious that when students undergo this type of thought reform they will, at the first opportunity, cease to associate with anyone from a different cultural, religious or ethnic background or with different opinions.

The tyranny of feeling is more about policing and punishing than about getting along with people of different ethnic or ideological backgrounds. Thus, the net result will be that the students who have been threatened in their classrooms will take every opportunity to avoid outside contact with anyone who is even slightly different.

Huebner describes the scene:

Since the beginning of my freshman year, I have come to believe that a more fitting way to describe the current culture on college campuses is a culture defined not by open expression—but by sensitivity. This undue focus on feelings has caused the college campus to often feel like a place where one has to monitor every syllable that is uttered to ensure that it could not under any circumstance offend anyone to the slightest degree. It sometimes feels as though pluralism has become an antiquated concept. Facts and history have been discarded, and instead feelings have been deemed to be the criteria that determine whether words and actions are acceptable.

You are not allowed to speak freely. You are not allowed to discuss controversial subjects, like the Bible. You are not allowed to ask certain kinds of questions. You are not allowed to refer to certain kinds of people as certain kinds of people. Effectively, your mind is going to be so overburdened by worrying about what you cannot say that you will not be able to learn much of anything.

Huebner continues:

In a class I attended earlier this semester, a large portion of the first meeting was devoted to compiling a list of rules for class discussion. A student contended that as a woman, she would be unable to sit across from a student who declared that he was strongly against abortion, and the other students in the seminar vigorously defended this declaration. The professor remained silent. In a recent conversation with peers, I posed a question about a verse from the Bible. A Harvard employee in the room immediately interjected, informing me that we were in a safe space and I was thus not permitted to discuss the controversial biblical passage. And these are just stories from the past three months.

If you should slip up and offend someone, you can find yourself in deep trouble. Some students at Bowdoin College decided to throw a tequila themed party. The student who organized the event was from Colombia. The result:

The students who hosted the party were put on social probation (which appears on one’s permanent record) and were kicked out of their dorms. Two student government representatives who attended the party faced impeachment charges, and other students who were present at the event or were photographed wearing sombreros have also been subject to disciplinary action.

And yet, Huebner notes, a few months earlier the school had run a party where everyone wore mustaches and sombreros. They had also had a Soviet-themed party and a Mexican night. How are students to know that a tequila themed party would subject them to severe punishment while a Mexican night was perfectly acceptable?

The solution to these problems, mentioned here and in many other places, is for wealthy alumni donors, masters of the universe, to stop contributing to these schools. Academic administrators do understand money, and if the donations start drying up, they will probably take notice.

And, yes, I understand that these masters of the universe have children who want to attend schools like Harvard. And I also understand that if you are a partner at an investment bank and your child wants to go to Harvard, the admissions committee will take a very close look, not so much at his GPA, as at your record of contributing to the school. It will surely care about how much you pledge to give the school after your child has been accepted.

So, if you stop contributing to Harvard it will surely compromise your child’s chances of getting in to the school. All things considered, you might be doing your child a great favor. Unless, of course, Harvard is merely a symptom of something that is going on at all American universities.

In that case, American universities should adopt this  motto:

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Feminizing the Military

This story, reported by The Daily Caller, deserves far more attention than it has received. Then again, if it is not receiving attention, that itself is a symptom. A symptom of the willingness of the public to accept the degradation of the military… through the imposition of feminist ideology.

Don’t you think that the best way to create a mean, lean fighting machine is to follow feminist principles?

It seems that the Obamafied military, led by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is no longer concerned about winning wars or even battles. It has a new goal: gender equity. Now the military, even the Marines will dedicate its efforts to help women to fulfill their true potential. By giving them special privileges in order to foster diversity. Better yet, by putting them in combat.

Who talks this way?

Feminist firebrands like Sheryl Sandberg.

As you know, Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. And she is a widowed single mother of two children. Apparently, she has extra time on her hands, so, from her perch in the Lean In foundation,  she has taken to lecturing the Secretary of Defense on the composition of military units.

How much does Sheryl Sandberg know about military readiness, effectiveness and readiness?

Nothing. Zero. Truth be told, she does not care.

Why is the man in charge of the world’s greatest military organization taking advice from a feminist? And why, God forbid, is he implementing her suggestions?

If this does not show that the inmates have taken over the asylum, it certainly shows that feminist ideology has infiltrated the national culture to a frightening extent.

Surely, this should make serious people very angry, but it must also make them very afraid. The people tasked with defending the nation are indulging in mindless social experiments. If ours are so far superior to other military forces that they can win with both hands tied behind their backs, one knows that it will not always be this way. And, what do you think leaders of other aspiring hegemonic powers are going to think when they see that American forces are being led by women? Fear and trembling or encouragement? And what will the world’s brigades of terrorists be thinking when they discover that American military bases have lactation stations? Fear and trembling or a sign that they are on the side of strength?

The Sandberg-Carter reforms show a complete lack of concern for the true goals of the military: winning wars. They are willing to sacrifice combat readiness and efficiency for an ideological illusion. They want new mothers to take parental leave and to be able to return to their units, with whom they have not been training, and to take up their old positions.

What does Sandberg want?

She wants women to receive preferential treatment in the military. Worse yet, Carter was receptive to the plea. The Daily Caller reported:

Newly released emails from Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s private email account show detailed correspondence with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who pressured an enthusiastic and receptive Carter to give preferential treatment to women in the military

We know how well preferential treatment has worked in university admissions, so why not try it in the military.

What evidence does Sandberg present?

For Sandberg, not enough women are represented in the military and that problem only compounds when examining high-level positions across the services.

What the military really needs, she adds, is diversity. What really matters is women reaching their true potential. As you know, when you are fighting a war, you get extra credit for diversity:

The first proposal Lean In recommended was to restructure and reform promotions in the military to “counter biases that are preventing women from reaching their full potential.”

This proposal includes carefully examining promotion criteria to see if they “filter out a disproportionate amount of women and/or minorities.” The implication seems to be that if too many women are filtered out, then the standards practically by definition cannot be gender neutral, and so should be scrutinized and potentially reworked.

One might ask how many minority executives there are at Facebook, or throughout Silicon Valley. And, how many women executives are working at those firms? If Sandberg wants to play ideological games with her company, she is free to do so. If she wants to offer an opinion, she is free to do that also. Ash Carter has no such excuses for his own dereliction.

Sandberg thinks that we should have more women commanders. As for the pesky problem of pregnancy and childrearing, Sandberg believes that women should not be penalized for taking time off. And naturally they should be able to bring their babies to work. She even wants bases to have lactation stations:

Additionally, women in the military often take leaves of absence, due to issues like pregnancy, which naturally hurts their chances at promotion. For Lean In, the discrepancy seems unacceptable. Instead, the career track should allow far more flexibility to make sure that in spite of pregnancy, women still comprise a much larger portion of military leadership.

The military’s obligations, according to Lean In, are not concluded after a female servicemember gives birth. Rather, the military should shift the hours of child care development centers to open 15 minutes before duty reporting.

There should also be lactation rooms on all bases.

“Pregnancy is a top driver of female attrition across all branches,” the report notes. “We suggest that the DOD find ways to offer female service members who are (or who are thinking about becoming) pregnant assistance with planning their next career moves.”

Increasing maternity leave and helping women every step of the way during pregnancy is necessary to lower female attrition rates in the military and make sure they get into leadership positions in the military.

Of course, Sandberg is trying to change the culture overall. She obviously believes that men and women are not just equal, but the same. Therefore any institution that treats men and women differently is necessarily prejudicial. If she believes that women will be as effective as commanders as men she is clearly delusional. Again, if she wants to try it at Facebook, by my guest. If she cannot figure out why in the highly competitive world of warfare men have always been singled out to lead the charge, then she is simply ignorant.

But, what is Ash Carter’s excuse:

Sandberg sent another email September 21, 2015, applauding Carter and saying, “Your commitment to creating a force as diverse as the nation it serves is something that will change our military—and our culture overall.”

“I truly believe that together, we are making the world a bit more equal,” she said.

Carter was ecstatic at the praise.

“I thank YOU Sheryl for your inspiration,” Carter said. “It is easy to fall in behind the strong and persuasive way you help me make the case. I learned a lot…I am so pleased that this gives you some happiness. I wish you strength every day. Please call me Ash.”

For my part, I will accept all of it at precisely the moment when the government forces all professional football teams to have an equal number of men and women on the field at all times. That would be true equality, don’t you think? If women can't hack it in the NFL what makes you think that they can  hack it in combat?

Inside the Trump Campaign

Beyond the fact that so many people enjoy reading what I have to say about Donald Trump I have been writing about him and the election in order to shed some psycho wisdom on the proceedings.

Since I do not know Trump or any of the other candidates I can only speculate. Obviously, some people have taken serious exception to my speculations, because it beggars belief that I cannot understand that having a 73% disapproval rating among women spells: Victory.

Alas and alack, yesterday I offered up what must count as a construction of the psychology of the leading Republican candidate. Obviously, some people were seriously discommoded, and I do feel badly about it, but I think they would feel much better if they made a donation to the blog. It would be therapeutic. Donate button on the left of the page.

In the meantime, I always look for empirical facts that can support or disprove my speculations. So I was somewhat heartened after posting my remarks to come across this article by one Stephanie Cegielski. You might not have heard of her but she was the first Communications Director of the Make America Great Again Super PAC.

She has, alas, become disillusioned by what she saw on the inside of the Trump campaign and has resigned her position. But, awaiting the moment when the wrath of Trump will be visited upon her by way of lawsuits she has managed to offer her insider look at the candidate and his expectations.

Before reading her views you might want to refresh your memory by glancing at yesterday’s post below.

I will not compare and contrast, but will only report on Cegielski’s experience in the belly of the Trump campaign:

Almost a year ago, recruited for my public relations and public policy expertise, I sat in Trump Tower being told that the goal was to get The Donald to poll in double digits and come in second in delegate count. That was it.

The Trump camp would have been satisfied to see him polling at 12% and taking second place to a candidate who might hold 50%. His candidacy was a protest candidacy.

Again, the goal was not to be nominated and not to win. Because he understood what many of his supporters have not yet caught on to:

I don't think even Trump thought he would get this far. And I don’t even know that he wanted to, which is perhaps the scariest prospect of all.

He certainly was never prepared or equipped to go all the way to the White House, but his ego has now taken over the driver's seat, and nothing else matters. The Donald does not fail. The Donald does not have any weakness. The Donald is his own biggest enemy.

Cegielski  emphasizes the point:

I'll say it again: Trump never intended to be the candidate. But his pride is too out of control to stop him now.

You can give Trump the biggest gift possible if you are a Trump supporter: stop supporting him.

He doesn't want the White House. He just wants to be able to say that he could have run the White House. He’s achieved that already and then some. If there is any question, take it from someone who was recruited to help the candidate succeed, and initially very much wanted him to do so.

And also:

The man does not know policy, nor does he have the humility to admit what he does not know — the most frightening position of all.

One is beginning to see why the campaign hired Cegielski. She is insightful and clear-headed:

I also started seeing a trend of incompetence and deniability.

When there was a tweet that contained an error, he would blame it on an intern; when there was a photo containing a World War II Nazi Germany background, he would blame it on an intern; when he answered questions in an overtly controversial fashion, he would claim that he did not properly hear the question. He refused to take responsibility for his actions while frequently demanding apologies from others.

Imagine Trump wronged you, even in the smallest possible way. He would go to the grave denying he had ever done anything wrong to you — ever.

And she ends with a point I have made on various occasions, not necessarily about Trump:

Trump acts as if he's a fictional character. But like Hercules, Donald Trump is a work of fiction.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Donald Trump: The Fear Factor

No one is going to accuse investment banker Merrill Lochmaier of being a low-information voter. A Palm Beach neighbor of Donald Trump, Lochmaier told the New York Post why he was voting for the Teflon Don:

If the Titanic is going down and you’ve got one guy that can run the life boats, you want him running the show – it doesn’t matter if he’s not politically correct.

Inadvertently, Lochmaier demonstrated that the brains of even high-information voters can be addled by the Donald.

But, Lochmaier was right, up to a point. When the Titanic hits an iceberg, you do want a take-charge guy. But, whatever led him to imagine that Trump is the only one who can run the boats. Surely, you do not want a captain whose main qualification is that he attends boat shows. And, you do not want someone who runs to the lifeboats screaming: “Me, first; Megyn Kelly, last.”

Lochmaier did, however, identify a central emotional issue in the campaign. Even though most pundits and politicos have concluded that Trump’s support is driven by anger, the truth is, it is more about fear. Americans are terrified that their nation has hit an iceberg and is sinking.

Many Americans are frightened for their nation. They are frightened by an economic recovery that feels sluggish. They are frightened by markets that seem to have detached from reality. They are frightened because their president has diminished the country on the world stage. Most especially, they are afraid because their president is terrified... and has been throughout his presidency. Obama's veneer of cool is, as many have noted, a deer-in-the-headlights look.

Having have watched President Obama apologize for America, lead from behind, stand by while Syria burned, sell out to Iran and refuse to call Islamic terrorism by its name, Americans are looking for a candidate who appears to be fearsome and fearless. They know that weakness invites aggression, so they are afraid. They are looking for an antidote to fear.

For them Donald Trump is therapy. For Donald Trump, they are therapy. It’s a mutually therapeutic relationship. If it doesn’t solve any problems, it makes a lot of people feel a lot better.

More demoralized than angry, Trump’s supporters do not know how to right the ship of state. So, they have glommed on to a candidate who does not know what to do, either.

In Trump, they see someone who covers up his fear by lashing out in anger.

Trump puffs up his confidence by demeaning and threatening others. Thus, he provokes fear. By making other people afraid he is showing the world and telling himself that he is unafraid. He never apologizes because the least intimation of weakness might break the spell.

Of course, the bullying is a bluff. When Trump says that he is going to force foreign governments to do what he tells them to do, his supporters cheer. They do not understand that foreign leaders are looking forward to enhancing their own stature by calling his bluff.

Trump puffs himself up, contorts his face, spews invective and pretends to be bigger than he is. He calls his opponents idiots and fools; he showers them with contempt; he insults them to their faces. Everyone in business and politics knows that he is not acting like a leader.

Trump’s supporters do not understand that someone who asserts his confidence at the expense of others has no confidence. His has to inflate his confidence because he has no reason to think that he can do the job. If Trump is not afraid of becoming the president, he is not human.

And someone who does not take advice, who does not consult with people who know more than he does  is afraid to find out how little he knows. We have seen this before.

Remember the president who said:

I think I’m a better speech writer than my speech writers. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m . . . a better political director than my director.

Strangely, the more Trump blusters the more people like him. But, he also  feeds off of the crowds. He needs the crowds to boost his flagging confidence. He surrounds himself with sycophants and Mini-Mes, but the crowds seem to have persuaded him that he can win the election and do the job. They seem to enjoy being the perfect enablers. 

One suspects that when Trump first announced his candidacy, he did it on a lark. He had nothing to lose. He could gain publicity and enhance his brand. Had he lost to a politician, he would have been able to write it off easily. He was an amateur playing against professionals.

But now, Trump is reaping the whirlwind. As the adage suggests, once you sow the wind you will be faced with unpredictable and uncontrollable consequences. I suspect that Trump never really believed that it would get this far. Surely, he is reveling in the ego boost that he is getting from the crowds and the polls and the election results. He needs them because he must recognize that the higher he flies the further he can fall. And he does not have a parachute.

By now, Trump has turned a win/win proposition into a lose/lose situation. If he loses the nomination at the convention he will come away as a loser. If, as seems plausible, he loses the general election, he will be a bigger loser. But, if he wins the election and takes over the presidency, he risks becoming the biggest loser.

It will not be a happy day when he discovers that he is more show than substance. Hopefully, he will not have to learn it the hard way.

Hubris can only get you so far.

Monday, March 28, 2016

When Therapy Fails

The story is so harrowing and potentially dangerous that it would probably have been better if Ask Polly, the New York Magazine advice columnist had not tried to counsel the person in the pages of a magazine.

The letter writer is suicidal, has tried every kind of therapy and believes that Ask Polly is her last hope.

She writes:

I was raped by my father from the age of 6 to the age of 11, so was my sister, and my brother was forced to see what my father was doing to her as well. It took me years to come out and talk about it. Like in many cases, I couldn’t bring myself to tell my story and felt guilty.

I’ve been in therapy for years now. I’ve tested every antidepressant there is on the planet. Nothing works. As of today, my sister and I have decided to press charges against my father; we’re still in the beginning of the process but authorities are confident he will be charged with rape. I really don’t know that this action will make me feel better but I know it is the right thing to do.

Growing up with that history is basically impossible, and to this day I still don't know who I am. I’m trying to get through life the best way I can but it's a hassle. Oddly enough, the thing that's making me most depressed is not being able to be in a long-term relationship with a man. I am a good-looking, accomplished women, smart and funny, but every relationship fails. I don't have a problem meeting men; in fact, they’re always very eager to be with me at first. But they like the version I give them, the cheery, interesting woman I led them to believe I am. Up to the point where I guess they realize I’m not as together as they think, far from it. This happens even if I don't tell them what happened to me (I’ve tried both). I guess they just figure there is something wrong with me. The problem is not sexual, if you were wondering.

The problem is that I want it too much. I want to be loved and for the other person to save me, take care of me, carry me. I know I’m asking too much, but I can’t help myself. I am obsessed with getting married and having kids to start a family of my own, the right one. I know there are other things I need to work on but I feel like the only way for me to feel whole is to have someone who loves me.

Today I have come to the conclusion that it will never happen to me. Because my father destroyed me I will never be happy, I will always be lonely, depressed, and sad. It’s an awful conclusion, but it is the only one I see. I have lost all hope, and I don’t see the point in living anymore.

Please help.


Of course, Polly is not a therapist. She is being called in when therapists have failed. And yet, Polly has undergone therapy herself so she offers up what she believes has worked for her.  It’s going to be a sorry spectacle.

What does she have to offer? Empathy, of course, She lards it on. She feels the woman’s pain. She knows how this woman feels because similar things have happened to her… though, of course, they haven’t.

To be fair, Polly knows that she has never experienced anything remotely resembling this woman’s trauma, but she has acquired the habit of empathy. And she believes that it has medicinal properties. So, she does not even question the fact that her empathy is running on automatic pilot. No matter what the problem, she believes that slobbering on some empathy will make it all right.

In truth, it’s insulting to tell this woman that you have undergone anything similar. Rape and incest are horrific. Being raped by the man who is charged with protecting you tells you that you can trust no one and that no one will ever protect you. It produces severe anomie. If you have never experienced it you do not know what it is.

Most people have not had such experiences and should be happy that they have not. If it has not happened to you, you are cheapening her experience by saying that you feel her pain.

One is tempted to compare this with the trauma that was visited on Elizabeth Smart, but Smart, who managed to put it all behind her, had the support of her family and her community. Alone has none of that.

Keep in mind, Alone presumably still bears her father's name. If there is a trial, her family secret will not be a secret any more. Her family and everyone associated with it will forever be tarred by the revelations.

Alone understands that she needs to have her father prosecuted, but no one should imagine that it will be cost free. Undoubtedly, it will cause her to lose whatever family ties she still has.

Surely, her therapist has asked her, but Polly ought to have raised the point: where was this woman’s mother was while all of this was going on?

Assuming that the woman had a mother, her father’s monstrosity is compounded by the fact that her mother allowed it to happen. Was the mother being abused herself? Did she offer her daughters to her husband to keep him from raping her. Why would they not indict the mother as a co-conspirator?

Speaking of emotion, you might have noticed an absence of anger. Perhaps Alone is angered out, but still, rage seems called for, if only for one’s emotional equilibrium. Polly says that she is furious and sad, but her long meditation on love and hope drowns the anger in sentimental bull.

So, Alone is quite right to say that she is Alone. She is right to see that she has no family and no community to fall back on. She has no support and nowhere to go.

It will not cross the mind of a sophisticated modern therapy patient, but she should consider attending religious services. She might even volunteer to do some public service work through a religion. Alone is looking for romantic love and believes that romantic love will save her. She would do better, for now, to seek out a sense of belonging within an organized community that is dedicated to offering love.

Alone is desperate for love, but everyone should know that when you are desperate for love your desperation will turn people away. If you want to be loved you ought to begin by giving love, by doing good deeds for other people, by reaching out to them, with no expectation of getting anything in return.

Alone is lost, unmoored. She wants to get married and to be loved, but one suspects that marriage also means changing her name and putting it behind her.

Polly is doing what most therapists would do: offering dollops of empathy. But, whenyou empathize with someone who is so overwhelmed that she does not know what to do, you will also not know what to do. It is like the helpless leading the hopeless.

In case you were concerned about Polly’s capacity for empathy, take note of her effort to get inside this woman’s mind:

You feel stupid for this. You feel guilty for feeling these things, and you're sure that it's the wrong path. You should be strong, you think. You shouldn't want someone to carry you. You should give up and stop scaring people away. You should purge your history. You should empty yourself of bad things and fill yourself with good things. You should know who you are. You should try harder. You should stand on your own two feet instead of being carried. You should rise from the ashes, triumphantly, like people do in the movies. Someday, you’re sure, you have to cross that off your list — RISE TRIUMPHANTLY FROM THIS WRECKAGE, ALL BY MYSELF — but first you have to do everything else. You have an endless list of things you have to fix, and you have to start now. Why aren't you starting? Why can't you just stand up and walk?

Because you can't. Whenever you think about heroically forging forward, you sit down on the ground. You want someone to pick you up. You want this more than anything else. You want to be loved.

I don't know much about what you have been through, but I do know how that feels. You try so hard. You try to be interesting and cheerful, but your eyes still say, "Can you carry me?" I used to be like that. I used to want love more than anything else. And I had no excuse to want love so much. I had no excuse to want to be carried. My pain never came close to your pain. My darkness wasn't in the same universe as your darkness. But I wanted love more than anything else.

In the first place, it’s insulting to tell the woman that you know how she feels. You do not. To tell her that merely needs to screw up her courage because you screwed up yours falls flat as advice.

What does Polly have to offer? You will be sorry that you asked:

Your desire for love is beautiful. This moment of sitting down on the ground and wanting someone else to carry you is scary and dark and ugly and terrible and sad and heartbreaking, and it is also beautiful.

This sounds like Romantic poetry. And it is off the point. Alone thinks that love will solve it, but it is not the love that matters. It is not even the romance that is missing from her life. She should not be told that she needs merely to continue to believe that she will be saved by romantic love, that someone will come along to rescue her. Polly is seeing her as a purely passive receptacle. She should be telling her some constructive actions she can take to become part of a community and to get into the habit of giving.

As I said, she can find a different kind of love within a religion, because it is not laden with desire. But she should not be told that her pain and her suffering and her constant anguish are beautiful, as though we are spectators at her beautiful drama. 

Polly thinks that this yearning for love is who this woman is. Again, that is untrue and it is also wrong. The woman has a name; she has friends; she has a job and a career. These define her and these should define her far more than her childhood traumas, no matter how horrifying they were. To tell her to define herself in terms of a flickering light that is yearning for love is to ignore what she has accomplished and to define her as a trauma victim.

Polly offers hope for a love that will save her:

This light says you also want to give love, even though you can't feel that part as well yet. This light says you want to help other people find their way. You can't tell that yet. You don't know that in your heart yet. This spark wants you to create things that express your hunger for love. This is the divine, to you: the image of someone who comes to save someone else. The picture of someone who is helpless, and someone else who carries them. This is what you believe in.

This may sound crazy, but I believe that you'll carry someone who can't walk someday. You'll walk right into the smoke and ashes and pick someone up and carry them. You are the one who loves someone who wants nothing more than to be loved. This is who you are.

And you will be loved, too. You will be deeply loved.

How does she know? She doesn’t. She should not be offering up empty platitudes and psycho bromides for a woman who is in so much pain.

But then, Polly has a moment of clarity:

I know that it sounds like I'm speaking in some kind of bullshit fairy-tale mumbo jumbo. 

Polly cannot leave well enough alone, so she continues on her hope and love shtick:

You have to sit down on the ground, instead of trying to stand. And you have to love yourself FOR WANTING LOVE. You have to love what you once thought was weak. You have to be this sad, lonely, hopeful, broken person, and you have to see that her hope is beautiful. You have to try to do this every day, every minute.

The rest is more of the same. I myself find this to be dreadful. If this is the kind of bullshit your therapist offers, look elsewhere.

Easter in Lahore, Pakistan

Easter Sunday. Lahore, Pakistan. Crowds of Christians and Muslims gather to celebrate the holiday in a park.

Then, an explosion. Dozens are killed. Hundreds are injured. The Taliban has decided that no one should ever celebrate a non-Muslim holiday in a Muslim country.

The Obama administration condemned the attack in the strongest terms. But, at the same time, our president has offered this, as John Hinderaker explains on the Powerline blog:

President Obama, meanwhile, warns us against “stigmatizing” Muslims. (To be fair, his precise reference was to Muslim-Americans, although the context was the Brussels bombings.) Actually, you and I have no ability to stigmatize Muslims. The problem is that a great many Muslims are stigmatizing themselves, by committing terrorist acts, by applauding terrorist acts and supporting terrorists, and by failing to take action against terrorists and terrorist groups. President Obama demands that we maintain the absurd fiction that Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, on the theory that pretending will make it so. Unfortunately, it won’t.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Paul Ryan and the Question of American Identity

I don’t get it. Apparently, Republican establishment types and the conservative commentariat think the world of Paul Ryan. When Republican House members were looking for a new Speaker, everyone lined up to support Ryan, as though he would be something of a savior.

I don’t get it.

Those with a slightly longer memory recall the moment when vice presidential candidate Ryan sat down to debate Joe Biden during the 2012 presidential campaign. And they call that Biden cleaned Ryan’s clock. To be nice about it, Biden made Ryan look like an overgrown boy scout. Considering that Mitt Romney had chosen Ryan to be his running mate, the performance damaged both Ryan and the Romney campaign.

For reasons that escape me, the weak performance did nothing to dim Ryan’s star.

As I said, I don’t get it.

The conservative commentariat will rejoin that Ryan is a great thinker, a deep thinker, a serious intellectual … what have you. Heaven knows where they got that idea… perhaps because Ryan can quote Ayn Rand.

On that point, I really don’t get it.

Anyway, enough of a preamble. Last week Ryan gave a speech in which he declared that America was a great idea. He meant that the nation was founded on an idea, not an identity.

It was very idealistic of him, and perhaps revealed his youthful exuberance, but it was not conservative. The latter philosophy values tradition and custom, balance of powers, negotiated compromise and pragmatic considerations.  It’s not about imposing anyone’s ideals on the populace.

Come to think of it, the liberal left is all about great ideas—like the idea of equality and the idea of social justice.

Yes, indeed, the left is awash in great ideas. Republicans and conservatives have preferred to take the more pragmatic side of the argument. Not Paul Ryan.

Writing in the Daily Caller Scott Greer took serious issue with Ryan. Greer correctly pointed out that Ryan got it confused. America is about identity, one’s identity as an American, more than it is about ideas.

Greer explained:

According to the Republican leader, “America is the only nation founded on an idea — not an identity. That idea is the notion that the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life. Our rights are natural. They come from God, not government.”

Ryan then decided to give a history lesson on the idea-obsessed founders and how America’s greatest leaders have always come together through compromise and debate.

With that lesson in mind, he called upon America’s modern politicians to return their focus to “ideas” and instead of pandering to their respective bases.

The speech is obviously a rather gooey attempt to bridge the political divide, but there’s one line that stands above the platitudes and cliched allusions — America is a nation founded on an idea, not an identity.

It’s a popular notion to think that our nation was created in a vacuum and created solely to uphold abstract principles. That line of thinking believes there’s no cultural basis to the American proposition, and there’s no real national identity outside of the belief in meritocracy.

That’s pretty quaint — and largely untrue.

To be fair, Ryan probably meant to strike a blow against identity politics. He might have been inveighing against those who would define themselves in multicultural terms, in terms of their local ethnic groups or races. He might have been attacking those who aspire to be hyphenated Americans.

If so he would still have missed the point. Among America’s greatest achievements, often noted and often emphasized, is its ability to treat everyone like Americans. No matter where you come from, once you become a citizen you become an American. Very few nations on the face of the earth can make the same claim.

One recalls that Theodore Roosevelt found the notion of hyphenated Americans to be anathema. Americas become Americans by observing certain customs and rituals, by pledging allegiance to the flag and respecting the laws of the land and the decisions of the majority. You cannot be loyal to your ethnic group and still be primarily loyal to your nation. If you are loyal to an ideal, your loyalty will similarly be divided. Practices make us all Americans—or, at least, those who are citizens of the great country.

Keep in mind, if we are Americans by virtue of our belief in some idea or other, then we will enter into the world of inquisitions and witch hunts. How, otherwise, do you know what anyone really, really believes. You can see whether someone pledges allegiance to the flag. You can see that he does or does not practice civic virtues but you cannot see what is in his mind.

Teddy Roosevelt made the point vigorously in 1915:

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all … The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic … There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.

For his part Greer refers to Samuel Huntingtion, who argued in his book Who Are We? that America as a nation arose out of a specific culture, an Anglo-Protestant culture. Had the nation arisen out of Spanish Catholicism it would have been an entirely different place.

Greer explains:

… America’s founding ideas are actually an outgrowth of the nation’s Anglo-Protestant identity. Put another way, that unique identity gave birth to the unique ideas that made us the nation we are.

America’s belief in individual rights, liberty and equality of opportunity could only come about from the specific culture and institutions that were brought to the New World by British settlers, as Huntington notes. That culture — which placed a premium on liberty and representative government — was unique to Anglo-Protestants and provided the worldview from which our Founders forged a nation.

If the 13 colonies were primarily settled by another people — such as the French or Spanish — we would almost certainly not be the country we are today.

Our Anglo-Protestant culture also bequeathed the nation’s strong commitment to hard work and the adoption of English as the all but official language of the land. Ryan endorsed that last quality by delivering his speech in that particular language, not French or Spanish.

It is true that our Founding Fathers were very much animated by ideas, but they also didn’t conjure up our country out of thin air. The reason many of them wanted to separate from the British crown and start a new country was over the feeling they were being denied their rights as Englishmen, not that they one day suddenly thought it’d be better to found a country on the idea that “the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life.”

And our Founders were keen to emphasize the cultural identity the citizens of the new country would share.

At a time when Europeans and Americans are debating the question of whether or not certain immigrant groups can assimilate into Western civilization, the multicultural left believes that they should not and that they need not.

Some groups have no real problem adapting to Anglo-Protestant culture. Some groups find it very difficult. Some find it impossible and set out to undermine the cultural foundations of the nation.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Case for Ted Cruz

Now that the Republican Party is imploding, David Goldmansuggests that Ted Cruz is “our last, best hope.”

First, a meditation about the implosion. For Barack Obama the enemy is not radical Islam. The true enemy is the Republican Party. And don’t forget the Tea Party.

Obama is a bit like Paul Krugman, with more finesse. Whenever anything goes right he and the Democrats take credit. Whenever anything goes wrong he blames Republicans. We will not dignify it by calling to moral teaching, but one imagines that if Obama were given the choice between destroying radical Islam and destroying the Republican Party, he would choose the latter.

On that score, he has been markedly unsuccessful. With the sole exception of the presidential election of 2012 the Obamafied Democratic Party has done nothing but lose elections. Congressional elections, gubernatorial elections, state legislative elections. The Democratic Party has had a very bad time of it during the Obama presidency.

But, if you cannot beat the Republicans head to head, how can you beat them? You might resurrect a tactic invented by one Odysseus during the Trojan War. You might not remember the Trojan War, but it had been fought to a stalemate until the cunning Odysseus decided to construct a giant horse and to offer it to the city of Troy as a peace offering. The Trojans accepted the gift and lugged the large horse into their city. Once they had gone to sleep the horse was opened up and out popped Odysseus and a band of soldiers… who slaughtered the sleeping Trojans and put an end to the war. The Trojan horse was a poisoned gift.

One does not believe that Obama employed the same level of cunning, but he has sufficiently addled the brains of enough people for something similar to have happened. What could be better for the Democrats than to send a New York Democrat into the heart of Republican country… as a gift. And why not have him capture the hearts and minds of some Republicans while alienating enough others to fracture the party. It would be the crowning glory of the Obama years, a Republican Party marching to ignominious defeat behind a short-fingered vulgarian with markedly Democratic leanings.

I am not suggesting that this was planned out. Not at all. I am suggesting that when you replace reason with emotion, you end up playing a role in someone else’s fiction. And you do not even know it. The Democrats are watching the Republican implosion. They can barely contain their glee.

Think about it. A party that prides itself on upholding standards of decency and decorum, that promotes family values… gets taken over by a meretricious buffoon. You can't make this stuff up.

If the polls are any indication—and one knows that Trump supporters refuse to recognize any polls that do not confirm their opinions—Donald Trump has no chance of winning the presidential election. No way, no how.

Other candidates had worse poll numbers at this stage of the race, but everyone knows Trump and just about everyone has a very strong opinion. There is very little room for change.

Close to 50% of Republican women say that they will never vote for Trump. 40% of Republican men say the same. If that is not a recipe for political disaster, I have not seen one. I am not just thinking about losing the White House. The real problem for the Trumpified Republican Party is whether it can still function as a political party.

As everyone knows, John Kasich would run the strongest against Hillary Clinton. Ted Cruz would be evenly matched against her.

If you had thought that Trump would make America respected around the world again, you might be interested in the reaction of the British public to a recent interview Trump did with Piers Morgan.

The Daily Mail reports:

… viewers took to Twitter in their droves to ridicule Trump for the 'cringe' encounter, in which they accused him of not answering questions and continually repeating himself.

The entrepreneur received the bulk of Briton's taunts after he was asked if he wanted to send a message to the people of the UK, choosing to 'ramble on' about the golf course he built in Scotland.

Twitter user Kevin Meagher wrote: ' "Paris has some of the strictest gun laws in the world and so does France." Does Donald think they're two different countries?'

Meanwhile, user Imaginary Card tweeted: 'Fav part: Piers told him to send a message to the people of the UK and he rambled on about his golf course in Scotland #MorganTrump'

Jeremy Singer tweeted: 'That was bad! An hour of self promotion, weak answers & assertions by a man who could be president!'

And, one Chris Cooper summed up the general opinion:

It was like watching the ramblings of a drunk uncle at a BBQ.

It's not about making America great. It's about making America a laughing stock.

Anyway, back with David Goldman, who has long supported Ted Cruz, but who adds that he would vote for Trump over Hillary Clinton if he faced that choice.

Goldman begins with a reflection on the how badly America has disintegrated culturally:

America had 90% adult literacy in 1790, when only half of Englishmen and a fifth of Spaniards and Italians could sign their names. We had the best educated, most motivated, and healthiest workforce in the world by an overwhelming margin.

Now Americans aged 16 to 24 rank at the bottom of a 22-country evaluation of numeracy, literacy, and technological problem-solving.

Poor student performance should be no surprise: America's family structure is falling apart. Nearly 30% of non-Hispanic white children are born out of wedlock, as well as 53% of Hispanics and 73% of African-Americans. When Reagan took office, 18% of all American births were to unmarried mothers. By 2014 the figure was above 40%.

Goldman has no sympathy for the ruling class, for the establishment types who have run the country into the ground.

In his words:

Our elites, to be sure, have sold us down the river. There's unlimited capital for investors to buy foreclosed homes, while half of Americans can't raise a down payment or qualify for a home mortgage. The Pentagon and the defense contractors slated a trillion dollars for the F-35, the biggest lemon in the history of military aviation, crowding out every other acquisition program in the military. Our tech companies have become a conspiracy to suppress innovation, managed by patent trolls instead of engineers. The financial industry ran the biggest scam in history, the subprime bubble of the 2000s, and the Obama administration hasn't sent a single miscreant to jail (it just slapped multi-billion dollar fines on the banks' stockholders, that is, your pension fund or 401k). The Clintons are a criminal enterprise, as Peter Schweizer showed in his book Clinton Cash. The foreign policy establishment treated the world like a giant social experiment and wasted blood and treasure to make the world safe for democracy.

The result is the most corrupt and cartelized economy in American history. For the first time since numbers were kept, new business has contributed next to nothing to employment recovery since 2009, as I reported here March 2. But Donald Trump encourages magical thinking. Repeating, "We're going to make America great again" by kicking out Mexican illegals and repatriating jobs from China is nonsense.

Of course, the most consequential enemy of the ruling elites is not Donald Trump. It’s Ted Cruz. Goldman makes the case:

Ted Cruz is the a gifted outsider with unique leadership capacities. He has a brilliant grasp of Constitutional law from his service as Texas' solicitor general, a granular understanding of business economics from his service at the Federal Trade Commission, and a clear vision of what America should and shouldn't do in foreign policy. He was an academic superstar at Ivy League universities but never let his success flatter him into complacency. He has deep religious conviction. He also has the will to lead. It's not surprising he isn't popular among his Senate colleagues: if Cruz is elected president, it will shut down a corrupt and cozy game. He has the brains to understand the problem and the guts to clear the obstacles to a solution.

As for the notion that Trump is a businessman who gets things done, one notes that executive talent, as such, is not fungible. Directing a company where your name is on the door is not the same as directing a government where power is balanced out. Building tall buildings does not qualify you to run a bank, an energy company, an auto company or much of anything else.

Goldman is well qualified to comment on Trump the businessman:

We keep hearing that Trump is a businessman who will "get things done." That is utterly wrong: the most successful businessmen are very good at very limited number of things. Great entrepreneurs, as George Gilder wrote, are the kind of people who sit up all night thinking of better garbage routes. Trump is not even a particularly successful entrepreneur; if he had put the $100 million he inherited in 1978 into an index fund, he'd have twice as much money today. As a casino investor, he doesn't compare to Sheldon Adelson, who came from poverty and now has ten times Trump's wealth. In fact, Trump has the worst possible kind of background for a president: as the child of wealth running a private company, he is used to saying "Jump," and having his lackeys say, "How long should I stay in the air?"

And, of course, Trump does not read… anything.  He does not seek or take advice. Because, don’t you know, he knows everything.

A journalist named Michael d’Antonio interviewed Trump at his home and noticed, in the garish palace, that there was not a single book. Please do not compare Trump to Teddy Roosevelt.