Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Jacques van Rillaer Writes About Stuart Schneiderman

Modesty prevents me from telling you how great Jacques van Rillaer’s new article is. After all, the subject of the article is your humble blogger. Van Rillaer is an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Louvain, in Belgium.

In the linked post he reviews in considerable detail my professional peregrinations. Naturally, since it is coming from Belgium, it is written in French. This will be good news to some and not-so-good news for others. If your French is a bit rusty, this article is a good reason to brush up.

Obama, Trump and Anti-Semitism

During the Obama years no one much cared about anti-Semitism. As it happened, most of the anti-Semitism at that time was coming from the left. So Democratic politicians and liberal media outlets tended to downplay it.

For perspective, Jonathan Tobin reminds us:

If there is a “rising tide of anti-Semitism,” as the Obama State Department noted in recent years, sweeping across Europe and now seeking footholds in the United States, it is not driven by the alt-right but by Islamists and leftist anti-Zionists who seek to single out Jews and supporters of Israel for opprobrium and violence. The BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) movement, which seeks to wage economic war on the state of Israel, has been directly responsible for an increase in anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses. Its support comes from the left and has a connection to the increasingly vocal and influential wing of the Democratic party that is deeply critical of Israel and willing at times to engage in speech that singles out Jews as part of an alleged cabal of Zionists seeking to manipulate American foreign policy against the best interests of the United States.

While the left is in agony over Steve Bannon—formerly the head of the strongly pro-Israel Breitbart News—it ignores the fact that a leading candidate for chair of the Democratic National Committee, Keith Ellison, is a stone-cold bigot, a protégé of Louis Farrakhan. You recall that Farrakhan is a close friend and ally of Obama’s mentor Jeremiah Wright.

Tobin continues, adding a few words about respected Democratic Senator, Robert Menendez:

Those concerned about anti-Semitism need to lose their Trump tunnel vision and look at comments in a speech Representative Keith Ellison — the leading candidate for chair of the Democratic National Committee — made about Israel and Jews. They should also have been just as outraged about comments made by Senator Robert Menendez during the confirmation hearing of David Friedman, Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel, on the day of the president’s epic presser attack on the press. In questioning Friedman, the New Jersey Democrat — who in the past has been a stalwart friend of Israel and a foe of Iran — raised the specter of dual loyalty for American Jews. That should have alarmed the ADL and others who worry about the way anti-Semitic stereotypes are gaining ground in the public square. But the ADL was more worried about what Trump didn’t say than about what Menendez did say, and it was silent about the outrageous question the senator posed. If even Menendez is speaking in language that shows the growing influence of the anti-Israel Left, that should alert the country to the fact that there are other things to worry about than Trump’s rants.

There is, of course, method to the systematic distortions. The liberal left is hard at work rationalizing the Obama administration’s failures to confront anti-Semitism, its failure to defend Israel, the contempt it showed to the prime minister of Israel. After all, the Obama administration was fighting the good fight against Islamophobia and white privilege, but not against Islamist terrorism. It sympathized with the notably anti-Semitic BDS movement and invited anti-Semite Al Sharpton to the White House dozens of times.

Calling out Donald Trump for not denouncing anti-Semitism is misdirection. It is better to attack Trump than to note the relationship he has quickly developed with the prime minister of Israel. And it is easier to blame Steve Bannon than to point out that Benjamin Netanyahu much prefers Donald Trump to Barack Obama.

Nevertheless, the director of the Anne Frank Center has just denounced the Trump administration for promoting anti-Semitism. One suspects that said Center had nothing to say when the Obama administration, in the words of Alan Dershowitz, stabbed Israel in the back at the United Nations. In most cases we do not know who is responsible for the threats against Jewish cemeteries and culture centers, but in the past such actions have been perpetrated by Muslim organizations. After all, Barack Obama’s close personal friend, Rashid Khalidi, a professor at Columbia University, recently said that the Trump administration was infested with Jews. It's a good reason to obsess about Steve Bannon.

If you think that the primary danger America or the world or even Jews face today is Nazis, you are living in the past and fighting the last war.

In the meantime, Trump’s U. N. Ambassador Nikki Haley dressed down the U. N. Security Council yesterday for its obsession with Israel. The contrast is stark. One recalls, again, that the Obama administration allowed the same august body to denounce Israel.

Here is the text of her remarks, via Legal Insurrection:

The first thing I want to do is talk about what we just saw in there. The Security Council just finished its regular monthly meeting on Middle East issues. It’s the first meeting like that that I’ve attended, and I have to say it was a bit strange. The Security Council is supposed to discuss how to maintain international peace and security. But at our meeting on the Middle East, the discussion was not about Hizballah’s illegal build-up of rockets in Lebanon. It was not about the money and weapons Iran provides to terrorists. It was not about how we defeat ISIS. It was not about how we hold Bashar al-Assad accountable for the slaughter of hundreds and thousands of civilians. No, instead, the meeting focused on criticizing Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East. I am new around here, but I understand that’s how the Council has operated, month after month, for decades.

I’m here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore. I am here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel. I’m here to emphasize the United States is determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias. We will never repeat the terrible mistake of Resolution 2334 and allow one-sided Security Council resolutions to condemn Israel. Instead, we will push for action on the real threats we face in the Middle East.

We stand for peace. We support a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is negotiated directly between the two parties, as President Trump reiterated in his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday. The outrageously biased resolutions from the Security Council and the General Assembly only make peace harder to attain by discouraging one of the parties from going to the negotiating table.

Incredibly, the UN Department of Political Affairs has an entire division devoted to Palestinian affairs. Imagine that. There is no division devoted to illegal missile launches from North Korea. There is no division devoted to the world’s number one state-sponsor of terror, Iran. The prejudiced approach to Israeli-Palestinian issues does the peace process no favors. And it bears no relationship to the reality of the world around us.

The double standards are breathtaking. Just a few days ago, the United States sought unsuccessfully to have the Security Council condemn a terrorist attack to Israel, where the terrorist opened fire on people waiting for a bus and then stabbed others. The Security Council would not hesitate to condemn an attack like that in any other country. But not for Israel. The statement was blocked. And that’s downright shameful.

Israel exists in a region where others call for its complete destruction and in a world where anti-Semitism is on the rise. These are threats that we should discuss at the United Nations as we continue working toward a comprehensive agreement that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But outside of the UN, there is some good news. Israel’s place in the world is changing. Israel is building up new diplomatic relationships. More and more countries recognize how much Israel contributes to the world. They are recognizing that Israel is a beacon of stability in a troubled region, and that Israel is at the forefront of innovation, entrepreneurship, and technological discovery.

It is the UN’s anti-Israel bias that is long overdue for change. The United States will not hesitate to speak out against these biases in defense of our friend and ally, Israel.

I will say that I think we saw maybe a slightly different tone in the meeting, but we will have to see how it goes.

Thank you.

Again, the current hue and cry against the Trump administration has a purpose. It wants you to ignore the abysmal Obama record on anti-Semitism and Israel. It's all about letting people continue to believe that the Democratic Party still deserves the allegiance of American Jews.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Facts about Sweden and Islam

We know that rape is a horrific crime, one that is often covered up by victim shame and by collusion by the authorities. American feminists have been leading the charge against rape culture. 

We understand that rape is notoriously underreported and that statistics about rape are unreliable. We are told that any woman who declares herself to have been the victim of rape or sexual abuse must be heard. And her testimony must be taken at face value. The opponents of rape are so committed to their cause that they are willing to deprived anyone accused of it of due process of law. 

Now we know that such is not the case if the rape happens in Sweden and if the perpetrator is a Muslim refugee. Evidence has suggested that Sweden has become the rape capital of the Western world. At least, it was understood to be such until Donald Trump—in a bizarre misstatement—suggested that the mass of Muslim immigrants admitted into Sweden were causing serious problems. Just as they do in France, Germany and Belgium… among others. Whatever Trump meant, anyone who believes that Muslim immigration is not a problem in Europe should go back on his meds.

Whatever the facts about rape in Sweden, it is also true that a Swede can be prosecuted for accusing an immigrant of rape. You see, he is committing Islamophobia and Xenophobia if he accuses a Muslim immigrant of rape. Remember a month or so ago when a half-dozen Afghans raped a teenage boy in Sweden. Remember when the authorities refused to expel them… because Afghanistan was too dangerous. The Swedes live in a feminist bubble.

Anyway, Swedish authorities, mortified for having exposed so many Swedish women to rape and for having undermined national Swedish unity are adopting the politically correct approach: they are repressing the information. And then they are accusing Trump, among others, of playing fast and loose with the facts.


Since 2000, there has only been one research report on immigrant crime. It was done in 2006 by Ann-Christine Hjelm from Karlstads University. It emerged that in 2002, 85% of those sentenced to at least two years in prison for rape in 2002 were foreign born or second-generation immigrants.

A 1996 report by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention reached the conclusion that immigrants from North Africa (Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia) were 23 times as likely to commit rape as Swedish men. The figures for men from Iraq, Bulgaria and Romania were, respectively, 20, 18 and 18. Men from the rest of Africa were 16 times more prone to commit rape; and men from Iran, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, 10 times as prone as Swedish men.

A new trend reached Sweden with full force over the past few decades: gang rape — virtually unknown before in Swedish criminal history. The number of gang rapes increased spectacularly between 1995 and 2006. Since then no studies of them have been undertaken.

David Goldman added:

Sweden not only stands by while large number of its women are raped, but outlaws public discussion of the causes. Michael Hess, a Social-Democratic population, was condemned by a Swedish court under a law forbidding denigration of ethnic groups. for writing in 2014, “There is a strong connection between rapes in Sweden and the number of immigrants from MENA-countries [Middle East and North Africa].”

In the alternative universe of Western leftists Sweden does not have a rape problem. And Islam does not mistreat women.

Forgetting about Sweden for a moment, ask yourself why people believe that Muslims subject women to horrendous mistreatment. You might think of the predations of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. One recalls that there was no ISIS until Barack Obama declared victory and withdrew from Iraq, but surely the rapes and sexual slavery suffered by Yazidi women suggests that purist Muslims do not treat women with very much respect.

One understands that in some Muslim countries, a woman who reports a rape can be jailed for having sex outside of marriage. And one understands that in Egypt, the incidences of the sexual harassment and molestation of women on the street are uncountable. Remember Lara Logan, raped in Tahrir Square, Cairo by a dozen men while no one could help her. And let’s not forget that Shariah law allows wife beating and honor killings.

Rape and the sexual abuse of women are endemic to Muslim culture. Only those with ideological blinders refuse to see the problem—because they are fighting the good culture war against white privilege.

Even if you admit that rape statistics are slightly unreliable and even if you refuse to accept the reality of the laws about sexual behavior in Muslim countries, I would ask you to consider this: how much have Muslims contributed to civilization, recently? That is, within the last thousand years or so.

You might ask  yourself what Western Judeo-Christian civilization has contributed or you may ask yourself what the world’s long Jewish state has accomplished, and you will list a string of great achievements. With Islam you will not find very many, if any. After all, the attacks on Israel, have been incited by the simple fact that the Israelis had succeeded when the Palestinians had failed.

Islam is undergoing a civilizational crisis of major proportions. Now, certain weak-kneed Europeans want to embrace the crisis, even if it destroys their own civilization.

Whatever the incidence of rape and the crime statistics, we do know, from the German government that of the 1,100,000 Muslim refugees admitted by Mutter Merkel, a mere 34,000 have gainful employment. That is a very, very large unemployment rate. Even if you do not believe that German refugee centers are not promoting rape culture, you do understand that such a large number of out-of-work and unemployable migrants means more crime.

Those facts are unimpeachable. And they suggest, as I have remarked, that the refugees do not consider themselves to be beggars, but the vanguard of an advancing army. They do not want to contribute. They do not know how to contribute. They are not going to learn how to contribute. They are going to convert Europe to Islam.

The issue is roiling the continent today. In Germany Chancellor Merkel’s political fortunes have been crashing. In the Netherlands Geert Wilders is running a political campaign on the platform of de-Islamizing his country. For the record Wilders was recently convicted of speaking ill of Muslims—in a nation that prides itself on its free speech. And in France Marine Le Pen’s presidential campaign, based on anti-Muslim rhetoric, looks to be seriously competitive. Even the Socialist president Francois Hollande has declared that France has a serious Muslim problem.

Such is the real world we live in. Yet, if you read the major American media you would think that our biggest problem is a Russian invasion. Remember when a group of Algerian refugees, having been expelled from Finland arrived in Murmansk, Russia. Remember what happened when said refugees when to a dance hall and started molesting the local women. In case you forgot, Russian men pulled the Algerians out into the parking lot and sent most of them to the ER.

One recalls that in feminist Sweden, where female political leaders don headscarves to meet their masters in Tehran, boys in public school are taught that they must pee sitting down… because it’s sexist to pee standing up.

In the alternative universe, Islam is not a problem: Islamophobia is. (See this season’s version of Homeland— a catastrophic artistic failure.)

In the alternative universe rape is not rape if it is committed by Muslim refugees. It only counts as rape when it is committed by white male fraternity brothers in American universities. There, it does not even matter whether it happened or not. It’s the thought that counts.

In the alternative universe, we can ignore the threat of radical Islam and fight to the death to repel Vladimir Putin and of course Donald Trump.

[Addendum. Yesterday, rioting broke out in Sweden in areas inhabited by certain groups of people. Link here. Via Maggie's Farm.  Another report, from the Daily Mail.]

Monday, February 20, 2017

Understanding Depression

You are walking home one evening and suddenly you have a strange feeling of dread. You have a premonition that something bad is going to happen. You become more alert to your surroundings and start walking more quickly. You reach in your pocket to see whether you brought your pistol. You look to see if anyone can help you.

Your anxiety, in other words, is trying to tell you something. You might or might not heed its message, but it is not just a random sensation that welled up from the depths of your soul. But it is not just trying to tell you something. It is helping you to deal with the danger. The emotions connected with anxiety will cause you to take actions to reduce the threat.

Obviously, anxiety is not infallible. You might have seen a picture in a store window that recalled a prior threat. You might have seen a shadow that resembled someone lurking behind a car. Anxiety alerts you to threats, but the threats need not be present threats.

Given the option between deciding whether the threat is real or imagined, you do best to assume that the threat is real. If the threat is real you have something to gain. If it is not real you have little to lose. Thus, reacting to an imaginary threat seems to be a correct adaptive response.

Nothing about this should feel strange or new. When we come to depression, however, the situation feels more complicated and difficult. What is depression telling us? And what are its symptoms telling us to do.

Recent research has suggested that the complex of symptoms that accompany a depressive episode serve an evolutionary purpose. Of course, anyone who has ever been prey to such an episode will not see it that way. As much as we believe in Darwin we will hesitate before drawing such a conclusion.

Paul Andrews of McMaster University suggest that the symptoms want to pull us away from everyday life and to send us into our minds to find out what happened and what we should do.

Matthew Hutson reports on Andrews’s theory:

Andrews had noted that the physical and mental symptoms of depression appeared to form an organized system. There is anhedonia, the lack of pleasure or interest in most activities. There’s an increase in rumination, the obsessing over the source of one’s pain. There’s an increase in certain types of analytical ability. And there’s an uptick in REM sleep, a time when the brain consolidates memories.

Andrews sees these symptoms as a nonrandom assortment betraying evolutionary design. After all, why would a breakdown produce so synchronized a set of responses? And that design’s function, he argues, is to pull us away from the normal pursuits of life and focus us on understanding or solving the one underlying problem that triggered the depressive episode—say, a failed relationship. If something is broken in your life, you need to bear down and mend it. In this view, the disordered and extreme thinking that accompanies depression, which can leave you feeling worthless and make you catastrophize your circumstances, is needed to punch through everyday positive illusions and focus you on your problems. In a study of 61 depressed subjects, 4 out of 5 reported at least one upside to their rumination, including self-insight, problem solving, and the prevention of future mistakes.4

Notably, this theory does not tell us what produced the depression. It might be telling us that we have a problem, and it might want us to solve the problem. Yet, the feelings of worthlessness are telling us that we are not capable of solving it. They are telling us that it’s all hopeless.

As with anxiety, the depressive episode does not necessarily refer to a current problem. It might also have been triggered by something in the present that recalled a past defeat. If the feeling of depression is telling us to distinguish between past and present defeats, that is one thing. If it is telling us that we can do nothing to solve the problem, that is quite another.

But, what is the threat, what is the danger that the depression is signaling? It is not a threat to life and limb... as happens with anxiety. We understand that losing a loved one produces mourning, not depression. We do better to understand depression as a loss of face. 

This assumes that we understand what it means to lose face. Obviously, if depression involves losing face, then treatment involves taking actions that save face. Perhaps Andrews was dealing with the fact that it is not always easy to know how one has lost face, thus, why other people see us differently. In other situations—a relationship failure or public humiliation—we know very precisely what triggered the depression. Surely, we might not have done anything to lose face. The charge may be unjust. And, we do not always know what we should do to save face.

If depression sends you searching for meaning, or some such, it is tricking you into thinking that you can save face by changing the way you feel about yourself. Or, by taking a pill. Yet, if depression is depressing because it involves how you look to others, the feeling of hopelessness signals the difficulty you will have in changing the way others see you. Evidently, if you can figure out how to change how you look to others you will feel better about yourself. And if you always find such situations hopeless you might well profit from a treatment that offers—not hope—but different ways of dealing with the loss of face.

It becomes more complicated. As you know, the Chinese have two words for face. Neither refers to the state of your soul. In the first you have face because you belong to a group. In the second, you have face because you have status or standing within that group. You can therefore lose face in two ways: by being expelled from the group, being ostracized or shunned. This is clearly the worst way to lose face. Second, you can lose status or standing, by being passed over for a promotion, by being demoted or even by being disrespected.

By this theory depression signals a loss directed at your social being. The same is not true when you are mourning the loss of a loved one. It tells us why Dr. Richard Mollica was pointing in the right direction when he said: “The best antidepressant is a job.” A job offers structure; it offers belonging; it offers relationships; it offers a role and rules. It provides a social support system.

If you do not belong to a group, join one. Simple, isn’t it. Well, maybe not that simple. At times, there are no jobs. If so, join a religious group. Their job is to give you face, to give you a place and a home and a connection with other people. One understands that some people try to treat their depression by becoming a denizen of a local saloon. Obviously, this is not the best way to go.

Take the case where someone has insulted you. He has offended you. He has treated you with disrespect. Now, you need to figure out how to respond. If depression, by the Andrews theory, causes you to put aside your bodily appetites and your pursuit of pleasure, it is telling you to ruminate … but without considering how you feel or what you want. It suspends questions of pleasure and desire. And, it also tells you to think before you act.

When someone offends you your first impulse might be to strike out in anger, to show how enraged you are, to demonstrate publicly that you refuse to accept the disrespect. Might we not say that some people, having seen their candidate lose the last election are feeling that their social status and standing, their position as part of the management team-- the managerial elite that enjoys the greatest social prestige-- has been compromised. So they strike out blindly, in anger.

That is: they are not thinking about how best to restore their status. I have in different posts offered some suggestions, but still many of those who have found their status compromised by the Trump presidency are so enraged that they cannot control themselves. They come across looking like fools... thus, looking like people who deserved to lose status. This suggests that some forms of status might be illusory.

This shows us why depressive symptoms cause the offended individual to step back from the situation, to ignore desire and pleasure, to ignore what feels right in order to do right. When you have lost prestige in society you ought to show that you did not deserve to lose that prestige. If you go out in public and act like a raving maniac—all the while accusing your orange-haired adversary of being a raving maniac— you will be showing that you do not deserve a more exalted status. If people start thinking that your adversary is acting a part while you really mean what you are saying... you will have been lured into a trap.

Among other things, people who have higher status in society know how to control their emotions.  They do not allow themselves to be led around by their desires. They set a standard for good behavior, and good behavior does not involve making your emotions, no matter how authentic, a public spectacle.

The moral of the story is: depression is telling you to do something, but, as opposed to anxiety, it does not know what you should do.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Depressed Millennial Women

American women have never had it so good. They have more independence, more autonomy, more opportunity, more authority, more relationships, more freedom, more hookups, more orgasms and more free contraceptives … than any generation of women before them. They have overcome femininity,housewifery and homemakerdom.

How’s that working out?

Apparently, not very well. Women in the millennial generation now report higher levels of depression than any previous generation. This is not to say that men are not competing in the dysfunction derby, but young women are doing better at being depressed.

One notes, in passing, and for context, that the mental health profession has, over the past three decades, made great leaps forward in treating depression. And we know about many non-medical treatments for depression and anxiety-- like aerobic conditioning and yoga.

And, as you know, the Affordable Care Act has allowed everyone access to the new medical treatments. So, one is forgiven for being surprised to discover that, apparently, these treatments are not doing so well. Perhaps they serve to attenuate symptoms, but they do not seem to be very effective otherwise.

To be fair to psychiatrists, when people look merely at treatment modalities they often overlook the causes of the outbreak. One understands that all of the wonderful advantages that today’s young women have… listed in my first paragraph… might not be the formula for mental health and emotional well-being.

If one asked the price women paid for these advantages one would note that they are now being pushed to compete against men in men’s occupations, that they have far more unsatisfying and even traumatizing relationships in which they allow themselves to be used for sex and then discarded, and that their lives lack structure.

Even if you believe that the wonderful opportunities young women have today did not come with some trade-offs, you are excessively naïve.

MarketWatch has the story:

Millennials report higher rates of depression than any other generation and are now the biggest sector of the workforce, creating new challenges in work culture and mental health treatment. And they’re not alone: Recent research shows depression is becoming more prevalent in younger women. Between 2005 and 2014 the number of depressed teens jumped by more than half a million, three-fourths of which were teenage girls according to a recent study in the journal Pediatrics. These mental health struggles are extending themselves into the workplace, with millennial women far more likely than their male counterparts to experience burn out and depression.

Examine the case of Hannah. Surely, you are asking yourself why she does not avail herself of the free healthcare that is now being provided to everyone. And one notes that, according to Dr. Richard Mollica of Harvard Medical School, having a job is generally an excellent anti-depressant. But not for Hannah. It seems strange, but we do not know anything about Hannah’s life outside of the office, so we cannot speculate. In truth, we do not know what is going on inside the office either.

Here is Hannah’s story:

Hannah, a 24-year-old marketing coordinator at a film company, has struggled with depression and anxiety since she was 17, but working at a 9 to 5 job in the last few years since she finished college has significantly worsened her illnesses. Although she has been in her current role for more than two years, she only recently told her human resources representative about what she was going through.

She struggles with motivation on the job and the depression-related exhaustion she tries to combat by chugging coffee throughout the day, and she regularly has to take days off for her mental health. “There is so much stigma around mental illness it feels like it’s not a valid excuse to not be able to work,” said Hannah, who fears she will be judged by her current and future employers so much that she requested MarketWatch withhold her last name. “It’s funny to think about it but I was out for five full days with no problem because I had strep throat, but when I take one day for depression it feels like I’m cheating the system.”

Oh yes, blame it on the stigma. And on the fear of being judged. One would like to know how Hannah is addressing her problem… beyond chugging black coffee… but we do not have enough information to offer further speculation.

The article adds this salient point:

Depression in the workplace manifests itself in a number of ways, including absenteeism — skipping out on work completely — and “presenteeism,” a lesser known problem when an employee does show up to work but is not working at full capacity due to underlying mood issues. Often people with untreated mental illnesses are unable to hold a job longer than six months and may lash out at customers or employers.

What excuse do they have for not seeking treatment? If anything, taking Prozac and other SSRIs has become perfectly normal, if not a badge of honor. I don't know where these young people are living, but very few people in my neighborhood are not taking one or another psychoactive medication.

Still, these millennials feel stigmatized:

… many employees — particularly millennials, are avoiding treatment due to stigma. “The worst part of it is an anxiety around missing work to take care of my mental health, or taking huge gaps out of my day to quell my anxiety,” said Clare, a 25-year-old who works in public relations and who also requested that MarketWatch withhold her last name.

Apparently, millennials are also criticized for being lazy and barely functional. Again, we blame it on the stigma. Because if no one notices that you are lazy you are not lazy. Right? In different terms, millennials tend not to address their problems but tend to blame them on someone else:

Her generation is constantly criticized for being lazy, self-entitled, and unable to handle work-life balance — all stigmas that come along with mental illness as well.

Obviously, this problem did not begin last month. Hannah has been having problems since she went to college seven years ago. Nevertheless, MarketWatch manages to blame it on the Trump administration, because now Hannah fears that she is going to be deprived of free contraceptives and of the psychiatric care that she is not using anyway. If Hannah is self-medicating with black coffee I would guess that she is not taking an SSRI or receiving any other treatment. 

Anyway, MarketWatch says:

Mental health services saw a huge spike in demand the day after the 2016 election, and a study on medical interns (median age 27) from the University of Michigan’s stress and depression research center Sen Lab found the election had “an immediate and striking impact” on their mental health. Many cited fears the president would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and restrict women’s access to reproductive health services as major stressors. The ACA requires insurance plans to cover mental health services.

Here’s a radical thought—for which I will apologize in advance. Wouldn’t some of these women feel a bit better about themselves if they stopped worrying about contraception and abortion and stopped hooking up with men who use them for sex and then throw them away. They have been encouraged-- certainly not by me-- to think that they should have sex like men, with no strings attached and no commitments. It doesn't seem to be working out very well. I know this will sound like heresy, but perhaps Susan Patton was right. Perhaps women should be thinking of marrying younger… thus alleviating the anxiety about family? 

But, how many times does one need to point out that the currently accepted life plan is detrimental to women’s mental health. If only these young women respected themselves and their bodies they would not be obsessing about contraception and STDs.

Just a thought.

Why is this happening? Why has the millennial generation succumbed to mental health problems? Marketwatch has an answer:

Clare believes some of the stressors specific to her generation are major reasons for the rise of depression and anxiety. This includes a rising cost of living, more pressure to do well, crippling student debt and even the divisive political climate. “There is a huge pressure for people to find their foothold in their dream careers much earlier — an anxiety to figure it out as fast as possible and find the dream job that meets all the goals,” she said. “Anything less feels like failure.”

If you are in an especially cranky mood you might ask yourself whether this generation was trained—in school—to achieve and to succeed in the world of work. All indications are that it has not. All indications are that it has been brought up on a diet of unearned praise and that it suffers from bloated self-esteem. When compared to their counterparts around the world the American millennial generation is dysfunctional and cannot compete. Link here.

One does not need to say so, but in the interest of fairness one will. Some professionals suggest that today’s millennials are not more depressed. They are more aware of the signs of depression and therefore recognize it more readily. It’s all in the perception, didn’t you know it?

Obviously, this does not explain why American millennials are less competitive than their counterparts around the world. And, it does not consider that all of this talk about depression and other forms of mental illness in schools might be inducing children to start feeling depressed. Everyone knows that first year medical students imagine that they have all the illnesses they are learning about. When you teach high school students the symptoms of depression and anxiety, it makes sense to believe that they will feel encouraged, at least, to mimic the symptoms.

Anyway, MarketWatch writes:

This generation is not necessarily more depressed than workers of past generations, but more equipped to recognize it, Riba said. Mental health is increasingly being taught in high school and most universities now have mental health centers, decreasing the stigma of treatment. “We are seeing a whole new generation who is coming up having been more exposed to these issues than in their parents’ generation and want to figure out how they can stay healthy,” she said.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Has America Gone Insane?

Here’s a hint about rhetorical strategy: if you want to denounce someone as irrational and emotionally overwrought, you should not sound irrational and overwrought. If you do you will be emulating the example you are denouncing. If it is worth denouncing, it cannot be worth emulating.

As we have seen, a small number of mental health professionals have attacked Donald Trump as unfit to serve as president. They say that he is suffering from one or another psychiatric disorders—like malignant narcissistic personality disorder—and therefore should be disqualified.

Being mental health professionals they have allowed their minds to be overcome by their emotions. They have failed to note how many previous American presidents have suffered from one or another psychiatric condition. And they ignore the fact that there is nothing in the constitution that prevents us from electing someone who is severely depressed—like Abraham Lincoln. Let’s not forget the number of politicians and commentators who declared Theodore Roosevelt to be utterly unhinged.

On the other side a number of mental health professionals have rejected their colleagues’ wish to diagnose someone they have never met. Correctly so. But then, they denounce Trump for his totalitarian tendencies. In so doing they indulge the totalitarian tendency of using psychiatry to shut up one’s political opponents.

Anyway, mental health professionals are men and women of science. They have demonstrated some restraint and have offered opposing views of the Trump psyche.

Better yet, someone named Louise wrote in to the New York Times to school psychiatrists in the matter of the Trumpian psyche. She makes more sense than most, so I assume that she belongs to the field:

Trump's personality traits, along with his inherited money and his contacts, have enabled him to become POTUS, acquire a succession of young and socially impressive wives and get even richer. 

This is not how mental illness generally works; the key feature of mental illnesses is that they are to a significant extent disabling to the people who have them. Personality disorders in particular tend to produce inflexible and inappropriate thought patterns and behaviour which make it hard for people to function effectively and form solid relationships. Trump's behaviour is bizarre, vain. inconsiderate, erratic and downright despicable but it's also calculated and very effective with the audience he's aiming at. When he lies it's with a purpose, when he appears confused it's usually misdirection, when he ignores or trivialises the important issues it's because he doesn't want to deal with them.

Louise finds much to dislike in the Trump performance— limited as it is—but at least she understands the difference between mental illness and public political performance.

Now, we have the honor of reading the thoughts of a distinguished American professor, one W. J. T. Mitchell of the University of Chicago. Mitchell’s thoughts appear in the Los Angeles Review of Books and they offer a sense of what is wrong with the American academy—a place where no one even pretends to care about empirical reality.

While mental health professionals have been relatively restrained in their diagnoses, Mitchell, who teaches literature and art criticism, feels no such compunction. As he sees it, the American people are suffering from a mass psychosis. Since psychosis is a well-defined clinical category no mental health professional uses it lightly or promiscuously. Mitchell knows nothing about psychosis, so he invokes the authority of that famed syphilitic philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. Where else would you look for a definition of psychosis?

A well-known Chinese aphorism cursed people to live in interesting times. Mitchell declares that we are living in insane times. Being a master of absurd analogies, he declares the election of Donald Trump to have been as cataclysmic as September 11, 2001.

I kid you not:

For the majority of Americans who did not vote for Trump, the events of the days since November 8, 2016, have seemed as if the nightmare of history that Stephen Dedalus describes in James Joyce’s Ulysses has come upon us with a vengeance. And there is no possibility of awaking from it; it is a reality that will not go away; it has only just begun. Like the nightmare of September 11, 2001, it marks a historical epoch, underscoring the correctness of Nietzsche’s aphorism, which stipulates that it is not only a matter of collective insanity (“groups, parties, nations”), but also of “epochs,” those turning points and momentous events such as revolution and war that make us feel that we are living in extraordinary, even insane, times.

Let’s see: would you like to offer a description of the mindset of someone who declares that we are living through a nightmare and that it will never go away? One appreciates Mitchell’s prophetic powers, his ability to see the future and his encouraging thought that we will never awake from the nightmare. We awoke from 9/11, didn’t we? Mitchell is trafficking in mental drool.

Mitchell occupies an august positions in the American academy. He must count among the best and the brightest in that world. If that doesn't give you nightmares, I don’t know what will.

Anyway, Mitchell does not refrain from expressing his contempt for the American people. If you want to know why Hillary lost, you could not do better than to weigh Mitchell’s words:

As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete narcissistic moron.

I need not tell you that “complete narcissistic moron” does not appear in the DSM V. It tells us that Mitchell is flailing… but also that he sees the Trump presidency as wish fulfillment, the wish of the plain folks to see the office of the presidency occupied by someone who expresses their inner soul… which is to be a fool and a completely narcissistic moron.

How does Mitchell know that America has gone completely mad? You guessed it: the nation has not done enough to stop climate change. It takes your breath away. You have to read it to believe it. So, here it is:

When the world’s most powerful nation goes crazy, the consequences are global. And this is nowhere to be seen more clearly than in the absolute silence about the greatest challenge facing the world community in the foreseeable future, namely, climate change. The issue never came up in the presidential debates, and received little coverage in the media. Admittedly, climate change is a hard sell to people who do not read newspapers. But when, in a rare moment of collective sanity and wisdom, 195 countries come to an agreement that climate change is real and must be addressed, one would think that the issue is, as we say, a no-brainer. But Trump is a climate change denier who intends to tear up the Paris agreement as a “bad deal,” and who has nominated a fossil fuel lobbyist who, like many Trump appointees, would like to destroy the very agency he has been appointed to direct, namely, the Environmental Protection Agency.

Does anyone really believe that the nation has ignored climate change? In truth, the Obama administration was obsessed with climate change, to the point where it was willing to shut down industries and put people out of work to save the planet. It’s one good reason why Hillary lost.

And, by the way, what does a professor of art and literature know about climate change? The fact that a bunch of nations got together and signed an agreement transferring wealth from America to the poorer countries of the world does not confirm that America is responsible for climate changes. Everyone understands that the climate changes. The question is whether or not human beings—that is, privileged white males-- ought to be punished for it and whether the Industrial Revolution should be repealed to save the smelts.

Since Mitchell correctly notes that the balance of powers in the United States Constitution is a wondrous thing, we must add that the treaty signed by the Obama administration has skirted constitutional scrutiny because the administration called it a deal and not a treaty.

For your and Mitchell’s edification, I provide a link to some remarks that Prof. Richard Lindzen at a seminar conducted at the British House of Commons in 2012. Since Lindzen has been the head of the climate science lab at MIT I trust you will agree that he knows the subject. Something we cannot say about Mitchell.

When it comes to the dogmas of climate change Mitchell and others who know nothing about climate science are absolutely  convinced that they are right and that everyone who disagrees with them is—not wrong, but insane.

Mitchell says:

Or does it have real potential as a way of analyzing a mentality, a style of thinking and feeling that is resistant to persuasion, but might be susceptible of understanding? It is one of the characteristics of an epochal moment like this that it is going to be very difficult to distinguish rational analysis from polemic. It may in fact be the case that there are times in history when reason and outrage have to converge, and the whole liberal style of calm deliberation and the comfort of long views will seem radically inadequate. 

Is Mitchell showing himself to be amenable to rational argument? Is he willing to consider the views of important scientists who disagree with him? Not at all. If a bunch of nations, along with Pope Francis, have bought the idea, then it must be dogmatic truth, never again to be questioned.

I will mention in passing that since Nietzsche was not a sufficient authority on the question of madness, Mitchell quotes Freud himself. One of the twentieth century’s greatest pseudo-scientists has no real authority on mass psychosis or even on individual psychosis. Admittedly, Freud did do some work on psychosis—he wrote a commentary on a memoir written by a psychotic. Yet, Freud was a neurologist and aside from the fact that his dangerous method did not work on neurotics, it most certainly did not work on psychosis.

While Mitchell agrees that we ought not to diagnose political leaders and that Trump himself is not psychotic, he still argues that Trumpism is madness and that it should be treated with psychoanalytic methods that have fallen seriously out of favor because they do not work. No one has ever believed that they work with psychosis. Only serious humanists have failed to see this fact:

But what about Trumpism, the mass syndrome that now grips this country and threatens the world? It fulfills the basic criteria of psychosis in its hostility to reality-testing and its potential to be “a danger to itself and others,” the legal standard for involuntary confinement of the insane. Any politics that sets out to cure the disorder of Trumpism will have to find a way to think of it in relation to psychology, not as a set of polemical labels, but as a therapeutic method, a listening cure.

Mitchell knows nothing about psychosis, but his suggestion that everyone who voted for Trump, everyone who is responsible for Trumpism is participating in a mass psychosis and should be involuntarily confined is madness itself. If not that, true stupidity.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Rabbi Is Unafraid

Rob Eshman is proud of his wife, Rabbi Naomi Levi. He is especially proud of her for standing up in front of her congregation and announcing that she is not afraid of Muslims: Bring ‘em on! Eschman is not alone in feeling proud of hit rabbi wife. Her congregation cheered her loudly for her enlightened and anti-Trumpian attitude.

By now, you are wondering what Lulu thinks about all this virtue signaling. Or else, you are wondering who Lulu is. For all I know Lulu might be a pseudonym. Apparently, she prefers not to reveal her last name. The Bookworm blog (via Maggie’s Farm) has posted her remarks, beginning with the results of her research—conducted after 9/11—into Muslim culture around the world.

Lulu went to YouTube and found the Memri site:

I saw television clips of preachers giving lessons on the proper techniques of wife beating. I saw discussions and sermons promoting the murder of apostates and infidels (that is, non-Muslims). I saw the basest of anti-Semitism, including blood libels, promulgated. I watched young Palestinian children on kiddie shows being encouraged to become suicide martyrs and murder Jews. I saw the defense of honor killings, female genital mutilation and support for the denial of rights for women as normative and right.

We all know how the Internet works. One link leads to another. I then saw articles about the pedophilia in Afghanistan, the kidnapped young boys forced to dance for men and perform sexually for them. I saw articles about young female children, under the age of ten sometimes, married to grown men or middle aged men who raped them. I read about young wives locked in their homes, so miserable and desperate to end their suffering that they literally set themselves on fire as their only means to escape. Picture after picture reveals the horror. I read about Christians burned, beaten, and stoned to death, their daughters kidnapped and forced to serve as sex slaves. I read about young couples who dared to fall in love dragged out of prison (jailed for being together) and beaten to death by lynch mobs. I read and saw pictures of gays tossed off buildings and hung in public squares. I read about the horrible mistreatment of animals; beasts of burden, dogs, bear baiting.

Yes, indeed. Now we know what has been missing in America. Nothing to be afraid of there. For reasons that escape me, the debate about the Trump immigration order has completely ignored the results of Muslim migration in Europe. To be fair, to myself, I have often posted the best information about it on this blog.

Lulu summarizes the results of her research:

So I have watched with horror and dismay as Sweden, perhaps the most self-congratulatory nation on the planet, in a noble experiment and to atone for Swedes’ blond hair and fair complexions, took in an enormous number of people, primarily young men, from these precise cultures . . . expecting what to happen, exactly? Beautiful integration? Sexually outré Swedish metrosexuals sipping coffee with people who viewed them with contempt? No, the Swedes embraced their immigrants with wide open arms and assumed they’d be reciprocated with gratitude and worldwide accolades. Instead, Sweden has become known as the rape capital of Europe. Values collide. Just a few weeks ago, a group of Afghan asylum recipients filmed themselves on Facebook-live gang raping a young Swedish woman. Tack sa mycket, Sverige!

As you know, France has a very large Muslim population and thus a very large Muslim problem. Try being Jewish in Paris these days. Lulu has French Jewish friends. Their lives are not something that Rabbi Levi or her congregation would wish for:

And speaking of Jews, we have Jewish friends from France who can no longer walk to synagogue wearing a kippah or a star of David necklace, lest they be beaten up or worse. The couple, highly talented professionals both, have been trying to immigrate to the United States for years but have been unable to do so legally, tied up in red tape and complications. So they are stuck in France where they feel they have no future. There are no-go neighborhoods throughout France, especially in Paris, where sharia law holds sway. The police are even afraid to enter. This is where the French Jew, Ilan Halimi, was taken to when he was kidnapped and tortured to death. His torturers ritually chanted from the Koran on the telephone while his mother heard his screams.

Rabbi Levi and her husband are involved in the narcissistic exercise called virtue-signaling. It makes you feel good about your own virtue while you blissfully ignore reality. You are saying that since you are virtuous, without an Islamophobic bone in your body, you will not be punished by the armies of Allah.

Lulu responds:

It somehow doesn’t occur to the virtue-huggers that, as the number of Muslim immigrants rise, Muslims become more powerful, thus affecting school curriculum, politics, and so on. Things change. Look at anti-Jewish harassment at universities. The virtue signaling of today can become something much more frightening and less pleasant tomorrow.

She adds:

Rob Eshman is super proud of his wife and wants to be proud of the rest of us too. Well, I’m afraid he will be disappointed in me because I think he, his wife, and their congregation, lovely people though they may be, are fools whose naiveté will ultimately cost lives. They are fools who comfortably live far from the poor communities where the Somalis and Syrians will be resettled. It is armchair virtuousness. You know, I’d like to see them promote the immigration of Yazidi or Christian refugees, who are in grave danger and pose no terror risk, but they don’t.

Lulu, however, is afraid:

Unlike Rabbi Levy, I am afraid of what far too many people do, have done and will do in the name of Islam. I am afraid of values totally discordant with my own, of taqquiya and sharia and the broad partial, or whole-hearted, support of killing of gays, Jews and Christians, suppression of women and the fundamentally anti-democratic impulses of a huge percentage of the world’s Muslims. More than half of British Muslims, for example, want homosexuality illegal and a quarter fully support the imposition of sharia law in their new homes. The numbers are much larger elsewhere. 

She concludes:

Rabbi Levy, et al, what say you to the honor killings on our soil, or to the little girl whose genitals have been hacked out (something prevalent now in France), or to the next victims of a terror attack, whether a car ramming, a stabbing spree, a shooting or a bombing, here in the US? That this is a small price to pay for being unlike Trump? Rapists, not racists? With great virtue signaling comes great responsibility. If among the people you insist on coming are those who hate the US, the West, and you, and perpetrate any of these heinous acts, you will not be virtuous. You will have blood on your hands.

Should You Fear Terrorism?

Terrorism, we have been assured, is no big deal. You are more likely to die from falling off a ladder or slipping in the shower. So says Nicholas Kristof. And so once said Barack Obama. 

People who are soft on terrorism are tough on ladders. We can now have large public demonstrations to ban bathtubs. There, that will solve the problem of Islamist terrorism. Dare we note note that it is destroying large parts of the Middle East and that has invaded Europe. To which Kristof tells us to put our collective heads in the sand. 

Don’t fear terrorism. Fear bathtubs. And, God help us, you must be terrified of automobile accidents… surely they kill more Americans every year than do acts of domestic terrorism.

For the sake of their argument, those who misuse statistics in this way ignore the cost of terrorism in other parts of the world. The carnage in Syria, for example, tends to remain hidden.

If you like facts and if you believe in using them promiscuously, the fact about comparing deaths from ladder falls to deaths from domestic terrorism feels dispositive. In truth, it is misusing information, roughly like saying that even if it is a fact that Col. Mustard’s fingerprint is on the murder weapon if he was in Egypt when the crime was committed, he could not have done it.

Any number of learned authors have taken Kristof to task for his intellectual dereliction. One notes that Kristof is a reporter, but he is not a thinker. His column demonstrates the point on a regular basis. Among those who have critiqued his column are Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times, Justin Fox on Bloomberg, David French on National Review and Alex Nowrasteh at Cato (via Maggie’s Farm.)

Ganesh shows why the analogy is a cheap effort at confusing the issue:

… most people can intuit the difference between domestic misfortune and political violence. The latter is an assault on the system: the rules and institutions that distinguish society from the state of nature. Bathroom deaths could multiply by 50 without a threat to civil order. The incidence of terror could not.

Terrorists want you to change the way you live. They want to undermine our culture and force us to replace it with theirs. It does not have the same impact as dying in the bathtub.

In addition, Fox and several others have noted that ladders and bathtubs, even automobiles are useful. They do something good for us. This do-goodism is accompanied with a certain risk, but we assume the risk because it is statistically very low when compared to the utility. Besides, we have some measure of control over it. We are generally aware of the risks and take suitable precautions. At times, we are careless and we might even be punished for our carelessness by having an accident. But, the situation is not comparable to watching the Boston Marathon and having a pressure cooker blow in your face. 

When we are victims of an act of terrorism, the act is designed to take control of our minds… by persuading us that we deserved to be victimized. Terrorists want us to believe that our own evil deeds provoked them and forced them to punish us. Terrorism is designed to invade our minds and to make us feel guilty. 

As you know, the Obama administration and many members of the alt-left insist that the cause of Islamist terrorism is our own Islamophobia. Add to that whatever we have done in the Middle East… especially America’s support for Israel… and you see that terrorism has a psychological and political goal. It wants to influence the culture. It wants to control our minds. It wants to convert us to Islam. It wants to persuade us to change our policy.

The nature of the threat from a ladder is radically incommensurate with that of Islamist terrorism.

Fox also notes that the analogy is specious because it misuses statistics—who could have imagined that:

Finally, comparing the incidence of terrorism with that of common accidents is an incompetent and irresponsible use of statistics. Household accidents are lots and lots of small, unrelated events. As a result, while individual accidents can’t be predicted, the overall risk is easy to quantify and is pretty stable from year to year.

Terrorism is different. There are small incidents, but there are also huge ones in which hundreds or thousands of people die. It’s a fat-tailed distribution, in which outliers are really important. It also isn’t stable: Five or 10 or even 50 years of data isn’t necessarily enough to allow one to predict with confidence what’s going to happen next year. It’s a little like housing prices -- the fact that they hadn’t declined on the national level for more than 50 years before 2006 didn’t mean they couldn’t decline. Meanwhile, the widespread belief that they wouldn’t decline made the housing collapse more likely and more costly.

Speaking of fat tails, the attack on the World Trade Center did not just kill more than two thousand people. It destroyed an enormous amount of property and disrupted the lives of many thousands more. The economic cost far surpassed that of lightning strikes. The psychological damage, the sense of having been attacked and of being made to look weak and inconsequential was vast.

Moreover, terrorism produces stress. And stress is unhealthy. Again, it is not a random event that befalls an individual. It is an assault on a nation or a culture. The two should not be confused.

If, after Pearl Harbor was attacked, Franklin Roosevelt had addressed Congress and declared that more people did from mosquito bites than died at Pearl Harbor would they country have risen up to cheer him? Would he have received the Kristof Award for indulging in mindless analogies? Or would he have been run out of office?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Conspiracy Theorists

Having shown, in the prior post, that we cannot trust psychiatrists to offer cogent analysis of political and judicial matters, we turn to Brendan Nyhan in the New York Times for a better and more sane view. Nyhan is a professor of political science at Dartmouth College. We will forgive him for not being a physician.

In a Times op-ed Nyhan argues that people who feel that they have lost control are more likely to latch on to conspiracy theories. One might add a point that I have made myself, that people who have undergone trauma, who have had their daily routines disrupted, are more likely to seek solace in narratives.

Nyhan points out that before the election, Trump supporters were more prone to believe just about anything, but that after the election Democrats have glommed on to just about any conspiracy theory— to avoid having to face the dire truth, that they lost.

We note that Nyhan offers a balanced and a rational view. Then again, he is a political scientist, not a psychiatrist moonlighting in an alien field. Any psychiatrist who wants to help their patients would do well to follow his example.

Nyhan compares:

Even as Democrats decry the false claims streaming regularly from the White House, they appear to have become more vulnerable to unsupported claims and conspiracy theories that flatter their own political prejudices. The reason isn’t just that a Republican now occupies the White House. Political psychology research suggests that losing political control can make people more vulnerable to misinformation and conspiracy theories.
And he compares this reaction with the gullibility of Trump supporters before the election:

Before the election, supporters of Donald J. Trump were the main audience for fake news stories. Mr. Trump  shattered previous norms against making easily disprovable falsehoods in his public statements (including that he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning and that President Obama was not born in this country), and he paid little political price among his supporters….

But since the election, there has been a noticeable increase in the flow of dubious and unsupported claims among liberals. One widely circulated post on Medium portrayed the Trump administration’s fumbling rollout of a travel ban in late January as an elaborate “trial balloon for a coup d’état.” Brooke Binkowski, managing editor at the rumor-tracking site Snopes, recently told The Atlantic that she has been seeing more false reports aimed at liberals or from liberal sources — “a lot of dubious news, a lot of wishful-thinking-type stuff.”

Who would be dumb enough to believe such a conspiracy theory—that is, paranoid thinking? Why, none other than Allen Frances. Note these remarks from his Psychology Today post, quoted in my previous post:

Impending court decisions in this case may constitute a key turning point in United States history. Should the judges accept Trump's "national security" excuse for unconstitutional acts, it will embolden him to push for a much greater power grab. He can create a de facto dictatorship, eroding our precious civil rights, based only on his arbitrary interpretation of "national security."