Saturday, July 21, 2018

Russia or China?


One thing you can be sure about, if America’s radical culture warriors are rushing to the barricades to fight the good fight against Vladimir Putin, if they are up in arms about the danger posed by Russia, Russia, Russia… the truth must be that the true threat to America’s place in the world is… China.

Beyond the fact, noted here yesterday, that Democrats and Obama administration flunkies are screaming as loud as they can at Trump’s Russia policy because they do not want us to form a judgment about Obama’s Russia policy, I suspect that what really bothers Democrats about Russia is that it the nation’s name sounds like Rush. 

They might hate Russia, but not as much as they hate Rush. After Fox News the true danger to their retaking of America is a man named Rush. I suspect that many of them imagine that Rush is a Russian agent. Why else would he be called Rush?

Anyway, David Goldman puts the Russia issue in perspective by explaining that, on the world stage, Russia is barely a blip. If it did not have nuclear weapons and if Obama had not allowed it to expand its sphere of influence, Russia would be a nothing country:

Russia has an economy the size of Italy; Putin has managed his slender resources cleverly and made himself something of a pain in the neck, but Russia's diminished position in the world makes any problem with Russia soluble in principle.

China, however, is a different story. Since we often ignore its importance and its power, Goldman reminds us:

China has four times our population and an economy that is already larger than ours on a purchasing power parity basis, and it represents a formidable challenge to American preeminence.

The American foreign policy elites missed the point on China. First among them, a man who still appears constantly on television as a China and Korea expert, one Gordon Chang. Being wrong all the time makes for good television. And then there is Steve Bannon who has joined Peter Navarro in advising President Trump that China would cave under American trade pressure:

The US elites didn't anticipate the rise of China because they couldn't believe that a country so different from ours with a repugnant political system could succeed. Gordon Chang first published his book The Coming Collapse of China in 2001 -- since when China's economy has quintupled in size. China succeeded, and kept succeeding. Yet we continue to hear (for example from Steve Bannon on CNBC yesterday) that China's currency and economy will collapse if we give them a swift kick. Steve is a friend, but in this case he's catastrophically wrong.

We underestimated China because we bought the idea that only a liberal democracy could sustain a free enterprise economy. Apparently, such is not the case. China’s economic expansion over the past four decades has been spectacular:

China is entirely different. Its per capita GDP has risen 45 times (that's 4,500%) since Deng Xiaoping began China's economic reforms in 1979. Although its growth rate has cooled from double digits to between 6% and 7% a year, China's economy still doubles roughly every ten years. China now graduates four times as many STEM bachelor's degrees and twice as many STEM doctorates as the US. During the past two years, moreover, Chinese applications to US graduate schools (where foreign students comprise about 4/5 of all students) have dropped by about half during the past couple of years, because Chinese universities are roughly on par with America's in math, physics and computer science. One out of 3 Chinese university students majors in engineering. The number in the US is one out of 14 (and that counts Chinese foreign students at US universities).

Goldman continues that our concern for China’s unfair trading practices is misplaced. The problem today is that China is becoming an superpower in technological innovation:

What worries me is NOT that China plays dirty. Yes, China steals all the technology it can. But what worries me, and should worry you, is that China now is inventing a lot of its own technology. China's second-largest telecom company, ZTE, was about to shut down when the Trump administration banned the sale of the Qualcomm chips that power its handsets (ZTE paid a huge fine and agreed to U.S. government supervision to settle U.S. charges that it had flouted the embargo of Iran and North Korea).

America, he continues, is no longer doing very much innovation. You might console yourself with the thought that STEM students are becoming more diverse, but America is beginning to lag China:

Our problem is that we are still living off the basic innovations of the 1960s and 1970s -- fast and inexpensive integrated circuits, LEDs, semiconductor lasers, solid state sensors, flash memory, liquid crystal displays and solar panels. The big money made in U.S. tech has been in software (think of Google, Facebook, Netflix) or design (Apple), not in manufacturing. There's virtually no venture capital going into actual, physical production of goods. We are the geeks in a new Roman Empire. We're addicted to entertainment driven by powerful electronics provided by the Asians--China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Our biggest import from China is smartphones. The second biggest is computers. Making Americans pay more for selfies and Grand Theft Auto won't solve our problem.

Not an encouraging picture.

The War Against Brett Kavanaugh Is Over


Now that the Democratic Party is readying itself for class warfare against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, we note, with some surprise, the very laudatory article by Adam Liptak in the New York Times.

Knowing that Kavanaugh had taught at the law schools of Harvard, Yale and Georgetown, Liptak decided to review the student assessments of him. A thoroughly honest way to appraise the candidate's knowledge and judicial temperament.

Better yet, Liptak offers a fair and balanced report on the student commentaries:

Over the last decade, about 350 law students at Harvard, Yale and Georgetown expressed views on classes offered by Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. With rare exceptions, they praised his mastery of legal materials, intellectual rigor, fair-mindedness and accessibility.

“I honestly believe I took a class that was instructed by a future Supreme Court justice,” a Georgetown student wrote in 2007.

Judge Kavanaugh’s students did not hesitate to criticize the casebook he used (“the textbook is horrible!”) or to comment on personal attributes not particularly germane to his teaching (“great hair!”). Many students complained that there was too much reading. Early on, some said he was repetitive and not well organized. There was occasional griping that a few students dominated the class discussion.

But on the whole, in 12 sets of evaluations spanning 700 pages, there was almost only glowing praise for Judge Kavanaugh’s teaching. More than a few students said he was the most impressive law school professor they had encountered.

It is impossible, if you have a modicum of decency, to reject the candidacy of an exceptionally brilliant man who is so widely respected. Don’t we want the nation’s greatest legal minds on the Supreme Court?

Not to jump the gun, but this article tells us that the war against Brett Kavanaugh is just about over. The rest is theatre, designed to placate the restive base. The left has tried its darndest to discredit him, but one thing it cannot do: dispute his intelligence and his judicial temperament.

It’s going to be Justice Kavanaugh, bunky.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Trump vs. Obama on Russia


Somebody had to do it. Given the frenzy that has drowned out debate in the mainstream media and among the political elites, the task has fallen to Daniel Greenfield at Frontpage Magazine.

To do what, you ask? To place the Trump Russia policy in perspective. In what perspective? Why, to compare it with the Obama Russia policy. Why is no one interested in this comparison? For one, former members of the Obama administration are sending up clouds of obfuscation in order to disguise their own cowardice, and to help people to disregard the fact that they and their president sold out to Vladimir Putin.

That’s what it’s all about. So, we turn to Greenfield to set the record straight on the Obama-Putin relationship.

Obama wanted to improve relations with Russia. He began his tenure by selling out Poland and the Czech Republic, by cancelling the Bush administration order of anti-ballistic missile defense… because Vlad asked him to. 

And, of course, there was also the embarrassment suffered by the nation when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handed Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov a plastic toy, bearing the mistranslated message: Reset. If you were part of the Obama administration, like, for example, Philippe Reines, you want the world to ignore your ineptitude… so you stand outside the White House and make noise. Way to go, Philippe!

Greenfield opens with a meeting between Obama and Putin in 2009:

By different, Obama meant that he didn’t care about traditional alliances or national interest. Selling out American allies like Poland had gotten Barry a taste of Vladimir’s beluga. The cost of the caviar was missile defense for Eastern Europe. America wanted it there and the Russians didn’t.

The caviar followed Hillary Clinton’s comically disastrous reset button push. Both Hillary and Obama needed these photo ops. Putin didn’t need the photos. He wanted concessions. And he got them.

The betrayal and abandonment of Poland was only the first of Obama’s many concessions to Putin.

And then there was the Russian annexation of Crimea, which Putin could do because he knew that Obama would not stop him. And the question of arming Ukraine. Obama refused to do it. Trump did it.

In place of arms the Obama administration sent the Ukrainians food:

The media is outraged over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But when that happened, Ukraine asked for weapons and the only aid that Obama offered their country was MREs. It took months for Obama to come through with boots and tires. Meanwhile Trump has delivered actual weapons.

Why did Obama refuse to provide Ukraine with weapons? According to senior officials, to avoid antagonizing Moscow. Trump isn’t afraid of Russia. Obama however was shaking in his loafers.

While Trump approved anti-tank missiles for Ukraine, Obama slow-walked shipments of boots, putting them on trucks instead of planes so that they took months to arrive, so as not to upset the Russians. Meanwhile the Trump administration cut the red tape by dipping into its own European stockpiles.

In the time it took Obama to ship boots to Ukraine, Trump shipped Javelin missiles.

As for the missile defense of Eastern Europe, the Obama administration eventually sent missile batteries, but without missiles.

Obama shelved missile defense for Poland and the Czech Republic. Trump cut a multi-billion deal for selling Patriot missiles to Poland. When Obama provided Patriot missiles to Poland, he neglected to mention that the batteries would not actually contain missiles. The ambassador to Poland, had noted, "The Poles have not been told that the battery will rotate without actual missiles... but it will also not be operational, and certainly interoperable... this will be a question of basic definitions for the Poles: is it a Patriot battery if it doesn't have live missiles?" Trump’s missile deal comes with actual missiles.

When Obama’s old foreign policy hands crowd the green rooms of CNN and MSNBC, when they pen editorials for Foreign Policy and the Washington Post, accusing Trump of betraying Eastern Europe to Russia, remember these are same people who sent fake missiles on Poland to go with the fake news.

And then, Obama told Medvedev on a hot mike that after the 2012 election he would be free to do Putin’s bidding? Does this make Obama Putin’s bitch? I leave it to you to decide:

But sacrificing Poland to Putin wasn’t a singular event. Three years later, Obama was caught on a hot mic assuring Medvedev, Putin’s political flunky, that he needed space on, “missile defense” until the Republicans were defeated.

“This is my last election," Obama wheedled. "After my election I have more flexibility.”

“I understand," Medvedev offered. "I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”

Obama was conspiring with Putin against the American people. He was assuring Putin’s man that he would have more flexibility to appease Russia after he had fooled America.

And then there were the repeated Russian violations of the INF treaty about intermediate range nuclear forces:

The media has been screaming that Trump was a traitor, when it was their man who sold out to Putin, while President Trump held the line on missile defense without caring about what Moscow thought.

And it wasn’t just missile defense in Eastern Europe.

Obama’s obsession with dismantling our national defenses led him to ignore Russian violations of the INF treaty. Not only did Obama ignore the violations which had been going for an entire term, but he and his political allies helped cover them up. The motive was a mix of appeasement and cover-up….

Obama officials lied about Russian treaty violations to Congress while pushing new treaties with Russia. Then they went on to pull the same trick over their fake WMD deals with Russia’s allies in Syria and Iran. Each time, violations were ignored and a fake agreement was trumpeted by Obama for political gain.

Greenfield continues:

The Obama administration hid the Russian violations, not only from Americans, but from NATO. When a former Obama official piously lectures Trump about the importance of NATO, he ought to be asked why his administration put Putin ahead of NATO. The media ought to be asked why it ignored the violations.

In the winter of last year, the media buzzed with stories about Russia deploying a new cruise missile in violation of the INF. And, as the New York Times put it, “challenging Trump”. But when Russia was violating the INF under Obama, the media accepted the Ben Rhodes spin about smart diplomacy. All the smart appeasement in the world though failed to get compliance or punish the Russian violations.

Instead Obama sold out America by unilaterally complying with a treaty that the Russians were violating.

And then there were Assad’s chemical weapons… and eventually the Iran nuclear deal:

The Russians rolled Obama on the INF and START treaties. Then they rolled him on Assad’s chemical weapons. And then they went for a triple score by rolling him on Iran’s nuclear program.

Obama sold out Mubarak in Egypt, handing the nation over to the Muslim Brotherhood… and wrecking relationships with the Gulf Arab states. When Iranian demonstrators rose up against the ayatollahs in 2009, Obama did and said nothing:

Obama did not care about missile defense. The diplomatic outreach of the newly selected leader traded resets with enemies for the betrayal of allies. In Egypt, Obama would abandon Mubarak to the Muslim Brotherhood. When democracy protests broke out in Iran, Obama urged waiting for the dust to settle. The resets were paid with the blood of Iranian protesters, with Christian churches in Egypt and with the Russian expansionism that would lead to the loss of Flight MH-117 and the annexation of Crimea.

Obama also praised Putin effusively:

The media has spent a day losing its mind because of what President Trump said or didn’t say. Yet Obama not only obsequiously praised Putin, “I am aware of not only the extraordinary work that you’ve done on behalf of the Russian people in your previous role as prime minis-, uh, as president, but in your current role as prime minister,” not only failed to stand up for America when Putin lashed out at the United States, but betrayed us in deeds.

Obama thought of the world as moving in tune to his speeches. His old associates are angry that Trump hasn’t said the right words. But Trump knows that it’s not words that move the world, but actions.

Unlike Obama, Trump doesn’t just talk, he acts.

You can see that the foreign policy hands who were in charge of Russia policy during the Obama administration would want to change the topic and to shift the blame.

Noam Chomsky on Trump's Russia Policy


OMFG … what’s going on here? We expected that a sensible, well-informed professor like Stephen Cohen would offer some much needed perspective about Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

But, who would have expected the same from radical leftist firebrand, and world renowned linguist, Noam Chomsky. To be fair, Chomsky is not a liberal or a progressive. He is a proud radical….

So, Chomsky was on the radio with Amy Goodman the other day. Here is  transcript of some of his remarks.

On Russian election meddling, the cause du jour:

It’s a pretty remarkable fact that—first of all, it is a joke. Half the world is cracking up in laughter. The United States doesn’t just interfere in elections. It overthrows governments it doesn’t like, institutes military dictatorships. Simply in the case of Russia alone—it’s the least of it—the U.S. government, under Clinton, intervened quite blatantly and openly, then tried to conceal it, to get their man Yeltsin in, in all sorts of ways. So, this, as I say, it’s considered—it’s turning the United States, again, into a laughingstock in the world.

On the Democratic obsession with Trump’s Russia policy and Trump’s diplomatic outreach to Putin, Chomsky says this:

So why are the Democrats focusing on this? In fact, why are they focusing so much attention on the one element of Trump’s programs which is fairly reasonable, the one ray of light in this gloom: trying to reduce tensions with Russia? That’s—the tensions on the Russian border are extremely serious. They could escalate to a major terminal war. Efforts to try to reduce them should be welcomed. Just a couple of days ago, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jack Matlock, came out and said he just can’t believe that so much attention is being paid to apparent efforts by the incoming administration to establish connections with Russia. He said, "Sure, that’s just what they ought to be doing."

Chomsky strongly opposes the Trump agenda, with one exception, Russia policy:

So, you know, yeah, maybe the Russians tried to interfere in the election. That’s not a major issue. Maybe the people in the Trump campaign were talking to the Russians. Well, OK, not a major point, certainly less than is being done constantly. And it is a kind of a paradox, I think, that the one issue that seems to inflame the Democratic opposition is the one thing that has some justification and reasonable aspects to it.

Why are Democrats obsessing about the election? You will not be too shocked to read this:

Well, you can understand why the Democratic Party managers want to try to find some blame for the fact—for the way they utterly mishandled the election and blew a perfect opportunity to win, handed it over to the opposition.

Have a nice day!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Women's Inhumanity to Women


In our #MeToo age misogyny is alive and well. But then, there’s misogyny and there’s misogyny. There’s the misogyny that patriarchal males, especially leftist media stars, visit on young women. And then there’s the misogyny that young women inflict on themselves.

About the latter, we have read very little. It is stealth misogyny. It is practiced by women in their everyday lives. Its rules and parameters are passed around in Instagram sites. It encourages what is called “clean food,” food that is supposedly healthy and wholesome. It is supposed to cleanse the female body and to sculpt it into aesthetic perfection. In truth, Eve Simmons explains in an article in the Sun, it produces eating disorders, especially anorexia.

So, we have the most liberated generation of women in human history. They have fought long and hard for liberation. They are free to do as they please when they please with whom they please. And yet, how does it happen that they are obsessed about their weight? How does it happen that they are so vigilant, even obsessively, about what they allow into their bodies? Why might it be that young women who think nothing about hooking up with strangers are harming their bodies by restricting themselves to eating clean food?

Eve Simmons explains how it happened to her. She was working in the girly world of fashion magazines, where no man ever dares to tread. What do the girls talk about when they are alone, when they do not have to attract the dread male gaze?

You guessed it: clean food… that is, fad diets:

I was 23 when I became obsessed with eating “healthy” foods and calorie counting, which eventually led to a diagnosis of anorexia.

I’d never been worried about my body before, but when I got my first job at a fashion magazine I became increasingly aware of how slim all the women around me were – and how little they ate.

Chatter in the office was all centered around food, with my peers constantly discussing their weight, diets and “clean eating” recipes.

Simmons jumped on the bandwagon:

They’d always be trying out recipes and bringing in impressive lunches from health blogger Melissa Hemsley or Madeleine Shaw, covered in kale, quinoa and linseed.

As a young and impressionable journalist, I looked up to these women — so I’d go home and make the exact same thing for the next day. I wanted to be part of the “clean-eating club,” just like them.

Soon I was looking up recipes and following bloggers on Instagram myself. The more I read about “healthy” eating habits the more obsessed I got.

I started making what Instagram told me were “healthier choices,” swapping dairy milk for almond milk and trying to eat less starchy carbs.

I was so obsessed with these health bloggers I did exactly what they all said — and suddenly it was like a domino effect.

I stopped eating breakfast because fasting was good for the metabolism.

Then I stopped eating bread because gluten was the spawn of the devil.

A month later I decided to go vegan and gave up all dairy – Milk, butter, cheese, yogurt and eggs.

She soon discovered that she was severely malnourished, to the point of needing to be hospitalized for anorexia:

Being vegan made it easy to turn down cake at a family party or refuse to eat mom’s cheesy pasta bake and pretending to be gluten intolerant to my friends meant I didn’t have the pressure of eating pizza with them at social occasions.

I was surviving on a diet of kale and cauliflower rice, I was malnourished and my weight began to plummet.

Within just six months, I’d gone from a healthy size 8-10 to a tiny size four — and I was the same weight as the average 11-year-old. I wasn’t getting any of the vitamins or minerals that I needed.

My mom took me to the doctors and I was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with anorexia.

It’s all about the malnourishment. Simmons continues:

Following a clean-eating diet doesn’t mean you get all the nutrients you need.

We are literally going to end up with a generation of women with osteoporosis because they didn’t get enough calcium to keep their bones strong while following a diet which deprives them of dairy and essential amino acids by cutting out vital food groups.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Idiot Savant


Tell me that you do not feel a twinge of Schadenfreude when you see new Democratic Party darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made a blithering fool of herself on the national stage. Declared to be the Savior the party had been waiting for, Ocasio-Cortez got herself in a heap of trouble by mouthing inarticulate anti-Semitic nothings about Israel and Palestine. Readers of this blog were not surprised. Her record and the record of her supporters were crystal clear.

Now, Ocasio-Cortez, the gift that keeps on giving, has offered a few barely articulate idiocies about the American economy.

She said this:

"Unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs” and "Capitalism has not always existed in the world and will not always exist in the world.”

Jim Pethokoukis rebuts the claim with some facts. Guy Benson quotes him:

The latest employment numbers are from the June jobs report. They show that only 4.8 percent of employed Americans hold multiple jobs. That’s lower than before the Great Recession and lower than during the 1990s boom. Indeed, that number has been declining for years.

And then, Benson quotes Pethokoukis again:

Then there was this from Ocasio-Cortez: “Capitalism has not always existed in the world and will not always exist in the world.” Actually, capitalism has pretty much always existed. People have been trading since there was something to trade. “The market economy, contrary to what you might have heard, has existed since the caves,” writes Deirdre McCloskey in “Bourgeois Dignity.”

All things considered, the Democratic Party deserves Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Considering the extraordinary efforts expended by liberals to dumb down the educational system, what could be better than to see its product, a raving moron, elected as a Democrat to the United States Congress. 

The Case of the Sometime Friend


Consider this post a gloss on my prior post, The Case of the Angry Young Woman.

In that post I explained that when you express anger at someone, you should be trying to accomplish something. Expressing anger should have a purpose. And I said that the best purpose, when someone’s offensive behavior has angered you, is to elicit an apology. Your anger should show the other person that he has offended you. His moral sense should tell him to apologize.

Soon after finishing the post, I chanced on this column by therapist Lori Gottlieb. The woman who writes to Gottlieb has a much better sense of what is required than does Polly. In the end, she even has a better sense of it than does Gottlieb. Letter writer Michelle understands that her friend owes her an apology for a grievous offense.

Here is the letter:

A friend of mine asked to rent a work tool of mine (namely, a high-end camera) in order for someone to photograph her wedding. I happily obliged, but then was shocked to later realize that not only was she not inviting me to the wedding but that she had failed to tell me so before she asked to use the camera.

My question is: How do I get her to give a sincere apology and admit her wrongdoing in asking for the camera in the first place, especially without an explanation about not inviting me? I don’t even know how to start this conversation and neither of us has said anything about it.

Michelle

Gottlieb suggests that there may be a misunderstanding. She is correct to consider this possibility:

My guess is that your friend probably hasn’t said anything because she doesn’t realize you’re upset. You say that she asked to “rent” the camera, which seems less like a personal favor between friends and more like a business arrangement between acquaintances. And if she’s renting a camera from you, it sounds as if she isn’t hiring a professional photographer and is working with a limited budget—which might mean that the guest list is small, and that you aren’t part of a tighter inner circle that would be included on that list.

In other words, there might be a mismatch between her idea and yours about the nature of your friendship. Maybe to her, you two are friends, but not close enough for her to include you in her wedding celebration—or even close enough for her to ask to borrow rather than rent the camera. It’s highly unlikely that she’d have asked for the camera if she knew that you would be hurt if you weren’t invited to the wedding. She probably assumed that you didn’t expect to be there.

Surely, this is better than being extremely rude. It may well be the case that the friend is having a small wedding at City Hall. And it is also true that asking to rent a camera is not the same as asking to borrow it. The friend engaged in a business transaction, not an exchange of favors between friends.

On the other hand, Michelle is quite correct to note that the friend  should have had the courtesy to say that she was not going to invite her to the wedding. This egregious lack of respect should not go unanswered.

Even if, as Gottlieb suggests, the two women have completely different understandings of the nature of the friendship, this does not excuse the bride from saying something about wedding invitations. 

In truth, if she did not want to invite Michelle, she should not have asked her to rent the camera at all. If it’s about renting a piece of professional equipment, you can find a business that specializes in that. Besides, if the camera is an expensiv, what happens if it gets damaged or broken at the wedding? Who is responsible?

Gottlieb errs when she suggests that Michelle should confront her friend and ask her what’s up. Here is her advice:

Before you broach the topic, though, it’s important to adjust your goal for the conversation. The aim should be to understand more about your friendship, not to accuse her of having done anything wrong or pressure her to say something she doesn’t feel. You might say, “Hey, I’m thrilled that you’re engaged and I’m happy to rent my camera to you. I know this might be uncomfortable to talk about, but we’ve been friends for X number of years, and when you asked to rent my camera, I assumed I’d be there to celebrate with you. I’m not asking for an invitation at this point, just a better understanding of what’s going on between us.”

Gottlieb proposes open and honest communication. I do not. Under the circumstances, nothing could be more awkward than a face-to-face confrontation, one that will likely do more damage than good.

My proposal, for what it’s worth: Michelle should communicate her dismay to a mutual friend, in order to ensure that the bride hears it. Then, it’s up to the bride to apologize. Or not. If the bride does not feel very close to Michelle, she should not have asked to rent the camera in the first place. If the wedding is very small, then she should apologize for not explaining it at first. If all of their mutual friends are invited, Michelle should feel excluded. Normally, the women would have friends in common... and thus Michelle should not have too much difficulty researching the subject.

As she says in her letter, Michelle should receive an apology. The bride owes her an apology. Gottlieb skirts past this element of the letter and thus distracts from the issue at hand.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Case of the Angry Young Woman


A woman who calls herself Red-Hot Ball of Rage writes to New York Magazine’s advice column, Ask Polly. She has, unfortunately, come to the wrong place. When you are trying to escape defining yourself in terms of emotion, you don’t really need to hear from a vapid advice columnist who wants you to jump back into the emotion. You do not want to get advice from someone who imagines that she understands emotion, and only emotion, and who has no sense of reality.

Of course, Polly makes a few passing references to reality, but she has no clue what it is about. And she has no clue about what RHBOR is talking about.

I am beginning to think that it is not merely an occupational hazard, but RHBOR is nothing but emotion. She feels her feelings but we do not really know about what she is feeling her feeling. When she stops feeling her most intense and defining feeling-- her anger-- she feels like she is nothing. And she never places her emotion in any real context.

Denizens of the therapy culture, represented by the likes of Polly, has no take on reality. They wallow in feelings, declare themselves to be in touch with their feelings, give themselves permission to feel their feelings… and waste their lives. They have walked out of the world and are lost in their minds.

Encouraging, don’t you think?

Anyway, here is the letter, in its entirety:

I tried to stop being so angry, and now I don’t know who I am.

I’ve been angry for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, my dad bullied and abused me, and my depressed mother didn’t have what it took to protect me. So I became a master of revenge tactics and self-protection. I was like a tiny girl Machiavelli with a big attitude. Then I went to school and found myself in argument after argument, always on the lookout for my next big feud. When I joined the world of work, my anger thrived like a weed. It’s not an anger that punches down (more often than not, it’s directed high up at the people who hold all the power), but it’s anger nonetheless, and it’s exhausting.

Recently, I decided I didn’t want to be this red-hot ball of rage any more. So I quit my job, parted ways with an old friend, and cut ties with some toxic people, all in an attempt to take away the anger from my life. I stopped checking the Twitter accounts of people I hate. I started taking long, deep breaths before I entered a high-stress interaction.

But I feel so empty now that I don’t have that anger. It’s like without something (or someone) to push against, I just can’t get moving. For months now, I’ve felt completely hollow. I don’t even get any real joy from food anymore (and I used to love eating almost as much as I loved fighting). I thought that taking the anger out of my life would show me my true form, but all I see is this listless, depressed shell of a person. I hate to admit it, but conflict gave life.

Can I be alive without being angry?

Yours sincerely,

Red-Hot Ball of Rage

So, anger is a signature emotion. And yet, we know nearly nothing about her current life… except that she is presumably unemployed. We know very little about her family, except that she was abused—in today’s world, who hasn’t been abused?

For some reason, RHBOR decided that anger was being caused by being around other people. She decided that if she retired from her job and cut herself off from friends she would feel less anger. In truth, she does feel less anger… and will do so until she starts feeling angry at against the world, or at politicians. And yet, being alone and isolated, she feels anomie, she feels empty. She thinks that it’s because she does not have her anger to keep her warm, but in truth, she is starving for human contact.

For our part, we are starving for context. Rather than accepting her judgment that she is an angry person, we want to know when and why she used to get angry. We want to know the specific situation, people and places, not just her plaintive wailing about how angry she is. Sometimes, anger makes sense. Sometimes, it does not. Without knowing the context we are left flailing. Apparently, Polly is comfortable flailing. No serious professional should be.

So, we want RHBOR to step back from her experience, to tell us what happened, and then to join us in asking whether it was right or wrong to be angry. If she cannot step out of her experience, put some distance between her and her emotion, she will stay lost.

The second question is: on those occasions when anger is justified, how should she express it? And, when she does express it, what purpose does her expression serve. At the very least, we must recognize that expressing anger is not simply an emotional release, a destressing or depressurizing. Such efforts are more histrionic than real. They have little connection to the situation at hand. They are merely showing off by defining oneself as angry.

There are many different ways to express anger, depending on context, on participants and on the goal one wants to attain. If you do not see anger this way you have missed the point and you will be left either being all anger all the time or no anger ever, and suffering from anomie.

In order to get a grip on the situation we turn to Aristotle. Who else? The philosopher said that one’s ethical obligation is to express anger to the right person, at the right time, in the right place, in the right way, under the right circumstances. That is, an appropriate expression, one suited to the situation at hand, and one designed to serve a purpose.

In our emotion-laden therapy world, no one understands that anger is supposed to solve a problem. And yet, if it does not have a purpose, you are merely expelling gas. After a while, you will, like RHBOR become exhausted by the mindless and meaningless expressions. And people will tire of your histrionics. They will turn away from you, out of boredom with your tedious displays of emotion. Did it cross your mind, when reading the letter, that this woman might simply have alienated everyone around her? She presents herself as the agent who actively severed all ties. Without knowing more about specific circumstances, we are allowed to doubt her testimony.

As for the purpose of expressing anger, consider it in this context. When someone offends or insults you, you will justly feel angry. The insult or offense represents a broken connection, broken because other person has disrespected you, demeaned you, diminished you. You might justly feel angry under the circumstances, but your goal, when you express the anger must be: to repair the breach, to restore the connection.

How can this happen? Simply, you want the other person to apologize, to take it back, to show shame for having made an unintentional slight. You can know how effective your expression was by seeing the other person's reaction. It matters little in the great scheme of things whether or not you feel good, bad or indifferent when expressing your anger. It matters whether your friend feels bad when seeing what he has done. If your offending friend does not recognize that he has wronged you and if he does not try to right the wrong, you have accomplished nothing.

If you are too angry, you will draw attention to yourself, to your anger and to nothing else. Making yourself the center of attention will not allow the other person the option of apologizing and making amends. It make him think that you deserved the put down. Thus, the expression must be modulated. It must not be so strong that it draws attention only to itself. And it must not be so weak that your sometime friend thinks that he has done nothing wrong.

It is not easy. It is not simple. It is certainly not going to be solved by having a dimwitted advice columnist tell you to feel your feelings.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Returning to the State of Nature

Returning to the pristine state of nature. Via Small Dead Animals and Maggie's Farm.


Did Trump Betray America in Helsinki?


Impossible to ignore… the thought pops up as we see the political class, the commentariat and the intelligentsia pile on President Donald Trump for his news conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki yesterday.

Treasonous traitor, sold out America, unpatriotic to the core… the message does not just come from the left. It also comes from right thinking politicians. If everyone thinks it, it must be true.

Were we to look at the larger context, something strange would appear. We all know that Barack Obama did not stand up for America. He did not manifest patriotic pride in his country. In what must count as a national disgrace, he began his presidency by apologizing for America, abasing himself on the world stage by declaring that big, bad America had been torturing innocent terrorists. Obama was practicing the Jeremiah Wright, black liberation theology version of foreign policy. He thought that America was the problem in the world, not the solution.

Democrats lost elections because Obama gave away the patriotism as an issue. When Colin Kaepernick refused to respect the National Anthem, the unpatriotic left stood up to defend him. One understands that the gesture was supposed to be a protest against white police brutality, but you do not own the meaning of your gestures. The gesture was irresponsibly unpatriotic. Embracing it, the Obama team sold out patriotism. Besides, is anyone really going to be gas lighted into believing that the crime problem in minority communities is: white police officers?

So, the Democratic Party is desperate to win back the patriotism issue, to absolve itself of the charge that it is unpatriotic. When you watch the hue and cry about Donald Trump’s performance in Helsinki, keep in mind that patriotism is the issue, or better, that Democrats are trying to get people to forget Obama’s lack of patriotism.

Why Republicans are jumping on this message is beyond me. And it is probably beyond them.

To address the looming question, whether Trump should have openly sided with American intelligence agencies against a KGB operative in his news conference, I will offer a contrarian viewpoint. Once Putin publicly denied that he had anything to do with election meddling, if Trump had denounced him, he would have been calling Putin a liar, to his face, in public, before the world. It would have been a satisfying moment of grand drama, but what would it have accomplished?

OK, I accept that it was even more dramatic than Barack Obama’s confiding in Russian President Medvedev on an open microphone, that after the 2012, he would be more conciliatory… thus, if I man extrapolate, more willing to sell out American interests.

Most of the great thinkers who are screaming about Trump’s refusal to call out Putin to his face, had no problem with Obama’s weakness, in word and in deed, toward Russia.

Once Putin strongly rejected the charge of meddling, Trump’s options were to call him out as a liar or to finesse the issue. He chose the latter. If he had chosen the former, it would have ended prospects for a diplomatic rapprochement and for further work to defuse tensions around the world. Would it have been worth it? You decide. I know that people love drama, but still….

And besides, have any of these great minds gotten themselves torqued over the fact that the saintly Angela Merkel is propping up the Putin regime with a massive natural gas deal? Who is really Putin’s flunky?

Among the more interesting reactions to the Trump summit comes this from Prof. Stephen Cohen on Tucker Carlson Tonight. I have reported on Cohen’s analysis on several occasions. He has the advantage of being extremely well informed about Russian history and politics. And he is anything but a right winger. He writes for The Nation, a notably liberal publication.

Cohen was appalled at the public denunciations of the American president:

The reaction by most of the media, by the Democrats, by the anti-Trump people is like mob violence. I've never seen anything like it in my life.

This is the president of the United States, doing what every other president before him, since FDR in 1943 with Stalin, meeting with the head of the Kremlin. And something that every American president since Eisenhower, a Republican by the way, has met with the leader of the Kremlin for one existential purpose: To avoid war between the nuclear superpowers. 

Today, in my considered and scholarly long time judgment, relations between the U.S. and Russia are more dangerous than they have ever been. Let me repeat: Every been, including the Cuban missile crisis. 

I want my president to do --I didn't vote for this president-- but I want my president to do what every other president has done. Sit with the head of the other nuclear superpower and walk back the conflicts that could lead to war, whether they be in Syria, Ukraine, the Baltic nations, these accusations of cyber attacks. 

Every president has been encouraged to do that an applauded by both parties. Not Trump. 

Note the patriotic note: “my president.” Trump is our president. Being a member of the loyal opposition means recognizing that Trump is our president. It is unseemly and unpatriotic to form a mob to attack the American president while he is engaged in complex diplomatic negotiations.

All American presidents, Cohen continues, have received the backing of bipartisan leadership when conducting such negotiations. Not Trump. It is striking. And it looks to Cohen like mob violence.

The international situation is parlous, indeed. Cohen believes that dialogue between Trump and Putin is necessary to defuse some of the dangers he sees. Surely, nuclear disarmament, the conflict in Syria, the situation in the Ukraine are more important than the issue of whether or not Trump made an empty and self-defeating dramatic gesture… denouncing the president of Russia to his face.

Cohen continued:

Look what they did to him today. They had a kangaroo court. They found him guilty. And then you had the former head of the U.S. CIA, who himself ought to be put under oath and asked about his role in inventing Russiagate, calling the President of the United States treasonous. What have we come to in this country? And what is going to happen in the future? 

Under these circumstances, Cohen is saying, diplomacy becomes increasingly difficult. If diplomacy is increasingly difficult, conflict is more likely.

He adds:

They see to hate or resent the idea of Trump as president, that they've lost all sense of American national security. If you ever get these people on, ask them this question. For yourself, for me, for the American people. Do you, these people who are hunting Trump. do you prefer trying to impeach Trump to trying to avert war with nuclear Russia? That is the bottom line, and that is where we're at today. 

And Cohen closes with a salient question, one that is rarely asked:

Let me ask you a question, you know D.C., why do these people dislike Putin, the president of post-communist Russia more than they ever seemed to dislike the communist leaders? 

Surely, he is right. The commentariat and the political class, especially on the left, is up in arms about Vladimir Putin. If Trump were not the Antichrist, Putin surely would be. Did these same great minds feel the same way about the leaders of the USSR? Not a chance.

While we are examining these issues, we also turn to Roger Simon at Pajamas Media. His views correlate with Cohen's and mine, which gives them special saliency. As to the question of whether or not Trump should have made the grand dramatic gesture of calling out Putin to his face on election meddling, Simon says:

What would that have accomplished? The obvious answer is zilch.  Again the opposite would most likely have occurred.  Things, already bad, would have been set back further.  It's human nature. You don't have to be a personal acquaintance of Vladimir Putin to know that.  You only have to be breathing.

On the larger issue, Simon is on the same page as Cohen:

Although Russia -- the largest nation on the planet -- is in many ways a failing state with an economy barely the size of Texas, it still has a huge percentage of the world's nuclear weapons, about equal with ours, and the capacity to deliver them (and to pass them along to unreliable non-state actors).  It behooves us to have a relationship with them for our survival and everybody else's, to keep our friends close and our enemies closer, as the Godfather would put it. The obvious goal in this is to limit nuclear proliferation and even to reduce, or at least stabilize, the nuclear arsenals as agreements come up for renewal.

Rather than worry our souls about drama, we should look at what Trump has done in conducting foreign policy toward Russia:

The bad cop part is what Trump actually does concretely -- and, as Putin certainly knows, this is far more important than photo ops and press conferences with all the attendant words.  Trump's actions vis-a-vis Russia have been considerably more stringent than his predecessor's -- opening the energy spigots, increasing sanctions, arming the Ukrainians, ejecting 60 Russian agents, etc.  As Walter Russell Mead pointed out, if Trump is in Putin's pocket, he's doing a terrible job of it.

Compare the Trump record with the Obama record, Simon says:

Barack Obama -- although the New York Times would burn down its own building rather than admit it -- did an abysmal job with Putin and was indeed the one who was truly "owned" by the Russian.  And it wasn't just the silly reset button and the embarrassing video of Barack whispering into Medvedev's ear to tell Vlad he -- Barack -- would be more flexible on missiles after the election.  (What a toady!)  Even worse, in his Chamberlainesque ardor to make a deal with Iran's mullahs, Obama let Putin play him in Syria, agreeing not to honor his redline against Assad's use of chemical weapons in order not to endanger the  deal.  Trump never did anything nearly that pathetic.  Actually, he stands up strong.

He continues:

But Trump's opponents don't care about results. Overwhelmed with hate, they would prefer to see the president wounded and impeached than succeed with Putin and bring about a world safer from nuclear armageddon.  If Trump achieves this, however, it will be his finest hour.  It would be for any president.

And, for those who care about history, what did the press and the pundits have to say when Franklin Roosevelt gave Josef Stalin control over Eastern Europe?

[Addendum:
on “ridiculous” reaction to Trump-Putin presser: “FDR went to Yalta & consigned millions to their death in gulags because he gave Eastern Europe to Stalin, & yet they get angry & hysterical bec Trump is saying words they don’t want him to say”