Sunday, September 23, 2018

Is Rod Rosenstein Leading the Resistance?

Along with Alan Dershowitz and Steven Cohen, Mark Penn counts as a liberal Democrat who does not skew his political analysis. He worked for Bill Clinton. He worked for Hillary Clinton. And yet, he has not joined the Resistance… and thus has not weaponized his opinions in order to get Donald Trump.

Among the stories that have occupied our minds these past few days, we count the New York Times revelation that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein once contemplated taping conversations with President Trump, and to use the tapes to rally cabinet members to the cause of removing Trump from office via the 25th amendment.

As you know, the Times has stood by its story. Rosenstein has denied the story, explaining that if he talked about wearing a wire, he was being sarcastic. And Rosenstein also announced, somewhat belatedly, that he was not the author of the anonymous Times op-ed explaining that the Resistance was functioning within the Trump administration.

For the record, and based on no special information, I initially suspected that Rosenstein had authored the piece. If the Times is confident in its recent story about Rosenstein’s comments, perhaps they are basing theirs opinion on their knowledge-- they are the only ones who know-- of the identity of the author of the Anonymous op-ed.

Mark Penn analyzed the Rosenstein revelation in a column for The Hill. He began with a discussion of the “deep state,” explaining what it is, whether it is, and what it is trying to do:

People bristle when I sometimes adopt and use that term: “deep state.” But as an outside observer, watching the unmasking of the actions of one official after another at the FBI, CIA and DOJ, I have come to accept that an unelected group of well-educated, experienced individuals running these departments became inebriated with their own power during the last election campaign and apparently came to believe they were on a mission to stop, defeat or remove President Trump and his associates for crimes they would find or, if necessary, manufacture.

A cabal at the highest reaches of the FBI, the CIA and DOJ. Hmmm. How many of these people were Obama appointees? How many of them had taken Obama to be their Messiah? Think about the politics behind their actions, and their effort to undermine a democratic election.

But Rosenstein’s statement in response to the news accounts carefully avoids denying having discussed wiring himself or others in some effort to entrap Trump. This cabal is meeting and planning, post-Comey’s firing, despite the fact that Rosenstein himself in his memo to President Trump said Comey was “wrong” and the FBI could not regain lost public trust without a new director who understood his errors.

It seems Rosenstein also may have believed we needed a new president. Just days into his expanded role and after these conversations, he appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel with a still-secret charter to investigate the Trump campaign and administration; the precipitating act was the very firing he recommended.

Is Rod Rosenstein leading the Resistance from within the government. Amazingly, these deep state actors are trying to undermine democracy in the name of what they call democracy.

Arrogantly, Penn writes,

... those in the deep state ... convinced themselves that they would rescue our country from ourselves. They were on a mission, it turns out, not to save our country but to undo our democracy, and Rosenstein finally has been unmasked as having the attitudes and conflicts we all suspected.

What do the Washington elites really think? Penn explains:

Whether it involved sending missiles to Syria after chemical attacks on civilians, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, or firing Comey, Trump actually has moved ahead and done some of the things that Washington elites complain about but go along with out of some extreme sense of caution and timidness. And those acts are then branded as some kind of lunacy.

It doesn’t matter what Trump does. The deep state actors say that it is a species of madness. But really, Penn continues, was it madness to consider assassinating Syrian dictator Assad. What if we ask about some of the foreign policy failures of his predecessors?

Perhaps the true headline item in Bob Woodward’s book, “Fear,” is that Trump was so incensed at the murdering of women and children by Syria’s Bashar Assad that he actually raised the idea of taking out the dictator responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of his own people. Sheer madness? Hardly. President Obama stood idly by as mass murder happened in Syria, and President Clinton’s biggest regret is that he did too little to stop the massacres in Rwanda; he believes 300,000 lives could have been saved had he sent in troops earlier. It’s presidential inaction in the face of madness that has proven most dangerous to the world. Ask the Crimeans.

Should Trump fire Rosenstein? Should he do it before or after the mid-term elections?

Rosenstein’s most vociferous supporters are saying that firing him would be another Nixonian Friday night massacre.

Trump supporters trust no one any more. They believe that the story of Rosenstein’s comments about the 25th amendment was designed to goad Trump into causing a constitutional crisis by firing Rosenstein. Thus, Trump supporters are saying not to do it, at least not now.

As for seeing Rosenstein as the leader of an in-house Resistance, Penn explains:

Until now, Rosenstein has escaped real scrutiny despite this series of defiant statements and actions. He managed to make it impossible for the president to step in and remove him, or for Congress to supervise him, claiming he reports to some higher authority that he defines as his commitment to the rule of law.

Trump does have other options. Among the most intriguing is to appoint a second special prosecutor to investigate the in-state Resistance:

After the midterms, though, he could instruct the attorney general to appoint — or, perhaps, do so directly himself — a second special prosecutor to investigate the actions of the FBI, CIA and DOJ in the Clinton and Trump investigations. Over 70 percent of Americans in the Harvard/CAPS poll believe such a counsel should be appointed now. If Democrats take over Congress, there will be no way without that appointment to continue investigations that have turned up real malfeasance of the sort by these officials. Democrats have other plans for their investigative powers, if they get them.

And also:

Whatever you want to call these well-heeled members of the intelligence community and Justice Department, many of whom now have book and speaking contracts, it is clear they all engaged in a conspiracy to bring down this administration on the basis of unverified information, and to turn the most basic acts of presidential power, like the firing of Comey, into obstruction of justice.

The more information that comes out here, the ever more egregious the actions of all of these officials appear in the light of day.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Mental Health Is Other People

Justly famous philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once averred that: “Hell is other people.” However brilliant Sartre was-- and he was brilliant-- that does not mean that he was offering a useful guideline for how to conduct your life.

Nowadays, certain academic philosophers are trying to advance their careers and perhaps even to rescue philosophy by arguing that it’s all therapeutic, but we are within our rights to be skeptical about the notion that great minds become great by giving out great advice.

The notion that reading Nietzsche will show you the way to either good mental health or the good life is absurd on its face. True enough, you might, by following his theoretical life plan attain to heights of superhuman authenticity, but you do better not to confuse that with mental health or emotional well being.

True, Nietzsche was a great philosopher, but his radical individuality required you to bully and abuse and overpower other people. Thus, other people exist so you will have foils, allowing you to demonstrate your amoral superiority by pushing them around. Dare we mention that this has given rise, perhaps only indirectly, to some of history’s greatest horrors.

Mental health professionals are doing considerably better than philosophers here. They have recently discovered that mental health and emotional well being are… other people. Therapists make money by offering therapy, whether insight therapy or pharmaceutical enhancements.

If they recognize that many modern citizens are suffering from loneliness, we can imagine that there is something to it. After all, they have nothing to gain by telling us that we can cure much of what ails us, not be dredging up the past, not by reliving our traumas, not by discovering what we really, really want… but be developing more cordial relationships with other people.

Dare I mention, if only in passing, that if other people are the road to mental health, solitude is not quite as valuable as it is knocked up to be. Admittedly, a great thinker like Rousseau liked his solitude. He famously wrote a book (unfinished) called: Reveries of a Solitary Walker. In it he suggested that human beings would find company in the natural world… and thus did not need other people.

For the record, William Wordsworth also made a fetish of walking alone in nature. In his poem “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud” he suggested that his perambulations through the English countryside allowed him to connect, even to empathize with daffodils. It must have been quite the communion.

That being said, it is clear that our culture contains a strong, well-defined current that extols the virtue of being alone. Now, psychiatrists tell us that it’s bad for our health.

The Daily Mail has the story:

Even doctors are calling loneliness an epidemic of the modern age.

Nearly half of Americans say that they feel lonely most or even all of the time, and it isn't just a detriment to their social lives and happiness; loneliness is bad for their health.

Plenty of studies have found strong links between loneliness and risks for just about every disease - from cardiovascular disease to stroke and even death on the whole.

The mental health profession has seen the danger for quite some time now:

The health dangers of loneliness are not new. A review of studies conducted back in 1988 identified higher rates of mortality, illness, injury, smoking, obesity and high blood pressure in lonely people, marking social isolation a risk factor for all of the above.  

Happily, physicians have discovered why loneliness is so bad for your health. Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Christopher Bullock, in particular, has analyzed the problem:

Social activity stimulates a variety of parts of the brain. Like our muscles, the regions of our brains need to be active in order to stay fit.

Several key areas 'atrophy,' so to speak, when we are lonely and isolated, according to Dr Bullock's blog post.

We start to lose gray brain matter in the regions that allow us to read the facial expressions, tones and movements of other people and that allow us to imagine what's happening in another person's mind.

Even if you spend most of your time alone, picking up on social cues like these isn't just important to making friends, it's a survival mechanism.

Meanwhile, regions of the [brain] that tell us something is painful thrive on our loneliness.

Scientists see greater activity in these parts of the brain when people are lonely. They have also observed an uptick in activity and chaos the amygdala, which regulates emotions and emotional responses.  

This part of the brain, the amygdala gets revved up and reacts to 'negative stimuli' - situations that are upsetting - more but has a harder time recovering from these experiences.

Similarly, the dorsal posterior insula, which regulates how painful something feels actually becomes more active when we are lonely, so injuries - which, incidentally, happen more often to people who are socially isolated - actually hurt more.

When you engage in social activities, even on the most elementary and superficial level, you are reading social cues and are making social cues. Thus, you are defining yourself as a social being, and not as a radical isolated and separated individual. Obviously enough, being isolated and separated from the group puts you in more danger. It causes your stress hormones to increase.

The cure is other people. It is not deeply meaningful relationships with other people. It is not deeply personal conversations. I note and emphasize the point. Dr. Bullock explains:

But Dr Bullock says that these effects can be reduced if not reversed even just by being in the presence of other people.

'People are anxiety relievers. And people are antidepressants, as well as blood pressure reducers (mostly). People, in general, are good for you,' writes Dr Bullock.

He suggests that even the distant presence of others during solitary activities - like going to a library or public place to read - can inspire the brain to give us more oxytocin, putting a damper on our soaring stress hormone levels.

Better yet, and more clearly proven, making a friend might be the best thing you can do for your health.

Now, ask yourself this: is working from home the same as working in an office? In the latter case you are surrounded by more people. In the former case you are isolated. Ought we to imagine that perhaps the latter is healthier and ultimately more productive than the former.

He concludes:

'Humans are social creatures. Among ourselves we form all kinds of complex alliances, affiliations, attachments, loves, and hates. If those connections break down, an individual risks health impacts throughout the body,' Dr Bullock wrote.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Biological Clock Is Still Ticking

You wonder why this is news. We’ve known about the biological clock for decades now. We’ve known that women who postpone procreation run the real risk of not being able to have children. We certainly know that women who postpone husband hunting until their careers are fully established find that they have written themselves out of the game.

We all know this. We have known it for decades. Women rarely admit it in public, but they are far more aware of the issue than men are.

And yet, how to explain this plaintive column to Guardian advice columnist Mariella Frostrup. (For the record, I did notice that Frostrup is a wonderful proper name, the kind that only the British could get away with. It should be the name of a character in Henry James) (Via David Thompson and Maggie’s Farm)

But, I digress.

Examine this letter, quoted in its entirely:

The dilemma Like me, most of my friends are in their 30s, some turning 40. Those with partners and children have disappeared, other than posting their idyllic family life.

We’ve tried all of the dating things, found no one and biological clocks are ticking. One friend said her life is not worth living because she hasn’t got a partner or a child. In the past I’d give advice and encouragement – suggest things might turn out all right in the end. There’s still time!

But now there’s actually not time. I can’t encourage, because life isn’t going how we thought it would. We’re being left behind and without the financial ability (or housing) to freeze eggs or go it alone, or adopt.

I get harassed by some friends, almost bullying me into going on dating apps because it worked for them. But I hated it – men were rude, unkind and I felt physically threatened. I found myself despising all men.

The idea that single people in their 30s are all having fun is a lie. We are the have-nots and we are sad. What now?

Did you notice that she now despises all men? I trust that you understand that she is not alone in having such feelings. But, do you think that this will make her more or less likely to find a husband? Duh.

Someone sold these women a pack of lies. You cannot conclude otherwise. Someone told them that if they became independent and autonomous, not needy and dependent, then men would be flocking to their doors. Don’t you know, sexual attraction and fertility are mere social constructs.

What went wrong? How did such a well-educated cohort of young women get it so grievously wrong? How did they manage to ignore the past experience of the women who came before them?

Of course, Frostrup holds out hope. It isn’t quite as bleak as the letter writer makes it sound. Some women conceived their children later in life. Some found perfectly wonderful husbands when it seemed impossible to do so.

It’s hopefully cheering for you to know that for many of my generation, despite our fears, it actually worked out. I’m not just referring to those who found last-minute fathers for late children but also those who are now, for the most part, enjoying exciting, fulfilled 50s unfettered by parental responsibility. For women for whom children are a priority, you’d be amazed how much can be achieved in the few short years before you hit 40. The amplified ticking of our biological clocks seems to focus minds and energy on the single issue of motherhood in a way that often produces results. So many of my friends found partners and had children, as I did, around the age of 40. As a result, my kids have grown up seeing me not as a freak of late motherhood, but a member of a small and steadily increasing minority of older mums.

Of course, this is true. Of course, a responsible advice-giver will bring it up… because seeing the glass half empty is not very positive or constructive.

The real reason that women fail to learn from past experience, and the reason why they ignore biology until it smacks them in the face, is that they have been seduced by an ideology. They are living an illusion or a fiction and they imagine that the world will eventually catch up, to the point that it will accommodate their decisions.

Frostrup explains:

Your letter confirms what I’ve long suspected – that the seismic changes needed to make the world more bearable for our sex aren’t happening fast enough or with enough focus. Women are still penalised for pregnancy, bear the main burden of domestic life (so often now combined with full-time work) and, despite increasing lifespans, have the same short window in which society deems them to be fully contributing members. I’m sorry you are sad and I’m angry, too.

The best sign of zealotry is the ability to shift the blame. Women who bought into the ideology refuse to believe that they were duped into believing something that is contradicts reality. When things do not work out as planned, they end up blaming reality… or men… depending on the day.

She concludes that the letter writer should go out and change the world. That would man, instituting more government programs to solve these problems. But, by the way, will these programs oblige men to marry women who are closing in on forty? Or will they extend procreation into a woman’s fifties, thanks to frozen eggs or donated eggs. And, is childcare really the issue here?

Then again, the solution to the problem is blindingly obvious. It will not come as a consolation to the current letter writer, but for the younger generation the solution is: to marry young.

Yes, indeed, marry young, have children young, when infertility will not be a problem. This will mean that women will be working less when they are young but will have more time to devote to their careers when they reach age 40 and their children do not need as much attention.

Better yet, a woman who re-enters the workf0rce as a married mother will be less likely to suffer the indignity of being harassed by her bosses. It’s worth thinking about.

Hannah Arendt and the Banality of Evil

A new movie raises an old question. The movie, Operation Finale, dramatizes the Israeli capture of Adolph Eichmann in Argentina in 1960. Eichmann was secreted to Israel, tried and executed in 1962.

Among the most memorable phrases from the trial was “the banality of evil,” coined by Hannah Arendt to describe the man who organized the transport of European Jews to death camps.

Arendt offered the term in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem. The term has been in use for decades now, to the chagrin of Alan Dershowitz, among others. By declaring evil to be banal, Arendt was saying that those who perpetrated the Holocaust were just like your neighborhood insurance agent, nondescript and commonplace people who just happened to participate in an evil action.

In a recent column Dershowitz takes serious exception with the Arendt designation. In his words:

Arendt was assigned to report on the 1961 trial of Eichmann in Jerusalem, but according to contemporaries, she rarely attended the trial. She came to Jerusalem having made up her mind in advance that Eichmann in particular and other perpetrators of the evils of the Holocaust in general, were ordinary nondescript functionaries. She reported on the trial with an agenda. It was not necessary for her actually to observe and listen to Eichmann because to do so might undercut her thesis. So instead she wrote a mendacious screed in which she constructed a stick-figure caricature of one of the most significant perpetrators of the Holocaust.

Blinded by her own prejudice, but also blinded by her feelings for famed Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger. As you probably know, Arendt was Heidegger's student and later his lover.

Perhaps she saw Heidegger as an ordinary functionary, but he joined the Nazi party and, when Rector of the University of Freiberg in 1933, he attempted to induce students to join the Nazi Party and to follow the lead of the Fuhrer. Dershowitz calls Heidegger “perhaps” the most influential philosopher of his time. This is surely correct. He adds that Arendt “tried desperately to rehabilitate” him after the war.

In this she was not alone. After the war, scads of great French philosophers lobbied their government to lift their ban on Heidegger’s teaching. American academics, led by Nazi propagandist Paul De Man and French philosopher Jacques Derrida accomplished the mission by recycling Heidegger’s will toward cultural destruction, especially aimed at Jewish and Anglo-Saxon cultures, and transforming it into deconstruction… a fancy philosophical term for pogrom.

Dershowitz offers us a contemporaneous account of the Eichmann trial, reported by Professor Telford Taylor, a man who actually attended it:

Where she saw banality, he saw calculation, manipulation and shrewdness.

Those who perpetrated the Holocaust, Dershowitz explains, counted among the most brilliant people in Germany. This was not a mass movement led by a bunch of braying imbeciles. It was not effected by ordinary people.

To state the obvious, Nazis considered themselves to be superhuman, to be above and beyond all considerations of morality. They wanted to show their superhuman powers by practicing mass murder, not on the battlefield against opposing armies, but in death camps where they preyed on the weak.

And yet, thanks to Hannah Arendt, we have been led to accept that evil people are not cynical and calculating, not brilliant, but are ordinary, like your neighbors next door.

Dershowitz says:

Deliberately distorting the history of the Holocaust -- whether by denial, minimization, unfair comparisons or false characterizations of the perpetrators -- is a moral and literary sin. Arendt is a sinner who placed her ideological agenda, to promote a view of evil as mundane, above the truth.

And besides, to re-emphasize, she did not just allow her ideology to cloud her analysis. Arendt was exonerating herself for having been in bed with evil. How could she not have known who she was sleeping with? Did she not understand his philosophy? Her response: he was just a man like the others. It's an exercise in self-exoneration.

In effect, the academic world has been mired in the same discussion for decades now. Was Heidegger’s philosophy consistent with Nazi thought? Was it an accident that he got duped into joining the Nazi Party-- affiliation that he never renounced-- or did the “inner truth and greatness of the National Socialist Movement,” as he put it, resonate with his theories?

We can understand that graduate students and their lame-brained professors might miss the connection. We have difficulty understand that a great thinker like Hannah Arendt could not see something that was staring her in the face, so to speak.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Donald Trump's Iran Policy

The story is notable for what it says and for where it appears. The New York Times is reporting a Trump administration foreign policy success. The issue is Trump's withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal.

The experts had been saying that Trump’s withdrawal and his reintroduction of sanctions against Iran would cause oil prices to rise and would damage the American economy. And the experts also suggested that international corporations would continue to do business with Iran… leaving it with the foreign currency to restart its nuclear program.

On this,the experts have been wrong. Clifford Krauss reports:

When President Trump announced in May that he was going to withdraw the United States from the nuclear agreement that the Obama administration and five other countries negotiated with Iran in 2015 and reimpose sanctions on the country, the decision was fraught with potential disaster.

If Mr. Trump’s approach worked too well, oil prices would spike and hurt the American economy. If it failed, international companies would continue trading with Iran, leaving the Islamic Republic unscathed, defiant and free to restart its nuclear program.

But the policy has been effective without either of those nasty consequences, at least so far.

Now that you know the expert predictions, Krauss explains what really happened:

Nearly two months before American oil sanctions go into effect, Iran’s crude exports are plummeting. International oil companies, including those from countries that are still committed to the nuclear agreement, are bailing out of deals with Tehran.

And remarkably, the price of oil in the United States has risen only modestly while gasoline prices have essentially remained flat. The current global oil price hovers around $80 a barrel, $60 below the highs of a decade ago.

“The president is doing the opposite of what the experts said, and it seems to be working out,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, a research and consulting firm.

Worse yet, the new policy has made things much worse for Iran.

For Iran, the timing could not be worse. The country has lost influence over oil prices as other producers have eclipsed its energy industry, which has not kept up with technological advances.

At the beginning of the century, Iranian officials could shake the oil markets by staging military maneuvers or merely hinting that they would reduce supplies. Back then, American oil production was falling and global demand for crude was surging.

But those days are long gone. Like the United States, countries including Canada and Brazil are also exporting more oil. Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq have also increased production, helping to keep oil prices in check. Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies are only too happy to support the sanctions against their chief rival, Iran, by expanding exports.

And, as you know, more and more companies, especially in Europe, are walking away from their deals with Iran. Most recently, Volkswagon pulled out of a deal with Iran. Apparently, this came about because of ambassador Richard Grennell’s negotiation skills:

“For Iran, it shows the leverage that they have had through oil has not only diminished but may never return,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, a senior fellow specializing in energy at the Council on Foreign Relations. “People just don’t care if they are going to lose business in Iran. People don’t feel desperate for supply.’’

So far, so good.

Divorcing Her Toxic Parents

She feels Unloved so she signs her letter to Ask Polly: Unloved. She seems especially unloved, even maligned and ignored by her parents, especially by her mother. Other than that, and this is the important point, her life is going very well.

Her parents refused to pay for her college-- while paying for her brother’s college. They refuse to recognize any of her many achievements, but they still coddle her 28 year old brother,who is living at home and is working at a dead end job.

She has achieved great professional success. She is graduating from an important masters program. She is engaged to be married. Her parents do not care. They are not proud of her. They continue to do nothing but hate her. All told, things have worked out well for her. They have worked out far better for her than for her much adored brother.

Her parents, especially her mother, are so extreme that you start wondering whether it’s all true. But, if it’s true, the clear answer is that she should divorce her parents. She should cut them out of their life. Not necessarily because the wants to punish them for their dereliction, but because it is not worth the trouble to keep going back to the same dry well and expecting a different result. Consider it a strategy, a way to get their attention, a way perhaps to bring them to their senses. If it doesn't, she has lost nothing.

Most importantly, and it is so obvious that even Polly hints at it, all things considered, if she, the family pariah has prospered while her beloved brother is a loser… then perhaps her parents have done her a favor. They have pushed her to make her own way in the world. And they have shielded her from their obviously toxic affections.

Surely, it's an interesting case study: the child who was loved and adored ends up being a loser. The child who was ignored and derided succeeds in the world. Perhaps nurture is not quite as influential as we think it is.

Since Polly has no background in psycho clinical work she offers a few possible diagnoses, eventually deciding that Unloved’s mother is a hot stove. This is especially inane, even for Polly. And Polly declares, with surpassing inanity, that Unloved does not deserve the treatment she is receiving. She didn’t need to write to an advice columnist to hear that.

Unloved wants to know what to do. The answer is clear: divorce her parents. Do not invite them to the wedding. Do not invite them to the graduation. She is getting married and becoming part of a new family. I recognize the difficulty she will face explaining why her father is not walking down the aisle, but it will probably be easier than to have to deal with her toxic parents. She might consider asking another male family member, perhaps even an uncle to do the honors. She should see marriage as an opportunity to cut ties with her birth family and happy join a new family.

True enough, this will shame her parents publicly. But, haven't they earned it?

And, by the by, she should also stop complaining. Her bad habit of complaining about her parents is compromising the satisfaction she gains from her achievements.

Her parents don’t seem to love her. They don't care what happens to them. She should return the favor by divorcing them.

Anyway, here are some excerpts from her letter:

I need your advice because no one in my life can relate to me, not even my own brother. While I have struggled with this since I was a child, there are milestones coming up in my life that will be exacerbating this problem very soon. The problem is, my parents don’t love me. It’s hard to describe the unique pain that I feel about this, but it’s a very deep hollow sadness that makes me feel worthless, unlovable, and like I’m nothing. I just feel like I’m nothing at all. This is especially painful because they treat my brother so differently.

Of course, she knows what she should do. The issue is not so much giving up trying to have a good relationship, but walking away from an awful relationship:

I don’t want to give up trying to have a good relationship with them, but I probably should, for my own sanity. Unfortunately, my mom is a very insecure person and a royal bitch (seriously, she has no friends and none of her family members like her), and my dad fully supports the way she treats people and he is also terrified of conflict. I know other people have it worse, so I feel a bit bad for complaining, but in general, this dynamic duo made for a very unpleasant childhood.

As mentioned, she should stop complaining. She had an unpleasant childhood but she has risen above it to attain great success:

Well, I eventually earned and paid for my four-year degree, got a job at a world-famous organization, and was elected to serve on the board of directors for a national organization and a local organization, all by the time I was 28 years old. All the while, barely having any communication with my parents, with the exception of a “Happy Birthday” or “Merry Christmas” text message. When I received an even better job offer (higher pay, better schedule) I was excited and wanted to share the news with my parents, in hopes that they would be proud of me. Big mistake — my mom was absolutely furious. She told me that I shouldn’t change jobs and that I should just stay at my old one. She didn’t really have a sound argument for this, but she was very disappointed in me. I told her that I was hurt and that I wished she could just be happy for me.

Ask yourself this: would you want such parents to attend your graduation? Might it not be more reasonable and more suited to the nature of the relationship, not to invite them. Idem for her wedding.

We are about to go through this disappointing cycle again right now. I’m finishing up graduate school and will be receiving my master’s in science with the highest honors this December from a very well-known university. I would love for my parents to attend the commencement, but I can already tell they’re not the least bit interested. I’ve asked them and sent the details on two different occasions, but thanks to the iPhone’s read receipts, I know for a fact that they’re ignoring me. Not only that, but my fiancĂ© and I are starting to plan our wedding and I’m afraid they won’t go since they’ve expressed zero interest in our relationship. If we have our own children later down the line, I imagine my parents would be equally uninterested.

As for her much-loved brother:

… my brother is 28 years old, still working the same part-time retail job he did in high school, and living with them rent-free with their unwavering adoration.

Doesn’t that say it all.