Monday, March 18, 2019

America's Mental Health Crisis

Young Americans, especially teenagers and young adults are suffering a mental health crisis. Depression is up. Anxiety disorders are up. Suicides are up. Dare I say that spending on mental health treatment is also up?

Two questions remain open: why this spike in mental illness? And what should we do about it?

Psychologist Jean Twenge examined the statistics and discovered that mental health among young Americans is seriously declining:

One of the best ways to find out if mental health issues have increased is to talk to a representative sample of the general population, not just those who seek help. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has done just that.

It surveyed over 600,000 Americans. Recent trends are startling.

From 2009 to 2017, major depression among 20- to 21-year-olds more than doubled, rising from 7 percent to 15 percent. Depression surged 69 percent among 16- to 17-year-olds. Serious psychological distress, which includes feelings of anxiety and hopelessness, jumped 71 percent among 18- to 25-year-olds from 2008 to 2017. Twice as many 22- to 23-year-olds attempted suicide in 2017 compared with 2008, and 55 percent more had suicidal thoughts. The increases were more pronounced among girls and young women. By 2017, one out of five 12- to 17-year-old girls had experienced major depression in the previous year….

Tragically, suicide also jumped during the period. For example, the suicide rate among 18- to 19-year-olds climbed 56 percent from 2008 to 2017. Other behaviors related to depression have also increased, including emergency department admissions for self-harm, such as cutting, as well as hospital admissions for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Since Twenge is going to blame it on social media gadgets, because she found a correlation between the invasion of techno gadgets and the spike in mental illness, I will also point out that the dates 2009-2017 happen to coincide with a major event in American political history. If we want to indulge in correlational thinking, we are obliged to point out that it’s not just iPhones, it’s the Obama presidency that seems to have directed impacted teenage angst. We will return to the topic.

For now, examine Twenge’s argument. First, she dismisses the notion that  young people are now more likely to confess to problems that had previously remained hidden:

Is it possible that young people simply became more willing to admit to mental health problems? My co-authors and I tried to address this possibility by analyzing data on actual suicide rates collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is a behavior, so changes in suicide rates can’t be caused by more willingness to admit to issues.

Aside from this point, we would also point out that if children are more likely to admit to mental health problems, they might also be more likely to receive treatment. We can ask how much treatment is available and how good the treatment is. Are children being offered medication and a pat on the back? Or are they told to show their vulnerability, to get in touch with their feelings, to feel their feelings and to express their emotions openly, honestly and shameless?

Long time readers of this blog know my position. If this whiny empathy is the best talk therapy the mental health profession can offer, then children are just as likely to avoid treatment. Treatment that wants them to feel weak and vulnerable is not going deter children from committing suicide. It is not going to teach them how to get along with other children. It is going to foster soul searching, teaching them to withdraw from the world. In this, as in many cases, therapy and the culture it fostered is more the problem than the solution.

For her part, Twenge does not address the question of the quality of care available. And she does not address the question of the effect of living in a culture that systematically degrades normal social interaction in favor of soul searching.

She does, however, consider—and then dismiss—the question of whether or not the economy plays a part:

A troubled economy and job loss, two typical culprits of mental stress, don’t appear to be to blame. That’s because U.S. economic growth was strong and the unemployment rate dropped significantly from 2011 to 2017, when mental health issues were rising the most.

It’s unlikely that academic pressure was the cause, as iGen teens spent less time on homework on average than teens did in the 1990s.

Of course, the economy was coming apart at the seams in 2009. And, prospects for future employment did not improve radically during that time. The Obama recovery was among the most anemic in American history.

As for schoolwork, young people today do not really attend school. They are submitted to non-stop indoctrination in the dogmas of political correctness. They cannot compete against their peers around the world. And this means that their prospects for future success are going to be severely limited. Many young people are attracted to socialism because they know that they cannot compete in the free market. Like their millennial predecessors, they have only been taught to vote for politicians who promise to take care of them.

As noted above, Twenge blames it all on social media:

But there was one societal shift over the past decade that influenced the lives of today’s teens and young adults more than any other generation: the spread of smartphones and digital media like social media, texting and gaming.

While older people use these technologies as well, younger people adopted them more quickly and completely, and the impact on their social lives was more pronounced. In fact, it has drastically restructured their daily lives.

Compared with their predecessors, teens today spend less time with their friends in person and more time communicating electronically, which study after study has found is associated with mental health issues.

If social media was the problem, then it would produce the same problems around the world. You cannot really assess its influence unless you can show that children in Singapore, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo and Helsinki, all of whom possess the same gadgets, are showing an equal rise in mental illness.

If such is not the case, we need to look at causes closer to home. As noted, a school system that does not prepare children to compete in the world must be on the list. Broken homes, disorganized lives, a lack of consistent family dinners… these too have notably been shown to have a negative impact on children’s mental health. How many of the children suffering these problems live in two-parent homes? How many of them receive enough attention from their mothers, in particular?

And then there is the Obama factor. The opposite of depression is pride. Not hope. In particular, national pride. Did the Obama presidency produce a decline in national pride? When the president felt compelled to apologize for the nation and its past, he was not expressing pride; he was manifesting shame. Obama was ashamed of America. Why would young people not pick up the message and lose their pride in America? With America being disparaged by professional athletes, why would that not cause young people to lose pride in their nation, to lose a sense of purpose in their lives, to reject hard work and competition in favor of becoming charity cases? It’s one thing to feel like you belong to a proud nation. It’s quite another, mental health wise, to feel like your nation is not worth fighting for, that, given its manifold faults and crimes, it is not worth the trouble to work to improve it. If America’s crimes are the problem, if bigotry is the only thing we need to fight, the solution is penance. And yet, penance might also include martyrdom and self-sacrifice.

And you were wondering why America’s young people are more depressed and anxious than ever before.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Less Talk, More Action

Here it is, another fine piece of advice about relationships. And about how therapy culture advice causes more trouble than it’s worth. It’s from Susannah Breslin, posted on The Frisky.

Given that every therapist and every advice columnist tells women to talk about their issues with their male significant others, you can feel fairly confident that this is bad advice. You can feel even more confident that it is good for the business of therapy.

Breslin opens with a few words about the influence of the therapy culture:

For as long as many of us can remember, we’ve been told that if we’ve got a problem, particularly a relationship problem, the answer is to talk it out. Go to a therapist and talk to a shrink about your issues. Boyfriend or husband acting distant? Well, you better talk to him about that. Not sure what to do about a problem in your life? Get on the phone, send an email, heck, Twitter it while you’re at it. It’s all talk, all the time. But what if sometimes, particularly when it comes to relationships, and especially when it comes to men, you may be better off not talking about it at all? Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been brought up in the Let’s Talk About It era along with everyone else. I’ve watched all the talk shows, and I’ve been in talk therapy, and I’ve had a string of relationships in which I was hellbent on talking about whatever relationship issue needed airing out. I get that, a lot of the time, talking works. It takes what’s hidden and makes it public; it allows people to feel like their inner conflicts are being heard; and oftentimes it bridges the gap between two people looking to connect.

The problem with this advice is that women are far more comfortable talking things over than men are. Thus, believing that conversation will solve a problem requires a man to play an away game. In conversation, women have home field advantage.

Instead, many relationships in tough times become a tug of war in which the woman tries to get the man to talk about his feelings, and the man, who may be disinclined for a variety of reasons in that direction, withdraws from her desire to talk, talk, talk about it….

Recently, a study concluded that when a couple talks about relationship issues, men get more anxious and women relax. If that’s true, what good does talking about the problem do — for men? And where’s that gotten you?

Breslin notes that men and women are different. They communicate differently. Thus, if a woman wants to communicate with a man she would do better to play Frisbee than to demand an in-depth conversation.

Men are different. They communicate differently. We all know that. Let’s start acting like it. I believe men don’t believe what you tell them — they believe what you do. Instead of talking the issue to death, try anything but talking. It doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment to silence, but what would it hurt to experiment with the concept? Have sex. Play Frisbee. Cook a meal. You might find that turning your relationship into a safe haven from relationship discussions will lessen your need to have relationship discussions at all.

Muslim Woman Attacks Pregnant Chelsea Clinton

We all share the grief of the victims of the Christchurch mosque massacre and there families, but there ought to be limits. Among those limits, we should not exploit their misery to blame it on the Jews. Yet, that was the approach favored by a young Muslim woman at NYU the other night.

You know the story, but here it is:

Chelsea Clinton was invited to attend a vigil for the victims at NYU. She is notably pregnant. This did not prevent a Muslim woman—apparently a Bernie supporter—from pointing a threatening finger at her and assaulting her with these words from The Daily Caller (via Maggie's Farm):

“This right here is the result of the massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you have put out into the world,” one student responded. “I want you to know that. I want you to feel that deep inside. The 49 people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.”

At issue was Chelsea’s support for Israel and her opposition to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic rants. Apparently, supporting Israel and condemning anti-Semitism is incitement to violence against Muslims. Because Muslims, beginning with Palestinian terrorists, have always shown great respect for Israel.

Chelsea Clinton was surely taken aback. She reacted as a pregnant woman would, trying to defuse the situation. After all, she was being threatened and she preferred to step back, not to respond to a maniac.

Thereby, another one of our precious liberties, our freedom of expression, is erased, and another American citizen is obliged to accept public humiliation. Obviously, the radical American left is promoting this assault on freedom. But, don’t fool yourself. Islamist are leading the march. They are not merely doing so here; they are doing so in Europe where blasphemy laws are routinely suspended when it comes to the Prophet Mohammed. In the interest of public safety, because, presumably, Muslims do not have enough self-discipline to react calmly and dispassionately when their religion is criticized.

If she is a student, the woman who attacked Chelsea Clinton should be expelled from NYU. Clearly, she has reached a depth of depravity rarely evidenced in public forms: a full frontal attack, with threatening hand gestures, against a pregnant women. Who but the lowest of the low would do such a thing? Will anyone call her out? I doubt it.

Again, with Muslims it’s all about blaming Jews. The sad truth about Islam is that it represents one of the greatest civilizational failures of the past millennium. Muslims today have a choice between modernizing, thus adopting more Western values, and trying to deconstruct what others have built. The sensible voices within the religion have opted for the former. The crazed left, represented by Chelsea Clinton’s attacker, has chosen the latter.

If you want to know why Islam failed, consider the mindset that would produce the kind of disgraceful behavior and boundless ignorance a young woman put on display when confronting Chelsea Clinton. No courtesy. No decorum. No propriety. No respect... for a woman at her most vulnerable. Go for the jugular… of a pregnant woman. Is that acceptable behavior in the Muslim religion? Is it acceptable for Bernie supporters?

Crematorium Burns Down; Bodies Saved

I am not sure that we should call this today’s feel good story. But still. The event in Germany deserves some mention, because it appears to contain a deeper meaning. What that meaning is, I leave to you:

A fire at a crematorium in southern Germany has caused significant damage to the building — but the 20 bodies stored inside remained intact.

German news agency dpa reported Thursday that the cause of the overnight fire in Schwaebisch Hall, about 175 kilometers (110 miles) southeast of Frankfurt, was still being investigated.

Dpa quoted regional police saying the bodies were largely unharmed by the blaze, which is estimated to have caused about 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) in damages.

The crematorium burned down, but only the corpses were saved.

Make of it what you will.

New York Jews Abandon the Democratic Party

Has the Democratic Party finally succeeded in alienating its Jewish voters? Faced with the blatant anti-Semitism of Rep. Ilhan Omar, not to mention her posse, composed of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Rashida Talib, Democratic leaders in Congress tried to offer up a condemnation of anti-Semitism. Their new anti-Semitic base rejected the resolution and forced them to recraft it as a resolution against hate.

Many of us have been wondering when and how Jewish Democrats would see that they are no longer welcome in today’s “woke” Democratic Party. A political coalition that blames its failures on white people and whose leaders have openly consorted with notable anti-Semites like Jeremiah Wright, Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton cannot long welcome a group that so conspicuously overachieves. That would be: Jews.

Today The New York Post reports that the message is getting through to some New York Jews, at least:

Jewish voters furious at Democrats’ defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar say they’re done with the party that has held their support for generations.

“We felt we had a home there,” said Mark Schwartz, the Democratic deputy mayor of solidly blue Teaneck, NJ. “And now we feel like we have to check our passports.”

Jordan Manor of Manhattan, who calls himself a “gay Jewish Israeli-American,” laments, “The party I thought cared about me seems to disregard me when it comes to my Jewish identity.”

Mark Dunec, a consultant in Livingston, NJ who ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2014, says, “I’m physically afraid for myself and for my family,” adding, “I see my own party contributing to the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States.”

Many Jewish New York Democrats have seen the light. They refuse to accept Nancy Pelosi’s idiotic defense of Rep. Omar—namely, that she did not understand what she was saying. Obviously, enough, since Omar keeps saying it, we must assume that her anti-Semitism is deeply ingrained in her mind:

Many Jewish Dems in the city aren’t buying it.

“The fake defense she doesn’t know what she’s saying? I don’t believe it,” said Sara, a Queens teacher who asked not to be fully identified. “This is a grown woman and a member of Congress. Trying to excuse this as naivete is inexcusable.”

For her and others, anger is sparking immediate action.

“The watered-down resolution triggered my decision to walk away from the Democratic Party,” said Allison Gangi of Manhattan.

“I never dreamed anti-Semitism would have become mainstream on the left, but it has.”

Sara said she is “not comfortable anymore being a Democrat” and will register as an independent.

Among his Teaneck neighbors, Schwartz said, “Our only question now is, do we start voting Republican, or do we become Republicans?”

It’s the right question to be asking.

Traumatized for Life

25 year old Sarah Katherine Brooks is in big trouble. Her crime? Hold your breath and gird your loins. She had carnal relations with a 17 year old. Several times.

Why has she been arrested in Georgia? Well, you see, Sarah Katherine was a phys ed teacher in Archer High School. She was tutoring the boy in phys. ed. Say what? Try to wrap your mind around that one: the boy needed special tutoring in phys ed. Not in math or languages or social science… but in phys ed.

The Daily Mail has the story, without the salacious details:

A former Georgia high school teacher was detained after she was accused of having a sexual relationship with one of her students. 

Sarah Katherine Brooks, 25, was charged with a felony count of sexual assault by persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority on Friday, according to jail records from Gwinnett County Jail. 

Brooks is said to have had sex during off-campus tutoring with one of her 17-year-old students from Archer High School. The woman was the teen's physical education teacher, at the time.

You will be happy to know that the local police are still investigating the case. Apparently, they have too much time on their hands.

If you wish to appreciate the suffering that the poor boy has undergone, and the life altering trauma that will follow him for the rest of his days, take a gander at Sarah Katherine’s mug shot:

 Sarah Katherine Brooks, 25, was charged with a felony count of sexual assault by persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority on Friday

Saturday, March 16, 2019

John F. Kennedy's Bastard Son?

I trust that it has crossed your mind, but doesn't Beto O'Rourke look like the bastard son of John F. Kennedy? In truth, that might be the secret to his appeal. Especially since he has no accomplishments to his credit and no real qualifications for seeking the office of the presidency.

Come to think of it, Beto O'Rourke looks a lot more like JFK's son than did JFK, Jr. But we don't want to go there, do we?

Anyway, once upon a time a teenage BOR wrote a poem. He dubbed himself Psychedelic Warlord, appellation that seems more appropriate than President of the United States. Fortunately for us all, the Daily Caller has provided us with the text of the poem:

I need a butt-shine,
Right now
You are holy,
Oh, sacred Cow
I thirst for you,
Provide Milk.
Buff my balls,
Love the Cow,
Good fortune for those that do.
Love me, breathe my feet,
The Cow has risen.
Wax my ass,
Scrub my balls.
The Cow has risen,
Provide Milk.

I am sure you are thinking that it's unfair to judge a man by his juvenile absurdities. And  yet, consider this. At around the same age, a teenage George Washington was copying out the rules of etiquette. Presidential is as presidential does.

The Scandal of College Admissions

The media is agog over the college admissions scam. How is it possible that admission to some of America’s greatest institutions of higher learning could be gained by unlawful means? Cheating on college board exams. Pretending to be a star athlete. Bribing coaches. The list goes on.

The perpetrators, some of whom are now facing hard time, were only the Hollywood glitterati. Hedge fund managers, corporate lawyers, business executives… they were all in on making every illegal effort to gain entry for their darling children into America’s elite universities.

Heather Mac Donald has offered the best commentary on the subject, so we will use her City Journal essay as our point of entry:

Thirty-three moguls and TV stars allegedly paid admissions fixer William Singer a total of $25 million from 2011 to 2018 to doctor their children’s high school resumes—sending students to private SAT and ACT testing sites through false disability claims, for example, where bought-off proctors would raise the students’ scores. Singer forged athletic records, complete with altered photos showing the student playing sports in which he or she had little experience or competence. Corrupt sports directors would then recommend the student for admission, all the while knowing that they had no intention of playing on the school’s team. 

What is the deeper meaning of it all? Mac Donald explains that the scandal simply reflects the fact that these institutions have become so completely corrupted that, outside of STEM subjects, their mission no longer has anything to do with education:

None of this could have happened if higher education had not itself become a corrupt institution, featuring low classroom demands, no core knowledge acquisition, low grading standards, fashionable (but society-destroying) left-wing activism, luxury-hotel amenities, endless partying, and huge expense. Students often learn virtually nothing during their college years, as University of California, Irvine, education school dean Richard Arum writes in Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. They may even lose that pittance of knowledge with which they entered college. Seniors at Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Duke, and Berkeley scored lower in an undemanding test of American history than they did as freshmen, according to a 2007 study commissioned by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. College is only desultorily about knowledge acquisition, at least outside of the STEM fields (and even those fields are under assault from identity politics).  

Today’s great American universities leave you more stupid when you leave than you were when you entered. Witness the witless Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, not only because she is an imbecile, but because young people look up to her.

If the mission is not education, it seems to have devolved into the pursuit of status and prestige. And also, connections:

The stampede to get children into as prestigious a school as possible grows more frenzied by the year, driven by the bragging rights that association with a name-brand university confers on status-hungry parents, who also understand the networking potential of those bright college years. There’s the allegiances of alumni, too, whose donations flow more lavishly when their alma mater’s sports teams are winning. Such tribal sympathies confer unjustified admissions authority on college athletics directors. When the sleazy sports directors in the Singer scheme certified the student applicants as varsity material, their word was apparently final in admissions offices. 

Naturally, the current scandal, what with the promise of jail time for celebrities and tycoons alike, has elicited a flurry of commentary. Much of it has aimed at defending racial preferences and diversity quotas… because rich white people have always had their own system of preferences. These are called legacy admissions. But, is the analogy really germane. Mac Donald is one of the very few who have looked at this specious comparison fairly and objectively:

What the pay-to-play admissions scam does not demonstrate, however, is that “legacy” admissions are somehow more corrupt than race-based affirmative-action admission policies—which seems to be the primary lesson that left-wing commentators and politicians are taking from the scandal—or that meritocracy is a “myth” that has now been debunked. Racial preferences are a far more significant deviation from academic meritocracy than legacy preferences, which are not even implicated in the current scandal. An underreported but salient detail in the Singer scam is that he “falsified students’ ethnicities,” according to the New York Times, because “some families and students perceive their racial backgrounds can hurt or aid their chances of getting in to schools that consider race in their admissions decisions.” This is not a mere perception; it is the truth. 

Is meritocracy really a myth? Not exactly. Mac Donald will note in another text that we could solve the problem by becoming more of a pure meritocracy. That is, by admitting students on the basis of their test scores, as they do in China and as they do in advanced New York City high schools. Yet, if that were the case the schools would quickly become majority Asian. Another instance of the dread white privilege.

In truth, however, legacy admissions tend to be academically qualified. Minority candidates were far less qualified, had far higher admissions rates, and almost certainly had far lower SAT scores:

At Middlebury, the admission rate of legacies in the class of 2006 was 45 percent, compared with 27 percent for the entire class, according to the New York Times. But the 30 legacies admitted were also more academically qualified, with an average SAT score of 1,389, 33 points higher than the class average. By contrast, nearly 60 percent of all black and Hispanic applicants were admitted. Though the Times did not report their average SAT scores, it is a virtual certainty, given unbroken national patterns, that they were roughly a standard deviation below the class average.

At Harvard, legacy admissions are more qualified and more capable. Ivy League schools have always had legacy admissions. They never needed to set up special programs in special studies to get these students through college:

At Harvard, legacies are better candidates on average than other students, Harvard’s Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons said in a 2011 interview.  Nevertheless, blacks get a bigger boost than legacies, despite lower academic scores. In fact, the boost from being black is so strong that Harvard limits the contributions of non-race factors to a black applicant’s composite admissions rating. Just being black quadruples your chances of admission to Harvard. The university claims that if race were not a factor, then the percentage of blacks at the school would fall to 0.6 percent, compared with the current 14 percent. The Asian share of the student body would be at least 43 percent, by Harvard’s own estimate, compared with 18 percent, if race were removed from the admissions equation….

On average, Asians admitted from 2010 to 2015 at Harvard outperformed admitted blacks on the SAT by 218 points (admitted whites outperformed admitted blacks by 193 points). Test scores and GPA that would give an Asian only a 25 percent chance of admission at Harvard would be a virtual admissions guarantee—95 percent—for a black student.

Mac Donald offers the only sensible solution, merit based admissions:

Colleges should adopt a transparent, purely merit-based admissions system based on quantified tests of academic preparedness. Such a system would guarantee that entering freshmen were all equally prepared to compete academically, and would have the additional benefit of putting most college admissions officers out of a job. These self-important bureaucrats view themselves as artistes, using their exquisite insights into character to curate a utopian community of “diverse” individuals. The Harvard racial-preferences trial put such airs on nauseating display. In fact, admissions officers are simply allocating a scarce resource based on their own prejudices and inclinations.

Since college admissions have no problems admitting underqualified applicants to fulfill diversity quotas, they should not have a problem admitting the occasional underqualified white applicant. Even when it took bribery or cheating on tests.

Time will tell whether the current scandal will cause anyone to reconsider diversity programs. More likely than not, it will not. Because, being an ideologue means never having to admit that you are wrong.

When Your Dearest Friend Steals From You

Another day, another superbly intelligent column by Miss Manners. Here the theme is, how to you call out a friend for stealing from you without confronting her? It is not easy. Miss Manners strains to find a polite way to shame the woman. You can decide whether she succeeded. Even if she did not we at least have evidence of her efforts to remain polite while trying to shame people into doing the right thing.

Here is the letter:

When I hosted a large event a couple of months ago, the food was catered, but I supplied the liquor, including two very expensive bottles of brandy, with the proviso that I would take home the remaining liquor at the end of the evening. I spoke to the hired bartenders before the guests arrived to confirm this.

At the end of the evening, after most of the guests had left, I went to the bar to assist the bartenders in packing up the liquor and was surprised to find that both bottles of brandy were missing. The bartenders told me that they had not been emptied by the guests. The manager of the facility, which has excellent surveillance cameras, pulled the video of the bar area, and it showed that one of my dearest friends had taken both bottles. How do I — or should I — address this with my now soon-to-be-former "friend"?

So, her good friend pilfered the expensive brandy. Perhaps her friend thought that they were going to be tossed into the trash. Perhaps she has very sticky fingers. Perhaps this is not the first time she has stolen from a friend. 

Since the letter writer found out about the theft via a surveillance camera, she is facing a double dilemma. She ought not, according to Miss Manners, say that she was spying on her friend. It would not be polite. And yet, she can use the knowledge to shame her friend:

Commercial establishments routinely, and often understandably, install surveillance equipment, sometimes to protect their patrons and always to protect themselves. But your spying on your friends — even your guilty ones — is not polite.

How, then, to correct the problem without admitting your own, lesser, transgression? Your first option is to admit the knowledge, but obfuscate how you came by it. “The establishment tells me you saved the brandies for me. Thank you so much! When can I come by to pick them up?”

Being more confrontational, this approach is more likely to go wrong, particularly if your friend has already disposed of the incriminating evidence. A gentler approach is to talk fondly of the party to your friend at the next social event, mentioning that your only disappointment was that the bartender told you that someone helped themselves to the bottles that you were hoping to share with your guests. This is unlikely to get your brandy back, but it may ruin the thief’s day.

We agree with Miss Manners that it is best not to be confrontational. It does not work. It causes drama. It solves nothing.

So, Miss Manners recommends that the letter write shame her friend, subtly, but without hope of getting the bottles back. Fair enough. It’s the best anyone can do under the circumstances.

The remaining question is: if the bottles are not returned, ought she to remain friends with the thief? Perhaps making herself scarce will help her friend to come to her moral senses.

Google's Misplaced Loyalty

The last time Google executives appeared before a Congressional committee they professed enduring and unalloyed patriotism. Naturally, the weak-willed members of Congress did not call them out on their refusal to work with the Pentagon on a drone project. And they did not call them out on their work with the Chinese military.

Now, however, Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has raised the issue of Google’s patriotism before a Senate Committee. One remarks, if only in passing, that while the testimony received less media attention than your average presidential tweet, the truth is, that in the realm of communications strategy, the message was much more powerful being delivered by a leader of the American military.

Town Hall has the story:

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday that Google is helping China’s military more than it is helping America's military.

“The work that Google is doing in China is indirectly benefiting the Chinese military,” Dunford said.

“We watch with great concern when industry partners work in China knowing that there is that indirect benefit. Frankly, ‘indirect’ may be not a full characterization of the way it really is, it is more of a direct benefit to the Chinese military.”

Alarmed by what Dunford had told the committee, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley summarized the top general’s point: “We have an American company that does not want to do work with our Defense Department, which is one thing, but they’re happy to help the Chinese, at least the Chinese government that is, the Chinese military, at least indirectly. I think that’s just extraordinary,” he said.

CNBC reported the details:

Dunford’s comments come in the wake of the tech giants’ decision not to pursue some of the Pentagon’s lucrative contracts while considering projects in China.

In October, Google said it would no longer compete for the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud computing contract, an award that could be worth $10 billion. Google said that the contract may conflict with its corporate values. In addition, the company also said it would not renew a Pentagon contract that analyzed aerial drone imagery for the military.

Meanwhile, it was revealed last year that the tech giant was studying the idea of working with the Chinese government on “Project Dragonfly,” a censored search engine that would block certain sites and search terms. More recently, after pushback from politicians and activists, Google said it had dropped those plans.

Again, the issue is patriotism, the extent to which one of America’s greatest companies is loyal to America. Our nation is engaged in brutal competition with China… and Google, being a transnational citizen of the world, is refusing to work with the Pentagon. It has no such scruples when it comes to working with China.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Why We Need Due Process of Law

When the Obama Education Department threatened universities with a loss of funding if they did not institute kangaroo courts to punish any male who was accused of sexual harassment, many Harvard Law professors stood up and denounced the attack on due process. Without due process of law accusations become irrefutable and the accused are summarily punished, rightly or wrongly.

The Trump Education Department has rolled back the Obama assault on due process, but it lives on. The attacks on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh showed no concern for due process of law. The goal was to destroy a man, his life work and his family… for the crime of being a Roman Catholic conservative. In so way was the debate about judicial philosophy.

Worse yet, now, the #MeToo movement has morphed into a cultural revolution, of the sort that we last saw in China during the time of Mao. Anyone who is accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault is presumed to be guilty. Any lawyer who dares defend the accused will be attacked and hounded… punished for the so-called crime of being a defense attorney. It is totalitarian practice. It must be called out and put down. Thus, we applaud Harvard Law Professor Jeannie Suk Gerson who does just that in a piece for The New Yorker.

The man accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault is Harvey Weinstein. You know the case. It need not be repeated here. The problem is not Weinstein as much as it is Harvard’s reaction to the fact that Harvard Law Professor Ronald Sullivan has chosen to join the defense team. Sullivan is also a faculty dean at an undergraduate house. And he is African-American. We might question the value of defending a Harvey Weinstein, but, in truth, criminal defense attorneys cannot do their jobs if they only defend the innocent and the savory. By definition, they often find themselves standing up to defend the due process rights of appalling individuals. They do not do it because they condone the actions that the defendants were accused of perpetrating, but because they know that due process is what stands between us and lynch mobs.

Now, Harvard’s own Red Guard students have attacked Sullivan. Not surprisingly, the administration has caved into their complaints, and wants to conduct something called a “climate review.” Apparently, this has nothing to do with global warming. It has to do with the deviant notion that a lawyer who defends an accused rapist is condoning rape and thus is creating a hostile environment, one in which students do not feel safe.

Suk Gerson explains what happened:

It was decidedly unfunny, last month, to see the words “Down w Sullivan!” spray-painted on the doors of Winthrop House, the residence of Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr., the first African-American faculty dean of an undergraduate house at Harvard. (Sullivan is also a colleague of mine at Harvard Law School and a renowned defense attorney.) In January, he announced that he had decided to represent Harvey Weinstein as defense counsel in Weinstein’s upcoming trial for rape. In an open letter to the Winthrop House community, Sullivan explained that it was a defense lawyer’s duty to insure that the most hated individuals in society receive the fair legal process that is due to anyone against whom the state’s punitive power is arrayed. Student groups, including the editorial board of the Harvard Crimson, condemned his choice, and some students demanded that Sullivan be removed from his position as dean because his decision to be Weinstein’s lawyer made them feel unsafe and posed a conflict with his leadership role in the Winthrop House community.

On the same day as the vandalism, Harvard announced that, in response to “concerns about the impact of this decision on the support that students can expect to receive in the Winthrop community,” the College would undertake a “climate review,” consisting of surveys and interviews of students, after which it would “take actions, as appropriate.” The students were sent a questionnaire asking whether they find Winthrop House “sexist” or “non-sexist,” and “hostile” or “friendly,” among other things. Presumably, if Harvard learns that the “climate” requires it, Sullivan could be fired as dean.

So, for the action of defending an accused criminal, that is, for doing his job, Sullivan is threatened with a loss of his position as dean. Suk Gerson takes the occasion to remind us that the American judicial system does not always punish miscreants. It is less about doing justice, as Justice Holmes remarked, than about playing by the rules. Thus, the system is designed to defend the rights of the accused, even if this allows a criminal to go free:

But, as any lawyer knows, many #MeToo cases will not end in legal vindication. Why not? Because the alleged behavior doesn’t match legal definitions, or because of statutes of limitations, or insufficient evidence, or questionable witnesses, or police misconduct, or prosecutorial overreach, or doubtful juries—in short, for all the reasons that cases can fall apart when subjected to scrutiny in court. When defense lawyers do their job, one effect is to make it harder for the government to impose suffering on their clients, whether innocent or guilty. This is a notion that most liberal Americans like, when we talk about mass incarceration or the war on drugs. It is often less comfortable in the context of #MeToo.

But now, our Red Guards are not merely calling for the presumption of innocence to be replaced by the presumption of guilt. They are now attacking lawyers like Sullivan, lawyers who dare defend those presumed to be guilty. Anyone who declares that such people have rights is assumed to be contributing to a hostile cultural environment where men will be more likely to rape.

In the past year, the climate for such work has changed. There is now such a stigma attached to people accused of sexual misconduct that anyone who defends legal principles on their behalf risks being mistaken, in the public mind, for a defender of sexual violence. Lawyers have always been vilified for taking on unpopular clients, but, in the #MeToo era, defense lawyers endanger their good standing even in the most liberal communities, Harvard being only one example.

The Red Guards will tell you that they believe in human rights. And yet, they do not believe that anyone accused of a sex crime has any human rights. Thus, such people are classified as subhuman. Associating with one of them, consorting with the ostracized, makes one a co-conspirator.

Suk Gerson continues:

As a matter of constitutional law, denying someone a defense lawyer is depriving that person of their rights, especially if the risk of punishment is involved. Just as crucially, a world in which lawyers are afraid to defend people against a certain kind of accusation is a world in which those accusations can never really be tested or verified, where guilty verdicts bear the whiff of a sham. When I was a prosecutor, I represented the state. Now, as an academic, I teach my students to be proud of their work whether they are prosecuting or defending those accused of crime, whatever the crime may be. Punishment is only legitimate if it is grounded in due process, I tell them.

Now, a threat hangs over all defense attorneys, and even over those who opine on such matters. You never know when the mob is going to turn on you:

I hope I have not declined any client or held back any writing for fear of reprisal, but I can’t deny that it lurks in my mind. This is true even though I, unlike many other lawyers and writers, as a tenured professor do not experience strong disapproval as a threat to my livelihood….

A chill has descended on our intellectual lives—on the positions we feel free to question and express. If it is implicitly understood that statements running counter to #MeToo orthodoxy, including defense of the accused, may provoke reprisal, then surely those statements are less likely to be made and heard. Why risk the loss of acceptance, reputation, or even employment, merely to explore an idea?

Of course, this is creeping totalitarianism, imposed by those who insist that they believe in the highest of democratic ideals:

In this moment, the real lesson is about free expression and free minds. When the views of thinking people, whether lawyers, teachers, editors, or writers, are determined by our self-assessed risk of losing jobs or social standing, it doesn’t take a totalitarian government to repress our thoughts. We have done it to ourselves.

When the Dog Walker Doesn't Walk the Dog

The highly estimable national treasure called Miss Manners does it again. She offers a perfect response to a woman whose dog walker is taking advantage of her. What do you do when your dog walker is not walking your dog? What do you do when said dog walker, hired for this simple task as a favor, abuses the privilege and does not walk the dog?

Many advice columnists would tell you to confront her, to get in her face, to lean in, to accuse her of dereliction. Not Miss Manners. Our national treasure gets it right, by showing how to raise the issue, not by confronting and accusing the derelict dog walker, but by shaming her. As you know, shame is bad, but it is only so to those who do not have a clue about how it works. That includes most of those who pretend to be experts in the field.

Anyway, here is the letter:

I have one of those camera doorbells on my front door. Consequently, I can see the comings and goings of a good friend of mine who walks my dogs a few times a week while I'm at work (she has a key to my house; the camera detects motion and begins to record and sends a live feed to my phone).

The trouble is that she doesn't always walk my dogs. I know this because the doorbell camera doesn't show her doing so. She comes over but just hangs out. Sometimes she does homework, using my printer and WiFi for assignments, and sometimes she does laundry (I've freely offered these things to her).

I am paying her to walk my dogs when she does come over, as she's going through a rough patch financially. I trust her in my home; I just think she gets a little lazy and I feel taken advantage of.

I know it sounds sheepish, but I don't know how to say anything to her about this. I don't want her to think I'm spying on her with the camera, but I also don't want to pay her to come over for an hour for her own purposes.

Now, Miss Manners finds the perfect solution. She does not raise the issue of dog walking but advises the letter writer to raise the issue of the doorbell camera. And to presuppose that the friend has really been walking the dog. Thus, not accusing her of anything.

She writes:

Your doorbell camera may be the perfection of safety, convenience and reliability, but your friend does not know this. You can therefore express to her your frustration with your new gadget: It must be broken because it did not capture her walking the dogs all last week — and you’re confident that she must have.

Having said this, it is time to beat a hasty retreat — to a different topic or a different room — as the purpose is to warn your friend what you know, not to put her on the spot for a defense. Etiquette calls this technique “the dog ate my video.”

This leaves the derelict dog walker knowing that her failures have been noticed. And it allows her to change her ways, by making her own free choice, one that is based on what we suppose is her functioning sense of shame. She is not responding to pressure or to an assault. She is allowed to know that her trick has been duly noted. And she can then change her ways without having to answer for her failings or even doing penance.

Score one for Miss Manners.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Why Doesn't He Marry Her?

Carolyn Hax is on vacation. So she has chosen a number of prior columns and reposted them to keep us company while she is away. Today’s column dates to 2004. This does not mean that it it’s dated, but it does suggest that Hax thinks highly of the response she offered to a woman whose boyfriend’s mother is hassling the young couple over why they are not married.

As it happens, the point of the letter is almost too obvious to belabor. Except that Hax, to our shock and awe, misses the point entirely.

Here, without further ado, is the letter:

Dear Carolyn: I have a great boyfriend whom I've been with for several years, and we just bought a house together. The problem: His mother thinks we're living in sin because we're not married. She tells her son this about once every three months. I have a major problem with people intruding on my personal life when they're not invited.

I can't say anything to his mom because she hasn't addressed me directly yet — although her last email came perilously close to calling me a woman of loose morals — but everything the boyfriend has tried so far hasn't worked. Of course, if we ever do marry and have kids, it will be, "Why don't you go to church?"

We have an extremely honest relationship, so he knows how I feel. He's willing to fight his mother over it, because he agrees with my concept of privacy. I'm at a total loss here — how do we get the woman to butt out?

— It's Still Salvageable, Right?

Hax suggests, fairly enough, that it is not their problem and it is not the letter writer’s problem. It is the boyfriend’s problem. He should deal with his mother firmly and directly, telling her to mind her own business. Hax even considers that “the woman” as the letter writer calls her is judgmental and obnoxious.

Of course, it isn’t the question. And it distorts the issue.

The first question is: why don’t they get married? Why are they rejecting the marital institution. If they have ideological issues with the institution of marriage, the young letter writer should know that marriage protects women.

Second, we do not know where they live or whether they live in the same community as his mother. Recent studies have shown that community standards impact relationships, no matter how much a couple is in love. But, one suspects that his mother is not the only person who thinks that the happy couple is “living in sin.” In other words, it’s not just about “the woman” but perhaps about the community entire. Most people nowadays would never insist that their children get married, but still, it is not obnoxiously judgmental to do so. Especially if the mother is merely expressing community values... and warning them of the consequences. In that case, dealing with the mother as an individual is hardly going to address the real issue.

Third, by many societal standards, the mother in question is merely trying to protect the young woman’s reputation. I know that that sounds quaint, but in the bad old days, before women were liberated to hook up and to indulge in serial divorces, a man would show his respect for a woman by marrying her. The mother is apparently appalled about the way her son is treating this woman. Apparently, the thought has not crossed the letter writer’s mind, so we worry about her moral compass.

Fourth, the living arrangement and the tenuous nature of their relationship does affect the mother directly. For all we know she is not worried about her son or even about his concubine. She is concerned about prospective grandchildren. Given that the couple is not married, their children, should they have children, might be brought up in circumstances that some communities might frown upon. In this situation, community standards matter. And people should not defy them without understanding that they do so at their peril.

So the real question is: why doesn’t he marry her? Or better, why doesn’t she care?

Why Doesn't Theresa May Step Aside?

Among the larger puzzles in the British political circus is this: why does Theresa May still have her job? Why has she not resigned? And if she is incapable of resigning, why has her party not removed her?

Naturally, we are less than well informed about the Brexit circus, but we are still intrigued by the fact that a leader whose plans and proposals are continually repudiated by parliament does not do the right honorable thing and step aside. After all, it’s Great Britain, the nation that gave us phrases like “right honorable gentlelady.”

It reminds us of nothing less than the pathetic spectacle of Hillary Clinton refusing to accept defeat and refusing to step off the public stage. Note that the great HRC refused to admit defeat because she insisted that her defeat had been illegitimate, that the election had been stolen, by Russian oligarchs. You know all about Russian oligarchs, the ones who gave over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation as a way to say thank you for allowing Russian interests to buy a significant percentage of the nation’s uranium supply.

Speaking of moral derelicts, how can we ignore the appalling spectacle of Hillary Clinton absolving herself of any and all responsibility for the death of American Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya with the phrase: “What difference, at this point, does it make.” In the annals of moral degeneracy, that one deserved a special star. After all, the Secretary of State is responsible for the security of her ambassadors. Stevens asked for better security in hundreds of emails. And yet, Hillary Clinton refused to accept responsibility. Thus, she showed us that she was not ready to assume the responsibilities of her own, or of any higher office. Beyond that, the Obama Justice Department was running interference for her and absolving her of responsibility for her other derelictions.

We are not alone in wondering how the Theresa May show came about? Writing in the Wall Street Journal Max Colchester lays out the story:

Prime Minister Theresa May has faced one political disaster after another, losing crucial votes and ministers at a rate not seen in British politics for decades.

Yet she’s still standing.

An extraordinary combination of factors means that despite regular drubbings in parliament, a rolling rebellion among her own cabinet and a flagship Brexit plan that was overwhelmingly rejected for a second time on Tuesday, the 62-year-old continues to hold on to power.

“Normally a leader will at some point confess the game is up,” said Mark Garnier, a Conservative Party lawmaker and former minister. “The party is slightly shocked.”

Some suggest that she is stubborn and has a strong moral sense. In truth, if she refuses to step aside, and hand the baton to a more capable hand, she has no moral sense at all. One suspects that she cannot bear the humiliation of seeing someone else, like Boris Johnson take charge and do what she could not do.

Besides, there is no way, under Parliamentary procedure, to remove her. Tory rebels tried to do so and failed already. They are not allowed to try again until December.

Colchester explains:

Adding to Mrs. May’s invulnerability is that there is no easy mechanism to remove her. Last year Conservative rebels triggered a no-confidence vote in Mrs. May as their leader. The revolt failed and now under Conservative Party rules another no-confidence vote can’t be held until December. Mrs. May, known for her stubbornness and her strong sense of duty, meanwhile refuses to quit. After her Brexit deal was rejected on Tuesday, her spokesman said she still had a mandate to govern.

Of course, May has no mandate to do much of anything. Yet, other conservatives seem willing to let her fail, because they might be thinking that it’s better to let her fail than to fail themselves. Or it could provoke a new election, in which the hapless Tories might lose.

So, conservative leaders are caught. Even if they do not want to force her out, nothing but her own stubbornness and moral deficiencies prevents her from seeing the light and resigning:

Ousting Mrs. May could result in a Conservative leader who might take Brexit in a different direction, either forcing a much deeper break from the trading bloc or keeping the country much more closely bound to the European Union.

It could also trigger an election increasing the chance of a hard-left Labour Party coming into power. So Conservative lawmakers, worried that Brexit might suddenly get more radical or not happen at all, are sitting on their hands.

“Nobody wants to mess with this,” said a prominent Conservative euroskeptic. For Conservative party officials to force a change of leader in the midst of Brexit negotiations “seems crazier even than everything else,” said Tony Travers, professor at the London School of Economics.

As for the extent of May's failure, Colchester has that story too: 

In just over 2½ years in office, Mrs. May’s government has lost 10 major votes in the House of Commons. To put that in context, during her 11 years in office former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government lost just four votes, according to the Institute for Government. In fairness, unlike Mrs. Thatcher Mrs. May oversees a minority government. But that was of her own making after she called an election in 2017 that went disastrously wrong and cost her government’s majority.

Here is where it's at today: an end-of-days scenario, an awareness that the British Conservative Party has failed and that its hapless prime minister refuses to take responsibility for the failure and to do the right honorable thing and step aside, thus taking responsibility for ignominious failure:

The deadlock has created an end-of-days feeling in Parliament. “Lots of people are wandering around talking to each other about whether we should go and see her and ask her to go,” Mr. Garnier said.

Ministers openly criticize the government, knowing that Mrs. May doesn’t have the political capital to fire them. Even Mrs. May’s supporters are damning in their praise. Steve Double, a Conservative lawmaker, said he backed her Brexit deal describing it as “a polished turd."