Monday, February 26, 2024

Bad Therapy

If you are reasonably sentient and well-informed about psycho matters you know that young Americans are a mental health mess. They are suffering from an accumulation of anxiety and depressive symptoms. 

They do not get along with their peers or even with adults. As I noted yesterday and previously, they feel detached and alone, isolated and dissociated.

And if you have listened attentively to expert analysis, you would know that this problem had been caused by social media, by techno gadgets.

And yet, as I have been saying all these many years, it feels too easy to blame it on social media. Thus, I found myself especially impressed by the arguments put forth by Abigail Shrier in a summary of her new book, Bad Therapy.

According to Shrier, the kids are not alright because they have been therapied to within an inch of their sanity. They have been brought up in a therapy culture; they have lived their lives according to therapy; they have been coddled and swaddled by well-meaning professionals who care for their tender, traumatized psyches.

Also, they have learned bad habits. They have learned how not to get along with other children. They have learned how not to socialize and fraternize. 

Truth be told, I have been denouncing the therapy culture and its deleterious impact on child rearing for years now. I am certainly not alone. Now, Shrier has written a comprehensive guide to the impact of therapy on childrearing. 

I have not read her book, but I would point out that this specific phenomenon really began in the post-World War II era, in the time of the Baby Boomers. Then, you might not recall, a child-rearing manual, written by a Freudian pediatrician named Dr. Benjamin Spock, became a bible for young American mothers. 

The result was a psychologically ruined generation, the Boomer generation. I recommend the book about the boomers, by one Helen Andrews.

Anyway, Gen Zers, the group analyzed by Shrier, are the children of the Boomer generation. By the time Gen Z came along we were not just dealing with an influential book. We were dealing with a therapy industrial complex that had insinuated its way into all aspects of child rearing, from the nursery to the classroom to the playing field.

Millions of us bought in to this dogma, believing it would cultivate the happiest, most well-adjusted children. But instead, with unprecedented help from mental health experts, we have raised the loneliest, most anxious, depressed, pessimistic, helpless and fearful generation on record.

How bad is it? What is the clinical outcome for the children who were brought up according to therapy culture principles:

This is a generation strikingly different from those prior to it, says Dr Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University. According to her, members of Generation Z – those born between 1995 and 2012 – are less likely to go on dates, get a driving licence, hold down a job or socialise with friends in person than millennials, born between 1980 and 1994, were at the same age.

We have often remarked on the simple fact that Gen Zers have no real work ethic. Therapy taught them to follow their bliss, and that does not include showing up for work on time:

Bosses and teachers confirm this analysis, reporting that members of Gen Z appear utterly underprepared to accomplish basic adult tasks – including showing up for work.

The truth is that these mental health interventions on behalf of our children have largely backfired. At best, they have failed to relieve the conditions they claim to treat. But far more likely is that they are making young people sicker, sadder and more afraid to grow up.

Obviously, Shrier pays some attention to outcomes. Studies suggest that the generation brought up by therapy culture principles is largely dysfunctional. And depressed:

I'm not the only one to have found something fishy in the fact that more treatment has not resulted in less depression. A group of academics led by Netherlands-based psychiatrist Johan Ormel noticed the same in a 2022 study.

The authors noted that treatment for major depression has become much more widely available (and, in their view, improved) since the 1980s worldwide. And yet in not a single Western country has this treatment made a dent in the prevalence of major depressive disorder. In fact, in many countries it actually increased.

The next time you read some heart-felt plaint about how mental health treatment is not sufficiently available, keep in mind that more therapy has effectively produced more distress.

For young people, the picture is bleaker still. Between 1990 and 2007 the number of mentally ill children rose 35-fold. And while overdiagnosis, or the expansion of definitions of mental illness, may partially account for this, it doesn't completely explain the pervasive distress felt by young people today.

If the purpose of therapy were to produce more business for therapists it would be a rousing success. Failing to treat or to cure, while creating a cultural ambiance where everyone believes that he must go to therapy is good for business. 

Therapy has cleverly told people that if treatment fails the fault lies with patients, not with therapists.

Of course, the standard therapy question, asking people how they feel, and encouraging them to introspect, is bad practice. It causes people to withdraw from their lives and to get lost in their minds.

Michael Linden, a professor of psychiatry at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin, believes that routinely asking children how they are feeling is a terrible practice.

Moreover, Shrier correctly remarks, it is not always a good idea to talk about traumas. This despite the fact that trauma talk has become a national obsession:

And it's not always best to talk about your 'trauma' either.

'Really good trauma-informed work does not mean that you get people to talk about it,' mental health specialist Richard Byng tells me. 'Quite the opposite.'

One of the most significant failings of psychotherapy, he says, is its refusal to acknowledge that not everyone is helped by talking.

A dose of repression appears to be a fairly useful psychological tool for getting on with life for some – even for the significantly traumatised.

Rarely do we grant children that allowance. Instead, we demand that they locate any dark feelings and share them.

Dare we mention that when you make a fetish of dark feelings you are telling children that their dark feelings are their truth. Thereby you are depriving them of the chance to put such feelings and even the associated traumas behind them.

Moreover, busybody therapists have taught parents to invade children’s privacy, to subject them to constant surveillance.

Peter Gray, a professor of psychology at Boston College, Massachusetts. 'At home, the parents are watching them. At school, they're being observed by teachers. Out of school, they're in adult-directed activities. They have almost no privacy.'

Actually, Gray says, adding monitoring to a child's life is functionally equivalent to adding anxiety. 'When psychologists do research where they want to add an element of stress, how do they add it?' he asks. 'They simply add an observer.'

Therapy culture turns family life into a perverse, tragic melodrama. Shades of Freud. It teaches children to distrust their parents, to imagine that their parents do not want what is best for them.

Family estrangement strips the adult child of a major source of stability and support. Worse, it leaves those grandchildren with the impression they descend from terrible people. People so twisted and irredeemable that Mum and Dad won't let them in the house.

Generation Z has received more therapy than any other. In the US, nearly 40 per cent have received treatment from a mental health professional, compared with 26 per cent of Gen Xers – those born between 1965 and 1980.

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Sunday, February 25, 2024

The New Socialization Apps

It seems like it was only yesterday, but it was two days ago that I took some exception to Charles Duhigg’s recent book about supercomunicating. 

By his reasoning anyone can learn to engage in a functional and profitable conversation with anyone else… as long as they become supercommunicators.

Of course, as happens with many slightly lame theories, this one misses the obvious. It does not define human beings by their places in society, their roles and duties, but sees them as autonomous human monads who can get along with just about anyone. Who can and who would want to….

It fails to notice that when we meet someone new, we want to know who they are, where they come from, what their reputation is, and where they do or do not belong.

There are lots of people in this world with whom you do not want to communicate. The economics of time management make you want to spend more time with some people and less time with others.

Yesterday, the Financial Times offered an important article by Bethan Staton. It corrects the naive simplicities of Charles Duhigg. Her subject was loneliness and her question involved whether we can find a cure for it by using apps. 

So, loneliness is a problem. If you need to meet some new people, there’s an app for that. You will presuably feel less lonely and more connected to your fellow humanoid creatures if you attend a dinner meeting comprised of random souls, all of whom are looking to overcome their loneliness.

To her great credit Staton concludes that these meetings do not really work to produce connection. Any more than dating apps produce true love and lasting marriages. 

Neither she nor I would suggest that it never happens, because lightning can strike in the most unforeseen circumstances, but the chances are, meeting people through apps, whether for a dinner or for an affair, fails.

The app is called Timeleft. It is working in London, among other places. One wonders why it is not called, Timeright. Staton describes it:

Timeleft was launched in Lon­don in Janu­ary after start­ing in con­tin­ental Europe, tak­ing its place among a new group of start-ups seek­ing to innov­ate a way out of loneli­ness. It defines itself against social net­works and apps that limit com­mu­nic­a­tion to our phones, stak­ing a claim to open­ing the door to something new and real — “the magic of chance encoun­ters” with “people you wouldn’t have met”, the web­site says. Its aim? “To com­bat loneli­ness, depres­sion issues, and broken fam­il­ies.

This random assortment of strangers seems not to have been comprised of supercommunicators. When the group got together people discussed why they were there. In short they discussed something they had in common.

Charles Duhigg notwithstanding, they did not ask deep, probing questions. They began, as most normal people would, with small talk:

To get the con­ver­sa­tion going, our table of thirtyso­methings has been issued with a list of icebreak­ing ques­tions. But for now, at least, we do not opt to explore each other’s child­hood memor­ies or views on whether friend­ships between men and women are pos­sible. What really interests us is why we are here. “Meet­ing new people,” says Elena, who moved from Mel­bourne a few years ago and works in the food industry, invent­ing new products. “Lon­don’s a lonely city.”

And yet, these people had little in common. A group of random strangers will surely share some qualities, but none of them will be connected to anyone you know. This means, you do not know whether or not you can trust them.

From small talk about white-col­lar jobs in tech and HR, it is dif­fi­cult to know what else we have in com­mon. The thread that runs through every­one’s story, woven into dif­fer­ent cloth, is the desire for con­nec­tion.

We connect less because we belong to fewer social organizations. We do not attend religious services and as Robert Putnam famously explained, we no longer join bowling leagues. 

As though on cue, Abigail Shrier has a new book called Bad Therapy. According to the excerpt from The Daily Mail, people today are alone and detached, lacking connection with other human beings, because they have been brought up according to therapy. Nothing quite like therapy to turn you into a self-absorbed, self-involved, detached human monad-- craving connection.

Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, the younger generation, the one that is trying out socialization apps, is disillusioned with dating apps.

Tired of con­stant scrolling, stil­ted meet­ings and the per­petu­ally elu­sive prom­ise of true love, users are dis­il­lu­sioned: a small US sur­vey last year found that nearly 80 per cent of respond­ents exper­i­enced “emo­tional fatigue or burnout” when online dat­ing. 

One professor has offered an explanation for dating app fatigue:

At Ari­zona State Uni­versity’s rela­tion­ships and tech­no­logy lab, pro­fessor Liesel Shar­abi explains that dat­ing apps are effect­ive in broad­en­ing the pool of poten­tial part­ners, increas­ing the chance of meet­ing someone. But they can also cre­ate a loop of dis­ap­point­ment. People, she says, are “sick of swip­ing, sick of hav­ing these con­ver­sa­tions that don’t go any­where”. They want to actu­ally “meet new people instead of spend­ing all their time on the apps”.

It might well be, as Staton points out, that we have too many options. Swarthmore psychologist Barry Schwartz famously showed that we are more likely to make good decisions when we have fewer options. 

The prob­lem here is the para­dox of choice. In a clas­sic study, people shop­ping for gro­cer­ies were presen­ted with two dis­plays of jam, one with 24 vari­et­ies, the other with six. Although more were drawn to the stall with two dozen jams, those given fewer options were more likely to make a pur­chase, and be happy with it when they did. This, says Shar­abi, shows the over­whelm­ing effect cre­ated by apps that offer quant­ity but little improve­ment in mean­ing or qual­ity, and that incentiv­ise us to keep search­ing for “per­fec­tion . . . because it’s so easy to meet some­body new”.

The process of dealing with a band of strangers is discombobulating and alienating:

But the poten­tially infin­ite pro­ces­sion of strangers, offered out of con­text by a machine, makes me feel tired. It makes me feel lonely.

Social net­works, dat­ing apps and meet­ing plat­forms now mean we can meet, and remain acquain­ted with, a seem­ingly infin­ite num­ber of people. But all rela­tion­ships require effort, and when that effort is spread too thinly, it gets harder to be secure that we are giv­ing the people who need us what they need, or get­ting it ourselves.

And, she closes with the following astute observation. Why would you choose to meet more strangers instead of working to get to know those you just met:

It’s not a bad idea. Although my Valentine’s Day com­pan­ions cre­ated a What­s­App group to stay in touch, I think we would struggle to find a date to meet again, and a one-to-one might be too much. But I would be happy to sit next to any of them at another din­ner. It would cre­ate famili­ar­ity, a step, per­haps, to real friend­ship. Still, I’m not quite sure I need an app for that. And if loneli­ness really is the prob­lem, I have to ask myself why I would rather meet yet another group of strangers than get to know these ones a bit bet­ter.

Working to get to know people with whom you have very little in common, working to get to know their friends and the friends of their friends, feels fruitless. 

But it is tir­ing to hang out with strangers. It is tir­ing to con­stantly be cal­ib­rat­ing what can be said and not said, to see your­self reflec­ted in the eyes of people you don’t know. I know this is the cost of mak­ing friends, and con­nect­ing with people. But as my new com­pan­ions dis­cussed their plans to book for the fol­low­ing week’s Timeleft, I wondered what desires these weekly intro­duc­tions would sat­isfy. It is enjoy­able to meet new people, but is it a fix for loneli­ness? How many strangers are enough?

And besides, when you have no one in common you will have less concern for your reputation. And that means, you will not necessarily be on very good behavior. If you can get away with being rude, crude and lewd, the chances are that you will try to do so.

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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Saturday Miscellany

First, there is the case of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. She has just declared her candidacy for yet another five year term.

The Telegraph has the story of her impressive failure:

She steered the continent through the pandemic. She has massively increased the powers of the European Commission. And she has led a response to the challenges of climate change, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and competition from China.

Ursula von der Leyen might well have convinced herself of the strength of her record when she launched her bid for five more years as President of the Commission on Monday. There’s a problem, however. She has been a disaster for the European economy. Over the last five years, she has launched a ruinously expensive round of borrowing as well as a green strategy that will de-industrialise the continent, all while imposing round after round of growth-destroying regulations. On Von der Leyen’s watch, the EU has fallen decisively behind the rest of the world – and there is little hope of it recovering during a second term.

Second, from Indiana, of all places. A boy told his parents that he had decided to be a girl. His parents refused, on religious grounds, to support his delusions. 

When the case was reported to civic authorities, they removed the boy from his home. The parents are appealing the case to the Supreme Court.

The New York Post has the story:

In 2019, Mary and Jeremy’s son told them that he identified as a girl, but in line with their Catholic religious beliefs that God created human beings with an immutable sex, male or female, they did not believe in referring to him using pronouns and a name inconsistent with his biology.

In addition, the Coxes believed their son was struggling with underlying mental health conditions, including an eating disorder, so they sought therapeutic care for both.

But, in 2021, Indiana officials began investigating the Coxes after a report found they were not referring to their child by his preferred gender identity, removing the teen from their custody and placing him in a “gender-affirming” home. Despite the unsubstantiated claims of abuse, they claimed the Coxes made the child’s eating disorder worse even though it worsened after he was removed and placed in a transition-affirming home….

“This is what every parent is afraid of,” Mary and Jeremy Cox said in a press release. “We love our son and wanted to care for him, but the state of Indiana robbed us of that opportunity by taking him from our home and banning us from speaking to him about gender.”

“We are hopeful that the Justices will take our case and protect other parents from having to endure the nightmare we did,” they added.

Third, the fallout from the New York court decision against Donald Trump is continuing. We recently remarked that Kevin O’Leary, of Shark Tank fame, had declared New York State unsafe for any investments. 

Now, another money manager has also stopped investing in the state. This, from the Washington Examiner:

Prominent investors have signaled their intent to halt their business in New York following the $355 million verdict in former President Donald Trump’s civil fraud case.

Real estate mogul Grant Cardone announced on Tuesday that his firm Cardone Capital would no longer underwrite New York real estate, one day after Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary vowed to no longer invest in the state as a result of the verdict.

“Immediately discontinue ALL underwriting on New York City real estate,” Cardone ordered his firm in a post on X. “The risk outweigh the opportunities at this time. Recent political decisions will continue to deteriorate price and benefit states that don’t have these challenges. Focus on Texas & Florida.”

Fourth, the pushback against pro-crime prosecutors has found a new champion in Arizona. Maricopa County prosecutor Rachel Mitchell has refused to extradite a criminal to New York City, because she has no confidence in New York’s District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

The New York Post reports:

The Arizona prosecutor refusing to send an accused prostitute killer to New York said she is looking out for his victims' families and cannot guarantee the suspect will remain locked up due to Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg's lax bail policies. 

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell has ordered her staff not to extradite Raad Noan Almansoori, 26, to New York where he's wanted for the alleged murder of sex worker Denisse Oleas-Arancibia, 38.

He was arrested in Arizona after police said he stabbed two women - one in a McDonalds and the other while stealing her car.

Fifth, Alvin Bragg counts among the most prominent of Soros DAs. Apparently, the Soros effort to promote crime in America’s great cities is failing. Or better, succeeding. Single-handedly Soros has unleashed a crime wave across the country.

People are beginning to notice and the DAs are being replaced and removed. One recalls that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has led the way, firing two prosecuting attorneys who refused to prosecute.

The New York Post tells what has been happening:

For $40 million — a rounding error for one of the wealthiest men in history — George Soros helped remake the nation’s legal system.

Supporting prosecutors who vowed not to prosecute, Soros and related entities pushed district attorneys who aimed to reshape law and order into anarchy and disorder.

It worked. At his peak influence, 75 Soros-backed prosecutors held office. As a result, one in five Americans, and half of those living in the nation’s most populous cities, were living in an area run by a Soros DA, or one who shared his ideology.

The damage they have done has been immeasurable. Shoplifting and drug use was decriminalized, repeat offenders were set free with no bail, and murders, robbery and rape increased in Baltimore, Chicago, San Francisco, New York and more.

But the worm has started to turn. Through a combination of corruption and voter backlash, a significant number of these district attorneys have been ousted.

There’s still a long way to go, but the message is clear: The Soros experiment has been a disaster for the nation.

Sixth, meanwhile in the Middle East the leftist propaganda machine is firing on all cylinders. Among the lies it has been perpetrating is this one-- that Hamas did not rape and murder scores of Israeli women and children. 

Now, Legal Insurrection reports the truth:

The use of rape as a weapon of war by Hamas and Palestinian “civilians” during the October 7 attacks and upon hostages abducted that day is well-documented, and has been confirmed even by news outlets traditionally hostile to Israel, like the NY Times and Associated Press.

Nonetheless, there is a concerted rape-denialism movement stoked by the same people who also claim Israeli killed many if not most of the October 7 Israeli and foreign victims. They exploit the fact that the Palestinians murdered almost all of the rape and sexual assault victims on the spot, so there are few if any survivors to step forward. Israel also was in the midst of a chaotic mass casualty event and invasion where the bodies were in the middle of a war zone. It took many days, and in some cases weeks, to round up all the Palestinian infiltrators, so not as much evidence was preserved and documented as might have happened in an isolated event. But witness testimony and forensic evidence has been accumulating.

And also,

Hamas’s attack on October 7 included brutal sexual assaults, carried out systematically and deliberately towards Israeli civilians. Numerous testimonies and pieces of disclosed and classified information present a clear picture of identical patterns of action repeated in each of the attack zones – the Nova Festival, private homes in the Gaza envelope kibbutzim, and IDF bases. With the abduction of 254 individuals to the Gaza Strip areas, sexual assaults continued to occur also in this arena. Therefore, there is a high likelihood that the kidnapped women and men in Hamas captivity are still at risk of sexual abuse at any given moment.

Hamas’s attack included violent acts of rape, accompanied by threats with weapons, and in some cases targeted towards injured women. Many of the rapes were carried out as a group, with the participation of violent terrorists. Often, the rape was perpetrated in front of an audience – partners, family, or friends – in a manner intended to increase the pain and humiliation of all present. Hamas terrorists hunted young women and men who fled the Nova festival, and according to testimonies, dragged them by their hair amid screams. The actions targeted women, girls, and men. In most cases, the victims were killed after or even during the rape.

Seventh, from the University of Georgia, authorities have arrested a suspect in the murder of a nursing student, named Laken Riley. The suspect is an illegal alien from Venezuela. The Customs and Border Patrol had released him because they did not have any room to hold him.

The Daily Mail reports:

An illegal immigrant freed because of lack of detention space is now accused of murdering a 22 year-old University of Georgia student after she went for a run. 

Jose Antonio Ibarra was arrested for the murder of Laken Riley in Athens - a sanctuary city - on Friday and is now being held at the Clarke County Jail.

NewsNation reporter Ali Bradley said Ibarra, 26, is originally from Venezuela and crossed into El Paso, Texas, in September 2022.

He was released into the United States by Customs and Border Patrol because the worsening migrant crisis means they have insufficient facilities to hold all border crossers that they intercept.  Cops don't believe Ibarra knew his victim. 

Riley, 22, was found dead Thursday afternoon after her roommate reported her missing, saying she had not returned from her jog. 

Ibarra has been charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call, and concealing the death of another. 

Thanks to Joe Biden for opening the nation’s borders! We are anxiously awaiting the campaign ads.

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Friday, February 23, 2024

Should You Supercommunicate?

It feels like a magic bullet. Learn how better to communicate and you will rule the world. Learn how better to connect with other people and you will be showered with fame and fortune. 

Charles Duhigg offers the answer to whatever has been troubling you. He has written a new book about it all, helping you to become what he calls a supercommunicator.

Most people have enough trouble communicating. Now they must aspire to supercommunicate. 

It is all very tempting. You should learn to say the right thing to the right person at the right time in the right place. Apparently, you need but read Duhigg’s new book and you will learn how to do it. 

One feels compelled to return to a point that I have occasionally made on these pages. Namely, that men and women do not communicate in the same way. Men share experiences; they do things together. Women share feelings. So said New York Times editorial writer Michelle Cottle, and she was surely correct. 

If you adopt a communication style that is unsuited to your sex, you are going to turn people off and turn them away.

Besides, saying the right thing to the right person at the right time in the right place requires you to have a command of the language. And of the situation at hand.

If you are barely literate and mumble your words you are not going to supercommunicate. You are not even going to communicate. To imagine that you can overcome your deficiencies by feeling feelings or by showering the room with empathy is a ruse to dupe the gullible.

Duhigg explains his point of view:

Why are some people better at connecting with others, hearing what’s unsaid and speaking so others want to listen? Can anyone learn to do this? 

He is highly optimistic about what it takes to say exactly the right thing. If an individual has nothing to say and does not relate to the conversation, his ability to supercommunicate will be easily compromised.

One finding is that some of us seem to be what I call “supercommunicators”—people capable of saying exactly the right thing, breaking through to almost anyone, figuring out how to connect in even the most unlikely circumstances.

Given the limitations of an op-ed Duhigg seems to be ignoring the basic point. You cannot communicate if you do not know your subject. You cannot have a conversation about football if you know nothing about football. The same applies to a discussion of how to manufacture mechanized widgets.

And, lest we forget, social status, occupation and status define what you can and cannot say, to whom, when and where. 

When Duhigg recommends that you ask questions of your interlocutor and that you probe deeply, he does not place sufficient emphasis on the simple fact that you need to know what the purpose of the conversation is. And you need to know who you are and the nature of your relationship with the other person. 

Duhigg recommends deep questions, which is often rude and disrespectful. Why would you confide in someone you do not know whether or not you can trust? Do you want to explain to a stranger your childhood traumas, your sexually transmitted diseases or your plans for future exploitation?

Many good conversations begin with small talk and do not probe too deeply. Asking deep questions is often rude, depending on who you are, your position in society and your interlocutor’s function. 

You do not ask your manager how he really feels. You might offer your opinion about a subject, but larding feeling on it all will often make you sound like a whiner.

Duhigg seems to want people to act more like therapists and less like interlocutors. 

When we meet someone new, it’s natural to ask about facts of their life: What kind of medicine do you practice? Where’d you go to college? But those kinds of questions are often conversational dead-ends.

Rather, ask something that invites someone to talk about their values, beliefs or experiences—such as, How did you decide to go into medicine? What did you love about college? Deep questions are powerful because they invite us to share something authentic and potentially vulnerable. When we match that vulnerability—You decided on medicine after seeing your dad get sick? I became a lawyer when my cousin was unfairly arrested—we trigger instincts that make us feel more trusting and more eager to listen and share. “Vulnerability is one of our loudest emotions,” Harvard researcher Amit Goldenberg told me. “We’re hardwired to notice it.” 

In today’s psycho world, “vulnerability” is a buzzword. It has taken the place of the notion that we should all get in touch with our feminine sides. It ignores the simple fact that we are trying to forge a connection, not to do therapy. We are first trying to figure out whether we belong to the same group as the other person, and whether we can trust him to keep a secret. We are not in it to plumb the depths of his or her soul. 

Great leaders do not become great because they advertise their vulnerability. Being vulnerable is not the same as being trustworthy or reliable. Most often we begin conversations with small talk, with comments that do not probe too deeply into matters that do not concern us. If we cannot make small talk about non-threatening subjects we are very unlikely to advance to big talk.

When we first meet someone we want to know whether they are trustworthy, loyal and reliable. It is not about their biography, their past history, their parents and their siblings. We are connecting as social beings, not as soulful whiners looking for another therapeutic experience.

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Thursday, February 22, 2024

An Enfeebled President

By now you must have heard: America’s political scientists took a survey. They pronounced Donald Trump the worst president in American history and rated Joe Biden the 14th best.

For reasons that need no explanations they rated current Democratic presidents ahead of the greats of American history. Daniel Greenfield summarized:

And the survey from the American Political Science Association says that Obama is greater than Eisenhower and JFK, that Bill Clinton was greater than John Adams and Biden is greater than Reagan (not to mention Ulysses S. Grant and James Monroe of the Monroe Doctrine).

Is Biden really the 14th greatest president in American history? Obviously not. But these same “political science experts” also ranked Obama as the 7th greatest president, Bill Clinton as the 12th greatest president and Carter near the upper middle as the 22nd greatest president.

Since the purveyors of this nonsense are academic historians, the only sane conclusion is that college students should avoid taking courses in history and political science. Add to that the drivel that pretends to define work in the humanities, and you have learned to stick to STEM subjects. Outside of the STEM field, the American academy has been dumbed down to the point where it has become an international embarrassment.

So, we turn to Arthur Herman, a serious thinker, who labels Biden a tragic figure who has done nothing but fail. Biden has failed the country. He has failed his constituents. People who would never have voted for Donald Trump are beginning to wax nostalgic for the old days. 

According to Herman, Biden has failed. He has failed tragically. He was not up to the job and is evidently not in charge. Next to Richard Nixon he will be considered the most discredited president in American history. Quite the achievement, that.

Instead of uniting Americans as he promised in 2020, he has made us weaker and more divided, in large part because he lacked the strength and integrity to do his job. Those closest to him knew it and let it happen. In the end, it isn’t Mr. Biden’s tragedy, or even theirs. It’s America’s.

Those who define themselves by how much they hate Donald Trump would have accepted anyone but Trump. To do so they emptied their minds of judgment and covered up Biden’s manifest inadequacies. At present, thanks to the Robert Hur report, the lie has been exposed and the serial fabulators are running for cover.

We can say it’s infuriating that those around Mr. Biden know he is failing mentally and physically and have worked to cover it up, just as those around Woodrow Wilson, including his wife, tried to cover up his strokes. It was infuriating to see Mr. Biden publicly blame Donald Trump for the border mess he himself had created by reversing Mr. Trump’s policy in the first place.

Biden was incapable of making deals or even of addressing the nation’s problems. He was committed to undoing whatever Trump did, beginning with the successful border policy. 

From his first days in office, Mr. Biden handed out concessions to anyone who seemed to threaten American interests, in hopes they would leave us in peace. Some called this appeasement; I call it the Art of the Bad Deal. Among them: deals with the Taliban by abandoning Afghanistan, with Russia by not blocking the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, with China by allowing it to buy Russian oil and natural gas after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, with Iran by not enforcing Trump sanctions.

We have occasionally noted the mess that Biden’s foreign policy has produced. When it came to domestic policy, Biden defined himself a the anti-Trump. He promoted green energy and opened the nation’s borders:

On the domestic front, instead of a deal maker we got a rigid ideologue on issues like green energy and open borders, while soaring government spending gave us the worst inflation since the 1970s. Mr. Biden has used the bludgeon of woke ideology to silence critics, including opponents of Covid vaccine mandates. He has resorted to lawfare to cancel Mr. Trump, even as many Americans look back with nostalgia to the presidency of the man Mr. Biden wants to destroy.

The largest question about the Biden presidency is going to be: who is in charge? Joe himself is barely awake most of the time. His staff spends its time covering up his obvious mental deficiencies.

For now things have gotten so bad that the Democratic Party has begun to see that Biden will most likely lose an election to Trump. Thus, it has set about working to remove him from the scene, without his knowing what is happening. 

Perhaps the most important point does not involve policy. It involves bearing and demeanor. Joe Biden comes across as weak and frail, as one misstep from calamity. He does not work very long or hard. He does not command respect. He does not stand tall and proud, representing a proud nation.

Consider the Daily Mail’s description of a typical Biden day:

Bleary-eyed and with a sleep apnea machine strapped to his face, Biden wakes up most mornings when his cat Willow crawls across him.

After getting out of bed, he heads for a 45-minute workout with his physical therapist, who focuses on balance exercises to stop him falling and to deal with his increasingly stiff gait.

The president is not at his Oval Office desk until at 10am and usually leaves at 7pm – Obama, by comparison, began an hour earlier.

Aides schedule most of his public events between 10am and 4pm because, White House insiders say, 'that is when he is at his sharpest.'

His news conferences are heavily limited, and he has clocked just half the number of them compared to Obama. He is often late to them, by up to an hour – aides refer to this tardiness as 'Biden Time'. Follow-up questions are heavily limited in case disaster strikes, as it did recently when he got the Egyptian premier's name wrong.

In short, he does not seem to be leaderly. He is one slip from embarrassing himself and making America look enfeebled. His staff and now the American people watch each of his public appearances, in dread of the moment when he will collapse into a puddle, making the nation look weak and frail.

How can he run when he can barely walk?

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