Monday, May 23, 2022

Assessing Joe Biden

Since I do not believe in identity politics, I try not to judge ideas on the basis of their author. Sometimes the right people get things wrong. Sometimes the wrong people get things right. Dismissing ideas because the writer is somehow tainted is a bad idea.

So, I have on occasion found myself in agreement with New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman. Live with it. And yet, Friedman’s most recent column is a living, breathing calamity. In it he returns to his best Democratic suck-up mode, which explains why he was invited to have lunch with Joe Biden.

Why was Friedman invited to the White House? Well, for one, Biden’s poll numbers are so bad, his incompetence so manifest, his cerebral infirmities so obvious, that whoever is running the country must have felt he need to offer up something of an eyewitness testimony about Joe’s greatness and brilliance.

Tom Friedman was the man for the job. So, he wrote like the suck up and flack that he is. At a time when the stock market is tanking, when the economy is in serious trouble, when baby formula is absent from store shelves, when inflation is killing household budgets and when the majority of the citizenry has figured out that Joe is having trouble walking from here to there, Friedman steps forth to crown Biden as a great political hero. Better yet, he takes the majority opinion about Joe’s cerebral deficiencies and declares them to be the result of watching too much Fox News.

So, here is Friedman:

For all you knuckleheads on Fox who say that Biden can’t put two sentences together, here’s a news flash: He just put NATO together, Europe together and the whole Western alliance together — stretching from Canada up to Finland and all the way to Japan — to help Ukraine protect its fledgling democracy from Vladimir Putin’s fascist assault.

In doing so, he has enabled Ukraine to inflict significant losses on Russia’s invading army, thanks to a rapid deployment of U.S. and NATO trainers and massive transfers of precision weapons. And not a single American soldier was lost.

It has been the best performance of alliance management and consolidation since another president whom I covered and admired — who also was said to be incapable of putting two sentences together: George H.W. Bush. Bush helped manage the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany, without firing a shot or the loss of a single American life.

As we are wont to point out, and as many others have underscored, Russia invaded Ukraine because it sensed the weakness in the Biden White House and in Western Europe. What other message does it send when your Defense Secretary sets out to rid the ranks of white supremacists, who wants to design flight suits for pregnant aviators and will happily pay for gender mutilation?

And, let’s not ignore the fact that the results of the Ukraine operation are not entirely known at the moment. For now we know that the loss of grain and fertilizer from Russia and Ukraine is about to unleash a famine in some parts of the world. Many people are going to starve to death because of Joe Biden’s incitement of the invasion of Ukraine. And, depriving Western Europe of energy resources is not going to do wonders for the floundering world economy. Besides, in time, the oil and gas that is not being sent to the West will be sent to China, at a reduced price. And let's not even think about the consequences of weaponizing the dollar.

As for the masterful leadership of George H. W. Bush, I do not recall Friedman lauding it during the Bush administration. I do note that Friedman puts on his political hack hat and blames everything that is going wrong on Donald Trump-- under whose watch Ukraine was neither attacked nor destroyed.

Besides, you will note, if you read closely, that Friedman does not say that Joe was especially articulate, that his brain was functioning at all. In truth, for failing to say so, he implies that Biden was less than coherent for most of their lunch. So, Friedman does not report what Biden said, not a word of it. And he does not testify to Biden’s command of the language or of policy. 

You draw your own conclusions:

It clearly weighs on him that we have built a global alliance to support Ukraine, to reverse the Russian invasion and to defend core American principles abroad — the right to freedom and self-determination of all peoples — while the G.O.P. is abandoning our most cherished principles at home.

And that is why I left my lunch with the president with a full stomach but a heavy heart.

So, the White House chefs fattened up notable fathead Tom Friedman. They knew their man.

And, by the by, Joe Biden just committed our nation to defending Taiwan militarily. So, a proxy war with Russia was not enough. He wants now to lead us into a real war with China. Or at least he is threatening same. Anyone who knows anything about foreign policy knows that those are fighting words and that the Chinese government will react-- not necessarily by invading Taiwan, but by other means.

Meanwhile back in Ukraine, I have occasionally taken note of the fact that the news we are reading, the news that is being presented, tends toward propaganda. We keep reading that everything is going swimmingly for the cause of democracy in Ukraine, that Putin is dying, that the Russian army is flailing and failing, and so on.

So, last week the Ukrainian army finally accepted the inevitable and surrendered Mariupol. Was it a great victory? Well, we find a contrary opinion in The Daily Mail. Its author, Peter Hitchens, is the brother of the late Christopher Hitchens, so we take him seriously. He questions why a surrender is called an evacuation in the media? Good question, that.

It is just the tonic you need after reading the Friedman swill:

Not since the wild frenzy after the death of Princess Diana have I ever met such a wave of ignorant sentiment. Nobody knows anything about Ukraine. Everyone has ferocious opinions about it.

The other night I shocked a distinguished Oxford academic by informing her that the lovely, angelic, saintly, perfect Ukrainians had blocked off the water supply to Crimea in 2014. 

She was rightly shocked by this nasty, uncivilised act of spite, but it was far more shocking that this highly educated person did not know this important fact. 

Hitchens continues to recall the roots of Ukrainian nationalism:

In the same way almost nobody, in education, politics or journalism, knows about the nasty, racist roots of Ukrainian nationalism, the horrible history of the vicious Stepan Bandera (now a Ukrainian national hero), or the Kiev state’s discriminatory scorn for the Russian language. If Canada treated its French speakers as Ukraine treats its Russian speakers, there would be international outrage.

As for the local politics, he adds this point:

Worst of all is the widespread ignorance of the fact that President Volodymyr Zelensky, in my view an admirable man, was elected on a programme of peace with Russia. But when he tried to do as he had promised, he was blocked by parts of his own army, who publicly confronted him and humiliated him. 

At the same time his political rivals, including the neo-Nazis who very definitely do exist in Ukraine, went on the streets to denounce any sort of deal. President Zelensky crumbled. And the war came. 

The origin of the war dates to 2014, to the Obama administration, when we decided to overturn an election:

I have mentioned here before that the first act of violence in this war was actually the Western-backed mob putsch which overthrew Ukraine’s lawful government in 2014. 

This was the true beginning of all the horror. And while it does not excuse the idiotic and brutal Putin invasion, it very much helps to explain it.

Look, I respect those who take Ukraine’s side in this war. They have a valid point of view which I happen not to share. But what I object to is the wholly one-sided nature of public opinion here. It is so bad that it is a positive disadvantage to know anything about the subject.

And now, a few words about Mariupol, about the brave fighters who held out against the Russian army for longer than anyone had imagined. Do we really know anything about who they are? Hitchens says that we missed the point:

And it reached its peak last week when the Ukrainian defenders of the Mariupol steelworks, many of them in fact the neo-Nazis of the Azov battalion who proudly wear SS emblems on their official uniforms, surrendered.

The UK media coverage of this event strove mightily not to mention the neo-Nazis and to avoid using the word ‘surrender’. 

The Mariupol garrison was said instead to have been ‘evacuated’ into Russian-held territory. Pictures showed them disarmed and being frisked by Russian soldiers. But we are so much in the grip of a one-sided view of this conflict that we could not even admit they had capitulated.

Refusal to accept such obvious reality is a sign of madness.

Apparently, the Biden administration has joined the proxy war in order to make Joe Biden look like he is in command. Hitchens himself, a subject of the Queen of England, has a different perspective:

I personally have no idea what British interest is served by slavishly backing the American policy of stirring up trouble in Ukraine and goading Russia into combat.

Perhaps someone could explain it to me, over a plate of ‘Chicken Kyiv’ and a bottle of vodka. But for any debate to take place, we’ll have to start accepting that there are two sides to this argument.


Sunday, May 22, 2022

Girlpower Tries to Destroy a Great Scientist

Here is yet another battle in the current war between the sexes. It’s contemporary America in a nutshell. And it is positively terrifying.

On one side we have one of the nation’s most eminent scientists, a cancer specialist who used to run an important lab at MIT, who has garnered praise from the scientific world across the world, who has made and will make significant contributions to medical science, who will most likely be a strong candidate for a Nobel Prize. In short, in David Sabatini we have one of the great scientific minds of our generation, someone who has made and will make important contributions to cancer treatment.

On the other side we have a disgruntled junior researcher by name of Kristin Knouse, a nobody in the scientific world, but who is undoubtedly a social justice warrior and a militant feminist. She has set out to destroy Sabatini for the crime of dumping her. You see, at a time when Knouse was working in Sabatini’s lab, he had a short affair with Knouse. He was married at the time, and getting a divorce.

But then, the relationship did not proceed as Knouse wanted, so she decided to destroy Sabatini. She denounced him for grooming and coercing her into the affair. 

The New York Post recounts this side of the story:

Sabatini has contended he and Knouse began their fling during a 2018 conference, while he was in the midst of a divorce. By 2020, he thought the affair had cooled, though he claims Knouse wanted to continue. By October 2020, she complained she’d been harassed, and in a later lawsuit alleged Sabitini oversaw a “sexualized” environment in his lab.

Naturally, Sabatini was immediately fired. Because, you must always believe the woman. And besides, what is more important, the hurt feelings of a disgruntled girlfriend or advanced scientific research on tumors?

Then, the NYU School of Medicine, seeing an opportunity to hire a world renowned researcher, offered Sabatini a job. What happened next should shock and dismay you. Under pressure, NYU was forced to rescind the offer:

The Post reports:

After the Grossman School of Medicine announced it would not hire him, the National Institutes of Health decided to audit $500 million in grant money overseen by the dean who first considered bringing him aboard, Common Sense reported.

Dafna Bar-Sagi, a vice dean for science and chief scientific officer at the med school, called Sabatini “one of the greatest scientists of our century,” and oversaw an investigation of the allegations against him “at the risk of depriving society of the benefit of having someone like this continuing their career and making really meaningful discoveries that can affect human health for generations,” she told the outlet.

The reference to Common Sense points toward a story in a Substack newsletter run by one Bari Weiss.

The Post continues:

Sagi and recently sent NYU a letter raising concerns about her ability to provide “a safe environment for trainees,” Common Sense reported.

“If there was anything untoward about this man’s behavior, we would not have touched him with a 10-foot pole,” Ken Langone, the chair of the board for NYU Langone Medical Center, told Common Sense, calling the work to vet Sabatini “exhaustive.”

Outside lawyers consulted by NYU, who reviewed a report into the allegations done by MIT, found Sabatini was not given due process, the university told Common Sense.

“If people are close minded to the idea that there can be a consensual relationship between two adults, I’m afraid we can’t make any traction,” said NYU Medical School Dean Robert Grossman.

None of that mattered. Protests rose. Demonstrators made noises. The offer was retracted.

So, nothing counts but the word of a disgruntled former girlfriend. If you think that you live in a patriarchal society where women are systematically oppressed, you should think again. If you do not understand why people seem to consider Johnny Depp more credible than Amber Heard, think again.

Let’s look a little more closely at the indictment. From Bari Weiss:

True, he didn’t supervise Knouse. He didn’t work directly with her. He never threatened her or proposed a quid pro quo. And he certainly didn’t have the power to fire her. But, according to the report, he had “experience, stature, and age” over her. Knouse’s apparent desire to continue their relationship only served to confirm his influence: “That she felt the need to act ‘fun’ to impress Sabatini underscores how Sabatini’s words and actions profoundly impacted her,” the lawyers wrote. 

Nor did the lawyers care for the happy hours and whiskey tastings that Sabatini sometimes hosted in his office, which betrayed his “apparent ‘friendliness’ and general propensity to have ‘fun.’” (Knouse, in her counterclaim, says the events were “drunken,” and “conversations quite frequently veered to the sexual.”)

“While we have not found any evidence that Sabatini discriminates against or fails to support females in his lab, we find that Sabatini’s propensity to praise or gravitate toward those in the lab that mirror his desired personality traits, scientific success, or view of ‘science above all else,’ creates additional obstacles for female lab members,” the report concluded. 

This was baffling to everyone I spoke to: Nine of Sabatini’s current and former lab employees, a current faculty member at the Whitehead, and half a dozen top doctors and scientists in Sabatini’s field. Most of them would not speak on the record for fear of being associated with Sabatini and derailing their own careers. “It’s impossible to be honest about this and preserve your own skin,” says a scientist who recently worked under Sabatini.

That trainee called the report’s depiction of the lab an “alternate reality,” and the characterization of Sabatini as lascivious and retaliatory “deeply insane.” 

“They have the wrong guy,” a female scientist who knows Sabatini and Knouse told me. A female former trainee told me that the climate in Sabatini’s lab was “one of excellence.” She said that Sabatini could be demanding, but he was never demeaning or unfair. “I try to emulate him in my own lab,” another female former trainee said. A third female trainee said the lab could be informal, but it was hardly a locker room. “It just wasn’t in the air.“

I asked a former technician about the notorious whiskey tastings. “These weren’t keggers,” he said. “‘Bench scientists’ and ‘party’ don’t generally overlap.” 

The allegations over the relationship and the ones about the lab’s culture served to reinforce each other; if Sabatini was so ill-advised as to hook up with a younger colleague, surely his bad judgment spilt over into his (extremely well-funded) lab. Making such a claim also appeared to be advantageous to the Whitehead. 

Of course, this is terrifying. And yet, as Weiss points out, Sabatini has gotten offers from China, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. These are, as she says, “places that don’t care about the things he’s accused of.” And what about the values of a country that does care about these things, to the point of shutting down scientific research over hurt feelings.

Given that Sabatini has a young child, one suspects that he is hesitating to accept these offers. One suspects that they are not the only offers he will receive. And yet, America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, has become infested with leftist ideologies to the point that it is trying to destroy a man because a former girlfriend is exercising her girlpower. Unfortunately, strong and empowered women mostly show how strong and empowered they are by destroying men.

One would recommend that Sabatini debark for more friendly climes, for place where a man who is a scientific genius cannot have his career destroyed by the armies of the feminist night.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Toxic Femininity

Somehow or other I missed this column when it was first published four years ago. Now, the highly estimable Meghan Daum has reposted it on Twitter, so we have a good excuse to discuss it.

It even resonates with a defamation trial currently being played out in Virginia. You know which trial it is. I am barely cognizant of it all, because I do not care about either of the antagonists. If you do, all the best to you.

The strange part of the trial is that, what with the flurry of accusations of assault, abuse and harassment, presumably visited by each side on the other, the world seems largely to have risen up to defend the male litigant and to denounce the female defendant. 

I have no idea why this is so, but I do recall that the average male serial killer has groupies lining up to serve his needs while the average female abuser cannot get a date.

Anyway, Daum has enlightened us on a matter that I would never dare to expose. It is not because I do not know about any of it, but because some topics are best left to the distaff gender. Dare I note that this column might feel slightly dated. It appeared at a time when people seemed to understand the difference between men and women. Oh, those halcyon days!

Anyway, Daum opens with an imaginary poll. Let’s imagine, she says, that we are polling a group of women, and that they are being honest-- of course-- and we ask them to following questions:

Raise your hand if you’ve ever behaved badly and blamed it on your period.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever acted helpless in the face of an unpleasant-if-not-physically-demanding task like dealing with a wild animal that’s gotten inside the house.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever coerced a man into sex even though he didn’t seem to really want it.

Raise your hand if you’ve thought you were at liberty to do this coercing because men “always want it” and should feel lucky any time they get it.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever threatened to harm yourself if a man breaks up with you or doesn’t want to see you anymore.

Raise your hand if you’ve been physically abusive with a male partner, knowing you’d be unlikely to face any legal consequences.

Raise your hand if you’ve lied about being on birth control, or faked a pregnancy scare, to see how a man would respond.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever manipulated a divorce or child custody dispute in your favor by falsely insinuating that a man has been abusive toward you or your child.

Well, I cannot answer for the women who were being polled, but certainly much of this sounds familiar. It gives us the impression that once liberated women became strong and empowered, lo and behold, they chose to punish and abuse men. One might say that they arrogated the right to abuse men, because they needed to make up for centuries of patriarchal misogyny. Obviously, if there was less misogyny than they imagine, they look a lot worse. Thus, denouncing patriarchy might serve to rationalize a lot of bad behavior.

Dare we mention that much of this womanly abuse does not leave marks, so people could easily ignore it. And besides, a man who has been abused by a woman is far less likely to go public.

So, Daum arrives at the point of noting that while we are all viscerally opposed to toxic masculinity, we tend to ignore toxic femininity. Ignore it or not, we have managed to divide the sexes into devils and angels, into one group that can do no right and one that can do no wrong. 

There are minor forms of feminine toxins, like blaming irrational temper tantrums on “being hormonal” or feigning helplessness in order to get what you want. And there are major toxins, many having to do with weaponizing your fragility so that those to whom you cause harm have a difficult time defending themselves, lest they look like the aggressors. Women, of course, can unleash these tactics on other women, be they romantic partners or not. But for the sake of this discussion, let’s say we are talking about women and men and sex. We’ve established that many men are socially conditioned to think that women owe them sex. But what about the women that assume that men should be grateful for any sex they get?

We are all aware, more than we would like, of men who take advantage of women, who force themselves on women, who blackmail women into having sex when they do not really want to do it. But, how aware are we of the contrary, of women who coerce or trick men into having sex-- perhaps even to get pregnant, accidentally, of course:

A remarkable number of men have told me about times when women approached them and, often wordlessly, initiated sexual encounters without the slightest provocation or questions asked. I’ve heard, more than once, about unsolicited hand jobs on school buses when they were boys. Also, more than once, men have told me about past grade school camping trips or overnight parties wherein girls they barely knew slipped into their sleeping bags or beds. In some cases, the men were happy to oblige the women’s desires. In other cases, though, they went through with the encounters because they didn’t want to make an awkward situation even more awkward.

So, Daum recommends that we start treating women as though they were human beings. What a novel notion? One must notice that this division of the sexes into angels and devils seems to have been the direct consequence of feminism:

And that is why #BelieveWomen, with its suggestion that women are some monolithic entity that is inherently more moral, innocent, or trustworthy than men, is not just reductive but insulting. Women are not simple, guileless creatures to whom only the most innocent motives should ever be ascribed. Both sexes contain multitudes. 

Would you like more examples? Daum offers them:

I know men who, amid contentious divorce proceedings, have been accused, preposterously, of spousal and child abuse. I know women who are so skilled in the dark art of gaslighting that the targets of their mind games, be it boyfriends or BFFs, don’t stand a chance. Once, while working with high school students, I overheard some girls joking to one another about how they were going to go out that night and “hit on older guys who don’t know we’re underage and later be like ‘Dude, you’re a pedophile.’”

You’ve come a long way, baby! 

Obviously, these behaviors do not involve brute force. They rarely involve direct physical assault. But, in terms of moral assault and harassment and abuse, they are appalling. If you were wondering why men and women no longer get along, you must conclude that the fault lies on both sides of the gender divide. 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Wherefore Nato?

We have all heard the news. It seems to be the new conventional wisdom. By all appearances, the Russian war in Ukraine has revived Nato as an effective military alliance. Hallelujah!

When we see a consensus forming, we do best to begin by shedding some doubt on it. So, we turn to economics professor and prolific commentator Adam Tooze. We will agree with some of what he says and disagree with other aspects. And yet, his is the first essay suggesting that our hopes for a revived Nato are a wee bit too optimistic.

Tooze begins with a bit of history:

What was still a compact, anti-Soviet alliance in the 1980s had, thanks to expansion in the 1990s and 2000s, grown into a sprawling and aimless organisation. As west European defence spending dwindled, the alliance relied ever more on America’s huge military budgets and eager new east European recruits. The failures of Nato intervention in Afghanistan from 2001 and Libya in 2011 were demoralising, something that in 2021 would be underlined by another unilateral American withdrawal – this time from Afghanistan on the orders of Joe Biden.

But then, Vladimir Putin stepped in and gave Nato a reason for being:

Now, in the spring of 2022, and thanks to Putin’s ill-judged assault on Ukraine, the picture is transformed. All eyes are on Europe and Nato. Sweden and Finland are applying for membership. For the first time in its history, the Nato Response Force has been deployed as part of a collective-defence mission. Even Germany’s government has agreed to increase its military spending. From Berlin the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has publicly affirmed the “deep cooperation and coordination that is at the heart” of the alliance.

But still, Tooze asks whether we are not perhaps not seeing too clearly:

It is hardly surprising that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has helped to revive Nato. But is this a sign of true mental reactivation? Does Nato have a new vision? Or is the reaction to the war in Ukraine more in the manner of a knee-jerk, an involuntary spasm induced by Putin’s hammer blow?

Now, for a little contrary thinking. The Russian invasion, Tooze suggests, tells us that Nato has failed as a deterrent. 

The Atlanticist jubilation is so loud that people seem to have forgotten that if Nato’s aim was to deter Russian aggression and keep the peace in Europe, it has failed. Whether or not the talk of Ukraine joining the alliance can really be said to have triggered Putin’s invasion, it certainly encouraged nationalist opinion in Kyiv to take a hard line against Moscow, and also fuelled Russian propaganda. And for all the assistance and training that Ukrainian forces had received up to that point from the US, UK and Canada, Moscow clearly assumed that it had military superiority. Western threats of economic sanctions were brushed aside.

Apparently, Western intelligence agencies had imagined that Russia would quickly overpower the weaker Ukrainian forces. In that they have been wrong. In fact, the interest in Sweden and Finland to join Nato is a sign of Russian weakness, nothing else:

If things had gone as most Western intelligence agencies appear to have expected, Russia would have rolled over Ukraine. That would have terrified its neighbours to the West and given existing Nato members every reason to reinforce their defences.

But whether Sweden and Finland would then have rushed to join Nato is far from obvious. Would they have risked provoking Moscow if the Russian army was rampant? Moldova, for one, has no intention of applying. Even now, it would be far too risky.

So, credit due to the Ukrainians, for holding off Russia, mostly. On the other side, Russia is systematically destroying Ukraine, so we remain skeptical about that nation’s efforts. At the least, we should recognize that Ukraine does not belong to Nato and that Nato is not supporting it:

What has created Nato’s moment – it cannot be emphasised too often – is what was least expected: Ukraine’s effective and sustained armed resistance. Despite Nato forces’ long interaction with Ukraine’s military – Ukraine deployed troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan – that resistance has been a total surprise, which is hardly a testament to the closeness of those operations.

In terms of military intelligence about Ukraine, Macron’s assessment of Nato “brain death” seems not too inaccurate. Ahead of the war we had no real understanding of the true military balance between Russia and Ukraine.

So, Nato had no real military intelligence. Hmm. 

Once war began and Ukraine endured, Nato members rallied. But talk of a Nato response to Putin’s war is the kind of smoke-and-mirrors operation that is the organisation’s forte. In fact, while Nato has issued declarations in support of Ukraine, the aid is being supplied by the individual member states. And that aid follows an all too familiar pattern.

Nato member states are supporting Ukraine, while the organization itself has not:

If anything, the crisis has confirmed the imbalances that have increasingly discredited Nato. Nor is Washington embarrassed to advertise that reality. From the American side the rhetoric is redolent not of the collective commitments of the Cold War, but the hub-and-spokes model of Lend-Lease, under which between 1941 and 1945 the US supplied allied nations with food, fuel and materiel, and cemented its role as the arsenal of democracy. But, if the US is leading the way, does Washington have a real plan?

Tooze is far more generous toward the Biden administration than we are. In truth, his administration seems to have no coherent policy, beyond damaging Russia. 

On strategy, Washington has not one but several brains. Biden himself sounds bullish. His rhetoric towards Putin smacks of regime change. The defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, speaks openly of exhausting Russia. The CIA is more cautious, warning of the risks of further escalation. Using Ukraine to humiliate Russia is one thing that America’s warring parties in Congress seem to be able to agree on. The Ukraine Lend-Lease Act, which gives Biden the powers to accelerate further deliveries, passed easily through both chambers. Agreeing the additional aid packages proposed by the Democrats – an extra $40bn in additional military, humanitarian and economic support – will require horse-trading. Assuming they do pass, the question remains: is the US developing a new grand strategy for Europe and Nato or is grinding down Russia an end in itself – a project that plays well with the American electorate, while freeing the Pentagon to focus on China?

While finding some good in the Biden incoherence, we must note that the invasion happened on Joe’s watch. When the big, bad Trump was around, Putin was not invading Ukraine or taking over Crimea.

On that, Tooze seems clearly to be wrong:

Then there is the US itself. If Nato was facing an existential crisis in 2019, it was largely due to Trump’s erratic attacks on America’s European partners. The competent leadership from the Biden team during the Ukraine crisis – unlike over Afghanistan – has been reassuring. 

And now, Tooze sees a few problems in the conventional analysis.

The first is, what if Russia feels that it is losing in Ukraine. How far will it go in its escalation? And besides, one Russian reaction to Western sanctions is apparently to produce a worldwide famine. Of course, we are concerned about nuclear weapons, but a massive famine does not feel like a good outcome. See this article from the Economist. Link here.

The first and most important is the war in Ukraine itself. If Ukraine prevails and manages not only to stop but to roll back Russia’s offensives, do we really believe that Moscow can tolerate that outcome? If not, shouldn’t we expect Russia to escalate asymmetrically? The US director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, has recently warned of the risk that Putin may be “moving along an unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory”. If Putin reaches for his nuclear arsenal then what we have experienced so far is merely a prelude, a phoney war. The real test for Nato lies ahead.

And the, Tooze continues, what if the war in Ukraine drags on without any clear resolution? Can Europe live with that?

If the war drags on, with America providing substantial aid, but Russia proving able to stop Ukraine’s counteroffensives, does Europe want the equivalent of another Afghanistan on its doorstep – a decades-long conflict with a devastating humanitarian fallout? That might suit Washington, but can Europe live with it? The dialogues between Olaf Scholz, Macron and Moscow in recent weeks suggest that Paris and Berlin are still looking to offer Putin a way out. If the Ukraine crisis extends into the distant future, what will be the impact on the front-line states, above all Poland? If Afghanistan is the analogy, we should be concerned that eastern Europe does not suffer the fate of Pakistan, where America’s anti-Soviet campaign helped to strengthen the deep state and stoke popular radicalisation.

And then there is the China question. It is not as clear as many would like? Sanctioning Russia is one thing. Cutting off China is quite another:

But in other respects it takes a pretty fervid imagination to see France’s sprinkling of colonial possessions in the Indo-Pacific as equivalent to America’s stake in the glacis that consists of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Germany, for its part, continues to maintain close economic relations with China. As Herbert Diess, the CEO of Volkswagen, has frankly remarked: “If we would constrain our business to only established democracies, which account for about 7 to 9 per cent of world population, and this is shrinking, then clearly there would not be any viable business model for an auto manufacturer… If you are not in China, you have a problem. If you are in China, you have a chance.”

In short, expecting European nations to align with America over China feels largely unrealistic.

It would be vain to imagine that the Western powers will dictate the course of future relations with China – we ought to have learned the limits of our agency in Ukraine. In December 2020 Brussels, Paris and Berlin, to the horror of the Biden team, offered an economic olive branch with the Comprehensive Agreement on Investments, which Beijing spurned. That made it easier for Europe and the US to align on China during Biden’s first year in office than many expected. In the summer of 2021 Nato for the first time issued a statement on the security challenge posed by China. But then in January 2022 came the storm over Lithuania upgrading Taiwan’s diplomatic recognition. Faced with Beijing’s threats, the Baltics lined up with the US, presumably with a view to anchoring American support against Russia. Meanwhile, Berlin and much of the rest of the EU distanced themselves, refusing to get drawn into a clash with Beijing. For all the talk of partnership it is far from clear how Europe and the US align on China in the long term.

Do Democrat Males Suffer from Low T?

Prepare to be edified?

Today’s burning question is: What is the difference between male Democrats and male Republicans?

The answer, thanks to some serious scientific research is: Low T. That is low testosterone.

So, if you want to turn a male Democrat into a male Republican, you need but increase his testosterone. It's easier than debating the issue.

Who knew?

Here is the story, from the National Pulse:

Increased testosterone levels can cause Democrats to become more conservative in their political affiliation, a recent experiment analyzing voters in U.S. elections found.

The study – Testosterone Administration Induces A Red Shift in Democrats – was published on November 14th, 2021 by Professor Paul Zak, the Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University.

“His research has made a substantial impact in explaining the variation in human social behaviors and has been cited by other scholars over 18,000 times placing in the top 0.3% of all scholars,” explains his professional biography.

Zak’s latest findings reveal a link between testosterone levels and political preference through analyzing 136 voting-age males throughout the 2012 election season.

“Our results demonstrate that testosterone induces a “red shift” among weakly-affiliated Democrats,” summarized the paper.

Researchers administered synthetic testosterone or placebo to participants who previously disclosed their political affiliations, allowing researchers to track how the hormone affected participants’ politics.

“When weakly affiliated Democrats received additional testosterone, the strength of their party fell by 12 percent and they reported 45 percent warmer feelings towards Republican candidates for president,” explained the study.

“Before the testosterone treatment, we found that weakly affiliated Democrats had 19 percent higher basal testosterone than those who identified strongly with the party,” the study continues, reiterating the correlation between individuals with lower testoreone having left-wing political beliefs.

While the effects of testosterone waned with individuals who were staunch Democrats or weak Republicans, “our findings provide evidence that neuroactive hormones affect political preferences,” posits the study.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

America's Mental Health Crisis

Happily, those who have been following this blog have stayed ahead of the curve, as the old saying goes. As might be imagined, I have pointed out, yet again, that in the case of a crazed Buffalo shooter, the mental health profession has seriously failed. After all, young Payton Gendron was reported to the psychiatric authorities. He was evaluated by credentialed professionals. He was let loose to wreak havoc.

And his is not the first case of a mass murderer been cleared by the mental health profession, or better, having been ignored. For quite some time now I have been saying that involuntary commitment is a good way to deal with such people, but apparently such is not feasible.

And, dare I mention, public debate does not make relevant distinctions between psychopaths and psychotics, between narcissists and manic-depressives, between neurotics and addicts and so on. Some of these conditions are more obviously brain illnesses. Some are metabolic disturbances. Some are psychological disorders. Lumping them all together serves no useful purpose. It certainly does not facilitate treatment.

Anyway, the failure of the therapy profession, along with the failures of the psychiatric profession, should be clear enough by now. Thanks to the Covid lockdown policies instituted by one Anthony Fauci and a gaggle of public health officials, America’s children and young adults have been suffering a serious decline in mental health. About that, we keep hearing for more calls for treatment and better access to treatment. 

This is nice enough. And yet, more important is the fact that the quality of treatment available is seriously deficient, and that the profession, by its public presentation seems to push people away, not to invite them in.

In any event, Daniel Henninger exposes some other aspects of America’s mental health crisis this morning in the Wall Street Journal. (via Maggie's Farm)

It is becoming impossible to ignore it:

They are everywhere—on the streets, in our homes, our schools and prisons. Emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic, America is overflowing with people suffering from a broad range of mental disturbance. Mental illness is the U.S.’s next pandemic.

At one extreme, Buffalo mass-murder suspect Payton Gendron is another case study in how the U.S. looks past this problem. As with Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland, Fla., mass murderer, it is being widely reported that Gendron was admitted to a hospital last year for mental evaluation, that “signals were missed,” etc. At Virginia Tech 15 years ago, “signals were missed” for a disturbed 23-year-old shooter who killed 32 people.

And then, Henninger lights on a crucial point. Mental health professionals, nearly all of them, from Jordan Peterson to the least social worker, are obsessed with the question of motive. They want to know why this is happening. They assume that if they understand motive they will be able to provide illuminating insight that will resolve the mental problem and send the newly cured off to lead a productive life.

Dare we say that this feels more like a delusional belief than a constructive suggestion. The problem, Henninger correctly notes, is knowing what to do. And knowing what to do is quite different when dealing with a psychopath and a psychotic:

Signals aren’t missed. They are ignored, because there is no pragmatic understanding of what to do with the signals of mental illness. Instead, we divert into a largely irrelevant search for “motive.”

So, we have produced a pandemic of mental illness. And crisis centers and counselors are overwhelmed. You have to wonder whether they are offering effective treatment, or whether they are overwhelmed because they are the only game in town.

This column’s subject is not the psychotic young males whose outlet is killing. It is the emerging post-Covid reality that a slowly building crisis of poorly treated mental illness, anxiety, depression and suicide is cresting just as the pandemic ends. Suicide, already the second leading cause of death among people 15 to 34 before the pandemic, has increased.

In October, the American Academy of Pediatrics and others warned of “soaring rates of mental health challenges” among the young, and a similar warning followed from the U.S. surgeon general. Ask whoever is sitting next to you for anecdotal evidence. It’s omnipresent. Virtually any mental-health practitioner, especially at universities, admits to being overwhelmed with patients.

As the mentally ill homeless occupy major metropolitan areas, we should know that some are psychotic, some are addicts, some are sociopaths. 

Henninger remarks that it’s a policy failure, one that dates to decades ago, when optimism about the effectiveness of new treatments for psychosis produced a movement to empty the psychiatric hospitals:

The mentally ill homeless are piling up on the streets of San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Austin and on and on. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has been dismantling homeless tent camps, but he’s shoveling sand into the ocean. They have nowhere to go.

Absent medical treatment, some of the most severely ill self-medicate on the street with alcohol or drugs, turn violent and typically end up in holding pens like New York’s Rikers Island jail complex or Chicago’s Cook County jail.

With the societywide surge of mental disorder during the pandemic, the U.S. has arrived at a moment of reckoning for a policy failure that has run like an open hydrant since the deinstitutionalization movement of the 1970s emptied the mental hospitals. The solution was supposed to be outpatient “community care.” It never happened.

And then there is one other point, reported here last month, from the pen of the highly estimable Heather Mac Donald. She seems to be alone in having pointed out that the mental health profession has become something of a pink ghetto. Most practitioners are now female and their approach, naturally enough, is to mother people. Get in touch with your feelings, feel your feelings, develop your capacity for empathy-- these bywords of the mental health profession are alien to most young men, certainly, to most of those who are most likely to commit murder and mayhem. 

Young males are extremely unlikely to work with a professional who seems to want to make them into females. They are more likely to become more defiantly toxic. Thus, the party line in the therapy world is discouraging men from seeking any kind of treatment. 

Mac Donald was among the first to tally up the gender disparity. I have quoted it before. Here are some salient quotes again:

Nationally, about two-thirds of the students who sought treatment for mental-health disorders in the 2018–19 academic year were female, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. At Yale, therapy use is heavily female and LGBTQ, according to students. “There are few straight men using therapy,” one self-identified “queer” girl in the GLC said. “It’s stigmatized for straight CIS men. Almost all my friends who go to therapy identify as gay or trans.”

The counselors and therapists from whom these anxious students seek treatment are themselves overwhelmingly female. 

Harvard’s Counseling and Mental Health Services department is nearly three-to-one female to male in its staffing. Fifteen percent of the 33 members of Williams College’s Student Health and Wellness are male. The psychology profession is dominated by females. In the 2016–17 academic year, females received 78 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in psychology; Ph.D.s were similarly lopsided. At Yale, psychology does not even show up among the top-ten most popular majors for male undergraduates; for females, it is the fourth most popular degree.

Clearly, the face of the psycho profession has changed. You might consider it a change for the better. You might consider it a change for the worse. At the least, it has become more flagrantly feminine, and this has put off males, both from practicing therapy and also from consulting with therapists.

Way to go, USA!