Saturday, May 31, 2014

Therapists Analyze Elliot Rodger

Now that we will never have the chance to study Elliot Rodger or to offer him any more psychotherapy, the nation wants to understand what made him do what he did.

At the least, the psychologists assure us, sex would not have solved Rodger's problems. 

Presumably, they were responding to this question: if the chronically isolated and sexually frustrated Rodger had actually had sex, would he have been less inclined to slaughter his roommates and shoot down some sorority girls.

For all the money his parents were spending on therapy, why didn't they hire an escort to teach him about the joy of sex?  Isn’t that the idea behind the girlfriend experience?Obviously, they would not have had to tell him that they were doing so.

Apparently, the idea never crossed their minds. Considering how disturbed Rodger was, the chances are very good that it would not have helped him.

On that the psychologists interviewed by Regina Gorham of CBS Hartford are correct.

If, in fact, Rodger was schizophrenic, he was beyond the ministrations of even the most capable escort, or for that matter, therapist.

While the psychologists see Rodger as anti-social, they do not consider the possibility that his problems were more physiological than psychological. Surely, if Rodger’s own therapists had failed to recognize a psychosis or a brain defect—deserving medication and/or involuntary commitment-- they could not have done a very good job.

Unfortunately, expert therapists do not bring a great deal to the conversation. They declare the Rodger was lacking in empathy and that he was narcissistic.

In truth, today’s therapists say exactly the same thing about almost anyone. These are the go-to explanations for every form of social inadequacy.

In truth, they are using the occasion to show off their own theories. Most seem to have no real sense of Elliot Rodger.

Their efforts to cure all problems with empathy is clearly in error. Even if we assume that Rodger could have been taught empathy, the attempt to rejigger his feelings, to feel everyone else’s pain would have been for naught if he lacked social and conversational skills.

And what if he liked feeling pain? Nothing about empathy prevents an individual from causing pain because he likes to feel the pain himself.

CBS reports the views of one therapist:

“If Rodger had the capacity to be in a real, loving relationship I would imagine that he would have been much less capable of such callous behavior towards others,” clinical social worker and psychotherapist Laura Miller told CBS Hartford. “His disconnect from the humanity of others and their inherent worth would likely preclude any such relationship from occurring, however. So I don’t think having a girlfriend or sex is the issue here, but rather a direct result of his lack of self-awareness and lack of empathy towards those around him.”

For Miller the problem is psychological, not medical. She assumes that if only Rodger had been able to feel the right feelings he would have been able to interact with other people.

Dr. Krystine Batcho read Rodger’s manifesto and gleaned the following:

“There are several recurring themes in the manifesto and I would say that one of the most predominant features of it is narcissism,” she said. “Much of his arguments and perceptions are based on being narcissist. He didn’t appear to have a way of viewing reality from other peoples’ points of view. The entire document seemed to show that he only viewed it from his own perspective. He would attribute motives to other people or blame to the popular people when in reality, he had the major role in it.”

In truth, most male beings are slightly deficient in empathy. If you want to compete in the arena you do best not be too sensitive about the pain you are going to inflict you your opponents.

As for Rodger’s supposed narcissism, it ought to be evident that many other conditions can produce this kind of asocial character, like they Asperger’s syndrome, schizophrenia or even a brain tumor.

CBS calls Dr. Michael Broder a renowned psychologist, so we are naturally very interested in hearing what he has to say:

“If I have to guess there is something that created barriers between him and women that made dating not work and then of course he has this extreme reaction,” Broder said. “The thing that strikes me more than anything else is that behavior like this does not happen just like that. With killers like Adam Lanza, James Holmes, and Rodger, there has to be warning signs that these extreme actions can take place. There has to be something, some kind of social distancing such as Asperger’s syndrome in play, but an extremely tiny number of people who have it have those kind of behavioral issues.”

“Antisocial personalities like these mass killers need unfortunately a kind of help that they are least likely to seek out, which involves a real human connection with a therapist who can also monitor their behavior closely enough to protect them from becoming dangerous and take necessary precautions when possible.”

As it happened, Aurora shooter James Holmes’s psychiatrist did see it coming. She understood that he was schizophrenic. She alerted the authorities. They could do not do anything about it.

Broder is correct to say that therapy patients do need to form a meaningful connection with their patients. Most competent therapists know this and do their best to establish such a connection.

But, some therapists do not. Among them, the more orthodox Freudian psychoanalysts, who make a virtue out of disconnection.

We know that Rodger was seeing a therapist nearly every day when he was in high school. To me, this suggests that he was undergoing orthodox psychoanalysis or some variation thereupon.

Perhaps Broder is intimating that we cannot understand Rodger without knowing what was happening in his psychoanalytic therapy? Many of Rodger's thoughts sound like reconstituted Freudian theory. They may not be true to the letter of Freud's text, but we can certainly speculate about where he learned them.

Could it be that his analyst taught him that the meaning of his pain was his failure to have sex?

Could it be that his analyst taught him that good sex would solve his problems?

Did psychoanalysis teach him that other men were obstacles to his sexual gratification, to be eliminated by a man who had fully embraced his Oedipus complex?

And, did psychoanalysis turn his “narcissism” into high self-esteem, thus convincing this sad young man that if women did not want him, the fault lay with them, not with him. 

Doesn’t high self-esteem teach people that they need do nothing to improve themselves, because the fault lies with other people?

Can 74% of French Women Be Wrong?

What do French women know that other women don’t? To believe them, a great deal.

French Women Don’t Get Fat… it was the title of a best-selling book.

TheDaily Mail explains:

For years, our continental neighbours have been applauded as chic, slim and poised - all achieved seemingly without effort.

They are famed for never putting on weight - despite enjoying a rich diet of foie gras, escargot and croissants.

Be this as it may, a recent survey has discovered that, given the choice, French women would prefer a gourmet meal to sex.

Sacre bleu!

The Daily Mail reports:

When asked what 'pleasure rating' they'd give eating, [French women] said 7.1. out of 10, while they'd rank sex 6.7.

Sexologist Gerard Leleu attempted to shed some light on this rather surprising result of Harris Interative's survey.

He told Stylist magazine: 'Chemically, the same thing happens in the brain during a "culinary orgasm" and a sexual orgasm.

'In fact, when we are sad and we decide to eat chocolate, we are actually masturbating the hypothalamus.'

I’ll bet you didn’t know that.

Anyway, for all anyone knows, this seems not to speak very well of the way French men behave in the boudoir.

One expert tried to explain it by saying that French women must be having “crepe sex.”

Bon Dieu!

The same expert suggested that perhaps it all means that French women are narcissistic:

Perhaps some of these women find posh food more of an enjoyable indulgence than sex because the former is entirely about self-satisfaction - you choose what to eat based entirely on your own whims and tastes, whereas with sex you have to consider the desires and needs of your partner too.

Imagine the indignity.

Then again, maybe French women know something that other women don’t. Can 74% of French women be wrong?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Tolerating Intolerance

Undoubtedly, it was too little, too late, but Michael Bloomberg’s denunciation of academic intolerance and groupthink at the Harvard commencement yesterday was certainly welcome. (Via Maggie’s Farm)

Bloomberg decried the fact that orthodox liberal opinion had monopolized the marketplace of ideas on America’s college campuses. A brief glance at campaign contributions told him, as it has told many others that nearly all academics lean left.

Effectively, there is no diversity of opinion on American college campuses.

It may feel like a quibble, but Bloomberg is wrong to say that these campuses are infested with liberalism. There is nothing liberal, in the classical sense of the word, in groupthink. There is nothing liberal in shouting down opposing points of view. There is nothing liberal in the total absence of conservative commencement speakers.

What Bloomberg is calling liberal is really radical leftist thought, instigated by extreme leftists and, increasingly, by Islamist radicals.

When new Harvard graduate Sandra Korn—presumably in the audience for Bloomberg’s speech—can promote what she calls justice at the expense of academic freedom and when she identifies it with a movement to single out and punish the state of Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, we are dealing with anti-Semitic radicalism.

It’s good to call things by their correct names.

Bloomberg was also correct to call out the college administrators who have allowed it all to happen by refusing to punish those who disrupt the speech of speakers whose ideas they do not accept.

In his words:

Last fall, our police commissioner was invited to deliver a lecture at another Ivy League institution, but he was unable to do so because students shouted him down.

Isn’t the purpose of a university to stir discussion, not silence it? What were the students afraid of hearing?

Why did administrators not step in to prevent the mob from silencing speech?

And did anyone consider that it is morally and pedagogically wrong to deprive other students the chance to hear the speech?

And yet, administrators do not make the hiring decisions. If academic departments are filled with empty-headed radicals who see their task more in terms of indoctrination and cultural revolution than in teaching students, the fault also lies with the departments themselves.

The twin demons of political correctness and identity politics have brought us to this crisis point, and under current conditions, there is very little that anyone can do about it.

Unless, of course, the person in question is Michael Bloomberg.

Remember when Bill Gates and Warren Buffett initiated their Giving Pledge, wherein they encouraged the world’s billionaires to give half of their money to charity. In practice, this probably means, giving the money to leftist do-gooders, but, why quibble?

Bloomberg would have made some real news yesterday if he had announced that, as long as American universities insist on presenting only one point of view and as long as they systematically silence dissent, he will not give them any money. Moreover, he will ask other billionaires and aspiring billionaires to make the same pledge.

By now, I fear that that is the only language that the academy will understand.

Call it the Lysistrata Pledge, in honor of the Spartan woman who rallied her sisters to try to end a war by withholding sex. When it comes to America's colleges, money is the real sex.

It’s time to sanction universities for having ceased to be temples of learning and for having become cells for brainwashing students.

True enough, university departments of science, engineering and math will suffer too. It does not quite seem fair because it isn’t fair. Still and all, how else are you going to get the attention of college administrators and take a step toward returning America’s universities to classical liberal values.

The French Protest for Big Macs

Given that I lived for several years in France I naturally consider myself an expert on French food. Of course, I have not been back to visit in quite some time, but still, I believe that, whatever you say about France, the food is outstanding.

In a culture that has long defined itself on the excellence of its cuisine, McDonalds set off something of a stir in 1999. Then a French farmer name Jose Bove was thrown in jail for trashing a McDonalds.

Bove was an anti-globalization activist and was defending the honor of French culture against the Anglo invader.

That was yesterday. Today, the world has changed.

By now, France has been blanketed with McDonalds. One knows that the French restaurants serve McBaguettes and one suspects that the hamburgers taste better in Lyon than they do in my neighborhood, but still, given the choice, the French like their Big Macs.

Recently, in the town of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise, near Lille, local bureaucrats stopped construction on a new McDonalds because the restaurant did not comply with regulations.

(Even if the burgers are not the same the world over, the bureaucrats are.)

Surprisingly, perhaps, the local citizens were outraged… at the bureaucrats. 4,000 signed up on a Facebook page to protest. They took to the streets to oppose the job-killing bureaucrats.

They wanted the jobs and they wanted their Big Macs.

The Daily Mail reports:

But outraged residents protested, saying the order would stall the town's economic development and prevent around 30 new jobs from being created.

They called their Facebook group 'Oui oui au McDo' and 130 of them marched down the streets of the town yesterday with banners proclaiming: 'MANIF!!! (Demonstration) pour McDo'.

Those marching included union members, unemployed residents and several pupils from the town's schools.

Responding to claims that the town might simply have a hankering for hamburgers, one resident wrote: 'If it's the junk food that's bad we'll have to shut the kebab and chip shops in Saint-Pol.'

Another said: 'Seriously, I have a better lunch at McDonalds'.

Who would have thought that he would ever have heard those words spoken in French.

No One Left to Fool

President Obama believes that the most salient foreign policy question is: to war or not to war.

Evidently, his was a lame concept. When he offered it up to the graduating class at West Point, they sat in stark silence. The mainstream Obamaphile media greeted it with derision.

After over five years in office Barack Obama still does not know what foreign policy is about. He’s giving on-the-job training a bad name.

NBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel knows something about foreign policy. He knows that it’s about developing relationships between nations. When Ken Langone asked Engel to name a nation that had better relations with the United States under Obama, Engel was stumped.

National Review reports on the colloquy:

“I think you would be hard pressed to find that,” [Engel]  told Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone on CNBC on Thursday.

“You would naturally want to say Europe, but generally the relations with a lot of European countries have gotten worse,” he added.

Engel explained that the Obama administration’s withdrawal from world affairs has “very rapidly” left a vacuum. The “vortex of instability” has led other countries to be unsure about what role the United States wants to take on the global stage, he said, especially following the “army-first, or fist-first” approach of the Bush presidency.

“Right now, we have a black hole in Syria, Iraq is in a state of collapse, Libya is about to go back into a civil war,” he said. “I think there is a lot of problems on the horizon in the foreign-policy world, just because you are off-ramping in Afghanistan.”

Keep in mind, Engel works for NBC News. No network has been more fervent in its support of our fearless leader.

If NBC has caught on, there’s no one left to fool.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The End of Civilization As We Know It

What is it? You probably did not guess, but it’s Tracey Emin’s bed. It’s the real bed, with real dirty sheets and other assorted real detritus. It has no redeeming aesthetic value, but Emin is an artist, so it’s a work of art. Apparently, it made art history… because it’s a statement… of what, no one seems to know.

Now, you can own it, for upwards of $2,000,000.

The Daily Beast reports:

“My Bed” will be sold at auction at Christie’s on July 1, and has been given an estimate price of between £800,000 and £1.2m (approximately $1.35 million to $2 million), which seems astonishingly low given the piece’s cultural impact. Indeed, David Maupin, Emin’s dealer in New York who sold the bed to Saatchi in 2000 for £150,000 (about $252,000), has said he thinks the Christie’s estimate is too low. “It’s historic. It’s priceless.” 

How does Emin explain herself? Like this:

The bed was made at a time of Emin’s life when, as she put it, “I had a kind of mini nervous breakdown in my very small flat and didn't get out of bed for four days. And when I did finally get out of bed, I was so thirsty I made my way to the kitchen crawling along the floor. My flat was in a real mess—everything everywhere, dirty washing, filthy cabinets, the bathroom really dirty, everything in a really bad state. I crawled across the floor, pulled myself up on the sink to get some water, and made my way back to my bedroom, and as I did I looked at my bedroom and thought, ‘Oh, my God. What if I'd died and they found me here?’ 

“And then I thought, ‘What if here wasn't here? What if I took out this bed—with all its detritus, with all the bottles, the shitty sheets, the vomit stains, the used condoms, the dirty underwear, the old newspapers—what if I took all of that out of this bedroom and placed it into a white space? How would it look then?’ And at that moment I saw it, and it looked fucking brilliant.” 

Apparently, she sees it as a moment captured in time. And she thinks that this agglomeration of vomit stains and used condoms and dirty underwear looks brilliant. It also looks shameless. It also looks as though someone does not have an aesthetic.

Of course, the joke is on any collector who believes this rot. And yet, it is fair to notice that the collector who bought this is will soon be laughing his way to the bank.

The Democratic Party and Its Internal Contradictions

The media has fomented a narrative whereby the Republican Party is divided between corporatist RINOs and Tea Party activists. By the terms of the narrative, the two factions are dividing the party, to the point where they will eventually bring it to wrack and ruin.

One expects as much from the mainstream media. After all, they are no longer about providing the best and most accurate information. They have refashioned themselves into the drivers of the narrative.

Whatever you think of it, it's not journalism.

In the meantime, Republicans have bought the narrative. They have taken up residence in it, to the benefit of Democrats. To the dismay of more conservative voices in the party, far too many Republicans have gone to war against their fellow Republicans, leaving Democrats to pick up the spoils.

After all, Mitt Romney, the last standard bearer, won the nomination by trashing other Republicans. When it came to the presidential election he could not bring himself to attack Barack Obama. He lost.

Now, he seems to be angling for another shot at losing an election. A smart Republican Party would reject him.

In the meantime, it takes a sensible Democrat like Joel Kotkin to expose the fault lines within the Democratic Party. As the cognoscenti ponder whether capitalism suffers from internal contradictions, we do well to examine Kotkin’s analysis of the internal contradictions within the Democratic Party.

If Democrats did not have Republicans to hate and if the Republicans were not wasting themselves attacking each other, the Democratic Party would likely implode from its own internal contradictions.

As Kotkin sees it, the Democratic Party is divided among the gentry (tech oligarchs and Wall Street bankers, the populist progs (leftist intellectuals and minorities) and bubbas (the DLC and labor unions).

Their interests are not the same, so they seem to be held together by a common enemy—the Republican Party.

Kotkin begins with the gentry liberals, the group that has profited from Obama administration policies:

This group currently dominates the party, and have the least reason to object to the current administration’s performance. All in all, the gentry have generally done well in the recovery, benefiting from generally higher stock and real estate prices. They tend to reside in the affluent parts of coastal metropolitan areas, where Democrats now dominate.

The liberal gentry have been prime beneficiaries of key Obama policies, including ultra-low interest rates, the bailout of the largest financial institutions and its subsidization of “green” energy. Wall Street Democrats also profit from the expansion of government since, as Walter Russell Mead points out, so many make money from ever-expanding public debt.

These 1%ers have no real conception of how their policies impact other members of the Democratic electorate:

What most marks the gentry, particularly in California, is their insensitivity to the impact of their policies on working-class and middle-class voters. They may support special breaks for the poor, but are in deep denial about how high energy and housing prices – in part due to “green” policies – are driving companies and decent-paying jobs from the state. The new “cap and trade” regime about to be implemented figures to push up gasoline and electricity prices for middle-income consumers, who, unlike the poor, have little chance of getting subsidies from Sacramento. High energy prices, one assumes, have less impact on the Bay Area or West Los Angeles Tesla- and BMW-driving oligarchy than to people living in the more extreme climate and spread-out interior regions.

Gentry liberals dominate important social institutions. One might even say that they have completely monopolized the marketplace of ideas in those areas:

The gentry liberals’ power stems from their dominion over most of the key institutions – the media, the universities, academia and high-tech – that provide both cash and credibility to the current administration.

And then there is the populist, progressive wing of the party. Kotkin describes them:

Many more traditional left-leaning members of the Democratic Party – whom I would call the populist progressives – recognize that the Obama years have been a disaster for much of the party’s traditional constituencies, notably, minorities. Although the nation’s increasingly wide class divides and stunted upward mobility has been developing for years, they have widened ever more under Obama, as the wealthy and large corporations have enjoyed record prosperity.

This segment of the party militates for redistributionist policies, policies that will, in principle, help the poor at the expense of the rich, but that will, in practice, help the poor at the expense of the middle class.

In Kotkin’s words:

But the populists’ often-blunderbuss redistributionist tendencies – seen most notably in deep blue big cities – could alienate many middle-class voters who, for good reasons, suspect that this redistribution will come largely at their expense.

And then there’s the group that Kotkin calls “the old social Democrats.” These are the bubba voters, most especially the labor unions that have generously funded Democratic campaigns.

Kotkin calls them the “weakest part of the Democratic Party:”

This group is the most closely associated with private-sector labor, manufacturing and areas dependent on fossil-fuel production. Long dependent on white working-class voters, they are the most threatened by the increasingly hostile attitudes among them to President Obama and his gentry liberal regime. Already, some building trade unions in Ohio, angry about delays on the Keystone XL pipeline and other infrastructure projects, have even shifted toward the GOP.

One suspects that the group also includes public sector labor unions.

The power of labor unions has depended on their ability to finance political campaigns. What will happen to that influence when more billionaires are capable of contributing the same amount of money by writing a check? What will happen when they try to unionize Silicon Valley?

And, what will happen to the party when minority voters learn that voting en masse for one party, no matter what, causes that party to take them for granted. What will happen when minority voters demand results for their votes? What will happen when they cannot be so easily manipulated by cries of racism and amnesty?

Diversity in the Valley

When it comes to diversity Google is not where it’s at. Whatever its commitment to liberal politics, Google has been mostly hiring white and Asian males.

70% of the Google workforce is male and 91% is white or Asian.

Time magazine reports:

According to the data, released Wednesday for the first time, 70 percent of the Google workforce is male and 61 percent of its workers are white. And while Asian-Americans make up 30 percent of the workforce, African-Americans and Hispanics make up two and three percent, respectively.

In a statement on the company blog, Google said that it considers racial and gender imbalance to be a problem, and speculates about the underlying causes.

Citing stats from a 2012 National Science Foundation report, Google says that recruitment of people of color and women is difficult because, “Blacks and Hispanics make up under 10 percent of U.S. college grads and collect fewer than 5 percent of degrees in CS majors” and because that only 18 percent of the computer science degrees awarded in the U.S. go to women.

If you like, here’s the graph that Google provided:

Google reached this point of minimal diversity because most of the Computer Science degrees are awarded to white and Asian males. Some women qualify-- one wonders how many of them are white or Asian-- but precious few blacks and Hispanics are majoring in the subjects that would suit Google.

In any event, Google feels badly about this. It is investing in advanced minority education.

One suspects that these new disclosures are more about PR than anything else.

Whatever the reason, Google continues to be where it's at.

Your Brain on Porn

Too much of a good thing is bad. So is too little. This applies even to water. Drinking too much water, like drinking too little water,  is bad for you.

The questions is: How bad is how much?

The same applies to porn. In moderation, it is probably not a problem. Consumed excessively it might affect your brain… and not in a good way.

Then again, researchers are not sure whether people who suffer a certain brain affliction are driven to watch porn or whether porn-watching, in and of itself, changes the brain. Then again, it could be both.

In a world that is awash in porn, to say nothing of decadence, these questions are becoming more germane.

Reuters reports the latest research:

Men who report watching a lot of pornography tend to have less volume and activity in regions of the brain linked to rewards and motivation, says a new German study.

The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, can't say watching porn caused the decrease in brain matter and activity, however.

It's not clear, for example, whether watching porn leads to brain changes or whether people born with certain brain types watch more porn, said Simone Kühn, the study’s lead author from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, in an email.

We do not know whether porn watching demotivates you and drains your… ambition… or whether people who are unmotivated and unambitious are more likely to watch more porn. Or both.

Either way, it does not look as though watching too much porn is doing anyone any good:

“We found that the volume of the so-called striatum, a brain region that has been associated with reward processing and motivated behavior was smaller the more pornography consumption the participants reported,” Kühn said.

“Moreover we found that another brain region, that is also part of the striatum that is active when people see sexual stimuli, shows less activation the more pornography participants consumed,” she added.

What’s more, the researchers found that the connection between the striatum and prefrontal cortex, which is the outer layer of the brain associated with behavior and decision making, worsened with increased porn watching.

Of course, Kuhn added, many other activities, like driving a taxi, are also linked to changes in the brain.

Let’s say that the question is still open. The research is just beginning. At a time when young people have more access to more porn than ever before in history, no one should remain indifferent to the consequences.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Involuntary Commitment Debate

Readers of this blog know that I have long suggested that we would do well to commit dangerous schizophrenics involuntarily. This means, we should be able to provide psychiatric treatment to severely ill patients, even if they refuse it.

Intuitively, it feels easier to institutionalize a few dangerous psychotics than to remove nearly 300,000,000 guns from the hands of American citizens.

Other problems exist. Beyond the civil liberties concerns, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey points out that even if we decide on more lax standards for involuntary commitment, we do not have enough psychiatric beds to treat all the patients. After all, we, as a nation decided on a policy of deinstitutionalization several decades ago. We are now, as the Bible says, reaping the whirlwind.

For my part, I would like to know how many other civilized nations allow schizophrenics to wander around at will. How many nations refuse to treat psychotics until they commit a horrific act of violence, against themselves and others. Even if these patients do not commit violent actions, do we have a moral responsibility to offer them treatment when they are incapable of deciding what is best for themselves.

This morning Dr. Richard Friedman offered a cogent argument against involuntary commitment in The New York Times.

It is worth examining in detail.

Friedman explains:

While it is true that most mass killers have a psychiatric illness, the vast majority of violent people are not mentally ill and most mentally ill people are not violent. Indeed, only about 4 percent of overall violence in the United States can be attributed to those with mental illness. Most homicides in the United States are committed by people without mental illness who use guns.

These are good points. And yet, the issue is not gun violence, but the treatment of psychosis. Besides, psychosis is not an ordinary mental illness. Research suggests that it is a brain disease.

No one is suggesting that all people who suffer from mental illness—the latest version of the DSM defines so many varieties that just about everyone qualifies—should be subjected to involuntary hospitalization.

While it is true that most homicides are committed by people who are not mentally ill, the fact that we cannot stop all of the violence does not mean that we should not stop some of it.

One must note that most gun homicides are committed by gang members in large American cities. How many of these cities have strict gun control laws? Anyone who believes that stricter gun control will solve anything should explain how well it’s working in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

Then, Dr. Friedman suggests that the link between violence and major mental illness is real:

Large epidemiologic studies show that psychiatric illness is a risk factor for violent behavior, but the risk is small and linked only to a few serious mental disorders. People with schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder were two to three times as likely as those without these disorders to be violent. The actual lifetime prevalence of violence among people with serious mental illness is about 16 percent compared with 7 percent among people who are not mentally ill. 

Again, the issue is not so much who will or will not commit violent acts, though those who suffer from severe mental illness are far more likely to do so. The issue is whether it is good or bad policy to treat schizophrenics against their will.

If we are talking only about violence, Dr. Friedman notes, people suffering from drug or alcohol addiction are very likely to commit violent acts:

What most people don’t know is that drug and alcohol abuse are far more powerful risk factors for violence than other psychiatric illnesses. Individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol but have no other psychiatric disorder are almost seven times more likely than those without substance abuse to act violently.

It is worth asking how many of these addicts are self-medicating, that is, treating a severe psychiatric illness with their own kind of medication.

He continues:

Would lowering the threshold for involuntary psychiatric treatment, as some argue, be effective in preventing mass killings or homicide in general? It’s doubtful.

The current guideline for psychiatric treatment over the objection of the patient is, in most states, imminent risk of harm to self or others. Short of issuing a direct threat of violence or appearing grossly disturbed, you will not receive involuntary treatment. When Mr. Rodger was interviewed by the police after his mother expressed alarm about videos he had posted, several weeks ago, he appeared calm and in control and was thus not apprehended. In other words, a normal-appearing killer who is quietly planning a massacre can easily evade detection.

It is surely possible to evade detection in a single interview, but people who spent time with Elliot Rodger and Adam Lanza knew perfectly well that they looked crazy.

Dr. Torrey offers a different take on the issue:

Many individuals who are psychiatrically disturbed are able to “hang it together” for a few minutes when confronted by a police officer, judge, etc. I have had very psychotic patients appear quite rational for 10 minutes in a courtroom by focusing their mind. Patients with Parkinson’s disease can similarly suppress their tremor briefly by focusing their mind on it. Thus, it is unrealistic to expect a police officer to make a clinical evaluation, and such evaluations should include a mental health professional.

Here, Dr. Torrey raises the issue of the competence of mental health professionals. If no psychiatrist understood how ill Adam Lanza was, that can mean that he hid his illness very well or else that the psychiatrists were not doing a very good job.

Keep in mind, Elliot Rodger availed himself fully of the resources provided by the mental health system. He saw multiple therapists for many, many years.

Ought we not to question their competence and the effectiveness of the treatments they were offering.

Finally, Dr. Friedman explains that if we made it easier to commit patients involuntarily, other patients might be discouraged from availing themselves of treatment.

In his words:

In the wake of these horrific killings, it would be understandable if the public wanted to make it easier to force treatment on patients before a threat is issued. But that might simply discourage other mentally ill people from being candid and drive some of the sickest patients away from the mental health care system.

The point might have some validity in some cases. And yet, the notion of involuntary commitment assumes that the sickest patients systematically refuse all dealings with the mental health system.

We cannot, Dr. Friedman correctly notes, predict violent behavior, but we can see when someone is severely ill and incapable of making a rational decision about care.

He writes:

We have always had — and always will have — Adam Lanzas and Elliot Rodgers. The sobering fact is that there is little we can do to predict or change human behavior, particularly violence; it is a lot easier to control its expression, and to limit deadly means of self-expression. In every state, we should prevent individuals with a known history of serious psychiatric illness or substance abuse, both of which predict increased risk of violence, from owning or purchasing guns.

Let’s imagine that states do not hand out gun permits to people who suffer severe psychiatric illness. If a schizophrenic wants to commit gun violence would he not be likely to avoid mental health treatment. If he cannot be committed involuntarily, how are the authorities to know about his illness?

As for substance abuse, how can state employees know whether someone is an addict without, for example, some kind of test? And, what about people who are abusing medication that has been duly prescribed by a physician? Aren’t more and more people are becoming addicted to prescription painkillers?

Of course, the campaign for gun control will have no effect on those who, like Rodger kill with knives, or on those who, like Lanza use someone else’s guns.

Freud on Fox News

Last Saturday Dr. Robi Ludwig said this about Elliot Rodger on Fox News:

When I was first listening to him, I was like, ‘Oh, he’s angry with women for rejecting him.’ And then I started to have a different idea: Is this somebody who is trying to fight against his homosexual impulses? Was he angry with women because they were taking away men from him?

Her remarks provoked a tirade from Mark Joseph Stern on Slate:

Now, it is perfectly reasonable to react to this bizarre conjecture with outrage and disgustAmple evidence had, by that point, already illustrated that the shootings were committed by a man who craved sex with women but couldn’t obtain it. Ludwig’s claim, then, is totally baseless, leaving us to wonder whether her comments were motivated less by professional expertise than by anti-gay animus.

But taking such questions seriously is really granting Fox—and Ludwig—far too much credit. Ludwig’s claims weren’t just inaccurate; they were absolutely ridiculous, a spectacle of inane doltishness. By dredging the depths of her paranoia for the most laughably exaggerated homophobia imaginable, Ludwig’s remarks crescendoed past the usual droning doublespeak of Fox News’ bigotry and denialism to an altogether higher register of bleak, unintentionally satirical commentary on the limitlessness of Fox’s own lunacy. There is much to be angry about in this world, starting with the misogyny that still permeates our culture and seems to have driven Elliot Rodger to kill. But let us not waste our precious moments earnestly decrying the ramblings of a fool on a third-rate cable news channel that is already imploding before our eyes

Why am I mentioning this?

Because, whatever you think of Ludwig’s thought, it is, essentially, pure Freud. To anyone who knows anything about psychoanalysis, the provenance is unmistakable.

Yes, my friends, Ludwig offered a standard Freudian interpretation of misogyny.

It feels strange to think that gay rights activists have embraced Freud for having advanced their cause.

Michelle Obama Wants to Control Mind and Body

Most people think well of Michelle Obama. To use the phrase that her husband famously directed at Hillary Clinton, she’s “likable enough.”

Now that her effort to take control over the nation’s school lunchrooms has been failing, she has decided to do as her husband did: to politicize the issue by blaming the right wing.

One suspects that this is going to impact her favorability ratings, unfavorably.

Yesterday she said:

The last thing that we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids’ health, especially when we’re finally starting to see some progress on this issue,” Mrs. Obama told the group, adding, “It’s unacceptable to me not just as first lady, but as a mother.

Yet, the real problem is not the Republican Congress. It’s the simple fact that children refuse to eat what Mrs. Obama thinks they should eat.

They are rebelling against tyrannical authority. What could be more acceptable than that?

Besides, for all we know, a menu that is designed to make children into “indolent herbivores” does not fulfill their nutritional needs.

Here’s what happened in Boston, via CBS:

With First Lady Michelle Obama pushing healthy foods in school, half a dozen Boston schools were among those who bought into lunchroom salad bars in the battle against childhood obesity. A couple years later, none remain – to the chagrin of parents hoping to pry their kids away from junk food….

The school salad bars were a pilot program scrapped amid cost overruns, sanitary concerns, and according to some, the simple truth that very few kids partook.

Politically correct food costs too much. The kids refuse to eat it. And, raw salad bars breed bacteria. You end up with hungry kids and wasted food.

The Atlantic reports on what happened in Los Angeles:

But the new menus were the most austere measure yet, cutting kid-friendly favorites like chocolate milk, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, and nachos. Instead, little Jayden and Mia would dine on vegetarian curries, tostada salad, and fresh pears.

A student rebellion ensued—kids brought Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to school rather than much on quinoa salad—and L.A. Unified was forced to settle for a middle ground between Alice Waters and Ronald McDonald.

Under the new new menu, “Hamburgers will be offered daily,” the L.A. Times reported. “Some of the more exotic dishes are out, including the beef jambalaya, vegetable curry, pad Thai, lentil and brown rice cutlets, and quinoa and black-eyed pea salads. And the Caribbean meatball sauce will be changed to the more familiar teriyaki flavor.”

How is it all working out? The Atlantic does not paint a very optimistic picture:

But a new study suggests that despite the softened menu standards, students are still beelining toward carbs and meat and avoiding fruits and vegetables.

For the study, published in the April issue of Preventative Medicine, researchers examined the lunch trays of 2,000 randomly selected Angeleno middle schoolers over five consecutive days. Though the students are offered a fruit and a vegetable each day, 32 percent of students did not take the fruit from the line, and almost 40 percent did not take the vegetables. Among those whodid take a fruit or vegetable, 22 percent threw away the fruit and 31 percent tossed the vegetables without eating a single bite.

So in essence, just over half the students both took and ate some fruit, and about 42 percent both took and ate a vegetable.

Salads were the most common vegetable to be left untouched, while whole fruits, like apples and oranges, were far less popular than fruit cups or juices. Girls were both more likely to take fruits and vegetables from the line and were less likely to waste them.

Wanna-be tyrants like Michelle Obama, who want only the best for you, believe that these healthy food choices are exactly what children need. They think that they are being challenged to take control of children’s minds. They are so convinced that their idea of nutrition is more accurate than a child's free choice that they are willing to impose it on the recalcitrant young. Those who favor these programs have learned from behavioral economics that if you force children to eat what is good for them, eventually they will learn to like it.

At a time when nutritionists have discovered that high fat diets do not necessarily cause obesity, this pursuit of folly deserves to be called out.

In the meantime, Mrs. Obama does not just want to dictate what children eat for lunch. She has now set her sights on a higher goal: policing thought.

Aside from the fact that many children are becoming indolent herbivores, they are also being taught political correctness in school. So, Michelle Obama wants these children to police the thought of their friends, parents, and grandparents.

Obviously, some of the thoughts are reprehensible, but do we really want to turn children against their parents. Isn’t this what they do in totalitarian dictatorships when they are trying to root out counterrevolutionaries?

And, why would they not report their parents to the secret police? Why would they then not report their parents’ errant thoughts and sick jokes on social media? 

Here are her words, reported by The Blaze:

“[O]ur laws may no longer separate us based on our skin color, but nothing in the Constitution says we have to eat together in the lunchroom, or live together in the same neighborhoods. There’s no court case against believing in stereotypes or thinking that certain kinds of hateful jokes or comments are funny.”

To address these limitations in the law, Obama asked students to take steps to “drag my generation and your grandparents’ generation along with you” in the fight against racism.

“Maybe that starts simply in your own family, when grandpa tells that off-colored joke at Thanksgiving, or you’ve got an aunt [that] talks about ‘those people,’” she said. “Well, you can politely inform them that they’re talking about your friends.

“Or maybe it’s when you go off to college and you decide to join a sorority or fraternity, and you ask the question, how can we get more diversity in our next pledge class?” she added. “Or maybe it’s years from now, when you’re on the job and you’re the one who asks, do we really have all the voices and viewpoints we need at this table?

Being a radical leftist means never admitting to failure. If your school lunch program does not work, blame the right wing. If your affirmative action program has not integrated public schools, blame the elderly for their impure thoughts.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What Jill Abramson Didn't Know

I doubt that Jeffrey Pfeffer has inside information about why Jill Abramson was fired by the New York Times, but if the stories about Abramson’s abrasiveness are half-true, she probably failed to cultivate the right relationships.

Leadership and management do not involve telling people what to do. They do not involve self-assertion or leaning-in. They do require that you develop and sustain good relationships with those above you and those below you.

Good managers set policy. They also create the best conditions for the implementation of that policy. It cannot occur if the leader does not have good relationships with others.

To be clear, the basis for such relationships is respect and courtesy. It has nothing to do with sharing personal or intimate information.

Pfeffer emphasizes the most difficult aspect of management, getting other people to do their best work:

You have to make them work, not only to get things done in the web of interdependencies that characterize most jobs, but also to keep your position. Leaders need support—from their subordinates, customers, and most importantly, their bosses. When that support vanishes, so do their careers. This lesson holds true regardless of your job performance and track record.

Most managers know that they must manage their staff. They should also take special care to manage their superiors. Abramson’s problem was not merely the complaints of her staff, but her failure to develop a good relationship with her boss, Arthur Sulzberger.

Pfeffer writes:

And everyone, even chief executives and executive editors, has a boss. Insufficient attention to managing relationships with bosses, such as boards of directors, has cost many otherwise talented and successful people their jobs—witness, as one example, last summer’s ousting of Men’s Wearhouse (MW) founder and emblematic spokesperson, George Zimmer, from his role as chairman of the board.

First, Pfeffer explains how not to do it. What should you not do when you are hired to manage people who want to have your job, or who think that they ought to have your job:

There are many natural human responses to such circumstances. One is to ignore your rivals and enemies. Another is to try to show everyone around you how smart you are and how much you deserve the job, in the hope that outstanding job performance will win them over. A third is to try to hire your own team and replace your enemies, a strategy that often can’t be implemented and has its own risks as you bring in other, inexperienced (albeit loyal) people to help you run a complex operation.

Evidently, such an approach foments contention and conflict. Some respond by complaining or even politicizing the problem, but it is better to learn how to manage a situation.

Pfeffer offers some suggestions:

… identify the most critical relationships, those individuals crucial to both your success and the success of the business, and nurture those relationships. This entails asking people’s opinions, even if you don’t think their views are likely to be helpful. It means telling people what you are doing and why—sharing information with them so they never feel left out. Serving relationships means going to visit people in their offices, not yours, and in countless other ways showing others that you value them, their experience, and their expertise.

Note well the importance of being open and transparent. People who feel that they are part of an enterprise work more effectively than do those who believe that they are working in a vacuum.

And note the importance of generosity and humility. You should not merely be keeping everyone informed, but you do well to drop into your subordinate’s office. It is surely better than summoning him to yours.

It is worth emphasizing, with Pfeffer, that relationships do not just happen. They require a considerable amount of work, made more difficult when you do not much like the people you are working with:

Working on relationships with people you may not like or even respect is difficult work, which is precisely why executive tenure is often so short. After a while, people forget how tenuous everyone’s hold on power is and get tired of the important but often mundane tasks of serving critical relationships.