Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Missing the Point of: "The Night Of"

Now that HBOs new show “The Night Of" is over we can try to figure what it was all about. This post will contain multiple spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the show and do not want to know, cease reading this post… immediately.

The show was written by Richard Price, one of our great novelists and one of our great screenwriters. Admittedly, critics have been drooling over this show, but they are wrong to do so. The show fails and it fails for reasons that seem to have escaped most of the critics. Price befouled his talent by making the story into a propaganda vehicle.

Ultimately, we see a nice Muslim boy corrupted by America and the American injustice system. The show is about only one thing: American Islamophobia. It says that Islamophobia turns nice Muslims-- they are all nice-- into criminals and terrorists.

It’s not a mediocre failure. It’s a great failure, because much of the writing and the acting is excellent. Actors like John Turturro and Michael K. Williams do yeoman work. Yet, the central character, Nazir Khan, played by Riz Ahmad is not a good enough actor to carry a show. His performance is flat and uninteresting. But he is a Muslim so he will probably be nominated for all manner of awards.

In the show a nice Muslim boy named Nazir gets picked up by an American vamp and cannot resist her corrupting charms. He follows her back to her lavish apartment, engages in a brutally violent form of foreplay, takes drugs, drinks alcohol, has sex with her, passes out and awakes to find her dead, butchered. In other words, he does all the things that his religion forbids him to do... and get himself into trouble.

The message to Muslims is: do not assimilate into a corrupting Western culture.

Naz does not know whether he killed her but he runs out of the place, into the arms of New York’s finest. While awaiting his arraignment he runs across a down-and-out criminal defense attorney, played by John Turturro. He ends up in Riker’s Island where he becomes the protégé of a violent black criminal named Freddy. 

Naz seems to be the only non-black criminal who is adopted by Freddy… curious and implausible point that the screenwriter tries to cover by having Freddy say that he sees Naz as an innocent unicorn. It’s an easy out, but it does not work. Surely, it does not work to rationalize the implausibility of one of the most important relationships in the show.

In the end Naz is put on trial, but his case is dismissed after the jury cannot reach a verdict. By the time the jury comes back from its deliberations the detective in charge, Det. Box, has uncovered evidence that point to the real killer and Naz is freed. Yet, Nasir has by now been transformed into a drug addicted criminal himself and we are led to expect that this is not going to end well.

If we were dealing with a criminal investigation show would fail miserably. Detective Box is not Lt. Columbo. And John Stone is not Perry Mason.

Box does not bother to investigate anything about the murder until the trial is well underway. This is supposed to be meaningful, a sign of incompetence and prejudice, but seeing detectives overlook obvious evidence… like surveillance photos… tells us that we are not supposed to admire their work.

One notes also, because the show seems to ignore it, that the murder scene is especially bloody and that when Naz awakes from his stupor at the victim’s house he has no blood splatter on him at all. He could have figured out and a decent detective could have figured out that he could not have committed a crime that looks like a bloodbath.The show takes every opportunity to show us Andrea Cornish's butchered naked body.

But, like I say, the show is not about criminal procedure. It's about prejudice against a Muslim defendant.

As for the trial the lawyers do not inspire confidence. With the exception of Chandra Kapoor, they are decidedly unattractive,.Turturro's John Stone is siply disgusting. Turturro’s eczema, at first covering his feet but later, after having been cured, returning to cover his body, adds very little if anything to the story. It gives the actor a chance to flash his feet at the audience, gesture we know to be a supreme insult in Islam.

Naz’s defense attorney, Chandra Kapoor, is presented as a bright young Indian woman, but also as someone who was easily corrupted. Not only did she manage to French kiss her client while being filmed by a surveillance camera—point which she had to know—but she allowed herself to be corrupted to the point of smuggling drugs to her client in her… vagina. She is not the only character in the show to do so. Price seems to find the point fascinating. I find it gratuitous.

Anyone who was paying attention should have been able to see what the show was about and why it went so completely off the rails. The show was about an innocent young Muslim man, a man of impeccable morals who gets seduced by a Western temptress and becomes corrupted by the American criminal injustice system, especially as they manifest America’s Islamophobia.

The show tells us that America, and especially American injustice and incompetence, produces Islamist terrorists. Because, we are supposed to believe, Muslims would never do such heinous actions of their own volition or by following the precepts laid down in their religion.

The show is fundamentally an indictment of America. It continually drops references to American Islamophobia and even to the wave of anti-Muslim violence that followed the 9/11 attacks. We are told that Naz had a bad moment in school after the 9/11 attacks—he threw another boy down the stairs-- but we are led to believe that his was righteous anger. His is the righteous anger of those who are unjustly persecuted.

Most people know full well that the nation was not overwhelmed by attacks against Muslims after 9/11. Most sensible people were more surprised by what did not happen. Yet, Price seems to be hell bent on indicting America for Islamist terrorism, so he is willing to exaggerate the facts… for the purpose of his propaganda.

Since Nasir spends much of the show in prison, one must note that it’s denizens are not as Islamphobic as the police and the criminal justice system. And yet, their influence is also corrupting, not in the sense that they are going to make Naz into a terrorist—the show is not quite that obvious—but they do make him into a drug addict, potential drug dealer and general all-around violent criminal.

We are told that he just does what he has to do to survive…again exculpating him for his actions.

Some critics have said that the show humanizes Muslims. It is true that Nasir, his parents, his brother and family friends and associates are basically the only good people in the show. The problem is: Naz is humanized at the expense of  every other American. These latter are consistently defamed and dehumanized. They are so Islamphobic that they do not even bother to investigate the crime. They fail at the most obvious criminal procedures. And they are completely inept in the courtroom.

In the end it turns out that the real murderer is a financial advisor, Ray Halle. He was stealing money from Andrea Cornish and they had argued about it.

As you know, it’s always the Wall Street banker types, the preppy white guys who commit the most heinous crimes. Like a good leftist propagandist Price wants to blame it all on... you know who.

And yet, even here the story falls flat. Even if Ray snuck into the house when Naz was comatose and murdered Andrea, since when do financial advisers engage in the kind of overkill that suggest a rage killing, not a business transaction?

How did Richard Price make such egregious mistakes? Simple: he no longer wanted to tell a story, but wanted to make a political and cultural point. He turned his art into propaganda. Those who liked the viewpoint liked the show. Those who do not watch these shows to be preached at or guilt tripped did not. As a work of art,the show fails miserably.

Who Is Chessie Prout?

In the case of Elizabeth Smart there was no avoiding public exposure. Smart had been kidnapped from her Utah home and raped repeatedly for months. When her rapists were caught they were put on trial and sent to prison. The story was all over the media and there was no way that Smart could avoid the publicity.

One must say that she handled it with exceptional aplomb and maturity. She returned to her life, studied for her degree, got married and had a child. She also became a victims’ rights advocate.

With the exception of her advocacy work and the book she wrote about her recovery Smart did the best she could to put it all behind her.

In the case of Emma Sulkowicz, the situation was more ambiguous. The woman who was dubbed the “Mattress girl” accused a fellow Columbia student of rape, only to have her complain dismissed by both university and civil authorities. She was not merely protesting what she believed to have been a rape, but she was outraged that the criminal justice system had refused to prosecute the man she accused.

For reasons that escape me she then saw fit to produce and star in a pornographic video depicting exactly what happened on the night she believed that she was raped.

Curiously, Sulkowicz is the daughter of psychoanalysts. Given the disposition of her case one can only wonder what she could possibly gain by making her accusations into a public spectacle. Now that she has labeled herself the Mattress Girl and has starred in a porn video, what effect will that have on her dating prospects, her romantic prospects, her sex life and her career opportunities?

Perhaps she believed that she was willing to martyr herself for a cause, but did she know that her actions will exact a heavy price?

And now we have the case of Chessy Prout, a girl who suffered a sexual assault by one Owen Labrie at the St. Paul’s School two years ago. You recall that Labrie was tried and convicted of misdemeanor assault. He was sentenced to one year in prison and is now out on bail awaiting appeal.

Since Prout was fifteen at the time of the assault, her name had been censored from all media accounts of the story. It has always been the policy of media outlets to protect the identity of rape victims, especially children.

Now, however, with the encouragement of her mother, the seventeen year old Prout has to come forward and identified herself as the victim. On the Today Show. You can't be more public. One notes the obvious point that her name was hardly a secret at St. Paul’s school. Many people there knew who she was, to the point where she was ostracized by other students. She might well have expected that at some point in the future her identity would have been revealed. One should also mention that the name as been circulated on some internet sites.

Be that as it may, one questions again the virtue in public exposure. Since Prout testified at the Labrie trial, she had already shown considerable courage. She and we might well believe that she did the right thing, but she gained no real personal advantage by doing it. But, at the least, the judicial system protected her identity.

Now, however, her public statement and her picture has been disseminated across the media, so we should again ask about the value in this level of media exposure. Presumably Prout went on the Today Show to demonstrate that she is proud of herself for having stood up and testified.

Without knowing any more than you do, I suspect that Prout has undergone some kind of therapy and that the therapist counseled this level of exposure. Obviously, her mother thought it was a good thing, since her mother accompanied her on the Today Show.

One notes that, by the standards pertaining to the law, Prout is still a child, so however much people are cheering her courage, one suspects that she does not really understand the price of this level of exposure. Surely, a teenage girl who sexts does not understand what happens when such an image is passed around in the locker room and when other girls start calling her a slut. She might tell herself that she is not ashamed of her body, but she is clearly not old enough to deal with the social and emotional consequences. Allowing a seventeen year old child to go on national television to put a face on a sexual assault is dubious parenting, at the least.

The New York Times reports Prout’s performance:

“I want everyone to know that I am not afraid or ashamed anymore, and I never should have been,” the teenager, Chessy Prout, who was 15 at the time of the assault at St. Paul’s School in Concord, said on “Today.”

“It’s been two years now since the whole ordeal, and I feel ready to stand up and own what happened to me and make sure other people, other girls and boys, don’t need to be ashamed, either,” she said with her parents at her side.

And also:

She added, “I want other people to feel empowered and just strong enough to be able to say: ‘I have the right to my body. I have the right to say no.’”

I would contend that she is not old enough now and was not old enough then to understand the concept of shame. She has picked up the therapeutically correct cliches, unthinkingly. And yet, she understood that she was shunned by her classmates when she returned to St. Paul’s. And that it forced her to change schools.

Without knowing anything more, I suspect that she is asserting her innocence. She is saying that she did not consent to the sexual assault and should not be thought less of for as much. In many of cases women gopublic in order to say that they are not the kinds of girls who would have engaged in such activities. They are saying that they are not sluts.

It might have worked for kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart but it did not work as well for Chessy Prout. In the first place, Prout sounds like someone who has received the right kind of politically correct therapy. We can agree that she was not responsible for what happened, but, if that is the case, she would have done better to shut up about it. Because if she is not responsible, she is saying that it did not really happen to her. If it did really happen to her why does she want everyone now to see her as a rape victim, with the attendant fantasies?

When you have suffered a trauma, the one thing you do not want to do is to “own it,” as Prout says, as she probably learned from an especially lame therapist. You do not want to make it a part of your history or even your self narrative. It says nothing about who you are and does not reflect on your character. 

A trauma victim should put the experience behind her, to forget that it ever happened, to move on with her life. Elizabeth Smart did. It does not mean never testifying, but it does mean not going public with the fact. Once you go public the world will henceforth identify you as a rape victim and will treat you accordingly. They will treat you differently. In some cases they will shun you. In others they will pity you. In all such cases your chances of getting it out of your mind and acting as though it never happened diminish exponentially.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Needed: Soft Skills

Long time readers of the blog might recall my efforts to emphasize the importance of soft skills. Beginning eight years ago I wrote about the ability to get along with others. If you don’t have it, you will have fewer friends and weaker relationships. If you do not know how to get along with others you will not be a serious contributor to your company. You will detract from productivity.

Some of my previous thoughts are here, here, here, here, and here.

Today, Kate Davidson reports in the Wall Street Journal that employers across America are bemoaning the fact that their young hires are sorely deficient in soft skills.

She writes:

The job market’s most sought-after skills can be tough to spot on a résumé.

Companies across the U.S. say it is becoming increasingly difficult to find applicants who can communicate clearly, take initiative, problem-solve and get along with co-workers.

Those traits, often called soft skills, can make the difference between a standout employee and one who just gets by.

Depending on the industry, different soft skills are required:

As the labor market tightens, competition has heated up for workers with the right mix of soft skills, which vary by industry and across the pay spectrum—from making small talk with a customer at the checkout counter, to coordinating a project across several departments on a tight deadline.

Companies are desperate to find the right kind of employees, employees who can get along with other people, work together productively, cooperate and coordinate effort.

Davidson continues:

“We’ve never spent more money in the history of our firm than we are now on recruiting,” said Keith Albritton, chief executive of Allen Investments, an 84-year-old wealth-management company in Lakeland, Fla.

In 2014, the firm hired an industrial psychologist who helped it identify the traits of its top-performing employees, and then developed a test for job candidates to determine how closely they fit the bill.

In the increasingly complex financial-services world, advisers often collaborate with accountants, attorneys and other planning professionals, Mr. Albritton said. That means the firm’s associates must be able to work in teams. “You can’t just be the general of your own army,” he said.

Now, where might today’s young people have learned that each individual should be the general of his own army? Hmmm. Could it be that they learned it in school when they were having their self-esteem puffed up by teachers who believe that therapy is more important than education? Could it be that they learned it from political leaders, especially our current president, who does not care about getting along with the opposition party, who does not respect the balance of powers but pretends that he is the general of his own army?

As I have often suggested, we must, when considering sociocultural trends, give full weight to the importance of the example set by those who are in charge—like our president.

Anyway, poor soft skills mean more misunderstanding, more miscommunication, more drama and more wasted time. The result: decreased productivity:

A recent LinkedIn survey of 291 hiring managers found 58% say the lack of soft skills among job candidates is limiting their company’s productivity.

In a Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 900 executives last year, 92% said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills. But 89% said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite attributes. Many say it’s a problem spanning age groups and experience levels.

And also:

To determine the most sought-after soft skills, LinkedIn analyzed those listed on the profiles of members who applied for two or more jobs and changed jobs between June 2014 and June 2015. The ability to communicate trumped all else, followed by organization, capacity for teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, social savvy, creativity and adaptability.

One restaurant manager bemoaned the absence of soft skills in her employees:

“I can teach somebody how to slice and dice onions. I can teach somebody how to cook a soup. But it’s hard to teach someone normal manners, or what you consider work ethic,” she said.

God help us, but today’s young people, especially members of the much derided millennial generation have no manners and a highly faulty work ethic.

When employers want to find out about an potential hire’s soft skills, they do what employers have been doing since the beginning of business. They invite him or her out for dinner, in the company of his or her spouse:

At Two Bostons, a small chain of pet boutiques outside Chicago, owner AdreAnne Tesene conducts at least three rounds of interviews before she hires someone.

For higher-level positions, she invites job candidates and their significant others out to dinner with the rest of the management team, “so we can see how they treat their family.” She also has her employees fill out an evaluation of a new co-worker after 90 days.

It’s not just about how they treat their families. It’s about how they treat the busboy. It’s about whether or not they have good table manners. Someone who has bad manners is rude, self-centered and inconsiderate. You cannot get along with other people if you are rude, self-centered and inconsiderate.

Unfortunately, if one of these young millennials goes to therapy he will discover that his bad manners are a good thing, a blow against the patriarchy, against inequality and against capitalism. He might even learn that his bad manners are signs that he is a creative individual, someone who does not conform to social norms. The result: not only will he be lacking in soft skills but he will believe that they are for chumps.

As he settles in to his old room in his parents’ house, he will have plenty of time to figure out why his job prospects have been so dim.

Psychoanalysis Is Dead

I don’t quite see why, but some people doubted me when I said that psychoanalysis, or long term talk therapy was a thing of the past. I was certainly not alone in having this opinion. Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, head of psychiatry at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital said exactly the same thing.

But, some still cling—bitterly—to their hopes and dreams and fantasies. If they have been well-enough analyzed they take their longings for reality.

Some still believe that classical analysis and its many avatars is still a viable practice. Evidently, they should read my book The Last Psychoanalyst, to disabuse themselves of the notion, but analysts and therapists are not, alas, big readers.

If they read the New York Times they might have noticed this article, by Ginia Bellafante, on the end of the August vacation. You see, back in the day, all analysts, as a homage to Freud, used to take August off. It was a cultural fact, widely noted. It isn't any longer. And the Times notes, the profession of psychoanalysis has largely lost its prestige, its glamour and its reputation.

It took New Yorkers some time to catch on to the scam, but catch on they did.

Ballafante writes:

… what has ultimately disappeared is the centrality and even glamour so long attached to the therapeutic profession in the life and culture of New York. In the 1980s, when Judith Rossner’s novel “August” came out, dealing with the relationship between a Manhattan analyst, her analysand and the particular agonies of the warm-weather hiatus, it was still possible to find regular coverage of the best, and most outlandish, methods for coping with the loss of the departing clinician. In 1985, The Times took note of a woman named Leslie Baines who called the other members of her therapy group and asked if they wanted to rent a bus to the Hamptons to besiege their vacationing therapist, who had left for two months without providing forwarding contact information. (“We pretty much have his location targeted,” Ms. Baines said.)

Of course, psychoanalysis has lost out in the marketplace. Since the results of analysis were most often mediocre at best, the arrival of treatments that could produce positive results caused a sea change. One that drowned classical Freudian psychoanalysis.

According to Bellafante:

The changing nature of treatment means that practitioners are seeing fewer patients for talk therapy. According to study published several years ago by researchers at Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania who analyzed patient data from Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys, the percentage of patients receiving only psychotherapy dropped from 1998 to 2007, while the percentage of those receiving drug therapy exclusively rose sharply, to 57 percent from 44 percent. Beyond that, standard Freudian psychoanalysis has loosened to the point that few patients see analysts four or five days a week; the fashion now is for two or three. 

She concludes by tracking the presentation of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in the culture. From the time of Annie Hall to the Sopranos to Billions:

We are far from the days of romanticized depictions of psychotherapy in popular culture — far from the era of “Manhattan” and “Annie Hall,” as well, when inclusion in the bourgeois intellectual class required participation in the 50-minute hour. When “The Sopranos” began in 1999, the premise was that a mobster sought personal betterment in the context of talk therapy. By the time “Homeland” made its debut more than a decade later, a C.I.A. operative was getting her help from lithium prescribed by her sister. And when, more recently, television delivered “Billions,” a series about hedge-fund malfeasance and excess, the role of the psychologist was relegated to that of an in-house performance coach helping asset managers achieve the right mental balance to make more money.

Yes, I know, my analyst friends—the few who remain—are in serious denial about all this. But, there comes a time in everyone’s life when they have to come to terms with reality. And the reality is: it’s dead, over, finished, done.

And not a moment too soon. The Times said so...what more do you want?

The Trouble with Muslim Migrants

Daniel Greenfield explains, with admirable succinctness, the problems with opening a nation’s doors to a flood of migrants who do not possess the skills needed to hold down jobs. (Via Maggie’s Farm) Only the most befuddled would think that these people just need a little training.

In Greenfields words:

Germany's Angela Merkel opened the borders to a flood of Muslim migrants while assuring everyone that they would settle down, integrate and get jobs that would enable them to support all the Germans who took vacations in Spain instead of having children to support them in their old age.

But sadly the only skills that the Muslim migrants seem to possess are

1. Robbing tourists

2. Sexually assaulting women

3. Jihad

Sadly few German companies want to hire anyone to rob tourists, assault women or blow things up. So they're unemployed. Which means they're on the dole. Which means that any and all future acts of Muslim terror will be blamed on

1. Racism in the job market

2. Failure to integrate

3. The lack of corporate positions for robber rapist terrorists

Refugees commit crimes and good Germans, like many good Americans, blame it on themselves. Since the refugees are not held accountable, they believe that it's acceptable to collect welfare and to commit crimes.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Revolution is Over; Cairo Returns to Normal

When the Arab Spring arrived in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Western progressives thrilled to the advance of democracy. New York Times columnists Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof camped out in the square to breathe in the heady fumes of democracy on the march. When CBS stupidly sent correspondent Lara Logan to the scene, the results were more like a nightmare.

Journalists had not noticed that Egyptian men had been leading the world in molesting women. Yet, the same journalists thrilled to the election of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, and ignored the way women were treated under the Sharia Law that Morsi promised to implement.

Anyway, Morsi was overthrown by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the new government cracked down severely on the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist organizations. What happened next shocked the delicate sensibilities of a New York Times reporter. The people of Cairo started acting more normally. They started working out and getting in shape.

Needless to say, the Times was befuddled. Even some Egyptian intellectuals were befuddled. There must be a political explanation for the way young people, in particular, had given up on revolution and had embraced fitness. There must, in short be something wrong with them. If they were working out more it must be a sign of fascist repression.

Leave it to the Times, in a news story, to denounce the wish to be healthier as a sign of political oppression.

Here is the way the Times reported the news:

CAIRO — Egypt’s young people have once again taken to the streets. This time, though, they are in spandex and on bicycles, in kayaks and sculls on the Nile, doing street workouts in the slums of Giza or CrossFitexercises in makeshift rooftop gyms.

More than five years after overwhelming numbers filled Tahrir Square in Cairo, deposing President Hosni Mubarak, and three years since the military crackdown that ousted the elected Muslim Brotherhood president and jailed protesters by the thousands, a fitness craze has taken hold. It is a stark departure for a nation that is the 17th most obese in the world, where fast-food joints proliferate and smoking is still the norm in restaurants — and everywhere else. 

Egyptian squash players are among the best in the world, and privileged families have long pushed their children to take up sports, but the new focus on fitness is drawing in people from all classes, with substantial numbers of women, too, and is more about exercise for exercise than about games or competition. Many Egyptians see it as a direct outgrowth of the withering of the political revolution under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that young people are no longer wasting their time tilting at windmills. Perhaps it’s a good thing that they have given up on political revolution. Perhaps it’s about time that they got down to work building their country’s economy. Perhaps getting in shape will help them to work harder and more effectively.

About these matters the Times has nothing to say. It wants to promote revolution. And perhaps a return of the Muslim Brotherhood:

“Why now, and where does this come from? Clearly, it’s connected with the withdrawal from public life by young people,” said Ezzedine C. Fishere, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo who has seen the trend take hold in his family. Professor Fishere said he goes to the gym regularly, his daughter wears a Fitbit and his ex-wife works out, too.

After the military crackdown, he said, “everyone who had participated in 2011 started to move to the private sphere, some took refuge in depression, some in nihilistic activities and many in fitness — not just fitness, but taking care of oneself.”

Professor Fishere has a political explanation. He teaches political science and seems to believe that politics explains everything. He has nothing to say about the need to get the Egyptian economy running and that people who are completely out of shape will probably not have the energy to do so.

Instead, he denounces the authoritarianism—i.e. fascism—of President el Sisi:

Traditionally, Professor Fishere noted, authoritarian governments have been interested in promoting sports and physical culture. And in this case, it was a relief valve on the pressure cooker that is the Arab street.

“This is a safe area for both, an area the regime is willing to support,” Professor Fishere said. “And for the youth, it’s a good outlet for their energies.”

Others see things differently, and more clearly:

The Egyptian Rowing Club, one of many with boathouses on the Nile, is so busy that there is often a waiting list for the club’s sculls and kayaks. Even so, Abeer Aly, a board member, says she thinks the increased popularity is just a sign of the times worldwide. “I can’t see the correlation between youth revolution and fitness events,” she said. “I just see a trend of people practicing and enjoying rowing, cycling and other things a lot more.”

For that we need no political explanations. Good habits do not need to be undermined by intellectuals who are looking forward to the next revolution.

You have to wonder, given the history of the twentieth century, why the idea of revolution maintains its mystique? And whatever made them think that an Islamist government was radical or progressive? Do they really believe, with out president, that the ayatollahs in Iran are true revolutionaries? Weren’t these intellectuals supposed to be the smart ones.

Leadership That Nobody Notices

It is an article of progressive faith that the 1950s were the worst of times. And that the 1960s were the best of times. Nothing like losing a war to make progressive hearts go pitter patter.

What was wrong with the 1950s? Any progressive worth his subscription to the Nation will tell you that America was then racially segregated.

They will not tell you that the Democratic Party was leading the fight to keep America segregated. They will not tell you that the civil rights movement began in the mid-1950s.
They will not tell you about integrating Central High School in Little Rock. 

No, they believe that the 1960s, with their race riots and violent confrontations were a better time… for whom, it’s not very clear.

But the worst part of the 1950s was: not enough drama. You see, it doesn’t matter if people are burning down their neighborhoods. It’s the drama that counts. It’s the struggle that counts. The results… not so much.

Anyway, Kevin Williamson has offered us a riff on presidential golfers. I can’t say that it has ever crossed my mind to riff on golf at all, but someone had to do it. So, why not Williamson?

While sharing his thoughts about Barack Obama’s golf game— and noting that it’s the time of the day and week when Barack does the least damage—Williamson brings up another decent presidential golfer—one Dwight Eisenhower.

He notes, in passing, that the Eisenhower presidency lacked great drama. It was not a time of celebrity presidents or charismatic leaders. The reason was: the man in charge was competent. Ike knew what he was doing. He knew how to manage a crisis.

Progressives were bored out their mind. They prefer blood on the streets. They much prefer class struggle.

Williamson explains what did not happen during the Eisenhower years:

But of course, Eisenhower could afford to goof around on the golf course all day. Nothing of any interest or consequence happened during the years of his presidency, except: The death of Stalin and the Soviets’ acquisition of the hydrogen bomb, Germany’s ascension to NATO, the fall of Dien Bien Phu, the end of the Korean War and a near nuclear confrontation with China, the Suez crisis, the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh, the Congo crisis, revolution in Cuba, the Formosa Resolution, a military intervention in Lebanon, the U-2 incident, two major civil-rights acts, Brown vs. Board of Education, Little Rock, the further rise and chaotic fall of Joseph McCarthy, and the addition of two new states.

He concludes with the salient point:

The Eisenhower years were in fact crisis after crisis after crisis, and Eisenhower is the great illustration that great leadership often is leadership that nobody notices. It didn’t feel like the nation was in a constant state of crisis.

When someone is really in charge he does not have to pretend to be in charge. He does not have to mime being in charge. When he is charge no one notices.

Good point.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Last Word on Weed

Thank God for Charles Barkeley.

A few games before his first NFL pre-season game, Dallas Cowboys running back-- first round draft choice and future Emmitt Smith-- Ezekiel Elliot was caught visiting a marijuana dispensary in Seattle.

Need we say that Jerry Jones, owner of the team, was incensed. But, Charles Barkeley said it all in an interview on a Philadelphia radio station. When asked to comment on the Elliot situation, Barkeley said:

"That's just stupid, man. He's [Ezekiel Elliot] got to be smarter than that. I mean, that's just stupid. It's like Ryan Lochte, that's just stupid. Just tell the truth and apologize ?

"I'm like, c'mon man, you gotta be smarter than that. I'm not a marijuana guy, I think I've told you, I smoked pot like five times in my life. All it did was [make] me want to eat potato chips. It was a waste of my time. I didn't feel no euphoria, it didn't take me to no special place, I just said, 'Do we have any more potato chips in the state of Alabama or Pennsylvania?'

"This guy thinks he can just walk into a marijuana store, legal or not, it's just a bad look. Sometimes I watch sports today, I'm like, you've got to have some common sense."

There you have it, the ultimate purpose of marijuana: it makes you want to eat more potato chips. And while you're at it, Zeke, grow a brain. 

Israel and Its Arab Neighbors

You have been reading it on this blog for some time, but you can now also read it on the editorial page of the New York Times. In fairness, you have read it here because I pay attention to Caroline Glick and to the Israeli press.

The story is worth underscoring. Israel and its Arab neighbors are currently forging a new level of diplomatic ties, the better to fight against the axis of Iranian influence that the Obama administration has created.

The Times editorialized this morning:

Israel and Saudi Arabia have no formal diplomatic relations. The Saudis do not even recognize Israel as a state. Still, there is evidence that ties between Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states and Israel are not only improving but, after developing in secret over many years, could evolve into a more explicit alliance as a result of their mutual distrust of Iran. Better relations among these neighbors could put the chaotic Middle East on a more positive course. 

One needs to curb one’s enthusiasm and to leave open the possibility that this is not quite as good as it sounds. And yet, the Times is correct to suggest that these public meetings are highly significant:

It’s hard to tell sometimes whether and through whom the Saudi royal family is speaking, and some analysts do not view General Eshki as a serious interlocutor. But his visit to Jerusalem, which included a meeting with members of Parliament, suggested a new Saudi openness to testing how the public in both countries would react to overt contacts. Significantly, Saudi Arabia has also begun a media campaign in the kingdom, apparently to prepare its citizens for better relations with Israel.

Note also-- a point I have not seen reported elsewhere-- the new Saudi media campaign to prepare for better relations with Israel.

And the Times also adds that Egypt, under President el Sisi has been developing more notably positive relations with Israel:

Egypt has also been pursuing warmer ties with Israel. A week before the Saudi delegation arrived, Sameh Shoukry became the first foreign minister of Egypt to visit Israel in nine years. Although the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1979, the relationship never fulfilled its promise. However, ties have improved since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi became Egypt’s president in 2014, enabling greater security cooperation against Hamas in Gaza and the militants battling Egyptian troops in the Sinai.

One should mention that the Times has nothing to say about the role that Barack Obama has played in all this. But it does remain true to its leftist core by continuing to insist that the world needs to show deference to the Palestinian terrorist cause. And of course, the Times is happy to suggest that the Palestinians and the Israelis are equally uninterested in peace. In that the Gray Lady has erred grievously. The truth is, as long as the world continues to legitimate Palestinian grievances and Palestinian terrorism, there will be no peace.

The Times explained:

Unfortunately, neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians show interest in serious peace talks. And there are reasons to doubt that the Palestinians are the Arab countries’ real focus. Mr. Netanyahu, in fact, has made clear his preference for improving relations with the Arab states first, saying Israel would then be in a stronger position to make peace with the Palestinians later on.

Of course, improved relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors do not preclude a Palestinian peace deal. The danger is that these countries will find more value in mending ties with each other and stop there, thus allowing Palestinian grievances, a source of regional tension for decades, to continue to fester.

Of course, if Palestinian terrorists lose their financial support within the Arab world, they will be more likely to sue for peace. But if they continue to gain the support of misguided European and American leftists, they will continue their futile efforts.

Hillary's War Against Women

Speaking of the war against women, Paul Sperry reports on the extent to which Hillary Clinton, through the influence of her top aide Huma Abedin, has been in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood. And the extent to which this connection has caused Hillary herself to promote and to help propagate ideas that are not merely opposed to the feminism she espouses but completely contradict the norms of civilized morality and common decency.

Not only did Hillary visit a girls' school that Huma’s mother runs in Saudi Arabia, but she invited the same mother to participate in a State Department event for “leading thinkers” on women’s issues. Why would anyone grant legitimacy to such a woman? Why would anyone honor a woman who holds such blatantly misogynistic beliefs?

While we are here, remember what happened in 2002 when a fire broke out at another Saudi girls school in Mecca. The Telegraph reported:

SAUDI Arabia's religious police are reported to have forced schoolgirls back into a blazing building because they were not wearing Islamic headscarves and black robes.

Saudi newspapers said scuffles broke out between firemen and members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice who tried to keep the girls inside a burning school in Mecca.

Fifteen girls were killed as they stampeded to escape from the blazing building in the Muslim holy city. Saudi media and families of the victims have been angry over the deaths of the girls in the fire that gutted the school.

The resulting public criticism of the religious police, or mutaween, is highly unusual.

The English-language Saudi Gazette, in a front-page report yesterday quoted witnesses as saying that members of the religious police stopped men who tried to help the girls escape from the building, saying: "It is sinful to approach them."

Girls schools in Saudi Arabia do not promote women’s freedom or rights. And, for those who missed the point, Muslim dress is not a fashion statement.

Regarding Mrs. Abedin, Sperry reports:

As secretary of state, women’s-rights champ Hillary Clinton not only spoke at a Saudi girls school run by her top aide Huma Abedin’s ­anti-feminist mother, but Clinton invited the elder Abedin to participate in a State Department event for “leading thinkers” on women’s issues.

This happened despite ­evidence at the time that Saleha M. Abedin had explored the religious merits of sexual submissiveness, child marriage, lashings and stonings for adulterous women, and even the ­circumcision of girls.

The elder Abedin, whose daughter helps run Clinton’s presidential campaign, did take a pro-gender-equality stance on at least one issue: Muslim women’s right to participate in violent jihad alongside men.

As for the beliefs that Saleha Abedin espoused, they are contained in a book that she translated, edited and promoted. They are about as bad as you would think:

In 1999, Saleha translated and edited a book titled “Women in Islam: A Discourse in Rights and Obligations,”  published by the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs. Written by her Saudi colleague Fatima Naseef, the book explains that the stoning and lashing of adulterers, the killing of apostates, sexual submissiveness and even female genital mutilation are all permissible practices ­under Sharia law.

“The wife should satisfy her husband’s desire for sexual intercourse,” the book states on Page 202, even if she is not in the mood. “She has no right to abstain except for a reasonable cause or legal prohibition.”

But getting in the mood may be difficult. The book says female genital mutilation is permissible: ­“Cir­cumcision for women is ­allowed.”

The elder Abedin fully supports these horrors:

On the back cover, Saleha says she is “pleased to launch” the book as part of a series on the study of women’s rights in Islam sponsored by the International Islamic Committee for Woman and Child (IICWC), for which she is listed as chairperson.

Founded by Huma’s mom, the Cairo-based IICWC has advocated for the repeal of Egypt’s Mubarak-era laws in favor of implementing Sharia law, which could allow female genital mutilation, child marriage and marital rape.
As mentioned yesterday, the Muslim Brotherhood promoted female genital mutilation in Egypt and strongly opposed the Mubarak regime for trying to put an end to it.

Despite all this, Huma Abedin in 2010 arranged for Clinton, then the secretary of state, to travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to meet with her mother and speak at a girls school she founded and helps run as dean. Speaking to a roomful of girls, Clinton said Americans have to stop stereotyping Saudi women as oppressed, before assuring the audience that not all American women go “around in a bikini bathing suit.”

While there, Clinton formed a partnership with Saleha’s Dar al-Hekma college called the US-Saudi Women’s Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, and prom­ised to reverse post-9/11 curbs on Saudi student visas to America.

The next year, Clinton invited Saleha and the president of the Saudi school to Washington to participate in a State Department colloquium on women, as revealed by internal emails released in response to a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch.

Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill told the Post that while Huma Abedin was in fact listed as an editorial staffer of her mother’s radical journal from 1996 to 2008, she didn’t really do anything for the publication in her long tenure there.

Asked if Clinton regrets honoring the Islamist mother and bestowing ­legitimacy on her extreme views, Merrill had no comment.

Do I even need to mention the hue and cry that would have greeted this association if the candidate had been a Republican. The double standard practiced by the American media is so blatant that no one even notices any more. 

When He Doesn't Call Back

What hath feminism wrought?

Olivia Goldhill is standing tall and proud. She correctly remarks that feminism has overthrown courtship customs that have existed for centuries. She apparently missed the point, made by yours truly and by Camille Paglia, that traditional courtship empowers women.

If your mind does not veer too close to the paranoid you will have figured out that courtship and dating could not have evolved without the active participation of women. More so since they are in charge of the game. Even more so since, when it comes to romance women have home field advantage.

So if you think that traditional courtship was a vast patriarchal conspiracy, you have missed the point entirely. And you have grievously insulted all the women who created and fostered the custom.

Goldhill is down on dating because she has bought the party line that considers it sexist. Thereby she places herself among those whose minds have not gotten beyond the name-calling state of intellectual development:

With feminism almost universally embraced, I had long assumed that anyone I’d be interested in hanging out with would know that the traditional, heterosexual dating rules are ridiculous. And why play some outdated game when you’ve absolutely no intention of starting a serious relationship?

But then, since Goldhill had overcome dating, she found herself hooking up. Truth be told, like it or not, the hookup culture—see yesterday’s post—arose after feminists rejected traditional courtship. But, hooking up does not always produce the desired outcome. It is decidedly bad for women. Worse yet, as everyone but Goldhill knows, when you hook up with whomever you might never see him again.

She offers us her anguish:

The first time I met someone I was interested in post-break-up, none of those rules were relevant. We had sex, texted, and hung out without counting the hours between messages or playing hard to get. The second time, however, I was not so lucky. In a scenario familiar to millions of people, yet honestly surprising to me, I had sex with a guy (we’ll call him Dan) and never heard from him again. I didn’t know him well and certainly wasn’t emotionally invested, but the interaction still rankled me. We’d got on incredibly well and, for all the nonchalance endemic to casual hook ups, sex is an unavoidably intimate experience. The radio silence post-coitus seemed strangely cold.

And she continues, to wring her experience through her feminist mind:

Ultimately, it seems women-whom-you’ve-had-sex-with are the only category of people straight men aren’t expected to treat cordially. This deep-seated sexism comes alongside various other problematic assumptions—that sex is something women give to men, that women always want relationships, that talking about emotions in connection to sex is “crazy”—that still seem to permeate heterosexual sexual relations. And that left me, a hard-core feminist in 2016, feeling like a cow that had given away the milk for free.

Glad I didn’t call her a cow. You can imagine the outrage.

Anyway, she says that men do not call a woman they barely know and who has provided a sexual service because they are sexist. Oh really. Is that the best she can do? Young Olivia Goldhill has been bragging about how feminism has destroyed common courtesy, which is fundamental to courtship, and then she complains that her latest hookup, call him Dan, was discourteous and did not call her back.

You cannot, Olivia dear, have it both ways. The fact of the matter is, courtship existed to ensure, as much as possible, that you would be having sex with someone you know. Not only that, but that you would await some level of commitment before giving it away. If you do not act like a lady you cannot expect him to act like a gentleman. How about a little coherent thought?

Goldhill has every right to behave as she wishes. No one would reproach her for doing as she pleases. And yet, she does not confer the same right on her hookup. She insists that he show her proper respect, and fails to understand that showing respect is part of the courtship game that feminists destroyed. She doesn't just want to do what she wants, but she insists that other people respect her for it. She is arguing for mind control.

Anyone who has is able to reason like an adult—and that includes most mothers of adolescent and adult daughters-- will tell Goldhill that she should act as though she respects herself. Because if she acts as though she does not respect herself, why would any man respect her?

Blaming it on sexism is shifting the blame. And disempowering women. One notes, with chagrin, that feminism, in its radical fervor, has overthrown traditional customs and beliefs. As such, it has done women no favors. In place of the cordial and perhaps even awkward game of courtship—see Jane Austen—it has given women the freedom to hook up and it has given men the freedom to treat women with disrespect. Moreover, in its constant assault on men’s character, its constant accusations of sexism—these are certainly not limited to the dating world—it has produced a hostile cultural environment.

And, why would anyone imagine that men will not retaliate by treating women with something less than respect. Since physical retaliation is a criminal action, men have found other ways to mistreat women—by not calling them in the morning, by using them and discarding them.

If you think that men are going to sit back and take the hostility and the abuse, the assaults on their character and dignity, you are wrong. It is insulting and offensive. It has taught men the power of ghosting.

One might not like the way that men treat women, but feminists should cease and desist from denouncing men as sexist and should start acting as though they respect themselves. At that point, men will be far more likely to show them more respect. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Obama Submits to the Ayatollahs

So many Americans are so dissatisfied with the two current candidates for the presidency that they are missing the real story. They ought to be horrified at the way Barack Obama has conducted his presidency. For whatever reason, they are not. The media will not allow them to do so.

And yet, the two current candidates rose up in the Age of Obama. If you think that that is a coincidence, think again.

Today’s topic, scrupulously ignored by the media and the presidential candidates, is Obama’s conduct of the relationship with Iran. Believing that he had to get a deal with the ayatollahs at any price, our bumbling president, a man who was grossly unprepared to conduct foreign or any other kind of policy, was so desperate that he allowed himself to be outmaneuvered and humiliated. When the president allows himself to be humiliated the nation is humiliated also. If you were wondering why so many people are so angry, it’s the place to look.

The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon has written a book about Obama and Iran. Eli Lake has reviewed the book for the Daily Beast. 

It all began with the uprising that followed the stolen Iranian election in 2009. As opposed to the Arab Spring where the Obama administration sided with the protesters and particularly with the Muslim Brotherhood, it refused to do anything to support the rebellious masses of Iranians in 2009.

Eli Lake explains:

One of the great hypotheticals of Barack Obama's presidency involves the Iranian uprising that began on June 12, 2009, after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced the winner of contested presidential elections. What if the president had done more to help the protesters when the regime appeared to be teetering?

It's well known he was slow to react. Obama publicly downplayed the prospect of real change at first, saying the candidates whom hundreds of thousands of Iranians were risking their lives to support did not represent fundamental change. When he finally did speak out, he couldn't bring himself to say the election was stolen: "The world is watching and inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was."

But Obama wasn't just reluctant to show solidarity in 2009, he feared the demonstrations would sabotage his secret outreach to Iran. In his new book, "The Iran Wars," Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon uncovers new details on how far Obama went to avoid helping Iran's green movement. Behind the scenes, Obama overruled advisers who wanted to do what America had done at similar transitions from dictatorship to democracy, and signal America's support.

Obama’s advisers wanted to support and to facilitate a transition to democracy. Our nation had done so on many previous occasions. The president overruled them. Either he had no problem with the ayatollahs or he was in thrall to a real estate developer named Valerie Jarrett. Or both.

What did the administration do?

Solomon reports that Obama ordered the CIA to sever contacts it had with the green movement's supporters. "The Agency has contingency plans for supporting democratic uprisings anywhere in the world. This includes providing dissidents with communications, money, and in extreme cases even arms," Solomon writes. "But in this case the White House ordered it to stand down."

At the time, Solomon reports, Obama's aides received mixed messages. Members of the Iranian diaspora wanted the president to support the uprisings. Dissident Iranians from inside the country said such support would be the kiss of death. In the end, Obama did nothing, and Iran's supreme leader blamed him anyway for fomenting the revolt.

Obama from the beginning of his presidency tried to turn the country's ruling clerics from foes to friends. It was an obsession. And even though the president would impose severe sanctions on the country's economy at the end of his first term and beginning of his second, from the start of his presidency, Obama made it clear the U.S. did not seek regime change for Iran.  

Why did Obama want to make the ayatollahs into friends? Apparently, if George W. saw them as members of the axis of evil, the deep thinking Obama concluded that they must be good. The enemy of my enemy… or something like that.

Clearly, he did not care that they were the leading state sponsor of terrorism. He did not think of how the world would react to see the United States providing support, recognition and money to a state sponsor of terrorism. Did Obama green light Muslim terrorism?

What did Obama do? Lake reports:

As Solomon reports, Obama ended U.S. programs to document Iranian human rights abuses. He wrote personal letters to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei assuring him the U.S. was not trying to overthrow him. Obama repeatedly stressed his respect for the regime in his statements marking Iran's annual Nowruz celebration.

His quest to engage the mullahs seems to have influenced Obama's decision-making on other issues too. When he walked away from his red line against Syria's use of chemical weapons in 2013, Solomon reports, both U.S. and Iranian officials had told him that nuclear negotiations would be halted if he intervened against Bashar al-Assad.

And, we must underscore that Obama let the situation in Syria turn into an unmitigated horror because the Iranians told him not to intervene. What else were you expecting from Jeremiah Wright’s protégé?

Finally, when it came to negotiating the nuclear deal, the Americans were no match for the Iranians:

Eventually, the Iranians wore down the U.S. delegation. At the beginning of the talks in 2013, the U.S. position was for Iran to dismantle much of its nuclear infrastructure. By the end of the talks in 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry and his team "agreed that Iran would then be allowed to build an industrial-scale nuclear program, with hundreds of thousands of machines, after a ten year period of restraint."

Other U.S. red lines were demolished too. The final deal would allow the U.N. ban on Iranian missile development to phase out after eight years, and the arms embargo against Iran to expire after five. Iran would not have to acknowledge that it had tried to develop a nuclear weapon, even though samples the Iranians collected at its Parchin facility found evidence of man-made uranium.

America gave away the store and told the Iranians that they could do as they pleased, as long as Obama’s successors would have to deal with it.

The diplomacy gave us something like a deal. The Iranians correctly concluded that Obama had granted them power, prestige and legitimacy, to say nothing of a free hand in promoting more terrorism and in developing more advanced weapons to use against the West and against Israel. And of course, the deal has set in motion a process that will most likely lead to nuclear proliferation in the region.

Lake concludes:

Kerry's diplomacy succeeded. But the Middle East got war nonetheless. "The Revolutionary Guard continues to develop increasingly sophisticated weapons systems, including ballistic missiles inscribed with threats against Israel on their nose cones," Solomon writes in the book's concluding chapter. "Khamenei and other revolutionary leaders, meanwhile, fine-tune their rhetorical attacks against the United States, seeming to need the American threat to justify their existence." 

There was a chance for a better outcome. There is no guarantee that an Obama intervention would have been able to topple Khamenei back in 2009, when his people flooded the streets to protest an election the American president wouldn't say was stolen. But it was worth a try. Imagine if that uprising had succeeded. Perhaps then a nuclear deal could have brought about a real peace. Instead, Obama spent his presidency misunderstanding Iran's dictator, assuring the supreme leader America wouldn't aid his citizens when they tried to change the regime that oppresses them to this day.

It’s the Age of Obama. If you support the president  you are in favor of coddling terrorists and defending one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. The story is out there. Nearly everyone is ignoring it.