Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Forecasting the Trump Economy

Over at the Zero Hedge blog, Tyler Durden quotes a comment that was added to the Texas Outlook Manufacturing Survey, a report issued by the Dallas Fed..

Durden says that these 42 words summarize what will happen in the next 6 to 12 months. Thus, we should take them seriously:

President Trump looks to do things that will be favorable for business, which would improve employment and growth if successful. However, protesters are all over the place, so I tend to think that will cause trouble for the country and for business.

There you have it. But, what do you really have? You have an interesting sidelight on the current political circus.

On the one hand the Republicans are in charge of everything. Once they get the next Supreme Court justice confirmed they will control the three branches of the federal government. They control most of the state governments too.

This comports a risk. When you are in charge of everything, you become responsible for whatever comes to pass. If the world comes to an end, if the economy falls apart, if terrorists attack the homeland… there is no one else to blame. If bad things happen, Trump and his Republican colleagues will be hung out to dry.

And yet, if ISIS is defeated, if Mexico pays for the wall, if the economy comes roaring back, if employment opportunities miraculously appear… Trump will look like a conquering hero. The Democratic Party will be become even more irrelevant than it is today..

Thus, Democrats have a vested interest in Trump’s failure. But, they do not want to have their own fingerprints on the failure.

If protests disrupt business and the economy; if Senate Democrats make it more difficult for Trump to govern… they will put themselves in the line of fire. The Trump administration will blame the Democrats for tanking the economy and for compromising national security.

It’s a gamble. It shows us that a violent overflow of powerful emotion often boomerangs. Expressions of extreme emotion are generally ill-advised—mostly because they make you look angrily histrionic, not consequential. They make you look as though you are off on your own anger trip and have nothing substantive to offer. They also make you look like you are willing to deconstruct the nation in order to make enhance your own political standing.

Is It Genesis or the Apocalypse?

The Trump administration is barely ten days old and already America seems to have lost the faculty of Reason. Emotion is running wild. Charges and countercharges are flying through the airwaves. Protesters are out en masse. News media are saturated with public drama. You would think that the end is nigh, that the apocalypse is just around the corner.

Famed economic historian Niall Ferguson is trying to direct some light into the darkness. Admittedly, it is a tall order, but someone had to do it. By his reading, the Trump administration is enacting the Book of Genesis while Trump’s opponents are trapped in the Book of Revelation. 

Or else, as I myself have presciently opined, the politically correct see Donald Trump as the Antichrist. They believe that if they can destroy him we will see the Second Coming of Jesus and the Heavenly City will descend upon the earth, bring liberty and justice to all.

There, that explains it all. Competing narratives. Since neither corresponds to the facts and since neither is fact-driven, they will never find common ground. It would be helpful, Ferguson opines, if people started thinking rationally, even suspending disbelief until we now the outcomes of the Trump policies.

Apocalyptic thinkers are up in arms about Trump’s executive orders. Yet, when Barack Obama was ruling by executive orders they did not see an imminent autocracy. They saw a perfectly clear-headed thinker. When Obama banned some immigration from seven countries, his supporters thought it was a great idea. Chuck Schumer praised it. When Trump banned some immigration from the same seven countries, his detractors took to the streets and the airports to protest the end of America as they knew it.

Trump is running what looks like a reality show. He seems happy to provoke his enemies. Rope-a-dope, anyone?

His detractors are looking completely unhinged. How many times can you call someone Hitler? Eventually, they will run out of insults. Not because they do not feel very deeply, but because deep feelings are seriously overrated and because they are rhetorically challenged.

Ferguson describes the activities:

Each day brings news of fresh executive orders, interviews, tweets. Each day the media shoot back at Trump. To read some of the press coverage of Trump’s first week, you would think the Apocalypse was imminent. Indeed, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists last week moved its famous Dooomsday Clock forward to two and a half minutes to midnight. Yet in issuing executive orders, Trump is merely following the precedent set by the previous occupant of the White House. The hysterical over-reaction of the media is fresh proof that Trump is a self-publicist of prodigious instinctive talent.

What’s a rational thinker to do? Perhaps, Ferguson says, one can start by ignoring what Trump says and watching what he does. The important point is what the executive orders produce. We should judge policy by its outcomes, not by the hue and cry in the media.

In Ferguson’s words:

I have to confess I enjoy the entertainment for no other reason than that it drives the most tedious people in America to distraction. But the real point is not what Trump says. It is what his administration does.

On that score, no one really knows what the flurry of executive orders, designed primarily to de-Obamify the government, will produce.

Ferguson lists the orders and explains that each may produce one or another outcome:

It may be that the net result of the Republican corporate tax reform will be economically disruptive, increasing the deficit and inflation. On the other hand, it may be that the repatriation of corporate capital will generate more revenue than anyone expects.

And also:

It may be that all the regulations introduced since the 1980s are all that stands between us and environmental and financial disaster. On the other hand, it may be that most of this regulation was merely a bureaucratic scam and a leaden weight on small and medium-sized businesses.

And also:

It may be that a trade war will break out between the United States and China, one that will hurt us almost as much as them. On the other hand, it may be that the Chinese will end up rolling over in the face of Trump’s aggressive negotiating tactics because their economic and political position is much weaker than most people appreciate.

He continues:

And it may be that challenging the globalized economic order is a fool’s errand that will end up hurting everybody, including ordinary Americans, by raising consumer prices. On the other hand, it may be that globalization had overshot, and it was high time we dialed back the volume of migration, off-shoring of jobs and cross-border investment.

The short conclusion is that we do not yet know what all of these executive actions will produce. For that we will need to show some patience and wait.

Ferguson is saying that the administration is neither Genesis nor Revelation. True enough, an inexperienced executive has been making serious mistakes, especially with his roll out of  some executive orders.

But it is also true that we should do better than to make our political life into public drama. Especially when that drama accomplishes little more than allowing the protesters to let off steam.

In Ferguson’s words:

The real question is: Can his administration — using the usual cumbersome channels — enact and implement reforms that will fundamentally improve the lives of ordinary Americans?

The answer to that question will not be found in Trump’s Book of Genesis. But I doubt very much it is in the liberals’ Book of Revelation either.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Gender Disparity in the Therapy World

Equality is a mirage. Equal distribution of males and females in business and the professions is an illusion.

Some people believe that there should be an equal number of men and women in all businesses and professions. They also believe that there should be an equal number of male and female mothers, fathers and homemakers.

Unless the day arrives when government bureaucrats choose your career for you, it will never happen. We and not only we have often noted that when too many females enter a profession, men flee it and the profession becomes a pink ghetto. In time it  has a large majority of women.

Take the therapy profession. In Great Britain today the profession is 15% male and 85% female. Roughly the same percentages pertain to psychology majors, so the therapy world is destined to become a more maternal space where patients can get a female perspective on the world and on human experience. Call it girl power, if you must, but it alienates men and makes the clientele overwhelmingly female. Link here.

The result: women patients go to female therapists and talk about their feelings. Potential male patients avoid the process altogether. It sounds markedly sexist. Besides, why should it be that in a time when women are increasingly involved in the marketplace they are being enticed to retreat into their minds? Why shouldn’t they learn how to deal with real world problems? Could it be that female therapists do not know anything about real world problems, and thus are consigning their female patients to a special kind of dysfunctionality?

By now, everyone knows about the gender disparity in the therapy world. Men in particular are no longer going to therapy. They understand that women want them to get in touch with their feelings, thus to get in touch with their feminine sides. They have no interest in the enterprise.  They know that a man who is in touch with his feminine side is going to be less attractive to women. He will be less able to compete in the marketplace, in the world where male status is determined.

Men also understand that many male therapists have drunk the same Kool-Aid and have bought into the feminization project that has come to infect therapy.

The consequences are dire. In Great Britain men are three times more likely than women to commit suicide and are far less likely to seek help in therapy. There suicide is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 45.

Dr. John Barry of the University College London explains:

Men are three times more likely to kill themselves, yet women are 50% more likely to seek professional help before taking their own lives. We know that 75% of women sought help before they committed suicide, versus only half of men.

“So we looked at the barriers to men getting help and found that some 16.5% of men wanted to see a male therapist. That means more men might get help if they were more able to talk to a man.”

It does not correlate with the gender neutered ideology that infests so many postmodern minds, but a male patient will bond with a man in ways that he will not bond with a woman. And a female therapist might very well disparage male bonding methods.

Barry explains the difference:

In therapy, men often talk about football, or jokey banter, which female therapists can interpret as men not taking therapy seriously. But male therapists know this is part of the trust-building process. Listen and talk to them as men, and it can make a huge difference.

Part of the question then becomes, how many female therapists respect men as men? To be gender neutral, how many male therapists respect men as men? How many therapists believe that masculinity is an illness that needs to be cured?

After all, female therapists are not merely female therapists. They are likely to be feminists too. A profession that is supposedly grounded in science seems increasingly to be driven by ideology. Many feminists, especially today’s more politically correct variety, believe that men, by virtue of being men, suffer from an illness and need to be cured. Can you blame any man from not wanting to place his mind in the care of ideologues masquerading as professionals.

Given that therapy has been closed to them, how do men cope with emotional distress. Barry tells us:

When men are depressed we sleep less, become irritable, abuse drink and drugs, play video games, use sex or pornography more, become aggressive, fight.

People don’t sympathise with men who are depressed because, frankly, often men act like idiots. So when we hear that men commit suicide at three times the rate that women do, you might be forgiven for thinking ‘so what – that’s three times fewer idiots on the planet'

Obviously, there’s more to it than self-destruction. Men tend to self-medicate—if you will—with alcohol, sports and pornography. But, they might also vent their frustrations and their anger by aggressive behavior… and not merely against men.

Be careful what you wish for….

Multikultistan Revisited

Evidently, the rollout of Friday’s Trump administration immigration order left a great deal to be desired. The Wall Street Journal summarized the problems:

President Trump seems determined to conduct a shock and awe campaign to fulfill his campaign promises as quickly as possible, while dealing with the consequences later. This may work for a pipeline approval, but the bonfire over his executive order on refugees shows that government by deliberate disruption can blow up in damaging ways.

Legions of Trump-haters have taken to the nation’s airports to welcome Muslim refugees to America. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has opened his arms to the refugees. To be fair, this was before a refugee shot up a mosque in Quebec City yesterday… but we would not want to allow that to prevent us from asserting our values.

Back in the day it was commonly understood that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open arms policy had caused a major social calamity, to say nothing of a crime wave. Through our idealistic lenses we see the refugees as displaced peoples seeking refuge.

In all likelihood they see themselves as the first wave of an invading army. The vast majority of them have no interest in assimilating. They have no real interest in working. They want the West to submit to their god. It’s their religion, after all. Ignore it at your peril.

Not all cultures are the same. Not all cultures are created equal. Refugees in Sweden have turned that country into the rape capital of the Western world. If that is what you want, embrace it. But, don’t accuse those who want to avoid it with a lack of virtue.

For those with a short memory, I quote a Wikileaks document produced for John Podesta—yes, that John Podesta—by a man living in the Netherlands, a man who calls himself Orca. I have previously posted about this. Here is an excerpt, by Orca:

Muslim Immigration and Multicultural Madness have left a trail of misery and mayhem across Germany - with far worse to come because of demographics ·

Muslims make up only 9% of Berlin's population, yet account for 70% of young repeat criminals, revealed Berlin public prosecutor Roman Reusch http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-51448987.html. To be more precise, 46% of Berlin's juvenile serial criminals are of Arab descent, while 33% of them have Turkish ancestry http://www.bz-berlin.de/archiv/jugendkriminalitaet-article961342.html.

In an un-German display of harsh-truth telling, Reusch said in Der Spiegel that "in parts [of Berlin], the population consist almost exclusively of problem cases." As he tells it, immigrant children as young as six or seven years old turn to crime and grow up to see honest hard-working people as targets - walking sources of easy money. German society is completely powerless in the face of growing ruthless violence and crime. To describe the German police and criminal-justice system as a big joke would be unfair to big jokes. You won't be surprised to hear that the outspoken public prosecutor has meanwhile been sacked from his job and banned from talking to the media.

The German police admits that large immigrant areas of Berlin, Hamburg, the Ruhr Area, etc. have become police no-go areas, where criminals and extremists have free reign. Within no time at all, a lone police patrol car making a foray into Germany's ethnic war zones finds itself surrounded by a baying lynch mob, much like US soldiers in Baghdad at the height of the troubles, added Roman Reusch.

Yesterday, Roger Simon raised the same question:

You can be a virtue-signaling moral narcissist and get all exercised about Donald Trump's executive order suspending visas from seven primarily Muslim countries for the next ninety days, but I have a question for you: what do we do about Islam?

The president of Egypt is alarmed by the current state of Islam. He has called for a Reformation. Simon wrote:

… at least one interested party -- the current president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi -- has declared bluntly that his religion is in dire need of a reformation. Chances are he knows more about Islam than you. He certainly does than me.  Also, he lives in a hellacious region of the world dominated by that religion and its violent ideology.

As for the statistics, Simon kindly provided them:

Why is it that since 9/11/2001 there he have been 30,209 terror attacks in the name of Allah?  There have been 38 in the last six days alone, resulting in 425 killed and 419 injured. There were also nine suicide bombings during that time frame.

After all, this comes after a Woman’s March that was led by an Islamist who does not have warm and fuzzy feelings toward people who disagree with her.

In Simon’s words:

No, ladies and gentleman, pretend though it's otherwise, we do have an Islam problem, all of us.  Europe as we knew it growing up is practically gone and our society has been badly infected. When a massive march of American women is led by a Muslim woman who insists she wants to "take the vagina away" of one of the great freedom fighters of our time, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman who herself has suffered from genital mutilation, we know things have come to a drastic pass.

[Correction: First reports declared that there were two shooters in the Quebec City attack on a mosque. One of them was a Muslim. Later reports said that there was only one shooter, a white nationalist bigot. I stand corrected.]

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Selective Outrage

If you are reading the press you have the impression that the American people are rising up en masse to protest Donald Trump’s recent order restricting immigration from certain Muslim countries.

About which, Katie Hopkins offers some sobering words in The Daily Mail. I quote them without commentary:

Have you noticed? There has been more outrage from the left over Trump’s so-called Muslim ban, than over terror itself.

More gnashing of gums and loud wailing, more placards decrying the plight of a few tourists and travellers, than over the bodies blown apart by Islamic extremists at Brussels airport in March last year.

So much collective outrage, in fact, I wonder how on earth a ban imposed by 16 countries on Israeli citizens has remained in place for quite so long with such quiet acceptance….

What has led us to this latest executive order is not only Islamic extremists knifing, shooting, stabbing and exploding peaceful citizens in the West, but also the abject failure of the wider Muslim community to denounce these vile acts.

It is troubling to many that after each terrorist act there is largely silence from the families and communities that raised the terrorists and from the mosques that they frequented. Imams seldom condemn terror. And in their silence, in the void, acceptance, encouragement even, is assumed.

Feel Your Feelings, You Junkyard Robot

If you want to know what I really, really feel, I feel sorry for letter writer: Wanting to Feel Worthy. In a letter she wrote to New York Magazine’s advice column, Ask Polly, she shared her whiny self-torment.

In the most pertinent sense, her letter answers her question. Given how self-absorbed she is, it is no surprise that her relationships are so faulty and that men are not lining up to invite her on dates. In truth, they are running the other way.

I feel especially sorry for WFW because, after all, her letter contains a veiled reproach. If she is—perish the thought—a regular reader of Ask Polly, she has undoubtedly heard the drumbeat: Get thee to a therapist.

Polly is a living breathing marketing campaign for therapy, perhaps because it got her a gig at New York Magazine. Yet, she cannot offer any cogent advice, so we should consider her a casualty of therapy. As I said, for real advice, hie thee to Miss Manners. Or to the New York Times's, The Ethicist and Social Qs.

For Polly’s sake I hope she learns from letter writers like this one and stops seducing gullible young people into getting involved in a process that is obviously not helping.

What else can you conclude by reading the plaintive wails of WFW:

I’m writing you from a far-off land known as a personal journey. I started going to therapy about a year and a half ago as a way to really work on myself, and for the most part it’s helping. I am definitely more self-aware of my emotions and I’m coming to understand a lot about who I am. 

Lo and behold, WFW has gotten in touch with her feelings. She thinks it has been helping her, because what else can she say. She has blindly followed Polly’s advice and cannot admit openly that it has produced a calamity. All that supposed self-awareness is worth precisely nothing.

She seems to understand that getting in touch with one’s feelings makes one markedly self-absorbed and self-involved. She skips effortlessly from real world events to her feelings. She never asks how she comes across to other people. Do they see her as a self-absorbed narcissist or as a loving and caring friend?

WFW continues:

I’ve always operated from a place of self-loathing. Sometimes it’s dull, just simmering there waiting to come out at a party or during a work meeting. Other times, like when a guy cancels a date or ghosts me, it bubbles over like lava and consumes every part of me. I sob because I feel so unlovable or incompetent. I tell myself that it makes sense that I didn’t get that promotion or that third date — because why on earth would I get it over someone else?

She sobs. Note the mid-Victorian vocabulary. Who today still sobs?

Apparently, WFW lacks self-confidence and self-respect. This should not surprise us. Her Polly-recommended therapist has rendered her dysfunctional. Her therapist has taught her to retreat from the world into her mind. The therapist has also taught her to be depressed. Clearly, this therapist has no idea of how to deal with depression. Why would she? She is hard at work producing it.

WFW writes:

When will I actually start feeling worthy of love and validation from men, from my career, from my friends, and, most importantly, from myself? I know that I am worthy of it — I just don’t believe it. I don’t feel it. It doesn’t sit with me comfortably. And it’s starting to feel like this journey I’ve embarked on is more of a failed mission.

Thank God, here she is correct. It is a failed mission. She ought to get out of her mind and into her life. Still, she has no sense of how her behavior affects her career or romantic prospects. She is off on a spiritual journey, one that, if I may, used to be the province of medieval mystics. The difference is that when the mystics got into their mind, they were seeking God, not self-absorption.

What does Polly offer a woman who mistakenly took Polly’s advice? She tells her to feel her feelings. Wow! It takes your breath away.

Think about it this way. This is being called a paramedical treatment. Our insurance companies are paying for it. Our representatives are voting for more of it. Why are they paying for something that does not improve anyone’s life?

Polly also notes that the woman has learned through therapy to blame herself for everything that happens to her. She is wallowing in guilt. She does not care about how she looks to others. Thus, she does not care about her behavior. I have warned about this on numerous occasions for many years, so I do not feel personally derelict.

Anyway, Polly says this:

In order to feel worthy, you have to feel, period. Feel what you feel first, without interpretation. Right now, your interpretations are taking over the whole picture. For example: (1) A guy ghosts you. (2) You feel disappointed. (3) You think, This proves that I am unlovable and incompetent. (4) You sob and feel terrible over how unlovable and incompetent you are. Whenever you feel sad or disappointed or angry, your brain steps in and tells you that it’s your fault. Emotions are bad. Emotions mean that you’re messing up.

If you are going to feel your feelings, why shouldn’t you feel the bad ones with the good ones? What does it mean to feel your feelings if you only do so selectively. This point notwithstanding, Polly is showing us the way many therapy patients learn to feel and to think.

As you know, Polly will eventually get into personal confession mode and regale us with her own experiences. Thereby, she will be showing that she does not care about WFW unless she can see the problem as a function of her own therapy. Before that, allow her to offer some insights.

Polly writes:

You feel bad, you hate yourself for feeling bad, and you tell yourself that you’re destined to feel bad forever because you’re unworthy and weak and doomed to be rejected over and over again. Likewise with your friends: You need to step out of the way and let them enjoy their time together. You’ll only make things bad for them. Instead of thinking, Jesus, I’m valued enough that these two people want to spend time with me, you think, They’re just doing me a favor because I’m a loser. They should just cut me out. That’s the only rational thing to do, since I’m unlovable.

When you’re inventing such extreme interpretations, when you give yourself shit just for existing, when you tell yourself that you’re a blight on the face of the earth and everyone would be better off without you, it’s natural that you’d grow to hate your feelings. Eventually, it’s not just the feelings you have to fear, it’s the miserable interpretation and the self-hatred that accompany them.

It’s not just that WFW is feeling her feelings. She is doing what therapy taught her to do. She is getting in touch with all of her feelings, good and bad. As long as WFW is lost in her mind, off on her own journey of supposed self-discovery she will be prey to her feelings, or to what she takes to be her feelings.

As often happens in these columns, we know next to nothing about the letter writer. We do not know how she functions in the world or how she relates to other people. We know how she feels and we know how she interprets those feelings, but we do not know what provoked those feelings. We do not know what those feelings are telling her about her about the way she behaves toward other people.

Without knowing any of those things, we really know nothing. That is, we only know that her therapist is not helping her. And that Polly, offering a spoonful of drool about feeling her feelings is not very much better.

Polly writes as though she is addressing a child:

Feelings are scary, but if you stay vulnerable to them, if you refuse to apply the same old nonsensical stories to them (I feel feelings, therefore I am unlovable, therefore no one wants me around), if you reject those stories outright (which includes rejecting people who tell you those stories), if you tell new, powerful, brilliant, exciting stories about what it means to feel and what you can build from feelings, then … well, then you get to be a formidable motherfucking junk robot who roams the earth, busting heads and singing loud robot songs and kicking bitchy junkyard robot ass in general.

Surely, becoming a junkyard robot will improve your relationships. It humanizes you. Everyone wants to be friends with a junkyard robot. Everyone wants to date one too. What's wrong with being a junkyard dog?

Also, Polly recommends a class in storytelling. Now, today’s quiz question: Who was it who said that therapy is overpriced storytelling? You guessed it: I did.

As long as WFW is not in the game, as long as she does not have real relationships with real people, as long as she is lost in her mind, storytelling will only alienate her further. It will make her relationships into material and will cause her to ignore what works in reality in favor of what works in a fictional narrative.

Don’t these people know that the truth value of a fiction does not depend on any reference to reality? It doesn’t depend on whether the conclusions you draw are useful or useless. Stories have their own internal logic and coherence. They have their own consistency, a consistency that has nothing to do with your life. They will alienate you from your friends, get you lost in your mind and turn you into a junkyard robot?

Tell me, again, why insurance companies are paying for this.

How to Ration Medical Care

Everyone but Paul Krugman knows that socialized medicine means rationed medical care. You cannot provide high quality affordable medical care to everyone without going bankrupt.

Or so it would appear. Now, we read in the Guardian, hardly a shill for the alt-right—that the Great Britain’s National Health Service will be rationing hip and knee replacements. People will be screened according to their level of pain.

The Guardian reports:

A senior NHS official has admitted that funding shortages mean hip and knee replacements will have to be rationed according to pain levels in some parts of the country.

Three clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in the West Midlands have proposed reducing the number of people who qualify for hip replacements by 12%, and knee replacements by 19%. To qualify under the proposed rules, patients would need to have such severe levels of pain that they could not sleep or carry out daily tasks.

Julie Wood, the chief executive of the NHS Clinical Commissioners, said the proposal was a response to financial pressures.

“Clearly the NHS doesn’t have unlimited resources,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programe. “And it has to ensure that patients get the best possible care against a backdrop of spiralling demand and increasing financial pressures.”

This raises a larger, and perhaps pertinent question. How do you compare his pain with hers? How do you know who is in the most pain? Don’t we know that some people have more tolerance for pain and that some people have less? Some people tough it out. Some people cannot. Some people have learned mental maneuvers to diminish pain. Some people might even do the opposite.

If one criterion is whether or not pain causes you to lose sleep, how do you distinguish between those who cannot sleep through the pain and those who are chronic insomniacs?

The brief point is this: the NHS, the crowning glory of Britain’s foray into socialism, is going to ration medical care on partially subjective grounds. Admittedly, some politicians claim that they can feel your pain. They cannot. They are lying to you. Otherwise they might have be able to find a job working for the NHS.

Stop Funding Terrorism

Stop the funds and you stop the terror.  It feels like a quaint idea, so easy to understand that many people believe that it cannot possibly be true.

Barack Obama did not believe it. Not only did he provide major cash infusions to Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism, but he tried on his last day to support Palestinian terrorism by funneling money to the Palestinian Authority. One notes that those who are up in arms about the Trump executive order on immigration did not utter a peep about the Obama administration’s funding of terrorism. For that matter they said nothing when the Bush administration did the same.

David Aufhauser and Sander Gerber explained Obama’s last-day action. And they add that the Trump administration is not allowing the transfer to take place:

In the twilight hours of the Obama administration, Secretary of State John Kerry authorized the transfer of $221 million to the Palestinian Authority—in violation of an informal agreement with Congress not to do so. Fortunately, President Trump stopped the transfer before the money left America’s shores. Now he has the opportunity—and the responsibility—to do more.

Why has the American government been funding the Palestinian Authority, allied as it is with Hamas? Aufhauser and Gerber explain:

Over the past 10 years, Washington has provided more than $4 billion in foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority. The goal has been to promote a government in the Palestinian territories capable of assuming the responsibilities of a sovereign state, including the recognition of the state of Israel as a legitimate member of the community of nations. The aid has focused principally on security and criminal-justice programs, U.S. Agency for International Development sponsored assistance for schools, health clinics, water and economic development, and generalized support for the Palestinian Authority’s budget. But unlike the many nongovernmental organizations that contribute charitable funds to the region, American assistance programs, while obliged to vet how the money is spent, have yet to ensure effectively that taxpayer dollars are not diverted to support acts of terror.

It’s the old “money is fungible” idea. The PA has been making terrorism a lucrative business opportunity. It has been providing generous cash payments to the families of anyone who goes out and kills some Jews or some Americans. It’s the Palestinian way of supporting your family: like winning the lottery.

I have on several occasions recommended that the American government stop payments to the Palestinian Authority. As it happens, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are cutting down their support.

Aufhauser and Gerber agree:

In the face of this widely advertised bureaucracy of terror, the Trump administration should suspend all further aid to the Palestinian Authority. Not another dollar should flow until measures are adopted to assure that no more people are slain because American aid enabled the Palestinian Authority to confidently promise compensation for killing. Congress has already introduced the vehicle to do this, a bill in the name of Taylor Force. If passed into law, it would condition aid on the secretary of state’s certification that the Palestinian Authority has ended its legal sanction of terrorist financing. Without such a commitment, and strong due diligence by the State Department to ensure that it is honored, American funding of the Palestinian Authority should cease.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Bad Mother

Perhaps she was looking for attention. Married to famed novelist Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman went out looking for the glare of the spotlight. What could be more titillating, she must have told herself, than to proclaim herself the archetypical Bad Mother?

Writing in The Daily Mail several years ago, Waldman laid out the case for bad mothering. It lacked intellectual coherence but it grabbed your attention:

Firstly, that - unique to our generation - we are gripped by the terror that we're not Good Mothers.

Secondly, it struck me that so-called Good Mothers can be downright bad for their children. Over-anxious and over-ambitious for their offspring, they risk making them feel like failures.

Good Mothers don't just want the best for their children: in their minds, if their sons and daughters are not super-brains with armfuls of certificates, then what have all their maternal sacrifices been for? 

The third horrifying truth is that, far from supporting each other, we mothers are always trying to find fault with each other.

We openly police each other - desperate to find a mother who's not as good as us, so we won't feel so bad.

One is tempted to reply: Speak for yourself, Ayelet. Or better, speak for your comrades in Berkeley, CA. The truth is that most mothers are conscientious and caring. They take their job—if you must call it that—very seriously indeed. I cannot imagine why she takes it on herself to demean and defame mothers. Just to make herself feel better. Hers is an ignoble enterprise.

Strangely—and this is why her story is interesting-- Waldman blames it on feminism. Who knew? She explains that her feminist mother brought her up to believe that she could have it all. This was before Anne-Marie Slaughter famously proclaimed that women could not have it all. Feminists hated Slaughter because they believed that setting up an unrealistic goal was bad for feminism. They did not mention that Slaughter did not invent this all herself. It had been injected into the culture a long time before.

So, let’s be clear. Waldman is talking about women who were brought up by a certain kind of feminist mother. To generalize from this to all American mothers or to all feminist mothers strikes me as one leap too many.

Anyway, she described her mother’s teaching:

Soon after I was born, in 1964, my mother discovered feminism. As a child, one of my earliest memories is of sitting on the stairs and listening open-mouthed as she and her friends - including my schoolteacher - bitched about men in their 'consciousness-raising group'.

Deprived of a career herself because she was at home with the children, my mother raised me to believe that I would be able to work full-time as well as being a mother.

After all those marches and all that bra-burning, my mother and her generation were convinced they had sorted everything out for their daughters. We would have it easy. Our male bosses, all raised by feminist mothers, too, would surely be supportive and sympathetic to working mothers. 

Of course, it was all a lie. And it was a lie even when women like Waldman had husbands who worked at home and shouldered many of the childrearing responsibilities.

So, Waldman returned to work after giving birth to her first child and discovered—to her dismay-- that she wanted to be home with her baby. Were it not for the power of indoctrination no one would have found this surprising. Thanks to indoctrination women have been shocked to discover that they have a maternal instinct. And that they are not entirely comfortable leaving neonates to the tender mercies of human beings who lack said instinct. Having denied the reality of their own biology—to say nothing of their moral responsibility— daughters of feminist mothers were dismayed to discover that they had been lied to. And not by the patriarchy.

What happened then? Glad you asked. Waldman quit her job and became a stay-at-home mother. She hated it:

I felt I'd betrayed my mother, feminism and myself. My mother's generation had sacrificed so much to give me opportunities they never had, and I'd thrown them back in their faces. My mother made no secret of the fact that she couldn't understand my decision. She still can't. 

But, most unexpected of all, I found being a full-time mother hideously boring. And I realised that one of the darkest, deepest shames so many of us mothers feel nowadays is our fear that we are Bad Mothers, that we are failing our children and falling far short of some indefinable ideal.

A Good Mother is never bored, is she? She is never miserable. A Good Mother doesn't resent looking up from her novel to examine a child's drawing.

Did she hate it because motherhood is such a bad deal for women? Or did she hate it because she felt that she had betrayed feminism? These are not the same. I will opt for the latter. You may draw your own conclusions.

As it happened Waldman had also written in the New York Times in 2005 that even if she did not much like being a mother, she was still madly in love with her husband. And, by the by, they still had great sex. In fact, her husband could not get enough sex. Precisely why we needed to know this, I cannot imagine. So, we witness an independent liberated woman writing her own manifesto, explaining that her husband is her life.  That does not sound very liberated to me, but, what do I know?

She wrote:

But my imagination simply fails me when I try to picture a future beyond my husband’s death. Of course, I would have to live. I have four children, a mortgage, work to do. But I can imagine no joy without my husband.

Do you want to draw a conclusion about the state of her marriage? Of course, you do not. It would not be polite. I would merely note that Waldman seems to be suggesting that a woman who makes her children the center of her universe will be neglecting her husband and will end up not getting any sex. Whether this applies to her Berkeley friends at Gymboree or to all women, I would not venture to guess.

Waldman insisted that she loved her husband more than her children and that this made her a bad mother. Only a warped mind could draw such a conclusion. Must we note that these are not the same kind of love. Different loves apply to different relationships. One senses an absurd confusion, engendered by an ideology.

Interesting point, Waldman’s husband is a perfect househusband. He is a very successful writer but he also shares in all the chores. If you are collecting royalty checks you have the liberty to do the laundry and to change the diapers. One notes that her husband has admitted publicly to having fallen love with men and to having had sex with a man, but one imagines that that is not a salient detail.

Anyway, Waldman is anguished because sometime she does not feel in the mood:

Can my bad motherhood be my husband's fault? Perhaps he just inspires more complete adoration than other husbands. He cooks, cleans, cares for the children at least 50 percent of the time.

If the most erotic form of foreplay to a mother of a small child is, as I've heard some women claim, loading the dishwasher or sweeping the floor, then he's a master of titillation.

He's handsome, brilliant and successful. But he can also be scatterbrained, antisocial and arrogant. He is a bad dancer, and he knows far too much about Klingon politics and the lyrics to Yes songs. All in all, he's not that much better than other men. The fault must be my own.

Her husband is what feminists wanted men to become. Perhaps Waldman feels that she must love him for fulfilling an ideal. Perhaps she does not respect him for as much. Who knows?

Now, as though we did not know about Waldman’s marriage and private life, she has written a new memoir, one which reveals her to be a basket of bad behaviors, a case study in applied psychiatry and an insufferable human being. It makes her husband look like a saint. A little less honesty would do us all very well.

Amy Anderson summarizes Waldman’s book in Acculturated. Thereby she saves us the trouble of having to read it. We are grateful. If you thought that Waldman was merely a housewife and mother reflecting about her condition, you would have been wrong.

Anderson writes:

Waldman’s afflictions are numerous. They include, she says, Bipolar II, PMS, PMDD, PME, insomnia, irritability, and a nasty case of frozen shoulder. She picks horrendous fights with her husband, including when he buys her a couch as a surprise gift—he wanted her to be comfortable in their shared workspace—without consulting her first on the style. She yells at her kids and flips out at her dry cleaner. She has a notorious temper tantrum on Twitter after her latest novel fails to make the New York Times list of notable books for 2014. “I’ve spent the morning on my couch, sobbing about not being included in the NYT Notable Book List! I mean What The FUCK? I know this book is good!” Her days are filled with rage and despair.

Waldman has been prescribed a dizzying array of medication for her volcanic moods, she tells us: Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Zoloft, Cymbalta, Effexor, Effexor XR, Wellbutrin, Lamictal, Topomax, Adderall, Adderall XR, Ritalin, Concerta, Strattera, Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Seroquel, Ambien, and Lunesta. “I’m sure I’m forgetting some,” she writes. “That can happen when you take a shit-ton of drugs.” But the drugs that seem to have done the trick for Waldman and kept her from destroying her life and marriage were not in the SSRI family but were instead illegal and psychedelic: LSD, which she takes in micro-doses, and the party drug MDMA, or Molly, as the club kids call it, which she and Chabon take together when they feel the need to “recharge” their marriage.

Everyone is talking about the fact that Waldman is using low doses of LSD and MDMA. As for the notion that her husband is lusting after her all the time, the need for MDMA suggests that things are not always as she makes them appear.

Anyway, her case seems to belong in the annals of psychiatry. If it doesn’t, then today’s psychiatrists are perhaps not quite as competent as they are made out to be.

Anderson concludes by emphasizing the most salient point, namely that Waldman consistently fails to take responsibility for her behavior. She suffers from an apparent character flaw and she is trying to medicate it, thus to numb herself to the moral consequences of her own bad behavior.

She is a partisan of the very modern, materialist my-chemistry-is-to-blame-for-my-bad-behavior worldview, at least when she’s not taking aim at her upbringing, in which case “self-blame” is at the root of her relationship woes. “The problem with self-blame,” she says, “is that it launches a vicious cycle. It makes me despondent, and when I’m despondent, I lash out at my husband. Which makes me feel worse.” Whether chemistry or self-blame is at fault for Waldman’s rages, though, moral agency and personal responsibility have little role. Waldman bears no blame for her actions; her character isn’t the result of her choices, her decisions. So much easier to drop acid and get out of the blame business altogether. This is an impoverished understanding of what it means to be human.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Game on in Washington

Perhaps Donald Trump swore an oath to himself… that he was not going to follow the example of George W. Bush and allow himself to be a media punching bag. We will see whether his punch-back twice-as-hard strategy works. For now Trump appears to be out-of-touch with the facts. A week into his administration,  he does not seem to have developed messaging discipline… yet.

Or else, it may be that Trump is gaslighting the media, baiting them with obvious falsehoods and provoking them to show themselves as emotionally overwrought. They are beginning to sound like a braindead celebrity yelling: The Nazis are coming! The Nazis are coming!

Glenn Reynolds offers this thesis in USA Today:

… Trump likes it this way, because when the press is constantly attacking him over trivialities, it strengthens his position and weakens the press. Trump’s “outrageous” statements and tweets aren’t the product of impulsiveness, but part of a carefully maintained strategy that the press is too impulsive to resist.

And also:

So he’s prodding reporters to do things that will make them less trusted, and they’re constantly taking the bait.

They’re taking the bait because they think he’s dumb, and impulsive, and lacking self-control — but he’s the one causing them to act in ways that are dumb and impulsive, and demonstrate lack of self-control. 

What should the press and the Trump opposition do? Reynolds offers sound advice:

The killer counter-move for the press isn’t to double down on anti-Trump messaging. The counter-move is to bolster its own trustworthiness by acting (and being) more neutral and sober, and by being more trustworthy. If the news media actually focused on reporting facts accurately and straightforwardly, on leaving opinion to the pundits, and on giving Trump a clearly fair shake, then Trump’s tactics wouldn’t work, and any actual dirt they found on him would do actual damage. He’s betting on the press being insufficiently mature and self-controlled to manage that. So far, his bet is paying off.

As for press bias, yesterday the senior State Department staff resigned en masse. The press declared that they were repudiating Donald Trump. It also explained that these staff members were effectively running the place, controlling the massive bureaucracy. They were leaving the incoming secretary without anyone with management skill. This is a bit bizarre considering that Rex Tillerson has considerably more management experience than all of them combined.

Others do not see this as a rebuke to the Trump administration. They believe that the officials were going to be fired anyway. Some have suggested that they were fired, but put out another story to save face. Besides, these officials did not have a very good record of accomplishment.

Roger Simon examines their track record: 

The State Department is undoubtedly chock full of those with dirty hands from the Clinton email scandal and its attendant coverup.  They're lucky not to be indicted, assuming they won't be.  And then there's the Benghazi episode.  The degree to which State and Mrs. Clinton colluded with the White House on that one is not yet fully known, despite the hours of testimony. Kennedy was involved in that too, as was Victoria Nuland, who was also let go.

And speaking of dirty hands, the  State Department is way past mere fingernail problems, but up to its elbows and neck in the shameful (and still opaque) Iran nuclear deal that bypassed Congress, not to mention the American people, to shovel boatloads of cash to the mullahs who are now busy spending them on such humanitarian enterprises as providing advanced munitions for Hezbollah, the Houthis, Hamas, various homicidal Syrian thugs, and who knows what other crazed Islamist terrorists who are about to drone a shopping mall near you.

Then again, they were diverse, and that must count for something.

While the press is fighting its war against Trump, the new president is making some interesting moves of his own. One does better to tamp down one’s emotions and to examine the game that is being played. Better the game than the drama.

Peggy Noonan writes this morning that Trump is working to produce an important political realignment. Pay closer attention to the White House meetings, Noonan says. Through them, Trump is identifying himself as a jobs president, as a president who cares primarily about American jobs. It might, as some have suggested, be a lot of PR. Surely, it looks more like mercantilism than free trade. And, many of the jobs that were announced were going to stay here anyway.

No matter. Trump is defining his presidency in terms of economic opportunity, at the expense of identity politics and political correctness. He has done so in a series of important White House meetings.

Noonan reports on a meeting with CEOs:

More important than the [executive] orders were the White House meetings. One was a breakfast with a dozen major CEOs. They looked happy as frolicking puppies in the photo-op, and afterward talked about jobs. Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin said she was “encouraged by the president’s commitment to reduce barriers to job creation.” In a statement after the meeting, the glassmaker Corning, whose CEO attended, announced plans to expand its U.S. manufacturing base significantly over the next few years. Because I live in New York and work at the Journal, I see and talk to American CEOs. I’ve never heard them bang on about a need to boost American jobs and manufacturing, ever. They usually talk about targeted microloans in India, and robots.

This meeting was less significant than the meeting that Trump took with labor union leaders. Noonan explains:

More important still—the most important moment of the first week—was the meeting with union leaders. Mr. Trump gave them almost an hour and a half. “The president treated us with respect, not only our organization but our members,” said Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, by telephone. Liuna had not endorsed Trump in the campaign, but Mr. O’Sullivan saw the meeting’s timing as an expression of respect: “He’s inaugurated on Friday and we’re invited in Monday to have a substantial conversation.” The entire Trump top staff was there, including the vice president: “His whole team—we were very impressed.” They talked infrastructure, trade and energy. “The whole meeting was about middle class jobs, how do we create more?” Mr. O’Sullivan believes the Keystone pipeline will eventually generate more than 40,000 jobs. Mr. O’Sullivan said he hopes fixing “our crumbling transportation infrastructure” will be “the largest jobs program in the country.”

Mark Lilla warned Democrats about continuing to play the identity politics card. They do not seem to have heeded his message. Now, Trump wants to bring back men's jobs and the environmental lobby is attacking the Keystone and Dakota pipeline executive orders.

Note what Trump is doing. First, as Noonan notes, he is picking the Democrats’ pocket by inviting one of its most important constituencies into his big tent. He is showing them respect and courtesy, something that they were not shown in the previous Democratic administration. Second, Trump was creating tens of thousands of guy-jobs, jobs in construction and manufacturing and industry. If the Democratic Party wants to be the Woman’s Party, as it identified itself during the last campaign and over the weekend, it might find out that it cannot hold the woman’s vote. As Hillary Clinton discovered, many women do not vote the feminist party line. No one seems to pay it much attention, but a lot of women strongly disliked Hillary.

Noonan also explains that the press would do better to stop attacking Trump and to try to understand what he is doing, and how much he appeals to the average voter:

It’s a mistake for observers in Washington and New York to fixate on Mr. Trump’s daily faux pas at the expense of the political meaning of what he’s doing. He’s changing the face of the GOP. It is a mistake, too, to see Mr. Trump’s tweet on how Chicago had better solve its problem with violent crime or he’ll “send in the Feds,” as merely stupid—just a tweet that raises the question “What does ‘send in the Feds’ mean?” If you’re a parent in a tough Chicago neighborhood, you’d be heartened to think the feds might help. You’d be happy the president noticed. You’d say, “Go, Trump!”

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Overcoming National Humiliation

Roger Cohen thought long and hard before declaring Donald Trump a fascist. It’s more than you can say about many other members of the fourth estate.

Cohen did not want to indulge a cheap analogy between the rise of European fascism after World War I and America’s current political scene. And yet, the temptation was there and he could not resist it.

In Cohen’s words:

I have tried to tread carefully with analogies between the Fascist ideologies of 1930s Europe and Trump. American democracy is resilient. But the first days of the Trump presidency — whose roots of course lie in far more than the American military debacles since 9/11 — pushed me over the top. The president is playing with fire.

Keep in mind, keep firmly in mind, that Donald Trump has been president for exactly six days. Cohen is not attacking Trump’s record. He is attacking Trump’s rhetoric. There is a difference. Getting emotionally overwrought over a president’s rhetoric—some of which I find dubious—is not befitting a man of Cohen’s intelligence.

But, Cohen is correct to say that American democracy is resilient. Has Anglo-American civilization ever fallen victim to fascism? As it happens, denizens of the political left are constantly denouncing the Anglosphere for being fascistic. They fail to notice that fascism's cultural roots lie elsewhere. Cohen should have noted that the armies of America and Great Britain that defeated European fascism and Nazism. Thinkers who trash British and American civilization in the name of Middle European idealism are basically sore losers.

That being said, Cohen does light on a salient point. The point is so salient that I made it a centerpiece of my book Saving Face. In that book I examined what happens to a nation when it loses a war. I would add today a remark by Winston Churchill, namely that when it comes to war it’s worse not to fight than to fight honorably and lose.

Two decades ago I expounded at length about the cultural fallout from Vietnam. Cohen examines the consequences of our less-than-successful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He writes:

National humiliation is long in gestation and violent in resolution….

Some 2.7 million American soldiers came home to a country that had been shopping while they served in the Afghan and Iraqi wars, with 6,893 killed and more than 52,000 injured. They returned to an increasingly dysfunctional and polarized polity; to the financial disaster of 2008; to the mystery of what the spending of trillions of dollars in those wars had achieved; to stagnant incomes; to the steady diminishment of American uniqueness and the apparent erosion of its power.

Cohen must have been short on space. He fails to remark that the national humiliation America suffered after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was engineered by Barack Obama.

After all, Obama declared that the situation in Iraq was stable and under control in 2011. Being the ultimate anti-war candidate, he surrendered America’s victory and withdrew America’s forces from the country. You know what happened next.

Obama ran around apologizing for America and bowing down to the mullahs in Iran. He allowed the Iranian Navy to humiliate America’s sailors. After that episode Obama’s Secretary of State thanked Iran for treating the sailors so humanely.

In Iraq, Obama snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. As for Afghanistan, America’s humiliation was on public display when Obama traded five Taliban commanders for a deserter named Beau Bergdahl.

Given Obama’s display of weakness, we should not be surprised that America turned to someone who at least sounded like he was tough and uncompromising, someone who would never apologize.

Cohen has understood perfectly well that the debacle of Syria was entirely the fault of Barack Obama. He should have added that another champion of national humiliation is German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

As it happens Cohen has strongly supported the Merkel policy. He believes in open borders for refugees, regardless of who they are and what they contribute. In that he favors the Obama/Clinton approach, approach that represents a failure of national will and a failure to protect the nation’s citizens. Where we see the downtrodden of the earth seeking refuge, the immigrants that Merkel invited into Germany do not consider themselves to be refugees. They see themselves as an invading army enjoying the spoils of their victory.

Faced with the weak Merkel, a woman who has allowed her nation and its people to be humiliated systematically by an unassimilable flood of immigrants, Great Britain voted to exit the European Union and America voted to build a wall. Whether and how well the latter will work, we do not know. The picture of an America that will no longer tolerate being invaded by people who have no business being here is clear enough.

All of this to say, first that when talking about national humiliation we need first to know who has brought this upon the nation. And second, that there is not just one way to respond to it. Fascism is one way, but it is certainly not the only way. After the Vietnam debacle, arguably a bigger national humiliation than Iraq and Afghanistan, America did not turn to a strong man. It launched the Great American Cultural Revolution.

If Cohen were as enamored of rational thought as he says he is, he would have considered alternatives to his cheap analogy.

And he ought to have thought a bit more clearly before dropping this at the end of his column:

Trump’s outrageous claims have a purpose: to destroy rational thought. 

Between you and me, when Trump’s opponents indulge in an irrational display of raw feeling they are not promoting the cause of rational thought. If you want to advance rational thought, practice what you preach. Consider all sides of the argument, take all of the facts into account and make a deliberate judgment.

Now that you mention it, how has the New York Times fostered rational thought about the Trump phenomenon? Has it presented all sides of the issue, kept its readers well informed and has it given them the facts they can use to make an independent judgment?

Cohen himself has no influence on Times reporting, and does not raise the issue. Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg wrote on the day after the election that the news media—aka the Times-- had let its readers down by keeping them in the dark about what was going on around the country. Statistical models had not compensated for their living in a bubble.

Rutenberg wrote:

All the dazzling technology, the big data and the sophisticated modeling that American newsrooms bring to the fundamentally human endeavor of presidential politics could not save American journalism from yet again being behind the story, behind the rest of the country.

The news media by and large missed what was happening all around it, and it was the story of a lifetime. The numbers weren’t just a poor guide for election night — they were an off-ramp away from what was actually happening.

No one predicted a night like this — that Donald J. Trump would pull off a stunning upset over Hillary Clinton and win the presidency.

The misfire on Tuesday night was about a lot more than a failure in polling. It was a failure to capture the boiling anger of a large portion of the American electorate that feels left behind by a selective recovery, betrayed by trade deals that they see as threats to their jobs and disrespected by establishment Washington, Wall Street and the mainstream media.

Of course, it was more than boiling anger. More than irrational emotion was on display in the election. After all, voting is a deliberative action; it is not the same thing as breaking windows and burning up limos.

People voted for Trump because they had had enough of watching the nation be systematically humiliated. The American people did not want to make the same mistake again.

They might have overdone it. They might have chosen someone who will not allow his office to enhance his stature. On the other hand, Trump did not invent autocratic government, ruling by executive orders. He is merely canceling the orders signed into law by his predecessor… a man who believed that if the Congress did not do what he wanted it to do, he would have to do it himself.

If you are looking for someone who ruled despotically, you do not have to look very far. Perhaps Trump will be as much of a despot as Obama. Perhaps not. But, we should base our judgment on something more than rhetoric. 

We all want to promote rational thought. And we recall that there was nothing rational about the way so many of Obama’s supporters in the media have been slobbering over him for eight years now. They never found fault with him and refused to hold him accountable for anything that happened during his administration.

That, in itself, will make people angry.

It is not just the media that has been trying to destroy rational thought. America’s universities have pretty much killed it. They killed it with a flood of adolescent sentiment and with political correctness.