Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Trump Track Record, Up to Now

And now, along comes Victor Davis Hanson to shine some light into the darkness. (via Maggie’s Farm) The darkness, or the willful blindness, concerns the current narrative about the Trump administration. According to the purveyors of this narrative, Trump has upended a world order that has prevailed since the end of World War II. Trump is not only disruptive, but he is undermining American leadership in the world and costing America the respect of its allies and enemies.

Hanson admits that Trump’s apparently chaotic administration, mixed with his own somewhat out-of-control pronouncements and tweets have fed into the narrative. 

As for the world order that Trump is destroying, Hanson writes:

But is the world really imploding after 70 years of supposed “calm”? (Disregarding the Korean and Vietnam wars; Chinese, Cambodian, Rwandan, and Balkan genocides; at least six Middle East conflicts; 9/11; a dozen U.S. interventions; a nuclear Pakistan and North Korea; the Cuban and Berlin nuclear standoffs; 20 years of Palestinian terrorism followed by 20 years of radical Islamic successors; a European Union financial and border meltdown; the Russian absorption of eastern Ukraine and Crimea, to name just a few “hot spots.”)

And that’s not all:

Donald Trump’s postwar order did not give us alienated allies in the Middle East, a rubbery NATO, North Korean intercontinental missiles, Iran on an ascendant arc in the Middle East, China’s new Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, Putin unbound, and bewildered enemies like Cuba and Iran wondering why they were courted as friends.

And, of course, the media has gone to war against Trump, turning itself from an impartial purveyor of facts into a propaganda weapon working to destroy an American president:

The media likewise for the last year has joined the stampede. It is apparently unaware that its shock at Donald Trump’s rhetoric, behavior, and comportment had nothing to do with the reality of his governance. In all its self-righteous exclamation that the new journalism meant reporters had to be advocates of social justice and opponents of the likes of Donald Trump, the American media almost turned into a propaganda ministry of 90 percent negative coverage of the president. Yet by any fair standard, he had not as president done things 90 percent wrong.

The longer, like Captain Ahab, they hunt down the mythical white Trump whale, the more they are ruining the very reputation of journalism as they once inherited it.

Place some emphasis on the last point. The mainstream media has been undermining itself, and ruining its own reputation. They are consoling themselves with their increased profits.

What we need are a few facts, especially since those who inveigh against how Donald Trump distorts facts are perfectly willing to distort facts in order to damage him.

Hanson provides an overview of what is going on in the world:

In truth, after 2016, the United States is increasing its financial commitments to NATO. Several European members of the alliances may finally be addressing their prior unmet obligations and increasing defense spending.

The United Nations at least understands from Ambassador Nikki Haley that the United States will call out, rather than aid and abet, its occasional anti-Semitic lunacy. The president did not arbitrarily cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement. Instead, the agreement is up for renegotiation on terms other than the expectation that the United States will always accept asymmetrical deals as part of its required role as the continent’s superpower.

Has the world descended into a Trumpian chaos? Not at all, says Hanson.

The world itself is not in chaos as alleged. It seems a far safer place than it was between 2009 and 2016. ISIS is no longer a viable threat, promising to establish a new caliphate, in between beheading, burning alive, and drowning the innocent on video.

Israel is once again a strong U.S. ally. Saudi Arabia for the first time in its history is considering real reform. The Palestinians are beginning to understand that they can still damn, even threaten the United States, but not necessarily with U.S. aid money.

Iran is no longer harassing or hijacking U.S. ships. It is not so frequently boasting about what it will do to the Great Satan and Israel, much less sending missiles near U.S. carriers. The world did not fall apart when the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem or withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord. That fact instead exposed so-called elite predictions of Armageddon as the hysteria.

Syria expects to be bombed each time it uses chemical weapons that were declared “nonexistent” by an outgoing Obama Administration. North Korea is not boasting any longer of incinerating American West Coast cities, but at least feigning consultation with China about denuclearizing the peninsula.

China understands that for two decades a naïve West has let it cheat at will on trade agreements, on the spurious idea it would become more pro-Western and democratic, the more that the West subsidized its breakneck modernization. Now it is at least talking about discussing its asymmetrical relationships with all its trading partners.

True enough, we can introduce some caveats. Yesterday, Trump made some troubling noises about withdrawing from Syria. And yet, considering the source, most commentators did not really believe them.

As for the current protests in Gaza, most savvy observers understand that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have lost their war against Israel. When you start sending unarmed people into the face of enemy fire, you are trying to create more drama… about a lost cause that no one cares about any more.

Hanson next examines the domestic scene, especially America’s economy:

The U.S. economy did not implode in early 2017 and take down the world with it. The stock market did not crash. Our labor non-participation rate did not spiral. Instead, the country may be on its way to achieving its first 12-month period of 3 percent growth in 12 years. The stock market is at record highs, despite a few bumps, and unemployment at near-record peacetime lows.

And, the American energy industry has been freed from its regulatory shackles:

There is also not so much talk of always increasing electricity rates, destroying the coal industry, banning more fracking, and subsidizing more Solyndra-like crony “green” companies. Instead, the United States is now the world’s largest energy producer. Soon we may be our own largest petroleum producer. U.S. natural gas production will likely reduce world carbon emissions more than will European windmills and American solar panels. American companies are more likely to come home than to keep pulling up and moving abroad. Silicon Valley tech companies have never done so well under a president they hate so much.

Things are looking better for the American military and we are confident that the American president will never again extol the heroism of an army deserter in the Rose Garden or leave an American ambassador to fend for himself when under fire:

The U.S. military for the first time in eight years is recovering its former strength. One way or another, there will likely be no more Bowe Bergdahl deals, decreased security at U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East, Iran Deals, or “strategic patience” and “lead from behind” doctrines. When outnumbered Americans are trapped in a shootout abroad, it is more likely help will be on the way than the requests of the beleaguered would be put on hold. 

Consider this an executive summary of Hanson’s article. He offers a clear-eyed attempt to bring facts to the fore, and to allow facts to counteract the fictions that are currently being trafficked by our media.

Killing Jews in Paris

Remember Mireille Knoll. A Holocaust survivor, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, she was murdered last week in her home in Paris. Her killers stabbed her to death and set fire to her apartment. They were punishing her for being Jewish.

Given that it’s Paris, I do not need to tell you that her murderers were Islamists.

Bari Weiss explains:

Parisian authorities are investigating the murder as being motivated by the “membership, real or supposed, of the victim of a particular religion.” But euphemisms should have no place in describing the nature of Mireille Knoll’s death. She was murdered by men apparently animated by the same hatred that drove Hitler.

Two suspects, a 29-year-old and a 21-year-old, have been arrested. The older man is a neighbor Ms. Knoll has known since he was a child. The younger, according to reports, is homeless. One of the suspects told the investigators that the other had shouted “Allahu Akbar” while killing Ms. Knoll, according to Le Monde. (A lawyer for the Knoll family, Gilles-William Goldnadel, confirmed that in a phone call.) On Tuesday, Gérard Collomb, the interior minister, told Parliament that one of the attackers had told the other: “She’s a Jew. She must have money.”

It was not an isolated incident:

It’s a neighborhood that has already borne witness to a nearly identical crime. Almost exactly a year ago, a 65-year-old Jewish widow named Sarah Halimi was murdered by her neighbor, 27-year-old Kobili Traoré. Other neighbors said they heard Mr. Traoré scream “Allahu Akbar” as he beat Ms. Halimi, a retired doctor, to near death in the early hours of April 4, 2017. He then threw her body into the courtyard below.

It took months for Ms. Halimi’s murder to be categorized as an anti-Jewish hate crime. “It was scandalous,” said Mr. Goldnadel, the lawyer, who also represented the Halimi family.

This time, French authorities have been quick to call the crime by its proper name. On Monday, President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “I would like to express my shock at the appalling crime committed against Mrs. Knoll. I reaffirm my absolute determination to fight anti-Semitism.” On Wednesday, he said that she was murdered “because she was Jewish” at a tribute to a police officer killed in an Islamist attack. Mr. Macron has been widely praised by the country’s Jewish community for his moral clarity in describing anti-Zionism as a “reinvented form of anti-Semitism.”

So, it’s not the radical right. It’s not supporters of Marine Le Pen. It’s not even members of the alt-right. It’s Islamists:

Anti-Semitism was supposed to be a disease of the far right. But the people actually killing Jews in France these days are not members of the National Front. They are Islamists.

“The major crimes against the Jewish community — Ilan Halimi, the Toulouse killings, the Hyper Cacher killings, Sarah Halimi — all of them have all been carried out by radicalized Muslims,” Robert Ejnes, the executive director of CRIF, an umbrella organization of French Jewish groups, told me in a call from Paris. “These young people have French identity cards, but they hate what France stands for. This is the nature of the problem we are facing. And it’s very hard to talk about.”

Here are some facts that are very hard to talk about: Jews represent less than 1 percent of the population in France, yet in 2014, 51 percent of all racist attacks were carried out against them, according to the French Interior Ministry. A survey from that year of about 1,000 French respondents with unknown religious affiliation and 575 self-identified Muslims, conducted by the AJC Paris and the French think tank Fondapol, found that the Muslim respondents were two or three times more likely to have anti-Jewish sentiments than those from the random French group. Nineteen percent of all respondents felt that Jews had “too much” political power. Among Muslims, the number was 51 percent. As for the idea that Zionism “is an international organization that aims to influence the world and society in favor of the Jews,” 44 percent of Muslims surveyed approved of this statement. The rest of the survey is just as devastating.

For years now, France has deployed armed troops to protect Jewish synagogues and schools. But the violence on the streets — a 15-year-old girl wearing the uniform of her Jewish school slashed in the face; an 8-year-old boy wearing a kippah assaulted; teenage siblings called “dirty Jews” before being beaten — hasn’t abated. On Wednesday, hours before a march in honor of Mireille Knoll, the office of the Union of French Jewish Students at the Sorbonne was ransacked and defaced with graffiti like “Viva Arafat” and “death to Israel.”

Notably, French security forces are not soft on terrorism. When facing Islamists, they shoot to kill. And yet, the problem is the numbers. Something like 10% of the French population is Muslim. Most of them are not assimilated. They live in enclaves, especially around Paris, that are No-Go zones. Unless they decide that it’s time to assimilate, they will end up being expelled from France. It is sad, but perhaps the only way to deal with the problem.

Pity Poor Justin Trudeau

Dutifully, I reported several weeks ago about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Bieber’s disastrous trip to India. Not only was the boy wonder politician snubbed by the Indian political leadership, he managed to make a complete ass of himself by dressing up in traditional local garb. Most of the time he got it wrong, but his efforts at showing respect for a different culture made him look like someone who lacked pride in his own.

Anyway, the people of Canada, awakening from their multiculturalist somnambulism, are turning against their prime minister. The Washington Post has the story:

For voters who had welcomed Trudeau’s global status as a progressive political leader and proud international standard-bearer for Canada, the images of Trudeau in brash Bollywood outfits at well-known sightseeing spots were a serious comedown.

“When you have foreign media like CNN and BBC making fun of our prime minister, that was jarring for some people and made people question whether he was the best person for the job,” Coletto said.

For critics such as columnist Andrew Coyne of the National Post who see Trudeau as charming but an intellectual lightweight, the India trip simply proved their outlook. “The little things that seemed so charming at first, all those dashing gestures and glam photo ops might well come to seem, at first frivolous, then irritating — an impression of unseriousness compounded by a series of bungled foreign-policy excursions of which the India trip was only the last,” Coyne wrote.

Like Barack Obama running around the world apologizing for America, Justin Bieber’s antics bespoke someone who was weak and ineffectual… to say nothing of clownish. He might have thought that he was standing on the moral high ground. He might even have thought that he was ready for world leadership. He was making a fool of himself. And he was abrogating any leadership position he might have held. 

Not only does he seem unsuited to world leadership, but he has taken a distinctly feminist approach to policy. If he believes that the world will rally to his leadership because he is a self-proclaimed feminist, he has been smoking the wrong kind of cigarettes. 

Thus, he is also embarrassed to be a man. He has lost a large portion of his support among men. If he does not respect himself, why should anyone respect him:

Women have always been partial to Trudeau, not just for his movie-star looks but also his progressive social policies and his self-description as a feminist. Nanos said this divide grew more sharply as he continued to push a pro-feminist agenda, with Trudeau having lost about one-third of his male support since 2015.

“He’s been very gender-focused,” Nanos said. “When you focus so much on gender, it means that other voters, i.e. men, aren’t as important.”

He embarrassed himself. He embarrassed his country. He embarrassed the Western world. Time for Justin-boy to go.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Hillary Strikes Back

Still out there complaining about how she lost to Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is fighting back in her typically passive-aggressive style.

The Hill has this headline today:

Hillary Clinton fires back at critics: No one told a man who lost an election to shut up.

Surely, there is truth to the accusation.

What Hillary forgets is: no one ever had to. True enough, some presidential losers went back to their old jobs. They spoke up about issues they cared about. They did not belabor their loss with a months-long whine. 

People who respect themselves know when to shut up. People who don't, don't.

Forever, Empathy

By now you know the narrative. It infests much of the psycho profession and the therapy culture. It tells us that human beings, especially those of the male gender, suffer from abusive and psychopathic tendencies. Said humans can be cured by being put on an empathy drip. That is, by getting in touch with their feminine side.

Think of it this way. If the biggest problem the world faces today is bigotry—aside from climate change, that is— it exists is that we fail to feel the pain we are inflicting on certain groups of people. Thus, bigotry comes from not feeling the right feelings.

And empathy serves another purpose. When the psycho world ponders how people connect with other people, they conjure the notion that we connect by feeling each other’s pains… and perhaps pleasures. They do not recall that Bubba himself became famous by saying that he felt everyone’s pain… and then set about sexually assaulting women… the better to feel their pain.

One might point out our decades long promotion of empathy as the cure for all human, that is, male evils has produced an epidemic of male evils. Wouldn’t you know, failing to respect boys as boys and men as men turns them into little, or big monsters. In the absence of rules of manly behavior men fall back on the default position: they act like brutes, bullies and abusers.

Be that as it may, the psycho profession is doling out empathy like so many communion wafers. It represents the reductio ad absurdum of the obsession with feeling, from the Greek pathos. Amusingly, the term pathos presents numerous permutations, from sympathy and compassion to pitiful and pathetic.

Led by Prof. Paul Bloom, researchers at Yale University have been working to debunk these claims. As reported here and elsewhere, Bloom argued persuasively that when we see someone being beaten, our capacity for empathy makes us want to avenge the slights, on his behalf. Making a public spectacle of beating up men is not likely, it follows, to make men more docile. It is likely to make them more sadistic.

Now, another research study from Yale tells a similar tale. For those who jumped on the empathy train because they believed that psychopaths do not feel empathy, the results are bad news indeed. 

One recalls that therapists reasoned that since psychopaths did not feel empathy, then they could be cured of their abusive treatment of other people by being put on an empathy drip. In this context, psychopathy is defined as an inability to feel other people’s feelings. 

We also note that great leaders are often lacking in empathy. First, you cannot compete effectively in the arena if you share the pain you are trying to inflict on your opponent. Second, sometimes you are faced with a choice, not between good and bad, but between bad and worse. That is, you are faced with a choice, not between war and peace, but between small war and large war. It takes a certain basic insensitivity to fight a small war when you do not know what would happen if you do not.

When we watched the events unfolding on Tienanmen Square in 1989, our capacity for empathy led us to sympathize with the student demonstrators. We lacked sufficient empathy to ask ourselves what the nation's leaders were seeing. Clearly, they were not seeing Woodstock. They were seeing the Red Guards. They were under siege and we failed to empathize with their position.

Anyway, the researchers argue that psychopaths are not incapable of considering the feelings of others. They are disinclined to do so. The abstract says this:

Here, we show that psychopathic individuals have a previously unobserved cognitive deficit that might explain their pattern of destructive and antisocial behavior. We report that psychopathic individuals fail to automatically take the perspective of others, but can deliberately take the perspective of others. These findings suggest that psychopathic individuals have the ability to take the perspective of others but lack the propensity to do so.

Business Insider summarizes the study:

Psychopaths have typically been thought of as lacking in social awareness, but the results of the new study suggest they may simply not automatically empathise with those around them.

If given good enough reason, they are likely to pick up on social cues as well as anyone else.

"Psychopaths can be extremely manipulative, which requires understanding of another's thoughts," said Arielle Baskin-Sommers, a psychology professor and senior author of the study.

"But if they understand the thought of others, why do they inflict so much harm?"

Who says that they inflict so much harm? The psycho profession has decidedly negative feelings toward psychopaths, and these negative feelings, this failure to empathize, has led them to a mischaracterization.

As it happens, psychopaths can read minds. They understand what other people are thinking and feeling. If they did not they would not be able to manipulate them as effectively. And yet, why do we assume that those who manipulate other people always do it to abuse them, to take advantage of them or even to hurt them. Perhaps psychopaths manipulate people in order to get them to do something that is good for them. Or else, what happens if what is bad for one person will be good for someone else. Empathy is anything but the all-purpose panacea that its proponents make it out to be.

Awaiting the Transgender Backlash

Writing in The American Conservative Rod Dreher foresees a coming backlash against those who recommend and perform gender reassignment surgery. Today’s mental health professionals see gender dysphoria as a real condition: God made a mistake and put someone in the wrong body. Psycho professionals believe that surgery can solve the problem. Pretending that this is scientific fact, they persuade gullible and vulnerable young people to undergo the surgery, to take opposite sex hormones, and generally to ruin their lives. (via Maggie’s Farm)

Dreher recounts some stories from Sydney, Australia, stories of young people who have been tricked by the culture and their physicians into thinking that they are transgender, and into consenting to surgery that will purportedly cure them. The report comes from the Sydney Morning Herald. At times, they change their minds, sometimes when it’s too late. Dreher suggests that this will eventually be a boon for lawyers.

In fact, most researchers have discovered that a large majority of prepubescent transgendered young people change their minds. They have also discovered that among adults who have undergone the surgery, the incidence of suicide is somewhere around 20%.

Take the case of Andrew, a man who, while being wheeled into surgery told the surgeon to stop, that he had made a mistake, that he did not want to be mutilated. The surgeon ignored him, because scientists know best:

Andrew*, born male, was minutes away from an operation that would make him a woman. Psychiatrists said he had a female brain in a male body. Gender reassignment surgery was the only way to ease the mental torment he’d endured since adolescence.

But as the wheels squeaked towards the operating table he was struck by an unshakeable thought: “It’s not right.” He remembers telling the surgeon: “I think I’m doing the wrong thing, it’s not right, I think we’ve got to stop it.”

The surgeon stroked Andrew’s face, telling him it was natural to feel frightened before an operation. He protested again, insisting it felt wrong. Then it went black. When he woke up he was sure the surgery had been cancelled. The romantic tales he’d read of transsexuals who awoke post-surgery feeling “reborn” convinced Andrew the operation had been halted, because he felt no different.

“Then I remember lifting up the sheets and putting my hand down and feeling it all bandaged and packed. I just started bawling my eyes out and screaming I remember saying to myself, you fking idiot, Andrew, how could you be so bloody stupid?

Twenty years after surgery that left him feeling like a “desexed dog”, the grief can still overwhelm him. Now 42, Andrew tells The Sunday Age the operation he had as a confused 21-year-old has shattered him.

Andrew was suffering from mental torment. Many of those who declare themselves transgender have also been traumatized as children. One recalls an 8-year-old girl who had been molested and who decided that if she were a boy she would never be molested again. Ergo, she decided that she would be a boy. 

One also understands that many transgendered children are in fact gay. When they feel yearnings for members of the same sex, they decide that they must have been born in the wrong body. In Iran, I am told, where gender reassignment surgery is popular, a gay person will need to choose between gender reassignment and execution. As you know, in Iran, homosexuality is a capital offense, punishable by hanging.

Another patient, a woman, consulted at the same clinic as Andrew. She was quickly diagnosed as transgender and prescribed male hormones:

Another former patient, Angela*, was also an abused child. Sexually molested by a cousin between the ages of four and nine, she grew up hating her femininity.

She recalls punching her breasts and working out obsessively at the gym to "remove anything that reminded me I was female". She was a 22-year-old university student when she was referred to the clinic by her GP, depressed and struggling with her identity. Dr Kennedy diagnosed her as transsexual at the first assessment, prescribing her male hormones and suggesting female-to-male surgery.

Within months Angela's body was covered in thick hair, her voice deepened and she had a full beard. She had to shave under the covers every morning to hide the truth from her conservative Catholic parents. Two years later she had surgery to remove both breasts and was scheduled to have a full sex change. Angela could no longer conceal the truth from her family and began living as "David". Thankfully, she says, she realised there had been a mistake before undergoing full genital surgery.

"I remember at one point looking at myself in the mirror with this beard, my breasts gone and thinking, 'Oh my God, what the hell am I going to do?' … I felt ugly. I was the classic bearded woman, a monster trapped between two worlds."

She claims her pleas for help were also ignored by the clinic and her return to life as a woman was a nightmare that involved two years of painful electrolysis to get rid of facial and body hair and surgery to reconstruct her breasts.

Again, sexual abuse led a child to think that it would be better to be of the opposite sex. Again, this child received only the most cursory evaluation and a psychiatrist who was promoting the transgender agenda had her take testosterone supplements. The clinic ignored her pleas, but Angela was able to reverse the process, to marry and to have three children.

Research has shown that the surgery is rarely helpful at all. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

But what worries other psychiatrists is the mounting evidence that surgery may not actually improve the lives of those who feel they were born with the wrong body. A review of more than 100 international studies of post-operative transsexuals by the University of Birmingham found there was no scientific evidence that surgery was effective and, in many cases, patients were left feeling more distressed. Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University — which housed one of the pioneer gender clinics — no longer performs sex-change surgery due to such concerns.

A recent British review found suicide rates of up to 18 per cent among people who had undergone gender reassignment surgery. Doctors from London's Portman Clinic say they see many patients who feel trapped in "no-man's land" after surgery, finding themselves with a body which is no longer recognisable as male or female. Psychotherapy, the experts believe, may have saved them from such a fate but few gender clinics offer it.

Dare we mention that psychotherapy is highly unlikely to help patients who have been mistreated and abused by the medical profession.

Angela’s husband suggests that those who feel that they are transgender really feel the feeling. He suggests that the condition resembles those anorexics who declare that they feel fat. Of course, with anorexics we understand that their illness is talking, and that the illness has overwhelmed their minds. We would not deprive them of food because they genuinely feel fat.

Transgenderism is a belief. While some medical professionals insist that they can find an errant gene that can explain the condition, it feels more like the product of brainwashing than of a biological condition. One can only hope, with Dreher, that the physicians who are engaged in this ugly abuse will soon find themselves being sued for everything they have. If not thrown into prison.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Case of the Cheating Girlfriend

This week New York Magazine’s advice columnist, Polly, takes off her fake-therapist hat and speaks to the letter writer clearly and directly. She does not tell the woman to get in touch with her feelings. She does not even tell her to feel her feelings. She shames her for her appalling behavior.

The letter writer, who calls herself a Selfish Romantic, has developed the habit of cheating on her boyfriends. No matter which boyfriend she has, she manages to find another man to cheat with. In ancient times, she would have been called a slut or a tramp. In modern times we are not supposed to be judgmental… we are supposed to feel her pain.

Much to our surprise, Polly does not feel her pain. She refuses to associate herself with a woman who does not respect herself or other people. Polly is clearly correct here. She shows that adult women refuse to associate with woman of ill-repute because they understand that condoning such behavior will cause them to be similarly disrespected. This the rationale for slut shaming, a practice most often engaged by women, not men. When women refuse to shame their slutty sisters they are defining themselves down, declaring that they are worthy of being treated as women of less repute.

Kudos to Polly.

Anyway, here’s the text of the letter:

I started cheating on my boyfriends in college, and it’s a habit that has followed me into adulthood. It started out with onetime hookups and escalated into full-on affairs. I always had the comfort of a loving boyfriend while the “other man” could nourish unfed parts of me — my interest in art, my inner social butterfly, my sense of adventure. It’s weird, I remember fantasizing about infidelity when I was younger but have also always craved monogamy.

I find ways to rationalize this extremely selfish behavior (“What they don’t know won’t hurt them”). I’ve even called it a “feminist act.” In other words, I’m delusional.

I’m currently in one of these situations, but it feels harder than before. My current boyfriend and I get along so well. We have so much fun together, laugh at the same things, and he really loves and cares about me. We’re on the same page about almost everything, but I’ve noticed some parts of him that I don’t love. He’s often negative, sometimes short-tempered, pretty unmotivated, and a bit anti-social. I suppose these are the things that have led me to cheating on him, even though I love him.

The guy I’m cheating on him with is also a great guy, but I don’t feel the same comfort, ease, and love with him as I do with my boyfriend. He checks a lot of my boxes (passionate, social, friendly), but I would hate to leave my loving, supportive, compatible boyfriend for someone who might not be worth it. I don’t know what to do. On the one hand, I love my boyfriend. But on the other, I’m literally cheating on him.

Who do I choose? The answer everyone has been giving is “choose yourself,” but I don’t want to give up both of these great men.

Selfish Romantic

After offering a wee bit of psychobabble, Polly offers the cogent remark, that romance is a contract. I would have preferred that she note that relationships and especially marriage are contracts, but she is using the term that the letter writer uses. In her deluded state the letter writer thinks she is being a romantic.

Polly writes:

Maybe you have to pretend or act cheerful or suspend your disbelief a little bit, but with romance, there’s a contract. Romance means you share at least a loose understanding of what you’re doing together. Romance cannot exist when one person is lying. The lies nullify the romance. The lies mean that your partner is trying to live in reality, but you’re bamboozling him for the sake of living in a fantasy world. Your fantasy depends on a heist.

I especially like the idea that a man who is faithful to his girlfriend is engaged in a real relationship, while the cheating girlfriend is living a lie. That means, is living in a fantasy world.

She continues to argue a point that I often note: namely, that the contract does not require you or anyone to come clean about everything. Other advice columnists have said as much. It is worth repeating:

Coming clean is not always the most generous and kind act that a person can engage in. But those rare and particular situations are nothing like your situation. In your situation, lying is a crime against the two men you’re milking for affection and support.

Polly places responsibility where it belongs, with the cheating girlfriend. Since the letter writer behaves the same way with every man she is involved with, the chances are good that she is the problem. True enough, the problem might be that she chooses men who are inappropriate, who are not marriage material, who are lousy in bed… whatever. None of it justifies chronic cheating.

Polly continues, sympathizing with the men and denouncing the cheater in notably harsh terms:

They’re trapped by your lies while you suck the life force out of them. It’s not romantic and it’s not sexy and it’s not just selfish, it’s deeply unethical and punishing and unfair and wildly abusive.

Polly suggests that the woman has numbed her moral sense to the point that she is oblivious to the harm she is doing to herself. She ought rightly to feel shame for her behavior but has numbed herself to it. Here Polly takes up the shame issue and gets it right.

You already realize that, at some level. Your cells are absorbing the unethical nature of your current experiment. That’s what I think you don’t see. You think you deserve the luxury of dating two men, at some level. You think that you haven’t gotten enough and you, personally, deserve a little more. You’re in more pain and need more than other people. Or you’re less decisive and that’s just how you are! You like cheating! Whatever, that’s you! You’ve always been this way! It’s kind of messed up, sure, but you identify deeply with your dark center. You’re a little bit of a criminal, one who has become attached to the criminal lifestyle. You think it makes you a badass. Even when you say, “I know it’s delusional,” it almost sounds like you’re bragging a tiny bit.

Trust me, you don’t know how delusional it is.

The delusional part goes well beyond the unethical nature of your activities, because the damage to your self-esteem, your daily lived experience, and your worldview at large is so enormous that it’s impossible to map. “He’s often negative, sometimes short-tempered, pretty unmotivated, and a bit anti-social. I suppose these are the things that have led me to cheating on him,” you write. This lies at the heart of your wrongheadedness: to believe that your boyfriend’s flaws are the cause of your cheating is to believe that your own flaws make you worthy of being cheated on, abused, abandoned, you name it. You believe that flaws are moral failures.

Polly continues, speaking from the heart. And being utterly and correctly judgmental. She should do it more often.

I just need for you to INTEND to understand that you’re hurting yourself every single minute you continue to live the way you’re living. Your fantasy world is making you sick in a myriad of ways that aren’t that obvious yet, but they can only get worse. You’re permanently fucking with your balance and your senses. You’re choosing confusion over clarity. You don’t like to reflect on anything because it means letting in all of your self-hatred. This also means you have no room for anyone else. You don’t listen. People are disposable, even when you crave a permanent relationship. You are all alone on a lonely planet. That’s why you always need more. That’s why there’s never enough. That’s why neither man is quite good enough. That’s why you will never be good enough for any man, not without lies, not without the safety of a hedge, not without the reassurance that you know something he may never know, not without bamboozling the living fuck out of him.

Think about that. Love is a theft to you. You aren’t even feeling it. And you can only have enough if you take more than you actually deserve.

It’s time to turn the corner and get some clarity. In order to do that, you have to walk straight into your shame and self-hatred and look around at the world in your mind, a world where flaws are moral failures. You have to acknowledge your fear. You have to acknowledge how ugly and disgusting you feel. You’ve always felt that you had to put on seven veils and dance and charm and cajole just to have friends, or lovers, or support, or patience. You are a real living organism who can’t feel anything, so you’re pretending to be an invincible robot dog.


New York's Rigged Public Works Market

Now for the bad news. In a city that lives for free market capitalism, subway construction costs are many times more expensive than they are in any other city in the world. The recently completed Second Avenue Subway took decades to build. And it cost more than anyone imagined. 

Why did it cost so much? Apparently, an unholy alliance of government regulators, environmentalists, labor unions and construction magnates saw it as their very own piggy bank. As for the quaint notion that politicians might control the cost... not a chance. apparently it did not happen.

To its credit, the New York Times reports the story. And, not for the first time. For the most part it will be ignored:

The astronomical costs of building the Second Avenue subway and other New York public transit projects are now the subject of a federal inquiry.

The Government Accountability Office said on Wednesday that it was preparing to launch a study of why transit construction is so much more expensive in the United States than in other parts of the world. Special attention is expected to be paid to New York City, where recent projects have cost far more than anticipated.

Auditors plan to examine contracting policies, station design, project routing, regulatory barriers and other elements that drive cost, comparing practices in different cities in the United States and abroad, officials said. A final report with recommendations is to be issued by the end of the year.

The study was part of the spending bill that was approved by Congress last week. And it comes three months after an investigation by The New York Times revealed how city and state public officials had stood by as a small group of politically connected labor unions, construction companies and consulting firms drove up transit construction costs and amassed large profits.

The first phase of the Second Avenue subway on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, for instance, cost $2.5 billion for each mile of track. Another project known as East Side Access, which will carry the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal through a 3.5-mile tunnel, is on pace to cost $3.5 billion per track mile.

Elsewhere in the world, a mile of subway track typically costs $500 million or less.

It’s always good to know where our tax dollars are going.

David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez: Not Too Bright

Now we know. Stoneman Douglas High School student leaders of last weekend's anti-gun march are not the brightest of the bright. 

Take David Hogg… he’s the anti-gun zealor who cursed out the world on national television. Apparently, young David was rejected by the colleges of his choice. Among them were UCLA, from the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of California at San Diego and the University of California at Irvine.

As a consolation, he was accepted at Cal State San Mateo, Cal Poly and Florida Atlantic.

Hogg is not sure what he will do next year. He thinks he is going to change the world. With that in mind he will probably take a year off.

As for his record, his GPA is 4.2, well above the 3.4 threshold for out-of-state applicants to California universities. Yet, his SAT score was 1270, undoubtedly insufficient for admission. Apparently, there’s some serious grade inflation at Stoneman Douglas High School.

As for Emma Gonzalez, she will attend something called the New College of Florida. You have not heard of it. Neither have I. One thing we can conclude is that it is not Stanford or Williams.

It is ranked high for being gay friendly and for being pot friendly. Wikipedia offers this tidbit:

In 2015 New College of Florida failed to qualify for a share of a $100M pool of state educational funds after scoring third lowest statewide among Florida colleges and junior colleges on a career issue-focused rating metric. One year post-graduation, only 44% of New College graduates were working or pursuing their education full-time, by far the lowest in the Florida college system. Median wages for New College graduates employed full-time in Florida one year post-graduation was $21,200, vs over $30,000 for every other university in the state.[31] Similarly, a Brookings Institution report rating U.S. Colleges by their incremental impact on earnings 10 years post-graduation ranked New College in the bottom 15% of colleges nationwide.

It looks as though their fifteen minutes of fame will soon be over.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Sexual Revolution Has Failed

William Voegeli has written a seminal account of what happens when you politicize sex. In part it concerns the sexual revolution that arrived in America during the Vietnam War. In larger part, it concerns the predations of one Bill Clinton, and the way that his enablers, led by his wife, created an environment where it became commonplace for men to harass and exploit women for sex.

For my part I would add that we should not overlook the influence of one John F. Kennedy, liberal icon and serial sexual predator. After all, Bill Clinton was nothing but a poor man's John Kennedy.

Mixing sex and politics was not a good thing. If your moral compass about sex involves whether or not you want to save or to undermine a presidency, you have no moral compass. Pretending that men and women were the same, that women wanted sex as much as men did, contributed to the massive confusion that surrounds the issue. If women no longer want to marry young, they will be induced to fill their college years and young adulthood with a series of meaningless sexual encounter... ones that will protect them from the dread marriage and family.

As we speak, some part of the media has taken its eyes off of what matters in the world in order to drool over an accusation that Donald Trump had a consensual one-night-stand more than a decade ago with a porn star. In the past such women were described as being of ill-repute. Now they are martyrs for the anti-Trump cause. The women (and men) who fought like rabid dogs to protect Bill Clinton from accusations of rape, sexual harassment and sexual abuse are now wondering whether Donald Trump used protection.

It ought to be clear that those who defend women selectively do not care a whit for the women or their honor or their dignity. If they cared about women’s dignity they would not be trotting out harassment victims and porn start to make debating points against politicians they do not like. And they would not be encouraging women to expose themselves to the world… attitude that does not elicit respect for women’s minds and professional achievements.

Under the aegis of those who were conducting the sexual revolution, sex became weaponized and politicized. If accusations of sexual impropriety threatened a politician who supported feminism, it needed to be defended. If they threatened a politician who rejected feminism, it needed to be denounced.

Now, with the #MeToo movement, the revolution has set about eating its own children. It has come down hard on Bill Clinton’s children. The media moguls, Hollywood tycoons, commentators, reporters, talk show hosts and television stars have been taken out and sacrificed to the gods of political correctness. It’s supposedly a way to empower women. It’s a way for women to take back something they had been induced to give away for free. So, we understand the impulse. But, we also know that talking about sex all the time and talking about female sexuality all the time... while destroying men’s lives… is not going to achieve the goal. It will make women a threat in the workplace. And it will incite men to punish women for what they have done to men.

Voegeli sums it up well and clearly:

The sexual revolution has followed its logical course to a place that growing numbers of people find sad and ugly. That revolution’s objective was a new moral regime, neither censorious nor hypocritical, in which consensual sex outside marriage was every bit as licit as sex within it. Before the sexual revolution, a man wasn’t supposed to have sex with a woman unless she’d taken his last name. Fifty years after the revolution, it’s increasingly common for a man to have sex with a woman without ever learning her last name. The sexual revolution has yielded the “hook-up” culture or, as Vanity Fair described it, the “dating apocalypse.” Not only are sexual “partners” not required to commit to each other, the hook-up demands that the transitory, transactional partnership must disavow any possibility or hope of commitment. As a result, one writer lamented, “It’s rare for a woman of our generation to meet a man who treats her like a priority instead of an option.”

Criminalizing sexual behavior is not going to help the cause. Clearly, Voegeli is right to say that the sexual revolution has failed. The personal is not political. And unless we depoliticize the personal and the sexual, we are not going to solve the problem.

Mr. Kim Goes to Beijing

As noted on this blog, the Trump administration’s diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea has been orchestrated by Chinese president Xi Jinping. Until now it was happening behind the scenes, but yesterday the relationship became center stage when Kim Jong-un made a visit to Beijing and was prominently photographed with President Xi. The two leaders stated clearly that upcoming negotiations between the United States and North Korea would focus on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

Kim’s initial outreach to South Korea involved negotiations over his nation’s participation in the Winter Olympic Games. North Korea did participate and did send propaganda minister and Kim’s sister to the games. The point was clear: Kim needed to show that he was in charge and that he was not being pushed around by anyone, especially by the Chinese president.

Having established his leadership role, Kim could reach out to President Trump. One recalls that anti-Trump commentators were appalled that Trump seemed to have decided to accept the invitation-- delivered by South Korean diplomats-- without consulting with his foreign policy team. Apparently, more thought went into the decision than we know about. Apparently, it was orchestrated through backchannel communications with President Xi. And of course, the leaders of the Trump foreign policy team, Tillerson and McMaster are on their way out.

Surely, the Trump administration maximum pressure policy mattered, but the meetings and the relationship between Trump and Xi Jinping mattered more. You noticed that when Kim requested a meeting and Trump accepted, our president made clear that he credited Xi with arranging it. After Trump’s visit to Beijing last year, the Chinese government sent envoys to North Korea. We do not know what they said, but we can assume that they made clear that the Chinese government had run out of patience with the obstreperous boy leader. And China also signed on to the United Nations sanctions regime, thus, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, crippling that nation's economy.

One also notes that the Chinese government publicly briefed President Trump about the meeting.

Yesterday, Kim Jong-un was rewarded for his more conciliatory attitude. When Xi Jinping received him formally in Beijing, he was giving Kim face. He was elevating his standing in the world, but was also letting the world know that China was standing behind him. That means, in diplospeak, that Xi has offered Kim protection. He is guaranteeing the continuation of his regime and is assuring Kim that he will not end up like Col. Qaddhafi. The public ceremony means that Xi means what he says.

One suspects that this will make the negotiations with President Trump more constructive. One also suspects that Kim Jong-un will begin to institute economic policies that can raise his country into a more prosperous and functional nation. Perhaps Xi invited him to become North Korea’s Deng Xiaoping.

At a time when bands of hysterical ninnies are running around screaming that, what the with arrival of John Bolton as National Security Adviser, a nuclear holocaust is pending, we ought to ignore these absurd rants and understand that the Trump administration has been advancing its goal of solving the problem of Kim’s nuclear weapons diplomatically.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

He Gambled Away His Family

From time to time the Daily Mail finds a story that justifies its status as the world’s greatest tabloid.

This story comes to us from India. A man was gambling and, apparently, in an excess of confidence, put his wife and two children into the pot. He lost the hand, he was forced to forfeit both wife and children. 

When the winner showed up at the loser’s home, to collect his prize, the wife objected. Thus, a local council was called to adjudicate the dispute.

It’s decision was: that the loser only had to forfeit one of his children to the winner.

The wife then divorced her husband and married a “younger man.”

The case has been referred to a district court. Police are now investigating the matter.

Did the Novel Kill Religion?

Thanks to Steven Pinker we are all having a national conversation about the Enlightenment. We are being persuaded that replacing religious dogma with reason was just the thing that Western Civilization needed… to awaken from its slumber and become dynamic and democratic.

I have already offered extensive commentary on Pinker’s errors. I will not repeat it all here. I am not alone in pointing out that Pinker does not understand the Enlightenment and that his efforts to promote atheism defy belief. After all, many nations around the world tried to overthrow religion and to replace it with cultures based on atheism. They called it Communism, and even fascism. They failed miserably. If Pinker et al. wanted to engage their rational faculties on the question of what atheism has done for us, they would show some honesty and consider that the efforts to create atheistic cultures have consistently failed… catastrophically so.

To be fair, Pinker and his fellow atheists will never accept that Stalin and Mao enacted the atheist agenda. And yet, discarding experimental results that do not fulfill the terms of your ideology does not bespeak science or rationality. It exposes the project as a polemical exercise designed to persuade people to believe something that makes no sense.

Of course, the defenders of atheism will quickly retort that Communism failed because it did not affirm the basic Enlightenment value of empathy. You see, to Enlightened thinkers and to most of our therapy culture, empathy is the basis for all human morality. Feeling someone else’s feelings makes you kind and gentle. Better yet, said capacity for empathy is hard-wired in the organism. If you lack it you are a perverted psychopath… and not an embodiment of Enlightenment values.

As it happens, this is all wrong. Serious Enlightenment thinkers knew better than to believe that we could generate moral principles through neuroscience or any form of science.

David Hume, a leading figure in the British Enlightenment, ignored by Pinker, famously asserted that science is about “is” while ethics is about “should.” You cannot get from the one to the other. Naturally, our new atheists ignore Hume… because his inconvenient thought would sink their project.

I offer this background as an introduction to an essay written by one M. M. Owen about famed British novelist and new atheist Ian McEwan. I have not read McEwan, certainly a more-than-capable novelist, for some time, so will refrain from commenting on Owen’s analysis of his fiction. If Owen is correct and McEwan is trying to sell his enlightened atheism in his fiction, this would count against him.

Art ought not to be preaching to us. It ought not to be telling us what to think or what to do. If I may, art dramatizes moral dilemmas. It shows possible outcomes. It shows possible approaches to the problems. It is an adjunct to religious texts, but does not destroy them.

Examine Owen’s opening gambit:

Three hundred years ago, reading novels (as opposed to the classics, or Shakespeare) was widely seen as vulgar, indicative of a deficient mind. So was not believing in a divine creator. Today, at least among the sort of people who tend to read literary magazines, both these thing are more likely to be regarded as signs of intellectual and moral refinement. For the critic James Wood, this is no coincidence: the novel is “the slayer of religions,” a form that swept away Biblical certitudes and replaced them with fictional narratives that move “in the shadow of doubt,” asking readers for a belief that is fundamentally and irreligiously metaphorical.

He continues:

One author who would agree wholeheartedly with Wood is England’s Ian McEwan, who asserted in 2013 that the novel is a product of the Enlightenment that “has always been a secular and skeptical form.” McEwan is a committed nonbeliever, so committed that he qualifies as a junior member of the intellectual movement-cum-publishing-ploy known as New Atheism, which emerged in the wake of 9/11.

Religious texts contain stories. But they propose to set down a series of moral principles and rules for conducting life in community. Religion—the word means, in its Latin root: to bind together—teaches you the rules that will allow yourself to conduct yourself as a functioning member of a social group. To teach those rules, it offers dramatic instances-- call them parables, if you like-- that show the rules in action.

Since you cannot have a community unless everyone is playing by the same rules, religion must present an authority that is beyond that of a mere mortal. It may be communicated through Moses taking dictation from God or through Jesus Christ, as Son of God, but everyday human beings accept and follow the rules that define a culture because they believe that these rules were laid down by a higher authority, that is, that they were not invented to advantage or disadvantage any group of human beings or any individual human being.

Since the new atheists seem to have no use for such rules, they want to replace them all with empathy. And they imagine that novels teach people to feel empathy for other people. One notes, because one is something of a curmudgeon, that novels contain literary characters, even fictional characters, and if the best you can do is to pretend that people learn how to feel for their other humans by imagining that fictional characters are human, you have a problem.

The new atheists notwithstanding, novels create alternative worlds, what the philosophers call possible worlds. They show characters whose actions fulfill the terms of a narrative… according to the narrative’s internal logic. They might resemble human beings, but their actions are governed by the narrative and are shown to produce an inevitable outcome. If people are playing a game, and not pretending to be fictional characters, the outcome of their actions is not predetermined. Whatever moves you make in a game, however you move the pieces on the chessboard, you are not creating a fiction. You are playing a game. YOu are not living a narrative fiction.

Owen explains McEwan’s misguided journey into philosophy:

McEwan aligns strongly with the New Atheism through his celebration and exaltation of capital-R Reason. In the New Atheist framing, post-Enlightenment science embodies the apogee of the human capacity for reason, while religion constitutes a troublesome soup of everything that is unreason. McEwan’s literary vocation coalesces with his scientific rationalism via the moral role he proclaims for the novel—a role he frames in explicitly neuroscientific terms. As he describes it, “we are innately moral beings, at the most basic, wired-in neurological level.” This morality stems from the fact that “our imagination permits us to understand what it is like to be someone else” (psychologists call this Theory of Mind). From this, McEwan says, it follows that fiction is “a deeply moral form, in that it is the perfect medium for entering the mind of another.”

He continues:

Within the history of English letters, McEwan’s vision of the novel as a “deeply moral form” and force for social good recalls George Eliot and Iris Murdoch—with the special quality of its being underpinned and animated by all the things contemporary rationalists and atheists love: evolution, neuroscience and a morality rooted in our selfish genes, rather than in God. To listen to only McEwan’s interviews, it all seems very straightforward: novels make us nicer people. Good novels can ultimately achieve the same thing as antibiotics, vaccines, nitrogen fertilizer or any other other scientific success—they can aid the species.

The issue is going to be: are we naturally moral beings and do we merely need to overthrow religion in order to allow our own neurons to lead us to do the right thing. By this reasoning, the right thing will feel good while the wrong thing will feel bad.

Aside from the fact that David Hume would have laughed as such pretension, the truth is that, to take an obvious example, we are all born with the capacity to learn language. And yet, unless someone teaches us language… by talking to us… we will never speak a word. A capacity is one thing. The rules are something else. We are not born with brains filled with moral rules, any more than our neurons contain words and phrases.

And of course, the new atheists tell us that we just need empathy. One might respond that we really need to learn how to get along with other people, to function within groups, to form social organizations. Empathy might contribute to that function, but, in any of itself, it will not give us the rules and principles that we must all follow if we are to function within a social organization.

Owen continues:

Around this time, he also begins to be explicit about his moral conception of the novel: Homo sapiens are primates that, over millennia, evolved deep-set pro-social features, including the capacity for empathy. Empathy is fundamentally an act of imagination (we imagine our way into the mind of another), and an act of imagination on the scale of a good novel can send a tsunami of it washing through the brain. Novel-reading (and writing) can be a form of moral education.

As it happens, and as we have known since the time of the Enlightenment, empathy is not intrinsically moral. It can promote sadism and psychopathy. In his Theory of Moral Sentiments Adam Smith-- another great Enlightenment thinker-- argued persuasively that if we see someone getting beaten up, and if we put ourselves in his shoes, via imagination, and choose to avenge the mistreatment he has received. And to avenge him against whomever comes along. Yale professor Paul Bloom argued the point in his book, Against Empathy. Empathy can make you a very nasty piece of work.