Thursday, May 31, 2018

She Abandoned Her Daughter to Find True Love

In the best of all possible worlds you will be living your true love and fulfilling all of your adult responsibilities. You will never feel torn between the two because everything always works out for the best. In the best of all possible worlds you will have it all and will not make any compromises.

But, what if you do not live in an adolescent fantasy? What if you do not have a tenuous hold on reality? What if one day you have to choose between true love and adult responsibilities? Then what?

True love or parental responsibility? Choose one. You cannot have both.

Of course it does happen. In fact, it happened to Lady Diana Spencer, aka Princess Diana. When she was six years old Diana’s mother ran off with her true love, abandoning home and hearth and family. You can ask yourself how that one worked out for her daughter Diana… who later suffered from borderline personality disorder, one of whose primary characteristics is an exaggerated fear of abandonment. And yet, when you are a six-year-old girl and your mother abandons you, it isn't an exaggeration.

To be more timely, take the case of a married mother of an eight-year-old daughter. One day she falls in love with a man who is not her husband. It does happen. And let’s imagine that the price of finding true love in this new relationship is not merely abandoning her husband, but also abandoning her daughter. She has fallen in love who does not want the young girl around. What should she do? In this case she runs away with her true love... and is haunted with shame. 

Now, the young girl is grown up and her mother’s family wants to be in touch with her. The woman writes to Carolyn Hax at the Washington Post.

Here is the letter, from Anonymous:

When I was 8, my mom left my dad and me and married another man. That man didn't want me around, and so I saw my mom only three times between ages 8 and 18. I also very rarely saw aunts, uncles and cousins on my mom's side of the family.

Now that I'm an adult, I'm beginning to develop relationships with my relatives on my mom's side, but it's difficult because they seem so insistent on my forgiving my mom. For instance, I mentioned to my aunt that it was difficult not having my mom around, and she said, "You should be happy that your mom found a man who made her happy."

Do you think it's worth my pursuing relationships with my mom's side of the family? Or is it pointless when they act like my mom abandoning me at age 8 was a perfectly acceptable thing to do?

Consider it a moral dilemma. Should Anonymous forgive her mother? Should she act as though the behavior was acceptable? Which is more important, finding a man who made her happy or fulfilling her responsibility to a minor child?

Hax is properly outraged by it all and largely correct in her assessment.

I’m sorry, that’s just mind-blowing. You were 8!

The mama bear in me wants to tell you, no, it’s not worth pursuing relationships with people this bloody myopic. And cruel.

However, pointing out the absurdity of what they’re suggesting is worth a shot: “I want to be sure I have this right. I hear you say that I should be happy my mom traded me, at 8 years old, for a man. Is that what you meant?” Go into anthropologist mode, because you want this data.

So, Hax offers a few words that Anonymous might throw in the face of her mother’s relatives. One assumes, naturally, that these relatives have been put up to it by her guilt-ridden mother. And yet, forgiving what the British would call a bolter is not a job for Anonymous. 

You cannot undo child abandonment and neglect by pretending that it was alright to seek true love. And besides, one assumes that her father shouldered the task of bring her up by himself. Doesn’t she own him her loyalty? We would have liked to know what he thinks of this. 

Hax continues:

Remember, too: Your mom’s family might carry a lot of guilt around about this. Your mom is the one who left you, yes, but in doing so she forced all of her family to respond to her in some way — to deplore her actions, to distance themselves from her, to stay in touch with you on their own ... or to welcome the new guy in all of his child-rejecting horror and act as if nothing was wrong. If they chose the last one, then you can expect they’ll spend a lot of their time with you trying to justify their own moral lapses — and what’s the weapon of choice for such people? 

These are not, in other words, good people. They are not only seeking absolution for the mother’s moral failings, but also for their own. Haven't they been going along with it for yo these many years? Now they seek absolution. They seek forgiveness, a forgiveness that Anonymous ought not to be offering at this stage. More so when these relations want Anonymous to act as though what her mother did was perfectly normal, thus, perfectly moral.

They are looking to salve their guilty consciences, and Hax is quite correct. An abandoned daughter is not responsible for pretending that her mother's moral dereliction was the right thing to do.

"Mop Your Way to Success"

It’s graduation season,  a time when newly minted college grads are forced to listen to a commencement speaker offer up a platter of platitudinous bromides… purportedly the kind of advice that will send you soaring into the work world. In truth, it will make you feel like Icarus... and we know how that worked out.

Colleges have assiduously avoided preparing students for anything resembling the world of real work. They have a congenital allergy to anything that smacks of reality. As you know, they now dedicate themselves to the task of indoctrinating students with the dogmas of the Church of the Liberal Pieties. And to force them to take up residence in an alternative reality where Hillary Clinton is president, where equality reigns and where Barack Obama was a rousing success.

As might have been expected, college commencement speakers top off this indoctrination by spewing forth useless advice. But, their job is to affirm the value of whatever these students have been taught in school. Lest we forget, the value offered in return for the astronomically high tuition fees they now charge. You don't want the proud parents to leave the ceremony thinking that they have been scammed.

Thus, rarely do today's graduates hear anyone who might offer a different point of view, a different perspective, even, and especially a conservative approach to the world’s problems. I venture that each member of the class of 2018 is carrying a gadget created by a company whose motto used to be the grammatically infelicitous: “Think Different.” Of course, if ever they were really to think differently in their Humanities or Social Science classes they would not be sitting on the college green in their antiquated robes and bizarre headpieces listening to yet another affirmation of the truth of leftist ideology.

Fair enough, the speeches were not all bad. And yet, many of the speakers were celebrities-- not great thinkers or great minds-- chosen not for their advanced wisdom but for their entertainment value. One wonders whether colleges are now justifying their high fees by offering up entertainment. If not offering it up, making it an object of serious academic study. Many of them have replaced the great books written by the great thinkers with lessons in popular culture. Apparently, it was the only way to relate to students who do not know enough to read the greats. And when students are assigned great books one suspects that lectures are sprinkled with lessons from celebrity culture. They have learned to bow down at the altar of celebrity and have also likely learned that the great and not-so-great books validate the beliefs that their professors hold most dear.

I am exaggerating for effect, but today’s commencement speakers do not encourage us to think otherwise. In such a verbal miasma the sage advice purportedly offered by Kurt Vonnegut rings out: Wear sunscreen. As you know, Vonnegut did not give the speech. It was a hoax. Still, compared to what America’s biggest loser, Hillary Clinton, had to say, "Wear sunscreen" sounds like pretty good advice, after all.

I suspect that the following real piece of advice, offered in the pages of the Wall Street Journal communicates a message that college students never heard. And yet, Tyler Bonin has it right. The one thing that an entitled self-absorbed, self-indulgent snowflake generation needs to hear is: Mop the floors.

Yes, indeed. Get over the feeling that you are too good to do manual labor. Get down and dirty. Work hard, not because you are being forced to do so by a pitiless overseer, but because it is good for you. But especially because it is good for the company.

Bonin recounts his experience, and shows how to get ahead in the business world.

When I was a student at Duke, I worked in a retail store. Many of my co-workers were also college students, some in graduate school, and one was on her way to dental school. Many of my colleagues hated mopping, which required going into the haven of filth that was the public bathroom. I had plenty of practice in this area as a former Marine Corps private, so I always volunteered for the job.

My managers noticed. They named me employee of the month and promoted me to management for the holiday rush—a small success at a small store. I learned that a sense of entitlement is a burden. People who believe themselves above something, or entitled to something more because of past achievements, will find that new opportunities slip away.

I volunteered for the necessary task, signaling my work ethic and dedication to the organization. I simply wanted to do my job as best as possible. Perhaps I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was emulating senior Marines who would roll up their sleeves and get dirty when the job required it.

Mopping the floors manifests humility. It shows an understanding that all jobs have value. It shows a commitment to the team:

Certainly there is a time to be bold, but there is also a time for humility. A task once considered beneath you could actually be the key to your success. Do the job nobody wants, because, believe it or not, somebody appreciates it. Volunteer to learn and to provide value to others. Find a dream job by first doing the rote tasks in that field, without complaint. Pick up a mop.

When I was reading this I recalled a televised interview that Colin Powell gave one day. I cannot recall the date or the time or the station. Powell explained that he got his first job when he was nineteen. He was hired to sweep out a warehouse or a factory floor or something.

He told himself that he wanted to be the best at sweeping the floors, so he applied himself industriously and assiduously to the task at hand. One day the manager saw him sweeping the floors with uncommon intensity and remarked: Why are you sweeping floors? You do more for us.

If you want to get ahead do not pretend that your job, whatever it is, is beneath you. No job is beneath you. Work hard at whatever your job is. Don’t just do you best, but do it better than other people have done it. And don’t just do it, but look like you value it, like you think that you are doing something important.

Good luck to the class of 2018.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Insensitivity Training at Starbucks

Yesterday was Starbucks diversity training day. You know what happened when a pair of black men decided that they had a right to use the restroom in a Philadelphia Starbucks without having purchased anything. The manager called the police and the story turned into a national cause celebre.

Evidently, calling the police was an extreme response, though it was allowed under company policy. The manager’s action clouded over the other issue, perhaps not the most important one, but worth consideration. If a store policy limits restroom use to paying customers, you have two options, either you go elsewhere or you buy something. Most people have had the experience and have simply purchased a cup of coffee. It is not overly onerous. It applies equally to everyone. The men who refused to buy anything or to leave were asserting that they were not obliged to play by the same rules as anyone else.

As for the usefulness or uselessness of diversity training sessions, I would note that they are most useful for those who get paid to offer them. They are also useful for companies that wish to shield themselves from lawsuits. As for the larger issue, whether they produce enhanced sensitivity, the answer is, as most sentient individuals know, that they do not.

Patrice Lee Onwuka explained:

For decades corporations have employed diversity programs and anti-bias training as tools to increase diversity and prevent embarrassing events. The intention of diversifying staff is important and needed, but the programs have failed to deliver meaningful or lasting results.

Harvard Business Review analyzed three decades of data on diversity programs and interviews with management at over 800 corporations. The researchers found that training does not usually work because while it teaches participants how to answer questions about bias correctly, they forget those right answers within a day or two. The information is not internalized and so does not become transformational.

Most people who are involuntarily subjected to such thought reform sessions go through the motions and forget what they were told.

Why is this so? Onwuke responds:

This happens because people don’t respond well to compulsory courses, but rebelagainst being force-fed information. By contrast, voluntary training leads to the opposite response and delivers better results, such as increased numbers of minority groups in management. Anti-bias or diversity training also often uses negative messages such as “Discriminate, and the company will pay the price.” But people aren’t won over by fear.

Of course, if institute diversity training produces more minority managers you are also suggesting that those who advance into higher management did not earn their way. This fact might well make it more difficult for them to lead effectively.

And, Onwuka continues, focusing the mind on bias tends to produce more bias. It tells people to see their colleagues and coworkers in terms of racial or gender categories, not as contributing members of the team. Worse yet, since everyone is subjected to this forced training, those who have done nothing to deserve it feel like victims of discrimination themselves:

Such training has also led to the unintended consequences of activating biases about others. Participants have reported leaving training confused, angry, or feeling more animosity toward differences and other groups. When groups of people such as managers are targeted for added training, they resist the message because they feel singled out as culprits for something they may not have done.

Finally, there is the question of the Starbucks brand. And especially its association with leftist politics. If you feel that by buying coffee at Starbucks you are supporting a political cause, will that make you more or less likely to do so?

The NFL and the Bonfire of Political Correctness

Given that it is fast losing its audience, the National Football League has decided no longer to allow players to disrespect the National Anthem or the American flag on the sidelines before their games.

True enough and fair enough, players have a right to protest. They even have a right to insult the nation. They do not, of course, have a right to do as they please when in uniform and on the job. Also true, the same players have asserted that they do not intend to insult the nation with their actions. They are only trying to bring attention to a grievous social problem: white police brutality.

We should be clear about one point. You do not own the meaning of your gestures. Any more than you own the meaning of your words. If you discover that many people consider your gesture to be insulting, you should stop doing it. If you persist, you are insulting people, attacking their patriotism and demeaning the nation.

Otherwise, you are claiming the right to play by  your own rules, rules that do not pertain to other people. For professional football players the claim to such a right is absurd, on its face.

Naturally, one does not have the right to say it, but the protest against white police officers, especially against those who commit acts of violence against blacks, ignores the simple fact that the problem of violent crime in black communities is not the fault of white police officers. It is the problem of those who commit the crimes. Shifting the blame to white police officers exonerates and even cheers the perpetrators for drawing attention to what they consider to be a larger social issue. The result is: more protests against white police and more crime by blacks against blacks. Never in the course of these debates does anyone summon up the courage to note the gross disparity between black-on-black crime and white police on black crime.

As it happens, the increased national awareness of police shootings has produced… more violence against white police officers. Ought the protesting players to claim responsibility for this grievous outcome? Of course, no one will dare hold them to account.

Secondly, as Jason Riley explains in the Wall Street Journal today, the players have been promoting a false narrative. There is no epidemic of white police officers committing crimes against black citizens. And yet, the media hawks the narrative as a higher truth, producing more crime against the police. One might also call it media incitement:

But the protests have been more than an annoying distraction for sports fans. On a more substantive level, they have been used by political progressives and the mainstream media to advance a dangerous antipolice narrative at odds with the available empirical data. An increase in the coverage of police shootings, thanks to social media and cable news, has been presented as evidence of an increase in the number of police shootings. Statistically rare and isolated incidents are offered as evidence of an epidemic.

In fact, police use of lethal force has been falling for decades. Police shootings in New York City are down by more than 90% since the early 1970s. In Chicago, shootings involving police fell by more than half—to 44 from 107—between 2011 and 2015, according to a database compiled by the Chicago Tribune. That means police-involved shootings represented just over 1% of total shootings in the Windy City in 2015. Over the same five-year period, police in other major cities with sizable minority populations, including Los Angeles, Houston and Philadelphia, resorted to lethal force less frequently than Chicago police officers.

A recent study published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Surgery assessed more than a million service calls to police departments in North Carolina, Louisiana and Arizona and found that cops used physical force in the course of arrests less than 1% of the time.

So, Roger Goodell has finally done the right thing. Hopefully, he has done it in time to prevent the National Football League by incinerating itself on the bonfire of political correctness.

The Biology of Sexual Attraction

By all accounts the biology of sexual attraction is not a social construct. It is not even being dictated by Hollywood.

The life-follows-art crowd believes that men find older women less attractive because Hollywood always portrays younger women in romantic encounters. Those who believe that they can  change the world and modify human nature by producing new movies where older women are locked in fiery passionate love affairs have every right to try to impose their views of the rest of us. Of course, they have to answer to the box office.

And they have to answer to an immutable fact that every woman knows, but that no women, until now, have been willing to discuss. Think about it, what with the public display of every intimate secret about female psychology and female anatomy, the purveyors of this splendid, near-pornographic exposure have ignored one simple fact. Namely, that a certain time in her life, generally when she crosses the threshold of fortydom, a woman will become invisible the male gaze. When she walks down the street she will not turn heads. It will not much matter what she is wearing, the male gaze will rest dormant in her presence.

We have heard so much chatter—and it does not deserve the name of thought—about the dread male gaze and how it objectifies women that we ignore the fact that many women appreciate an admiring look, even they do not appreciate leers and gawks. And those women who like being admired for their appearance can tell you, once they reach a certain age, that they recall vividly the moment when they became invisible.

However much today’s advanced reproductive endocrinologists can extend the zone of a woman’s fertility, they cannot extend the time when she turns heads. True enough, we have a cosmetic surgery industry to make women, and some men, look younger than their age, but the truth remains, and it seems to be an objective fact, that raw fertility, in the biological sense, explains, in the most simple and direct way, why women of a certain age no longer attract the male gaze. For those of a more theoretical bent, it surpasses even the fetishization of the female body.

One would like to add that it has something to do with pheromones, but that would make it more difficult to explain why the same reaction occurs when men see an older actress on the movie screen. We might consider it a new challenge for the movie industry: how well can they disguise a woman’s age so that an older woman receives the same longing looks as a younger woman does.

Now, we are happy to report, Pamela Druckerman has ripped away the veil and has written a book about the issue. The book is called There Are No Grown Ups, and it recounts her personal experience of aging gracefully, and at times, not so gracefully. The book received a favorable review in The New York Times, by Allison Pearson.

Naturally, Pearson says that it’s all about ageism, yet another in the litany of bigotries we are supposed to be alert to. In truth, if you ignore reality you will never run out of things to protest.

She explains:

Ageism may well be the last taboo, but keeping it in place is not just male prejudice but the female’s secret dread of losing her youth. Rossellini says that Lancôme told her women dream of looking young. How does it feel to have your sexual currency depreciate that abruptly — and what stock, if any, can replace it? There has been remarkably little good writing about this thorny topic but here, with excellent timing, comes Pamela Druckerman’s pitch-perfect and brutally frank “There Are No Grown-Ups.”

It happens when Druckerman is around forty. Since she lives in Paris, the experience is rendered in French. Pearson explains:

Around her 40th birthday, there is “a collective code switch” as waiters start calling her “madame” instead of “mademoiselle.” Logically, Druckerman knows she is entering middle age — she observes it in the lines on the faces of her peers — but “I just didn’t expect ‘madame’ to happen to me, or at least not without my consent.”

Shocked, she realizes she has been counting on her own preternaturally youthful appearance to not only endure, but to gain an advantage. “In my 40s, I expect to finally reap the average-looking girl’s revenge. I’ve entered the stage of life where you don’t need to be beautiful; simply by being well-preserved and not obese, I would now pass for pretty.”

But, it is not all lost. At forty Druckerman can still attract a male gaze, but it is not quite the same gaze as she had been attracting before.

Many women calculate in this competitive way; most are too tactful to say so. Not Druckerman. She has a reckless candor that can make you laugh and gasp at the same time. Men, she says, appraise her in the street now only if she is in full hair and makeup, and the message in their gaze is, “I would sleep with her, but only if doing so required no effort whatsoever.” Ouch.

Speaking of her sex life, Druckerman already wrote a magazine piece about her husband’s fortieth birthday gift. You see, the man asked his compliant wife for an experience, not a gift. The experience was a threesome... with another woman, of course. I cannot say whether it made her feel as though her husband’s libido was tiring of her… but, we can always speculate. As you can read in the above-linked piece, Druckerman complied with the request.

Pearson closes her review on a cautionary note:

Oh, and one final point for Pamela Druckerman. You think your 40s are a challenge? Wait till menopause, honey.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Don't Be So Hard on Yourself

The latest in psycho research contains more than a few grains of truth. As offshoot of cognitive therapy it tells us that we make ourselves depressed by engaging in endless and mindless bouts of self-criticism. We find fault with ourselves. We punish ourselves for our flaws, foibles and errors. We ruminate over them and paralyze ourselves.

So far so good. We cripple ourselves with guilt. We take our errors and fold them into a narrative where we are unworthy, almost criminal, needing punishment. Some people go to confession, but most go to therapy… to identify their faults, to seek out their infantile origins and to punish themselves.  Their therapists induce them to do some penance, pretending that if they punish themselves sufficiently for their bad intentions they will naturally go out and do the right thing.

The researchers are surely correct to see that many of us are wallowing in self-criticism. They do not recognize that therapy itself produced this bad mental habit. Therapy has imbued us with guilt and has taught us that self-criticism is a good thing. People did not just wake up one morning and start to self-flagellate. They did it because they were told that it would make them better people. What else do you think it means to punish yourself for your white privilege?

Moreover, the ambient culture tells us that it is a good thing to criticize everything in sight. Especially everything about America. We go to school and learn to criticize the nation and our civilization. We learn to find fault with America, to punish ourselves for the privileges we gain from being American. If you think that the psycho tendency to self-criticize is occurring in a vacuum, you are missing the point.

How many university classes emphasize America’s crimes and faults, its repressive and oppressive actions? How many classes teach that America has done good things, has achieved great things and has earned its position atop the world’s status hierarchy? Not very many. 

In the meantime, let’s examine the research, via the New York Times. The story begins with the observation that we give more weight to our mistakes because it is the first step toward correcting them. Thus, self-criticism can be adaptive:

In other words: We’ve evolved to give more weight to our flaws, mistakes and shortcomings than our successes.

“Self-criticism can take a toll on our minds and bodies,” said Dr. Richard Davidson, founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also teaches psychology and psychiatry.

“It can lead to ruminative thoughts that interfere with our productivity, and it can impact our bodies by stimulating inflammatory mechanisms that lead to chronic illness and accelerate aging,” he said….

“Our brains equip us with a mechanism to monitor our mind and our behavior,” Dr. Davidson said, so that when we make errors, we are able to notice the mistake. “In order to recover, we first must notice that a mistake has occurred,” he said.

Of course, people who never make mistakes are arrogant and narcissistic. Recognizing your mistakes can easily be conjoined with humility.

Davidson believes that if get too wrapped up in self-criticism we end up thinking that we are worthless. He calls it a shame spiral, though it bespeaks an effort to deal with shame by using the mechanisms of guilt culture: that is, self-punishment. After all, self-criticism is a form of self-punishment:

And it’s that type of self-criticism that can have measurably destructive effects, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, negative self-image and, in a particularly vicious twist, decreased motivation and productivity, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychotherapy Integration. Another study, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that self-criticism leads people to becoming preoccupied with failure.

Basically, beating yourself up for finishing only three of the five items on your to-do list is going to make you less likely to finish those last two items — and yet we’re programmed to fall into that pattern.

The solution, as offered by psycho professionals, involves what they call “self-compassion.” As always, therapists imagine that engineering the right feelings will solve all of our problems. In truth, if we solve the self-criticism problem we will feel better, but focusing on compassion is not likely to be very successful. 

The reason: compassion involves charitable feelings for those who need help… but who cannot help themselves. Will you really cure your self-critical tendency by thinking of yourself as someone who needs help but cannot help himself?

The researchers believe that self-compassion involves self-acceptance, but surely the term “compassion” has nothing to do with acceptance.

The Times continues:

We’re evolutionarily predisposed to nitpick at our failings, yet doing so has the opposite of the intended effect.

The solution? It’s called self-compassion: the practice of being kind and understanding to ourselves when confronted with a personal flaw or failure, according to Dr. Kristin Neff, associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Research shows that the No. 1 barrier to self-compassion is fear of being complacent and losing your edge,” Dr. Neff said. “And all the research shows that’s not true. It’s just the opposite,” meaning that self-compassion can lead to greater achievement than self-criticism ever could.

In fact, several studies have shown that self-compassion supports motivation and positive change. In a 2016 study researchers found that “self-compassion led to greater personal improvement, in part, through heightened acceptance,” and that focusing on self-compassion “spurs positive adjustment in the face of regrets.”

If we make a mistake we normally work to correct it. Those of us who refuse to correct it in the present correct it in our minds. And yet, the mind’s self-correction counts as a dress rehearsal. If you do not apologize to the person you offended you are wasting your time ruminating over how best to do it. The bottom line is: apologize directly and in person. If you require a mental dress rehearsal, OK. But, the proof is in the action, not in your feeling compassionate toward yourself for having erred. You should feel ashamed of yourself for having erred. And the shame should be so painful that you will be spurred to apologize. But that assumes that you do not believe that you feel sorry for yourself for having insulted or offended whomever.

The more time you spend upping your quota of self-compassion the more time you will be avoiding the task at hand. True enough, some of the advice on offer can be helpful. If you criticize yourself all the time why not shift your focus and do a kind deed for someone else.

Focusing on the right feeling distracts you from planning the right action. It might be to apologize for an error. It might be to train better, to do more homework, to reorganize your time, to make and keep plans, to focus more intently on a task at hand.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Ronald Reagan on Memorial Day

President Ronald Reagan's Memorial Day message (via Maggie’s Farm):

Once each May, amid the quiet hills and rolling lanes and breeze-brushed trees of Arlington National Cemetery, far above the majestic Potomac and the monuments and memorials of our Nation's Capital just beyond, the graves of America's military dead are decorated with the beautiful flag that in life these brave souls followed and loved. This scene is repeated across our land and around the world, wherever our defenders rest. Let us hold it our sacred duty and our inestimable privilege on this day to decorate these graves ourselves -- with a fervent prayer and a pledge of true allegiance to the cause of liberty, peace, and country for which America's own have ever served and sacrificed. ... Our pledge and our prayer this day are those of free men and free women who know that all we hold dear must constantly be built up, fostered, revered and guarded vigilantly from those in every age who seek its destruction. We know, as have our Nation's defenders down through the years, that there can never be peace without its essential elements of liberty, justice and independence. Those true and only building blocks of peace were the lone and lasting cause and hope and prayer that lighted the way of those whom we honor and remember this Memorial Day. To keep faith with our hallowed dead, let us be sure, and very sure, today and every day of our lives, that we keep their cause, their hope, their prayer, forever our country's own.

Egypt Is Gaining Economic Freedom

You recall that the Obama administration undermined Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and was happy to see him replaced—via an election—by a Muslim Brotherhood leader named Mohamed Morsi.

You will also recall that Gulf Arab states were appalled. The overthrow of Mubarak damaged America’s relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Since the Brotherhood was violently anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic, its takeover of Egypt was greeted with dismay in Israel.

You will also recall that the Brotherhood, in its election outreach, was sending mobile infirmary vans into the poor neighborhoods of Cairo. Why were they doing this? In order to allow parents to have their daughters genitally mutilated without having to take them to a clinic or a hospital.

You will be thinking that America should support those who won fair elections—like Donald Trump. But  you also recall that the first foreign leader to travel to Cairo to bestow her blessing on Morsi was none other than America’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The great champion of women’s rights sat down to bless a man whose organization strongly favors female genital mutilation… not to say, wife beatings and honor killings. And of course, that sees homosexuality as a capital crime.

Whether Clinton was there because the Obama administration was partial to the Brotherhood or because her girlfriend’s family is intricately involved with the Brotherhood and its adjunct Sisterhood… we do not know.

Whatever the reason the Obama administration cast its lot with Mohamed Morsi and with the godfather of Islamist terrorist groups. Clinton's presence suggested strongly that the Obama administration was pleased with the election results. She did not have to be there.

In time, you recall, Morsi’s short rule saw nearly a quarter of all Egyptians starving to death. And it diminished the nation’s foreign currency reserves. So, a military coup toppled Morsi’s regime and installed President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Now, enquiring minds want to know how Egypt is doing under its now authoritarian rulers. Apparently, it is doing fairly well.

According to a report fromthe Daily Signal, the Egyptian economy is liberalizing at a rapid pace. The el-Sisi regime is introducing free market reforms. We note that the information comes from the International Monetary Fund and Harvard’s Center for International Development, as well as from the Heritage Foundation:

Egypt’s economy is rebounding after years of economic stress and political turmoil.

As Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, noted earlier this year, Egypt is at a turning point in its economic structure and is signaling to investors it is serious about comprehensively reforming its economic system.

According to The Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, Egypt’s overall economic freedom has increased over the past year thanks to improvements in financial freedom, investment freedom, and business freedom.

Reform of fuel and electricity subsidies has been a notable achievement, and market forces now determine the exchange rate. A recently enacted investment law aims to reduce bureaucracy and promote greater foreign investment. And, earlier this year, Egypt’s parliament passed the country’s first bankruptcy law, which should help viable companies return to business success more quickly.

These reforms are paying off. In a recent economic report, Harvard University’s Center for International Development ranks Egypt as the third-fastest growing economy in the world and predicts the country will achieve average economic growth of more than 6 percent per year until 2026.

It’s a cautionary note for those who believe that democratic elections are a necessary concomitant to economic reform and modernization. More and more, developing nations are adopting the Chinese model and are modernizing without liberal democracy.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Democrats Against Israel

For reasons that do not need too much explaining, Israel has become a partisan political issue in America. Caroline Glick outlines the problem, a problem made especially acute as most Democratic politicians turn away from Israel.

They do so for two reasons, Glick argues. First, they despise Trump and will oppose anything he does. Second, they love Obama and want to follow his anti-Israeli policies. Anything that Trump does that makes Obama look bad makes them look bad. Ergo…

Glick begins with the Trump aspect:

Never in US history has a president been demonized and delegitimized by his political opponents as Trump has been by Democrats. Since the day he was elected, Democrats have sought to overturn the election results.

Every policy Trump enacts is subjected to immediate delegitimization. Democrats attack every position Trump adopts as morally defective, somehow treacherous and utterly illegitimate.

In the past, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been bipartisan American policy:

Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem and move the US Embassy to Israel’s capital is case in point. In 1995, Democrats and Republicans joined together to overwhelmingly pass the Jerusalem Embassy Act mandating the transfer of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. It passed the Senate 93-5.

Every year since lopsided majorities in both houses have voted in favor of resolutions enjoining successive administrations to follow the law and move the embassy. In the past four presidential elections, the Democrats’ party platform has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and supported moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

Given that most American Jews are Democrats, this is hardly surprising. And yet, there has been a sea change. Glick saw it first in the way that Democrats boycotted the Jerusalem embassy opening:

Given this background, dozens of Democratic lawmakers could have been expected to come to Jerusalem for the embassy opening last week and still more could have been expected to put in an appearance at the Israeli Embassy’s bash in Washington.

Instead, with some notable if constrained exceptions, Trump’s move was met with stony silence by the vast majority of Democrats. And several powerful lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and prominent senators Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin, Chris Murphy and Bernie Sanders condemned the move.

The only possible explanation for their abrupt abandonment of a policy they had dutifully followed for 23 years is Trump. They revile him and reject him to such a degree that they prefer to abandon long-held positions than admit that he did exactly what they have wanted the president to do for the past 23 years.

Glick also blames it on identity politics. After all, why should Democrats go to the mat for Jewish voters when there are so few? And why should they alienate their primary voting blocks, especially minority communities that are notably anti-Semitic.

Of course, Barack Obama led the Democratic Party to this impasse: 

Obama’s hostility towards Israel, his repeated intimations that Israel is a colonialist outpost while the Palestinians are the indigenous people of the land of Israel were part and parcel of his across-the-board effort to enable the radical Left to take over the party. Obama’s efforts laid the groundwork for socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly strong challenge to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the party’s presidential primaries. It also set the stage for the rise of radical leaders like Congressman Keith Ellison and Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the post-Obama Democratic party. Feinstein, who supported a bipartisan Senate resolution just last year calling for the implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, is now facing a far-Left primary challenger.

Now, Democrats are threatening Israel. They do not want that nation to praise Donald Trump and do not want to see the American/Israeli alliance improved. They want Israel to join the Resistance. They tell Israelis that as soon as Democrats regain control over of American foreign policy, Israel will face a reckoning:

Democrats advise Israel to do two things. First, they say, the government, and the public more generally, should keep Trump at arm’s length. We should stop supporting him and applauding and thanking him for his support for Israel.

Second, they say, the government should maintain faith with Obama’s pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel policies. Among other things, this means that Israel should permanently deny Jews the right to exercise their property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Israel should also prop up Hamas and the PLO.

Glick advises her nation to turn away from the Democrats and to pursue its own self-interest:

The second problem with the advice that Democrats are providing is that if Israel listens to them, it will be at even greater risk of being harmed by a hostile administration in the future. Given the ascendancy of the radical Left in the party, and its intractable, impermeable hatred of Israel, Israel needs to secure as many of its long-term strategic interests as it can with the friendly Trump administration lest those interests are imperiled by a hostile Democratic White House in the future.

She concludes:

The Democrats who are saying that by supporting Trump, Israel is turning itself into a partisan issue, are themselves responsible for turning support for the Jewish state into a partisan issue. By denying that Israel has a right and a legitimate interest in standing with a president that is supportive of and takes concerted steps to advance the US-Israel alliance, they are saying Israel has no right to be supported by its supporters.

The Democrats are right that Israel has a vested interest in preserving and expanding bipartisan support. But contrary to their position, there is only one way for Israel to achieve this goal, and happily, the government’s policies indicate that this is the path that Israel is following today.

Saudi Arabia Shuts Down Business with German Firms

When President Trump canceled President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal Western European leaders were horrified. They were almost as horrified as the American progressive media.

For Germany’s Angela Merkel, it was all about business. Like her confreres in Paris and London, she wanted to preserve business deals with Iran. To hell with the rest of it. These countries assume that the big boys in the schoolyard, i.e. the United States will deal with Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program and its yearnings for nuclear weapons.

Fair enough… if you want to define yourself as junior partners in an alliance.

Now, we read in Der Spiegel, another country has expressed its serious displeasure at Iran’s bias toward the JCPOA and against America. That country is… Saudi Arabia.

We all suspected that Trump would not have canceled the Iran deal and even the move of the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem without some sense that the Saudis did not object too strenuously. Now, on the Iran deal, Saudi Arabia has told Germany that it could do business with Iran if it liked, but it could not also do business with Saudi Arabia. Poof.

Der Spiegel reports on how this is effecting a German business called Detlet Daues:

Detlef Daues is a pioneer of the German small- and medium-sized companies that have made Germany what it is today: a prosperous nation with good international relations that stretch to even the farthest-flung corners of the world.

His Hannover-based virtual department store for original replacement parts, V-Line GmbH, services customers in countries like Mexico, the United States, Qatar and Oman in addition to others in East Asia. But 65 percent of Daues' revenues come from Saudi Arabia.

Quietly, Saudi Arabia has shown its displeasure with German policy:

But currently, the once-positive relationship between Saudi Arabia and Germany has worsened. Six months ago, Riyadh withdrew its ambassador from Germany and he still hasn't returned. There has been little open discussion of the reasons behind the conflict, but for people like Daues in the business community, the rift is as plain as day. "For Germans, the doors in Riyadh have suddenly been closed," says one experienced businessman in the Saudi capital. Meetings with delegations from Germany that were set up before the crisis are being canceled. "That hurts," says Oliver Oehms of the German-Saudi Arabian Liaison Office for Economic Affairs in Riyadh.

More specifically:

But now the "German government has succeeded" in "upsetting the country so badly that German firms are being excluded from being awarded contracts," the entrepreneur wrote in a letter to Bernd Althusmann, the economics minister for the state of Lower-Saxony, where his company is located. He wrote that he had been deliberately excluded from contracts for the first time.

Evidently, the chill has been a long time coming:

Young crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS for short, appears to be "deeply offended" by the German government, says Daues, who adds that his information comes from confidants in Riyadh. Relations between the two countries began souring last November when then-German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel spoke of spreading "political adventurism" in the Middle East, a remark many thought was aimed at Saudi Arabia. The impression was widespread at the time that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was being held against his will in Riyadh and that he was being strong-armed by the rulers there to step down.

But the canceled Iran deal has deepened Saudi distrust of Germany:

Berlin is determined to stick with the nuclear deal despite U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement he will withdraw from it, whereas there is deep-seated distrust of the government in Tehran in Riyadh. It may be that the Saudi crown prince views Germany's conduct as criticism of his governance. Sources close to him say that a relaxed attitude toward differences of opinion is not one of the prince's strong points.

It gets worse for Germany. Der Spiegel has the details:

Germany remains Saudi Arabia's most important European trading partner. Some 800 German companies are active in the country, and 200 have offices in Saudi Arabia with a total of 40,000 employees. In 2017, the volume of German exports to Saudi Arabia was 6.6 billion euros. But the mood is shifting.

Well-informed observers in Saudi Arabia are reporting that even larger German companies like Daimler have been affected. The Saudis, for example, threatened to temporarily postpone the delivery of several hundred Mercedes buses. Officially, the company has vehemently denied the reports, with Daimler saying it cannot confirm any delay. The bus project, the company insists, is proceeding on schedule.

The Saudi Health Ministry, which has worked closely together with medical equipment supplier Siemens and pharmaceutical companies Bayer and Boehringer for years, has also distanced itself from its German partners recently. "The business is tougher," a spokesman for Siemens says in a cautious formulation. "We don't want to comment on the matter," spokespeople for Bayer and Boehringer stated. No one wants to further rile the government in Saudi Arabia. Recently, Riyadh's city development authority ADA issued a contract for the construction of a major bike path that will run through the capital city's green belt to the American architecture firm Coen+Partners. But only a year ago, it had planned to award the contract to the German firm AS+P Albert Speer and Bödeker Landscape Architects.

Of course, the story has been ignored. The American media has gotten its knickers in a twist over the supposedly deteriorating relations between Trump and Merkel. As often happens, given its blinders, it is missing important aspects of the larger story.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Your Local Starbucks Homeless Shelter

If this doesn’t make your day, nothing will make your day.

Apparently, the woke company called Starbucks is having a problem with its new open-doors policy. As you know Starbucks, in a paroxysm of guilt over the fact that a manager in Philadelphia called the police to remove two non-customers and who refused to leave the café. 

The result, a new policy. Starbucks now allows anyone to drop by and to hang out. They can all use the facilities without buying anything.

It’s a calamity in the making. The Zero Hedge blog has the details, which, as it happens date to before the new policy:

Starbucks is having a terrible time adapting to its new "inclusive" public restroom policy, as employees contend with blood spattered walls, used drug needles, and face-melting waftings from deuce-dropping vagrants filling the store. 

Oh, and all that was happening before the new homeless shelter bathroom policy

The stores have always had needle removal equipment:

A former Starbucks facilities manager who oversaw several urban stores on the East Coast said those cafes had special kits on hand with rubber gloves, tongs and a box that store employees could use to dispose of needles... –WSJ

Customers are decidedly unhappy… which eventually will be bad for business. Zero Hedge reports:

As we reported on Thursday, Starbucks' new "inclusiveness" policy is sparking outrage in customers who just want to get a $6 latte without running into the new bathroom inhabitants. 

“It sounds like Starbucks is turning their stores into homeless shelters. Their coffee is strong but their management is weak,” said Ron Raduechel, a 64-year-old retired supply chain executive from Waukesha, Wis., who said he would no longer go to Starbucks. -WSJ

As the reactions from viewers of CBS LA's recent story about Starbucks' new policy suggest, customers are fed up...

“If you go into a business and you just sit there and you don’t buy anything you are taking up space at the table,” said Melrose Larry Green.

You could end up having a squatters problem where you just have people coming and staying. I mean if they are going to do that they need to limit how long people can stay in there,” said Joe Selva.

Call it the free market at work. Those who want to impose their ideology on the rest of us ought at least to pay for it.

The Noise That Never Stops

The New York Times reports on a gigantic Brazilian wind farm. The farm is located in an area where the wind never stops… surely a good thing in the wind farm world.

It just shows you what we can do when we can harvest the wind as what the Times calls “a natural resource:”

At night, blinking red dots fill the sky, and the sound of whooshing rotating blades is everywhere — constant reminders of the wind’s abundant presence here on Brazil’s Atlantic coast and its harvesting as a natural resource.

At daybreak, towers rising nearly 400 feet peek out high above the canopy of palm trees, like gigantic dandelions.

Here is the good news:

On this part of the Atlantic coast, the wind blows constantly and in one direction consistently, giving Brazil a steady stream for energy production. The country is now the world’s eighth-largest producer of wind power, according to the Global Wind Energy Council, a trade association, with wind farms operated by Weg, Siemens Gamesa, Wobben Windpower, among other companies.

Among the benefits are these:

A mile from the beach, the view of the turbines reminds the rural area’s residents of both the possibilities and the impact of the industry.

At Morro dos Martins beach, about 80 miles northwest of Natal, Damiao Henrique, 70, plugged electric cables to a pump so he could water his bean plants. A fisherman and farmer, he was removed from his old strip of land and sent a few yards closer to the shore to allow space for a wind farm.

“But I am O.K.,” he said. “As compensation, I received energy from the company, and now I can water my beans more easily.”

Surely, it’s a good thing that Henrique can water his beans more easily.

Other residents have been disappointed:

Other local residents said the promised benefits had not appeared.

“The mayor said there would be schools,” said Maria Venus, 47, who owns a grocery store in Morro dos Martins. “They opened a music school for the community, gave us some guitars and after a year all was put on hold.”

But there is a problem:

And then there is the noise.

“Oh yes,” she added, “they also left this noise that never stops.”

It’s a trade-off. You get cheap energy and you save the planet. On the other hand, the noise never stops. We have heard these stories before. These wind turbines are expense. They are rotted by the salt air. And they damage your health by subjecting you to the “noise that never stops.”

Do you want that in your backyard?