Thursday, June 21, 2018

How Are Things at Starbucks?

Now that it has touted itself as a leader in the social justice wars against white supremacy, Starbucks is having problems. We will refrain from defining cause and effect, but Starbucks stock tanked yesterday when it announced that it was closing 150 stores next year. Retrenchment must be the correct word.

The other correct term is: the price of virtue signaling. The Washington Times has the story:

Starbucks may have appeased progressives with its social-justice workshops and open-bathroom policy, but such moves have failed to caffeinate the company’s bottom line.

The coffee giant’s stock took a tumble Wednesday after CEO Kevin Johnson announced that Starbucks would close 150 company-owned stores next year instead of the expected 50, with an emphasis on underperforming shops in densely populated urban areas, and lowered growth projections.

Did the company’s open embrace of social justice lead to the shutdowns? Apparently, it did.

The Wash Times explains:

Mr. Johnson acknowledged that the decision to shut down 8,000 U.S. stores on May 29 for anti-bias training, driven by the high-profile arrests of two black men in Philadelphia, played a role in the company’s sluggish second-quarter performance.

“In this current quarter, certainly we had an unplanned initiative driven out of the Philadelphia incident, we closed all our stores for training, we had to delay some marketing, but none of that is an excuse,” Mr. Johnson told CNBC. “The fact is the way I think about a growth company at scale is we’ve got to deliver consistent growth, month after month, quarter after quarter, and year after year. And we have not done that.”

In response, Starbucks announced steps to streamline the company and increase its agility by “accelerating product innovation,” “leveraging the growing tea and refreshment category,” and responding to trends toward “health and wellness.”

Now the company is adding a tea business to its coffee business. Surely, that will do the trick. After all, tea is made from leaves. Thus it is greener that coffee. Frankly, I recommend that people cease doing business with a company that thinks its goal in life is to promote social justice. As for shareholders, forewarned is forearmed.

Should Revenge Porn Be Outlawed?

You would think that the issue is not controversial. After all, who among us can possibly favor revenge porn? Who among us would not like to see those who share compromising photos of former loves be punished?

In truth, the major opponent of New York State’s revenge porn bill was none other than Google? Perhaps it wanted to strike a blow for gender equity. Perhaps it does not care about the young women who are public humiliated by these photos?

When the NY state legislature readied itself to consider an anti-revenge porn bill, Google stepped in and lobbied against it. On the grounds that such laws would restrict its ability to monitor content. Of course, revenge porn constitutes an assault, so we can only wonder how Google made it a corporate freedom issue.

The Daily Beast explained:

New York state’s revenge-porn bill—which would have made nonconsensual sharing of sexual images punishable by jail time—died early Thursday morning following a last-ditch campaign by Google. The state senate adjourned for the year and took no action on the proposal, which was introduced in 2013 and recently taken up again after a campaign by the New York Post. The bill would have made it possible to give those found guilty of the crime as much as a year in prison and would have helped victims force internet hosts into removing the images. Google staged a late effort against the bill, saying it was opposed to government oversight on how it regulates content. 

Winners and Losers in the Singapore Summit

Apparently, the Trump-Kim Singapore summit was a success. Otherwise, why would the media be filled with horrifying images of refugee children. The derangement and the hysteria are palpable. For those simpletons who cannot think past the argumentum ad Hitlerum, the Trump policy of dividing families that entered the country illegally smacks of concentration camps and crematoria. 

Naturally, Trump’s detractors do not accept that the president accomplished anything significant in Singapore. Over 80% of the people of South Korea think that he did. Since they have skin in the game, we should take their view seriously. On this side of the world, the hatred of Trump is so completely over the top that the vast majority of comments, whether from legislators, political leaders, columnists and even corporate chieftains has been decidedly negative.

Thus, for your edification, I draw attention to an article in the highly esteemed journal Foreign Affairs. Chung-in Moon explains that the Singapore summit was a success for all involved. For the record he is a South Korean foreign policy expert who works with president Moon Jae-in. I will not detail all the arguments, but will limit myself to a salient quotation:

In a war there are losers and winners but in diplomacy there are rarely black-and-white outcomes. Rather than keeping score, the goal is to find acceptable compromises for both sides. Although there might be differences in relative gains, diplomatic negotiation usually entails an imperfect win-win outcome. That was the case with the Singapore summit. The United States was assured that North Korea is committed to complete denuclearization, while the North was assured of a new relationship with the United States and a security guarantee. South Korea was also a beneficiary of the summit, because the Singapore declaration explicitly reaffirmed the April 2018 Panmunjom Declaration between Seoul and Pyongyang regarding denuclearization and the building of a peace regime. So, too, was China a winner, because its proposal for a “double suspension” of both North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities and U.S. military exercises with South Korea, and the dual-track approach to denuclearization and a peace regime, were all reflected in the signed statement and post-summit announcements. In short, there were no losers in Singapore, which is quite an accomplishment.

Quite an accomplishment….

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Case of the Bad Friend

As often happens in Ask Polly columns we do not know enough about the letter writer to offer an intelligent, well-reasoned response. This never deters Polly herself, because she prefers running off at length about herself… about which she thinks she knows a great deal.

Today’s letter writer, Bad Friend, is wondering whether she is an asshole. She has many friends and seems to be likeable and outgoing. Yet, she does not to make plans to see her friends. She wants to be alone. Apparently, she has a Greta Garbo complex and wants to be left alone.

As it happens, she is married to a woman, with whom she presumably lives. Whether her spouse, who plays the extrovert to her introvert, leaves her alone… we do not know. Extroverts are not known for leaving you alone.

The writer merely wants to do her work, but we do not know what her work is. All we know is that she does not like to make plans.

We would love to know whether she has always avoided making plans or whether she used to make plans, only to have people cancel on her. Obviously, the point is relevant. We do not know anything about it. Bad Friend seems to think that she possesses a character flaw. She ends her letter by saying that maybe she is just an asshole.

Here are some excerpts from the letter:

I love my friends. I know I’m fortunate to have people in my life whom I care about. Most of the time when we hang out, it’s fun. My secret is: I never want to see them.

Here’s how it goes: A friend texts me “Dinner Tuesday?” but Tuesday doesn’t work for me, so it turns into a spiral of scheduling that slowly sucks my lifeblood away, takes me to a dark and twisty GCal hell, and makes me wish I never met this person in the first place. I wish there were a way to say “I like you, but I do not want to make a plan with you. I don’t want to do it Tuesday, I don’t want to do it a week from Tuesday or a month from Tuesday. I want to continue to be friends and not make plans with you.”

When I get a text or an email from a friend asking me to get together my stomach drops. Not because I hate them, but because I don’t want to make a plan. Once someone suggests a Plan, you’re hooked: I can’t say “No” without suggesting another date, I can’t suggest another date without triggering a scheduling vortex, then I look ahead at my calendar and it’s all booked up with Plans with people I don’t even really want to see, and I can’t do my favorite thing, which is to be alone….

I don’t want to lose friendships. I just don’t want to have to be watering them, constantly making plans, in a state of constant social activity. I just want to exist without disappointing anybody. I want to love people but not contort myself to satisfy their arbitrary and inflated expectations of what a “social life” is.

Am I an awful person? How do I manage others’ expectations of me? Most important: How do I say no to drinks without offering an alternate date for drinks? How do I say “Can we not make this plan?” without sounding like an asshole? Or am I an asshole? Should I just accept that I’m an asshole?

Actually, she is an awful person. Or, at least, she is acting like one. We will consider her an awful person until we know more about how reliable her friends are. Conducting friendships and having a social life inevitably involves making plans and coordinating schedules. So does doing a job. Living with another human involves developing couples routines, a division of household labor, and extensive cooperation. If you are living with another person and are marching to  your own drum, you have a problem. And your relationship is in trouble.

Naturally, Polly feels oodles of empathy for Bad Friend. It beats analyzing the issue and groping toward a solution. Polly’s non solution is to be open and honest with her friends, to tell them that she hates to make plans, because they are far less important than her personal solipsistic Self. As Bad Friend knows, and as Polly does not seem to know, if she follows this course of action she will quickly find herself with fewer friends.

I have no real sympathy with someone who is likeable, who is friendly with other people, and who consistently disappoints them by refusing to make plans. 

Yet, you might have noticed that she is living in a one-directional world, where people reach out to her and she refuses to reach back. That is, she rejects their advances. One imagines that some kind of trauma is involved, because refusing to make plans is not normal.

How can she solve this problem, which is an extreme form of social anxiety? How about reaching out to some of these people, becoming the person who is initiating contact rather than the person who feels put upon by people who want to spend some time with her. It beats her current solution: serendipity and a throw of the dice. Someone who does not  want to make places to see friends is, properly speaking, a bad friend.

Today's Gender Neutral Navy

One is not sure what to make of this, so I will report it as written. An anonymous individual wrote to Robert Stacy McCain, author of a blog called The Other McCain to explain what happened when the U.S.S. Fitzgerald was hit by a Philippine container ship in June, 2017. (Via Instapundit) Seven sailors lost their lives in the accident.

The captain and two admirals were held responsible, but press reports failed to remark on the officers in charge at the time of the accident. Why do you suppose that that is?

Well, here are some excerpts from the letter:

… it was noteworthy that the captain and a couple of admirals were publically named, but not the actual officer in charge, the officer of the deck. (OOD) The other person who should have kept the Fitz out of trouble is the person in charge of the combat information center, the Tactical Action Officer. That individual is supposed to be monitoring the combat radar, which can detect a swimmer at a distance of two miles. 

Why were the OOD and the TAO not named?

The OOD was named Sarah, and the Tactical Action Officer was named Natalie, and they weren’t speaking to each other!!! The Tactical Action Officer would normally be in near constant communication with the OOD, but there is no record of any communication between them that entire shift! 

Another fun fact: In the Navy that won WWII, the damage control officers were usually some of the biggest and strongest men aboard, able to close hatches, shore up damaged areas with timbers, etc. The Fitz’s damage control officer was also a woman, and she never left the bridge. She handled the aftermath of the accident remotely, without lifting a finger herself! 

Look it up: The OOD was Sarah Coppock, Tactical Action Officer was Natalie Combs.

What did the Navy investigation conclude?

In an 11-hour hearing, prosecutors painted a picture of Lt. Irian Woodley, the ship’s surface warfare coordinator, and Lt. Natalie Combs, the tactical action officer, as failing at their jobs, not using the tools at their disposal properly and not communicating adequately. They became complacent with faulty equipment and did not seek to get it fixed, and they failed to communicate with the bridge, the prosecution argued. Had they done those things, the government contended, they would have been able to avert the collision.

Is there a deeper meaning? Does it have anything to do with diversity quotas?

That three of the officers — Coppock, Combs and Woodley — involved in this incident were all female suggests that discipline and training standards have been lowered for the sake of “gender integration,” which was a major policy push at the Pentagon during the Obama administration. It may be that senior officers, knowing their promotions may hinge on tenthusiastic support for “gender integration,” are reluctant to enforce standards for the women under their command.

Now that we know what happened and why it happened, we would also like to know whether the Navy has changed policy. Don’t count on it.

We note that the story has been carefully covered up by all media outlets.

A Blow for Human Rights

The big secret about the United Nations Human Rights Council is that it does not care about human rights. Those who are bemoaning America’s exit from the council are so simple minded that they believe America is no longer interested in promoting human rights.

What is the UN Human Rights Council? It’s a cabal containing some of the world’s worst human rights abusers. It is mostly concerned with attacking Israel and, by proxy, the United States. If you believe that American should continue to be part of the council, you are countenancing an organization that promotes worldwide anti-Semitism.

Imagining that the UN HRC promotes or advances human rights is absurd to the point of being risible.

Yesterday, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley announced America’s withdrawal at the State Department, in the company of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. For those who care about symbolism and the like, the structure of the announcement showed that Haley was not a lone ranger: she was acting in accord with State Department policy.

Pompeo had a few choice words of his own:

Mr. Pompeo said the Council had a poor record of defending human rights and criticized it for allowing some of the world’s worst offenders, including Iran and Venezuela, to remain as members.

“The Council has failed in its stated objective,” Mr. Pompeo said, calling it an “exercise in shameless hypocrisy.”

And also:

On Tuesday, Mr. Pompeo used the same terms to criticize the U.N. body. “The Council’s continued and well documented bias against Israel is unconscionable,” he said.

As for Nikki Haley, she said:

Ms. Haley called it a “hypocritical and self-serving” organization that protects rights abusers, and a “cesspool of political bias.”

She continued:

Ms. Haley has spoken out frequently against the U.N. Human Rights Council and on Tuesday denounced what she called its “chronic bias against Israel.” Ms. Haley complained that the Council has issued more resolutions condemning Israel than North Korea, Iran and Syria combined.

The New York Times offered this in a news story:

It was the first time a member has voluntarily left the United Nations Human Rights Council. The United States now joins Iran, North Korea and Eritrea as the only countries that refuse to participate in the council’s meetings and deliberations.

Thereby it is suggesting that the United States is joining tyrants and despots in rejecting the noble cause of human rights. In truth, as the Times also noticed, the Trump administration is refusing to collude with and to legitimate an organization that systematically persecutes Israel, that holds it up to opprobrium for no reason other than pure bigotry.

One might say that the United States just struck a blow against the oldest of bigotries. Naturally, those who pretend to support human rights are appalled.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The End of the ACLU

In a recent article Alan Dershowitz, former board member of the American Civil Liberties Union decries the radicalization of that organization. No longer willing to promote civil liberties, it has transformed itself into a political advocacy group, promoting leftist policies and candidates.

Dershowitz writes:

The director of the American Civil Liberties Union has now acknowledged what should have been obvious to everybody over the past several years: that the ACLU is no longer a neutral defender of everyone’s civil liberties; it has morphed into a hyper-partisan, hard-left political advocacy group. The final nail in its coffin was the announcement that for the first time in its history the ACLU would become involved in partisan electoral politics, supporting candidates, referenda and other agenda-driven political goals.

Why has it happened?

If you want to know the reason for this shift, just follow the money. ACLU contributors, including some of its most generous contributors, are strong anti-Trump zealots who believe that the end (getting rid of Trump) justifies any means (including denying Trump and his associates core civil liberties and due process).

When the Trump administration seems to deny civil liberties the ACLU ought rightly to criticize it Yet, the ACLU has become an extremist organization whose purpose is to end the Trump presidency.

Trump himself has denied fundamental civil liberties by his immigration policies, his attitude and actions regarding the press, and his calls for criminal investigations of his political enemies. The ACLU will criticize those actions as it should. But the Trump presidency has also pushed the ACLU further to the left and into partisan politics. President Trump is so despised by contributors to the ACLU that they have increased their contributions, but also demanded that the ACLU be on the forefront of ending the Trump presidency, either through impeachment, criminal prosecution or electoral defeat.

One cannot help but be amused and horrified by the notion that the ACLU wants to overturn the results of a fair election… in the name of liberty and democracy.

Who Runs American Foreign Policy?

You have read it here before, on several occasions. The Trump-Kim negotiation for North Korean denuclearization was orchestrated by Chinese president Xi Jinping. The reason was simple. Trump and Xi made a deal. In exchange for Xi’s help—which Trump praised lavishly—Trump would do Xi a favor in return. 

When Xi asked Trump to help save Chinese telecom giant, ZTE, Trump graciously acceded to the request.  It was a simple quid pro quo, the kind the forges relationships between governments and between people.

Writing in the Asia Times, Spengler explained it:

American diplomacy achieved a landmark result in Trump’s Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un, offering the repugnant North Korean leader legitimacy and the prospect of regime continuity in return for his nuclear weapons program.

The president’s “Art of the Deal” negotiating style had less to do with the constructive outcome than old-fashioned diplomacy under the skillful guidance of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: Consultation with allies, back-channel exchanges with the other side, and a proposal that both sides could live with. Asia Times published on June 10 former South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-Kwan’s guide to getting a “yes” from Pyongyang, and a Pompeo adviser told me that South Korean insights were incorporated into the American initiative.

The Korean deal also entailed some quiet trade-offs with China. Importantly, President Trump intervened personally to rescind the Commerce Department’s late-April ban on American chip sales to China’s second-largest telecom equipment company ZTE, in retaliation for ZTE’s violation of sanctions against Iran and North Korea. ZTE’s mobile handsets use Qualcomm chips, and a ban on chip sales would shut the company down.

What was the ZTE deal?

On the president’s initiative, the Commerce Department instead negotiated a $1.9-billion fine, changes in ZTE management, and the imposition of American compliance controls on the company’s operations. That was a severe penalty and an unprecedented assertion of American control over the operations of a Chinese company, but a deal that both sides could live with.

It sounded reasonable. Administration figures, like Peter Navarro, have explained the deal explicitly. Yet, key senators, led by Marco Rubio have been trying to sabotage it:

Now the US Senate has sought to sabotage Trump’s ZTE deal, by embedding a ban on US chip sales to ZTE in the national defense authorization act – despite intensive lobbying by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other administration officials.

Perhaps it made sense to call him little Marco.

Spengler explains that the Rubio foreign policy theory holds that America should promote democracy and overthrow authoritarian leaders. It is positively Wilsonian in its thrust. It was promoted by George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Rubio remains a utopian who thinks that the object of US foreign policy is to bring down authoritarian regimes and to replace them with democracies.

Worse yet, some Trump advisers, Spengler explains, believed that shutting down ZTE would destabilize the Xi Jinping regime. They are making a large mistake:

Some of Trump’s advisers believe that shutting down ZTE would destabilize the Zi Xinping regime. “I want to shut ZTE down so that 75,000 unemployed engineers demonstrate against the government in Bejing,” a former administration official told me. The usual suspects among the neo-conservative punditeska, for example the perennial predictor of China’s collapse Gordon Chang, accuse Trump of crumbling before Chinese demands.

Yes indeed, Gordon Chang has been predicting the collapse of China for at least two decades now. The fact that he has been consistently wrong has not prevented him from becoming a great authority on China and Asia.

Do we really believe, Spengler suggests, that American democracy will cure all of the world’s ills:

The complaint among the foreign policy elite that Trump is crude and unsophisticated has a perverse element of truth: It takes enormous intellectual sophistication to convince one’s self that American democracy is a universal panacea for the world’s political problems and the inevitable goal of human progress. The foreign policy establishment is not stupid, but only psychotic.

As of now, the Senate has passed the appropriation bill with the attack on ZTE. The House appropriation bill does not contain it. If it goes through, the reaction will not necessarily be in our best interest:

If the Senate passes the defense appropriation bill with the ZTE bomb, and Trump is unable to excise it by presidential veto or other means, Beijing will draw the conclusion that the president no longer is in control of US foreign policy. Instead, it will confront an adversary that does not want to achieve this or that particular policy objective, but rather wants to undermine the regime. Its first response will be to mobilize national resources to achieve independence in semiconductor production as quickly as possible, replacing its $220 billion a year in chip imports with domestic substitutes.

And also:

Rather than a tariff war, the world will face a disruption of the global supply chain, major dislocations in high-technology trade, shocks to pricing, and a return to national autarky in a number of economic policies. The result will be ugly in economic terms, and it will raise strategic tensions everywhere in the world. Hard to imagine an American policy initiative stupider than its attempt to export democracy to Iraq, this will go down as the dumbest thing America ever did.

One cannot help but agree that the Rubio rider is among the dumbest things America ever did. Its attempt to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy and to undermine his successful summit with North Korea speaks ill of little Marco.

Trump vs. the Old World Order

Among the articles of faith in the Church of the Liberal Pieties is this: Donald Trump is destroying the liberal world order by downgrading his relationship with the European Union and especially with its Western leaders: Germany, France and Great Britain. The horror if it all!

Now, Jochen Bittner, an editor of the German newspaper Die Zeit explains that Trump has a point. He argues in a New York Times op-ed that European countries have been free-riding on America for decades now. It makes sense that Trump would want to halt to the exploitation.

You have not heard this point of view very often, so it is worth noting:

Mr. Trump’s anger at America’s allies embodies, however unpleasantly, a not unreasonable point of view, and one that the rest of the world ignores at its peril: The global world order is unbalanced and inequitable. And unless something is done to correct it soon, it will collapse, with or without the president’s tweets.

While the West happily built the liberal order over the past 70 years, with Europe at its center, the Americans had the continent’s back. In turn, as it unravels, America feels this loss of balance the hardest — it has always spent the most money and manpower to keep the system working.

The Europeans have basically been free riders on the voyage, spending almost nothing on defense, and instead building vast social welfare systems at home and robust, well-protected export industries abroad. Rather than lash back at Mr. Trump, they would do better to ask how we got to this place, and how to get out.

These nations are being protected militarily by America. They have used the freed-up cash to build lavish social welfare states.

Bittner explains:

All those German politicians who oppose raising military spending from a meager 1.3 percent of gross domestic product should try to explain to American students why their European peers enjoy free universities and health care, while they leave it up to others to cover for the West’s military infrastructure.

As for the G-7, the European Union favors German manufacturers while making it impossible for American companies to compete:

At the Group of 7, for example, the constituent countries are described as all equals. But in reality, the union puts a thumb on the scales in its members’ favor: It is a highly integrated, well-protected free-trade area that gives a huge leg up to, say, German car manufacturers while essentially punishing American companies who want to trade in the region.

China too has been exploiting the good will of the West:

China’s unchecked abuse of the global free-trade regime makes a mockery of the very idea that the world can operate according to a rules-based order. Again, while many in the West have talked the talk about taking on China, only Mr. Trump has actually done something about it.

You may or may not like Trump’s approach, but he is addressing a real problem.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Case of the Amoral Neighbor

What have we become? So asks Carolyn Hax in the Washington Post when responding to a letter where a woman shows a shockingly amoral cruelty.

The letter writer, K., is facing something of a moral dilemma, one that is entirely of her own making. Her problem is: she has no moral compass. She has descended to the ranks of degenerate money grubbing souls who lack decency or dignity. It has cost her a friend. One suspects that this is not the first friend she has lost.

Hax berates her in the strongest terms. It's not about what is healthy and therapeutic; it's about what constitutes good behavior by a person with character.

K. writes this

Three of us ladies planned a trip to New York for two nights to see shows. We reserved a hotel room to share among us. Train and theater tickets were purchased ahead of time.

Several days before our planned departure, one person backed out because a relative was near death, and she needed to fly across country to be with him. When the remaining two of us asked her to pay her portion of the hotel bill, she refused. She played the "sympathy" card saying she was already out the train and theater tickets as well as the cost of flying to see her relative, and we should have empathy and not expect her to pay her part of the room. We told her we were sorry for her situation, but she had made a commitment and we expected her to honor it. Now she has severed our friendship. How do I handle this? She lives next door!

Of course, honoring your commitments counts among the most important ethical obligations. If you don’t do so, you are not long for polite society. But, treating your neighbor like trash does not make you a good person. Remember the advice: love they neighbor as thyself. Well, K. doesn’t know it or thinks that money is more important.

As Hax points out, circumstances exist where we would never consider requiring anyone to keep their word. If you are laid up in the ER, for having been hit by a truck, no sensible person will hold you to your commitment to attend the recital. No one.

When you need to go back on your word, because of circumstances beyond your control, the person to whom you made the promise, will normally and graciously relieve you of the obligation. It's a duty that correlates with the one that requires you to be good to your word.

K. did not do so. K. is a moral degenerate of the first order.

Hax goes after her:

Do you know how callous you sound?

Is this what we have become? Is it okay now to assume everyone’s working an angle and we all just grab what we can for ourselves?

Your friend was dealing with a relative’s death. Yes, she made a commitment, but a death in the family is widely considered a legitimate excuse. (Top 3! at least.)

Here is how you handle that: “I am so sorry. We’ll miss you. Don’t worry about the hotel, obviously — and let us know what else we can do.” Yes, you got stuck paying more, but you got more space, too. You also had “several days” to try to renegotiate or rebook your room.

Note the last phrase. The ladies do have the opportunity to book another room or to renegotiate the price. Duh. This makes K. an insensitive, uncaring moral basket case.

Hax continues:

You don’t feel bad for her; you feel bad only for you. In fact, feelings came up only because you were annoyed that she asked you to have them.

If you now grasp this and regret it on any level, then walk next door to apologize for letting the battery die on your humanity. I don’t see an apology working unless you mean it, and it might not even if you do, but it’s the right move regardless.

For the record, if I were this neighbor, I would have paid you your third and then severed the friendship just to tie off the ends. But that’s neither here nor there.

Is it not striking that K. feels nothing for the woman’s whose relative is dying? She pays lip service to the calamity the woman is dealing with, but only feels for herself. Perhaps she has done so much therapy that she has become completely self-absorbed and self-involved. 

Hax is correct to recommend a sincere apology, accompanied with something resembling a friendship gift.

But, if Hax were the other woman, she would have paid for the room and ended the friendship. Good advice, accompanied by moral clarity.

This Summer, in San Francisco

I know it’s a little late, but if you haven’t decided where to go for your summer vacation, here’s a tip, via the Zero Hedge blog: Whatever  you do, don’t go to San Francisco. Several Australian couples learned the lesson the hard way.

Zero Hedge reports:

San Francisco - a Democratic stronghold known for cable cars, quaint architecture and its diverse culture, has become a bastion of squalor and crime as city dwellers and visitors alike dodge aggressive, drug-addled vagrants. And it's beginning to scare the tourists...

For my part, I like the phrasing: “a bastion of squalor and crime,” where you will have to dodge “drug-addled vagrants.” It has a certain poetry to it, if you don't need to walk the streets.

Some Australian couples took to Reddit to share their experiences:

An Australian couple visiting the city were shocked by what they saw after deciding to walk back to their hotel: 

"Is this normal or am I in a 'bad part of town?' Just walked past numerous homeless off their faces, screaming and running all over the sidewalk near Twitter HQ and then a murder sceneWife is scared to leave hotel now," reads a Wednesday posting by Reddit user /u/nashtendo.

Another said this:

"We did La and Nyc on this trip too. Both felt safer," he said later in the thread, adding "Syringes were visible, people were staggering, others had wide aggressive eyes. 'Off their faces' might be an Australian thing (sorry) but I meant just visibly drug affected." 

And also:

It's pretty normal. I'm honestly hoping tourists will realize how shitty this city has become and stop coming. Maybe the loss of income will finally push the city to stop allowing the rampant drug dealing and homeless people treating the entire city like their toilet. You would think a city that deoends so heavily on tourism and conventions for the bulk of their income would put more effort into maintaining a certain standard, but there is rampant drug dealing out in the open in some of the most heavily tourist areas. The city know about it, they just don't care. -/u/SgtPeanutbutter

Some local businesspeople are beginning to notice. But, they take comfort in knowing that the syringes that are littering the city were handed out by the city itself.

"The streets are filthy. There's trash everywhere. It's disgusting," Joe D'Alessandro, president of S.F. Travel told the Chronicle's Heather Knight in April. "I've never seen any other city like this — the homelessness, dirty streets, drug use on the streets, smash-and-grabs."

The city, which hands out up to 4.8 million syringes each year, has struggled to figure out how to keep streets clean and safe for residents, while accommodating a growing homeless population and longstanding HIV and Hepatitis C epidemics. There are roughly 16,000 residents in San Francisco with HIV, and 13,000 with Hep C. 

Of the 400,000 needles distributed monthly, San Francisco receives around 246,000 back - meaning that there are roughly 150,000 discarded needles floating around each month - or nearly 2 million per year, according to Curbed

This is what a woke city looks like.

As the European Union Melts Down

Is unfettered immigration destroying the European Union? One would be hard put to draw a different conclusion after reading Niall Ferguson’s column in the Times of London yesterday.

We know that Eastern Europe has closed its borders. We know that the government of Angela Merkel is about to collapse over her insistence on keeping Germany’s borders open. We know that Italy recently turned away a ship of refugees… which was redirected toward Spain and France. As for Brexit, by all indications the government of Theresa May is incapable of negotiating it. This does not mean that it is not going to happen, but that it is going to be a messy process. And then, to top it all off, French president Macron wants to replace the English language with French in EU dealings.

The European melting pot is melting down. It is not a pretty picture.

As the EU implodes one nation after another is returning to more nationalist politics:

Their argument will be that a massive Völkerwanderung overwhelmed the project for European integration, exposing the weakness of the EU as an institution and driving voters back to national politics for solutions.

Let us begin with the scale of the influx. In 2016 alone an estimated 2.4m migrants came to the 28 EU member states from non-EU countries, taking the total foreign-born population of the union up to 36.9m, more than 7% of the total.

This may be just the beginning. According to the economists Gordon Hanson and Craig McIntosh, “the number of African-born first-generation migrants aged 15 to 64 outside sub-Saharan Africa [will] grow from 4.6m to 13.4m between 2010 and 2050”. The great majority of these will surely head to Europe.

If you look at the statistics, Ferguson continues, you can only draw one conclusion. The problem cannot be solved:

The problem is intractable. Continental Europe’s population is ageing and shrinking, but European labour markets have a poor record when it comes to integrating unskilled migrants. Moreover, a large proportion of Europe’s immigrants are Muslims. Liberals insist that is should be possible for Christians and Muslims to coexist peacefully in a secular, post-Christian Europe. In practice the combination of historically rooted suspicions and modern divergences in attitudes — notably on the status and role of women — is making assimilation difficult. (Compare the situation of Moroccans in Belgium with that of Mexicans in California if you don’t believe me.)

Meanwhile, back in America, the government will need to find a way to restrict immigration… or to follow in Europe’s footsteps:

In his upcoming book on US immigration, my brilliant friend Reihan Salam — himself the son of Bangladeshi immigrants — makes a bold argument: America must either restrict immigration or risk civil war as rising inequality and racial tension combine.

No one who has spent any time in Germany since Merkel’s great gamble of 2015-16 can honestly believe that a melting pot is in the making there. Anyone who visits Italy today can see that the policies of the past decade — austerity plus open borders — have produced a political meltdown.

Fusion may still be an option for the United States. For Europe, I fear, the future is one of fission — a process potentially so explosive that it may relegate Brexit to the footnotes of future history.

Have a nice day!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Air Pollution in Democratic India

One tends, as a matter of course, to inveigh against pollution in China. The world has never seen a quicker leap into industrialization than what has happened in China over the past four decades. But, we also know that industrialization is the enemy of the pristine purity of nature. And we are well aware of the fact that China sports an authoritarian government, one that keeps its hold on power by poisoning its people.

We keep those facts and beliefs firmly in mind when we examine the state of today’s largest democracy. That would be India. How is democratic India doing with air pollution? We note the said pollution is not the same as the greenhouse gases that our environmentalists hate so much. Those latter include large quantities of carbon dioxide, aka, plant food. Pollution in India is of another order.

Anyway, India is not doing so well on the pollution scoreboard. If you think that toxic masculinity is a problem, wait until you get a whiff of toxic smog.

 The Guardian reports:

Smog more toxic than can be measured by monitoring devices has blanketed the Indian capital this week, months before the start of Delhi’s traditional “pollution season”.

A thick haze was visible across the city from Tuesday and some government pollution monitors have recorded concentrations of 999 – the highest they can measure – as dust storms kicked up in nearby Rajasthan state blanketed the region.

Though the billowing clouds of dust and sand were blamed for the immediate spike in pollution levels, the sight of dense smog engulfing Delhi months before winter has underscored a growing awareness that harmful air is a year-round problem for the city.

Democratic India is leading the world in pollution. With pollution comes respiratory disease:

India, home to 14 of the world’s top 20 most polluted cities, has the highest rate of respiratory diseases of any country. A leading lung specialist, Arvind Kumar, says the cancer patients he sees Delhi are younger, more often female and more likely to be non smokers than those outside the city.

Children are the most vulnerable: a 2015 study concluded about half Delhi’s 4.4m schoolchildren had stunted lung development and would never completely recover.

Viva democracy!

Should You Detox?

Among the joys of blogging is this: you give yourself permission to write authoritatively about things you know nothing about. It doesn’t happen all the time. It only happens some of the time. Today is one of those days.

The topic is: detoxing. By that I am referring to the now trendy effort to cleanse your body of noxious toxins… through diets and even colonics. As I said, I know nothing about this. It has never registered on my mental radar screen. So I am barely competent to know who is telling the truth.

Yet, I have a nose for scams and de-toxing seems to qualify. Thus, the opening of a recent Slate article—written by someone named Rebecca Onion-- rang true:

Scientifically speaking, “detoxing” isn’t a thing. Your body doesn’t retainso-called toxins ingested via food or drugs or plastic dishes, or breathed in through air. You don’t sweat them out at yoga, get rid of them via special massage, or purge them through colonics. As writer Dara Mohammadi put it in a scorching takedown of the dominant wellness watchword of the past decade: “If toxins did build up in a way that your body couldn’t excrete, you’d likely be dead or in need of serious medical intervention.”

Yes, I am aware of the obvious fact that Ms. Onion’s surname has a marked affinity with a certain satirical publication. Such is life. By all indications, the comparison goes no further.

Dara Mohammadi’s piece appeared in the Guardian.

According to Onion, the New York Times has its very own My Detox column. Thus, it has found a way to appeal to a segment of its readers, even if the medical world thinks that it’s all a scam.

Given that scientists, doctors, and nutritionists have united in rejecting the very idea of a “detox,” it’s a bit head-scratching to read the New York Times’ T Magazine’s My Detox column, featuring attractive “creative people” sharing “the homemade recipes they count on to detox, cleanse—and refresh.” In a recent installment, the model Alek Wek recommends a Sudanese okra stew; she “adds a glass of detoxifying lemon juice” to her recipe when her life is about to get especially busy. In the column before that one, the rapper Junglepussy (Shayna McHayle) describes how she makes a lemon-scented body oil at home. “McHayle is choosy,” the writer Coco Romack notes, “about where she sources her beauty products, which she prefers chemical free.” (“Chemical-free,” like “detoxing,” is not really a thing.)

If you find the topic boring beyond your imagination, console yourself with the knowledge that you just learned that there is a rapper who has named herself Junglepussy.

Does the Times know that its My Detox column is there for amusement, not to save your body and soul? Yes, it does:

“ ‘My Detox’ is a column that is not essentially about science,” Jordan Cohen, a Times spokesman, wrote in an email. “It’s a subjective column meant to introduce T readers to interesting people and the personal stories of their own routines. As the tagline reads, T is simply putting a spotlight on the homemade recipes they count on. ‘My Detox’ pieces are not meant to serve as instructional stories.” (Though, if these “personal stories” are “not intended as instructional stories,” why include recipes?) Cohen added: “The Times’ science and health editors regularly offer guidance on relevant subject matter for sections when necessary.”

Onion continues that it all feels like binging and purging, a decidedly modern habit classified under the rubric of bulimia:

As the Times’ Taffy Brodesser-Akner wrote in her great 2017 piece on the shift between an old “diet” paradigm and our “clean eating” world, talk of “cleansing” hides old compulsions in new clothing. In other words, the “detoxing” concept implies that it’s normal to lead a life where your body is “dirty,” then clean; dirty, then clean; over and over again. Boringly, the actual best way to stay healthy is to maintain a Pollan-esque diet, drink enough water, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep—over and over again, forever and ever. “Detoxing” is much more narratively exciting, but it also smacks of bingeing and purging, which isn’t sustainable or healthy.

So, you will wondering, what’s really going on here? Could it be that detoxing is a pseudo-religious ritual, a way to purify your psyche while supposedly purifying your body? In that case it seems to have more to do with mental health and enhanced spirituality than with anything else.

But, why do we feel that we are so corrupt. Why do we feel that we are walking cultures for contaminants? Why are we terrified that these toxic substances are about to kill us all? Is this just environmentalism gone amuck?

And besides, what is the gender breakdown of detoxing? Are men or women more likely to undertake these cleansing rituals?

If we are talking about bulimia, we are dealing mostly with females. There are precious few male bulimics, and precious few males who suffer from eating disorders like anorexia.

So, what are women gaining by detoxifying their bodies? Are they trying to rid their corporeal substance of the consequences of their encounters, casual or not, with toxic masculinity? Perhaps all of that sexual liberation is not quite as salutary as it seems? Perhaps women feel dirty—as well as ashamed-- for having engaged in liberating hookups?

As I said, I am not an expert on detoxing? But I am happy to ask a few questions that might provide a framework for addressing the prevalence of this bizarre quasi-religious ritual.

If you think that this is all crazy speculation, recall that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception involves a retroactive cleansing of a female body. Perhaps the Church-- via Duns Scotus-- was on to something.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Nation Makes the Case Against Mueller

As the old saying goes… consider the source. In this case the source for an extensive debunking of the Mueller investigation into Trump campaign Russian collusion is… The Nation. Yes, indeed, a pillar of the progressive left, The Nation has never bought into the Russian collusion narrative. Among its contributors, noted Russia expert Stephen Cohen has never believed that there was any there there.

Thus, we are not surprised to read an extensive analysis of the Mueller investigation in the Nation. And we are not surprised to read its opening paragraph:

In just over one year, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign and Russia has generated five guilty pleas, 20 indictments, and more than 100 charges. None of these have anything to do with Mueller’s chief focus: the Russian government’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s suspected involvement. While it’s certainly possible that Mueller will make new indictments that go to the core of his case, what’s been revealed so far does not make a compelling brief for collusion.

And we are not totally surprised to read its conclusion:

The January 2017 intelligence report begat an endless cycle of innuendo and unverified claims, inculcating the public with fears of a massive Russian interference operation and suspicions of the Trump campaign’s complicity. The evidence to date casts doubt on the merits of this national preoccupation, and with it, the judgment of the intelligence, political, and media figures who have elevated it to such prominence.

Credit where credit is due. Unfortunately, too few media outlets are following The Nation on this score. But, in some quarters integrity has not gone completely out of fashion. In others, on the left and on the right, it is still alive and well.

I heartily recommend that you read the whole thing.

Seymour Hersh on the Trump Phenomenon

Last Wednesday CNN’s Don Lemon interviewed famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. Given that Hersh has most often been associated with the American left we might have expected him to show his fealty to the Resistance and to shower Donald Trump with high-minded invective.

To Lemon's surprise Hersh chose another tack. He began by noting that Trump has done wonders for the bottom line of media companies. He has increased circulation and subscribers at the New York Times exponentially. In Hersh’s words, many media outlets consider Trump to be “catnip” for their readers.

But, this has some unfortunate side effects. First, it means that the Times and other media outlets feel obliged to offer their audience a steady diet of Trump bashing. Second, it means that the media landscape has become increasingly polarized. If you want the leftist spin, you watch the leftist media. If you want the rightest spin, you watch the rightest media. There seems, Hirsh says, to be no middle ground, journalism that is dedicated to reporting the facts.

He might have noted that the business press is, as it has always been, most likely to report fact as fact.

But, he does have a point when he says that the media are no longer trusted by most Americans. He is suggesting that they have brought it on themselves, what with their pursuit of filthy lucre. Strangely, at a time when the newspaper business was about to go down the drain, Trump has saved them. But, at a price.

Hersh explains:

… there was a time when the media was trusted. You go back to the old days of networks and those days are long gone. I always felt like when I worked at the 'New York Times' what we wrote was trusted. We now have a situation where a lot of people tune in to what they like and don't listen to what they don't like. It's good for cable television on both sides. For FOX News and for MSNBC and CNN, you guys. You've got great ratings. You're making money.

This does not make them all look like noble idealists.

So, Hersh, being a generally contrary soul, has started asking himself why Trump appeals to people. And he noted that the #GetTrump left still has no message, no policies, nothing to offer the people. Consumed by hatred they have lost the ability to think.

He said:

I don't see the Democratic party doing anything but basically running sort of as Hillary did, running against him for the last two months against him in the last two months of the campaign. And I'm not sure if I'm not in the major city in America, I'm not sure -- this guy is different. And I think people are tired of politicians and he appeals for a lot of reasons that maybe we don't all understand, I certainly don't understand him. He's got 48%, 47% of the people. He appeals to them. There's something about him. This is a guy that took down 13 Republicans with a history of more than 200 years of political life.

Of course, the standard leftist explanation for Trump is… bigotry. The left believes that Trump is a sign that much of America is mired in bigotry. And yet, Hersh avers, there must be more to it. After all, Trump beat more than a dozen Republicans for the nomination. And he single-handedly put an end to the Bush and the Clinton political dynasties. Ignore him at your peril, Hersh is saying.

Worse of all, the media has been running a caricature of Trump for so long that it no longer sees what is true or false. It risks underestimating him and consigning itself to oblivion:

Yes, Trump went to the summit not knowing much about it and, yes, he doesn't read anything and he's famous for just running on instinct. There's just an outside chance with all these tweets and all that other stuff, he just may have some idea what he's doing. He's keeping it focused on him, whether good, bad or otherwise, it works for him.

Of course, we must consider that Trump was far better informed than he let on, and that he was playing the media by telling them that he was not going to prepare for the summit. Why is it that the media is so quick to take everything Trump says literally?

Hersh is sounding a warning to the liberal media and the Democratic Party. One suspects that Don Lemon did not get it.

By the by, we should also consider the words of Caroline Glick, someone who is far more favorable to Trump. She praises Trump’s negotiating efforts in Singapore and notes sagely that those who are criticizing him, members of previous negotiating teams, were complete incompetents.

She describes the expert commentary:

We didn’t learn this week whether North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons. Only time will tell.

But we did learn that US President Donald Trump knows how to negotiate.

All of the negotiations experts insist the opposite is true. “How could they agree to a presidential summit without first guaranteeing its end product?” they sigh, knowingly.

“Trump’s showmanship is dangerous and counterproductive,” they sneer.

“At the end of the day, for this to work, Trump will have to copy Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran,” they insist.

Dennis Ross, who mediated the negotiations between Israel and the PLO that led directly to the largest Palestinian terrorism campaign against Israel in history, and Wendy Sherman, who negotiated Bill Clinton’s horrible nuclear deal with North Korea in 1994 and Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran in 2015, as well as all their esteemed colleagues have taken up their pens and stood before the cameras and clucked about how Trump’s Singapore Show is amateur hour.

Evidently, Dennis Ross and Wendy Sherman are not household names. But they symbolize the incompetence of people who have gained stature as negotiation experts. Perhaps it is not necessary to point it out, but neither of them seemed to put American interests first.