Saturday, June 30, 2018

Once-Great Britain Descends into Multicultural Madness

In principle, Great Britain voted to exit the European Union because it feared the open arms and open borders policies of its neighbors. By the terms of the Union, migrants admitted into Germany, France and Sweden would be free to travel and to settle in Britain. IN addition, the Brits had had enough with the Brussels bureaucrats deciding how they should run their country, and you arrive at Brexit.

So far, so good.

And yet, now that most of Europe is awakening to the dangers posed by the waves of Muslim refugees that they have welcomed into their midst, Great Britain seems blissfully impervious to the danger they pose. Eastern European nations have closed their borders. Germany is about to implode politically under the weight of the Merkel policy… you know the story.

And yet, once-Great Britain is mired in the past, in the Merkel-Obama past where the true war is not against Islam, but against Islamophobia.

Bruce Bawer has the story, and a depressing story it is. He addresses the question of Muslim assimilation first. He notes that British Muslims teach their children not to socialize with non-Muslim children, even to shun them for being infidels.

For those who imagined that Muslims would easily embrace the bounty of Western civilization, this must come as something of a shock. For those not deluded, it does not.

Bawer suggests that it explains the relative insouciance of local police when they learned of grooming gangs. Gang rape of English schoolgirls by Muslim men… not a problem. Sex trafficking of English schoolgirls by Muslim men… not a problem. The chance of being accused of being a racist… big problem. For the uninitiated, it’s called human sacrifice:

The clear Koranic directives about relations with infidels explains a lot. It accounts, for example, for the existence in cities all over England of so-called “grooming gangs” -- those groups of violent Muslim rapists that, over a period of years or decades, have maintained bevies of non-Muslim girls to satisfy their carnal desires. From earliest childhood, these Muslim men have been brought up on the unworthiness of non-Muslims -- and, particularly, on the tenet that it's not just permissible but virtuous to sexually abuse female infidels. So it only follows, as night follows day, that forming stables of sex toys out of other people's children is hunky-dory.

We know, of course, that British authorities were aware of these rape gangs for a long time but failed to do anything about them for fear of being called racist. In some cities, pressure by activists eventually compelled those authorities to act against these gangs. But the same authorities have striven to minimize the scale of these atrocities, to distract public attention from them as much as possible, to deny any connection between them and the teachings of Islam, and to harass and demonize those -- most famously, Tommy Robinson -- who insist on responding to them with the appropriate degree of outrage and on pointing out their Islamic roots.

Once-Great Britain has become an Orwellian dystopia where Western civilization is the root of all evil and where Muslim culture is an unalloyed good. If ever anyone Muslim does anything wrong, the fault must like with those dastardly Western Christians. If not the Christians, blame it on the Jews.

Well, the main point is that it's a perfect specimen of what would appear to be Britain's new Orwellian orthodoxy, which, one gathers, compels every good Brit to affirm that, where Islam is concerned, everything is the exact opposite of the way it really is. According to this orthodoxy -- which isn't exclusive to Britain, but which increasingly seems to have reached its fullest flowering there (and, needless to say, in poor, lost Sweden) -- it's Islamic culture that embodies virtue and decency and all good things, and it's one's own culture that represents a malignant threat thereto.

The new ethos has even infected the criminal justice system. It reminds you of the Obama administration directive, to the effect that schools should cease expelling disruptive minority youth like Nikolas Cruz, because it made it appear that these children were criminals. If you do not call them criminals they cannot be criminals, right?

In Once Great Britain, the same pertains:

This is a country where judges are now officially instructed to go soft on non-white criminals while coming down hard on people convicted of expressing offensive attitudes toward protected groups.

The fault lies in multiculturalism, layered over with intense Western guilt. Whatever it is, it’s a very bad sign:

Have they really -- 1984 style -- developed a blindness to the evils of Islam and a perverse conviction that it's their own native culture that's the menace? Are they so devoted to multiculturalism that they're willing to be complicit in the destruction of any number of girls' lives -- and willing, too, to sell out centuries of British freedom, fairness, and justice -- in order to see it flourish? Are they so imbued with that famous British politeness that they dare not speak up against even the most blatant of evils? Are they just plain cowards? Or is the difference between the Brits and their burka-forbidding neighbors rooted in British imperial history? In other words, is it post-imperial guilt, fed by anti-Western schooling and the poisonous BBC, that is leading the British, in remarkable numbers, to grovel to Islam even more shamefully than their counterparts in most of the rest of Europe?

One understands that the Brits despise President Trump. One understands that Trump has not exactly paid obeisance to Theresa May. Beyond the fact that May has shown herself to be singularly inept in negotiating Brexit, might it be that May herself, a Tory, no less, has declared that she has no problem with women wearing burqas-- because she thinks it a free choice. Once Great Britain no longer even pretends to be a world leader.

Jarrod Ramos: The Stalker Walked Free

Piers Morgan beat me to it. He echoed my thoughts about Jarrod Ramos yesterday in his Daily Mail column. Not to hedge or to build suspense, the question that has haunted me is this: why was this maniacal stalker still walking the streets? What do you have to do to a woman before the criminal justice system takes you out of circulation? Do they not distinguish between free expression and assault with words? What is wrong with the American criminal justice system, with its punctilious concern for the free speech rights of people who stalk, that allowed him to walk free?

And, where are the feminists when a broken legal system cannot protect an innocent young woman from a stalker who harasses her, who makes her life a living Hell?

Morgan had it right:

My rage this time though is not solely about the absurd weakness of America’s gun laws.

It actually lies more with the abject failure of the US justice system to properly punish a man who had terrorised an innocent, vulnerable young woman in such a despicable way that she felt forced to SLEEP with a gun to protect herself from him.

As it transpired, she had very good reason to fear for her life.

Ramos should have been jailed for a very long time for what he did to that woman.

Instead, the man she described as a ‘f***ing nut job’ and ‘your next mass shooter’ was allowed to walk free and carry on threatening and harassing other people until he finally shot up a newsroom.

That is the real disgrace here.

That is the real shame.

What Ramos did was terrorism. It was an assault. It damaged a woman to the point where she had to move her residence twice and had to sleep with a gun. Where are the feminists when it's time to stand up for women?

Ramos had it in for the Annapolis newspaper because it had reported on his harassment. What did he do? Here is the story, first, via Morgan:

That harassment began with a simple Facebook message thanking the woman, who he hadn’t seen or had any contact for over a decade, ‘for being the only person ever to say hello or be nice to him in school’.

But it quickly escalated into a relentless, horrendous stalking campaign that saw his poor victim forced to change her name, move three times and finally leave the state.

Ramos bombarded her with menacing emails, called her vile names, and told her to kill herself.

He even contacted her employer to make horrible, untrue claims that led to her being suspended and then let go.

She called the police, and briefly, he stopped harassing her. But then he started again, nastier than before.

The woman told a TV reporter that she had grown so frightened of Ramos she had to move THREE times and now slept with a gun, adding: ‘He’s a f***ing nut job.’

If the woman in question and the newspaper and the criminal justice system followed procedure… then clearly there is something wrong with procedure. And yet, we do not see any marches calling for stronger anti-stalking laws. Why do you think that that is?

Once again, it is utterly incomprehensible to any rational human being why this hideous man wasn’t stopped before he committed his outrage.

Once again, it is almost beyond belief that someone like Ramos was able, as police confirmed today, to legally buy his weapon within the last 18 months.

What more did he have to do to prevent himself from being able to lawfully buy a firearm to commit the murder he’d been repeatedly threatening to commit?

President Trump insists the real problem with America’s gun violence epidemic isn’t guns but mental illness.

In another article, from the AP, via the Daily Mail, the woman’s lawyer explains in more detail what happened:

The woman, who went to high school with Ramos and was the subject of an extended harassment campaign dating back to 2009, is still living in fear even though he is in custody, McCarthy said. 

'Stalking victims never get their sense of security back. It is never really over,' McCarthy said. 'You will always feel those eyes on you.' 

McCarthy described the case as the 'worst case of harassment and stalking I have ever encountered in my career.'

Again, it isn’t as though no one knew that Ramos was dangerous. He did not come out of the woodwork. As happened with Nikolas Cruz, everyone knew. Everyone feared him. He should have been locked up. Yet, our criminal justice system failed to do so.

Want more details about the stalking? Here goes, again from the woman’s lawyer:

He was communicating by telephone, by text, by Facebook, by instant messaging, and he was just saying outrageous things like, 'you should kill yourself,'' McCarthy said. 'He wrote to her work saying, 'She is a bipolar drunkard and you should fire her.' She actually lost her job.'
'After that, his obsession turned to me, too, and he started harassing my sister and my family,' said McCarthy, who lived in fear for his 19 nieces and nephews who live in the Annapolis area.

Ramos sued the Capital Gazett over a column that reported the facts of his harassment conviction, and launched a hate-fueled campaign against the newspaper on social media.

Ramos launched so many social media attacks that retired publisher Tom Marquardt called police in 2013.

Altomare disclosed on Friday that a detective investigated those concerns, holding a conference call with an attorney for the publishing company, a former correspondent and the paper's publisher.

The police report said the attorney produced a trove of tweets in which Ramos 'makes mention of blood in the water, journalist hell, hit man, open season, glad there won't be murderous rampage, murder career.'

The newspaper ultimately declined to press charges out of fear of 'putting a stick in a beehive.'

Really, why did the newspaper decline to press charges? Fear and trembling? If they had pressed charges, perhaps Ramos would have been where he belonged, in prison.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Anthony Kennedy's Dubious Legacy

Amidst the sound and the fury surrounding the announced retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, David Brooks has shone the cold light of reason on the Kennedy legacy.

Nowadays the nation is so starkly divided between left and right that people are either agonizing or thrilling to the prospect of a new Supreme Court justice. In a nation where nary a day passes when some purportedly serious thinker bows down to our sacrosanct democracy, the only vote that really seems to count is the vote taken by nine justices on the Supreme Court. After all, if the people vote democratically in a referendum or in the person of their legislators to do the wrong thing, five justices can erase it with a stroke of their pens.

Brooks does not address Kennedy’s voting record or even the future of the Court. He hones in on Kennedy’s philosophical views— one would be hard put to call them judicial— about human identity and human autonomy. He shows that Kennedy led the charge away from community and toward the autonomous and self-defining individual.

To give you a taste of the Kennedy reasoning, I cite this passage from Kennedy’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges:

Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, no State shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The fundamental liberties protected by this Clause include most of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. See Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, 147–149 (1968). In addition these liberties extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs.

Without prejudice toward the Due Process clause and the ensuing legal wranglings over its application, Kennedy was stating what amounts to a piece of philosophical nonsense. In truth, no individual is perfectly autonomous. No individual has absolute freedom to define his identity. To call these choices intimate muddies the question even more.

Brooks is correctly horrified at this atomization of human society, through a complete and utter disregard for the social bonds that define who we are, that impose duties and responsibilities, that make us citizens of the Republic.

Justice Anthony Kennedy didn’t invent the shift from community to autonomy, but in 1992 he articulated it more crisply than anyone else: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

In this sentence, which became famous as the “mystery of life” passage, there is no sense that individuals are embedded in a social order. There is no acknowledgment of the parts of ourselves that we don’t choose but inherit — family, race, social roles, historical legacies of oppression, our bodies, the habits that are handed down to us by our common culture.

Kennedy's concept of self-definition is a philosophical aberration. It removes individuals from the social order and allows them complete freedom to be whoever they want to be. Which might work, until you ask yourself how anyone else is going to know which You they are dealing with at any particular moment. In a world where each individual freely defines himself, society cannot function. It’s like having a language in which everyone has the right to choose his own pronouns.

Brooks explains:

There’s no we. We are all monads who walk around with our own individual opinions about existence, meaning and the universe. Each person is a self-created choosing individual, pursuing individual desires. There is no sense that we are part of a common flow connecting the past, present and future; instead, each of us creates our own worldview anew.

Worse, Brooks continues, the Kennedy concept eliminates truth and objective fact. You cannot have your own facts and society cannot function if there are no shared truths:

The first problem with this definition of freedom is that it pushes society toward a tepid relativism. There are no truths, only “concepts.” You define your concept of the meaning of the universe, and I define mine, and who are any of us to judge, let alone impinge upon, that of another? Furthermore, it’s a short road from getting to define your own truth to getting to define your own facts.

Brooks continues that the Kennedy perplex compromises the rules and the values that define human society. If you can have your own truths and your own facts,you can also have your own rules. Worse yet, it absolves people of the responsibility to transmit the ethic that determines how we function.

You wind up with a society in which the schools, the public culture, even the parents say: It’s not our job to instill a shared morality and worldview from scratch. That’s something you have to do on your own. The practical result, given this impossible task, is that most people wind up without a moral vocabulary, with only scattered shards of values, with no firm foundations for when times get tough.

In a concluding text, Brooks makes a point that Confucius had made previously. If people cannot regulate their behavior and their social conduct according to custom and tradition, and according to their moral sense, we will need an omnipotent state to regulate it for them. Said state will be more like a police state that regulates by threat of punishment, not by encouraging people to do the right thing.

Which leads to the third big problem with the “mystery of life” passage. You’d think it would lead to a very small state that would leave a lot of freedom for people. In fact, it leads to a big, intrusive state. If you strip away all the communal commitments that help people govern themselves from within, then very soon you find you have to pass all sorts of laws to govern them from without. If you privatize meaning so that people get to follow their unrestrained desires, they immediately start tramping on one another, and public pressure grows for restrictive laws, like hate speech regulation, to keep things from getting out of control.

The Migrant Invasions

Writing on PJ Media Michael Walsh gives us a compelling essay on what he considers a migrant invasion. Europe is now up in arms against the invaders while, in America, the armies of the compassionate left are fighting for open borders. 

It’s a culture war, Walsh suggests, a war against national sovereignty, but also a war against the more successful civilization, that of the North. If Southern civilizations cannot compete against the North, they can invade and deconstruct their supposed enemies.

Walsh begins by noting the extent of the media propaganda effort on behalf of the invaders:

The media is presenting what amounts to a slow-rolling invasion of the hemispheric North by the South as a "crisis," and it is, just not the way they'd have you believe. In the greatest concerted propaganda exercise in history, newspapers, television outlets, and the internet in both America and Europe are filled with pictures of crying children separated from their "parents" (maybe), and Africans bobbing helplessly on dinghies in the Mediterranean -- as if some great natural disaster had occurred.

The left wants to live in one world, a world without borders, a world that embodies Immanuel Kant’s vision of universalist cosmopolitanism. Walsh continues that the migrants are not seeking refuge, but are invaders. They do not work; they commit crimes; they rape local women; they collect welfare benefits.

As has often been noted on this blog, the invaders have no intention of adopting local customs. They are trying to exploit weakness:

Under the buzzword cloak of "migration" -- a word especially chosen to remind Americans of their legal immigrant forebears, and Europeans of their collective lack of "diversity" -- is a relentless assault on national sovereignty and political borders. It's cudgeled by "racism" and blessed by "tolerance" in order to achieve the Left's goal of One Worldism in its purest form -- a cultural-Marxist endeavor to improve the self-esteem of the Third World by bringing the industrialized, civilized the First World down to its nasty, brutish level.

Migrants are using the rule of law to their advantage. Especially in America, where your presence on American soil guarantees you Constitutional protections. Migrants and their leftist enablers are attacking what Walsh calls: “the soft underbelly of Western compassion:”

In the meantime, they mean to swamp the legitimate immigration and asylum systems of both continents, render them helpless, and break them. Structures that had been put in place to deal with individuals, or with persecuted groups of people, have suddenly been targeted as the soft underbelly of Western compassion -- the Cloward-Piven strategy writ large.

Social welfare systems acted as a magnet. Why work for a living when you can live off of America’s bounty. Besides, the intelligentsia in South and Central America believe that America’s success was purchased at the cost of exploiting the South.

As the Left became culturally ascendant in America, and the social welfare benefits expanded accordingly, the great American magnet grew ever stronger, luring not only those fleeing the dysfunction and corruption of their own countries, but a sizable criminal element as well, symbolized by the lethal presence of the MS-13 gang -- Salvadorean, by way of Los Angeles -- on Long Island.

Walsh considers that Angela Merkel has been defeated by her own open arms policy. Today, however, she seems to have struck a deal with other European nations, though the deal involves building refugee centers in North Africa. 

Italy and Spain have closed their borders to migrants, and Eastern European nations, led by Austria and Hungary are definitively closed:

In Europe, Angela Merkel's disastrous decision three years ago to allow (beg for, really) more than a million Muslim "migrants" into her country, has put the Old Continent's postwar certainties to the test, and has pitted its secular liberalism and social-welfare system against a group of largely inimical cultural aliens, whose "faith" has been challenging once-Christian Europe for more than a millennium, and which now sees a way to accomplish by infiltration what it never quite could by force of arms. Only in Eastern Europe, with its long experience of Islamic accoupation and, more recently, Soviet communist occupation, was there a realization from the start the future of Europe depended on keeping Muslims on their side of their bloody borders. Otherwise, there will be no Europe.

Muslims have invaded Europe in the past. They have occupied Eastern European countries. Those nations have had a better understanding of the stakes in the current soft invasion.

The tide has now turned on migration — in Germany and across Europe. Those making the case for an open Europe are haunted and chastised. They are losing elections. Italy’s new coalition of left- and right-wing populists is a fiesta of political contradictions, but they share one simple goal: to stop the migration population from growing. They have little sympathy for Merkel and feel no obligation to offer help in her hour of need. As far as the Italians can work out, the verdict is in: Merkel was wrong and she’s lost.

The war is ongoing in the United States. The armies of the idiot left are attacking President Trump mercilessly over his policy. Nazi-baiting has become a national sport. It takes a special form of stupidity to attack the Trump administration for being Nazis when the American left is increasingly aligning itself with anti-Semites.

To be fair and balanced, we would be happy to see the administration handle the situation more adeptly… from a communications angle and from a policy angle.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Who Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Yes, indeed… today’s media is in quite the tizzy. Aside from melting down over the Anthony Kennedy retirement it is going into paroxysms of ecstasy over the candidacy of one Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A Bernie Sanders radical Democratic Socialist AOC defeated long term Congressman Joe Crowley to become the nominee for a Congressional seat in Queens, NY.

And yet, what do we really know about AOC. Naturally, the media is doing everything in its power to cover up her association with anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic groups… like Hamas.

Joel Pollak tells the story in Breitbart:

Her victory is a further sign of the Democratic Party’s slide toward the extreme left — and toward the anti-Israel left in particular.

During her primary election, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted passionately about an alleged Israeli “massacre” of Palestinian “protesters” at the Gaza border, citing an Al Jazeera article.

Here is the text of her tweet:

This is a massacre.

I hope my peers have the moral courage to call it such.

No state or entity is absolved of mass shootings of protesters. There is no justification. Palestinian people deserve basic human dignity, as anyone else.

Democrats can’t be silent about this anymore.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) May 14, 2018

The link sends you to Al Jazeera. Where else?

Pollak sets the record straight:

But those killed at the Gaza border were not “protesters.” The vast majority — 50 of 62 — were members of Hamas, a terrorist organization devoted to the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. They were not demonstrating against Israel. They were attempting to breach the border so they could carry out attacks against Israeli civilians.

Far from carrying out a “massacre,” Israeli forces showed extraordinary restraint, using pinpoint attacks to target the terrorists and avoid hitting the many human shields — including children — that Hamas marched to the fence. In the event, the so-called “peaceful” protesters set fire to Israeli fields nearby using kites equipped with explosives.

So, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez looks to become a reliable conduit for Hamas propaganda. Way to go, today’s Democratic Party.

That’s not all, folks. The Daily Caller tells the story of one of OAC’s leading supporters, one Thomas Lopez-Pierre. TLP is not merely an anti-Semite. He is also a racist.

The Daily Caller explains:

One of Ocasio-Cortez’s most enthusiastic campaigners and a man who stood behind her at her victory party, Thomas Lopez-Pierre, is a known anti-Semite and racist. Lopez-Pierre has regularly used slurs against Jewish and black New Yorkers in public forums and while running for office himself.

The evidence, please:

While running for office in 2017, Lopez-Pierre specifically campaigned on “protecting tenants from greedy Jewish landlords.” Lopez-Pierre’s own campaign website shows his rantings agains “Greedy Jewish Landlords.” His campaign website applauds the arrest of “Greedy Jewish Landlords” and says that “Jewish Landlords” are “punishing” black and Hispanic families.

Naturally, he was drawn to Ocasio-Cortez’s candidacy:

On that same YouTube channel, Lopez-Pierre can be seen campaigning for Ocasio-Cortez. In a recent video, he is wearing a Ocasio-Cortez campaign shirt and declaring that he is campaigning against “greedy landlords.” The caption on the video reads: “Thomas Lopez-Pierre campaigning in the Bronx for Democratic Congressional Pro-Tenant Candidate (2018): Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – SHE WON!!!”

Lopez-Pierre also posted a video of him smiling at Ocasio-Cortez’s victory party as the candidate gives a speech about inclusion and tolerance.

Lopez-Pierre posted many pro-Ocasio-Cortez messages on Twitter, saying she will fight against “greedy landlords.”

You see, TLP has learned not to speak of Greedy Jewish Landlords. Now, he just writes about greedy landlords. Wouldn’t want to give the game away.

He tweeted this:

I am so proud of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez @Ocasio2018 for defeating @repjoecrowley, a @realDonaldTrump Democrat by thousands of votes. Alexandria can be trusted to help protect tenants from “Greedy Landlords” and reject corporate political campaign contributions.

— Thomas Lopez-Pierre (@VoteLopezPierre) June 27, 2018

Meanwhile, back in 2013 TLP was running for city council against a man named Mark Levine. In the course of the campaign TLP took out after a black Levine supporter:

In 2013 while running for city council, Lopez-Pierre sent a racist, homophobic email to a black supporter of his opponent, Mark Levine. The supporter, named Brain Benjamin, was called a “N***er” five times, a “Bitch” six times and saying he is a “weak, little short man who sucks White/Jewish cock.” Lopez-Pierre also threatened Benjamin with violence.

Politico has the text of the email he sent to Brain Benjamin:

Lopez-Pierre admitted to sending the email. Here is the full, uncensored text of the racist email, according to Politico:

Subject: Brain Benjamin you uncle Tom Nigger bitch who sucks cook – Thomas Lopez-Pierre January 3, 2013

Brain Benjamin:

First I would like to say Happy New Year!

Now that bullshit is out of the way, I wanted to say this to your face but I did not want my words to be misunderstood.

So I am sending it to you in writing and sharing it with others.

I see that you are on the host committee for Mark Levine for City Council.

I would hope that one day you would give me the legal grounds to bitch slap you.

You are an uncle Tom Nigger bitch.

Its Nigger bitches like you that have sold out the Black people of Harlem.

To think there are about eight other candidates in this race that are Black and Hispanic and you decided to pick Mark Levine the only White/Jewish guy in the race to raise money for.

What good does it do our community (by this I mean Black and Hispanic people) to have uncle Tom Nigger bitches like you graduate from Ivy League schools if all you do is suck the cock of guys like Mark Levine.

All the best,

Thomas Lopez-Pierre

PS, The reason why you got your Nigger ass kicked (politically) by Jamaal Nelson when you ran for district leader is because Black people in Harlem can smell the Bitch in you.

I do not need to mention that if anyone else had used such language, he would long since have been driven from the political arena. Now, Thomas Lopez-Pierre emerges as a strong supporter of Democratic Party darling, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Shouldn’t she have to answer for the company she keeps?

You know that she won’t… because different rules apply to different people in today’s America.

Exercise Is the Best Medicine

In the public interest… and in your own very personal interest... I report on the latest from the world of medical research. It will not come as news, and one hopes that the advice is superfluous, but a new study has demonstrated, yet again, that exercise is the best medicine.

Exercise is wildly helpful in treating depression; it is certainly as effective as medication. Which do you prefer: the Stairmaster or pills? Better yet, exercise strengthens your heart muscle, thus serving to prevent heart disease.

Exercise may be just as crucial to the well-being of people with depression as finding effective medication, suggests new research.

A new study involving more than 17,000 participants found that those with high fitness in middle age were significantly less likely to die from heart disease in later life - even if they were diagnosed with depression.

And also:

Heart health and depression often go hand-in-hand and depression has been linked to higher probabilities that someone will develop heart disease and chest pain. 

The University of Texas scientists suggest that starting to exercise early in life and continuing to do it often could protect both the mental and physical health of patients battling depression and facing heart disease risks. 

But, the mountain of scientific evidence does not propel enough people to the gym or to the hiking trails. Researchers recognize that people who feel hopeless are less likely to find the motivation to exercise.

Dr. Trivedi, a scientist at the University of Texas has addressed that problem:

He recommends patients take several steps to boost their chances of success, including setting aside a consistent time to exercise every day, but do not get discouraged by stretches of inactivity.

Dr Trivedi said keep a log to track progress, varying exercises to avoid monotony, and exercising with a friend also help.

In other words, don’t worry about performing mental gymnastics to put yourself in the right state of mind. Don't wait until you are in the mood. You do better to routinize the activity and to make it part of your social life.

Good advice, indeed.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Case of the Rising Sophomore

Writing to a rising college sophomore who apparently got lost in her mind-- or perhaps she just lost her mind-- during her first year at college, New York Magazine’s Ask Polly has a few pieces of good advice mixed in with her usual quota of mental drool.

And yet, she does make one egregious error, one that I will point out before even looking at the letter in question. See if you can see it:

If you sounded clinically depressed to me, I would have different advice for you. But I think your instincts are correct on that front: You’re not deeply depressed. You’re frustrated and lonely because your circumstances at school are frustrating and lonely.

Quite simply, depression is a clinical diagnosis. Polly is not a clinician. She is neither a psychiatrist nor a psychologist. She has no business offering an opinion on a matter she knows nothing about. OK, I get it, she does the same thing nearly every time she doles out advice, but still, getting involved in the practice of medicine when you have no qualifications is very bad indeed. We do not want to see people avoiding treatment because an advice columnist told them there is nothing wrong. For all I know, she might not be depressed. It’s not for me to say. It’s not for Polly to opine. A competent editor should have caught this.

Without further ado, here is the letter, signed Sophomore Slump:

I was raised by a loving, lower-middle-class family in the kind of small town that feel-good TV shows are set in. Virtually from birth, I had a group of disgustingly Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants–esque friends who were more like sisters. And I was an academic golden child, graduating first in my high-school class: the kind of kid everyone expects to leave town and do big things. (I also fell in love with the boy who proved to be my constant competitor for small-town success; we started dating halfway through high school.) I loved people because the people I knew loved me. No material comforts could have made me more content than the knowledge that I was supported by my whole hometown.

To everyone’s delight, I received a full ride to a university with two big, scary sells: It was  very prestigious and very far away from my home state. I was ecstatic … until I moved in last fall and I found myself tremendously unhappy outside of class. I spent my first few months inviting classmates to endless lunches, hallmates to Friday frat parties, and groups to museums and concerts. In response, I got detached rejections. When I joined various clubs, and even a sorority, members seemed to be more interested in competing for prized officer positions than building connections. I hadn’t dreamed of replicating my hometown friend group, but I also hadn’t anticipated eating every meal alone. I hadn’t anticipated going whole days without talking to anyone, or smiling at all. Maybe people were actually competitive and unfriendly; maybe I was randomly unlucky; maybe I was just bad at making friends because I’d never really had to before. All I know is that I got the flu at the end of my first semester and, bedridden, realized I had nobody to come check on me. No new contacts in my phone. I cried for days. I was fucking lonely, and it broke me.

After returning from a comforting winter break, I guess I chose to feel beaten rather than productively challenged. So I started to treat myself like a victim. I attended my morning classes and went right back to bed. I ate approximately one meal a day, always in the comfort of my room. I quit my part-time job and all of my other activities. Sometimes my unfairly awesome boyfriend would take a four-hour bus from his own college to visit me on the weekends. He would force me to sleep at normal hours and eat real meals, dragging me out of bed to the point that I resented him. He, my family, and my hometown friends were all concerned about my well-being. But I felt guilty and whiny and ungrateful and increasingly burdensome, and flaked on all their FaceTime check-ins to nap more and stare at the ceiling.

I essentially retreated into bed for the entire semester. I became lazy and solitary, descriptors that had never applied to me. I only spoke when spoken to; I straight-up stopped trying socially. My RA noticed the change and referred me to the campus therapist, who suggested I see a psychiatrist about clinical depression. But I was, and am, pretty sure I was only suffering from a combination of privileged problems, “gifted-child syndrome” and homesickness among them.

Now I’m back home for the summer, decent grades in tow, and I’m already doing much better emotionally. But I’m at a loss when I think about how to proceed when I go back in the fall. My parents think I’m overreacting, that I should focus on my classes. My boyfriend and friends think I should stick out another semester and consider transferring out. I don’t know what I think. Most of me believes I just gave up too easily and felt too bad for myself, that I’ll have the college experience of my dreams if I just go back to school this fall and try harder to form lasting connections. Another part is convinced I need to lower my standards for relationships and chill out, and that people will come into my life accordingly. And a small voice in my head just wants out of the fancy-name university — but I’m almost certain that my problem stems from my own damn expectations, and the town-size family I grew up with, just as much as it does from my school.

As has become my habit, I will not share what Polly is saying. It’s a pep talk coupled with another pep talk. To be fair, Polly does advise an exercise program. About that I concur.

Anyway, consider what we do not know… because, as happens with these letters, we never have enough information. We do not know where she comes from and where she is attending school. We do know that she was involved with the same boy for her entire adolescence and now finds herself at a four hour distance from him.

She might be homesick, but she might also miss a boy who has been an integral part of her everyday life since she was an adolescent. Dare we say that said boyfriend has been a prince… traveling hours on weekends to be with her, trying to improve her daily life habits, being a true friend as well as a lover. We do not know how said boyfriend relates to the young men on her current campus. Do they condescend to him? Do they treat him like a friend?

As you might imagine, Polly recommends that Sophomore Slump take more distance from said boyfriend. But folks, why remove the sole support she really has. Besides, if the boyfriend is on campus often, perhaps the two can socialize together with her friends, and even with her sorority sisters.

We also do not know anything about the dating culture on campus. If the other girls are running around looking for hookups and she has a stable steady boyfriend, she cannot really be part of a game she does not want to pursue.

BTW, did you notice that this girl, bereft and alone, did manage to join a sorority. I do not hold myself up as an expert in sororities, but I imagine that sorority sisters hang out together and even have meals together. If she was welcomed into the ranks of the sisterhood, might she not make more of an effort to be one of the girls? How can you belong to a sorority and eat all of your meals alone... unless you choose to do so.

Apparently, she thinks that they are all superficial… but they did like her enough to invite her into their company. Might it be—as Polly does suggest—that Sophomore Slump is somewhat standoffish and even stuck up. After all, she was the Queen Bee at home. She is no longer the Queen Bee.

We do not know the social origins of her sisters or her classmates. But, we suspect that they are playing a game that she finds unfamiliar. She seems unwilling to learn it.

Or perhaps the other girls are. We do not know from whence she comes and we do not know anything about her personal habits, about her appearance and personality. One understands that these things matter. Groups, even cliques, have dress codes. If one does not respect them one is excluding oneself from the group... however bubbly one's personality is. One cannot draw too many conclusions because one does not have enough information.

Again, we note that she quit her part-time job and her other activities. It sounds like she was punishing other people for their failure to worship the ground she was walking on. After all, if she feels along and isolated, what better way could there be than having a job, having colleagues and managers, participating in activities.

Yet, she threw it all away. For all I know she expected to be the queen of the campus and found out that she was not. Perhaps she just misses her boyfriend and cannot stand being without him. Perhaps she has recoiled at the level of indoctrination that occurs in the classroom. Perhaps she just needs to get over herself and to work harder at getting into campus life.

All told, we do not know.

The Migrant Wars

As though Americans had nothing better to do, they are currently consumed in the ongoing migrant wars. True, America is but one front in the ongoing war, with Europe being the other one. While Donald Trump has been trying to lead the American countercharge against what he considers a migrant invasion, the commander of Western Europe’s forces, German Chancellor Merkel, seems as though she is about to be defeated.

The Merkel policy of open arms was also the Obama policy of cosmopolitan internationalism. The Trump policy is nationalistic, as is that of rising political forces in Eastern Europe and now Italy.

Being devoid of sense and incapable of thought American open borders supporters seem above all else to want to add votes to the Democratic column. To their minds, all migrants are good migrants. If America does not allow them all to enter, it is a racist bigoted Nazi nation.

Migrants say they want economic opportunity, but most of them have precious little to contribute. Their reason for being here seems to derive from the notion that open borders, as a leading Mexican presidential candidate has been asserting, is a human right. And, of course, they want to live off the welfare state.

This means that migrants have a right to the wealth and prosperity of a nation, even when they have in no way contributed to it. In its turn this derives from the idea that rich nations are richer than poor nations because they have exploited and oppressed poor nations.

Many parts of Europe are overrun with migrants because they have extremely generous welfare states, paid for by not spending money on their military forces.

Writing in the Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail Margaret Wente gives us a cogent analysis of the current state of the migrant wars in Europe. (via Maggie’s Farm).

Apparently, Europe has run out of patience. Yet, is it too little too late?

Attitudes have hardened on migration across Europe – not only in Hungary and Poland, which have had little tolerance for foreigners, but also in France and even tolerant Sweden. The top two issues in most countries are immigration and terrorism, pollsters find. Experts can lecture all they want about how immigration, terrorism and crime are really pseudo-problems, whipped up to serve the interests of the populists. But the truth is that Europe’s leaders have failed miserably to come up with any common solution to the migration problem. That’s why support for national populists is rising and why centre-right parties are shifting farther right.

The absolute numbers of asylum seekers have fallen dramatically since 2015 – the year of the great surge to Germany. Even so, as the Financial Times says, “The impact of migration on European politics has become truly poisonous.”

As reported here and elsewhere, Angela Merkel is in serious political trouble over her policy. Now, she wants other European nations to share the burden and the pain:

Ms. Merkel is pushing for a common approach and united solutions to Europe’s migration problems. But that’s looking like a lost cause. The idea of “burden-sharing” – which would require every country to take its fair share of asylum claimants – has been a flop, because countries such as Hungary and Bulgaria believe their fair share is zero. Asylum claimants themselves are only interested in going to northern countries with good welfare benefits. Other ideas involve massively beefing up policing of Europe’s external borders – if only they can figure out who will pay and what will become of the migrants who are intercepted. The Italians are now proposing “reception centres” – perhaps located in Europe, or perhaps North Africa, where people can be housed (or detained, depending on your point of view) while their claims are processed.

The larger problem is partly the fact that people in poor countries can see how people in rich countries live. And they know that once they step foot in the rich countries, the chances of their being sent back are small:

None of these solutions address the bigger problem, which is that there is today a near-infinite supply of both economic migrants and asylum seekers, that the distinction between the two can be somewhat arbitrary and that hundreds of millions of people in the most decrepit and dysfunctional places on Earth are now equipped with cellphones that allow them to see how the First World lives. Africa’s population, now about 1.25 billion, is expected to double by the year 2050. That’s a lot of overloaded dinghies.

We are seeing the breakdown of the liberal world order. You know about the liberal world order, the Enlightenment ideal of a borderless world where everyone has the same rights and the same abilities. While Donald Trump is routinely excoriated for failing to make nice with the weak sisters of Western Europe, the problem lies in the liberal elites who have been promoting this policy:

Wente quotes Ivan Krastev, author of After Europe.

His message: Don’t blame the far-right fringes for Europe’s discontent. Blame the oblivious elites. “The inability and unwillingness of the liberal elites to discuss migration and contend with its consequences, and the insistence that existing policies are always positive sum (i.e., win-win), are what make liberalism for so many symbolic with hypocrisy,” he writes.
Can liberalism survive the challenge? We’ll find out. Meanwhile, another refugee ship is adrift on the Mediterranean, looking for a place to land. There will be many more. 

Here is a glimpse of the liberal future? Do you want it, or not?

Less Fat Shaming; More Obesity

Whoever could have imagined such a thing? In the face of America’s obesity epidemic, the therapy culture declared that “fat shaming” was a problem. If only young people would be happy about their bodies, regardless of their weight. If only young people would embrace their obesity—because being fat is empowering. Or something....

Fashion magazines are leading the charge. They are showing overweight models bedecked in the season’s finery. There, don’t you feel good about being overweight.

In America’s ongoing war on shame, fat is only one of the enemies. Given the simple fact that the fools who are leading this war do not understand shame, they have missed the simple point that if you destigmatize obesity you are going to get more obesity. A simpler idea cannot be thought.

Happily for those us who are enamored of research studies, we have found one to demonstrate this all-too-obvious point. Now that fat shaming has been declared to be politically incorrect, we are seeing a rising tide of obesity. The problem has reached epidemic proportions. Another good idea leading to bad results.

Physicians are distressed, because obesity is bad for your health. Worse yet, if teenagers habituate themselves to overeating and indolent sloth, they are more likely to take their bad habits into adulthood. And adult obesity increases your risk for various illnesses, from heart disease to diabetes to hypertension to certain cancers. But, at least, you won't feel ashamed of your weight.

The UPI has the story:

The obesity epidemic among American teens is being fed by a waning desire to lose weight, a new report suggests.

Among many adolescents, being overweight or obese may increasingly seem "normal," so they don't feel the urgency to shed pounds, some researchers believe.

"The findings are very worrisome, since adolescence is the best life stage for change, but we are missing the opportunities of preventing overweight from becoming obesity," said study senior researcher Dr. Jian Zhang. He's an associate professor of epidemiology at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro.

Would you like the numbers? Happy to oblige:

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of American teens are obese and many more are overweight.

Using data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1988 to 2014, Zhang's team found that the prevalence of obesity and overweight increased from 22 percent in 1988-1994 to 34 percent in 2009-2014.

During the same period, the percentage of teens who had tried to lose weight dropped from nearly 34 percent to 27 percent.

Among overweight teens, the percentage of those trying to lose weight declined from 36 percent in 1988-1994 to 23 percent in 2009-2014.

Among obese boys, the attempt to lose weight fell from 68 percent in 1988-1994 to 42 percent in 1999-2004, then increased to 61 percent by 2009-2014, the researchers found.

Among obese girls, the desire to lose weight dropped from 70 percent in 1988-1994 to 64 percent in 1999-2004, and had dropped to 59 percent by 2009-2014, the findings showed.

As you know, dieting is not the answer. A healthier lifestyle is. This means eating a balanced diet, engaging in a good exercise program and becoming more active:

Dr. David Katz directs the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Conn. He said society seems to have normalized obesity and abandoned the drive to lose weight.

Moreover, dieting isn't the answer, he said. Obesity is a matter of lifestyle, so changing how you live can change how you look and feel, and improve your health.

"Weight loss in our culture is generally about just that -- losing weight. It is only very rarely about finding health," Katz said.

Obsessing about weight is not the answer. Seeking health is.

The problem, Dr. Katz suggests, is that America has made obesity the norm, not the exception. When you cease to fat shame and to stigmatize obesity, that is what happens: it becomes the norm. Those who embrace it are merely doing what the culture defines as normal.