Wednesday, November 25, 2020

What about the Children?

We have, on several occasions, drawn attention to the fact that closing schools is bad for children. It is also bad for their mothers. The teachers’ unions do not care. The Democrat mayors and governors do not care. They want to show themselves to be intrepid warriors against the coronavirus. This is the empathy party, keep it in mind.

We note that America has closed more schools for longer periods of time than have any other countries.

Yesterday, Lisa Miller wrote an excellent article about the damage that these policies are doing. She tells a grim story, well researched and comprehensive. Obviously, she is not promoting a political agenda. She is simply asking: What about the children?

Researchers asked parents to record their children’s regressions. The parents’ reports were alarming:

They observed their kids’ sudden regressions and general nervousness as novelties. Toilet-trained children were wetting their beds, and kids who once went to sleep easily became hard to soothe, waking at night or crawling in with their parents. “My son is suddenly scared of everything,” one Ohio parent wrote in the first week of June. An Arizona parent corroborated: “Our 2-year-old has had a very sudden increase in separation anxiety. She doesn’t like it when we leave the room, and at night she takes a long time to fall asleep because she doesn’t want us to go.”

By summer, the cabin fever and separation from friends, as well as the disruption of routine, were taking a toll. At week 12, 79 percent of parents of kids under 5 said their children were more fussy and defiant than before, and 41 percent of their children were more fearful or anxious. Harried parents reported frequent tantrums and incessant, escalating sibling fights. One young boy in New York mourned the loss of his day care, shuttered for more than two months, and chanted the name of each child in his class every night in an incantation of grief. Just after the Fourth of July, a mother in Missouri noted that her daughter had gotten more demanding, wanting extra attention especially when she was on video calls. That same week, a young mother in Pennsylvania worried that four months of isolation had been “devastating” to her daughter’s mental health. “She really needs to get back in counseling, but we’re concerned about exposure.”

Miller calls it a “global experiment in child psychology:”

A recent study in JAMA Pediatrics found that in Hubei province, where COVID-19 raged during the winter months of 2020, school-age children who quarantined for just 30 days reported measurably more depression and anxiety than similar pre-pandemic cohorts. A small Harvard study on the effects of the pandemic has found that caregiver-reported depression, anxiety, and misbehavior among American kids in the general population to have reached levels typically seen only in those previously diagnosed with a form of mental disorder. According to a literature review out of the University of Bath, persistent loneliness and isolation among children of the kind that has become quite widespread during the pandemic can lead to suicidal ideation and self-harm and to significant depression. “The kids will carry these experiences through life,” Fisher told me. “And it’s not going to be good.”

We know and have known that children best in the presence of a responsive caregiver. This means that screen time and day care cannot compensate for an absent or distracted mother:

Decades of research has definitively shown that the presence of a responsive caregiver, especially during early childhood, when the brain is extremely plastic, is the crucial ingredient in healthy development. This stable adult attention is exponentially more meaningful when children are growing up in persistent adversity: environments of neglect, abuse, deprivation, or poverty that medical and psychological professionals call “toxic stress.”

Children are being abandoned. Miller distributes the blame, but ought we not to notice that the school shutdowns have been imposed by Democratic politicians, people like Bill de Blasio and Eric Garcetti and Gavin Newsom. As noted here and elsewhere the children suffering the most are inner city minority children:

There are 74 million kids under 18 in the U.S., which is to say more children in America than there are Trump voters, a greater number than the population of France. And the collective shrug of big business, policy-makers, and government with regard to the fates of these children amounts to wholesale abandonment. (“I’m kind of discouraged, frankly, right now,” Senator John Cornyn said weakly of the congressional impasse holding up additional relief funds.) In September, Fisher’s research showed that 60 percent of Black, Latinx, and single-parent families were facing at least one material hardship: difficulty paying for rent, food, utilities, or health care. It also showed that 40 percent of all American families were facing these hardships. “There’s an erosion of well-being that’s directly tied to money and the ability to pay for basic needs,” Fisher said. “There’s no reason to think people are going to be able to engage in nurturing ways with their kids when they’re worrying about food. This is a perfect storm of toxic stress. With what we know about how vulnerable kids are to stress early in life, it’s just shocking to me the way that it’s all adding up. We’re all going over the edge together.”

And, of course, with the schools shut down, women are necessarily removing themselves from the workforce.

Nine months since the country’s schools shut down, nearly 60 percent of American kids are still learning entirely online and someone needs to look after them. Women flooded the workplace over the past 30 years, but as they did, no one — not employers, governments, or, for the most part, spouses — picked up in any meaningful or systemic way the main job they left behind: the day-to-day business of caring for children. “Other countries have social safety nets. The U.S. has women,” the sociologist Jessica Calarco recently said.

Miller is slightly disingenuous here. Is it really possible to replace mothers? And, lest we forget, America is leading the world in single-parent households. 

And why is it a government responsibility to provide childcare? Most other countries are sending children to school The CDC in America says that the safest place for children is school. 

A child at home is an irrefutable priority, putting too many mothers in an impossible bind, especially if their income contributes significantly (or exclusively) to the family’s bottom line. More than 15 million American children are raised by single mothers; if that mother quits work, who’s paying the rent?


A Marriage Proposal That Isn't a Marriage Proposal

When is a marriage proposal not a marriage proposal? Today’s question arises naturally from a Miss Manners column. 

A woman writes thusly:

I am known as an exceptional cook and baker. I take great pleasure in entertaining, and pride myself on offering delicious, beautiful fare. Invitations are enthusiastically accepted, and even sought, which is certainly flattering.

I would consider myself otherwise to be a fairly average person: neither homely nor beautiful, rather quiet and reserved, no sparkling personality, but polite and pleasant. The food, and the more outgoing company that it attracts, would certainly be the draw at my dinner parties — and not me. That is fine. I am more a people-watcher than a "people person." I do not want to be the center of attention.

My problem is that men at the dinner table declare their love for me and even propose marriage (though they, and I, are already married) with surprising frequency.

I completely understand that they do not mean what they are saying, that it is just an awkward compliment about the food and nothing more. Nor do I have any romantic interest whatsoever in these gentlemen. But I hate to see the hurt expression on their lovely wives' faces when their husbands make these outrageous comments, and I am rather annoyed when my husband begins to act possessive in the face of this false competition for my affections.

Is there a charming way to end this nonsense and protect the feelings of the ladies present without upsetting the party?

The comments are not really outrageous, even if they are decidedly unflattering-- to the men's wives. The meaning is quite simple. These men are remarking on the fact that their wives do not know how to cook, or refuse to cook for them. Thus, they feel starved for affection and are thrilled to receive it, even from a friend. 

The purpose is to embarrass the wives. Obviously, the hostess does not recognize that she is somewhat retro, because modern women do not cook. Either they do not know how or they do not care to do so.

Miss Manners proposes that the hostess turn the tables and say something about manly skills:

“Well, can any of you ...” and then you name some household skill your husband has. Or just reel off a list of what were traditionally considered manly tasks: rewiring the lights, fixing the roof, building bookcases, fixing the plumbing and such.

Of course, how does anyone know that said men are incapable of performing said tasks? Miss Manners does not seem to recognize the possibility:

You are bound to hit at least one that each of the wives wishes her husband would do or has always done herself. Those wistful looks will turn into gently accusatory smiles at their husbands, and you are unlikely to receive such ridiculous compliments from them again.

Miss Manners is far too optimistic here. The compliments are not ridiculous. They are the only way that these husbands have-- notably it is not just one malcontent-- to express their feelings about their wives’ failure to show affection for them. In today’s America a woman who does not cook is thought to be liberated. Unfortunately, she is thus more likely to be freed from being married at all.

The remarks, as Miss Manners fails to note, are also a warning sign. Imagine this scene. One of these disgruntled husbands is out having a drink with a group of colleagues. He mumbles something about the fact that his wife does not even know how to fry an egg, when a woman on the other side of the table blurts out: “If you were my husband, I would always cook for you.”

At that point, the marriage is on life support. And of course, this must represent one of the reasons why so few Americans marry or stay married. Miss Manners should have said that these kitchen-phobic women might just undertake to prepare meals for their husbands and their families. Because when it comes to the lizard-like male mind, these things matter, far more than you think.

And, you thought it was all about blow jobs?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Media Manipulation of Emotion

It’s no longer hard to believe. In fact, it’s the easiest thing to believe. The more the news media cries out about how it is wedded to science and the facts, the more it descends into emotional manipulation.

After all, it takes less intelligence to feel deeply than to think clearly. And the people who now write for the mainstream media are not smart enough to think clearly. At times, they cannot think at all. Could it be that they are reading their audience correctly?

Thanks be given to America’s rotting educational establishment. It has not merely replaced sober evaluation of facts with non-stop propaganda. It has dumbed down the curriculum and enforced uniform thought. The result is a nation filled with people who whine endlessly about how they want to follow the science, but who spend their time enforcing group think. 

Since the scientific method is for nothing if it is not based on skepticism, they have no notion of what science entails. And since the science is never “settled” they are not promoting science. Lastly, since scientific hypotheses are judged against experience and experiments, those who believe that they are right regardless of the facts are not doing anything resembling science. Happily for them, the products of American education do not know the difference.

Anyway, Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins was listening to an NPR host exclaiming her deep feelings about how many people have been dying from the coronavirus. This was not accompanied by any commentary on the shameless politicization of the pandemic by a certain political party.

National Public Radio host: “We have said the words grim milestone so many times over the past eight months on this program, and yet here we are once more. The number this time—250,000. . . . Each digit in that number, a life now gone, their loved ones now grieving. The collective loss is hard to measure.”

NPR reporter: “You know, Rachel, each of these terrible new milestones is so big they can start to feel incomprehensible. So I’ve been struggling to find a way to put such a terrible tragedy into some kind of context. It’s hard. But 250,000 deaths is about five times the number of U.S. troops killed in combat in Vietnam. It’s nearly five times the number of Americans who died in combat in World War I.”

Of course, the numbers are designed to elicit an emotional response. Because otherwise we might have to educate people, and we don’t want to do that. Jenkins provides some context.

These words (and I’ve spared you the full version) were spoken with the dramatic intonation that NPR apparently now requires of its on-air performers, indicating not informational content but somebody’s idea of the appropriate emotional response to be extorted from listeners. And yet the question that started this discussion could have been answered in another way more befitting a news organization: 250,000 is 9% more than the estimated U.S. death toll from the 1957 flu, adjusted for population; it’s 34% larger than the 1968 flu’s death toll; it’s about one-fifth the 1918 pandemic’s.

Covid-19 has nothing to do with the Vietnam War. It is nothing like World War I. It’s not even like heart disease, which kills an estimated 655,000 Americans a year and will likely continue doing so for the foreseeable future.

Strangely, pandemic deaths will likely be far fewer next year-- thanks to the vaccines:

Unlike car accidents and opioid overdoses, Covid deaths are likely to be much reduced next year. Human immune systems will adapt. Vaccines will be deployed. We get invaluable help, which our ancestors never received, from science to endure this new threat from nature as we continue the activities necessary for human survival and advancement.

But, the media, even the media that is not supposed to be corrupted by the profit motive, cares more to sensationalize the crisis for political ends. You can feel completely confident that if a similar pandemic occurred during a Democratic administration the stories would be about how well we had contained it. The example of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, now being widely lauded for killing old people during the pandemic, cries out for recognition.

Many also knew, unmentioned in NPR’s sermon which likened the daily death toll to several jumbo jet crashes, that most of these deaths are from Covid plus other conditions that afflict the old and chronically ill. Still, the 250,000 milestone was the most reported factoid everywhere on Thursday and Friday, so another hint for journalists: If you find yourself straining for ways to sensationalize a claim that listeners have already heard 50 times, maybe just drop it and move on.

On January 20, 2021, the media will cease reporting on the coronavirus. The stories will then all be about the great recovery engineered by Joe Biden in the first hours of his presidency.

Is that a bit cynical? Of course, it is. When dealing with today's media, it's the only defense we have.

More Crime for Minneapolis

I do not want to create the impression that New York City is the center of the known universe. After all, there’s always Minneapolis. Recall that the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis triggered the urban insurrection this year.

So, how are things in Minneapolis today. We know that the woke people running New York City have emptied the prisons, disbanded the most effective crime fighting unit and refused to indict criminals. They have left the city to the tender mercies of the criminal class. As the murder rate doubles and as more people get pushed in front of subway trains, things are obviously not very good.

The notion that Comrade de Blasio is up to the task is risible.

Anyway, the same story is playing out in Minneapolis. Hollie McKay reports on the wave of violence descending on that city (via Maggie’s Farm):

Across several blocks in Minneapolis, at the site where George Floyd died in police custody almost six months ago sparking national outrage, roads remain closed.

Mounds of snow have built up around the tents, street art, and bouquets of withered flowers memorializing Floyd's death.

By day, people still come to pay homage. But by night, the neighborhood surrounding the makeshift memorial is a hot zone, police say -- a microcosm of a wave of violence gripping the city.

By the numbers, here is the picture:

According to police data, more than 500 people have been shot in Minneapolis this year – twice as many as 2019, while murders are up more than 50%. 

So far this year, there have been nearly 5,000 violent crimes, the most in the past five years, the records show.

In September, observers watched in horror as six people viciously beat a man while allegedly trying to steal his cellphone outside a Target store.

Late last month, a 9-year-old boy was shot outside his St. Cloud apartment complex. Last week, a woman was pistol-whipped during a home invasion in the south part of the city.

In August, eight residents from north Minneapolis filed a class-action lawsuit against the city, claiming that the dwindling number of officers was a violation of the city charter. 

Police officers are retiring. Fewer recruits are joining the force. The city government has cut the police budget, as has happened in New York City. The results should have been predictable:

As dozens of officers leave a police department reeling from funding cuts spurred by racial justice advocates, officials say response times have slowed and violent crimes, including shootings, carjackings, and robberies, have spiked.

In June, the City Council cut the police budget by about $14 million, with Mayor Jacob Frey vowing instead to pour resources into a new public safety program that seeks to provide more mental health outreach and help for vulnerable communities.

But the city of 425,000 is facing an exodus of cops ahead of a threatened complete defunding of police that could impact public safety for years to come.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said earlier this month that more than a hundred officers have departed the 888-member force — more than twice the average attrition rate.

Some have opted for early retirement, while others have lodged disability claims, citing PTSD triggered by the riots and continuing fallout over Floyd's death under the knee of an officer. Cops leaving the department have expressed concerns about the safety of themselves and their families

Naturally, the activists blame the police for the crime wave. A little misdirection does the soul ill. But, they have found their solution-- they want to send in social workers and therapists. Nothing like a good dose of empathy to solve the problem. 

Some grassroots groups say they are helping to patrol streets "with compassion and care in mind," committed to providing a model of what communities could look like sans uniformed officers, with greater support for mental health and mediation programs. 


Monday, November 23, 2020

Chasing the Rich out of New York and New Jersey

Is New York going to make a great comeback? Will there be a New York City renaissance? Jerry Seinfeld thinks so, and don’t you consult with stand-comedians when you are looking for a vision of the future?

The problem is the politicians. New York City and State are being led by some of the most inept politicians anyone has ever seen. Gov. Cuomo is continuing his war against orthodox Jews. Being the Lord High Executioner of the coronavirus, Cuomo wrote a book proclaiming himself to have provided great leadership-- leadership, incidentally, that sent recovering patients to nursing homes where thousands caught the virus and died. 

As for Mayor de Blasio, he has just shut down public schools in New York. The CDC and even Dr. Fauci say that there is no reason to shut down schools, that the actions hurt more than help children. And besides, shutting down schools causes poor children and poor parents the most damage. But, de Blasio is a moron, so what did you expect?

But, what with the exodus of the wealthy from New York City, the city budget is in serious trouble. As is, if we are to believe the governor, the state budget.

The top 1% pay something like 40% of city taxes. Lose a few of them and you will find yourself running out of money. Naturally, the city and the state are awaiting a rescue package from the federal government, but that seems now to be in some serious doubt. 

Deep blue state New Jersey is having the same problems. Now it has lit on the usual Democratic solution to all fiscal problems-- to raise taxes. In the current case, the two states want to tax stock transactions that occur on Wall Street and in Northern Jersey.

Liberals have long considered these transactions, which rise into the trillions of dollars, as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Who could worry about a tax of a penny here and there?

Well, the stock exchanges, for that matter, are seriously disturbed by the new proposals. Their representatives are currently traveling to Texas to discuss plans to move their operations to Dallas in the Lone Star State.

The New York Post has the story, in an editorial (via Maggie’s Farm):

Lawmakers in New York and New Jersey just won’t be happy until they drive Wall Street firms clear out of the area, taking their jobs — and tax revenue — with them.

Proposed stock-transfer taxes in both states have already prompted the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and other power players to come together to form the Coalition To Prevent the Taxing of Retirement Savings and to actually test the viability of relocating elsewhere.

Nasdaq is already meeting with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to discuss new data-center operations in Dallas.

The companies don’t want to move but are “concerned about the possibility of rising costs” and about customers who are concerned with costs, a spokesman says.

New York City has become a great metropolis because of Wall Street. Now, the politicians want to put an end to all of that:

Upshot: In their short-sighted attempt to gin up new revenue, these bills could drive a stake through the heart of Wall Street — and wind up costing both states a fortune in lost tax revenue.

That’s surely the last thing New York needs, with the securities industry accounting for 17 percent of state tax revenues and 6 percent of the city’s — and both city and state facing dire cash crunches.

Keep in mind, when exchanges move out of state, this gives Wall Street players and their associate staff far less reason to stay in town. Vaccine or no vaccine, it looks as though the exodus from New York is going to continue.

Of course, the politicians could come to their senses. Unfortunately, but they seem motivated by a will to punish the rich. And they will not be satisfied until they chase the rich out of town.

Netanyahu in Saudi Arabia

This morning’s New York Times claims that Joe Biden’s newly nominated Secretary of State, one Anthony Blinken, will repair all of the alliances damaged by the Trump presidency.

The hidden meaning is: Trump has worked long and hard to repair the alliances damaged by the Obama presidency. In the Middle East, for example. As for Western Europe, it would be helpful if people would recognize, as noted here yesterday, that nations that want to be treated like allies should act like allies.

Anyway, yesterday the Trump administration, under the leadership of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo engineered a private meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. The meeting took place in Saudi Arabia, in the new city of Neom. Also in attendance were Sec. Pompeo and the head of Israel’s Mossad, Yossi Cohen.

So, when Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress, many Democrats boycotted the speech. And no one treated the Israeli prime minister with more contempt than Barack Obama. It is worth remembering these points.

The meeting at Neom has been widely reported in the mainstream media, but Donald Trump has managed, yet again, to step on his own success. As the world should be admiring his achievement, it is more likely to be talking about Rudy Giuliani’s hair dye-- or was it mascara-- and the fate of one Sidney Powell. 

While we admire Powell for the great work she did for Gen. Michael Flynn, she should present evidence for her claims of election fraud. Period. Now, the Trump legal defense team has distanced itself from her. We do not know how this is going to come out, but the odds are distinctly against Trump. If that is true, then he seems to be playing it for the drama.

And, sad to say, Rudy Giuliani has seen better days. As was made clear in his previous work, Giuliani was more adept at sticking his foot in his mouth than in defending the Trump administration. We still admire the great job that he did for New York City, but seriously, who today would hire him as a lawyer? And who would put him on television as a spokesman?

As for the meeting between Netanyahu and Mohammed bin-Salmon, it was momentous and constructive. It was also entirely predictable, and we predicted something of the sort here on several occasions.

As for the story, via the Wall Street Journal:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Saudi Arabia’s crown prince in the kingdom on Sunday, according to two Saudi government advisers, in their first known meeting and amid a U.S. push to normalize ties between the longtime foes.

Mr. Netanyahu made the secret trip on Sunday evening to the seaside corner of northwest Saudi Arabia to join U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Yossi Cohen, the director of Israel’s spy agency Mossad, accompanied the Israeli prime minister, according to Israel’s Army Radio.

After a certain amount of lip service to the need for there to be a Palestinian state, the story continues. The Journal emphasizes the division within the Saudi government between the Crown Prince and his father, King Salman:

Normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel before any deal for Palestinian statehood would be a seismic shift in the Middle East, upending a decades-old pan-Arab position. Bringing together two of Washington’s top allies and Iran’s main rivals would allow for greater intelligence sharing and ease Israel’s isolation as Washington reduces its military presence in parts of the region.

But Saudi Arabia’s king has been at odds with his son, Prince Mohammed, over embracing the Jewish state. The king is a longtime supporter of the Arab boycott of Israel and the Palestinians’ demand for an independent state, while the prince wants to move past what he sees as an intractable conflict to join with Israel in business and align against Iran.

In that vein, Saudi Arabia has become more public in recent years with its frustrations toward the Palestinians, in a sign that Riyadh’s steadfast public support for them is fraying. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a retired intelligence chief and former ambassador to Washington, last month accused Palestinian officials of failing to deliver for the Palestinian people in a three-part program that aired on Saudi television.

Q. E. D.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

A Return to Globalism?

For defying the conventional foreign policy wisdom President Trump attracted a coterie of naysayers. In some cases, in the Middle East, he made them look like fools. In other cases, toward China, the Trump policy seemed to have been more bluster than substance.

Be that as it may, Peter Skurkiss explains the Trump policy toward Europe. As you know, the foreign policy establishment has been gnashing its teeth about Trump’s dismissal of the Europeans. They accuse him of not treating our allies like allies. To which I have occasionally responded that if our European allies want to be treated like allies, they should act like allies.

For all the caterwauling about Trump’s Russian collusion, Barack Obama is far more deserving of the label of being Putin’s toady. As for the great Angela Merkel she is being applauded for shutting down German nuclear power plants, the better to rely on Russia for natural gas. Russian stooge??

So, Skurkiss suggests that globalism enhances the importance of Europe while it hides the fact that the European Union is completely dependent on America for its protection. As a reward for providing protection for Europe, America has been engaging in trade practices that advantage, you guessed it, Europe. 

In more mundane circumstances this is called freeloading-- it is morally unacceptable, even degenerate.

It took Donald Trump to figure out that we were being treated as patsies. Naturally the globalist contingent is horrified at being exposed.

Skurkiss tells us that European bureaucrats are salivating at the arrival of the new Biden administration:

The bureaucrats who run the European Union and the globalists behind them are cocksure that with Donald Trump gone, things will return to the comfortable pre-Trump days.  Daddy Yankee will again uncomplainingly throw a protective blanket of security over Europe and in his benevolence turn a blind eye to the unfair trade arrangements that benefit Europe so.

Skurkiss is more optimistic than most. He believes that Trump broke the globalist consensus and that America will not be able to return to its traditional role of subservience to a continent that it is paying to protect:

.... even should Biden become president, he will not be able to restore to good old days that Europe longs for...and needs.  Take the matter of defense.  As president, Trump made it acceptable not just to issue objections to Europe about its freeloading, but to actually start doing something about it, something none of his predecessors had the moxie to do.  Adding fuel to American anger toward Europe has been the E.U.'s propensity to anoint itself as the moral leader of the West and try to shape U.S. foreign policy from that vantage point.  The unstated but clear European message to America was "you do the work, and we'll sit back and tell you what to do and how to do it."

Bizarre notion, that one. Europeans consider themselves to be morally superior so they want to dictate American foreign policy. In more concrete terms, they are happy to defy American sanctions on Iran because they know better than we do how to deal with a terrorist state-- especially one that is hellbent on killing Jews.

Skurkiss continues that Europe has become less important as a player on the world stage. After all, the high tech wars, as Kai-fu Lee once opined, are pitting American versus Asia, against China and South Korea and Japan. The reason is simple: Europe has chosen to emphasize regulation. America and Asia have downplayed regulation in favor of innovation. You cannot do both. More regulation stifles innovation. The regulatory state is risk averse and morally decadent.

Trump gave voice to what the average American long thought about Europe.  That genie is not going back into the bottle.  Plus, irrespective of Biden's personal feelings toward Europe, geopolitical reality will demand a de-emphasis on both European needs and Middle Eastern engagements.  This is because a true pivot toward Asia is needed to counter the rise of communist China.  At least Emmanuel Macron of France realizes all this, which is why he is persistent in trying to gain support for an all-European army.  So far, his calls are falling on deaf ears. 

The bright spot, from the European perspective, is that Biden administration policies will damage the American economy, thus enhancing the economic power of Europe. Of course, a weakened America will be less likely to finance Europe’s defense.

One seemingly bright spot from Europe's perspective should Biden get into the White House is that the Democrats will do considerable damage to the U.S. economy with tax increases, green environmental nonsense, and likely more lockdowns.  This would bring America closer to Europe's sclerotic state.  But before Europe celebrates, it should realize that a weakened America would be even less willing than it is now to finance Europe's defense and to tolerate unfair trade deals. 

No matter how things turn out stateside, Europe is in a fix.  America will not — cannot — be Europe's savior.  The Cold War days are over.  

Europe's fundamental problems are of its own making.  Until the people of Europe, particularly Western Europe, can loosen the death grip the leftist elite and bureaucrats have on their countries, the continent will continue to languish.

How Not to Marry?

It’s one thing to write an essay about loneliness. It is certainly an important issue, become more important with social distancing and lockdowns. And let’s not forget the loss of face involved in mask-wearing. If people who get together are no longer allowed to face each other, then they are effectively failing to connect on a basic level.

Anyway, Financial Times journalist Claire Bushey turns an essay on loneliness into an essay on her own loneliness. As a rule, I discourage such moral exhibitionism, except in extreme cases. (FT columns cannot be linked)

Of course, we learn very little about Bushey beyond the fact that she is very sociable and very friendly. She recently took a job working for the FT in Chicago; not having a teeming office contributes to her loneliness.

As does the fact that she is not married. To be truthful, we do not care about why she is not married, but she does. And she chooses to share her story about how not not to marry. She does not quite put it this way. She thinks that she is not married because she is principled.

She has not married because she has a set of unrealistic expectations about today’s marriage. In more vulgar terms, she is a feminist and she is married to her feminist principles. Not surprisingly, she has not found a man who is willing to live according to the terms of that ideology.

Consider this paragraph:

Contemporary US society tries to solve that problem with marriage. A boyfriend or a husband – why don’t I have one of those? I’m financially stable and have my own teeth. (Mostly.) Alas, I have yet to find someone I want to marry, who also wants to marry me, which saddens me. The sexist response is that I should have secured a wedding ring on any terms – a response I would happily burn in an oven right alongside the Cookies of Traditional Femininity. Loneliness is terrible, but I’d rather be alone than compromise on the basics: someone I fancy, whose company I enjoy, who does housework and doesn’t assume his career comes first. Two decades of romantic experience have made me faster at figuring out who isn’t a match for me. 

She has no use for traditional femininity. She sees life in all-or-nothing terms. She believes that she must get her way and that reality must respond favorably to the fictional world she inhabits. She refuses to compromise on her ideals-- which makes her a fanatic. And fanatics are insufferable.

She wants a man who will do housework. And she is having trouble figuring out why she can’t find a husband.

Rather than blame herself-- she is a true believer-- she blames marriage, the venerable institution designed to create an alliance between families, and to provide the best circumstances for producing and raising children.

Are there real alternatives? Feminist researchers say that there are. There aren’t. Obviously, different communities have tried different arrangements, especially those that fall under the category of extramarital arrangements. At times when marriages were arranged, these must have seemed especially appealing.

But a better question than “Why isn’t she married?” is “Why is marriage the only model for long-term, caring, adult relationships?” Writers Jessa Crispin and Briallen Hopper have explored this, unearthing alternative models from the past. In the late-19th and early-20th-century, women in New England lived together in partnerships in a practice nicknamed “Boston marriage”. In the medieval Low Countries, women known as beguines lived together in separate sections of the city. They could work, keep their own money and live without men, but they were not nuns. They did not take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and they did not always stay in the beguinage for a lifetime. We don’t need to reconstruct this on a grand scale, but a lonely world would be better served if there were more models and more visibility for cohabitation between non-romantic partners.

Of course, these were social experiments. We have no problem with social experiments, even with arranged marriages if that is what people want. And yet, Bushey notwithstanding, there are many models for cohabitation between non-romantic partners-- in the past they were called families. Doesn’t she know that when marriages were arranged, husband and wife were generally not romantic?

So, if you don’t want to get married, become a true believing dyed-in-the-wool feminist. You will be striking a blow against patriarchal oppression. When it boomerangs, remember to duck. Now, that was easy, wasn’t it?

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Chinese Environmentalism

Of course, you believe in the Paris Climate Accord. Your tech overlords are committed to it, and you dutifully obey. 

Of course, you believe that China will eagerly comply with its promise, via the accord, to reduce its carbon emissions by 2030. And naturally you thrilled to the recent announcement that China will arrive at net-zero carbon emissions by 2060. That is, in four decades. 

I am confident that those who traffic in climate change hysteria, and that includes the best and the brightest of our tech oligarchs, actually believe it all.

And yet, the Financial Times reports this morning that China, now engaged in an economic recovery, is fueling its recovery by burning fossil fuels. It will come as a shock to our intellectual elites that China is not using very many renewables. This would seem to contradict the empty promises of the Green New Deal, namely that we can easily change over to renewable energy—sunlight and wind—while at the same time fostering economic growth.

The Financial Times reports:

China’s recovery has been led by the state-dominated industrial sector. Construction demand has spurred a rise in steel, aluminium and cement production of 13, 11 and 10 per cent, respectively, in October compared with the same period last year.

That puts China on course to account for nearly 60 per cent of global output in the three sectors, a rise of almost 10 per cent on last year. At the same time, exports have plummeted over the past five months, meaning the vast majority of the products being used domestically.

The surging domestic demand makes it near impossible for China to phase out fossil fuels, said Yang Muyi, an analyst at Ember, a climate think-tank in the UK.

Research led by Mr Yang found that a 5.8 per cent year-on-year rise in electricity demand from May to October was “simply too fast for new wind, solar, hydro and nuclear investment to keep pace”.

As a result, China is continuing to burn coal, a primary obstacle to its climate ambitions. The country will account for 53 per cent of global coal-generated power this year; use of the fossil fuel in the rest of the world is expected to fall 12 per cent.

To prop up economic growth, China has built roads, railways, airports and industrial parks in a more limited version of the carbon-intensive playbook it used to recover from the global financial crisis. “If we continue to rely on this model, it will be very difficult to reduce emissions,” Mr Yang said. “That’s why we need the next five-year plan to change to a more sustainable level of commodity consumption.”

It is slightly sobering to think that as China engages in an industrial recovery, we in America are about to hunker down again, with lockdowns and social distancing, to fight the virus.

Wherefore the Democratic Party?

Financial Times columnist Janan Ganesh asks a pertinent question. Today’s Democratic Party is united in its war against the great devil Trump. When it does not have the old Trumpian adhesive, what will happen to it? Will it split into warring factions, because no one is offering a coherent policy agenda.

Do recall that the Democratic Party’s supposed policies did not prove extremely compelling to most voters. They were running as the Anti-Trump party. 

Besides, does the Democratic Party have the brain power to put together an agenda that all segments of the party can accept. 

Recall that Republicans, for all their talk about repealing and replacing Obamacare could not come up with an alternative. You cannot run against something with nothing. The fault, as I see it, lay in weak leadership, especially from Paul Ryan, which lacked the brain power to do the job.

Ganesh explains the Democrats’ dilemma.

Even before his [Trump’s] formal departure, his adhesive effect on the US left is weakening. Moderate Democrats blame the party’s mixed Congressional results on its off-putting radicals. The accused, congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among them, reply that candidates who stood on “Medicare for All” and other statist policies got elected. Whoever is right, these recriminations have started even before the realities of presidential power set in: the dashed hopes, the galling trade-offs. Each one has the potential to turn Democrat against Democrat.

A lot has been said about the future of the Republican party after Mr Trump. But his exit is a no less disruptive event for the Democrats. The urgency of beating him has kept their unstable compound of factions together in recent years. Without him, they are at liberty to squabble. A truly cynical Republican would not dispute Mr Trump’s election loss at all, but shoo him out, the better to hasten the coming Democratic feuds.

As for Joe Biden, no one really expects him to come up with anything that resembles a policy agenda. Yet, when it comes to the culture wars, Ganesh suggests that the struggle is not between left and right, but exists within the Democratic Party itself. 

If this year has thrown up a lesson beyond the coronavirus pandemic, it is that a — perhaps the — culture war burns within the left, not between left and right. On one side are liberals who define justice as equality before the law. On the other are those who see this republican ideal as a sham, preferring group rights along ethnic and gender lines instead. Whether or not to “defund the police” is but a detail in this argument over what it means to be progressive. It is roiling the internal politics of newspapers, universities and publishing houses. It threatened to afflict the Democratic party during the summer of protest. In the end, the mission to defeat Mr Trump helped to preserve discipline. The party cannot count on him beyond January.

Without Trump, Ganesh suggests, the Democratic Party will need to decide whether it is for free and open expression or whether it prefers to shut down opposing viewpoints. That is, whether it will follow the principles of classical liberalism or will veer toward the mindless radicalism of the Squad.

It is too much to suggest they will come to miss president Trump. But there is no dodging the fact that he has done their party management for them for four years, serving as the most effective Democratic whip imaginable. Without him, Mr Biden is left to choose which side of his fractious party to let down. It has never been clear whether his election spells the restoration of pre-2016 liberalism or an opening for the real left. To see both camps frolic in the capital of late is to sense that one faces grievous disappointment. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Case of the Unhappy Liar

Here is an intriguing case presentation, one that is not very easy to understand. As often happens with these letters we do not have enough information to do more than speculate about what is happening, in this case, to a young woman.

We do know that she is undergoing therapy, and we can conclude fairly that the therapy is not doing her any real good. It is confusing issues and making it impossible for her to deal with her problem.

She writes to New York Magazine advice columnist Ask Polly to ask for help, and, aside from her usual psychobabble, Polly does offer one constructive piece of advice. She recommends that the woman consult with a psychiatrist about the possibility of taking medication. 

I have no expertise on the matter of medication, but surely a competent psychiatrist will be of more help than the therapist the woman is now consulting.

Polly also notes that the woman is being honest about being a liar. This is a clever twist. I have nothing against it. And yet, telling the truth about being a liar does not repair the relationships you have damaged by being faithlesss.

For my part I would emphasize three points. First, the woman has decided that she is a lying liar. She lies all the time. She lies to everyone. And, as a result, as Polly herself points out, she can barely sustain relationships and is undermining her work performance.

Second, Polly will naturally say that this woman has a problem with shame. It is the go-to explanation given by people who do not understand shame. In truth, the woman is insufficiently ashamed of her behavior. She has spent time in therapy trying to explain away her serial derelictions. The more she does so the more she is masking her shame, and not changing her behavior. She ought to have spent her time learning how to follow rules.

Third, there are lies and there are lies. When you tell your boss that you have completed an assignment, but have not completed it, you are lying. When you promise to show up for an appointment and fail to do so, you are not lying. You have gone back on your word and are thus unreliable and faithless.

From which I would add a point that I have made before, here and elsewhere. If you say that you will do something and do not do it you will have a serious psychological problem-- you will not know whether you are the person who vowed to come to the party or the person who blew off the commitment. Thus, you will not really know who you are.

So, here is the letter:

I feel like an awful shell of a person because I often base my worth on the perception others have of me. That’s not to say I’m extremely social, shallow, or reliant on popularity; I’m simply a friendly introvert who wants people to like me. And throughout my whole life, I’ve lied to avoid disapproval.

Of course, once you are caught in a lie you will gain disapproval. If you really don't want to elicit disapproval stop lying. One suspects that this absurd explanation was offered by her therapist. It sounds like a piece of pseudo-insight that accomplishes nothing.

It all goes back to her childhood anxiety. She continues

When I was a child, I had paralyzing anxiety. I was afraid of everything — dogs, cats, the pool, socializing at family parties, getting sick, you name it. I often thought I had illnesses I did not have. For example, when I was 10 or so, I read a book about a little girl who had leukemia, and for the next five years, I was convinced I had it too. When I was 14, I saw a movie in health class about HIV and I was sure I had that, too. You can probably imagine the anxiety this caused me on a daily basis. I have loving, well-meaning parents, but they didn’t always know how to handle my reactions to my fear. I was hushed when I cried too loudly, and I was told on a few occasions that I “always have to ruin everything.” I truly didn’t do any of this for attention. My fear was just bigger than I was. Though my anxiety is very much under control now and therapy has become a regular part of my life, the shame I felt as a child lives with me to this day.

Rather than blame it on childhood antecedents, we should note that the shame one feels today generally comes about through something that one has done today. Duh?

The best way not to feel shame would be for her to learn to be good to her word. Generally, she must learn to act as though her word is her bond. And that means, in matters small and large. In learning how to develop this good social habit, she should start small, perhaps with vows she makes to herself.

One suspects that a good cognitive therapist would recommend this approach. The woman’s therapist seems not to know about it. 

Strangely, the letter writer is a true feminist, but, dare we say, it has not done very much for her moral character. If she thinks that this has made her strong and empowered, she is deluding herself. Better yet, rather than be good to her word, she has learned how to tell stories, to get out of commitments. This tells us, starkly, that storytelling, as a therapeutic mode, is designed to cover up moral dereliction.

I avoid situations in which I might be exposed to criticism, and as much as I believe in being assertive (I’m an opinionated, outspoken feminist), I too often aim to please others instead. I’m now 29, and I feel like I can’t stop myself. I rarely consider my own feelings about what I want, and I regularly lie. I don’t tell elaborate stories in order to impress; I tell casual fibs that build up and cause more conflict than they do peace. For example, on multiple occasions I have made plans for the same day with more than one friend. Not wanting to let anyone down and have them think less of me, I wait until the last minute to make up an excuse as to why I cannot hang out with one of them. This creates so much stress, and when I do it, I feel silly — why can’t I just avoid trouble by telling one friend I’m busy from the very start?

So, in other occasions, our committed feminist does tell lies to her boss. This is genuinely bad practice.

Even worse, my lying has affected my work performance. I have a friendly boss who is only a little older than I am, but she is much more organized and high-strung. She gets frustrated by having to explain processes to me more than once or twice. This makes me hesitate to ask for help or an extension. Twice over the last eight months, I’ve let small lies about my tasks ruin her impression of me as a worker. I have a different work style than others (my brain functions best in the evening as opposed to the morning), I have ADHD, and I procrastinate like my life depends on it. I worry that I’m just a lazy, dull person, but deep down, I know that this isn’t the job for me. I need to find some meaning in what I do, otherwise it’s hard to care enough to give it my all. My job is technical and systems-based, but I’m a creative, sensitive person who would excel in an environment where I can help others. But I feel selfish for complaining while so many people are unemployed right now.

One solution to the problem is to stop complaining. The other is to recognize that all the blather about meaningful work is just a way of rationalizing failure. She ought to learn that bad habits on the job do not just go away when one finds a new job-- distributing alms to the poor.

I’ve been caught in lies at my job, and I feel childish and dumb, but I don’t want my boss to be annoyed that I haven’t begun the assignment that was due a day ago. Instead of emailing her with an apology and the truth, I tell her I’ve completed it. When she finds out I haven’t or that I did so after having told her I did, I realize that the lie made things much worse than the truth would have. It’s mortifying, too. Each time I’ve been confronted, I’ve cried while I came up with more excuses. Though I’m looking into applying for grad school, I’m worried I’ll lose my job. Then I worry I’ll never be able to thrive in this world. I have always considered myself to be an intelligent person who means no harm, but a smart, kind person wouldn’t act this way.

When I look at my life, all I see is a desperately unfulfilled woman who digs holes for herself by being dishonest with the people around her. I lie, but for what? It’s like I never learn. I feel deeply sad, pathetic, and ashamed of my dishonesty. In all of my attempts not to disappoint others, I’ve disappointed myself most of all.

Unhappy Liar

Would she feel better if she were a happy liar? Again, it’s not about dishonesty but about faithlessness and irresponsibility. These are not the same thing as bearing false witness, telling a story that does not correspond to the facts as she knows them.

As I said, she does not feel sufficiently ashamed of herself to work on how to keep her word. And she is probably being ill served by her therapist.