Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Great German Urinal Caper

Have those brilliant Germans finally discovered what women really, really want? They want gender neutral urinals in public restrooms. Is this the solution to the problem of long lines for female toilets?

Again, what would we do without the Daily Mail—reporting here:

City officials in Berlin are hoping to solve the problem of lengthy female toilet queues by introducing gender-neutral urinals. 

In a 99-page policy document titled 'The Toilet Concept for Berlin', the left-wing coalition governing the German capital committed itself to pissoirs - public urinals - for both men and women. 

The paper explains: 'In the future urinals which can be used by all genders should be offered.'

It was justified as an enterprise because it represented a 'continuation of the [toilet] concept and an opportunity for Berlin to show that it is innovative', according to a translation on the BBC

Think about it, a group of bureaucrats churned out a 99 page document designed to solve this pressing problem. The solution, which also strikes a blow against sexism, is to have urinals that can be used by both sexes. They can even be used by both genders.

Here's one design option:

After you, madam: In the future, Berliners of both sexes could find themselves weeing at neighbouring urinals 


And here's a testimony from a woman who used one, of a different design, in a German theatre:

Pictured: Tanja Janezic was amused after using a 'Frauenpissoir' in a theatre in Winterthur, Switzerland 

Given our raised consciousness about gender, men and women can use these urinals at the same time. That would solve the problem of transgendered toilets, don’t you think?

And the new urinals will be more environmentally friendly. I am sure you find great relief in the thought that the new designs will compensate for the fact that women, as a rule, flush the toilet three times, thus wasting precious water resources.

Meanwhile Professor Mete Demiriz of Gelsenkirchen University said that because women often flush the loo three times during a visit, gender-neutral urinals could save water. 

He told the website jetzt that a design team of his is working on a pissoir with a cubicle and a door. 

It is also lower down and allows the woman to have her back against the wall.  

We are relieved that these great German engineers have advanced to the point where they can envision a cubicle with a door. All together—breathe a sign of relief.

It’s yet another instance of life imitating art. Here, from Marcel Duchamp, a sculpture entitled: Fountain.

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James Mattis on Therapy

Secretary of Defense James Mattis addressed the troops at Naval Base Kitsap, in Washington on August 9..

Many have posted this remark for its vulgar reference and its thinly veiled attack on the Pajama Boy. I bring it to you because it offers the Mattis theory of why people undergo psychoanalysis:

So you'll never regret, but you will have some of the best days of your life and some of the worst days of your life in the U.S. Navy, you know what I mean?  That says -- that means you're living.  That means you're living.  That means you're not some pussy sitting on the sidelines, you know what I mean, kind of sitting there saying, “Well, I should have done something with my life.”  Because of what you're doing now, you're not going to be laying on a shrink's couch when you're 45 years old, say “What the hell did I do with my life?” Why? Because you served others; you served something bigger than you.  

Someone  call the thought police....

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Prevaricator in Chief

This morning Bret Stephens has some reflections on language. In part, he comments on Donald Trump’s use of language, but the meat of his column concerns the Obama administration’s systematic lies about Islamic terrorism.

Stephens begins by showing the extent that the Obama administration contorted language in order to lie about Islam and its relation to terrorism:

…. Islamist terrorism, or what former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano used to call “man-caused disasters” in order to “move away from the politics of fear,” as she explained in a 2009 Der Spiegel interview.

Napolitano’s “man-caused disasters” didn’t survive the political laugh test, but the fantastically elastic phrase “violent extremism” did. President Obama’s broad reluctance to use variants of the word “Islam” in proximity to “terrorism” became one of the staples of his presidency. The group that calls itself “Islamic State” was always and adamantly “ISIL” to him.

Remember Omar Mateen, who perpetrated the mass murder of 49 people at a gay nightclub. Might that count as homophobia? Not, to the Obama administration:

After Omar Mateen explicitly declared his fealty to the Islamic State in a 911 call and massacred 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in June 2016, Obama acknowledged the blood bath as “an act of terror” but stressed that the “precise motivations of the killer” remained unknown.

As for ideologically motivated students driving crowds into crowds, it happened when Obama was president, too:

Last November, a Somali student at Ohio State University rammed a car into a crowd of students and then began attacking them with a butcher knife before being shot dead. “If we increase our suspicion of people who practice a particular religion, we’re more likely to contribute to acts of violence than we are to prevent them,” said the White House spokesman Josh Earnest. As for Obama, I can find no record of him ever speaking publicly about the attack, which was so reminiscent of what happened Saturday in Charlottesville.

Of course, the administration tried to hand over Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood. They sent Secretary of State Hillary to Cairo to be the first foreign leader to congratulate Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi. And yet, the Brotherhood is an international terrorist organization, declared as such by places like the United Arab Emirates.

For the Obama administration, not so much:

The Muslim Brotherhood — whose credo includes the words “jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope” — was, according to the former director of national intelligence James Clapper, “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda.”

The administration walked back the “largely secular” line, but remained equivocal about what is arguably the largest hate group in the world.

As for the administration sell-out to Iran, Obama saw it as reparations for the dastardly way the American government overthrew the Mossadegh government in 1953:

It also tended to equivocate when it came to apportioning historical blame for United States conflicts with militant adversaries. If Iran had taken Americans hostage and killed hundreds of our soldiers, well, as Obama often noted, hadn’t we helped overthrow the Mossadegh government back in 1953?

When Obama Stood Strong Against Racial Hatred

As always, we look for inspiration to our fearless leader, a god among men, Barack Obama, for the right way to deal with violence predicated on racial bias.

Happily, the Obama administration saw numerous act of racial violence, especially directed by blacks against white policemen and even against everyday white people.

Naturally, President Obama expressed severe outrage. He held groups who promoted the violence, accountable. His justice department launched civil rights investigations and called it out as domestic terrorism.

Or not.

Remember Dallas? The Daily Caller does:

In July of 2016, an avowed black nationalist murdered five police officers during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Dallas, Texas. The act of violence was well-planned and was motivated entirely by the hate-filled ideology of the shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson.

With several officers dead by the hand of a committed black nationalist, one might think the Obama administration may have considered the assassinations domestic terror and launched an investigation into groups associated with this ideology.

What did Barack do? He blamed guns. For some reason whenever people of a certain race commit crimes, the fault must always lie elsewhere. Apparently, such people are not responsible for their behavior. It's blame-shifting at its finest.

Barack Obama condemned the shootings, but he did not call out or even allude to Johnson’s hateful views. He did, however, blame “powerful weapons” for the violence.

In her statement on the shooting, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch exploited the tragedy to push for gun control and praise the cause of Black Lives Matter. No mention of Johnson’s ideology or “hate” in was made in her statement, but she did manage to directly name multiple cases of police-involved shootings — all after cops were the ones murdered.

Was the Dallas massacre a one-off event? Not on your life:

In the same month, three officers were gunned down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by an adherent to this radical ideology.

In a less violent case that also occurred in July of 2016, several churches in the area of St. Louis, Missouri, were vandalized and graffitied with rhetoric associated with black nationalism.

Other such events have occurred in the Trump Era, but no journalist or politician has stepped up to denounce them or to call for an investigation into the racially divisive ideology of black nationalism.

Surely, Barack Obama bears some responsibility for the current state of race relations in America. And yet, if you say so, you are more likely to be pilloried for being a hater.

The End of Psychoanalysis

The party is over. Psychoanalysis is dead. It has been dead for quite some time now. The only question is the burial and funeral arrangements. In truth, it’s better to bury a dead horse than to try to beat it back to life.

A few years ago I wrote my own funeral oration for psychoanalysis. I entitled my book The Last Psychoanalyst. In it I showed how a pseudo-science became a pseudo-religion. If you understand that psychoanalysis was always nothing more than a cult gussied up to look like a scientific practice you have been duped. The cult leader, the demiurge named Sigmund Freud, promoted and sold a radical, ideologically driven theory that accounted for nothing and that neither treated nor cured. As I said, psychoanalysis is overpriced storytelling.

Some psychoanalysts have seen the light. Among them Jacques Lacan, the most influential Freudian since Freud, who declared clinical practice to be a scam. His acolytes and disciples dismissed his remarks as a misstatement by a doddering old man, but they were both intelligible and correct. As famed Oxford biologist and Nobel prize winner Peter Medawar said, Freudian psychoanalysis is a confidence trick. As we would say on this side of the pond, it’s a con.

Now, reviewing Frederick Crews’ magnum opus debunking Freud—Sigmund Freud: The Making of an Illusion-- Alexander Kafka offered an indication of where it’s all at today.

He wrote:

"It’s obvious," says Stewart Justman, an emeritus humanities professor at the University of Montana who has written about medicine and society, "that there’s a diminished hard core of Freudian defenders, and that when they pass from the scene, that’s it. Game over."

Richard J. McNally, a cognitive-behavior-oriented psychologist who runs a lab at Harvard and oversees clinical training, remembers that on grand rounds at Massachusetts General Hospital in the 1990s, there were still a lot of psychoanalysts. "A half-dozen years later," he says, "they seemed to have disappeared."

What does Crews think?

Apart from any intellectual fuss that somebody like me could make, the system has been dying on the vine for decades. So that now, really, psychoanalysis survives in humanities departments not for any reason that one would call scientific or empirical but because the psychoanalytic way of thinking is conducive to discourse production, devoid of constraint.

As I said, the party is over. The few people still defending psychoanalysis are superannuated, like Harold Blum, or true believers bitterly clinging to their faith.

For example:

Crews wants the public to think that psychoanalysis rises and falls on Freud’s reputation and personal history, and that’s "a very reductionist way of thinking," says Adrienne Harris, who teaches psychoanalysis in New York and Northern California and has a clinical practice. 

And if psychoanalysis is so rickety, Harris asks, why do humanists who discover it in academe so often want to pursue training as therapists? And why are psychoanalytic institutes in Eastern Europe, China, and elsewhere so hungry for it?

If you were a humanist in the American academy wouldn’t you be trying to find another line of work? Freud attracts humanists precisely because he is such a good storyteller. He has created a literary fiction that attempts to transform nothing less than human nature itself. If you are an arrogant humanist who thinks that literature can change the world, you cannot do much better than that.

Harold Blum is a Freud apologist, one of the last. He touts Freud’s influence, but such touting does nothing to counter the Medawar argument that it was all a confidence trick:

"I find it very hard to take Frederick Crews seriously," says Harold Blum, a New York psychoanalyst and former executive director of the Freud Archives. Oedipal urges, the incest taboo, the erotic fantasies underlying locker-room talk and dirty jokes, loaded linguistic metaphors, Freudian slips, the vividness of infantile sexuality, the stages of child development, the importance of nurturing the young, the symbolic weight of dream images. On and on. These bountiful psychoanalytic insights are in the very air we breathe. To deny that, Blum says, is "irrational."

Calling these insights “bountiful” tells us that Blum has little command of the English language. Calling these dogmas of the Freudian pseudo-religion insights is yet another sleight-of-hand, a trick to seduce the gullible. Does anyone really still believe that we are driven by our Oedipal urges and that the only thing we really want in life is to copulate with our mothers? You have to be a true believer, someone who has suspended your critical faculties to take it seriously.

Crews does not. All religions need godheads, figures of surpassing genius who can be worshipped for providing us access to higher truths. And yet, Freud was simply a brilliant but arrogant man consumed by his ambitions who wanted to become famous. At the least, Crews shows that Freud had no use for scientific experimentation.

Kafka summarizes his viewpoint:

Early in his career, as an anatomist, he wields his microscope expertly but cannot take the next step of devising experiments that might test one hypothesis against another. He suggests, later, in his quest for fame and wealth, that he was more involved than he really was in discoveries made by others — for example, Carl Koller’s breakthrough use of cocaine as a local anesthetic in eye surgeries. The young Freud did make a name for himself, it’s true — but as a foolhardy shill for cocaine’s much wider and more indiscriminate medical application. That stance came to embarrass him and drive him even harder to seek some magnificent accomplishment that would eclipse it.

He continues, describing Freud through Crews:

He is a reckless, greedy, bullying, inept, and monomaniacal clinician. He fosters some patients’ addictions to morphine, cocaine, or both. He treats symptoms with possible physiological causes — arthritis, say, or ovarian cysts — as obvious consequences of hysteria. He bilks rich but hopeless clients for whom he has no sympathy or coherent treatment plan. He sleeps through his afternoon sessions, confident nonetheless that he’s absorbing some psychic gist of his analysands’ complaints. He browbeats nominal hysterics into relating questionable traumas, and some of his early patients scoff at his interpretations on their way out of his empty waiting room.

Freud’s genius was as a writer, a novelist, if  you will who knew how to tell stories:

None of this stops Freud from writing up cases with a cocky flair, in conscious imitation of Sherlock Holmes tales, depicting treatments as indisputable triumphs of psychological detection and portraying questionable casual encounters as triggering virtuoso insights. He reinterprets cases with ever-shifting ideas of whether symptoms were set off by actual or imagined sexual traumas.

Kafka summarizes the argument neatly:

For Crews, however, most of Freud’s career was a blind alley, but filled with dazzling and disorienting smoke and mirrors to disguise the futility of his method.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Obama's Outrage over the Fort Hood Massacre

The world would be a better place if there were fewer white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other assorted alt-right hate groups. As it happens, precious few of these characters dot the landscape, so we ought to feel somewhat fortunate that the pestilence is contained.

Not entirely, of course. Last Saturday a neo-Nazi drove a care into a crowd of demonstrators, injuring many and murdering one. Denunciations came swiftly from politicians and commentators on the right or the left.

Trump's detractors and haters went into the highest dudgeon over what Donald Trump did not say about the murder in Charlottesville. They noted that he has been too slow to denounce people who have, after all, tended to support him. These are fair points.

Yet, it is also fair to say that not one of those who are most outraged at Trump's lack of outrage has ever denounced any alt-left hate group that targets white people or Israelis.

Trump missed a chance to step up to his role as leader by denouncing the organizers of Saturday’s Charlottesville protest. As it happened, most Republican leaders did denounce the act as domestic terrorism. For some it was not enough. When Sen. Ted Cruz forthrightly declared that the man who drove his car into a crowd was a domestic terrorist, New York Times reporter Eric Lipton denounced him anyway… for posturing.

Some people are never satisfied.

Anyway, Trump was roundly disparaged for being insufficiently outraged by the attack. He did not live up to the fine example that Barack Obama set when Major Nidal Malik Hasan yelled Allahu Akhbar and opened fire in a cafeteria in Fort Hood.

CBS News reported on Obama’s full throated expression of outrage:

President Barack Obama said Friday the entire nation is grieving for those slain at Fort Hood, and he urged people not to jump to conclusions while law enforcement officers investigate the shootings.

Mr. Obama met Friday morning with FBI Director Robert Mueller and other federal leaders to get an update on what they've learned. Thirteen people were killed and 30 others injured in the shooting rampage at the Texas Army post on Thursday. The suspected shooter is an Army psychiatrist; his motive remains unclear.

"We don't know all the answers yet. And I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts," Mr. Obama said in a Rose Garden statement otherwise devoted to the economy.

"What we do know is that there are families, friends and an entire nation grieving right now for the valiant men and women who came under attack yesterday," the president said.

As it happened, the Obama Defense Department knew all about Maj. Hasan's interest in radical Islamist terrorism. They did not do anything about it because they did not want to be Islamophobic. As for not jumping to conclusions, President Obama was happy to do so when the victims were black and the perpetrators were white. To think that this constitutes a fair and just assessment of the facts is absurd. 

Once the relevant information was known, the Obama administration still refused to say that Hasan’s action was terrorism. It persisted in calling it workplace violence. How many journalists and media commentators were outraged over Obama’s manifest dereliction? I suspect that the answer was very close to: none.

Then, of course, Obama set out to fight his true enemy: Islamophobia. And white police officers.

It is perfectly fair to criticize President Trump for bumbling his Saturday statement. But is perfectly unfair to pretend that the Obama example was anything but derelict. When faced with an Islamist terrorist who murdered American soldiers, Obama was nonplussed. He acted as though he did not care. 

Media elites who want Donald Trump to be drawn and quartered did not dare denounce Obama. Some people on the right were appalled by Obama’s reaction, but the mainstream media downplayed their reaction in order to idolize their Messiah.


The Good That Can Come from Lies

We tell the truth. So much do we love the truth that we are not prey to any illusions. We believe that good mental health involves unflinching truth-telling. Nothing is worse than lying. Remember the mantra, “Bush lied; people died.” Truth tellers repeated it so many times that everyone ended up believing it. Even though it was a lie. It was a big lie… aka propaganda.

But, do you really always tell the truth? Aren’t we all willing to tell a few little white lies if it helps us to avoid conflict or even to hurt someone’s feelings? If a man tells his wife that she looks great, even though he thinks that her latest frock looks like sewn-together rags, is he rendering her a service or a disservice? If he were a fashion stylist he would be within his rights to tell her the dress makes her look like (insert suitably offensive term)…., but as a husband, his role is to show his love and affection for her. If he doesn’t tell her that he likes the way she looks, she will take it as a reflection of his feelings about her.  Besides, her dress might be eminently fashionable. Do you think that he really knows the difference?

Of course, there are limits. If she goes out to a party or a function and is seriously overdressed or underdressed, she will not take too much consolation from the fact that her husband signed off on the outfit. So, there are limits to lying. If your lie sets your wife up for public ridicule she will not likely be consoled by the fact that you were saying it to show that you love her.

OK, that was an easy example. Ian Leslie offers up many more in his Daily Mail article. In it he summarizes a new book wherein he argues that being good at telling lies is a good thing. 

Lies lubricate social commerce. Of course, if you lie on the witness stand or tell the police that you know nothing of the crime that you just witnessed, you will get yourself into some very serious trouble. 

Leslie limits himself to everyday social interactions. He does not address himself to the criminal justice system, because, when all is said and done, life is not a trial. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. If yours feels like a trial, then perhaps you do not lie enough. You are too open and honest.

Leslie writes:

We lie by saying: ‘I’m fine, thanks’ when we’re feeling miserable. We lie when we say: ‘What a beautiful baby’ while inwardly noting its resemblance to an alien. And most of us have simulated anger, sadness, affection, or said: ‘I love you’ when we don’t mean it.

We tell our children to smile and look grateful for the soap-on-a-rope grandma has given them for their birthday — and perhaps we add that if they don’t, Father Christmas won’t come this year.

Not only do we make exceptions to the prohibition against lying, sometimes we approve of it. If a doctor tells a bereaved husband his wife died instantly in the crash, rather than the truth — that she spent her last hours in horrific pain — we applaud the doctor’s compassion.

We call the lies we like ‘white lies’, but asked to define what makes a lie white we soon get lost in qualifications and contradictions. And while traditionally we frown upon liars, I’d argue that lying is a basic human necessity.

Why do we lie? We do so in order to protect the feelings of other people. Perhaps this is a foreign notion, but in an age where we are all told that being truthful, about our feelings or our beliefs, puts us on the road to mental health… regardless of who we offend or of which dramas we provoke, it is worth saying:

Most of us have, at some point, perhaps in a cab or around the canteen table, found ourselves faced with a choice between pretending to agree with a political statement in which we don’t believe, or being honest and risking an unpleasant argument.

We have to deal with conflicts between our desire to be truthful and our standing in the community — and often we choose to do so by lying.

‘Yes, that dress looks lovely on you.’ ‘I’m so sorry I’m busy that night.’ ‘Of course I don’t mind!’ White lies are sticking plasters we put over everyday social problems, they’re the way we avoid hurting people’s feelings.

Leslie explains that the much studied placebo effect is real and is based on a lie. Also, when you compliment and flatter your spouse you might be telling a lie, but you are also encouraging her or him to feel better about him or herself. And you are affirming your commitment to your relationships. Not a small matter that.

Visionaries, Leslie says, tend to be inveterate liars. They concoct plans for unrealistic projects and pursue them until they fail or succeed. More often than not they fail, but if we did not have visionaries, people whose imagination had detached from reality, we would not know change. We would not have made all of the wondrous technological advances that power our civilization.

It feels like a stretch to call such people liars. They are idealists, imagining the world as it might be rather than settling for the world as it is.

Leslie continues:

We need over-optimistic entrepreneurs who are prepared to take irresponsible risks. Without people who are willing to ignore the prevailing wisdom and follow their instincts, many of our biggest innovations and creative leaps forward wouldn’t have happened.

Every year, thousands of people with vaulting ambitions start new companies in full awareness that the odds are against them achieving the kind of world-changing success of which they dream.

Most fail or settle for something less, but a few of those companies eventually become Apple or Starbucks or Dyson.

At every turn, it seems, life undermines any strict adherence to truth.

Like most good things, you can take lying too far. If you continue to believe in an illusion even when reality has told you that it cannot work, you are engaging in a higher form of self-deception. If you think that the spouse who beats you will change you are harboring a dangerous self-delusion. Like the business visionary who tries to do something that no one said could be done, you should know how to test your self-deceptions against reality. And you should always yield to the verdict of reality.