Thursday, November 30, 2017

Blog Appreciation Week

Being as this is a conservative blog, I try to respect tradition. Even my own invented traditions.

Long time readers know that I have kicked off my annual fundraising campaign on Cyber Monday. The campaign will last for the week, so you will likely see this same post repeated again and again as the week goes on. Brace yourself.

It might not seem like it, but it takes considerable work to produce these posts every day. For those who wish to support and even reward my efforts I recommend a donation. It’s thoroughly in keeping with the holiday spirit. As they say: It's more blessed to give than to receive.

If you click on the orange Donate button on the left side of this page, the kind folks at Paypal will help you to contribute as much as you would like.

If you do not wish to use Paypal, I gratefully accept checks or cash or even Bitcoin sent to my address:

                   310 East 46th St. 24H
                   New York, NY   10017

If you have a friend or a relative who is a psychoanalyst or who still clings to Freudian theory, you would be doing him a great favor by sending a copy of  my book, The Last Psychoanalyst. It’s the perfect holiday gift. See the link at left.

Thank you in advance.


The Case of the Rebel Without a Man

Another week, another case for Ask Polly. In the interest of enlightenment I will ignore what Polly says. Polly doesn’t have any more of a clue about the current case than she has about most other cases. As it happens, the letter presents an interesting description of a case of social anomie.

And Polly cannot even recommend that the woman letter writer Rebel Without a Man see a therapist. In truth, RWM does see someone she calls a great therapist. One can only wonder how her great therapist seems not to have solved anything. One continues to be amazed by the fact that patients rarely care about whether therapy is solving a problem or even addressing the salient issues. I suspect that the therapist is showering RWM with empathy; surely she feels her pain. In the great scheme of things, this is useless and worthless.

Apparently, RWM spent ten years in New York City developing a New York City persona, the kind of persona that is legal tender in the Big Apple. Then, for reasons that are never explained, she moved back to Texas and discovered that her New York persona was off putting. Especially to men. She might as well have been dousing herself in essence of man repellent.

Naturally, she believes that the New York persona is who she really is, and that she should never discard it. And yet, it is a persona like another, an artificial construct that she cobbled together to fulfill the needs and expectations of hip New York.

One suspects that someone—guess who?—told her that her bold, brassy, drunk, careerist, funny persona would be irresistible to men. Apparently, such is not the case. Her persona repels men… and she does not understand why. She curses like a drunken sailor and speaks her mind… and does not understand why men are not flocking to her door. One suspects that she also hooks up… and is finding that the men in her new neighborhood do not respect her for as much.

She is 34, successful in her career, not needing a man for anything more than appearance sake, and, despite the promises laid out by certain ideologically driven thinkers, she is finding that men do not want her. And she is also finding that her female friends, presumably women she had grown up with, do not care to hang out with her. They married young, have children and do not need to be entertained by her tired and self-indulgent persona.

Naturally, she also believes that her fellow Texans are intimidated by her outspoken ambitious persona. I promise you and her that demeaning other people for not accepting someone who refuses to fit in is not the royal road to happiness, or even to marriage. Given her attitude—take me as I am or leave me alone—one should not be surprised at her inability to hold on to a man.

One suspects that she is shocked that her one night stands do not turn into conjugal bliss, but wherever did anyone get the idea that being bold, brassy and liberated was the royal road to anything other than anomie.

Were you to want to address her problem, you would want to start with the immortal words of St. Ambrose—you remember St. Ambrose, don’t you?—

When in Rome do as the Romans do.

If the question were which day to fast, as was the case when the mother of St. Augustine asked St. Ambrose, things would be easier. RWM cannot very well go back to being an unmarried feminine twentysomething finding a husband, settling down and having children.

Here is the better part of her anguished call for help.

I moved back to Texas after ten years in New York City. Although life is much easier now, there’s something gnawing at me I can’t shake. I’m a 34-year-old single woman who is career focused, creative, extremely independent, funny, attractive, etc. BUT I can’t keep a man and the locals won’t let me forget it!

I’m a brassy broad; I drink too much, I curse, I say what’s on my mind. I could get away with that behavior in the big city because everyone was like that. But these Texas folks are different. They seem to be intimidated by outspoken, ambitious women. My contemporaries also settled for the kids/husband/house/car lifestyle in their early 20s, so we don’t have much in common. I don’t have any of those adult-y things and didn’t care about having them before I moved home. Now I desperately want them!

The thing that really bothers me is how people treat me like I’m a sideshow freak for being single. They make these little comments about my solo status that, I’m loathe to admit, make me feel incredibly insecure. In NY, most of my friends didn’t have a partner. But here, I don’t know any singles. Life passed me by while I serial dated and goofed around, and now I’m paying for it. I’m completely hyperfocused on the fact I’m alone. I’m terrified that everyone here thinks something is wrong with me or they suspect I’m a closeted gay person or a slut. I know I should just live my life and not care, but I can’t stand feeling misunderstood. It’s gotten to the point where I avoid social interactions just so I don’t have to field the questions.

Apparently, all of the locals are very, very judgmental. They think that she must be a closeted gay or a slut. And yet, we do not read a word about her efforts to modify her persona and to get back in touch with her feminine mystique. Has she changed the way she dresses, the way she wears her hair? Does she have tattoos? The persona that she takes to be her true self is effectively a New York based mirage. It’s about time that she saw through it.

We also note that her New York persona was not having very good romantic relationships. It was having bad romantic experiences. Perhaps she had had it with New York and went back to Texas to find something different. From bad romantic relationships she now finds that men are repelled by her. 

It’s really fucking hard dating in your mid-30s. The men here are repelled by me. I’ve had a lot of bad romantic experiences in the past. Nothing has stuck. Now I’m so scared I’ll be the town pariah if I never find anyone that it’s making me depressed and paranoid….

I see a great therapist about this. But I want stop giving a shit about what these people think. Part of me is craving to assimilate. I used to be such a badass rebel who enjoyed being the misfit. Now I’m the local oddball and I hate it. Is there something I can do to make this deep insecurity go away? How can I stop feeling like a broken, unlovable loser? It’s exhausting.

As I said, this level of misery and cluelessness does not make her therapist a great therapist. If she imagines that Polly will provide her with just the right insight to continue doing what she is doing and not being treated like the local pariah, then she has gone beyond clueless.

As for the more burning issues, if New York was so great and if she fit in so well, why did she leave? And, this ambitious, careerist woman would have done better to share a little information about what she does for a living. Does she freelance? Does she work for a company? Might she be doing better if she got a job working in an office, where should could more easily fit in?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Fundraising Week Continues

Being as this is a conservative blog, I try to respect tradition. Even my own invented traditions.

Long time readers know that I have kicked off my annual fundraising campaign on Cyber Monday. The campaign will last for the week, so you will likely see this same post repeated again and again as the week goes on. Brace yourself.

It might not seem like it, but it takes considerable work to produce these posts every day. For those who wish to support and even reward my efforts I recommend a donation. It’s thoroughly in keeping with the holiday spirit. As they say: It's more blessed to give than to receive.

If you click on the orange Donate button on the left side of this page, the kind folks at Paypal will help you to contribute as much as you would like.

If you do not wish to use Paypal, I gratefully accept checks or cash or even Bitcoin sent to my address:

                   310 East 46th St. 24H
                   New York, NY   10017

If you have a friend or a relative who is a psychoanalyst or who still clings to Freudian theory, you would be doing him a great favor by sending a copy of  my book, The Last Psychoanalyst. It’s the perfect holiday gift. See the link at left.

Thank you in advance.

Therapy for Sexual Misbehavior

Unhappily for all of us, the current wave of exposures of sexual harassers and even rapists has brought forth the usual suspects: psycho professionals who are happy to offer their services to treat the miscreants.

Some say that men like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner and Al Franken are sex addicts. In the case of Tiger Woods I disputed the point myself several years ago. In other cases the Washington Post has argued that these men are responsible for their behavior and do not suffer from an addiction.

As for the therapy on offer for sexually deviant behavior, we must recognize that there are different kinds of sexual misbehavior. While news reports about such behaviors often recommend counseling or therapy, as though these are going to solve the problem by washing them in a warm bath of empathy and insight, the truth is, Benedict Carey reports in the New York Times, that for the most part therapists can only offer a patchwork of approaches, none of which is especially effective.

We are grateful to Carey for presenting an outcome-based assessment of therapy approaches and sparing us the psychobabble about feeling our feelings.

Carey presents the current status of treatments for sexual misbehavior:

Whatever mix of damage control and contrition they represent, pledges like these suggest that there are standard treatments for perpetrators of sexual offenses. In fact, no such standard treatments exist, experts say. Even the notion of “sexual addiction” as a stand-alone diagnosis is in dispute.

“There are no evidence-based programs I know of for the sort of men who have been in the news recently,” said Vaile Wright, director of research and special projects at the American Psychological Association.

That doesn’t mean that these men cannot change their ways with professional help.

He continues:

The evidence that talk therapy and medication can curb sexual misconduct is modest at best, and virtually all of it comes from treating severe disorders, like pedophilia and exhibitionism, experts said — powerful urges that cannot be turned off.

Still, there is reason to think that these therapeutic approaches can be adapted to treatment of the men accused of offenses ranging from unwanted attention to rape.
  
Again, some severe criminal sexual disorders can be controlled with medication, but not very many and not very well. There is a chasm between unwanted attention and rape… so count me as skeptical of any treatment that pretends to help both of them.

As for the different types of sexual misbehavior, some do lend themselves to treatment:

The first group includes the college student failing out because he spends all his time surfing porn sites, or the man who is visiting prostitutes so often it’s threatening his livelihood and health.

Therapists treat these types much as they would substance abusers: with 12-step programs; group counseling sessions; and by teaching classic impulse-control techniques, like avoiding friends, social situations and places like bars that put them at high risk of repeating the behavior.

The services offered resemble those for other kinds of compulsive behavior, like gambling and drug use. There are life coaches, couples counselors and hypnotherapists, as well as residential clinics with names like Promises and Gentle Path at the Meadows.

Such behaviors are addictive. In some cases people who are addicted to pornography can cure their addiction by ceasing to watch pornography. If such behaviors become uncontrollable, then therapists use 12 Step programs.

Still, we should not be overly optimistic. Carey notes:

It is not at all clear how well such addiction-based approaches work — if at all. And that’s especially true for men in the more serious offender category, who are more likely to respond to confrontation, experts said.

Interestingly, he adds that shaming offenders—through public exposure-- often brings them to their senses. Considering that so many psycho professionals believe that guilt is the only sanction that causes people to change their behavior—see Monday’s post—it is good to see that many members of the profession understand that shaming is far more likely to change behaviors.

Admittedly, the therapists do not call it shame, but you will understand clearly what is at stake:

“Confrontation itself — being busted or outed, as so many are now publicly — is enough to curtail or end the behavior in many cases,” particularly when the offender has a lot to lose in terms of money and standing, said James Cantor, director of the Toronto Sexuality Center.

Of course, some therapists want their patients to feel empathy, but there is no real evidence that this works very well. Besides, as we have pointed out, following Paul Bloom, a man’s empathy for a man who has been accused of sexual misconduct and who has been pilloried in the press might just become very angry at women:

Dr. Reid helps patients cultivate victim empathy by having them attend court-sentencing hearings, where victims read detailed accounts “and the impact isn’t sugarcoated” so offenders can “start to understand how an assault forever changes lives.”

The evidence is weak for empathy training in offenders, through techniques like role-playing and taking a potential victim’s point of view, said Michael Seto, director of forensic rehabilitation research at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group.
  
In many cases, therapy serves as little more than a “ruse” to provoke sympathy, to quiet the outcry and to prepare the miscreant “to return to the fold:”

But only if the harasser is willing, committed and genuinely humbled is therapy likely to be anything more than a ruse to buy some sympathy — and worse, perhaps an eventual return to the field.

What to make of the harasser who is entirely unrepentent? “I don’t think we have a diagnosis yet,” said Dr. Cantor. “And we certainly don’t have a treatment.”

We are happy to see the therapy issues put in some clear perspective.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Education and the Will to Power

A few words from Jonathan Haidt, spoken before the Manhattan Institute on November 15. Via AEI and Maggie’s Farm.

Many students are given just one lens—power. Here’s your lens, kid. Look at everything through this lens. Everything is about power. Every situation is analyzed in terms of the bad people acting to preserve their power and privilege over the good people. This is not an education. This is induction into a cult. It’s a fundamentalist religion. It’s a paranoid worldview that separates people from each other and sends them down the road to alienation, anxiety and intellectual impotence. . . .

Let’s return to Jefferson’s vision: “For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error as long as reason is left free to combat it.” Well if Jefferson were to return today and tour our nation’s top universities, he would be shocked at the culture of fear, the tolerance of error, and the shackles placed on reason. . . .

If education is now all about power, we can credit Nietzsche. We see his concept of the “will-to-power” at work in Humanities and some Social Science departments… where the professoriat has decided to use grade-power to impose its will on a hapless and defenseless student body.

Fundraising Week

Being as this is a conservative blog, I make an effort to respect tradition. Even my own invented traditions.

Long time readers know that I have kicked off my annual fundraising campaign on Cyber Monday. The campaign will last for the week, so you will likely see this same post repeated again and again as the week goes on. Brace yourself.

It might not seem like it, but it takes considerable work to produce these posts every day. For those who wish to support and even reward my efforts I recommend a donation. It’s thoroughly in keeping with the holiday spirit. As they say: It's more blessed to give than to receive.

If you click on the orange Donate button on the left side of this page, the kind folks at Paypal will help you to contribute as much as you would like.

If you do not wish to use Paypal, I gratefully accept checks or cash or even Bitcoin sent to my address:

                   310 East 46th St. 24H
                   New York, NY   10017

If you have a friend or a relative who is a psychoanalyst or who still clings to Freudian theory, you would be doing him a great favor by sending a copy of  my book, The Last Psychoanalyst. It’s the perfect holiday gift. See the link at left.

Thank you in advance.

The Evil That Is Men

In the midst of the warlock hunt for male sexual predators most sensible voices have recommended that we avoid blaming all men for the misbehavior, at time felonious, of a few bad men.

It makes perfectly good sense. Most of us avoid generalizing from a few particulars. And yet, some few cannot wrap their minds around that level of complexity-- they tell us that all men are bad, and very, very bad indeed. After all, if five decades of intense feminist consciousness raising has produced Harvey Weinstein and Charley Rose and Brett Ratner... men must be worse than we all thought.

So say the simple-minded. Among them we must count someone named Stephen Marche. A Canadian essayist, a man whose background is in literature, Marche has taken to the pages of the New York Times to indict the male gender, for being as bad as Freud said it was.

When Marche speaks of the unexamined brutality of male libido he shows us that he has been living under a rock. For the past five decades we have been talking about nothing else.

Yes, indeed. You might think that Marche would have mentioned Darwin, a man of science. Instead, he digs Freud up from his grave and trots him out to indict the male gender. Men are all criminals. They just want to copulate with their mothers. They will murder their fathers in order to gain access to their mothers.

It is an idiotic idea, one that richly deserves the oblivion to which history has consigned it. Not only is it idiotic. It is not even true. As Stephen Pinker pointed out in his book How the Mind Works, familiarity does not breed desire. It breeds disinterest. Men do not lust after their mothers and sisters. Quite the contrary.

Better yet, Marche recommends that all men emulate someone called Tucker Max and undertake a course of psychoanalytic treatment, the better to become decent men. How na├»ve can you be? How ignorant can you be? If psychoanalysis is designed to help men and women to get in touch with their most depraved and degenerate desires, do you really believe that they will always succeed in controlling their expression? Marche obviously knows nothing about the history of psychoanalysis in places like France and South America. He does not understand that the cultures where Freud has thrived have nothing to do with the code of conduct that defines the British gentleman… or the British lady.

And, he does not understand that the greatest analysts in Romance language cultures did not believe in constant repression of incestuous wishes. They, like Freud, believed that repression would always fail. Their goal was to displace the desires and to make the world safe for adultery. It’s not quite incest, but it involves violating a taboo.

If this is Marche’s solution, he should go back to literature.

His idea, if we dare call it thus, is that after all these decades of feminist enlightenment and equality—after all, Canada made Justin Bieber its prime minister and has a feminist foreign policy—men are still just as bad as they always were… only worse.

It never crosses his diminished intellectual capacity that feminism might be the problem as much as the solution. He does not quite understand that hostility against men—which has recently found a second or third wind—might very well be the problem, not the solution. While feminists like Marche are regaling us with their display of overt hostility against men who can fail to notice that this might produce pushback? Why would anyone imagine that men would take it all lying down? Why would anyone believe that men would not fight back? Huh?

Marche has not noticed that we have been conducting a national conversation about male sexual abuse, male sexual harassment, male sexual molestation, and rape culture. We have been filling peoples’ minds with images of men doing horrific things to women and children. Which is, after all, what a good Freudian would want us to do. Funnily enough, it has not produced an era of comity or amity between the sexes. It has produced sexual deviants… most especially among male feminists.

To examine his views a bit more closely, note that Marche decides that it’s all about men… and all about all men.

He writes:

Through sheer bulk, the string of revelations about men from Bill Cosby to Roger Ailes to Harvey Weinstein to Louis C.K. to Al Franken and, this week, to Charlie Rose and John Lasseter, have forced men to confront what they hate to think about most: the nature of men in general. This time the accusations aren’t against some freak geography teacher, some frat running amok in a Southern college town. They’re against men of all different varieties, in different industries, with different sensibilities, bound together, solely, by the grotesquerie of their sexuality.

After telling us that male libido is “often ugly and dangerous” he extols the appalling Andrea Dworkin as something of an authority on male sexuality. From Dworkin Marche gains the idea that the only good penis is a flaccid penis. In truth, Dworkin believed that sex with men was inevitably rape.

In 1976, the radical feminist and pornography opponent Andrea Dworkin said that the only sex between a man and a woman that could be undertaken without violence was sex with a flaccid penis: “I think that men will have to give up their precious erections,” she wrote. In the third century A.D., it is widely believed, the great Catholic theologian Origen, working on roughly the same principle, castrated himself.

In truth, if Origen did in fact castrate himself—the point has been doubted—it was not because he was a proto-feminist. Apparently, he took a passage from Matthew 19:12 a little too literally. In case you have forgotten it, here is the text:

For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.

Naturally, if you are consumed by righteous zeal, as is Marche, you start getting things wrong. In his Times op-ed Marche ignores all customary courtship behaviors, the kinds that were designed to make an encounter between a young man and a young woman an orderly ritual, and not a free-for-all. Thanks to feminism we have dispensed with all of the niceties of courtship and we have found ourselves with a situation that is very bad indeed.

Marche does suggest correctly that romantic love is not a man’s world. When romance is in question women have a home field advantage. Men do not control  love relationships and do not really want to do so. Marche could have learned about this in any Darwinian study of male-female relationships.

As for masculinity, boys develop it by joining sports teams, military groups and even corporations. March seems to believe that men are alone with their masculinity. Evidently, he is blind to reality.

In his words:

Very often, when I interview men, it is the first time they have ever discussed intimate questions seriously with another man.... 

There is sex education for boys, but once you leave school the traditional demands on masculinity return: show no vulnerability, solve your own problems. Men deal with their nature alone, and apart. Ignorance and misprision are the norms.

As I said, to believe that men deal with their nature alone and apart reaches a breathtaking level of ignorance.

For your edification I add a couple of pictures of Andrea Dworkin, who Marche takes to be an authority about male libido. Tell me now, doesn't the second picture look like a mug shot?

Image result for andrea dworkin

Image result for andrea dworkin

Monday, November 27, 2017

What Is Guilt?

Harvey Weinstein has no shame. Charley Rose has no shame. Bill Clinton and Kevin Spacey and Brett Ratner and Al Franken and Roy Moore clearly lack a sense of shame.

As of now they have all been called out and exposed. Most of them have seen their reputations obliterated. As we see this we ought at the least to understand that the therapy culture war on shame, its effort to rid our people of their sense of modesty, propriety, decorum and humility… among other virtues… has produced a cultural monstrosity.

Those who have promoted shamelessness believe, to the depths of their marrow, that we can regulate human behavior by enhancing our sense of guilt. And, by the by, with an extra dollop of empathy. In truth the culture of guilt is running wild in America. People are not encouraged to behave well. They are attacked, excoriated, indicted and punished for committing thought crimes—that is, for racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, transphobic expressions. Punishing people for getting it wrong tells them nothing about how to get it right.

In many ways the worst part of the current debate is how profoundly ignorant it is. I am not speaking about the man or woman on the street, who does not spend his or her days pondering arcane philosophical matters. I am thinking of psycho professionals, people like Brene Brown, a woman who pretends to be an expert on shame while knowing nothing about it. Brown knows that shame feels bad and thus that we should rid ourselves of it, and of any concern for how we look to others. Take that thought to a logical extreme and you have Harvey Weinstein dropping a bath towel in front of an unwilling aspiring actress and you have a generation of teenagers who have so completely overcome their sense of shame that they are sending naked pictures to whomever.

Of course, there is no excuse for such ignorance. After all, Ruth Benedict defined the terms clearly over seven decades ago in her masterful book, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. I wrote about it myself in my books on Saving Face and The Last Psychoanalyst. As for the concept of empathy, which somehow has managed to weasel its way into discussions of shame, Paul Bloom has explained it well in his book, Against Empathy.

And yet, Dr. Perri Klass’s article about how guilt and empathy will naturally produce good behavior bristles with ignorance. She properly chooses to consult with people who are recognized as experts in the field. Yet, we discover that nearly none of them can think straight. Or better, can think at all.

To be extra specially clear, guilt is a form of anxiety. It arrives when you have done something wrong, that is, when you have broken a taboo, when you have transgressed, when you have committed a crime and when you are anticipating punishment. You can of course be pronounced guilty and suffer the punishment without feeling especially badly about anything more than getting caught. And, as I have often pointed out, anticipating punishment does not do a very good job of preventing you from committing crimes. It puts a price on transgression. And it sets down a level of risk. If you are willing to accept the risk and to do the time, you are more likely to commit the crime. Once you have paid your debt to society, as the saying goes, you are free to go out and commit more crimes. Considering recidivism rates, that is what most criminals do.

Freud understood guilt perfectly well and made it the centerpiece of his psychological theorizing. In this theory your wishes, to commit patricide and incest, were criminal. You might control them by feeling guilty but only up to a point. Most Freudian theory involves becoming more aware of your criminal impulses and paying them off by what Freud called symbolic castration… that is, a form of recycled penance. It had nothing to do with empathy.

Guilt does not tell you what you should do. It tells you what not to do. Doing the right thing involves following codes of good behavior, having good manners, being considerate in the terms that your culture dictates. It has nothing to do with empathy.

In truth, as Paul Bloom argued persuasively, feelings of empathy can turn you into a sadist. When you empathize with someone who is being unjustly injured, you will want to punish the person who has committed the injury. Your empathy will turn you into a raving sadist.

At the least, this should be clear. You cannot define the concept of guilt without understanding how it functions in our culture. And since we have a criminal justice system that determines guilt and not guilt, we must if we are to be semi-coherent assure that our definitions are consistent with the way the term is used there.

Unfortunately, such is not the case. Klass looks to child development experts and she finds nothing but confusion. She does not say it this way, but you should compare these theories of guilt with the theory I laid out above:

Guilt can be a complicated element in the parent-child equation; we feel guilty, they feel guilty, we may make them feel guilty and then feel guilty about that. But certain kinds of guilt are a healthy part of child development.

Tina Malti, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto who has studied the development of guilt in children, considers guilt an emotion similar to empathy.

“Moral guilt is healthy, good to develop,” she said. “It helps the child refrain from aggression, antisocial behavior.”

No mention of breaking laws. No mention of criminal behavior. No mention of anything that makes any sense at all.  No mention of parents telling their children Not to do something. No mention, in other words, of No. No mention of a child's testing boundaries.

At times guilt can deter someone from sticking up the corner bodega, but that involves a complex calculus of risk and reward. What are the chances of getting caught? What are the advantages of committing the crime? What will the price be if he is caught?

The psycho theorists believe that guilt makes children treat people kindly. They are wrong. It might tell people not to hurt each other, or not to break the dishes, but guilt does not teach them the good manners, the considerate and tactful customary behaviors that constitute kindness. Children learn to behave well because they want to belong, because they emulate their betters and because they want to grow up.

Guilt might play a part, but the wish to grow up is far more important:

… around age 6. By then, she said, most children report guilt in response to transgressions, and that can help them treat other people kindly. “There’s lots of evidence that healthy guilt promotes children’s prosocial behavior,” she said.

It doesn’t. Guilt does deter some forms of antisocial behavior, if the price of getting caught is too high. But it does not teach prosocial behaviors.

Bill Clinton on Illegal Aliens

Just in case you forgot, here are the immortal words of President Bill Clinton, from his 1995 State of the Union Address. They have miraculously reappeared on the Moonbattery blog, via Maggie’s Farm:

All Americans, not only in the states most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public services they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That’s why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens. In the budget I will present to you, we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the workplace as recommended by the commission headed by former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.

Today, Moonbattery says, those sentiments would put Clinton to the right of Paul Ryan. How times have changed.

Fundraising Week

Being as this is a conservative blog, I make an effort to respect tradition. Even my own invented traditions.

Long time readers know that I have taken Cyber Monday—as in, today—as the time to kick off my annual fundraising campaign. It will last for the week, so you might see this same post repeated again and again as the week goes on. Brace yourself.

It might not seem like it, but it takes considerable work to produce these posts every day. For those who wish to support and even reward my efforts I recommend a donation. It’s thoroughly in keeping with the holiday spirit.

If you click on the orange Donate button on the left side of this page, the kind folks at Paypal will help you to contribute as much as you would like.

If you do not wish to use Paypal, I gratefully accept checks or cash or even Bitcoin sent to my address:

                   310 East 46th St. 24H
                   New York, NY   10017

Thank you in advance.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

What About the Children?

There’s no method to the transgender madness. Things are getting so bad that The Economist is calling for a halt to the sexual mutilation. They, as we are especially concerned that children who are brainwashed into thinking that they are transgender are subjected to biochemical abuse… thus making it far more difficult, if not impossible to return to their birth gender.

Research has shown that a large majority of children who call themselves transgender will change their minds, so what purpose is served by removing this choice… and basing it on a child’s belief. Transgender activists and especially the physicians who are practicing this monstrosity should be indicted and jailed.

The Economist offers its perspective:

Gender reassignment is a momentous choice, since it causes irreversible physical changes and, if surgery is done to reshape the genitalia, perhaps also sterility. For gender-dysphoric children the clock is ticking, since puberty moulds bodies in ways no drugs or scalpel can undo. Waiting until adulthood to start the transition therefore means worse results.

Some clinics buy time with puberty-blockers, which suppress the action of sex hormones. But these may have harmful side-effects. Furthermore, most gender-dysphoric children will probably not become transgender adults. Studies are scarce and small, but suggest that, without treatment, a majority will end up comfortable in their birth sex, so treatment would be harmful. Unfortunately, no one knows how to tell which group is which. Yet some trans activists have thrown caution to the wind. Specialists who start by trying to help gender-dysphoric children settle in their birth identities, rather than making a speedy switch, risk being labelled transphobes and forced out of their jobs. Few are willing to say that some such children may actually be suffering from a different underlying problem, such as anorexia or depression.

Won’t someone think of the children?

It is bad enough that doctors, parents and gender-dysphoric children must make high-stakes choices against time without good evidence about what will happen. Worse is that children’s plight is being used by adults as an opportunity for moral grandstanding. The child’s interests depend not on the feelings of transgender activists—nor those of feminists—but on facts that still need to be established. Doctors need to know more about how to tell when gender dysphoria is likely to persist. Until they have that information, they should not rush in with drugs. Before acting, doctors should have reasonable grounds for thinking that they are doing good.

Yes, indeed. No one thinking of the children. We count it as fortunate that a high prestige publication like the Economist is calling out this postmodern madness.

How to Import Child-Poverty

Surely, it’s not good news. America has a child poverty problem. It’s not just that we have a larger percentage of poor children than Norway or the Netherlands. We have more child poverty than Russia.

Kay Hymowitz presents the case in the City Journal:

Articles about America’s high levels of child poverty are a media evergreen. Here’s a typical entry, courtesy of the New York Times’s Eduardo Porter: “The percentage of children who are poor is more than three times as high in the United States as it is in Norway or the Netherlands. America has a larger proportion of poor children than Russia.” That’s right: Russia.

What has caused the increase in child poverty? You guessed it: immigration. Not immigration of educated Asians, but increased immigration from Latin America.

Hymowitz continues:

The lousy child-poverty numbers should come with another qualifying asterisk, pointing to a very American reality. Before Europe’s recent migration crisis, the United States was the only developed country consistently to import millions of very poor, low-skilled families, from some of the most destitute places on earth—especially from undeveloped areas of Latin America—into its communities, schools, and hospitals. Let’s just say that Russia doesn’t care to do this—and, until recently, Norway and the Netherlands didn’t, either. Both policymakers and pundits prefer silence on the relationship between America’s immigration system and poverty, and it’s easy to see why. The subject pushes us headlong into the sort of wrenching trade-offs that politicians and advocates prefer to avoid.

She continues: we have been importing child poverty:

Here’s the problem in a nutshell: you can allow mass low-skilled immigration, which many on the left and the right—and probably most poverty mavens—consider humane and quintessentially American. But if you do, pursuing the equally humane goal of substantially reducing child poverty becomes a lot harder.

More poor Hispanic children means more child poverty:

Perhaps the most uncomfortable truth about these figures, and surely one reason they don’t often show up in media accounts, is that a large majority of America’s poor immigrant children—and, at this point, a large fraction of all its poor children—are Hispanic (see chart below). The U.S. started collecting separate poverty data on Hispanics in 1972. That year, 22.8 percent of those originally from Spanish-language countries of Latin America were poor. The percentage hasn’t risen that dramatically since then; it’s now at 25.6 percent. But because the Hispanic population in America quintupled during those years, these immigrants substantially expanded the nation’s poverty rolls. Hispanics are now the largest U.S. immigrant group by far—and the lowest-skilled. Pew estimates that Hispanics accounted for more than half the 22-million-person rise in the official poverty numbers between 1972 and 2012. Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post found that, between 1990 and 2016, Hispanics drove nearly three-quarters of the increase in the nation’s poverty population from 33.6 million to 40.6 million.

The problem is cultural. While certain immigrant groups, the Chinese and the Vietnamese, value education, Hispanic parents do not. They do not talk with their children as much and do not much care about academic achievement. In an economy where low skilled jobs are vanishing and where social mobility depends on a higher level of education these cultural characteristics damage children’s future prospects. Unless, of course, these children do the only jobs that seem open to those less-educated—criminal enterprise.

Hymowitz writes:

According to a study in the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, Hispanic parents don’t talk and read to their young children as much as typical middle-class parents, who tend to applaud their children’s attempts at self-expression, do; differences in verbal ability show up as early as age two. Hispanic parents of low-achieving students, most of whom also voiced high academic hopes for their kids, were still “happy with their children’s test scores even when the children performed poorly.” Their children tended to be similarly satisfied. Unlike many other aspiring parents, Hispanics are more reluctant to see their children travel to magnet schools and to college. They also become parents at younger ages. Though Hispanic teen birthrates have fallen—as they have for all groups, apart from American Indians—they remain the highest in the nation.

One would like to think that less educated Hispanics can overcome their handicaps by gaining more education. And yet, after a second generation has managed to raise itself through education, we often see that the third generation reverts to the cultural norm.

The immigration question is not just about any old immigrants. The Trump administration wants to admit immigrants who have a high education level. Immigration activists seem to believe that all people are equal and that mere exposure to American education can raise everyone and make every immigrant child into a world beater.

Hymowitz concludes:

Outcomes like these suggest that immigration optimists have underestimated the difficulty of integrating the less-educated from undeveloped countries, and their children, into advanced economies. A more honest accounting raises tough questions. Should the United States, as the Trump administration is proposing, and as is already the case in Canada and Australia, pursue a policy favoring higher-skilled immigration? Or do we accept higher levels of child poverty and lower social mobility as a cost of giving refuge and opportunity to people with none? If we accept such costs, does it even make sense to compare our child-poverty numbers with those of countries like Denmark or Sweden, which have only recently begun to take in large numbers of low-skilled immigrants?



The Congressional Sex Trade

Angelo Codevilla has a unique perspective on the current rash of sexual harassment accusations. Having worked for years on the Senate staff he was well place to witness the trade… in sex for power. And he points out that this trade took place because many female staffers found powerful men to be attractive. In some cases they happily offered to trade their intimacy for power. 

Under the circumstances any man who tried to force an unwilling woman to do his bidding was, by definition, a loser. Or, has to be as unattractive as Harvey Weinstein.

In the current frenzy this perspective is often elided. So, here’s Codevilla:

During my eight years on the Senate staff, sex was a currency for renting rungs on ladders to power. Uninvolved and with a hygroscopic shoulder, I listened to accounts of the trade, in which some one-third of senators, male senior staff, and corresponding numbers of females seemed to be involved. I write “trade,” because not once did I hear of anyone forcing his attention. Given what seemed an endless supply of the willing, anyone who might feel compelled to do that would have been a loser otherwise unfit for survival in that demanding environment.

Senior female staffers were far more open than secretaries in describing their conquests of places up the ladder, especially of senators. There was some reticence only in talking about “relationships” with such as John Tower (R-Texas) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) because they were the easiest, and had so many. The prize, of course, was Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.)—rooster over a veritable hen house that was, almost literally, a “chick magnet.” Access to power, or status, or the appearance thereof was on one side, sex on the other. Innocence was the one quality entirely absent on all sides….

In the basic bargain, the female proposes. The power holder has the prerogative to say “no,” or just to do nothing. By a lesser token, wealthy men need not offer cash to have female attention showered on them. Money is silver currency. Power is gold. A few, occasionally, get impatient and grab. But taking egregious behavior as the norm of the relationship between power and sex willfully disregards reality. Banish the grabbing, and the fundamental reality remains unchanged.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thomas Friedman Reporting from Saudi Arabia

If you want to know what the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has to say about the reforms he is imposing on his country, you have to read the insufferable cloying prose of one Thomas Friedman. Obviously, the New York Times works well as an intermediary for the young Crown Prince. So we will break with our longstanding policy—the only Friedman we read is George—and make an exception. But just for today.

Naturally, Friedman is amazed and confused to see that the Arab Spring is coming to Saudi Arabia. In truth, the Arab Spring is not coming to Saudi Arabia. As Friedman remarks the original Arab Spring, mismanaged by the inept Obama administration and its incompetent Secretary of State—Hillary Clinton—was a bottom-up movement. Saudi reforms are top-down. It’s not the same thing. Yet, whereas the Arab Spring failed, the Saudi reform movement might just succeed. Friedman says correctly that we should all want it to succeed.

It’s not merely that liberal democracy is not coming to Saudi Arabia. As is happening with many other authoritarian reform movements, social and economic liberalization is often accompanied by an intolerance of dissent. Jaroslav Trofimov wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

In asserting himself over Saudi Arabia, 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is imposing a trade-off that appeals to many fellow young Saudis.

The prince, in essence, is broadening social liberties in exchange for closing off the limited political freedoms that existed in the Saudi kingdom.

That is an approach that has worked for other Gulf monarchies, most notably the United Arab Emirates. There, no hint of political dissent is tolerated but social and religious rules are relatively relaxed. Women enjoy many rights denied to them in Saudi Arabia. An abundance of entertainment and shopping options keeps potential troublemakers busy.

As nations around the world look at the workings of liberal democracy in America and in Western Europe they say that they do not want it to enter their cultures.

Speaking to Friedman, MBS explained that his anti-corruption drive was not a power grab:

Our country has suffered a lot from corruption from the 1980s until today. The calculation of our experts is that roughly 10 percent of all government spending was siphoned off by corruption each year, from the top levels to the bottom. Over the years the government launched more than one ‘war on corruption’ and they all failed. Why? Because they all started from the bottom up….

My father saw that there is no way we can stay in the G-20 and grow with this level of corruption. In early 2015, one of his first orders to his team was to collect all the information about corruption — at the top. This team worked for two years until they collected the most accurate information, and then they came up with about 200 names.

What are the stakes? Friedman explains:

The stakes are high for M.B.S. in this anticorruption drive. If the public feels that he is truly purging corruption that was sapping the system and doing so in a way that is transparent and makes clear to future Saudi and foreign investors that the rule of law will prevail, it will really instill a lot of new confidence in the system. But if the process ends up feeling arbitrary, bullying and opaque, aimed more at aggregating power for power’s sake and unchecked by any rule of law, it will end up instilling fear that will unnerve Saudi and foreign investors in ways the country can’t afford.

And Friedman makes a point that has previously been reported. Namely, the kingdom’s subjects, to a man and a woman, support the Crown Prince:

But one thing I know for sure: Not a single Saudi I spoke to here over three days expressed anything other than effusive support for this anticorruption drive. The Saudi silent majority is clearly fed up with the injustice of so many princes and billionaires ripping off their country. While foreigners, like me, were inquiring about the legal framework for this operation, the mood among Saudis I spoke with was: “Just turn them all upside down, shake the money out of their pockets and don’t stop shaking them until it’s all out!”

Perhaps more importantly, MBS is reforming Islam, making it more moderate and more tolerant. He is bringing it into the modern world:

This anticorruption drive is only the second-most unusual and important initiative launched by M.B.S. The first is to bring Saudi Islam back to its more open and modern orientation — whence it diverted in 1979. That is, back to what M.B.S. described to a recent global investment conference here as a “moderate, balanced Islam that is open to the world and to all religions and all traditions and peoples.”

And also:

He has not only curbed the authority of the once feared Saudi religious police to berate a woman for not covering every inch of her skin, he has also let women drive. And unlike any Saudi leader before him, he has taken the hard-liners on ideologically. As one U.S.-educated 28-year-old Saudi woman told me: M.B.S. “uses a different language. He says, ‘We are going to destroy extremism.’ He’s not sugar-coating. That is reassuring to me that the change is real.”

Indeed, M.B.S. instructed me: “Do not write that we are ‘reinterpreting’ Islam — we are ‘restoring’ Islam to its origins — and our biggest tools are the Prophet’s practices and [daily life in] Saudi Arabia before 1979.” At the time of the Prophet Muhammad, he argued, there were musical theaters, there was mixing between men and women, there was respect for Christians and Jews in Arabia. “The first commercial judge in Medina was a woman!” So if the Prophet embraced all of this, M.B.S. asked, “Do you mean the Prophet was not a Muslim?”

To the evident chagrin of Obama flunky Friedman MBS admires and credits President Donald Trump. To repeat a point already made repeatedly, the Riyadh anti-terrorism confab extended a hand of friendship to Trump. When pictures of Trump and the King were festooned throughout Riyadh the message of friendship was unmistakable.

Friedman writes:

His general view seemed to be that with the backing of the Trump administration — he praised President Trump as “the right person at the right time” — the Saudis and their Arab allies were slowly building a coalition to stand up to Iran. I am skeptical. The dysfunction and rivalries within the Sunni Arab world generally have prevented forming a unified front up to now, which is why Iran indirectly controls four Arab capitals today — Damascus, Sana, Baghdad and Beirut. That Iranian over-reach is one reason M.B.S. was scathing about Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Next, MBS uttered the words that flashed around the world:

Iran’s “supreme leader is the new Hitler of the Middle East,” said M.B.S. “But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work. We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East.” 

Considering that America’s left thinking intelligentsia considers Donald Trump to be Hitler—when it does not consider him to be worse than Hitler—the news that Ayatollah Khamenei is the real Hitler must have shocked Friedman’s delicate sensibility.

Because, after all, if Khamenei is Hitler and if even a thirty-two year old knows that appeasement doesn’t work, you do not need to activate too many little gray cells to recognize who played the role of Neville Chamberlain, trying to appease the Iranian Hitler. Yes, indeed, the greatest appeaser was none other than Barack Hussein Obama. Who knew?

Friedman closes with some words from young Saudis. We note that a primary impetus behind the reforms is the shame that attends them for being associated with the public reputation of Islam, reputation that has been damaged by terrorism. For those who believe that shame is bad, we note here, that while nations reform for many reasons, one primary reason is that they want to enhance their reputations to other people.

This reform push is giving the youth here a new pride in their country, almost a new identity, which many of them clearly relish. Being a Saudi student in post-9/11 America, young Saudis confess, is to always feel you are being looked at as a potential terrorist or someone who comes from a country locked in the Stone Age.

Now they have a young leader who is driving religious and economic reform, who talks the language of high tech, and whose biggest sin may be that he wants to go too fast. Most ministers are now in their 40s — and not 60s. And with the suffocating hand of a puritanical Islam being lifted, it’s giving them a chance to think afresh about their country and their identity as Saudis.