Sunday, February 25, 2018

"Woke" Hollywood Vice

Nearly nothing is quite as preposterous as the self-righteous moral preening of the Hollywood elites. As we anxiously await this year’s Oscar awards presentation, those of us who still have the poor sense to watch the spectacle gird our loins awaiting the non-stop barrage of jokes, insults and put-downs… all directed at the Republican president and his party. This year we also expect an outpouring of outrage ... directed against the NRA.

In other terms, you know what is going to happen. You know what will be said. You know who will be showered with ridicule. Certainly, you can find a better way to spend an evening.

Anyway, the moral paragons and dimwitted high school dropouts who inhabit Tinseltown are not up in arms against male sexual predators. They have become militants and activists, mobilized by the #MeToo movement. Even a wonderful actress like Jennifer Lawrence has said that she would give up acting for a year in order to “save democracy.” If that’s the best that democracy can do, it’s time to give up. Since Lawrence has gained well-deserved fame for pretending to be someone she is not, she would do better not to pop the bubble of illusion.

Anyway, USA Today surveyed Hollywood women and asked how many of them had been sexually assaulted or harassed while on the job. A reasonable question, don’t you think? They sent out the survey questionnaire, so the results were self-selected. That being said, USA Today was shocked and surprised to discover that 94% of actresses had suffered some form of sexual harassment.

I will note that the woke politically correct crowd in Hollywood no longer calls female actors… actresses. It calls them actors, the better to bring gender neuterdom to their world. Yet another absurd gesture toward equality, it had little effect on predatory Hollywood directors and producers. All of whom, I promise you, were using the politically correct word while insisting that young women could never work in Hollywood unless they were willing to audition in the nude. What a surprise!

USA Today reports:

The first number you see is 94% — and your eyes pop with incredulity.

But it's true: Almost every one of hundreds of women questioned in an exclusive survey by USA TODAY say they have experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault during their careers in Hollywood….

Unwanted sexual comments and groping. Propositioning women. Exposing themselves. Coercing women into having sex or doing something sexual. And, especially pertinent to showbiz, forcing women to disrobe and appear naked at an audition without prior warning.

It's been deeply disturbing reading, but so far the powerful stories of accusers outnumber plain, hard facts about the extent of the problem in Tinseltown. Until now.

Did these women, who had had their consciousness raised by the constant public discussion of sexual harassment, fight back? No, they did not. When they did, nothing changed anyway.

Only one in four women reported these experiences to anyone because of fear of personal or professional backlash or retaliation. This reporting rate holds true for all forms of misconduct addressed in the survey, including being forced to do something sexual. 

Of those who did report their experiences, most say reporting did not help them; only 28% say their workplace situation improved after reporting. 

Of course, we have been having a national conversation about workplace sexual harassment for nearly three decades now. Apparently, all it has done is give men ideas and allow women to believe that it is the norm:

One surprising finding: Even though America has been arguing about workplace sexual harassment ever since the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearings in 1991, more than one-third of women surveyed weren't even sure that what happened to them was sexual harassment. 

Without doing any further research, I can assure you that the men perpetrating these assaults were proud feminists. I promise you that they all voted for Hillary Clinton. After all, they were merely following the example set by Bubba himself. And they knew that if they had been caught, Hillary would defend them to the death against the “vast right wing conspiracy.”

The Calamity That Is Angela Merkel

Today in the Times of London noted economic historian Niall Ferguson assesses the tenure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He concludes that she has been an unremitting disaster.

You know that you can always count on the media and the cognoscenti to provide you with the highly varnished truth. With Merkel, doubtless for reasons that have something to do with sexual politics, the intellectual elites have been blind to her dereliction.

Ferguson seems to believe that his is  minority view:

The important truth about which very few people agree with me is that Angela Merkel has been a political disaster. The German chancellor has long been the darling of the pro-European media. In November 2015 The Economist called her “the indispensable European”. A month later the Financial Times named her its “person of the year”. Time magazine proclaimed her “chancellor of the free world”. I could go on.

Merkel’s problems stem in large part from making what Ferguson calls:

… the single biggest error in the history of the postwar German republic.

That would be, opening Germany to more than a million Muslim asylum seekers in 2015:

Since the start of 2015, Germany has received 1.38m “initial asylum applications”, about a third of them from Syrians. Three-quarters of the asylum seekers are aged 30 or younger; 60% are male. About half the applications have been approved, but only around 80,000 of those denied asylum have been deported. About 86% of accepted refugees are Muslims.

The full implications of this mass influx remain to be seen. According to the Pew Research Centre, the Muslim population of Germany (which was 6% in 2016) could be anything between 8.7% and 19.7% by 2050, depending on the future rate of immigration.

What have the consequences been? For one, crime has increased exponentially. For another, the political backlash has been, in Ferguson’s words, “seismic:”

The short-run consequences, however, are clear. There has been a marked increase in crime. And there has been a seismic political backlash. The crime issue is controversial, but last month a rigorous, government-commissioned study was published by the Zürich University of Applied Sciences, based on data from the state of Lower Saxony. By the end of 2016, around 750,000 of the state’s 8m residents were not German citizens, and about 170,000 of them had applied for asylum.

The Zürich study reveals that asylum seekers were responsible for a surge in violent crime, which had fallen by 22% between 2007 and 2014, but rose by more than 10% from then until the end of 2016. More than 92% of that increase was attributable to the newcomers, with young men from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia overrepresented among the perpetrators.

And the victims? In nine out of 10 murders and three-quarters of cases of grievous bodily harm, they were other migrants. But in 70% of robberies and 58.6% of rape and sexual assault cases, the victims were German. Think about that.

While you are thinking about that, you will see that Merkel has performed poorly by many other standards:

I could add to the case against Merkel. I believe she has reduced Germany to a condition of parlous geopolitical and military weakness. I believe she contributed significantly to the European mishandling of the Arab revolutions, which in turn triggered mass migration across the Mediterranean. I believe she did much to make the global financial crisis worse than it need have been for southern Europe, agreeing to bailouts only at the last minute, thereby maximising uncertainty about the future of the euro.

And yet, the intelligentsia wants and needs a powerful woman to set forth as the leader of the Western world. It makes us more woke. It makes us more feminist friendly. Thus, regardless of the Merkel record, the propaganda machine will continue to defend her.

After all, she was very close to Barack Obama. When Obama was projecting weakness around the world, he handed the scepter of Western leadership to his good friend and close ally, Angela Merkel.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

John Gray Takes Steven Pinker to Task

I cannot imagine a better reviewer for Steven Pinker's latest treatise on the Enlightenment than cantankerous British philosopher John Gray. When it comes to reading Pinker’s 576 page tome, better him than me.

Gray is well suited to the task because he is not, to say the least, a wild-eyed optimist. We count on him to provide a counterweight to Pinker’s imitation of Dr. Pangloss. Where Pinker looks at glass that is half full and declares it to be full, Gray sees the emptiness within. He holds a tragic view of human existence, one that correlates reasonably well with Freud’s, but not with mine.

Such is life.

Yet, Gray is a philosopher. Pinker is a psychologist. And Gray has a far better grasp of intellectual history than Pinker. Thus, you expect that he will do more than throw shade at the naïve young Pinker. And, Gray is not intimidated because the world’s richest dupe, Bill Gates, said that Pinker’s book is the best book he has ever read.

Gray concludes his review thusly:

Judged as a contribution to thought, Enlightenment Now is embarrassingly feeble. With its primitive scientism and manga-style history of ideas, the book is a parody of Enlightenment thinking at its crudest. A more intellectually inquiring author would have conveyed something of the Enlightenment’s richness and diversity. Yet even if Pinker was capable of providing it, intellectual inquiry is not what his anxious flock demands. Only an anodyne, mythical Enlightenment can give them what they crave, which is relief from painful doubt.

Given this overriding emotional imperative, presenting them with the actual, conflict-ridden, often illiberal Enlightenment would be – by definition, one might say – unreasonable. Judged as a therapeutic manual for rattled rationalists, Enlightenment Now is a highly topical and much-needed book. In the end, after all, reason is only the slave of the passions.

Liberals are drooling over Pinker because his book provides them with much needed therapy. The liberal order, the hope for liberal democracy has been losing ground lately. Now, Pinker has come along to soothe those hurt feelings, to calm those dashed hopes, with an assurance that liberals are on the right side of history.

So says Gray in his opening paragraph:

To think of this book as any kind of scholarly exercise is a category mistake. The purpose of Pinker’s laborious work is to reassure liberals that they are on “the right side of history”.

This tells us that Pinker is trafficking in born-again Hegelianism… the kind of philosophy that sees history unfolding according to a predetermined plan, and reaching a predetermined goal, no matter what you or I do or say. If you think that history is going to bail out your theoretical errors, you are seriously mistaken.

Pinker might have noticed that true Hegelians, like Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, do not believe in freedom. They do not believe in free market capitalism. They hold it to be a monstrosity concocted to oppress the masses and to delay the arrival of the Worker’s Paradise. And yet, Gray points out that Pinker loves capitalism and free enterprise, grand accomplishments of what he sees as the Enlightenment.

One understands that Francis Fukuyama has already explained that the endpoint of the Hegelian World Spirit’s movement is a liberal democracy. And one understands that Hegel himself saw the apotheosis of the World Spirit in the conquering armies of Napoleon. Both Hegel and Fukuyama thought that Napoleon was bringing the liberal democracy promoted by the French Revolution. 

And yet, the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror were not promoting liberal democracy. They were certainly not promoting free enterprise. The latter was a product of the British, i.e. Scottish Enlightenment, through David Hume and Adam Smith. Hume, the most important British Enlightenment thinker is, Gray tells us, ignored by Pinker. Doubtless Hume’s empirical bent was inconsistent with Pinker’s Hegelian idealism.

The true logical outcome of the Hegelian dialectic is a police state, where the power of the state imposes correct thinking on the masses. Its not a marketplace of ideas, but One Mind, thinking the same thoughts and believing the same beliefs.

Worse yet, for a Pinker, who rejects religion and faith, without really understanding either, is that free enterprise bases its concept of freedom on the free will that has been central to Western religion since the book of Genesis. Pinker’s belief in free enterprise shows that he does not understand the difference between the Franco-German Enlightenment and its British cousin.

The difference should be clear to everyone, especially since I related it in my book The Last Psychoanalyst. In a world where people possess true freedom they are not trapped within a grand historical narrative.  They are not worrying their souls about whether they are onthe right side of history. They are involved in a game where the outcome is uncertain. They participate in the market as players making moves in a game. To imagine that it will all work itself out no matter what you do is naïve.

Gray taxes Pinker with simpleminded thinking, as in this explanation of the Pinker argument about reason and faith:

Early on in this monumental apologia for a currently fashionable version of Enlightenment thinking, he writes: “To take something on faith means to believe it without good reason, so by definition a faith in the existence of supernatural entities clashes with reason.” Well, it’s good to have that settled once and for all. There is no need to trouble yourself with the arguments of historians, anthropologists and evolutionary biologists, who treat religion as a highly complex phenomenon, serving a variety of human needs. All you need do is consult a dictionary, and you will find that religion is – by definition – irrational.

If I may, as I have often remarked, the great Thomas Aquinas showed over the course of thousands of pages that faith can indeed be rational. As for the question of supernatural entities, I will  introduce a point once argued by Jacques Lacan, with an assist from Alexander Meiklejohn. Namely, how do you know that ideas exist? You have never seen, heard, tasted, touched or smelled an idea. You will accept that the orbit of the planets, as rendered in a formula by Kepler, obeys a law, thus an idea. If so, the idea certainly existed before Kepler wrote it down as a scientific law. If it existed, where was it? And, what mind was thinking it? 

You might happily dismiss religious faith, but if you undertake a project or implement a new policy, you do not know whether or not it will work. You will proceed on the basis of a faith that it will… even if there are no scientific facts about the outcome.

Gray is too kind to mention it, but Pinker has ignored a basic insight offered by David Hume—namely, that science is about what "is" while ethics is about “should.” This means that you cannot use science to articulate ethical principles. Those who do, Gray notes, are not practicing science, but are indulging in scientism.

For Pinker, the second law of thermodynamics doesn’t simply identify a universal regularity in the natural world, “it defines the fate of the universe and the ultimate purpose of life, mind, and human striving: to deploy energy and knowledge to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order”.

Leaving the physics to the side, this suggests that life is a zero-sum game, that one person’s economic progress must come at the expense of someone else… and thus, that we must redistribute wealth rather than to grow it. Again, without saying anything about Newton, making his laws of thermodynamics into moral principles causes problems.

As for Newton’s third law of thermodynamics—“for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”—if you should be tempted to make it into a moral principle, you will find yourself with something like the law of the talion: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. And you will note that this principle of retaliatory justice has largely been superseded by the Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Again, disregarding the physics, the law of the talion produces social disharmony, an unending cycle of violence.

As I have suggested, and as Gray argues, Pinker is presenting a polemic. This does not involve the scientific method where facts can prove or disprove a hypothesis. Pinker has produced a fictional world where the Enlightenment is responsible for all the good that has happened in the world, and where those who reject the Enlightenment have produced all the evil. It is both childishly naïve and Hegelian:

To be sure, for Pinker there are no bad Enlightenment ideas. One of the features of the comic-book history of the Enlightenment he presents is that it is innocent of all evil. Accordingly, when despots such as Lenin repeatedly asserted that they engaged in mass killing in order to realise an Enlightenment project – in Lenin’s case, a more far-reaching version of the Jacobin project of re-educating society by the methodical use of terror – they must have been deluded or lying. 

And also,

Pinker stipulates that the Enlightenment, by definition, is intrinsically liberal. Modern tyrannies must therefore be products of counter-Enlightenment ideologies – Romanticism, nationalism and the like. Enabling liberals to avoid asking difficult questions about why their values are in retreat, this is a popular view. Assessed in terms of historical evidence, it is also a myth.

For Pinker, all the horrors that have befallen the human species since the advent of the Enlightenment flow from the pen of one Friedrich Nietzsche. Better to blame it on Nietzsche than accepting that the German Enlightenment produced both Communism and Naziism.

In his words:

If one wanted to single out a thinker who represented the opposite of humanism (indeed of pretty much every argument in this book) one couldn’t do better than the German philologist Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche helped to inspire the romantic militarism that led to the First World War and the fascism that led to the Second. The connections between Nietzsche’s ideas and the megadeath movements of the 20th century are obvious enough; a glorification of violence and power, an eagerness to raze the institutions of liberal democracy, a contempt for most of humanity, and a stone-hearted indifference to human life.

Gray takes Pinker to school on his straw man version of Nietzsche:

A lifelong admirer of Voltaire, Nietzsche was a critic of the Enlightenment because he belonged in it. Far from being an enemy of humanism, he promoted humanism in the most radical form. In future, humankind would fashion its values and shape its destiny by its own unfettered will. True, he conferred this privilege only on a select few.

He recognised no principle of human equality. But where does concern with equality come from? Not from science, which can be used to promote many values. As Nietzsche never tired of pointing out, the ideal of equality is an inheritance from Judaism and Christianity. His hatred of equality is one reason he was such a vehement atheist.

Truth be told, Nietzsche was an Enlightenment thinker. He was also an enemy of Judaism and Christianity. And he was “a vehement atheist.” From Pinker’s perspective, he has everything that anyone would want. Except perhaps the proper quantity of empathy. But, to be fair, Paul Bloom has argued that empathy is not necessarily morally benevolent. It can make you into a sadistic sociopath.

Nietzsche rejected the civilizing values bestowed by religion and wanted human beings to reconstruct their value system based on a liberated will. An aspect of human being, welling up from within the organism, the will should set forth new rules that everyone will be obliged to live with. As happens with all forms of Platonist thinking, a select few will be the arbiters of these rules.

Gray sees the Pinker book as a pep talk for wavering liberals:

Enlightenment Now is a rationalist sermon delivered to a congregation of wavering souls. To think of the book as any kind of scholarly exercise is a category mistake. Much of its more than 500 pages consists of figures aiming to show the progress that has been made under the aegis of Enlightenment ideals. Of course, these figures settle nothing. Like Pinker’s celebrated assertion that the world is becoming ever more peaceful – the statistical basis of which has been demolished by Nassim Nicholas Taleb – everything depends on what is included in them and how they are interpreted.

Gray concludes on a sober note, one that echoes views presented on this blog:

If an Enlightenment project survives, what reason is there for thinking it will be embodied in liberal democracy? What if the Enlightenment’s future is not in the liberal West, now almost ungovernable as a result of the culture wars in which it is mired, but Xi Jinping’s China, where an altogether tougher breed of rationalist is in charge? It is a prospect that Voltaire, Jeremy Bentham and other exponents of enlightened despotism would have heartily welcomed.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Justin Trudeau's Indian Fiasco

As a public service, I have been following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Bieber’s calamity-ridden trip to India.

For your interest, here are some remarks from an Indian journalist, one who had previously had warm feelings for the PM.

Barkha Dutt writes in the Washington Post:

How did Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the world’s favorite liberal mascot — a feminist man, with movie-star good looks, a 50 percent female cabinet and a political lexicon that has replaced “mankind” with “peoplekind” (making millions swoon) — end up looking silly, diminished and desperate on his trip to India this week?

Trudeau’s eight-day India expedition has been an absolute fiasco.

I will spare you the details. Dutt explains them at length in her excellent article. Let’s move ahead to her conclusion:

I confess, from afar, I used to be a Trudeau fan-girl. But after this trip, I’ve changed my mind. Trudeau has come across as flighty and facetious. His orchestrated dance moves and multiple costume changes in heavily embroidered kurtas and sherwanis make him look more like an actor on a movie set or a guest at a wedding than a politician who is here to talk business. Suddenly, all that charisma and cuteness seem constructed, manufactured and, above all, not serious.

Yes, indeed.  The PM was not there to do business. It’s all posturing and show. Be careful of liberal mascots masquerading as heads of state.

Jeffrey Immelt, Incorrigible Optimist

I don’t know what to make of this, but I imagine that some readers will have better information than I do. The other day Thomas Gryta did an extended analysis on Jeffrey Immelt’s failure as CEO of General Electric. The stock price tells the tale of an implosion, even though some of the carnage occurred after Immelt had abandoned ship.

You know that the psycho world has become infested with positivity. Cognitive psychologists did well to resurrect positive thinking from the bleak tragic vision bequeathed them by Freud. And yet, their relentless emphasis on happiness and good feeling comported certain risks. Among them, the current mania over Steven Pinker’s assertion that you have never had it so good, that the world is getting better and better… and that it’s all because we have overcome religious faith and are practicing the art of rational thought.

Pinker is a starry-eyed optimist, and, you will ask yourself, what could possibly be wrong with that.

Well, examine Gryta’s presentation of Immelt’s failure at GE. Could it all have been produced by an optimism that purposefully blinded itself to company problems? Was it produced by a relentless positivity that resembles the mindlessly absurd self-esteem movement? Or did Immelt lead his ship straight into an iceberg because he thought it was all theatre?

Gryta explains:

GE’s precipitous fall, following years of treading water while the overall economy grew, was exacerbated, some insiders say, by what they call “success theater.” Mr. Immelt and his top deputies projected an optimism about GE’s business and its future that didn’t always match the reality of its operations or its markets, according to more than a dozen current and former executives, investors and people close to the company.

This culture of confidence trickled down the ranks and even affected how those gunning to succeed Mr. Immelt ran their business units, some of these people said, with consequences that included unreachable financial targets, mistimed bets on markets and sometimes poor decisions on how to deploy cash.

The history of GE is to selectively only provide positive information,” said Deutsche Bank analyst John Inch, who has a “sell” rating on the stock. “There is a credibility gap between what they say and the reality of what is to come.”

Of course, Immelt has his defenders. And yet, Grypta notes, excessive optimism caused him to overpay for shares of GE stock:

… Mr. Immelt didn’t like hearing bad news, said several executives who worked with him, and didn’t like delivering bad news, either. He wanted people to make their sales and financial targets and thought he could make the numbers, too, they said.

The optimism was evident in how Mr. Immelt and the board used the company’s cash. Over the past three years, GE spent more than $29 billion on share repurchases, at an average price of almost $30, about twice the current level. That included billions of dollars spent less than a year before GE suddenly found itself strapped for cash last fall.

How did the stock do during his tenure?

Instead, at Mr. Immelt’s retirement in August the stock was below its level when he took over 16 years earlier. Including dividends, GE gained 8% with Mr. Immelt at the helm, while the S&P 500 rose 214%. Since he stepped down, the stock has lost about 43%, erasing almost $94 billion in market value. 

As I said, I am hardly an expert on GE or on the Immelt management style. Yet, is seems to embody the kind of Panglossian positive psychology that drowns the world in optimism and blinds us to dangers and risks.

America's Real Competition

America seems to have lost its mind. Its rational faculties have gone to seed and it is running around headless exclaiming that the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming.

It was all collusion. If it wasn’t collusion, it was treason. It was worse than Pearl Harbor, worse than the attack on the World Trade Center. We would call it Armageddon, but we need to reserve that one for the Trump tax reform bill.

Anyway, the intellectual elites are out there trying to overturn the result of a fair election in the name of defending democracy. Why do we think that these people are so smart?

Anyway, if you worship at the Church of the Liberal Pieties you must believe that the Russians colluded with the Trump campaign to defeat Hillary Clinton. How else could Hillary have lost?

Roger Kimball explains:

All of a sudden it was Russia, morning, noon, and night. Donald Trump must have ‘colluded’ with the Ruskies. It was the only answer to the otherwise imponderable question: how could Hillary Clinton lose? Every-one knew that she was a shoo-in, just as everyone knew that Donald Trump was a vulgar buffoon whose candidacy was a bad joke.

The only fly in this ointment was that no one could find any evidence that Trump had colluded with the Russians. This was not for lack of looking. The Democrats managed to saddle the Trump administration with a special counsel to investigate the charge.

A few sensible souls, possessing integrity, have offered that this is nonsense. One of the best, Stephen Cohen at The Nation has been saying that the current hysteria about Russia is making it far more difficult for the two nations to address any international issues together. A sensible point, well worth noting.

Kimball adds another salient point, namely that America’s real competitor on the world stage is not Russia, but China:

The second irony is that even as the media are running around skirling about the Russians, China is methodically extending its web of influence and power. We have all read about its encroachments in the South China Sea. This vast and weaponised manmade archipelago is a brazen attempt to extend China’s territorial claims and secure its hegemony in that part of the world.

Hardly a day goes by without another news story about China’s military and technological advances. As I write, a prominent tech website warns that the US is no longer guaranteed military technology dominance. ‘China is rapidly growing its fighter plane and stealth fighter capabilities,’ it warns. ‘China has developed competitive air-to-air missile capabilities.’

China has also become expert at projecting soft power. Consider the Confucius Institutes, Chinese government-sponsored cultural centres, that have sprung up at universities across the US. Not only are they potential havens for spies, they are mouthpieces for the Chinese government to disseminate the party line. As Peter Mattis, a former US intelligence analyst, noted, the institutes ‘are an instrument of the party’s power, not a support for independent scholarship’. Senator Rubio made the same point. ‘It’s a long-term, patient approach,’ he said. But then the Chinese are known for patience. Zhou Enlai, the first premier of the People’s Republic of China, was once asked whether the French Revolution was a success. ‘It is too soon to say,’ he replied.

Politically correct elites in America are screaming about Russian interference. Meanwhile, a grave, multifaceted threat is coalescing just beyond the horizon of their consciousness. When will they wake up?

Now, you might see China as a threat. Or you might consider it a competitor. You might note that China’s expanding military presence in the South China Sea happened during the Obama administration. At the time, no one paid it much attention.

But, you will also note, as we have reported on this blog, that China wants very much to compete against the United States in the worlds of business, technology and commerce. It is building up its military technology at a rapid pace, too. 

And you will also note, that the American left does not want to engage in that kind of competition, in the marketplace, the playing field, the battlefield or the arena.

It is fighting supposed Russian election collusion because it wants to fight about minds and ideas. The American left had thought that it had fully and completely occupied the American mind… to the point where it was in complete control. After all, what with its monopoly control over the media and the educational establishment it had submitted American children and adults to constant indoctrination for decades now. How could Americans fail to vote the way their philosopher kings wanted them to vote?

The struggle against imaginary Russian collusion bespeaks another monumental failure. The struggle over democracy is a fight over an idea. The idealist faction of the American intelligentsia believes, as an article of faith, that the nation's success or failure will depend on whether it lives up to its ideals. Democracy is one; social justice is another.

Our Asian competitors are more pragmatic and more empirically minded. They are competing in industry, commerce, technology and the military. They care whether it works, not how it feels. They do not care, as Deng Xiaoping famously said, whether the cat is white or black. They care about whether it catches mice. 

We are masking our fear of competition with China with a hue and cry over our precious, sacred democracy— one that only succeeds when the people do what their overlords tell them to do.

Time for Scott Israel to Resign

If he had any self-respect Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel would resign his position. His department failed to act when it was informed, over and over again, that Nikolas Cruz was dangerous. Its deputy, Scott Peterson, stationed at M. S. Douglas High School during the massacre, stayed out of the way, leaving the children unprotected. And the first police officers on the scene were not from Broward County, but from Cold Springs. See Instapundit for the details.

Instead of resigning, Sheriff Israel, a proud Hillary Clinton supporter, is out and around on television promoting gun control. He is providing us with a portrait in cowardice.

And then there is this. You knew that this was part of the problem, didn’t you? But you, as I, refrained from saying anything… because we await the evidence.

Were you to ask why local authorities, from school officials to the sheriff’s office let Nikolas Cruz to run free, the answer seems to have something to do with an Obama era policy—keep minority children in school. The policy required everyone to overlook delinquent youths from minority groups, the better to keep the minority crime statistics down.

Jack Cashill reports for The American Thinker:

"We're not compromising school safety. We're really saving the lives of kids," boasted Michaelle Valbrun-Pope, executive director of Student Support Initiatives for Broward County Public Schools, in August 2017.

Valbrun-Pope was referring to what an article by Jeffrey Benzing in Public Source calls the "Broward County Solution." As Benzing relates, Broward County used to lead the state of Florida in sending students to the state's juvenile justice system. County leaders responded with a perfectly progressive solution: "lower arrests by not making arrests."

Authorities agreed to treat twelve different misdemeanor offenses as school-related issues, not criminal ones. The results impressed the people who initiated the program. Arrests dropped from more than a thousand in 2011-2012 to less than four hundred just four years later.

One particular motivation behind programs like Broward County's was the pressure from multiple sources to reduce the statistical disparity between black and Hispanic student arrests on one hand and white and Asian student arrests on the other. Benzing writes, for instance, how a Denver organization called "Padres & Jóvenes Unidos" successfully advocated for a program like Broward's to help achieve "racial and education equity" in Denver schools.

By virtue of his name alone, Nikolas de Jesús Cruz, the adopted son of Lynda and Roger Cruz, became a statistical Hispanic. As such, authorities at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland had every reason not to report his troubling and likely criminal behavior to the police.

There you have it.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Life in Feminist Multicultural Paradise

It's always fun to examine the track record of Sweden, the Western world's first Feminist Paradise, haven for multiculturalists and rapists. So, here's how Sweden is dealing with the problems created by its willingness to accept far too many Muslim migrants. Hint, it's not the crimes, it's the coverup. (via Maggie's Farm)

Justin Trudeau Does India

Today’s comic relief comes to us from the Daily Mail. What would we do without the Daily Mail. You recall that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, aka Justin Bieber has been touring India. It's more like a vacation than a state visit, so this gives him extra opportunities to look like a fool.

You will also recall that the prime minister of India sent a junior agriculture minister to greet Justin upon his arrival. Since Narendra Modi normally welcomes visiting dignitaries, everyone noticed the insult.

Now, the Western world’s more politically correct, ideologically sensitive, woke proponent of diversity has managed to act the perfect buffoon. Somehow someone told him that it would be a good idea to dress as an Indian… the better to show his respect for local customs. It was charming for a bit, but eventually became a national joke.

The Indian press is having a ball with young Justin. The Daily Mail has the compelling story:

Justin Trudeau has been ridiculed on social media by Indians for his 'tacky' and over the top outfit choices while on his first visit to their nation as Prime Minister.   

While many praised his clothing during the first two days of his trip, patience was wearing thin by the time he attended a Bollywood gala on Tuesday night, before the tide turned against him on Wednesday.

Ministers, authors, journalists and ordinary Indians lined up to mock him on Wednesday, saying his wardrobe was 'fake and annoying'. 

Perhaps taking note of the criticism, the Canadian leader donned a suit on Thursday as he visited Jama Masjid, one of India's largest mosques.

Among those who took to Twitter to comment, Omar Abdullah called it “choreographed cuteness.” Baahvna Arora found “Justin Bieber’s fancy dress display fake and annoying.” Shunali Kuhlar Shroff inquired: “Who advised Justin Trudeau to dress like a bridegroom at the Bombay event? Only a horse and a sehra seemed to be missing.”

Many observers suggested that it seemed Trudeau was attending a wedding from the way he was dressed (pictured here at one of Ghandi's former homes on Monday)

When he visited Bollywood, he exceeded all expectations. 

The Daily Mail explained:

But while the actors dressed down for the occasion, opting largely for black suits and shirts, Trudeau went all-out with a gaudy golden number.

India Today described the choice of clothing as 'tacky', suggesting it was insulting to his guests.

The paper wrote: 'We understand that the Trudeaus do not understand Indian clothing as well as Indian dignitaries do, but for someone who's been fond of wearing Indian kurtas even back home, it's not wrong to expect a touch of class.'

Now you know what it means to be a citizen of the world? Feeling edified yet?

Psychiatrist Says: Don't Blame Us for Nikolas Cruz

Don’t blame us? So says psychiatrist Amy Barnhorst in a New York Times op-ed. Don’t blame us for failing to appreciate the danger posed by a Nikolas Cruz… or a James Holmes or an Adam Lanza. We could not tell that they were dangers. When we ran our checklist of psychotic traits they passed with flying colors. Our profession, and the society’s concern with civil liberties, has tied our hands. We should not change our laws about involuntary hospitalization. We should not change the way that psychiatrists diagnose mental illness. We should take away their guns.

Considering that everyone who knew Nikolas Cruz,--everyone but the professionals charged with protecting the community-- knew that he was dangerous. The police had visited the Cruz home nearly forty times. He had announced to the world that he wanted to be a school shooter. The FBI had been informed. Social services had visited him. It seems to some of us that these government agencies failed miserably in their task of evaluating Cruz’s homicidal mania. This tells us either that they were all incompetent—don’t eliminate that possibility—or that psychiatry is sorely deficient when it comes to diagnosing certain cases. Why might it by so deficient? Perhaps it has been infected with its own variety of political correctness, contaminated by an excessive concern for civil liberties.

Can there be too much concern for civil liberties? Of course, there can. And yet, the anguished parents and children who have been filling our television screens with their outrage do not take aim at the failures of the system. They blame it all on the NRA and on guns. In truth, Barnhurst does too. She begins her essay by minimizing and trivializing Cruz's symptoms:

Shouldn’t psychiatrists be able to identify as dangerous someone like Nikolas Cruz, the young man charged in the school shooting last week in Florida, who scared his classmates, hurt animals and left menacing online posts?

Mr. Cruz had suffered from depression and was getting counseling at one point. He was also evaluated by emergency mental health workers in 2016, but they decided not to hospitalize him. Why, some critics are demanding, didn’t he receive proper treatment? And can’t we just stop angry, unstable young men like him from buying firearms?

As mentioned, Cruz was far more than an angry young man. He was shouting as loud as he could that he was homicidal. No one believed him. We note that a James Holmes, who shot up a movie theatre in Aurora, CO was consulting with a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist had diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic. She wanted him to be committed. The system would not allow her to do it… because Colorado laws would not permit it. The same holds true of Adam Lanza, whose mother wanted to have him committed. Connecticut’s involuntary commitment laws did not allow it. The state legislature had voted down tougher laws a couple of months before Lanza opened fire at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Barnhorst is correct to note that many of these psychotics and psychopaths do not present for treatment. And she notes correctly that the state interest in protecting civil liberties restricts what psychiatrists can do. And yet, in the Cruz case, the signs were everywhere. He was shouting them every chance he got. Only a deaf, dumb and blind band of bureaucrats could have missed it.

She wrote:

The mental health system doesn’t identify most of these people because they don’t come in to get care. And even if they do, laws designed to preserve the civil liberties of people with mental illness place limits on what treatments can be imposed against a person’s will.

Yet, when making their diagnoses, psychiatrists and judges rely on the word of the patient. They take it at face value. Of course, the prospective patients can look up the signs of psychosis on the internet and then lie to the judges and the psychiatrists. This leaves us with only the most extreme cases:

Here in California, as in most states, patients must be a danger to themselves or others because of mental illness before they can be involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital. This is a mechanism for getting people into treatment when they are too deep in the throes of their illness to understand that they need it. It allowed me to hospitalize a woman who tried to choke her mother because she was convinced her family had been replaced with impostors, and a man who had sent threatening letters to his boss because he believed she had implanted a microchip in his brain.

A young man who had been threatening to kill people was brought in by his parents to consult with Dr. Barnhorst. She describes his demeanor:

But the young man who had written about shooting his classmates was calm, cooperative and polite. The posts, he insisted, were nothing more than online braggadocio. He denied being suicidal or homicidal; he had never heard voices or gotten strange messages from the television. He admitted to having been bullied and was resentful of classmates who seemed to have more thriving social and romantic lives. But he adamantly denied he would be violent toward them.

What options did I have? It was clear to me that he did not have a psychiatric illness that would justify an involuntary hospitalization, but I was reluctant to release this man whose story echoed that of so many mass shooters.

It may well be the case that the young man was not psychotic or psychopathic. He might have been putting on a show to get attention. And yet, Barnhorst took the path of caution and had him committed. Whatever point she makes about the non-treatment of Cruz, Barnhorst herself took the path of good judgment. She erred on the side of caution:

I ended up admitting this patient, and he was released by the hearing officer two days later. He never took any medication, never reached the threshold for a federal firearm prohibition and left the hospital in the same state he arrived in. Like so many of his peers, he will not seek out therapy for the longstanding personality traits that seem to predispose him to violence and rage, and there is no way to impose treatment upon him.

As it happens, we do not know what effect the commitment had on him. We do not know what would have happened if his parents and the authorities had simply ignored him. Perhaps the minimal intervention, performed by parents and Dr. Barnhorst, accompanied by a couple of days in the hospital had helped him. We do not know. We cannot say that it had no effect or that doing nothing would have had the same effect.

By committing him to the hospital, Barnhorst made it impossible for him to buy a gun from a federally licensed gun dealer. Since we are all wondering how Nikolas Cruz was allowed to purchase a gun, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Barnhorst continues:

The one concrete benefit of officially committing him would be that he could be prohibited from buying a gun from any federally licensed retailer. Of course, this would do nothing about any guns and ammunition he may already have amassed. Nor would it deter him from getting guns from private-party sales, which are exempt from background checks in many states.

And yet, if  you believe, as she does, that the problem is more the availability of guns than government failures to intervene, she undermines her argument by suggesting, correctly, that guns are everywhere. As one has often mentioned, there are now 300 million guns in private hands. Will new gun control laws reduce their number and make it impossible for people who want to acquire them from acquiring them.... from friends or family?

We might agree that we should toughen up the laws involving gun purchases. And yet, if the psychiatric profession is unable to identify people who pose potential risk, what good would such laws serve?

Even if all potential mass shooters did get psychiatric care, there is no reliable cure for angry young men who harbor violent fantasies. And the laws intended to stop the mentally ill from buying guns are too narrow and easily sidestepped; people like Nikolas Cruz and my patient are unlikely to qualify.

Some of the mass shooters are angry young men. Some are Islamist terrorists. (When they are Islamists, the hue and cry tells us not to be Islamophobic.) But, Nikolas Cruz was far more deranged that Barnhorst suggests. Thus, the problem was a psychiatric profession that was incapable of seeing what so many of those around Cruz had seen clearly for years. If Cruz had been committed, he would not have been able to buy a gun. If Cruz had consulted with Dr. Barnhorst, she would have done the responsible thing and erred toward caution. She would have had him committed. The real story here is that no one did.

Can China Innovate?

The subject lies well beyond my competence. I report it here for your interest, but, more importantly, to address a question that has bedeviled American pedagogues.

Simply put, American academics reject the Chinese, i.e. Tiger Mom, approach to education on the grounds that it is too rote, too automatic, too unthinking. Thus, they propose, teaching children the Chinese way, where the teacher's authority is never questioned, will stiffly creativity and innovation. By this calculus Chinese business, especially the high tech variety, should depend on great innovators from America. The old saw was that Chinese scientists could merely imitate what was being produced by the great creative minds of America.

Apparently, such is not the case. Two stories, one from the Guardian and the other from Wired tell an entirely different story. Given my limitations when it comes to the future of technology, I will report them without much commentary.

From the Guardian:

The economic rise of China has been accompanied by a waxing of its scientific prowess. In January, the United States National Science Foundation reported that the number of scientific publications from China in 2016 outnumbered those from the US for the first time: 426,000 versus 409,000. Sceptics might say that it’s about quality, not quantity. But the patronising old idea that China, like the rest of east Asia, can imitate but not innovate is certainly false now. In several scientific fields, China is starting to set the pace for others to follow. On my tour of Chinese labs in 1992, only those I saw at the flagship Peking University looked comparable to what you might find at a good university in the west. Today the resources available to China’s top scientists are enviable to many of their western counterparts. Whereas once the best Chinese scientists would pack their bags for greener pastures abroad, today it’s common for Chinese postdoctoral researchers to get experience in a leading lab in the west and then head home where the Chinese government will help them set up a lab that will eclipse their western competitors.

As you already know, civilizations clash. They compete for advantage and for influence. The question playing itself out is whether China, with its authoritarian and hierarchical social structure can compete with an America that values diversity and that imagines that all people have equal natural talents.

The Guardian reports:

However, the pattern seems clear, and is worth heeding by other nations: despite China’s reputation for authoritarian and hierarchical rule, in science the approach seems to be to ensure that top researchers are well supported with funding and resources, and then to leave them to get on with it.

And also, Wired suggests that Chinese companies are moving to the head of the technology pack:

Researchers and companies in Beijing and Shenzhen are increasingly setting the pace for global technology development. “Large Chinese companies now have vast troves of data to hone artificial-intelligence experiments and can develop functions that the west may learn from, or copy,” says Qiang Yang, a professor of computer science at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Yang leads a team of researchers collaborating with Tencent’s WeChat platform, which has about one billion accounts to draw data from. In emerging fields such as AI, generally supportive government policies combined with generous salaries are already helping China’s internet titans lure top talent away from western rivals: in anuary 2017, former Microsoft executive Qi Lu joined Baidu to lead its AI efforts, including autonomous vehicle development. In other cases, Chinese tech firms simply acquire foreign competitors, as when China’s Midea Group acquired KUKA AG, the German robot-maker, last March.

Such progress has attracted venture capital:

In 2014, it [China] overtook Europe as a destination for venture capital, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Currently three of the world’s top five most highly valued private companies are Chinese – ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, phone maker Xiaomi, and e-commerce firm Meituan-Dianping.

China is moving ahead. It is innovating. It is either catching up to or moving ahead of America and Europe. In the meantime American tech companies are setting up diversity initiatives and offering new sexual harassment sensitivity training.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Nikki Haley: "I will not shut up."

Recently, the much put-upon Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat told United States United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley to shut up. You recall how many feminists stepped forward to defend Haley against this blatant sexist taunt. That’s right… none.

Yesterday, Haley answered at the United Nations Security, clearly and forcefully: “I will not shut up.”

Haley’s speech was exemplary, for defending America and for defending a leading American ally. One has to wonder why it has taken the United States to find a U.N. ambassador who stands strong and proud, who refuses to placate terrorism.

Here, from the Victory Girls blog (via Instapundit) are a few of her remarks:

I sit here today offering the outstretched hand of the United States to the Palestinian people in the cause of peace. We are full prepared to look to a future of prosperity and coexistence. We welcome you as the leader of the Palestinian people here today. But I will decline the advice I was recently given by your top negotiator, Saab Erekat: I will not shut up. Rather, I will speak some hard truths.

The Palestinian leadership has a choice between two different paths: there is the path of absolutist demands, hateful rhetoric, and incitement to violence. That path has led, and will continue to lead, to nothing but hardship for the Palestinian people. Or there is the path of negotiation and compromise. History has shown that path to be successful for Egypt and Jordan, including the transfer of territory. That path remains open to the Palestinian leadership if only it is courageous enough to take it.

The United States knows the Palestinian leadership was very unhappy with the decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem. You don’t have to like that decision; you don’t have to praise it; you don’t even have to accept it. But know this: that decision? Will — not — change.

So once again, you must choose between two paths. You can choose to denounce the United States, reject the U.S. role in peace talks, and pursue punitive measures against Israel in international forums like the U.N. I assure you that path will get the Palestinian people exactly nowhere toward the achievement of their aspirations. Or you can choose to put aside your anger about the location of our embassy and move forward with us toward a negotiated compromise that holds great potential for improving the lives of the Palestinian people.

Clearly, a strong step in the right direction.

The Failing Iran Nuclear Deal

When Barack Obama circumvented the Constitution to sign a nuclear deal with Iran, his many supporters pronounced it a significant foreign policy achievement. They agreed with him that it would be his foreign policy legacy. Now, some re having second thoughts.

Writing in Slate commentator and deal supporter Joshua Keating remarks that if the deal was intended to calm the conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims, it has failed miserably.

Any alert observer could have seen it at the onset:

On May 15, 2015, just a few months before the U.S. and other world powers signed a nuclear deal with Iran, President Barack Obama convened what was to be a high-profile meeting of Middle East leaders at Camp David. King Salman of Saudi Arabia, however, was a no-show. King Hamad of Bahrain elected to go to a horse show in the U.K. instead. The elderly rulers of Oman and the UAE also stayed home, citing health concerns. This was widely seen as a snub by leaders deeply angered by the soon-to-be-signed nuclear deal and an overall sense that the Obama administration was shifting politically toward Tehran.

Obama shifted toward Iran, a lead member of the axis of evil, a lead state sponsor of terrorism, a country with the blood of hundreds if not thousands of Americans on its hands, away from traditional alliances with Sunni Arab states and with Israel. Obama wanted to lift sanctions on Iran, to provide Iran with cash funding and allow it an eventual nuclear weapon. If it were not politically incorrect to question Obama’s patriotism, many people would have asked themselves which side Obama was on. The Sunni Arab states and Israel rejoiced at the advent of the Trump presidency.

Keating explains the Obama rationale:

Obama always made clear that an agreement on nuclear weapons wouldn’t necessarily change Iran’s larger pattern of behavior or that of its rivals. “If they don’t change at all, we’re still better off having the deal,” he argued. Still, he suggested that the diplomatic opening provided by the deal could change the dynamics of the region. “It would be profoundly in the interest of citizens throughout the region if Sunnis and Shias weren’t intent on killing each other,” he told the New Yorker’s David Remnick in 2014. “And although it would not solve the entire problem, if we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion—not funding terrorist organizations, not trying to stir up sectarian discontent in other countries, and not developing a nuclear weapon—you could see an equilibrium developing between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there’s competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.”

If that was the deal’s purpose, Keating continues, it has failed:

This is not what happened on either side of the Middle East’s sectarian divide. Instead, the deal has more often contributed to escalating tensions. In retrospect, this was foreseeable: Iran was perfectly capable of projecting power across the region with or without a nuclear arsenal. As for its rivals, they never trusted Iran’s assurances and saw warming relations between Tehran and Washington as a new and potentially even greater threat.

And also,

… rather than moderating its regional ambitions as the JCPOA’s proponents might have hoped, Iran has spent the years since the deal was signed supporting a network of Shiite militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and other countries, part of a larger project to, as BuzzFeed’s Borzou Daragahi put it, “establish territorial dominance from the Gulf of Aden to the shores of the Mediterranean.” Iran might have done all this regardless. But it was also responding to the Saudi actions. Either way, there’s certainly no evidence that nuclear diplomacy, or the lack of a nuclear weapon, has helped the neighbors overcome their differences.

Keating adds another salient point. In order to get the nuclear deal Obama walked away from the war in Syria. By his inaction Obama facilitated a conflict that murdered hundreds of thousands and destroyed the lives of millions. But, don’t let that tarnish the Obama legacy.

Any consideration of Obama’s priorities in the Middle East has to address the most contested part of his legacy, the still unfolding crisis in Syria. Many critics, including former members of his administration, have charged that Obama’s reluctance to intervene to a greater extent in Syria was motivated in part by the desire to achieve the nuclear agreement with Bashar al-Assad’s patron, Iran. In the new documentary, The Final Year, which follows Obama’s foreign policy team throughout 2016, adviser Ben Rhodes essentially legitimizes this claim by defending Obama’s hands-off policy in part by saying that if the U.S. had intervened more forcefully in Syria, it would have dominated Obama’s second term and the JCPOA would have been impossible to achieve. Rhodes may be right, but it’s less and less clear as time goes on that this was the right trade-off. Looking at the devastating consequences of the Syrian war, not just for that country but for the region and the world, it’s hard not to argue that Obama should have made Syria his main and overwhelming foreign policy focus, to the exclusion of nearly everything else, Iran deal be damned.

Perhaps, Keating continues, Obama feared getting sucked into yet another war in the Middle East. The Trump administrations actions have put the lie to that pretense:

What seems likeliest is that a president who was elected promising to end the Bush administration’s wars was wary of yet another costly quagmire in the Middle East. But the Trump administration’s limited airstrikes on Assad’s air force last April in response to a chemical weapons attack—an action the previous administration famously did not take in a similar situation—has not sucked the U.S. into a larger unwanted war against Syrian forces or led to an accidental clash between the U.S. and Russia, as Obama defenders would have predicted. (The U.S. is keeping troops in Syria, as the Trump administration recently announced, but so far they have not engaged directly with Assad’s military.) In other words, not every military action is a slippery slope leading to a new Vietnam or Iraq.

Despite it all Keating still supports the Iran nuclear deal.

Lee Smith does not. Writing in Tablet, Smith explains that Obama was trying to rebalance American interests in the Middle East, to betray traditional American allies and to enhance the power of America’s enemies. The premise was that America’s alliance with Israel, especially, and its nastiness toward Iran had caused the conflicts in the region.

On those terms the deal has failed:

Barack Obama’s signature foreign-policy initiative wasn’t just an arms agreement. It was an instrument used to rebalance U.S. interests, downgrading traditional allies like Israel, as well as Saudi Arabia, and upgrading Iran. The hope, Obama told an interviewer, was to create a geopolitical “equilibrium … in which there’s competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.” Given the poverty of that hope, it should hardly come as a surprise that instead of the airy and ever-elusive notion of “geopolitical equilibrium” there is instead mayhem.

But, finally, Smith adds, the purpose of the deal was to stick it to the Jews, to the neocons who supported the Iraq War to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and to the Jewish state of Israel.

After all, the deal brought Iranian forces into Syria and Lebanon up to Israel’s borders:

No, the Iran deal was a form of virtue-signaling that used the lives of tens of millions of people living in the Middle East as props—and whose favorite hate-word was “neocon,” a word that was enthusiastically applied to people of widely varying political leanings and stripes, especially if they were Jewish….

It was clear starting in 2014 that the point of the deal, as I explained hereand here, was to realign American interests with Iran’s. I wrote that ignoring the anti-Semitism that inspires the Iranian leadership and filling its coffers would unleash the clerical regime and facilitate its expansionary ambitions, reaching even the Golan Heights. Iran wouldn’t spend the money from sanctions relief on fixing the economy, I showed, but rather on weaponsterrorism, and war.

Anyone who finds this hard to believe was did not give sufficient weight to the influence of the company Obama kept in Chicago. Would you really expect anything else from Jeremiah Wright’s protégé?