Thursday, April 26, 2018

California as a Thought Police State

Do you see America’s future in California? When Ross Douthat recently traveled to his home state with his family, he reflected on whether California would become our future.

Those who want it to be so have unleashed a torrent of vitriol against those who oppose their big ideas. They are trying to turn their world into a police state, a state where they have a monopoly in the marketplace of ideas. Douthat calls it a one party state, though it is more accurate to call it a one party thought police state… a state that polices your mind but not behavior.

In the ongoing culture war, tech oligarchs like Jack Dorsey of Twitter want to live in a world where everyone thinks the same thoughts, feels the same feelings and believes the same beliefs. This state has thought police to impose the right ideas on everyone. Its adherents do not want to win territory or even to attain prosperity: they want absolute control over everyone’s minds. That's how they win elections. If that doesn’t scare you, you are not paying attention.

Let’s say that you live in California and do not accept the LBGT agenda. Your children will be taught it and will be indoctrinated in it, whatever you think. Do you want to spare your children such lessons? You have no right to do so.

Todd Starnes reports from California (via Maggie’s Farm):

Parents in Orange County, California may not opt their children out of lessons related to gender identity or sexual orientation, according to a memorandum written by the school district’s general counsel.

“Parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation may not excuse their children from this instruction,” read the memorandum from Ronald Wenkart to the Orange County Board of Education.

A school district spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the memorandum sent to us by a parent.

“However, parents are free to advise their children that they disagree with some or all of the information presented in the instructional program and express their views on these subjects to their children,” the attorney wrote.

The most frightening part of the diktat is that the school district is graciously allowing parents to offer opposing ideas to their own children. Think about it, in what kind of world do parents need to apply to school officials before expressing their views to their children, before providing their children with a moral education?. You know and I know that one of these days some administrator is going to decide that parental authority must not be allowed to make such determinations.

If you like, you can call this liberalism, but it is illiberality on steroids. It is radical leftist ideology. It owes far more to Hegel than to John Stuart Mill.

Why is it happening in California? And why are the tech oligarchs leading the way? It makes some sense. They have established a virtual monopoly over information technology and now they believe that they ought also to have a monopoly over the marketplace of ideas. 

Ironically, they are not the masters of their own minds. They are not independent thinkers, but have been indoctrinated. They believe fervently in the dogmas of the Church of the Liberal Pieties because a band of big thinking academics and media commentators have seduced their minds.

Recall our discussions of how Bill Gates, the world’s richest dupe, was conned by Harvard professor Steven Pinker into embracing a polemic for atheism disguised as a glorification of the Enlightenment.

Douthat comments on the advent of a one-party state in California:

For all its deranging effects, I am always grateful to Twitter for the interesting ideas it surfaces. But rarely does this surfacing happen quite so overtly as it did earlier this month, when Jack Dorsey, the Twitter C.E.O., tweeted out as a “great read” an article series urging national Democrats to seek the kind of final victory they’ve won in California, in which the G.O.P. is reduced to a rump under one-party Democratic rule.

As of now, by all evidence, the 2018 elections will be a blue wave. Republicans have been underperforming in the off-year elections. If the trend continues—a big if—Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives. Whatever power the nation gave to the Republican Party in 2016 seems to have been squandered… in some part because the media has shown such unremitting hostility toward Trump and Republicans that many people are willing to vote Democratic in order to shut down the media vitriol machine….

While Trump has scored some important successes, these are always portrayed as disasters in the making. Trump gets no credit and Congressional Republicans—exception made for tax reform-- do not seem capable of governing. It began when John McCain killed Obamacare reform. Recently an eye surgeon from Kentucky threatened to undermine the nomination of the exceptionally bright and capable Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State for reasons that defied reason.

To understand California, Douthat argues, we must understand that the state has lost its middle class. It is now divided into the hyperrich and the immigrant or minority poor. There is next to nothing in between. The state is beginning to resemble the Central American oligarchies that the new migrants are fleeing. A very rich upper class owns all assets, especially agricultural assets, and the rest get crumbs… or join gangs.

To begin with, you can’t understand the political transformation of California without understanding how much it has been shaped by a long-term middle class exodus — the out-migration, across years and decades, of the kind of people who in the Trump era tend to vote Republican, the native-born petit-bourgeoisie. This out-migration has been compensated for by in-migration, but the new arrivals are more likely to be either immigrants or well-educated professionals: Since the 1990s new Californians are disproportionately likely to make around $200,000 a year, ex-Californians are disproportionately likely to make around $45,000.

An interesting point, so we underscore it. Yesterday we were pondering the fact that the blue state outmigration risks sending Democratic voters into Republican tax havens. In California, apparently, many of those who are leaving the state are natural born Republicans… leaving the state with high tech oligarchs who are using their power to promote their ideology and very poor people. After all, over forty percent of California households do not speak English.

If California is a laboratory for today’s progressive liberalism, it is fair to note, as Douthat does, that the leftist utopia is becoming a dystopia:

And ambitious liberals will have to do so while evangelizing on behalf of a social-political model that right now looks nothing like the ideal egalitarian society liberalism claims that it can build. Under one-party liberal rule, California is presently as unequal as a Central American republic, with one of the highest poverty rates in the country once you control for its exorbitant cost of living. Its educational performance is lousy and its racial gaps are stark — which is why it’s not only lower-middle class whites moving back to red America, and why black complaints about white liberal gentrifiers in SoCal or the Bay Area can resemble the complaints of Trump-leaning ex-Californians. As in other enclaves where Democrats are dominant, its ruling party has proved itself pretty good at rentier-friendly environmentalism and kicking social conservatives while they’re down, O.K. enough at redistribution, and completely terrible at figuring how to build an information-age middle class.

Think about it, California has every manner of environmental regulation. Today’s liberal left, ensorcelled by Mother Nature, is happy to shut down industry and even a large amount of agriculture in order to preserve the pristine beauty of the natural world. We note that California’s most important industries, entertainment and technology are pure and clean. They are not like mining and manufacturing, traditionally dirty industries. 

Of course, shutting down industry promotes poverty and unemployment. It forces the middle class out of the state. But, perhaps that is what the thought police want. They want to rid the state of anyone who would dare defy their edicts and pronouncements and would reject their dogmatic beliefs.

Of course, it will be a calamity. Thought control inevitably produces a reaction. At least, we like to think so. The peasants with their pitchforks will eventually see what is happening and will put an end to what Douthat calls:

… the sun-kissed aristocracy that liberals have built … in what was once, but no longer, the proving ground for the American dream.

The Iran Nuclear Treaty

Yesterday, French president Emmanuel Macron bemoaned the fact that President Trump is poised to remove the United States from the Iran Nuclear Deal. Macron declared unequivocally that Iran must never have a nuclear weapon, while saying that America should stay with the deal. He later added that he believed that America will pull out.

One understands that Macron's audience is on the other side of the Atlantic. Seeing the failure of Angela Merkel over migrants, he is seizing the opportunity to make himself the leader of Europe. That is the impetus behind his friendly relations with President Trump. 

There’s so much handwringing and general anguish over the fate of the Iran Nuclear Deal that we forget a simple fact. When Barack Obama called it a deal and not a treaty he invited a future president to repudiate it.

You know and I know that Barack Obama did not call it a treaty because then the senate would have had to ratify it. Obama called it a deal in order to circumvent constitutional checks and balances.

The Iran Nuclear Deal, the JCPOA, was imposed by an autocratic president. The same holds true of the Paris Climate Deal. It will be a good thing for  President Trump to withdraw from it. Though, one wonders, can he relabel it a treaty and submit it to the senate for ratification?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Blue State Blues

None of it should come as a surprise. If you're a New Yorker, you will probably find the news redundant. As the city builds and builds, as it attracts more and more high tech millennials, members of the upper middle class talk ceaselessly about leaving town. The high cost of living, especially but not only of real estate... along with what must surely count among the nation’s highest tax bills… whatever New York offers seems hardly to be worth the price. 

Now, with the new tax reform bill, upper income New Yorkers, especially those who own property, are being hit with an extra tax burden. More and more New Yorkers are deciding that it's time to go.

Increasingly, New York has become a city of the rich and the rest. As the middle class hollows out, we are left with armies of very poor people and a smaller contingent of very rich people. The subway system is an embarrassment. It is ugly and dirty and noisy; it often fails to run on time. New York is not as dangerous as parts of Chicago. It is not as appalling as parts of Los Angeles and San Francisco. And yet, how long before it becomes unlivable, except for those who can lay down heavy money to shield themselves from its underside.

In a column for The Hill, New Yorker Kristen Tate describes living in New York City:

Am I the only one moving through the greater part of New York City boroughs and seeing an inexorable march of urban decay matched with the discomfort of crowding and inexplicable costs? I know I am not.

New York is the most expensive city in America. Its lower-cost neighborhoods are riddled with crime and homelessness. Its public schools, some of which are among the worst in the nation, look more like prisons than places of learning.

For the record, New York’s upper middle class and even many members of its middle class l never send their children to the city’s public schools. The might live in a studio apartment; they might eat ramen noodles three times a day. They will do anything to keep their children out of New York's public schools.

This produces a de facto segregation, to the point that the Economist remarked that only 15% of the city’s public schools are racially integrated. New York is filled with liberal minded progressives who will march in the streets to demand racial justice, but who will never, ever send their children to a racially integrated city public school. Their attitude: for thee, but not for me.

Quality of life is a major problem for many New Yorkers. Bringing up their children is another. And yet, as Tate and many others point out, another major problem is taxes. People leave town to escape punitive taxes. No one knows where all the tax revenue is going, but for sure it is not going into the subway system:

Eventually, city and state taxes, fees, and regulations become so burdensome that people and corporations jump ship. More people are currently fleeing New York than any other metropolitan area in the nation. More than 1 million people have moved out of New York City since 2010 in search of greener pastures, which amounts to a negative net migration rate of 4.4 percent.

The new tax reform has made life more expensive for wealthy New Yorkers, especially those who own high priced condos. As of now, construction is booming. And yet, prices at the high end of the market have been declining.  Repealing the state and local tax deduction will cost people significant amounts of money. And it will make that mass of new condos more difficult to sell. At some point the construction boom will bust. It's inevitable. No one knows when or how bad... but it will come.

Tate explains:

The recently passed tax bill, which repeals the state and local tax (SALT)deduction, will only speed up the exodus. Thanks to the bill’s passage, many New York taxpayers will save little or nothing despite a cut in the federal rate. The state’s highest earners — who have been footing an outsized share of the bill — will pay tens of thousands of dollars more in income taxes in 2018. In New York alone, loss of the SALT deduction will remove $72 billion a year in tax deductions and affect 3.4 million residents.  

Republicans will tell you that the new tax reform ends an injustice. When New Yorkers were allowed to deduct state and local taxes they were paying less federal taxes. Thus, their profligacy was being subsidized by states that did not have their own income taxes. Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore explained it today in the Wall Street Journal:

For years blue states have exported a third or more of their tax burden to residents of other states. In places like California, where the top income-tax rate exceeds 13%, that tax could be deducted on a federal return. Now that deduction for state and local taxes will be capped at $10,000 per family.

Consider what this means if you’re a high-income earner in Silicon Valley or Hollywood. The top tax rate that you actually pay just jumped from about 8.5% to 13%. Similar figures hold if you live in Manhattan, once New York City’s income tax is factored in. If you earn $10 million or more, your taxes might increase a whopping 50%.

And that’s not all, folks. Tate explains that these high tax cities are being mismanaged and poorly governed. It's not just that they collect too much. They waste a great deal of it. In her words:

New York, Los Angeles, Chicago — the places where power and capital have traditionally congregated — have become so over-regulated, so overpriced and mismanaged, and so morally bankrupt and soft on crime that people are leaving in droves. Of course, these high-tax cities are the same places hit hardest by the removal of the SALT deduction.

The situation in California is just as bad:

In fact, in 2016 the Golden State lost almost 143,000 net residents to other states — that figure is an 11 percent increase from 2015. Between 2005 and 2015, Los Angeles and San Francisco alone lost 250,000 residents. The largest socioeconomic segment moving from California is the upper-middle class. The state is home to some of the most burdensome taxes and regulations in the nation. Meanwhile, its social engineering — from green energy to wealth redistribution — have made many working families poorer. As California begins its long decline, the influx outward is picking up in earnest.

As you know, and as Laffer and Moore remind us, this has been happening for at least ten years now. States like Texas and Florida have been profiting from the great exodus our of blue states:

Since 2007 Texas and Florida (with no income tax) have gained 1.4 million and 850,000 residents, respectively, from other states. California and New York have jointly lost more than 2.2 million residents. Our analysis of IRS data on tax returns shows that in the past three years alone, Texas and Florida have gained a net $50 billion in income and purchasing power from other states, while California and New York have surrendered a net $23 billion.

And also:

We estimate, based on the historical relationship between tax rates and migration patterns, that the pace of out-migration from California and New York will soon double—with about 800,000 net out-migrants each of the next three years. Our calculations suggest that Connecticut, New Jersey and Minnesota combined will hemorrhage another roughly 500,000 people in the same period.

Of course, there’s a fly in the ointment. When blue state citizens move to red states, will they bring their blue state values with them? Will they cling to their bad attitudes and vote for the same policies they championed in their blue states?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

When Women Give It Away for Free

When you have gotten into the habit of giving it away for free, and someone comes along and offers to pay for what you have been giving away for free, you are going to be tempted. If you are not tempted, you should at least ask yourself why you have been giving it away for free.

Obviously, I am talking about sex. In particular, I am talking about women who give it away for free. They go on dates, they pay their own way, they have sex with their dates and they often do not want to see said dates again, unless for another hookup.

Aimee Lutkin described her own experiences in the New York dating scene for Jezebel:

A series of wasted evenings flash through my mind. Most women who have given dating men a shot have probably experienced what it’s like to date guys they’re not into, without a guarantee those guys will respect their boundaries or personhood, for whom they may have changed some aspect of themselves. And they probably had to cover their own drinks the whole freaking time.

Only a week before attending the summit, I was ranting to a friend about how many men message me on regular apps asking for what amounts to, in my mind, free sex work. They don’t want to spend money on a professional, but they also don’t want to invest the time and energy connecting to a regular date before asking for explicit sexual favors.

Back in the day men who followed the code of gentlemanly behavior would never have treated young women as sex workers who give it away for free. Wherever did they get the idea that they could? Wherever did they get the idea that they could get away with such rude, crude and lewd advances? Could it be that they have had success treating women like sex workers, and that many women consent to being used for sex?

Obviously, I did not recommend that they do it. I am old school. I believe that women who respect themselves do not give it away for free. Other forces in our culture have told women that giving it away for free makes them liberated. They are doing it to make an ideological point. They are compromising their dignity in order to advance what they think of as a cause.

To be fair, feminists promised women that once they became financially self-sufficient men would love them so much more because they would not be needy. It was a big lie. A lot of people bought it. A lot of young women sold themselves for nothing because they wanted to affirm its truth. It was still a colossal lie.

Aimee Lutkin continued:

In the past year, I’ve done a considerable amount of dating and I’m honestly exhausted. Dates are not only frequently disappointing, they’re also expensive—I always insist on paying for myself.

This being the case, she finds the prospect of becoming a Sugar Baby to be strangely enticing:

Well, after being introduced to the world of Sugaring, I may never do that again.

This tells us that giving it away for free makes you a cheap courtesan, one who expects nothing in return, who accepts that she is worth so little that she deserves to receive nothing in return, not even the price of dinner and a movie, certainly not a commitment.

Becoming a Sugar Baby changes the equation. The women who attended the Sugar Baby Summit were not aspiring concubines. They were aspiring entrepreneurs. They were willing to trade an occasional sexual favor— the kinds that they had been giving away for free— for financing and business connections. Compared with giving it away for free, it feels like a better deal.

I briefly attended a panel on the main stage called “Sugar For Entrepreneurs,” where both Babies and Daddies answer questions from moderator Alexis Germany, who hosts a podcast dedicated to the lifestyle called Let’s Talk Sugar, and is PR manager for Seeking Arrangements. A speaker asked audience members to raise their hands if they’re interested in starting their own businesses. Arms shoot up across the room. This was my first moment of surprise—the scope of the Sugar Baby ambition. I thought it stopped at cocktails and Louboutins, but some hopefuls want a Daddy to provide seed money for a whole company. Both a branding specialist and Baby, panelist Christina Friscia built her business with the assistance of her Daddy. She told the assembly it’s important to see your Daddy as a partner, not a wallet, and that frequently, older successful men have more to share than cash, like experience and connections. In a way, that sounds much harder to find than someone with money.

Of course, the first thought that pops into your dirty mind is this: if many women are willing to trade sex for professional advancement, how’s a man to know whether or not the women who work for him, who have not signed up with Seeking Arrangements, will make the same deal? He doesn't. That's the problem. Too many women seem to think that they can exchange sexual favors for career advancement and then they cannot understand why men do not treat them as respectable professionals.

What does a Sugar Daddy offer? At the least, he offers respect. Apparently, modern men, especially those who are woke, have been taught that it is bad to respect women:

Sugar Daddies are at least recognizing that what they’re asking for has value. Women’s time has value. Looking good costs money, far more money for women than men. If you want a woman who looks good to you, help her the fuck out with that. And if you can’t afford it? Then you better be a damn good listener! I’m usually paying to dye my hair in a salon, using fancy skin cream, and waxing my legs to be smooth to the touch just to sit across from some guy who could as easily be talking to a sack of potatoes, given the amount of interest he has in my responses.

Lutkin seems slightly turned off by the prospect of becoming a Sugar Baby. Or else, she feels the need to tell the world that she’s not that kind of girl. And yet, she gets the appeal:

Still, it clearly works for some people. I respect the Sugar Babies who figure out how to use the effort they put into finding love to a secondary purpose, whether it’s paying for college applications, travel, a new handbag, starting a business, or just finding someone who can afford to show them more of the world than a split bill at a dive bar. As one Sugar Baby told me, “I’d never had oysters until a Sugar Daddy introduced me to them. Now I order oysters for myself all the time.”

That’s it: oysters all the time! You’ve come a long way, baby!

Ethnic Cleansing of Jews in France

Meanwhile, back in Paris, a group of 300 thought leaders have declared that French Jews are being ethnically cleansed by radical Islamists. By their lights, nation’s political elites have been largely complicit. 

To my knowledge the American press has ignored the story. We read the account from the Times of London (via Maggie’s Farm):

More than 300 political leaders, intellectuals and celebrities have signed a manifesto claiming that French Jews have fallen victim to a form of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by radical Islamists, amid the indifference of the country’s elite.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, Manuel Valls, the former prime minister, Charles Aznavour, the singer, and Gérard Depardieu, the actor, are among those who have thrown their weight behind the document.

It says that France has become “the theatre of murderous antisemitism” with 11 Jews having been “assassinated” because of their religion since 2006.

“French Jews are 25 times more at risk of being attacked than their Muslim counterparts,” it adds. “Ten per cent of the Jewish citizens of the Paris region . . . have recently been forced to move because they were no longer secure in certain council estates. This is a quiet ethnic cleansing.”

Note the fact, French Jews are 25 times more likely to be attacked than their Muslim counterparts. Presumably, that’s why elites are more concerned with Islamophobia than anti-Semitism.

The signatories claim that the French media has been silent and the French political establishment has merely paid lip service to the problem:

France has Europe’s biggest Jewish community, with more than 500,000 people, and the biggest Muslim population, with about eight million people. More than 3,300 Jews left France for Israel last year, more than from any other western country.

The signatories say that radical Islamists are being allowed to act without restriction by the political establishment in France, thanks in part to the “silence of the media”. In a denunciation reminiscent of the criticism facing Jeremy Corbyn in Britain, the manifesto claims that historical far-right French antisemitism has been joined by that “of a part of the radical left which has found in anti-Zionism an alibi for transforming the executioners of the Jews into the victims of society”.

Why is this happening? Simple, the Muslim population offers far more votes than the Jewish population. It’s the democracy, stupid:

Politicians have made the “lowly electoral calculation that the Muslim vote is ten times bigger than the Jewish vote”, they say.

The Case of Travis Reinking: Failing to Treat Mental Illness

The most depressing coda on Travis Reinking— the Waffle House shooter— comes to us from James Freeman of the Wall Street Journal. To Freeman, it was:

... another story involving years of red flags on mental health that did not result in necessary treatment. 

Ought we not to ask ourselves what our licensed credentialed mental health professionals are doing with their time? If something in the culture prevents them from doing a good job, we ought to know about it. At a time when psychiatry possesses a veritable pharmacopeia to treat mental illness, why did its practitioners fail to treat Travis Reinking?

Reinking’s history shows clear signs of mental illness. TheWall Street Journal reports:

Mr. Reinking had an extensive history of mental issues, according to law enforcement in Tennessee and the Illinois county where he lived before moving to the Nashville area.

Federal and local law-enforcement agents said Mr. Reinking was arrested near the White House grounds last July, after entering a restricted area in hopes of getting an appointment with the president and refusing to leave. He said that he was a “sovereign citizen” and had a right to inspect the grounds, court records show.

And also,

In May 2016, he was convinced that singer Taylor Swift was stalking him and hacking his phone, and that his family was in on it, according to reports from the sheriff’s office in Tazewell County, obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

His family informed officials that he’d been having such delusions since 2014, according to the reports. Ms. Swift’s publicist didn’t respond to a request for comment.

When sheriff’s deputies in Illinois tried to get him to a nearby hospital for evaluation, Mr. Reinking resisted until he was told that he didn’t have a choice.

A spokesman for the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department said it was unclear if he was diagnosed with a mental illness.

And there were the auditory hallucinations:

In August, Mr. Reinking approached the sheriff’s office, saying he believed 20 to 30 people were tapping his phone and that he was hearing people “outside his residence barking like dogs,” according to the report from August 2017.

It ought to have been enough. Apparently, it was not.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Happy Tenth Anniversary

I'm a bit belated, but I do want to celebrate the fact that this blog has just reached its tenth anniversary. Think of it… ten years of posts… some good, some bad, and some ugly. Some have even been readable. As for the number, I am approaching 6,000 posts.

To celebrate the occasion, I will repost my first post, a short philosophical disquisition about lying. It might not seem to be a blinding insight, but, take it for what it’s worth.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride, regardless of when you hopped on the train. I am deeply appreciative of those who have kept up with the blog and who have contributed to the lively discussions in the comments section.

Expressions of support, in the form of donations, are always welcome, even more so on this anniversary. Please use the Donate button tot he left of this post.

Here is my first post, reprinted verbatim, called: Why Lie?

I cannot guarantee that this story really happened. Call it apocryphal, if you like.

A student walks into a philosophy final exam and looks up at the blackboard to read the question he is going to answer. That question is: Why?

While he is considering his answer another student walks up to the professor, turns in his bluebook, and walks out of the room.

The professor opens it and instantly judges that the student should receive an A. The bluebook contains two words: Why not?

So, ask yourself this: Why not lie? This might help us to understand the recent incident where a much-admired politician got caught in a whopper of a lie.

Some people lie to gain an advantage. Some tell small lies to avoid offending friends and family. Others lie because they are afraid of the truth. Still others lie because they can get away with it.

Finally, there are people who lie because they are rewarded for it.

In that case, why not lie?

Imagine that you get caught in a lie. Some people are appalled, but others come forth to defend you. They say that it was only a minor distortion, that it was not relevant or germane, that you were in touch with a higher truth, and that those who denounce you have a darker purpose.

And besides, who is to say that lying is not therapeutic. Isn't a liar merely rewriting his or her life story. Isn't that what therapy is all about?

Of course, you might have to own up to your lies. If your supporters have been properly acculturated they will see this as a challenge to their capacity to offer unconditional love.

As you bask in the glow of this impassioned defense, you might say to yourself that lying is not so bad after all. Perhaps fiction is closer to the truth than mere facts. Besides, if lying has brought you fame, fortune, and power... why not lie?

Why not, indeed?

America's Opioid Crisis

No one will dispute that today’s opioid epidemic is a crisis. Yesterday, the New York Times published an extensive and thoughtful analysis of the situation and offered some prospective solutions. Strangely, perhaps, the article appeared as an editorial.

How bad is it? The Times presents the facts:

Today’s opioid crisis is already the deadliest drug epidemic in American history. Opioid overdoses killed more than 45,000 people in the 12 months that ended in September, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The epidemic is now responsible for nearly as many American deaths per year as AIDS was at the peak of that crisis.

Experts say that the death toll from opioids could climb for years to come. Millions of people are dependent on or addicted to these drugs, and many of them are increasingly turning to more potent, illicit supplies of heroin and fentanyl, which are cheap and readily available on the street and online. Yet only about 10 percent of Americans who suffer from substance abuse receive specialized addiction treatment, according to a report by the surgeon general.

The paper notes that we have been here before. In the late 19th century many Americans were addicted to morphine and opium. It adds that China suffered its own opium addiction crisis in the 19th century. And, it’s worth mentioning, the British fought a war in China to keep the nation addicted to opium from its colony in India. It was not the British Empire’s finest hour.

One of the more distressing truths of America’s opioid epidemic, which now kills tens of thousands of people every year, is that it isn’t the first such crisis. Across the 19th and 20th centuries, the United States, China and other countries saw drug abuse surge as opium and morphine were used widely as recreational drugs and medicine. In the West, doctors administered morphine liberally to their patients, while families used laudanum, an opium tincture, as a cure-all, including for pacifying colicky children. In China, many millions of people were hooked on smoking opium. In the mid-1800s, the British went into battle twice — bombing forts and killing thousands of civilians and soldiers alike — to keep the Chinese market open to drug imports in what would become known as the Opium Wars.

The Times continues:

As many as 313,000 people were addicted to injected morphine and smoked opium in the United States in the late 19th century, according to David Courtwright, a history professor at the University of North Florida who has written extensively about drugs. Another scholar, R. K. Newman, estimated that as many as 16.2 million Chinese were dependent on opium and smoked the drug daily.

We are not surprised to learn that the fault lies with our medical community, with the pharmaceutical manufacturers who have been pushing the drug, the physicians who have been prescribing it and the government bureaucrats who downplayed the risk:

In the 19th century, like today, the medical community was largely responsible for the epidemic. Doctors did not fully appreciate the risks these drugs posed. In the 1800s, many doctors viewed morphine as a wonder drug for pain, diarrhea, nerves and alcoholism. In addition to getting homemakers, Civil War veterans and others addicted, many doctors became addicts themselves. The drug was overused in large part because there were few alternatives; aspirin, for example, didn’t become available until the late 1890s.

It continues:

Today’s opioid crisis has its roots in the 1990s, when prescriptions for painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin started to become common. Companies like Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, aggressively peddled the idea that these drugs were not addictive with the help of dubious or misinterpreted research. One short 1980 letter to The New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Hershel Jick and Jane Porter said the risk of addiction was less than one percent, based on an analysis of nearly 12,000 hospital patients who were given opioid painkillers. That letter was widely — and incorrectly — cited as evidence that opioids were safe.

Surely, our government regulators should have known better. They might, as the Times notes, have been swayed by the pharmaceutical companies, but what is their job if not to evaluate the evidence… objectively. As for the physicians, they will say that they were following the guidelines laid down in scientific journals and accepted by government officials. But, couldn't they see the dangers in their own patients?

Federal regulators, doctors and others were swayed by pharmaceutical companies that argued for greater use of opioids; there was increasing awareness that doctors had become too unresponsive to patients who were in pain. Patient advocates and pain specialists demanded that the medical establishment recognize pain as the “fifth vital sign.”

Mr. Courtwright says that this was not a simple case of historical amnesia. In the earlier epidemic, doctors “made mistakes, but it was a bad situation to begin with,” he said. “There was no equivalent of Purdue Pharma flying you off to the Bahamas for the weekend to tell you about the wonders of these new drugs.”

As for what can be done, the Times emphasizes pharmacological solutions. On the lines of methadone clinics and greater availability of a drug called buprenorphine. Happily, it does not pretend that the addicts should all be in therapy. Congress and recent presidents have failed to act:

Leaders in both parties are responsible for this crisis. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and members of Congress did too little to stop it in its earlier stages. While Mr. Trump talks a lot about the problem, he seems to have few good ideas for what to do about it. As we’ve learned the hard way, without stronger leadership, the opioid epidemic will continue to wreak havoc across the country.

And also:

Lawmakers so far have fallen far short of such a vigorous effort when it comes to opioid addiction. Congress has taken what can be considered only baby steps by appropriating a total of a few billion dollars of discretionary opioid funding in recent years. This funding amounts to a pittance relative to what is needed: substantial long-term funding for prevention, addiction treatment, social services and research. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University, says at least $6 billion a year is needed for 10 years to set up a nationwide network of clinics and doctors to provide treatment with medicines like buprenorphine and methadone. Those drugs have a proven track record at reducing overdoses and giving people struggling with addiction a shot at a stable life. Today, large parts of the country have few or no clinics that offer medication-assisted treatment, according to an analysis by  amfAR, a foundation that funds AIDS research.

Apparently, the bureaucrats who signed off on addictive opioids are slow walking approval of buprenorphine. I will not offer a comment on matters I know nothing about, but I will signal that France has used the drug for more than two decades, reducing heroin overdoses:

Next, lawmakers need to remove regulations restricting access to buprenorphine, an opioid that can be used to get people off stronger drugs like heroin; its use is unlikely to end in an overdose. Doctors who want to prescribe the drug have to go through eight hours of training, and the government limits the number of patients they can treat. These limits have made the drug harder to obtain and created a situation in which it is easier to get the kinds of opioids that caused this crisis than to get medicine that can help addicts. France reduced heroin overdoses by nearly 80 percent by making buprenorphine easily available starting in 1995. Yet many American lawmakers and government officials have resisted removing restrictions on buprenorphine, arguing it replaces one addiction with another. 

As I said, I am not qualified to offer an opinion about pharmacological treatments of opioid addiction. I think that the Times has addressed the problem seriously, to its credit. At the least, it has offered some guidelines for addressing the problem. They are not the last word, but they ought to provoke a serious discussion of what we can do.

Is Marijuana a Dangerous Drug?

Is marijuana harmless? If you follow the opinions of the radical left and the libertarian right you would certainly think so.

Now comes to the news from Great Britain… more than 90% of those who are being treated for drug addiction are addicted to weed. Not just any old weed… a new, more potent version, called: skunk. Apparently, it is four times more powerful than regular weed.

The Daily Mail reports the news:

Cannabis is responsible for 91 per cent of cases where teenagers end up being treated for drug addiction, shocking new figures reveal.

Supporters of the drug claim it is harmless, but an official report now warns the ‘increased dominance of high-potency herbal cannabis’ – known as skunk – is causing more young people to seek treatment.

The revelation comes amid growing concerns that universities – and even some public schools – are awash with high-strength cannabis and other drugs.

Importantly, “skunk” damages developing adolescent brains.

The findings also back up academic research, revealed in The Mail on Sunday over the past three years, that skunk is having a serious detrimental impact on the mental health of the young. At least two studies have shown repeated use triples the risk of psychosis, with sufferers repeatedly experiencing delusional thoughts. Some victims end up taking their own lives.

The Daily Mail provides us with treatment statistics. Note that these numbers apply to adolescents who are under age 18:

  • Over the past decade, the number of under-18s treated for cannabis abuse in England has jumped 40 per cent – from 9,043 in 2006 to 12,712 in 2017;
  • Treatment for all narcotics has increased by 20 per cent – up from 11,618 to 13,961;
  • The proportion of juvenile drug treatment for cannabis use is up from four in five cases (78 per cent) to nine in ten (91 per cent);
  • There has been a ‘sharp increase’ in cocaine use among 15-year-olds, up 56 per cent from 16,700 in 2014 to 26,200 in 2016.
I trust that those who are reading this while high on weed will dismiss it all as a bunch of media-driven hysteria. And yet, how well do we know what weed does to the developing brain of an adolescent? And how can we prevent the more potent forms of the drug to make their way into children’s bodies… especially when their parents and adult authorities are telling them that smoking weed is harmless?

Are You Baizuo?

You might have missed the story. I certainly did. For those who want to know how the world sees us, or, more specifically, how the Chinese see us, we now know that they have invented a special term for “leftist elites.” That term is Baizuo, which means “white left.”

This is to say, the white people who have punished themselves by mortifying their white flesh… in order to overcome their white privilege and to assuage their white guilt. Just think, our leftist intelligentsia is filled with the right thoughts about the right moral issues. They have staked out a claim to the moral high ground. They believe that the rest of the world will soon follow their shining example. Imagine the shock when they discover that the rest of the world thinks they are a joke, worthy of nothing but ridicule.

The story comes to us from the Global Times, from last May:

Baizuo, a derogatory term in Mandarin that refers to the "leftist elites" in the West, has become increasingly popular among China's netizens, a phenomenon analysts ascribe to the public's resentment against what they perceive as the superiority complex of the Western liberal elites and their ideological agenda against China.

Apparently, Chinese internet users have been using the term for some time how:

Chinese netizens have long been using the term baizuo, literally meaning "white left" to ridicule the liberal elites in the West, but Fox News only picked up the topic on Tuesday after they read an article about it written by Zhang Chenchen, a PhD in political theory and science.

Baizuo refers to people who "only care about topics such as immigration, minorities, LGBT and the environment," who "have no sense of real problems in the real world," who only advocate for peace and equality to "satisfy their own feelings of moral superiority" and who are "obsessed with political correctness" that they "tolerate backward Islamic values for the sake of multiculturalism," reads Zhang's article published in on May 11.

The term baizuo is not limited to referring to the white liberal elites, as former US president Obama was considered as an advocate of baizuo ideology. According to Zhang, the Chinese public mentioned that baizuo first emerged to describe German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her decision to welcome more than 1 million third-world immigrants to Europe, which infringed upon Chinese people's right to stay in Europe. Other terms like "holy mothers" have also been invented to ridicule Western politicians who welcome Muslim immigrants and help Islamicize Europe.

We are happy to know that the first person to be mocked with this term was German Chancellor Merkel. Apparently, our enlightened liberal elites have become the object of ridicule in the Middle Kingdom. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

No Confidence in Sheriff Scott Israel

Remember Scott Israel? Remember the Broward County Sheriff, the man whose department bears the most responsibility for the Nikolas Cruz shooting spree in Stoneman Douglas High School? Remember the man whose deputies were called to the Cruz home dozens of time, who were told repeatedly that Cruz was a danger… and who did nothing? Remember the man whose deputy, assigned to the Parkland High School, ran away and ducked for cover as soon as the shooting started?

I suspect that you only have a vague memory of Sheriff Scott Israel. After all, you have learned from a motley band of high school students that the fault for the massacre lies with the NRA. And besides, Israel declared that he had done nothing wrong, and so did not need to resign his post.

Many of us have found Israel’s dereliction of moral responsibility to be disgraceful and deplorable. He has resisted all of them.

The sheriff has resisted calls from nearly 100 Florida lawmakers to resign, and he refused to participate in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the shooting in March.

Now, The Daily Caller reports, the Broward Deputies Association will have an opportunity to vote no-confidence in Scott Israel:

The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association has scheduled a no-confidence vote for Sheriff Scott Israel over his behavior during the lead-up to and aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, union president Deputy Jeff Bell announced Friday.

The union is accusing Israel of “many instances of suspected malfeasance, misfeasance, failure to maintain fiduciary responsibility by the sheriff, failure to properly investigate possible criminal conduct by members of his senior command staff and the lack of leadership that has crushed morale throughout the agency.”

The last point is worth underscoring. If Sheriff Israel is not at fault, if he did everything right, then the deputies must be at fault. When leaders resign they do so in order to preserve the morale of their troops.

Social Justice Bullies

We were happy to see that New York University had found a constructive way to shut down campus social justice bullies. Administrators called their parents and told them that if they continued to disrupt the school’s educational mission, they would be suspended and would lose their financial aid. End of protest.

And yet, NYU is the exception to the rule. George Leef explained in National Review (via Maggie’s Farm) that victimhood culture has infested universities because administrators are too weak to oppose it. And far too weak to shut it down. Does this have anything to do with the fact that these schools have all become effective or actual matriarchies?

Witness Reed College, previously a beacon of liberal arts education in Oregon, of all places. The school has just caved to the pressure administered by social justice bullies. The Wall Street Journal editorialized on the conflict over a Humanities course, called Humanities 101:

For more than 70 years the 1,500-student private liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon, has required every freshman to take a yearlong course covering the Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman canon (Humanities 110). Through these texts, students explore “issues of continuing relevance pertaining to ideals of truth, beauty, virtue, justice, happiness and freedom, as well as challenges posed by social inequality, war, power and prejudice,” according to the course description. 

The course introduces students to the major thinkers in Western civilization, from Aristotle and Plato to Western religious leaders. As it happened, all of these thinkers were white. Thus, the course made non-white students feel inadequate. The course had to be shut down.

So, like the Red Guards of yore, the social justice bullies invaded classrooms and held sit-ins, making it impossible for other students to learn anything:

But activists calling themselves Reedies Against Racism denounced the course as “oppressive” and “Caucasoid,” claiming too many of the writers were white men. You know, like that lame Aristotle dude. Last spring they demanded that their peers participate in sit-ins, and last fall the bullying grew worse.

This meant that:

Protesters shouted down lecturers, forcibly grabbed microphones, and shut down class. The faculty finally voted to prohibit protestors from attending the class, and the college had to issue no-contact orders to stop them from harassing staff.

When a Reed parent dared to criticize the tactics and methods of the social justice bullies, they attacked the parent's employer:

When a parent complained online about the disruptions, a Reedies Against Racism participant “tagged the parent’s employer in a post,” the Atlantic newssite reported. English professor Lucía Martínez Valdivia said protesters were so intimidating that she suffered “physical anxiety—lack of sleep, nausea, loss of appetite, inability to focus—in the weeks leading up to my lecture.”

You might believe that the university defended the course. Certainly, it did not threaten the student bullies with suspension. It is far too woke for either of those actions. Instead, it decided that it needed to change the reading list of Humanities 101:

Reed College now says it will scrap some of the traditional texts and focus half the course on Mexico City and Harlem. Reedies Against Racism still isn’t satisfied. In a statement on Facebook last week, the activists called for faculty to cut more “white” texts from the curriculum “as reparations for Humanities 110’s history of erasing the histories of people of color, especially black people.”

Give them an inch and they want to take a mile. It serves the Reed faculty and administrators right. They are paying a price for their weak-kneed lily-livered cowardice.

Just case you were wondering whether there is a hidden agenda here, I suspect that there is. I suspect that the social justice bullies who are spending their time militating are simply avoiding classroom work, especially challenging classroom work. Why are they avoiding the classroom work? Could it be because they are not smart enough to grasp the material? Could it be that classroom discussion exposes their ignorance? Could it be that when reading Plato or Aristotle they see how little they know? Undoubtedly they prefer cultural products that do not require so much hard work.

One suspects that these social justice bullies were admitted under diversity quotas and cannot compete with students who were not. I know you will find it hard to believe, but the thought naturally wafts through one’s consciousness.

The net effect is that Reed College is dumbing down its curriculum to allow students who were admitted for diversity to feel better about themselves. You see, it’s all about therapy. And about self-esteem. And about perpetuating the fiction that students who were admitted with vastly different qualifications are really all equal. And about perpetuating the other fiction, namely that all cultures are of equal value, that all thinkers are equally proficient, that all literary text are of equal merit. Why study Plato when you can mull over cartoons?

So, Reed College joins those schools who have caved in to pressure from social justice bullies and is turning its students into imbeciles. Politically correct imbeciles, if you like, but imbeciles no less. Obviously, the students who do not find the dumbed down curriculum challenging will bear an unstated resentment toward those students who are forcing them to waste their time.

But, it’s worse. A recent study suggests that dumbing down the curriculum makes students depressed. John Ellis reports on it for Pajamas Media:

… if students attend a college where the classes are less academically challenging than they're used to and where their peers are less academically focused than their high school classmates, the risk for depression rises substantially.

If a student’s high school courses were more difficult and if a student’s high school classmates were more intelligent, that student, upon entering a place like Reed College is more likely to get depressed. For not being challenged, for not learning anything, for feeling like they are wasting their time, students become depressed. Who knew?

No one emphasizes this angle, so it is worth noting. No one seems to care about what happens to the students who attended excellent high schools when they arrive at supposedly prestigious institutions of higher learning and discover that their minds are being left to stagnate, that they are not learning from the great minds of Western civilization but must waste their time pondering the half-truths of mediocre thinkers. And thus, end up dumber when they leave than when they arrived.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Marrying the Right Person

To continue the discussion from my prior post on Arranged Marriage I will report on a 2015 article from Psychology Today, authored by Utpal Dholakia. David Foster, of the Chicago Boyz blog, linked it in the comments section yesterday and it is well worth our attention.

Dholakia offers an astute and valuable analysis of how and why the custom of arranged marriage works in India. Evidently, the custom does not force young Indians to marry someone they do not want to marry. At the same time their parents do not just send them out on their own, with only their adolescent judgment to guide them. Parents participate actively in the selection process.

One must emphasize that the terms, arranged marriage and free choice marriage, are slight misnomers. In an Indian marriage, young people have a free choice among several options. They can choose one or even none. In what is called a free choice marriage, it’s more like a free-for-all. You can choose anyone you want from a myriad of possibilities.

In India parents take charge of the situation by choosing a small number of acceptable mates. It makes a certain amount of sense, since the new spouse will become part of a family. People do not see marriage in terms of coupling two individuals, but as an alliance between families:

For both men and women, the individual’s parents or older family members screen for and find prospective mates for further consideration through their social circle, community, or by advertising on matrimonial websites or newspapers. There is an initial meeting in a family gathering, after which the couple has a few opportunities for chaperoned courtship. At this point if neither party has vetoed the match and if they are so inclined, they may spend some time together alone. And then it is time to make the decision. It is not unusual for the process from initial introduction to the final yes/ no decision to unfold within a few days. A 2013 IPSOS survey found that 74% of young Indians (18-35 years old) prefer an arranged marriage over a free-choice one. Other sources report that as many as 90% of all Indian marriages are arranged.

It matters that most young people prefer to arranged marriage to free-choice marriage. And that the arranged marriages yield a very low divorce rate and a high level of satisfaction:
The first is that Indians have an astonishingly low divorce rate. Despite doubling in urban areas since 2007, only about 1 in 100 Indian marriages end in divorce. This is one of the lowest divorce rates in the world. Even more impressive is the second statistic, about the high levels of satisfaction reported by those in arranged marriages over the longer-term.

If this form of arranged marriage works, the question is why? Enquiring minds want to know.

Dholakia looks at the decision-making angle. I addressed the same issue, but in slightly different terms. He writes:
From a decision making perspective, choosing a marriage partner through arrangement has at least two major advantages. The first is that people that one respects and trusts, AKA parents or elders prescreen the available options, leaving a small and manageable choice set.

The couple is not flying blind. They do not have to spend untold months trying to judge each other’s character. Moreover, as I mentioned, decision making is easier when each person has fewer options.

Dholakia continues:

But for most people, it is difficult to figure out when to stop searching and just as hard not to begin again once they have settled for chosen a partner.

And also, people who have too many options tend to overthink the issue:

Another negative consequence of thinking too hard about different options is that people get attached to them so that choosing one option produces regret at having lost out on others (what psychologists call as the “choosing feels like losing” effect). Nowhere is this truer than in dating and marriage decisions where potential partners may have different attractive qualities, and none may have all the qualities one is looking for.

Whereas parents choose prospective mates according to objective criteria, young people operating according to a free choice system tend to emphasize more subjective criteria, like looks, attractiveness and feeling:

In free-choice marriage decisions, one of the hardest challenges is finding a good set of options to choose from. From those interested in marriage, complaints about how hard it is to find a good man or a good woman are commonplace. Just as problematic, when left to their own devices, people tend to use prescreening criteria that emphasize outward appearances (looks, possessions, etc.). These are short-term oriented but may not necessarily contribute to longer-term marital outcomes. For instance, social psychologists have found impressive evidence for “attractiveness matching” in which daters give heavy weight to physical attractiveness of potential partners, and favor those whose attractiveness is comparable to their own.

Evidently, but not to evident not to mention, when parents choose the dating pool, their children are meeting prospective mates with whom they have the most in common. This might tamp down passionate intensity, but it is a better predictor of marital durability:

What is more, they share many characteristics such as social class, religion, caste (yes, even today, for Hindus), and educational attainment that signal similarity and may be important predictors of longer-term marriage success. The vetting process also limits the choice set size and puts a grinding halt to further search once a choice is made. Making others you trust do all the hard work in the choice process pays off.

As it happens, young people who are meeting prospects chosen by their parents do not really go out on dates. They do not engage in a courtship ritual. They spend time together, first chaperoned, next on their own, to see whether they find each other suitable and presumably, sufficiently attractive. So much of the process has been taken care of already, that very little remains:

In an arranged marriage, the speed with which one must decide whether or not to marry the person they have been introduced to doesn’t leave much time for careful thinking or comparisons. Instead, it encourages going with one’s gut feelings about the partner, which in turn may leads to more satisfying outcomes. In free choice marriages, on the other hand, the long and elaborate dating process provides lots of time and opportunity to judge potential partners critically and deliberately, and long for the ones that got away.

I would be more careful about saying that the young people are following gut feelings. Just because you have only spent a few days getting to know a person, does not mean that your judgment is gut-level. Allow me also to mention that these young people are not engaging in very much pre-marital sex. Since our current culture tells young people that they must have premarital sex, to see if they are sexually compatible, the point deserves emphasis. Dholakia does not mention it, but it is worth noting.

 By and large, a couple entering an arranged marriage simply doesn’t know each other that well compared to those beginning free-choice marriages. (The only exception is a free-choice marriage to a stranger during a Las Vegas trip.) Consequently, the expectations from each other at the relationship’s outset will be lower. This is because in-depth knowledge is crucial to forming accurate expectations, and more knowledge produces higher expectations.  In Indian arranged marriages, in particular, many people give greater weight to compatibility and financial security over romantic love, further contributing to restrained expectations. 

Finally, Dholakia explains that couples who have chosen mates selected by their parents have lower expectations from marriage and are less likely to be disappointed. They are also less likely to see marriage as a long term love affair, and more likely to understand it as a cooperative enterprise:

As research on satisfaction judgments shows, when expectations are low, they are more likely to be met or exceeded, leaving the newly-wed highly satisfied. In a free-choice marriage, in contrast, high expectations often develop during an elaborate dating period, with the culture placing great weight on the romantic love ideal. This sets people up for a let-down after the honeymoon period is over.