Saturday, July 22, 2017

Why So Few Female CEOs?

This weekend’s big read long form story is a New York Times article about why there aren’t more women CEOs. Written by Susan Chira it complains and complains and complains about the injustice of it all.

Chira has mostly interviewed women who have not quite made it to the top and this opens her to the suggestion that her subjects are simply sore losers. On the other hand, being number two or being an important executive in a corporation is a significant achievement. Why diminish it by complaining about not having risen higher?

In itself, the complaints might be the reason why more women aren’t CEOs. They might be so conscious of the obstacles to their advancement that they are less focused on the task at hand. Thank you, Sheryl Sandberg, for teaching women how to fight against injustice. But, however successful Sandberg is, being a fighter against injustice will not look good on your résumé.

There are a few bottom line points we can make here, in no particular order.

First, nothing about anyone’s corporate charter says that company performance is judged by how many women in has in which positions. We do not know what happens in a company when there are more or fewer women in which positions. If the government imposes gender equity requirements, this might persuade the non-women on the team that the women who succeeded did not earn their way. Thus, gender diversity quotas can breed resentment and make cooperation more difficult.

Second, if having a woman executive improves profitability, then the marketplace will naturally produce more female executives. Chira and her sources suggest over and over again that women leaders are better than men. This might be true. But it might not be true. Since Chira’s sources were women who were passed over for promotion, they might have cherry- picked the facts that make their grievances look more just.

Third, the article largely ignores the cost of motherhood. It barely hints at the fact that when women become mothers they often choose to spend more time with their children and less time on the job. You might think that it’s inconsequential. The chances are that it isn’t. If you take Anne-Marie Slaughter’s experience seriously, it is extremely difficult to be a good mother and to work your way up a status hierarchy. Given the choice, most women will choose as Slaughter did and opt for their children.

Fourth, most women simply do not want to advance up the corporate hierarchy. One recalls the basic Darwinian principle, namely that a more powerful man becomes more attractive to women while a more powerful woman becomes less attractive to men. Most women know this and choose their careers accordingly. It is not sexist. It is rational. Of course, the rule has exceptions, but for the most part it seems clearly to be true. Chira mentions one woman who said that in order to stay on the CEO path she would have had to uproot and take a job abroad. When the opportunity arose she turned it down… perhaps for reasons that had to do with family. This was her choice. We should respect it for as much. It must have contributed to her failure to become CEO.

Fifth, the article scrupulously ignores the possibility that men and women are differently constructed, both in terms of physical strength and in terms of the mental ability to respond effectively to stress. Chira ignores the facts, but this blog has not. Links here and here. Chira suggests that our culture does not teach women to be assertive and to lean in. But theynshe suggests that when women become assertive they provoke negative and even hostile reactions. It might be that men are sexist, but it also might be that when you are physically weaker your assertion of strength will be seen as a bluff. And it will also be seen, not as a gesture of self-assertion, but as a gesture of hostility.  Chira also suggests that women are less competitive, but, for all she or anyone else knows, this too is part of a woman’s DNA. When women are more competitive they are less likely to survive in a world inhabited by men who are constitutionally stronger. This does not mean that some few women might have the competitiveness gene, but it means that such women will be the exception, not the rule.

Sixth, the constant discussion over sexual harassment has made it that men are often wary of taking meetings alone with women or of traveling alone on business with them. When women become a threat to their male mentors, this does not enhance their career opportunities.

Seventh, Chira notes clearly that the higher executive ranks are mostly a male domain, even a male locker room. The presence of women upsets the dynamic and the male bonding. You may think that this is trivial, but if you have never engaged in it, how do you know? It means that men who behave and speak in a certain way when women are not present will be obliged to change the way they function when women are present. One suspects that when women are in the company of other women they do not talk about men as they would if there were males present. Moreover, now that the night riders of the thought police have descended on the culture what man would risk his livelihood on the chance that he might, in the presence of a woman, say something that is sexist, or, God forbid, inappropriate? Feminists cheer when a powerful man is brought low by charges of sexual harassment or sexism, but, even assuming that it is a just result, the people who will pay for this might very well be other women—who will no longer be included in meetings or trips.

Eighth, Chira and her interviewees completely ignore the emulation factor. Leaders do not just lead by drawing up plans and by motivating their teams. They set an example; they lead by example. Every study of executive leadership makes this point, over and over again.  If a manager sets an example of good conduct, company loyalty and office decorum, his staff will, almost unconsciously, follow his lead. He will not have to tell them. Showing will suffice. This works because all people want to improve themselves; they want to better themselves. They do so by emulating their betters, because they want ultimately to be like their betters.

How many young men do you know who want to grow up to become like Hillary Clinton? By the way, how many women do you know who would like to be just like Hillary?

Case closed.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Hating Free Speech

The alt-left has long been at war against free speech. It wants to shut down Fox News and any other media outlets, even bloggers whose opinions it deems offensive. People who were proclaiming themselves to be champions of facts have long since been trying to monopolize the marketplace of ideas. They insist that differing opinions, disagreements, even offensive remarks must be banned, their speakers consigned to oblivion.

Before examining the debate incited by Professor Lisa Feldman Barrett through a New York Times article, it is worth underscoring that the only speech that Barrett and the alt-left legions want to suppress comes from the right. In particular, they seem to be horrified at the negative effects produced by professional provocateur and best-selling author Milo Yiannopoulos.

If you hold to the politically correct dogmas of the alt-left, if you are a leftist extremist fawning over Hugo Chavez, bowing down to the image of Chairman Mao, honoring convicted murderers like Joanne Chesimard and Rasmea Odeh you can say anything you damn well please. The armies of the alt-left will defend you to the death. 

But if you are a gay Jewish British conservative like Milo your speech must be suppressed, lest it stress out thin-skinned students and hurt their delicate feelings. Barrett argues, with a special lack of cogency, that any speech that hurts your feelings and that detracts from your mental health is an act of violence. And what does she feel about the “evil eye?” Should we outlaw envious looks too.

Before proceeding into the tall grass of Barrett’s defective reasoning, we should note the salient philosophical issue. The alt left does not believe in reality. It believes in uniform opinion, in one mindedness, closed to all ideas that might undermine the faith of those who believe what they have been told to believe, without regard for fact or evidence.

The error is almost too easy to understand. If we see a cat lying on a mat we will all agree that the cat is on the mat. Faced with an objective reality we agree to its truth. And we all say that the cat is on the mat.

And yet, is the fact a fact because we all believe it? Does belief make the fact a fact? (See the current mania over transgenderism, here.) I don’t think so. Thus, the error in alt left thinking consists in imagining that if we can all agree and say that a rat is on the mat, this becomes the truth, even if the rat is nowhere to be seen-- because the cat just ate the rat. 

You might consider the statement that the rat is on the mat to be a higher truth, a truth referring to a world produced  by your wishes—where dreams come true. But, to imagine that if we can convince everyone to accept as a fact that the rat is on the mat then the rat will be on the mat… is a fundamental error.

It’s like saying that everyone agrees and says that Shakespeare was a great writer. But then, you add that what makes Shakespeare great is that everyone agrees he was great. If the world did not think that Hamlet was great play it would not be a great play. Thus, those who would want to control your mind explain that if we can somehow convince everyone, from the media to the academy, that your neighbor down the street, a hack poetaster if ever there was one, is a great writer, then, presto, your neighbor becomes a great writer.

To produce this new reality and to effect this magical transformation you will need to ban all speech that speaks ill of your neighbor's literary talents, because otherwise your neighbor and anyone who accepts the belief as truth will be seriously traumatized. After all, if you have bought into a series of lies, if you have based your life on them, you certainly do not want to hear anyone tell you that you are wrong. Between changing your mind and shutting down the discordant speech, you will choose the latter. If you are hearing echoes of the Hans Christian Anderson story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” you have gotten the point.

Meanwhile, back with Professor Barrett’s efforts to undermine the First amendment, Jesse Singal  summarizes her position in New York Magazine:

Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, explains that “scientifically speaking,” the idea that physical violence is more harmful than emotional violence is an oversimplification. “Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sickalter your brain — even kill neurons— and shorten your life.” Chronic stress can also shrink your telomeres, she writes — “little packets of genetic material that sit on the ends of your chromosomes” — bringing you closer to death.
Singal offers up a few words from Barrett’s op-ed:

The scientific findings I described above provide empirical guidance for which kinds of controversial speech should and shouldn’t be acceptable on campus and in civil society. In short, the answer depends on whether the speech is abusive or merely offensive.

Offensiveness is not bad for your body and brain. Your nervous system evolved to withstand periodic bouts of stress, such as fleeing from a tiger, taking a punch or encountering an odious idea in a university lecture.

Barrett bemoans the fact the being subjected to so much stress is bad for your nervous system. One might say that the nightly news causes an equal or greater degree of stress, but the alt left will then decide that it needs to start policing the nightly news… the better to shut down all conservative ideas.

Barrett continues:

What’s bad for your nervous system, in contrast, are long stretches of simmering stress. If you spend a lot of time in a harsh environment worrying about your safety, that’s the kind of stress that brings on illness and remodels your brain. That’s also true of a political climate in which groups of people endlessly hurl hateful words at one another, and of rampant bullying in school or on social media. A culture of constant, casual brutality is toxic to the body, and we suffer for it.

That’s why it’s reasonable, scientifically speaking, not to allow a provocateur and hatemonger like Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at your school. He is part of something noxious, a campaign of abuse. There is nothing to be gained from debating him, for debate is not what he is offering.

Since no one seems to notice this, but these arguments always assume that people who do not toe the academic party line are hatemongers. One way that the alt left has tried to suppress inconvenient speech is to call it hate speech. But this has been going on for quite some time now.

Happily, Singal refutes Barrett’s ideas clearly and cogently. To his mind she has confused the chronic stress suffered by people who grow up poor with the stress experienced by a college student who has been subjected to microaggressions, that is, to remarks that might be interpreted negatively. As you know, the alt left wants to explain the academic underperformance of certain groups by the fact that other students look at them cross-eyed. Its blame shifting and a rationalization for failure.

Singal writes:

Setting aside the fact that no one will ever be able to agree on what’s “abusive” versus what’s “merely offensive,” the articles Barrett links to are mostly about chronic stress — the stress elicited by, for example, spending one’s childhood in an impoverished environment of serious neglect and violence. Growing up in a dangerous neighborhood with a poor single mother who has to work so much she doesn’t have time to nurture you is not the same as being a college student at a campus where Yiannopoulos is coming to speak, and where you are free to ignore him or to protest his presence there. One situation involves a level of chronic stress that is inflicted on you against your will and which really could harm you in the long run; the other doesn’t. 

Perhaps, more importantly, research shows that you can sensitize people to react badly to certain kinds of speech. If you tell students that their college careers are being sabotaged by Milo, no matter what he says, they will feel that his words are traumatizing them.

Singal continues:

It’s also worth pointing out that this sort of scaremongering — Milo is coming and he is shrinking your telomeres! — could become a self-fulfilling prophecy for some students. There’s an intriguing area of behavioral science known as mind-set research, and one of its tenets is that the relationship between stress and humans’ response to it is partially mediated by how people expect stress to affect them.

And also,

Now, it would be just as much of a stretch to say that a single column like Barrett’s could cause students to self-traumatize as it would be to say that an upcoming Yiannopoulos appearance could traumatize them. But in the aggregate, if you tell students over and over and over that certain variants of free speech — variants which are ugly, but which are aired every moment of every day on talk radio — are traumatizing them, it really could do harm. And there’s no reason to go down this road, because there’s no evidence that the mere presence of a conservative speaker on campus is harming students in some deep psychological or physiological way (with the exception of outlying cases involving preexisting mental-health problems). This is a silly idea that should be retired from the conversation about free speech on campus.

Kudos to Jesse Singal for a cogent and lucid take down of a pseudoscientific argument designed to take away your free speech.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Shunned and Confused

The letter writer who calls herself “Confused” is so confused that she has written to Ask Polly. It will be like the blind leading the blind. Or better, like the blind leading the blinder.

Confused has a problem. She has, of late, become somewhat estranged from a group of women she counts as her closest friends. She explains it in terms of social media slights, but apparently, for the millennial generation those count as real life social interactions. You will understand that people who communicate through Facebook and Snapchat and Whatever are not in very close contact with each other. Such is life. The compensation is that slights are more easily quantified. If all the girls are responding to each other and not to you, you have an objective factual record. So, no one can say that Confused is just making this up.

With regret that, as often happens in these letters, Confused does not provide us with nearly enough information to make a judgment, we can still suss out the problem.

Confused writes:

I feel like while everyone is kind to each other in the group and celebrates their successes and lives, I am overlooked and even ignored, often. It sounds petty, but if I post anything on Facebook, a couple of the girls often don’t “like” it, even though they meticulously like each other’s things. They haven’t even added my boyfriend, who I’ve been with for two years and who they have met several times. He’s a very kind and likable person, by the way, so there’s no reason for them not to have added him.

I  don’t know if it’s as simple as jealousy (I am pretty successful in my career as a scientist) or whether I’m just not a very likable person. I try to be nice, and never disagree with or criticize them….

I always feel like they’re being saccharine sweet to each other and then when I write anything no one replies. And when we meet up in person, one of the girls in particular really gives off a strange vibe toward me and stares at me sometimes in an unsettling way.

I don’t think you have to go too far out on a limb to see that the problem is the kind and gentle boyfriend. These women are trying to tell Confused something. They are screaming about it, in a muted way. From the information available I do not think that they are jealous because she is a scientist. I think they are trying to tell her that her boyfriend is unacceptable.

If they all hang out together all the time and if they have only met said boyfriend a few times in two years… it’s a sign. I have no idea whether he is kind and likable or even whether Confused herself is sufficiently likable, but, truth be told, people are included or excluded from social groups for reasons that go far beyond being kind and likable.

I find it interesting and even encouraging that the group of friends has not intervened directly, has not told her to her face. If the boyfriend is the problem they do better not to tell her directly. But, they are telling her, in a subtle way, that they want to remain friends with her but do not want him to be part of their crowd.

They may be right. They may be wrong. But, Confused is facing a stark choice.

One also notes that Confused was spurred on to write because one of the group is getting married. We wish her the best. But, Confused does not say whether she is a bridesmaid. One assumes that she is bringing her boyfriend as her date, and perhaps her friends fear that she will marry him, and that this will cause them to lose her forever.

Naturally, Polly misses the point. Completely. But then again, if she were capable of getting the point she would not be going on at excruciating length about feeling her own feelings.

In truth, Polly wants this woman to feel better. Don’t we all? But, she tells her to be blind and deaf to the message that her friends are sending her. Polly says that even though Confused is being shunned by her sometime friends, it isn’t about her. Call this the consolation prize. Call it the booby prize, if you prefer. It might make Confused feel better, but it is a lie.

Polly writes:

The point is, it’s not personal. These are your old friends, yes, but maybe it would soothe you to recognize that they don’t match you the same way they match each other. They’re not rejecting you, they’re just being who they are. When they act the way they act, it’s not a verdict on who you are.

It might be that Confused needs to make some new friends. And yet, she ought not to be encouraged to blind herself to the message her friends are sending her. It might be that the friends are wrong and that her boyfriend is a prince among men. It might also be that the friends are right and that the boyfriend is a toad. From the information available we cannot reasonably answer the question. But, Confused should not be told to think that this is not about her.

Netanyahu Unbound

What some political leaders say off the record is far more constructive than what other leaders say on the record in interviews with hostile news outlets.

Just saying.

Anyway, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is on a diplomatic foray into Eastern Europe. Being in the presence of leaders who understand the state of Europe, he spoke freely on an open mic.

He began by denouncing the decadent cowards who are running Western European nations. Ostensibly, he referred to the European policy toward Israel—or better its support for Palestinian terrorism—but he could have been referring to Europe’s self-destructive willingness to welcome more Muslim refugees.

Netanyahu said:

I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive or if it wants to shrivel and disappear…. I am not very politically correct. I know that’s a shock to some of you. It’s a joke. But the truth is the truth — both about Europe’s security and Europe’s economic future. Both of these concerns mandate a different policy towards Israel.

Shrivel and disappear—a nice touch that.

As for the EU policy toward Israel, Netanyahu declared that the EU was the only political entity that made its policy contingent on the Palestinian issue, thus, on politics.

The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel, that produces technology in every area, on political conditions. The only ones! Nobody does it.

Only the EU, we might say, is so cowardly that it feels a need to appease terrorism.

Other major nations construct their policies on more rational grounds.

The Times of Israel reports on the Netanyahu observation:

China, Russia and India all have special relationships with Israel that aren’t contingent on progress in the peace process, Netanyahu said. “They don’t care about the political issue.” He cited conversations with the leaders of those countries in which they said they were interested in what Israel had to offer them and disregarded the lingering issue of the Palestinians.

“We have a special relationship with China. And they don’t care, they don’t care about the political issues,” he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his recent visit to Israel, told Netanyahu he needs water for his people. “Where will I get it. Ramallah? No,” Netanyahu said, also noting that Israeli cows produce more milk than any other cows in the world — double the European average.

“If I can suggest that what comes out of this meeting is your ability, perhaps, to communicate to your colleagues in other parts of Europe: Help Europe… Don’t undermine the one Western country that defends European values and European interests and prevents another mass migration to Europe.”

Imagine that... India and China do not care about defending the Palestinian cause. They are not lining up to support and fund terrorism. They want to do business. They want to acquire advanced technology. For that they will not be travelling to Ramallah. Duh!

And, of course, Israel represents what used to be called Western values. One wonders whether such is still the case.

“There’s an anomaly. I don’t hide it. We’re often criticized by Western Europe, often more than any other place in the world,” he continued. The Jewish state is the one democracy in the Middle East, a “beacon of tolerance” and a “bastion of European and Western values in the heart of a very, very dark area,” he said.

Even many Arab countries understand that Israel serves their interests, he added. “So it’s time to have a reassessment in Europe about their relations with Israel. We have much to offer each other. We have much to offer in the realm of security, much to offer in the realm of technology.”

Earlier, during the closed meeting, Netanyahu also expressed clear backing for the so-called Visegrad Group’s support of border fences to guard Europe from another wave of refugees from the Middle East.

Netanyahu supports the border fence being built in Eastern Europe. And he notes that even Arab countries are turning toward an alliance with Israel. As we have often reported the prime minister has enjoyed many great diplomatic successes. To overlook them or to diminish them because Israel has not capitulated to Palestinian terrorism is more than short-sighted. It is deranged.

On his contentious relationship with the notably anti-Israeli Barack Obama, Netanyahu said this:

On the geopolitical situation in the Middle East, Netanyahu said Israel “had a big problem” with the Obama administration in Washington and its too-hesitant policies vis-a-vis Iran and Syria, and was more pleased with its predecessor [sic].

“I think it’s different now. Vis-a-vis Iran, there is a stronger position,” he said. The US is conducting more bombing attacks in Syria, which is “a positive thing. I think we’re OK on ISIS. We’re not OK on Iran.”

The Times of Israel should have known the difference between predecessor and successor.

Obviously, Israel does not want to see Iranian troops on its northern border. The prime minister explained it to Russian president Putin and the two apparently reached an understanding.

Israel build a border fence on the Golan Heights because the Islamic State and Iran via its proxies have and are still trying to set “a terror front” against Israel there, Netanyahu went on.

“Frankly, I told [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, when we see them doing this, we take military action against them. We’ve been doing this dozens and dozens of times, and we’ve not clashed with Russia.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dershowitz on Corruption

I have reported on the Democratic lust to prosecute Trump, to overturn the election in the name of democracy. And I have noted that, on this matter,  Prof. Alan Dershowitz has been the voice of reason. Since Dershowitz is a life-long liberal Democrat, but also a man of integrity, we pay special attention to his views. More so when they defy the party line about Trump.

Writing for the Hill, (via Zero Hedge), Dershowitz argues against the notion that President Trump should be prosecuted for corruption:

My critics have argued for an extraordinarily broad definition of corruption capable of being expanded to fit nearly everything Trump has done — from firing FBI Director James Comey, to asking him to consider dropping the investigation of General Michael Flynn, to his son’s meeting with Russian surrogates.

Dershowitz is taking on the New York Times. It recently editorialized about Trumpian corruption:

This is the way the New York Times put it in its story about the court’s narrowing the meaning of corruption in the context of federal criminal law: “There was a time when political corruption might have been described — as a former Supreme Court justice once said of pornography — as something you knew when you saw it." In other words, it was in the eye of the beholder rather than in a precise statutory definition.

As for the law, the professor notes that the Supreme Court has addressed the question of corruption:

It ruled that not all political actions that smell or look like corruption can be prosecuted criminally without Congress specifically making such conduct criminal by precisely worded legislation.

As it happens, Dershowitz continued, civil libertarians were happy with the court’s definition. It prevents overzealous prosecutors from attacking their political enemies on dubious or even made-up grounds. In other terms, it protects democracy.

Now many of these same civil libertarians, liberals and even defense attorneys have forgotten how dangerous those bad old days were, and are demanding that President Trump and his family members should be prosecuted for corruption under the most expansive definition of corruption, despite recent court rulings narrowing that open-ended term.

“Just this one time, please. Just let us get Trump.” That is what the fair-weather liberals, civil libertarians, and criminal defense lawyers seem to be saying. “Then, we will return to our principles.”

But, the counselor replies, the law does not work on the “just this one time” exception:

There are no exceptions — no “just this one time.” The law operates on precedent. Today’s exception may become tomorrow’s rule. And even if it doesn’t, it creates a precedent for more exceptions, which may be applied to our side of the political aisle, as Republicans tried to do with Hillary Clinton.

Those who find the law too narrow in its scope, Dershowitz continued, need but craft legislation that changes said scope. That would solve  the problem democratically.

Germany Infected

Meanwhile, back in Angela Merkel’s Germany, the flood of new refugees has not just brought with it a crime wave. Some of the refugees have also brought infectious diseases with them.

Soeren Kern of the Gatestone Institute has the story:

A failed asylum seeker from Yemen who was given sanctuary at a church in northern Germany to prevent him from being deported has potentially infected more than 50 German children with a highly contagious strain of tuberculosis.

The man, who was sheltered at a church in Bünsdorf between January and May 2017, was in frequent contact with the children, some as young as three, who were attending a day care center at the facility. He was admitted to a hospital in Rendsburg in June and subsequently diagnosed with tuberculosis — a disease which only recently has reentered the German consciousness.

Kern’s information comes from a report prepared by the Robert Koch Institute, the German government’s version of our CDC. For the record, I underscore that the Koch Institute has nothing to do with the Koch brothers or Coca Cola or cocaine.

The RDI tells a gruesome story:

The report shows increased incidences in Germany of adenoviral conjunctivitis, botulism, chicken pox, cholera, cryptosporidiosis, dengue fever, echinococcosis, enterohemorrhagic E. coli, giardiasis, haemophilus influenza, Hantavirus, hepatitis, hemorrhagic fever, HIV/AIDS, leprosy, louse-borne relapsing fever, malaria, measles, meningococcal disease, meningoencephalitis, mumps, paratyphoid, rubella, shigellosis, syphilis, toxoplasmosis, trichinellosis, tuberculosis, tularemia, typhus and whooping cough.

Most of these diseases have been contained. Yet, the statistics are grim. Kern reports:

The incidence of Hepatitis B, for example, has increased by 300% during the last three years, according to the RKI. The number of reported cases in Germany was 3,006 in 2016, up from 755 cases in 2014. Most of the cases are said to involve unvaccinated migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The incidence of measles in Germany jumped by more than 450% between 2014 and 2015, while the number of cases of chicken pox, meningitis, mumps, rubella and whooping cough were also up. Migrants also accounted for at least 40% of the new cases of HIV/AIDS identified in Germany since 2015, according to a separate RKI report.

The RKI statistics may be just the tip of the iceberg. The number of reported cases of tuberculosis, for example, was 5,915 in 2016, up from 4,488 cases in 2014, an increase of more than 30% during that period. Some doctors, however, believe that the actual number of cases of tuberculosis is far higher and have accused the RKI of downplaying the threat in an effort to avoid fueling anti-immigration sentiments.

Apparently, the German press has been reporting about the problem. Kern collected a set of headlines:


Finally, the refugees have brought with them many diseases that had been eradicated in Germany. Among them: Louse-borne relapsing fever; Lassa fever; Dengue fever; Malaria; Echinococcosis, a tapeworm infection; diphtheria; scabies.

Not to be too repetitive, but this all shows that we in the rest of the Western world need more leaders like Angela Merkel. Right?

Debauching the Morals of a Minor

It could have been a felony. The sentencing judge regretted that he could not give 27-year-old schoolteacher Emily Lofing more jail time, but, she had had the good sense to have sex with the boy on his sixteenth birthday.

Since sixteen is the age of consent in Nebraska, Lofing could not be found guilty of the felony. Thus, the judge sentenced her to 90 days in jail for the misdemeanor offense debauching and depraving the morals of a minor.”

The court records note:

On or between the 7th day of July, 2016, and the 15th day of July, 2016, (Lofing) debauched or depraved the morals of (the student)… a boy under the age of seventeen years by arranging or aiding or assisting in arranging any meeting between the boy… for the purpose of sexual penetration'.

Apparently, if the boy had been seventeen it would all have been fine. Except perhaps with Lofing’s husband.

It looks like our sexist misogynist Puritanical culture has found yet another way to repress female sexuality.

Emily Lofing

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Summer of Our Discontent

Now is the summer of our discontent, made more infernal by the son of Cuomo.

Such is life in New York this summer, as the subway system continues to malfunction and as Penn Station, a major transportation hub is falling apart.

Were you to read the press you would come away with the impression that it’s all an act of God, that it had nothing to do with human error or even human malfeasance.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page examined the problem and discovered, lo and behold, that the fault lay with politicians and bureaucrats, labor unions and lawyers.

Who knew?

The Journal describes the breakdown of a goodly part of New York’s public transportation system:

Hundreds of trains that run through New York City will be delayed or diverted this summer so Amtrak can make long overdue track repairs at Penn Station, the busiest rail hub in North America. Derailments are now common, and New York’s subways are also breaking down. The mess is a mere portent of the misery that commuters will experience when the 107-year-old tunnel under the Hudson River, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, undergoes repairs.

How did we get to this point? The Journal explains:

The answer is that modern progressives prefer doling out transfer payments to voters and public workers rather than make long-term investments in subway cars, tunnels and bridges. And even when they do build something, they pile on the costs to pay off their other political constituencies.

Why repair the system when you can buy votes by funneling money to the workers and their union bosses.

Anyway, the Journal continues to show the influence of environmentalists and lawyers in working out the Hudson tunnel retrofit:

Take the Hudson tunnel retrofit, which the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) draft environmental impact statement last week pegged at $13 billion, up from $7.7 billion from just last year. Cost drivers include measures to minimize traffic delays, but also defensive contracting to avoid lawsuits. The FRA proposes blocking ugly views of construction with barricades and fencing that are “clad with aesthetically attractive or artistically enhanced fabric.” Marsh-pennywort plants in the Meadowlands would be transplanted to protected areas.

To be clear, for those who want to know where the money is going, the answer resides in increased labor costs:

Since 2005 the MTA’s labor costs—which account for 60% of expenses—have swelled by 80%. Pension and health costs have doubled. In January the agency bumped pay by an additional 5% over the next two years, threw in a $500 bonus and agreed to hire 100 workers to remodel worker facilities.

It makes you long for the joys of the Paris Metro. That city might be a socialist paradise, but at least the subways run, cleanly and efficiently. If Paris is a socialist city, what does that say about New York. No wonder Donald Trump wanted to get out of town.

In New York, no one cares about fixing the system:

With all the money that government spends on labor and marsh-pennyworts, it’s no surprise that capital investment has been neglected. The MTA’s rolling stock hasn’t been replaced for 20 to 30 years since Mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani prioritized service improvements. The MTA still uses block signals from the 1930s, which explains why so many are malfunctioning and causing delays. While the current capital plan allocates $2.8 billion to modernize the signal system, the upgrade won’t be finished for half a century.

Think about that, fifty years to modernize the signal system. That's what happens when we put politicians and bureaucrats in charge:

Progressives say we don’t spend enough on public works, but dedicated taxes for New York’s MTA have doubled over the last decade. Washington is spending 35% more on public transit than a decade ago. Don’t forget the $11 billion that the Northeast got from Hurricane Sandy relief for transportation, which should have covered the cost for signal repairs. But politicians instead prioritized spending $15.9 billion for “community development” and billions more in pork. As taxes rise most of the money goes to buying votes rather than upgrades that will be finished on some other politician’s watch.

One thing we know for certain. The fault does not lie with the Tea Party. If it did, you would be hearing no end of recriminations against right wing extremists and how they are destroying our cities. And Andrew Cuomo has dreams of running for president.

Have a nice day!

[Addendum: I should have put this link in the body of the text, so with a mea culpa, here's a story from the Daily News on yesterday's subway disaster, burning trash that shut down large parts of the system: Link here. How do you spell-- third world?]

DJT or JFK, Part Two

Two days ago I posted a screen capture of an excerpt from a Niall Ferguson column comparing John Kennedy with Donald Trump. Today I will happily provide some further excerpts from the column, reprinted in the Boston Globe.

Ferguson did not merely argue that the two presidents can easily be compared, with JFK looking the worst. But, he is amazed that the American people consider the blundering fool named JFK to be one of the great American presidents.

Assessing the Kennedy record, Ferguson writes:

As is now well known, Kennedy had numerous extramarital affairs. One was with Judith Campbell, whose other lovers included the Chicago organized crime boss Sam Giancana and his sidekick Johnny Roselli.

His compulsive infidelity to his wife was only one of Kennedy’s many deceptions. Throughout his political career, he concealed the severity of his medical problems (he suffered from acute back pain, hypothyroidism, and Addison’s disease).

His campaign may have called on Mafia assistance to defeat Richard Nixon in 1960. He appointed his brother Robert as attorney general. Bobby Kennedy authorized the wiretapping of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In foreign policy, Kennedy combined callousness with recklessness. His questionable interventions ranged from an abortive invasion of Cuba to a bloody coup d’état in South Vietnam. On his watch, the Central Intelligence Agency sought to assassinate Fidel Castro using Mafia hit-men. On his watch, the Berlin Wall was built, the ugliest symbol of the Cold War division of the world. And on his watch, the world came closer than at any other time to nuclear Armageddon, during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. How was catastrophe averted? By using a back channel to the Kremlin to cut a secret deal.

And yet, like Canada’s Prime Minister, the deplorable disgraceful Justin Trudeau, JFK is fondly remembered for his good looks. We are all deep thinkers, so we know what really matters in life:

He continues to be remembered fondly, for his good looks as much as the idealistic rhetoric of his speeches.

Ferguson continues to quote an assessment of the Kennedy administration, offered by one Henry Kissinger:

Yet here is one contemporary verdict on the Kennedy administration, written before the president’s death. It had “demoralized the bureaucracy and much of the military.” It had engaged in “government by improvisation and manipulation.” It relied on “public relations gimmicks.” It had “no respect for personal dignity and . . . treat[ed] people as tools.” It had “brutalized our allies within NATO.” It was undermining the US reputation for reliability — “the most important asset any nation has.” The State Department was “a shambles, demoralized by the weakness of the secretary of state and the interference of the White House.” Its foreign policy was “essentially a house of cards.”

In conclusion, Ferguson writes, Kennedy had the good fortune to have been a Democrat. Had he been a Republican, he would have been crucified:

Perhaps, if Kennedy had been a Republican, he would have been treated with the same ferocious animosity that DJT is treated today, for acts much less heinous than those of JFK.

Meanwhile, Back in Germany

Meanwhile, back in Germany, the effects of Angela Merkel’s open-arms policy toward Muslim refugees is still being felt. It is becoming increasingly difficult for young people, especially women and girls, to attend summer concerts.

It sad, but true. From the Daily Mail:

A German folk festival descended into violence after Iraqi and Afghani asylum seekers were accused of sexually harassing local women, it has been reported.

German police said Monday several assaults and cases of sexual harassment were reported in alcohol-fuelled weekend disturbances that saw youths rampage through a small town and hurl bottles at police.

Police chief Roland Eisele urged other women to come forward if they were abused over the weekend in chaotic scenes that started at Volksfest in the southwestern town of Schorndorf, Baden-Wuerttemberg state.

No arrests had been made over the alleged harassment, but police were treating as a suspect a 20-year-old Iraqi man and three Afghan asylum seekers aged 18 to 20 in a separate case in which a 17-year-old girl was groped.

The refugees did not respond well to the policy. I am sure that you are not surprised:

 'A large part of these were people with an immigration background,' the announcement said. When the police entered, the officers were thrown with bottles.

When a suspect was arrested for dangerous bodily harm and refused to arrest, many people began attacking the police.

According to the police, a large number of officials with protective equipment had to shield the arrest to prevent an attack. When the forces were withdrawn, they were thrown again with bottles. 

Police Chief Eisele said that the town had never seen such a thing. Perhaps they can all get together and write a thank-you note to their Chancellor:

Eisele said 'the aggression and escalation of violence' were unprecedented and unexpected in the town of about 40,000 people, located near Stuttgart, and that the local police force had to request backup from other cities.

Police said in a statement that many youths 'with migrant backgrounds' were seen in the crowd, but Eisele said that it was impossible to estimate a percentage.

Officers in riot gear moved into a crowd of about 1,000 Saturday night in the town centre to detain a suspect on charges of dangerous physical assault but came under attack as others hurled bottles at them.
If you were trying to find a silver lining in these storm clouds, the Police Chief pointed out that the horrors were less intense than were those in Cologne or Hamburg.

He stressed that the rowdy scenes in Schorndorf were less intense than those in Cologne or the riots in the northern port-city of Hamburg before and during the July 7-8 Group of 20 summit, when far-left and anarchist militants burnt street barricades and threw rocks from rooftops.

It was just another day in Angela Merkel's Germany. For having produced this she has been extolled as the new leader of the free world.


Monday, July 17, 2017

The Trouble with Authentic Self-Esteem

Back in the day we wanted to be like everyone else. We wanted to follow the rules, just like everyone else. We wanted to conform to local customs and mores, just like everyone else.

We did not feel compelled to assert our individual authenticity but preferred to act like members in good standing of our communities. We even kept our private lives, our private thoughts, feelings and parts… to ourselves.

We acted as though we respected ourselves and sought to develop our capacity for modesty and humility. But then, under the aegis of the therapy culture, we traded it all in for high self-esteem. We got drunk on unearned praise, to the point where it seemed more important to puff up our flagging self-esteem than to work at becoming better citizens.

Nowadays we no longer care how we look to other people. To be more precise, we believe that we should control what other people think about us. If they do not see us as we want to be seen we denounce them as judgmental and cast them out of polite society.

No longer caring how we look, we believe that our true being is how we feel about ourselves. We may act like moral lepers on the outside, but we contain an inner beauty that other people must recognize and adore.

But, if our truth lies in what we are inside and if we want other people to know us truly, we need to publicize what we have inside. One might say that social media has enabled this tendency, and clearly it has. But, the root cause—I know that you care about root causes—lies in a therapy culture that told people that their lives could not be complete and fulfilled unless they cast a longing gaze into the depths of their souls, the better to understand who they really, really were. In other terms, introspection is the enemy of good behavior. When you look into your soul you blind yourself to how others see you. And you do so willfully.

We demand to be loved for who we are, not for what we do, not for what we did not do. We have made ourselves into self-contained autonomous human monads and expect that others will love us on our own terms. Social codes and moral judgments must be thrown out with the trash. They prevent us from being our authentic selves and from being loved as such.

Theodore Dalrymple analyzes the problem in a recent essay. He sees it as a glorification of celebrity, of people who make a living by publicizing their private lives, by occupying tabloid space. It beats work.

He writes:

I suppose that the mania for giving publicity to one’s own life arises from the feeling that what is only private cannot be of any importance, a feeling that is promoted by the publicity given to the supposedly intimate details of the lives of celebrities.

Dalrymple notes correctly that this effort to publicize the private produces a series of contradictions. Therapy-induced solipsism, the only possible consequence of introspective soul-searching, provides a singular advantage. It does not just relieve us of the obligation to conform to social norms. It makes us the unquestioned authority over our own mental domain.

You are the world’s leading authority on how you feel. No one can question your authority on what you think and believe. We have gotten to the point that if you are a male and believe you are a female, your belief trumps reality. Not only that, but everyone is obliged to speak of you as though you are female, treat you as a female, to the point where female soldiers must welcome you into their shower rooms and not notice your dangling genitalia. That comes to us, as you know, from the ever-so-enlightened American military.

You are the ultimate authority on how you feel. You can always pull rank about your feelings, and blurt out, in the midst of an argument: But, that’s how I feel. If you do so a pall of silence will quickly descend on the proceedings. After all, no one with good manners is going to say that that is not how you feel. And yet, the fact that you feel what you feel means precisely nothing. It is not, as the lawyers say, dispositive.

And yet, if you are what you have inside, if the real You exists in the depths of your soul (or maybe your gut), in a place, as Hamlet said, “from whose bourn no traveler returns” you are going to feel alone. You will feel chronically consigned to loneliness. It’s bad enough to discover your splendid inner beauty, but what if no one else cares?

Dalrymple suggests that you are going to start feeling unreal, as though you do not really exist. It is not an outrageous observation. If you are what you have inside, as a social being you do not exist. As moral beings, beings whose actions and behaviors and conduct are subjected to the judgment of others, we do not exist. The therapy culture thinks that this is a wonderful thing, because after all, its goal is to produce rampant amorality.

In Dalrymple’s words:

It is as if our lives are real only insofar as other people know about them, as many as possible.

Dalrymple works to unpack the contradictions, or, should we say, the cognitive dissonance behind the project.

People who concocted the theories did not much care about said contradictions, but we can rise above the mewling masses and ask about them.

However much we want people to know the beauty we have within, we do not want them to know everything that we have within. You might say that this is a residual vestige of a moral sense, a willingness to cover up certain embarrassing facts that we are harboring in our souls. The real reason, I suspect, is that we want the world to see us as aesthetically pleasing, as a fine work of art. We are willing to expose appalling thoughts and feelings, if they contribute to the aesthetic integrity of the image we are portraying.

Dalrymple says:

But, of course, in reality we don’t want everything to be known about us: We want only those things about us to be known that we want to be known about us.

When you treat your skin as so much canvas, painting images on it that will show the world what you really have inside, you ought to accept that many people will find such images off-putting. But, in our new world, they are not allowed to judge, except in the sense, as I see it, that they are standing in rapt attention before a work of art. Being spectators in a museum, enthralled by a living work of art, they should stop in the tracks and gawk at it in rapt contemplation. Funnily enough, they want to capture our attention and even our affection.

In Dalrymple’s words:

A person who treats his face and body like an ironmongery store can hardly desire or expect that you fail to notice it, but at the same time demands that you make no comment about it, draw no conclusions from it, express no aversion toward it, and treat him no differently because of it. You must accept him as he is, however he is, because he has an inalienable right to such acceptance.



Sunday, July 16, 2017

DJT or JFK?

A salient passage from Niall Ferguson's London Times column today. The column is behind a paywall, but this excerpt, aiming at the distinction between Donald Trump and John Kennedy, is worth pondering.


Videogames Uber Alles

What would we do without behavioral science? New research has shown that an increasingly large number of young men is spending more time playing video games in their parents’ basements than on the job.

Reported in the Wall Street Journal, the report showed that:

... since 2000, men who would otherwise be working are instead being drawn into immersive virtual worlds, giving up paychecks in the process.

By the numbers:

The paper’s authors note that 15% of younger men who weren’t students didn’t work in the prior year as of 2016, a notable increase from the 8% who didn’t work in 2000.

The rise of gaming “accounts for 23 to 46 percent of the decline in market work for younger men during the 2000s,” the paper’s authors write. For men ages 21 to 30, hours worked fell by 12% between 2000 and 2015, compared with a decline of 8% in hours worked for men 31 to 55.

The authors suggest that video games are addictive. Who knew?

These young videogame dropouts are now averaging 520 hours a year on the computer, with 60% of that time devoted to videogames, dwarfing other pursuits like socializing with friends in the real world.

The paper’s authors see the decline in work due in large part to rising game quality that draws essentially young men in, siren-like. “It is possible that individuals develop a habit (or addiction) for such activities.”

Are they miserable and unhappy? Not at all. They are more happy than the men who are working. Better yet, they are fully supported by their parents:

What’s more, these men are reporting higher levels of happiness compared with those who work, and they’re drawing on the support of mom and dad to stay there.

Also,

Instead, they’re enabled by family members. The researchers found that nearly 70% of these men who aren’t working lived with a close relative in 2015, versus 46% in 2000.

Yet, the Journal suggests that we have a serious correlation/causation problem. Is there a correlation between increased video game playing and unemployment? Is there a correlation between increased video game playin and employability? Or does the one cause the other.

Neel Kashkari raises the issue:

The paper is “somewhat controversial,” Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari said Tuesday. “There’s some data supporting it, but it’s somewhat far-fetched” to think games are entirely behind what’s happening, he said.

Mr. Kashkari said Japan offers a reference point. “Japan has a lot of video games, too, and they’re not seeing the same effect that we are seeing here,” he said.

We may draw several salient conclusions.

First, behavioral economists like Dan Ariely are in the habit of justifying their bad advice by saying that when people take it—when they ask rude and intrusive questions on a first date—they are happier. The next time you hear this, recall that young men playing video games in the basement are significantly happier than are their peer who are out working. Feelings of intense happiness are not necessarily a sign of anything more than excessive stimulation.

Second, what does it say about today’s American parents that they are underwriting and financing this addiction? Doesn’t this suggest that we are suffering from a severe shortage of Tiger Moms and Dads? Can you imagine the Tiger Mom tolerating this sloth?

Third, for all I know, the moral desuetude of young American men, their embrace of sloth and dereliction, their rejection of responsibility as adults … has something to do with what Christina Hoff Summers called the war against boys. If boys in Japan and Hong Kong do not indulge in the same behavior, it could be that something in the American culture denigrates boys to the point where they lose all initiative. It could be that we have so thoroughly destroyed the role of the male breadwinner than many young men no longer believe that it is worth the trouble to try. They suffer from what appears to be a permanent Peter Pan Syndrome.