Sunday, November 19, 2017

When Is a Muslim Not a Muslim?

Today’s comic relief comes to us from the Moonbattery blog (via Maggie’s Farm):

Question: When is a Muslim not a Muslim?

Answer: When he rapes Swedish women; then he’s just a man.

This quip expresses well the policies of Sweden’s Justice and Migration Minister, Morgan Johansson. As reported by Breitbart:

Sweden’s justice minister has rejected a proposal by the Moderate party to record the ethnic backgrounds of sex attackers saying the only thing that matters is that they are men.

Justice Minister Morgan Johansson said that the Moderates wanted to simply blame the rise in sex crimes on migrants and argued that all criminals should be treated equally. Johansson also pointed to the #metoo movement saying that sex attacks occur among all ethnicities and backgrounds in Sweden, broadcaster SVT reports.

“The common denominator of those who commit these crimes is that they are men,” Johansson said and added: “It seems that the Moderates are pulling out of talking about the men’s role in this and instead just want to blame the immigrants.”

Government policy designed to cover up a problem. Because if you don't call it Islamist terrorism or even a Muslim rape epidemic, then we can say that Muslims do not commit more terrorism or rapes.

Of course, it’s the Swedish way of condoning human sacrifice… but we suppose it’s alright because the victims are only women. How did Johansson respond to the proposal by the Moderate Party:

Johansson rejected the request saying: “Sweden’s earlier figures and numerous international studies all show much the same thing. Minority groups are often overrepresented in crime statistics, but when controlling for socioeconomic factors this [the overrepresentation of minority groups] disappears almost entirely.”

Which economic factors would those be? Perhaps it refers to the fact that the migrants are less likely to know how to do any jobs and thus are more likely to be on welfare. What if the same bad habits and character flaws that cause them to commit crimes also make them unacceptable employees?

And, do rape victims feel any consolation over the fact that the solution does not lie in tougher laws or in tougher immigration policies, but in more weak-kneed ministers selling social welfare programs. Keep in mind, people who don't have to work have more time to commit crimes, like rape.

As for the chance of cracking down on the high crime rates in Swedish no-go zones, the Minister is against it:

The proposal by the Moderates follows a call by 10 members of the party to deploy the military to help police in the growing number of heavily migrant-populated no-go zones in the country last month.  The proposal was ultimately rejected by Justice Minister Johansson who said: “There are no military solutions to the problems.”

Johansson has been the subject of controversy in the past for his various statements, including totally refusing to ever consider stripping the citizenship of Islamic State fighters returning to Sweden from the Middle East. Johansson said the Swedish government refuses to make anyone “stateless”.

You already knew that Sweden was promoting rape culture, didn’t you? The amazing part is that this weak and cowardly minister is saying out loud what other progressives will only hint it.

Inevitably, public displays of weakness and a manifest failure to enforce laws and to hold people accountable for their actions produces a reaction. And yet, anyone who complains or even protests these policies will quickly be denounced as a reactionary and a fascist. Some of them are obviously insalubrious. And yet, are they the real problem? Or is the real problem ministers like Johansson who will happily sacrifice Swedish women to bands of marauding migrants?

The Transgender Agenda: The War on Truth

Peter Hitchens is the brother of the late lamented Christopher Hitchens. While Christopher happily promoted leftist theories, especially those of the atheist variety, Peter represents the more conservative side of the sibling spectrum.

Today, writing in the Daily Mail,  Peter Hitchens takes aim at the latest appalling piece of leftist dogma. That being the transgender agenda. He points out that a vanguard of revolutionary fanatics are using the transgender agenda to take control of your thought. They are making themselves the final and ultimate arbiters of truth... thus relieving reality and objective facts of the burden. And they are of course using their superior wisdom to mutilate innocent children. If you cannot throw in a little human sacrifice, what good are you?

Hitchens writes:

I once thought the same about the transgender issue. But the idea that people are whatever sex they think they are is a terrifying weapon in the hands of modern Thought Police. Whatever you say, you cannot possibly be right about this. 

Express any opinion (apart from total submission), and within minutes you will be besieged by condemnation. It will be cleverly based on the idea that you are somehow being cruel to some troubled person, even though you aren't doing this at all.

Indeed, you are going to be attacked as a bigot, no matter what you think and no matter what you say. Whatever you say anything you are going to be wrong. It's not about right or wrong. It's about belonging or not belonging to the Party.

Even if you say that right thing the thought police will denounce you for not being sufficiently sincere. Hitchens explains that the transgender agenda is attacking biological realities, the realities of chromosomal sex difference. If your ideas supersede reality, they can no longer be tested. They must be accepted as transcendent truth:

But that is just a pretext. In reality, a whole moral and social system is being destroyed, and traditional ideas of male and female are the next target, now that husbands and marriage have been done away with. For once you begin down the road of sexual revolution, there's no end. There will always be someone more militant than you.

Hitchens suggests that it goes back to the French Revolution and to its corollary notion that human nature could be changed into whatever we wanted it to be. All great Revolutionary dictators, from Lenin to Stalin to Hitler to Mao, believe this. As did Marx, Freud and Heidegger. I discussed the point at length in my book, The Last Psychoanalyst:

Since the French Revolutionaries set up the guillotine, the same thing has been true. Revolutions are all based on the false idea that humans and their nature can be changed.

And once changed, they will fit neatly into the Utopia that is planned for them. Utopia, as we find every so often in Russia, China and Cambodia, can only be approached across a sea of blood, and you never actually arrive.

Today the thought police have taken out after a schoolteacher. The poor man slipped up and called a transgender girl a boy. He is going to be disciplined for his bigotry:

And that is why The Mail on Sunday's exclusive story, that a teacher has been disciplined for failing to respect the transgender gospel, is so important. His slip was small, and momentary. One of his pupils, who would once have been called a girl, has decided to be male. He called this person a girl. So he must suffer.

In the vanished world of absolute truth, the student's sex would not be a matter of opinion. People might (and I would favour this) treat the person's view of their sex with sympathy and try to go along with it. Who would want to hurt somebody on a matter of such delicacy?

But in the new revolutionary world, truth is what the revolution says it is. This works in many ways.

In a world where people respect facts and understand the difference between true and false this would not be an issue. In today’s politically correct world, it is a thought crime. And no thought crime can go unpunished.

Have you noticed that the people who constitute the Thought Police are up in arms when Donald Trump stretches and bends the truth? They refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag but they proclaim, for all to heat it, their eternal allegiance to fact. If, as has been definitively shown, transgender children and adults have no biological basis—aka fact-- for their belief—called delusional by some—they you are obliged to accept it unthinkingly, facts be damned.

If you think that Trump plays a bit loose with the facts, the transgender agenda seeks to obliterate reality on the bonfire of an ideology. Once reality has been erased those who hold the purest and clearest view of the dogmatic truth will be able to impose it on everyone. Power to the intellectual elites, even if they can’t think straight:

This leads down a very dark staircase. Reality must increasingly be forced to fit the beliefs of the new elite. Teachers must be punished for speaking the truth, so schools are no longer places where truth is respected or dissent allowed – which means they are dead to all intents and purposes.

As has often been noted on this blog, the transgender agenda tries to convert people during childhood, before the onset of puberty. It attempts to brainwash children into believing that they are transgender, then to subject them to puberty blocking treatments… leading up to gender reassignment surgery. One is constrained to note that the United States military, to its eternal disgrace, has chosen to pay for such surgeries-- in defiance of a presidential order-- and thus to legitimate the transgender agenda.

Hitchens writes:

And perhaps most grievous of all, teenagers are placed on a medical conveyor belt which leads to powerful body-changing drugs and possibly to surgical alteration.

It is not just crabbed reactionaries such as me who fret about this. In an eloquent article in The Times, the far-from-conservative commentator Janice Turner recently warned: 'But in a decade, when our adult children turn to ask, 'Why did you let me do this? Why didn't you stop me?' we may wonder if this was progress or child abuse.'

We are failing to stop this because we are afraid of the intolerant revolutionary mob, which would lock up dissenters if it could, but for the moment contents itself with Twitter storms and witch-hunts.

I can't laugh this off. It is not just a wind-up. It is a threat to free thought and, after many months of staying silent about it, I feel I have to say so.

That faint rumble you can hear is the mob assembling for another heresy hunt.

The war on truth, the war on facts is alive and well. It is even becoming more mainstream.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Developing Resilience

Yesterday, I wrote a post about Elizabeth Smart’s resilience. In the current public discussions about trauma victims, many victims present themselves as damaged for life, as ruined forever. And those who cue up the outrage on these events often present the issue in the same terms. 

I took exception to that characterization. I remarked that the more you believe that sexual abuse, for example, destroys your life forever, the more difficult recovery will be. Anyone who gets over it easily seems to be suggesting that it wasn't really that bad. If we want the abusers to receive the maximum punishment, we do not want to give them impression. No one wants to diminish the trauma. But, no one should want to suggest that these women have no real chance of a meaningful recovery. No responsible professional will tell a trauma victim that her life is over and that she will never recover.

We should also examine the way cultural attitudes impact mental illness and how they influence the ability to recover. I have occasionally mentioned Ethan Watters’ book, Crazy Like Us, which discusses the issue at length. It addresses the way that society’s attitudes can produce epidemics of anorexia or can aggravate the symptoms of PTSD. 

Of course, PTSD is a complex issue, because in some cases it is a neurological condition with a psychological aspect. Some aspects of PTSD do respond to psychological therapies, but many do not. We ought not confuse neurological disorders with psychological disorders.

As for the larger issue of resilience, University of Virginia psychologist Meg Jay has written a new book about it. She offered some of her ideas in an extensive article for the Wall Street Journal.

Psychologists have performed many studies about resilience. Some involve being brought up in a bad home environment. Some involve repeated traumas. The studies deal with numerous complex variables and thus are not all relevant to the issue we are examining today. 

Take the example of children who are brought up in unstable family environments. For the most part children brought in this way have significant problems. No one should be surprised by these findings. What is surprising is the fact that the damage is not experienced equally by every child. Two thirds of the children who are brought up in such families have significant problems when they grow up, but one third rise above them:

Consider the Kauai Longitudinal Study, an ongoing project begun in 1955 by psychologists Emmy Werner and Ruth Smith, and summarized most recently in their 2001 book “Journeys From Childhood to Midlife.” The Kauai Study’s subjects are the 698 babies born on the island that year, with assessments so far at ages 1, 2, 10, 18, 32 and 40.

Of the children in the study, Drs. Werner and Smith identified 129 as being at high risk for future problems, because they faced four or more adversities at birth, ranging from poverty and family discord to alcoholism or mental illness in the home.

Two-thirds of these high-risk children went on to have difficulties of their own, such as delinquency, unplanned pregnancies and underemployment. One-third, however, fared well. At school and at work, they did as well as, or better than, their low-risk peers from more affluent, stable homes. In adulthood, they found supportive partners and built loving families that, often, differed greatly from the ones they grew up with. They became, as Drs. Werner and Smith described, “competent, confident, caring adults.” How did they do it?

We might also want to know how many of these children inherited genetic predispositions from their alcoholic or mentally ill parents. And we see that the children who escaped their conditions often found support systems outside of the home, in school, in youth groups, and eventually in the military. We should not underestimate the importance of group support or even of teachers and coaches who act as replacement parents. 

Jay continues:

They sought out friends, teachers, neighbors or relatives who cared. They made plans to better themselves and set ambitious but realistic goals for the future. In early adulthood, they seized opportunities to move forward in life, by way of higher education, the military, a new job, a supportive partner or parenthood.

But resilient people are everywhere, not just in the ranks of celebrities. They are ordinary women and men, in every walk of life, who meet the definition of resilience set forth by American Psychological Association: “adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.”

As for the mental attitudes that promoted resilience, one study found that prisoners who had overcome the traumatic effects of torture had told themselves, as Elizabeth Smart told herself, that the torture was not about them.

Jay writes:

In a 2010 paper in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Anke Ehlers of the University of Oxford reported on 81 adults who had formerly been held as political prisoners in East Germany. They had been subjected to mental and physical abuse, including beatings, threats and being kept in the dark. Decades after their release, about two-thirds of the former prisoners had, at some point, met criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while about one-third of the prisoners had not.

What made some more likely to suffer from PTSD? Dr. Ehlers found that the extent to which prisoners had fought back in their own minds made a bigger difference than the severity of the abuse they had suffered. Those who felt mentally defeated—who felt like they were “nothing” or who quit caring what became of them—were more likely to report symptoms of PTSD later. By contrast, prisoners who had resisted from within—even if they appeared to have given up on the outside, by complying with guards or signing false confessions—fared better down the line….

This sort of inner defiance is, in part, how one man—an officer in the military who came to me for a consultation—told me he survived years of bullying as a child and teen: “I refused to accept what they said about me was true.”

That is, in my slightly more sophisticated version, he refused to accept that it was happening to him.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Elizabeth Smart's Resilience

When someone has been traumatized a competent psycho professional will want the person to get over the experience, to put it behind him. Incompetent psycho professionals will want him to integrate the experience into his life narrative.

If they are Freudians they believe that when people have difficulty getting over a trauma, the reason must be that they had unconsciously wanted it to happen. Their problems derive from their inability accept that they wanted to be molested, harassed, abused or raped.

Most Freudians will never accept that their grand master believed such things. If so they have failed the most elementary lesson in close reading of the Freudian text.

On various occasions, as our media are filled with stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault, I have remarked that many of the victims have said that they have never gotten over what happened to them. To which I have offered the example of Elizabeth Smart. When Smart was a teenager in Utah she was kidnapped and raped repeatedly for months on end. And she has, as well as we can tell, gotten over the experience and lived her life.

Thus, she shows how someone can overcome trauma and move on with her life. It is a constructive message, one that needs more attention.

Yesterday, Bethany Mandel gave the Smart story more of the attention it deserves. She argued that Smart overcame her experience by showing uncommon resilience. More than that, Mandel explains that Smart chose “joy” over anguish.

We note that Smart did not have the option of keeping her trauma secret. The couple that kidnapped her was put on trial for their crimes. They are currently serving long prison sentences. Once an experience becomes common knowledge, it is that much harder to put behind one, to act as though it never happened. Smart's ability to overcome a trauma that everyone knows about counts as exceptional.

When everyone knows what happens to you they look at you differently. In time this will come to define who you are… as a victim, as someone deserving of pity and sympathy.

I am all for choosing joy and admire Smart’s resilience, but, if we dig a little deeper we note that she was not in it alone. She was surrounded by a strong and moral community, a community that insisted on treating her as though nothing  had happened. It takes a significant effort for a community to rally behind a victim and to act as though nothing happened. Smart also had a strong intact family that acted as though it had not happened.

Surely, strength of character counts, but, family and community attitudes are often decisive in producing such strength of character. Especially when the victim is a child. In another community with a different family Elizabeth Smart might not have believed that she could choose joy.

As for the question of what defines your character, Smart herself stated it well and clearly in a motivational speech:

Every single one of us has had something happen to us in our life… I mean, hopefully it’s not all kidnapping (laughs). It’s not what happens to us that defines who we are. It’s what we decide to do. It’s our choices who define who we are. Whatever it is you’re going through, don’t give up.

Who you are is not everything that happened to you. Who you are is what you chose to do. I will accept that this is not entirely accurate, but, Smart is correct to see that if you did not choose to be traumatized, the trauma did not happen to you.

Stephen Cohen on Trump and Putin

Discussions of Trump administration Russia policy have been so completely clouded over that it is nearly impossible to make any sense of what is going on. Those who hate Trump hate Trump. They see nothing but their hatred. Everyone else is so defensive that they feel a need to balance their judgments, so as not to appear to be pro-Trump.

As I have sometimes noted on this blog, the most sane and sensible voice on the Trump administration Russia policy has been Stephen Cohen, writing in The Nation. Cohen is an expert on Russian history and politics. He has on occasion presented his views on Tucker Carlson’s show. He is well informed, intelligent and reasonable.

We ought to pay him more attention. In a recent Nation column John Bachelor summarizes the central points that Cohen made in an extended conversation, not only on Russian policy but on Trump’s recent encounter with Vladimir Putin in Vietnam.

Bachelor reports:

Cohen argues that America is now in unprecedented danger due to two related crises. A new and more dangerous Cold War with Russia that is fraught with the real possibility of hot war between the two nuclear superpowers on several fronts, including Syria. And the worst crisis of the American presidency in modern times, which threatens to paralyze the president’s ability to deal diplomatically with Moscow. (To those who recall Watergate, Cohen points out that unlike Trump, President Nixon was never accused of “collusion with the Kremlin” or faced reckless, and preposterous, allegations that the Kremlin had abetted his election by an “attack on American democracy.”)

While in Vietnam Trump met with Putin. Cohen’s analysis deviates sharply from that of most other commentators:

Trump met several times, informally and briefly, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Presumably dissuaded or prevented by some of his own top advisers from having a formal, lengthy meeting, Trump was nonetheless prepared. He and Putin issued a joint statement for cooperation in Syria, where the prospects of a US-Russian war had been mounting. And, both leaders later said, they had serious talks about cooperating on the crises in North Korea and Ukraine.

Cohen believes that Trump’s statements were positive and constructive. He agrees that the former national security officials who denounced Trump are “political hacks”:

He reiterated his longstanding position that “having a relationship with Russia would be a great thing—not a good thing—it would be a great thing.” To this Cohen adds, it would be an essential thing for the sake of US national security on many vital issues and in many areas of the world, and should be the first foreign policy principle of both political parties. Trump then turned to “Russiagate,”saying that Putin had again denied any personal involvement and that in this Putin seemed sincere. Trump quickly added that three of President Obama’s top intelligence directors—the CIA’s John Brennan, Office of National Intelligence’s James Clapper, and the FBI’s James Comey—were “political hacks,” clearly implying that their declared role in “Russiagate” had been and remains less than sincere. He also suggested that Russia had been too “heavily sanctioned” to be the national security partner America needs, a point Cohen reminded listeners he himself had made many times.

And Cohen adds Sen. John McCain to the list. In his eyes they have misunderstood the geopolitical stakes and are willing to undermine the relationship between America and Russia if they can use Russiagate to destroy the Trump administration:

The immediate reaction of liberal and progressive “Russiagate” adherents was, Cohen continued, lamentably predictable, as was that of their Cold War allies Brennan, Clapper, and Senator John McCain, who never saw a prospect of war with Russia he didn’t want to fight. Racing to their eager media outlets, they denounced Trump’s necessary diplomacy with Putin as “unconscionable.” New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow accused the president of “a betrayal of American trust and interests that is almost treasonous.” He quickly deleted “almost,” declaring Trump’s presidency to be “a Russian project” and Trump himself “Putin’s dupe.” (In full retro Cold War mode, Blow also characterized the US president as Putin’s “new comrade,” apparently unaware that both leaders are known to be anti-Communists.) Blow may be among the least informed and most hyperbolic of national columnists on these matters, but from his regular perch at the Times and on CNN, he speaks to and for many influential Democrats, including self-professed progressives.

Cohen concludes that the promoters of the Russiagate narrative are compromising national security. It’s an extremely serious charge, made more surprising by the fact that it is coming from someone who is on the political left:

The promoters of “Russiagate” seem to have no concern for America’s actual national security interests and indeed, in this regard, are actively undermining those interests. To the extent that “Russiagate” and the crippling of Trump as a foreign policy president is becoming a major part of the Democratic Party’s national electoral platform, can the party really be trusted to lead the nation?... 

Putin’s Russia is not America’s enemy but a national security partner our nation vitally needs. The president made this clear again following the scurrilous attacks on his negotiations with Putin: “When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.” ... 

We are, Cohen concludes, clearly at a fateful crossroads in US-Russian relations and in the history of the American presidency as an institution. The crux should be American national security in the fullest domestic and international respects, not whether we are Trump supporters or members of the “Resistance.” Reckless denunciations make the two crises worse. The only way out is non-partisan respect for verified facts, logic, and rational civil discourse, which “Russiagate” seems to have all but vaporized, even in once exalted places.

Here a progressive thinker declares that the proponents of the Russiagate narrative have ignored facts, logic, and rational discourse. Credit to Stephen Cohen for intellectual integrity.

News from the Saudi-Israeli Entente

News out of Riyadh tells us that Saudi King Salman will resign next week, to be replaced by his son the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Meanwhile, American commentators are horrified by what is happening in Saudi Arabia. As that nation works toward economic modernization and more liberal social policies, the commentariat insists that things can only get worse. Dare we say that their crystal balls are fogged over by their antipathy for the American president.

Two stories caught my attention recently, and I report them without any excessive commentary.

The first, from RT. Since the report quotes a high Israeli military official, in an on the record interview with a Saudi source, we may take that fact, in and of itself, as significant. Since Israel and Saudi Arabia have been getting closer lately, making a gesture toward the Saudis, in a Saudi newspaper, must count as significant outreach. I suspect that it would not have been offered if the Israelis did not have a reason to believe that it would be well received:

The chief of staff of Israel's military (IDF) told Saudi Arabia's Alaf newspaper in an unprecedented interview that his country is ready to share intelligence on Iran with Riyadh.

"With [US] President Donald Trump, there is an opportunity for a new international alliance in the region and a major strategic plan to stop the Iranian threat," Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), told the paper. "We are ready to exchange experiences with moderate Arab countries and exchange intelligence to confront Iran." 

When asked whether Israel had recently shared intelligence with the Saudis, Eisenkot said: "We are ready to share information if necessary. There are many common interests between us..."

The military official added that Iran was the "biggest threat to the region," Haaretz reported, also saying that Tel Aviv and Riyadh were in full agreement about Iran's intentions, and noting that Israel and Saudi Arabia had never fought each other.

Eisenkot went on to say that Israel's security situation had never been as good as it is at present, claiming that was why "we are highly regarded by the moderate countries in the region." He then accused Tehran of trying to destabilize the region by building weapons factories and supplying advanced arms to terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.

"Iran seeks to take control of the Middle East, creating a Shiite crescent from Lebanon to Iran, and then from the Gulf to the Red Sea," Eisenkot said, when asked about Iran's intended goal. "We must prevent this from happening."

Keep in mind, American commentators are gnashing their teeth over the absence of a strategy for dealing with increasing Iranian influence, especially in Syria and Lebanon. Apparently, such a strategy is being developed between Israel and Saudi Arabia... and maybe others. One must applaud the new level of cooperation—often remarked on this blog—between Israel and its Arab neighbors. And we note that the Israeli general even praised President Trump for the work he has done on the problem.

Second, we have this report, which may or may not be true, but which is consistent with the above, from the Jewish Chronicle, through the Small Dead Animals blog, via Maggie's Farm:

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has reportedly ordered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to accept the Middle East peace plan due to be announced by Donald Trump in the coming weeks.

Mr Abbas was summoned to a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh last week and was instructed to accept the Trump vision for peace with Israel or resign, Israel’s Channel 10 reported.

Jared Kushner, the US leader’s son-in-law, is preparing a new effort to secure a deal between Israel and Palestine.

Mr Kushner visited Riyadh two weeks ago where he is said to have discussed several issues with the crown prince, who has forged a close link with Mr Trump’s regime.

The Saudi crown prince and leading figures in the neighbouring United Arab Emirates are understood to be eager for progress to allow for more coordination with Israel over Iran.

There are also concerns in Saudi Arabia over potential collaboration between Hamas and Hezbollah over Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

The Palestinians leadership is known to be keen to improve relations with the Saudi crown prince, but Israel’s settlements in the occupied territories remain a major stumbling block to any White House peace initiative.

About this we shall see. We note the important role played by Jared Kushner in these important negotiations. Today, the United States Senate is in an uproar today about Kushner’s disclosure forms. Have you ever gotten the impression that our august legislative bodies are mired in gossip and bickering because they are afraid to deal with the real business at hand?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Uneasy about #MeToo

Fair and balanced still works for me.

In my previous post I took Vanessa Grigoriadis to task for sloppy thinking about the wave of reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I owe it to you to present a writer who grasps the complexity of these issues. But, who masks her identity behind a pseudonym, Lexa Frankl.

Writing on Quillette Frankl recounts the time when she, an eighteen-year old college freshman got very drunk, invited a boy up to her room, had consensual sex with him and woke up in the morning wondering what she had done. Through this encounter she also contracted herpes.

Was she raped? Or not?

And who was I to accuse someone of a crime when I knew perfectly well that it was partly my own recklessness that had placed me in jeopardy? I had willingly embraced a degree of risk in my pursuit of pleasure. I had drunk to excess, I had invited a man I had just met back to my home, and I had willingly engaged in unprotected sex. 8 or 9 times out of 10, the only consequences would have been fleeting regrets and a headache. But I was old enough to know that I might be unlucky. And so I was.

When she looked at feminist sites, she discovered that, to their mind, she had been assaulted. She felt that she had made a mistake. They told her that she had been a victim:

Feminist and activist sites set up to counsel and advise victims of sexual assault seemed perversely determined to convince me that I had in fact been assaulted, and sternly warned against any assumption of personal responsibility which they invariably describe as “victim-blaming.” Instead, they offered trite slogans such as “Drinking is not a crime – rape is” and “Don’t tell your daughter not to go out, tell your son to behave properly” and “Teach men to respect women.”

One can ask where a female freshperson got the idea that it was good to get blind drunk and then to have sex with a stranger. One suspects that the counsel did not come from the patriarchy, or even the girl’s mother.

Frankl then addresses the issue of personal responsibility:

Even an abnormally unreflective person will be able to come up with examples of occasions when their own foolish decisions have contributed to their misfortune. In a liberal society, we are free to make our own choices. But when those choices predictably increase personal vulnerability or risk, we are usually expected to take moral responsibility for shouldering the possible consequences of that risk.

Feminists insist that a woman should be able to behave as she pleases. If she suffers an assault, it is not her fault. Of course, no one ever thought it was, so we happily concur. And yet, Frankl reasons, if you fail to wear a seat belt and get into an accident where the other car was clearly at fault, does it provide you with any consolation to know that it was not your fault?

I might refuse to wear a seatbelt on the basis that I am particularly fastidious about road safety. But if another less cautious driver were to drive his vehicle into mine, most reasonable people would accept that I bear responsibility for any injuries I would not have sustained had I taken the sensible precaution of wearing a safety belt.

She continues:

In the modern day West, we rightly accept that men and women ought to be able to dress as they please without being subject to moral opprobrium. But that doesn’t alter the fact that revealing attire will attract the attention of the opposite sex, and that it is designed and (usually) worn for precisely this purpose. Because this effect is indiscriminate, a foreseeable consequence is that it will attract both wanted and unwanted attention.

The issue has become so fraught that it is worthwhile to read Frankl’s sensible approach. There is no such thing as a human being who is ever able to do exactly what he or she pleases, without being responsible for some of the consequences.

After all, if nearly five decades of feminism have produced a war between men and women, the chance are good that someone is going to get hurt. If you want fewer people to get hurt, call off the war and return to proper decorum and even dating.

In Frankl’s words:

To notice that certain behaviors predictably increase a person’s vulnerability is so obvious as to be banal. But any attempt to ask women to acknowledge the associated risks is routinely described as ‘rape apologism.’ If identifying and acknowledging such behaviors is to become taboo, then how are people supposed to mitigate the risks associated them, or to make informed judgments about whether a particular risk is worth the benefits it affords?

It’s all about infantilizing women… relieving them of all personal responsibility and moral agency. Who knew?

But by demanding that women renounce personal responsibility, contemporary feminists and sexual assault activists reduce adults capable of agency and choice to children capable of neither. This is a disempowerment trap, and it was only once I was able to accept responsibility for my own actions that I was able to reclaim my sense of autonomy, repair my shattered self-esteem, and move forward with my life. Instead of embracing a distorted view of the opposite sex, or blaming my upbringing, or surrendering to the passivity of inert victimhood, I emerged from the experience stronger and freer, with a greater sense of self-worth, and a more realistic understanding of the world.

Is Feminism the Solution or the Problem?

Nearly five decades of intense feminism and we get: Harvey Weinstein.

After nearly five decades of intense feminist consciousness raising about sexual harassment and we discover that, if anything, the problem has gotten worse.

Feminists happily revolutionized the culture. They threw out dating and courtship rituals. They rejected the role of housewife. They refused to play along with the sexual division of labor. They discarded feminine modesty and asserted their independence and autonomy.

Feminists declared that strong, empowered women did not need to be protected by men. They did not need to receive overt gestures that signified relative weakness. They threw out the rules and accepted only one kind of protection: a condom.

Women have learned to lean in against men, to fight against the patriarchy, to rebel against white male privilege. How did it happen that the war on men has not made things any better. Are relationships better? Have marriages improved? Do men and women get along any better now than they did in the past?

If you read through the anguished accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault, you will conclude that men and women are now in a state of semi-permanent conflict.

You’ve come a long way, baby!

In the absence of rules and customs for male/female interaction, men and women sometimes go bump in the night but their sex lives often resemble an alcohol fueled free-for-all. The notion of having sex with someone you know seems to have been discarded with the rest of patriarchal customs.

Naturally, feminists think that feminism will solve all of these problems. But, perhaps feminism is the problem, perhaps the feminist attacks on men are producing a hostile environment. 

The therapy culture thrills to the fact that so many women have now overcome their sense of shame and have come forth to denounce male sexual predators. But, haven’t we been fighting against shame for decades now. Don’t we all believe that we should just let it all hang out? What if the absence of a sense of shame has produced the problem, not solved it. Not to be excessively vulgar, but the men who are harassing and assaulting and exposing themselves to unwilling women have also overcome their sense of shame. Is anything more shameless than whipping it out in front of an unwilling woman? 

And besides, feminists want women to enlist in the feminist cause. They want every incident of apparent harassment and impropriety to be treated as a crime. They do not understand that women might have good reason not to come forth. They do not understand that the moral issue is ambiguous at least, because women also know that, in coming forth, they will be inviting people to imagine them in undignified postures. In some cases the sacrifice is worth making. In other cases women think long and hard before they want to engage in such a public display. The world would be a better place if we accepted that women are free to come forth or not.

Author Vanessa Grigoriadis offers her views of the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. Naturally, she believes that the problem can be solved by instituting a police state through Obama administration policies that allow colleges to deprive those accused of assault of due process of law. She does not understand that this level of unchecked empowerment will produce a hostile response.

Grigoriadis was unhappy when the Trump administration suspended the requirement:

But in September, pundits across the political spectrum approved when the Education Department rolled back some Obama-era rules that had broadened protections for college sexual assault victims, ostensibly because they robbed accused students of their right to due process in campus courts. Obama’s rules were already pro forma at some colleges before his 2011 federal guidance, so I believe the backlash isn’t truly about government policy, but discomfort about the change in how students approach the problem of sexual assault today.

Note the word “ostensibly.” Many law professors and lawyers rejected the policy because it did deprive the accused of the right to confront his accuser, the right to cross examine, the right to be judged by a jury of his peers in a court of law, the right to an attorney.

Of course, Grigoriadis cheers the women who have overcome their shame and have told their stories:

It reflects a much more positive trend: Like today’s actresses, college students are casting off the shame of victimhood to tell their stories.

Does anyone dare say that we live in a culture that reeks of shamelessness, of exhibitionist behaviors where women where enticing and alluring outfits, where they send pictures of their genitals to boys and men, where far too many women participate in hookups with random men and where we spend an inordinate amount of time discussing sexual matters.

She continues that women are becoming more comfortable asserting their bodily autonomy. She does not understand that being autonomous means being unprotected, thus more vulnerable. And yet, where has Grigoriadis been: the insistence that women have bodily autonomy has been accepted dogma for decades now:

Young women are becoming more comfortable with asserting their bodily autonomy. Their growing refusal to submit to nonconsensual encounters should count as progress. How this plays out on campus is different from the Weinstein effect in key ways, but the point is, students have been at the forefront of what it means to be more outspoken about misconduct. They also offer us a preview of where the country might be going next.

True progress would be: having sex with someone you know. True progress would be a return to dating and courtship. The better you know the person the less likely you are to miscommunicate.

Since America has been flooded with conversations about sex for decades now, one is surprised that Grigoriadis thinks that it’s a good thing to talk more about sex. In fact, flooding the culture with explicit descriptions of sexual harassment puts ideas in peoples’ minds. It’s not as though we have not tried. We recall the Anita Hill testimony about Clarence Thomas. We recall the endless discussion of Bill Clinton and the cigar and the semen stained dress. Did these tamp down the incidence of sexual harassment in the workplace? By all accounts the enhanced consciousness made things worse:

In the meantime, we should be reassured that there is very much a positive side to this cultural upheaval: Kids in college are starting to talk about sex in a more personal and open way than ever before, and not just as a matter of politics but as a matter of pleasure. They’ve learned, as one female student put it, that “sex is about me too. I’m supposed to be enjoying this. It’s not all about you.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fixing the Middle East

You have probably noticed that Obama foreign policy experts have been flooding the zone… that is, the media… with analysis of how badly President Trump is conducting foreign policy. They are especially avid to cover up their own errors and mistakes. 

They want to influence the way history is written and they are writing a new version that makes them look good, even at the expense of an American president. Yesterday, congenital liar Susan Rice took to the media to explain that Donald Trump had been played like a fiddle in China.

She is entitled to her opinion. She was entitled to her opinion about Benghazi, but her opinion on that occasion was a blatant lie, a way for her administration to wash its hands of responsibility for the deaths of four Americans… deaths caused by Obama administration incompetence.

And yet, as noted in these pages before, President Trump was treated with great respect, like a world leader, in China. Barack Obama was not. The same was true in Saudi Arabia. Whatever we all think of Donald Trump’s foreign policy credentials—so to speak—his ability to develop good relations with foreign leaders matters.

Our foreign policy elites, especially the Obamaphile left, believe that making empty declamations about human rights, leaning in to threaten foreign leaders in their own countries, is the way that great nations conduct their affairs. It is not. Obama did not understand this. Susan Rice did not understand this. Apparently, a rank amateur like Donald Trump does. One understands that those who live in the world of ideas do not believe that people matter or that personal relationships matter. They do. To ignore them is reckless and dangerous.

If an American president does not treat a foreign dignitary with respect, nothing will happen. If he threatens the leaders face, nothing will happen.

After all, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger did not travel to China in order to denounce the Cultural Revolution or the Great Leap Forward. And yet, all of the foreign policy hands believe that Nixon’s opening to China was of monumental importance.

Now, as you might have been noticing, the Obama foreign policy team is out in force to denounce the Trump administration handling of the Middle East, in particular, the recent actions of the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Caroline Glick calls them out by name. They are, for now, Aaron David Miller, Richard Sokolsky and Robert Malley. They were the architects of the Obama administration’s submission to Iran and to the Muslim Brotherhood. Timorous souls that they are they quiver in fear at the possibility of political and social disruption in the region. They want things to return to the way they were when Obama was in charge.

Glick puts it in context. And she argues effectively that the situation produced by the appalling Obama approach to the conflict paved the way for today's upheaval:

For eight years, the Obama administration deliberately alienated and willingly endangered Saudi Arabia and Israel by implementing a policy of appeasing Iran. Despite repeated warnings, the US refused to recognize that as far as Iran is concerned, it cannot have its cake and eat it too.

Iran is at war with Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies and with Israel.

Consequently, Miller and Sokolsky’s claim that there can be an “equilibrium to America’s relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran” which doesn’t involve the US siding with one side against the other is an illusion. On the ground in the Middle East, as events in Syria, Lebanon, Qatar, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Gaza and Egypt have made clear, Obama’s strategy of appeasing Iran weakened America’s traditional regional allies and strengthened Iran and its proxies.

The change in the balance of forces that the Obama administration’s policy caused forced the US’s spurned allies to reassess their strategic dependence on the US. Contrary to Miller and Sokolsky’s claims, the Saudis didn’t abandon their past passivity because Mohammed is brash, young and inexperienced.

Mohammed was appointed because Salman needed a successor willing and able to fight for the survival of the kingdom after Obama placed it in jeopardy through his appeasement of Iran. Mohammed is the flipside of the nuclear deal.

Malley noted blandly that like the Saudis, Israel has also been sounding alarms at an ever escalating rate.

The situation in the Middle East is as it is became President Obama spent eight years appeasing Iran, sucking up to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. His nuclear deal with Iran-- circumventing constitutional authority to ratify treaties-- coupled with his willingness to finance Iranian terrorism created a greater danger to everyone in the region. 

Correcting such a grievous error is not going to be easy. It will not occur without any breakage. It will not happen without errors. And yet, forming an anti-terrorism alliance with Sunni Arab nations is surely in the best interest of the world entire.

Fortunately, the people in charge are not repeating Obama’s mistakes:

It makes sense that Obama partisans are unhappy with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed. It makes sense that they are unhappy with Netanyahu and with Trump. All four of these leaders are impudently insisting on basing their policies on recognizing the reality Obama spent his two terms ignoring: Iran is not appeasable.

The What Ifs of History

Economic historian Niall Ferguson opens a recent column with a question: could the world have stopped the Bolsheviks before they took over Russia and launched a catastrophe that ended up killing more than 100 million people? What would have happened if our leaders were more capable, had seen the pending danger and had acted accordingly.

The opportunities were there. Those who had power missed them. Politicians did not take the threat seriously. Intellectual elites did not much care. After all, Bolsheviks and Communists were intellectuals. They belonged to the thinking class. As long as that class functions like a cult, it excuses the sins and crimes of its members.

Ferguson explains how Communism could have been stopped:

Could more have been done to halt the Communist pandemic after it broke out in Russia in 1917? Yes. After all, the only reason Lenin was able to get from Zurich to Petrograd in 1917 was that the imperial German government paid for his ticket — and more. An estimated $12 million was channeled from the Kaiser’s coffers to Lenin and his associates.

The provisional government thus had every right to arrest Lenin and his 19 associates on arrival. They were German agents. And Alexander Kerensky, who took control of the provisional government in July 1917, had even better grounds to round the Bolsheviks up: By then, they had attempted a coup and failed.

The problem was that people underestimated Lenin & Co. They seemed an unruly bunch of intellectuals. No contemporary Western observer thought for a moment that their crackpot coup would last. Naive American bankers completely failed to appreciate that the Bolsheviks meant exactly what they said about defaulting on the entire czarist debt. No one foresaw that hereditary nobleman Ulyanov (to give Lenin his original name) was equally capable of ordering mass murder.

Foreign intervention, incompetent liberals, clueless bankers: That makes three reasons the Bolsheviks weren’t stopped. Let me not forget the fellow travellers. John Reed, with his risible glamorizing of the revolution, would have many, many heirs.

Not many went quite as far as the Cambridge spies, who shamefully betrayed their own country to Stalin. But how many intellectuals between 1917 and 1991 turned a blind eye to the crimes of Communism? Too many to count.

Applying the same reasoning to our current war against Islamic terrorism, Ferguson suggests that we are making similar mistakes:

Ask yourself how effectively we in the West have responded to the rise of militant Islam since the Iranian Revolution unleashed its Shia variant and since 9/11 revealed the even more aggressive character of Sunni Islamism. I fear we have done no better than our grandfathers did when the virus spreading around the world was Bolshevism. It is, indeed, the same old story.

Foreign intervention — the millions of dollars that have found their way from the Gulf to radical mosques and Islamic centres in the West. Incompetent liberals — the proponents of multiculturalism who brand any opponent of jihad an “Islamophobe.” Clueless bankers — the sort who fall over themselves to offer “sharia-compliant” loans and bonds. Fellow travelers — the leftists who line up with the Muslim Brotherhood to castigate the state of Israel at every opportunity. And the faint-hearted — those who were so quick to pull out of Iraq in 2009 that they allowed the rump of al Qaeda to morph into ISIS.

A century ago it was the West’s great blunder to think it would not matter if Lenin and his confederates took over the Russian Empire. Incredible as it may seem, I believe we are capable of repeating that catastrophic error. I fear that, one day, we shall wake with a start to discover that the Islamists have repeated the Bolshevik achievement, which was to acquire the resources and capability to threaten our very existence.

Of course, Ferguson is practicing counterfactual history. It’s less about what happened and more about what might have happened. I have occasionally opined along these lines, asking this question: what would the twentieth century have looked like if Theodore Roosevelt had been elected president in 1912?

Compared to the cowardly Mr. Wilson, TR would have intervened far more quickly and decisively in the Great War. He might have ended it before it became what it became. He wrote countless op-ed columns explaining his plan. If such had been the case, we might not have had Bolshevism or even World War II—the latter having been incited by Wilsonian diplomacy. 

Ferguson is striking a blow against theories of historical inevitability, namely we could have done nothing to stop what was going to happen from happening. The latter theory neatly absolves many people from responsibility for their role in guiding history. It's a good reason to be skeptical about it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Feminist Enablers

Many of us have made the point on many occasions. Yesterday, Caitlyn Flanagan made it clearly and forcefully in The Atlantic.

Her point: that the liberal Democratic establishment and what she calls “machine feminism” bears responsibility for the epidemic of sexual harassment by progressive feminist men. Led by the enabler in chief herself, these leftist feminists rushed out to defend Bill Clinton against credible charges of sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape.

Flanagan describes Clinton’s crimes:

Yet let us not forget the sex crimes of which the younger, stronger Bill Clinton was very credibly accused in the 1990s. Juanita Broaddrick reported that when she was a volunteer on one of his gubernatorial campaigns, she had arranged to meet him in a hotel coffee shop. At the last minute, he had changed the location to her room in the hotel, where she says he very violently raped her. She said she fought against Clinton throughout a rape that left her bloodied. At a different Arkansas hotel, he caught sight of a minor state employee named Paula Jones, and, Jones says, he sent a couple of state troopers to invite her to his suite, where he exposed his penis to her and told her to kiss it. Kathleen Willey said that she met him in the Oval Office for personal and professional advice and that he groped her, rubbed his erect penis on her, and pushed her hand to his crotch.

It was a pattern of behavior; it included an alleged violent assault; the women involved had far more credible evidence than many of the most notorious accusations that have come to light in the past five weeks. But Clinton was not left to the swift and pitiless justice that today’s accused men have experienced. Rather, he was rescued by a surprising force: machine feminism. The movement had by then ossified into a partisan operation and it was willing—eager—to let this friend of the sisterhood enjoy a little droit de seigneur.

While Hillary Clinton was out front attacking the women who had dared accuse her husband, and whose charges, if true, would have seriously compromised her own quest for the presidency, Gloria Steinem stepped forth to defend Bubba:

The notorious 1998 New York Times op-ed by Gloria Steinem must surely stand as one of the most regretted public actions of her life. It slut-shamed, victim-blamed, and age-shamed; it urged compassion for and gratitude to the man the women accused. Moreover (never write an op-ed in a hurry; you’ll accidentally say what you really believe), it characterized contemporary feminism as a weaponized auxiliary of the Democratic Party….

And then she wrote the fatal sentences that invalidated the new understanding of workplace sexual harassment as a moral and legal wrong: “Even if the allegations are true, the President is not guilty of sexual harassment. He is accused of having made a gross, dumb, and reckless pass at a supporter during a low point in her life. She pushed him away, she said, and it never happened again. In other words, President Clinton took ‘no’ for an answer.”

As I have often noted, the liberal response to Clinton’s behavior paved the way for Harvey Weinstein:

The widespread liberal response to the sex crime accusations against Bill Clinton found their natural consequence 20 years later in the behavior of Harvey Weinstein: Stay loudly and publicly and extravagantly on the side of signal leftist causes and you can do what you want in the privacy of your offices and hotel rooms. 

It’s time, Flanagan concludes, for the Democratic Party to have its own reckoning, for it to measure how much its willingness to excuse Bill Clinton gave a green light to other progressive men:

The Democratic Party needs to make its own reckoning of the way it protected Bill Clinton. The party needs to come to terms with the fact that it was so enraptured by their brilliant, Big Dog president and his stunning string of progressive accomplishments that it abandoned some of its central principles. The party was on the wrong side of history and there are consequences for that. Yet expedience is not the only reason to make this public accounting. If it is possible for politics and moral behavior to coexist, then this grave wrong needs to be acknowledged. If Weinstein and Mark Halperin and Louis C.K. and all the rest can be held accountable, so can our former president and so can his party, which so many Americans so desperately need to rise again.

Life is not looking very good for the Clintons these days. It couldn't happen to nicer people!