Sunday, August 20, 2017

We're Scared As Hell, and We Don't Know What to Do

If I didn’t tell you this was from The Onion, you might not know:

BARCELONA, SPAIN—In a show of solidarity following the terrorist attack that left 14 dead and over 100 injured in Barcelona, Spain, European leaders stood together Friday to say loud and clear that they were scared as fuck and didn’t know what to do. “Side by side in the face of unfathomable violence, we assemble here today to say that we are united in our shared fear and our terrifying realization that we have no idea how to stop this,” said German chancellor Angela Merkel, who, flanked on both sides by other European heads of state, affirmed that terrorism freaked them the fuck out and would be eradicated from the face of the earth if they only knew how. “Today, we are not German, we are not Italian or French—we are simply people who are frightened out of their goddamn minds. And though we might not share the same tongue, utter panic sounds the same in every language.” At press time, European leaders vowed to continue hyperventilating as one.

Lack of Diversity at Law Firms

If one ethnic group is underrepresented in Silicon Valley, that must mean that other groups are overrepresented. One does not quite understand why all groups need to be represented proportionally, but such is the currently politically correct dogma. The same applies to college admissions. If one group is systematically underrepresented that must mean that other groups are overrepresented. Is this de facto evidence of discrimination or even cheating?

If meritocratic means have produced this disparity, they must be adjusted in the name of diversity. But, since the number of places is finite, if students with inferior academic performance are granted preferences, then students with superior scores will suffer discrimination.

We have, of late, been watching high tech firms fall all over themselves to be more diverse, so it is good to examine the prevalence of diversity in today’s law firms. In 2014 Francis Menton, a retired partner in Willkie, Farr and Gallagher, a major New York law firm posted about the issue. Menton blogs at The Manhattan Contrarian (via Maggie’s Farm).

Menton was intrigued by an issue of The American Lawyer—from 2014—that stated that the legal profession, and especially New York law firms were suffering from a lack of diversity. African-Americans were underrepresented in their ranks.

Menton writes:

The leading trade magazine for the big law firm industry is called The American Lawyer. This month, they devote most of a full issue to what they call "The Diversity Crisis." As they define the term, the "diversity crisis" consists of the under-representation of African Americans in the ranks of big firm lawyers, the even greater under-representation of African Americans in the ranks of big firm partners, and the still greater under-representation of African Americans in the ranks of the top partners identified by The American Lawyer itself as handling the largest and most important transactions and litigations. The cover illustration has photographs of some 131 top attorneys identified as "[leading] big law's top deals and suits"; just three are black.

To show how serious it was about the issue, the magazine filled its pages with articles about diversity. For the most part, Menton notes, they constituted an effort to make everyone feel guilty.

There are no fewer than four feature articles on the subject, covering some 22 pages, plus an intro called "About Our Cover" and an editorial called "Time To Call It Racism?" Guilt pervades. Law firms are said to be "lagg[ing]" in matters of diversity, and their record is called "bleak." Charts show the percentage of African Americans at big law firms dropping from 3.2% in 2004 to 3.0% in 2013, while the percentage among partners increased over the same period, but only from 1.7% to 1.9%. Numerous prominent firms are listed as having not one single black partner. Is this a major problem?

But, Menton continues, if one group is underrepresented, another is overrepresented:

 while African Americans may well be under-represented at the top ranks of the American legal profession, there is one small ethnic group that is hugely, hugely over-represented. That over-represented group, of course, is Jews. The over-representation of Jews is so large that, inherently, all other ethnic groups must be under-represented, which in fact they are. Some groups are more under-represented than others. It is not at all clear to me that African Americans are the most under-represented among the remaining groups, nor does The American Lawyer even address that subject.

… in 2012 there were 6,671,680 Jews in the United States, constituting 2.1% of the population. What is the percentage of Jews among the partners of the top law firms in the country? In an hour of internet searching, I can't find anyone who has collected current data, but I am here in the middle of this industry. Among partners of the top law firms in New York, I estimate that at least 25% are Jews.

Once upon a time Jews were suffered discrimination at major New York law firms. What did they do about it? They went out and formed their own law firms and competed in the marketplace. This bizarre notion does not seem to have crossed the minds of today’s proponents of diversity.

Menton concludes:

… the most pervasive, blatant and overt possible discrimination could not keep them out. Given the Jewish experience, and the very extensive efforts of all large law firms today to recruit and promote blacks, isn't it a little hard to blame black under-representation on some kind of hidden discrimination?

One might also say that high tech's extraordinary efforts to recruit for diversity might not be a sign of bigotry. Link here.

Freud Reduced

Today, the New York Times reviews Frederick Crews’s new book: Freud: The Making of an Illusion. Reviewer George Prochnik tries to find good and bad in Freud. He tries to present a balanced view. Where Crews indicts Freud as a fraudulent imposter, Prochnik still clings to the illusion that we can draw some good from our adventures in Freudland.

Since Freud’s hagiographers, from Ernest Jones to Elisabeth Roudinesco, have worked long and hard to make Freud into something like a deity—a demiurge, I have suggested—Crews has every reason to debunk the claims. If psychoanalysis is a cult—in my terms, a pseudo-religion—to an idol, then one way to release people from its hold is to expose the fraud behind it. It's like tearing back the curtain on the wizard of Oz.

As for whether you can find some redeeming features in Freud, I side with Crews. Psychoanalysis is a closed intellectual system, roughly like the first order predicate calculus. Once you accept the validity of its founding axioms, the rest of the theory falls into place. True enough, you can find empirical evidence that appears to support its theories, but you can find some empirical evidence to support any bogus theory. 

Karl Popper famously explained decades ago that psychoanalysis cannot be science because it does not admit to any facts that would disprove its theories. At that point, it is not empirical science, but a method to produce fictional beings who live in a fictional world. I explained this in more detail in my book: The Last Psychoanalyst.

In my book I offered my ideas about why the great Freudian scam has lasted so long. At the least, we know that I was not the first to raise the issue. Since it's a pseudo-religion with cult followers Freudian theory cannot be disproved by empirical evidence.

In 1975 famed Oxford biologist and Nobel laureate Peter Medawar asked this question:

… psychoanalysts will continue to perpetrate the most ghastly blunders just so long as they persevere in their impudent and intellectually disabling belief that they enjoy “a privileged access to the truth.” The opinion is gaining ground that doctrinaire psychoanalytic theory is the most stupendous confidence trick of the twentieth century; and, to borrow an image I have used elsewhere, a terminal practice as well—something akin to a dinosaur or a zeppelin in the history of ideas: a vast structure with radically unsound design and with no posterity.

Now, on to Prochnik’s effort to salvage what he may from the calamity of Freudian thinking:

By identifying sexual desire as a universal drive with endlessly idiosyncratic objects determined by individual experiences and memories, Freud, more than anyone, not only made it possible to see female desire as a force no less powerful or valid than male desire; he made all the variants of sexual proclivity dance along a shared erotic continuum. In doing so, Freud articulated basic conceptual premises that reduced the sway of experts who attributed diverse sexual urges to hereditary degeneration or criminal pathology. His work has allowed many people to feel less isolated and freakish in their deepest cravings and fears.

This sounds good. It is a distortion. Freud believed that this universal sex drive was defined and determined by an incest wish. People desire sexual objects because they cannot have the one true object of their sexual desire: their mother. Ignore this and you are ignoring Freud.

Freud also believed that heterosexual copulation was normal and that all other forms of sexual behavior were perverse. He saw homosexuality as sexual inversion. Freud was not a postmodern hero. Back in the day, when psychoanalysis was in its heyday, homosexuality was considered to be something that needed to be cured. Psychoanalyst Richard Isay wrote about this issue extensively.

Prochnik has also provided a litany of ideas that he believes we owe to Freud. He writes:

The idea that large parts of our mental life remain obscure or even entirely mysterious to us; that we benefit from attending to the influence of these depths upon our surface selves, our behaviors, language, dreams and fantasies; that we can sometimes be consumed by our childhood familial roles and even find ourselves re-enacting them as adults; that our sexuality might be as ambiguous and multifaceted as our compendious emotional beings and individual histories — these core conceits, in the forms they circulate among us, are indebted to Freud’s writings. Now that we’ve effectively expelled Freud from the therapeutic clinic, have we become less neurotic? With that baneful “illusion” gone, and with all our psychopharmaceuticals and empirically grounded cognitive therapy techniques firmly in place, can we assert that we’ve advanced toward some more rational state of mental health than that enjoyed by our forebears in the heyday of analysis?

Unfortunately, Prochnik does not understand the difference between claiming that something is true and demonstrating scientifically that something is true. Freud was a great fabulator. He was a great storyteller. He taught people how to concoct tales that seemed to demonstrate that past traumas and a bad upbringing were responsible for everything that has gone wrong in your life. This mania about explaining things, about pretending to gain insight induced far too many people to turn away from reality and to get lost in their minds.

As for whether we have become less neurotic, we have certainly become less depressed. In truth, Freudian theory is a system for manufacturing depression. Thus, no Freudian or post-Freudian theory has ever had any success treating depression. For those who understand that neurosis and depression are not the same thing the advent of cognitive therapy and SSRIs was the final nail in the Freudian coffin. When patients who had been induced to remain mildly depressed through years of Freudian treatment discovered that they could, by taking a pill, doing cognitive treatment, or, more importantly, adopting an exercise regimen overcome their depression psychoanalysis died.

Since Freudian psychoanalysis was never more than a cult, its followers never really attained to anything resembling a rational mental state. True Freudians more closely resemble fanatics than rational actors. Surely, the story of psychoanalysis in France demonstrates this point. 

In other cities, psychoanalysts simply did not know how to get along with each other. The history of psychoanalytic institutions comprises splits, schisms, conflict and struggle. That's why New York has had dozens of psychoanalytic institutions. When the meaning of your life is your desire, there is no way to verify empirically that your want this and not that. True, as Lacan pointed out, we know that you cannot want what you have, but you certainly do not want everything that you do not have. Thus, the theory is obliged to say that you only want what is tabooed or forbidden.

The closest Freud came to offering an empirical proof of desire was his notion that when a woman says  that she wants something and when she gets what she wants, if she is unsatisfied—which was Freud’s view of the female condition—this means that she does not know what she wants.

As I have suggested, convincing a woman that she does not know what she wants but that you, her analyst does, is a seducer’s trick. It is not science. It is not rational. It is not something that we should continue to embrace.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Wisdom of Chelsea Clinton

What were we missing in the national debate over confederate monuments?

You guessed it. We were missing the wisdom of Chelsea Clinton. 

Well, now we have it:


The story of Lucifer-who rebelled against God-is part of many Christians' traditions. I've never been in a church with a Lucifer statue.



In response: the following image, painted by Giotto, certainly one of the greatest artists in Western civilization, appears in the Arena Chapel, in Padua, Italy.

Image result for giotto arena chapel devil


The apple does not fall far from the tree. 

She Plagiarized My Idea

A woman who dubs herself “Sad over Lost Friendship” recounts a problem with a now-former friend:

A few years ago one of my closest friends accused me of plagiarism. It was weird because I’m a professional writer and she’s in another field, writing for publicity, and I’d never even read the article she had written. Perhaps we’d discussed some of the ideas in our regular friendship, but I have no need to copy her.

She cut off all ties with me saying (via email) that unless I apologize, we can’t be friends. I’m certainly not the first friend she’s cut off or accused of copying her ideas.

At the time I was trying to have a baby and had gone through my gazillionth miscarriage and then a very tense pregnancy. I was kind of shocked that she didn’t contact me when she found out I was finally pregnant or even when I had a baby. I invited her to the baby shower but she didn’t come. I was thinking of reaching out to her again, but she told my sister that unless I gave her a full apology we can’t be friends.

We have been friends for over 40 years and I find it sad that she doesn’t even know my child. My husband thinks this is actually about her being single and me being married and moving forward in life. (Interestingly, she accused me of being jealous of her.)

Let’s see, they have been friends for over forty years and SOLF is having her first child. One might ask how old they were when they met and became friends, but one’s knowledge of arithmetic is inadequate.

Two questions arise here. This time therapist Lori Gottlieb is largely correct. But, then again, SOLF’s husband is also right. The lost friend seems consumed by envy over the fact that SOLF has gotten married and had a child. One might mention, as a point of ethics, that a friend who cannot participate in the good things in your life is not a friend. Said friend should be thrown off of the island. As Gresham’s law says: don’t throw good money after bad.

Gottlieb seems to believe that SOLF should write and send a letter to her lost friend. On that point I disagree. Best to get over it and to forget her entirely.

As for the plagiarism issue, I would fain point out that you cannot plagiarize an idea. You can plagiarize someone’s words but you cannot be sued for plagiarizing an idea. In this case, as in many others that arrive at us from advice columns, we do not know enough about the situation to know whether the friend is right or wrong.

In some circumstances one can convoque the parties to the dispute and to lay the texts on the table. Reality will do a better at resolving such disputes than will mental gymnastics. If the two together cannot resolve the dispute, perhaps a mediator will help out.

Also, one assumes that when two people have been friends for forty years they have more than a few friends in common. If SOLF really wants to get back together, how about sending an emissary, an intermediary.  

Since the one woman writes publicity while the other writes, one assumes, in the media, I do not see any injury as especially grievous. Extorting an apology never works, because even if it offered, one can never know whether or not it's sincere. But, we do not know the details that produced the dispute. Thus, we cannot really offer an opinion… beyond the general opinion that this friendship is a lost cause. TTMO-- that is, time to move on.

The Muslim Ban

Political leaders in Western Europe have been declaring that we must learn to live with Islamist terrorism. Nothing can be done, they moan, as they fail to take responsibility for their own contributions to the problem. You see, feckless and pusillanimous leadership, based on pure sentimentality and citizen-of-the-worldism has produced this seemingly insoluble problem.

But, the Observer asks, why have Eastern European nations not had a problem with terrorism:

There have been no major Islamic terror attacks in Prague, Warsaw, Budapest or any of the former communist countries in the EU.

These countries are all Western facing, democracy supporting, terror opposing, predominantly Christian countries and most are NATO members to boot.

So why are terrorists ignoring them?

The reason is simple: they have not been allowed to mass immigrate into these countries.

In countries like Britain, the link between immigration and terrorism is clear. A report by the Henry Jackson Society shows that 38 percent of convicted Islamic terrorists in Britain were not born in the country.

But if having low immigration has sheltered Eastern Europe from the troubles of the West, things are set to change. The EU is determined to spread the number of migrants from the Islamic world across member countries. At present, most Eastern European countries are less than one percent Muslim, and the Muslim communities in those countries are hundreds of years old.

Naturally, the majority of EU countries has insisted that these Eastern European nations share the pain. It’s all about empathy, don’t you know. The question now remaining is whether the EU will force these nations to accept more terrorists in their midst or whether these nations will walk away from the EU.

What about that Muslim ban?

When Obama Denounced Anti-Semitism

Caroline Glick reminds us of the time when President Obama forcefully denounced anti-Semitism. Obama clearly saw the link between Islamic terrorism-- the one he dared not call by its name-- and anti-Semitism:

In February 2015, a terrorist aligned with Islamic State entered the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris on a Friday afternoon and held the Jewish shoppers hostage while killing four of them.

When asked about the event, then-president Barack Obama denied the massacre was an antisemitic attack. He referred to the victims as “a bunch of guys in a deli.” The perpetrators were merely “a bunch of violent, vicious zealots.”

When asked to clarify if Obama really meant to deny the attack was an antisemitic assault, both the White House and State Department spokespeople insisted, repeatedly, that the attack was not antisemitic.

The administration only deigned to acknowledge the truth in clarifications on Twitter, which it belatedly released, and which included the outright lie that the administration had said the attack was antisemitic all along.

The Obama administration’s mind-melting refusal to acknowledge the attack was anti-Jewish bespoke its larger policy of denying that Jews are specifically targeted for annihilation by Islamic terrorists. The implications of the policy of denial for the safety of Jews throughout the world, including in the US, were self-evident.

Glick also reminds us of how the American Jewish community was outraged at Obama’s failure to denounce anti-Semitism:

And yet, the American Jewish community preferred to ignore the whole thing.

Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama’s favored Jewish journalist, tweeted, “FWIW [for what it’s worth], the Obama Administration has been pretty clear in its condemnations of European antisemitism over time.”

Goldberg has been leading the charge against Trump. So fervent is he in his hatred against Trump that he compared the Antifa protesters to the American troops at Normandy. No kidding. You can’t make this up:

Today, the same Goldberg who underplayed and denied what can at best be called Obama’s diffident response to anti-Jewish violence, has been leading the charge against Trump.

Among other things, Goldberg likened the counterprotesters at Charlottesville to the American soldiers who stormed the beaches at Normandy.

What does Antifa have to do with anti-Semitism. Glick explains:

Antifa is problematic for American Jews specifically because it operates in a coalition of far-left groups that all hate Israel and believe that just as Republicans and conservatives should be banned from participating in public life, so American Jews who support Israel should be silenced. All of its coalition partners support the destruction of Israel and castigate the Jewish state as criminal. All bar Jews who support Israel – or even are proud of their Jewish identity – from participating in their events.

Hence, Linda Sarsour, the BDS leader who was elevated to the top of the US feminist movement when she served as co-chairwoman of the Women’s March against Trump, insists that Zionists cannot be feminists.

Hence Black Lives Matter, the anti-police group that is a core member of the Antifa coalition, libeled Israel in its mission statement. Israel, BLM declared, is an “apartheid” state which is carrying out a “genocide” against the Palestinians.

Hence, Democratic Socialists of America, another core group in the Antifa coalition, just passed a resolution at its annual convention to officially join the BDS movement. The vote was reportedly greeted with jubilant chants of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.”

Given the infestation of anti-Semitism in Antifa and other liberal groups, American Jews are joining with them to fight Trump:

And yet, rather than sound the alarms or fight the growing power and influence of the anti-Jewish far Left in their political home, the American Jewish leadership is ignoring the danger and devoting itself to criminalizing Trump, his advisers and supporters.

Whereas the Anti-Defamation League had nearly nothing to say about either Sarsour or Cong. Keith Ellison, with his anti-Jewish record of statements from his service in the antisemitic Nation of Islam, ADL leader Jonathan Greenblatt insisted Monday that Trump must investigate his closest advisers for alleged ties to white supremacists.

The alleged “ties” of the likes of Trump aides Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka to white supremacists are the invention of The Forward newspaper, which has relentlessly libeled both men – and particularly Gorka – without ever producing a shred of evidence to back up its allegations.

Rather than acknowledge its errors, this month the Forward took its campaign a step further when it published an extraordinary op-ed titled “19 people Jews should worry about more than Sarsour.”

So saith Caroline Glick.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Who's to Blame for Barcelona?

As you collect relevant information about the terrorist attack on Barcelona yesterday you will be interested to see how local authorities rationalized their failure to protect Las Ramblas. 

They knew the attack was coming. They were warned about it. They were told to put up barriers. But, in an impressive show of pure passivity, Barcelona’s mayor decided that she could do nothing to stop the attack.

The Daily Mail reports:

Barcelona security chiefs rejected calls last year to install barriers at Las Ramblas to protect pedestrians from an attack by terrorists in a vehicle, it emerged today.

The Catalan interior ministry and police chiefs recommended that Barcelona City Hall install massive bollards to protect the boulevard - following similar attacks in Berlin and Nice.

The interior ministry recommended that 'strategic points which could be targets for terrorist attacks are isolated either with physical objects or with police officers.'

The City Hall's Local Security Board met to discuss the proposed measures with the local police force the Mossos d'Esquadra, the National Police, the Civil Guard and the fire service.

But they opted instead to increase police presence on Las Ramblas and other vulnerable areas.

This was despite Spain being on level 4 terror alert, one below the maximum of 5.

And it came in spite of reports the CIA had specifically warned that Las Ramblas could be a target for an attack.

Barcelona mayor Ada Colau said 'protocols were revised' following the meeting and measures taken including increased police patrols and prohibiting vehicles during some major events.

She said: '100 per cent security does not exist, especially when there are people ready to carry out atrocities with very rudimentary means.'

In a better world Mayor Ada Colau would resign in disgrace. Alas, we do not live in a better world.

It is a familiar story. The same thing happened in London, under the leadership of the weak-kneed Sadiq Khan:

Authorities in London ruled out measures to install barriers on the bridge just 24 hours before three terrorists drove a van at crowds of people.

Barriers were installed on the bridge shortly after the attack which left six dead and 48 injured.

When leaders are not held to account for their dereliction, the terrorism will continue.

Charles Barkley on the Confederate Statues

I’m sure you were wondering what Charles Barkley had to say about the Confederate statues. Happily for you, the great basketball player offered his views in a radio interview. As always, he puts it all in perspective:

Newsmax reports:

In an interview with WRBC-TV’s Rick Karle is his home state of Alabama, Barkley said, "I’m not going to waste my time worrying about these confederate statues."

"You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to keep doing great things. I’m going to keep trying to make a difference, No. 1 in the black community because I’m black. But I’m also going to try to do good things in the world.

"I’m not going to waste my time screaming at a neo-Nazi who’s going to hate me no matter what. And I’m not going to waste my time worrying about these statues. I’ve always ignored them."

"I’m 54-years-old. I’ve never thought about those statues a day in my life. If you ask most black people, they haven’t thought a day in their lives about those stupid statues."

"What we as black people need to do is: we have to worry about getting our education," he said. "We need to stop killing each other. We need to try to find ways to have more economic opportunity. Those things are important and significant."

Charlottesville vs. Barcelona

Our friends on the left are up in arms to fight against Nazis. They should also recall that when Nazis were taking over Germany our great liberal president Roosevelt mostly sat on his hands. Eventually, FDR got on board, but his failure to face the danger at its inception contributed to a war that cost tens of millions of lives. 

And, let’s not forget that for the better part of the Nazi era, when European Jews were being persecuted and massacred, FDR did everything in his power to ensure that European Jews could not come to the United States. Apparently, labor union leaders did not want to see any more Jews, and FDR happily complied… until very late in the game.

Of course, the war against Neo-nazis is a screen for the cowardice the left has shown in the fight against Islamist terror. Our last president, a coward-in-chief, set the example. His followers have formed small cults to perpetuate his legacy.

Those who are the most mentally challenged have even claimed that the Barcelona terrorists were merely imitating the Charlottesville white supremacists. Anyone who is that ignorant ought not to publicize it.

Today, Roger Simon explains the difference between what happened in Charlottesville and what happened in Barcelona. Since he wrote those words there has been another Islamist terrorist attack, with knives, in Turku,Finland.

Simon writes:

And one delusional white supremacist dope -- in an act that does not seem to have been premeditated, but entirely out of blind rage -- drove into the crowd of counter-protestors, killing a young woman.  A tragedy...

... but nothing at all like what went on in Barcelona. Or in Nice. Or in Paris. Or in London. Or in Manchester. Or in Berlin. Or in Brussels. Or in Stockholm. Or in Orlando.  Or in San Bernardino.... Obviously, I could go on.  These were all -- to one degree or another -- planned acts of radical Islamic terrorism, designed to frighten the world into submission, not random explosions of reprehensible racist hotheads exacerbated by extremely poor crowd control.

How much of a threat are the Neo-Nazis compared with Islamist terrorists? Simon writes:

It is also a yearning for a time when the source of evil was not so treacherous and complicated.  No one knows how many Islamic radicals there are or where they are, although there are apparently a lot of them, probably vastly more than there ever were Nazis, possibly in the hundreds of millions if you add up the results of this Pew poll of eleven Muslim countries. (It may even be understated, given the reluctance to answer such incriminating questions.)

Some on the left are simply afraid to confront Islamists. Others sympathize with anyone who is leading the fight against Western civilization and Israel:

Not only that, a significant percentage of the left evinces sympathy for Islamic radicals, identifying with them and justifying their cause, despite the obvious misogyny and homophobia, through such latter-day crypto-fascist inventions as "intersectionality."  The Antifa movement, in the forefront of that nauseating sympathy for Islamism, is far more prevalent and dangerous in U.S. society than those few pathetic remaining losers in the KKK and similar neo-Nazi groups.  The Antifa thugs are seemingly everywhere, smashing windows and making life Hell for weak-willed university administrators across the country.

Simon concludes by listing the way that Islamist terrorism has changed the way we live our everyday lives:

… dealing with what happened in Barcelona is surpassingly difficult.  It isn't because of neo-Nazis or the KKK that it's been decades since any of us has walked onto an airplane or entered a concert or museum without being examined or x-rayed, that our daily lives have not been the same.  A vicious ideological war is obviously being waged against the West and its liberties with its end nowhere near in sight.  As ISIS wrote of the Spanish terror, "We will recover our land from the invaders." Like the Nazis of old, they mean it.

But, don’t worry, famed Nazi hunter Jon Stewart is on the case. He is impassioned about it all. He is defending people against a threat that pales when placed next to another threat that his favorite president could not bring himself to name.

The chase after white supremacists seems more like a snipe hunt than a profile in courage.

Trump's Gut

An old saying goes like this: When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

The Trumpian variation is: When you find yourself in a hole of your own making, keep digging. Why not own your own mess? But then again, isn't better to clean up a mess of your own making and to get yourself out of the hole?

For reasons that defy rational explanation President Trump has been incapable of offering a proper and presidential response to the events that occurred in Charlottesville last Saturday. It should not have been a challenge. Many Republicans immediately issued statements and got it right. Even Lucifer, aka Ted Cruz, offered a perfectly fine statement, immediately. Trump thought about it and thought about it and thought about it... and kept getting it wrong.

This morning Peggy Noonan drew attention to Trump's "rhetorical inadequacy":

There were neo-Nazis, anti-Semitic chants, white supremacists; a woman was killed and many people injured. It’s not hard to figure out who and what needed to be castigated—clearly, unambiguously, immediately.

Trump took his first swing on Saturday and flailed. He tried to improve and offered a much better statement on Monday. Some thought he was being slightly insincere. He seems to have thought that it was not coming straight from his gut. But, it was better to be insincere than to say what he said on Tuesday.

Like it or not Tuesday’s performance, the one in which he said that there were good people marching with the Neo-Nazis and the Klan, the one in which he tried to draw a moral equivalence between the extreme right and those who had come out to fight with them, fell flat. It did not just fall flat. It cost Trump many of those who had continued, through thick and thin, to support him. 

Those who had hoped that Gen. John Kelly would help right the ship of the Trump presidency had only to watch Kelly’s expression at the news conference. He bowed his head in shame.

Keep in mind, Trump was supposed to be presenting his economic agenda. Yet, he allowed himself to be sidetracked and apparently sunk his economic agenda. If you want to be charitable, you can say that his command of rhetoric is so weak that he did not know what he was saying. If so, he should let other people speak for him.

For many years now the Democratic Party has happily labeled Republicans as right-wing extremists, as racists, sexists, Neo-Nazis and Klan sympathizers. They do not have very much evidence for this calumny but they keep spinning it out. 

One thing every student of public relations knows, when someone is defaming you, you do not want to perform any public actions that would lend credence to the defamation. It’s the first lesson you learn in public relations school. You cannot control what other people think of you. But if someone is trying to destroy your reputation, and if you, as a public figure, cannot sue, you should never, never, never do anything that makes your enemy look right.

But, that is what Trump did. This time there was no method to the madness. The Republicans-as-Nazis meme has of late been skillfully used by Democrats to shift the nation’s attention away from the threat posed by radical Islam. If you are looking for real anti-Semites look no further than Islamist terrorists. Yet, those who are too cowardly to face the threat directly pretend to being courageous by attacking right wing extremism. Tuesday, Donald Trump played into their hands. He handed them a victory.

Why did he do it? Why did he deviate from the talking points his staff had prepared for him? Why did he go rogue?

Was he following the call of his gut? Hasn’t he learned that nothing good ever comes out of anyone’s gut? Even literally, that is. It’s one thing to find yourself in a job you do not know how to do. It’s quite another to lack the requisite humility to follow the counsel of those who know more than you do. 

Between General Kelly and Trump’s gut… which do you think knows better how to function as an executive? Aren’t you just a little surprised that a business executive seems to have so little sense of how to function as an executive? We can happily argue that Hillary was worse, but that does not mean that we should suspend our critical faculties and worship Trump’s gut.

Why did Trump go rogue? Politico has an interesting take, from sources in the White House:

President Donald Trump’s decision to double down on his argument that “both sides” were to blame for the violent clashes at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was driven in part by his own anger — and his disdain for being told what to do.

Trump’s temper has been a constant force in this eight-month-old White House. He’s made policy decisions after becoming irritated with staffers and has escalated fights in the past few weeks with everyone from the Senate majority leader to the volatile dictator of North Korea.

The controversy over his response to the Charlottesville violence was no different. Agitated about being pressured by aides to clarify his first public statement, Trump unexpectedly unwound the damage control of the prior two days by assigning blame to the “alt-left” and calling some of the white supremacist protesters “very fine people.”

“In some ways, Trump would rather have people calling him racist than say he backed down the minute he was wrong,” one adviser to the White House said on Wednesday about Charlottesville. “This may turn into the biggest mess of his presidency because he is stubborn and doesn't realize how bad this is getting.”

And also:

The majority of Trump’s top aides, with the notable exception of Steve Bannon, had been encouraging Trump to put to an end this damaging news cycle and talk that makes him seem sympathetic to groups that widely decry Jews, minorities and women. But the president did not want to be told what to do and seemed in high spirits on Tuesday evening, even as headlines streamed out about his seeming overtures to hate groups, according to one White House adviser who spoke to him.

First, no one was telling anyone what to do. A president has advisers. These advisers give advice. Receiving advice is not the same as being told what to do. When Trump does not like the advice he is being given, because it does not correspond to what his gut is telling him, he lashes out. Not to put too fine a point on it, he starts acting like an insolent and petulant adolescent.

Executives are capable of getting angry. Everyone is capable of getting angry. Yet, a good executive steps back from his anger to formulate policy, to develop and to implement a strategy. He does not toss his talking points in the trash and ad-lib a news conference on the economy into catnip for those who think that he is Hitler.

As I said, it’s one thing to say that Trump is not up to the job. Clearly, he is relying on his gut because his experience and his knowledge are failing him. Perhaps they often have, but that is not an excuse for rejecting advice.

Surely, Trump has accomplished some things that are distinctly good for the nation and the world. And yet, getting your talking points right, making the proper ceremonial statement, is damaging because it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. Getting it wrong costs you an enormous amount of political capital and puts your agenda into serious peril.

[Addendum: Newt Gingrich adds his perspective.]

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Orphaned

Some people go for the gusto. Some people follow the rumblings in their gut. Others believe in love, not so much in the romantic variety, but in the charitable kind, the kind you show when you are caring for people who are dying. It’s a calling like any other.

A woman who has recently cared for her dying mother, who believes that that shows her ability to love deeply and unselfishly, asks our friend Polly what she can do to sustain her passion.

Orphan is 35, lives in New York, has a stable job with benefits, and is looking for more.

First, a few excerpts from Orphan’s letter:

I brought my mother to live with me in NYC to take care of her while she was dying, and it was the most meaningful time in my life. All the hard shit was so fucking hard I can’t even describe it … physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But none of it seemed hard because I loved her so much. It shocked me … the depth of my love….

I know the animal contact of bathing my mother, of holding her on a portable potty when she can’t make it to the bathroom, of touching and caring for her once round and white soft magnolia of a body and witnessing it turn into bone and hanging skin. I died inside as she pleaded with God to take her to be with her husband. If you don’t believe in true love, you watch someone plead to see their love’s face and beg to die so they can just be with them again. 

Her love is special because her parents adopted her at a young age when her birth parents abandoned her. Thus, the love that she feels must have something to do with her horror at the fact that parents can abandon a child. She seems to be playing out the drama of an abandoned child who is saved… like Moses:

The deeper part of it is they adopted me at a young age since my birth parents abandoned me and so much of my identity is wrapped up in them. They were literally the most loving, saintly, wholesome salt-of-the-earth people I have ever come in contact with.

Yet, now that her mother has died—presumably she has no siblings—she feels like she has nothing left in her life. Not to be too unpleasant here, but did her loving parents allow her to step out in the world, to have her own friends, to get her hands dirty in relationships, friendships and even everyday silliness? Were they so dependent that she has no one else in her life, even when she left home. Orphan is simply too intense and too isolated for her own good.

She writes:

When my parents died, it’s like all the love and meaning drained out of my life. I think I’m one of those people who finds deep joy in loving and taking care of others. I know you can say, Oh, you have to start loving yourself …taking care of yourself. I have done a great job of that (I think) my whole life. I have fun, I meditate, I do yoga, I cook, I read books, I see movies, I travel the world. I like myself very much. I’m not perfect, but I do try to be a good person. I do all these things and they used to make me feel something but they don’t anymore. Not really.

What should she do? Polly hones in on some possible solutions.

It sounds to me like you should try to fall in love, have a baby, and start an orphanage. I’m not kidding. Because it sounds to me like you believe in love and connection more than anything else in life. And you love caring for others. 

And yet, Polly adds the salient point, the shocking point in Orphan’s letter: namely that Orphan seems to have no other people in her life. The sense of her own isolation is oppressive. Perhaps she does not want to have a child because her own parents were themselves so needy and dependent.

Polly says:

You described to me so clearly what matters the most in life to you. Do you talk to other people this way regularly? Do you wear your heart on your sleeve? Do you open up? Or did your parents hold this precious place in your life and no one else gets to see that side of you? Because I do think you’re grieving and depressed and that’s why you can’t feel anything. But I also think you’re trying to come out of the closet as an intense person with extremely strong opinions about what is important in life and what isn’t.

True enough. Orphan is too intense. She does not seem to talk to other people at all. But, more importantly, she does not seem to know how to get along with other people. If she talks to other people the way she writes to Polly her intensity will be off-putting. Does she know how to make small talk? Does she know how to talk about the weather or fashion? We do not know what she does for a living, but hopefully it allows her to interact with other people.

While I agree with Polly that Orphan wants to bring her intense emotions into her everyday life, she ought not to do so. Her emotions seem more fitting to the grand drama she was playing out with her adoptive parents. Most people, certainly most people you are just getting to know, do not want to hear about it and do not care. Unfortunately, Orphan is so into herself that she will surely have difficulty opening herself to other people.

Polly thinks that Orphan’s solipsistic world of intense love is real. Surely, Orphan thinks so. But, Orphan is wrong. It is not real. It is emotion. It has very little do with reality. Polly does understand that Orphan cannot express what she has put in her letter without overwhelming other people:

Just saying what you believe, out loud, to someone who’s listening and understands can give you chills. Suddenly, the world is burning with bright colors, the flowers have faces, strangers are singing and handing you lollipops. It’s almost too much. For most people, it is too much.

Polly wants her to open up to the world:

Because when I read your letter, I feel like I’m witnessing someone who knows what she cares about but can’t say it out loud to anyone but a stranger. You have to start telling people — old friends, new friends, strangers — what you care about. Make other people uncomfortable, if that’s what it takes. And rest assured that, the older you get, the more you’ll feel at home letting other people know just how heavy and dark you feel a lot of the time, and the more you’ll move among people who understand the divinity of connecting, of telling the truth, of showing up for each other, no matter what.

About this, Polly is right and wrong. While I agree that Orphan might very well want to open an orphanage in Chile, and while I accept that Orphan ought to share her experience with other people, I do not agree that she ought to do it to their faces. I think she should write it. 

She can write down her intense passions, in a book or an article. Since her parents are no longer around and since she seems to have no other family, she will not have to worry about exposing family secrets.

Why else did she write it down in a letter to Polly? This will allow her to express them in the proper medium and to avoid burdening other people with something that they do not want to hear. Writing it down matters because they she will learn that the world she is living in is a fiction. It is not reality.

And of course, we all agree that Orphan should have a child of her own, even to get married. Polly suggests that Orphan have a child out of wedlock, perhaps because we see no sign of there being any other people in Orphan’s world. I accept Polly's advice, because the distance between Orphan's self-involvement and a romance is very large indeed.

As it happens, we might all become confused here because we believe that love is love and that all loves are the same thing. Such is not the case. The love you feel for a dying parent is not the same as romantic love. Engaging in a romantic love affair requires a far different set of social skills, one that, I suspect, Orphan does not have. And these two kinds of love are not the same as the love and affection you feel for a friend, not for a friend with whom you can describe a dying body, but a friend with whom you can share a good time, enjoy a dinner or watch a movie.

Orphan has missed out on all of the banalities that make life meaningful and worthwhile. She should confine her intense love for her parents to a notebook and move on with her life. I suspect that once she starts writing it all down she will discover that her idyllic childhood, created and sustained by selfless love, had more than a few flaws. As the old saying goes, love is blind. The more intense the passion, even the passion for charity, the more blind it is. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What Is Antifa?

In a better world Donald Trump would have stifled his thoughts about moral equivalence yesterday. They made him look like he was taking back what he had said the day before. Unfortunately, we do not live in this better world and Trump continues to blurt out what comes to mind, regardless. Whatever else you think, he will certainly go down as the president who has most fully mastered the Freudian art of free association.

If psychoanalysts knew anything about psychoanalysis, they would acclaim Donald Trump the model of the cured patient.

Today’s radical and anarchist left, now going by the name of the Antifa, for Antifascists, is not a bunch of nice people. They have happily adopted the methods of prior fascist brigades, from the German Brown Shirts to Mao’s Red Guards.

According to Peter Beinart—not a right wing loon—the Antifa radicals have given themselves the right to determine who speaks and who does not speak, who can and cannot exercise the right to free and peaceable assembly.

But in the name of protecting the vulnerable, antifascists have granted themselves the authority to decide which Americans may publicly assemble and which may not. That authority rests on no democratic foundation. Unlike the politicians they revile, the men and women of antifa cannot be voted out of office. Generally, they don’t even disclose their names.

The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.

Like the fascist right the anti-fascist left has no use for democracy:

Since antifa is heavily composed of anarchists, its activists place little faith in the state, which they consider complicit in fascism and racism. They prefer direct action: They pressure venues to deny white supremacists space to meet. They pressure employers to fire them and landlords to evict them. And when people they deem racists and fascists manage to assemble, antifa’s partisans try to break up their gatherings, including by force.

In June of last year, demonstrators—at least some of whom were associated with antifa—punched and threw eggs at people exiting a Trump rally in San Jose, California. An article in It’s Going Down celebrated the “righteous beatings.”

Obviously, the antifascists are just as fascistic as the fascists they abhor. Beinart argues effectively that the fascist right and the antifascist left feed each other, provoke each other and produce a cycle of violence.

Some of the violence counts as relatively mild. Beinart reminds us:

On Inauguration Day, a masked activist punched the white-supremacist leader Richard Spencer. In February, protesters violently disrupted UC Berkeley’s plans to host a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart.com editor. In March, protesters pushed and shoved the controversial conservative political scientist Charles Murray when he spoke at Middlebury College, in Vermont.

On Inauguration Day antifa radicals committed numerous acts of violence, including firebombing cars. They did the same at Berkeley. At Middlebury they sent one woman to the hospital. We are not talking about engaging in free and open debate.

The Antifa radicals happily rationalize their actions:

Antifascists call such actions defensive. Hate speech against vulnerable minorities, they argue, leads to violence against vulnerable minorities. But Trump supporters and white nationalists see antifa’s attacks as an assault on their right to freely assemble, which they in turn seek to reassert. The result is a level of sustained political street warfare not seen in the U.S. since the 1960s. A few weeks after the attacks in San Jose, for instance, a white-supremacist leader announced that he would host a march in Sacramento to protest the attacks at Trump rallies. Anti-Fascist Action Sacramento called for a counterdemonstration; in the end, at least 10 people were stabbed.

Some of the fascist Trump supporters have turned to violence. This, from Portland, Oregon:

When antifascists forced the cancellation of the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade, Trump supporters responded with a “March for Free Speech.” Among those who attended was Jeremy Christian, a burly ex-con draped in an American flag, who uttered racial slurs and made Nazi salutes. A few weeks later, on May 25, a man believed to be Christian was filmed calling antifa “a bunch of punk bitches.”

The next day, Christian boarded a light-rail train and began yelling that “colored people” were ruining the city. He fixed his attention on two teenage girls, one African American and the other wearing a hijab, and told them “to go back to Saudi Arabia” or “kill themselves.” As the girls retreated to the back of the train, three men interposed themselves between Christian and his targets. “Please,” one said, “get off this train.” Christian stabbed all three. One bled to death on the train. One was declared dead at a local hospital. One survived.

The cycle continued. Nine days after the attack, on June 4, Trump supporters hosted another Portland rally, this one featuring Chapman, who had gained fame with his assault on the antifascist in Berkeley. Antifa activists threw bricks until the police dispersed them with stun grenades and tear gas.

Since they are anarchists, the Antifa radicals have no use for the state. One should add that fascist radicals are at permanent war against the state, also:

What’s eroding in Portland is the quality Max Weber considered essential to a functioning state: a monopoly on legitimate violence. As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifascists don’t want the government to stop white supremacists from gathering. They want to do so themselves, rendering the government impotent. With help from other left-wing activists, they’re already having some success at disrupting government. Demonstrators have interrupted so many city-council meetings that in February, the council met behind locked doors. In February and March, activists protesting police violence and the city’s investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline hounded Mayor Ted Wheeler so persistently at his home that he took refuge in a hotel. The fateful email to parade organizers warned, “The police cannot stop us from shutting down roads.”

Of course, this has been happening on college campuses for quite some time now. Dissident students are shut down, penalized for not being politically correct. On campuses professors have the power to grade students. Often that suffices as an instrument of mind control. On the streets anarchists try to impose their views with threats of violence. Their agenda, Kevin Williamson wrote, is their anger. But they are trying to show that they are so right and their opponents so wrong that any means of fighting them are justified. 

It is fair to note that Antifa radicals and Democratic politicians have never produced any outrage over acts of Islamist terrorism. Not a smidgen of outrage.... And have never even been willing to criticize them. Which is more of a threat to Western Civilization: the alt-right or radical Islam?