Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Steaming Pile of Human Garbage

Apparently, she does not have very high self-esteem. A letter writer who dubs herself Anxious and Lost writes to New York Magazine’s advice column, Ask Polly, to confess that she feels like a “steaming pile of human garbage.” She feels like she is a bullshitter and that she might just be bullshit. At least she feels her feelings.

Since Polly herself has mastered the art of bullshit, AL has come to the right place. Clearly, if AL had wanted to get over her tendency to bullshit and especially to whine and complain she would not have written to Polly… a kindred spirit if ever there was one.

At first glance, AL is suffering from a distinctly modern condition. It does not take too much imagination to figure out where she ever got the idea, but she believes that without a career her life is worthless. Does she need career counseling? The last time she sought it out she found it in the words of a psychic. Naturally, she followed the psychic’s advice and, would you believe, it worked out badly.

It turns out that AL has a boyfriend. She has friends and family. She says that she whines to them all the time. Might it not be better for her to stop whining to her sweet boyfriend so that perhaps he might want to marry her? Then, she might find her true calling as a wife and mother. Yes, I understand that such thoughts are anathema, but what are blogs for if not to speak the unspeakable.

Anyway, her priorities are out of whack. And she feels even worse since she has a twin sister who is an overachiever and who apparently does not spend her days and nights complaining about everything that is wrong with her life.

Want to hear AL’s version of her tale of woe? Here it is:

For most of my 20s, I dreamed about doing my Ph.D. I worked a couple of well-paying, practical office jobs that I hated, and I was miserable. I paid off my loans. I saved. Every few months, I would have an existential crisis where I would try to think of the career paths that might lead me to happiness, and every time I was convinced that doing a Ph.D. was the only way to go. I wanted someone to tell me what to do, or to give me permission to do what seemed crazy but felt right. On my 28th birthday, my wish came true. I saw a psychic who told me that I was a teacher, and I burst out laughing with relief. Finally, someone who saw me! She told me that I would be accepted to two schools to do my Ph.D. I applied to two schools and got into both.

Before proceeding, note the phrase: she is looking to find a career path that will lead her to happiness. 

In any case, I recommend that AL go easier on the scatology. It isn’t ladylike.

I do think it was important for me to try grad school for myself and realize that I hated it. But, Polly, I feel like a steaming pile of human garbage, and when I look into the future, it just feels bleak. I can’t stop comparing myself to other people my age. It feels like everyone has their shit figured out, or at least enough that they are doing jobs that don’t make them want to kill themselves and are making enough money that they can afford to pay rent, save a bit, take vacations, and do nice things for the people they love. I know comparing yourself to others is a recipe for disaster, but it’s impossible for me not to, considering I have an identical twin sister (whom I love and am very close to) who has never been unemployed, never made a wrong career move, and makes more money than I can ever imagine earning. I’ve gone back to work part time at a service-industry job, but I’m only getting two shifts a week and I’m terrified of what the next few months will look like. I feel like an infant. I had no backup plan. I had grad school on a pedestal for so long that I don’t know how to imagine anything else.

As one reads this, one gets the impression that AL is out there on her own, detached from other people, living a solitary life. As it happens, she has a boyfriend… so we are puzzled to hear her whining about how she seems to want to do it all by herself.

I don’t know how to get rid of this belief that other people can see me better than I see myself. My whole life I’ve just wanted people to tell me who I am and what I should do. I just want to be at the part where I don’t have to worry anymore. I want the career that feels life-affirming. I want to be financially comfortable. I want to have disposable income again so I can take piano lessons or a writing class. I want to love myself and be healed from my stupid traumatic upbringing. I want to settle down. Going through the mess of figuring it all out just feels exhausting and unfair. I thought I would have had it all sorted out by now. I don’t know how much more uncertainty my self-esteem can endure.

This paragraph tells us that she has done too much therapy. In truth, as research, especially that of Tasha Eurich, has pointed out, other people always see us more clearly than we see ourselves.

One can question precisely how traumatic her upbringing was, since her twin sister does not seem to have suffered from it. Anyway, the paragraph is pure psychobabble. One suspects that her anguish and despair have been fostered, if not produced, by a dumbass therapist.

Naturally, AL’s friends are trying to help her out. They recommend that she regress to her girlhood and ask what she liked doing at the time. It feels like good advice, but it’s really bad advice. Still, Polly lights on it and sees AL as a creative, emotional person who loves beauty. AL does not know what to do with her love of beauty, and Polly will tell her to become an artist or something. In truth, if you love beauty you can also go to work in a flower shop, but I digress.

Anyway, here’s the rest of the letter:

Recently someone close to me asked me what I liked doing when I was a kid. The things that really mattered to me then still really matter to me now: books, music, and art. I think I’m obsessed with beauty, and I think there’s something there. But how do I turn that into … well, anything? My résumé is a fucking mess. I have no experience being paid to do the things I care about. I don’t even make time for them as hobbies anymore, not even with all the free time I have since dropping out of school. Lately, I’ve been considering going back to school to become a therapist, but the thought of spending more money on school makes me feel queasy. And the question of which jobs to work while I save up to be able to do that just makes me feel like crawling into bed and sleeping for six months. I feel bad for still not having my shit together. I feel bad for my sweet boyfriend, who has to put up with me, and for my family and friends, who have listened to me whine incessantly for YEARS about how every job sucks and then had to listen to me gush for a year about how grad school was going to save me, only to have to watch me go through the crisis of realizing that that was also bullshit. What do I do now that everything feels like bullshit? What if all of this means that I’m bullshit?

Telling this woman to enter into a creative field is genuinely bad advice. It’s what you would expect from Polly. The therapy world has persuaded far too many people that they should become artists. It is extremely difficult to have a career as an artist. Better to work in a flower shop.

Yet, the one question that AL is not asking is the only real question that she should be asking. You may recall, or perhaps you do not, that famed management consultant Peter Drucker wrote a pamphlet called Managing Oneself. It offers serious guidance to young people who are looking for career success.  In many corners of the therapy world it should be required reading.

What does Drucker say? He does not tell people to agonize over finding their passion. He does not tell them to find out what they really, really want to do. As AL points out so clearly, that approach leads nowhere. Instead, Drucker recommends that people ask themselves what they are good at, where their talent lies. Good question that. You gain more satisfaction from having greater success. And you achieve greater success if you are pursuing a career in something that you are good at.

Interestingly, if you want to find out what you are good at, you should not search your soul. You should look at your relative performance, on different activities. You should ask yourself what other people have told you about what you are good at. You see, it’s all in other people. They see you more clearly than you see yourself. And they know what you are really good at better than you do.

Rationing Health Care in Great Britain

One recalls the evening of November 8, 2016 when famed prognosticator Paul Krugman assured us that the stock market, which had reacted to the Trump election victory by falling precipitously, would never recover.

Being a Nobel prize-winning economist means never having to admit you are wrong.

I probably do not need to remind you that the same Krugman assured us, during the Obamacare debate in 2010 that we should all adopt the British National Health Service model… and that the horror stories about it were all lies.

Well, here we go again. The Times of London reports that the head of Britain’s NHS has announced that there will be more rationing of health care and further delays before receiving non-emergency surgery. In fact, physicians will refuse to treat many conditions that they consider minor… like indigestion. Apparently, funds are so tight that the NHS bureaucrats failed to notice that sometimes indigestion can be a sign of something worse. And, it will no longer treat hearing loss… which again can signal something worse. And the NHS will no longer treat coughs… which, but I do not want to keep repeating myself.

The Times reports:

The health service will curb treatment for conditions such as hearing loss and dementia after its head set out the first explicit limits on what patients should expect.
Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, effectively ripped up waiting-time targets for routine surgery, rebuffing demands from ministers as he said that cancer, mental health and GP care should take priority.

Patients were told to stop expecting the NHS to treat coughs, indigestion and other minor conditions, with GPs encouraged to send people away without prescriptions for medicines they could buy over the counter.

If you are British and have a sore throat, you are on your own. And if it’s strep… then what?

As for non-urgent surgery, you’re pretty much out of luck:

The goal of treating 92 per cent of patients waiting for non-urgent surgery within 18 weeks has not been met for more than a year and internal NHS calculations suggest that it will cost £2.5 billion to clear waiting lists. Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said there were “serious questions about the legality of effectively abandoning a standard of care enshrined in the NHS constitution”.

For your edification, here’s the list of ailments that will no longer be treated by the NHS:

Aches and sprains such as headaches and period pains
Cold sores
Colic in babies
Coughs, colds and blocked noses
Insect bites
Mild acne
Mild to moderate hay fever
Mouth ulcers
Sore throat
Travel sickness
Warts and verrucas

You do not need to be a physician to find this concerning. No longer treat insect bites… have they ever heard about Lyme disease?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Kirsten Gillibrand's Lament

True, Trump’s tweet about New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was demeaning. It did not befit a gentleman. It disrespected and dishonored a lady. In a better world, a world where we actually had gentlemen and ladies, it would not have happened.

You know which tweet I am talking about. After Gillibrand said that Trump should resign because he was accused of sexual harassment, Trump shot back with a tweet saying that she was a lightweight—no arguing with that—and that she had begged him for campaign contributions. And then he added: “she would do anything for them.”

Gillibrand shot back that it was a sexist smear, which it wasn’t. Then Elizabeth Warren chimed in that Trump was “slut-shaming” the senator, as though Gillibrand had engaged in behavior that some retrograde moralists would have called slutty. Clearly, Warren did not know what she was saying. In any case, we have no evidence that Gillibrand did or did not do what Trump accused her of doing. 

Trump's tweet was more suggestive than explicit, but we all know precisely what he meant.

Now, the political/media outrage machine is doing its darndest to blind us to the obvious question: Was Trump telling the truth? Did KG beg for a campaign donation and did she offer to provide a sexual service in return? 

We do not know the truth. KG has not said that it did not happen. She just said that it was a sexist smear. These are not the same thing.

So we are back with the same consideration that we evoked when judging the charges against Roy Moore. Given what we know about the senator, is the charge plausible? At the least, we know that KG has accomplished nothing of consequence in her time in the senate. Were it not for her rants against sexism and for transgender restrooms, we would not even know who she is. As a proud New Yorker, I am persuaded that she is simply wasting a senate seat.

True enough, KG has taken positions on all sides of most issues. She is looking to advance her career, possibly even the first female president from New York. For my part, I don’t think she will make it. Because there is no there there. There is no substance behind the carefully made-up bleach-blonde persona.

Had Trump leveled the same ungentlemanly charge against Elizabeth Warren or Hillary Clinton or Susan Collins, we would all have laughed it off. In those cases, it is completely implausible. Yet, with Kirsten Gillibrand it is far more difficult to dismiss out of hand. Which is why her supporters are out screaming and yelling and ranting and raving about the sexism of it all.

The standard is not truth, but plausibility. Unfortunately for KG Trump's charge meets that standard.

More, Better Jobs for Minorities

Naturally, African-American and Hispanic Americans hate Donald Trump. Perhaps not as much as their Alabama brethren hated Roy Moore, but they are loyal Democrats, no matter what.

And yet, the Trump presidency has actually been good for minority employment. Who knew? The economy is expanding and it is lifting the fortunes of minority populations.

As it happens, the American media is far too preoccupied with sex scandals to report the facts:

The Daily Signal has the story:

More black and Hispanic Americans are getting jobs on President Donald Trump’s watch, the latest employment numbers show, although critics accuse him of ignoring such minority populations.

The White House, not surprisingly, is happy to tout the results.

Unemployment among blacks declined from 8 percent one year ago to 7.3 percent in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Blacks’ labor force participation rate rose slightly over the past year, from 61.9 percent in November 2016 to 62.2 percent last month.

Unemployment among Hispanics fell by a percentage point, from 5.7 percent to 4.7 percent, over the year. Hispanics’ labor force participation rate held steady, dipping from 65.7 percent to 65.6 percent.

The labor force participation rate reflects the percentage of Americans working or actively looking for work, while the unemployment rate is the percentage of jobless Americans still looking for work, as opposed to having given up.

Good news for America’s minority communities. Good news for America. Bad news for the American media and its all consuming narrative. Go figure.

Alabama's Biggest Loser

Post-mortems aren’t always fun. Yet, one can excuse those Republicans who rejoice over Steve Bannon’s humiliating defeat in yesterday’s Alabama senate race. It takes strategic political genius for a Republican to lose a senate seat in Alabama, but Roy Moore did it. And, he did it under the aegis of that great political strategist, Steve Bannon.

Roger Simon has this to say:

The big loser in Tuesday's Alabama's special Senate election was not the Republican Party. They had already lost weeks ago, the moment the Washington Post wrote their (carefully vetted, in this instance) exposé of the thirty-year-old sexual proclivities of Judge Roy Moore.

It was checkmate from the start.  In this #MeToo era with politicians flying out the window as fast as you can say Conyers and Franken, the Republicans were damned if they did and damned if they didn't -- support Moore, that is.  And Moore didn't do himself any favors with an execrable performance during an interview with Sean Hannity shortly after the allegations. He was, to put it mildly, not ready for prime time. To be honest, Moore sounded pretty dopey, even if he was innocent, which he didn't come close to proving.

In many ways, the Republicans are lucky not to have Moore to deal with in Congress.  They can face obvious White House aspirant Kirsten Gillibrand and her merry band of hypocrites with a straight face.

No, the big loser Tuesday is Steve Bannon, the sometime movie producer cum finance expert cum political strategist that some claim put Donald Trump in office and then left the White House to better support the president from without, or so he said. In this instance -- purportedly to do that, I guess -- he went against Trump, who originally backed the more establishment candidate Luther Strange, to back one of Bannon's own, Judge Moore.

The only real difference between Luther Strange and Roy Moore was that Strange would surely have won. And, Strange appeared to be a decent human being.

One understands that Moore and Bannon supporters will be out in force blaming it all on the Washington Post, but, as Simon explains, some of the charges against Moore were highly credible. Besides, for all his Bible talk, Roy Moore did not strike very many people as a moral individual. Accusations were not proved in court, but people get an impression of a man and that impression counts. Roy Moore seemed sleazy and indecent. Keep in mind, Sen. Richard Shelby said he could not vote for Roy Moore. He knows the man better than most of the rest of us.

In fact, if Roy Moore had been as moral as he claimed, he would have known that: Pride goeth before destruction. His refusal to drop out of the race was prideful. A little humility, taking one for the party, would have shown him to be a man of character. He wasn’t. And he lost.

The Daily Caller piled on:

“This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running,” Steve Law, president of the Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC, said in a statement. “Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the President of the United States into his fiasco,” Law said.

It quoted a number of conservative commentators.

Ben Shapiro:

Bannon’s sure showing those establishment cucks a thing or two right now.

Rich Lowry:

Steve Bannon's campaign to depose Mitch McConnell takes a big step forward, by throwing away a seat in a ruby red state.

Josh Holmes:

Before we get the results, I'd just like to thank Steve Bannon for showing us how to lose the reddest state in the union and Governor Ivey for the opportunity to make this national embarrassment a reality.

Dana Loesch:

Next time maybe Bannon will won’t fight Trump’s primary endorsement out of ego and cost the GOP a senate seat.

Roy Moore lost. No one is crying for Roy Moore. As of now Steve Bannon looks to be the biggest loser. That might turn out to be a blessing for the Republican Party.

If you want to take the measure of Bannon, see whether he can show any humility at his loss or whether he tries to scapegoat someone else for his failure. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Save the Polar Bears

We have all seen the pictures of the dying polar bear. Shot by National Geographic the image has been presented as irrefutable proof that climate change is killing off the polar bears. Never mind that we only see one lonely bear. Never mind that we do not know why the bear was dying. It doesn’t matter. To true believers, the polar bear instantly became a totem, a symbol of the horrors that Donald Trump was causing to the pristine natural world.

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Even Slate, no right wing organ of incorrect opinion, has explained that, in the words of an expert, polar bears die all the time. You will admit that the idea is astonishing.  Even more amazing, we often do not know why. For all we know the bear in question was dying from bone cancer. It would be difficult to blame that one on Republicans, but perhaps the bear would have been saved by Obamacare. Hey, you never know.

Slate reports:

For one thing, [wildlife biologist Jeff Higdon] says, during summertime, part of the Arctic is often ice-free. That’s due to seasonal changes, not climatic shifts. And while it can be hard to stomach never mind witness, animals starve to death all the time, for a million different reasons. “We may start to see more [climate-caused starvation] over time, but at this point, there’s no evidence I’m aware of that we’re seeing that,” Higdon adds.

Not wanting to disappoint its readers Slate adds that climate change is killing the polar bears, though not necessarily the one we see dying before our eyes.

Still, we can ask whether or not Slate is right? Are the polar bears doomed because Trump walked away from the Paris Climate Accord? Enquiring minds want to know.

The NoTricksZone blog (via Moonbattery and via Maggie’s Farm) summarizes the latest in peer reviewed science:

Most of the world’s polar bears live in Canada.  Hunters and elders from northern Canada’s native communities have been immersed in studying polar bear ecology for centuries.

In two new peer-reviewed papers published in the journals Ecology and Evolution and Polar Record, scientists record the observations and experiences of Canada’s polar bear “experts” — the community members who live side-by-side with these “sea bears” (Ursus maritimus).

According to scientists, no study has indicated that there is reason to presume that the perspectives of community observers are either suspect or incorrect.  In fact, there have been multiple occasions when traditional ecological knowledge gleaned from local populations accurately identified polar bear subpopulation trends before new scientific studies could be conducted to corroborate them (York et al., 2016).

The overwhelming conclusion from years of accumulated conversations with native populations about polar bears is that there is almost no connection between the long-term observations of polar bear ecology and the more recent claims that polar bears as a species are in grave danger due to climate change and thinning sea ice.

In fact, the long-term observations suggest that polar bear subpopulations are currently faring quite well, with 92% of  the subpopulations studied either remaining stable or growing in recent years.

According to Inuit observers, there may even be “too many” bears now.

Now we can all rejoice because the polar bears are thriving. Right?

Where Is the Arab Street?

Viscerally opposed to anything that Donald Trump does, the elite that has been in charge of American foreign policy for decades now declared last week that the world, and in particular the “Arab street” would erupt in rage at Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

It makes some sense. These great minds had refused to recognize Jerusalem because they feared the might wrath of the Arab Street. Don’t say that terrorism doesn’t work? Besides, in America today, if you do not erupt in rage at anything Trump says or does, you will be shunned from polite liberal society. Just ask Alan Dershowitz.

I have already offered my views on the matter. On the response of the Arab street Lt. Col. Ralph Peters has it right. It was yet another occasion where the bien pensant progressives and the cowardly Europeans got it wrong. Why did they get it wrong? For one simple reason: their own residual anti-Semitism:

In the wake of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week, the “experts” crowding the media predicted strategic calamity: Vast, violent protests and a wave of terror would sweep the Muslim world in the coming days.

Instead, the largest demonstration anywhere this weekend was the funeral procession for Johnny Hallyday, the “French Elvis.” Nothing in the Middle East came close.

We have witnessed, yet again, the carefully phrased anti-Semitism of the pristinely educated; the global left’s fanatical pro-Palestinian bias; and the media’s yearning for career-making disasters.

Rather than waves of protest, the waiting world got tepid statements of disapproval from otherwise-occupied Arab governments; demonstrations in the West Bank and the Gaza strip that, combined, barely put a thousand activists in the streets; and yes, four deaths: two demonstrators and two Hamas terrorists hit by an Israeli airstrike.

One suspects that Western leftists hate Israel because they are trying to appease the millions of Muslim immigrants they allowed into their countries and who are now wreaking havoc.

As I have been reporting on this blog, things have changed in the Middle East.

Peters explains:

Once upon a time, the Palestinians were the only game at the propaganda casino, a marvelous tool for Arab leaders to divert attention from domestic failures. Then came al Qaeda. And Iraq. Iranian empire-building. The Arab Spring. The oil-price collapse and the rise of ISIS, with its butcher-shop caliphate. The civil war in Syria, with half a million dead. And, not least, the region-wide confrontation between decaying Sunni power and rising Shia might.

Thus, geopolitical realities have caused the Middle East to see Israel, as I have often noted, as the solution, not the problem. I would add that Israel has far more to offer modernizing Arab nations than do the parasitic Palestinians.

But by far the most-significant factor is that Israel has become an indispensable, if quiet, ally of Sunni states against Iran. Although well-armed, Saudi Arabia remains inept on the battlefield, bogged down in Yemen and terrified of Iranian gains in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Israel doesn’t need Saudi Arabia, but Saudi Arabia definitely needs Israel.

As for the Palestinians they never wanted to negotiate peace anyway. They wanted and they still want to destroy Israel. They use peace negotiations as a means to that end. Had they wanted a state, Peters argues, they could have had it, many times over.

Since the failed 1948 Arab assault on newly reborn Israel, the Palestinians have had literally dozens of opportunities for an advantageous peace. Yet, even Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — no friends to the blue-and-white flag — ended up frustrated as Palestinian leaders, on the cusp of peace time and again, decided that three-quarters of the pie was insufficient.

Inevitably, the pie got smaller over time — but the Palestinian leadership continued to profit from “occupied” status. Now it’s too late for anything that looks like a viable Palestinian state. It’s time we all faced that reality.

If you will, the Palestinians claimed “occupied” status to receive the support and admiration of Western liberals… happy as they were to consider Israel  a hegemonic, imperialist, colonialist power. If the Palestinians were incapable of building a functioning modern economy they could step forth and claim the status as vanguard of the next Marxist revolution. Obviously, this appeals to unreconstructed Western leftists.

So, perhaps the world has turned a page. Perhaps the rage of today’s Arab street is more show than substance. Once Saudi Arabia turned its back on the Palestinian madness, the party effectively was over. It was time to learn the lesson of World War II—appeasement does not work:

A Central-Asian proverb runs that “The dog may bark, but the caravan moves on.” The hounds of appeasement have barked for generations, but the Israeli caravan kept going, arriving at the only admirable (or even livable) state in the Middle East, an island of civilization amid vast deserts of barbarism.

The analogy is apt. And, let’s not forget, the grand mufti of Jerusalem during World War II, uncle of Yasser Arafat, strongly supported Hitler’s final solution for the Jewish people. Could it be that the Palestinian resistance has merely kept the Nazi hope alive? Could it be that the call for revolution was also a call for a return to the days of Nazi persecution of Jews?

To modify a poet's words: This is the way the Palestinian cause ends; not with a bang, but with a whimper.