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.