Thursday, July 27, 2017

Do We Need More Talk about Suicide?

God only knows how this article was accepted for publication in the New York Times. The author is a recent college graduate, so he offers us a glimpse into what college students are learning. It is not heartening.

Joseph Rigo suffered from depression. When he was a teenager he engaged in self-mutilating behaviors, now called cutting. He was depressed throughout his college years.

And he has figured out that many people around the world suffer from mental illness. It’s good that a college education taught him about statistics. And it has also taught him the solution: we do not talk about mental illness enough. Somehow or other, when he was depressed he did not know about depression and so did not know that therapy (and medication) was available.

Perhaps Rigo lives under a rock, but, in truth, depression and mental illness are all people talk about. One wishes that people would shut up about mental illness. Because, all the talk is giving people ideas. We do know, according to symptom selection theory, that the more you talk about mental illness, the more you produce it.

Where do you think he learned about cutting? Perhaps from a movie of the week. Perhaps in the news, in a magazine or on television? As for depression, did Rigo miss Prozac?

He writes:

In the United States, nearly one in five adults have some form of mental illness in a given year. That means that 43.8 million adults, nearly twice the population of Australia, experience a mental health disorder every year.

Yet more often than not, we don’t talk about mental health. And shows like Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” or artists like indie pop singer Lana Del Rey have sensationalized or glamorized mental illness and suicide rather than taking it seriously.

Obviously, Rigo is running a marketing campaign for therapy. One is surprised to know that he has never heard about medication.

He describes his own condition:

In college, I became even more depressed. I would cry myself to sleep. My weight fluctuated by 10 to 20 pounds each semester. I would drink to forget and in my drunken blurs I leaned far too heavily and unfairly on friends who were just as lost and scared as I was. During what felt like the worst period of my depression, I took a health and wellness class my junior year. In that class, we discussed nutrition, healthy relationships and conflict resolution skills. We even had a unit on “stress management and resiliency.” But we never talked about mental illness or how to recognize or treat it.

Now, he wants us to believe that no one around him noticed that he was not doing well. Does he have parents or siblings? Did any of them see that something was amiss? Don’t they have resident advisers on college campuses? Don’t we all know that more and more college students have lately availed themselves of campus mental health services? What did they know that he did not know? The notion that no one discussed wellness in a course suggests an extremely narrow scope.

Now Rigo wants people to come forth and tell their stories about mental health issues. Has he never heard of William Styron’s Darkness Visible? Or Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon? And let’s not forget Peter Kramer’s Listening to Prozac? We all recall Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy and Emile Durkheim's Suicide

Rigo writes:

We should not be afraid to come forward or tell our stories about our struggles with these issues. We should be open to learning the symptoms and the signs of mental health disorders. We should encourage everyone (not just those with mental health issues) to seek therapy because therapy is good for your mind just as exercise is good for your body.

If anything, we talk about suicide and depression too much. Why do people know so little? And why do they insist on advertising it?

The Coming OB/GYN Shortage

Obviously, it’s difficult to blame this on Donald Trump, but Lisa Ryan manages to throw this problem into the same basket as Trump’s wish to defund Planned Parenthood.

In truth, the problem dates to well before the advent of Trump. I have discussed it in relation to other medical specialties. In brief, America is running out of gynecologists and obstetricians.

Ryan explains:

According to a report from Doximity, a leading social network for physicians, the majority of the current OB/GYN workforce in the country is nearing or at retirement age — and there are an inadequate amount of younger physicians specializing in the practice. As a result, the number of OB/GYNs in the U.S. will likely soon decline, and those remaining may struggle to keep up with demands for women’s health care.

Perhaps Obamacare has contributed to this. Perhaps low Medicaid reimbursement rates have pushed physicians away from this specialty.

Or, maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with malpractice insurance. Don't OB/GYNs pay far more than most for malpractice insurance? Combined with Medicaid reimbursement rates, it might be that lawyers have conspired to deprive the nation of much needed medical professionals.

Other explanations welcome.

Another Maladjusted Millennial Snowflake

This week our favorite advice columnist, Ask Polly, regales us with the story of a young woman who calls herself a “thin-skinned snowflake millennial.” Said woman is an aspiring writer and dubs herself: A Highly Strung Spurnalist on the Brink. The funny-looking word rhymes with “journalist.” Got it. It's Joycean. One is tempted to tell her to keep her day job, but she is young and that would not be fair.

HSSB wants to be a freelance writer. Yet, she has tried out a series of office jobs and has discovered that she is wildly unsuited to any of them. She cannot afford to work on her own but she cannot work with other people. It’s not an occupational hazard. It’s a generational hazard, inflicting many young people who have suffered the American way of being educated raised. The result: a young woman who wants desperately to have a career as a freelance writer but is suffering from severe anomie and does not know how to get along with other people.

To draw an inference, her letter portrays her as utterly alone in the world. She says nothing about friends or lovers, romantic partners or even family. She would do well to develop some social contacts… just a hint.

Naturally, she has held her coworkers in all of her jobs in magnificent contempt. Having attained to the ripe age of “early twenties” she has tried and dropped out of a multitude of jobs. Perhaps her problem is a lack of grit, an inability to persevere.

She has drunk the politically correct Kool-Aid about the workaday world and spouts the following:

I’ve worked for start-ups, small firms, and huge corporations, and there’s been bad management, bullying, backstabbing, bitching, and bureaucracy at every one. Not forgetting the big board of fossilized white men belittling everyone.

So, she wants to drop out and retire to her study, the better to become a freelance writer. That is why she is writing to Polly, a successful freelance writer.

HSSB writes:

I’ve come up with a two-year plan in which going freelance is the goal (it was five-year, but I don’t think I can bear to wait that long). I hope to buy a treadmill desk at some point. Thing is, I’m petrified of going freelance, too. Petrified like I just saw a basilisk reflected in a puddle. I’m not sure if that big scary snake is me or the thought of trying to survive off writing alone.

I want it so badly I’d write anything to get by: product descriptions, banner ad copy, words to go on toilet-cleaner labels. Anything. I’m willing to get a part-time job to fund it, too. Except I know it would be a stupid idea to even try before I’ve saved up at least three month’s pay. But as I can only afford to save a little each month, I’ll have to wait two years at least before I’ve amassed that amount. And I can’t start while in my current role as we’re not allowed to take other paid work.

Speaking of psycho matters, wanting it so badly means nothing. It's her discipline and good character that will get her through the assignments... not wanting things badly. The psycho world has done young people a disservice by feeding them this idea.

For the record, it is fairly obvious that she is going to write her first magazine article or book about her adventures in the world of real work. Her letter is raw material for a book project. With any luck she will present herself as an engaging befuddled trainwreck... but that would take some considerable writing skill. 

One understands that the world of work is still notably male, so said millennial snowflake, by failing to fit in to a man’s world, is asserting her womanhood.

The letter closes with some incoherent thinking:

I also don’t feel like I’m ready. I want to be edited still. I still feel like I need a lot of molding before I’d even be close to being able to pull off the kind of pieces I want to write.

So I guess my real question is how do I stop hating my job long enough to quit it and go freelance? And how do I know I won’t hate freelancing just as much? Am I just a thin-skinned snowflake millennial who needs to get over it and accept that this is working life?

Of course, freelance writers are edited… unless they work for the New York Times, which just reduced its copy editing staff. And why does she need to stop hating her job in order to quit? Can’t you quit a job you hate? In truth, you can quit a job, regardless of whether you like it or not.

In truth, Polly offers some sound advice here, but not before making an embarrassing attempt at empathy:

But if you subtract age from the defining characteristics of thin-skinned snowflake millennials, I am also a thin-skinned snowflake millennial, and I want to strongly recommend it as a lifestyle choice. Why? Because it keeps you away from offices, which are places where all sense of time and space evaporate and all connection to your own desires and longings, to your own humanity, to the natural rhythms of existence, steadily erode until your life feels like a shadow, haunting a dim facsimile of what a life is supposed to feel like.

I see no special reason to agree to this snowflake’s bad attitude toward work. One understands Polly’s intention. It is misplaced.

After that, Polly gets to the meat of her reply and it is certainly to the point. First, she recommends that HSSB try to learn how to work with other people:

My recommendation is that you keep your two-to-five-year plan but, in the meantime, you train some of your energy on learning to eat some shit and play nicely with others.

She adds the important point, namely that freelancing involves a network of relationships that need to be cultivated and fostered. If you don’t know how to develop relationships and to get along with your coworkers you are going to have problems with editors. Since Polly has a great deal of experience as a freelance writer she does not whine on about feeling her feelings.

The picture of the starving artist alone in her garret creating masterpieces is misleading and false.

Polly writes:

Freelancing is impossible without solid relationships with editors, and my whole career didn’t really take off in the ways I wanted it to until I learned to be consistently kind and polite to all editors, even when they pissed me off. I’m not saying I never revert back to the brat I was years ago, but most of the time I recognize that the people I work for are really fucking busy and overworked and they aren’t dismissive of me or out to get me, even when that’s where my brains used to go on a bad day. So this is the hard truth: You won’t be able to freelance until you learn to be consistently kind and grateful to your co-workers, recognizing that, even though they sometimes reflect the deeply wrong nature of any given workplace, they also have a million-and-one personal challenges that you know nothing about. And yes, that includes the fossilized white dudes in the corner offices.

HSSB says that she hates all jobs. Yet, freelancing is a job. It is a difficult job. It is a job in which you need to organize your own time, create your own workspace and work along. And of course freelancers do not receive a regular paycheck. If our maladjusted millennial snowflake thinks that working in an office is hard, wait until she starts to freelance.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Psychoanalysis and Politics

Desperately seeking relevance, the American Psychoanalytic Association has relieved its members of the duty to follow what is called the Goldwater Rule.

The Rule, enacted by the American Psychiatric Association says that its members should not diagnose political figures they have never met. They should not offer professional opinions about politicians when all they know is what they read in the New York Times.

To be very clear, the Psychoanalytic Association is not a part of the Psychiatric Association. These are two separate organizations. The former is one tenth the size of the latter. Most psychoanalysts have traditionally been psychiatrists, and thus likely members of the Psychiatric Association, but that has changed, to the point that one suspects that the physicians are now approaching minority status. Since the Goldwater Rule was written by the Psychiatric Association, the opinion of the Psychoanalytic Association means precisely nothing... for psychiatrists.

As one ought to know now, the Psychoanalytic Association is a leftist indoctrination mill masquerading as a mental health provider. Its latest manifesto makes the point with utmost clarity.

In response, Ann Althouse says this:

Let them speak, and then the rest of us will speak about whether they are professionals deserving of deference or human beings like the rest of us who can't keep our political preferences from skewing whatever it is we might think about some pressing issue of the day.

Go ahead, expose yourselves. Let us see all narcissism, impulsivity, poor attention span, paranoia, and other traits that impair your ability to lead.

More interesting, for my purposes, are the comments on the Althouse blog. I will reprint some of them to give you a sense of the reputation that the mental health profession enjoys these days. I also quote them to show what blog comments are like: short and concise. 

Anyone who writes essay length comments on this blog will have their comments deleted. I have warned of this before. Certain people ignore the warnings. This is the last warning.

Anyway, the commenters have this to say:


The percentage of hacks, cranks and fools in the mental health "profession" is stunningly high. And many of them are in a position to make individual lives worse.

Michael K (a surgeon):

I personally know several who went into Psychiatry to deal with their own mental health problems. One guy was a former surgery resident who went full psychotic and started to be treated by the chief of Psychiatry at a university medial center. That chief of Psychiatry then accepted him into the residency which he finished. He was brilliant but as crazy as anyone I've ever seen.


Nothing says principled leadership like rewriting your own rules to allow unethical diagnoses!

Michael K:

Psychiatry and especially psychoanalysis, has disgraced itself in many ways since 1964.

We had a discussion at work last week about getting psych consults on problematic recruits. We agreed they are useless but another doc suggested they are useful for ass covering.

If the recruit goes postal (or Full Metal Jacket) in basic, we can say, "Well, we got a psych consult and they said he was OK."

What we are seeing in this country (and in these comments) is something similar to the day care center hysteria of the 80s.

Psychiatry disgraced itself in that hysteria, also.

Traditional guy:

The restraint was to protect the practitioners. The conundrum was the false Honorarium "Doctor" added to the titles used by priests of Freud's talk therapy for wives of rich men that the rich men wanted out of the picture without a divorce. It was always a con by seeking money from whomever pays them the most.


This should be the impetus for removing mental health treatment from the Obamacare coverage (essential benefits) mandate.


Suicide rate among psychiatrists five times that of the general populace. So what exactly did you have to say to me?

Francisco D:

Psychoanalysis is a cult with no empirical support. It always has been and will continue to be. Well trained psychologists and psychiatrists ignore them.

It continues to have some believers, but mostly among the whack jobs and the poorly educated. (Yes. Not all advanced degrees are created equally.)


The "profession" is full of mid level counsellors who have only undergraduate degrees (if that) and easy to obtain "certifications" that pass as acceptable qualifications with government agencies, courts, "clinics," and other organizations. There is no significant supervision once they get into the right (for them) sector of the mental health and counseling apparatus. They are highly influenced by their own prejudices, biases and personal experience. Yet courts and other institutions accept their analysis and opinion as nearly determinative in important cases. I have a well qualified and sensible friend who estimates that maybe 5-10% of the child therapists she encounters in her own practice know what they are doing. The rest are winging it, and being paid well to do so.
It is such a scandal that there has been a literature developing on the issue. But nobody does anything about it.


First, the issue of psychoanalysts changing their rules about "diagnosing" public figures shows the absurdity of psychoanalysis. Talk about pseudo-science, or as it's called these days "fake news". The scientific credibility of psychoanalysis is no better than CNN's. 

Important to say "psychoanalysis" is NOT the same as "psychiatry". AFAIK the rules for psychiatrists belonging to the American Psychiatric Assn have NOT changed. Diagnosing without clinical relationship is still UNETHICAL.

In any case, let's give the creepy psychoanalysts a "diagnosis" of "pandering leftist sycophants, narcissistic type". Sounds like a[n] accurate description to me.

Scientific socialist:

As an internist-and an off and on psychiatric outpatient-I have come to know many psychiatrists and lay psychotherapists well. With the exception of three practitioners, they are among the strangest and most socially awkward individuals that I've ever encountered. Several are genius-level brilliant but as crazy (to use a medically precise term) as their craziest patients. Generally speaking, I wouldn't regard their armchair psychoanalysis of the POTUS to be any more credible than that of the plumber who did work in my house last week.

Those few comments give you a sense of the current reputation of psychoanalysis and other mental health professions.

Humiliating Jeff Sessions

As it becomes increasingly clear that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson does not know how to conduct foreign policy and has failed to take control of the State Department, President Trump has engaged in a very public campaign to humiliate and to force out… Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

No one expected that Donald Trump had the experience to take the reins of the federal government. No one expected that he knew enough about policy to take the lead in policy debates. And yet, everyone expected that a business executive would know how to conduct himself as a chief executive… and not just playing one on television.

Many of Trump’s supporters were thrilled to have someone who understood business in the White House. And yet, if you want to drain the swamp you also need to understand the swamp. You need to understand its flora and fauna, how it functions and where its weak points are. You cannot do it with bluster and bravado.

Now, President Trump is offering us all a workshop in how not to exercise executive leadership. Were it not appalling, it would be breathtaking. If an executive is not loyal to his staff he has no business expecting them to be loyal to him. While showing disloyalty to his most loyal supporter, Trump has been trying to disparage Sessions’ loyalty to him. It's yet another instance of how not to lead.

Ask yourself which political leader was first to support the candidacy of Donald Trump. Which cabinet member has worked the hardest and had the most success implementing the Trump agenda? And which cabinet member has the most friends and supporters in the United States Senate?

The answer to all the questions is: Jeff Sessions.

And yet, at a moment when Trump needs votes from Senate Republicans he is spending his time called Sessions “beleaguered” and “weak.” He seems to think that he can bully the Attorney General into launching another investigation into Clintonian perfidy. No one would be unhappy to see the Clintons exposed for the grifters they are, but Trump’s public bullying of Sessions will accomplish precisely the opposite. It will make it impossible for Sessions to do anything against the Clintons. The only people being served by the Trumpian attack on Sessions are the Clintons. Trump thinks he is attacking them. He is protecting them. One understands that if Sessions resigns, the Senate will never approve any new candidate who is nearly as conservative or Trumpian. One understands it. Trump does not.

Many of Sessions’ former Senate colleagues have rushed to defend him. The Wall Street Journal summed up the problem nicely in an editorial:

Instead [Trump] continued to demean Jeff Sessions, and in the process he is harming himself, alienating allies, and crossing dangerous legal and political lines.

And also:

Mr. Trump’s suggestion that his Attorney General prosecute his defeated opponent is the kind of crude political retribution one expects in Erdogan’s Turkey or Duterte’s Philippines.

As you know, the Wall Street Journal editorial page does not make a habit of promoting leftist causes.

It continues:

As a candidate, Mr. Trump thought he could say anything and get away with it, and most often he did. A sitting President is not a one-man show. He needs allies in politics and allies to govern. Mr. Trump’s treatment of Jeff Sessions makes clear that he will desert both at peril to his Presidency.

No matter how powerful the office of the Presidency, it needs department leaders to execute policy. If by firing or forcing out Jeff Sessions Mr. Trump makes clear that his highest priority is executing personal political desires or whims, he will invite resignations from his first-rate Cabinet and only political hacks will stand in to replace them. And forget about Senate confirmation of his next AG.

The Journal concludes:

Even on the day that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was scraping together enough Republican votes to avoid a humiliating defeat for the President on health care, Mr. Trump was causing Senators to publicly align themselves with Mr. Sessions. Past some point of political erosion, Mr. Trump’s legislative agenda will become impossible to accomplish. Mr. Trump prides himself as a man above political convention, but there are some conventions he can’t ignore without destroying his Presidency.

Remember, President Trump is dealing with human beings. All executives do. If they think that they are dealing with characters in a play that they are directing, they will have serious trouble getting anything done. Trump should know that Sessions has far more friends in Washington than he does.

Last night on CNN, a sworn enemy of everything that Sessions stands for and is trying to accomplish, Sen. Bernie Sanders commented on Trump’s treatment of his former colleague:

You don’t treat another human being that way.

It’s no way to run a government, or even a railroad.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Cynical Hypocrisy on the Left

We cannot say that the story has been completely ignored. Yet, relative to the amount of attention the election-meddling narrative has received, the Obama record with Russia has been largely forgotten. Why deal with facts when you can speculate and indict?

James Kirchick does not say that Obama was Putin’s bitch, but he does present a comprehensive overview of the Obama policy toward Russia. Writing in Politico, Kirchick leaves us with the impression that Democrats have been cynical hypocrites.

Of course, Republicans ought to be hammering this story home. Unfortunately, the outsized personality of their president has made it difficult for anyone to focus on anything else.

Kirchick explains:

Most of the people lecturing them for being “Putin’s pawns” spent the better part of the last 8 years blindly supporting a Democratic president, Barack Obama, whose default mode with Moscow was fecklessness. To Republicans, these latter-day Democratic Cold Warriors sound like partisan hysterics, a perception that’s not entirely wrong.

Now that we have discovered that Donald Trump, Jr. met with Russian officials to discuss “adoption,” code for the Magnitsky Act,  Democrats are filled with self-righteous anger over any opposition to this legislation.

When the Russian government or its agents talk about international adoption, they’re really talking about the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 measure sanctioning Russian human rights abusers named after a Russian lawyer tortured to death after exposing a massive tax fraud scheme perpetrated by government officials. The law’s passage so infuriated Putin that he capriciously and cruelly retaliated by banning American adoption of Russian orphans. 

But, Kirchick continues, the Obama administration fought valiantly against the Magnitsky Act. President Obama only signed it under duress:

Yet for all the newfound righteous indignation in defense of the Magnitsky Act being expressed by former Obama officials and supporters, it wasn’t long ago that they tried to prevent its passage, fearing the measure would hamper their precious “reset” with Moscow. In 2012, as part of this effort, the Obama administration lobbied for repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a Cold War-era law tying enhanced trade relations with Russia to its human rights record. Some voices on Capitol Hill proposed replacing Jackson-Vanik with Magnitsky, a move the administration vociferously opposed. Shortly after his appointment as ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul (today one of the most widely-cited critics on the subject of Trump and Russia) publicly stated that the Magnitsky Act would be “redundant” and that the administration specifically disagreed with its naming and shaming Russian human rights abusers as well as its imposition of financial sanctions. McFaul even invoked the beleaguered Russian opposition, which he said agreed with the administration’s position.

He continues:

Nevertheless, the Obama administration not only persisted in opposing Magnitsky, but continued to claim that it had the support of the Russian opposition in this endeavor. “Leaders of Russia's political opposition,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, “have called on the U.S. to terminate Jackson-Vanik, despite their concerns about human rights and the Magnitsky case.” Despite administration protestations, Congress passed the Magnitsky Act and Obama reluctantly signed it into law. Reflecting on the legislative battle two years later, Bill Browder, the London-based investor for whom Magnitsky worked and the driving force behind the bill, told Foreign Policy, “The administration, starting with Hillary Clinton and then John Kerry, did everything they could do to stop the Magnitsky Act.”

Looking at the larger picture, Kirchick declares that Obama administration policy was a “protracted, 8-year-long concession to Moscow:"

From the reset, which it announced in early 2009 just months after Russia invaded Georgia, to its removal of missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland later that year, to its ignoring Russia’s violations of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (while simultaneously negotiating New START) and its ceding the ground in Syria to Russian military intervention, the Obama administration’s Russia policy was one, protracted, 8-year-long concession to Moscow. Throughout his two terms in office, Obama played down the threat Russia posed to America’s allies, interests and values, and ridiculed those who warned otherwise. “The traditional divisions between nations of the south and the north make no sense in an interconnected world nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War,” Obama lectured the United Nations General Assembly in 2009, a more florid and verbose way of making the exact same criticism of supposed NATO obsolescence that liberals would later excoriate Donald Trump for bluntly declaring.

As for the liberal Democrats who have now become fierce opponents of Russia, such was not always their position:

Downplaying both the nature and degree of the Russian menace constituted a major component of mainstream liberal foreign policy doctrine until about a year ago – that is, when it became clear that Russia was intervening in the American presidential race against a Democrat. It provided justification for Obama’s humiliating acceptance in 2013 of Russia’s cynical offer to help remove Syrian chemical weapons after he failed to endorse his own “red line” against their deployment. Not only did that deal fail to ensure the complete removal of Bashar al-Assad’s stockpiles (as evidenced by the regime’s repeated use of such weapons long after they were supposedly eliminated), it essentially opened the door to Russian military intervention two years later.

As for their Messiah, Barack Obama, he continued to soft-pedal the threat posed by Russia. One recalls his glib dismissal of Mitt Romney’s statement that Russia was America’s biggest foreign policy challenge. Kirchick believes, correctly, that Romney deserves an apology. Don't hold your breath.

Kirchick continues:

Even after Putin annexed Crimea in 2014, the first violent seizure of territory on the European continent since World War II, Obama continued to understate the severity of the Russian threat. Just a few weeks after the annexation was formalized, asked by a reporter if Romney’s 2012 statement had been proven correct, Obama stubbornly dismissed Russia as “a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors not out of strength but out of weakness.” 

How did Putin see Obama? And how did that influence the Russian decision to try to meddle in the election?

Kirchick explains:

In Obama, Putin rightly saw a weak and indecisive leader and wagered that applying the sort of tactics Russia uses in its post-imperial backyard to America’s democratic process would be worth the effort. 

If Democrats really want to make a case against Trump administration policy on Russia they will need to eat their longstanding policy positions:

For their current criticisms of the Trump administration to carry water, liberals will have to do more than simply apologize for regurgitating Obama’s insult that Republicans are retrograde Cold Warriors. They will have to renounce pretty much the entire Obama foreign policy legacy, which both underestimated and appeased Russia at every turn. Otherwise, their grave intonations about “active measures,” “kompromat” and other Soviet-era phenomena will continue sounding opportunistic, and their protestations about Trump being a Russian stooge will continue to have the appearance of being motivated solely by partisan politics.

And also,

Most Democrats were willing to let Russia get away with these things when President Obama was telling the world that “alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War” are obsolete, or that Russia was a mere “regional power” whose involvement in Syria would lead to another Afghanistan, or when he was trying to win Russian help for his signal foreign policy achievement, the Iran nuclear deal. If the Democrats’ newfound antagonism toward the Kremlin extended beyond mere partisanship, they would have protested most of Obama’s foreign policy, which acceded to Russian prerogatives at nearly every turn. 

Perhaps Democrats are screaming so loudly because they want to divert attention from the Obama administration Russia record:

Are liberals willing to admit the reset was a giant miscalculation from the start? Are they willing to support sending arms to Ukraine? To redeploy missile defense systems to allies in Eastern Europe? Are they willing to concede that Obama’s Syria policy was an epic disaster that paved the way for Russia’s reemergence as a Middle Eastern military power? Are they, in other words, willing to renounce the foreign policy legacy of one of their most popular leaders? Because only that will demonstrate they’re serious about confronting Russia. Anything short reeks of partisanship.

The Best Way to Treat Trauma

How should therapists treat trauma victims? Should they provide emotional support? Should they offer up dollops of empathy? Should they feel the pain?

Israeli professor Moshe Farchi says No to all of it. Drawing on his experience in the Israeli military Farchi has developed a technique that he calls “mental first aid.” He teaches people to provide it to trauma victims, explaining, though not in so many words, that standard therapy, the kind that wants you to feel your feelings, is counterproductive.

Longtime readers of this blog will notice that Farchi’s approach has much in common with mine.

A story from Agence France Presse (via Maggie's Farm) outlines the Farchi method:

They are employed in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event such as an attack, serving as mental first-aid.

"One thinks that a person in distress should be contained, held," he told AFP.

But providing emotional support activates the recipient's emotional part of the brain at the expense of the area responsible for the ability to think and make decisions, he said.

Note this well. If a therapist appeals to the patient’s emotions, he will activate the emotional part of the brain. But this will diminish the patient’s ability to access the rational part of the brain, the part that allows him to think and to make decisions. It leaves him in the trauma. It does not help him to remove himself from the trauma.

The point is of vital importance.

Farchi continues that you cannot undo the trauma. He wants to mitigate the sense of helplessness trauma victims feel. He might have introduced some cognitive exercises to override the sense of helplessness, but he prefers to help the trauma victim to take effective actions. The solution to helplessness is action. The solution to the sense that you cannot do anything is to do something.

How does he help the person to take action? First, by reorienting him in the world. How do you do that? Simply, by asking questions that involve concrete and objective facts. You do not ask what the victim is feeling. You do not want him to get in touch with his feelings. You ask him where he is, what he is doing. And you ask him to describe in detail what happened… as though he were an outside observer.

The AFP story continues:

Thinking and making decisions are what the person needs to do in order to be freed of a "sense of helplessness."

"The given is that we can't stop the threat -- the rocket has hit, the event has taken place," he said. "What we can do is stop the helplessness."

"The opposite of helplessness is effective action. That's why first of all we need to activate the person, to diminish the helplessness," Farchi said.

Activating the person includes asking concrete and factual questions, giving him or her the ability to make decisions -- initially easy ones, such as if they want to drink a glass of water or take a break.

This mental first aid was developed in the military, in situations where soldiers need to bounce back quickly from traumatic events, where they cannot wallow in their self-pity or their empathy.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Shame and Honor in Israel and Palestine

All human beings have a sense of shame. All human cultures are designed to help human beings to avoid shame.  

All human beings also have a sense of honor.  They also have a sense of pride. All human cultures are designed to promote and enhance both honor and pride.

Different cultures have different ways of dealing with shame. Different cultures define honor differently.

Some cultures promote the values of dignity, civility, decorum and politeness. They care about keeping up appearances, of presenting the most dignified face to the public. Cultures like those of Great Britain and Japan are generally considered to be shame cultures, for their ability to promote social customs that keep shame at bay.

Ruth Benedict wrote a masterful treatise on Japanese shame culture in her book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Later theorists, Richard Landes reminds us, decided that shame-honor cultures were inherently primitive while guilt cultures were inherently more civilized. Since British culture is especially constructed to promote civility, in the name of national pride and national honor, one suspects that the analysis was skewed. To imagine that the West became great because it discovered guilt is to miss the point. 

True enough, guilt cultures are more individualistic. After all, when you are found guilty of a crime, you and only you are punished. Reputation, however, is shared. When your family name is tarnished or honored the shame or the pride is shared by all those who bear it.

Moreover, shame cultures punish people by shunning and ostracizing them. They avoid using shame as a weapon. The prefer not to humiliate people because they expect that free and moral beings will accept responsibility for their own failures. People who accept responsibility do not get thrown in jail. They offer a public apology and retire from public life for a time.

Guilt cultures inflict physical harm. They incarcerate; they execute; they chop off hands. They care more about the infliction of pain, as in, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and do not care they do not care about how it looks to anyone. They want to feel strong, not to look like honorable and decent people. They do not care if they appear to world to be barbarians or savages. They revel in their barbarism... on their ability to inflict physical pain on other people.

To call Middle Eastern cultures, especially Palestinian culture, honor-shame cultures is to miss the point entirely. Their salient characteristic is their inability to deal with experiences of shame. That is, to deal with them in terms other than those endemic to guilt cultures.

They are happy to mutilate people for petty crimes, to impose capital punishment for what they consider sexual dereliction, and murder their daughters for being seen with a boy. They call the latter honor killings and declare that they have restored family honor. Certain Western thinkers, their minds too addled with multiculturalism, take it all literally. They believe that these actions have restored family honor. In truth, the actions are disgraceful. They are no more honorable than terrorist actions.

These cultures masquerade as honor cultures because they have only a primitive sense of false honor. You recall that one can experience false pride. In my neighborhood they call it high self-esteem. It means that you can feel proud of yourself for participating, even if you lost every match. We should understand that the Palestinian Authority is happy to see people did for a false sense of honor. I realize that this sounds judgmental. So be it.

If someone beats you in a race or on a test, you do not restore your honor by beating his brains in or by refusing to accept the results. Such actions show a failure to accept the shame of defeat and an unwillingness to do what is necessary to improve performance.

Shame motivates. People who realize how they look to other people are most likely to change their behavior. Of course, this process is made more difficult when they are subjected to public ridicule. But in everyday transactions feeling shame about bad behavior most often opens the door to improved behavior.

If people live in a guilt culture, bad behavior is invested with meaning; it becomes part of a narrative. The feeling of guilt for having committed a crime can only be assuaged by punishment—often by self-punishment. Young girls who are murdered in honor killings are being punished for transgressing a law. It is a primitive form of justice, not an assertion of pride.

Guilt is a form of anxiety. It anticipates punishment and is not diminished by good behavior. It is diminished by actual punishment. People who are crippled by guilt tend to spend their time chastising themselves for their bad behavior. But then, they want to become the victim, not the perpetrator, the better to even the score by punishing other people. Retaliation becomes part and parcel of guilt culture. 

One notes that some tribal Middle Eastern cultures have started to care about how they look to the outside world. This is relatively new. One recalls a few years ago that when a Norwegian nurse reported her gang rape to authorities in Dubai she was thrown into jail for having sex outside of marriage.  Eventually, the story hit the international media the local authorities released her. They began to care about their reputation.

Last week in Saudi Arabia a woman was arrested for the crime of wearing a mini-skirt. In the past, one assumes, she would have been punished. Now that the Saudis have shown clearly that they want to join the modern world, she was released. Similarly, when a Saudi prince was caught beating up two people, King Salman himself made it known that he was outraged by the action. The prince was arrested.

Such concerns for reputations, for maintaining an appearance of civil and proper behavior, for being worthy of international diplomacy are relatively new and represent a movement toward a true shame culture.

The Palestinians, whose reputation consists in the appalling practices of terrorism, have nothing but a sense of false honor. Exactly what have they accomplished that would allow them to feel pride?

The Palestinians lack is a sense of honor, a sense of shame. They have been exposed to the world as grand failures. Instead of building a dynamic modern society they have chosen to put all their energy into undermining and deconstructing enjoyed by people they consider their nemesis.

After all, the Israelis succeeded where the Palestinians and other Arab states failed. We cannot explain it away by appealing to geography. The Israeli success puts the lie to Jared Diamond's effort to explain civilizational differences by accidents of geography. 

In the Israeli/Palestinian standoff, the laboratory for cultural competition is precisely the same piece of land. On that land the Israelis have built a great nation and a great economy. Israelis have accomplished great things. In the Middle East, as I have often noted, Israel is the solution, not the problem. As the world flocks to Israel to do business and to trade, the Palestinian Authority has acted like an international pariah, not as an organization that can feel genuine pride in its achievements. When Palestinians celebrate terrorism they are asserting their false pride. Pride comes from building, not from destroying what others have built. It comes from contributing, not from detracting.

The Palestinians have produced nothing but terrorism. Their sense of false honor prevents them from acting constructively to build their own nation and causes them to want nothing more than to denounce, delegitimize and deconstruct Israel. They are playing a losing hand in a lost cause. The more than lose the more violent they become. They ought not to be encouraged or rewarded for their barbarities. They ought to be humiliated and punished. 

As the Sunni Arab Middle East becomes a real shame culture Palestinians will be left with nothing but their false pride.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

London Caves to Political Correctness

When President Trump traveled to Paris to celebrate Bastille Day last week many of us believed that he was snubbing Great Britain. By all appearances it is true. Why would he want to travel to a city led by a weak-kneed and feckless leader like Sadiq Khan. To my eye, you can read weakness in Khan’s facial expressions.

Thanks to Khan, or to whomever else you wish, London is buckling under the weight of political correctness. One would like to have believed that, what with Brexit, the Brits would have stood tall and proud in defense of their great culture, but apparently the lure of political correctness was too tempting. London’s mayor prefers appeasement. He is happily bending over to defend Islam.

Martin Daubney describes London’s cultural degeneration, beginning with its willingness to eliminate distinctions between the sexes:

Both intellectually and literally, Londoners are dying under the weight of a virulent dose of political correctness.

Last week, Transport for London pointlessly buckled to LGBT activists and banned the quintessentially British (and universally polite) phrase, “ladies and gentlemen” from its station announcements.

Its replacement – “good afternoon, everyone” – is deemed more “inclusive” and “gender neutral,” although even that might offend those with multiple personality disorders.

But this is 2017, and who’d be surprised if TfL went the whole hog and integrated Xe pronouns into its announcements, or renamed ‘sexist’ Tube stations such as Cockfosters and Shepherd’s Bush? (They could re-name Seven Sisters station Seven Persons).

Political correctness made its way to King’s College London. It decided to rid itself of portraits of accomplished white people, because they made the non-white people feel unwelcome:

On Friday, this rot spread, when academics at King’s College London decided to swap portraits of its founders for a “wall of diversity,” after Professor Patrick Leman, the Institute’s dean of education, claimed “busts of white, bearded men” were “intimidating” and “alienating” to BME students.

Some concluded any student who felt “intimidated” by a statue probably didn’t deserve a University place at all.

We know that when people fail to excel the reason must be their hurt feelings. The university has now become an infirmary.

And, of course the mayor has chosen to curtail the police department’s ability to stop and frisk suspected criminals. Why? Because the policy aims at more minority youth than anyone else. The fact that said youth commit a disproportionate share of crime does not seem to matter.

Daubney writes:

This obsession with political correctness is not only turning London into a laughing stock, it’s actively killing Londoners.

The clearest example is the British Police’s Stop And Search scheme. Designed to allow police to frisk suspects for concealed weapons, it has long been hated by critics as “racist,” who correctly point out that 65% of searches are on black men, who are six times more likely to be searched.

Sensing an opportunity to appeal to minority communities, in 2015, while running for London Mayor, Sadiq Khan vowed to “do everything in my power to cut stop and search”.

In the year to the end of March 2016, there were 387,448 stop and search procedures conducted by police in England and Wales, a fall of 28% on the previous 12 months.

Fewer stop and searches meant more crime. It’s the price of virtue signallinig:

In that same period, London’s Metropolitan Police announced that gun crime in London had soared 42% and knife crime 24%. Recorded crime was up across virtually every category, with a total 4.5% increase to nearly 774,737 offences.

Who’d have thought a 28% drop in searches might result in a 24% boom in knife crime? Clearly not London’s Mayor. In one school in his city, 3/4 of ten-year-olds said they knew somebody who carried a knife.

Who is committing these crimes? Daubney has the statistics:

British police don’t like to publish crime by race or ethnicity. But when data has been obtained under Freedom Of Information Acts, it’s shown that in the City Of London, 36% of knife crime is perpetrated by black people, who only make up around 13% of London’s 8.6 million populace.

You could conclude it’s reasonable to stop and search those most likely to be knife criminals. Surely, if black lives truly mattered to London’s Mayor, he would ramp up Stop And Search to help stop black men being disproportionately killed or jailed.

What is Mayor Khan doing about this? Why, he is declaring war against Islamophobia:

Instead, in April – at the end of a week that saw eight fatal stabbings in the Capital, two less than a mile from my home – Khan trumpeted his new £1.7m “online hate crime hub”.

Some wondered: does London’s Mayor seriously prioritise cutting nasty tweets over fatal stabbings?

Similarly, Khan has rejected Prevent, the British government’s only anti-terror strategy, as “toxic” adding “it’s seen by some communities as spying and snooping”.

In the wake of the London Bridge terrorist attack that left eight ordinary Londoners murdered in the streets by ISIS jihadists, Khan took every opportunity to remind us Islamophobic “hate crimes” –that included tweets – had increased fivefold.

Is London burning? Or have the British lost their minds?

Is Sweden a Failed State?

Meanwhile, Sweden is failing. Its open arms policy toward Muslim refugees is destroying it from within.

Sweden allows Muslim refugees to run wild, opens its arms to jihadis, tolerates high crime and rape rates, and prosecutes anyone who dares to speak ill of Islam.

Judith Bergman outlines the situation for the Gatestone Institute (via Maggie’s Farm):

Sweden increasingly resembles a failed state: In the 61 "no-go zones", there are 200 criminal networks with an estimated 5,000 criminals who are members. Twenty-three of those no-go zones are especially critical: children as young as 10 years old are involved in serious crimesthere, including weapons and drugs, and are literally being trained to become hardened criminals.

The trouble, however, extends beyond organized crime. In June, Swedish police in the city of Trollhättan, during a riot in the Kronogården suburb, were attacked by approximately a hundred masked migrant youths, mainly Somalis. The rioting continued for two nights.

Violent riots, however, are just part of Sweden's security problems. In 2010, according to the government, there were "only" 200 radical Islamists in Sweden. In June, the head of the Swedish Security Service (Säpo), Anders Thornberg, told the Swedish media that the country is experiencing a "historical" challenge in having to deal with thousands of "radical Islamists in Sweden". The jihadists and jihadist supporters are mainly concentrated in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and Örebro, according to Säpo. "This is the 'new normal' ... It is an historic challenge that extremist circles are growing," Thornberg said.

After violent crime, there are returning ISIS fighters:

Meanwhile, Sweden continues to receive returning ISIS fighters from Syria, a courtesy that hardly improves the security situation. Sweden, so far, has received 150 returning ISIS fighters. There are still 112 who remain abroad -- considered the most hardcore of all -- and Sweden expects many of those to return as well. Astonishingly, the Swedish government has given several of the ISIS returnees protected identities to prevent local Swedes from finding out who they are. Two Swedish ISIS fighters who returned to Europe, Osama Krayem and Mohamed Belkaid, went on to help commit the terror attacks at Brussels airport and the Maelbeek metro station in the center of Brussels, on March 22, 2016. Thirty-one people were killed; 300 were wounded.

Swedish news outlets have reported that the Swedish towns that receive the returnees do not even know they are returning ISIS fighters. One coordinator of the work against violent Islamist extremism in Stockholm, Christina Kiernan, says that " the moment there is no control over those returning from ISIS-controlled areas in the Middle East".

Kiernan explains that there are rules that prevent the passing of information about returning jihadists from Säpo to the local municipalities, so that the people who are in charge in the municipal authorities, including the police, have no information about who and how many returned ISIS fighters there are in their area. It is therefore impossible to monitor them -- and this at a time when Säpo estimates the number of violent Islamist extremists in Sweden in the thousands.

But, Sweden has found the true enemy: people who speak ill of Islam:

Even after all this, the Swedish state, in true Orwellian style, fights those Swedish citizens who point out the obvious problems that migrants are causing. When police officer Peter Springare said in February that migrants were committing a disproportionate amount of crime in the suburbs, he was investigated for inciting "racial hatred".

Currently, a 70-year-old Swedish pensioner is being prosecuted for "hate speech", for writing on Facebook that migrants "set fire to cars, and urinate and defecate on the streets".

With thousands of jihadists all over Sweden, what could be more important than prosecuting a Swedish pensioner for writing on Facebook?

Is this the future of Europe? One fears that it is.