Wednesday, August 23, 2017

What Price Family Loyalty?

Kwame Anthony Appiah does not write an advice column. He writes the New York Times column called, The Ethicist. Thus he does not whine about feeling anyone’s feelings and does make a show of empathy. He is a professional philosopher, so his analyses tend to be thoughtful and intelligent.

Compared with what passes for advice columns, Appiah is in another league. He offers us some fresh air on complex moral dilemmas.

Today, in the first letter, someone called Name Withheld asks whether he should turn in a relative for tax evasion. You think that is not a serious question. But our moralistic age has produced a hearty band of professional scolds. What do you do after you have run out of ways to scold people: you turn them in to the IRS.

NW offers this:

My relative works in the marijuana industry, which has been legal in my state for almost two years. Nevertheless, he has worked under the table during that time, earning tens of thousands of dollars and not paying taxes on it. I confronted him and told him that I didn’t think the tax evasion was ethical. He disagreed, saying that plenty of people do not report their tips. Our relationship has been a little strained since the confrontation, but we still mostly get along. Is it unethical of me to report him to the I.R.S.? 

You will be thinking that NW needs to be punched in the face. Betraying a familial confidence is the surest way to find yourself expelled from your family. You will be thinking that it was none of NW’s business and that family loyalty  must supersede his wish to attain virtue. Anyway, it sounds like NW is reeking of envy and will soon be eating Thanksgiving alone.

Appiah says as much, thus offering sane and sensible moral guidance. For that we are grateful. Better yet, Appiah does so with tact.

He begins:

What your kinsman is doing is, of course, wrong. The costs of government are largely paid through taxes, and those who don’t pay their fair share are taking advantage of the rest of us who do. That plenty of people don’t report their tips is neither here nor there: A misdeed isn’t redeemed by its prevalence. Now that his business is legal, he doesn’t have the excuse that he can’t report his income because his business is underground. 

A fair point. Appiah continues by asserting the value of family loyalty. He emphasizes that family loyalty depends on being able to confide in family members.

In his words:

He revealed his scofflaw behavior in the context of a familial relationship. Our lives go better if we’re able to assume that frankness in family conversations won’t end up being used against us in a court of law. (That’s one reason the old doctrine of spousal privilege — the general principle that you can’t be compelled to testify against your spouse in criminal proceedings — was a good idea.) Reporting your relative exposes him to penalties for extensive tax evasion, which can include imprisonment. Is this something you can live with? When loyalty to family and loyalty to the law come into conflict, the illegality in question has to be very serious to win out. You don’t want to be the kind of person who finds everyone falling silent at family gatherings when he or she enters the room.

Fair enough. If we are talking about a relative who has committed an egregious crime or if we are defending a community that would be far better off if said relative were in a cage… then it makes sense and constitutes a moral duty to reveal what one knows. Here we are not talking about John Wayne Gacy or Bernard Madoff.

It matters that Appiah draws this distinction, because it shows that we should not be making these decisions by using absolutes. This is what NW does, and he is clearly wrong.

But, Appiah says, the crime in question does not rise to a high level of egregiousness. Clearly, the pot farming relative thought that he was speaking in confidence. A loyal family member is obliged to keep the secret. The crime, such as it is, represents a drop in the federal tax bucket. Being shunned as a disloyal family member and being responsible for the consequences that will befall the man and his own family should tell NW to shut up.

Politically Correct Child Abuse

At California charter school Rocklin Academy Gateway, a five-year-old boy who thinks he is a girl must be treated as a girl. Teachers must indoctrinate the other students into thinking that it's all perfectly normal. Children must now address said boy by a girl’s name and use all of the properly feminine pronouns.

To begin the indoctrination process a classroom teacher exposed kindergarten students to a lesson about transgenderism. They then witnessed a transition ceremony in which a boy walked into a rest room and emerged as a girl.

The Daily Mail has the story:

Parents are angry after a kindergarten lesson had a student's transgender reveal occur mid-class.

The incident took place last year after a Rocklin Academy Gateway teacher gave the lesson on transgenderism because a boy in the class is transitioning to a girl, reported FOX40.

The California charter school and parents are now battling over whether the lesson was appropriate or if the kindergartners were too young to understand.

During the lesson on the second-to-last day before summer break, the teacher, who has not been named, read two books, I am Jazz and The Red Crayon. Both are meant to explain 'transgenderism' to children between ages four and eight.

However, in what critics are calling a 'transition ceremony', the teacher introduced the five-year-old student to the class as a boy. The student then went into the bathroom and emerged dressed as a girl.

The teacher then reintroduced her to the children, and explained she was now a girl with a girl's name and was to be called that from now on.

The children are obviously far too young to understand any of it. One girl came home in tears because she thought that one day she could walk into a restroom and emerge a boy:

My daughter came home crying and shaking so afraid she could turn into a boy,' one parent said.

The district says the books were age-appropriate and fell within their literature selection policy. Unlike sex education, the topics of gender identity don't require prior parental notice.

The school also argued that not reading the books would have put them at risk of discrimination and could expose them to a potential lawsuit.

Obviously, we are dealing with child abuse. The problem should be solved by charging the parents of the transgendered five-year-old with child abuse. What parent in his or her right mind takes the word of a small child as absolute truth? While they are at it, the parents of the other kindergarteners should sue the school district for child abuse.

Have we forgotten the witch hunt against nursery school teachers whose pupils were induced by social workers to declare that they suffered torture and mutilation at the hands of their teachers… even though their bodies showed no signs of such brutal treatment. Of course, the facts did not matter. The reality did not matter. The teachers were often convicted and imprisoned.

And why has no one imagined that a child in kindergarten, hearing about transgenderism, might come home crying that she now fears being turned into something she is not? For all we know, with the right kind of counseling, it might happen. After all, we are talking about a belief. And we know that a child's mind is not that difficult to manipulate.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What's Wrong with the Navy?

What’s wrong with the U. S. Navy? Another accident; more sailors dead.

Lt. Col. Ralph Peters suggests that Navy officers have been receiving sub-standard training. Instead they are taught about diversity and sensitivity. This is the Navy that Obama built.

Fox News reports Peters’ analysis:

Peters, a Fox News strategic analyst, said the Navy is perhaps the "paramount" branch of service for our national defense. He was asked how this could happen again.

"The obvious conclusion is the officers on the bridge and the seamen don't have basic navigation skills. They no longer are drilled in basic seamanship. They don't have the discipline they should. I love the U.S. Navy ... but it's in a bad way right now," he said on Fox Business Network….  

An active-duty Navy officer echoed the concerns to Fox News, questioning the level of training for young officers.

"It’s not the same level of training you used to get," the officer said.

Peters called out the military, especially in the Obama administration, for turning the armed services into a "social engineering experiment."

"Those sailors did not have the basic seamanship skills, but by God, they got their sensitivity, race relations and sexual harassment training," said Peters, adding that sailors can't fight without adequate navigational skills.

"The neglect, the lack of focus that goes into an accident like this is just appalling," he concluded.

And you thought that the “social engineering experiment” would be cost free. Think again.

One can only wonder whether the Navy still allows anyone to talk about seamanship. Isn't the politically correct term: seapersonship?

Communism and Feminism

Trying to lure women into the Communist movement Friedrich Engels promised them the world. If only we can overcome the demonic power of the family, private property and the state, he said, women would become free and independent, liberated from their dependence on men, and thus … hold on to your hats … would have more better sex.

Some people will not like the locution, but Engels was certainly one of the most important founding fathers of contemporary feminism. Inexplicably, his influence and importance is often overlooked.

It was mentioned in passing, however, by Prof. Kristen Ghodsee in her New York Times article on how Communism liberated women. You see, the Times has been celebrating the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution by running a series of columns glorifying the killing machine that was Communist governance.

Few forms of governance have produced more calamity, more poverty, more starvation, more misery and more oppression than Communism. Yet, the Times, in a sign that it completely lacks moral clarity, is trying to make totalitarian imperialistic Communism seem like human progress.

It is cognitive dissonance run amok. To take an obvious example, Ghodsee thrills to the fact that Communists were among the first to give women the right to vote. Of course, she does not bother to point out that people who were effectively enslaved under Communist rule—especially in Eastern Europe— had no elections. Bulgaria did not become Communist because he people voted for it. The same pertains to the enslaved nations in Eastern Europe. In truth, no Communist nation ever held free elections. You have the right to vote but you cannot use it. 

It is historical dereliction. People who lived under Communism, who were enslaved by Communism, who starved under Communism have no interest in going back.

And yet, Ghodsee finds a silver lining in it all. Women who were enslaved by Communism had better sex lives. They had more orgasms. It reminds us of the words of Marie Antoinette: Let them eat cake. The peasants had no bread, so the princess offered them brioches. I know that it’s not the same as cake. And I also know that many dispute the fact that she said it at all.

Ghodsee waxes poetic about how great it is in the feminist paradise of the captive nations of Eastern Europe:

Some might remember that Eastern bloc women enjoyed many rights and privileges unknown in liberal democracies at the time, including major state investments in their education and training, their full incorporation into the labor force, generous maternity leave allowances and guaranteed free child care. But there’s one advantage that has received little attention: Women under Communism enjoyed more sexual pleasure.

A comparative sociological study of East and West Germans conducted after reunification in 1990 found that Eastern women had twice as many orgasms as Western women. Researchers marveled at this disparity in reported sexual satisfaction, especially since East German women suffered from the notorious double burden of formal employment and housework. In contrast, postwar West German women had stayed home and enjoyed all the labor-saving devices produced by the roaring capitalist economy. But they had less sex, and less satisfying sex, than women who had to line up for toilet paper.

If this is true—and one has no real reason to believe that it is—why were so many people so desirous of overcoming their enslavement? If someone were to say that slaves had better sex than free people, what would the good professor say about that?

It’s always nice to have an anecdote, so Ghodsee offers one:

Consider Ana Durcheva from Bulgaria, who was 65 when I first met her in 2011. Having lived her first 43 years under Communism, she often complained that the new free market hindered Bulgarians’ ability to develop healthy amorous relationships.

“Sure, some things were bad during that time, but my life was full of romance,” she said. “After my divorce, I had my job and my salary, and I didn’t need a man to support me. I could do as I pleased.”

The Worker’s Paradise was also a Feminist Paradise. Durcheva could have quoting the promise offered by Engels. Divorce, single parenthood, and ability to do as she pleased…. Paradise on earth. 

As it happened, Engels suggested that in a pre-patriarchal time women could do exactly as they pleased. They could have all the sex they wanted with whomever they wanted. He believed that women really want promiscuity, but compromised their lust in order to provide their children with fathers.

One does not consider oneself to be an authority on the topic, but do women really want to do whatever they please, regardless of the consequences. Are they all lusting after promiscuity? Can’t we give women a little more credit than that?

As it happens, some women who were raised in Communist societies are having difficulty adjusting to capitalism. One notes that such seems not to be the case in Asia, but the author never considers such facts.

Communism enacted the feminist agenda. If it did, it makes you wonder about the feminist agenda. Ghodsee explains:

Russia extended full suffrage to women in 1917, three years before the United States did. The Bolsheviks also liberalized divorce laws, guaranteed reproductive rights and attempted to socialize domestic labor by investing in public laundries and people’s canteens. Women were mobilized into the labor force and became financially untethered from men.

Mobilized is a polite word. Women were forced into the labor force. They had no right to exercise their freedom to choose. They were treated like slaves.

Naturally, Ghodsee has no problem with forcing women to do something that they do not want to do. And yet, as I mentioned yesterday, the notion that anyone should have the right to force women to do something that they do not want to do lays down a predicate that opens the door to many other forms of abuse.

So, the New York Times, leading the Resistance to Donald Trump, never daring to say a positive word about the duly elected president of the United States, waxes nostalgic for Communism.

Marian Tupy responded to Ghodsee in Human Progress:

I would have chosen to commemorate 100 years since the Bolshevik Revolution and the birth of the Soviet Union in a different way. Over 100,000,000 people have died or were killed while building socialism during the course of the 20th century. Call me crazy, but that staggering number of victims of communism seems to me more important than the somewhat dubious claim that Bulgarian comrades enjoyed more orgasms than women in the West. But as one Russian babushka said to another, suum cuique pulchrum est. 

Complete misery and economic failure. No problem. Women in these slave states had more orgasms.

Keep in mind, tens of millions of people starved to death in Mao’s China. After thirty years of Communism the extreme poverty rate in China was over 80%. Extreme poverty meant living on less than $1.85 a day… in today’s dollars.

Tupy reminds us of the famines that occurred in Stalin’s Soviet Union. She recalls when starving parents ate their children in the Ukraine in the 1930s. Was it a liberating experience? Why should we respect a professor who functions like a propagandist for a failed political system?

She quotes an eyewitness to the forced collectivization of the Ukraine:

Where did all bread disappear, I do not really know, maybe they have taken it all abroad. The authorities have confiscated it, removed from the villages, loaded grain into the railway coaches and took it away someplace. They have searched the houses, taken away everything to the smallest thing. All the vegetable gardens, all the cellars were raked out and everything was taken away. Wealthy peasants were exiled into Siberia even before Holodomor during the 'collectivization.' Communists came, collected everything....People were laying everywhere as dead flies. The stench was awful. Many of our neighbors and acquaintances from our street died....Some were eating their own children. I would have never been able to eat my child. One of our neighbors came home when her husband, suffering from severe starvation, ate their own baby daughter. This woman went crazy.

Do you think that these women were having better sex? Were they having more orgasms?

Since Tupy grew up in a Communist culture, she explains what it was like.

First, all communist countries were run by men; female leaders, like Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir, would have been unthinkable….

Second, the author concedes that "gender wage disparities and labor segregation persisted, and...the communists never fully reformed domestic patriarchy." I would say so. In a typical Eastern European family, the woman, in addition to having a day job at a factory, was expected to clean the apartment, shop for food, cook dinner, and raise the children….

Third, communist societies were socially uber-conservative. As such, pornography and prostitution were strictly prohibited, divorces were discouraged and divorced people ostracized, and prophylactics and the pill were hard to obtain….

The sad part is that our scholars are still debating Communism. People are starving in Venezuela today and scholars are defending Communism. The only people who are nostalgic for Communism are those who did not have to live under it.

Monday, August 21, 2017

More Woman Litigators, Please

Yesterday, retired lawyer Francis Menton (via Maggie's Farm) addressed the question of why there are so few women litigators. Since the feministically correct view has it that the firms themselves are preventing women from becoming great litigators, Menton emphasizes the obvious point: litigators are chosen by clients, not by law firms. Only the most deranged client would bypass a superior woman litigator in favor of an inferior male litigator.

As for the deeper meaning of it all, it happens, as you know, that it's all because of motherhood. Or better, women’s exercise of their freedom to choose.

Menton recounts his own experience trying to persuade female associates with children to return to litigation:

For myself, I don't claim to have perfect knowledge of all the causes of "gender disparity" in the legal profession.  However, as a long time law firm partner, I did have the experience of working with many dozens of female associates (as well as an equivalent number of male associates) over the course of three decades.  It would have been hard not to notice the higher attrition rate among women over the years from the higher-pressure and longer-hour areas of the practice, of which litigation is one.  More than anything else, this attrition for women was associated with having children.  I have spent many, many fruitless hours in my life trying hopelessly to convince highly talented female associates that they really wanted to come back from maternity leave to the 12 hour days and over-the-weekend injunction motions and four weeks on trial in Kansas and leave their little kids at home with a babysitter.  It never worked once.  The number of women with children who stick with the high-end litigation business for a long term career is very few.  What I don't understand is why anybody feels guilty about that or thinks that it is important to change.    

If women’s free choices explain the disparity, this suggests that those who believe that we must erase the disparity at any cost want to force women to do something that they do not want to do. The implications of that predicate are obvious and obviously appalling.

Her Deadbeat Boyfriend

Here’s an interesting case study from New York Magazine. It’s not from our two favorite advice columnists, but from a column called “Money Mom.” The letter writer has been involved with a man for several years now. A few months ago he lost his job—through no fault of his—and has turned into a parasite. He lives with her and does not contribute to their expenses.

True, Christina does not use this term, but said boyfriend has become exceedingly comfortably mooching off of her.

Here is the case description:

Christina, 29, has been with her serious boyfriend for several years. For most of their relationship, he’s worked at a start-up — until the company went under four months ago. He still hasn’t found a new job, and it’s wearing on them both. They don’t share an apartment, technically, but he stays at her place all the time (which is nicer, and doesn’t have roommates), and she feels like he’s basically living there rent-free. Whenever they go anywhere, she now pays for them both. She wants to be supportive, but she’s starting to feel uncomfortable with it — and taken advantage of. She works for a marketing firm and, while her paycheck is steady, she’s not made of money. Long-term, she can’t keep this up. She knows he’s trying, and she wants to help, but what if she’s enabling him?

No one wants to use the term deadbeat, but Christina is beginning to feel as though her boyfriend is one. The columnist, Charlotte Cowles, calls on a series of experts. They offer a balanced approach to the problem, beginning with the notion that it is bad to confront the boyfriend over his deadbeattery. Yet, they do not raise a simple issue: what does said boyfriend have to say about the situation? Is he comfortable with it? Is he ashamed of his situation? Does he promise to make amends for mooching off of her or does he act as though he deservesit? Does he feel awkward when she pays for dinner or does he apologize for failing to contribute, for failing to fulfill a more manly role?

Anyone can find himself in-between jobs. Any man can find himself in an uncomfortable position of having to depend on his girlfriend or wife. The issue is: how does he deal with the issue; what does he say about it? Is he ashamed or does he act entitled? Is he treating her like his wife or like his mother?

In normal circumstances she should not have to raise these questions. If she does need to raise them, they have a problem. If he cannot express anguish about his reduced status he is comfortable to be mooching off of her. As I say, that’s a problem.

Examine some of the expert opinion, beginning with a therapist from Los Angeles:

But the key for handling it with your head up (and minimizing further financial damage) is to focus on your own experience — and bank account — instead of worrying about whether he’s mooching off you or not. “You can’t prove if he’s taking advantage of your finances, or you’re enabling him by taking on more financial responsibilities,” says Amanda Clayman, an L.A.-based financial therapist who has treated many couples in this position. “There won’t be a productive conversation around that.”

Instead, pay attention to when you’re annoyed, and then tell him — carefully. “The only way to constructively and honestly deal with this is by sharing where you’re at,” explains Clayman. “Unspoken resentment is a dangerous thing in a relationship.”
Of course, Christina should be worrying about whether he is mooching off of her. She can tell whether the boyfriend is taking advantage of her by paying attention to his attitude about the situation. This is not very complicated. If he has not apologized, she is being taken advantage of. In that case a conversation can only muddy the waters. He might express his anguish if he feels that she wants to see it, but, since she pushed him, his words will lack sincerity.

Here is Clayman’s suggested conversational gambit:

Instead, place the situation in the larger context of your own finances, says Clayman: “Try prefacing it with something like, ‘There’s something on my mind. I’m worried that if I bring it up, it’s going to start a fight or hurt your feelings, and I want you to know that that’s not my intention.’ Then you can say, ‘I want to be supportive, but I also feel like I’m not able to take care of certain things that are important to me, financially, because of this situation.’ This is an opportunity to set boundaries, like what you’re comfortable paying for, and what you aren’t.”

Of course, this is girl talk mixed with psychobabble. No man worth his manliness will respond favorably to this veiled attack on his mooching. Again, if she has to ask him to pay for anything that suggests he has not offered. It might be that he is flat broke—does he have a family?—or it might be that he prefers to save up to buy a new car. Clayman wants Christina to explain that he is sucking her dry. Just because you tell someone that you do not want to hurt his feelings-- girl talk-- does not mean that  you are not humiliating him. I do not see how this approach is going to end well.

Clayman also recommends that Christina start keeping track of his efforts to find a job. She wants Christina to monitor and to police her boyfriend’s job hunt. I am sure that I do not have to tell you that this will make her more like a mother than a girlfriend. Besides, if he is incapable of doing it by himself, how can we expect him to hold down a job and to assume adult responsibilities?

Columnist Cowles offer a slightly different take. She suggests that Christina is probably starting to worry about whether or not said boyfriend is a bad bet for the future. Will he be there for her? Will he ever be able to support the family or even contribute to parental support? She skillfully avoids the term breadwinner, because feminists have been inveighing against this role for decades now. It does not put them in a very good position to criticize a man who is not making a living.

I will note, for what it’s worth, that while Cowles is happy to make up a name for Christina, she offers no such courtesy to the deadbeat boyfriend.

Cowles then tells us what happened in her own relationship. In the world of science this is called anecdotal. It distracts from the issue at hand and wastes the reader’s time.

Happily, Cowles adds a story about a relationship where the unemployed man’s attitude showed a friend of hers that the relationships was not very good:

You may care about this guy, but if your gut is telling you it’s time to move on, listen. My friend Marisa had dated a guy for over seven years when he found out he was getting laid off; she’d always made more money than him, but once his job was in jeopardy, he leaned on her even more. “I already paid for a lot of things, and he was almost toookay with it sometimes,” she said. “When he started freaking out about his career, I thought maybe he’d cut back a little bit, but instead, it was the opposite.” The last straw came when she took him to Babbo for his birthday. “I specifically remember the moment when he decided to order the tasting menu,” she said. “He was on the verge of being totally broke, and that was like, a $400 dinner. I just felt blatantly used.” They broke up shortly thereafter.

As I said, Christina, like Melissa, does not need to have an intense conversation about the issue. She needs but to observe her man’s behavior. Is he feeling any shame or is he happy to have become a mooch?



Be Your Own Therapist

This is not good news for the therapy business. At least, for those who provide the cognitive-behavioral treatments that have now been shown to be the most effective in treating a variety of mental health issues.

A recent study has shown that a patient can do just as well using a self-help book or a computer program. Since cognitive therapy is about retraining the mind through an exercise program, it makes some sense that the person of the therapist does not much matter.

Olivia Goldhill reports on the research:

Seeking out the perfect therapist can feel as significant and difficult as finding a romantic partner. A study on the effectiveness of trained therapists versus self-help treatment, though, suggests that therapists are not as important as they seem.

A meta-analyses of 15 studies, published in this month’s volume of Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, found no significant difference in the treatment outcomes for patients who saw a therapist and those who followed a self-help book or online program.

The researchers, led by Robert King, psychology professor at Queensland University of Technology in Australia, evaluated the outcomes of 723 patients who were treated for a variety of mental health conditions, including anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and depression.

All 15 studies involved a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) treatment, and patient outcomes were evaluated by various mental health diagnostic scales, rather than self-assessment.

Contrary to the researchers’ hypothesis that therapists would provide stronger results (though with greater variability), the results showed that therapists were neither more effective nor more variable than self-help options.

As soon as the world’s therapists get over gnashing their teeth, they can also see these results as a confirmation of the fact that their treatment is more scientific. After all, when you receive a medical treatment, does it matter whether it is administered by Dr. X or Dr. Y or Nurse Z. If the effect of the treatment depended on the person of the provider, it would be less about science and more about… a placebo.

Of course, there are other forms of psychotherapy. I try to follow them on this blog, especially those that appear weekly in New York Magazine. Those are Ask Polly and Lori Gottlieb. The so-called insights offered in these two columns are occasionally correct, but they are more often off the mark. With Polly, in particular, a former therapy patient seems compelled to offer up her own experience, with therapy and in life, as a means to show the proper amount of empathy for the letter writer.

I find this to be an especially useless technique, an admission that the columnist cannot get out of her mind to focus on the letter writer’s problems.