Thursday, February 22, 2018

Psychiatrist Says: Don't Blame Us for Nikolas Cruz

Don’t blame us? So says psychiatrist Amy Barnhorst in a New York Times op-ed. Don’t blame us for failing to appreciate the danger posed by a Nikolas Cruz… or a James Holmes or an Adam Lanza. We could not tell that they were dangers. When we ran our checklist of psychotic traits they passed with flying colors. Our profession, and the society’s concern with civil liberties, has tied our hands. We should not change our laws about involuntary hospitalization. We should not change the way that psychiatrists diagnose mental illness. We should take away their guns.

Considering that everyone who knew Nikolas Cruz,--everyone but the professionals charged with protecting the community-- knew that he was dangerous. The police had visited the Cruz home nearly forty times. He had announced to the world that he wanted to be a school shooter. The FBI had been informed. Social services had visited him. It seems to some of us that these government agencies failed miserably in their task of evaluating Cruz’s homicidal mania. This tells us either that they were all incompetent—don’t eliminate that possibility—or that psychiatry is sorely deficient when it comes to diagnosing certain cases. Why might it by so deficient? Perhaps it has been infected with its own variety of political correctness, contaminated by an excessive concern for civil liberties.

Can there be too much concern for civil liberties? Of course, there can. And yet, the anguished parents and children who have been filling our television screens with their outrage do not take aim at the failures of the system. They blame it all on the NRA and on guns. In truth, Bornhurst does too. She begins her essay by minimizing and trivializing Cruz's symptoms:

Shouldn’t psychiatrists be able to identify as dangerous someone like Nikolas Cruz, the young man charged in the school shooting last week in Florida, who scared his classmates, hurt animals and left menacing online posts?

Mr. Cruz had suffered from depression and was getting counseling at one point. He was also evaluated by emergency mental health workers in 2016, but they decided not to hospitalize him. Why, some critics are demanding, didn’t he receive proper treatment? And can’t we just stop angry, unstable young men like him from buying firearms?

As mentioned, Cruz was far more than an angry young man. He was shouting as loud as he could that he was homicidal. No one believed him. We note that a James Holmes, who shot up a movie theatre in Aurora, CO was consulting with a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist had diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic. She wanted him to be committed. The system would not allow her to do it… because Colorado laws would not permit it. The same holds true of Adam Lanza, whose mother wanted to have him committed. Connecticut’s involuntary commitment laws did not allow it. The state legislature had voted down tougher laws a couple of months before Lanza opened fire at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Barnhorst is correct to note that many of these psychotics and psychopaths do not present for treatment. And she notes correctly that the state interest in protecting civil liberties restricts what psychiatrists can do. And yet, in the Cruz case, the signs were everywhere. He was shouting them every chance he got. Only a deaf, dumb and blind band of bureaucrats could have missed it.

She wrote:

The mental health system doesn’t identify most of these people because they don’t come in to get care. And even if they do, laws designed to preserve the civil liberties of people with mental illness place limits on what treatments can be imposed against a person’s will.

Yet, when making their diagnoses, psychiatrists and judges rely on the word of the patient. They take it at face value. Of course, the prospective patients can look up the signs of psychosis on the internet and then lie to the judges and the psychiatrists. This leaves us with only the most extreme cases:

Here in California, as in most states, patients must be a danger to themselves or others because of mental illness before they can be involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital. This is a mechanism for getting people into treatment when they are too deep in the throes of their illness to understand that they need it. It allowed me to hospitalize a woman who tried to choke her mother because she was convinced her family had been replaced with impostors, and a man who had sent threatening letters to his boss because he believed she had implanted a microchip in his brain.

A young man who had been threatening to kill people was brought in by his parents to consult with Dr. Barnhorst. She describes his demeanor:

But the young man who had written about shooting his classmates was calm, cooperative and polite. The posts, he insisted, were nothing more than online braggadocio. He denied being suicidal or homicidal; he had never heard voices or gotten strange messages from the television. He admitted to having been bullied and was resentful of classmates who seemed to have more thriving social and romantic lives. But he adamantly denied he would be violent toward them.

What options did I have? It was clear to me that he did not have a psychiatric illness that would justify an involuntary hospitalization, but I was reluctant to release this man whose story echoed that of so many mass shooters.

It may well be the case that the young man was not psychotic or psychopathic. He might have been putting on a show to get attention. And yet, Barnhorst took the path of caution and had him committed. Whatever point she makes about the non-treatment of Cruz, Barnhorst herself took the path of good judgment. She erred on the side of caution:

I ended up admitting this patient, and he was released by the hearing officer two days later. He never took any medication, never reached the threshold for a federal firearm prohibition and left the hospital in the same state he arrived in. Like so many of his peers, he will not seek out therapy for the longstanding personality traits that seem to predispose him to violence and rage, and there is no way to impose treatment upon him.

As it happens, we do not know what effect the commitment had on him. We do not know what would have happened if his parents and the authorities had simply ignored him. Perhaps the minimal intervention, performed by parents and Dr. Bornhorst, accompanied by a couple of days in the hospital had helped him. We do not know. We cannot say that it had no effect or that doing nothing would have had the same effect.

By committing him to the hospital, Barnhorst made it impossible for him to buy a gun from a federally licensed gun dealer. Since we are all wondering how Nikolas Cruz was allowed to purchase a gun, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Barnhorst continues:

The one concrete benefit of officially committing him would be that he could be prohibited from buying a gun from any federally licensed retailer. Of course, this would do nothing about any guns and ammunition he may already have amassed. Nor would it deter him from getting guns from private-party sales, which are exempt from background checks in many states.

And yet, if  you believe, as she does, that the problem is more the availability of guns than government failures to intervene, she undermines her argument by suggesting, correctly, that guns are everywhere. As one has often mentioned, there are now 300 million guns in private hands. Will new gun control laws reduce their number and make it impossible for people who want to acquire them from acquiring them.... from friends or family?

We might agree that we should toughen up the laws involving gun purchases. And yet, if the psychiatric profession is unable to identify people who pose potential risk, what good would such laws serve?

Even if all potential mass shooters did get psychiatric care, there is no reliable cure for angry young men who harbor violent fantasies. And the laws intended to stop the mentally ill from buying guns are too narrow and easily sidestepped; people like Nikolas Cruz and my patient are unlikely to qualify.

Some of the mass shooters are angry young men. Some are Islamist terrorists. (When they are Islamists, the hue and cry tells us not to be Islamophobic.) But, Nikolas Cruz was far more deranged that Bornhorst suggests. Thus, the problem was a psychiatric profession that was incapable of seeing what so many of those around Cruz had seen clearly for years. If Cruz had been committed, he would not have been able to buy a gun. If Cruz had consulted with Dr. Bornhorst, she would have done the responsible thing and erred toward caution. She would have had him committed. The real story here is that no one did.

Can China Innovate?

The subject lies well beyond my competence. I report it here for your interest, but, more importantly, to address a question that has bedeviled American pedagogues.

Simply put, American academics reject the Chinese, i.e. Tiger Mom, approach to education on the grounds that it is too rote, too automatic, too unthinking. Thus, they propose, teaching children the Chinese way, where the teacher's authority is never questioned, will stiffly creativity and innovation. By this calculus Chinese business, especially the high tech variety, should depend on great innovators from America. The old saw was that Chinese scientists could merely imitate what was being produced by the great creative minds of America.

Apparently, such is not the case. Two stories, one from the Guardian and the other from Wired tell an entirely different story. Given my limitations when it comes to the future of technology, I will report them without much commentary.

From the Guardian:

The economic rise of China has been accompanied by a waxing of its scientific prowess. In January, the United States National Science Foundation reported that the number of scientific publications from China in 2016 outnumbered those from the US for the first time: 426,000 versus 409,000. Sceptics might say that it’s about quality, not quantity. But the patronising old idea that China, like the rest of east Asia, can imitate but not innovate is certainly false now. In several scientific fields, China is starting to set the pace for others to follow. On my tour of Chinese labs in 1992, only those I saw at the flagship Peking University looked comparable to what you might find at a good university in the west. Today the resources available to China’s top scientists are enviable to many of their western counterparts. Whereas once the best Chinese scientists would pack their bags for greener pastures abroad, today it’s common for Chinese postdoctoral researchers to get experience in a leading lab in the west and then head home where the Chinese government will help them set up a lab that will eclipse their western competitors.

As you already know, civilizations clash. They compete for advantage and for influence. The question playing itself out is whether China, with its authoritarian and hierarchical social structure can compete with an America that values diversity and that imagines that all people have equal natural talents.

The Guardian reports:

However, the pattern seems clear, and is worth heeding by other nations: despite China’s reputation for authoritarian and hierarchical rule, in science the approach seems to be to ensure that top researchers are well supported with funding and resources, and then to leave them to get on with it.

And also, Wired suggests that Chinese companies are moving to the head of the technology pack:

Researchers and companies in Beijing and Shenzhen are increasingly setting the pace for global technology development. “Large Chinese companies now have vast troves of data to hone artificial-intelligence experiments and can develop functions that the west may learn from, or copy,” says Qiang Yang, a professor of computer science at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Yang leads a team of researchers collaborating with Tencent’s WeChat platform, which has about one billion accounts to draw data from. In emerging fields such as AI, generally supportive government policies combined with generous salaries are already helping China’s internet titans lure top talent away from western rivals: in anuary 2017, former Microsoft executive Qi Lu joined Baidu to lead its AI efforts, including autonomous vehicle development. In other cases, Chinese tech firms simply acquire foreign competitors, as when China’s Midea Group acquired KUKA AG, the German robot-maker, last March.

Such progress has attracted venture capital:

In 2014, it [China] overtook Europe as a destination for venture capital, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Currently three of the world’s top five most highly valued private companies are Chinese – ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, phone maker Xiaomi, and e-commerce firm Meituan-Dianping.

China is moving ahead. It is innovating. It is either catching up to or moving ahead of America and Europe. In the meantime American tech companies are setting up diversity initiatives and offering new sexual harassment sensitivity training.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Nikki Haley: "I will not shut up."

Recently, the much put-upon Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat told United States United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley to shut up. You recall how many feminists stepped forward to defend Haley against this blatant sexist taunt. That’s right… none.

Yesterday, Haley answered at the United Nations Security, clearly and forcefully: “I will not shut up.”

Haley’s speech was exemplary, for defending America and for defending a leading American ally. One has to wonder why it has taken the United States to find a U.N. ambassador who stands strong and proud, who refuses to placate terrorism.

Here, from the Victory Girls blog (via Instapundit) are a few of her remarks:

I sit here today offering the outstretched hand of the United States to the Palestinian people in the cause of peace. We are full prepared to look to a future of prosperity and coexistence. We welcome you as the leader of the Palestinian people here today. But I will decline the advice I was recently given by your top negotiator, Saab Erekat: I will not shut up. Rather, I will speak some hard truths.

The Palestinian leadership has a choice between two different paths: there is the path of absolutist demands, hateful rhetoric, and incitement to violence. That path has led, and will continue to lead, to nothing but hardship for the Palestinian people. Or there is the path of negotiation and compromise. History has shown that path to be successful for Egypt and Jordan, including the transfer of territory. That path remains open to the Palestinian leadership if only it is courageous enough to take it.

The United States knows the Palestinian leadership was very unhappy with the decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem. You don’t have to like that decision; you don’t have to praise it; you don’t even have to accept it. But know this: that decision? Will — not — change.

So once again, you must choose between two paths. You can choose to denounce the United States, reject the U.S. role in peace talks, and pursue punitive measures against Israel in international forums like the U.N. I assure you that path will get the Palestinian people exactly nowhere toward the achievement of their aspirations. Or you can choose to put aside your anger about the location of our embassy and move forward with us toward a negotiated compromise that holds great potential for improving the lives of the Palestinian people.

Clearly, a strong step in the right direction.

The Failing Iran Nuclear Deal

When Barack Obama circumvented the Constitution to sign a nuclear deal with Iran, his many supporters pronounced it a significant foreign policy achievement. They agreed with him that it would be his foreign policy legacy. Now, some re having second thoughts.

Writing in Slate commentator and deal supporter Joshua Keating remarks that if the deal was intended to calm the conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims, it has failed miserably.

Any alert observer could have seen it at the onset:

On May 15, 2015, just a few months before the U.S. and other world powers signed a nuclear deal with Iran, President Barack Obama convened what was to be a high-profile meeting of Middle East leaders at Camp David. King Salman of Saudi Arabia, however, was a no-show. King Hamad of Bahrain elected to go to a horse show in the U.K. instead. The elderly rulers of Oman and the UAE also stayed home, citing health concerns. This was widely seen as a snub by leaders deeply angered by the soon-to-be-signed nuclear deal and an overall sense that the Obama administration was shifting politically toward Tehran.

Obama shifted toward Iran, a lead member of the axis of evil, a lead state sponsor of terrorism, a country with the blood of hundreds if not thousands of Americans on its hands, away from traditional alliances with Sunni Arab states and with Israel. Obama wanted to lift sanctions on Iran, to provide Iran with cash funding and allow it an eventual nuclear weapon. If it were not politically incorrect to question Obama’s patriotism, many people would have asked themselves which side Obama was on. The Sunni Arab states and Israel rejoiced at the advent of the Trump presidency.

Keating explains the Obama rationale:

Obama always made clear that an agreement on nuclear weapons wouldn’t necessarily change Iran’s larger pattern of behavior or that of its rivals. “If they don’t change at all, we’re still better off having the deal,” he argued. Still, he suggested that the diplomatic opening provided by the deal could change the dynamics of the region. “It would be profoundly in the interest of citizens throughout the region if Sunnis and Shias weren’t intent on killing each other,” he told the New Yorker’s David Remnick in 2014. “And although it would not solve the entire problem, if we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion—not funding terrorist organizations, not trying to stir up sectarian discontent in other countries, and not developing a nuclear weapon—you could see an equilibrium developing between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there’s competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.”

If that was the deal’s purpose, Keating continues, it has failed:

This is not what happened on either side of the Middle East’s sectarian divide. Instead, the deal has more often contributed to escalating tensions. In retrospect, this was foreseeable: Iran was perfectly capable of projecting power across the region with or without a nuclear arsenal. As for its rivals, they never trusted Iran’s assurances and saw warming relations between Tehran and Washington as a new and potentially even greater threat.

And also,

… rather than moderating its regional ambitions as the JCPOA’s proponents might have hoped, Iran has spent the years since the deal was signed supporting a network of Shiite militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and other countries, part of a larger project to, as BuzzFeed’s Borzou Daragahi put it, “establish territorial dominance from the Gulf of Aden to the shores of the Mediterranean.” Iran might have done all this regardless. But it was also responding to the Saudi actions. Either way, there’s certainly no evidence that nuclear diplomacy, or the lack of a nuclear weapon, has helped the neighbors overcome their differences.

Keating adds another salient point. In order to get the nuclear deal Obama walked away from the war in Syria. By his inaction Obama facilitated a conflict that murdered hundreds of thousands and destroyed the lives of millions. But, don’t let that tarnish the Obama legacy.

Any consideration of Obama’s priorities in the Middle East has to address the most contested part of his legacy, the still unfolding crisis in Syria. Many critics, including former members of his administration, have charged that Obama’s reluctance to intervene to a greater extent in Syria was motivated in part by the desire to achieve the nuclear agreement with Bashar al-Assad’s patron, Iran. In the new documentary, The Final Year, which follows Obama’s foreign policy team throughout 2016, adviser Ben Rhodes essentially legitimizes this claim by defending Obama’s hands-off policy in part by saying that if the U.S. had intervened more forcefully in Syria, it would have dominated Obama’s second term and the JCPOA would have been impossible to achieve. Rhodes may be right, but it’s less and less clear as time goes on that this was the right trade-off. Looking at the devastating consequences of the Syrian war, not just for that country but for the region and the world, it’s hard not to argue that Obama should have made Syria his main and overwhelming foreign policy focus, to the exclusion of nearly everything else, Iran deal be damned.

Perhaps, Keating continues, Obama feared getting sucked into yet another war in the Middle East. The Trump administrations actions have put the lie to that pretense:

What seems likeliest is that a president who was elected promising to end the Bush administration’s wars was wary of yet another costly quagmire in the Middle East. But the Trump administration’s limited airstrikes on Assad’s air force last April in response to a chemical weapons attack—an action the previous administration famously did not take in a similar situation—has not sucked the U.S. into a larger unwanted war against Syrian forces or led to an accidental clash between the U.S. and Russia, as Obama defenders would have predicted. (The U.S. is keeping troops in Syria, as the Trump administration recently announced, but so far they have not engaged directly with Assad’s military.) In other words, not every military action is a slippery slope leading to a new Vietnam or Iraq.

Despite it all Keating still supports the Iran nuclear deal.

Lee Smith does not. Writing in Tablet, Smith explains that Obama was trying to rebalance American interests in the Middle East, to betray traditional American allies and to enhance the power of America’s enemies. The premise was that America’s alliance with Israel, especially, and its nastiness toward Iran had caused the conflicts in the region.

On those terms the deal has failed:

Barack Obama’s signature foreign-policy initiative wasn’t just an arms agreement. It was an instrument used to rebalance U.S. interests, downgrading traditional allies like Israel, as well as Saudi Arabia, and upgrading Iran. The hope, Obama told an interviewer, was to create a geopolitical “equilibrium … in which there’s competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.” Given the poverty of that hope, it should hardly come as a surprise that instead of the airy and ever-elusive notion of “geopolitical equilibrium” there is instead mayhem.

But, finally, Smith adds, the purpose of the deal was to stick it to the Jews, to the neocons who supported the Iraq War to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and to the Jewish state of Israel.

After all, the deal brought Iranian forces into Syria and Lebanon up to Israel’s borders:

No, the Iran deal was a form of virtue-signaling that used the lives of tens of millions of people living in the Middle East as props—and whose favorite hate-word was “neocon,” a word that was enthusiastically applied to people of widely varying political leanings and stripes, especially if they were Jewish….

It was clear starting in 2014 that the point of the deal, as I explained hereand here, was to realign American interests with Iran’s. I wrote that ignoring the anti-Semitism that inspires the Iranian leadership and filling its coffers would unleash the clerical regime and facilitate its expansionary ambitions, reaching even the Golan Heights. Iran wouldn’t spend the money from sanctions relief on fixing the economy, I showed, but rather on weaponsterrorism, and war.

Anyone who finds this hard to believe was did not give sufficient weight to the influence of the company Obama kept in Chicago. Would you really expect anything else from Jeremiah Wright’s protégé?

Is Democracy in Decline?

As has oft been noted, our democracy seems to be declining. It seems to have lost its lustre and to have ceased being the world's leading governmental role model.

Ever since a post Hegelian thinker declared that history had ended and that liberal democracy had won, the intelligentsia has actually bought the story. And now, with much teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing, it is noticing, as has often been remarked on this blog, that democracy is becoming a less appealing model. Underdeveloped nations in the world seem more likely to want to emulate Asian authoritarianism, via Singapore and China, than to emulate American or Western European democracy. 

Those who believe that history ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall see it all in terms of the movements of the World Spirit. They do not need to make democracy work. That happens all by itself. Evidently, they are wrong.

In truth, democracy does not seem to be working. Thus its influence is declining. Gerald Seib reports the story for the Wall Street Journal:

Frightening as that is, it also isn’t the only sign that the democratic model—long seen as the most promising force for world peace and prosperity—is in danger. By two other new measures, democracy is slipping as a global force. And by any measure, the performance of America’s own democracy is undermining its power as a model for others.

As it happens, those who favor democracy define it in idealistic terms, by how much it defends human rights, free speech and free elections. They do not talk about free enterprise economics… though, on that score, America is not doing very well either.

Seib continues:

The Freedom House, an independent organization that has monitored freedom globally for 77 years, last month released its annual democracy index, a measure of the health of democracy around the world. In doing so, it declared: “Democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017 as its basic tenets—including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law—came under attack around the world.”

Freedom House found that 71 countries suffered “net declines” in political rights and civil liberties, while only 35 registered gains. “A quarter-century ago, at the end of the Cold War, it appeared that totalitarianism had at last been vanquished and liberal democracy had won the great ideological battle of the 20th century,” the report says. “Today, it is democracy that finds itself battered and weakened.”

It now rates the U.S. as a “flawed democracy” because of a polarized political system and a decline in trust in its institutions.

It’s good to have freedom of the press. And yet, the mainstream press has of late become little more than a propaganda organ for the anti-Trump resistance. Journalists command respect when they report the news and when they separate the news from opinion. If nearly every story they report is slanted to make Trump look bad and Obama look good… the press has compromised its own freedom and credibility in order to become an instrument of a leftist power grab. 

Seib believes that the American Congress has failed to find bipartisan compromise on major legislation.

Certainly the performance of America’s current, sclerotic version of democracy isn’t especially inspiring. The power of the American system is supposed to be its ability to bring people of differing views to compromises that allow action. Yet the two most significant legislative acts of the last decade—a new health-care plan under President Barack Obama and a big tax cut under President Trump—were passed and signed into law almost entirely on party-line votes. There was no compromising.

One might note that in the first case, President Obama refused to compromise with a political party he saw as the devil’s spawn. And, today’s Congressional Democrats seem to believe that they must Resist the fascists in the White House. They seem clearly to be living in a fictional world, not dealing with real world problems.

Seib concludes by pointing out that democracy is declining because Congress cannot pass legislation that the nation seems to want. Here he reveals a progressive bias:

At the moment, there are two burning issues on which public polling shows Americans have clear preferences: They want stronger background checks for gun purchasers (something the White House said Monday it also supports), and favor a path to legal status for the so-called “Dreamers,” immigrants brought here as children. Yet Congress has consistently failed in efforts to enact stronger background checks and is currently failing to devise a formula to deal with Dreamers.

When gun control legislation was passed in the early years of the Clinton administration, the American people rose up, threw out Congressional Democrats and handed Congress to the Republicans. Gun control legislation is not as popular as some people think.

For now, most Americans favor a solution to the problem of the Dreamers. Apparently, they prefer the rule of sentiment to the rule of law. And yet, we should also note that a recent poll showed that very large majorities of Americans favor securing the Southern border, ending chain migration and ending the visa lottery. Congressional Democrats will fight the good fight to keep the borders open... no matter what.

It seems slightly unfair and largely distorting to choose issues that comprise the Democratic agenda while erasing those issues where the vast majority of the people take positions that align with Trump administration policy. It's hard to imagine that Gerald Seib, one of the best news analysts out there, would make it appear that the Republican party and President Trump are, by themselves, undermining democracy. If so, and given his larger thesis, namely that the Russians are trying to undermine democracy, he seems to be intimating that the Trump administration is colluding with the Russians to bury democracy.

In truth, the Russian government is less concerned with ideological warfare than with promoting its national interest and imperial glory. When all is said and done, an America where one political party is investing its greatest energy in an effort to change the result of a fair election is not preparing to compete on the world stage against Russia or China. 

China Cracks Down on Funeral Strippers

Now, even before you knew the custom existed, the Chinese government is cracking down on what are called “funeral strippers.” Yes, indeed, families in rural China have made a practice of hiring trippers to entertain at the funerals of loved ones.

The purpose: to increase attendance and to make it seem that the deceased had a many offspring. One will be forbidden for asking how anyone in a nation that has had a one-child policy can end up with many offspring. Let's call it inscrutable.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Naturally, the Daily Mail has the story:

Families in China have been told not to hire strip dancers to give erotic shows at their relative's funerals.

The unusual trend, mostly seen in rural villages, has come into being because many families hope scantily-clad showgirls could help make the ceremony more successful - by drawing more mourners.

Now the Chinese government is hoping to give a send-off to the 'obscene, pornographic, and vulgar' phenomenon after trying to stop it for over a decade.

It continues:

China has had the tradition of entertaining mourners at funerals for more than 100 years, but funeral striptease only emerged in the 1990s, according to Chinese newspaper Global Times.

One expert said the phenomenon could be attributed, to some degrees, to Chinese people's worship to reproduction. 

Huang Jianxing, professor of Fujian Normal University Sociology and History Department, told the Global Times: 'In some local cultures, dancing with erotic elements can be used to convey the deceased's wishes of being blessed with many children.'

By staging a funeral striptease, a family would be able to attract more attendees to the funeral, which could give the appearance that the deceased had many offspring.

For your further edification, here's a scene from a rural Chinese funeral:

Flashes to flashes, bust to bust: Funeral strip shows have been popular in rural Chinese villages. A stripper is pictured performing at a funeral in Handan, Hebei Province, in 2015

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Are American Boys Broken?

It’s always nice to see history repeating itself. You might not recall, but the year 1212 has gone down in history for what was called the Children’s Crusade. It was a real crusade, launched by European children, to win back the Holy Land from Muslim invaders. It didn’t work. None of the crusaders ever reached the Holy Land, but it counts as the first children’s movement.

Now, we are seeing our own version of the Children’s Crusade. High school students are mobilizing to fight for more gun control laws. Since no one seems to be willing to enforce those that we have, surely more gun control laws will not stop gun violence. When it doesn't another children's crusade will tell us that we need more gun control laws. It takes a high school level mind to believe that it’s easier to control 300 million guns than it is to control a couple of dozen schizophrenics and psychopaths.

We can argue about whether it is better to get our marching orders from high school students or from stand-up comics who aren’t funny. But, since government, federal, state and local failed to enforce the laws and regulations that are already on the books, you might think that these children would crusade against incompetent government or even against leniency about involuntary commitment. 

But no, they have been swept up in the anti-Trump mania and are allowing themselves to be used as a cudgel against the president. Were any children out marching when lunatics, maniacs and terrorists shot up schools and nightclubs and council meetings during the Clinton and Obama administrations? You do not even need to think to answer that question.

In the meantime, USA Today asks another salient question: are American boys broken? Since all of the mass shootings share one characteristic—they were all perpetrated by males—it makes some sense to ask whether there is something wrong with boys.

The thought comes to us from a comedian:

… comedian Michael Ian Black started a thread on Twitter that sparked a vitriolic debate about the role of gender in gun violence. It began with the tweet, "Deeper even than the gun problem is this: boys are broken." 

Black's tweet has been liked nearly 65,000 times. In an interview with NPR on Sunday, he elaborated.

"I think it means that there is something going on with American men that is giving them the permission and space to commit violence," he said. "And one of the main things we focus on correctly is guns and mental health, but I think deeper than that is a problem, a crisis in masculinity."

Naturally, USA Today, being politically correct in the woke sense, folds the issue into a debate about toxic masculinity. This suggests that boys need to get in touch with their feminine side, to enhance their capacity for empathy and to be kinder and gentler.

And yet, if we know one thing, it’s this. If leftists believe that feminism is the solution, the truth is that feminism is the problem. If you ask who broke boys or why boys are broken, you might turn to Christina Hoff Sommers’ book The War Against Boys

Thanks the feminist schoolteachers, in particular, boys have been beaten down at school. And of course, the lean in movement tells girls to adopt a macho posture that threatens boys. Even Sheryl Sandberg knows that leaning in provokes pushback. But, be assured, if a girl provokes a boy, a teenager with nascent moral faculties, you might not just receive pushback You might be hit back.

Does the culture have other ways to beat down boys and men? It denounces them as toxic, it declares their willingness to protect women from harm a sign of oppression. Oh, and by demonizing their wish to own guns… ultimately to restrict their access to guns. For my part I have nothing against sensible restrictions on gun ownership. Of course, we already have sensible restrictions on gun ownership. And if Nikolas Cruz was able to buy a gun because mental health professionals, state social service agents and the local sheriff’s office had not tagged him as a danger… well then, perhaps we ought to be more agitated about incompetent government.

In truth, guns are a guy thing. Surely, many women own guns, but the symbolism of guns is distinctly manly. And if feminists continue to disrespect all outward signs of manliness, if they try to beat boys into becoming girls, then boys will only be able to express their masculinity in more toxic ways.

I recall an experience that Doris Lessing had in Great Britain many years ago. She was visiting a class of 9 and 10 year olds and observed how the female teachers were treating the boys in the room. Lessing is more of a feminist than most of the junior league feminists who rant away in the media, so her observations take on a special poignancy. Count her among the few progressives who have enough integrity to see things as they are.

These remarks date from 2001. We read them in the Guardian:

Young boys were being weighed down with guilt about the crimes of their sex, she told the Edinburgh book festival, while energy which could be used to get proper child care was being dissipated in the pointless humiliation of men.

"I find myself increasingly shocked at the unthinking and automatic rubbishing of men which is now so part of our culture that it is hardly even noticed," the 81-year-old Persian-born writer said yesterday.

"Great things have been achieved through feminism. We now have pretty much equality at least on the pay and opportunities front, though almost nothing has been done on child care, the real liberation.

"We have many wonderful, clever, powerful women everywhere, but what is happening to men? Why did this have to be at the cost of men?

"I was in a class of nine- and 10-year-olds, girls and boys, and this young woman was telling these kids that the reason for wars was the innately violent nature of men.

You could see the little girls, fat with complacency and conceit while the little boys sat there crumpled, apologising for their existence, thinking this was going to be the pattern of their lives."

Lessing said the teacher tried to "catch my eye, thinking I would approve of this rubbish".

She added: "This kind of thing is happening in schools all over the place and no one says a thing.

"It has become a kind of religion that you can't criticise because then you become a traitor to the great cause, which I am not.

"It is time we began to ask who are these women who continually rubbish men. The most stupid, ill-educated and nasty woman can rubbish the nicest, kindest and most intelligent man and no one protests. 

 "Men seem to be so cowed that they can't fight back, and it is time they did."

You remember the old saying: Be careful what you wish for…. Feminist icon Doris Lessing was ringing the tocsin of alarm nearly two decades ago. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears.