Thursday, December 31, 2015

Political Correctness Run Amok

Now, here’s a Top Ten List that’s really funny. Of at least, it would be hilariously funny if it were not so pathetic.

Apparently, America’s college students have not sense of how they look to the outside world. They have long since abandoned any concern with maintaining a good reputation. Evidently, they do not care if anyone, anywhere ever hires them. They seem to be competing to see who can be the most absurd, the most ridiculous, the most demented.

If they had entered a contest to see who can best reduce political correctness to utter absurdity and make themselves look like complete fools, they would be doing a great job.

Karin Agness has collected a Top Ten List of  "Most Ridiculous College Protests of 2015.”

Read it for the humor; it will make your day. Otherwise you will find yourself overcome with pessimism about the future.

If you would like a sample, here are two:

10. UC San Diego Students “Free the Nipple”

9. California Polytechnic University Students Hold A “Shit-In”

If you consult the article you will discover what these students were protesting. 

Decadent Underachievers

By now everyone knows that Asian students in American schools are outperforming their non-Asian counterparts academically. The same holds true for Asians students in Asia. They have become world beaters. Our students have become also-rans.

Now, Betsy McCaughey suggests, you would think that non-Asian American parents would want to emulate the example of their Asian competitors. If the Tiger Mom was so successful and if her counterparts in other countries are so successful, shouldn’t American parents try to do as she did?

McCaughey does not mention the Tiger Mom but she does explain that a goodly part of the success of Asian children comes from their disciplinarian parents and their work-based culture.

As it happens, that is not the American way. The American way is to try to bring the Asian students down, to malign them and to suggest that all the hard work will make them neurotic and suicidal. Obviously, deep-think magazine articles about the neuroticism and depression of Asian children are psy-ops. They might examine a high school in Stanford, CA and discover a high level of suicides, fact that may or may not have something to do with having Tiger Moms. Then again, it may or may not have something to do with living in an America that demeans children who work all the time and who do not excel at play dates and sleepovers.

If the calumny is valid, we would also be able to demonstrate that the world-beating students in Asia are similarly afflicted. And we would also want to show how badly these countries are doing in economic competition with the rest of the world.

The studies are a psychic balm for American parents. They are saying that American parents should not worry when their children fall behind academically and cannot get jobs in Silicon Valley. They can console themselves with the notion that their children have higher self-esteem and fewer suicide attempts. One does not know off-hand how many American children are taking psychotropic medication, to say nothing of alcohol and weed, but still, making American children as the gold standard of mental health seems a bit risky. Someone might counter that we are raising a generation of decadent underachievers. Or, one might say, yet another generation of decadent underachievers.

We do know that Asian students tend not to want to be part of the ambient American culture. They tend to hang out with each other and to avoid the Dionysian aspects of high school and college life. Apparently, the best defense against American decadence is to opt out and spend Saturday night in the library.

In the meantime colleges are imposing quotas in order to limit the number of Asian students. And just in case these alarmist stories have not convinced Tiger Moms to dumb their children down, now a high school in New Jersey has found a new way to do the job.

McCaughey outlines the problem:

American teens rank a dismal 28th in math and science knowledge, compared with teens in other countries — even poor countries. Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are at the top.

We’ve slumped. For the first time in 25 years, US scores on the main test for elementary and middle school education fell. And SAT scores for college-bound students dropped significantly.

Could changes in these tests be to blame? That convenient excuse was torpedoed by the stellar performances of Asian-American students. Even though many come from poor or immigrant families, they outscore all other students by large margins on both tests, and their lead keeps widening.

Here in New York City, Asian-Americans make up 13 percent of students, yet they win more than half of the coveted places each year at the city’s selective public high schools, such as Bronx Science and Stuyvesant.

By any standard, the record is not very good.

The same disparity pertains in a New Jersey high school:

That formula is under fire at the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District in New Jersey. The district, which is 65 percent Asian, routinely produces seniors with perfect SAT scores, admissions to MIT and top prizes in international science competitions.

Evidently, American parents are upset. They have complained to school officials. Since, much of what they learned in college was how to complain and criticize, they are putting their education to good use. Since they never learned  hard work they cannot impart that value to their children.

Anyway, American parents believe that their darlings are under too much pressure and cannot compete. The solution: to dumb down the curriculum. Yes, indeed, that will do it.

McCaughey reports the sad news:

But many non-Asian parents are up in arms, complaining there’s too much pressure and their kids can’t compete. In response, this fall Superintendent David Aderhold apologized that school had become a “perpetual achievement machine.” Heaven forbid!

Aderhold canceled accelerated and enriched math courses for fourth and fifth grades, which were 90 percent Asian, and eliminated midterms and finals in high school.

Using a word that already strikes terror in the hearts of Asian parents, he said schools had to take a “holistic” approach. That’s the same euphemism Harvard uses to limit the number of Asians accepted and favor non-Asians.

Aderhold even lowered standards for playing in school music programs. Students have a “right to squeak,” he insisted. Never mind whether they practice.

“Holistic” means that we are not going to accept your high achieving child because we are afraid that he will not excel at Spring Break. And because we need to save places to achieve diversity quotas.

One notes with even more chagrin that the school no longer considers it important to play music correctly. This ought to recall the cries of anguish when American parents discovered that the Tiger Mom once forced her young daughter to sit at the piano playing the same piece of music until she got it right. The poor girl was not even allowed a bathroom break.

In effect, The Tiger Mom was teaching her daughter the virtue of perseverance.

How did that one work out?

 Well, here is the Tiger Cub today. This is Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld’s bio:

Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld '15 graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Harvard University with an AB in Philosophy and South Asian Studies. While at Harvard, Sophia was a recipient of the Safra Undergraduate Fellowship in Ethics. She was also named (for better or worse) one of "Harvard's 15 Most Interesting Seniors." Sophia is currently pursuing her JD at Yale Law School.

One can also add that she completed the Harvard ROTC program and has set up a tutoring business, called Tiger Cub Tutoring, from which this bio is drawn. Check out the site.

As you can see, America needs to stop Asian children before they become like the Tiger Cubs. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Enabling Anorexia

Everyone in the mental health field knows how difficult it is to treat anorexia. The anorexic refuses to eat. She allows herself to starve. If you leave her to her own devices she will often die. She does so for reasons that may be articulate or that may be inarticulate. She might believe that she is fighting for social justice or she might be suffering from a dieting habit that has gotten out of control.

Over the years many therapists have tried to treat anorexia with one or another version of the talking cure. They have usually failed. They have found, over the years, that what succeeds is something very close to forced feeding. From the Maudsley Hospital in England to many institutions in America, the best treatment seems to be: forcing anorexics to eat, and to eat more than they want to eat.

It is an unpleasant and painful treatment, because by the time these girls become hospitalized they have damaged their digestive systems to the point where they have great difficulty and even pain digesting food. In the end, however, it is better to undergo the treatment involuntarily than to starve to death. In many cases those are the alternatives. Take your choice.

It is fair to say that anorexics are defiant. It is fair to say that they are being deprived of some of their freedom because their choices are killing them. Of course, we can also ask whether their judgment has been impaired by the damage their anorexia might have done to their brains.

Once they get caught up in the anorexia they often seek ways to rationalize it, to make it meaningful. As a civilized society we do not accept that we should allow people to starve themselves to death in order to make a point.

Still, anorexics are defiant. The more defiant they are the more difficult they are to treat. The more defiant they are the more likely they are to become chronically ill, to take up the habit as soon as she leaves treatment… the better to assert what she considers her autonomy and independence.

Anorexics do not need is to hear people praising their defiance, encouraging them to starve themselves, telling them that defiance is a the right thing to do to gain social justice. Yet, that is what a recovering anorexic named Carrie Arnold proposes in an article in Aeon. The article is entitled: “In Praise of Defiance.”

One sympathizes with the fact that Arnold suffered from anorexia herself. Yet, that is not an excuse for writing an article in which she seems to be enabling defiant anorexics.

To be blunt, the article is a wrong-headed muddle, conflating anorexics who are being forced to eat in order to survive with psychiatric prisoners in the Soviet Union and China and also with rioters in America’s inner cities..

In one were to ask why Arnold and the patient she calls Holly continue to be anorexic, the answer is that they are defiant. They value defiance because they think it represents a rebellion against the system. They are willing to sacrifice their health for a principle. They think that they are martyrs for social justice. In truth they are tools of those who overestimate the value of ideals. The one thing that Arnold and Holly do not need is social support and encouragement. They are not prisoners in the Gulag or in a Russian psychiatric hospitals and they are absurdly wrong to confuse their mental health issues with political persecution.

I will admit that treating defiant anorexics is not pretty. Allowing them to starve themselves to death isn’t pretty either. Since Arnold offers no other solution, she should not be defending the mental mechanism that causes these girls to become and to remain anorexic.

How ugly was the treatment? After refusing to eat the last piece of toast Holly was subjected to a gruesome punishment. Arnold describes it:

As a patient at an eating-disorder treatment centre, Holly was required to finish everything on her plate or drink a high-calorie liquid supplement. Already uncomfortably full after eating everything else, she couldn’t finish the slice of toast. A nurse reminded her of the rule: toast or supplement. She tried to explain that it was only her fourth day in treatment and she had already eaten nearly twice what she had been eating at home. The nurse insisted. Finally, Holly admitted: ‘I can’t. I’m scared.’

But the facility didn’t see fear, it saw defiance. In her panic, Holly had pushed a nurse out of the way, which was written down as a physical assault on staff. So the treatment centre transported Holly to a locked psychiatric ward where she was held against her will for the next five days. She was restrained, drugged, and humiliated, all of which gave Holly flashbacks and nightmares. Only after stuffing herself full of food for two days straight to convince the hospital that she wasn’t a danger to herself or to others was she released.

‘Defiant or not, as a patient, I have the right to participate in my own care, and that was taken from me,’ she said.

As I said, it sounds gruesome. Be clear, however. Holly could leave at any time she wanted to… by eating a few meals.

Arnold adds that Holly has been undergoing treatment for depression and anxiety for two decades now. How well has this defiance been working for her? True enough, the treatment appears to be unjust, but people who are a danger to themselves are not allowed to make decisions that will harm them. We do not allow them to slit their wrists either because they believe that it will be a good way to protest injustice.

But, Arnold seems to see Holly as a martyr for freedom. Certainly, that is how Holly sees herself:

In nearly two decades of treatment for depression and eating disorders, Holly has frequently been called defiant. She doesn’t hesitate to stand her ground and state her opinion, even if it makes people uncomfortable. Her shaved head and multiple piercings and tattoos add to her defiant image. Holly doesn’t deny that the word applies to her – after all, she tried to enlist the help of the American Civil Liberties Union in suing her high school on the grounds that their community service requirement violated the 14th Amendment. Her problem is that the only thing people can see is defiance.

Why do people only see defiance? Perhaps because that is all there is to see.

Holly does not need social support. She needs to learn that she should not be martyring herself for a cause. She needs to have less, not more support. She does not need published articles defending her right to starve herself to death. She does not need serious writers encouraging her and other girls to be antisocial. Arnold should not be telling them that they are right to be defiant.

And then, Arnold, who doesn’t think very clearly herself, launches into a litany of grievances, all of which represent society’s unjust repression of people who are rebelling for a good cause.

She writes:

And when the defiant ones are locked up in prisons and hospitals, they are unable to force changes in the status quo – not only do they lack control over the treatment dispensed, they are also unable to express their change-making views on culture and the world. And what a loss: without people protesting police shootings of unarmed black men in Ferguson and Baltimore, racial violence will continue. Without sexual assault victims speaking out against how they were blamed for crimes committed against them, rape culture will go on. Defiance forces us to chip away at the cornerstones of our culture, but it’s all too easy to turn our discomfort into the defiant ones’ psychiatric disease.

As you can see Arnold has embraced the dogmatic beliefs of the crackpot left. She sounds like a standard issue grievance monger.

What happened in Ferguson, MO has nothing to do with what she says happened. If she believes that the protests and riots are going to stop racial violence, she is obviously out of touch with reality. By now, everyone should know that most of the violence in those communities is produced by minority group members themselves. And that demonizing the police has caused more, not less violence.

As for the rape culture meme, Arnold shows herself to be equally empty headed. If she does not understand the complex causes for rape culture on and off campus and does not understand how many times men have been unjustly accused of rape and expelled from school for it, she understands nothing. And she certainly does not see that rape is a relatively rare occurrence on college campuses, compared with other parts of our society.

Naturally, she rallies to the cause of one Emma Sulkowicz, the mattress girl who insisted that she had been raped. Both Arnold and Sulkowicz are so defiant that they refuse to accept the administrative and legal judgments about the validity of Sulkowicz’s charge. It could be that Sulkowicz was right and that every objective individual who evaluated her claim was wrong. Should we praise her defiance for believing that her feelings and beliefs should trump the rule of law.

Arnold writes:

Acts of defiance can be solitary or small. High-school students defy social norms by openly defining themselves as gay, bisexual or transgender. Office workers defy corporate culture by brightly decorating their cubicles. Fat-acceptance activists refuse to change their weight for the sake of appearance. Defiance defines the visual arts student Emma Sulkowicz, who carried her mattress around Columbia University in New York City in protest at how they handled her sexual assault.

Keep in mind, Sulkowicz also produced an explicitly pornographic video of what she said happened to her. Again, she wanted to martyr herself for a cause, but no officials, either within the college or the police, found her claim to be credible. In the meantime she allowed the world to see her as a political fanatic. Surely, it will have an effect on her future prospects, both dating and employment prospects. We ought not to extol her, to make her a role model for young women everywhere. Unless we want to be enablers.

Let’s try to shed some reason on this. When it comes to schizophrenia and certain other kinds of mental illnesses, it is extremely difficult to commit patients involuntarily. Surely, this is not a good thing. When the civil libertarians took control of the commitment process, they threw up obstacles to the involuntary commitment of people like Adam Lanza, Jared Loughner and James Holmes. All of them were clearly schizophrenic. People around them knew that they needed to be treated, against their defiant will. Tragically, the law made it that nothing could be done.

Holmes’s psychiatrist knew what was coming but could not get him committed against his will. Lanza’s mother knew what was happening, but in Connecticut it was very difficult to have her son committed.

For now, it is easier to commit and to treat adolescent girls who are suffering from eating disorders.

While you are singing the praises of the defiantly mentally ill, keep in mind that defiance is not an unalloyed virtue. There is no real virtue to starving yourself to death or to burning down your neighborhood. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lies, Damned Lies and Delusions

The American people are angry. They are frustrated. As calamity engulfs the world they see their president adopting a “What Me Worry?” attitude.

Worse yet, they hate being lied to. They hate being lied to, over and over again, without anyone really caring. It’s an old tactic used by totalitarian propagandists. You keep telling the same lie until people have heard it so much that they assume it to be true.

Back in the day, during the Bush administration, the media was abuzz over the idea that Bush had lied. Everyone was aghast that the president had said that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but then could not find any. Everyone assumed it was a lie.

The reason they thought so was that they do not know what a lie is. They did not see that Bush was merely presenting the best intelligence estimates gleaned from the world’s best intelligence agencies. The estimates were wrong, but there is such a thing as an honest mistake. And making an honest mistake is not the same as a lie.

You recall that a dimwitted comedian made his way into the United States Senate by writing a book entitled: Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. Evidently, he has a limited vocabulary. And yet, the concept took hold and America elected a president who promised to disengage from Iraq and Afghanistan and the Middle East. Thanks to the constant attacks on Bush’s truthfulness, coupled with the fact that the war was not going very well, the American people voted for a cowardly pacifist who wanted to reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian mullahs.

And, of course, Barack Obama was an exceptionally good liar. Obama and his media enablers see no reason to tell the American people the truth. They simply kept saying that if you like your doctor  you can keep your doctor and that if you like your plan you can keep you plan… knowing all along that it was a gigantic lie.

And we have an administration that forces intelligence officers to skew the data in order to make it appear that Obama’s fabrications about ISIS and Islamic terrorism are true. Not only does Obama circumvent the constitution by acting like a despot. He continues to lie about it.

Better yet, the Democrat party, having seen how successful you can be by lying to the American people, is on the verge of nominating a candidate who is an equally competent liar.

Now, Slate Magazine, hardly a hotbed of conservative thought, has caught the Obama State Department in an especially egregious lie. You see, John Kerry and his spokesman John Kirby have put out a list of the administration’s 2015 foreign policy achievements.

One has no idea what John Kirby, a retired admiral is thinking, but his performance makes you nostalgic for the old days of Jen Psaki and Marie Harf—at least they were good looking.

Anyway, the Obama-Kerry-Kirby progress report touts the administration’s victory in providing Iran with eventual legitimate access to nuclear weapons and immediate access to over a hundred billion dollars. As it happened, Iran did not even sign the deal and does not feel bound to respect it. If that is your greatest achievement you are a failure and ought to bow your head in shame.

And the state department touts a climate change agreement in which all of the world’s nations agreed on nothing. The agreement is worth precisely nothing. It requires nothing of anyone and will never be submitted to the Senate for approval. For the Obama administration the climate change agreement will aid in the fight against Islamist terrorism.

But, these were not even the most egregious distortions. The biggest lie concerns Syria. Something must be seriously wrong with officials who imagine that anyone would accept this assessment as the truth. Sadly, the administration knows very well that the lapdog media will happily look away from reality and will offer up yet another paean on gun control.

Yet, this time, Slate has called the administration out.

The Obama/Kerry/Kirby version was entitled: "Bringing Peace and Security to Syria.” Really, I could not have made this up:

The United States and many members of the international community have stepped up to aid the Syrian people during their time of need – the United States has led the world in humanitarian aid contributions since the crisis began in 2011. Led by Secretary Kerry, the United States also continues to push for a political transition in Syria, and under his stewardship, in December, the UN Security Council passed a U.S.-sponsored resolution that puts forward a roadmap that will facilitate a transition within Syria to a credible, inclusive, nonsectarian government that is responsive to the needs of the Syrian people.

Being a responsible journalistic organ, one that has just seen its faith betrayed, Slate counterpoints the Obama/Kerry/Kirby version with a description from Foreign Policy:

According to the United Nations, as of October 2015 some 250,000 people have been killed in more than four years of civil war (casualty figures for 2015 alone are not yet available). More than 11 million refugees have left the region, many of whom swelled onto European shores in the fall of 2015; it’s not clear how many will ever get asylum in Europe, or elsewhere around the world, including in the United States. A March 2015 UN report also noted that four in five Syrians are now living in poverty.

Slate concludes by quoting the author of that piece:

“[I]n the case of Syria, the five words State used to describe the past year seem at the very least inappropriate and at the worst delusional,” Foreign Policy’s David Francis writes.

Delusional… the word refers to a belief that is so strong that it is impervious to rational consideration or factual verification. A schizophrenic who hears God will never believe that God is not speaking to him. A paranoiac who believes in a vast conspiracy will never be persuaded that there is no such thing.

Delusional beliefs do not need to be limited to psychotics. There are people out there who believe that their left leg is longer than their right leg and that the condition can only be cured by amputation. Since we can measure legs in a way that we cannot measure God, we know that they are deluded. Nevertheless, if you do not accept their belief you are a bigot.

And then there was the woman who came to believe that God had make a mistake by giving her eyesight. She convinced a therapist to pour drain cleaner in her eyes, thus blinding her. She says that she has never been happier.

And, let’s not forget Caitlyn Jenner. In a world founded on delusional lies, she-he-it is clearly the king/queen.

A Few Words From Michael Burry

I will spare you my comments here since most of this is beyond my area of competence. But, we should pay attention to Michael Burry’s views on America’s current economic conditions, just because he is Michael Burry.

You recall Michael Burry? He was a leading character in the Michael Lewis book (now a major motion picture) called The Big Short. Way back before the crash of 2008 Burry found a way to short mortgage backed securities. He made a fortune in the crash, so he is worth reading… whether he is right or wrong.

How does he see the financial crisis now? He had hoped that the players in the government and business would have taken personal responsibility for what happened. And yet, they simply shifted the blame. It’s an important theme around here, so it is interesting to see how Burry explains what happened:

The biggest hope I had was that we would enter a new era of personal responsibility. Instead, we doubled down on blaming others, and this is long-term tragic. Too, the crisis, incredibly, made the biggest banks bigger. And it made the Federal Reserve, an unelected body, even more powerful and therefore more relevant. The major reform legislation, Dodd-Frank, was named after two guys bought and sold by special interests, and one of them should be shouldering a good amount of blame for the crisis. Banks were forced, by the government, to save some of the worst lenders in the housing bubble, then the government turned around and pilloried the banks for the crimes of the companies they were forced to acquire. The zero interest-rate policy broke the social contract for generations of hardworking Americans who saved for retirement, only to find their savings are not nearly enough. And the interest the Federal Reserve pays on the excess reserves of lending institutions broke the money multiplier and handcuffed lending to small and midsized enterprises, where the majority of job creation and upward mobility in wages occurs. Government policies and regulations in the postcrisis era have aided the hollowing-out of middle America far more than anything the private sector has done. These changes even expanded the wealth gap by making asset owners richer at the expense of renters. Maybe there are some positive changes in there, but it seems I fail to see beyond the absurdity.

And Burry points out that those who borrowed money at zero interest rates are also to blame. It recalls a remark I made recently about affirmative action programs. Just because you can get into Harvard or Yale under an affirmative action program does not mean that you have to go to Harvard or Yale.

In Burry’s words:

If a lender offers me free money, I do not have to take it. And if I take it, I better understand all the terms, because there is no such thing as free money. That is just basic personal responsibility and common sense. The enablers for this crisis were varied, and it starts not with the bank but with decisions by individuals to borrow to finance a better life, and that is one very loaded decision. This crisis was such a bona fide 100-year flood that the entire world is still trying to dig out of the mud seven years later. Yet so few took responsibility for having any part in it, and the reason is simple: All these people found others to blame, and to that extent, an unhelpful narrative was created. Whether it’s the one percent or hedge funds or Wall Street, I do not think society is well served by failing to encourage every last American to look within. This crisis truly took a village, and most of the villagers themselves are not without some personal responsibility for the circumstances in which they found themselves. We should be teaching our kids to be better citizens through personal responsibility, not by the example of blame.
The problem, as he sees it, is debt. Because one of these days we will either have to pay it off or default on it. While many politicians believe that we grow our way out of debt, others, like central bankers--and maybe even Paul Krugman-- believe that we can inflate our way out of it.

Burry explains:

 The idea that growth will remedy our debts is so addictive for politicians, but the citizens end up paying the price. The public sector has really stepped up as a consumer of debt. The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet is leveraged 77:1. Like I said, the absurdity, it just befuddles me.

Another Failure for Socialized Medicine

If I had to speculate I would say that a goodly majority of physicians does not thrill when patients do Google searches about their symptoms.

The poet said: “A little learning is a dangerous thing” and it is probably true that googling your symptoms will produce more anxiety than light. Best to consult with a physician before jumping to what is likely to be the wrong conclusion.

Speaking of truthiness, Paul Krugman has assured us that socialized medicine is the best of all possible worlds. You do not think that the Nobel prize-winning polemicist could be skewing the facts, do you? I am referring to Krugman’s often quoted line that all the horror stories about the British National Health Service are false.

In Krugman’s words:

In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false. 

One should not fail to note that Krugman had also argued, several years earlier, that the Veterans Administration should be the role model for American health care. How did that one work out, Kruggy?

Today, we discover, to everyone’s chagrin, that a young British woman’s Google searches provided better information than her physicians in the National Health Service hospital in Nottingham. And that her physicians ignored the information.

The nineteen-year old was named Bronte Doyne. The London Telegraph reported the story a few months ago:

A teenager who begged doctors to take her health fears seriously in the months before she died from a rare cancer was told by medics to "stop Googling your symptoms".

Bronte Doyne died on March 23, 2013, aged 19 - just 16 months after she first complained of severe stomach pains.

In text messages, tweets and personal diary entries, the student expressed her worries that medics were not acting as her health deteriorated.

Doctors dismissed her concerns, leaving her desperate for someone to take her seriously….

Finally, after pleading to be taken seriously, she was admitted to hospital where she passed away 10 days later.

Now bosses at the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust have admitted they "did not listen with sufficient attention" and that they must embrace the "internet age".

The NHS physicians thought that she was hysterical. They were wrong. They now believe that they need to enhance their listening skills. Their patient died. Apparently, in the NHS no one is held accountable. 

Were there any indications that Doyne might really be very ill? In fact, there were. She was being treated for liver cancer.

The Telegraph writes:

Miss Doyne, of West Bridgford, Nottingham, was first admitted to hospital in September 2011 with suspected appendicitis. But she was eventually told she had fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma, which affects only 200 people globally each year.

The family found information about the cancer on a website endorsed by the US government and discovered it had a high chance of recurrence but, when they raised the issue, doctors told them to stop searching the internet for information.

Now Miss Doyne's mother Lorraine, 50, has criticised "a woeful lack of care and empathy" from doctors.

She said: "Bronte was denied pain relief, referrals were hugely delayed and efforts by her family to gather information and understand Bronte's prognosis were handled in an evasive and aloof manner.

"Her fears that her symptoms over the preceding months before she died were cancer-related were proved right. The messages from Bronte are all her own words and I believe that's more powerful for people to understand what she went through. I want to see changes and action now."

We understand that her cancer was very rare. And we understand that she might have died anyway, even with the best treatment.

Yet, that is not an excuse for ignorance and incompetence. The information was available to anyone who wanted to check on it. One appreciates that the parents are grieving, but we cannot fail to notice that the problem was not a lack of empathy… it was her physicians’ arrogance, cockiness and sloth. And that assumes a certain level of competence. Do you think that a government run health care system attracts the best and the brightest?

The physicians told Bronte and her parents that the cancer was in remission. The American website suggested that their view was overly optimistic.

Mrs Doyne said they were led to believe the surgery would cure the cancer but the online information suggested otherwise.

She added: "We asked after the surgery if they were suspicious the cancer could come back but their response was 'how will that help Bronte?' We were told they will be seeing her over the next 20 years - it made her feel relieved but she still didn't feel quite right.

"We weren't given any information by the hospital about this but we did know it had a really poor outcome, yet they did nothing and just left us to wait and dismissed her concerns."

The Telegraph continues:

She underwent liver resection surgery in December 2011. But 11 months later, after doctors had told her she was fine, she wrote in her diary In November 2012: "Feeling sick for months now. Tired of this feeling crap. Hospital not worried so trying to get on with it."

Six weeks before her death, she was advised by her GP to go to hospital as an emergency case if her symptoms worsened.

But when she got to Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre, Miss Doyne was told by a doctor that she did not need to be seen.

She wrote: "I got so angry because the doctor was so rude and just shrugged his shoulders. He gave me a sarcastic comment like you can sleep here if you want but they won't do anything. So I just have to wait for another hospital appointment."

One is struck by the insouciance of these physicians. They seemed not to care about a seriously ill patient, whose initial complaint was decidedly not hysteria. After the patient died, the physicians and the bureaucrats still seemed not to care. They thought the problem was communication, not competence.

And they seem radically incapable of doing their jobs. It’s a frightening scenario. If people like Prof. Krugman have their way it will soon be coming to a hospital near you.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Top Fifty Blog

Congratulations are in order. To me, this time. This blog has just made Doug Ross’s list of the Top Fifty conservative blogs. I am proud and humbled, simultaneously, which is not very easy. As you will see, when you read the list, this blog is in excellent company.

My thanks to Doug Ross for this recognition. It is very much appreciated.

How to Ruin a Marriage

Want to ruin your marriage? Want to help divorce lawyers to earn a living? The latest study, from a group of London lawyers, tells us that the best way to ruin your marriage is… bad habits. It’s even better than adultery.

The Daily Mail reports:

‘Unreasonable behaviour’ was the main ground in 54 per cent of divorces granted to wives in England and Wales last year, while adultery accounted for 13 per cent, according to the Office of National Statistics.

I will bet that you did not know that it was that easy to ruin your marriage. Only in Great Britain would they call boorish, lewd, rude and crude behavior “unreasonable.” Hats off to the Brits.

This also implies that connubial bliss has more to do with having good habits than it does, for example, in having good sex. Of course, this implies that bad habits are not very good for your sex life. If you are out of sync during the day you will likely remain out of sync at night. If your habits are bad enough, your sometime spouse will not be overly displeased that you are rutting elsewhere.

But, which bad habits are the worst? The Daily Mail reports the survey:

Many of the unwelcome habits reflect the internet playing a greater part in couples’ lives, with complaints surrounding use of online gambling, pornography and shopping.

But other halves were also accused of being condescending, using patronising nicknames or calling housekeeping allowances ‘pocket money’.

Other splits revealed how more ‘settled’ spouses let themselves go by abandoning personal hygiene or dressing badly.

Some even revealed dogs, cats or horses were put before their husband or wife.

More unusual was a refusal to allow a spouse to watch television channels with an odd number.

Considering that divorce is a major problem, especially as broken homes (see previous post) damage children, it is worth giving a little extra thought to the problem identified here.

Surely, a number of these habits fall in the category of sloth. People seem to believe that once they are married they do not need to take care of themselves. They embarrass each other through their bad hygiene or bad behavior. Nothing will damage a marriage more than behavior that embarrasses your spouse.

Then again, most of these soon-to-be-divorced couples seem to be living together as though they are living alone.

One does not have the full set of data, but it is commonly recognized that couples today are marrying later. Why are they doing so? Because feminism told them to do so.

Feminists suggested that people who marry later are more likely to make a better choice of spouse and to choose a spouse for reasons that have less to do with economic dependence and more to do with love.

What could be better than two autonomous, independent human monads that go bump in the night, who share all household chores and who change an equal number of diapers?

What could be better? A marriage, for example.

In any event, it must have seemed like a great idea. Two human monads would naturally have a happier marriage. They would be marrying for love. What could go wrong?

In truth, a lot went wrong. Primarily, feminists overlooked the fact that when couples marry later in life they have already developed some seriously ingrained bachelor habits. Having been functioning perfectly well in resplendent singlehood, they find that it is not that easy to live as a couple.

If you retain your bachelor habits, you are acting as though your spouse is not there. In more than a few cases a spouse who acts as though his or her spouse is not there will eventually find that his or her spouse is not there.

Sometimes people do not know that they are required, as the price of admissions in a marriage, to modify many of their personal habits, the better to create a series of couple habits and couple routines. They do not know, because no one told them, that these new habits and routines should be observed religiously all the time… the better to create a feeling of solidarity and security. It’s the best way to transition from Me to We.

If you want to wreck your marriage, however, you should hold on to your bachelor routines. Play as many video games as you want. Watch all the internet porn you like. Show up for meals when you feel like it.

Act as though you are living alone and you will soon be living alone.

People have difficulty changing their habits because habits are difficult to change. It takes effort. It takes time. It does not just happen overnight. If you think that marriage is all about love and that your love will solve all problems and salve all wounds you should start saving up for your divorce lawyer.

Of course, we do not know why home life for the soon-to-be divorced is so difficult. We suspect that one or the other spouse is conducting his or her marriage the way one specific ideology dictates. After all, feminism has often handed out advice about how to conduct a marriage. If so, feminism bears some responsibility when these new modern marriages end up in divorce court.

It’s about rules and roles. If a man has been brought up by a mother who cared for him, he will have difficulty adjusting to having a wife who won’t. He might revert to some of his old bachelor and teenage habits and not participate in household chores.

I do not know whether these man-boys who spend all their time in front of their computers are reverting to the norm of their bachelor days or are trying to induce their wives to take charge of the household, but, either way, making your marriage a terrain on which you are fighting the culture wars will put you on the road to divorce. 

Broken Homes Are Bad for Children

Don’t say you didn’t know it. One suspects that the thought police will no longer allow us to say it, but the truth is: growing up in a broken home is bad for children.

The Daily Mail reports:

Children who have grown up in broken homes are three times more likely to experience mental health problems, according to a new study.

Research by the University College London found that 6.6 per cent of children living with both biological parents suffered from mental health problems.

This is compared to some 15 per cent of children with a single parent and 18.1 per cent of children living with step-families.

Although the causes are not yet known, experts suggest that the family breakdown can lead to the child falling into poverty or growing up in a high-stress environment.

Well and good. For now, we do not need to know why a child brought up by a single parent or even by step parents will suffer mental health consequences. It is good to recognize that, given the option, broken homes are bad for children. It is perhaps even more interesting to note that living in a family with step parents is even worse than living with a single parent.

The research emphasizes the importance of family stability, of clearly defined and consistent routines. And it puts the lie to the notion that love is enough and that divorce does not harm children. This does not mean that no one should ever divorce, but that those who contemplate such a move should give serious consideration to the effect it will have on their children.

The Daily Mail continues:

‘This study adds to a mountain of evidence that family stability matters and family breakdown can have a damaging effect on the mental health of children,’ Norman Wells, from the Family Education Trust, told The Telegraph.

‘The fact that a growing number of children lack the advantages of being raised by both their biological parents in a stable family unit is not something we can afford to be complacent about.’

Researchers suggest that we revise our views of how we conduct our lives. Those of us who are parents should discard the notion that we should seek personal fulfillment, regardless of the effect it has on other people, especially on vulnerable children:

‘In an age that places great emphasis on personal fulfilment at all costs, this study is a salutary reminder that the personal choices we make can have a lasting impact on others and especially on our children.’

The study – based on more 10,448 11-year-olds in the UK – found that children in step-families were also 19.5 per cent more likely to have tantrums and get into fights than children with both biological parents.

When the study broke down the results by race it discovered that white boys are more prone to being hyperactive and by misbehaving. It also suggested that those who fare the worst in mental health terms are mixed race girls:

Meanwhile, white boys were the most likely to suffer hyperactivity and conduct problems, and mixed race girls were the most likely to suffer from any type of severe mental health problem.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Seducing the Tech Oligarchs

Beware the tech oligarchs. It feels slightly alarmist but it is not an exaggeration. Considering the amount of wealth they have accumulated at a very young age the potential for the tech oligarchs to do damage grows by the day.

Joel Kotkin raises the alarm:

With their massive, and early, accumulated wealth, the tech oligarchs will dominate us long after the inheritors have financed the last art museum or endowed the newest hospital. Two decades from now, many tech oligarchs will still be young enough to be counting their billions and thinking up new ways to ‘disrupt’ our lives – for our own good, of course.

Nicely said. Those who want to run your life, thus to disrupt it, always say that it’s for your own good. Of course, they assume that they know better than you do how to conduct your life.

Part of the issue, Kotkin analyzes masterfully, lies in the fact that the oligarchs function like feudal lords. They do not provide economic opportunity for the many, but prefer to buy the political allegiance of the great unwashed by handing out freebees. It's the story of today's California.

The new political configuration works in classic medieval fashion, with the rich providing the necessities for the poor, without providing them opportunity for upward mobility or the chance, God forbid, to buy a house in the outer suburbs. With the fading of California’s once powerful industrial economy – Los Angeles has lost much of its manufacturing base over the past decade – its working classes now must be mollified by symbolic measures, such as energy rebates, subsidised housing and the ever illusive chimera of ‘green jobs’.

This ‘upstairs-downstairs’ California coalition could presage the country’s political future. Perhaps it’s best to think of it as a form of high-tech feudalism, in which the upper classes run the show, but bestow goodies on the struggling masses. This alliance will allow the present tech oligarchs to thrive without facing a populist challenge that could interfere with their profits and expansion into other markets.

And if you ask yourself what precisely Facebook contributes to the economy, how it enhances productivity, creates new jobs or even helps to distribute information you will come up with precious little. In fact, Facebook has become very rich by becoming the leading vanity media company. And what could be more vain than Facebook’s list of four dozen gender identities. One shudders to imagine that the people who run that company actually believe in their list.

More importantly, for now, the oligarchs have committed themselves to give away tens of billions of dollars to promote leftist causes.

Kotkin writes:

… the oligarchs, as they have become ever richer, are clearly moving leftwards. In 2000, the communications and electronics sector was basically even in its donations; by 2012, it was better than two to one Democratic. Microsoft, Apple and Google – not to mention entertainment companies – all overwhelmingly lean to the Democrats with their donations.

There seems a natural affinity between President Obama, who sees himself as a force for transformation, and the tech oligarchs, who love ‘disruption’. Each shares a high estimate of their basic intelligence and foresight; it is an alliance of those who feel they should own and shape the future.

By Kotkin’s analysis, it makes perfectly good sense that these oligarchs would skew leftwards. Doubtless, their beliefs are sincere, but one has to wonder, to put it bluntly, about who is controlling their minds. If they believe that they think for themselves they are suffering from a common illusion… only on a grander scale.

After all, tech oligarchs are not intellectuals. They may think that they own the world; they may think that they own all of your private information; but they do not know philosophy. They are certainly opinionated, but opinion and knowledge are not the same thing.

Being very rich and very young they are easily seduced by smooth talking intellectuals. They are more vulnerable because they are undoubtedly persuaded of their own infallibility.

I suspect that people who have gotten that rich that young lack basic humility. This might set them up to be tragic heroes, done in by their hubris, but it also makes them vulnerable to philosophers who can and have seduced them into believing just about anything.

Considering how much of their money will be sloshing through the system to finance leftist causes we should want to know how these tech oligarchs had their minds seduced. 

For example, Sheryl Sandberg has offered women some powerfully bad advice in her crusade for Leaning In. She has allowed women to believe that what really matters in negotiations over compensation is: posturing. Note well that “leaning in” is a posture. As Sandberg’s friend Jill Abramson, formerly of the New York Times, discovered, leaning in can cost you your job and your career.

Now, Mark Zuckerberg is pretending to show the world how wonderful it is to take paternal leave, to take time off from Facebook in order to change diapers. The truth of the matter is that Zuckerberg’s is a supremely arrogant gesture. He is showing that if you own the company you can do what you damn well please and no one can say anything about it. Yet, everyone knows that any other man who takes time off to change diapers will lose the respect of his colleagues and will lose out on promotions and bonuses. He will pay dearly for his political correctness.

But, ask yourself this: what made Zuckerberg an authoritative voice on gender politics? Nothing, in particular, you might say. Doesn’t he have a job? And shouldn’t he be doing it? And yet, he presumes to be setting an example for fatherhood, an example that very, very few other men can afford.

Or else, take the example of a less than youthful information tycoon, Michael Bloomberg. As you know, Bloomberg has become a crusader for gun control. He is totally committed to the cause. He is spending a lot of money—perhaps not for him, but for you and me it would be a lot of money—trying to disarm America.

One assumes that someone at some time convinced him, by impeccable logic, that if no one had guns then there would be no gun violence. One understands that such a thought can congeal into a conviction, even a dogma.

But then, Americans own nearly 300,000,000 guns, so militating against gun ownership is like tilting at windmills.

Besides, Bloomberg and other gun control advocates ignore the fact that someone is pulling the triggers on these guns. Calling for gun control and blaming the NRA absolves the shooters of moral responsibility for their actions. In fact, if these shooters come to believe that their actions will serve to indict the NRA, they might have a reason to commit gun crimes.

Crusaders absolve people of moral responsibility for mass murder, as happened after the San Bernardino massacre when the president and the New York Times responded by saying that the real problem was not Islamist extremists or even ISIS but the NRA. I am astonished that the Times reaction to the terrorist act was a front page call for unilateral disarmament.

People who are extremely rich, whether they are or are not young, are especially vulnerable to mental seduction. The technique was invented by Socrates. He was surely its master.

And doesn’t Platonism offer membership in a class of guardians, or philosopher-kings who can make decisions for all the rest of us. Why limit yourself to being a tech oligarch when you can be a philosopher-king?

Socratic dialogues are complex and brilliant seductions.  Their do not show how Socrates imparted knowledge to the rubes who found themselves dialoguing with him, but they show how a philosopher can seduce you into believing something that makes no sense. Something that makes no sense is effectively nonsense.

Socrates persuaded people that we never see real objects in the world, but that we can only see appearances. Another great Socratic philosopher, Freud persuaded no small number of people that their sole desire in life was to copulate with their mothers. A philosopher clown like Slavoj Zizek spews gibberish and watches his hapless followers fall over themselves to proclaim its brilliance. Since they do not understand it, they think that it is that much more brilliant. What counts is not whether it is brilliant, but whether it appears to be so.

It is always possible, to take a clearer example, for a prosecutor in a criminal trial to introduce evidence that appears to show that Col. Mustard killed Mr. Boddy in the library with a candlestick. But, appearances can be deceiving, and if Col. Mustard was in Brunei on the day of the crime, the appearances are just that: appearances.

But, you know very well that a skillful prosecutor can seduce a jury into ignoring the facts in favor of a narrative that turns out to be more satisfying. See the trial of one O. J. Simpson.

It is always possible to cherry-pick facts that appear to support a narrative. As long as you do not allow reality to enter the picture, you will have be able to persuade some people that the narrative is a higher truth.

For example, Kotkin points out that the tech oligarchs are in love with the climate change and global warming narrative. They support policies that they believe will delay the arrival of the apocalypse but are unconcerned with the effects that green policies visit on the less fortunate.

Not that there’s anything cynical about the tech oligarchy’s commitment to green policies. It is entirely sincere – the oligarchs really do believe, as do many liberal, Democratic types, that they are fighting the good fight. But that doesn’t mitigate the effects of their worldview.

Kotkin continues:

Perhaps nothing separates the oligarchy from the rest of business than its support for Obama’s climate-change policies. Many industries see these policies as a direct threat to their very existence, but this means little to moguls, who can shift their energy needs to cheaper locales, such as the Pacific Northwest or the South. In California, such policies have less an impact on the temperate coast than in the less glamorous interior. As one recent study found, the summer electrical bills in rich, liberal and temperate Marin come to $250 monthly, while in impoverished, hotter Madera, the average is twice as high.

And also,

Yet behind the media glitz, California is increasingly a bifurcated state, divided between a glamorous software- and media-based economy concentrated in certain coastal areas, and a declining, and increasingly impoverished, interior. Overall, nearly a quarter of Californians live in poverty, the highest percentage of any state, including Mississippi, and, according to a recent United Way study, close to one in three people are barely able to pay their bills.

Isn’t that what it means to be an oligarch?