Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Case Against Keith Ellison

As left thinking people agonize over Trumpian anti-Semitism, embodied by the alt-right and Steve Bannon, Democrats are choosing their next national chairman. One of the two leading candidates, Congressman Keith Ellison from Minnesota is notably anti-Semitic. He fits the mold of Obama’s mentor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Obama’s good friend Rashid Khalidi. The latter recently said that the Trump administration was infested with Jews.

Ellison has garnered support from important Jewish Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer. And yet, lifelong liberal Democrat Alan Dershowitz has declared that if Ellison is elected he will quit the Democratic Party, party he has belonged to for nearly sixty years.

Attorney Dershowitz lays out a persuasive case against Ellison.

Here are the highlights:

Ellison has a long history of sordid association with anti-Semitism. He worked closely and supported one of a handful of the most notorious and public anti-Semites in our country: The Reverend Louis Farrakhan. And he worked with Farrakhan at the very time this anti-Semite was publicly describing Judaism as a "gutter religion" and insisting that the Jews were a primary force in the African slave trade.

Ellison has publicly stated that he was unaware of Farrakhan's anti-Semitism. That is not a credible statement. Everyone was aware of Farrakhan's anti-Semitism. Farrakhan did not try to hide it. Indeed he proclaimed it on every occasion. Ellison is either lying or he willfully blinded himself to what was obvious to everyone else. Neither of these qualities makes him suitable to be the next Chairman of the DNC.
And also:

Moreover, Ellison himself has made anti-Semitic statements. A prominent lawyer, with significant credibility, told me that while he was a law student, Ellison approached her and said he could not respect her, because she was a Jew and because she was a woman who should not be at a law school.

Another point:

Ellison's anti-Semitism is confirmed by his support for another anti-Semite, Stokely Carmichael. When there were protests about Carmichael's speaking at the University of Minnesota, Ellison responded that "Political Zionism is off-limits no matter what dubious circumstances Israel was founded under; no matter what the Zionists do to the Palestinians; and no matter what wicked regimes Israel allies itself with — like South Africa. This position is untenable."

As for Ellison’s politics in regard to Israel, his voting record smacks of bias against the Jewish state:

With regard to Israel, Ellison was one of only a small number of Congress people who recently voted against funding the Iron Dome, a missile system used by Israel to protect its civilians against rocket attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah. His voting record with regard to the Nation State of the Jewish people is among the very worst in Congress.

When Therapy Fails

It’s been three and a half months already. You would think that people would have gotten over it. Gotten over the shock of the new. Apparently, such is not the case.

The Los Angeles Times reports that therapy patients are still filling up their therapy hours talking about Donald Trump. They are exposing their deepest feelings, their most irrational emotions to therapists who apparently have no idea about how to help them.

Some patients, the Times reports, are Trump supporters who fear exposing that hidden truth to the world. Given the virulence of the reaction against Trump, anyone who voted for Trump is immediately ostracized. It shows you that many of the anti-Trump voters do not respect dissent and will only accept the results of a democratic election when it affirms their own beliefs. If it does not they will want the courts and the bureaucracy to annul the election results.

One emphasizes this point, because one has rarely seen it discussed. Those who are complaining about the undemocratic electoral college should ask themselves whether they would respect the results of a national referendum, a democratic vote about: abortion rights, same-sex marriage or transgender locker rooms.

Today’s story of therapy failures comes to us from the LA Times:

In her 35 years as a therapist, Arlene Drake has never heard so many clients talking about the same issue. Week after week, they complain of panic attacks and insomnia because of President Trump. They’re too anxious to concentrate at work. One woman’s fear turned into intense, physical pain.

“It’s just a nightmare,” said Drake, who practices in West L.A.

I do not want to be the bearer of bad tidings, but if your patients are still suffering from the same issue after more than three months, you should ask yourself what you are doing wrong. Or better, why you are not helping them.

Drake believes that she has made a great leap forward because now she has reached the point of personal development where she can share her own anti-trumpian feelings with her patients. So what? Apparently, it is not doing anyone very much good. They keep going on and on about Trump.

Having induced their patients to live in a bubble, these therapists are powerless to deal with the real world. They taught their patients to wallow in their emotions and to make their lives into living theatre and now they discover that these skills are of little use when dealing with reality.

If it was just the patients, it would be one thing. But, these therapists find reality to be a dark and alien place, a place whose workings do not follow the narratives they have been peddling. If all they can ask themselves is whether they should feel their patients’ pain… it’s no wonder that the patients are not getting better.

To have a serious discussion about a political matter or a business matter or a professional matter a therapist should have at his command a certain number of facts, a certain quantity of information and perhaps even an opinion. And then he should be able to offer something of an analysis of the facts. As for the opinion, the third leg of this triad, it is the least relevant leg.

One suspects that these therapists do not have enough information to have formed anything but a superficial opinion. They are opinionated, no more and no less.

Since they are spending their time plumbing the depths of people’s souls they do not bother to examine reality. If they want to have good information at their command they should follow the advice of Noam Chomsky and read the business press—the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Economist. At least there, Chomsky said, you will find truthful information.

As for political analysis, most therapists probably do not have very much familiarity with it. Especially when it is not larded over with opinion. The business press, especially The Economist offers a great deal of it. If you want to know what analysis looks like, read Gerald Seib in the Wall Street Journal or George Friedman on the site Geopolitical Futures. Analysis should give you the state of the game, the possible moves by the different players and the possible outcomes. It does not tell a story. News analysis has nothing to do with psychoanalysis.

If it’s just about politics, it would be one thing. But most of the people who consult with therapists have lives. They exist in the real world. They have jobs, careers and businesses. They have children and families. And they often have trouble navigating the different currents in their lives.

For a therapist to be helpful, he will need to know something, often a great deal, about the real world, about the world his patients inhabit. If their work on patients’ Trump anxiety tells us anything, it says that today's therapists blissfully ignore the reality of their patients’ lives.  

They teach the art of storytelling. Read through any of the Ask Polly columns in New York Magazine and you will see a flood of emotion woven together in a mindless narrative. There is no way you can take what Polly offers and use it to get your bearings in the world of politics and economy.

Today’s therapy patients know how to feel and they know how to feel their feelings. They even know to feel the feelings of other people. And yet, they do not know how to conduct their lives, more rationally and more constructively and more productively.

Therapists who have undergone years of advanced training in order to learn how to say: How does that make you feel? have nothing to offer to their patients. They have no sense of reality and no sense of how to discuss reality. Their patients are paying the price.

Witches Cast Spells on Trump

At least I am not late to the party. Last night witches across the world held a ceremony at the stroke of midnight. Apparently, they wanted to save the world by turning Donald Trump into a pumpkin.

Have you ever asked yourself why it’s always the stroke of midnight? I assume that it means that at midnight they are going to stroke themselves. Now, that explains it.

When I say that I am not late to the party I mean that several weeks before the past election I suggested (link here) that Hillary Clinton was a witch. To be fair and balanced I also noted that I believed Huma Abedin also to be a witch. Hillary did not lose because she was a woman. She lost because she was a witch.

As you would expect for a story of such moment, you can read all about it in the Daily Mail:

Men and women from around the world are planning to gather and cast a spell at midnight that will stop President Trump from doing harm while also possibly banishing him from office.

Mass rituals have also been planned in multiple covens, during which men and women will perform a spell to bind President Trump and all those who abet him by delivering a chant and holding a brief ceremony.

This is not an exclusive witches-only event wither, with Wiccans, shamans, Heremeticists, cunning folk, sorcerers and sorceresses, hoodooists, occultists, magicians, Ceremonialists and Ritualists also invited and urged to take part.

The mass binding could not be easier either, with only a handful of household objects needed for the ceremony and the newly composed chant available online for all to see.

President Trump, who has long been a strong and vocal proponent of 'witch hunts,' has yet to comment on the planned ritual. 

One awaits the Trump tweet on the witches. One assumes that they are craving recognition.

Now, much of the witch’s agenda has already been proposed by more respectable Democrats. Now the Democrats have revealed their Trump card. If all else fails, if they cannot get the votes, they can appeal to their base of witches and ask them to cast a spell.

I am sure that you want to know about the ceremony performed by the witches. Yet again, the Daily Mail does not disappoint:

Among the objects required to complete this spell are an unflattering photo of Trump, a tiny orange candle, a Tower tarot card and bowls of water and salt. 

There must also be a pin, which is used to carve Trump's name on the candle.

Once that first step is complete, the aforementioned items should be arranged around the individual in a pleasing position along with a feather, a white candle and an ashtray or dish filled with sand.

From there, a prayer for protection should be said by all participants before they launch into the chant.

You are then instructed, as follows:

When it is time to launch into the chant, which was allegedly created by a member of a private magical order.

In one refrain, the witches must chant: 'I call upon you / To bind / Donald J. Trump / So that he may fail utterly / That he may do no harm/To any human soul.'

The second verse tackles a different issues, with the lines: 'Bind him so that he shall not break our polity / Usurp our liberty / Or fill our minds with hate, confusion, fear, or despair.'

President Trump's supporters are also wrapped into the chant.

Be-witching: The event will take plave once a month until President Trump leaves office.

'Bind them in chains / Bind their tongues / Bind their works / Bind their wickedness,' sing the women and men, who at this point are told to take the orange candle and light President Trump's photo on fire.

To close things out the phrase 'So mote it be!' is repeated three times and the candle blown out. 

It is important that while blowing out the person is 'visualizing Trump blowing apart into dust or ash.'

Witches are then ordered to ground themselves after the ritual before disposing of the candle. 

If you missed out on last night’s ceremony, fear not. The witches will be performing the same ceremony once every month until the danger is diminished.

To be fair to the witches, the Daily Mail includes the salient fact that some of our nation’s witches have rejected the ceremony…  because it does not show enough love. They believe that their faith, such as it is, requires them to shower the world with love, not with hate. They do not believe that witches should cast spells wishing harm on anyone.

The assembled witches have replied by insisting that they are simply trying to diminish Trump’s capacity for doing harm. One notes, with the Daily Mail, that they are going to follow the ceremony with an effort to conjure up spirits from the underworld.

Friday, February 24, 2017

You're Fired!

Around New York City people care about what happens at the New York Times. If Mika Brzezinski was right and the media’s task is to control what people think, the leader in the field, for New Yorkers, is the Times. No. 2 is The New Yorker.

Among the more important positions at the paper is that of theatre critic. In olden days Frank Rich held the post and, because of his fine temperament, he was both admired and reviled by producers around town. 

You see, putting on a Broadway show costs mucho time and mucho money. If a producer invested all of that time and money, only to read in the Times the next morning that Frank Rich thought that the play sucked… all of that time and money just went down the toilet. This did not make Rich very popular among Broadway producers.

In the internet age the Times most likely has less influence on the arts than it once had, but still its opinion matters.

One notes also that theatre is an important element in New York’s economy, not just for locals but especially for tourists. And the producers have been notable advertisers in the paper. Between banks and department stores and the arts… along with the classifieds…you have much of the Times shrinking advertising base.

It’s not just about the art… but I am sure you knew that.

Anyway, the Times recently had a Trumpian moment when it called its No. 2 theatre critic, Charles Isherwood into an editor’s office where he was told: “You’re fired!” It was a little too close to “Celebrity Apprentice” for anyone’s comfort, so the story has made quite a lot of noise around the city. It inspired an extended story in New York Magazine.

For your information, the Times’s No. 1 theatre critic is Ben Brantley. The division of critical labor had it that Brantley covered Broadway and other important shows, while Isherwood covered the rest, especially out-of-town theatre. (By all indications Isherwood is not related to novelist Christopher Isherwood.)

Apparently, Isherwood was fired for failing to observe Times ethical guidelines. One does not know exactly which ones he violated, but we can at least make some observations.

Beyond the New York Magazine report, I am impressed by the commentary offered by organizational psychologist Liane Davey in Quartz. Davey offers a useful account of how it happens that people get themselves fired. Clearly, her analysis applies to other positions, executive or otherwise.

Davey begins by noting that Isherwood took the job as No. 2 theatre critic because he assumed, wrongly, that Brantley was about to retire. Thus, he took a job because he wanted another job.

She explains:

New York reports, “When Isherwood arrived in 2004, he was under the impression that [lead critic Ben] Brantley would soon retire.” When that didn’t happen, Isherwood reportedly grew “increasingly, vocally frustrated” with his second-string status.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen employees accept new positions with similar expectations about rapid promotion—only to have their hopes dashed. The lesson here is clear: If you feel you’re overqualified for or are uninterested in doing the job you are hired to do, don’t take it.

Evidently, once you discover that your dream is not coming true within the time frame you imagined, you are going to resent the individual who is standing in your way and you will start trying to push things along.

Isherwood could not control his frustrations or his bad attitude. Davey continues:

The powers that be seem to agree that Isherwood was very good at his job. But being good at your job doesn’t always make up for being costly to your organization in other ways. The story mentions that Isherwood had recently had tiffs with his editor, posted a sarcastic message about Times coverage of the arts to Facebook, and repeatedly (publicly) disparaged Brantley. This kind of attitude may get you turfed, no matter how good you are.

Being good at your job does not give you a pass to display a bad attitude, or,  one might say, not being a team player.

Evidently, Isherwood and Brantley did not develop a very good relationship. One does need to recall that one is working with other human beings and that, no matter how gifted you are, they will put up with only so much bad behavior.

Davey writes:

If there is one thing that is undisputed in this case, it’s that the relationship between Isherwood and Brantley was nasty, to the point that Isherwood was slagging Brantley publicly while participating in a panel discussion. That’s bad form. But some speculate that the Times liked the rivalry between the critics and the motivational effect it had on performance.

This is another good lesson. Beware when your boss pits you against a teammate, hoping that the competition will bring out the best in you both. Bosses are fickle. The same boss that stoked the fires may turn on you for having crossed some previously undisclosed line. You’re wise to resist the temptation to see your coworkers as rivals, and instead form alliances that will help you both succeed.

For the record, the word “slagging” does not exist in American English. It’s the Queen’s English… written by a Canadian. It has nothing to do with shagging, another word from the Queen’s but not American English. The dictionary explains that “slagging” means criticizing harshly. Personally, I find it to be a useful addition to our language.

Davey’s last remark deserves emphasis. Do not be tempted, she says, even if your boss suggests it, to enter into rivalries with your colleagues. You do better to form alliances. In that way you will succeed together and not appear to be dragging each other and the company down.

And also, do not take things personally. Isherwood was apparently unhappy that the Times had reduced the space allotted to the second-tier theatre critic. He took it personally and did not keep his bitterness to himself. He publicized it on Facebook:

Isherwood was reportedly frustrated that the space in the Times devoted to theater critique was dwindling. Recently, he took to Facebook to publish a review that didn’t make the paper. His post was accompanied by a sarcastic note reading, “This may never see print, welcome to the new world of the New York Times.”

Davey draws the correct conclusion:

The minute you chastise your boss for the difficult choices he or she is forced to make, you become a liability. If you want to make yourself indispensable, find ways to help your boss cope and adapt, rather than protesting the march of time.

It is better to be part of the solution than to make yourself into yet another problem.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Don't Lean In. Stand Tall.

One feels vindicated by recent articles about how to negotiate a raise or a promotion. One has often warned people against the lean in approach. One does not believe that men ought to be confrontational and direct in negotiations and one does not believe that women should imagine that when men earn more the reason must be that they engage in more macho posturing.

One understands that the promoter of leaning in did not really mean to say that women should be more confrontational, but, truth be told, the concept of leaning in means being more assertive, more confrontational, more direct… and getting in your boss’s face. Leaning in is posturing.

Sheryl Sandberg knows how to negotiate, but she evidently did not understand the effect of the wording of a concept. The alternative to leaning in is not leaning back. It is: standing tall.

To be fair and balanced, one remarks that a certain politician, a self-proclaimed master of the art of the deal also gives the impression that a good negotiator is confrontational and direct. He was probably misstating his position, but the example he set was just as wrong as the concept that Sandberg coined.

Anyway, the Mental Floss blog offers some tried and true negotiation techniques. It explains that, somehow or other, people have gotten the impression that negotiation should be confrontational. Obviously, this is wrong, and one needs to reread Roger Fisher and William Uhry’s text: Getting to Yes.

Negotiation is not a blood sport. It involves cooperation, even when it is competitive. If you are negotiating a raise you should be able to show what you have contributed to the enterprise. Sandberg herself has recommended this, but it has gotten lost in the din about leaning in. By showing what you have contributed you are showing yourself to be a team player, someone who has worked for the good of the company. Such a presentation makes it far easier for your boss to give you a raise.

One adds that when asking for a raise or a promotion, do not make a demand or make a threat. You should always leave your boss with the impression that he has the last word, not that he is caving in to pressure.

To negotiate effectively, you ought to engage in some small talk, some schmoozing… in order to make a human connection. Various authors recommend that you expose a small, trivial piece of personal information, thus making yourself appear more human and less robotic. It also shows that you are reaching out to the other person, offering an open hand of friendship. As long as you do not extend this to oversharing, this is good advice.

In a competitive negotiation both parties will need to feel that they have gotten a good deal for their side. Recent research—don’t you just love research—tells us that sharing food helps create the right atmosphere.

Mental Floss explains:

"In more competitive negotiations, people want to have the best possible deal for themselves, and typically, they see their counterpart as having adversarial or opposing motives," doctoral student and study co-author Peter Belmi told the Stanford Business website Insights. "In cooperative negotiations, typically people are more concerned about reaching an agreement for all parties involved."

If you're in a competitive situation, say a negotiation to end a legal dispute, having food available can help ease the tension. "What we found is that when people were negotiating in a competitive situation, sharing the food—and by that we mean sharing, not just eating—they created significantly more value," Belmi said. The social ritual of eating offset the competitive tone of the negotiation, allowing subjects to pay more attention to each other and look for opportunities to create more value in the negotiation.

One might say that one should set out a bowl of chips and dip, but one would rather think of this in terms of communal eating rituals, of the sort that occur in some restaurants where people share dishes. 

As for the self-assertiveness, one emphasizes that when you are negotiating a raise or a promotion or when you are trying to be hired, you should be able to let your work, your production, your success even your resume speak for you. If you feel that you have to sell yourself—assertively and aggressively-- you are probably trying to compensate for weak performance.

What's Really Happening in Sweden?

The article, published this morning in the Wall Street Journal, was authored by leaders of the Sweden Democrat political party. They strongly oppose the wave of Muslim immigration that has flooded their nation.

Were it not for the fact that Donald Trump misspoke about Sweden and that certain media and political figures will attack anything Trump says, one would not feel any special need to present the information contained in the article.

And yet, people who had nothing to say when Susan Rice went on all the Sunday morning talk shows to lie about the murder of the American ambassador to Libya  go into paroxysms of self-righteous anger when Donald Trump misspeaks… or even when he gets an unimportant fact wrong.

So, here is the story from Sweden, told by Jimmie Akesson and Mattias Karlsson:

Riots and social unrest have become a part of everyday life. Police officers, firefighters and ambulance personnel are regularly attacked. Serious riots in 2013, involving many suburbs with large immigrant populations, lasted for almost a week. Gang violence is booming. Despite very strict firearm laws, gun violence is five times as common in Sweden, in total, as in the capital cities of our three Nordic neighbors combined.

Naturally, the local Muslim population, once it reaches a certain critical mass, sets out to persecute Jews:
Anti-Semitism has risen. Jews in Malmö are threatened, harassed and assaulted in the streets. Many have left the city, becoming internal refugees in their country of birth.

On the matter of rape culture and sex crimes:

The number of sex crimes nearly doubled from 2014-15, according to surveys by the Swedish government body for crime statistics. One-third of Swedish women report that they no longer feel secure in their own neighborhoods, and 12% say they don’t feel safe going out alone after dark. 

And of course, more Muslims means more suppression of free speech and artistic freedom. This puts the lie to the notion that Muslim immigrants want to assimilate. Anyone who does not understand that they want to impose their culture on that of the decadent West is willfully blind.

One recalls that the Obama administration “disappeared” a Seattle cartoonist, one Molly Norris, because she had offended Muslims and because our powerful FBI and Justice Department could not (or refused to) protect her. One notes that Great Britain could protect Salman Rushdie, but the Obama administration could not do as much for an unknown cartoonist.

The word from Sweden is:

Artists accused of insulting Islam live under death threats. Dance performances and art exhibitions have been called off for fear of angering Islamists. Schools have prohibited the singing of traditional Christian hymns because they don’t want to “insult” non-Christian immigrants. Yet reports made with hidden cameras by journalists from Swedish public media show mosques teaching fundamentalist interpretations of Islam.

As for the canard that these immigrants want nothing more than to work to improve their lot in life, that too is belied by the numbers:

The unemployment rate among immigrants is five times as high as that of native Swedes. Among some groups, such as Somalis, in places like Malmö unemployment reaches 80%.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Jacques van Rillaer Writes About Stuart Schneiderman

Modesty prevents me from telling you how great Jacques van Rillaer’s new article is. After all, the subject of the article is your humble blogger. Van Rillaer is an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Louvain, in Belgium.

In the linked post he reviews in considerable detail my professional peregrinations. Naturally, since it is coming from Belgium, it is written in French. This will be good news to some and not-so-good news for others. If your French is a bit rusty, this article is a good reason to brush up.