Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hotel Gitmo

You’ve heard the old saw about the inmates running the asylum. In the new modern version the inmates are running the prison.

In particular, the detained terrorists who are currently housed at Gitmo are apparently in charge. For the most part Gitmo’s commanders have been giving them whatever they want.

As Paul Sperry reported today in The New York Post:

Gitmo is no longer a prison camp; it’s a state-sponsored madrassa. But that’s not good enough for these inmates. They’re now demanding newer facilities and easier access to lawyers. More are threatening hunger strikes and unrest if they don’t get their way.

Before anyone gets the idea that I am going to use Gitmo to bash the Obama administration, some of the more egregious examples date to the Bush administration.

Take, for example, the great exercise machine kerfuffle.

Sperry explains that, in 2007 the inmates were eating so much of the Islamically correct food that they started putting on weight. So the camp officials decided to buy them some exercise equipment, like treadmills. Can’t have overweight terrorists on our hands, can we?

But then, the inmates discovered that the treadmills were made in America. To their minds that meant that the machines had been produced by “infidels.” So the Bush administration replaced them with others that had been made in Muslim countries.

As I say, who was running the place?

Was it too much to tell these terrorists that if they didn’t like the exercise equipment, they could stuff it?

What would Margaret Thatcher have done? Remember when the Iron Lady was faced with a hunger strike by IRA terrorists. She did not want to deprive them of their dignity by force feeding them, so she let them exercise their free choice not to eat. The consequences were predictable.

The Iron Lady was of sterner stuff than America’s politicians.

Today’s Americans are terrified that they will incite Muslim terrorists. Tell me, again, who is winning the great civilizational war?

Sperry quotes a former Gitmo official:

He said they get as many as four choices of halal meals and have access to a new $750,000 soccer field. Islamic prayer beads and rugs are now “standard issue.” They get their choice of more than 10,000 Islamic books and videos stocked by a Muslim librarian, who also records soccer and Arabic TV for them. They even have their own clerics to preach to them in Arabic.

Everyone gets a Koran, paperback or hardback, along with little hammocks to keep their holy book from touching the ground when not in use.

Guards are prohibited from handling the books. The Muslim librarian is “the only one that’s allowed to touch the Korans anymore, per detainee request,” the official said. “If I went into the Koran room and started rifling through a Koran, I could be fired.”

But no one gets a Bible, because the Bible could “incite” the terrorists.

Little hammocks … clearly the situation at Gitmo is worse than anyone imagined.

If you assume that a lot of these people will eventually be let loose, doesn’t it sound like Gitmo has been turned into a terrorist training camp?

The worst is this:

Detainees even persuaded prison officials to stop raising the American flag anywhere they could see it.

The terrorists now get to dictate when and where American soldiers can raise the American flag. Is there no end to our government’s cowardice?

If you were a detained terrorist, would you think that your culture had won or lost? If you were imprisoned in Gitmo would you believe that Americans were proud or ashamed of their culture, their tradition, their nation?

Why would these prisoners, once released, not return to the battlefield? Haven't we signaled clearly that we are willing to submit to their culture?

Considering that the problem with many immigrant Muslims is the failure to assimilate, doesn’t the Gitmo policy tell Muslims that they do not have to, because America will accommodate them… even if it means not waving the flag in public.

If you think that that is bad, the officials running Gitmo believe that they have not done enough to create good conditions for their terrorist detainees.

Sperry recounts the new plans, along with the astronomical cost of holding these prisoners:

So the Pentagon is considering plans for a $150million overhaul to what is already the world’s most costly prison per capita. Each inmate at Gitmo costs roughly $800,000 a year to detain, for a total annual operating budget of more than $170 million.

The military already has approved construction projects, including a new $11 million hospital and medical units for detainees, along with a $10 million “legal meeting complex,” where lawyers and human-rights groups can huddle with detainees.

Supposedly, this is all about PR. The American government is worried about its image. It is concerned that the wrong image will provoke anti-American riots in, say, Benghazi.

Our policy, dating to the Bush administration seems to involve a goodly dose of appeasement. Perhaps our government is trying to generate some positive press. Perhaps it is trying not to incite civil liberties advocates. Perhaps it is worrying about the opinion of sophisticated European intellectuals.

Then again, we might be trying to influence all of the incipient terrorists out there.

Do you think that, upon hearing out that we are willing bow down to the demands of Islam, they will fear the wrath of America? Or will they feel that they need to get more involved in the effort to bring down an Empire that seems no longer to be willing to defend itself?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sun Worship

Let’s hope it’s true, but there seems to be only one place left where skin color really does matter: the beach. Or, maybe, the pool.

Now that vacation time is upon us, more and more people will start obsessing about their skin color. Some will go to the beach, while others will lounge around the pool, slathered with sunscreen, inhaling the chlorine fumes.

I have yet to figure out why people who douse themselves in SPF 75 worry about their tan.

Unfortunately, the sun is not your friend. It is not your skin’s friend and it is certainly not your face’s friend.

Too much sunshine applied indiscriminately to your skin will turn it into leather. Do you know how much moisturizer it takes to make that leather-like texture feel like soft skin?

Too much sun applied to your face will produce a script of lines and wrinkles. So much so that, if you are a true postmodern you will run screaming to your local cosmetic surgeon.

Fewer and fewer people believe in God, but pagan idolatry is alive and well. Citizens sport their atheism with pride, but they worship at the altar of the sun god.

It’s what’s wrong with our minds. We worship the uninhibited glory of youth, yet we conspire with the sun to look older than our years.

In the name of vanity we do serious damage to our skins, only to do penance by squandering a small fortune on lotions, potions and masks. When that fails we move up to Botox and face lifts.

All the while we forget that the best way to have our skin age gracefully and healthily is… to stay out of the sun. Next best is to wear sunscreen.

How can you age gracefully, without trying too hard to altar your appearance to the point where no one knows who you are? Go to the movies; go to the library; sit under a shade tree. You will not look like a tomato or an orange; your skin will not feel like a football; you will not need to numb your face with Botox, suffer cosmetic surgery or submit to hours of facials.

Keep in mind, when those cosmetic treatments work their magic they will make your face look like a Noh mask… porcelain and immobilized.

Ironically, you will think to yourself that the medical interventions will help you to save face. Unfortunately, when your face is loses its character lines, to the point of becoming barely recognizable, you will have lost face.

In olden days, age lines on your face denoted maturity, wisdom and experience. A young face might be more pleasing aesthetically and erotically, but if your face lacks the right kinds of lines you will look like you have not lived very long or very much. Or else, you will look like a simple-minded poser.

Surely, the great historical competition of our time is between youth-worshiping America and a China that practices filial piety.

For all the prattle about the love of nature, a cult to youth stands in defiance to natural progression. Once the glory days of your youth have passed, nature will age you… inevitably and inexorably.

A nation that worships youth is setting itself up for failure. If youth is the gold standard, most of your life is downhill. It’s depressing. If you believe that your best days were when you were a young adult, time will put more and more distance between you and your best days.

So, add some Prozac to the potions and lotions and cosmetic procedures.

Or else… try a little filial piety. 

The Shame of the British National Health Service

You probably don’t want to, but you might remember the dancing hospital beds that filled your television screen during the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

I am hardly an aficionado of dance, but it struck me as a major embarrassment. In 2008 the Chinese government put on a show to announce its arrival on the world stage. In 2012 the British government was telling the world that the sun was setting on its famed Empire.

If you count socialized medicine among your greatest modern accomplishments and trumpet your pride by putting on an aesthetically pathetic show of dancing beds… you days are numbered.

It’s a long way from the Industrial Revolution and liberal democracy.

While we are here, allow me to recall, yet again, the immortal words of a man who, by his own account, has never been wrong. I am speaking of Paul Krugman.

At a time when America was feverishly debating Obamacare, Krugman stepped forth to announce that he had done all the relevant research, consulted all of the studies and concluded that  stories about the deficiencies of the British health care system were lies.

In his immortal 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.

Don’t ask how he knew. He’s Paul Krugman, so you must take him at his word. Isn’t he an expert in the functioning of the British National Health Service?

One doubts that Krugman really cares about how anything works in practice. Do you recall an instance where he was willing to admit that he was wrong about anything? If his plans do not work, he blames Republicans.

Meantime, the Daily Mail recently reported that, at hospitals run by the National Health Service, patients are starving to death or suffering dehydration because the nurses have neither the time or the inclination to feed them.

How many people are starving in the NHS? Around one a day over the past four years. Many are severely dehydrated, because providing good medical care does not seem to involve providing patients with food and water.

Whatever happened to: First, do no harm!

The Daily Mail reports (via Instapundit):

As many as 1,165 people starved to death in NHS hospitals over the past four years fuelling claims nurses are too busy to feed their patients. 

The Department of Health branded the figures 'unacceptable' and said the number of unannounced inspections by the care watchdog will increase. 

According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics following a Freedom of Information request, for every patient who dies from malnutrition, four more have dehydration mentioned on their death certificate. 

Critics say nurses are too busy to feed patients and often food and drink are placed out of reach of vulnerable people.

In 2011, 43 patients starved to death and 291 died in a state of severe malnutrition, while the number of patients discharged from hospital suffering from malnutrition doubled to 5,558.

Dianne Jeffrey, chairwoman of Malnutrition Task Force, condemned the statistics. 

She told The Sunday Express: 'Too many are paying the price with their lives while being deprived of the basic right to good nutrition, hydration and support.'

As the old saying goes, who’s lying now?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Who's Hating Us Now?

Once upon a time we Americans were anguished to learn that certain people hated us. What could we have done to deserve such rancor? For those who believed that we must have done something to provoke the anger, it was puzzling.

 “Why do they hate us?” became a battle cry for therapy. If only we knew why they hated us, we could change, and then, mirable dictu, they would cease to hate us. Neat, clean, precise… problem solved.

At some future point we will wonder why we were worrying ourselves about why Islamist terrorists hate us. It takes very little acumen to see that they hate us because they are in the hate business, and we happen to be the biggest target.

That wasn’t too difficult, now was it?

As it happens, the Obama administration has done its level best to ensure that the Muslim world likes us. Make that… really, really likes us.

In Egypt it has enjoyed a limited success. The Islamists who are running that sad country like us. They like us a lot.

But then, somehow or other, many people in newly democratic Egypt still hate us. Only, it's not the same people. Those who hate us now comprise the democracy advocates and the Christians who are being harassed and persecuted by the government that we have empowered.

The Wall Street Journal reports the sad story:

Anger against the U.S. is nothing new in the Middle East, and neither are conspiracy theories in which Washington plays a strong, silent hand.

But rarely have such theories placed U.S. influence so squarely behind Islamists such as Mr. Morsi, a former leader in the powerful Muslim Brotherhood that the White House helped to subdue for decades by backing successive anti-Islamist autocrats.

In Egypt, people who love freedom hate America, because, after all, America has put itself on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood. Maybe that’s what the administration meant when it called for a foreign policy reset.

Egyptians pay close attention to American diplomacy. They saw our policy clearly when Mohamed Morsi was elected president of Egypt:

Immediately after the Brotherhood cited its own unofficial tallies in announcing that Mr. Morsi had won presidential elections in June 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angered anti-Islamist politicians when she called on Egyptian authorities to "support the democratic transition" and yield power to an elected president.

Activists were further vexed when Mr. Morsi announced a constitutional declaration awarding himself power over the judiciary. The announcement sparked suspicion because it came immediately after Mrs. Clinton visited Cairo and activists complained the U.S. didn't condemn Mr. Morsi's action.

True to its policy, the Obama administration appointed an ambassador to Egypt who is either incompetent or is very fond of the Brotherhood.

The Journal reports:

But comments by Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, earlier in June at an Egyptian pro-democracy organization have sparked a renewed eruption of anti-American sentiment in the secular media.

In an effort to "set the record straight" about the U.S. relationship with the Brotherhood, Ms. Patterson said the White House supported Mr. Morsi because he was fairly elected and poured cold water on protesters' plans to oust him on June 30.

"Some say that street action will produce better results than elections. To be honest, my government and I are deeply skeptical," Ms. Patterson told the audience of mostly activists. "More violence on the streets will do little more than add new names to the lists of martyrs. Instead, I recommend Egyptians get organized."

The backlash from activist corners was fast and fierce. George Ishaq, a prominent Egyptian Christian and longtime pro-democracy campaigner attacked Ms. Patterson on the popular talk show "The Issue" on Al Hayat, Egypt's most-watched satellite channel.

"She is an evil lady who is creating divisions. How is this any of her business?" Mr. Ishaq said of Ms. Patterson. "If I saw her walking down the street I would tell her, 'shut up and mind your own business.' "

In a profile of Ms. Patterson titled "The Brotherhood's Ambassador," the anti-Islamist newspaper Al Watan called her a "pariah" among Egypt's political opposition. Secularist former parliamentarian Mustafa Al Bakri announced on television that Ms. Patterson had been recruited into a Brotherhood "sleeper cell."

A leader in the pro-democracy group The National Association for Change called Ms. Patterson's comments "provocative" and dangerous.

The new American policy toward s Egypt is based, Caroline Glick suggests, on hope and a prayer. It is certainly not based on American interest, American values or an understanding of the situation in Egypt:

The Obama administration supports the Morsi government even as it persecutes Christians. It supports the Muslim Brotherhood even though the government has demonstrated economic and administrative incompetence, driving Egypt into failed state status. Egypt is down to its last few cans of fuel. It is facing the specter of mass starvation. And law and order have already broken down entirely. It has lost the support of large swathes of the public. But still Obama maintains faith.

So, in Egypt, the Obama administration has succeeded to getting our friends, the people who share our values to hate us. The nicest thing we can say is that it’s amateur hour in American foreign policy.

"A 29-Year-Old Hacker"

It’s probably too late, but it would be nice if the President of the United States and the Secretary of State could stop contradicting each other.

Here are some statements that Secretary of State Kerry made about NSA leaker Edward Snowden. He demonstrated appropriate outrage and seriousness:

I believe that he has betrayed his country, because he took an oath.  He swore that he would uphold the secrecy.  He was given access to documents based on that trust and he violated that trust.  And he hasn’t violated it in any way similar – nothing similar – to Daniel Ellsberg or somebody who was revealing a government that was actually lying or that had a completely distorted view of something going on.  This man just took real information and put it out there because he happens to believe something that is not, in fact, justified by the facts.
And this:

And so I think he has put counterterrorism at risk, he has put individuals at risk, and it may well be that lives will be lost in the United States because terrorists now have knowledge of something that they need to avoid, that they didn’t have knowledge of before he did this.


What I see is an individual who threatened this country and put Americans at risk through the acts that he took. People may die as a consequence of what this man did. It is possible the United States will be attacked because terrorists may now know how to protect themselves in some way or another that they didn't know before. This is a very dangerous act. 

Yesterday, at a press conference in Senegal, President Obama tried to lower the tone, because, after all, this Snowden business was distracting the world from what really mattered: President Obama’s trip to Senegal. And we can’t have that.

Note the casual, off-hand tone that Obama adopts, as he reduces Snowden to a “twenty-nine-year-old hacker,” or as he explains that he has not called President Xi or President Putin because he “shouldn’t have to.”

Apparently, Obama believes that his presence alone should suffice to motivate people to do the right thing.

One can contrast Obama's studied insouciance with the anger of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez who said yesterday that if Ecuador gives Snowden asylum it will suffer severe economic penalties.

Next, Obama explains that we do lots of business with Russia and China. He is not going to let some no-account hacker get in the way of business. Why should the “social justice” president bargain away a business deal in order to punish someone who his Secretary of State has excoriated as a traitor?

Perhaps he does not understand that Snowden and future Snowdens are being given a pass to betray government secrets.

It’s the Hillary Clinton attitude toward justice. Once the ambassador was killed in Benghazi, nothing was going to bring him back, so why bother.

To Obama it’s grist for a made-for-TV movie, nothing else.

Imagine what would have happened if a Republican had said it.

I will quote the entirety of Obama’s response to thequestion about Snowden, because it is not being reported very widely:

With respect to Mr. Snowden, we have issued through our Justice Department very clear requests to both initially Hong Kong and then Russia that we seek the extradition of Mr. Snowden. And we are going through the regular legal channels that are involved when we try to extradite somebody. I have not called President Xi personally or President Putin personally. And the reason is because, number one, I shouldn't have to. This is something that routinely is dealt with between law enforcement officials in various countries. And this is not exceptional from a legal perspective.

Number two, we've got a whole lot of business that we do with China and Russia. And I'm not going to have one case of a suspect who we're trying to extradite suddenly being elevated to the point where I've got to start doing wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues simply to get a guy extradited, so that he can face the Justice system here in the United States.

I get why it's a fascinating story from a press perspective. And I'm sure there will be a made-for-TV movie somewhere down the line. But in terms of U.S. interests, the damage was done with respect to the initial leaks. And what I'm really focused on is making sure, number one, that we are doing everything we can to prevent the kind of thing that happened at the NSA from happening again, because we don't know right now what Mr. Snowden's motives were except for those things that he said publicly. And I don't want to prejudge the case, but it does show some pretty significant vulnerabilities over at the NSA that we've got to solve. That's number one.

So I am interested in making sure that the rules of extradition are obeyed. Now, we don't have an extradition treaty with Russia, which makes it more complicated. You don't have to have an extradition treaty though to resolve some of these issues. There have been some useful conversations that have taken place between the United States government and the Russian government. And my continued expectation is that Russia or other countries that have talked about potentially providing Mr.Snowden asylum recognize that they are part of an international community, and that they should be abiding by international law. And we'll continue to press them as hard as we can to make sure that they do so.

But one last thing, because you asked a final question -- no, I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.

If you were wondering why world leaders do not respect our president, now you know.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Female Alcohol Syndrome

It is an article of feminist faith, if not dogma, that there is no significant difference between the male and the female body. If a woman fails the physical exam for the fire department or Army Rangers that can only mean that the test was designed to discriminate against women.

It’s not an academic issue. If the nation, through its political leaders believes that women should be put in combat positions on the front lines of military campaigns, the debate has become policy.

Often, this discussion revolves around the question of whether male and female sexuality are fundamentally the same or fundamentally different.

Yet, there is another way of measuring, not merely the difference between male and female bodies but the consequences of feminists teaching women that, anything a man can do they can and should be doing it too.

Take alcohol. It turns out that today’s liberated woman, especially today’s educated women is more likely to consume too much alcohol. Female alcohol syndrome is becoming an important health issue.

Feminist thinkers have been cheering the college girls on. College professor and philosopher Nancy Bauer describes today’s liberated and empowered college women in these terms:

If there’s anything that feminism has bequeathed to young women of means, it’s that power is their birthright.  Visit an American college campus on a Monday morning and you’ll find any number of amazingly ambitious and talented young women wielding their brain power, determined not to let anything — including a relationship with some needy, dependent man — get in their way.  Come back on a party night, and you’ll find many of these same girls (they stopped calling themselves “women” years ago) wielding their sexual power, dressed as provocatively as they dare, matching the guys drink for drink — and then hook-up for hook-up….

When they’re on their knees in front of a worked-up guy they just met at a party, they genuinely do feel powerful — sadistic, even.  

You’ve come a long way, baby!!

Of course, most feminists do not encourage young women to become alcoholics or to be down on their knees to service worked-up boys, but any woman who takes seriously the notion that gender differences are merely a social construct will have little reason to believe that she should systematically drink less than a man.

Obviously, Bauer would never take responsibility for the consequences of her advice, but she would do herself and everyone else a favor if she apologized for drawing a picture of a liberated woman that puts that woman on the road to alcoholism.

As for the statistics, The Wall Street Journal reports on the increase in female alcohol syndrome:

Indeed, more women are drinking now than at any time in recent history, according to health surveys. In the nine years between 1998 and 2007, the number of women arrested for drunken driving rose 30%, while male arrests dropped more than 7%. Between 1999 and 2008, the number of young women who showed up in emergency rooms for being dangerously intoxicated rose by 52%. The rate for young men, though higher, rose just 9%.

These numbers are not driven solely by young women living it up on spring break. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of binge drinking—that is, having four or more drinks for women or five or more for men within two hours—revealed a surprising statistic. While the greatest number, 24%, of binge-drinking women are college-age, 10% of women between 45 and 64 said they binge drink—and so did 3% of women older than 65. The college-age binge drinkers and the senior binge drinkers overdid it with a similar frequency, about three times a month.

Welcome to the world of gender parity. The Journal is too modest to say that feminism has anything to do with this alarming trend, but it feels a need to report that, when it comes to alcohol, the male body and the female body are not created equal. For those who believe in science, it explains:

In one sense, the rising rates of alcohol consumption by women are a sign of parity. But this is one arena in which equal treatment yields unequal outcomes. Women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol's toxic effects. Their bodies have more fat, which retains alcohol, and less water, which dilutes it, so women drinking the same amount as men their size and weight become intoxicated more quickly. Males also have more of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream. This may be one reason why alcohol-related liver and brain damage appear more quickly in heavy-drinking women than men.

Strangely, alcohol also seems to enhance traditional gender roles:

Scientists are continuing to explore the biochemical differences in the way that alcohol affects men and women. Studies show that after drinking, men report feeling more powerful, often overstating their capabilities and accomplishments, while women say that it makes them feel more affectionate, sexy and feminine.

Is it not ironic when women drink too much because they believe that they are equal to men they discover that alcohol provokes feelings of… femininity.

Surely, it would be better if women could find another way to feel more feminine.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Problem with Unconditional Love

It’s one of the great modern questions: how do you keep desire alive in a long-term relationship? You know, in a marriage.

Many young people believe  that if they have found “the one” and if they are both totally in love, that desire will always be there. Older people know better, but prefer not to disabuse the young of their illusions.

Now, Daniel Bergner offers what seems to be a paradoxical suggestion: the belief in, expectation of and longing for unconditional love is “the ultimate assassin of desire” in such relationships.

The idea feels so strange that it is probably true.

After all, if the therapy culture is prescribing unconditional love as the cure for all that ails you, you can be confident that unconditional love is a problem.

Bergner has just written a book  called What Do Women Want?, so he has done what we like to call field research.

He formulates his idea in a chatty paragraph:

What I've been saying—and what, all self-mockery aside, I do believe, based on the years I've spent listening to researchers and therapists and just living life—is that the longing for unconditional love is the enemy of lust, that the ideal of being loved no matter what is the ultimate assassin of desire in long-term relationships. From our parents we can hope for the unconditional, but with our partners we have to constantly earn love and win lust or love will fade and lust will disappear for both partners.  

But, Bergner asks, why should this be so?

I would say that unconditional love is infantilizing and patronizing, and that it is very difficult to continue to lust after someone who treats you like a child.

I would also say that someone who loves you unconditionally must ignore both your virtues and your vices. It may feel like win/win, but it is also lose/lose.

If you gain nothing by doing well and lose nothing by doing poorly, then you are being diminished and demeaned. You are being told that it doesn’t matter what you do. And if it doesn’t matter what you do, why do anything?

Someone who loves you unconditionally will love you even if you are a scoundrel, even if you betray his or trust, even if you are disloyal.

In your experience, is such behavior a turn-on or a turn-off?

To look more closely, I would modify only one point in Bergner’s argument. Perhaps this shows how old I am, but, in times of yore, unconditional love was the province of mothers, more than fathers.

Traditionally, mothers have loved their children unconditionally while fathers expect their children to earn their  affection.

To clarify the point, a child expects to be loved and nurtured by his mother, regardless.  At least at first, at a time when a child is most vulnerable and most in need of his mother, she will naturally love him unconditionally. As he grows, her love will also need to be earned, but he will always know that, if push comes to shove, his mother will love him no matter what.

A mother’s nurturance does not need to be earned. It does not require compensation. In many ways, it’s instinctive behavior and it is, like virtue, its own reward.

When it comes to fathers, things change. A child really needs  his father to be proud of him, and pride must be earned through achievement.  

Won’t his mother also want to be proud of him? Yes, she will. And won’t she expect him to earn her pride? Yes, she will. For her, however, her feelings of pride will never eradicate her willingness to offer unconditional love.

The more a child functions in a social world, the more he will need to learn how to earn love, not to expect it to be given with no strings attached.

In truth, a child will be better motivated to improve his behavior if he knows that his mother will always love him but that his father will not. 

A child who receives unconditional love from both parents will be more likely to believe that he can get away with anything. A child who receives conditional love from both parents will be more likely to believe that he must never fail.

Mothers love their children unconditionally because their relationship normally contains no sexual desire. As a sidelight, if this is true, then Freud’s belief that sexual desire originates in a taboo against incest turns out to be nonsense.

Mothers nurture; fathers socialize. Of course, mothers also work to socialize, but they never lose the feeling of nurturance.

But, what happens when a school offers children unconditional love. It becomes a nurturing, but not a socializing environment. If it is stoking their self-esteem and protecting them from the possibility of failing is, pardon the expression, mothering them. This will naturally make  it more difficult for these children to take their place in society. It will also make it more difficult for them to experience the pride in achievement.

If the possibility of failure has been eliminated, then the chance of building pride, to say nothing of character, has also been eliminated.

If you cannot fail you cannot succeed either. You will become demoralized, feeling that you gain nothing by getting things right. Once you know that you cannot get it right or wrong you are more likely to give up, thus falling into depression.

As we know, depression stifles sexual desire. When people are depressed they lost their confidence and their pride, but they also, notably, lose their appetite, for food and for lust.

If a woman offers a man unconditional love she is, effectively, treating him like a child. This level of disrespect will demoralize him and cause his desire to wane. No man wants to be treated like a child and no man lusts after a woman who treats him that way.

If a woman allows a man to believe that she will forgive him anything, she is sacrificing her self-respect by trying to make herself purely motherly.

We expect that a wife will stand by her husband in time of trouble. But that does not mean that she should stand by him no matter what. 

If she stands with him it’s not because she loves him unconditionally but because she has a moral obligation to remain loyal, even to a fault.

Loyalty, given and received, might be confused with unconditional love, but loyalty has limits. If someone betrays your trust, you are under no moral obligation to continue to be loyal.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Reflections on Dental Floss

What’s in a string?

Does a string acquire any special virtue by finding its way between your teeth and scraping off the plaque that is accumulating there? Is a string still a string when it is dental floss?

There’s nothing very sexy about dental floss when it is used as it is intended to be used. I will grant an exception for the floss that is used to construct thong bikinis.

Whatever your dentist says, however much it costs you to correct the problems that could have been prevented by flossing you are still unlikely to do it.

You had enough trouble adopting an exercise regimen. Flossing seems like one good habit too many.

Think about it. You don’t need a gym membership or special fashionable clothing in order to floss your teeth. You do not congregate with other people to practice your flossing moves. No celebrities are doing public service announcements about the importance of flossing. There are no ads showing the disease-producing bacteria that have taken up residence just below your gum line. No one is making very much money in the floss market.

Beyond the fact that your dentist tells you to floss your teeth every time you have a checkup, you have no outside support to sustain your resolution to make a habit of flossing your teeth on a daily basis. No one is going to look at you and exclaim that you didn't floss last night.

Cosmetic dentistry is all the rage. People are falling over themselves to make their teeth look like Chicklets. But, when it comes to dental hygiene we are less than avid to do what it takes to make our gums be as clean as our teeth are white.

Nevertheless, flossing will save your teeth; it will save your gums; it will save you money; it might even save you from heart disease and stroke.

Dental research suggests that it might be more important than brushing.

The connection between gum disease and cardiovascular disease has not been established definitively, but the evidence suggests that people who suffer from gum disease are also more likely to have heart disease. It seems to be as good an indicator of heart disease as high cholesterol.

WebMD reports:

If you're worried about heart disease, you can easily spend thousands of dollars each year trying to prevent it, paying hand over fist for prescription medicines, shelves of healthy cookbooks, fitness machines for your home, and a gym membership.

Or maybe not. A number of recent studies suggest that you may already have a cheap and powerful weapon against heart attacks, strokes, and other heart disease conditions. It costs less than $2 and is sitting on your bathroom counter. It is none other than the humble toothbrush.

"There are a lot of studies that suggest thatoral health, and gum disease in particular, are related to serious conditions like heart disease," says periodontist Sally Cram, DDS, a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association.

So can preventing periodontal disease, a disease of the gums and bone that support the teeth, with brushing and flossing prevent heart disease?

The evidence isn't clear yet, experts say, but it's intriguing. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease (also called heart disease). And one study found that the presence of common problems in the mouth, including gum disease (gingivitis), cavities, and missing teeth, were as good at predicting heart disease as cholesterol levels.

But flossing takes more effort than popping a Lipitor, so most Americans believe that they are taking care of themselves by taking pills. They make excuses for not flossing.

For those among many other reasons, few people are going to look very closely at Jillian Beirne Devi’s article about how flossing saved her finances. The title does not smack of profundity. It feels like it was channeled from The Onion.

In her article, Devi explains that the habit of flossing did wonders for her bottom line.

She is not talking about all the money she saved on dental work, but about the experience of acquiring a new good habit.

In his book The Power of Habit, Charles DuHigg said that the best way to develop better habits is to start with one, keystone habit. Once you have gotten into the habit of, say, flossing, it is easier to develop other good habits.

Devi writes:

Keystone habits are effective because, when you stick to them consistently, they create "small wins," a strategy that psychologists use to inspire hope in people who are looking to improve their lives because they help keep motivation high when the road is long.

Following DuHigg, Devi provides us with a model for effective therapeutic change. It’s more about changing behaviors than changing states of mind.

Once she conquered the habit of flossing, Devi applied her newfound skill to a different problem: her burgeoning debt. She attacked the problem systematically and after some time, conquered it. She succeeded because she developed new money management habits:

One night I took a hard look at everything I owed. It was a scary figure -- I was nearly $30,000 in debt. That night I committed to two powerful habits: checking my balances every day, and reviewing my budget weekly. Feeling bold, I also decided to stop using credit cards.

At first, shifting my money patterns was an uncomfortable but necessary change -- just like flossing. Instead of making X's on a calendar, I kept a list of my debt, from smallest to largest balances. As I paid off each one, I took great pride in ripping up the last bill and drawing a red line through the account name.

With my new habits, I was paying down my debt systematically. I finally felt at peace with money.

Five months into my money challenge, my new habits became second nature. And I felt such a sense of relief when I started to notice that the habits were becoming second nature -- money wasn't so scary anymore. Previously, when I wasn't looking at my finances, there was always anxiety around not having enough money. But with my new habits, I was checking in regularly and paying down my debt systematically. I finally felt at peace with money, and 18 months later, I was debt-free.

Think about it, she accomplished all that without a glimmer of insight into why she had let the debt accumulate, without the least bit of awareness about why she had failed to manage her finances and without even getting touch with her feelings.

Who knew?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Good-bye, Global Warming

No one seems to know who first said it first, but we do get the government we deserve. It may not be the one we thought we were voting for, but that is the peril of democracy.

The American people, Ross Douthat reports, want their government to deal with jobs, the economy, entitlements, health care costs… you know, the nation’s most important problems.

The Obama administration is focused on gun control, immigration and climate control.

For their part, Congressional Republicans have been busy trying to destroy themselves over immigration.

Douthat calls it “the great disconnect” and he explains that the Obama administration has gotten caught up in the kind of fashionable liberal thought that is associated with New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Apparently, Obama has dispensed with calls for social justice and has glommed on to the favorite causes of the lefty 1 %. Would you reject a chance to belong to the new American aristocracy?

Douthat describes what he aptly calls Bloombergism:

… gun control, immigration reform and climate change aren’t just random targets of opportunity. They’re pillars of Acela Corridor ideology, core elements of Bloombergism, places where Obama-era liberalism overlaps with the views of Davos-goers and the Wall Street 1 percent. If you move in those circles, the political circumstances don’t necessarily matter: these ideas always look like uncontroversial common sense.

For those of you who do not inhabit the great cosmopolitan metropolis I would point out that as Mayor Mike completes his twelve year term, minority youth unemployment is over 40%, but we are supposed to be consoling ourselves with rent-a-bike stations that have popped up around the city.

If you buy a subscription you can take one of these shiny new silver and blue bicycles out for a ride. You can return it to any rent-a-bike station you choose. It beats taking the subway to work.

Don’t you dream of riding a bicycle through the streets of Manhattan during rush hour traffic? Don’t you want to arrive at work sweaty and unkempt after having sucked up the carbon monoxide and other pollutants that cling to New York’s streets?

While the mayor agonizes over Big Gulps his crack scientists ignored the fact that exercising on New York’s polluted streets will cause you to absorb so many toxic chemicals that it will neutralize the value of your exercise. 

The Obama administration attack on global warming also seems poorly timed. All major newspapers have reported that the climate has not warmed during the past fifteen years. We humans have spewed massive amounts of pollutants into the atmosphere during this time and the climate has shrugged.

These facts have embarrassed the global warming crowd. It has called on its minions to keep the faith, because the global climate apocalypse is nigh.

As I have occasionally noted, the global warmists are more prophets than scientists. There is no such thing as a scientific fact about what will happen tomorrow, to say nothing of what will happen a century from now. To think otherwise is to be ignorant of science.

The Democracy in America blog in The Economist reports on the latest research:

GLOBAL warming has slowed. The rate of warming of over the past 15 years has been lower than that of the preceding 20 years. There is no serious doubt that our planet continues to heat, but it has heated less than most climate scientists had predicted. Nate Cohn of the New Republic reports: "Since 1998, the warmest year of the twentieth century, temperatures have not kept up with computer models that seemed to project steady warming; they’re perilously close to falling beneath even the lowest projections".

Mr Cohn does his best to affirm that the urgent necessity of acting to retard warming has not abated, as does Brad Plumer of the Washington Post, as does this newspaper. But there's no way around the fact that this reprieve for the planet is bad news for proponents of policies, such as carbon taxes and emissions treaties, meant to slow warming by moderating the release of greenhouse gases. The reality is that the already meagre prospects of these policies, in America at least, will be devastated if temperatures do fall outside the lower bound of the projections that environmentalists have used to create a panicked sense of emergency. Whether or not dramatic climate-policy interventions remain advisable, they will become harder, if not impossible, to sell to the public, which will feel, not unreasonably, that the scientific and media establishment has cried wolf.

The Economist blogger does accept that global warming might heat up again, but he rcommends that we also consider the effects of the policies that have been proposed to fix the problem:

Dramatic warming may exact a terrible price in terms of human welfare, especially in poorer countries. But cutting emissions enough to put a real dent in warming may also put a real dent in economic growth. This could also exact a terrible humanitarian price, especially in poorer countries. Given the so-far unfathomed complexity of global climate and the tenuousness of our grasp on the full set of relevant physical mechanisms, I have favoured waiting a decade or two in order to test and improve the empirical reliability of our climate models, while also allowing the economies of the less-developed parts of the world to grow unhindered, improving their position to adapt to whatever heavy weather may come their way. I have been told repeatedly that "we cannot afford to wait". More distressingly, my brand of sceptical empiricism has been often met with a bludgeoning dogmatism about the authority of scientific consensus.

Yes, indeed. It is certainly the case that scientific facts are not determined by taking a poll of scientists. The fact that scientists are promoting global warming as dogma ought to provoke more than a goodly amount of skepticism.

Scientists are perplexed and puzzled by the new data, but not as much as the policy makers who follow the lead of the 1%ers whose class consciousness requires them to adhere strictly to the same dogmas and to indulge in the Bloombergian version of noblesse oblige:

As a rule, climate scientists were previously very confident that the planet would be warmer than it is by now, and no one knows for sure why it isn't. This isn't a crisis for climate science. This is just the way science goes. But it is a crisis for climate-policy advocates who based their arguments on the authority of scientific consensus. 

When it comes to global warming, the new aristocracy is trafficking in a big lie. The  Economist blogger explains:

If this is true, then the public has been systematically deceived. As it has been presented to the public, the scientific consensus extended precisely to that which is now seems to be in question: the sensitivity of global temperature to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Indeed, if the consensus had been only that greenhouse gases have some warming effect, there would have been no obvious policy implications at all.

The blogger concludes:

The moralising stridency of so many arguments for cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and global emissions treaties was founded on the idea that there is a consensus about how much warming there would be if carbon emissions continue on trend. The rather heated debates we have had about the likely economic and social damage of carbon emissions have been based on that idea that there is something like a scientific consensus about the range of warming we can expect. If that consensus is now falling apart, as it seems it may be, that is, for good or ill, a very big deal. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Do Managers Know How to Manage?

Normally, when we want to know the state of the nation’s economy we go to the numbers. Until recently, the numbers have been fairly good.

The stock market had soared. The bond market had been tamed. Unemployment had been coming down.

All in all, it was sufficient to get Barack Obama re-elected. And it made Ben Bernanke look like a wizard.

Yet, things were not as they seemed. Mort Zuckerman, among others, has been exclaiming that we must look beneath unemployment numbers. When we do we discover that labor force participation is anemic and that underemployment is becoming increasingly common.

Something was rotten at the core of the great economic recovery.

Of late, the bond market has signaled that the Bernanke/Obama recovery is in trouble. When your nation is in debt up to its eyeballs a crashing bond market is the last thing you need.

For years, Bernanke was fighting the bond market by printing money. Of late, it seems that he is going to lose the fight. The bond market has been refusing to play with Ben’s funny money.

Of course, there’s more to life and to an economy than numbers. Whatever you think about the blizzard of numbers that quantify the employment situation, it is useful from time to time to ask yourself how real people feel about their jobs.

Are American workers committed to their jobs? Are they dedicated to their companies? Are they doing their best to produce the best products and provide the best services?

Or, are American workers discontented, disgruntled and disaffected to the point of not really caring about anything more than getting off work?

Gallup recently did a survey and discovered that, beneath the numbers the American worker was in a foul mood. Clearly, it has been damaging business and the economy.

Timothy Egan summarized the results:

Among the 100 million people in this country who hold full-time jobs, about 70 percent of them either hate going to work or have mentally checked out to the point of costing their companies money — “roaming the halls spreading discontent,” as Gallup reported. Only 30 percent of workers are “engaged and inspired” at work.

And also:

Gallup’s current survey, covering two years, is a follow-up to an earlier poll that found much the same level of passive discontent from 2008 to 2010. Even in an improving economy, people are adrift at work, complaining about a lack of praise, with no sense of mission, and feeling little loyalty to their employer.

The numbers are staggering. If most American workers hate their jobs and are merely going through the motions, then the economy is dysfunctional in ways we do not appreciate.

Many serious thinkers believe that the problem lies in the disconnection between executive salaries and worker salaries. The gulf between the two has never been wider.

Egan entertained this explanation:

You would think the usual suspects were to blame for this sea of seething in the cubicles of America. While productivity per worker has soared over the last two decades, pay has remained flat or gone down. The gulf between those at the very top and those who do all the heavy lifting has never been greater. Too many corporations, especially in a tight job market, promote a view that everyone is replaceable; the workers are mercenaries with bottom-of-the-bin benefits. Take it or leave it.

Those who accept this analysis believe that the problem can be solved by confiscatory taxes on the rich and more labor unions.

Yet, the people surveyed by Gallup did not complain about wage inequality and social injustice. They hated the way they were being managed. They hated being treated as cogs in a machine and not as human beings.

Egan explained:

But here’s the surprise: the main factor in workplace discontent is not wages, benefits or hours, but the boss. … The survey said there was consistent anger at management types who failed to so much as ask employees about their opinion of the job. Ever.

“The managers from hell are creating active disengagement costing the United States an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion annually,” wrote Jim Clifton, the C.E.O. and chairman of Gallup.

Regular praise, opportunity for growth, and the occasional question from a higher-up of a lower-down about how to improve things would go a long way toward getting the checked-out to check back in, the study found. Among those who loathe their jobs most, 57 percent said they were ignored at work, and 41 percent said they couldn’t even say what their company stood for. As such, there’s no mystery why customer service is so bad, or being farmed out to robots.

Let’s see. The country is awash in management gurus. The nation’s business schools all teach courses in management. All companies rely on management consultants.

And yet, almost nobody knows how to manage human beings.

For all I know the management courses are so completely quantified that they do not teach the essentials of good management. They do not explain the importance of productive relationships, of face-to-face conversation, of praise and recognition.

I find it hard to believe that business schools fail to teach the importance of informing all employees of the company mission, of helping them to understand how their work contributes, of asking them for their suggestions about how everyone can do a better job.

If they do, then students have clearly missed the point.

It’s also possible that relationships between people in American companies are so completely regulated by bureaucracy and the threat of lawsuits that no manager dares treat his staff as human beings.

Whatever cause, the problem needs to be addressed.