Monday, October 31, 2016

It Takes More Than an Election

Donald Trump has a point. Unfortunately for him, he also is the point. A nation cannot return to greatness unless it is led by great people. Trump might have achieved great things, yet he does not act as though he did. People who constantly brag about their success provoke suspicion, not admiration. They seem to be riding their celebrity, not their successes.

America did not become great by having leaders who were petty and vindictive, mean-spirited and vulgar, litigious and self- aggrandizing. America has always loved the idea of a citizen politician, but a president should have attained prior success in government. Better yet, he should bring success and achievement to the office. And he should bring experience. 

No one imagines that Hillary Clinton will make America great again. If elected, she will spend her time fending off multiple investigations into her potentially criminal enterprises. The stench of corruption will compromise any semblance of greatness.

Whatever the outcome of the investigations, Hillary helped her husband to become the first president in memory to cash in on the nation’s highest office. Everyone can see that Hillary cares more about what the country can do for her than about what she can do for the country.

Her slogan should be: Make Hillary Great, for Once!

A serious candidate should bring greatness to the office. He should not take greatness from the office. A candidate who is unqualified or self-interested will diminish the office, and with it the nation.

Donald Trump has built a real estate empire, but he has never been in politics. Thinking that success in real estate development qualifies you to be president is like saying that borrowing money from a bank makes you qualified to be CEO of the bank. Trump’s inexperience has shown up in his less-than-stellar campaign.

Lacking political achievement, Trump is running on his celebrity status. To spice things up he has offered a string of empty promises. “Believe me,” he says, while giving us no rational reason to do so.

Hillary’s public service has been marked by far more failures than successes. Were it not for her husband and her gender she would never have been considered for the presidency. Her candidacy is a modern instance of nepotism.

When Obama called Hillary the most qualified candidate in American history he was either reading from The Onion or trying to see whether he could get away with yet another lie.

Yet, in Obama’s world real qualifications and real achievements do not count. You are well qualified when you can trick enough people into thinking that you are well qualified.

When leaders have accomplished great things, they command respect. Neither Trump nor Clinton do so.

If Trump commanded respect he would not need to bully people. If he wanted to act like a great business success he would not be bragging about it incessantly. And he would not be preparing to retaliate against those who did not support his candidacy.

Since Hillary does not command respect and is barely likeable, her supporters play the gender card. If you do not respect her for her “awesome” accomplishments, you are a sexist misogynistic patriarchal bigot. Even without Trump playing the role of the sexist Antichrist, a Hillary presidency will severely damage relationships between the sexes.

Strictly speaking, both candidates are underqualified. Fortunately for them, in the Age of Obama, it doesn’t matter. Barack Obama defined qualification downward. If he was qualified, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton can look presidential. Today, merit takes second place, behind diversity. And, lack of real achievement is compensated by the appearance of achievement… that is, by celebrity.

To be fair, Barack Obama did not claim to be the most qualified candidate. Being the first African-American candidate, he offered America a chance to cleanse its soul of its racist past. His supporters suggested that he would save the nation’s soul.  He compensated for his thin resume by having celebrity status. He had charm and charisma. Hung out with celebrities. He was idolized by them.

Obama did not run because he had achieved very much or because he was a great success. And yet, he expected to receive as much respect as anyone else who had ever occupied the Oval Office. Those who refused to respect him were labelled as racists.

In truth, he received the respect due to someone who presented an embarrassingly weak resume. Having precious few qualifications for office, he seemed to have been promoted for reasons that had to do with his race, his celebrity and his charisma. Being elected does not make you qualified or competent.

If Colin Powell had been the first African-American president, he would have received more respect that many of his white predecessors—because he worked his way up the ranks and would have brought his own greatness to the office.

Feeling that he was not sufficiently respected, Obama went to war over minds and ideas. His supporters joined the fight. He did not know enough to conduct foreign policy or to fight wars. He knew how to fight racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and transphobia. If people did not respect him, he would make them do so.

Obama turned the marketplace of ideas into a battlefield. He supported social justice warriors and racial grievance hustlers. He and his allies in the academy attacked those who dared to think the wrong thoughts or to use the wrong pronouns.

The result: America became less and less a meritocracy. You are no longer a meritocracy when colleges, in particular, select students in order to fulfill diversity quotas. And when they blame the underachievement of some students on other students.

If different people have been admitted to a college (or a workplace) with different qualifications, they will not do as well. In the current climate people who excel are denounced and guilt tripped for their white privilege… even if, as increasingly happens, they are Asian.

We see the price of diversity on today’s college campuses. Students who are accepted with lower grades and test scores feel that they do not belong and cannot compete. To assuage their anguish they insist that other students should not be allowed to intimate that they are not as good.

When diversity replaces merit, no one can be judged on real world terms. But then, when people are not judged by their achievements, they will be judged by appearing to have achieved and by appearing to be qualified. In short, they are judged by their celebrity, by appearing to succeed. In a fictional world, celebrities rule. Hard work matters less than exposure. Decorum is less important than shamelessness.

In a world defined by celebrity, greatness is a state of mind. It does not involve success or failure; it does not involve achievement or accomplishment. Since life is a grand drama, you do not need to work to achieve. You need only to look the part.

Ironically, a builder like Donald Trump has become prominent, not so much for his buildings as for his media presence. If Trump loses the reason will be that he did not want to do the work necessary to prepare for his campaign or his debates. He decided that he could go with his gut.

This year, both Republican and Democratic political parties seem to have conspired to make Barack Obama look presidential. No wonder two thirds of Americans think the country is moving in the wrong direction.    

The Witches Ride Tonight

One regrets not having been mentioned in Stacy Schiff’s riff about the men who have been saying that Hillary Clinton is a witch. After all, I have occasionally opined on the topic.

One also regrets that Schiff narrowcasts her definition of witchcraft by limiting herself to the Salem witch trials, thus, to the seventeenth century American version of the witch hunt.

Before we get to the meat of the matter of witchcraft, we note, with Schiff, that on occasion men have been accused of practicing the dark arts of witchcraft. And have been tracked down by witch hunters.

Yesterday, a professor at NYU was hunted down for his politically incorrect thoughts and suspended from his job because he was being uncivil. You can’t make this stuff up.

The New York Post reported:

An NYU professor crusading against political correctness and student coddling was booted from the classroom last week after his colleagues complained about his “incivility,” The Post has learned.

Liberal studies prof Michael Rectenwald, 57, said he was forced Wednesday to go on paid leave for the rest of the semester.

“They are actually pushing me out the door for having a different perspective,” the academic told The Post.

Rectenwald launched an undercover Twitter account called Deplorable NYU Prof on Sept. 12 to argue against campus trends like “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings” and other aspects of academia’s growing PC culture.

He chose to be anonymous, he explained in one of his first tweets, because he was afraid “the PC Gestapo would ruin me” if he put his name ­behind his conservative ideas on the famously liberal campus.

The story continues:

Two weeks ago he posted on his “anti-PC” feed a photo of a flyer put out by NYU resident advisers telling students how to avoid wearing potentially offensive Halloween costumes.

“The scariest thing about Halloween today is ... the liberal totalitarian costume surveillance,” he wrote.

“It’s an alarming curtailment of free expression to the point where you can’t even pretend to be something without authorities coming down on you in the universities,” Rectenwald told The Post.

But the Twitter feed soon sparked a “witch hunt” by the growing army of “social justice warriors,” he said. 

Considering that today is Halloween, it seem appropriate to offer an appalling example of the way professors and others are harassed, persecuted and deprived of their jobs because they have entertained incorrect thoughts. The term “witch hunt” seems perfectly appropriate.

I have often mentioned, but will mention again, that these horrors will continue until the alumni of these institution stop donating to schools like NYU. It has happened at the U. of Missouri. It can happen at NYU.

In the meantime, the real witch hunts began in Europe well before the Pilgrims touched down on Plymouth Rock. In the later years of the fifteenth century a couple of Dominican friars wrote the definitive inquisitor’s manual for identifying witches. It was called the Malleus Maleficarum or the Hammer of Evil. It counts as the first guide to sex therapy!

As I have had occasion to mention, and as Schiff does not seem to know, witches were often identified by the deleterious effect they had on male sexual function. When a man could not perform what the authors politely call the generative act or when his genitalia had completely disappeared, the inquisitors were told that such facts constituted evidence of witchcraft.

Certain voices have claimed that Hillary Clinton’s witchcraft will ruin the planet or will cause unspeakable horrors to descend on our blessed land. We can be more precise in our surmise by noting that Hillary and her BFF Huma Abedin have managed to contract marriages with men whose sexual function seems to be somewhat impaired. Keep in mind that Bill Clinton did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

Is Huma a witch also? Do she and Hillary concoct potions together? In any event, while Bill Clinton is usually thought of a common adulterer, he has also been accused of sexual crimes and misdemeanors. If he were a Republican he would long since have been drawn and quartered.

You know about Bill Clinton’s predations already, so I will not list them. Of course, Huma’s husband, Anthony Weiner, the one who turned his laptop over to the FBI and gave permission to search it, has developed his own special sexual habits, which now apparently involve sexting underage girls. Hmmm.

If a good inquisitor will find evidence of witchcraft in male sexual dysfunction, then one is within one’s rights to point out that the evidence points to Hillary and Huma.

One understands that the Puritans were considerably more prudish in their assessments, but we, having a more capacious understanding than Stacy Schiff, feel obliged to point out that witchcraft, in todays iconography, involves women who have a distinctly negative influence on male sexual function. Whether it was the cackle or the supposed ugliness, witches have for the most part been portrayed as less than attractive. Better yet, as decidedly unattractive.

Whereas women have often been said to have drooled over the prospect of servicing Bill Clinton, how many men will admit publicly to have fantasized about Hillary Clinton or Huma Abedin?

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Megyn Kelly Factor

The war on Fox News continues apace. Most recently, the executive editor of the New York Times, Dean Baquet, declared that Fox News (and CNN) were “bad for democracy.”

Since the Times has announced, via reporter Jim Rutenberg, that the threat of a Trump presidency was so dire that it could not promise to report on the presidential campaign objectively, Baquet’s statement was frankly absurd.

If the Times wants the media to be good for democracy, it should set a better example by cleaning its own house and building a wall… between news reports and opinion.

The mainstream media hates Fox News for two reasons. First, it has broken the ideological monopoly that had pertained in the media. Second, it is making a massive profit.

Mainstream media outlets do not want you to be exposed to differences of opinion. They want you to believe that there is a right way to think and a wrong way to think. Fox News broke that monopoly. And since the media, in general, has an aleatory relationship to facts, Fox News can threaten other media by simply reporting the facts.

If you follow the money, Fox News earns a profit that approaches the market capitalization of the New York Times Corp. If you do not think that that rankles, you are out of touch with human psychology.

Recently, the war on Fox News has heated up. When Gretchen Carlson denounced Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, the founding father and residing genie of the organization was force to resign. Carlson was not exactly a ratings bonanza for the network, but she is a heroine to the mainstream media. She recently made the cover of Time Magazine.

Standing up to the patriarchy makes good press. Feminist cheer it. Unfortunately, it also promotes workplace hostility between men and women. Since Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have brought the issue into the political sphere, everyone has now become especially aware of sexual harassment. One consequence is that a man can risk his career by saying the wrong thing to a woman. This will likely cause him to think twice about hiring a woman or collaborating with a woman.

Be that as it may, Carlson had bad ratings and her post-Fox career prospects do not appear to be especially good. The same cannot be said for Megyn Kelly, the golden girl of Fox News, a genuine star who has recently been involved in complex and rather public negotiations over her new contract.

Kelly has had hugely favorable press, from places like the New York Times Magazine and from Vanity Fair. She became a major story during the presidential debates when she questioned Donald Trump’s vulgar remarks about women.

Trump thought she was unfair and counterattacked. When reports of Trump’s bad behavior toward women began to surface, they became credible because of his own remarks and his behavior toward Megyn Kelly.

Recent reports have emphasized that Kelly’s contract negotiations are private, but she or people who work for her have been leaking information about them for months. She has been saying quite openly that she wants to spend more time with her children. The tabloids have been saying that she has other offers and that she wants to be paid as much as Bill O’Reilly is, at something like $20,000,000. News Corp, the owner of Fox News, said that money is not the issue.

 Of course, given the mania about leaning in, certain feminist sources are saying that Kelly is just asking for what she deserves. Quartz says that she is negotiating for “equal pay.” Considering that she is sui generis, and that her pay is tied to her ratings and the ad revenue her show produces, the notion that she is fighting for the feminist cause and that she is being systematically underpaid makes no sense. Two talk show hosts do not and cannot do equal work. 

It appears that Kelly is following in the footsteps of former New York Times executive editor, Jill Abramson, who leaned in and asked for a raise that would make her salary commensurate with what her male predecessor earned. She was fired on the spot. Score one for Sheryl Sandberg.

While we do not know what happened when Fox celebrity Greta van Susteren tried to renegotiate her contract, we do know that, from one day to the next, she was off the air, her show was over and her career was probably over too. One suspects that she too leaned in and got fired. Score another one for Sheryl Sandberg.

Apparently, Fox is avid to resign Kelly. News reports of this “private” negotiation have said that James and Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert’s sons and heirs apparent, have been personally involved. One assumes that this is a test for them. They have apparently been assiduously courting Kelly and are willing to offer great things to keep her.

One does not know how good the boys are at negotiating, but they do not appear to be especially deft at it.

One might say that with Bill O’Reilly getting old and with Fox not having a great bench, Kelly is the future of Fox News. Certainly, the fawning publicity that she receives helps to increase the stature and the prestige of the network, to make it more of a mainstream news channel.

At the same time, Kelly’s ratings are consistently lower than O’Reilly’s, so the pay disparity does not feel completely prejudicial. But, Kelly seems to attract more young viewers than O’Reilly and this is surely important to a network most of whose viewers are what the British call “pensioners.” The same, of course, is true of other cable news operations, and it is certainly a cause for concern.

Yet, Kelly’s hand is not as strong as she seems to think. When she had a prime time special on the Fox network it did not do well. She shot to political prominence during the first Republican presidential debate but she caved in to pressure and marched over to Trump’s office in order to interview him for her special.

The interview was flat and uninteresting. Kelly looked like she had allowed herself to be bullied. Right now Kelly is pretending to be very tough, and much of the time when she questions guests from the left or the right ahw is decidedly tough… and fair. Yet, her inability to stand up to Donald Trump showed that she is not as tough as she looks.

Kelly and Fox News have an undeniable synergy and it is not obvious that she would succeed as a morning or afternoon talk show host. Perhaps as another Judge Judy, but Kelly is not going to be a new Oprah or even a Barbara Walters.

Besides, Fox News made Kelly a star. As she flirts with other networks and leans in during her contract negotiations she risks looking disloyal. Giving even the appearance of being ungrateful and disloyal is not good for ratings. Ask Colin Kaepernick and the NFL, whose ratings are suffering because of a refusal on the part of overpaid athletes to express their allegiance to a nation that has been more than good to them.

Anyway, Kelly might have overplayed her hand. After all, Rupert Murdoch still controls Fox News and we have learned that he is not happy about Kelly’s newfound assertiveness. One suspects that he is not happy with the way his sons have been handling the negotiations, either.

Last week Murdoch fired a shot across her bow and suggested that Fox had lots of people who would be happy to fill her spot in prime time. Murdoch was asserting that he was the boss and that no single individual was more important than the company. He would not allow a single individual to threaten his face. Back when Jill Abramson got herself fired from the Times, I said the same thing.

The Murdoch pronouncement was significant for righting the order of things. One notes that even The Daily Mail misunderstood what was going on. It also managed to get the title of her show wrong:

Megyn Kelly reportedly got quite the shock earlier this week when she read an interview Rupert Murdoch gave about her private contract negotiations just before she was set to tape her live news program, The Kelly Report. 

Murdoch made the decision to make the negotiations very public by granting an interview to one of the newspapers his company News Corp. owns, The Wall Street Journal.

Variety spoke with a a person familiar with Kelly’s thinking who said that the host was 'bemused' by Murdoch's actions but not so upset that she would consider leaving Fox News because of his questionable negotiating strategy.  

In the interview, Murdoch said that keeping Kelly is a priority, but that he has other hosts who could take over the program should she try and go to a rival network.  

'[W]e have a deep bench of talent, many of whom would give their right arm for that spot,' said Murdoch.  

 As I have said, Kelly and her agents have been floating the idea that she would leave Fox for months now. To say that Murdoch was responsible for making the negotiations public is to misread the situation.

Murdoch added that whether or not she stays with the network is “up to her.”

That means that there are limits beyond which he will not go. Appearing not to be in charge of his company, appearing to be pushed around by a network celebrity is not acceptable. Murdoch did not want it to look as though Kelly was running the company. Any more than Pinch Sulzberger wanted it to look as though Jill Abramson was running the New York Times.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Clinton Campaign Is Cold Cocked

A special reward for front page of the year goes to The New York Post. Whoever thought up “Dickileaks” deserves a promotion and a raise.

This morning the political world is trying to recover from what seems to be a cataclysmic event. The FBI has reopened the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

Ever since Director James Comey chose not to recommend an indictment, we have been seeing a drip, drip, drip from Wikileaks. But, yesterday Comey decided that he was not going to sacrifice his reputation for Hillary Clinton.

Comey addressed his letter to both Republicans and Democrats. The Clinton campaign came out to lie about even that. Beginning with her Hillaryness herself they said that it was only sent to Republicans. They are spinning as fast as they can.

Why did he do it? Perhaps it had something to do with the following revelation, one that made it appear that the lead investigator of the original FBI investigation had been corrupted by money.

This week we learned that Virginia GovernorTerry McAuliffe steered more than $675,000 to the political campaign of the wife of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who oversaw the Clinton investigation in the FBI’s Washington D.C. field office. Mr. McAuliffe is a longtime Clinton friend who is under FBI investigation himself over campaign finances.

Today, the story is all over the press. It is on the front page of the New York Times. Chris Matthews spent an hour on it last night. Every news report has been leading with it.

Apparently, the effort to protect Hillary, and, in their minds to protect the nation from Donald Trump, had reached a tipping point. The media seems to have decided not to go the way of Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton.

Note the analysis by journalist Carl Bernstein, hardly a shill for the radical right:

Well, there's no question that the e-mails have always been the greatest threat to her candidacy for president, that her conduct in regard to the e-mails is really indefensible and if there was going to be more information that came out, it was the one thing, as I said on the air last night, actually that could really perhaps affect this election. 

We don't know what this means yet except that it's a real bombshell. And it is unthinkable that the Director of the FBI would take this action lightly, that he would put this letter forth to the Congress of the United States saying there is more information out there about classified e-mails and call it to the attention of congress unless it was something requiring serious investigation. So that's where we are...

Is it a certainty that we won't learn before the election? I'm not sure it's a certainty we won't learn before the election. 

One thing is, it's possible that Hillary Clinton might want to on her own initiative talk to the FBI and find out what she can, and if she chooses to let the American people know what she thinks or knows is going on. People need to hear from her...

I think if she has information available to her from the FBI or any other source as to her knowledge of what these e-mails might be, hopefully she will let us know what they are and what is under discussion here. 

Right now we're all talking in a vacuum but I want to add here that in the last, oh, 36, 48 hours, there has been an undercurrent of kind of speculative discussion among some national security people that something might surface in the next few days about e-mails, and I think the expectation in this chatter -- and I took it as just chatter but informed chatter, to some extent -- was that it would relate to another round of WikiLeaks e-mails, which our Justice Department people seem to be saying is not the case, but there has been some noise in the national security community the last day or two of this kind of possibility of some kind of revelation. 

If Bernstein is correct—and his sources are significantly better than mine—then there is a there there. And Hillary is in trouble. She is in such serious trouble that only one person can save her now…. I will leave it to you to guess who.

Her campaign was on a glide path to victory and she was, dare we say it, cold cocked. It has been damaged by Hillary’s inability to deal with men. Or better, with her failure to choose better men, for herself or for her BFF.

Hillary and Huma have an exceptionally close relationship. When they travel on the campaign plane they share a cabin from which everyone else is excluded. When they stay at a hotel they share a suite. The Washington Post recently said that they were celebrating their twenty year “anniversary.” It does not take too much imagination to figure it all out.

Make of it what you wish, but it seems obvious and self-evident that these women have contracted marriages for the sake of appearances. Theirs have been marriages of convenience, political arrangements.

Surely, the marriage of Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner was engineered by both Clintons in order to protect the Hillary/Huma relationship. In exchange Weiner would have received Clinton support for his own political ambitions. One notes also that Abedin’s family belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood and suspicions about a Hillary/Huma relationship would have been, by the rules pertaining in that organization, a capital offense.

So, Bill Maher suggested, in so many words, that Hillary had been cold cocked:

Anthony Weiner is under investigation for sexting with a underage girl across state lines, so the FBI seized all his computers. He is married—or was married—to Huma Abedin, who is Hillary Clinton’s aide, and they were using the same computer. Which begs my first question: Why is Huma using Anthony’s computer? If there’s one thing she didn’t want to go near, it would be his computer. So… Hillary’s emails are intermingled with Anthony Weiner’s sexting? No wonder she had her server wiped! I’d have had it boiled.

And he continued to make a salient point:

So once again, Hillary’s political fortunes are driven by out of control cocks. Right? This poor woman. I mean, first it was her husband’s, then it was Donald Trump’s, and now it’s Anthony Weiner’s. Or what she calls it: My basket of deplorable horndogs.

Poor little rich woman would be more accurate. Besides, does anyone really think that it’s an accident that Hillary Clinton attracts men who have unsavory and even criminal sexual proclivities?

One notes, in passing, because Maher did, and for what it’s worth, that Donald Trump, in a previous life, was a great friend and supporter of Hillary Clinton.

Be that as it may, it takes a certain kind of man to enter into the kinds of marital arrangements that Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner contracted. However much these men consented to sell their honor for political power, they must also have been concerned with how it would look to the outside world.

Let’s say that Weiner was Huma’s beard, not an implausible supposition, might he not want to show the world that he was perfectly virile? Like his mentor Bill, the question was not just about getting a little on the side, or even of having a mistress. Both men needed to show the world that their arrangements did not affect their virility and potency. Thus, they needed to advertise and saw an advantage in being caught.

How does it happen that men who get too close to Hillary’s orbit tend to engage in bad sexual behavior? Does her influence cause them to sacrifice their dignity and their self-respect? And to overcome their sense of shame.

Perhaps, FBI Director Comey, a man who previously had had a spotless reputation, did not want to continue to sacrifice his good name for the greater good (or bad) of Hillary? Perhaps we saw in his case, in a situation that happily had nothing to do with sex, how a good man can become corrupted, or can appear to have been corrupted by the Clintons. And, Comey decided that he could not tolerate seeing his reputation and his life’s work compromised by Hillary.

Take note of the fact that Hillary, as opposed to a Margaret Thatcher, is mostly surrounded by women. True enough, there are a couple of men on her team, but her team is mostly made up of women. Thatcher, in contrast, always surrounded herself with men.

Perhaps this suggests that no men are sufficiently competent to be part of the Hillary team. Or else, that the presence of men makes the Hillary team uncomfortable. Or else, that no man with any sense of manly honor would ever want to get close to a group of women that resembles a coven.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Nation Demoralized, Disappointed and Disunited

Can you really draw any conclusions from a focus group of a dozen people? The focus group in question, run by Democratic pollster Peter Hart in North Carolina, consisted of three Democrats, three Independents and six Republicans. They were all classed as late-deciders. So, let’s say it skews to the right, but not to the hard right.

Anyway, Peggy Noonan was fascinated by some of the group’s answers to Hart’s questions. Allow her to describe them:

What struck me about the group wasn’t its new insights, which were few. What was powerful was its averageness, its confirmation of what you’ve already observed. The members weren’t sad, precisely, but they were unillusioned. They were seeing things with clean eyes and they were disappointed. They wanted a candidate they could trust and believe in.

Which when you think about it shouldn’t be too much to ask.

Raise your hand, said Mr. Hart, if you like both candidates. No one did. Raise your hand if you like one candidate. No one did. Raise if you don’t like either. All 12 did.

Fair enough, these are undecided voters. They find both candidates disappointing. They feel that the political parties have let them down. Then again, who doesn’t?

What did they say about the candidates?

Donald Trump’s behavior in 2016 reminds you of what? asked Mr. Hart. The answers: “schoolboy,” “brat,” “child tantrum,” “rich kid” and “bully middle-schooler.” Hillary Clinton’s? “Robotic,” “liar,” “privileged,” “cool operator” and, if I heard right, “satellite dish.”

But, you have probably guessed that I am not introducing the Noonan column in order to say some more unflattering things about our presidential  candidates, neither of whom is remotely presidential.

Not at all. Noonan has a larger point, a point that I have been making myself. That is: most of these people are fed up with the cult of American individuality and are bemoaning our divided nation, our shredded social fabric. They are seeking social harmony and are finding nothing but self-creating individuals, people who are largely out for themselves, no matter the cost for others.

To be Biblical, they are suffering because they are living in a divided house. To be more pedestrian, they do not, because they are not allowed, recognize that they are suffering anomie because they live in Barack Obama’s America. President Obama has worked as long and hard to divide the nation, by race, by class, by ethnic group? He has apologized for the nation at every opportunity and has routinely trashed American exceptionalism. Better yet, he was front and center when it came to mistaking Colin Kaepernick’s disloyalty for dissent.

In Noonan’s words:

When asked to describe the America they want, they wrote things like “a solid education system,” “no longer at war,” “people have joy in their work,” “leading the world in everything, including morals,” “equal opportunity and reward based on work,” “people haven’t lost their homes” and “a culture that improves us as a people.”

They want to end foreign wars. True enough. They also want to restore America’s place as a world leader. You will recall that President Obama squandered that, on purpose. They want rewards to be based on work. Which means that they are tired of diversity quotas and affirmative action programs. They must be especially tired of not being able to criticize the president because he is African-American or to criticize Hillary because she is a woman.

Noonan continues:

Many of their hopes were communal, societal, not individual. A great instructive lesson for conservatives this year is that Margaret Thatcher’s individualist vision, expressed with the words “There’s no such thing as society,” has given way, or rather shifted weight. The individual is key and crucial, but everyone is worried about our society and culture now; they see the nation as a shared entity with shared problem.

To be fair to Margaret Thatcher, she was effectively arguing against big government solutions to everyone’s problems. As you know, some people believed that, for every problem we need a government program.

Here is her larger quotation, from 1987:

I think we've been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it's the government's job to cope with it. 'I have a problem, I'll get a grant.' 'I'm homeless, the government must house me.' They're casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There's no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.

Now that we have saved Lady Thatcher from a remark that can be easily misinterpreted, we will return to Noonan’s point. She sees people who want merely to belong to their society, not just to their tribe or faction or special interest group. They want to be united not divided, to work with others, not to feel that they are in it on their own.

So, enough with the individualism. Enough with the lone ranger mentality, the person charged merely with the task of self-actualizing. As I said yesterday, one presidential candidate embodies a cult to individual self-actualization. The other acts as though she is in it for herself.

Noonan concludes that the focus group members are good people. We all concur. They do not have lofty aspirations about saving the planet or about going to the barricades to fight for social justice. They just want to live normal, peaceful lives. They want to live in harmony with every other American. They want to allow their children to go out and play without having to supervise their every movement. They want to be able to say a prayer in public schools, to base their moral values on something other than the survival of the strongest or on the will to power.

And they do not want to spend their evenings explaining the sexual antics of presidents and presidential candidates to their children.

In Noonan’s words:

Mr. Hart asked about how they see the 2016 campaign in historical terms. A man who appeared to be in his 30s said it was “like a soldier going to Vietnam,” by which he meant “no good outcome” and “no choice.” Twenty sixteen reminded another of the Monica Lewinsky scandal—low, embarrassing and leaving you “hurt for our country.” Another respondent remembered a talk from those days with a precocious 2½-year-old relative. She looked up at him one day and asked, “Uncle John, what’s a blow job?” He wanted to punch Bill Clinton in the face. Later a respondent, being asked what has happened to America, said: “Moral failure from the top starts to trickle down.”

The only thing missing from these reflections is the name of the person who is responsible for America’s moral failure. That would be our current president. But, all things considered, you are not allowed to say it, in public, at least.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pity the Poor Therapists

How about a little sympathy for the therapists? Can’t you summon up a little empathy and even compassion for people who have been listening to patients express extreme anguish over the election?

After all, their advanced education did not have a course on how to heal Trumpophobia. And now all of their patients are suffering from it. What to do? What to do?

Somehow or other their standard fallback question-- How does that make you feel?-- seems even more vapid than usual when their patients are drowning in a sea of negative emotion.

Are you telling me that you do not feel their pain? How could you be so insensitive?

I have said it before, but why not repeat it here. Many therapists are feeling overwhelmed because their patients are, for once, getting out of their minds and into reality. We can’t have that.

All of a sudden, therapy patients want to talk about real world situations, about political realities, about the election campaign, about the Donald and the Hillary. And, when all is said and done, how many therapists know enough to have an intelligent conversation about anything other than how it makes them feel.

Truth be told, and I hope that all therapists learned this somewhere along the line, one of the best antidotes to anxiety is information. That would be, cold hard facts. Arguing about opinions and even feelings in the absence of facts throws you into a morass—one you will have serious trouble getting out of.

But, that would mean that therapists will have to do some serious work. They will have to read and study the election. They will have to spend some of their precious time with Nate Silver and Nate Cohen, with the Wall Street Journal and The Economist. Being opinionated will no longer cut it. They will need to turn their attention to the real world.

Think of the indignity!

Too many therapists too often ignore the real world that their patients live in. When they try to plumb their patients’ feelings they are telling them to withdraw from the real world, the world of markets and complex political negotiation.

Therapists seem to unable to help their patients navigate between Scylla and Charybdis, to organize and plan their lives, to develop the skills needed to succeed in business or a profession. They think that it’s all about feeling and that if your mind finds its happy place you will naturally know how to negotiate a contract or even to play golf.

Lest we forget, more sophisticated therapists tend to wallow in outdated Marxist claptrap. They have a grand vision of human history and they analyze everything that goes on it terms of said vision. Whether they got it from Marx or Hegel or even the great Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger, they are happily detached from the real world and from any facts that do not confirm their bias.

Anyone who tries to deal with real world problems using that template will quickly be struck dumb.

And then there is the relationship damage. Many people have recently discovered that their opinionated selves are living with other opinionated people and that they are having serious relationship conflicts over the election. If you are seriously uninformed you are going to be opinionated. If you are opinionated you will find facts to be threatening.  Any fact that appears to contradict your beliefs will destabilize your mental and emotional equilibrium.

Truth be told, this happens when people hold to certain dogmas—those of the Church of the Liberal Pieties—because they want to belong to a group. Anything that threatens their group membership threatens their social being. And we cannot have that.

They end up not knowing how to compromise or to negotiate. In that they resemble our current president—you know, the one who decided that Republicans were an enemy with whom there was no need to compromise. And, the one who quakes in boots at the notion of fighting a war against the great unnamed foe, Islamist terrorism, but who happily declares culture war on Islamophobia and the other deadly sins recognized by the Church of the Liberal Pieties.

Negotiation is a skill. It needs to be developed. It might need to be taught. It is not your birthright. If you, like our current president, do not know how to negotiate you will create ungodly messes in your life. If you cannot negotiate everything will become conflict and drama.

I am fairly certain that if you go to the average therapist the last thing you are going to learn is how to negotiate. You will certainly not learn how to respect differences of opinion. You will probably even learn that people who think differently are sick... and sorely in need of therapy.

You will learn how to self-actualize at a level you never imagined possible. You might even find yourself achieving supernormality, becoming sui generis, one of a kind, someone who is so unique in your individuality that you are not like anyone and that no one is like you.

This will make you asocial and dysfunctional, but you can always try to capitalize on it by becoming a celebrity.

You will not learn to split differences, to respect differences of opinion or to negotiate. In that, amusingly enough, you will be a step behind Michael Moore. You know Michael Moore, the populist radical leftist demagogue who stood up for the displaced American working class, by making popular movies. Do you know that Michael Moore has just come out with a film about Donald Trump?

In it Moore returns to Michigan and faces an audience of Trump supporters. The people Moore was defending against capitalism and imperialism and class oppression have found their hero in Donald Trump.

While drooling over the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency, Moore makes clear that he understands where Trump supporters are coming from. He gets their grievance. He does not feel contempt for them and does not look down at them.

Frankly, if you are going to negotiate differences of opinion you cannot begin by treating those who oppose you as bigots or as yahoos. You cannot dismiss other people with contempt if you want to find a middle ground.

Therapists, dare I say, do not really know how to do it. You will find it hard to believe but I suspect that they do not even feel any empathy for Trump supporters. They cannot find common ground because they are foot soldiers in the war against Trump, but most especially the war against political incorrectness.

Sorry to say—and consider yourself trigger warned—but there is another hidden and repressed reason why therapists are so discombobulated about Trump.

Therapists have been at war against shame. They think that shame is bad. If it feels bad it must be bad. They keep telling people not to feel ashamed of their bodies or their actions.

Since the time of Freud they have wanted you to overcome your sense of shame, your sense of propriety, your sense of decorum. Down with decency! They do not want you to shame others for their bodies or their behavior. They want you to ignore what everyone else thinks about you or how anyone sees you. They want you to be yourself, openly, honestly and shamelessly.

One understands that therapists rarely indulge in anything that resembles coherent thought, but is it not obvious that Donald Trump embodies what they have been encouraging their patients to become—perfectly individuated, unconcerned about what others think about him, open and honest in expressing his sexuality. Trump engages in the most vulgar comments about women and feels no shame about it at all. He never apologizes!

Of course, it’s not all good news. Trump has also bragged about sexual assault. His treatment of women seems more to be about what he can get away with than about propriety and decorum. Here is the crux: we know, because Confucius told is, that if you break down the sense of shame and decorum, if we no longer want gentlemen and ladies to follow the rules of courtship, then the only way to control bad behavior is to prohibit it and to punish those who transgress.

It describes where we are at now. Trump is a product of his times. Not only in the sense that he speaks crudely and acts even more crudely and rudely. But that he keeps saying that it’s about what he can or cannot get away. When culture warriors banned courtship and dating, they did not think about the consequences. Maybe they should.

People who have been touting the gospel of shamelessness should be thrilled with Donald Trump. Now, if only he had a tad more empathy. But, I suspect that there’s a pill for that.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ban-the-Box Laws

I don’t think that “ban the box” is the most felicitous expression, but laws that do not allow employers to ask whether an prospective employee has a criminal record have been thusly dubbed. More precisely, they forbid employers from putting a“box” on the application form asking for such information.

Apparently, the impetus behind this regulation was that minority applicants were more likely to have criminal records and thus to suffer discrimination. Because whether or not you have a criminal record is apparently not relevant to your ability to perform on the job.

In the midst of the great policy debate about these laws no one seems to have recommended that the best solution to the problem would be not to commit crimes in the first place. Would this not be better than to institute a rule that relieves you of the social consequences of your actions? Would it not be better to warn people of the extra cost associated with a criminal record?

In addition to doing time people who commit crimes suffer a social stigma. They becomes less desirable and less trustworthy potential employees. Rather than try to eliminate the stigma, why not make it clear that the government is not in the business of allowing you to cover up your bad behavior?

The “ban the box” rules were intended to open job opportunities for minority youth. In fact, they have closed doors to minority youth. If an employer cannot ask whether a candidate has a criminal record he is more likely to reject all applicants who belong to groups that have the highest crime rate. Why, he must ask himself, take the risk?

We are looking at yet another instance where good intentions and inadequate thought has produced a policy that works to the disadvantage of those it is trying to help.

Despite a low national unemployment rate, millions of Americans remain out of work, stuck in part-time jobs or sitting on the sidelines of the job market—including many with criminal records that turn off potential employers. Policies aimed at preventing firms from screening out ex-offenders can help those applicants get a foot in the door.

But new research suggests that ban-the-box laws—so-called because they eliminate a box on many job applications asking if applicants have a criminal record—are creating a wider racial gap when it comes to which applicants are interviewed and hired. In one study, employers appeared to screen out African-American candidates based on their names, and the callback gap with white applicants widened after ban-the-box laws took effect. Another study looked at Labor Department data and found fewer young, low-skilled Hispanic and black men were employed in U.S. regions that had adopted the policies.

Importantly, the Journal notes in passing that the great economic recovery we are now experiencing is very thin indeed. Workforce participation is low and many Americans are working at part-time jobs. Unfortunately, Obamacare plus minimum wage laws have made it too expensive to hire people full time.

The Journal story continues:

“Employers may tend, absent information to the contrary, to assume that black applicants have criminal records and white applicants do not,” said Sonja Starr, a University of Michigan School of Law professor who studied the introduction of ban-the-box laws in New York City and New Jersey.

Of course, employers are acting rationally. They understand that certain groups of people are far more likely to have committed crimes. They protect themselves and their businesses by filtering out all members of those groups.

Of course, the laws were constructed to allow convicted criminals a way back into the workforce. Surely, that is a worthy goal. Those who cannot hold down jobs will surely be more likely to return to crime.

It is worth noting that a vast number of fine American citizens has been arrested and has a record. We should ask why this is so and whether our failure to make clear that when you commit  a crime you damage the reputation of members of your family and your social group. Something like 30% of find law-abiding American citizens have their names on what is called the FBI’s “master criminal database:”

Tens of millions of Americans have been arrested at some point in their lives—nearly one in three U.S. adults is on file with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s master criminal database.

A criminal conviction, or even just an arrest record, can make it more difficult to later find work, heightening the risk of recidivism. Many employers are wary of hiring ex-offenders, and questions on job applications about criminal records help hiring managers identify such candidates.

Two dozen states and scores of cities and counties have adopted laws, almost all in the past decade, that bar employers from asking applicants about criminal backgrounds early in the hiring process. The idea is that hiring managers should judge job candidates on individual merit and consider any past criminal behavior in context.

It sounds good. And the problem is certainly real. And yet, we never judge anyone on his or her merit. It takes far too much time to get to know someone and to see him in action. If you are hiring new staff for your company you cannot reasonably judge each applicant as an individual. The same applies to your relationships in your private life.

We judge people according to stereotypes. We judge members of our own community, people who are familiar to us more positively than we judge strangers. And we know that, to the chagrin of many, reputation is not simply attached to individuals. Your good name is not just your good name. You share it with others. If you drag your good name through the mud, other people will suffer the consequences.

If we are seeing things within the context of what is called guilt culture we would like to judge people as individuals. After all, if you have committed a crime, you and only you do the time. And yet, your criminal deeds diminish your own reputation and also the reputation of those who people who are associated with you.

We would like to see everyone as an individual, but one primary deterrent to crime lies in the awareness that others will suffer reputational damage. So, if you eliminate the reputational cost, the effect that the crime will have on others, you have eliminated a good reason for not doing it in the first place.

The Journal concludes:

second working paper released this summer, by University of Virginia economist Jennifer Doleac and University of Oregon economist Benjamin Hansen, analyzed Labor Department data for U.S. cities, counties and states that had adopted ban-the-box policies. They found black and Hispanic men ages 25 to 34 and lacking college degrees were less likely to be employed after the laws took effect.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Save the Date: My Upcoming Seminar with Scott Von

I posted this information on Monday, but I am told that the poster is inaccessible. For those who could not see it, here is the information about my upcoming conversation with Scott Von about psychoanalysis, about my experience and some larger issues. Taken from the Analytica site:

The Late Lacan and Beyond (Schneiderman): What Is it Like to Work in Analysis with Lacan?

  • Friday, November 4, 2016
  • 7:00pm  9:00pm
  • NPAP40 West 13th Street New York, NY, 10011 
Join us for an intimate discussion with Stuart Schneiderman, the first American Lacanian analyst as he discusses his personal experience with Lacan and his school, and his subsequent years practicing in New York. Last year Stuart Schneiderman and Scott Von held a symposium in NY on “The Last Psychoanalyst” where they discussed the ends of analysis, Lacan’s late work, and his intentions for the future of analysis. This year Dr Schneiderman will be participating in the Analytica Seminar on “The Late Lacan,” where we trace the significance of Lacan’s late work and its dissemination especially in America. Stuart Schneiderman was the first American to work directly with Lacan and his school and has practiced in NY for the past forty years. After working with Jacques-Alain Miller’s group at the University of Paris and the early NY group that became Apres-Coup, Schneiderman became an independent analyst, increasingly disillusioned with the functioning of the psychoanalytic institutes and community. In this event he will speak of his personal experience with Lacan and the future of psychoanalysis.

To RSVP, click on this link:

The Science of Transgenderism

The report deserves attention. Doubtless, it will receive very little. Or better, it will only receive the most hostile attention, from those who would punish eminent scientists Lawrence Mayer and Paul McHugh for doing a close examination of the science of transgenderism.

Considering that the nation, as a whole, has bought into the notion that your gender is what you believe it is, not what your genitalia say it is and not what your chromosomes assert, this study will—in fact, it already has—elicit unbridled hostility and calls for punishing the bigots who produced it.

If so, science itself is bigoted. Or, if you prefer, God is a bigot.  In the great battle between science and ideology, we are now told that science must yield to ideology.

As it happens, the evidence does not support or sustain the politically correct dogma about the transgendered. Therefore, it must be ignored.

For the purposes of this blog, I will merely examine the summary conclusions of an extensive and well-researched report.

Beginning with this:

The hypothesis that gender identity is an innate, fixed property of human beings that is independent of biological sex — that a person might be “a man trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body” — is not supported by scientific evidence.

And this also leads to the correlate: you cannot identify transgender individuals by their brain structure:

Studies comparing the brain structures of transgender and non-transgender individuals have demonstrated weak correlations between brain structure and cross-gender identification. These correlations do not provide any evidence for a neurobiological basis for cross-gender identification.

The following point has been made before. Gender reassignment surgery does not solve the mental health issues. In many cases, it aggravates them:

Compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes. One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.

It has often been noted, here and elsewhere, that giving hormone treatments to a child to stop puberty is a form of child abuse. Given the very high percentage of children who change their minds about their gender, it is exemplary in its cruelty. One cannot express sufficient horror at the fact that our culture is telling us that such hormone treatments are a good thing to do.

The authors conclude:

Children are a special case when addressing transgender issues. Only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.

 There is little scientific evidence for the therapeutic value of interventions that delay puberty or modify the secondary sex characteristics of adolescents, although some children may have improved psychological well-being if they are encouraged and supported in their cross-gender identification. There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender.

The notion that children are actually encouraged to become transgendered boggles the mind. And yet, Mayer and McHugh do not represent mainstream mental health thinking. Their views, however sensible, are most often dismissed as pure bigotry.