Camille Paglia Speaks

The Weekly Standard is out this week with an interview with Camille Paglia, easily one of the most articulate writers from the Left on the scene today. She has been around for quite a while and I have enjoyed her pieces wherever I can find them. She pulls no punches and is a poster-child for rational analysis and thoughtful commentary.

Further, then, to the theme of the past few posts here at www.jvrusso.com I give you the entirety of Jonathon Last’s quick email-based interview with Miss Paglia (she objects to the term “Ms.”), which covers Trump, Islamic terror, and transgender issues, and once again, I claim no authorship. I put it up merely to preserve her words for my own amusement and future reference.

I am also putting it up on my blog because of the quotes she has taken from a recent Trump speech, in which he talks about the logjam of construction regulation. Cindy and I have witnessed first hand how the red tape and inefficiency contribute to the now-two-year old construction project on 2 miles of highway in Fort Collins. Two years to rebuild two miles! An unbelievable waste of time and energy.

As you read this, remember that Paglia is a registered Democrat and a liberal. Her words matter, and they certainly add value to the debate. Much like Peggy Noonan’s piece (posted yesterday and which speaks to the growing estrangement in our country), Paglia is essentially saying, “cool it.”


Camille Paglia is one America’s smartest and most fearless writers. Like Elvis, she’s the kind of superstar who really needs no introduction—though it is worth pointing out that Pantheon has just published a collection of her essays on sex, gender, and feminism, titled Free Women, Free Men. It’s fantastic and if you love her work, it’s must-reading. (And there’s another collection due out in the Fall of 2018, which is more good news.)

Last week I sat down with Paglia over email to talk about Donald Trump, Islamist terrorism, and the transgender crusade. Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Jonathon Last: Donald Trump has recently feuded with Jim Comey, Bob Mueller, Sadiq Kahn (mayor of London), Emmanuel Macron (President of France), Angela Merkel, NATO—we’ll stop the list there. You were one of a very small number of people who understood Trump’s populist appeal early on. Looking at his presidency so far, do think he’s continuing to deliver on that appeal? What is he doing right? What is he doing wrong?

Camille Paglia: Some background is necessary. First of all, I must make my political affiliations crystal clear. I am a registered Democrat who voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary and for Jill Stein in the general election. Since last Fall, I’ve had my eye on Kamala Harris, the new senator from California, and I hope to vote for her in the next presidential primary.

Like many others, I initially did not take Donald Trump’s candidacy seriously. I dismissed him as a “carnival barker” in my Salon column and assumed his entire political operation was a publicity stunt that he would soon tire of. However, Trump steadily gained momentum because of the startling incompetence and mediocrity of his GOP opponents. What seems forgotten is that everyone, including the Hillary Clinton campaign, thought that Marco Rubio would be the Republican nominee. The moment was ideal for a Latino candidate with national appeal who could challenge the Democratic hold on Florida.

Thus, Rubio’s primary-run flame-out was a spectacular embarrassment. Under TV’s unsparing camera eye, he looked like a shallow, dithery adolescent, utterly unprepared to be commander-in-chief in an era of terrorism. Trump’s frankly arrogant self-confidence spooked and crushed Rubio—it was a total fiasco. Ben Carson, meanwhile, with his professorial deep-think and spiritualistic eye-closing, often seemed to be beaming himself to another galaxy. With every debate, Ted Cruz, despite his avid national following, accumulated more and more detractors, repelled by his brittle self-dramatizations and lugubrious megalomania.

There were two genial, moderate Mid-Western governors who could have wrested the nomination from Trump and performed strongly versus Hillary in the general—Ohio’s John Kasich and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. But they blew it because of their personal limitations: On television, Kasich came across as a clumsy, lumbering blowhard while Walker shrank into a nervous, timid mouse with a frozen Pee-wee Herman smile.

The point here is that Donald Trump won the nomination fair and square against a host of serious, experienced opponents who simply failed to connect with a majority of GOP primary voters. However, there were too many unknowns about Trump, who had never held elective office and whose randy history in the shadowy demimonde of casinos and beauty pageants laid him open to a cascade of feverish accusations and innuendos from the ever-churning gnomes of the cash-propelled Clinton propaganda machine. In actuality, the sexism allegations about Trump were relatively few and minor, compared to the long list of lurid claims about the predatory Bill Clinton.

My position continues to be that Hillary, with her supercilious, Marie Antoinette-style entitlement, was a disastrously wrong candidate for 2016 and that she secured the nomination only through overt chicanery by the Democratic National Committee, assisted by a corrupt national media who, for over a year, imposed a virtual blackout on potential primary rivals. Bernie Sanders had the populist passion, economic message, government record, and personal warmth to counter Trump. It was Sanders, for example, who addressed the crisis of crippling student debt, an issue that other candidates (including Hillary) then took up. Despite his history of embarrassing gaffes, the affable, plain-spoken Joe Biden, in my view, could also have defeated Trump, but he was blocked from running at literally the last moment by President Barack Obama, for reasons that the major media refused to explore.

After Trump’s victory (for which there were abundant signs in the preceding months), both the Democratic party and the big-city media urgently needed to do a scathingly honest self-analysis, because the election results plainly demonstrated that Trump was speaking to vital concerns (jobs, immigration, and terrorism among them) for which the Democrats had few concrete solutions. Indeed, throughout the campaign, too many leading Democratic politicians were preoccupied with domestic issues and acted strangely uninterested in international affairs. Among the electorate, the most fervid Hillary acolytes (especially young and middle-aged women and assorted show biz celebs) seemed obtusely indifferent to her tepid performance as Secretary of State, during which she doggedly piled up air miles while accomplishing virtually nothing except the destabilization of North Africa.

Had Hillary won, everyone would have expected disappointed Trump voters to show a modicum of respect for the electoral results as well as for the historic ceremony of the inauguration, during which former combatants momentarily unite to pay homage to the peaceful transition of power in our democracy. But that was not the reaction of a vast cadre of Democrats shocked by Trump’s win. In an abject failure of leadership that may be one of the most disgraceful episodes in the history of the modern Democratic party, Chuck Schumer, who had risen to become the Senate Democratic leader after the retirement of Harry Reid, asserted absolutely no moral authority as the party spun out of control in a nationwide orgy of rage and spite. Nor were there statesmanlike words of caution and restraint from two seasoned politicians whom I have admired for decades and believe should have run for president long ago—Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi.

How do Democrats imagine they can ever expand their electoral support if they go on and on in this self-destructive way, impugning half the nation as vile racists and homophobes?

All of which brings us to the issue of Trump’s performance to date. The initial conundrum was: could he shift from being the slashing, caustic ex-reality show star of the campaign to a more measured, presidential persona? Perhaps to the dismay of his diehard critics, Trump did indeed make that transition at the Capitol on inauguration morning, when he appeared grave and focused, palpably conveying a sense of the awesome burdens of the highest office. As for his particular actions as president, I am no fan of executive orders, which usurp congressional prerogatives and which I was already denouncing when Obama was constantly signing them (with very little protest, one might add, from the mainstream media).

Trump’s “travel ban” executive order in late January was obviously bungled—issued way too fast and with woefully insufficient research (pertaining, for example, to green-card holders, who should have been exempted from the start). The administration bears full responsibility for fanning the flames of an already aroused “Resistance.”

However, I fail to see the “chaos” in the White House that the mainstream media (as well as the conservative Never Trump crowd) keep harping on—or rather, I see no more chaos than was abundantly present during the first six months of both the Clinton and Obama administrations. Trump seems to be methodically trying to fulfill his campaign promises, notably regarding the economy and deregulation—the approaches to which will always be contested in our two-party system. His progress has thus far been in stops and starts, partly because of the passivity, and sometimes petulance, of the mundane GOP leadership.

There seems to be a huge conceptual gap between Trump and his most implacable critics on the left. Many highly educated, upper-middle-class Democrats regard themselves as exemplars of “compassion” (which they have elevated into a supreme political principle) and yet they routinely assail Trump voters as ignorant, callous hate-mongers. These elite Democrats occupy an amorphous meta-realm of subjective emotion, theoretical abstractions, and refined language. But Trump is by trade a builder who deals in the tangible, obdurate, objective world of physical materials, geometry, and construction projects, where communication often reverts to the brusque, coarse, high-impact level of pre-modern working-class life, whose daily locus was the barnyard. It’s no accident that bourgeois Victorians of the industrial era tried to purge “barnyard language” out of English.

Last week, that conceptual gap was on prominent display, as the media, consumed with their preposterous Russian fantasies, were fixated on former FBI director James Comey’s maudlin testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. (Comey is an effete charlatan who should have been fired within 48 hours of either Hillary or Trump taking office.) Meanwhile, Trump was going about his business. The following morning, he made remarks at the Department of Transportation about “regulatory relief,” excerpts of which I happened to hear on my car radio that afternoon. His words about iron, aluminum, and steel seemed to cut like a knife through the airwaves. I later found the entire text on the White House website. Some key passages:

We are here today to focus on solving one of the biggest obstacles to creating this new and desperately needed infrastructure, and that is the painfully slow, costly, and time-consuming process of getting permits and approvals to build. And I also knew that from the private sector. It is a long, slow, unnecessarily burdensome process. My administration is committed to ending these terrible delays once and for all. The excruciating wait time for permitting has inflicted enormous financial pain to cities and states all throughout our nation and has blocked many important projects from ever getting off the ground…

For too long, America has poured trillions and trillions of dollars into rebuilding foreign countries while allowing our own country—the country that we love—and its infrastructure to fall into a state of total disrepair. We have structurally deficient bridges, clogged roads, crumbling dams and locks. Our rivers are in trouble. Our railways are aging. And chronic traffic that slows commerce and diminishes our citizens’ quality of life. Other than that, we’re doing very well. Instead of rebuilding our country, Washington has spent decades building a dense thicket of rules, regulations and red tape. It took only four years to build the Golden Gate Bridge and five years to build the Hoover Dam and less than one year to build the Empire State Building. People don’t believe that. It took less than one year. But today, it can take 10 years and far more than that just to get the approvals and permits needed to build a major infrastructure project.

These charts beside me are actually a simplified version of our highway permitting process. It includes 16 different approvals involving 10 different federal agencies being governed by 26 different statutes. As one example—and this happened just 30 minutes ago—I was sitting with a great group of people responsible for their state’s economic development and roadways. All of you are in the room now. And one gentleman from Maryland was talking about an 18-mile road. And he brought with him some of the approvals that they’ve gotten and paid for. They spent $29 million for an environmental report, weighing 70 pounds and costing $24,000 per page…

I was not elected to continue a failed system. I was elected to change it. All of us in government service were elected to solve the problems that have plagued our nation. We are here to think big, to act boldly, and to rise above the petty partisan squabbling of Washington D.C. We are here to take action. It’s time to start building in our country, with American workers and with American iron and aluminum and steel. It’s time to put up soaring new infrastructure that inspires pride in our people and our towns.

No longer can we allow these rules and regulations to tie down our economy, chain up our prosperity, and sap our great American spirit. That is why we will lift these restrictions and unleash the full potential of the United States of America. We will get rid of the redundancy and duplication that wastes your time and your money. Our goal is to give you one point of contact to deliver one decision—yes or no—for the entire federal government, and to deliver that decision quickly, whether it’s a road, whether it’s a highway, a bridge, a dam.

To do this, we are setting up a new council to help project managers navigate the bureaucratic maze. This council will also improve transparency by creating a new online dashboard allowing everyone to easily track major projects through every stage of the approval process. This council will make sure that every federal agency that is consistently delaying projects by missing deadlines will face tough, new penalties…

Together, we will build projects to inspire our youth, employ our workers, and create true prosperity for our people. We will pour new concrete, lay new brick, and watch new sparks light our factories as we forge metal from the furnaces of our Rust Belt and our beloved heartland—which has been forgotten. It’s not forgotten anymore.

We will put new American steel into the spine of our country. American workers will construct gleaming new lanes of commerce across our landscape. They will build these monuments from coast to coast, and from city to city. And with these new roads, bridges, airports and seaports, we will embark on a wonderful new journey into a bright and glorious future. We will build again. We will grow again. We will thrive again. And we will make America great again.

Of course, this rousing speech (with its can-do World War Two spirit) got scant coverage in the mainstream media. Drunk with words, spin, and snark, middle-class journalists can’t be bothered to notice the complex physical constructions that make modern civilization possible. The laborers who build and maintain these marvels are recognized only if they can be shoehorned into victim status. But if they dare to think for themselves and vote differently from their liberal overlords, they are branded as rubes and pariahs.

In summary: to have any hope of retaking the White House, Democrats must get off their high horse, lose the rabid rhetoric, and reorient themselves toward practical reality and the free country they are damned lucky to live in.

Last: One of the other big news stories for the last few weeks has been terrorism in Great Britain. Everyone goes to great pains to say that this isn’t “Islamic” terrorism, but rather “Islamist” (“Islam-ish?”) terrorism. Does nomenclature matter here? Does the fact that Western liberalism gets so wrapped up in knots over how to talk about its antagonists mean anything?

Paglia: You’ve nailed it about Western liberalism’s obsession with language, to the exclusion of wide-ranging study of world history or systematic observation of present social conditions. Liberalism of the 1950s and ’60s exalted civil liberties, individualism, and dissident thought and speech. “Question authority” was our generational rubric when I was in college. But today’s liberalism has become grotesquely mechanistic and authoritarian: It’s all about reducing individuals to a group identity, defining that group in permanent victim terms, and denying others their democratic right to challenge that group and its ideology. Political correctness represents the fossilized institutionalization of once-vital revolutionary ideas, which have become mere rote formulas. It is repressively Stalinist, dependent on a labyrinthine, parasitic bureaucracy to enforce its empty dictates.

The reluctance or inability of Western liberals to candidly confront jihadism has been catastrophically counterproductive insofar as it has inspired an ongoing upsurge in right-wing politics in Europe and the United States. Citizens have an absolute right to demand basic security from their government. The contortions to which so many liberals resort to avoid connecting bombings, massacres, persecutions, and cultural vandalism to Islamic jihadism is remarkable, given their usual animosity to religion, above all Christianity. Some commentators have suggested a link to racial preconceptions: that is, Islam remains beyond criticism because it is largely a religion of non-whites whose two holy cities occupy territory once oppressed by Western imperialism.

For a quarter century, I have been calling for comparative religion to be made the core curriculum of higher education. (I am speaking as an atheist.) Knowledge of the great world religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Judeo-Christianity, Islam—is the true multiculturalism. Everyone should have a general familiarity with the beliefs, texts, rituals, art, and shrines of all the major religions. Only via a direct encounter with the Quran and Hadith, for example, can anyone know what they say about jihad and how those strikingly numerous passages have been interpreted in different ways over time.

Right now, too many secular Western liberals treat Islam with paternalistic condescension—waving at it vaguely from a benevolent distance but making no effort to engage with its intricate mixed messages, which can inspire toward good or spur acts of devastating impact on the international stage.

Last: I keep waiting for the showdown between feminism and transgenderism, but it always keeps slipping beneath the horizon. I’ve been looking at how the La Leche League—which stood at the crossroads of feminism once upon a time—has in the last couple years bowed completely to the transgender project. Their central text is (for now) The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, but they’ve officially changed their stance to include men and fathers who breastfeed. The actual wording of their policy is wonderful: “It is now recognized that some men are able to breastfeed.” Left unsaid is the corollary that some women are biologically unable to breastfeed. Though this would go against the League’s founding principles, one supposes. What does one make of all of this?

Paglia: Feminists have clashed with transgender activists much more publicly in the United Kingdom than here. For example, two years ago there was an acrimonious organized campaign, including a petition with 3,000 claimed signatures, to cancel a lecture by Germaine Greer at Cardiff University because of her “offensive” views of transgenderism. Greer, a literary scholar who was one of the great pioneers of second-wave feminism, has always denied that men who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery are actually “women.” Her Cardiff lecture (on “Women and Power” in the twentieth century) eventually went forward, under heavy security.

And in 2014, Gender Hurts, a book by radical Australian feminist Sheila Jeffreys, created a heated controversy in the United Kingdom. Jeffreys identifies transsexualism with misogyny and describes it as a form of “mutilation.” She and her feminist allies encountered prolonged difficulties in securing a London speaking venue because of threats and agitation by transgender activists. Finally, Conway Hall was made available: Jeffrey’s forceful, detailed lecture there in July of last year is fully available on YouTube. In it she argues among other things, that the pharmaceutical industry, having lost income when routine estrogen therapy for menopausal women was abandoned because of its health risks, has been promoting the relatively new idea of transgenderism in order to create a permanent class of customers who will need to take prescribed hormones for life.

Although I describe myself as transgender (I was donning flamboyant male costumes from early childhood on), I am highly skeptical about the current transgender wave, which I think has been produced by far more complicated psychological and sociological factors than current gender discourse allows. Furthermore, I condemn the escalating prescription of puberty blockers (whose long-term effects are unknown) for children. I regard this practice as a criminal violation of human rights.

It is certainly ironic how liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming (a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence) flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender. Biology has been programmatically excluded from women’s studies and gender studies programs for almost 50 years now. Thus, very few current gender studies professors and theorists, here and abroad, are intellectually or scientifically prepared to teach their subjects.

The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one’s birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.

In a democracy, everyone, no matter how nonconformist or eccentric, should be free from harassment and abuse. But at the same time, no one deserves special rights, protections, or privileges on the basis of their eccentricity. The categories “trans-man” and “trans-woman” are highly accurate and deserving of respect. But like Germaine Greer and Sheila Jeffreys, I reject state-sponsored coercion to call someone a “woman” or a “man” simply on the basis of his or her subjective feeling about it. We may well take the path of good will and defer to courtesy on such occasions, but it is our choice alone.

As for the La Leche League, they are hardly prepared to take up the cudgels in the bruising culture wars. Awash with the milk of human kindness, they are probably stuck in nurturance mode. Naturally, they snap to attention at the sound of squalling babies, no matter what their age. It’s up to literature professors and writers to defend the integrity of English, which like all languages changes slowly and organically over time. But with so many humanities departments swallowed up in the poststructuralist tar pit, the glorious medium of English may have to fight the gender commissars on its own.

Posted in General Musings | Leave a comment

The Great Estrangement

In my most recent post, I mentioned how “words matter.” I must amend that and add that tone matters. How we say what we say matters as much, or perhaps more as the words that are spoken or written.

I Hate Trump, coming out as three words with minimal prosody, are bad enough (I was led to believe that “hate” was a four-letter word and ought not be used in polite company).

But to say I Hate Trump with spittle flying and teeth baring, well, that’s clearly someone who is operating from a position of true anger. And when we act in anger, the results are not usually what we would like them to be.

I disdain Trump, or I disagree with Trump added to, I hope my elected representatives keep him somehow in check (as they are paid to do, by the way), well, that is far more rational. And rationality is so desperately needed today, tomorrow and into the foreseeable future as we engage in this thing called “self-government.”

Self-government without self-control, wrote Jefferson, is destined to fail.

Two other points worth mentioning:

(1) When you say you hate the man, is that really what you mean? I mean, do you even know the man, personally, enough to actually hate him? After all, he appears to me to be a good father, a good husband, and a patriot. So was Obama, and before him, Bush. Even Clinton.

And (2), should the words we utter not add some degree of value? If not, they should not be uttered. If they do, well, good.

Peggy Noonan speaks to this in her column from the 15th of June 2017. These are her words, not mine. I claim no ownership. Again, I am re-posting it here so that at least I have a record of her sensibility, her rationality, and frankly, her worry.

We need to be paying attention. Things could be getting much worse.


By Peggy Noonan

 

From June 15, 2017 8:03 p.m. ET

What we are living through in America is not only a division but a great estrangement. It is between those who support Donald Trump and those who despise him, between left and right, between the two parties, and even to some degree between the bases of those parties and their leaders in Washington. It is between the religious and those who laugh at Your Make-Believe Friend (read: God), between cultural progressives and those who wish not to have progressive ways imposed upon them. It is between the coasts and the center, between those in “flyover country” and those who decide what flyover will watch on television next season. It is between “I accept the court’s decision” and “Bake my cake.” We look down on each other, fear each other, increasingly hate each other.

Oh, to have a unifying figure, program or party.

But we don’t, nor is there any immediate prospect. So, as Ben Franklin said, we’ll have to hang together or we’ll surely hang separately. To hang together—to continue as a country—at the very least we must lower the political temperature. It’s on all of us more than ever to assume good faith, put our views forward with respect, even charity, and refuse to incite.

We’ve been failing. Here is a reason the failure is so dangerous.

In the early 1990s Roger Ailes had a talk show on the America’s Talking network (Fox) and invited me to talk about a concern I’d been writing about, which was old-fashioned even then: violence on TV and in the movies. Grim and graphic images, repeated depictions of murder and beatings, are bad for our kids and our culture, I argued. Depictions of violence unknowingly encourage it.

But look, Roger said, there’s comedy all over TV and I don’t see people running through the streets breaking into laughter. True, I said, but the problem is that, for a confluence of reasons, our country is increasingly populated by the not fully stable. They aren’t excited by wit, they’re excited by violence—especially unstable young men. They don’t have the built-in barriers and prohibitions that those more firmly planted in the world do. That’s what makes violent images dangerous and destructive. Art is art and censorship is an admission of defeat. Good judgment and a sense of responsibility are the answer.

That’s what we’re doing now, exciting the unstable—not only with images but with words, and on every platform. It’s all too hot and revved up. This week we had a tragedy. If we don’t cool things down, we’ll have more.

And was anyone surprised? Tuesday, I talked with an old friend, a figure in journalism who’s a pretty cool character, about the political anger all around us. He spoke of “horrible polarization.” He said there’s “too much hate in D.C.” He mentioned “the beheading, the play in the park” and described them as “dog whistles to any nut who wants to take action.”

“Someone is going to get killed,” he said.

That was 20 hours before the shootings in Alexandria, Va.

The gunman did the crime, he is responsible, it’s fatuous to put the blame on anyone or anything else.

But we all operate within a climate and a culture. The media climate now, in both news and entertainment, is too often of a goading, insinuating resentment, a grinding, agitating antipathy.

You don’t need another recitation of the events of just the past month or so.

  • A comic (Kathy Griffin) posed with a gruesome bloody facsimile of President Trump’s head.
  • New York’s rightly revered Shakespeare in the Park put on a “Julius Caesar” in which the assassinated leader is made to look like the president.
  • A CNN host—amazingly, of a show on religion (!)—sent out a tweet calling the president a “piece of shit” who is “a stain on the presidency.”
  • An MSNBC anchor wondered, on the air, whether the president wishes to “provoke” a terrorist attack for political gain. (Really? You really mean that?)
  • Stephen Colbert, well known as a good man, a gentleman, said of the president, in a rant: “The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cunt holster.”

Those are but five dots in a larger, darker pointillist painting. You can think of more.

Too many in the mainstream media—not all, but too many—don’t even bother to fake fairness and lack of bias anymore, which is bad: Even faked balance is better than none.

Yes, they have reasons. They find Mr. Trump to be a unique danger to the republic, an incipient fascist; they believe it is their patriotic duty to show opposition. They don’t like his policies. A friend suggested recently that they hate him also because he’s in their business, show business. Who is he to be president? He’s not more talented. And yet as soon as his presidency is over he’ll get another reality show.

And there’s something else. Here I want to note the words spoken by Kathy Griffin, the holder of the severed head. In a tearful news conference, she said of the president, “He broke me.” She was roundly mocked for this. Oh, the big bad president’s supporters were mean to you after you held up his bloody effigy. But she was exactly right: He did break her. He robbed her of her sense of restraint and limits, of her judgment. He broke her, but not in the way she thinks, and he is breaking more than her.

We have been seeing a generation of media figures cratering under the historical pressure of Donald Trump. He really is powerful.

They’re losing their heads. Now would be a good time to regain them.

They have been making the whole political scene lower, grubbier. They are showing the young what otherwise estimable adults do under pressure, which is lose their equilibrium, their knowledge of themselves as public figures, as therefore examples—tone setters. They’re paid a lot of money and have famous faces and get the best seat, and the big thing they’re supposed to do in return is not be a slob. Not make it worse.

By indulging their and their audience’s rage, they spread the rage. They celebrate themselves as brave for this. They stood up to the man, they spoke truth to power. But what courage, really, does that take? Their audiences love it. Their base loves it, their demo loves it, their bosses love it. Their numbers go up. They get a better contract. This isn’t brave.

If these were only one-offs, they’d hardly be worth comment, but these things build on each other. Rage and sanctimony always spread like a virus, and become stronger with each iteration.

And it’s no good, no excuse, to say Trump did it first, he lowered the tone, it’s his fault. Your response to his low character is to lower your own character? He talks bad so you do? You let him destabilize you like this? You are making a testimony to his power.

So many of our media figures need at this point to be reminded: You belong to something. It’s called: us.

Do your part, take it down a notch, cool it.

We have responsibilities to each other.

Posted in General Musings, State of the Nation | Leave a comment

Words Matter, Leadership and Tact Matter, Resistance is NOT Leadership

Ann Coulter

It is important to keep a record of how words can matter. Very few columnists have the balls, frankly, but Ann Coulter does. In this piece, which I am not claiming as my own (not by any means) and which I want up on my own blog just as a reminder (should it be taken down elsewhere), she does a wonderful job of capturing just how hypocritical our world has become. As Venezuela burns to the ground, I am left to wonder just how far behind we are in accomplishing the same thing.

Words do matter, and if I have learned anything as a professional mental health counselor, I have learned of the abject power of social influence, particularly when dealing with low-IQ clients. As counselors, particularly as older men with grey hair we must be careful not to manipulate our clients into change that they themselves would not otherwise want or need. There is power in the words we use. I fear that the intelligentsia of our country – those in leadership positions whether they would admit that or not – do not get it.

Ann Coulter gets it. Here are her words:


The explosion of violence against conservatives across the country is being intentionally ginned up by Democrats, reporters, TV hosts, late-night comedians and celebrities, who compete with one another to come up with the most vile epithets for Trump and his supporters.

They go right up to the line, trying not to cross it, by, for example, vamping with a realistic photo of a bloodied, decapitated Trump or calling the president a “piece of shit” while hosting a show on CNN.

The media are orchestrating a bloodless coup, but they’re perfectly content to have their low-IQ shock troops pursue a bloody coup. To wit, this week, one of the left’s foot soldiers gunned down Republican members of Congress and their staff while they were playing baseball in Virginia. Democratic Socialist James Hodgkinson was prevented from committing a mass murder only by the happenstance of a member of the Republican leadership being there, along with his 24-hour Capitol Police protection (rank and file members of Congress do not get such protection).

Remember when it was frightening for the losing party not to accept the results of an election? During the third debate, Trump refused to preemptively agree to the election results, saying he’d “look at it at the time.”

The media responded in their usual laid-back style:

A ‘HORRIFYING’ REPUDIATION OF DEMOCRACY — The Washington Post, Oct. 20, 2016

DENIAL OF DEMOCRACY — Daily News (New York), Oct. 20, 2016

DANGER TO DEMOCRACY — The Dallas Morning News, Oct. 20, 2016

ONE SCARY MOMENT; IT ALL BOILED DOWN TO … DEMOCRACY — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct. 21, 2016

Those were the headlines. Now, take a look at the spoken words from the Left:

“(Shock) spiked down the nation’s spinal column last night and today when the Republican nominee threatened that this little election thing you got there, this little democratic process you’ve got here, it’s nice, it’s fine, but he doesn’t necessarily plan on abiding by its decision when it comes to the presidency.” — Rachel Maddow, Oct. 20, 2016

“Trump’s answer on accepting the outcome of the vote is the most disgraceful statement by a presidential candidate in 160 years.” — Bret Stephens, then-deputy editorial page editor at The Wall Street Journal

“I guess we’re all going to have to wait until Nov. 9 to find out if we still have a country — if Donald Trump is in the mood for a peaceful transfer of power. Or if he’s going to wipe his fat a– with the Constitution.” — CBS’s Stephen Colbert, Oct. 19, 2016

“It’s unprecedented for a nominee of a major party to themselves signal that they would not accept — you know, respect the results of an election. We’ve never had that happen before. … This really presents a potentially difficult problem for governing …” — MSNBC’S Joy Reid, Oct. 22, 2016

“This is very dangerous stuff … would seriously impair our functioning as a democracy. … This is about as serious as it gets in the United States.” — CNN’s Peter Beinart, Oct. 20, 2016

“Obviously, it’s despicable for him to pretend that there’s any chance that he would not accept the results of this election; it would be — in 240 years you’ve never had anybody do it. …” — CNN’s Van Jones, Oct. 20, 2016

Then Trump won, and these very same hysterics refused to accept the results of the election.  No less than Hillary herself announced her steadfast opposition to the winning candidate using a military term, saying she’d joined the “Resistance.”

Imagine if Trump lost and then announced that he’d joined the “RESISTANCE.” He’d be accused of trying to activate right-wing militias. Every dyspeptic glance at an immigrant would be reported as fascistic violence.  But the media seem blithely unaware that the anti-Trump “Resistance” has been accompanied by nonstop militaristic violence from liberals.

When Trump (they say) ripped up our Constitution and jumped all over it by failing to concede the election three weeks in advance, CNN ran a segment on a single tweet from a random Trump supporter that mentioned the Second Amendment:

Carol Costello: “Still to come in the ‘Newsroom,’ some Trump supporters say they will refuse to accept a loss on Election Day, with one offering a threat of violence. We’ll talk about that next.”

In CNN’s most fevered dreams about a violent uprising of Trump supporters, they never could have conceived of the level of actual violence being perpetrated by Americans who refuse to accept Trump’s win.

It began with Trump’s inauguration, when a leftist group plotted to pump a debilitating gas into one Trump inaugural ball, military families were assaulted upon leaving the Veterans’ Inaugural Ball, and attendees of other balls had water thrown on them.  Since then, masked, armed liberals around the country have formed military-style organizations to beat up conservatives. In liberal towns, the police are regularly ordered to stand down to allow the assaults to proceed unimpeded.

The media only declared it a “crisis” when conservatives fought back, smashing the black-clad beta males, in the so-called “Battle for Berkeley!”

There is more media coverage for conservatives’ “microaggressions” toward powerful minorities -– such as using the wrong pronoun — than there is for liberals’ physical attacks on conservatives, including the use of mace, concussions, and hospitalizations.

And now some whack-job Bernie Sanders-supporter actually confirms that it’s Republicans standing on a baseball field, before opening fire. Get that? He actually clarified who he wanted to shoot at before opening fire. Premeditation at its best.

 

Did reporters think they could keep that information from us forever?

The fake news insists that Trump’s White House is in “chaos.” No, the country is in chaos. But just like Kathy Griffin and her Trump decapitation performance art — the perpetrators turn around in doe-eyed innocence and blame Trump.

COPYRIGHT 2017 ANN COULTER

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Quick Fix for Jet Lag?

As Cindy and I prepare for the grand European Tour in July (really just England and Scotland, but “grand tour” sounds better), we are wondering how to minimize jet lag now that we’re in our sixties and late fifties. I recall when I would travel the world at a much earlier age how many of my colleagues said that jet lag would get easier to manage as I got older. So, now that I am older, what of it?

When we came back from Australia in 2015, the jet lag was tough. But that’s a 17 hour flight, with countless time zones crossed, and an international date line thrown in for good measure. Nevertheless, it seemed easier to recover from.

Here’s an interesting idea that cropped up recently at Harvard Med School: a quick fast.

In 2009, Dr. Clifford Saper and colleagues at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center identified a second “master clock” in mice that can regulate circadian rhythms when food is scarce. In essence, the body’s circadian rhythms are suspended to conserve energy.

It’s been theorized that humans may have a similar mechanism and that a brief fast may trigger a quick reset of circadian rhythms. Dr. Saper has suggested a 12-to-16-hour fast the day before and during travel. For example, if you were to take a flight from New York City to Honolulu, you would refrain from eating for a couple of hours before takeoff and during the flight, but would have a good meal as soon as convenient after landing. This technique hasn’t been tested in clinical trials, but there are many testimonials to its effectiveness in the media.

Perhaps we will try it. Anyone else have any good ideas?

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The Campus Mob Came for Me—and You, Professor, Could Be Next

 

I recall, now with an odd sense of both nostalgia and déjà vu, the radicals of the 1960’s and how they would do sit-ins and worse, burn down whole buildings. Largely because of the Vietnam War, where young men were dying violently by the thousands, these “students” (mostly cowards) objected by creating violence at home. I did not understand the logic then, and I still do not.

Today we have the snowflakes who have decided to take matters into their own hands, aided and abetted by university administrators who have no back-bone and who do not wish to enforce the rule of law, or even that of logic. The following piece in today’s Wall Street Journal highlights a recent example. One wonders if anything the students have learned about discourse and logic and, better than that, the rule of law versus the rule of the mob, has ‘stuck’ in their minds at all.


By Bret Weinstein, Professor at Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington USA

I was not expecting to hold my biology class in a public park last week. But then the chief of our college police department told me she could not protect me on campus. Protesters were searching cars for an unspecified individual—likely me—and her officers had been told to stand down, against her judgment, by the college president.

Racially charged, anarchic protests have engulfed Evergreen State College, a small, public liberal-arts institution where I have taught since 2003. In a widely disseminated video of the first recent protest on May 23, an angry mob of about 50 students disrupted my class, called me a racist, and demanded that I resign. My “racist” offense? I had challenged coercive segregation by race. Specifically, I had objected to a planned “Day of Absence” in which white people were asked to leave campus on April 12.

Day of Absence is a tradition at Evergreen. In previous years students and faculty of color organized a day on which they met off campus—a symbolic act based on the Douglas Turner Ward play in which all the black residents of a Southern town fail to show up one morning. This year, however, the formula was reversed. “White students, staff and faculty will be invited to leave the campus for the day’s activities,” the student newspaper reported, adding that the decision was reached after people of color “voiced concern over feeling as if they are unwelcome on campus, following the 2016 election.”

In March, I objected in an email to all staff and faculty. “There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and under-appreciated roles … and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away,” I wrote. “On a college campus, one’s right to speak—or to be—must never be based on skin color.”

My email was published by the student newspaper, and Day of Absence came and went almost without incident. The protest of my class emerged seemingly out of the blue more than a month later. Evergreen has slipped into madness. You don’t need the news to tell you that—the protesters’ own videos will do. But those clips reveal neither the path that led to this psychosis, nor the cautionary nature of the tale for other campuses.

Evergreen is arguably the most radical college in the country—and while it does lean far to the left in a political sense, it is the school’s pedagogical structure to which I refer. Rather than placing students in many separate classes, most of our curriculum is integrated into full-time programs that may run the entire academic year. This structure allows students and professors to come to know each other very well, such that Evergreen can deliver a deep, personally tailored education that would be impossible elsewhere. When it works well, it is unlike anything else. Last week’s breakdown of institutional order is far from an indictment of our founder’s wisdom.

Rather, the protests resulted from a tension that has existed throughout the entire American academy for decades: The button-down empirical and deductive fields, including all the hard sciences, have lived side by side with “critical theory,” postmodernism and its perception-based relatives. Since the creation in 1960s and ’70s of novel, justice-oriented fields, these incompatible worldviews have repelled one another. The faculty from these opposing perspectives, like blue and red voters, rarely mix in any context where reality might have to be discussed. For decades, the uneasy separation held, with the factions enduring an unhappy marriage for the good of the (college) kids.

Things began to change at Evergreen in 2015, when the school hired a new president, George Bridges. His vision as an administrator involved reducing professorial autonomy, increasing the size of his administration, and breaking apart Evergreen’s full-time programs. But the faculty, which plays a central role in the college’s governance, would never have agreed to these changes. So Mr. Bridges tampered with the delicate balance between the sciences and humanities by, in effect, arming the postmoderns.

The particular mechanism was arcane, but it involved an Equity Council established in 2016. The council advanced a plan that few seem to have read, even now—but that faculty were nonetheless told we must accept without discussion. It would shift the college “from a diversity agenda” to an “equity agenda” by, among other things, requiring an “equity justification” for every faculty hire.

The plan and the way it is being forced on the college are both deeply authoritarian, and the attempt to mandate equality of outcome is unwise in the extreme. Equality of outcome is a discredited concept, failing on both logical and historical grounds, as anyone knows who has studied the misery of the 20th century. It wouldn’t have withstood 20 minutes of reasoned discussion.

This presented traditional independent academic minds with a choice: Accept the plan and let the intellectual descendants of Critical Race Theory dictate the bounds of permissible thought to the sciences and the rest of the college, or insist on discussing the plan’s shortcomings and be branded as racists. Most of my colleagues chose the former, and the protesters are in the process of articulating the terms. I dissented and ended up teaching in the park.

I have this abiding sense of sadness for my country. Indeed, I wonder if it even is (my country) any longer.

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Oh, How I long for Johnny Carson

We wondered to what depths the left would stoop. And now we know.

This then is the state of the stoop.

If you or I were to do such a thing, we would have had the Secret Service on our doorstep in a heartbeat. If we had done something similar using Obama’s head, we would have had the NAACP AND the Secret Service at our throats. Kathy Griffin has only to apologize and all is forgiven. That it occurred to her at all is left unexamined by the fake news outlets. That it somehow doesn’t help to bridge the profundities in our country today is left unexamined by MSNBC and their ilk.

I must ask: How is this funny? How is this creative and chuckle-provoking? Would Johnny Carson have done this? Or, even at his worst, would David Letterman? Or what about Griffin’s mentor, Joan Rivers? It is not funny, it is not creative. And no, Johnny Carson would never have done it. Joan Rivers, bless her soul, would be disgusted.

And now we read that the leftist mayor of Portland wants to ban certain protesters from the streets of his fair (fair?) city. No word on whether he will seek a ban on Kathy Griffin performing in Portland. Complete silence.

Oh how I miss Johnny Carson. Class, and sublime commentary beseeching us to our better angels.

Holding up a bloody head?

Look at him. Somehow I doubt it.

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Kim Jong Un Must Be Wondering: “What if I Win?”

If I learned anything at Microsoft, and I learned a lot, it was this: For every good policy argument, there was typically a counter-argument that was at least worth acknowledging. In other words, for every great idea someone puts forth, there is at least one critique that would shatter their confidence.

Think here of the perpetual hawk-versus-dove positioning in our country today. Think of how many people you know who would end the Kim-Jong-Un-North-Korean “crisis” (I hate that word, by the way) by obliterating fatso from the face of the earth. Or, the number of people you know who would rather let diplomacy take its course. Diplomacy being relative to the talents of the diplomats involved (I wouldn’t let John Kerry mow my lawn), we need to feel free enough to ask him, or the current Secretary of State, Mr. Tillerson, “what if you’re wrong?”

There is an old joke, and it goes something like this:

“Many years ago, Israel was struggling financially. It had just won its existential war against its neighbors but had incurred staggering amounts of debt doing so. Its economy was a shambles; so, its congress, the Knesset, convened a special session to resolve the problem.

As was typically the case, the debates were loud and raucous. Shouting and unable to get anywhere, the chair called for order and asked for the very best idea. One man stood and told a story. He argued that Japan was in the very same condition in 1941, after having waged what it thought was an existential conflict in the western Pacific. Its economy was thoroughly shattered, he said, quite similar to Israel’s at the moment. And what did Japan do? Well, they decided to attack the United States at Pearl Harbor. History proceeds to tell us that the USA obliterated Japan, but then it went back in and helped to rebuild Japan. And look at Japan today! It has a vibrant economy!! Ergo, he said, I propose we attack the USA, they will obliterate us, then rebuild us, and we too will have an economy as robust as Japan’s is today!

The Knesset went wild. This was precisely the right answer! Everyone saw the historical parallels and shortly thereafter a vote was scheduled. The room was electric with the thought of solving their problem by having the USA do to Israel what it had done to Japan! The room went quiet as the vote was organized.

But then, way in the back of the room, from amongst a group of senior Rabbis who had not yet spoken, arose a man whose word was traditionally held to be golden. All faces turned toward him as he said, “I can see the wisdom of your argument, sirs, but I wonder one thing, one thing which we must consider before we vote on this prodigious idea.” The room was quiet. The Chair said, “Dear Rabbi, what is that one thing?”

The Rabbi asked … “Suppose we win?”

Indeed, suppose we won. Or, suppose we did not achieve peace in our time. To wit, there was Neville Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” remark which came days (seemingly, days) before Hitler unleashed his blitzkrieg on Poland in 1939. Aside from the 20-20 hindsight that we would have been better off obliterating Hitler in, oh I don’t know, maybe 1932 or somewhere in that time frame, the fact is that Chamberlain held what he thought was the better argument. And maybe there was someone in his cabinet who said, “Wait just a minute, Mr. Prime Minister, what if you’re wrong?” Maybe not. I don’t know. But I somehow doubt it.

If you really want to be unpopular at work, if you really want to have fun at meetings, start asking, “what would cause your peers, your bosses, hell even Bill Gates, to change their minds.” Never forget that having an opinion is hard work. You really need to concentrate and rag on the problem.

For every good policy argument, there is typically a counterargument that is at least worth acknowledging. For instance, if you are a devout dove who believes that threatening military action never brings peace, be open to the possibility that you might be wrong about Iran, or North Korea, or Syria. And the same advice applies if you are a devout hawk who believes that soft “appeasement” policies never pay off. Each side should list, in advance, the signs that would nudge them toward the other. This is the art of critical thinking, or the dialectic, of taking a thesis, meeting it with an anti-thesis, and then arriving at a syn-thesis.

There are no paint-by-number rules here. Synthesis is an art that requires reconciling irreducibly subjective judgments. If you do it well, engaging in this process of synthesizing should transform you from a cookie-cutter dove or hawk into an odd hybrid creature, a dove-hawk, with a nuanced view of when tougher or softer policies are likelier to work.

I conclude with this one thought, which to my mind, sums it all up …

Al Gore has been telling us that the world is heating up, and unless we do something, we will all be obliterated by the heat. The “global warming crisis,” which as I write this has it snowing in Laramie in May. But I digress.

The world has beat a path to his door, asking “oh, wise one, what shall we do to solve the problem, to cool the earth?”

And his answer is that we need to stop using fossil fuels, stop having children, and start using solar and wind energy to power our lives, and thus begin to cool the earth.

Sounds good.

But, like the Rabbi way in the back of the room, I have one question for Big Al that, to date, no one has asked:

What’s the right temperature, Big Al?

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Birth Order: the Classic View

In an earlier post I wrote about the middle child in a family and their tendencies in life. Today I will speak quickly about the “classic” view of birth order as seen by Dr. Alfred Adler.

Before we proceed, some caution is warranted. Firstly, the psychological situation of each child in the family is different and may not necessarily follow these “rules.” Secondly, it is the child’s own opinion of himself and his situation which determines his choice of attitude. Third, if more than 3 years separate children in terms of birth dates, then sub-groups of birth order characteristics may form. When there are only two siblings, separated by more than 3 years, the second child may actually get treated as, and will form personality traits as if she was, the first-born. Fourthly, it is not unusual to see a second, third, or fourth born child seize another child’s birth order. Fifth, Adler found that “organ inferiority, parental attitudes in general, social and economic position, and gender roles,” could upend the birth order characteristics he’d found. Organ inferiority is not what you might think; instead, it has to do with situations where the first-born arrived with significant physical developmental challenges.

Oddly enough, Adler’s findings were predicated on what were, for his time, the traditional ways in which families were run: autocratic and paternal, and highly competitive. If a family is run on far less autocratic basis (not to include meritocratic) and if competition were minimized between siblings and their parents, then the birth order differences were also minimized.

Okay, so here are the traditional impacts of the order in which you were born, as seen by Alfred Adler:

Birth Order Position The Family Situation and Parental Reactions The Child’s Characteristics (all things being equal)
The ONLY Child Here the general tendency, subconsciously, is for the parents to look upon the birth as a miracle. And because there is no competition, ever, from another sibling, the only child receives 200% of available attention at any given time (100% from each parent). Not surprisingly, the ONLY child likes being the center of attention because that is ALL they have EVER known. They often have difficultly sharing with siblings and peers. They end up preferring the company of adults older than themselves, and often develop adult-level language skills far sooner than their peer group.
FIRST Born: The OLDEST Child Initially, the FIRST born is treated more or less the same as an ONLY child. If less than 3 years separate the first-born from the next in line, then the first child will not have enough time to enjoy the fruits of 200% attention (see above). And since attention is shifted to the next born, the first child is, in effect, dethroned and must learn how to share.  Consequently, parental expectations are also high: They expect the first-born to lead the way for the next, and following, children. Expectations for the first-born are very high given the fact that all of the parents’ attention was spent on him or her. The first-born is loaded down with the family flag, as it were. He or she is expected to follow an example.

 

If more than three years separate the first-born from the next child (or children), then the first-born can develop in a manner consistent with an ONLY child.

This child may become quite authoritarian in approach and strict in their own parenting later on. Sadly, they can come to feel that power is their right in life. But they can also be very helpful if encouraged.

 

Not unusual is the tendency of the first-born to turn toward the father when the second child arrives, which makes sense when we consider how the mother becomes consumed with the infant and has correspondingly less time for the first-born.

The SECOND Child Put very simply, the SECOND child will forever have a “pacemaker” in life – someone ahead of them who sets the pace. In life, it will forever seem as if someone is always ahead. The family, particularly the mother, will focus on the SECOND child for a time, which will have development impact upon the first-born. The father will often emerge was the best friend to the first born and, in time, less so for the second born. Second children are often more competitive, and may even have an unspoken urge to overtake the first born. They are often classed as rebels, so to speak and will try to outdo their peers.

Competition, however, can devolve into sibling rivalry of the worst sort. The parents will need to ameliorate such tendencies at every turn possible.

The MIDDLE Child The family is getting better now at having and rearing children. Consequently, the middle child will reap the benefits of the parents’ even-tempered approach to infancy and the toddler stage. But the middle child, as was the case above, can be dethroned by the next sibling to come along. Nevertheless, middle children can often feel “sandwiched” and squeezed out of any position of privilege or significance. Often, as in Home Alone, the middle child can feel forgotten or have trouble understanding their place.  Happily, the middle child can also develop solid capacities for patience and a take it or leave it attitude.
The YOUNGEST Child Interestingly, by this time in the family’s history, the older siblings are called upon to help parent the youngest. Hence, the youngest child often has “many mothers and fathers” who try to educate him. By virtue of the birth order, the youngest child is never dethroned. Here we can see the Napoleon Complex at work, in the sense that the youngest is forever trying to be bigger than the other siblings. She may have huge plans that never seem to work out. Is accommodated at every turn and can often become “spoiled.” Will forever be the baby of the family.
TWIN This is a tough area and is frequently studied. Birth order can be confounded by family dynamics (mom always loved you best, etc.). But we have found that one of the two twins is usually the stronger or more active and consequently, the parents may see her as the “older” child. Twins can have identity problems their entire lives. The stronger, more active one may become a leader, indeed, the leader of the twin-set, which can have derivative issues later on in life when the stronger twin passes before the other.
The “Ghost Child” This involves the death of a child, who will forever be the “elephant” in the room. If the first child dies, then the next sibling produced will forever have a “ghost” in front of him. The mother is typically “over-protective” of the next child born. The child born after the ghost child has passed will often sub-consciously exploit the mother’s over-concern for his wellbeing, or he may rebel and protest the implied comparison to the child who has passed.
The ADOPTED Child Not surprisingly, and when the adopted child is the only child, the parents may be so thankful to have a child that they spoil him. They may try to compensate for the loss of his biologic roots. Depending upon circumstances, and whether the adopted child is alone or one of several siblings, the adopted child may become very spoiled and therefore demanding in life. Eventually, he may resent or idealize his biological parents.
Only BOY among GIRLS The family dynamic is simple: the boy, especially when the father is not present, is forever around women. He may be babied and parented by the girls. He may be held to a different standard by the parents. Consequently, the only boy among a family of female siblings may forever try to prove himself as the man in the family. Alternatively, he may develop effeminate traits (not that there is anything wrong with that).
Only GIRL among BOYS The girl is forever around boys, especially when the mother is not present. All things being equal, the dynamic in the family will be for the boys to protect the girl. Consequently, the only girl in a group of boys can either become very feminine, or enjoy the benefits of being a tomboy and try to outdo the brothers. The only girl is often seen trying to forever please the father.

 

This is a broad simplification of what Adler had to say about birth order, but it is a good guide.  I am the oldest in a family of four (two boys) and I am separated from my brother by almost five years. Can you think of the traits I have demonstrated which link me more to the ONLY child?

Have fun.

 

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Look Out Oz! Amazon is Coming!

When Cindy and I lived in Australia, among the many things we missed about living in the USA was the ubiquity of Amazon and its books.  Want a book tomorrow? Easy peasy. Just order it from Amazon and tomorrow morning it’s at your doorstep. Not so in Oz, where Amazon shipments had to begin in America and slowly make their way across the Pacific. Indeed, that trip made things simply too expensive and we demurred. But now Amazon is moving to the land down under. Watch out Oz! Amazon is coming!


(from the Wall Street Journal)

By Mike Cherney in Sydney and Laura Stevens in San Francisco, May 17, 2017 5:30 a.m. ET

Amazon.com Inc. is preparing to bring its full retail offering to Australia, signaling a major competitive threat to the country’s retailers and an important new beachhead for its global distribution network. Australia’s more favorable regulatory climate is also likely to offer Amazon opportunities to test deliveries via autonomous drones and road vehicles, a person familiar with the matter said. Australia last year rolled out new rules for remote-operated drones, and government officials are looking to develop national guidelines for autonomous-vehicle trials.

Amazon, which announced its Australia intentions last month, hasn’t said when the full retail offering will roll out. Some analysts say 2018 is a likely date.

Australians can already order products from Amazon overseas, but they typically pay higher prices for shipping and wait longer for delivery than Amazon shoppers in other countries with domestic operations. This has constrained Amazon’s challenge to online competitors such as eBay Inc. in Australia, as well as traditional retailers, which have until now been somewhat insulated from the demise of brick-and-mortar stores rippling across the U.S.

That could soon change. One analysis from Citigroup Inc. found that Amazon sales could grow from between 500 million Australian dollars ($371.3 million) and A$700 million currently to A$4 billion in the medium term, a significant chunk of the roughly A$20 billion Australian e-commerce market. Electronics retailers are expected to be the hardest hit, with Citi lowering its long-term earnings-per-share forecasts for some Australian companies by more than 30%.

Australian retailers haven’t until now faced the kind of competition that would have forced them to invest heavily in their online offerings, says Citi retail analyst Bryan Raymond. Retailers in other countries have “been forced into it through Amazon or someone else pushing people that way.”

The Australian e-commerce market is small compared with the U.S., where online sales last year were estimated at $391 billion according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but the lack of a truly dominant online retailer suggests there is an opportunity for Amazon. One measure from Citi gives Amazon 4% market share in Australia. In the U.S., Amazon’s share is 31%, Citi says.

Australian e-commerce numbers are behind other developed countries (see chart), so there could be room for growth, making Australia an attractive market for Amazon as it seeks to expand its international footprint. The company is spending billions of dollars to secure growth in Mexico and India, and recently reupped its attempt to take on Alibaba Group Holding in China as it diversifies away from relatively saturated U.S. and European markets.

The Chinese market has proved tough to conquer. Amazon launched its Prime membership program there late last year aiming to capitalize on Chinese consumers’ desire for products from overseas, but it has been fighting to gain share against entrenched local incumbents. India has been more of a success story, where Amazon is one of two market leaders. Still, it is facing increased competition there too after No. 1 Flipkart Group’s recent $1.4 billion fundraising round.

Amazon has cited its rapid international growth as a reason for higher spending in recent quarters. The company takes varying approaches by market when it expands internationally and balances growth carefully with management bandwidth, said Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky on a recent earnings call.

“We pick our spots carefully,” he added.

In Australia, online sales were about 7% of total retail in 2016, compared with 11% in the U.S., 15% in the U.K., and 18% in South Korea, according to Euromonitor International. Canada, a country that is similarly vast and with a relatively low population like Australia, is also at 7%.

Australia could also fit into Amazon’s plan for a global transportation network that the company envisions will eventually compete with global logistics companies like United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. according to people familiar with the matter. It has said it is leasing 40 planes and purchasing thousands of branded truck trailers, as well as building its first dedicated air cargo hub in Kentucky.

Amazon has also formed a team to look at the future of autonomous vehicles, and it has already completed its first commercial delivery via drone in the U.K.

Drone experts say regulations are similar in both Australia and the U.S., but there are some signs Australia might have an edge, perhaps further enticing Amazon into the Australian market. “Australia is clearly committed to testing drone delivery,” said Ben Marcus, chief executive of drone airspace services technology provider Airmap. There is a strong case to use drones for rural deliveries there, he said.

The country is nearly the size of the contiguous U.S. but has less than 10% of the people.

Jodie Burger, a lawyer with an aviation specialty at Corrs Chambers Westgarth in Brisbane, Australia, said she wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon began testing drone deliveries in Australia soon. “It’s ripe for the picking,” she said. “I don’t think it will be very long at all.”

Amazon declined to comment on possible drone or autonomous-vehicle tests in Australia. As it builds out its network in Australia, Amazon will likely rely on its logistics network in the U.S. as a model—where big warehouses called fulfillment centers are strategically located near population centers. Amazon has said it is already looking for a fulfillment center location in Australia, with analysts saying Sydney is a likely starting point.

Amazon’s Prime membership program in the U.S. offers two-day delivery, with same-day delivery available in some areas. Although Australia’s vast size and rural areas could bring challenges, Amazon will likely first focus on the east, experts say, where the country’s three biggest metro areas, centered on Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, are located. About half of all Australians live in those metro areas.

“I would imagine they would start off in one or two warehouse facilities in the east coast,” said Nathan Huppatz, co-founder of Costumes.com.au and shipping software service ReadyToShip.com.au. “It’s quite possible they can make that two-day promise to most of the capital cities very early on.”

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Alcohol Does Not Alter Personality

Turns out, there is no such thing a ‘happy drunk.’ Scientists in a recent study published at Clinical Psychological Science, have concluded that alcohol does not radically change personality. Although many people blame drinking for alterations in their usual behavior, new research shows that there is very little shift in character between sober and squiffy (a British term of art).

In other words, when we drink we only become more ourselves. Interesting.

In fact, the only change of note was that people became more extroverted. But even at that, the change is simply a louder version of their usual personality, of the usual extroverted personality.

“We were surprised to find such a discrepancy between drinkers’ perceptions of their own alcohol-induced personalities and how observers perceived them,” says psychological scientist Dr Rachel Winograd of the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

“Participants reported experiencing differences in all factors of personality, but extroversion was the only factor robustly perceived to be different across participants in alcohol and sober conditions.”

The idea that we transform into different people when we’re under the influence is a popular one, so much so that the counseling profession considers differences in an individual’s behavior when drunk an indicator as to whether someone has a drinking problem.

To find out if personality really did change when drinking, the research scientists recruited 156 participants who completed an initial survey gauging their typical alcohol consumption and their perceptions of their own ‘typical sober’ and ‘typical drunk’ personality. They then visited a lab with groups of friends and were treated to vodka and lemonade cocktails, while being asked to take part in group activities, such as discussion questions and puzzles to bring out certain personality traits.

After drinking, participants reported lower levels of conscientiousness, openness to experience, and agreeableness, and they reported higher levels of extroversion and emotional stability.

“We believe both the participants and raters were both accurate and inaccurate – the raters reliably reported what was visible to them and the participants experienced internal changes that were real to them but imperceptible to observers,” added Dr Winograd.

“Of course, we also would love to see these findings replicated outside of the lab – in bars, at parties, and in homes where people actually do their drinking,”

“Most importantly, we need to see how this work is most relevant in the clinical realm and can be effectively included in interventions to help reduce any negative impact of alcohol on peoples’ lives.”

The upshot? You become more yourself when drinking.

Are you extroverted? Then, you will become more so when drinking. Are you introverted? Well, then, you guessed it … you become more so when inebriated.


The research was originally published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science. The interview and quotes above appeared in the Daily Mail from May 15, 2017.

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