Category Archives: The Wall Street Journal

Black and White Reigns

Andrew Klavan, an award-winning author of mystery novels, wrote a brilliant op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal (7/25/08) in which he stated exactly what I believe. 

He pointed out that liberal Hollywood films about the war on terror (In the Valley of Elah, Rendition, and Redacted) have all failed, largely because they propose to make the actions and philosophies of terrorists and coalition forces moral “equivalents,” because they disrespect the military, and “seem unable to distinguish the difference between America and Islamo-fascism.”  These films depict “good” guys as indistinguishable from “bad” guys, ultimately “denigrating the very heroes who defend us.”

Klavan points out that the big blockbuster The Dark Knight, is a conservative movie about the war, like 300 before it, and these films value morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right.  Liberal, ultimately anti-American, films are realistic and direct, while conservative, pro-values films are usually fantasies using comic-inspired heroes (Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Spiderman 3).

What makes the real world difficult is that “good” guys must defend values in a world that does not universally embrace them, and that puts “good” guys in the awful position of sometimes having to be intolerant, unkind, and brutal in order to ultimately defend the “good” values we love.

As a psychotherapist, I talk to people on the air every day who try to keep out of the way of conflict, confrontation, and judgment, so they will be liked and seen as “good” guys.  I remind them that “good” guys risk, and sometimes cross the line, to stand between evil and the innocent who need protection from the few.

Instead, as Klavan points out, “When heroes arise who take those difficulties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness.  We prosecute and execute the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve.”

That means that sometimes good men have to kill (“murder” is to kill an innocent) to preserve life; that sometimes they must violate values in order to maintain those values.  That’s just a fact of real life in which good and evil have always co-existed.

 

More on Parental Irresponsibility

Sue Shellenbarger writes a column for The Wall Street Journal that generally sends me up any available wall. The column is entitled “Home & Family,” and I keep up with it if only to counter its content.

She recently answered a reader’s question (4/30/08) that had to do with a divorced father wanting to take his 10 year old son to his native Australia for 10 days, but his ex-wife is fighting the plan. The father contends that life lessons of such a vacation trump school. He’s going to court for the right to take him, and asks Shellenbarger what she thinks.

First of all, there are laws which prohibit one parent from taking a child out of the country without the express permission of the other. The reason is obvious: child-stealing. Secondly, having divorced parents at war with each other over a child hurts the child as he or she feels divided loyalties and tremendous anxiety. Thirdly, taking a child out of school for a protracted trip teaches the child that education is less of a priority than personal desires for fun. This father could arrange a summer trip when no school is missed. My guess is that this is a major power play.

Shellenbarger not only doesn’t deal with any of these issues, but she focuses on the whim of the child: if he would be comfortable with the trip; if he would see it as an adventure….in other words, just considering what the kid wants. What?? Of course the kid wants to be out of school and hanging out with dingos and kangaroos!

“The ideal route would be for you and your ex-wife to set aside your personal feelings and focus on what he truly wants,” contributes a New Jersey Marriage and Family Therapist. “[It] depends on your son’s openness to the experience. Try to give him a free and honest choice, unfettered by feelings of loyalty to either of you or fear of letting you down.”

Is she kidding? How can a ten year old do that? And why put the burden on the child? Aren’t the parents supposed to want and do what is best for the child? This is more of the “if it feels good it is good” school of thought – an experiment whose failure doesn’t seem to curtail its perpetuation.

Stupid Love Science

Philosophers throughout the ages have contemplated and agonized over what causes people to fall in love.  Sociologists and psychologists have done the same over what causes people to stay in love.  Now neuroscientists are trying to solve both their problems by taking brain scans of folks in love looking for the “cause” of love.

The report of their work prepared by the Wall Street Journal (2/8/08) seems to miss the main point.  Looking for brain sites of increased activity in people who after many years of marriage still feel fabulously in love, is not likely due to some abnormal hyperactivity in centers associated with affection or pleasure.  It is the opposite way around.  People who behave consistently in a loving manner constantly stoke the fires of affectionate and passionate love – all which will show up in their brain scans.

The couple they “analyzed,” the Turners, are described up front:

“Ann Tucker is pushing a shopping cart through the produce section of a supermarket in Plainview, N.Y., when she turns to kiss her husband.  The supermarket kiss is a regular ritual for the Tuckers.  So are the restaurant kiss and the traffic-light kiss.  ‘I guess we do kiss a lot,’ says Mrs. Tucker…Mrs. Tucker is living happily ever after, and scientists are curious why.”

Why?  That’s easy: she and her husband constantly behave like people in love.  Feelings follow behavior and both feed into brain pathways that become “well-worn” through constant activation.

So, stop looking for supplements, hormone injections, or implanted brain stimulators, miracles or moonspots.  Instead, behave like a man/woman in love and you’ll create what you wish for.

American Values, Google Edition

Go ahead and guess what came out as Number 3 on AOL’s “Top Searches from Mobile Devices.”  Right!  It’s porn.  The Wall Street Journal’s Carl Bialik (The Numbers Guy) got the original list in a draft press release, and said he “pointed out the surprising entry” to a spokeswoman, who said that normally, such terms are “scrubbed from the list.”  And guess what?  When the final list was released, “porn” was nowhere to be found, replaced by “iPhone,” which was pushed up to Number 3 from Number 4 on the original draft release.

It gets even better….

“…Britney Spears and Saddam Hussein could each top the category of ‘celebrity’ and ‘news,’ respectively, in lists from multiple search engines.  Those search engines willing to share numbers beyond their news releases made clear that, in search land, the troubled pop singer trumped the late dictator.  Searches for Ms. Spears ran six times those for Mr. Hussein on Yahoo!, and nearly 600 times on Lycos.”

How embarrassing for our nation.

 

[sources:  Bialik article:  you can search it on WSJ.com under The Numbers Guy for December 21.  Title of article is "What Topics Filled (Clean) Minds in '07?  For One:  An Asterisk or use the link here: http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB119820461738044109-lECMb7qhI7UaxADXmlRkefZGJhI_20081220.html?mod=rss_free  ] 

Encouraging Women To Do The Wrong Thing

First, full disclosure. Years ago, a journalist from Vanity Fair called me. She was supposedly friends for 20 years with my then-chief of staff, and wanted to interview me. And having some brains in my head (I don’t trust this stuff), I asked my associate about her, and she said “Y’know, she’s been a friend of mine; I’ll vouch for her.” So, I said ‘OK, I’ll call her, feel it out, and then make a decision.’

I called her, and she gave me a line of lies (that I found out later were a line of lies) about how I was a cultural phenomenon and she wanted to study this sociologically, and understand the points of view about how they became popular (but they weren’t), and she gave me this whole line, and I thought “OK, I like the point of view; she’s supposedly friends with my chief-of-staff who has known her and says she’s a decent person,” and I agreed to do it. Continue reading