The Clare Spark Blog

December 16, 2015

The Depression Grand Challenge: UCLA style

Human brain, conceptual computer artwork. HuffPo

Human brain, conceptual computer artwork. HuffPo

The well-funded David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA has issued its monthly fund-raising magazine, this one titled “The Golden Age of Brain Science.” Removing the stigma from genetically transmitted “depression” is one of their major themes. Turns out that “depression” is entirely inherited, and their interdisciplinary team includes no historians or even anthropologists, but not to worry, psychiatrists are included.

Lest the reader think that social responsibility has been abandoned by the new neuroscientists, note that final paragraph in the featured article: it is a typical liberal double bind/mixed message. Has the Nature-Nurture controversy been resolved?https://clarespark.com/2016/02/09/is-the-nature-nurture-debate-over/

As the Golden Age progresses, neuroscience will transform society: Artificial limbs controlled by thought. Enhanced cognition. Drugs precisely targeted to individuals. Understanding of how external forces like poverty affect the brain.

And a looming new responsibility.

Our brain is not just a reflection of our genetics but is also very much a reflection of our environment,’ says [Kelsey] Martin [interim Dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine]. We have a social responsibility to make sure that the environment is one in which human beings flourish.’

Forget socially-induced trauma, forget [Freudians or Kleinians or socially irresponsible Republicans and Milton Friedman-esque advocates of free markets/upward mobility]. UCLA’s message of genetically engineered and psychotropic-drug-induced “hope” will usher us into the Brave New World.

BraveNewWorld_FirstEdition

As for myself, between the bread and circus atmosphere of political “debates” this election season, or the rise of ISIS and the general incompetence of the political class, I hold on to my environmentally-induced anxiety and depression like Captain Ahab’s red flag.

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March 30, 2015

Hillary, Carly, and the triumph of gender studies

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:06 pm
Tags: , , ,
Only a woman will do to comment on HC

Only a woman will do to comment on HC

One of the ghastly features of multiculturalism and cultural studies in general, is the domination of the addled notion that “any woman will do.” For instance, Carly Fiorina (who lost her bid to be Senator from California), and whose career at Hewlett Packard did not end in a blaze of glory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carly_Fiorina) is considered to be the appropriate person to take down Hillary Clinton, for “any woman will do.”

If a male were to point out Ms. Clinton’s deficiencies, he could be taken down as a sexist. So into the breach steps a Republican female, for any woman will do. This is the predictable outcome of collectivist ideologies spun by the liberal establishment. (A reminder that until the late 20th century, the communists I knew, unlike liberals, considered feminism to be a “bourgeois deviation,” and it should never displace class conflict as the relevant, pressing structural problem. This position seems to have been modified as the newly minted field of gender studies was obviously dominated by leftists and the most avid environmentalists. “Class” as a variable is important to both leftists and free-market capitalists. For the Left, class struggle will bring communism; for conservatives and Republicans, “class” is a consideration for measuring upward mobility.)

Forget that Ms. Fiorina has few, if any, qualifications to hold such an office as POTUS. It is true that she fits into the upward mobility-meritocracy theme beloved by politicians in either party, for as she bragged on Fox News Sunday, she started out as a secretary before her rise to the top.

When I was in graduate school pursuing a doctorate in US history (UCLA, 1983-1993), I suggested at a crowded conference that the concerns of women should not be shunted off into a corner, but should be integrated into the curriculum (obviously referring to the humanities curriculum). This prompted guffaws from the mostly male, liberal, audience. After the presentations, Hayden White (head of the History of Consciousness program at UC Santa Cruz) approached me, and asked if I was in the job market yet. He wasn’t offering me a position, but warning me to lay off.

Not long before that, I displeased two powerful feminist professors, Kathryn Kish Sklar and Ruth Bloch, who cornered me in Sklar’s office because I had brought up class differences in women and criticized a famous article for conflating all women into one big bag. One of them (Bloch) even suggested that I should have been thrown out of the doctoral program for my gaffe.

purpleheart-1

I got similar screams of rage when I complained about separatist ethnic studies programs at yet another international conference. And when I was appointed as representative of all University of California students in the Affirmative Action Committee, I introduced a motion that all professors in relevant fields should integrate the concerns of minorities and women into their classes, without depending on separate “studies” programs. The next year, no one told me about the yearly meeting, but the year after that I made sure to attend, and was informed that my resolution (unanimously passed in our committee) was never voted upon because it infringed upon “academic freedom.”

New PC Look

New PC Look

Now we can look forward to a campaign for president where only the “crazies” will oppose separatist cultural studies. And for their pains, they will be labeled by the “moderate” and “balanced” press, as I was, “racist” and “sexist.” And at the top of their lungs.

August 30, 2010

Growth or Redistribution? excerpt from Third Point LLC letter to investors 8/27/10

 [To my readers: I am neither an economist nor an economic historian, so I thought that this collage and analysis of where our country is headed under the Obama administration, remarkable for its clarity and forthrightness, would be a welcome addition to the website. I thank Dan Loeb for giving me permission to quote from his letter, the full content of which can be accessed on the internet. Also see the front page of the Business section of the New York Times today, August 31, 2010: http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/31/sorkin-why-wall-st-is-deserting-obama/?scp=1&sq=Daniel%20Loeb&st=cse]

Daniel S. Loeb

All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

– Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, 1801

 A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.

– Thomas Jefferson, Writings, 1743-1826

 I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of the people.

– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Thomas Cooper, 1802

 One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it.

– Ronald Reagan, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRdLpem-AAs, 1961

 You know, there’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit – the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us – the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid-off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town. When you think like this – when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers – it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help.

– Barack Obama, Xavier University Commencement Speech, 2006

 It is that fundamental belief, I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.

– Barack Obama, Democratic National Convention Speech, 2004

 I think when you spread the wealth around it’s good for everybody.

–Barack Obama’s Comments to Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, 2008

The secret of US success is neither Wall Street nor Silicon Valley, but its long-surviving rule of law and the system behind it… American system is said to be “designed by genius and for the operation of the stupid.”

– General Liu Yazhou, Phoenix Magazine, August 2010  

Review and Outlook

As we entered the second quarter of 2010, many measures of confidence and economic activity were showing consistent improvement, leading us to increase our exposures in select undervalued companies which we thought would benefit from a favorable economic environment. Most pundits initially attributed the subsequent turn in the markets and investor sentiment to the Greek crisis, concern over the Euro, the Oil Spill in the Gulf, and vague rumors concerning faltering Chinese growth. However, it is apparent to us that the turning point in both investor and consumer confidence came on April 16th, with the filing of the government’s suit against Goldman Sachs over its mortgage CDO activities. This politically-laced lawsuit was a tipping point for shaky investor confidence against an increasingly worrisome landscape of new laws and proposed regulations that are perceived by many market participants to promote “redistribution” rather than growth, and are contrary to free market ideals.

As every student of American history knows, this country’s core founding principles included non-punitive taxation, Constitutionally-guaranteed protections against persecution of the minority, and an inexorable right of self-determination. Washington has taken actions over the past months like the Goldman suit that seem designed to fracture the populace by pulling capital and power from the hands of some and putting it in the hands of others.

 For example, a well-intentioned government program gone awry is the new CARD Act that restricts banks from repricing interest rates on borrowers who fail to meet their revolving credit obligations. The effect of this legal prohibition has been to force the banks to raise the interest rate paid by all borrowers, to compensate for losses they are now being forced to take on delinquent borrowers. The effect is a redistribution of wealth from people who pay their debts on time to those who do not.

 Laws and regulations such as these justifiably raise questions about this government’s commitment to free-market capitalism and the articulated rule of law. Arguably unconstitutional Bills of Attainder, such as the special “Enterprise Tax” proposed to be levied on hedge fund managers and other managers of private partnerships who wish to sell their management companies (ostensibly in order to extend unemployment benefits beyond the current 99 weeks) send a vivid message that this Administration is operating from a playbook quite different from the one we are used to as American business people; a thought that chills all participants in these free markets.

 On the other hand, it is not hard to understand the source of the popular distrust in capitalism today. Many people see the collapse of the sub-prime markets, along with the failure and subsequent rescue of many banks, as failures of capitalism rather than a result of a vile stew of inept management, unaccountable boards of directors, and overmatched regulators not just asleep, but comatose, at the proverbial switch. When we hear the chorus of former executives and regulators exclaim that the crisis was “impossible to see coming”, while at the same time walking away with millions or going on to greater levels of responsibility in government, it is both puzzling and demoralizing. It is easy to see why so many people have concluded that the entire system is rigged.  

This crisis of trust in our system is not limited to inept executives in regulated financial institutions who bury their shareholders and then walk away with ill-gotten sacks of loot. Having analyzed hundreds of proxy statements from the outside and having had the “pleasure” of sitting on several corporate boards, giving me a chance to walk the sausage factory floor, I have personally witnessed the incompetence of many boards of directors. One can only conclude that the incentive systems put in place for directors reward luck and station more than they do talent, skill or creation of shareholder value.

 Not all boards are bad, of course. Private equity firms have a terrific model of appointing energetic members of their firms and outside experts to oversee the affairs of the companies they govern. They tend to have real “skin in the game”, spend days reviewing strategy and other matters, and have their own staffs to analyze numbers produced by the company. Board fees tend to be irrelevant to the members of such firms as they are keenly focused on strategies to deleverage and to create long/medium term shareholder value. Even some public companies have similarly engaged corporate boards.

 However, many of the boards we have come across are populated by individuals who rely on the stipends they receive from numerous corporate boards and thus appear motivated primarily to ensure continuing board fees, first-class air travel and accommodations, and a steady diet of free corned beef sandwiches until they reach their mandatory retirement age. We are therefore encouraged by the recently finalized proxy rules, which will ease the nomination and election of directors by shareholders.

 All of the above leads us to conclude that America faces not only a crisis of confidence among consumers unwilling to spend and businesspeople unwilling to invest, but also a crisis of leadership. So long as our leaders tell us that we must trust them to regulate and redistribute our way back to prosperity, we will not break out of this economic quagmire. One can hope only that this Administration, composed of brilliant academics that have had experience in creating the very regulation and overseeing the very institutions that have failed, has learned from its mistakes and will set us down the right path. Perhaps our leaders will awaken to the fact that free market capitalism is the best system to allocate resources and create innovation, growth and jobs. Perhaps they will see the folly of generating greater deficits by “investing” in programs that lead to corruption and distortions of the system.

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