Penis Anxiety

2014-09-03 14.26.15

Nudity is feared in America. God forbid, one person will see another’s genitalia in public, and not under the sheets. In fact, in Massachusetts any such display is a sex crime; as a result, even if one pees behind a … Continue reading

Allies on Speed


German soldiers used drugs in the Second World War. The drug of choice was Pervitin, commonly known today as crystal meth. The idea of Nazis on speed has caught the public’s imagination, and titles such as “The Nazi Death Machine: … Continue reading

The Illiberal University

(Continued from Liberal and Illiberal Bias in Universities.)

ArtesLiberalesIf about 75 percent of academics vote for the Democratic Party, and most academics identify themselves as center-leftists, does it necessarily mean that Conservatives and Republicans are persecuted in universities? The answer is no. “Under-representation of any group in any field does not imply discrimination,” even though this premise is often the basis for affirmative action and similar projects that conservatives and liberals alike espouse when it suits them.

Liberalism in higher education is almost as old as the modern university itself, and therefore is not that interesting; there is nothing new under the sun here. Yet, the casual observer might be surprised by how these supposedly liberal universities operate. Although professors claim to be liberal and progressive, they run their own institutions as if they are the modern incarnation of Henry Ford.

The administration is often blamed for the cutthroat business practices of the universities–bureaucrats are blamed for everything else, so why not this as well? However, this attitude glosses over the fact that professors had let and keep on letting administrators run universities with only the bottom line in mind. This is why universities bust the weak teaching assistants’ unions, and employ an outrageously large number of adjunct professors. In turn, the liberal professors—at least those who attained tenure—complain about the administration, but do absolutely nothing about it. In fact, they benefit from the situation: they are members of a guild which enjoys the fruit of the labor of their apprentices.

As Jeffery Williams pointed out: professors ignore the dog-eat-dog environment they have created in their halls; instead, they keep on plugging the idea of diversity on campus both among students and faculty. They turn a blind eye on how their institutions are run, trampling over the livelihood of their juniors, while obsessing about other universal values and the need to have more women, blacks, Hispanics and the ‘other’ on campus. If the Supreme Court struck down quotas, affirmative action was invented to replace it. But here is a revolutionary idea: using the same flawed liberal rhetoric regarding affirmative action and considering the rarity of Conservatives in faculties, one wonders if it is time for affirmative action towards Republicans? After all, in the name of diversity, perhaps the campus should become truly diverse.

‘Never!’ is the first answer that comes to my mind, right after a call to abolish affirmative action altogether and reform the employment practices in higher education basing them on merit rather than sex, race or politics.

Liberal and Illiberal Bias in Universities

(Continued from Liberal Universities; not a myth, but a fact)

In 2011, Jonathan Haidt, currently a psychology professor at NYU, gave a talk at the annual convention of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in which he likened his own profession to religion, or in his words: ‘tribal moral community.’ Conservatives and Liberals alike, he asserted, congregate with their own ilk, and as a result they are sucked into ‘a moral matrix,’ or a shared mirage that perpetuates and reinforces the beliefs of the group while discounting the beliefs of others. Politicized academe, that tends to be bound together by liberal values, shares the same fate. Haidt, an observers might say, has shown that the open minded emperor wears no clothes, and even he has taboos that he dares not research; he lives in an environment that lacks diversity; and finally, he exhibit a sense of intolerance towards the other—in this case, conservatives. But what of it?

political-debateThe real fear Conservatives have is that conservative students would be brainwashed into becoming Liberals. As one of my teachers often said: “when I teach you, I call it education, but you might call it brainwashing.” Teachers sometimes admit that brainwashing and education are often one and the same. Yet, some American universities have taken this idea to an extreme. For example, I know of a case from the University of Wisconsin in which a program supervisor told the department’s Teaching Assistants that their mission was to turn their students into ‘good Democrats.’

Nevertheless, the Conservative claim that ‘our kids’ are brainwashed in liberal institutions is not credible. Conservatives and parents alike must remember that the proverbial college kid is not a kid at all, but an adult. He can and does make decisions of his own. Moreover, the whole purpose of higher education is critical thinking, and a good teacher will encourage his students to question his own teachings as well. Finally, even though many professors might not admit it, their influence on their students’ lives is not that great. No matter how charismatic a professor might be, what are the chances that a session in class or two will change a student’s mind for the rest of his life? I suspect not very high.

Do students end up being more Liberal after attending a university? A decade ago, I saw a study that showed how Israeli students tend to enter universities as right-wingers, but graduate as left-wingers. This goes hand in hand with Neil Gross’ claim that the more educated a person is, the more likely he will be a Liberal. Brainwashing or not, that is the nature of higher education and apparently has been the nature of the beast since the early days of the 20th century.

Ultimately—and to the chagrin of Conservatives—there is no way to keep politics away from the classroom, or preventing a professor from expressing his opinions about topics if one wishes to keep academic freedom. A professor, like any individual in a free society, has the right for his opinion. One might say that students pay that professor precisely for his opinions. It does not mean, however, that students must adopt that opinion.

(Continued in The Illiberal University.)

Liberal Universities; not a myth, but a fact

9780674059092-lgOn June 16, 2013, Jeffrey Williams, a literary and cultural studies professor at Carnegie Mellon University published a review of Neil Gross’ Why are Professors Liberal and Why do Conservatives Care? in the L.A. Review of Books. reproduced the review with an eye-catching subtitle: ‘Sociologist Neil Gross dispels the myth that college campuses are overrun with lefty East Coast intellectuals.’ Gross, however, does no such thing.

In fact, he writes that according to one poll only 14 percent of professors identify themselves as Republicans (that takes into account those who teach in ‘conservative’ departments in the natural sciences and business.) The rest of the nation’s faculty members are radical leftists, moderate liberals or independents who tend to vote liberal.

Gross’ own research, which offers many shades of political grey, shows that 23 percent of professors claim they are ‘strong conservatives,’ and four percent are ‘economic conservative.’ Under these two categories most academic Republicans and Libertarians hide. The rest, a stunning 73 percent, is dominated by various flavors of liberals or Democrat voters.

It is true that Gross identified a group that is dubbed ‘moderates,’ and it composes 19 percent of the professoriate. Moderates claim they would vote for either a Democrat or a Republican, but they tend to vote Democrats when push comes to shove. Or in my words, these are the people who say that they are Independent, but when asked when was the last time they voted Republican, their answer is the 1980 elections (probably because they are too shy to admit they voted for Bush in 2000.)

Gross demonstrates that although self declared ‘radicals’ are not as prevalent in American universities as they were in the 60s and 70s, the number of liberals as a whole has grown since. Be that as it may, a ‘radical liberal’ or a moderate is in the eyes of the beholder. For this reason, I trust the voting pattern among professors more than what they claim about themselves. Gross does not provide a clear professorial voting breakdown, but one can gather from his book that over 75 percent of professors vote for the Democratic party. In other words, the liberal professor archetype is not a myth, but a firm reality.

Self-selection, rather than outright discrimination, is the reason why Gross believes professors are liberal. Although Gross does not disprove the claim of discrimination or academic censorship as in the case of Larry Summers at Harvard, he provides ample historical and sociological evidence for why potential (liberal) graduates pursue an academic career. This pattern reinforces, and reproduces liberalism in academic circles.  There is no reason to believe this will ever change, or even should change, but it is a fact nonetheless, one that the editor of should remember before believing fiction for reality.

(Continued in Liberal and Illiberal Bias in Universities.)

Fads and Misuses of the Rule of Law

justicia+ciegaJurists often claim that a key purpose of the law is to educate the public, thereby instilling in the common man new, better forms of behavior. This is called in academic circles ‘norm management.’ It essentially turns the law into a whip, keeping the public in line to the satisfaction of one whimsical fad of a lawmaker or another.

Norm management is dangerous, and contradicts the very nature of the rule of law, since it opens the door to majoritarianism, or the tyranny of the majority.  Laws in a liberal democracy are meant to lay the rules of the playground neither more nor less. They determine what is legal, and what is not. Their purpose is to keep public and property safe on the one hand, and the state or the government on their toes on the other. The purpose of the law, therefore, is not to teach me that murder is bad, or that I should refrain from committing it, but rather to punish me if I murder another. The law also sets the rules of how guilt is proven, how I should be punished and for how long.

Norm management, however, allows politicians, doctors or activists to turn their ideologies into practice, hoping to change, educate, or brainwash the public in the process. By doing so, these pushers feel morally superior as they attempt to realize their utopian society, which is by their definition inherently good. In reality they often impose public norms that cannot be bourn as in the example of Peter the Great’s edict against picking one’s nose in 18th century Russia or Prohibition in 20th century America.

A major pitfall in the attempt to educate the masses by law comes from the ever-changing rulers in a democracy. One year, the government or legislature is composed of conservatives, the next it falls into the hands of liberals or socialists. What then? Will the public be educated and reeducated every four years? Are we to expect absolutely no sense of continuity just so politicians and those who endorse them will feel morally superior?

Capricious education such as this cannot be good to anyone, and will result in confusion, apathy, or extreme strife between the parties. Furthermore, the attempt to educate the public by law might grant the state too much power over the lives of individuals in the name of a certain ideal. Today, the government might urge us to stop drinking 16 oz. sodas, force the vaccination of children, or ban smoking cigarettes for our own good; but tomorrow, it might ban us from procreating if we possess certain genes that have a statistical correlation to cancer. These laws always pass for the common good, often in the name of progressivism, but they take away the rights of citizens to live their lives as they see fit nonetheless.

Norm management can also pop its ugly head in incentives. For example, the state might decide to push me into heating with natural gas by lowering taxation on that fuel. As a result the government incentivizes me to behave in a manner that I might otherwise opt not to. This was, is, and will be the case in many instances and there is no way avoiding it.

Laws often have an expressive moral value in basic forms of legislation such as the Constitution or the Bill of Rights; however, lawmakers, judges and jurists should refrain from the desire of expressing too many ideals in their laws, lest they will invoke confusion and dispersion of focus.

Where should the government or the legislator draw the line? Why is freedom of speech legitimate and the ban on cigarettes is not?  There is no logical rule of thumb that solves this conundrum. One might try implementing Jeremy Bentham’s felicific calculus to optimize the pleasure of the many. Yet, such an attempt is doomed to failure because what pleases one man will certainly displease another.

To save the rule of law from turning into the rule of fads, I can only offer two liberal-democratic suggestions: norm management should never become a goal of legislation. And whenever a piece of legislation is motivated by ideological zeal, the public should treat it with suspicion or else the rule of law shall be used, misused and abused by all political parties.

Crystal Meth in Nazi Germany

What has not been said about pervitin (or crystal meth) use in Nazi Germany? According to Werner Pieper’s book, Nazis on Speed, the Nazis deliberately distributed the drug freely, intending to subdue the public and increase productivity. This claim has been cited and recited time and again, without a single shred of evidence. If such a grand conspiracy were true, an endless bureaucratic paper trail would have survived in the German archives including: endless lists of people who were to receive the drug on a regular basis, fixed distribution points for the public, a sophisticated logistical apparatus which would transport the drugs from depots to these distribution points; and if not that, at least an order from the central health authorities instructing physicians to prescribe the drug to their patients. Aside from an estimate of how many pervitin tablets were manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Temmler Werke, nothing has ever been found to substantiate this claim.  In all, the German military did not receive many pills; certainly not enough to have the entire military high for the duration of a five and a half years war.

nazis_on_speedDuring the Second World War, German military officials and the medical authorities debated the effectiveness of pervitin, especially for pilots. In the end, it was decided on October 25, 1941 that the drug should be put under lock and key. Official use continued in the military, but with extreme caution.

Pervitin was not banned in Germany. In fact, the German drug law (known as the Opium Law of 1929) did not prohibit any type of drug, be it an amphetamine or another. Instead, drug use remained legal in Germany, but possession of drugs without a proper prescription was considered a misdemeanor. Whereas the military limited the use of pervitin the fall of 1941, for civilians, dolantin (an opiate), pervitin (crystal meth), and benzedrine (‘bennies,’ an American amphetamine popular at the time) were included in the sixth amendment of the drug law a few months earlier on 21 June 1941. The reason, according to Oberregierungsrat Kärber of the Ministry of Health, was the addictive nature of the drugs, not pilot experiences in the Luftwaffe.

It must be clearly stated: the amendment did not constitute a ban; instead, a prescription was needed to obtain the drugs, and if the prescription was given for a long period of time, a record had to be sent to the proper authorities. In spite of the amendment, pervitin consumption ostensibly rose so rapidly that Oberregierungsrat Linz of the Ministry of Health predicted in 1942 that more extreme measures would have to be taken against the drug, even though it had acceptable medical uses in treating vascular diseases. Such measures were never implemented, perhaps because the German police only knew of 84 pervitin addicts in 1942.

Pervitin became infamous and should be associated with the Nazis because they used the drug in concentration camps. The catalyst for the experiment was the death from poisoning of SS Hauptscharführer Köhler in Weimar. The police believed that the death might have resulted from the reaction of pervitin with another narcotic drug.  The details were described in the “Medical Case” of the Nuremberg Trials:

Professor Dr. Timm — that is, the forensic medical expert from Vienna who performed the autopsy on Koehler — came to the opinion that there were two possibilities: first, that a South American poison had been used which was totally unknown to us and which dissolves completely in the human body; second, that a combination of drugs had been used. One drug had excited the circulation to the point of exhaustion, the other drug had acted as an antidote. Professor Dr. Timm spoke of the possibility that pervitin had been used together with a soporific. The idea that a South American poison had been used was rejected from a criminological point of view. From a technical point of view the second possibility would have been quite possible.

After Köhler’s death, a conference took place in the Main Office of Reich Security: the Gestapo chief Gruppenführer Müller presided. Gruppenführer Nebe, the chief of the Reich Criminal Police was present, as well as Professor Mrugowsky MD. The latter pointed out that pervitin was not a poison and that it could be obtained without a prescription. In other words, the problem facing these gentlemen was that pervitin was considered a safe drug, as was reported in the proceedings of the Nuremberg trial:

One of the gentlemen present pointed out that in America experiments were carried out where up to 100 tablets of pervitin were administered and the effects were not fatal. But no one present could answer the question of whether a combination of pervitin and a soporific would be harmless, or whether it would lead to an increased reaction to any one direction. The latter appeared improbable to the experts.

To settle the question Müller ordered Dr. Ding of the concentration camp in Buchenwald to conduct experiments on inmates. Other experiments were conducted elsewhere, most famously in Dachau. It was concluded that the drug was not responsible for the death of the SS officer. The number of inmates who suffered until this conclusion was reached is unknown.

Drugs, Nazis and the Israeli Press – The Old Pervitin Story

image-497337-galleryV9-ynfaSensationalism is the bread and butter of journalism, and if one can mix Nazis and drugs, the outcome is explosive. Every few months, an enterprising journalist rediscovers that the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe used Pervitin, or crystal meth, in military operations. These report seem to rely on Nazis on Speed, a German book written and edited by the Green activist Werner Pieper.

Most recently, the Spiegel came out—yet again—with the story of Henrich Böll’s request from his family to send him pervitin to his military post when he was a young soldier. The journal could not resist mentioning the pervitin laced Panzerschokolade given to German soldiers before missions. These stories are as old as they are misguiding. For example, on June 3 Israel’s leading daily Yediot Acharonot misreported the Spiegel article by linking German atrocities with pervitin use.

The truth of the matter is that pep-pills were used and are still used in militaries around the world, most notably in the US armed forces today. Using Yediot’s logic, are we now to blame American atrocities on drugs? This line of defense was in fact attempted when two F-16 pilots were charged with manslaughter after firing a laser-guided bomb on a Canadian contingent in Afghanistan in 2002. The two pilots pleaded that they were trigger happy due to the ‘go pills’ given to them. After a lengthy and convoluted military legal proceeding, the charges against one pilot were dismissed and the other received a slap on the wrist.

The Israeli Yediot also mentioned that Hitler himself used pervitin, wrongly attributing the Spiegel article as the source. Who knows where the Israeli editor got this bit, but the story of Hitler’s drug use is old, first originating in a 1979 book written by Leonard and Renate Heston. They suggested that Hitler was a drug addict, a fact secretly hidden from his entourage and the German people. In the book, they detailed four testimonies that described Hitler’s foul mood and mood changes, which lead them to the scandalous conjecture that Hitler was an addict. Ian Kershaw, Hitler’s biographer, countered the Hestons’ claim by pointing out that Hitler’s temper tantrums were known long before his alleged introduction to the drug and had been part of his personality since he was a young man.

Aside from these testimonies, the Hestons also relied on the medical diary of Dr. Theo Morell, Hitler’s personal physician, even though none of his notes indicate long-term pervitin use. Hitler was given pervitin occasionally, but Morell failed to note the dosage that he administered, making it extremely difficult to establish anything from this curious episode. Before the public condemns Hitler as a drug addict, however, one should also note that Lord Moran, Winston Churchill’s treating physician, gave the prime minister drugs (barbiturates and amphetamines) when he was under stress as well.

The Hestons suggested that Hitler’s drug use was partially responsible for the outbreak of the war, as well as attributing Germany’s failure in the war to his drug. The authors also claim that Hitler used the after effect of amphetamine depression in order to bring himself to commit suicide. As if Hitler really needed excuses to commit suicide in April 1945, when Russian soldiers were  standing just a few meters away from his bunker, ready to skewer him alive. Be that as it may, Hitler on drugs is exactly what the press needs: a good sensationalist story.

(Continued in Crystal Meth in Nazi Germany)

How Low will Universities Go? The Birth of Casino Studies

Due to popular demand, I have decided to post more about the state of higher education:


How Low can Universities Go?

The Birth of Casino Studies


urn-3-FHCL-73024Lasell College in Newton, MA is now offering an undergraduate program in ‘Casino and Resort Management’ and one must ask, how low can universities go? Lasell is not alone. The college expands on an already existing two-year program at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst).

For decades if not centuries, casinos were run without a high education degree. I doubt Meyer Lansky or Arnold Rothstein ever went to college to learn how to run a casino. But on second thought, perhaps universities should open a BA program in pimping and take lessons from Lucky Luciano.

To make this point clear, Lasell College is not swindling anyone. Both students and college know exactly what the program is about. The only problem here is that the public has forgotten the purpose of higher education.

Basically universities in the US have turned into glorified vocational schools, where one learns a trade (whether medicine, law or casino management) as opposed to a real classical education. Sadly, traditional fields of study like philosophy and history are emptying in favor of these bogus programs because students and parents think they are more suitable for the future job market.

As fears from a student loan debt bubble grow, this rosy picture becomes dimmer. If college education were such a good investment, then the bubble would not have threatened the very fabric of American society to begin with. The bubble exists partially because American students expect a standard of living they cannot pay for, but also because university degrees are not really designed to give graduates better jobs, unless they are highly specialized like in engineering, law or medicine (and even then, one learns the actual trade while interning and not in the classroom.)

Studies show that the average college educated graduate can expect $12,000 more a year than a non-graduate. The average tuition in an in-state school is about $22,000 a year with room and board, but without food and other expenses like books (UMass Amherst, for example, charges about 23,000 from in-state students.) This means that students should expect to pay well over $100,000 for their education. How long will it take them to pay back this investment? If you factor in taxes, my best guess is at least 15 years if not more. To put this in perspective, a graduate will pay for his education for more than 40 percent of his career life.

Back to casino management: Business programs are not challenging intellectually, and they are not necessary for a successful career either; yet if you go to the right school like the HBS, you will find fellow students who might help you in your future. Moreover, established businesses will come to campus and recruit you. That is a great perk indeed, but only if you get into the right school. Unfortunately for most prospective students, the HBS is very selective. The less prestigious the school is, the less likely the program will be helpful–not due to lacking intellectual rigor in class, but rather because the right students and potential connections are missing.

Let’s put Harvard aside. Casino management is not that complicated. One can learn how to do it by interning in a casino without a BA degree. As cultivated as Arnold Rothstein might have been, he did not possess a degree to run his gaming joints. In fact, people have managed casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City for decades without degrees, and still made profits.

One might say that universities are a business like any other, and they offer students opportunities to learn business management with the benefit of a well-rounded education. However, the average American student is anything but a well-rounded individual. When I had my first glance into the American higher education system, I was shocked by the state of affairs in the country. Part of the problem is rooted in the fact that students do not enroll in universities to learn, but to get a good job (while having a good time in the process.) This expectation, however, is ridiculous considering how long the investment is supposed to pay off.

The other part of the problem is that students are not treated like adults, and they are pushed by their parents to go to college without any experience in life. As a result colleges become an extension of high school with the administration guarding the ‘kids’ instead of their parents. In effect, the current system infantilizes students, who are not particularly good or interested in learning.

In conclusion, one should expect the situation to worsen the more one thinks of universities as businesses, or institutions whose sole purpose is to train labor for the job market.

Un-Enlightened Medicine and Immanuel Kant

urn-3-HLSLaziness and cowardice are the reasons why mankind remains immature and as a result shies away from enlightenment, so wrote Immanuel Kant in his 1784 essay “Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?” For him it was a sure sign of immaturity if a person surrendered his own will and understanding to the guidance of others when otherwise a rational decision could be made.

Kant’s example for immaturity was when “a doctor determines for me my own diet.” In other words, an enlightened person would know when to ignore his doctor by using his own reason. What appeared as a case of an enlightened person in the late 18th century turned into the exact opposite two hundred years later. Today, if a person were to ignore the advice of his doctor or nutritionist, he would be dubbed a ‘non-compliant patient,’ clearly marking him as an irrational creature, if not utterly insane. Much has changed in the last two centuries.

18835130Throughout the 19th century, the specialization of doctors turned them into the voice of reason, which granted them power over their laymen patients. The public and the authorities have yielded their own reason to the wisdom of physicians, but in the same process managed to infantilize themselves. If doctors were given absolute power over their patients, mankind would once more slide into a state of immaturity from which it would be difficult to recover. After all, doctors are now the voice of reason, and we, as patients, could not question their reason if we desired to keep our rationality.

Kant explained the mechanism of immaturity: the wielders of power will threaten us that we cannot live without them, or else we’ll fall like little children. But the process of maturity requires us to fall and make mistakes, or else, how are we to learn?

The monopolistic tendencies of physicians have also a pecuniary side. By gaining more power over us, they are also given a larger percentage of our economy as depicted by the ever-inflated investment in medicine. Power, money and reason are an awesome trio that has seized almost a fifth of the American GDP, even though by all accounts the life expectancy in the United States is comparatively abysmal. So, why are Americans still willing to part with their dollars to a failing system? Kant’s answer would have been clear: laziness and cowardice.