Two weeks ago, the New York Times published an anonymous op-ed by a senior Trump administration official who was deeply concerned about President Trump’s mental health and his authoritarian tendencies. (Don Foster, a retired scholar who specializes in textual analysis — and correctly identified Joe Klein as the author of “Primary Colors” — thinks he knows who that person is.) For the New York Times to publish such an op-ed, and for a White House official to warn the American people and the world about a dangerous president is unprecedented in the country’s history. But the article was not surprising to at least one person. Bandy Lee, a professor of psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, says she was contacted last year by White House insiders, who were “scared” that the president was “unraveling.” Lee has been tracking the apparent decline in Donald Trump’s mental health for several years. She has convened a conference on the obligation of mental health professionals to warn the public about the dangers he represents, and is also the editor of the bestselling book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.” Will Donald Trump’s mental health continue to decline? In what ways is special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation exacerbating Trump’s apparent mental and emotional unraveling? How do collective narcissism and violence tie Donald Trump to his supporters? Are Trump’s authoritarian impulses connected to his mental health? Is the safety of the world imperiled by Donald Trump’s access to nuclear weapons?
Everyone wants to curry favor with the boss. If she golfs, you hit the driving range. If he’s a movie buff, you haunt the multiplex. So when the president of the United States continually makes clear that he is a huge fan of “alternative facts,” what’s an eager-to-please administration official to do? Take Brock Long, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As Hurricane Florence buffeted the Carolinas last weekend, Mr. Long went on the Sunday news shows to discuss the government’s response efforts. But he soon found himself fielding questions about President Trump’s claim that, contrary to Puerto Rico’s official estimate, “3,000 people did not die” as a result of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island last year. That death toll, according to the president, was manufactured by Democrats desperate to make him “look as bad as possible.” Mr. Trump’s denial of this mass tragedy prompted dismayed pushback, even among Republican officials. But Mr. Long, like a good soldier, rushed right in to shore up his boss’s wild theory on how the data had been cooked.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has been accused of ethical shiftiness in his past business dealings that would get someone in his position booted from any normal administration, or at least swallowed up in a major scandal. Former associates say he cheated them out of more than $120 million. So it was no surprise this week when compelling evidence emerged that the secretary may have committed perjury in his zealous pursuit of the president’s agenda. Then, of course, there’s Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, who this past spring was reportedly on thin ice with Mr. Trump for her failure to shut down migrant crossings at the border. By early summer, Ms. Nielsen found herself insisting that the administration did not have a policy of splitting apart migrant families even as she was aggressively enforcing and publicly defending that policy. On other issues, Ms. Nielsen has seemed more conflicted about toeing the president’s line, such as on the question of whether Russia meddled in the 2016 elections specifically with an eye toward helping Mr. Trump win.
Over at the Interior Department last year, the secretary, Ryan Zinke, and top aides, in their crusade to downsize various national monuments, withheld data pointing to the benefits, both economic and archaeological, of keeping protections in place while they played up the benefits of removing the protections. The deception was discovered in July when the department accidentally released a nonredacted version of the study in question — only to quickly recall it and send out the version tailored to make their case. And let us not forget Mr. Trump’s most committed and creative defender, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. She is regularly dispatched by her boss to mislead the American people on issues ranging from whether the president paid hush money to Stormy Daniels, the former porn star who claims to have had an affair with Mr. Trump, to whether he dictated a false statement about the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and the Russians. She has also taken it upon herself to tell whoppers about less salacious matters, including the trend in black unemployment and how diversity visas are issued. While scandalous, this kind of behavior is also depressingly predictable. When the president repeatedly sends the signal that he regards honesty as a handicap, he can quickly drag the whole executive branch down to his level.
Not the traits of a real leader
Political leaders do tend to have big egos, especially presidents. That can serve them well by providing confidence & leadership qualities. But it’s vital they see outside themselves & not just advance their own personal interests, also having the best interests of the country & American people at heart. Trump as seemingly a narcissistic megalomaniac can only see the world by how he can personally gain from it, so his personal traits would be uniquely defined as preferring to dismiss what’s best for our nation if he can take actions first serving himself: trump-s-presidency-
Some 20 months into his term Trump has been pretty much the president we expected: loud, boastful, bullying, reckless, ruder than the worst-bred minor royalty, tetchy as a wolverine in heat. The main thing to note is the very most main thing: he’s still going. The juggernaut that was launched off the down escalator at Trump Tower back in 2015 rolls on, strewing bodies and busted parts in its wake and one hell of a nasty stink, yet roll it does with undiminished vigor. Is there anything left to say that would stop it? Think of the hundreds of millions of words that have been thrown at him the last three years, every kind of rhetorical tool and tack has been brought to bear, and still he powers on. Fact-based argument, rational analysis, empirical proofs haven’t stopped him, nor have stark demonstrations of his laughably obvious lies. Appeals to Christian morality as expressed in the Beatitudes haven’t worked. The dry language of the law has been just as useless, the sworn testimony, the jury verdicts, the admissions of guilt from disgraced former advisers and operatives. Satire, derision, insult, scorn, all these bounce off his bones of steel like so many ping-pong balls.
It’s not even that he’s Teflon to all this; he thrives on it. Trump is a new breed of political Superman who eats kryptonite for breakfast; his enemies pile it on and he just gets stronger. The country is caught in a kind of spell, which is a florid way of saying we’re in the throes of a dire psychological phenomenon whose precedent goes at least as far back as the Salem witch trials. Closer to our own time we can look to the mind magic of Senator Joe McCarthy, or more localized warlocks like Pappy O’Daniel of Texas, spellbinding demagogues whose stories call into question the premise of the entire democratic project. Do we really want to be free? Are we up to the job of exercising our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with meaningful individual agency?
The defining accomplishment thus far of Trump’s fake-populist presidency has been enormous tax cuts for corporations and the 1%, triggering enormous stock buybacks that further benefit the 1%, and the rest of us hardly at all. It’s strong magic indeed that can sell this as a boon to working people while good, affordable health care, a living wage, collective bargaining, and a system of higher education that doesn’t sentence the country’s youth to years of debt servitude, get lost in the swamps of Trump’s voodoo mind-meld. What will break the spell? Time – ripeness is all. The accumulation of one too many realities. Joe McCarthy had his army hearings; there will come a similar moment that shocks the country into mass loathing for Trump, but until then many lives will be lost and many more permanently wrecked.
Sometime around August 1858, Abraham Lincoln scribbled the following on a scrap of paper that was later found in his desk: “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.” Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference.To the extent, one might say, that any of us lacks equal citizenship stature, and so lacking find ourselves living in some form of abasement or servitude, neither equal nor fully free. But Trump, and figures like Joe McCarthy and Pappy O’Daniel before him, suggest that large numbers of Americans are quite okay with a certain level of abasement and servitude. Do we really want to be free? Perhaps it’s enough for us to be told over and over that we’re free. Or enough to look down and see multitudes below us. Do we care if we’re not free so long as others are less free? Maybe this is the ultimate question, the American question, the flip side of that American political identity based on equality. Trump has forced the question on us with an urgency that we haven’t experienced since the civil rights era of the 1960s. How the question will be answered is up to us.
Rooting for the Home Team
We often view things through a partisan lens, not how they really are: republicans-claim-they-
What if someone told you that almost every day, you consume a toxin that seriously impairs your critical faculties, preventing you from accurately assessing arguments and data? Most of us would want to find a way to eliminate that toxin from our lives, to regain our ability to reason. While few recognize it as such, partisanship is that toxin, effectively a potent mind-altering drug, exerting a decisive influence on one’s brain activity — an influence of which the the subject is not even aware. A recent study at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication sheds new light on the power of politics over the brain. The researchers, led by sociologist Damon Centola, wanted to see if interacting on social networks could actually help participants interpret and form predictions from data on sea-ice levels in the Arctic. Prevented from communicating with others, both Republicans and Democrats held to their prior climate change opinions and submitted less accurate forecasts; their judgments improved significantly when they were permitted to communicate, anonymously sharing their opinions on the experiment’s social media platform.
But the positive effects of this kind of social learning were fragile, easily undermined by the drug of partisanship. “All we did,” Professor Centola observes, “was put a picture of an elephant and a donkey at the bottom of a screen, and all the social learning effects disappeared,” participants’ reverting straightaway to “inaccurate beliefs and high levels of polarization.” If people desire instinctively to exchange ideas, to learn, and to update, they are nonetheless blinded or at least deeply influenced — intoxicated, we might be tempted to say — by political imagery associated with one or another “team.” Our capacities for critical thinking and learning are deeply compromised by our team loyalties. These findings are consistent with those of previous research that has shown parts of the brain, those tasked with processing critical thinking and reasoning, literally going dark to avoid the unpleasantness of discommoding political information. In his book, “The Political Brain,” Drew Westen describes how the brains of partisans “‘reason’ [their] way to the desired conclusions,” adopting faulty thinking in order to “turn off the spigot of unpleasant emotion.” What’s more, the brain actually goes out of its way to reward this biased and self-contradictory “reasoning,” content to curate pleasing, bias-conforming information. A study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that most people (approximately two thirds) will actually forgo the opportunity to win more money just “to avoid hearing from the other side.” It turns out that people really don’t want to confront information that could potentially disrupt their worldviews.
The journey human beings took to get to where we are now helps to explain our irrational need to root for the home team, even to the point of neglecting important facts and discounting opposing arguments. It would be difficult to overstate the importance of tribal membership and belonging to the brain’s evolutionary path. We conceive of ourselves largely as members of different groups, as collections of various identities defined by those groups, one of which is political identity. Due in large part to the brain’s evolution, one’s sense of self is deeply bound up with her sense of inclusion within certain groups, with the satisfaction and affirmation that accompany her agreement with them. Her ability to make her thinking, beliefs, and ideas conform to those of the larger group is likely to be more important to her happiness, success, and (especially in the case of our prehistoric forebears) survival than her sensitivity to objective facts about reality. Quite subconsciously, then, the mind subordinates the quest for objective truth to this human psychological need to insulate our group identities from outside threats. Secure in our partisan strongholds, we build barricades and set traps to beset the creep of perceived enemy ideas. But even if tribal loyalties are part of what defines us, it would nonetheless seem that political partisanship is robbing us of another part of being human: our ability to reason.
Fox News has been instrumental in running the Trump White House
Their nonsensical rhetoric is usually one in the same. There have been times Trump tried to do something bipartisan, but quickly backed off when reined in by the radicals on Fox. Posted here is the opening to the article from line-between-trump-fox-
If you didn’t recognize the people on-screen and there wasn’t identifying text along the bottom of the picture, President Trump’s conversation with Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Thursday night, broadcast live on Fox News, might have been confused with broadcasters hyping a college football game. The two guys in suits with microphones, taking turns talking to the camera. Behind them, the fans, outfitted in team colors, waving signs and cheering loudly. It wasn’t one guy interviewing the other any more than Lee Corso interviews Kirk Herbstreit. It was banter between buddies leveraging verbiage and issues well understood by them and their fans. As CNN’s Brian Stelter put it on Twitter, it didn’t look like Hannity interviewing a president. They looked like co-hosts. That’s an interesting formulation in part because it’s often hard to draw the line between Trump as subject of Fox News coverage and Trump as participant in Fox News’s lineup.
Lots more from the newsfeeds
Here are more articles about Judge Kavanaugh since Sunday night after it became public a second accuser had come forward in a New Yorker article: senate-democrats-
Weekend articles on Kavanaugh & prospective Trump Supreme Court
The following are some articles which came out over the weekend about the controversy over Dr. Ford’s accusations where the GOP started pushing back hard. Do they not care many victims of sexual assault are scarred for life? Just read the agonizing account from Bill Cosby’s accuser. It’s not fair to Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh to turn this strictly into a she said/he said situation. Giving the FBI a few days to look into the people & circumstances associated with that party in question could provide relevant details. I know at this point Ford is the only person that says she remembers that high school party, which makes sense since it was her who was traumatized, but by letting the FBI do their work in private, we would see what they could turn up. Senator Murkowski (a key vote) has expressed an interest in having the FBI take a look. We also must hear from Kav’s bud, Mark Judge.
A lifetime appointment to the highest court is too important & deserves a full vetting by looking under every rock. Even conservatives should want the Trump Supreme Court not to become tainted. But it’s apparent the prez & GOP senators don’t really want the facts coming out. In limiting the number of outbound links from our blog, you can do a search on any articles you’d like to read, which these reports all came out prior to the news becoming public of other Kavanaugh accusers.
McConnell said at a conference of cheering values-less voters that they’ll plow through the Kavanaugh confirmation regardless of what facts come out on the sexual assault claim: thinkprogress/values-