Monday, May 13, 2019

Here we go again: Trump is insane!

Bandy Lee is leading the charge again.  She never gives up.

She is a NYC "shrink" (psychiatrist) so is an expert at attributing motives that may or may not be there.  And Mr Trump is giving her frabjous joy, as we see in her article below.

Psychologists are generally rather contemptuous of psychiatrists on the grounds that their conclusions are only weakly based on evidence.  And I am one of those critics.  As a social psychologist (I have many articles in the Journal of Social Psychology) I am quite amazed at Dr. Lee's apparent ignorance of the demand characteristics of the situation under which her "evidence" was produced.

Let me describe it.  Robert Mueller was running a show which was devoted to finding "dirt" on Donald J. Trump.  And all the media were proclaiming that the whole thing was a lay down misere and that Mr Trump would soon be booted from office. What would you do if you were interrogated by Mr Mueller in that situation?

You would engage in what is colloquially called "ass-covering".  You would portray Mr Trump in as bad a light as you could without actually lying.  So you would be one of the good guys if Trump fell. You wouldn't lie outright in case Trump survived and came to get you. You would generalize, exaggerate, interpret and "forget" things like context.

And an awareness of that situation makes plausible what Mr Trump said about the Mueller report: That it is a pack of lies.  Since Trump was right and the media were wrong about his Russia connection, should we not take the word of the one man who has demonstrably come out clean from all the accusations?  I do.  Dr Lee is building her castle on sand, on fiction, to be precise.  Her continuing poorly-founded interest in Mr Trump's mental health seems rather obsessional, and hence not fully sane

Concerns about Donald Trump’s fitness for the office of president arose during the campaign and continue to this day. But now, in the Mueller report, we have an abundance of new evidence that sheds light on these concerns. What makes this a unique opportunity is the quality and relevance of the data: They are derived from multiple sources both friendly and opposed to the president, were obtained under oath, and show us how the president conducted himself in the eyes of those who worked directly with him while in office.

While we were concerned enough to put our initial cautions in a public-service book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” each additional piece of evidence has substantiated the correctness of that assessment over time. Now, the Mueller report elevates this assessment to new levels. Here is just a small sampling:

“The president’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders.” (Vol. II, p. 158)

The pattern that emerges of the president is one of rash, short-sighted decision-making, without consideration of consequences. He is protected only by actions on the part of former FBI director James Comey, former White House counsel Don McGahn, and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who, in effect, shield the president from himself by refusing or failing to follow his directions. Reckless, impulsive moves that are self-destructive, despite the intention of self-protection, are characteristic of dangerous impairment. They impede Trump’s capacity to prioritize national security.

“The president asked [former chief of staff Reince] Priebus to reach out to [former national security adviser Michael] Flynn and let him know that the president still cared about him.” (Vol. II, p. 43)

“[Former campaign chairman Paul] Manafort told [Manafort’s former business partner Rick] Gates that he had talked to the president’s personal counsel and they were ‘going to take care of us.’ ” (Vol. II, p. 123)

“[Attorney Robert] Costello told Cohen the conversation was ‘very, very positive . . . you are loved’ . . . you have friends in high places.’ ” (Vol. II, p. 147)

The president reveals that he operates from a different logic than the rule of law, or commonly held principles, in a manner that is manipulative and incompatible with democracy. His seditious manner and encouragement of similar subversion of institutions is closely connected to a view of the world as a threatening place where he must fight for himself and buttress his support. This is a paranoid stance that can quickly turn into violence when a paranoid person is feeling cornered, as corroborated by the president’s later attacks and threats against Cohen when the latter started cooperating with the special counsel. This is a dangerous mindset.

“According to notes written by [Jody] Hunt [chief of staff to then-attorney general Jeff Sessions], when Sessions told the president that a special counsel had been appointed, the president slumped back in his chair and said, ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m f-----d.’ [Former communications director Hope] Hicks saw the president shortly after Sessions departed and described the president as being extremely upset. . . . [S]he had only seen the president like that one other time, when the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape came out during the campaign.’’ (Vol. II, pp. 78-79)

These episodes demonstrate not only a lack of control over emotions but preoccupation with threats to the self. There is no room for consideration of national plans or policies, or his own role in bringing about his predicament and how he might change, but instead a singular focus on how he is a victim of circumstance and his familiar whining about unfairness.

This mindset can easily turn into rage reactions; it is commonly found in violent offenders in the criminal justice system, who perpetually consider themselves victims under attack, even as they perpetrate violence against others, often without provocation. In this manner, a “victim mentality” and paranoia are symptoms that carry a high risk of violence.

“We noted, among other things, that the president stated on more than 30 occasions that he ‘does not recall’ or ‘remember’ or have an ‘independent recollection’ of information called for by the questions. Other answers were ‘incomplete or imprecise.’ ” (Vol. II, p. C-1)

This response is from a president who, in public rallies, rarely lacks certainty, no matter how false his assertions and claims that he has “the world’s greatest memory” and “one of the great memories of all time.” His lack of recall is particularly meaningful in the context of his unprecedented mendacity, which alone is dangerous and divisive for the country. Whether he truly does not remember or is totally fabricating, either is pathological and highly dangerous in someone who has command over the largest military in the world and over thousands of nuclear weapons.

The Mueller report details numerous lies by the president, perhaps most clearly regarding his handling of the disclosure of the meeting at Trump Tower (Vol II, p. 98ff). First he denied knowing about the meeting, then described it as only about adoption, then denied crafting his son’s response, and then, in his formal response to Mueller, conceded that it was he who dictated the press release. Lying per se is not especially remarkable. Coupled with the other characteristics noted here, however, lying becomes a part of a pervasive, compelling, reflexive pattern of distraught gut reactions for handling challenges by misleading, manipulating, and blocking others’ access to the truth. Rather than being seen as bona fide alternatives, challenges are perceived as personal threats and responded to in a dangerous, no-holds-barred manner.

“ ‘Call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can’t be the special counsel.’ McGahn recalled the president telling him ‘Mueller has to go’ and ‘Call me back when you do it.’ ” (Vol. II, p. 86)

This incident merits singling out not only because of its egregiousness, but also because of its foolishness. In a post-Nixon era, and especially after the experience of firing Comey, a rational, non-impulsive person with reality-based decision-making would hesitate before pursuing this path. Congruent with his reasons for firing Comey, “to take the pressure off,” he apparently believed he could use all the powers at his disposal to have his way, and almost delusionally expected impunity. Such a mindset of false beliefs in freedom from consequences is extremely dangerous when coupled with power and is great cause for alarm in the US presidency.

As mental health professionals, we are able to offer our understanding of behavior when it reflects profound impairment. The psychological nature of the president’s impairments is thoroughly revealed in the Mueller report. The report has documented the president as willful, enormously self-absorbed, ruthlessly exploitative, threatened, and delusionally heedless of the consequences of his impulsive actions. His dangerousness constitutes a national crisis.


When Reality Bucks Certain Democratic Wishes and Dreams
“We are very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight.”

That was New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, making a prediction on Election Night in 2016 about what we could expect under President Trump.

Month after month, however, Mr. Krugman’s crystal ball has proven untrustworthy. But surely vindication would come sooner or later, right?

After all, Mr. Krugman’s not just any columnist. He’s a Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He won the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

And he wasn’t alone in predicting gloom and doom under Mr. Trump. Many other liberal economists foresaw catastrophe on the horizon.

Fast forward to the latest monthly employment numbers, though, and you find reality simply refuses to play along with their hopes er, prognosis.

Again, we got some stellar figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In April, the economy created some 263,000 jobs, even better than the already impressive 213,000 jobs per month that has been created on average over the last year. We’re now up to 103 straight months of job creation.

The unemployment rate is at 3.6 percent. That’s the lowest it’s been in almost 50 years. You’d have to go back to the days of the first moon landing to get an employment rate this good. It’s 3.1 percent for adult women — the lowest since 1953 — and 4.1 percent for Hispanics, which is the lowest it’s ever been.

Wages, meanwhile, continue to grow, especially for those on the lower end of the economic scale. “The recent wage gains have been largest for those who need it most,” writes tax expert Adam Michel. “For the last six months, wage growth for production and non-supervisory workers outpaced the average for the entire economy.”

The continued good news has left a number of economic watchers more than a bit confounded. “The labor market the United States is experiencing right now wasn’t supposed to be possible,” writes Neil Irwin in The New York Times.

If the conventional wisdom proved correct, for example, we’d been experiencing some serious inflation right now. Three years ago, the Federal Reserve was predicting 4.8 percent unemployment in 2019, with 2 percent inflation. Instead, of course, the jobless figure is a full 1.2 percentage points lower, and inflation is only 1.6 percent over the last year.

Some liberals insist that Mr. Trump doesn’t deserve the credit — that what we’re seeing is simply a continuation of good economic news that began before Mr. Trump took office.

True, the job market had been improving for a while before he became president. But, Mr. Irwin writes, “After more than two years of the Trump administration, warnings that trade wars and erratic management style would throw the economy off course have proved wrong so far, and tax cuts and deregulation are most likely part of the reason for the strong growth rates in 2018 and the beginning of 2019.”

But even as we savor the benefits of a strong economy (and enjoy how wrong the naysayers have once again proved themselves to be), this is no time to stand pat. Lawmakers need to keep tax rates and tariffs low. They can start by doing two things above all else.

One, make the 2017 tax cut permanent. The cut has been doing some good work, but key provisions are set to expire after 2025. The economy will do even better once employers and businesses know the cut won’t be going away.

Second, tame out-of-control spending. Politicians once took their responsibility to be sensible stewards of the national purse seriously, but profligacy has since become a way of life on both sides of the aisle. The tremendous amount of debt we’re accumulating will saddle future generations with higher taxes and less opportunity.

And if we don’t attack this problem when our economy is so strong, when will we? So let’s act — and shore up the tremendous gains we’ve seen so far.



Discrimination Isn’t the Only Thing Causing Inequality

Walter E. Williams

Last week’s column discussed Thomas Sowell’s newest book “Discrimination and Disparities,” which is an enlarged and revised edition of an earlier version. In this review, I am going to focus on one of his richest chapters titled “Social Visions and Human Consequences.”

Sowell challenges the seemingly invincible fallacy “that group outcomes in human endeavors would tend to be equal, or at least comparable or random, if there were no biased interventions, on the one hand, nor genetic deficiencies, on the other.”

But disparate impact statistics carries the day among academicians, lawyers, and courts as evidence of discrimination.

Sowell gives the example of blacks, who make up close to 70% of NFL and AFL players in professional football. Blacks are greatly overrepresented among star players but almost nonexistent among field goal kickers and punters. Probably the only reason why lawsuits are not brought against team owners is that the same people hire running backs and field goal kickers.

One wonders whether anyone has considered the possibility that professional black players do not want to be punters and field goal kickers?

Different social classes raise their children differently. Studies have shown that children whose parents are professional heard more words per hour than children whose families are on welfare. Studies show that professional parents used “more words and more different words … more multiclause sentences, more past and future verb tenses. … The ratio of affirmative words to negative words was six to one with parents who had professional occupation.”

By contrast, families on welfare used discouraging words more than 2 to 1: words such as “Don’t,” “Stop,” “Quit,” and “Shut up.”

Sowell sarcastically asks, are we to believe that children raised in such different ways, many years before they reach an employer, a college admissions office, or crime scene are the same in capabilities, orientation, and limitations?

Social justice warriors ignore many differences that have little or nothing to do with discrimination but have an enormous impact on outcomes. Age is one of those factors.

Median age differences between groups, sometimes of a decade or two, will have an enormous impact on observed group outcomes. The median age for American Jews is slightly over 50 years old and that of Latinos is 28.

Just on median age alone, would one be surprised at significant group income disparity and other differences related to age?

Sowell says that a single inconspicuous difference in circumstance can make a huge historical difference in human outcomes.

During the 1840s, Ireland experienced a potato famine. Potatoes were the principle food of the Irish. That famine led to the deaths of a million people and caused 2 million to flee. The same variety of potato that was grown in Ireland was also grown in the U.S. with no crop failure.

The source of Ireland’s crop failure has been traced to a fertilizer used on both sides of the Atlantic. The difference was that fertilizer contained a fungus that thrived in the mild and moist climate of Ireland but did not in the hot, dry climate of Idaho and other potato growing areas of the U.S. That one small difference caused massive human tragedy.

A study of National Merit Scholarship finalists found that firstborn children were finalists far more often than their younger siblings. In the U.S. and other countries such as Britain and Germany, the firstborns’ IQs were higher than their siblings. Among medical students, a high proportion are firstborn.

Sowell asks that if equality of outcomes don’t exist among people with the same parents, raised in the same household, why would one expect equality of outcomes elsewhere?

Morally neutral factors such as crop failures, birth order, geographic setting, and demographic or cultural differences are among the reasons why economic and social outcomes fail to fit the preconceived notions of “experts.”

The bottom line about Sowell’s new book, “Discrimination and Disparities,” is that it contains a wealth of data and analysis that turns much of the thinking of politicians, academicians, legal experts, and judges into pure, unadulterated mush.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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