NYT Joins the Human Race (for a moment)

While I’ve earned no college credits here, I’ve had a lesson in hypocrisy.

On my way to work each morning, I pass a building with the inscription: “The highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being.” If Harvard believes this, why is the administration asking dining hall workers to pay even more for our health care even though some of us pay as much as $4,000 a year in premiums alone?

I serve the people who created Obamacare, people who treat epidemics and devise ways to make the world healthier and more humane. But I can’t afford the health care plan Harvard wants us to accept.

That’s why I have been on strike with 750 co-workers for more than two weeks. That’s why the other day, co-workers and I were arrested after we sat down in Harvard Square, blocking traffic, in an act of civil disobedience. And that’s why the medical school students, in their white coats, have been walking the picket line with us in solidarity.

The co-pays alone can be a problem. When a doctor told me my daughter had failed a hearing test and might need surgery, I thought about what care I could do without. I recently skipped an appointment to have a spot on my lung checked for cancer to save on the co-pays.

Medical students analyzed Harvard’s proposal and found that the cost of premiums alone could eat up almost 10 percent of my income. And Harvard wants to increase our co-pays for every single doctor visit to $25, from $15, for primary care and to $100, from zero, for outpatient hospital care and some tests. Some costs would be reimbursed for lower-income workers, but out-of-pocket expenses would still be hard to meet.

The students say that Harvard’s proposal is unaffordable for nearly all of us according to state government guidelines. If it goes through, I will keep avoiding the doctor to save that money for my kids’ co-pays. Any increase puts me at the breaking point.

Harvard is the richest university in the nation, with a $35 billion endowment. But I can’t live on what Harvard pays me. I take home between $430 and $480 a week, and this August, I fell behind on my $1,150 rent and lost my apartment. Now my two kids and I are staying with my mother in public housing, with all four of us sharing a single bedroom. I grew up in the projects and on welfare. I want my 8-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son to climb out of the cycle of poverty. But for most of my time at Harvard it’s been hard.

The average dining hall worker makes $31,193 a year, higher than other cafeterias in the area, but it still doesn’t go far around Boston. That’s why we’re asking for an annual salary of $35,000 for some financial stability, particularly since most dining halls are open only during the school year. Right now I’m lucky to work in one of the few cafeterias that’s open all year.

I know that health care costs are going up everywhere, and I don’t have all the answers. But there must be some way not to shift costs onto Harvard’s poorest workers.

If good health is truly “one of the fundamental rights of every human being,” then shouldn’t that also apply to the human beings working in Harvard’s cafeterias?

Story Time

We interrupt our regular Trumpian programming to focus on something completely different for a moment. Well, ok, maybe not completely, but somewhat different.

Our new blogging friend, polymath0, invites people to share their stories on her interactive blog. I’m not sure yet what that entails and how it would work (I could ask, I suppose), but thinking of Stories That Matter, I am perennially — one could say eternally — drawn to Anton Chekhov’s “Misery.” I have it seared in my soul, I think, in more ways than one.

I’m posting it below for your reading pleasure — and hope to hear what stories (of the literary kind) have mattered to you.


Anton Chekhov


“To whom shall I tell my grief?”

THE twilight of evening. Big flakes of wet snow are whirling lazily about the street lamps, which have just been lighted, and lying in a thin soft layer on roofs, horses’ backs, shoulders, caps. Iona Potapov, the sledge-driver, is all white like a ghost. He sits on the box without stirring, bent as double as the living body can be bent. If a regular snowdrift fell on him it seems as though even then he would not think it necessary to shake it off…. His little mare is white and motionless too. Her stillness, the angularity of her lines, and the stick-like straightness of her legs make her look like a halfpenny gingerbread horse. She is probably lost in thought. Anyone who has been torn away from the plough, from the familiar gray landscapes, and cast into this slough, full of monstrous lights, of unceasing uproar and hurrying people, is bound to think.

It is a long time since Iona and his nag have budged. They came out of the yard before dinnertime and not a single fare yet. But now the shades of evening are falling on the town. The pale light of the street lamps changes to a vivid color, and the bustle of the street grows noisier.

“Sledge to Vyborgskaya!” Iona hears. “Sledge!”

Iona starts, and through his snow-plastered eyelashes sees an officer in a military overcoat with a hood over his head.

“To Vyborgskaya,” repeats the officer. “Are you asleep? To Vyborgskaya!”

In token of assent Iona gives a tug at the reins which sends cakes of snow flying from the horse’s back and shoulders. The officer gets into the sledge. The sledge-driver clicks to the horse, cranes his neck like a swan, rises in his seat, and more from habit than necessity brandishes his whip. The mare cranes her neck, too, crooks her stick-like legs, and hesitatingly sets of….

“Where are you shoving, you devil?” Iona immediately hears shouts from the dark mass shifting to and fro before him. “Where the devil are you going? Keep to the r-right!”

“You don’t know how to drive! Keep to the right,” says the officer angrily.

A coachman driving a carriage swears at him; a pedestrian crossing the road and brushing the horse’s nose with his shoulder looks at him angrily and shakes the snow off his sleeve. Iona fidgets on the box as though he were sitting on thorns, jerks his elbows, and turns his eyes about like one possessed as though he did not know where he was or why he was there.

“What rascals they all are!” says the officer jocosely. “They are simply doing their best to run up against you or fall under the horse’s feet. They must be doing it on purpose.”

Iona looks as his fare and moves his lips…. Apparently he means to say something, but nothing comes but a sniff.

“What?” inquires the officer.

Iona gives a wry smile, and straining his throat, brings out huskily: “My son… er… my son died this week, sir.”

“H’m! What did he die of?”

Iona turns his whole body round to his fare, and says:

“Who can tell! It must have been from fever…. He lay three days in the hospital and then he died…. God’s will.”

“Turn round, you devil!” comes out of the darkness. “Have you gone cracked, you old dog? Look where you are going!”

“Drive on! drive on!…” says the officer. “We shan’t get there till to-morrow going on like this. Hurry up!”

The sledge-driver cranes his neck again, rises in his seat, and with heavy grace swings his whip. Several times he looks round at the officer, but the latter keeps his eyes shut and is apparently disinclined to listen. Putting his fare down at Vyborgskaya, Iona stops by a restaurant, and again sits huddled up on the box…. Again the wet snow paints him and his horse white. One hour passes, and then another….

Three young men, two tall and thin, one short and hunchbacked, come up, railing at each other and loudly stamping on the pavement with their goloshes.

“Cabby, to the Police Bridge!” the hunchback cries in a cracked voice. “The three of us,… twenty kopecks!”

Iona tugs at the reins and clicks to his horse. Twenty kopecks is not a fair price, but he has no thoughts for that. Whether it is a rouble or whether it is five kopecks does not matter to him now so long as he has a fare…. The three young men, shoving each other and using bad language, go up to the sledge, and all three try to sit down at once. The question remains to be settled: Which are to sit down and which one is to stand? After a long altercation, ill-temper, and abuse, they come to the conclusion that the hunchback must stand because he is the shortest.

“Well, drive on,” says the hunchback in his cracked voice, settling himself and breathing down Iona’s neck. “Cut along! What a cap you’ve got, my friend! You wouldn’t find a worse one in all Petersburg….”

“He-he!… he-he!…” laughs Iona. “It’s nothing to boast of!”

“Well, then, nothing to boast of, drive on! Are you going to drive like this all the way? Eh? Shall I give you one in the neck?”

“My head aches,” says one of the tall ones. “At the Dukmasovs’ yesterday Vaska and I drank four bottles of brandy between us.”

“I can’t make out why you talk such stuff,” says the other tall one angrily. “You lie like a brute.”

“Strike me dead, it’s the truth!…”

“It’s about as true as that a louse coughs.”

“He-he!” grins Iona. “Me-er-ry gentlemen!”

“Tfoo! the devil take you!” cries the hunchback indignantly. “Will you get on, you old plague, or won’t you? Is that the way to drive? Give her one with the whip. Hang it all, give it her well.”

Iona feels behind his back the jolting person and quivering voice of the hunchback. He hears abuse addressed to him, he sees people, and the feeling of loneliness begins little by little to be less heavy on his heart. The hunchback swears at him, till he chokes over some elaborately whimsical string of epithets and is overpowered by his cough. His tall companions begin talking of a certain Nadyezhda Petrovna. Iona looks round at them. Waiting till there is a brief pause, he looks round once more and says:

“This week… er… my… er… son died!”

“We shall all die,…” says the hunchback with a sigh, wiping his lips after coughing. “Come, drive on! drive on! My friends, I simply cannot stand crawling like this! When will he get us there?”

“Well, you give him a little encouragement… one in the neck!”

“Do you hear, you old plague? I’ll make you smart. If one stands on ceremony with fellows like you one may as well walk. Do you hear, you old dragon? Or don’t you care a hang what we say?”

And Iona hears rather than feels a slap on the back of his neck.

“He-he!…” he laughs. “Merry gentlemen…. God give you health!”

“Cabman, are you married?” asks one of the tall ones.

“I? He he! Me-er-ry gentlemen. The only wife for me now is the damp earth…. He-ho-ho!…. The grave that is!… Here my son’s dead and I am alive…. It’s a strange thing, death has come in at the wrong door…. Instead of coming for me it went for my son….”

And Iona turns round to tell them how his son died, but at that point the hunchback gives a faint sigh and announces that, thank God! they have arrived at last. After taking his twenty kopecks, Iona gazes for a long while after the revelers, who disappear into a dark entry. Again he is alone and again there is silence for him…. The misery which has been for a brief space eased comes back again and tears his heart more cruelly than ever. With a look of anxiety and suffering Iona’s eyes stray restlessly among the crowds moving to and fro on both sides of the street: can he not find among those thousands someone who will listen to him? But the crowds flit by heedless of him and his misery…. His misery is immense, beyond all bounds. If Iona’s heart were to burst and his misery to flow out, it would flood the whole world, it seems, but yet it is not seen. It has found a hiding-place in such an insignificant shell that one would not have found it with a candle by daylight….

Iona sees a house-porter with a parcel and makes up his mind to address him.

“What time will it be, friend?” he asks.

“Going on for ten…. Why have you stopped here? Drive on!”

Iona drives a few paces away, bends himself double, and gives himself up to his misery. He feels it is no good to appeal to people. But before five minutes have passed he draws himself up, shakes his head as though he feels a sharp pain, and tugs at the reins…. He can bear it no longer.

“Back to the yard!” he thinks. “To the yard!”

And his little mare, as though she knew his thoughts, falls to trotting. An hour and a half later Iona is sitting by a big dirty stove. On the stove, on the floor, and on the benches are people snoring. The air is full of smells and stuffiness. Iona looks at the sleeping figures, scratches himself, and regrets that he has come home so early….

“I have not earned enough to pay for the oats, even,” he thinks. “That’s why I am so miserable. A man who knows how to do his work,… who has had enough to eat, and whose horse has had enough to eat, is always at ease….”

In one of the corners a young cabman gets up, clears his throat sleepily, and makes for the water-bucket.

“Want a drink?” Iona asks him.

“Seems so.”

“May it do you good…. But my son is dead, mate…. Do you hear? This week in the hospital…. It’s a queer business….”

Iona looks to see the effect produced by his words, but he sees nothing. The young man has covered his head over and is already asleep. The old man sighs and scratches himself…. Just as the young man had been thirsty for water, he thirsts for speech. His son will soon have been dead a week, and he has not really talked to anybody yet…. He wants to talk of it properly, with deliberation…. He wants to tell how his son was taken ill, how he suffered, what he said before he died, how he died…. He wants to describe the funeral, and how he went to the hospital to get his son’s clothes. He still has his daughter Anisya in the country…. And he wants to talk about her too…. Yes, he has plenty to talk about now. His listener ought to sigh and exclaim and lament…. It would be even better to talk to women. Though they are silly creatures, they blubber at the first word.

“Let’s go out and have a look at the mare,” Iona thinks. “There is always time for sleep…. You’ll have sleep enough, no fear….”

He puts on his coat and goes into the stables where his mare is standing. He thinks about oats, about hay, about the weather…. He cannot think about his son when he is alone…. To talk about him with someone is possible, but to think of him and picture him is insufferable anguish….

“Are you munching?” Iona asks his mare, seeing her shining eyes. “There, munch away, munch away…. Since we have not earned enough for oats, we will eat hay…. Yes,… I have grown too old to drive…. My son ought to be driving, not I…. He was a real cabman…. He ought to have lived….”

Iona is silent for a while, and then he goes on:

“That’s how it is, old girl…. Kuzma Ionitch is gone…. He said good-by to me…. He went and died for no reason…. Now, suppose you had a little colt, and you were own mother to that little colt. … And all at once that same little colt went and died…. You’d be sorry, wouldn’t you?…”

The little mare munches, listens, and breathes on her master’s hands. Iona is carried away and tells her all about it.


The Biggest Lie of the Last Debate


One of the biggest lies in the last debate came from Trump, obviously, in a slew of his other lies, which are so habitual for the man that lawyers dealing with him come in pairs to better withstand the torrent of his whoppers and remain anchored in reality.

No, it was not “Nobody respects women more than I do,” one so obvious that it elicited guffaws from the audience; nor any other of old and tired ones he’s been regaling us with this past year.

It was this, below, and no one noticed it (although Michael Gerson came close):

I’ve visited so many communities. This has been such an incredible education for me, Chris. I’ve gotten to know so many, I’ve developed so many friends over the last year.

Yes, he’s visited many communities. No, this has not been an education for him, incredible or other, as the man is incapable of learning. And most definitely he has not “developed” friends, as he is even less capable of friendship and forming close relationships with human beings.

One is tempted. You’ve developed many friends, you say. What are their names, Donald? What are their stories? Their needs and dreams? Friends know each other’s names, stories, needs and dreams.

Donald Trump, like other people with his character defect, does not have friends. He has associates / sycophants and a trophy family with movable members, all parts of his narcissistic supply. His relationships with them are transactional, based on an exchange of goods — adulation and other services for financial support and related perks.

They are most definitely not based on empathy, compassion, and mutual understanding of the human (i.e., non-mercenary) kind, with deepening knowledge of each other’s characters and needs, reciprocal care, and a desire to help each other in development. There may be people within his close circle who had such desires for him at one time, but had to give them up as they saw his lack of empathy and capacity for growth and change, and had to protect themselves from his callousness, abuse and exploitation.

Those people would not be his family, however, as his family appears to be infected by the incurable and deadly disease of Trumpitis, manifested so clearly in their empty and/or hardened — distrustful and contemptuous — faces. Apparently Trumpitis kills the soul; and if we allow it, it would do to America what it has done to members of the Trump clan.

Abuse and exploitation of others come easy to people without a functioning conscience, most of whom are psychopathic and/or narcissistic, as their lack of empathy and guilt makes it natural, for them, to treat others like objects. This manifests in their actions, of course, but also in their words.

Trump’s language of objectification — and that’s apart from his other open expressions of blatant disrespect and derision for others, especially those who are weaker or not sufficiently adulatory toward him — has been amply demonstrated in this election season.

Objectification of others is the root of all evil. There really is no other. Greed, lust, pride, aggression, self-seeking are problematic sources of much misery, but in themselves they fall under the common shortcomings rubric. When combined, however, with dehumanization / objectification of others, they become truly devilish.

Evil is just that: Treating others as things to use for one’s whim/wish/need fulfillment, to be discarded and/or destroyed when they no longer serve that function, as is the natural consequence of objectification.

For Trump, people exist solely as such things/props in his personal psychodrama. He does not know or understand them, nor cares to acquire such understanding. His assessment of others is black-and-white nasty or nice, based on how well they fulfill the function of providing him with adulation and a sense of power. The nice ones are those who submit and sing songs of his praise; the nasty ones are those who refuse to do so.

Even when he’s trying to sound appreciative, he cannot come up with better, more detailed and elaborate descriptors of others beyond amazing or tremendous or something equally pat and meaningless. That’s because his understanding of others is as shallow as his self-knowledge and his self-knowledge is as shallow as his understanding of anything else about life. And that shallowness comes from a lack of conscience.

In her brilliant 1941 essay mentioned in the last post, Who Goes Nazi?, Dorothy Thompson presents a gallery of human characters assessed on their susceptibility to Nazism. She briefly sketches their life stories and possible (and plausible) reasons why they would, could go Nazi — or not.

In that room full of people, many of whom would go Nazi in a heartbeat, there is only one character who, as she says, is a born Nazi:

I think young D over there is the only born Nazi in the room. Young D is the spoiled only son of a doting mother. He has never been crossed in his life. He spends his time at the game of seeing what he can get away with. He is constantly arrested for speeding and his mother pays the fines. He has been ruthless toward two wives and his mother pays the alimony. His life is spent in sensation-seeking and theatricality. He is utterly inconsiderate of everybody. He is very good-looking, in a vacuous, cavalier way, and inordinately vain. He would certainly fancy himself in a uniform that gave him a chance to swagger and lord it over others.

It is pure coincidence that this character’s name starts with a D. Could have been David, for all we know. Or Dennis. But he too is an obvious narcissist bereft of conscience, like that other D whose tantrums and dangerous ambitions we are forced to endure today. Thompson nails his chief characteristics, including sensation-seeking and poor impulse control (which make focusing on anything for longer periods of time impossible — thus inability to learn), his vanity and desire for adulation, exploitation of others, grandiosity and a lack of conscience manifested in his lack of empathy, shame and guilt.

Any of those traits, but most especially the latter, predispose one to Trumpism Nazism. Conscience-based character defects, like narcissism and psychopathy and their whereabouts, are the very pathology that makes people susceptible to influences of authoritarian thugs and their ideologies.

In his WaPo column, Gerson asks:

What explains [Trump’s] pervasive shallowness? Laziness? Lack of curiosity? Who knows?

It is exasperating to hear that “Who knows?” question today. Because if after over a year of intense and relentless exposure to a nearly archetypal narcissistic psychopath it is still unclear that his shallowness is a predictable manifestation of his character defect, then we, collectively speaking, are not seeing what we should. That, of course, means that we remain blindly vulnerable to manipulations of these characters and the mayhem they inflict on humanity. And we are not learning the lessons we are meant to learn.

Gerson’s throwing his hands up like that suggests the biggest lie of this last debate as well as the whole debacle of 2016 election: That no one knows. That we don’t know.

We are past any excuses for our ignorance. If Thompson could get it, 75 years and several bloody world catastrophes, caused by leaders with this character defect, ago, then we should be well aware of it today.

That someone like Trump is so close to American Presidency is a sign from forces of the Universe & Co. that America is in dire trouble and must mend its ways ASAP. It is as though those forces (and please don’t ask what exactly they are) not only held a mirror, in the form of The Orange Menace, to our lives and collective psyche, but shook us forcefully and repeatedly to make us open our eyes. Yet we refuse.

There is a profound significance to Trump’s candidacy. He is so clearly a manifestation of our shadow, and so extreme because we’ve kept sweeping our problems under the rug, pretending they don’t exist for so long that we need an extreme reminder, a warning, of just how far we are on the path of self-destruction.

Whether we will heed that warning is another matter. Who knows?

The Elusive Trump Voter

[image source]

As we are stocking on Purelle and popcorn in preparation for tonight’s debate, Trumpists continue to baffle the non-Trumpists world over.

Many theories have been put forth to explain their existence:

–being authoritarian and subjected to strict and/or abusive upbringing;

–being poor and/or poorly educated;

–being white, undereducated male;

–being deplorable and/or (or?) conscience-deficient racists;

–being conservative, identity-conscious racists;

–being desperate and in throes of death instinct;

and, related,

–being traumatized somehow (this one is underexplored, I’d say).

While non-Trumpists search for explanations, Trumpists scoff and laugh and deny any resemblance to the images painted by the above mentioned speculations.

But there is some truth in them, if only because Trump supporters cut a wide swath of the American population. (There are Trumpists in other nations, too, and it is a fair assumption that they fit one of the above theories about their behavior and motivations.) This means we will find Trumpists among nearly all groups of people.

Pundits especially have trouble with comprehending all this, as they have not seen what America looks like down there, way beneath their ivory towers. It is almost adorable how they try to grasp what may motivate people who struggle for a living and whose existence is marked by deepening hopelessness. “We must feel something for the poor! They are in pain!” exclaims Joe Scarborough. “But, oh, the poor poor!” laments David Brooks, vowing to be a better, more attentive (to the poor) person from now on.

That’s all nice and good, if a tad condescending — and not quite accurate in this instance, as data shows that Trumpists are not poor.

My own, limited experience confirms this. The Trumpists I know (of) personally are definitely not members of the poor, huddled masses.

For example, my son’s boss — a wealthy and seemingly reasonable (and well educated) man is for Trump. So is a lovely grandmotherly psychotherapist whom I’ve met at conference recently. She drives a sporty Mercedes, lives in one of the wealthiest suburbs of our city, and believes firmly that Trump represents the change we need.

The energetic young woman who is part a professional, part personal acquaintance of mine, and better informed about politics than most, votes for Trump and for the change he represents. (She too drives a luxury sport car. Hm.)

In the upper-middle-classy neighborhoods around ours, TRUMP signs are proudly popping up on the manicured lawns surrounding semi-mansions (with the likely illegal Mexican laborers working around them).

A couple of middle-ageish white men of my acquaintance are also for Trump, because yes, we need change. And Hillary somehow rubs them the wrong way. The hate-filled way they talk about her makes me suspect that their opposition to her is not based on issues as much as on her evoking some more primal motives, like their fear of a punitive mother/shrill ex. Just a speculation.

The arguments about our need for change are most reasonable and more than justified. But if one really wanted a positive, meaningful change, of the kind that lifts all boats and makes our lives genuinely better, then one would have supported Bernie early on, as it is obvious that Trump has nothing of substance to offer.

The truthful slogan of his campaign should have been “Much Ado about Nothing.” Or maybe, and better, “The Tale of Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing.” Because nothing is the only thing he knows something about. The man’s staggering ignorance itself — never mind (!) his profound character defect, of which that ignorance is an integral part — should be the disqualifying factor, if we lived in a healthy or even normal society.

Obviously we don’t.

Trumpian change is that of destruction for its own sake — or, as one young person I know says, for shit and giggles. We bulldoze what’s in front of us to have a satisfaction of inflicting pain and punishment on those who, as we believe, are responsible for our misery in life. This kind of rageful destruction obviously does not help us build a better world — on the contrary. But Trumpism is not really about building a better world, is it, even though Trumpists may say so when asked. A closer look at their motivations says otherwise.

I am repeatedly reminded of Dorothy Thompson‘s description of the followers of another leader with a similar character defect, in a different place and era.

Here’s that relevant excerpt, with Trump references inserted in the place of the original ones:

It’s fun—a macabre sort of fun—this parlor game of “Who Goes Trump?” And it simplifies things—asking the question in regard to specific personalities.

Kind, good, happy, gentlemanly, secure people never go Trump. They may be the gentle philosopher whose name is in the Blue Book, or Bill from City College to whom democracy gave a chance to design airplanes—you’ll never make Trumpists out of them. But the frustrated and humiliated intellectual, the rich and scared speculator, the spoiled son, the labor tyrant, the fellow who has achieved success by smelling out the wind of success—they would all go Trump in a crisis.

Believe me, nice people don’t go Trump. Their race, color, creed, or social condition is not the criterion. It is something in them.

Those who haven’t anything in them to tell them what they like and what they don’t-whether it is breeding, or happiness, or wisdom, or a code, however old-fashioned or however modern, go Trump. It’s an amusing game. Try it at the next big party you go to.

To Chuck Todd about Something Trump Said

I caught the end of “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning, where Chuck Todd expressed his puzzlement over something Trump said:



Back now with End Game. Sometimes Trump says stuff and you just have no idea what he means including this line I think this one was yesterday on drug testing. Listen.


But we’re like athletes. Right? So athletes they’re making them more and more — but athletes they make them take a drug test. Right? I think we should take a drug test prior to the debate. I do.



Hugh, of all the head-scratchers this was one. And I have to say, he did it in New Hampshire where the opioid epidemic is real and to just sort of throw that out there.


First, ugh. And gaaah. And gulp. Trump’s making America grate again (and again, and again), as promised, and our media people still don’t get it.

Let me explain, Chuck, what that drug “challenge” was about. There were five main objectives there, in no particular order:

  1. to diss Hillary,
  2. to brag about his stamina,
  3. to squash the suspicions about his own drug use, prompted by his incessant and impossible to ignore snorts during last debate,
  4. to deflect attention from his aggressive, bullying behavior during that debate, as well as the upcoming one — behavior that would exhaust any normal person,
  5. to preemptively insinuate that Hillary’s win (because obviously) in this Wednesday debate will be a result of her drug usage, cuz, yanno, this election is rigged and the media are in on it.

Oh, and to brag about his stamina, in case this is unclear. It’s worth mentioning.

Trump’s loose associations have logic and meaning to them, as well as constant, predictable themes. Once you get it, you get it — and his supporters get it even without getting it. It all makes sense, believe me.

On a related note, PBS had the first episode of Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler last night, and even though it was a documentary about Adolf, it may have been as well about Donny.

Watching it, I suspected its creators had Trump in mind while talking about Hitler, just as Michiko Kakutani did when she reviewed his (Hitler’s) recent biography in the NYT. But when I looked it up, I found out it is a BBC special made in 2012. So no intimations of Trump, although the similarities are overwhelming.

That program should be seen by all Americans now.

There are still people, including experts, who squirm, wiggle, and hedge when coming within a proximity of Trump-Hitler comparisons, and bend over backwards to make sure everyone understands that they are not really saying those two are alike.

They should give it a rest.

Sure, Trump does not have a funny mustache nor screeches in his ancestral German, but he is very much like Hitler where it matters most, that is in his character defect and its effects on the angry populace looking for a leader in times of uncertainty and unrest. And what it portends for America and the world, should he get elected.

Not knowing and understanding it is the real danger, far greater than making hasty comparisons, which at worst would make you look like a fool. And that’s not nearly as bad as what happens when pathological leaders gain power.


Trump Complains Entire Personality Rigged Against Him

Also see a heartfelt statement from Melania Trump made in defense of her husband.

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over


On Friday, Huffington Post announced somberly that Trump’s presidential run is over, because pussygate and polls and everyone is fed up with him beyond the point of no return.

Yesterday, they wondered why Republicans continue to support their Agent of Destruction.


The seesaw of hope and fear-infused incredulity is characteristic of this campaign, as Democrats, liberals, and anti-Trumpists continue to be perplexed by the man’s unsinkability in spite of his glaring, and proven daily, lack of competence and character, and a slew of scandals revealing just how unsuitable he is for this job or any other involving power over human and other sentient beings.

The current polls show Hillary leading by four points in some places, and Trump inching ahead in others (barely, but).

Obviously, this ain’t over until the Orange Menace skulks off the stage raving about rigged election and nasty media, to plot his revenge and comeback in the shiny bowels of his gilded cage.

And even then it won’t be over.

That’s because Trump/ism is a symptom of a larger disorder that is destroying our country and the world; and unless we address it, our downward spiral of self-destruction will continue to its unthinkable but predictable finish.

It is apparent, or should be, that Trump has been chosen not in spite of his character defect, but because of it.  His pathology makes him inherently destructive, and destruction is what his supporters — who encompass a much wider swath of the population than liberal pundits realize — want.

Pathological leaders, who share the same character defect, that of narcissistic psychopathy (or malignant narcissism), are elected (if not violently usurping power) for the specific purpose of inflicting mayhem and destruction under the guise of “law and order” and making their countries “great again.” The latest example is Philippines’ Duterte.

Power-hungry narcissistic psychopaths creep up like mushrooms after the rain in places where people are fed up with ineffective and/or corrupt governance, but they are not really selected to fix the problems as much as to annihilate the existing social order and its supporters.

Interestingly — and we really should pay attention to this, but of course we won’t — the number of these pathological leaders appears to have been increasing since the Cold War, just as admiration for Hitler and strongmen like him continues to grow around the world.

This is a sign of a deepening sickness afflicting human race and the humanity’s desperate response to it, rooted, as it always is, in the (Freudian) death instinct.

It manifests in such dramatic ways for specific emotional and spiritual purposes, some less positive — like scapegoating others to avoid feeling guilt for our own past transgressions; and others more so — like allowing our shadow to break through so we can acknowledge it and work with its contents. The latter has a potential to enable necessary, meaningful growth, while the former (scapegoating to avoid guilt) pushes us deeper into ignorance, thus preventing change and development.

Unfortunately, it is always the former that’s involved in the deadly love affair between a pathological leader and his supporters.

Psychoanalyst Hanna Segal, who was, among other things, a critic of George W. Bush and the American war industry, described this affair as follows:

The group chooses its leader according to its orientation. Groups under the sway of psychotic mechanisms tend to select or tolerate leaders who represent their pathology. But not only do those groups choose the unbalanced leaders; they also affect them. The groups thrust omnipotence on their leaders, and push them further into megalomania. There is a dangerous interaction between a disturbed group and a disturbed leader, increasing each other’s pathology.

If not interrupted (by the sane portion of society), this mutually rewarding relationship, which assures destruction promised by the leader’s character defect, has to play out to its dark fruition.

A horrible fact of life and one we loathe to acknowledge is that the wounds inflicted by these leaders never truly heal; in many instances they become chronic and as seemingly incurable as the defective characters of the “inflictors.”

Yes, it can happen here. If it could happen in the heart of civilized, post-Nazi, post-Communist late 20th century Europe, it can happen anywhere. It’s just a matter of time and our complicity, willful and not.

A Narcissistic Psychopath’s Non-Apology Apology

A man who cannot admit his guilt is never free.
Józef Tischner

Updated on 10/9/16.

This latest revelation, of Trump bragging about his repeated sexual assaults, has been dubbed “an October surprise,” although there is really nothing surprising about it (see below).

But given the uproar that followed, Trump was forced to issue a videotaped expression of regret (or what passes for it among people with his character defect; this is Trump’s second, “better,” attempt at apology over this fiasco — the first one was the classic “if anyone was offended, I apologize“):

My favorite part:

Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am.

It’s gotta be a typo there, because anyone who knows Trump knows that these words reflect who and what he is to a T. Misogyny, and the abuse of women it leads to, is a feature of narcissistic psychopathy, although one we tend to ignore or misunderstand, like the character defect itself. Trump’s misogyny is as much a part of his identity as is his racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and other manifestations of his narcissistic consciencelessness.

But let’s remind ourselves why exactly conscience-deficient people like Trump are incapable of apologizing:

While a narcissist can mimic empathy and some semblance of concern over human ideals, he cannot mimic guilt, an emotion that is completely beyond his ability, even if only intellectual, to comprehend. It is partly a function of his grandiosity: he’s never guilty of or responsible for anything wrong because he has placed himself above humanity with its constraining social mores and silly emotional concerns. But it also stems, and predominantly so, from his empathy deficit that makes him unable to experience the pain of others. And, as he is always justified in everything he does in his own eyes, the sheer notion of responsibility, much less its affective and more unsettling component of guilt (when responsibility is broken), is alien to him.

We can see this inability to experience guilt in the narcissist’s ‘non-apology’ apologies in those unfortunate situations when he is forced to issue a statement of contrition for public consumption. He may do so through the use of the impersonal “mistakes were made,” or that classic maneuver of responsibility disavowal via “If anyone was hurt by my words or actions I have committed, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize,” or some version thereof.

He may sometimes express superficial remorse for something (“Yeah, I shouldn’t have done it”), but the sentiment is shallow, fleeting, and upon closer inspection related to his regret over causing harm to himself (his reputation, etc.) and not to the harm he inflicted on another person.

True to the narcissistically psychopathic fashion, there is nothing in Trump’s statement indicating that he understands what he did wrong and feels in any way responsible for it.

Not one thing.

Granted, he did not write these words to begin with (“grieving mothers”? please; he wouldn’t know a grieving mother if he tripped over one on his way to a limo), but he approved them and delivered them as his own.

And as this statement was prepared for him by someone else — presumably by someone who should know better (i.e., have a functioning conscience) — it goes to show that, again true to fashion, a leader (and not only) with his character defect surrounds himself with people who are equally defective and dangerously clueless (or worse). But we knew that already, didn’t we.

Incapable of guilt, a narcissistic psychopath is, however, acutely sensitive to shame:

Shame is so difficult for a narcissist to tolerate because it arises from an exposure of some flaw of his to others. He has many serious shortcomings; but in his own eyes he is perfect and surpasses everyone else, as he will let you know time and again, directly and not. He must retain this grandiose delusion of superiority and perfection at all costs because this is all he has. His bigger than life persona hides an empty inner core, devoid of meaningful values and attachments. A prick of shame exposing any flaws in the narcissist’s façade has a potential of deflating it and effectively destroying him since there is nothing of substance to fall back on within his inner world.

This oversensitivity to shame is what distinguishes a narcissistic psychopath from the “regular” kind. Although all psychopaths are grandiose and entitled, the regular, not-fully-narcissistic ones can and usually do shrug off shame the same way they shrug off any pro-social emotions and demands. Attempts at shaming a “regular” psychopath are met with indifference and/or ridicule of the shamers’ naivete.

Not so with a narcissist, in whom shame evokes narcissistic rage accompanied by an irrepressible urge to strike back in retaliation, which comes from a reflexive need to protect his fragile ego. It usually does not subside easily, if at all:

His reactions to shame are grossly disproportionate to the “offense;” he will hold grudges and seek revenge sometimes till death, his own or his “offender’s,” whichever comes first. Hell hath no fury like a narcissist scorned.

Some observers of Trump do not see or understand this aspect of his character defect. There are those who, for example, try to explain his habit of sending nasty tweets when it obviously goes against his own interests, and invariably bring up his impulsiveness and lack of discipline as the explanation.

That’s not all there is to it, however. Gary “What’s Aleppo?” Johnson is also impulsive and lacks discipline, yet he, unlike Trump, does not strike any (or most) of us as sadistic and dangerous (if we do not look at his policy proposals, that is). Overdoing pot, maybe. Trump’s, and any narcissistic psychopath’s sadism — the ultimate expression of narcissistic rage — is what sets his compulsive behaviors, like those tweets, apart from the lack of discipline seen in impulsive individuals with a conscience.

It is the irrepressible desire for revenge that keeps him awake and drives his need to tweet at odd hours of the night. His nightly tweets are never benign, as we know: They are offensive and designed to hurt and humiliate their subject. And that subject is always someone who has injured his fragile ego, either directly or by proxy.

The relentless, compulsive quality of those fuming reactions is one sure sign, among oh-so-many, that this man is not only unqualified to be near the nukes’ button(s), but shouldn’t be in charge of anything that affects living beings in any way. It tells us how incapable he is of controlling his narcissistic rage, which is arguably the deadliest emotion known to humankind.

We can see shades of that rage in this non-apology video, above.

Trump does not look contrite or chastened — on the contrary, he is visibly angry and looks offended by this imposition.  As always when he is trying to mimic pro-social emotions, his facial expressions do not match his words, this time meant to express regret.  The body does not lie. He looks like a schoolyard bully forced to apologize to his victims, which he does with utmost reluctance, while gripping a baseball bat behind his back and already imagining how he’s going to use it.

He even says as much, promising, ominously, to get back at Hillary and Bill (!) for this humiliation in the upcoming days.

Hell hath no fury.


Many Republicans have responded with outsized outrage over this “revelation,” trying to distance themselves from Trump. I’m thinking, as if.

Here’s a comment that also expresses my own thoughts on the matter:

Hope LaVance

Naw don’t disown him now. When he was calling for violence at his rallies yall were all behind him. When he was talking about the wall yall were screaming his praises. When he suggested his supporters murder hillary yall ate it up. Now you want to distance yourselves. Nope stand by your man.

 UPDATE 10/9/16:

See this excellent blow-by-blow takedown of Trump’s non-apology by Leah McElrath: Trump’s Video Apology Is an Eerie Replica of Psychological Manipulation by Abusers.

“Where the hell is he from?”

That’s what Joe Biden asks about Trump:

Joe’s impassioned speech was prompted by Trump’s answer to a question about mental health services for veterans suffering from PTSD at a rally in Virginia yesterday:

At a town hall style meeting hosted by the Retired American Warriors PAC, Marine Staff Sgt. Chad Robichaux, president and founder of Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs, asked Mr. Trump whether he would advocate for religious programs as an optional part of helping military members suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other health problems.

Trump’s response included the following astute assessment:

“When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it. But a lot of people can’t handle it.”

Now, Trump is not being sadistic here for a change — he’s playing a caring person by faking empathy and pretending to know what he’s talking about, which of course backfires. Psychopaths, primitively integrated and lacking conscience with its capacity for empathy and guilt, are usually the traumatizers, and not trauma sufferers, so it is no surprise that Trump believes PTSD, like neurosis and mental illness, is a sign of weakness.

It is painful to watch Sgt. Robichaux — a good man by all accounts — to put his misplaced hope and trust in a man who deserves neither, and then defend him from criticism. Too bad no one at that rally bothered to ask Trump some follow up questions to probe his understanding of mental health and the services he’s promising. They would expose his cluelessness in a jiff.

And today, NPR Morning Edition aired interviews with Clinton and Trump’s supporters, notable for the presence of genuinely caring and decent folks (Catholics, no less, for whom the matters of conscience should matter) among the latter.

There are still too many people out there who believe Trump is a normal individual, and what’s worse, one with any solutions for — of even basic understanding of — human problems. His psychological insight and spiritual life are like his business acumen: Nonexistent.  Unfortunately, he has been able to fool too many for too long.

This drives home the point on the urgency of educating people about conscience-impairing character defects like psychopathy and narcissism and their dangerous ramifications for the world.

But going back to Joe Biden’s opening question, about where the hell Trump is from: Some people are saying that he is not human. Really.

Hard to tell whether it is true or not, but if it weren’t, then people wouldn’t be saying it, right? Well, they are:

The question that has never been asked is this: Why has Trump never shown his belly-button? Does he have an umbilicus or not? Why the secrecy? Could it be that he was one of those early test-tube humanoid babies bred in a Monsanto laboratory in Las Cruces in 1946 under contract to the Pentagon, which hoped to create a cadre of bogeymen who would walk straight into heavy gunfire, grinning, thumbs-up, and thereby dishearten the enemy? They had realistic skin and hair but their eyes were small and piggish and their fingers short. Mr. Trump has taken heavy fire for the past year and there isn’t a scratch on him. Lift up your shirt, sir, and let us see it.

The Red Herring of the Candidates’ (Physical) Health

 [image source]

The recent Pneumonia-gate peeled off yet another layer of dangerous absurdity in this presidential election. After Hillary’s fainting episode on 9/11, the media pounced on her health problems, legitimizing the voices of  Trump surrogates, trolls and other misguided souls who have already diagnosed Clinton with everything from aphasia to autism, with no evidence to support their conclusions.

The WaPo and NYT convened their editorial boards to issue official statements of concern over the candidates’ [plural] health, demanding that they make their health history public. There was not one demand, however, that the disclosed records include results of psychological and psychiatric evaluations — either because mental health is implicitly assumed to be part of a general health exam and/or because it is a taboo subject for several reasons, one of which is the very apparent but unmentionable character defect of the GOP candidate.

And it does appear to be the latter, given the insistence with which the media pursue Hillary’s real and imagined ailments, while essentially giving a pass to her opponent who openly derides the process by, among so many other things, offering a letter about his astonishingly excellent health that seems to be created, like much of his campaign and life, as a prank. (Sadly, it/they are not.)

This is just another example of how bizarre this presidential election is, and how its bizarreness is augmented and supported by the complicit mainstream media that chase the latest outrage and focus on issues of little significance, while remaining mum about the huuuge elephant in the room, that of Trump’s profoundly deficient character. This defect has been amply evidenced in his behavior, and documented, for decades, more thoroughly than that of any other American citizen.

Whatever physical ailments Hillary or any presidential candidate may have, they are either curable or manageable. Should the worst happen, we have a vice president and others down the chain of command ready to take on the executive role. Physical ailments certainly do not disqualify presidents from office, nor pose a risk for the country and the world. America has had several competent enough commanders-in-chief with serious physical ailments before.  But we have never had a president with such seriously disordered character as Trump — yet we are not talking about it. Because ethics.

Specifically, because of the well-meaning prohibition, applied to mental health professionals, against diagnosing strange people from a distance, also known in the U.S. as the Goldwater Rule.

Well, yes, we can talk Trump’s mental unhealth if we are lay people and/or use common vernacular that does not reference his defect directly but describes it in oblique and non-biding ways, through various pejorative terms if needed (like deplorable, or a chronic liar or thin-skinned bully, for example). Lay people can also use “expertly” language, calling the candidate a psychopath, for instance; but this will be accompanied by an understanding that lay people do not possess requisite knowledge and expertise to make such assessments matter. (To their credit, lay people often nail it.)

Meanwhile, those who do possess such knowledge and expertise are prohibited, or, more accurately, strongly discouraged from making such assessments, as the American Psychiatric Association recently reminded everyone.

This is madness. (Pun intended. I think.) It has resulted in a most peculiar version of reality where those in-the-know cannot comment on what’s apparent and the subject of their expertise; and those who see the apparent, but don’t necessarily understand it, search confusedly for explanations which are not coming, as the experts are directed to remain mum. Thank heavens for the Internets, however, and common sense, which fill the knowledge gap somewhat.

There are obvious ethical and humane reasons for not diagnosing strange people from a distance, not the least of which is sparing the pain and stigma for subjects of such diagnoses, as well as avoiding diagnostic mistakes, which are far more common than most lay (and not) people realize. Psychiatric and psychological diagnosis is not an exact science.

Nevertheless, we do know, diagnostically speaking, some things about human beings and their psychological maladies, and this knowledge can be useful in helping us understand, and sometimes even predict to some degree, people’s general behavior.

The language of psychopathology, just like the language of physical health problems, can and should be disseminated and used freely in the public discourse when it’s warranted — i.e., when we are dealing with manifestations of mental unhealth and disorders. This language and the knowledge it conveys are not proprietary and an exclusive domain of the mental health professions. Our society can and should talk openly about depression, for example, or character disorders, learning (one hopes) more about them in the process. It is as much a matter of public health and safety as it is the case when dealing with physical body disorders.

When we encounter, for example, a person with symptoms of a dangerous physical disease, it would be helpful for people to know how the disease manifests and what its risks are, how to generally treat the affected person, and what to do to protect ourselves. Similarly, we need to stress public health education with respect to character disorders, some of which — specifically those that, like psychopathy and narcissism, severely impair a conscience — pose a clear danger to society.

Individuals who do not possess a functioning conscience (the main feature of psychopathy) and cover up this lack with a grandiose sense of their own importance and specialness, accompanied by entitlement, often aggrieved, and contempt for others (the main features of narcissism) tend to be inherently destructive. Their incurable character defect, known as narcissistic psychopathy (also, closely enough, malignant narcissism), is the most dangerous form of psychopathology known to humankind and the source of much, if not all, of human-made evil in the world.

The defect is found in genocidal tyrants, mass killers, religious leaders, and many CEOs alike. Their lack of conscience and their grandiosity that drive them to realize their main life objective — obtaining as much power and adulation for themselves as  possible, without any regard for interpersonal and social consequences  — guarantee to cause destruction on a small or large scale, depending on the reach of their influence. That much we know. There is, or should already be, no doubt about it. This knowledge is one obviously helpful aspect of (correct) diagnosis.

We also know that this character defect — which is NOT mental illness — is incurable and renders one so afflicted, particularly if in an advanced age, with little to no capacity of learning and change. It is an extremely important piece of information when we consider such an individual for a leadership position, particularly in the area in which he has no previous experience. Hoping that the candidate will acquire knowledge and behaviors necessary for his duties is both foolish and dangerous, given what’s at stake. Again, recognizing this is helpful in disabusing such lingering, misguided hopes.

If there is one subset of the human population that should be kept away from positions of power, it is people with this character defect. Unfortunately, their pathology propels them to seek just such positions. And they hide behind what Hervey Cleckley called the mask of sanity so effectively that they can fool even experts.

This makes it especially important that we, as a society, implement protective measures which would stop these characterologically impaired individuals from finalizing their power-driven pursuits, since we know, or should already, about the inevitable exploitation and destruction that will ensue if we don’t.

One way to do so would be by employing psychological assessments to weed such people out of, say, presidential races. We use various forms of psychological testing to determine job suitability for candidates in many different domains with lesser responsibilities — why not for the highest office where mental health and character are of utmost importance? It is reasonable to ask why is it necessary to need psychological assessments for job candidates in the restaurant business, for example, but not for the highest positions in the government?

Surely we can see that thoughtfulness, patience, and empathy, along with the capacity for guilt, critical self-reflection, and the ability to understand and strive to live according to the highest human values (a.k.a conscience) are more important in presidents than their cholesterol or blood sugar levels. Why then don’t we assess those former capacities as seriously as we do the latter? It is true that relevant psychological assessments would be more complicated than simple blood tests, but their results are far more important in this context.

Another aspect of the societal self-protective measures against destruction caused by conscience-impaired individuals is education. Polish psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski warned that:

“[our] general inability to recognize the psychological type of [psychopaths] causes immense suffering, mass terror, violent oppression, genocide and the decay of civilization.” (source)

We have to do a better job educating the public about mental health and lack of it, paying special attention to character disorders which far too often not only go unrecognized as dangerous pathology, but are glamorized and championed as signs of successful adjustment to our society. This education cannot take place if psychiatrists and psychologists are discouraged from offering their opinions and their debates are confined to academic and professional journals. Mental health experts must be given opportunities to openly and widely share their expertise with the public, and this is where the cooperation with the willing media is necessary.

One of the goals of such sharing would be demystification of psychiatric and psychological diagnoses which are complex, but in the general sense (i.e., outside of the privileged and confidential encounter with a patient in the doctor’s office) are not always best left exclusively to professionals. We too often forget that professionals, experts as they are, do not have a monopoly on describing and alleviating various forms of human mental suffering; and one could argue that a wider and greater understanding of these and related mental health issues could possibly lead to better health outcomes, in individuals and groups.

Of course the ethical prohibitions encapsulated in the Goldwater Rule do not apply to general discussions about mental disorders, but to diagnosing real people from a distance.

But it is difficult to have such general discussions while strenuously avoiding specific teachable examples whose presence looms large in our daily reality and collective consciousness. It is one of many reasons why the Goldwater Rule has been a subject of ongoing debate, this year more so than ever. The debate’s main arguments have been best summarized in The Ethics of APA’s Goldwater Rule by Jerome Kroll and Claire Pouncey.

The authors challenge the rule by, among other things, pointing out its unenforceability and showing its aspects that are inconsistent with reality-based practice. They also weigh the ethical prohibitions against ad hoc remote diagnoses issued  (usually) for media consumption and often without a good reason, against the professionals’ ethical duty to warn the public about individuals who pose danger to society, noting that:

For the individual moral agent choosing a course of action, the Goldwater Rule provides no direction, except to require that he prioritize the reputation of the profession.

Along the way, they bring up examples of professionals grappling with the Rule, one of which is a 2011 NYT editorial by psychiatrist Richard A. Friedman.

The subject of the editorial was the aftermath of Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault scandal, during which, as Friedman writes, “a parade of psychiatrists stepped forward to offer their expert opinion in the news media.” Even though Kroll and Pouncey do not directly comment on this, the editorial is notable for its darkly ironic, in 2016, twist.

Friedman, who is supportive of the Goldwater Rule, says the following:

Of course, there are exceptions to all rules. Patient confidentiality is not absolute, for example: If a patient of mine told me he was thinking of killing someone, I would have an ethical and legal duty to violate confidentiality and warn both the person at risk and the police.

And one could reasonably argue that an exception should be made for psychiatric profiles of foreign political leaders, which United States intelligence services (and those of other countries) have been doing at least since World War II. An evaluation of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, for example, might well be in the national interest because it could help guide how we deal with this difficult figure.

Colonel Qaddafi’s ruthlessness, near-delusional grandiosity and love of absolute power all suggest a severe personality disorder called malignant narcissism. Because people with the disorder have a defect in moral conscience, they lack empathy, so there is no room to appeal to them on human terms. Instead, they are more likely to respond to the right mix of flattery, power and a credible threat of force.

Whether the foregoing diagnosis is correct or useful, I have no idea, but it is ethically defensible.

Despite what some of us might believe, though, none of our celebrities or politicians is likely to rise to the level of a national threat that justifies violation of the Goldwater rule.

It’s not sexy and probably won’t make headlines, but experts should just stick to the facts and educate the public, and leave the pleasure of diagnostic speculation to the amateurs.