All The King’s Experts, Part 1


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It is Saturday, Day 679 of Our Great Leader’s Ascension to The Throne, which means it is time for another fairy tale*:

Once upon a time, in a land far away, The People elected The Leader who was unlike any other they have seen before — not in Their Land. Other peoples Elsewhere had their share of such leaders time and again, and so they knew what it meant, but The People didn’t and wouldn’t listen to Elsewherians when they tried to warn them. Well, to be accurate, some did — but will get to that later.

The Leader was everything The People wanted and then some. His spectacular and flamboyant daily doings and undoings — though the latter were less visible — mesmerized and occupied The People’s minds and were subject of endless, heated debates.

Some believed the un/doings were exactly what Their Land needed, while Others vehemently disagreed. The chasm between Some and Others grew wider each day, and The People were at loss to understand why.

As time passed, and chaos and violence grew in Their Land and Abroad, what with The Leader’s wars as foreign policy and his desire to show himself The Mightiest Leader of All, more and more of The People started to notice things about The Leader that they did not see before.

He would say unusual things — like, for example, that the sky was purple; and His Henchmen ran into Town Squares and Twitter to assure each other and The People that the sky was as purple as Italian plums.

The People looked at the sky, and even though it still seemed blue to most, they were not really sure now. Because if Everybody sees purple, who am I to question that? went the Average Person’s reasoning.

Or, soaking wet from rain during one of his triumphant, though scary as hell rallies, The Leader would declare this to be The Sunniest Day ever on account of his Magnificent Speech. (#truefact)

He would say that the health care he gave The People was the best, but it was hard to hide any longer that more people than ever were dying from treatable and preventable diseases because they could not afford to see a doctor. Or he said that his job creation programs and environmental policies were Making Their Land Great Again, when more and more of The People found themselves in perpetually jobless despair, unable to find free drinkable water and clear air to breathe. (#alsotruefactsoon, #freemarketrules)

Little things like that started to add up in The People’s minds.

Some also began to notice that as the disorder in Their Land intensified, The Leader’s life and that of His Henchmen grew more lavish and carefree.

It didn’t seem right, but there was no good explanation for what they saw. After all, The Leader was the greatest ever — he said so himself and they believed him, even as their doubts grew in spite of their Proper Judgment (TM).

As it is often the case in such times of confusion in Their Land, The People started to ask, WTF?, and, naturally, turned to The Experts for explanations.

to be continued

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*This is a fairy tale, obvs. So any possible similarities between its characters and situations, and those of actual people and their increasingly wtf-ish reality are purely coincidental, totally unintended, and, seriously, just imagined by you, dear reader. The sky is still pur… blue and the wars have not started. Yet. Now go take a deep breath, if you still can.

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If Only We Knew


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In today’s WaPo column, Trump’s erratic first week was among the most alarming in history, Ruth Marcus writes,

Week One of the Trump administration was among the most alarming in the history of the American presidency.

There have been scarier weeks for the country, certainly — the Cuban missile crisis and the Sept. 11 attacks. There have been more tragic ones — the Sept. 11 attacks again, the terrible toll of wartime, the horror of four presidential assassinations.

There have been occasions of terrible presidential judgment — Franklin D. Roosevelt’s order to detain U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II. And there have been moments of looming constitutional crisis — during Watergate alone, the Saturday Night Massacre, the showdown with the Supreme Court over the release of the tapes, the impeachment inquiry that resulted in Richard Nixon’s resignation.

Anyone who paid even glancing attention to the 2016 campaign already understood Donald Trump to be undisciplined, easily provoked and self-absorbed to the point of narcissism. But it was one thing to know that in theory; it was much more unsettling to witness President Trump in action. In depressing retrospect, the dark inaugural address, with its invocation of “carnage” and “tombstones,” was the week’s high point.

She goes on to enumerate Trump’s “achievements” so far, and continues:

You will notice that my lament about the week is largely devoid of ideological content. That is not because his policy moves are not appalling — they are. But you don’t have to disagree with Trump’s policies to be rattled to the core by his unhinged behavior. Many congressional Republicans privately express concerns that range from apprehension to outright dread.

There have been reasons to worry about other presidents’ mental health. Lyndon B. Johnson’s senior aides were so concerned about his behavior that they consulted psychiatrists. Nixon in the throes of Watergate was drunk and unstable, so much so that his defense secretary, James Schlesinger, reportedly ordered the military not to respond to White House orders without approval from him or the secretary of state. Still, other presidents’ outbursts occurred behind closed doors, and there was some hope that aides would intervene. Trump’s inner circle seems divided between enablers and inciters.

What is to be done? In a meeting last week with The Post editorial board, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chair of the House Oversight Committee, said he was weighing legislation to require presidents to undergo an independent medical examination, including for mental health. Chaffetz cautioned that he wasn’t “talking about some of the rhetoric that’s flying around” about Trump. Still, he said, “If you’re going to have your hands on the nuclear codes, you should probably know what kind of mental state you’re in.”
 

That can’t happen soon enough.

Not soon enough, you say…

I agree.

If only you knew ahead of time what you could expect from a leader with Trump’s character defect. And even if you did not understand it yourself, maybe if there was someone who did and tried to help you with it… It would have been different now, for sure, right?

But, hey, no one could have predicted that the narcissistic psychopath… oops, are we allowed yet to name his pathology or is it still too soon? Anyway, no one knew that he could win. If only there were any precedents for this happening anywhere in the world.

When I was getting tired and discouraged from sending out unacknowledged op-ed letters with explanations and warnings of our future president’s pathology and the destructive, fascistic reign it guaranteed, and complained to my co-conspirator, Dr. Burkle, that I felt like a Cassandra McBonkers screaming on a street corner about the end of the world, he responded by saying (paraphrased), “When Trump becomes president, we just may see the end of the world.”

The WaPo was one of the many papers and other news outlets, along with individual journalists, opinion-makers and politicians from all aisles, which we contacted numerous times throughout 2016. Don’t remember now if Ruth Marcus was one of those contacted individually — maybe, maybe not. But it does not matter as no one wanted to hear what we had to say.

Dr. Burkle sent his last letter of concern and explanation of the character pathology in question to the WaPo and NYT about two weeks before the election. No response (although one of them kindly sent the standard “thanks, but no thanks” e-mail). Those two news outlets, like almost everyone else in the political center, were flying high on the prospect of Hillary’s assured win and writing Trumpism’s obituaries.

We watched in horror.

I know we weren’t the only ones. There were other concerned mental health professionals as well as lay people who raised alarm in public and tried to bring the issue to the attention of the media in other ways, often at a risk, professional and personal, to themselves.

But how do you make someone see what they don’t want to see?

The truth of it is that if we refuse to learn the lessons of history and psychology — and we do, repeatedly — we will be forced to do so. Again and again, it seems, until they take. One of these days.

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P.S. Just got an anniversary note from WordPress congratulating me on blogging for an entire year. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this day also marks exactly a year since I made a prediction, right here, of Trump’s rise to power. Good blogging, indeed. Ugh. But this time, unlike a year ago, I think I will keep it up, fates permitting.

1 Year Anniversary Achievement
Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!
You registered on WordPress.com one year ago.
Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.

To Chuck Todd about Something Trump Did


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This is the second installment of what likely will become a regular feature of this blog: translating Trump for the glorious make-benefit of Chuck Todd, an overexcitable host of Meet the Press, whose heart, I believe, is in the right place, even though his mind cannot always keep up. Snarky as that sounds, I have great — well, ok, moderate– hopes for the man, as I watch his growing spine, strengthened after every encounter with Kellyanne Goebbels Conway and other representatives of Agent Orange.

Chuck is quickly discovering the WTF Zone, in which most Americans have lived their lives, watching in mute horror the disaster developing in and around them thanks to the political grandmasters who use them as fodder for their profiteering schemes.

WTF Zone is like The Twilight Zone, minus its whimsy and uplifting message. There is no way out of it, other than (falsely) through numbing the pain it creates with mind-altering substances (and/or virtual reality), which for most Americans lead to more alienation, suffering and, increasingly, death; or (authentically) through a radical self-transformation, which is rare and seemingly — so far at least, though this may change — beyond the reach for most.

On today’s MTP, Chuck tried to get an answer from Mrs. Goebbels to a simple but loaded question: why Trump sent his  press secretary Sean Spicer — a small man in every sense of the term, who always looks as though he’s seconds away from blowing his gasket along with the collar of his tight-fitting shirt — to lie, shamelessly and angrily, about something as silly as the size of his inauguration crowd.

Of course Chuck got no answer, but instead a stream of obfuscations and deflections which are the specialty of the Agent Orange Propaganda Corp, and in which Kellyanne excels like no others. That’s Psychopathic Lying 101: no sweat, no conflictual emotion, no whiff of discomfort or scruple over one’s smoothly delivered “alternative facts” (she actually used that very term).

Chuck later tried to extract the answer from another of Trump’s snake-like surrogates, Tom “Soft Sensuality” Barrack.

The SS moniker comes from Barrack’s creative and jaw-dropping spin of the impossibility to secure A-list celebrities for Trump’s inauguration. Instead of confirming what’s obvious to everyone — that no person with a conscience and a right mind would want to associate with Trumputin — Barrack ventured that Donald prefers the soft sensuality of the surroundings free of A-listers and other such nuisances. What a great example of the forked golden tongue at work.

If we are to associate Trump — or Barrack himself, for that matter — with soft sensuality, then we may as well grandfather Marquise de Sade into that exclusive club, and seriously consider Jack the Ripper’s application too.

Anyway, back to the purpose of this post, which is helping Chuck Todd understand Trump.

The reason why Trump sent Spicer to bark lies at the press about the size of his inauguration package is the same reason why he, Trump, always brags about the size of his anything. His malignant narcissism demands to assert at every opportunity that he is the bestest, most tremendousest, huugest, and amazingest, bar none, and crush anyone who may disagree. (And I suspect you know it already, but bless you for asking anyway.)

Having had pictures of his meager inauguration crowds, much smaller than those of Obama (an unforgivable slight), circulated by the media, and then being upstaged by the world-wide women’s march must have been an intolerable injury to his ego.

And we know what happens when a narcissist’s ego is injured: hell hath no fury.

You could see that fury, by proxy, twisting Spicer’s tongue, making him avoid eye contact with the audience, trip over his words, and bring him close to apoplexy, averted only by his scurrying, cowardly exit that prevented taking and answering any questions from the journalists. (That’s what “press conferences” under Trump will look like. Get used to it –or, better yet, not.)

Some folks on twitter used the term Pravda-esque to describe this “press conference,” but I don’t remember such levels of aggression and contempt during communist pressers way back when. This is really more Hitler, from what I saw, than placid Kosygin or clueless Brezhnev, although Stalin may have qualified — but that was before my time.

The Orange One, meanwhile, had a disgraceful in person “meeting” with the intelligence community, which he used to (yes, you guessed it) brag about the size of his inauguration crowds and peddle other lies to a seemingly shocking — until we remember that Trumpists hire cheerleaders for his public performances — applause from the audience. He also told the intel people “I’m so behind you,” which sounded more like a threat than support (and you can bet that this is what it really was), reminiscent of his stalking behavior during the second debate with Hillary.

This is what Trump’s increasingly staged and choreographed contacts with the public will look like from now on, as the man continues to become more withdrawn from reality and consumed by his dreams of glory, supported in this dangerous but inevitable development by his sycophants, but also by his opportunistic enemies who are already plotting his demise.

It will be important for his loyalists to keep him isolated and protected from facts, because as his grandiosity, now fully validated, intensifies, so will his rage whenever the unpleasant truth breaks through the veil of his narcissistic delusions.

When that happens, anyone in his vicinity is vulnerable.

This aspect of his decompensating psyche will be carefully — well, as carefully as it is possible — hidden from the public; but we will see reflections of it in the behavior of his proxies — not the smooth snaky, softly sensual (gaah) Barracks, but the bull-terrier Spicers and Piersons (yes, she’s still around). As they deliver his messages of calibrated rage, Trumputin will be watching and deciding whether their ire meets his expectations and if the lies sound convincing to him — because that’s what really matters from now on; while the brazen destruction of what remains of our democracy will proceed right on the GOPers’ schedule — unless we, the people, intervene, of course.

So, Chuck, welcome to kleptofascist pathocracy. We’ve been in it for a while, so we are a tad more experienced in deciphering its ways. You are just opening your eyes, but that’s a good start. Keep at it. I have faith in ya.

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Bonus feature:

Kellyanne’s opinion on the women’s marches:

“We certainly respect people’s First Amendment rights. But I frankly didn’t see the point. I mean, you have a day after he’s uplifting and unifying and you have folks here being on a diatribe where I think they could have requested a dialogue. Nobody called me and said, ‘Hey, could we have a dialogue?’”

Yes, because if there is one thing that Mrs. Goebbels excels in, it is the art of, um, dialogue. She is as good at that as she is at redefining words — uplifting and unifying prime examples.

 

Trumpocalypse Now


 [How the unthinkable happens. Image source.]

And so it has come to pass.

This year, the citizenry of the crumbling empire elected as their leader an agent of destruction — to speed up the crumbling process and bring it to its conclusion, the full shape of which remains to been seen.

There has been palpable, at least to some — and I don’t mean Trump’s fans — inevitability to Trump’s presidency. It was apparent that The Donald would be selected for this mission of destruction the moment one saw him on stage with the other GOP candidates. There was no doubt he would vanquish them — not because he was a better candidate, but because he is so pathological. His character defect assured that. There was a small chance that enough American voters would be repulsed by that defect, but it quickly became obvious that in the eyes of too many it was the most desirable asset in a presidential candidate.

I started writing on this blog somewhat against my better judgment, what with it taking so much time ‘n all, compelled by the need to communicate just how dangerous President Trump would be.

And I want it to be on record that I did what I could to prevent the Trumpocalypse, which I saw brewing the moment Agent Orange stepped out on the national stage as a serious, this time, candidate.

Dr. Burkle, whom I have been privileged to know and work with, and I sent articles and op-eds to American papers and media outlets describing Trump’s character defect, its predictable influences on our electorate, and its dangerous ramifications for our future. Our letters were not published, and most were unacknowledged, as the press continued to be baffled by the man’s popularity and touted, especially toward the end of the election, Hillary’s sure victory. (The way I see it, if you refuse to listen and learn from people with hard-earned expertise, which includes, in addition to professional credentials, a lifetime of tireless world-wide work to save and heal humanity wounded by mayhem caused by psychopaths and narcissists in positions of power, you forfeit the right to denigrate the “poorly educated” supporters of Trump. At least they have a legitimate excuse for their ignorance.)

Part of my sense of the inevitability of Trump’s Presidency stemmed from my interest in narcissistic psychopathy, an interest which was fully engaged several years ago when I came upon the so-called manosphere and discovered how that vast and growing area of cyberspace was inhabited by men (and some women) with this distinct but not well understood character defect.

That chilling discovery led to further explorations revealing the manosphere’s overlap with the alt-right and other hate movements, all of which are led and populated by individuals exhibiting unmistakable signs of this character pathology. It is a rarely stated fact that mentally healthy, or even normal, people do not join these groups. (This knowledge is also something that PC-minded liberals recoil from. It is not uncommon to hear a bleeding heart, ableism-inspired liberal exhort that psychopaths are people too, we should not pathologize them, etc.)  Contrary to the prevailing pundity / Democratic wisdom today, this defect has little to do with one’s education and socioeconomic standing; and even though it is most commonly associated with the right wing of the political spectrum, those affected by it can be found on the left as well, just not as frequently.

It was obvious that Trump was Da Man for this segment of our population, which is always larger than we want to know. He used their language and expressed their desires, especially the unspoken but palpable one: for revenge and destruction that would heal their narcissistic wounds.

There is no force in the human universe more powerful and deadly at the same time than that of narcissistic rage — and that rage is the fuel of Trumpism (and fascism, and Communism, and other similar destructive -isms). Democracy and civilization are more fragile than we’d like to believe, and are certainly no match for the lethal power of this rage, especially when it becomes normalized and weaponized through totalitarian movements and regimes.

This week, I attended a gathering of liberal-minded folk that took place in a genteel setting where people were reassuring each other about the strength of our Constitution and laws and other protections inherent in our imperfect but enlightened system of government. And my mind couldn’t help but wander to familiar scenes of primitive rage destroying just such people and settings, a deed that’s frighteningly easy, particularly when done under the cloak of political necessity. Evil is most effective and proficient when dressed up as such. As Teju Cole writes in his NYT essay, A Time for Refusal,

Evil settles into everyday life when people are unable or unwilling to recognize it. It makes its home among us when we are keen to minimize it or describe it as something else.

When (not if) President Trump starts dismantling our democracy and threatening the precarious stability of the world, I will find no consolation in repeating “We/I told you so.” But I will take a moment here to briefly (though half-heartedly because I don’t really believe Trump could have been stopped) apportion some responsibility for this sordid state of affairs:

1.to the media — for normalizing this deeply pathological character and thus paving his way to power;

2.to mental health experts (not all) — for failing to see and/or adequately describe the dangers posed by the candidate’s character defect;

3. to various “normal” Trump’s associates — for knowing for decades just how disordered the man was, but pretending he was perfectly fine because their paychecks depended on it;

4. to Democrats – for nixing Bernie and for “taking Trump literally but not seriously;”

5. and last but not least — to those who voted for him, deceived by their misguided hopes, deluded thinking and/or deficient consciences. This includes “disenchanted” Democrats, like the woman who, when interviewed this week by NPR about her voting choice, explained that Hillary was not “charming enough.” Thankfully, narcissistic psychopaths have charm in spades, so she, like other charm-craving voters, should avail herself of it to her heart’s delight during the Trumpocalypse.

Predictably, further normalization of the profoundly abnormal continues and will progress until something dramatic brings to a stop. Now that this narcissistic psychopath has achieved his ultimate dream (so far) and the highest position of power achievable on Earth, we are being told to accept him and give him the chance to govern.

The offensive bizarreness of this call is breathtaking. We have handed a disordered toddler-man the world with its weaponry as toys to play with, and insist that he should have that chance because he is Really Important now.

Um, no.

Let’s be clear: #notmypresident is not just a movement of political activists disappointed that their candidate lost, but a swell of humanity concerned about its survival under the reign of a profoundly defective, conscience-free, and adulation- and power-driven character and his equally defective cabal.

Speaking of which: notice the forming of the narcissistic power circle around The Big Psychopath (TBP). His conscience-impaired sycophants are claiming their well-earned positions of influence, jockeying for power as they always do, while kowtowing to TBP’s huuge ego.

The disordered characters whose blatant lies and manipulations we were forced to endure during the election are here to stay and further shape the public discourse. This will take a form of a well-oiled propaganda machine supporting TBP’s agenda and covering its pathological aspects by more lies, deflections, denials, and obfuscations, of the kind we’ve seen a lot already; plus the predictable glamorization and glorification of his inhumane policies, soon to blitz us 24/7. The resulting schizoid split between reality and its propagandized version is familiar to every sensitive enough (i.e., conscience-equipped) citizen of a totalitarian regime.

My favorite economist with a heart, Yanis Varoufakis, wrote a piece on how Trump victory comes with a silver lining for the world’s progressives. In it, he outlines his vision of progress through trauma of Trumpism — and it is one to which I’m somewhat partial. I agree with much of what he says there, although I also believe that Varoufakis, overexcitable idealist as he is, may be overly optimistic about our future rescued from destruction by a Progressive International.

A more realistic, thus bleaker, vision was presented in the comments by the brilliant response from one Stephen Morris, which I’m reposting in its entirety. Even though Morris speaks of the EU, his observations are applicable to the US and the world at large, and, in general, to humanity as such:

So much for “self-determination”, one of the core vales of the Modern Era, the greatest battle of the 20th century, beginning in Sarajevo in July 1914 and ending there 80 years later.

All that is to be thrown away for a yet another neo-imperialist fantasy.

Only the truest True Believers, the most gullible “Useful Idiots” cling to the belief that the EU is there to promote the interests of the Subject peoples.

Witness the brutality inflicted on Greece. Witness the “Lost Generation” of youth sacrificed to the fantasy of the imperial Eurozone. Witness the enthusiastic embrace of “free-trade” agreements, signing away sovereign powers to opaque committees of Elite interests.

For all the pompous rhetoric, the EU is an unaccountable, undemocratic institution that exists to promote Elite interests.

Like any nascent empire, it attracts aggressively narcissistic, machiavellian political agents, drawn to the prospect of exercising dominion over hundreds of millions of Subjects.

Unlike the US it doesn’t even have the rudimentary constraints of “elective” government, let alone anything approximating genuine (direct) Democracy.

Its leaders are deaf to any calls for reform. Even in the face of the imminent departure of Britain, they refused to contemplate reform of the organisation. They – and their sycophant supporters – can think only in terms of how best to inflict punishment on those who dare to defy them.

What does THAT tell us about the psychology of these people???

Haven’t we seen THAT sort of behaviour before in Europe??

There is another – far bleaker – way of viewing all of this.

What we are witnessing – in Brexit, in Trumpism, in the embrace of populist demagogues – is the desperate last stand of ordinary people seeking any way out of the ruthless New Elite Agenda of “refeudalisation”: the winding back of Modern Era values to restore the Elite’s historic privileges.

But like Elites throughout history, the new Elite seek to weave a cloak of virtue to conceal the nakedness of their self-interest. Their spokesmen use honeyed words to conceal the brutality of their ambition.

It is easy to forget that, stripped of its ephemera, human history up until the time of the Modern Era era was a story of aggressively narcissistic, machiavellian psychopaths competing (sometimes collaborating) to attain positions of power, then using that power to dominate and brutalise their fellow human beings. We know from the historical record that such psychopaths feel no remorse in wasting the lives of thousands – even millions – of people they regard as “their” Subjects.

In this behaviour, psychopathic rulers were abetted by “sycophants” – typically timid, less dominant males – who sought to promote their own survival and reproductive prospects by allying themselves with the dominant males. Articulate sycophants provide the “theology” of elitism, constructing elaborate justifications for the privilege of their patrons.

Historically, the ability of such Elites to dominate and brutalise others was limited by the capacity of individual human beings to kill each other, and therefore by the need to recruit and reward a circle of allies (a “praetorian guard”) which could carry out such such enforcement.

If that long-standing behaviour seemed to change in the Modern Era it was not because the psychopaths woke up one morning and said, “Oh my God, is that the time!? Is it the Modern Era already? Quick. We’d better start enacting social reforms!”

Human psychology has not evolved. Evolution operates over a MUCH longer time frame. The psychopaths (and their sycophant supporters) haven’t gone away.

All that happened in the Modern Era was a temporary change in the environment: the demands of the industrial economy made it expedient – for a time – for the rulers to make limited concessions to their Subjects.

The industrial state required the training of large numbers of Subjects to operate the complex – but not fully automated – machinery of industrial production. Having had so much invested in them, Subjects had value and their bargaining power relative to their rulers improved. In the extreme, they could withdraw their labour and quickly impose greater costs on the owners of capital than they themselves suffered.

Under such conditions, the optimal strategy for rulers (only after they had tried violent suppression and found it ineffective!) was to make certain limited concession to their Subjects. Thus we had the quintessential ideals of the Modern Era, culminating in the 20th century:

a) egalitarianism, the ideal that all people are entitled to the same basic opportunities irrespective of their ancestry;

b) democratisation, the ideal that Subjects are entitled to have some say in how they are governed; and

c) self-determination, the ideal that self-identifying communities are allowed to choose for themselves how they will govern themselves.

But, again, these concessions didn’t mean that the psychopaths had gone away. And there was never anything to say that the conditions of industrial production would last forever.

What we are actually witnessing now is the Elite’s response to the post-industrial world of AI and robotics.

No longer are large numbers of Subjects required to run complex but not fully automated machinery. Now it is small numbers of very highly trained technicians required to manage the robotic workforce. Small in number, they can easily be bought off, or better still reduced to the status of indentured workers through the weapon of crippling student debt.

As for the rest of humanity, they are now redundant or soon will be. Their rulers no longer need them. The earlier concessions are – as the saying goes – “inoperative”.

To be sure, the masses may get employment of a kind, especially in providing personal services. But it will be employment in the “Uber Economy” of savage competition between workers with all economic rent flowing to the owners of the monopolistic market platforms.

And the Elite are responding precisely as one would expect an aggressively narcissistic, self-serving Elite to respond. They are relentlessly winding back any concessions hitherto made, while their sycophant economic theologians are busy trying to justify it as being for the “Greater Good”.

Inequality is quickly returning to its historical norm, as Piketty has documented. We are returning to a feudal state in which property is owned by the magnates and almost everyone else is reduced to the status of dependent serf.

Where conventional property is insufficient, they invent novel forms of “intellectual property” to expand the scope of private ownership.

As for democratisation, in most countries it never developed beyond “elective” government dominated by Elite parties. Moneyed interests and pressure groups found it a trivial exercise to subvert that.

To entrench their gains, they are taking ever more critical decisions out of the hands even of elective government: the privatisation of strategic monopolies, essential services and critical databases means that elected politicians are forced [to] negotiate with private magnates on terms dictated by the private magnates.

And finally, self-determination has been eroded by the growth of opaque and unaccountable neo-empires (like the EU) and so-called “trade” agreements (which actually have little to do with trade and everything to do with signing away sovereign powers to unaccountable opaque committees of the Elite interests).

Elite theologians might talk superciliously about the “end of borders” but do not be deceived. They do not intend to abolish ALL borders. They simply want to replace “national borders” (over which the mass of ordinary citizens might have had some control) with “private borders”: Elite private property.

The Elite do not intend to rub shoulders with the Stinking Masses, the Riff-Raff, the Plebs. Not one bit of it! THEY retreat to their private mansions, their private country estates, their private campuses, their private gated communities, all surrounded by private borders marked with “KEEP OUT. Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted!” signs.

From there they sermonise piously on the supposed intolerance of those outside!! Hypocrites blind to their own hypocrisy.

On all fronts the trend is the same: the alienation of public rights – over which the citizens used to have some say – to Elite private interests.

At some point, the Elite may even decide that the continued existence of masses of redundant human beings is a threat to their own security.

The recent development of lethal weaponised robots shows where this will all end. Not only do the Elite not need workers. They don’t even need many human members of the Praetorian Guard.

Remember that the individuals we are talking about here are not like the rest of us. They are aggressively narcissistic, machiavellian psychopaths with a strong appetite for attaining power and dominating others. Homo sapiens psychology has not evolved.

Had it been possible to establish genuine Democracy with the right of recall, veto, initiative and referendum there might have been some hope for the rest of the human race. THAT is why the theologians abhor Democracy in favour of the corrupt system of “elective” government.

Corrupt elective government provides no safeguards. It will prove no barrier to containing the psychopaths once the cost of pacification falls as a result of robotics.

You don’t need to be Einstein to see how this game will play out.

For most people it’s not going to be a happy ending.

 

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See also Masha Gessen’s piece on Autocracy: Rules for Survival.

Sad!

Remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where the greedy Nazi sympathizer Walter Donovan chooses the wrong Holy Grail (ok, two-timing Dr. Elsa chooses it for him) and after drinking from it the water of eternal life, or whatever it was called, he dies, decays, and turns into dust right under our eyes, while the Knight guarding the Grail says, quietly, “He chose poorly”?

Yeah, it’s like that:

America, like Donovan, blinded by selfishness, greed and malice, chose very poorly indeed, even though predictably so.

My first post on this blog, The Wages of Discontent, meant, against all hope, to remain a fairy tale, despite not being fairy tale-ish at all. Sigh.

As my son says, “We’ve had a good run.”

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.

Quote(s) of The Day*

I’m speaking with myself, No. 1, because I have a very good brain. And I’ve said a lot of things. 

Herr Drumpf, on whose advice he seeks, or will, in matters of foreign affairs.

I think you’d have riots. I think you’d have riots. I’m representing many, many millions of people, in many cases first-time voters … If you disenfranchise those people? And you say, well, I’m sorry, you’re 100 votes short, even though the next one is 500 votes short? I think you’d have problems like you’ve never seen before. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things will happen.

Herr Drumpf, on what will happen if the GOP tries to block or interfere with his inevitable nomination.

 
Of course he is right. The Pandora Box does not close, by design, and its contents do not come with a return option.

Democratic process aside, pay attention, dear readers, to the threats and emotional blackmail they represent, for our future Narcissistic Psychopath in Chief is dispensing with the niceties and going straight to the crux of the matters:

Do not oppose me or there will be hell to pay.

NP’s rage reaches its apex when he is thwarted or rejected / abandoned. Like a controlling and abusive spouse (which he is), he’s warning you, America, of the inevitable consequences — for you — should you leave him. Being hostage to his whims and unpredictable emotions shall be your lot in life from now on — or else.

He would not lead that else, upstanding man that he is, but he just knows bad things will happen.

Remember, hell hath no fury like a narcissistic psychopath scorned. Don’t say you have not been warned.

P.S. As a, um, bonus, see The 15 Creepiest Trump Fan Tweets from Last Night on David Futrelle’s blog.

*Or maybe the century; time will tell.

Edited to add the second quote.