Trump’s Leaker Threat Contains Big Loophole!

Trump threat tweeted today that “the spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught!”

That leaves a big loophole, since the vast majority are probably not”low-life” at all, but patriots.  They should be safe.

But then, grammar was never a strong point for the Donald.

Seriously, time to dust off our jury nullification research.  And, surely the necessity defense would be strengthened by Trumps prior expressions of support for hacking.

Do you really think that today you could get a conviction out of a DC area jury on these leaks?  Good luck on that one.


Washington Post Article Reports Survey Showing High Levels of Stress Nationally About Politics and Quotes Expert Urging “Disengage[ment]”

The Washington Post Reports:

Because so many of its members were reporting election-related stress, the APA [American Psychological Association] added questions about politics to its annual survey in August. When the negative feelings didn’t ease up, APA did another survey in January to capture stress levels post-election. In August, 71 percent of Americans reported feeling a physical or emotional symptom of stress at least one day that month. In January, 80 percent had symptoms such as tension headaches or feeling overwhelmed or depressed.

The survey, conducted by Harris Poll, found 66 percent of Americans reported stress about the future of the country, 57 percent about the current political climate and 49 percent about the election outcome. Minority groups, millennials, those living in urban areas, and those with a college education had higher levels of stress about the election, which is unsurprising since those demographics tend to lean left politically.

The remedy, according to Vaile Wright, a licensed psychologist and member of APA’s Stress in America team, quoted in the article (which I encourage should be read as a whole).

Maintaining such high levels of constant stress puts a strain on your relationships, work and health, which only increases the stress. It’s a vicious cycle that people need to actively remove themselves from by making a conscious choice to disengage and focus on friends, family and activities that bring them joy, she said. 

“Know your limits — really prioritize taking care of yourself,” Wright said. “People think, if I choose to cope or do something for myself, I’m saying what’s happening isn’t a big deal. But the reality is burnout isn’t going to help anybody.”

What is stunning and disappointing is the absence of any real affirmative suggestion that stress might actually be reduce by engaging in activism to deal with the challenges we are being forced to face.  Taking care of yourself is one thing.  Using advice to do as an excuse for debilitating passivity is another.  Such advice needs to be more carefully thought out.

Developing an Algorithm to Find Out What Trump is Most Frightened Of

Let me suggest that it would be quite simple to develop an algorithm to get inside Trump’s brain.

Imagine two steps.

One:  Identify the Trump statements/tweets that get the most attention with numbers.   The numbers  measuring attention come from news stories, searches and retweets.  (There is an assumption here that the Trump operation is skilled at this, and so the do the most effective stuff when they feel they most need to.)

Two:  Identify any event of news focus that occurred shortly before the Trump statement/tweet.

Then sort the table based on the data behind the first column, and look for patterns.  My guess is that we will quickly see what the Trump operation feels it is most important to divert attention away from.

The algorithm is based on a technique used by George Smiley in John LeCarre’s novels to identify when British intelligence is getting closest to identifying the “mole.” The Russians and mole then respond with dramatic intelligence to divert attention.

Two Frightening Reminders About Trump’s Instability and Nukes

There are now two mental health professional positions being articulated about Trump as follows:

One:  Letter to New York Times by leading professionals that:

Mr. Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behavior suggest a profound inability to empathize. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them (journalists, scientists).

In a powerful leader, these attacks are likely to increase, as his personal myth of greatness appears to be confirmed. We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.

Two:  Response letter to Times from psychiatrist who wrote DSM definition of narcissistic personality disorder, and mentioning that many have referred to this ddisorder.  (Note, however, that the above letter did not make any specific diagnosis, presumably in an attempt to avoid falling afoul of the APA’s “Goldwater Rule,” purporting to prohibit a “professional opinion [without] .  .  . an examination and .  .  .  proper authorization for such a statement“)

Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy. It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).

Bad behavior is rarely a sign of mental illness, and the mentally ill behave badly only rarely. Psychiatric name-calling is a misguided way of countering Mr. Trump’s attack on democracy. He can, and should, be appropriately denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers.

His psychological motivations are too obvious to be interesting, and analyzing them will not halt his headlong power grab. The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.

Regardless of where you fit between these views — which are not, Ieast least, inconsistent, particularly since neither offesr a specific diagnosis — and regardless of which diagnosis if any appeals to you, two facts remain:

  1. This is the first time since Adolph Hitler that such demonstratively unstable and unpredictable leader has been in control of a country of significant size.
  2. It is also the first time EVER than such a leader has controlled nuclear weapons.

Obviously those politicians who refuse to take appropriate steps, and those who enable this leader in any way, are fully responsible for whatever transpires.

Indeed, the question has to be asked at what point does the APA’s “Goldwater Rule,” in addition to arguably violating the First Amendment rights of psychiatrists, itself become such an enabler.


Any Innocent Administration Would Be Urging a Full Investigation to Repair Their Credibility

To be effective, a government has to be credible.  To be effective the Trump administration is desperately in need of a process that will both give in a breather in the short term, and credible proof of innocence in the long term about the whole Russia thing.

So they should be out there leading the establishment of such a process on investigation into the Russian scandal.  It would have to be set up so its product would be so solid and so credible that it was essentially unanswerable.

So why are they not doing so.  Well, there are three possible reasons.

  1. That they are so short term oriented that they do not understand this truth about credibiity.
  2. That they are in such chaos that they are unable to put any investigation together.
  3. That they are so guilty that the last thing they want is an investigation of any kind.

I will go with number three.  But if number two is true, we should see the investigation set up in a few weeks.  If number one is the reason, then it may take a bit longer, but wiser heads should prevail relatively soon.

Or perhaps most likely, all three could be true, in which case this story will play out much faster than we expect.



A New Thing to Blame Obamacare for — It Cannot Be Repealed

They have not get there yet, but now that the Republicans are finding just how really, really hard it is to repeal Obamacare, its only a matter of time before they start explaining that the worst thing about Obamacare is that has been written to make it hard to repeal.

Some of the reasons:

It was built so that people would like it — how unfair can you get!

It was built to save money — outrageous.

It reduces stress on state budgets — inconsistent with Federal policy.

It gives people choice — worse and worse.

It advances public health — not a government function.

It cleverly removes the donut hole — what a disaster!

You have to agree that a program designed to give people what they want is clearly unfair to the political process, threatens the Republic and serves all those “takers.

You also have to agree that if we are not careful, the same people will come up with a tax cut that helps those who are not rich, will help people get childcare, control campaign contributions, and expand access to education.

What a nightmare.

A Reflection on America’s Long Term Strength

I should start by acknowledging that there are no new ideas in the post.  I just want to remind us all of something its easy to forget in the news cycle.

Notwithstanding our largely paralyzed political process, a party and President with plans to effectively destroy our openness and our generosity to the less fortunate, and an international environmnt with several major players whose committement to the values for which we have stood is, dubious to say the least, our overall assets are such that any other country and leader could only dream that their nation will possess them in their children’s time, if ever.

Not only do we still have massive economic power now backed by a powerful innovation machine, we have most of the leading educational institutions, speak the utterly dominant language, have a human capital pool from every country in the world, democratic values that remain a beacon for those of goodwill throughout the world, a political system with checks and balances that usually work, although not always as quickly as they have in the last three weeks, and not just a free free press but a system in which multiple layers protect that essential ingredient of freedom and progress.  (If you have any doubt about how all those interact in a time of crisis, just look at the list of amici in the immigration case in the Ninth Circuit, as discussed here.)

Now, lots of terrible harm is going to happen to lots of people.  The sate net will take vicious hits.  There will be serious limits on voting rights.  Government support of education and research will be very seriously hit.  Only by a miracle will the damage to our health care system be less than the good that is done — although “repair” might end up giving us a better system in some states.  One could add to this list.

But, unless our entire political system is destroyed (and I am actually less worried about that right now) most of our essential uniqueness will remain.  Unless things get much worse, people will still want to study, teach, and invest here.  They will still see English as the only non-native language they need to speak.  Above all, we will remain the only country that large groups of people in every country see as the model to emulate.

If we are really lucky, or rather if we really deserve it, the way we ultimately overcome our current challenges will enhance our uniqueness and appeal.  Few countries have the capacity for defense in depth of democracy that we have already shown.  It may take four years, or even eight, but this too will pass.  To quote Lee Hayes from an earlier era: “I’ve had kidney stones and I know.”