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January 12, 2020

Jan. 10, 2200 to --

This is a blog with my own opinion plus some of today's stories that piqued my interest. Click on my photos to enlarge them. They are meant as moments of zen.  New: Email Hal Brown (

Jan. 21, 2020

In view of this "China sentences ex-boss of Interpol to 13 years for bribes" I wonder what President Xi thinks of Trump's belief that bribes are acceptable.

I was dismayed (to say the least) to see this Bandy Lee piece prominently featured on Salon this morning:

While the Democrats struggle with McConnell to get their perfectly reasonable request for witnesses, documents, and a trial that doesn't extend until 2 AM, we see Bandy Lee insisting that men in white coats confront the Secret Service to haul Trump off to a psychiatric unit for an emergency evaluation. Give me a break!

I think she knows more about psychiatry than she does about politics and how the Senate functions.

to Dr. 
Not a link
Question to Dr. Barnhost: I think Dr. Lee would argue that the president poses a danger to others. We discussed the escalating tensions with Iran, for example.

Answer: Well, I think it's hard to disagree with the fact that our president poses a danger. Personal politics aside, every president poses a danger to some people every time they order any kind of military action, any kind of rescue operation. You're putting people's lives at risk, and as president that's something that again is an analysis you make a lot. Whether it's troops, or emergency personnel or your Secret Service, you're putting people's lives at risk and in danger.

Now whether or not you think Trump is making those decisions in the thoughtful calculated way with the council of expert advisors is a whole different problem. But yeah, I would agree that he, like those who have happened before him, is putting lives at risk. Maybe more recklessly and with less knowledge and foresight than other presidents have. However, a mental health hold is only appropriate for somebody, and it's only legally applicable to somebody who's putting people's lives at risk because of an untreated mental illness.

Secondarily, the purpose of that mental health hold. It’s not to sweep the streets and cleanse society of anybody who poses any kind of risk of danger. That's way beyond what the psychiatric system can handle. It's to treat those people who are suffering from an untreated mental illness that's causing them to be dangerous. It's to treat them and get them better. People who are just out there committing acts of violence — armed robbery, domestic abuse, murder — for the most part, they're not driven by mental illness.

Very little of that violence is driven by an untreated mental illness. About 4 percent of community violence is driven by an untreated mental illness. So the other 96 percent are just people out there doing bad things, and it's not appropriate to put all those people on an involuntary mental health hold and lock them up in a hospital for 72 hours, do nothing to them and then release them.

And that gets to the second aspect of this, which is that there's no real point of holding somebody who's dangerous. Yes, I agree that Trump is putting many people's lives at risk. But putting them on an involuntary psychiatric hold when there's no treatment for what ails them and then releasing them later? Maybe we get three days without him tweeting, but that's all that's going to get us.

Amy Barnhorst, MD is Vice Chair for Community Mental Health in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, Davis, where she runs a large psychiatric hospital and crisis unit, and writes and presents nationally on mental illness and gun violence. In her clinical work, she treats patients with serious mental illness who are in an emergency room, in jail, or on a psychiatric unit. As a faculty member at the UC Davis School of Medicine, she supervises medical students and residents, and teaches about psychiatry, firearm violence and suicide, and public mental health. She has published multiple papers on firearms, mental illness, and the law, and has presented to policy makers around the country as an expert on these issues. Note that she is an ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, and Bandy Lee is an ASSISTANT clinical professor. In my experience these aren't usually professors on the tenure track. Bandy Lee makes a point of not representing Yale University when she makes public statements. However she certainly makes no secret of being a professor in their psychiatry department.

We now have a World Mental Health Coalition with Lee as the president. I assume it was Bandy Lee who originally called her group the NATIONAL COALITION OF CONCERNED MENTAL HEALTH EXPERTS. Mercifully neither had a Wikipedia page. I suppose being a mere national coalition wasn't global enough for her. Perhaps  I should organize the anti-Trump therapists I know into own organization: Sensible Therapists of the Universe: Going Boldly Where No Therapists Have Gone Before.

Bandy Lee made a huge contribution to the movement of psychotherapists informing the public about Trump's dangerous psychopatholgy. As editor of "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" she became a go-to expert for articles and television interviews along with Drs. John Gartner, Lance Dodes,  Steve Buser, and a few others.

I regret that she has now gone too far and in television parlance, she has jumped the shark.
Jumping the shark is the moment when something that was once popular, but that no longer warrants the attention it previously received, makes an attempt at publicity, which only serves to highlight its irrelevance. The phrase derives from a scene in a Season 5 episode of the 1970s sitcom Happy Days in which the character Fonzie jumps over a shark while on water-skis.[This gimmick gimmick strayed absurdly outside the original storyline of the sitcom.


Trump ‘Honors’ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. By Visiting His DC Memorial – for 30 Seconds

Jan. 20, 2020

Trump Turns MLK Day Tweet Into Tribute To His 2017 Inauguration

Read story: Kellyanne Conway actually tries to defend Trump on impeachment by using Martin Luther King

Here's her quote:

(NBC News reported Geoff) Bennett asked Conway how Trump was observing the holiday.
“Well, I can tell you the president is preparing for Davos and agrees with many of the things that Dr. Martin Luther King stood for, and agreed with for many years — including unity and equality. And [Trump’s] not the one trying to tear the country apart through an impeachment process and a lack of substance that really is very shameful at this point. I’ve held my opinion on it for a very long time, but when you see the articles of impeachment that came out, I don’t think it was Dr. King’s vision to have Americans dragged through a process where the president is not going to be removed from office, is not being charged with bribery, extortion, high crimes and misdemeanors. And I think that anybody who cares about ‘and justice for all’ on today or any day of the year will appreciate the fact that the president will have a full-throttle defense on the facts, and everybody should have that. I, this morning, was reading some of the lesser-known passages by Dr. King and I appreciate the fact that we as a nation respect him by giving him his own day, and I’m happy to share a birthday with this day.”

Jan. 19, 2020

From The Guardian: Alan Dershowitz: Trump impeachment acquittal would make me unhappy

The Harvard legal scholar Alan Dershowitz, a member of Donald Trump’s team for his impeachment trial, has said he will not vote for the president in November and that Trump’s acquittal by the Senate “would produce results that make me unhappy as an individual”.

But Dershowitz said acting “for the survival of the constitution” was more important than “the short-term partisan advantage of getting my person elected to be president”.
Dershowitz spoke to the BBC’s Today programme on Saturday, broadcast while the US east coast lay in darkness.
His remarks were no surprise: Dershowitz is a familiar voice in the media, to some degree a controversialist or gadfly, willing to go against the grain of public opinion or to represent unpopular clients, among them OJ Simpsonand Jeffrey Epstein. He is a regular presence on Fox News.
But as Washington, New York and Boston woke, it remained to be seen how a notoriously changeable president might react to his new lawyer’s remarks.

A Very Stable Genius review in The Guardian: dysfunction and disaster at the court of King Donald has excerpts I didn't know about.

* Told by Rudy Giuliani that Trump wants him as his chief of staff, Christie asks why he would want the job if Kushner isn’t leaving. For record, as a federal prosecutor Christie sent Charlie Kushner, Jared’s father, to prison for “one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes” on Christie’s watch.
“Why the fuck am I going to take this job?” the former New Jersey governor exclaims. “You guys are nuts. I’m not going in there.”
* When Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of homeland security and a Kelly deputy, balked at Trump’s demands on immigration, he berated her looks and height. For good measure, according to the authors, Trump would call her at 5am, just for the sake of harassment.
After James Mattis advised Trump of his intent to resign as defense secretary, Trump moved his departure up two months. At a cabinet meeting, the president bragged that he had “essentially” fired the four-star general. For the president, policy differences invariably exploded into a matter of honor.
Likewise, Trump mocked HR McMaster, Michael Flynn’s replacement as national security adviser, for his mien and wardrobe. The scholarly McMaster was always on borrowed time.
Says one of McMaster’s aides, Trump “doesn’t fire people … he tortures them until they’re willing to quit.”

Below: Philosophy and Psychology

Talbot wrote about his dog. 
I also write about my dog, Brando. I'm not an animal nut or anything, he's the only dog I've had since I was a kid. But he played a huge role as I'm writing the book in welcoming me back home — making me feel at home — and then never leaving my side. Always being this partner.
I felt really lonely a lot after the book. I had been a very busy guy and had people around me all the time. And suddenly, I was very much alone. Which is also a writerly thing. I was forced to become more writerly by being alone, and Brando [was] my only companion.
He just died. He died the day after Christmas.
As it happens Freud also wrote about dogs in the following article.

I never heard of the journal "Humanimalia: a journal of human/animal interface studies" before I came across this article. "'Interrogating the Human/Animal Relation in Freud's 'Civilization and its Discontents'" by Nicholas Ray which was written in 2014 in what I look back as an era of optimistic naiveté in the United States where only the most realistic/pessimistic of us could have predicted that the discontents (deplorables?) could change the course of American history for the worst.

In view of today's politics and the fact that Trump uses the term dog as a pejorative (which was reference in the liberal media when he effusively praised the K-9 hero who was sent in to get the terrorist) this jumped out at me:
It is in this connection that Freud turns more overtly to the question of the human/animal relation) opening up a line of interrogation that will become broader and more trenchant still in the second footnote' here is the key passage) which concludes the first note
" It would be incomprehensible that man should use the name of his most faithful friend in the animal world the dog as a term of abuse if that creature had not incurred his contempt through two characteristics that it is an animal whose dominant sense is that of smell and one which has no horror of excrement) and that it is not ashamed of its sexual functions."
What is in question here is both actual hostility to a non-human animal (implicit contempt for the faithful quadruped) owing to its physiological incapacity for the shame and abhorrence that regulate civilized life and the metaphorical animalization means in this instance of canine terms of abuse of human beings who are somehow below civilized standards of cleanliness and decency) inhibition) sexual restraint etc' the upper test of CD (Civilization and It's Discontents) is of course greatly preoccupied with the means by which human beings denigrate and justify aggression towards members of their own species' here) however Freud’s concern with the linguistic idioms that sometimes articulate that aggression brings into focus the fundamental human derogation of other species' apropos of this theme the passage above is patently not an advocation of man’s superiority to the dog or to any other non-human animal owing to the sensory and psychic reorganization provoked by his locomotive elevation. Everything Freud has said up to this point makes it clear that for him the dog becomes an object of contempt and an exemplum of abjection only because human civilization is constitutively invested in the tendentious abasement of the sensory organization the dog represents' In other words) Freud is at pains to stress the peculiarly factitious basis for the dog’s inferiority within the material and symbolic universe of the human.' Far from assuming a position of humanist ascendancy himself Freud thus begins to open up for critique precisely the devaluation of non-human animals and the devaluation as animal of uncivilized humans on which the illusion of that ascendency supports itself.

Jan. 18, 2020

Lev Parnas and Michael Cohen are right to think working for Trump was like being in a cult, according to a cult expert

Jan. 17, 2020

Read responses

Parnas Says He’s ‘Scared’ Of DOJ, Claims Trump’s Power Has Grown Under AG Barr

The indicted former associate of Rudy Giuliani compared the president to a “cult leader” who’s been bolstered by his attorney general.

Stories that would on the front page in a normal year: Trump takes credit for McCain-Sanders veterans bill signed by Obama: “One of my greatest honors”

Moment of Zen

Jan. 16, 2020

Ukraine Is Investigating Whether Marie Yovanovitch Was Under Surveillance By Rudy Giuliani's Associates

“Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on its territory,” an official from the country's interior ministry said.

Right now there are three categories of Republicans.
 A fairly small fraction of them, like a third maybe,
 really believe in this crap. Really believe that
 Trumpism is the new way. They treat him as
a king. A third of the Republicans are terrified
 of the guy. They are so scared of a tweet
 that they hide under their covers every day.
And a third of them are like opportunists.
They want the judges, they want the regulations
for their donors, that sort of crap.
Add caption swans landed at one time. You have the confluence of reality TV, of Fox News, of Donald Trump with celebrity culture, of a field of Republicans who — none of them were superstars at the end of the day, no matter how much we wanted them to be. You had Hillary Clinton as the [Democratic] nominee, who had this 30-year pre-existing condition where the Republicans had turned her into Satan incarnate with their voters. 

So this moment happened, and Donald Trump's moral failings and his racism and everything else about this guy led a party that had been told for years, the only thing you're missing is somebody who will blow up everything. You just want to destroy everything. I mean, it's the Joker candidacy. And they got it. 

Right now there are three categories of Republicans. A fairly small fraction of them, like a third maybe, really believe in this crap. Really believe that Trumpism is the new way. They treat him as a king. A third of the Republicans are terrified of the guy. They are so scared of a tweet that they hide under their covers every day. And a third of them are like opportunists. They want the judges, they want the regulations for their donors, that sort of crap.

The confluence of all those things that came together at one moment gave us this terrible, terrible thing. And look, all of us who worked in the party for a long time, we recognized there were different fractions and factions in the party. I've never been a social conservative, I'm not an evangelical. Everybody has given up in the Republican Party of today. All of those predicates. They don't believe in anything. They believe in Trump, whether they believe in his terror over them or their love of him. It leads to a personality cult, not a political party.

Asked *repeatedly* whether Lev Parnas was lying about Trump knowing "exactly" what was going on, Kellyanne Conway doesn't give a straight answer Hemmer: Are you saying flat out, 100%, what he alleges is not true? Yes or no? Conway: He's not under oath ... objection, hearsay!

From: New book portrays Trump as erratic, ‘at times dangerously uninformed’

I added this
President Trump reveals himself as woefully uninformed about the basics of geography, incorrectly telling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “It’s not like you’ve got China on your border.” He toys with awarding himself the Medal of Freedom.

And, according to a new book by Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig, Trump does not seem to grasp the fundamental history surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“Hey, John, what’s this all about? What’s this a tour of?” Trump asks his then-Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, as the men prepare to take a private tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, which commemorates the December 1941 Japanese surprise attack in the Pacific that pulled the United States into World War II.

“Trump had heard the phrase ‘Pearl Harbor’ and appeared to understand that he was visiting the scene of a historic battle, but he did not seem to know much else,” write the authors, later quoting a former senior White House adviser who concludes: “He was at times dangerously uninformed.”

“A Very Stable Genius” — a 417-page book named after Trump’s own declaration of his superior knowledge — is full of similarly vivid details from Trump’s tumultuous first three years as president, from his chaotic transition before taking office to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation and final report.
Anthony Scaramucci, who served as Trump’s communications director for just 11 days, recounts the president’s response when he asks him, “Are you an act?”
“I’m a total act and I don’t understand why people don’t get it,” Trump replies, according to Scaramucci.
Some details are more harmless than disconcerting. Early in his presidency, Trump agrees to participate in an HBO documentary that features judges and lawmakers — as well as all the living presidents — reading aloud from the Constitution. But Trump struggles and stumbles over the text, blaming others in the room for his mistakes and griping, “It’s like a foreign language.”

Here's the NPR review which you don't need a subscription to read.

Jan. 15, 2020

"As a senior CIA counterterrorist manager,
 my team and I often struggled in persuading the
 president to recognize the most important threats"

What Donald Trump’s unending stream of lies has done to our White House, our country and us.

As our president sat across from Volodymyr Zelensky in New York last autumn, he explained to the newly elected leader that he knew all about his country because, after all, he used to own the Miss Universe pageant, and one year the winner was from Ukraine.

“We got to know the country very well in a lot of different ways,” Donald Trump said.

It was, unsurprisingly, completely false. A Miss Ukraine had never won the Miss Universe title in the pageant’s 66-year history, including the 20 that Trump had owned it.
Equally unsurprisingly, the lie went largely unnoticed and uncared about. In the flood of falsehoods that gush from Trump’s mouth and Twitter feed most every day, something like this lacked anywhere near the heft to make a splash.
Indeed, on that day during his United Nations General Assembly visit, Trump also claimed:  “We have created the greatest economy in the history of our country.” Of the USMCA trade agreement: “It’s a great trade deal — the greatest we’ve ever had. NAFTA was a horrible trade deal. It replaces NAFTA.” Of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “A lot of her members now are having second thoughts. They’re saying they’re in a very bad position.” Of his long-promised wall along the Mexican border: “And the wall is going up, many miles a week.” Of the WTO: “World Trade Organization was not one of the greats. Not one of the greats. That was the creation of China, which went like a rocket ship from the day they signed.” And of new automotive plants: “Many of the great Japanese companies, at my request, are now building their plants in the United States. … Big ones going up in South Carolina, Florida.”

Not a single one of Trump’s assertions was true.

Jan. 14, 2020

Dana Milbank today:

Suddenly Trump has lost enthusiasm for his trial

EXCERPT: This is fun! The truth is whatever Trump believes it to be — much as when he said his net worth was based on how he feels.
There was a time when people got in trouble for making things up like this. George W. Bush never lived down the infamous “Sixteen Words” in his 2003 State of the Union address: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
And when the Obama administration used talking points falsely claiming the attack on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi was sparked by an anti-Islam video, Republicans answered with years of rage.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called Obama White House officials “scumbags” that “lied about” the Benghazi attack. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said the administration “made up a tale” and declared it “worthy of investigation.”
But now Graham and McConnell can both be expected to embrace Trump’s faith-based defense, both on the “imminent” Iran threat and on the president’s innocence in the Ukraine affair. It brings to mind the “I Believe” number from the musical “The Book of Mormon.” (“I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob! … And I believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri.”) A Republican just believes.
On Wednesday, The Daily Beast contacted a representative for Lachlan and Rupert requesting comment on  James’ statement (condemning Fox's climate change denial) and asked about both men’s position on climate change but received no response. The Beast followed up with a query asking if Lachlan or Rupert planned on donating money to bushfire relief efforts.
Late Thursday, it was announced Lachlan and his wife, Sarah, had pledged $1.4 million (A$2 million) to bushfire recovery efforts. 
Lachlan and Sarah recently splashed out $150 million on a mansion in Bel Air, California, the second most expensive residential property sale in the United States.
On Monday, News Corp announced that it will donate $3.5 million (A$5 million) to bushfire relief. Rupert, whose net worth is estimated by Bloomberg News to be in excess of $7 billion, and his wife, Jerry Hall, pledged $1.4 million (A$2 million).
“It is clear that confronting the bushfire disaster in Australia requires both an immediate response and an ongoing investment in rebuilding the lives and livelihoods of those most affected by the fires across the country,” Rupert said in a statement. 

From the Washington Post Editorial Board: Xi Jinping’s approach to Taiwan and Hong Kong has backfired

  • CHINESE PRESIDENT Xi Jinping has suffered the most painful consequence yet of his misguided crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong: the landslide reelection Saturday of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who flatly rejects reunification with China.
  • Ms. Tsai shrewdly founded her campaign on rejecting Hong Kong’s fate, telling voters that their choice was between democracy and dictatorship. 
  •  ... Mr. Xi has proved in the past six months that “one country, two systems” is not a workable formula. Rather than respect Hong Kong’s rule of law, his appointees there have ridden roughshod over it; rather than deliver on the promise of democratic elections, they have doubled down on the hugely unpopular chief executive, Carrie Lam.
  • Thanks in part to the U.S.-China trade war, Taiwanese businesses have been pulling back from the mainland and reinvesting at home or in Southeast Asia. That means that the Xi regime, which has already restricted tourism and other cross-border exchanges, has less room to pressure the Tsai government. Having flinched from the overt use of force in Hong Kong, Mr. Xi is unlikely to pursue Beijing’s occasional threats to invade Taiwan.
  • (The Xi regime's hard-line reaction to Ms. Tsai’s reelection)... shows their contempt for their own promise to let Hong Kong live under its own rules, which guarantee freedom of expression. Yet some Chinese leaders must recognize that Mr. Xi’s approach to Taiwan and Hong Kong has backfired. Simple logic would suggest that more of Mr. Xi’s authoritarian intolerance will simply bring about more reverses.
Edinburgh, Scotland

Jan. 13, 2020


Jan. 12, 2020

Trump took credit for Ethiopian PM's Nobel Prize because he confused Eritrea with Egypt

Eight years of Trump sucks, right? It’s terrible, isn’t it? I mean, it can’t get worse, right?
Oh, you cockeyed optimists.
As in all things Trump, it can get much, much worse. If he wins in 2020, we’re never getting rid of these dolts. Even if shit goes really, really off the rails, Immortan Don and the rest of his Mad Max crew will still be racing around the desert far into the future.
A second term guarantees the rise of the Imperial Trumps, a family cult built on the remains of the moldering corpse of the GOP, featuring all the warmth of North Korea’s Kim dynasty and a kind of Hapsburg-jawed je ne sais dumbfuck rien.
The fantasy self-image of Donald Trump has always been that of royalty, and as I wrote in Everything Trump Touches Dies, it’s just that pesky Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution that forbids titles of nobility. Since he’s not, you know, famously dedicated to the Constitution in most areas, why this one?
Get ready for Donald Trump Jr., a man who speaks the fluent asshole dialogue of the own-the-libs Trump Party, to rise to the top of the 2024 GOP primary ranks. The dynastic talk that was once treated as a joke (even by me) is already growing around both Don Jr. and Ivanka. Poor Eric is left out, but then again, he always has been. Read article

Elizabeth Warren Steamrolls Past Meghan McCain’s Interruptions On ‘The View’

The senator approached interruptions from the co-host by pretending they weren’t happening, which Twitter users lauded as a big “mood.”

Moment of Zen, The Knob, called the most beautiful place on Cape Cod with a beach that is almost always empty.

Jan. 11, 2020

Those in the movement of mental health professionals publicly warning about the dangers of Trump's psychopathology like your's truly should use measured language when describing Trump's personality and not open ourselves unnecessarily to attacks by the right wing for suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome. 

Click above for a moment of zen
Jan. 10, 2020 

Ms. Carroll, a writer who claims the president raped her in the 1990s, says that his denials have hurt her reputation and career.
A New York judge has rebuffed President Trump’s bid to throw out a lawsuit filed against him by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who accuses him of hurting her career and reputation in denying her claim that he raped her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. 
In a ruling made public on Thursday, Justice Doris Ling-Cohan of State Supreme Court in Manhattan rejected Mr. Trump’s argument in a filing last week that New York’s courts lack jurisdiction to hear the case because he was not in New York and did not live in the state when he made the comments that Ms. Carroll says defamed her. 
Justice Ling-Cohan noted that Mr. Trump had failed to provide anything — “not even a tweet, much less an affidavit” — to support his position beyond his lawyer’s statement that “the President of the United States has resided in the White House for the past three years.” 
The judge also denied Mr. Trump’s accompanying request that discovery in the case be stayed. 
Roberta Kaplan, Ms. Carroll’s lawyer, said in a statement that she and her client were “pleased, yet unsurprised” by the ruling.

The evangelical belief that Trump is the messiah is more rampant than you think — and dangerous

The messianic entrance as noted in The Palmer Report and elsewhere:

Donald Trump was backlit by intense sunlight as he emerged through the double doors of the Grand Foyer at the White House to address the American people Wednesday morning. The sunlight was dramatically cut off as soon as he’d stepped to the podium and the double doors closed behind him. Were the cinematic lighting effects deliberate? Has the demeaning of the office of the president of the United States come to that? Until some staffer writes a tell-all book we may never know. But a man who once described himself as “the chosen one” would probably not have minded the effect, and is certainly self-involved enough to engineer it.

Entertainment - Streaming video
I'm watching Outrageous Fortune (the number one New Zealand series ever) on Amazon Prime, and when I'm done will check out Giri/Haji on Netflix.

Edinburgh, Scotland