December 24, 2022

Are Taylor Greene, Fuentes, and millions of Americans with fringe beliefs mentally ill?

Are Taylor Greene, Fuentes, and millions of Americans with fringe beliefs mentally ill? 
By Hal Brown, MSW

Marjorie Taylor Greene, on learning about the beliefs of Nick Fuentes the anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-Black, antisemitic incel who dined with Trump said about him: “I’m worried about kids that would follow him. And that’s a shame. But no, I don’t want to have anything to do with him. They showed me some [of Fuentes'] videos. I could not believe the stuff he says. I mean, it was shocking.”

Read the article which led me to write this essay. It includes Taylor Greene's reaction shown above.

Click above to read article

Excerpts:

In January 2022, Fuentes launched Cozy.tv, a streaming platform that he said would be “anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-Black, [and] antisemitic.” A month after launching the platform, he said women aren't "as rational as men" and should be beaten by their partners. He added a racist twist by saying that Black men understand this...

... Fuentes has also said that he thinks future politicians should take an incel "message to the men and say, ‘Hey men, hey men, vote for me, I’ll destroy feminism [and] ... make it harder for women to become whores [and]... incentivize women to be in monogamous marriages for the long term and to have and raise kids.”

A year ago VICE listed every conspiracy Marjorie Taylor Greene believed in, or said she believed in. Nobody can tell what she and others with fringe beliefs that are demonstrably untrue really believe and what they claim to believe to get attention.

How many beliefs do such people, have to have to be diagnosed as having a delusional disorder or another psychiatric condition?

Consider this article published in The Conversation:

Excerpt:

I found that many QAnon followers revealed – in their own words on social media or in interviews – a wide range of mental health diagnoses, including bipolar disorderdepressionanxiety and addiction.

In court records of QAnon followers arrested in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, 68% reported they had received mental health diagnoses. The conditions they revealed included post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, paranoid schizophrenia and Munchausen syndrome by proxy – a psychological disorder that causes one to invent or inflict health problems on a loved one, usually a child, in order to gain attention for themselves. By contrast, 19% of all Americans have a mental health diagnosis.

Consider that in addition to Marjorie Taylor Greene and Nick Fuentes two more people in the news, Herschel Walker and very recently George Santos show indications of having a mental illness.

It bears consideration to note that until the MAGA era descriptive colloquial phrases like batshit crazy were't common in descriptions of people in the news. Now they are ubiquitous. Unfortunately using this phase and others like "clown car" and "cray-cray" in a title is clickbait and tells you that you probably won't be reading a serious analysis of someone by a mental health professional.

More serious writers define people with unshakable fringe beliefs as delusional. These days most but not all involve what have come to be called conspiracy theories.

My laptop dictionary has two definitions of delusional. They are very different:

  • characterized by or holding false beliefs or judgments about external reality that are held despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, typically as a symptom of a mental conditionhospitalization for schizophrenia and delusional paranoia | he was diagnosed with a delusional disorder
  • based on or having faulty judgment; mistakentheir delusional belief in the project's merits never wavers | I think the guy is being a bit delusional here.
People who fall into the first group need treatment. People in the second group may benefit from re-education. Unfortunately many people in the later group belong to a peer group of people with the same beliefs, QAnon for example, and their only media source of information comes from the far-right media  which gives credence to conspiracy theories.I haven't even gotten into the promotion of The Big Lie which even Trump who started it never believed.

December 23, 2022

In the past 100 years only three leaders have tried to violently destroy American democracy

 In the past 100 years only three leaders have tried to violently destroy American democracy on American soil.
By Hal Brown





December 22, 2022

Musing On My Mortality: A scary dream and then scarier Covid news

Musing on my mortality:
A scary dream and then scarier Covid news
By Hal Brown




I woke from a scary dream this morning. 

I was sitting in the chair at my dentist's  office and he was about to work on a cavity in a molar and I saw that he was about to use the biggest dental drill I'd ever seen. It was about 3/8ths of an inch in diameter like this:

I said to him and his dental assistant "that's the biggest drill I've ever seen." I was girding myself for the inevitable. I was apprehensive but not terrified. I tried to relax and then I woke up before he began to drill.

Then I got up and made a cup of coffee thinking about the dream. I had no idea what I would blog about until I read an article about emerging Covid subvariants.

My morning online ritual is to first look at my email. This trending alert from Medscape jumped out at me:

Click above to enlarge to see what it looked like

It linked to:

So far I've avoided Covid although I have friends and acquaintances who have had it. Except for one who was hospitalized their cases were fairly mild. 

I did have pneumonia last month though. More than 40,000 people die of pneumonia a year in the United States. 

Mine was so severe that my doctor considered having me hospitalized. Instead he decided to treat at home with a strong antibiotic and prednisone. I was bedridden for three weeks with a vaporizer blowing mist at me and coughing up disgusting sputum which I won't describe here. 

Now recovered I feel healthy. I appreciate every day when I feel good knowing that the current triple disease threat is out there: germs to the north of me, germs to the south of me, germs to the east of me, and I have no idea what potential threat is to the west of me that will put me in the hospital or the grave.

Being fully vaccinated from Covid and having had my flu shot, and hoping I have some pneumonia antibodies, I was resting easy enough to figure I was as protected as I could be, at least from debilitating or fatal viral illnesses. 

I don't want to live my life in fear. I am prudent about mask wearing and have a stock of N95's. I still go out to eat, and did throughout the pandemic once restaurants reopened. 

Knowing I was vaccinated was the key to enabling me to going to favorite restaurants like The Colony Pub in the lovely little town of Aurora, Oregon and Wild Fin on the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington.

I missed this article on Medscape when it first was published on Dec. 22 but got it in the email this morning when it trended:

This is how the article begins:

It's a story perhaps more appropriate for Halloween than for the festive holiday season, given its scary implications. Four Omicron subvariants of the virus that causes COVID-19 will be the most common strains going from person to person this winter, new research predicts.

Not too dire so far, until you consider what else the researchers found.

The BQ.1, BQ1.1, XBB, and XBB.1 subvariants are the most resistant to neutralizing antibodies, researcher Qian Wang, PhD, and colleagues report. This means you have no or "markedly reduced" protection against infection from these four strains, even if you've already had COVID-19 or are vaccinated and boosted multiple times, including with a bivalent vaccine.

On top of that, all available monoclonal antibody treatments are mostly or completely ineffective against these subvariants.

But evidence from other countries, specifically Singapore and France, show that at least two of these variants turned out not to be as damaging as expected, likely because of high numbers of people vaccinated or who survived pervious infections, he said.

Still, there is little to celebrate in the new findings, except that COVID-19 vaccinations and prior infections can still reduce the risk for serious outcomes such as hospitalization and death, the researchers write.

The rest of the article is largely technical but you get the idea. 

The title is interesting in the inclusion of two contrasting words, alarming vs. worrisome. It begins with this sentence:

It's a story perhaps more appropriate for Halloween than for the festive holiday season, given its scary implications

Halloween, lest we forget, was mostly cancelled as a fun holiday  during the height of the pandemic.

The writer seems to be ambivalent and not sure about how loud to sound an alarm due to the scientific findings. Consider:

Not too dire so far, until you consider what else the researchers found.

All this tends to make this almost 79 year old think of his own mortality. 

There's a grave in the new portion of the historic Cemetery at the Green waiting for me in Massachusetts. My late wife grew up in a house which had its backyard adjacent to the cemetery so whenever we from from Michigan to visit my in-laws we'd walk though it looking at the colonial tombstones in the old part of the cemetery..

Click above to enlarge

No remains of me will ever be buried there. I don't particularly care where my ashes go. 100 years from now somebody may notice why there's no date of death for me on my late wife's family monument:


Something is going to get me in the end. To quote Albert Camus:

"Once one's up against it, the precise manner of one's death has obviously small importance.... 

Despite this ultimate truism, the precise (using the word literally) manner of one's death is generally unknowable, even for someone who has a terminal illness.  Only those about to commit suicide know exactly how they will die.

Some people, perhaps most people, think they know what will happen after they die. In fact, nobody knows, or at least there is no proof of an afterlife that hold up to rigorous scientific proof.

I believe with absolute certainty that in no way, shape, or form is there any life after death. This puts me among the 7% of the world population who are atheists. Others find great solace in believing with the conviction of unshakable faith that there is. 

Well meaning people sometimes tell those who are beset with grief that their loved one "is in a better place" without realizing the person beginning the process of mourning, and the person who died, were atheists. Such is the way of the world. 

So there we go... from a dream about a terrifyingly large dental drill to "worrisome" news about Covid subvarients... to my writing a non-political, dare I say philosophical, blog.



December 21, 2022

My life in cranberry world

My life in cranberry world

By Hal Brown
Updated Jan. 13, 2023

Betty and Hal and Stoyan harvesting berries

Cranberry Stressline 

Link (archive, takes time to open)

See the most recent blog stories here 

Click images to enlarge

So, if you've been wondering about my connection to cranberries - besides having grown them for 25 years....

Introduction - How it all began.


My wife Betty and I had been living in Mason, a rural town in Michigan, since we were in graduate school.. Betty was working on her PhD in English and I was in the MSW  program at Michigan State. We both enjoyed out jobs until one thing led to another and our work was no longer fun. This is irrelevant to the story but it is why when Betty’s parents told us they were retiring and planning to sell their cranberry farm (or bogs as those in the industry call cranberry farms) we were ready to make a huge life change.


We decided to move to Massachusetts and buy the bogs along with her three cousins who bought them from their father, Betty;s father’s brother who was half owner.


Betty only knew about how to grow cranberries from being on the bogs all the time when she was growing.up and from our visiting during harvest season. She was an incredibly quick learner with her father being an excellent teacher.


At the time there were only two women active in the political side of the cranberry industry. We’d become good friends with Paul, now diseased, and Linda Rinta who had bogs in the next town. Linda, who recent won this prestigious award) and Betty really hit it off and Linda became Betty’s mentor in the political side of the industry. 

Linda Pinto today


It was because of Linda that Betty ended up on the advisory council of Ocean Spray (about the co-op), the grower owned co-op we and most growers belonged to. 


She also was elected to be on the board of the Cape Cod Canberry Growers’ Association and the Plymouth County Conservation District.


This was all in addition to working as a full-time reference librarian at the local library. I had a small private practice.


Betty ran the bog and because I was mechanically inept we hired Tim DeMoranvile to be our bog manager and he ran the day-to-day operation.

 

Except for periodic conflicts with Betty’s cousins, only one of whom was himself a cranberry grower, over business decisions things wanting smoothly for several years. We had good yields and the price per barrel assured a tidy profit.


Then disaster hit. It was called a “bttter harvest” in a New York Times article which feature an inter view with Betty.


I am getting ahead of myself.


By the time newspaper reporters were traveling from New York City to interview Betty we saw a looming disaster. Ocean Spray was counting on white cranberry juice to increase demand significantly and directed their growers to plant more and more cranberry vines. New vines take three years to be ready to harvest. By the time they were ready white cranberry juice had failed to sell. Thus the supply far outweighed the demand and prices crashed. This forced many small and medium sized grower like us to have to sell our bogs to larger growers.


I am still ahead of myself.


Prior to this Ocean Spray was controlled by giant growers in Wisconsin where empty farm land had been converted to cranberry bogs. In the other cranberry growing state, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Oregon most bogs had to conform to the land or large hills had to be excavated to make new bogs.


Many growers were like us and saw that Ocean Spray not only made a bad decision with white cranberry juice but was making numerous other bad management decisions. Betty and I decided to make a website and forum which we called Cranberry Stressline where we would expose these bad decisions and enable growers from all the regions who only knew each other form attending annual meetings to communicated with each other.


In those days there was no Google but because Betty has a Lexus-Nexus account though the university where she taught a library course we had access to information not readily available.


We found many instances where management was wasting money, our money, and exposed this.


The end result, attributed to a large degree to Cranberry Stressline’s expose and the communication it fostered, the CEO, Robert Hawthorne, was fired and the entire Ocean Spray Board of Directors was replaced.


The rest of the story

Even before the cranberry industry collapsed and began making the news, my late wife Betty had been selected by Ocean Spray as a spokeswoman. She had a two page profile in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine (a full page picture below no less), and did a segment for the Sunday Today Show and another for New England Chronicle and Rebecca's Garden (which you can view on the blog). In fact the later TV piece was still being aired around Thanksgiving eight years later. 

Boston Globe Sunday Magazine profile
Click to enlarge to read text




















At first I did an us-and-the-media webpage just to send to our friends and family.  

I kept it up, neglecting to link to a few articles here and there when I lost interest from time to time, mainly to document for myself our weird life here, so different from the decades we spent in Michigan where I was a psychotherapist and Betty was a librarian.

Nothing much happened between November of 1996 and April of 1999 in the cranberry industry.  But then one thing led to another little world of Ocean Spray and cranberries, cranberry prices crashed, and it became apparent that Ocean Spray's mismanagement  had been largely responsible for this. Before I knew what hit, Cranberry Stressline went from being about plain old farm stress, to being political and controversial. First the website was covered in the local media, then the reporters started calling from around the country, including the New York Times and Forbes.   Both sent reporters to interview us.

Along with a long article, Betty was pictured on the front page of the Sunday business section of the New York Times with the Ocean Spray CEO.
Click above to read, subscription required

Excerpts:

The long article begins:

Cranberries have been good to Betty Brown's family for generations. Her grandfather staked out cranberry bogs here on the sandy shoulder of Cape Cod in the 1930's, and now Mrs. Brown and three of her cousins farm the land they are in the process of buying from their parents.

And the family has been good to Ocean Spray, the 69-year-old company that dominates the cranberry business and sold about $1.4 billion of cranberry drinks and other products last year. Mrs. Brown even had her photograph featured in last year's Ocean Spray annual report.

But lately the relationship has soured, and Mrs. Brown has become one of the company's most vocal critics.

''One of the hardest things we had to do was look the two dads in the eye and say, we can't pay you this year,'' she said.

They cannot pay because Ocean Spray, besieged by crises ranging from an oversupply of cranberries to increased competition to some costly marketing mistakes, has sharply cut the price it pays farmers for the fruit. The situation has become so dire that management has commissioned a total review of its operations, hiring Bain & Company and Merrill Lynch & Company as its consultants.






Is it a dream I asked? Pinch me. Is it real? Are we really farmers that created something called by the shorthand "Stressline" that just about everybody involved in the entire beverage industry knew about and read?  Connie Hayes, the New York Times reporter who wrote the above article which appeared with Betty's photo on the front page of the Sunday business section came to visit us. 

I was shocked to learn in writing this that she died at the age of 44 in 2005. She was the author of "The Real Thing: Truth and Power at the Coca-Cola Company".Read NYT story (subscription).

Another reporter, I forget her name, came to interview us for an article in Forbes. The Boston Globe photographer spent the better part of a day in our backyard bog taking a photo of Betty sitting on a wooden cranberry crate.

Of necessity, to promote our cause, we became Shameless Media Hogs.

Betty has passed away on Jan. 11, 2011.
-----


P.S. We, meaning a large group of small and medium size grower-members, of the Ocean Spray Co-Op won. The giant growers, most from Wisconsin, were stripped of the power they'd have for many years. The CEO was fired and the entire Board of Directors was replaced.

Below: Cranberry bog photos, click to enlarge:


Tim DeMoranville our bog foreman

Our vintage picking rig which we replaced soon after buying the bogs.






Tim DeMoranville

















December 20, 2022

The GOP has gone beyond The Outer Limits


GOP has gone beyond The Outer Limits
By Hal Brown

The series "The Outer Limits" was never as popular as "The Twilight Zone" but I still rarely missed an episode of either of them when I was a kid. Both could have been used in the title for this blog. I went with The Outer Limits because I found an image I liked.

No extremist has beliefs too far removed from reality or too fascist to be embraced by the Republican Party as long as its adherents can be counted on to vote for their candidates.

The GOP welcome mat has been rolled out for adherents of QAnon, which is based on the premises that "an international cabal of Satanic pedophiles extract and consume a mysterious substance found in the bodies of trafficked children. They think well-connected devil-worshippers also control the United Nations, the global economy, and even the Oscars (Salon).

GOP members of Congress have refused to roundly and soundly condemned the NAZISM espoused by the likes of Ye and Fuentes. "Oh sure it's bad but - wink, wink - it's not really all that bad."

Between these two we have all the Republican politicians who have embraced the Big Lie. If they believe it they are delusional, gullible, and/or stupid as these three are not mutually exclusive, or they are craven, power hungry, and/or unethical as these three aren't mutually exclusive either.

The Republicans who are savvy enough to understand the inevitable demographic shifts in the United States realize this is their last chance to turn the country into a white supremacist fascist autocracy at the ballot box.

Their solution to this has been, and continues to be, to try to destroy fair elections.

Another way to look at the Republican Party as it is today is to compare it to the Democratic Party and consider which is the "big tent" party which embraces true democratic principles. Consider: 

Wikipedia defines big tent party as a term used in reference to a political party's policy of permitting or encouraging a broad spectrum of views among its members. This is in contrast to other kinds of parties, which defend a determined ideology, seek voters who adhere to that ideology, and attempt to convince people towards it.

This is how they describe how the term has been used in the United States. Consider especially the part which I highlighted below:

The Democratic Party, during the New Deal coalition, which was formed to support President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies from 1930s to the 1960s, was a "big-tent" party. The coalition brought together labor unions, working-class voters, farm organizations, liberals, Southern DemocratsAfrican Americans, urban voters, and immigrants.

The Blue Dog Coalition is a big-tent caucus of centrist and conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives, some of whom are socially conservative and fiscally and economically progressive or vice versa. For a brief period after the 2006 and the 2008 elections, when Democrats held a majority in the House, the Coalition wielded increased influence over the party, but its power declined again after most of its members were defeated or retired in the 2010 elections. Its Republican counterpart is the Republican Main Street Partnership.

To counter the New Deal coalition, the Republican Party was for much of its history a "big tent" party that encompassed a wide range of right-wing and center-right causes, including a wide range of politicians who were fiscally conservative and socially moderate or liberal and vice versa. During the 1970s and the 1980s, the Republicans attracted support from wealthy suburban voters in the South and MidwestNortheastern moderates, Western libertarians, and rural conservatives across the country. From 1968 to 1988, Republicans won five out of six presidential elections, with the only exception being a narrow loss to the Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976. The culture wars of the 1990s and the growing influence of the Christian right within the party have prompted the socially moderate and liberal sections of the Republican base, particularly in the Northeast and the Midwest, to begin slowly leaving the party in favor of moderate Democrats or independents.

What began in the 1990's as a slope which became more and more slippery as time passed became a precipice with the election of Donald Trump and more and more extremist Republicans. The moderate Republicans who remained in Congress now find themselves at the mercy of the extremists for their political survival.

The party became toxic to legislators like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger who maintained their ethical compass.

Many if not most of the episodes of "The Outer Limits" and "The Twilight Zone" were morality tales which ended with a lesson. Two classic Twilight Zone episodes come to mind. One is "The Obsolete Man" with Burgess Meredith as the librarian who survives the end of the word but realizes he still have his books to read, and then steps on an breaks his glasses. The other is "People Are Alike All Over" where an astronaut lands on Mars and is greeted by friendly seeming aliens and ends up in a closed room. Then the wall on one side goes up and he sees he's in a cage in a zoo being gawked at by a crowd of Martians looking at an Earth creature. The last lines are: 

Specie [sic] of animal brought back alive. Interesting similarity in physical characteristics to human beings in head, trunk, arms, legs, hands, feet. Very tiny undeveloped brain. Comes from primitive planet named Earth. Calls himself Samuel Conrad. And he will remain here in his cage with the running water and the electricity and the central heat as long as he lives. Samuel Conrad has found The Twilight Zone.

Among these 10 episodes of "The Outer Limits" you will also find many which were morality tales, for example "The Galaxy Being" which warns about man's hubris. 



I found Trump in Medieval painting of legal Hell

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