Trump Is Not Hitler

Once again the Liberal press is echoing the sentiment that President Trump is our version of Adolf Hitler, ready to take over the Republic in all manner of malevolent ways and totally destroy our democratic experiment in the USA. [Disclaimer: I am a centrist Liberal to be sure. My sentiments and beliefs are mostly on the Liberal side. As a physician, I have long favored, for instance, a single-payer healthcare system. But I am pro-military, and come from a largely a military family. I believe in civil rights, women’s rights and personal responsibility, accountability and not graft etc. I could go on but I am sort of political melange based on fairness and education among other values.]

The name of Hitler could very well be a flashpoint type stimulus for me. I am a Jewish convert which is a long story but arises from my experiences as a youth in Israel due to my father’s work which took our family there for several years. I also inherited the anti-nazi view of a family who served in World War II through multiple past relatives of my parents’ generation including female members, and which sustained losses in WWII.

As a psychiatrist, I ruefully witness the hair on fire reactions that I still consider and hope are overreactions on the part of the very Liberal media for instance, to President Trump and which continue to decry many of his misplaced, goofy and erratic social and political actions in the light of an evil dictator such as Hitler. We have had a few published efforts by psychiatric authors to publicly demonstrate by diagnostic exercises in print that President Trump is our own Hitler. The most notable book that has established this pattern and line of thought is the collected essay book by Bandy Lee MD a lady psychiatrist at Yale, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.

dangerous Case of Donald Trump

 This volume became a very good seller and has been quoted and referred to by many commentators since it came out over a year ago. The primary author and editor of the multi-author book has continued to pronounce Trump in the media and meetings as an extreme threat by virtue of her now very well publicized view of him as an extremely disturbed person unfit for the Presidency. And this has had the predictable effect of giving the truly anti-Trump crowd,  intellectual justification for labeling him as now fully diagnosed as mentally dangerous to the country.

The controversy in the mental health professions, especially psychiatry, has spawned almost a new cottage industry of psychologizing and diagnosing by anyone who has enough nerve and/or a widely enough recognized name in popular American culture. This is my mind is the greatest danger that the “Goldwater Rule” of the American Psychiatric Association spoke to in making diagnosing public figures a forbidden ethical transgression for the psychiatrist.

Trump Dr Decker book

We now have a few books that take on this seductive and publicity garnering foray under the authorship of anonymous writers. The first book I came across in this genre is Another intriguing book has been the small almost pamphlet-sized book by an anonymous “Dr. Decker:” Trump’s Brain (Paperback): An FBI Profile of Donald Trump: Predicting Trump’s Actions and Presidency.

I am old enough to have lived through the late 1960’s and 1970’s as a young student. I saw all the civil unrest of those times. The Liberal segment of the nation and the more publicized ultra-radical Left saw President Nixon and his administration and political as the intellectual and political AntiChrist. Their reactions to him and vilifications of him were extreme, to say the least. Nixon was portrayed as a fascist, and dictator in the making. It turned out that Nixon did have at least some antisemitic views which were not well known at the time. But Nixon did not make the degree and depth of threats to American institutions such as the press and the Courts that President Trump has carried out so far in his Presidency. But it is history now well established that Nixon started many of the right-wing tactics such as the Southern Strategy, coded [hidden linguistically] racism intentions and ways of speaking politically, dirty tricks of campaigning, attempts at intimidating the press, etc. Back then in the Nixon era, the Left screamed constantly that the end of the Republic was at hand and it did not turn out that way. Even in my youth, I was buttressed with an international view of despots and knew that Nixon was not such. I had lived in a few such countries overseas and had my father’s wise WWII based perspective on what a dictator was. Somehow I knew that the Nixon crowd would totally self-destruct. It helped on a personal note that my father was an Eisenhower Republican and had a dim view of Nixon and had him ‘pegged’ all along.

In those days watching Nixon and the Watergate hearings the last year of his Presidency, I had the view that such character disorders, caused their own destruction. I saw the seeds of Nixon’s political demise and was relatively untouched by the near political hysteria that engulfed me at that time. I lived in one of the most Liberal areas of the country and most of my friends were far more liberal than I was. Now I live and have basically since I left that area in 1974, in a thoroughly and historically very conservative area, locally and regionally. Liberals are few and far between hereabouts. I do not see conservatives as the personification of the Devil. I was exposed to the conservative working class all my youth in different parts of the country due to my father’s migratory profession that did not take us to bastions of Liberalism…

Now to the diagnoses that have been popularly [n both senses of the word I might add somewhat tongue in cheek] assigned to President Trump:

malignant narcissistic personality disorder

antisocial personality disorder

sociopath [the nonscientific term for the above term]

sexual predatory [not really a diagnostic term]

megalomaniac [also not a real term but a literary, descriptive one]

borderline personality disorder

attention deficit disordered

And of course, all the words denoting a dictator: despot, tyrant, etc.

I shall offer a generic list of the popularly ascribed traits of the sociopathic personality disorder since that confluence of personality entities seems to be the leading ‘consensus’ of all the recent Trumpian pseudo psychiatric ascriptions:

  • Ignoring social norms
  • criminal behavior and problems with the law
  • arrogance
  • deceitfulness such as repeated lying or using aliases
  • conning others for personal profit and pleasure
  • impulsivity and failure to plan ahead
  • irritability hostility agitation
  • aggressiveness such as repeated physical fights
  • abusive relationships
  • inability to learn from negative consequences and past experience
  • reckless disregard for the safety of self and/or others
  • failure to hold down a job or honor financial obligations
  • lack of remorse
  • lack of empathy
  • exploitative relationships

All I can say at this point in this post is that for those who accept and believe Trump, he is none of these things, while for those who do not endorse or accept him as he is, he comes close to conforming to many of the above kinds of behaviors and is supremely dangerous to the Nation. But to me, the task is to keep my head from being overwhelmed with the emotion that swamps critical thinking around the figure of Trump, and state the kernel of this post: However Trump’s personality traits define him, he is not Hitler.

Let me offer an off the top of my head list of what I think of when I consider the person and political career of Adolf Hitler and compare the history of Hitler to the political career of Trump so far.

  • Hitler formulated one of the world’s most murderous social theories of race and ethnicity resulting in true mass murder and organized ethnic cleansing. Trump has done nothing that even hints at this.
  • Hitler rose to power through sustained and calculated political assassinations of political opponents, and early on even in his own early Brown Shirt movement. Trump has not done so.
  • Hitler had a large band of ruthless killers as an independent political and private military force at his command long before he assumed political office. To replicate that, Trump would have had to have organized, say, extremist militias nationwide into a force that intimidated the country in all its regions [states].
  • Hitler took over the military especially early in his rise to power, replacing his country’s top military leaders with his own henchmen. It would be as if Trump would have replaced the Joint Chiefs with extremist political hacks loyal to him after being elected.
  • Hitler systematically suppressed and took over the free press in Germany. Trump’s fight with the press and media who have opposed him has given testimony to how hard this would be even if Trump wished to do so.
  • Hitler took over the entire educational system in Germany from kindergarten to the universities to carry out his mission to brainwash and subjugate the nation’s entire population. This has not happened in the US.
  • Hitler abolished civilian control of Germany’s military.
  • Hitler assumed both the primary leadership offices of Germany unto himself. He was both Prime Minister and Chancellor. His political party took over the entire legislative body, the Bundestag.
  • Hitler abolished the popular voting electoral process in Germany. Hitler instituted a racist pseudo-genetic phenotype of the “true German” in the myth of the purse Aryan to divide the population into genetic have’s and have not’s. This was part and parcel of the basis for the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies [the Roman people’s, persons with birth defects, disabilities, etc.].

I know, and can hear through the WiFi ‘wires’ the protests of the readers who think Trump has already started these kinds of heinous anti-democratic and ‘diabolical’ maneuvers, but I think our extremely well established political and social institutions in this country are already pushing back in their stolidly resistant to change properties to oppose such. I feel confident that the military’s leaders have been quietly channeling Trump’s hairbrained ideas away from all-out calamitous consequences all along. This is not to say Trump has not goofed already in such circles. My point is that I do not think Trump is Hitler, nor will he be able to destroy our country and its institutions the ways my hair on fire very Liberal friends do.

I could be wrong but I do not think so.

 

 

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Possible New Class of Antidepressants?

To give the reader some context in order to grasp the significance of the issue of a possible new class of antidepressant medications, I would offer the following points of information.

First, in spite of 30 years of hype and advertising by the pharmaceutical industry and especially the companies who have one by one introduced and advertised the so-called modern, or serotonin-based antidepressants, not much progress has been made in the actual efficacy of treating major depressive disorders with these medications. When the serotonin-based antidepressant medications started to emerge in the marketplace, the armamentarium of the psychiatrist and family physician, in the realm of novel pharmaceutical based advertising on Western television, the mode of action on a supposedly new neurotransmitter system was greatly hailed as a modern breakthrough. Serotonin actually is been known since the 1950s and the neuroscience circles in general.

Second, the only advance that was basically made was a reduction in the anticholinergic side effects of the previous generation of antidepressant medications. These the side effects are largely antihistamine. This means that they make nearly all mucous membranes and dry. This accounts for their marketed value in treating and controlling the symptoms of runny noses and watery eyes of viral colds and pollen allergies. These side effects present in the antihistamine medications and “try cyclic” antidepressant medications also cause decreased propulsion in the gastrointestinal tract, meaning the longer transit time for food and waste material through the small and large intestines. The longer that the foodstuffs and wastes stay especially in the large intestine, the more time there is for reabsorption of water from the stool. This makes for hard stool and consequently the long known constipation with all these medications. These same anticholinergic side effects can also affect heart rate and decrease blood pressure. The latter side effect is very problematic in the elderly and can cause lowered blood pressure upon standing and consequently falls in the elderly with alarming frequency and subsequent injuries such as hip fractures.

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Diagnosing Us Via Our Emails?!

In a very well written, succinct article Dr. Alan Hofmann, an internist of Preventia Clinics in Saint Jerome, Canada, wrote relatively of recent but little-known efforts to use AI [Artificial Intelligence] to key in on mental illness flags in emails. As alarming as this might sound initially, the article surprises the reader by quickly informing that there have been well-intentioned efforts to help crisis clinics and services to identify potential high-risk contacts who might need urgent services.

I have to quote Dr. Hofmann’s definition of this phenomenon as he conveys the notion far better than I can: “A series of emojis, words, actions or even inactions can communicate how you feel at a given moment and when collected over time, comprise your “socionome” — a digital catalogue of your mental health that is similar to how your genome can provide a picture of your physical health.”

His article, “What happens when an algorithm labels you as mentally ill?,” appearing in this week’s WorldPost publication, a service of the Washington Post, discussed somewhat playfully [in my interpretation to be clear] extending this effort into the area of diagnosing anyone psychiatrically by running emails through an AI app or program that would flag designated codewords that could be associated with depression, suicide risk etc. Dr. Hofmann wrote that, lo and behold, this HAS been done on a larger scale than any of us would have thought…Microsoft Research and some crisis clinics have done some preliminary work trying to craft programs or apps to facilitate real-time identification of callers in distress.

The latter half of the article went on to discuss that the level of accuracy was only around 70% in associating certain words with depression. Interestingly, it emerged that even innocent words such as “ibuprofen”  could be linked with suicide or overdose risk on mental health hotlines. Seventy percent concordance sounds pretty impressive but the author helps the reader to learn that in the world of mental health, psychology and all, this does not constitute very good predictability at all, and is barely above “a coin toss.”

But I got to thinking about all this as my sneaky, weasel-like, conniving mind started inevitably whirling around the possibilities. In my personal deranged computing life, I suddenly remembered that my voice dictation software is always asking me to permit analysis of all my documents and emails! Egads! If I consented would it diagnose me? Likely not, but it certainly might gang up with my handy-dandy super trustworthy grammar correcting program and send me back to a freshman English composition course.

But this personal, in-my-computing-space reminder got me to thinking even more so about the implications.

We all take for granted that the NSA and all the mind-boggling spy networks analyze our phone calls and emails for “bad words” that have to do with the War on Terror. These words I imagine are things like bomb, blow up, kill the Infidel, and so on. When I was a kid during the Cold War, words/phrases like dirty Capitalist pig, Molotov cocktail, bourgeois and such would have brought the attention of the FBI and CIA to “Commies” and student radicals in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Closer to home for those who are on Facebook™ [I no longer am for many reasons which I will rant about here] ‘consent’ to having posts analyzed for use by advertisers for targeting ads constantly to one’s views of posts, photos etc.

Twitter may do much the same thing, I am not sure. Tweets seem to me, in general, to be more unrestrained and loose-lipped with more gutter language and “F-bombs” than anywhere I go on the Internet. What if the ‘mental health diagnosing’ apps were set loose on twitter by enterprising wags, or hackers, or smear artists, “trolls” in today’s lingo for blackmail purposes. Or by ill-tempered political types in an effort to smear tweeters with whom they disagreed politically?

Granted this kind of idea seems ludicrous to me and bourne of ‘hair on fire’ kind of media exaggeration/hysteria that could emerge from any Right or Leftist fringe territory. Then again I thought this could be a “good thing” if we could have our own personal mental health screener app. One would purchase and install it in your browser. You could then program it yourself to screen for words or code phrases that you found distasteful or not in line with your political or social-cultural views and tag those tweets for exclusion.

But then one would further aggravate the silo’ing that we face in only reading and contemplating views consistent with our own preferences. And that is NOT a good thing in my view. It only reinforces echo chamber based discourse, further dividing us politically and “every which-a-way” from engaging and ‘building bridges’ of understanding, if that is still possible.

Or given the mudslinging, insult-driven tenor of our times, one could use such “linguistic” grading of tweets to label the posted sentiments of others as “unbalanced,” or “mentally ill” according to one’s own prejudicial scoring system. I can see it now, a genre of tweet replies along the lines of “well my app shows you score 84% on the skreptomaniac scale!”

And the cycle of anger, flame wars as they were called in the early days of “Bulletin Boards” would continue and do our national no good whatsoever.

And lastly, I am sure that opponents of our President would run their mental health scoring apps on Trump’s all too over the top tweets and move armchair, unethical, misplaced psychiatric diagnosing into new stratospheric levels of absurdity worthy of publication in my long-time favorite past journal of satire, The Wormrunner’s Digest from Dr. James V. McConnell of the University of Michigan in the days of Mort Sahl and the Golden Age of Satire.

 

 

 

Marijuana and Sesame Street?

No, this is not some tell all that the entire staff of Sesame Street, that most beloved of tv childhood icons (certainly in my family with about three sets of kids have learned from it!), were all stoned. So not like our most famous space saga franchise in which some of the major players spent their filming days stoned etc., which was a bit disillusioning to learn…oh well.

I have for a period of time followed a superb blog on the history of drugs and substance abuse. It appeals to the history bug/buff/geek/triiva-guy in me for one thing. But it is also fascinating beyond words. It has set me ‘aright’ on a number of misconceptions I had in my lifetime before and after my medical education. The blog is “Points: The Blog of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society.” Yes, there is such a society, it was news to me too.

The post that caught my eye this date, August 16, 2018, is “Hidden Figures of Drug History: Joan Ganz Cooney.” Who, you might ask is Joan Ganz Cooney? I had forgotten who she was, but I did remember her name. Only when I started reading the post did her personage come back to me.

Ms. Cooney was the founder, innovator, and driver behind The Children’s Television Workshop and Sesame Street. As a child psychiatrist-developmentalist and parent, I have to state my disclaimer that I have admired Sesame Street for decades and cannot say enough good about it. As much as Head Start and other similar early childhood educational movements, it has benefitted our preschoolers beyond measure for generations. (Even more than Barney…).  Her storied accomplishments are highlighted and recounted in the article. I was dutifully reminded of how important this woman was to America.

The post though has a different emphasis that was surprising beyond words.

Ms. Cooney’s service on the now largely forgotten “Shafer Commission” of the Nixon Presidency is highlighted. This article is worth reading for anyone interested in (drum roll please…): Nixon, legalization-decriminalization of pot, Watergate, the fate of federal reports that displease a President, and other fascinating tidbits one never would anticipate aforehand.

So no more spoilers, feel free to read this post, it is a true rare gem.

 

 

Mourning the Loss of The Aliens

DNA in space
“Life in Space”

Fairly recently some of our better known big shot thinkers like Elon Musk have begun to give voice to the growing idea that we should STOP looking for aliens in space.

The underrepresented public segment in the space and sci-fi communities read this sort of commentary in the esoteric scientific and sci-fi (there is less and less difference nowadays?) media in order to have an intellectual sort of escapism reading to be cognitively relieved of the relentless deluge of Trump-related news and vitriol from all sides of our so-called body politic. Other social demographically classified persons read of this burning issue such as space geeks, diehard Star Trek fans and their contentious Star Wars upstarts, and not to forget NASA government types who battle for funds for those oversized space radio receivers we tend to place in areas needing beer joints and economic development such as God-forsaken spaces in New Mexico and Australia.

The organizing idea seems to be that something called the “Fermi Paradox” has taken over space and alien related discussion sites, is that there is an increasing likelihood that there is likely no life OUT THERE. Other than us. And I thought this Fermi Paradox was all about the A-Bomb development in the Manhattan Project, that it was thought in those days, atomic power was nice and socially helpful and lo and behold turned out to be just another Defense Department awesomely scary military weapon.

Putting aside all the statistical and other abstract bases for the theorizing that there is no alien life virtually anywhere, I found myself mulling over the socio-cultural repercussions of this not quite cataclysmic news. This may not be as trivial as one might at first surmise. After all, why could the declaration of the NON-existence of something that has never been manifest in our world be such a Big Deal? It is akin to saying that purple bears do not exist in the unexplored areas of the Amazon. Or that Stanley no longer needs to search for Livingston’s never born twin. I mean, saying that something that has not existed does not need any further searching is not earth-shattering news.

I found myself further considering that this whole seemingly waste of time and billions of dollars of research, was not a waste but a “good thing,” because what if the great classical discoverers of modern times had decided there was “no sich-a thang as ‘lectricity” and not tried to shock themselves with lightning bolts or ignored getting shocked after scooting across a wool rug. We would be still locked in the ages of campfires and polluting coal furnaces in every room and have no egad, computers or tv!! We would have been spared bad movies about listening to outer space and watching Jodie Foster try to make a bad flick entertaining…At least we won’t spend billions looking for purple Russian bears I suppose.

There are though definite quarters for whom this apparently issue now deemed without importance is important. For instance, just to name a few, all the NASA scientifist and alien searching agenices and their funding, tin foil hat types, Area 51 devotees (now reclassified in the category of ‘there is no there there;), alien genre movie scriptwriters and so on. Some of those sectors command huge budgets. Those folks may lose jobs. And they and their families might be destitute. I can see the new class of highway handout folks now, “Space Scientist Willing to Tutor New Math Homework to Your School Child.”

The cinematic industry will take a huge hit. A category that previously sucked in scare seeking teenagers wishing to sneak a hug in the dark protective anti-chaperone theaters will disappear. Summer alien mongering movie revenues will dip. Democratic political office seekers will have to reduce by a corresponding percentage the L.A. based PAC donations they count on every two years.

Back to Elon Musk for a moment. This public figure is drumming up support for funding from the government, meaning US, for his idea to Colonize Far Reaches of Space. His argument is that we are trashing the Earth so badly that we have to move to a new Cosmic Neighborhood that has better water and air.

But he has an inherent conflict of interest. He is plugging his Space X venture. He is generataing free publicity so that us Earth Bound Rubes will sign up for trips and generate revenue. Sir Richard Branson is doing much the same thing, though he does not rail so much about pollution and play upon our fears of survival. He is just a business man whereas Musk is a visionary! I concluded long ago that “visionaries” were all hucksters like P. T. Barnum and much more dangerous. I think that Musk would be better served if his publicity campaign for space travel and colonization went like this.

‘You Don’t Have to Worry About Aliens’ like the ones that nearly ate Sigourney Weaver in all those signature “Alien” movies. There are no more giant lizard like aliens out there with flesh eating heads inside of heads! The only tongue sucking beings you will have to worry about will be deep French kissing hotties. Without their bubble headed space helmets of course.

And the NRA will be able to save years of any new PR campaign inveighing against home invasion by aliens from space.

And homeowners can stop paying for sky directed anti-burglary nightlights to scare off aliens sneaking into their backyards from the sky.

And I can stop writing whimsical blog posts on rampaging aliens and get back to truly boring, mind numbing psychiatric articles…