Saturday, January 20, 2018

Shutdown: the Atrocity and the Odds

As everyone not living under a rock knows by now, the USA has a government shutdown. As the negotiations evolved it has become clear that mass deportation of the DREAMers is the sticking point: both the House Freedom Caucus and John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff, who has the President's ear, support mass deportations, while the Congressional Democrats oppose them, with a substantial faction of Republicans as swing votes.

The Republicans are perfectly willing to let the country turn into a shambles waiting, Trump doesn't care as long a he feels like he is winning, and the Democrats are genuinely concerned with the state of the USA. It is just possible that some of the less-fascist Republicans will break, but it is more likely, I think, that the Democrats will; they have not been willing to fight for long years.

I hope the Democrats do stand fast. Mass deportations are, literally, something out of the Nazi past. Should the United States pursue such a policy, Homeland Security will be vastly expanded and will, once the deportations are done, turn to other atrocities.

Croak!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Statins, Donald Trump, and Public Health

Dr. Ronny Jackson, physician to the President, describes Donald Trump’s health as “excellent.” That seems to be some special medical sense of the word. President Trump has high cholesterol and this is being medicated with rosuvastatin. He has been told to lose weight and exercise. Interestingly, he uses ivermectin cream for treatment of rosacea, a disease whose victims break out in unsightly red blotches; this probably explains the makeup he wears.

Statins are known to have neurological side effects, sometimes increasing and sometimes decreasing aggression and also sometimes causing memory loss and confusion. It is possible that Donald Trump is displaying these effects, but they are not well-understood and hard to diagnose. On the other hand, rosacea has a powerful effect on self-esteem; some people don’t like the way it makes them look. It is possible that rosacea explains some of Trump’s personality, especially if the onset was in his teenage years.

Returning to statins, it is likely that drugs so far-reaching in their systemic effect have some neurological effect on every regular user. It may be that no President ought regularly be using statins.

Statins are among the drugs most widely-prescribed among older adults, with some 30% of adults over 40 using statins at least sometimes in 2011-12. If the aggression-enhancing and serious cognitive impairments are fairly common it just might explain some of why elders are getting so cranky. Perhaps, literally, the outburst of fascism we are undergoing is in part a public health problem.

Perhaps, perhaps. I cannot draw strong conclusions from the evidence; this is a sketch of a research program, rather than a certain warning. Still, I would like to see Donald Trump taken off rosuvastatin for a time and find out if he becomes a calmer, more decent man.

Bibliography

Cham, Stephanie, Hayley J. Koslik, and Beatrice A. Golomb. “Mood, Personality, and Behavior Changes During Treatment with Statins: A Case Series.” Drug Safety - Case Reports 3 (December 29, 2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40800-015-0024-2.

Golomb, Beatrice A., Joel E. Dimsdale, Hayley J. Koslik, Marcella A. Evans, Xun Lu, Steven Rossi, Paul J. Mills, Halbert L. White, and Michael H. Criqui. “Statin Effects on Aggression: Results from the UCSD Statin Study, a Randomized Control Trial.” PLoS ONE 10, no. 7 (July 1, 2015). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0124451.

Qiuping Gu, Ryne Paulose-Ram, Vicki L. Burt, and Brian K. Kit. “Prescription Cholesterol-Lowering Medication Use in Adults Aged 40 and Over: United States, 2003–2012.” NCHS Data Briefs. National Center for Health Statistics, December 2014.

Staff, Politico. “Trump’s 2018 Physical Exam Results.” POLITICO, January 16, 2018. http://politi.co/2mOm2Ij.

“Statin Side Effects: Weigh the Benefits and Risks.” Mayo Clinic, April 26, 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/statin-side-effects/art-20046013.

“Welcome to the UCSD Statin Effects Study.” Accessed January 19, 2018. https://www.statineffects.com/info/.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Two Senators and the Mob

I'm seeing a fair number of posts and tweets from people who are saying that just two Republican Senators breaking with the party line would be enough, just two.

Is that like Lindsay Graham, who went golfing with Trump and turned into a Trumpite?

This isn't normal politics. Likely enough threats of violence have been made against Republican Senators. Trump has mob connections. Putin has ordered assassinations outside of Russia. We can no longer assume that these things are beyond possibility: that direct threats against politicians and their families have not been made.

Friday, January 5, 2018

And now Trump goes off the deep end

The Wolff book has most of the senior administration in shock and Trump is tweeting up a storm. Is it just me or does anyone else stunned at how widespread the disloyalty is in the Republican Party? The whole damn party seems to have abandoned sense and any loyalty to anything but them and their wealthy backers.

What happens now?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Review: The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump


We have here not a psychological evaluation of Donald Trump, which would require access and long-term interaction, but rather a psychologically informed assessment of his character and fitness to carry out the duties of the presidency, as much as can be inferred from what is publicly known of Trump. The question under discussion is not Trump’s mental health but whether or not he is dangerous, how, and to who.
The book is broken into three sections: “The Trump Phenomenon,” about Trump himself; “The Trump Dilemma,” about the question of when mental health professionals may speak out about the character of a public figure; and “The Trump Effect,” about the psychology of Trump supporters, the impact of Trump on the mental health of the public, and Trump’s psychological similarity to historical tyrants.
It is hard for me to assess the book’s scholarship; I have only a lay understanding of psychology. The book is, however, accessible; theories are explained. On the way, there are nuggets of insight that any layman can understand. Three which struck me were Dr. James Gilligan’s comparison with the reaction to Hitler’s rise, the implied point that Trump, by directly threatening millions, has psychologically traumatized millions, and Ms. Elizabeth Mika’s discussion of Trump’s psychology in historical context.

It does not seem to me that the German Psychiatric Association of the 1930s deserves any honor or credit for remaining silent during Hitler’s rise to power. On the contrary, it appears from our perspective today to have been a passive enabler of the worst atrocities he committed—as were most German clergymen, professors, lawyers, judges, physicians, journalists, and other professionals and intellectuals who could have, but did not, speak out when they saw a blatantly obvious psychopath gaining the power to lead their country into the worst disaster in its history. Our current president does not have to be a literal reincarnation of Hitler—and I am not suggesting that he is—in order for the same principles to apply to us today. – Dr. James Gilligan.

In Ms. Mika’s analysis, I was struck that the narcissism of tyrants (and Trump is narcissistic) and its seductions are a known and studied phenomenon with a body of relevant literature.
I suspect the book will repay rereading, both for understanding of our current situation, and as a historical document. Discouragingly, the authors offer little hope for a resolution of the problem. One issue only touched on is that Trump is the speaker for a broader movement, and having Trump gone will not end that movement. An issue not touched at all is that many Congresspeople and Senators are participants more than enablers; they are also dangerous and their psychology deserves attention.
Nonetheless, read this book for insight.

(Also posted at Goodreads.)