You are browsing the archive for 2018 December 05.

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This psychiatrist explains why we need a 'fitness for duty' exam for all presidents

December 5, 2018 in Blogs

By Bandy X. Lee, The Conversation

That United States commanders-in-chief are not put to the same test before they are allowed to lead the troops or to order the use of nuclear weapons is, I believe, a serious omission.


Since the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency, mental health professionals have come forth in historically unprecedented ways to warn against entrusting the U.S. presidency to someone who exhibits what we have called his “dangerous” signs.

The observed signs have included “grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality.”

As a psychiatrist and expert on violence, I worked with my colleagues to put our observations into a book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” responding to the hunger for understanding on the part of the public.

I was never interested in domestic partisan politics until it coincided with my concerns for public safety as a violence scholar. As a scientist and physician, my training leads naturally to making conclusions that are based not on ideology or personal preference, but on research evidence and medical needs.

Now, since the Democratic Party will have the majority in one-half of the legislative branch of government and can provide some oversight of the presidency, it seems a propitious time to begin an important, civilizing conversation about mental health in the presidency.

All American military personnel must pass a fitness for duty exam before they serve. Further, those who handle nuclear weapons undergo an especially rigorous screening process that is updated every year.

That United States commanders-in-chief are not put to the same test before they are allowed to lead the troops or to order the use of nuclear weapons is, I believe, a serious omission.

Assessing fitness for the job

Evaluations of fitness, or capacity, or competence, are specific to the requirements of a task or job. The exam can be suited to any job.

The U.S. Army’s field manual, for example, includes elements that are critical for fit leadership: trust, discipline and self-control, judgment and critical thinking, self-awareness …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'They're freaking out': Trump reportedly considers a replacement for Pence on the 2020 ticket as Mueller rattles the White House

December 5, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

A previous report found that Trump has questioned the vice president's “loyalty.”


President Donald Trump and his advisers have considered pushing Vice President Mike Pence off the 2020 presidential ticket, according to a new report from Vanity Fair reporter Gabriel Sherman.

The topic came up Monday, Sherman reported, at a meeting with aides to discuss 2020 strategy. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who announced her resignation from the role prior to the midterm elections, was reportedly raised as a potential replacement. Some have speculated that Haley could even try to primary Trump, and picking her to be vice president would be a possible avenue to neutralize that threat.

This Vanity Fair report corroborates a recent article in the New York Times, which found that Trump had been questioning Pence's loyalty in private to his confidants. 

But Sherman suggests that it's not merely a question of the personal relationship between Pence and Trump. One source told Sherman that advisers to the president had presented polling data showing that Pence does nothing to expand his base of support — a plausible finding given that the vice president's strongest constituency, white evangelical Christians, appears to be locked in for Trump. Sherman also reports that Chief of Staff John Kelly, who is himself in a precarious position in the White House, has been telling Trump that he doesn't need Pence politically.

Other presidents have reportedly considered such midgame shake-ups — there were many rumors about President Barack Obamapotentially dumping Vice President Joe Biden from the ticket in favor of Hillary Clinton ahead of 2012. However, even if this decision is considered, it is typically abandoned because it would appear to be an obviously desperate ploy.

Such discussions are also occurring at a particuarly perilous time for the president as Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation appears to be zeroing in on the White House.

“They’re freaking out,” one source told Sherman.

They fear, he wrote, that the Mueller probe might be entering the “endgame.” But it may be even worse than that. As the recent sentencing memo for former National Security Adviser …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'Yeah, but I won't be here': Trump lays bare the GOP's hypocritical double standard around mounting federal debt

December 5, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

“It’s not like it’s going to haunt him.”


Republicans can be very inconsistent when it comes to the federal deficit, downplaying the importance of rising deficits under President George W. Bush or President Ronald Reagan but declaring that the federal deficit under President Barack Obama would surely be the United States’ downfall. This pattern has continued in the Trump era, with President Donald J. Trump showing little or no concern for how much the deficit will increase under his watch. And when the president was reminded how unwieldy the deficit could become in the future after he leaves office—whether that’s in early 2021 or early 2025—his flippant response was, “Yeah, but I won’t be here.”

Trump, according to the Daily Beast, made that comment in early 2017 during a discussion on how high the federal deficit would ultimately become. Rather than focus on tax hikes for the 1%—which he is vehemently opposed to—or spending cuts, Trump seemingly believes that growth alone can reduce the deficit. And even some conservatives are concerned over the indifference he has expressed where the United States’ growing debt is concerned.

 

In the Daily Beast, an anonymous Trump Administration senior official is quoted as saying that Trump “doesn’t really care” about the “crisis” of a huge deficit and chooses, instead, to focus on “jobs and growth, whatever that means.”

 

The Daily Beast also quotes a former Trump Administration official as saying that 

Trump “isn’t a doctrinaire conservative who deeply cares about the national debt, especially not on his watch” and that the deficit is “not actually a top priority for him.”

 

That anonymous Trump associate is also quoted as saying, “It’s not like it’s going to haunt him.” 

 

In other words, “Yeah, but I won’t be here.”

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Here are 10 psychological findings that reveal the dark side of human nature

December 5, 2018 in Blogs

By Christian Jarrett, Aeon

Are we, deep down, wired to be bad, blinkered, idle, vain, vengeful and selfish?


It’s a question that’s reverberated through the ages – are humans, though imperfect, essentially kind, sensible, good-natured creatures? Or are we, deep down, wired to be bad, blinkered, idle, vain, vengeful and selfish? There are no easy answers, and there’s clearly a lot of variation between individuals, but here we shine some evidence-based light on the matter through 10 dispiriting findings that reveal the darker and less impressive aspects of human nature: 

We view minorities and the vulnerable as less than human. One striking example of this blatant dehumanisation came from a brain-scan study that found a small group of students exhibited less neural activity associated with thinking about people when they looked at pictures of the homeless or of drug addicts, as compared with higher-status individuals. Another study showed that people who are opposed to Arab immigration tended to rate Arabs and Muslims as literally less evolved than average. Among other examples, there’s also evidence that young people dehumanise older people; and that men and women alike dehumanise drunk women. What’s more, the inclination to dehumanise starts early – children as young as five view out-group faces (of people from a different city or a different gender to the child) as less human than in-group faces.

We experienceSchadenfreude(pleasure at another person’s distress) by the age of four,according to a study from 2013. That sense is heightened if the child perceives that the person deserves the distress. A more recent study found that, by age six, children will pay to watch an antisocial puppet being hit, rather than spending the money on stickers.

We believe in karma – assuming that the downtrodden of the world deserve their fate.The unfortunate consequences of such beliefs were first demonstrated in the now classic research from 1966 by the American psychologists Melvin Lerner and Carolyn Simmons. In their experiment, in which a female learner was punished with electric shocks for wrong answers, women participants subsequently …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'The returns to greed have gone way up': Paul Krugman explains how politicians unleashed the worst in corporate America

December 5, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“It used to be that CEOs wouldn't see that much personal gain from squeezing workers.”


In a New York Times column over the weekend. David Leonhardt laid out the case that the idea of corporate responsibility has been in sharp decline since its pinnacle in the post-war era, leaving us in a place where politicians must reshape the landscape to demand more beneficial stewardship from business leaders. Economist Paul Krugman responded to this column Wednesday, agreeing with the basic idea but pointing out that politics had a significant role in the declining standards of corporate America.

Time was, Leonhardt argued, corporate leaders didn't see their own interests as completely at odds with workers. After World War II, with prosperity hardly guaranteed, these people spoke openly about the idea that creating a thriving middle class would be good for the country and good for business.

“Not every executive did, of course, and management and labor still had bitter disputes,” he wrote. “But most executives behaved as if they cared about their workers and communities. C.E.O.s accepted pay packages that today look like a pittance. Middle-class incomes rose faster in the 1950s and 1960s than incomes at the top. Imagine that: declining income inequality.”

He continued: “Things began to change in the 1970s. Facing more global competition and higher energy prices, and with Great Depression memories fading, executives became more aggressive. They decided that their sole mission was maximizing shareholder value. They fought for deregulation, reduced taxes, union-free workplaces, lower wages and much, much higher pay for themselves. They justified it all with promises of a wonderful new economic boom. That boom never arrived.”

This is where Krugman's account of the story, explained in a Twitter thread, diverges from Leonhardt's. While Leonhardt merely writes that business leaders “decided that their sole mission was maximizing shareholder value,” Krugman sees the influence of a pernicious trend in politics.

For example, the decline of unions, driven in large part by efforts to undermine organized labor as demanded by conservatism, has weakened the clout of workers, as Krugman explained:

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How Japan's Kamikaze Attacks Went From Last Resort at Pearl Harbor to WWII Strategy

December 5, 2018 in History

By Christopher Klein

Not until nearly three years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor did Japan adopt suicide aerial attacks as official military strategy.

On the infamous morning of, the Japanese pilot told his fellow airmen, “In case of trouble I will fly straight to my objective and make a crash dive into an enemy target rather than make an emergency landing.”

Hours later, Iida was strafing the Naval Air Station Kaneohe with gunfire when he suddenly smelled gasoline. A glance at the gauges of his Mitsubishi Zero confirmed his fears. Enemy fire had pierced his fuel tank.

Using hand signals, the doomed pilot informed his comrades of his plight before waving good-bye. With his Zero hemorrhaging fuel over the American naval air station, Iida banked sharply and circled back toward its hangar, perhaps to implement the emergency plan he had discussed earlier. With no intention of being captured and no hope of a safe return to his aircraft carrier, the aviator might have been trying to inflict as much damage as possible upon the enemy by divebombing into the hangar. If that was the case, Iida overshot his mark and fatally crashed into a hillside.

The burial of Japanese pilot First Lieutenant Fusata Iida at Pearl Harbor after his fatal crash.

Japanese dive-bombers at Pearl Harbor were not kamikazes.

During the air raid, another crippled Japanese plane crashed onto the deck of the USS Curtiss. Although the Japanese pilots might have deliberately aimed for enemy targets after sustaining catastrophic damage, that was not the intention of their mission.

“The Imperial Japanese Navy fighter pilots were perfectly willing to sacrifice themselves if there was no way out other than capture, but that is different than deliberate suicide,” says Burl Burlingame, an historian at the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor. “The term kamikaze has entered the English language and has come to mean any one-way, deliberate act of self-sacrifice. As such, it has been used and misconstrued by pop-history writers. At the time of Pearl Harbor, the official, sanctioned use of deliberate suicide missions was a few years in the future.”

Burlingame says that Iida, although he aimed for an American target with his plane, was not a kamikaze pilot. “If he had had a shot of making it back to the carrier, he would have done so.”


Japanese pilots receiving last orders before bombing the American Pearl Harbor military …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Meet Krampus, the Christmas Devil Who Punishes Naughty Children

December 5, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Every year in early December, children in Austria get ready for St. Nicholas to visit them. If they’ve been good, he’ll reward them with presents and treats. But if they’ve been bad, they’ll get a lot more than a lump of coal—they’ll have to face Krampus.

Who’s Krampus, you ask? He’s the half-man, half-goat who comes around every year to chase naughty children and maybe even drag them to hell. European versions of St. Nicholas have long had scary counterparts like , which shouldn’t be confused with the many other low-budget Krampus movies.

Although Krampus is relatively new to the U.S., this alpine legend is the original bad Santa.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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Nelson Mandela Passes Away at 95

December 5, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

On December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela, the former activist who overcame a nearly three-decade prison stint to become president of South Africa, passed away after years of struggling with health issues. He was 95.

“Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father,” South African President Jacob Zuma said. “What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.”

Mandela was known as a freedom fighter, prisoner, civil rights leader, political leader and symbol of integrity and reconciliation not only for South Africa, but for the world.

His lifelong mission to end apartheid started when he left school early to join the the African National Congress (ANC). He rose quickly in the organization, and was elected president of the organization in 1950. It was in 1960 that Mandela’s efforts turned more militant, sparked when police opened fire on a group of unarmed protestors in the Sharpeville township, killing 69 people.

Soon after, the ANC was outlawed, but that didn’t stop Mandela. After the ban, he went underground to form a new, armed wing of the organization named “Spear of the Nation.” Through this group, which was also known as the MK, Mandela helped plan attacks on government institutions, like the post office.

The violent turn was not one he took lightly. “It would be wrong and unrealistic for African leaders to continue preaching peace and nonviolence at a time when the government met our peaceful demands with force,” he said about starting the more militant branch. “It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle.”

In 1962, Mandela secretly left South Africa, traveling around Africa and England to gain support. He also trained in Morocco and Ethiopia. When he returned, he was arrested and charged with illegal exit of the country and incitement to strike. He was then sentenced to life in prison for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government.

Instead of a testimony, he gave a four hours long speech, ending it by saying: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal …read more

Source: HISTORY

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How George H.W. Bush Finished What Reagan Started in Ending the Cold War

December 5, 2018 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

Ronald Reagan may have spearheaded the build-up that led to the demise of the Soviet Union, but George H.W. Bush quietly saw it through.

Ronald Reagan is often lauded as the U.S. President who won the Cold War, by orchestrating a massive arms buildup that the Soviet Union couldn’t afford to match, and by giving a famous 1987 speech at the Brandenburg Gate in which he challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.

But the decline and ultimate collapse of Soviet communism—from the actual demolition of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet bloc in eastern Europe, to the disintegration of the Soviet Union itself—occurred during the single four-year term of Reagan’s successor, President George H.W. Bush.

While Bush didn’t set in motion the massive geopolitical change that occurred, historians credit his steady, low-key, cautious approach to Soviet relations with helping to ensure that when communism collapsed, it fell as softly as possible. Mainly, it fell without the bloody revolutionary upheaval that had occurred during its rise three quarters of a century before.

READ MORE: The Myth That Reagan Ended the Cold War With a Single Speech

Reagan Demands Fall of Berlin Wall (TV-PG; 1:08)

Bush Was a ‘Moderate Cold Warrior’

“Unlike Reagan, who was rash and undermined American political and moral values to destroy communism around the globe, Bush was a much more moderate cold warrior,” Dickinson College Professor of History Karl Qualls explains. “He was analytical, not impulsive. Although he certainly despised communism, he saw in Gorbachev a reformer who was willing to create change and who wanted peace.”

As Southern Methodist University historian Jeffrey A. Engel wrote in his 2017 book, When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War, the cautious Bush resisted the temptation to aggressively exert American influence on events on the other side of the Iron Curtain. He also did not respond too boldly to the dramatic changes occurring. Instead, Engel says, “his caution helped carry the world safely through this tumultuous time.”

Watch History Remembers President George H.W. Bush Special, premiering Wednesday, December 5 at 10/9c.

George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts.

View the 20 images of this gallery on the original article

Bush was better prepared than most for this task, because of his diplomatic experience as ambassador …read more

Source: HISTORY

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George Custer born

December 5, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

On this day in 1839, Union General George Armstrong Custer is born in Harrison County, Ohio. Although he is best known for his demise at the hands of the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Montana,in 1876, Custer built a reputation as a dashing and effective cavalry leader during the Civil War.

Custer entered West Point in 1857, where he earned low grades and numerous demerits for his mischievous behavior. He graduated last in the class of 1861. Despite his poor academic showing, Custer did not have to wait long to see military action. Less than two months after leaving West Point, Custer fought in the First Battle of Bull Run, Virginia,in July 1861.

Custer served the entire war in the Army of the Potomac. He was present for nearly all of the army’s major battles, and became, at age 23, the youngest general in the Union army in June 1863. He led the Michigan cavalry brigade in General Judson Kilpatrick’s 3rd Cavalry Division. Shortly after his promotion, Custer and his “Wolverines” played a key role in stopping Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry attack, which helped preserve the Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. As a leader, Custer earned the respect of his men because he personally led every charge in battle. Wrote one observer of Custer’s command, “So brave a man I never saw and as competent as brave. Under him a man is ashamed to be cowardly. Under him our men can achieve wonders.”

He achieved his greatest battlefield success in the campaigns of 1864. At the Battle of Yellow Tavern, Virginia, on May 11, 1864, Custer led the charge that resulted in the death of Stuart. One month later at Trevilian Station, Virginia, Custer’s command attacked a supply train before being surrounded by Confederate cavalry. His men formed a triangle and bravely held off the Rebels until help arrived. In October, Custer’s men scored a decisive victory over the Confederate cavalry at Tom’s Brook in the Shenandoah Valley, the most one-sided Yankee cavalry victory of the war in the East.

Custer was demoted to lieutenant colonel in the downsizing that took place after the Civil War ended. He was much less effective in his postwar assignments fighting Native Americans, and his reckless assault on the camp at Little Big Horn …read more

Source: HISTORY