Saturday, December 17, 2016

Psychopath in Chief?

I believe that in order to get to the truth of any matter it is essential to use only reliable sources and to avoid overstating claims against one’s opponents. I also believe our National Security Adviser should understand the difference between reliable sources and fake news, which is why I am convinced that General Michael Flynn is a very poor choice to head America’s national security apparatus. 

There are a number of reasons for my saying this, including his declaration that fear of Muslims is RATIONAL (all caps in his original statement).

Beyond this bit of nuttiness and bigotry is the fact that he posted the following tweet with reference to a fake news story about Hillary Clinton’s supposed involvement in a child sex slave operation: 

U decide – NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc…MUST READ! (with a link to a fake news story here)

I give Flynn no credit for finally deleting this tweet which he first posted a few days before the November 8 election. His having believed this wacky anti-Hillary story in the first place is damning evidence that proves he is unqualified to be National Security Adviser.

This fake news about Hillary’s supposed criminal, child-victimizing behavior is so outrageous and clearly false that you wonder how a sane person could believe it at all. I suppose someone who has been brainwashed into thinking Hillary is evil to the core (as many conservatives have been) and who has no skill at separating reliable sources from fake ones could believe it. Otherwise you would have to be just plain stupid.

So which one is Michael Flynn – incompetent or just plain stupid? In either case, he is clearly unworthy to be America’s National Security Adviser and Donald Trump is a fool or a scoundrel for appointing him.

Of course, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. In light of this ideal, I want to caution those on the anti-Trump side (the ones I like to think of as “the good guys”) against overstating the case against the president-elect. It is unwise to damn one’s political opponents with labels that the evidence does not justify. For example, is it really fair to call Mr. Trump a psychopath?

If you just yelled out “Hell yes!” or words to that effect, I beg you to hold on for just a minute. It is wrong to condemn someone as deeply psychologically flawed without a careful consideration of what psychologists say are the defining features of the psychopath. If we look at these defining features, I am confident that we will find that Trump is not actually a bona fide psychopath. For example, below is a list of characteristics defining a psychopath according to psychologist Robert Hare as cited in Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test. Surely a comparison of Mr. Trump’s personality with these traits will be enough to convince any discerning reader that he is not really a psychopath.
1.     Glibness/superficial charm
2.     Grandiose sense of self-worth
3.     Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
4.     Pathological lying
5.     Conning/manipulative
6.     Lack of remorse or guilt
7.     Shallow affect
8.     Callous/lack of empathy
9.     Parasitic lifestyle
10.  Poor behavioral controls
11.  Promiscuous sexual behavior
12.  Early behavioral problems
13.  Lack of realistic long-term goals
14.  Impulsivity
15.  Irresponsibility
16.  Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
17.  Many short-term marital relationships
18.  Juvenile delinquency
19.  Revocation of conditional release
20.  Criminal versatility

Never mind.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Letter to Senator Rubio re: Trump, Russia & China

Here's a letter I sent today to the (one hopes) Honorable Marco Rubio:

December 15, 2016

Dear Senator Rubio:

I am concerned about President-Elect Trump’s apparent intentions in the area of international relations, and I am particularly concerned about his choice of Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state.

Mr. Tillerson’s friendly ties to Vladimir Putin and the benefit his company, Exxon, would receive in opportunities to profit from oil extraction in Russia should our sanctions against that country be lifted, are of real concern. Such a relationship between official and commercial interests is exactly the kind of corruption that undermines American democracy. It will certainly distort Mr. Tillerson’s judgement in reference to policies toward Russia.

Beyond the selection of secretary of state, Mr. Trump has made statements and phone calls that signal new directions in American diplomacy, directions that I consider troubling.

His phone conversation with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan has raised concerns that he may want to end the agreement we established with the People’s Republic of China in 1972, commonly referred to as the One-China policy.

I am an admirer of the democracy that the people of Taiwan have developed for themselves and, in fact, I would like to see it held up as a model for China generally. However, I believe it is reckless to undermine the basis of the agreement that our nation has with China - yet that is what President-Elect Trump is signaling he might do. Of course, given his free-wheeling style, this may well be no more than a feint designed to gain leverage against Beijing. If so, it is a poorly thought out one.

Beijing will not respond to our moving away from our One-China policy with offers of compromise. A threat on our part to make such a move will undermine the cooperative elements in our relationship, including those pertaining to North Korea, and it will gain nothing for us from China. I say this as an academic who has lived for over two years in China and who has been studying China for 47 years.

Frankly, I don’t understand why Mr. Trump thinks that Russia, which has invaded Crimea and Ukraine and provided crucial assistance to Bashar al-Assad in his slaughter of Syrians in Aleppo, makes a promising partner. Furthermore, as patriotic Americans, shouldn’t we be shocked and enraged at Putin for interfering in our election to serve his own ends? Why isn’t Mr. Trump shocked and enraged about this?

In conclusion, I encourage you to oppose with all your resources the confirmation of Mr. Putin’s associate, Rex Tillerson, for secretary of state. Furthermore, I encourage you to resist any efforts our future president may make in the way of undermining U.S. - China cooperation and replacing it with oil-industry-friendly ties to Putin’s Russia.


Robert L. Moore

Robert L. Moore, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Rollins College

Monday, November 28, 2016

Glass Half Full or Glass Brimming with Fetid Sludge?

Two schools of thought have emerged in reference to the looming Trump presidency. One school is represented by President Obama who, in his usual classy and open-minded way, recommends that we defer to the hope that Trump will prove a reasonably competent and decent president.

This might be called the “Clothes Make the Man” approach, after the Henri Duvernois short story of that name. In this story a petty thief dresses as a cop in order to take part in a heist, but is so overcome with pride when the people he meets treat him as an officer of the law, that he switches sides and actually starts acting like a cop. Spoiler alert: Bad news for the pseudo-cop’s henchmen when he tries to arrest them.

This approach hangs on the idea that Donald Trump, who has spent almost two years acting like a thoroughly dishonest, crude and self-centered bully, will, upon reaching the Oval Office, start acting presidential.

But no, I don’t think so. I belong to the other school of thought, the one that doesn’t believe someone so steeped in dishonesty and corruption can be reformed by the dignity of his surroundings. I’m afraid that our beloved White House, this architectural emblem of American democracy, this former residence of Abraham Lincoln, this site where Franklin Roosevelt hosted Winston Churchill as they worked out their strategy for victory in World War II, this elegant mansion -- will, for the next few years, be filled with a skunkish stink.

Trump’s crudeness and vulgarity - one facet of his stink - are the least of our worries now. More serious is his penchant for corruption. Though he promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington DC, he cannot do this because, as one source has pointed out, “he himself is the slimiest varmint in the swamp.”*

Let’s face it, a man who would surround himself with thuggish characters like Stephen Bannon, Roger Ailes, and Rudy Giuliani, is not someone we can expect to suddenly discover the virtues of dignity and decency.

Admittedly it isn’t fair to refer to all three of these advisors as actual thugs. Only Bannon and Ailes have been charged with such crimes as witness intimidation, domestic violence with traumatic injury, battery and sexual harassment. But even Rudy, though as yet unindicted, does have his own special air of creepiness. The fact that he is being considered for secretary of state is enough to disillusion anyone who thought Trump was going to rise to a higher ethical plane once in office.

Just as frightening as a Secretary of State Giuliani would be an Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. As Douglas N. Harris wrote in the New York Times last Friday, “…of all the candidates the transition team was apparently considering, Ms. DeVos has easily the worst record.”

Born into one right-wing fanatic family (the Princes) and married into another (the DeVoses), Betsy is the kind of person who believes that evidence can be ignored when it clashes with conservative ideology. Harris points out, for example, that she is one of the main proponents of a school choice system in Detroit that is generally regarded as “the biggest school reform disaster in the country.”

Furthermore: “Detroit is not only the lowest in this group of lowest-performing districts on the math and reading scores, it is the lowest by far…The situation is so bad that national philanthropists interested in school reform refuse to work in Detroit.”

Why would Trump consider such a person to be secretary of education? Well, if you want to be cynical, or if you are merely willing to face the facts presented by our rapidly deteriorating real world, you might point out that Betsy DeVos has been a very, very generous financial contributor to Republican causes.

Call me crazy, but I thought “draining the swamp” meant appointing competent, qualified people to the cabinet, not rewarding people whose inherited wealth made them worth sucking up to.

And there are so many other reasons to see Trump as mired in corruption. His refusal to reveal his tax records, for one. Beyond this are the investments in countries around the world that he claims won’t affect his presidential decisions since his children (and heirs) will be running them. And note how he pointed out that by becoming president he has made his brand “hotter.”

We Americans are in for some interesting sights and stories over these next four years. But for now, let’s fix our gaze on the Donald and his glistening oily flanks as he eases his massive frame into the dank and murky waters of his newfound Washington world.

*That source was me!