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Archive for December 27th, 2016

The UN resolution on Israel

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Bernard Avishai writes in the New Yorker:

Last Friday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2334, with a dramatic abstention by the Obama Administration. The resolution called on Palestinian leaders to take “immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror,” and refrain from “incitement and inflammatory rhetoric.” Its real target, though, was Israel’s settlement project, which, the resolution sharply claimed, has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

Later in the day on Friday, I spoke to Robert Malley, the special assistant to the President on the National Security Council, the senior adviser for the campaign against isis, and the White House coördinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf. In February, 2011, the Obama Administration vetoed a similar U.N. condemnation of settlements—opposing fourteen other members of the Security Council and a hundred and twenty co-sponsors from the General Assembly. Why abstain now, I asked Malley, and not then? “A real difference is that efforts to advance negotiations were ongoing in 2011,” Malley told me. “We were concerned not to interfere with a process that had some prospect of progressing. That’s not the case since Secretary Kerry’s efforts in 2014. We are at an impasse. There is no prospect of resumption of serious meaningful talks between the sides, so the argument that a U.N. resolution would interfere with negotiations doesn’t hold much water.”

In speaking of an “impasse,” Malley was exercising tact. The most salient change, he went on, is the attitude of the Israeli government toward the construction of settlements, which “has accelerated since the 2011 veto—tens of thousands of units approved, and in different stages of tendering and construction.” Malley pointed to the so-called normalization bill to legalize outposts and settlement units built on private Palestinian land, which is being considered by the Knesset. Such building is currently illegal under Israeli law, and has put the Israeli government at odds with the Supreme Court. “The legislation would represent a sea change,” Malley told me. “The Prime Minister of Israel just stated that his government was more committed to settlements than any in Israeli history. And one of his ministers”—Naftali Bennett, the Education Minister and the leader of the right-wing Jewish Home Party—“said the era of the two-state solution is over. So the resolution reflects not so much a change in President Obama’s position as in the Israeli government’s.”

Minutes after the resolution passed, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump gave his response. “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” he tweeted. He plans to nominate David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who has raised millions of dollars for an Israeli settlement, to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Trump has also promised to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a symbolic endorsement of the Israeli right’s claim to the entire city—although his designated Secretaries of State and Defense may have something to say about provoking allies like Jordan. The Walla news site, generally supportive of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reported last month that Israeli officials are hopeful that General Michael Flynn—Trump’s designated National Security Adviser, who has close ties to Israel’s defense establishment—will work with Congress to rescind the restrictions Obama put on the ten-year, thirty-eight-billion-dollar Israeli aid package that was approved this fall.

But Trump’s power as President, however consequential, cannot cancel the power that other countries have in the conflict, as Netanyahu seemed to acknowledge in the bitterness of his response. On Saturday, an Israeli official told Barak Ravid, of Haaretz, that the resolution “revealed the true face of the Obama Administration”; the next day, the Prime Minister accused the Administration of carrying out an “underhanded, anti-Israel maneuver.” On Monday, Ron Dermer, the Israeli envoy in Washington, told CNN that Israel has proof that the Obama Administration was “behind” the resolution, and would “present this evidence to the new Administration through the appropriate channels.” Malley seemed fatigued by the prospect of having to fend off such charges. “Contrary to the claim made by some Israeli officials, we did not cook up this resolution, we did not chase after it,” he told me. “Secretary Kerry averaged roughly one phone call a week to the Israeli Prime Minister over the last four years—almost four hundred—to plead, to warn, against the path his government was on. Not only did settlement-construction activities continue apace, they were accelerated.”

Recent polls conducted by the Palestinian public-opinion expert Khalil Shikaki suggest that support for a two-state solution among Palestinians in the territories is significantly depressed, not because of ideology (only about a quarter of respondents support Hamas) but because of skepticism of Israeli and American intentions. “Settlements have always been at the heart of this distrust,” Shikaki told me in Tel Aviv last Thursday. For Malley, the point was self-evident and applied to Israelis as well: “What has dropped precipitously is confidence on either side that the other side is serious about reaching a solution. It is very hard for Palestinians to believe that the Israeli Prime Minister believes in a two-state solution in which the Palestinians would have a viable state at the same time as the territory on which that state is to be built is increasingly encroached upon—not just through settlements but through home demolitions, and the refusal to grant permits for Palestinian building. Similarly, it has been very hard for Israelis to believe that the Palestinians believe in a two-state solution at the same time as they experience terrorism and hear calls for martyrdom.”

The peace process has subtly shifted from bilateral negotiations, in which envoys hammer out principles for agreement and bring these to the international community, to one in which the principles and possible impediments are understood and Western states other than the U.S. may choose to put pressure on the parties. Earlier in his career, . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more and it is important.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2016 at 8:30 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill? 3 Professors Of Psychiatry Ask President Obama To Conduct ‘A Full Medical And Neuropsychiatric Evaluation’

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Richard Greene reports in the Huffington Post:

I received this stunning letter to President Obama from a source, with written permission from Dr. Herman, Dr. Gartrell, and Dr. Mosbacher, because the source knew that I had been interviewing Psychiatrists and Psychologists about Donald Trump’s alleged “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”.

Virtually every mental health professional I interviewed told me that they believed, with 100% certainty, that Mr. Trump satisfied the DSM criteria of this incurable illness and that, as a result, he is a serious danger to the country and the world.

Listed below is a summary of their comments and an overview of this psychiatric condition. To provide further context, here is a short and a longer interview with Dr. Lynne Meyer, a Psychologist specializing in personality disorders, brilliantly explaining how such a disorder might help us understand Mr. Trump’s comments and behaviors and the challenges that likely lie ahead for our country.

[See also this video, the longer interview, which I cannot embed. – LG]

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

November 29, 2016

Dear President Obama,

We are writing to express our grave concern regarding the mental stability of our President-Elect. Professional standards do not permit us to venture a diagnosis for a public figure whom we have not evaluated personally. Nevertheless, his widely reported symptoms of mental instability — including grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality — lead us to question his fitness for the immense responsibilities of the office. We strongly recommend that, in preparation for assuming these responsibilities, he receive a full medical and neuropsychiatric evaluation by an impartial team of investigators.


Judith Herman, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

Nanette Gartrell, M.D.
Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
University of California, San Francisco (1988-2011)
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School (1983-87)

Dee Mosbacher, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department of Community Health Systems
University of California, San Francisco (2005-2013)

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM – 5, Cluster B) for “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” by The American Psychiatric Association (APA)

Here, according to The APA, are the 9 criteria for “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”. If an individual has 5 out of the 9 they have a confirmed diagnosis of this illness. Many individuals have “traits” of narcissism but only about 1% of the population has clinical NPD.

Summary : A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

3. Believe that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with other special or high-status people (or institutions)

4. Requires excessive admiration

5. Has a sense of entitlement

6. Is interpersonally exploitative

7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

8. Is often envious of others or believes that othrs are envious of him or her.

9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.”

What does it mean if someone does have NPD?

If someone does have “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” they can, indeed, wake up, see a Tweet or a news report from a foreign leader criticizing him, mocking him, calling him “weak” or threatening his ego in any way and order some kind of impulsive, vindictive, punishing, immediate response that could include an unhinged order to attack that foreign leader or foreign country with military force, even including the authorization of nuclear weapons.

It is extremely likely that there would be some kind of impulsive, angry diplomatic response because someone afflicted with this incurable and progressive “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” simply can’t help himself.

Here’s why:

1. People with NPD are extremely sensitive and insecure. They psychologically require constant compliments and acknowledgement because they do not have their own internal self-esteem. They need to get it from others.

2. If someone does criticize them, even in a Tweet or on a television comedy show, it triggers this deep and painful lack of self-esteem and they MUST lash out to relieve the pain of the criticism.

3. They have only two modes: They are either fully your friend and love you or you are their enemy and they will do everything to discredit you or humiliate you. They can’t help it. The pain of having someone in their circle who does not approve of them or acknowledge them, (almost constantly), is too great.

4. There are only two ways to deal with someone with NPD, and they are both dangerous. There is no healthy way of interacting with someone with this affliction. If you criticize them they will lash out at you and if they have a great deal of power, that can be consequential. If you compliment them it only acts to increase the delusional and grandiose reality the sufferer has created, causing him to be even more reliant on constant and endless compliments and unwavering support.

5. Because they crave the attention and approval of others they develop great capacity to engage and entertain and can be quite charismatic, even to the point of developing a cult-like following.

6. Someone with NPD will NEVER get along with any member of the press, or any media outlet that criticizes him.

7. Someone with NPD will NEVER hire (and will fire) anyone who criticizes him. Therefore, and because they believe they know better than almost everyone else, they have a very hard time listening and taking any advice.

Concerns Expressed by Mental Health Professionals

The President of The United State and Commander in Chief is the only American who has ANY say over the mobilization of The United States Military, the authorization of a military strike on a perceived or real enemy and the launch of any and all of the weapons possessed by The United States Military, including 7,000 nuclear warheads.

There is no “Fail Safe”. There is no “Team”. There is no thoughtful review.

The National Security Advisor, The Secretary of Defense, The Secretary of State, The Joint Chiefs of State and every General in the military can all emphatically say “NO!” but if The Commander in Chief wants to initiate military and even nuclear action, NO ONE can stop him. American law does not allow a military officer to make those decisions.

Only a civilian, The President, elected by The American People can access the nuclear codes. Only that President can use the nuclear codes.

And if he does, the military is duty bound to follow his order.

A President and Commander in Chief who does have Narcissistic Personality Disorder would be very dangerous to all Americans, and the world.

Note: A Clinical Psychologist wrote the author to confirm (and expand upon) the dire analysis of Dr. Lynne Meyer and the concerns of the 3 Professors in this article. It is worth including here, especially her perspective on the role of Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

Dr. Meyer is spot on in her assessment in the video [see video below – LG]. It is particularly good to hear her make the distinction between mental illness and personality disorders with their pervasive, inflexible, permanently fixed and incurable patterns of pathological behavior. This is one aspect of Trump’s problem that’s routinely misunderstood, even by some experts.

She also makes an excellent observation, among many, about Trump’s grandiosity being behind his refusal to have daily intelligence briefings.

Another, and related reason is the fact that he is cognitively so limited that such briefings make no sense to him (and that’s why he wants Ivanka, for example, or Jared with him during similar occasions, to help him understand what’s being said). Additionally, and also relatedly, his profoundly deficient attention makes it impossible for him to focus on any stimuli that do not provide him with adulation. He’s quickly bored by and dismissive of anything that does not have to do with himself.

The point about him getting worse in the future also cannot be overstated. An increasing paranoia combined with growing sadistic vindictiveness is pretty much a given. We have seen it consistently in other leaders, past and present, with this character defect.

And being so impulsive and without a conscience, he won’t stop for a moment before putting his primitive impulses into action. Those who believe that they can somehow “control” him, or that our democratic “checks and balances” can withstand the collusion between his personal pathology and that of his willing sycophants, are deluded, I’m afraid.

The man is unfit to run a lemonade stand, much less a country. That so many have decided to ignore his profound character defect, or turn it into an asset in their eyes, is horrific, but, sadly, not surprising.

This strikes me as a serious and actual problem that goes beyond politics.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2016 at 8:12 pm

Why “repeal and delay” is popular in the GOP

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Kevin Drum writes in Mother Jones:

It’s worth mentioning why Republicans are suddenly so gung-ho about “repeal and delay”—that is, repealing Obamacare now but waiting a couple of years to replace it with something else.

The official excuse is that health care is hard. Sure, Republicans have had six years to come up with something since the passage of Obamacare, but dammit, that’s just not enough time! Unlike Democrats, who jammed Obamacare down everyone’s throats in a mere 14 months, Republicans want to do the job right. They care about policy details, you see?

Does this sound unlikely? Your instincts are sound. Both Paul Ryan and Tom Price have legislative templates that could be turned into statutory language in a few months if Republicans wanted to. So why don’t they want to?

There are two reasons. First, they’re hoping that the mere passage of a repeal plan will cause insurers to abandon the exchanges and destroy Obamacare without any Republican fingerprints on it. But that’s dangerous. It could leave a lot of registered voters completely uncovered until the replacement plan passes. Even worse, there’s a chance this could destroy the entire individual health insurance market, not just Obamacare. That would earn them the ire of the insurance industry, the health care industry, and plenty of Republican voters.

So why take that chance? Because of the second reason for delay: If Republicans offer up a replacement plan immediately, it will inevitably be compared to Obamacare. And that won’t be pretty. There will be lots of losers, and every one of them will suddenly barrage their representatives with complaints. The media will aid and abet this with endless point-by-point comparisons of the two programs. The contrast with Obamacare will be so plainly and obviously negative that even outlets like Fox News will have trouble spinning the GOP alternative as a good thing. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2016 at 7:00 pm

The AMA Represents Only About One-Sixth of All Doctors

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Very interesting point: The AMA represents less than 20% of all doctors. (And I would be that they mostly of the conservative persuasion.)

Kevin Drum works it out in this post, and also read his post on how Obamacare is NOT failing, and what Obamacare could have been.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2016 at 6:55 pm

Facebook Doesn’t Tell Users Everything it Really Knows About Them

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Julia Angwin, Terry Parris, Jr., and Surya Mattu report in ProPublica:

Facebook has long let users see all sorts of things the site knows about them, like whether they enjoy soccer, have recently moved, or like Melania Trump.

But the tech giant gives users little indication that it buys far more sensitive data about them, including their income, the types of restaurants they frequent and even how many credit cards are in their wallets.

Since September, ProPublica has been encouraging Facebook users to share the categories of interest that the site has assigned to them. Users showed us everything from “Pretending to Text in Awkward Situations” to “Breastfeeding in Public.” In total, we collected more than 52,000 unique attributes that Facebook has used to classify users.

Facebook’s site says it gets information about its users “from a few different sources.”

What the page doesn’t say is that those sources include detailed dossiers obtained from commercial data brokers about users’ offline lives. Nor does Facebook show users any of the often remarkably detailed information it gets from those brokers.

“They are not being honest,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “Facebook is bundling a dozen different data companies to target an individual customer, and an individual should have access to that bundle as well.”

When asked this week about the lack of disclosure, Facebook responded that it doesn’t tell users about the third-party data because it’s widely available and was not collected by Facebook.

“Our approach to controls for third-party categories is somewhat different than our approach for Facebook-specific categories,” said Steve Satterfield, a Facebook manager of privacy and public policy. “This is because the data providers we work with generally make their categories available across many different ad platforms, not just on Facebook.”

Satterfield said users who don’t want that information to be available to Facebook should contact the data brokers directly. He said users can visit a page in Facebook’s help center, which provides links to the opt-outs for six data brokers that sell personal data to Facebook.

Limiting commercial data brokers’ distribution of your personal information is no simple matter. For instance, opting out of Oracle’s Datalogix, which provides about 350 types of data to Facebook according to our analysis, requires “sending a written request, along with a copy of government-issued identification” in postal mail to Oracle’s chief privacy officer.

Users can ask data brokers to show them the information stored about them. But that can also be complicated. One Facebook broker, Acxiom, requires people to send the last four digits of their social security number to obtain their data. Facebook changes its providers from time to time so members would have to regularly visit the help center page to protect their privacy.

One of us actually tried to do what Facebook suggests. While writing a book about privacy in 2013, reporter Julia Angwin tried to opt out from as many data brokers as she could. Of the 92 brokers she identified that accepted opt-outs, 65 of them required her to submit a form of identification such as a driver’s license. In the end, she could not remove her data from the majority of providers.

ProPublica’s experiment to gather Facebook’s ad categories from readers was part of our Black Box series, which explores the power of algorithms in our lives. Facebook uses algorithms not only to determine the news and advertisements that it displays to users, but also to categorize its users in tens of thousands of micro-targetable groups.

Our crowd-sourced data showed us that Facebook’s categories range from innocuous groupings of people who like southern food to sensitive categories such as “Ethnic Affinity” which categorizes people based on their affinity for African-Americans, Hispanics and other ethnic groups. Advertisers can target ads toward a group — or exclude ads from being shown to a particular group.

Last month, after ProPublica bought a Facebook ad in its housing categories that excluded African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans, the company said it would build an automated system to help it spot ads that illegally discriminate.

Facebook has been working with data brokers since 2012 when it signed a deal with Datalogix. This prompted Chester, the privacy advocate at the Center for Digital Democracy, to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that Facebook had violated a consent decree with the agency on privacy issues. The FTC has never publicly responded to that complaint and Facebook subsequently signed deals with five other data brokers.

To find out exactly what type of data Facebook buys from brokers, we downloaded a list of 29,000 categories that the site provides to ad buyers. Nearly 600 of the categories were described as being provided by third-party data brokers. (Most categories were described as being generated by clicking pages or ads on Facebook.)

The categories from commercial data brokers were largely financial, such as “total liquid investible assets $1-$24,999,” “People in households that have an estimated household income of between $100K and $125K, or even “Individuals that are frequent transactor at lower cost department or dollar stores.”

We compared the data broker categories with the crowd-sourced list of what Facebook tells users about themselves. We found none of the data broker information on any of the tens of the thousands of “interests” that Facebook showed users. . .

Continue reading.

At the link, you can download the Facebook interest category and ad group data ProPublica collected to report this story, and also find links to related stories ProPublica has published.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2016 at 5:56 pm

Trump’s Homeland Security Pick Falsely Claimed “Narcoterrorism” Has Killed 500,000 Americans

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I think we’re going to have to become accustomed to a continual string of lies coming from the Trump administration. Matthias Schwartz reports in The Intercept.

For many parts of the world, it is hard to predict which Donald Trump will enter the White House on January 20. Will it be the Donald Trump who promised to decimate ISIS in 100 days, or the Donald Trump who promised to avoid an Iraq-like quagmire? Will it be the Donald Trump who campaigned on building up a decrepit U.S. military, or the Donald Trump who said he would slash military spending to balance the budget? Will it be a Donald Trump who is eager to strong-arm China at the negotiating table, or the Donald Trump who promised to discard the Trans-Pacific trade deal designed to increase American leverage over the region?

While Trump continues to regularly contradict his own supposed views on U.S. foreign policy, his approach to the U.S. southern border is clear. He talked a lot about building a wall while running for president. Since winning, he’s repeatedly emphasized the seriousness of his promise.

“You think we are playing games,” Trump said earlier this month, at a rally in Wisconsin. “We’re going to build the wall, okay? Believe me. We’re going to build the wall. We have to. We have got to stop the drugs from coming in and the wall is going to be a big, big factor.”

In the Trumpist view, the lack of a continuous border wall between the U.S. and Mexico facilitates the flow of drugs, undermines U.S. wages, and provides a potential gateway for terrorists trying to find their way into the United States. The wall is a concrete way to address fears among Trump’s base surrounding immigration, an issue that gives concerns over jobs, wages, and terrorist attacks a common focal point along the southern border. This worldview is so compelling as a political vision that it has sometimes caused Trump’s national security team to back it up with fabrications. Michael Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, has wrongly claimed that there are Arabic letters written on the backs of signs along the Mexico border, intended to guide terrorists into the United States.

John Kelly, the retired Marine general who Trump has chosen to lead the Department of Homeland Security, has his own pattern of exaggerating the border threat. Between 2012 and his retirement in early 2016, Kelly served as head of U.S. Southern Command. In this role, he coordinated all U.S. forces in the Western Hemisphere south of Mexico, including the Caribbean and Guantánamo, which is home to the hemisphere’s largest overseas U.S. military base. As Obama trimmed the military’s budget with the sequester, and prioritized Asia and the Middle East over the relatively peaceful Western Hemisphere, Kelly complained that the budget cuts were undermining regional security.

In a 2014 interview, he said that the flow of drugs and instability in Latin America posed an “existential” threat to the United States. During a March 2015 hearing before the Senate Armed Service Committee, Sen. Mike Lee. R-Utah, asked him to explain why the southern border posed such a large threat. Kelly responded with these words:

…there’s 40,000 Americans that die every year from the drugs that move up through my part of the world, and into Bill’s [Adm. William Gortney, who was then head of Northern Command], and into our homeland ­­— 40,000 people a year.

You know, since 9/11, there’s — half a million people have died from narco­terrorism, as we call it in — down where I live — narco­terrorism. Five hundred thousand Americans have died. Very few have died from, you know, traditional terrorism, if you will, since 9/11. It costs our country $200 billion a year to deal with the people that are into drugs but are not, you know, dying. So I see that as a huge, huge, huge threat.

Kelly’s first claim — drugs kill roughly 40,000 Americans each year — is accurate. It is also true that drugs have killed more than half a million Americans in the 15 years since 9/11.

But Kelly’s second claim to the Senate committee, that 500,000 Americans “have died from narcoterrorism” since 9/11, is a significant exaggeration. The real number of Americans who have died of post-9/11 terrorism in all its forms is well under 1,000, according to a 2014 study that was supported by the Department of Homeland Security. And at least one-third of the 40,000 killed by drugs annually do not die, as Kelly claimed, from drugs coming into the U.S. across the southern border, but from overdoses of legally prescribed opioids. Almost all of the profits from those addicts flow not to drug cartels but to pharmaceutical companies. Sales of legal opioids have quadrupled since 1999, particularly in those white, rural areas of the country where Trump’s support is strongest.

Kelly’s claim of 500,000 deaths doesn’t appear to be reflected in any known official numbers. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2016 at 8:38 am

Simpson Case, Mickey Lee Bee Witched, iKon 102, and Stetson Classic

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SOTD 29016-12-27

Bee Witched was a limited edition, and I continue to be pleased that I scored a tub of it. I really like the honey fragrance, and the lather is wonderful. The Simpson Case was also known back in the day as the Wee Scot 3, with the current Wee Scot being the Wee Scot 2. The Wee Scot 1 was even smaller and has long since been discontinued.

With a well-prepped beard, my iKon 102 went to work and in three passes left a BBS result with no problems. Indeed, the 102 always provides me a trouble-free shave.

A splash of Stetson Classic finished the job. There’s nothing like a good shave—good in terms of the experience during the shave as well as in the final result. Oddly enough, I’m having an exchange of views with a guy on reddit who seems actually to want to avoid having a pleasurable shave. He views shaving as similar to clipping his nails and brushing his teeth and pushes away the idea that his morning shave could be a source of enjoyment. Puzzling. Maybe it’s the Spartan idea that finding pleasure in life’s activities makes one “soft” and that Real Men do not seek enjoyment.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2016 at 8:16 am

Posted in Shaving

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