Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! I’m switching to strong coffee this morning, because I’ve had the sleepies for the past few days. It’s been really damp and humid here, so maybe that’s the reason. All I know is I keep dozing off, and I don’t like it! Anyway, let’s get to the news before I nod out again.

A few days ago, commenter madaha turned me on to an article about a fascinating new book that just came out last week. The book is called A First Rate Madness. The author is Nassir Ghaemi, a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University. From Salon:

Nassir Ghaemi, an author and professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine, argues that many of history’s most famous and admired figures, from Churchill to FDR to Gandhi, showed signs of mental illness — and became better leaders because of it. Ghaemi bases his argument on historical records and some of the latest experimental studies on depression and mania, arguing that mild symptoms can actually enhance qualities like creativity or empathy.

After reading the piece in Salon, I immediately ordered the book and I’ve been dipping into it over the past couple of days.

So far, I’ve read the chapter on FDR, and I’m going to read about JFK next. According to Ghaemi, both of these men had hyperthymic personalities: basically, they were upbeat, enthusiastic, energetic, and creative, because they tended to be somewhat hypomanic (a milder, less disabling form of the mania experienced by those with bipolar disorder). In addition, both FDR and JFK suffered from serious physical illnesses–FDR from polio and JFK from Addison’s disease. These illnesses and other adversities these two men faced enabled them to develop empathy for the suffering of ordinary people–even though they were both from privileged backgrounds. Ghaemi argues that people with slightly abnormal personalities are better leaders–particularly in times of crisis when great creativity, empathy, and resilience are needed. According to Ghaemi:

Many people who experience traumas [like terrorism or war] don’t develop PTSD or other illnesses. So the question is, what keeps those people from getting sick? What creates resilience? The psychological research suggests that personality is a major factor. Resilience seems to be associated with mild manic symptoms, but you can’t develop resilience unless you’ve already experienced trauma. Many of these leaders faced adversity in their childhood and adulthood, and that seemed to make them better able to handle crises. It’s like a vaccine. You get exposed to a little bit of a bacteria then you can handle major infections and I think trauma and resilience and hyperthymic personality seem to follow a similar path.

Ghaemi does not discuss Obama’s personality in the book, but Salon interviewer Thomas Rogers asked the author whether Obama may be too “sane” to be a successful President in our current time of crisis.

Obama’s persona is that of a very sane, rational person who is good at compromise — which is definitely how he sold himself during the debt ceiling crisis. Do you think Obama’s sanity is hurting his abilities as a leader?

I didn’t discuss Obama and other current leaders in the book, because there are documentation and confidentiality issues, and a lot of speculation would have to happen. That said, Obama has said himself that he thinks he’s very normal. This no-drama-Obama persona is meant to reassure people about his normality, but I think that when you look at his memoir there’s a sense of a much more complex and profound person who may have experienced a great deal of anxiety and maybe some depression growing up, being half-white half-African-American. The [sane] parts of his psychology may hinder his leadership in terms of not being creative, and that may not be as useful in a crisis. But to whatever extent he’s not fully completely average, he’ll have some psychological reservoir to draw on to think more creatively and realistically about the current situation.

I wish I could agree that Obama might learn to deal with the nation’s difficulties, but so far he doesn’t seem to learn anything from experience. Most of the leaders that Ghaemi discusses suffered from mood disorders–depression or bipolar disorder. Obama, on the other hand, appears to have a different kind of disorder–either Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder, or both.

Dakinikat alerted me to an interview with Ghaemi on NPR. I haven’t listened to it yet, but here’s the link.

Getting back to current news, this coming Saturday, Rick Perry plans to announce that he’s running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Rick Perry intends to use a speech in South Carolina on Saturday to make clear that he’s running for president, POLITICO has learned.

According to two sources familiar with the plan, the Texas governor will remove any doubt about his White House intentions during his appearance at a RedState conference in Charleston.

It’s uncertain whether Saturday will mark a formal declaration, but Perry’s decision to disclose his intentions the same day as the Ames straw poll — and then hours later make his first trip to New Hampshire — will send shock waves through the race and upend whatever results come out of the straw poll.

Immediately following his speech in South Carolina, Perry will make his New Hampshire debut at a house party at the Portsmouth-area home of a state representative, Pamela Tucker, the Union Leader reported Monday. Tucker was among the Granite Staters who went to Texas last week to encourage Perry to run.

What can I say? This is ghastly news. Think Progress is reporting that besides being a fundamentalist religious fanatic, Perry shares a similar problem to that of fellow wingnut Michele Bachmann–he has taken lots of Federal money in farm subsidies–$80,000, to be exact.

Verizon workers have gone out on strike–45,000 of them.

More than 45,000 workers from New England to Virginia went on strike just after midnight today at Verizon Communications. Since bargaining began July 22, Verizon has refused to move from a long list of concession demands. As the contract expired, Verizon, a $100 billion company, still was looking for $1 billion in concessions from 45,000 workers and families. That’s about $20,000 in givebacks for every family, nearly 100 concessionary proposals remained on the table.

This despite Verizon’s 2011 annualized revenues of $108 billion and net profits of $6 billion. At the same time, Verizon Wireless just paid its parent company, Vodaphone, a $10 billion dividend. Meanwhile, Verizon’s five top executives received $258 million over the past four years.

The workers, members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the Electrical Workers (IBEW), say they are striking until Verizon “stops its Wisconsin-style tactics and starts bargaining seriously.”

According to Reuters, both sides are accusing each other of bad acts:

The second day of a strike by Verizon workers turned ugly after union representatives accused managers of injuring three workers while driving past picket lines, and the phone giant complained of a spike in network sabotage cases.

[....]

Verizon complained of network sabotage cases in the same statement where it said some picketing workers were unlawfully blocking Verizon managers’ access to work centers.

A spokeswoman for the Communications Workers of America, representing 35,000 of the strikers, said the union “does not condone illegal action of any kind.” The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, representing 10,000 strikers, also said members “are expected to obey the law.”

However, the CWA said some picketing workers were hurt by Verizon managers’ cars and that one worker was knocked unconscious when he was clipped by the mirror of a manager’s car that was speeding past a picket line.

Dean Baker had a great piece at Truthout yesterday: The Economic Illiterates Step Up the Attack on Social Security and Medicare

The nonsense with the S&P downgrade is yet another distraction – after four months of haggling over the debt ceiling idiocy – from the real problem facing the country: a downturn that has left 25 million people unemployed, underemployed or out of the labor force altogether. Tens of millions of people are seeing their career hopes and family lives wrecked by the prospect of long-term unemployment.

The incredible part of this story is that the people who are responsible are all doing just fine, and most of them are still making policy. Furthermore, they are using their own incompetence as a weapon to argue that we have to take even more money from the poor and middle class, this time in the form of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

The basic story is that the economy needs demand. The housing bubble generated more than $1.4 trillion in annual demand through the construction and consumption that it spurred. Now that this demand is gone, there is nothing to replace it. President Obama’s stimulus was replaced by some of the lost demand, but it was nowhere near large enough. We tried to fill a $1.4 trillion hole in annual demand with around $300 billion in annual stimulus in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, most of this boost has been exhausted and the economy is coming to a near standstill.

If we had serious people in Washington, they would be talking about jobs programs, about rebuilding the infrastructure, about work sharing, and any other measure that could get people back to work quickly. However, instead of talking about ways to re-employ people, the fixation in Washington is reducing the deficit.

We’ve heard these arguments again and again (especially from our own Dakinikat), but they bear repeating until the ignorant Villagers get the message.

Remember the “rape cops” in New York–the ones who were found not guilty recently? Well, one of them finally got a tiny bit of justice. A judge sentenced Kenneth Moreno to one year in prison for official misconduct. But then another judge freed him.

Disgraced ex-cop Kenneth Moreno didn’t stay in jail for long.

A couple hours after an angry Manhattan judge flat-out called Moreno a liar Monday and dispatched him to Rikers Island to being a year-long prison sentence, an appeals court judge sprung him.

Moreno, acquitted in May of raping a bombed fashion executive while his partner served as lookout, was released on $125,000 bail by Appeals Court Judge Nelson Roman so he can appeal his conviction on official misconduct charges.

It was a startling turnabout for the 43-year-old Moreno, who Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro ordered remanded.

I sure hope he ends up serving at least some jail time.

Dakinikat sent me this article on a report (PDF) called How to Liberate American from Wall Street Rule. Here are the report’s basic recommendations:

How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule spells out details of a six-part policy agenda to rebuild a sensible system of community-based and accountable financial services institutions.

1. Break up the mega-banks and implement tax and regulatory policies that favor community financial institutions, with a preference for those organized as cooperatives or as for-profits owned by nonprofit foundations.

2. Establish state-owned partnership banks in each of the 50 states, patterned after the Bank of North Dakota. These would serve as depositories for state financial assets to use in partnership with community financial institutions to fund local farms and businesses.

3. Restructure the Federal Reserve to function under strict standards of transparency and public scrutiny, with General Accounting Office audits and Congressional oversight.

4. Direct all new money created by the Federal Reserve to a Federal Recovery and Reconstruction Bank rather than the current practice of directing it as a subsidy to Wall Street banks. The FRRB would have a mandate to fund essential green infrastructure projects as designated by Congress.

5. Rewrite international trade and investment rules to support national ownership, economic self-reliance, and economic self-determination.

6. Implement appropriate regulatory and fiscal measures to secure the integrity of financial markets and the money/banking system.

Finally, in case you missed it, I want to call your attention to this article that commenter The Rock linked to last night: Hillary Told You So

At a New York political event last week, Republican and Democratic office-holders were all bemoaning President Obama’s handling of the debt-ceiling crisis when someone said, “Hillary would have been a better president.”

“Every single person nodded, including the Republicans,” reported one observer.

At a luncheon in the members’ dining room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday, a 64-year-old African-American from the Bronx was complaining about Obama’s ineffectiveness in dealing with the implacable hostility of congressional Republicans when an 80-year-old lawyer chimed in about the president’s unwillingness to stand up to his opponents. “I want to see blood on the floor,” she said grimly.

A 61-year-old white woman at the table nodded. “He never understood about the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy,’” she said.

Looking as if she were about to cry, an 83-year-old Obama supporter shook her head. “I’m so disappointed in him,” she said. “It’s true: Hillary is tougher.”

Go read the whole thing. That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about? Please share.


A Violent Date Rape; A Troubling Outcome.

How do prosecutors decide which rapes to take to court? Is the deck already stacked against some rape victims? These are two of the questions Anna North tries to answer in her fine two-part article at Jezabel about a young graduate student at the University of Iowa. Rebecca Epstein turned to North to tell her story, because a prosecutor refused to give her a chance to face her rapist in court. Epstein insisted that her real name be used in the article.

Warning: Please be aware that some of the material discussed below may be disturbing to some.

In part 1, “How a Rape Case Went Off the Rails,” describes the crime and its consequences:

Epstein…told me she was violently anally raped on the night of February 16, by a man she had been on a date with, in his apartment. She stayed at the apartment for about an hour afterward, fearful that he might hurt her further if she left. During this time, she had vaginal intercourse with him, which she describes as nonconsensual but nonviolent. When she felt it was safe to leave, she went to a hospital and had a rape kit done. The next day, she filed a police report. She says detectives were largely respectful in their treatment of the case.

Now here comes the really creepy part. The man who raped Epstein wrote a letter to her not long after the crime. The letter is in some ways even more disturbing than the violent crime the writer committed. In the letter, he tries to justify what he did by implying that he’s really a nice guy who respects women. He says that Epstein should have told him ahead of time that if she said no it really meant NO. He tells her she didn’t fight hard enough, so he didn’t realize she didn’t want it. You can read lengthy quotes from this disturbing letter at the link, but here’s one shocking quote:

Of the alleged rape, he writes, “Clearly, you did not enjoy it [...] But you must believe that I believed with all my heart and soul at the time that you were overcoming your reluctance, and trying to get into it.” He adds,

I hope intensely that this letter has made you see that I am not malicious or misogynistic, and that I’ve strived earnestly to respond to your needs and desires. It may be too late for me, but I hope that in the future, when playing rough with a guy, these explanations might guide better behavior. For example, we should have agreed at the very beginning upon a safety word that would mean explicitly: “this no does not mean you can keep trying or that I’m reluctant, it means you better shut it the fuck down.” If we had such a word, and you used it, there would be no confusion and I would never, ever have violated it.

WTF?! I wonder how many times this guy pulled this with women? He even suggests the possibility that they could get together and “play again.”

Epstein says this man “choked” her and “pinned [her] down.” In addition, she said “my ribs are all fucked up, possibly broken, my ankle is sprained, i hurt all over, i’m bloody.”

But a month after the attack, Epstein was told by Asst. County Attorney Anne Lahey that she was not going to have the rapist arrested or prosecuted. There is disagreement between Epstein and Lahey as to why and how this decision was reached. Epstein has bipolar disorder and she claims that was one factor. The fact that she stayed in the rapist’s apartment afterward was another.

Says Epstein,

She said that an Iowa jury would see my behavior as too promiscuous and crazy, and they would judge me and side with the defendant. She also said she didn’t think there was a very good chance I would win, so she was trying to protect me by not putting me through it, and I indicated that I would rather go through it and lose than not be able to face him in court.

Lahey was unconvinced. Epstein says she finally asked, “so you’re saying that because I have a mental illness, anyone who rapes me basically gets a free pass?” She says Lahey replied, “Yes.”

Lahey claims that Epstein’s psychological disorder was not a factor in the decision, but would not say what the alternative reasons were.

In part 2 of the Jezabel article, North investigated whether in fact women with psychological disorders were less likely to receive justice after being raped.
A number of experts confirmed that this may be the case. For example:

I talked to Karla Miller, Executive Director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program. She told me that county attorneys can be reluctant to prosecute rape cases in which the victim has mental illness, due to concerns that the jury won’t see the victim as credible. If that’s the case, she said that victims can be “revictimized” by defense attorneys who make their illness — and any other vulnerabilities they can think of — an issue in the trial. Miller explained that if an attorney felt such revictimization might occur, it could be a good decision not to prosecute, but that this decision was “case-dependent.” She added that it was “absolutely not” fair that people with mental illnesses had a harder time getting justice.

Miller also noted, chillingly, that some rapists actually target people with mental illnesses or other disabilities, because they know victims with these conditions will have a harder time taking them to court.

It is definitely true that rapists, who are predators, choose potential victims who are vulnerable. They tend to attack smaller, weaker women and women they sense are psychologically troubled.

I just want to say that I don’t like the terms “mental illness” and “mentally ill.” In the field, the term is “psychological disorder.” There is no illness that is strictly physical or “mental,” including cancer and heart disease.

Some psychological disorders are very serious–like schizophrenia, some don’t interfere that much with a person’s life once she gets help from medication and/or therapy. Bipolar disorder is a very manageable issue, and people with this disorder usually are not out of touch with reality. They simply have wider mood swings than a typical person.

Juries need to be educated about rape and about psychological disorders. I realize that defense attorneys will use anything to discredit a victim, but Rebecca Epstein wanted to face her attacker in court and tell her story. I think it’s very likely that the prosecutor in this case was fearful that a jury would be biased against Epstein not only because this was a date rape, but also because she suffers from bipolar disorder.

That is just plain wrong. Now the man who raped Epstein will continue to behave as he did with Epstein. He now knows he can get away with rape, especially if he chooses a victim with psychological issues. He will rape more women. Every women who comes in contact with him is in danger. And his name is a secret so far.