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.

43 Comments on “Tuesday Reads”

  1. northwestrain says:

    I noted an error — not yours but the quote from Ghaemi above. obowman is NOT African American — his wife is. 0bowma is half white and half Kenyan. 0bowma grew up in Hawaii. Culturally 0bowma was raised upper middle class — and really had limited contact with “lower” classes. He is quite devoid of innate or learned empathy.

    Good that Ghaemi distances himself from obowma’s books of fiction.

    Now on to read the rest of the Tuesday reads.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Ghaemi is deluded if he thinks Obama is “complex and profound” too, but a lot of the intellectual class in the U.S. is probably still in deep denial about Obama.

      Ghaemi says some odd things about George W. Bush too. Calls him “middle class” for one thing. If the Bush family isn’t in the ruling class, what family is? Bush is also an alcoholic and therefore does not have a “normal” personality, as Ghaemi claims. Alcoholism is a psychological disorder according to the DSM IV and it also tends to run in families along with mood disorders.

      Nevertheless, the book is really interesting. Nobody’s perfect…

      • northwestrain says:

        The book is on my to read list — it sounds very interesting.

        I have a detailed personality profile of JFK somewhere in my files — done by one of the fathers of profiling. I wonder how the two compare??

        And yes — I agree GWB is not middle class and he never was. GWB made some rather famous jokes about not being middle class but rather very upper class. Bush has also remarked that his dear mom made a great effort to keep her kids isolated from the “lower” classes.

      • madaha says:

        yeah, re. Obama, it’s like what Seinfeld said about Newman: “there’s not more than meets the eye. There’s less”.


        He was on Colbert last night, and was even more obviously an Obama apologist, but oh well.

        This is such an interesting topic, and thanks for hat tipping me! ❤

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thanks for telling me about the book. It’s really fascinating!

      • bostonboomer says:

        That IS funny! I’m reading the chapter on JFK right now, and it’s fascinating. I had no idea how serious Addison’s disease is. He didn’t even know what he had. He almost died several times.

    • WomanVoter says:

      I am going to buy this book. Thanks for letting us know about it and thanks to BB (especially the highlights).

  2. bostonboomer says:

    London riots escalate and spread to other cities.


    • bostonboomer says:

      This will happen here eventually. It’s like 1968. Clearly Obama is too young to remember those years when American cities burned.

      • northwestrain says:

        I think 0bowma was in Indonesia in the late 60s — so he would have been too young and out of touch. Then he was in Hawaii — and again missed out on the doings in the states.

        That was a wild time — I remember the news — Vietnam and the riots. Push people too far and something is going to give.

      • Delphyne says:

        I remember those times – I was working in Newark at my first real job when the riots happened. Not pretty.

    • WomanVoter says:

      Philadelphia mayor cracks down on youth flash mobs
      By Dave Warner

      PHILADELPHIA | Mon Aug 8, 2011 4:19pm EDT

      (Reuters) – Mayor Michael Nutter announced a youth curfew in Philadelphia on Monday in response to flash mobs that rioted and beat store owners, saying parents would be held as responsible as their out-of-control children.

  3. northwestrain says:

    Check out the chart at the link — page down for the chart comparing world wealth and world derivatives from 1998 to 2007. Banks fail — bail outs and this chart.


  4. Ron4Hills says:

    Remember back in 2008 when the economy was melting down and Grandpa McCain said let’s put the campaign aside for a minute and come togehter in Washington for the good of the country. O-bam-bam and his mindless Obots mocked him for panicking, and his oh-so-coolness couldn’t be bothered. He had speeches to give! So why is anyone surprised at Obama’s totally superficial response to this crisis? He has been showing his true colors right along.

  5. Branjor says:

    Is music a new feature of Sky Dancing’s main page?

    • bostonboomer says:

      It was coming from Minx’s post from last night. I put in a page break to stop it.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        Thanks BB, my DSL from Windstream is at a speed of 0.13 Mb/s and is way low from what Windstream is supposed to provide, which is 54 Mb/s. So my pages are not loading fully, and I did not know the video was playing like that. Thanks again.

      • bostonboomer says:

        No biggie.

      • Pilgrim says:

        Thank you, BostonBoomer — for stopping the noise, and writing good stuff.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Is Obama Smart? A case study in stupid is as stupid does

    Socrates taught that wisdom begins in the recognition of how little we know. Mr. Obama is perpetually intent on telling us how much he knows. Aristotle wrote that the type of intelligence most needed in politics is prudence, which in turn requires experience. Mr. Obama came to office with no experience. Plutarch warned that flattery “makes itself an obstacle and pestilence to great houses and great affairs.” Today’s White House, more so than any in memory, is stuffed with flatterers.

    Much is made of the president’s rhetorical gifts. This is the sort of thing that can be credited only by people who think that a command of English syntax is a mark of great intellectual distinction. Can anyone recall a memorable phrase from one of Mr. Obama’s big speeches that didn’t amount to cliché? As for the small speeches, such as the one we were kept waiting 50 minutes for yesterday, we get Triple-A bromides about America remaining a “Triple-A country.” Which, when it comes to long-term sovereign debt, is precisely what we no longer are under Mr. Obama.

    Then there is Mr. Obama as political tactician. He makes predictions that prove false. He makes promises he cannot honor. He raises expectations he cannot meet. He reneges on commitments made in private. He surrenders positions staked in public. He is absent from issues in which he has a duty to be involved. He is overbearing when he ought to be absent.

    • Delphyne says:

      That is one great article – thanks for the link, BB!

      • bostonboomer says:

        The guy is obviously a conservative, but he’s still dead on about Obama’s lack of brainpower.

      • Pilgrim says:

        He said what I’ve thought for a long time, Obama not nearly as smart as he makes himself out to be.

    • northwestrain says:

      what a hoot!!!! I just read that.

      Da kine emperor has no clothes.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      Here is something from Der Spiegel, pay attention to the last line:
      The Indecisive President: Obama’s Weakness Is a Problem for the Global Economy – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International

      The debate is transforming Obama’s problem into one for the entire US. “Can America still lead?” asks Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr.. Millions of people around the world had hoped in vain that Obama “would restore the United States to a position of responsible global leadership,” Dionne writes. “America’s friends overseas know that the debt crisis was instigated by Obama’s opponents. Yet they worry now about how strong Obama is, whether he will draw lines and if he can seize back the initiative.”

      Indeed, the rest of the world is displaying its uncertainty in a relatively open manner. Christine Lagarde, the new head of the International Monetary Fund, has warned that the fundamental belief in America’s economic strength could be permanently undermined. Others can’t resist showing schadenfreude. In a strongly worded editorial, Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, advised American leaders to show “some sense of global responsibility.” Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin went even further, publicly accusing the US of “living like parasites off the global economy.”

      But that kind of schadenfreude is strangely shortsighted. Because it is precisely now, in the middle of a serious crisis, that the planet needs a determined voice in Washington — a city which is still in many ways the world capital.

      Weak leadership could cost Obama the next election. But it is not just a problem for the US president. Neither is it just a problem for America. Obama’s weakness is a problem for the entire global economy.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        It’s amazing that 2 1/2 years into his presidency people are begging Obama to “act” like a leader.

        We have become accustomed to lectures and stump speeches but see nothing of “action” coming forth from Obama other than “what could I do?” when faced with the intransient GOP.

        One thing he could have done was to promote the specter of the 14th amendment in calling their bluff and shown some qualities of leadership rather then relying on the bromide of “I had no other choice”.

        Sure you did. You just refused to use something within your arsenal that would at least give the impression of leadership rather than someone occupying the WH as a “house sitter”.

        • Minkoff Minx says:

          Exactly, but I still think the man is doing just as he wanted, because the man is really a Republican…in addition to being a suck ass leader. But now I am seeing more foreign press/opinions that his ineptitude is affecting their economies as well…That is going to be the new meme, GW put the US in a shit because of his tax cuts and spending and Obama put the world in a shit because of his lack of leadership and plain stupid unfounded economic policies…oh and also that crap about extending the tax cuts for the rich…Obama is an ass.

    • madaha says:

      that’s a good one. And I’ve said it before, but will say it again: there was nothing ever impressive about his so-called “rhetoric skills”.

      I never understood what people were supposedly seeing there.

    • djmm says:

      Yes, it is a great read: the WSJ has the gloves off. Here is another, comparing Presidents Obama and Carter:



  7. bostonboomer says:

    Paul Krugman August 8, 2011, 2:51 pm

    The Downgrade Doom Loop

    It’s not the whole story, but something like this threatens to develop:

    1. US debt is downgraded, sparking demands for more ill-advised fiscal austerity

    2. Fears that this austerity will depress the economy send stocks down

    3. Politicians and pundits declare that worries about US solvency are the culprit, even though interest rates have actually plunged

    4. This leads to calls for even more ill-advised austerity, which sends us back to #2

    Behold the power of a stupid narrative, which seems impervious to evidence.

  8. Gregory says:

    About Perry. I live in Texas and he has been better than W as a Governor. Still, while he used to seem normal he has went off on the crazy train the last year or so and has seemingly morphed into Mr. Theology overnight. For the most part Republicans in my area actually loathe the man. I guess he is to “liberal” for them. Unfortunately, they all vote for the guy election after election.

    A word to all our fellow citizens. The Texas Governor has no real power and is largely a figurehead. Quit voting for politicians from this state. They are not prepared to be President of the U.S. They don’t understand any of the real issues. They don’t understand economic policy. They don’t understand diplomacy. And they don’t understand that there are consequences to their actions, both good and bad.

    Now, Perry is clearly superior to Obama on every front regardless of ideology. He will put the country and its citizens 1st and he will try to do what is right. I have no concerns about this. At least Perry understands the value of NASA and the value of keeping us as a world power and technologically superior to our rivals.

    • bostonboomer says:

      It’s hard to do those things if your party doesn’t believe in taxation or government spending.

      • Gregory says:

        I think it is very clear that the record demonstrates Republicans are not averse to spending and spending big. What they are is the guy that wants to horde all of his money for years and chides everyone else for not saving and then in one fell swoop goes to Vegas and blows it all on slot machines and roulette. They are, perhaps the most financially irresponsible group of people ever conglomerated into a political party. Now, I’m not voting for Perry under any circumstance but when there is a Republican in the big seat they have no problem spending like drunken sailors. They only do this fiscal conservative crap when a Dem is in office so they can undermine him. It is why I think that political party needs to be disbanded and go away forever.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        According to Preacher Rick, all we need do is to “pray” our way out of this mess and all will be well once again in the good old U.S. of Christiandom.

        Prayer is not going to do it. Only a pragmatist who honestly understands how the government actually works and is willing to take risks in order to achieve that solution is going to be able to make a difference.

        FDR anyone? None of the present “leaders” from either end of the political spectrum is capable of doing what is needed. That’s what happens when “power trips” and party loyalty trumps commonsense.

    • Gregory says:

      Wow! Your posting machine must be broken. There is no way I put “their” instead of “there” in that post. LOL! 🙂 Sorry about the typo.

  9. joanelle says:

    thanks for this BB – great post, loaded with good info and conversation.

  10. dakinikat says:

    Nebraska AG Jon Bruning Compares Welfare Recipients To Scavenging Racoons http://tpm.ly/pbGXmy

    • Gregory says:

      I am not surprised these folks think this way. I think they’ve completely dehumanized poor people. These people care more about their putter than they do other human beings. The really amazing thing to me is that they call themselves “Christian” when their personal doctrine is the polar opposite of what Jesus allegedly taught. I don’t even think their personal dogma is even conducive with the Old Testament.

  11. dakinikat says:

    Wow, some one needs some therapy: Arnold Schwarzenegger Wears ‘I Survived Maria’ T-Shirt http://bit.ly/nWRKrK

  12. Linda says:

    It sounds like an interesting book, BB. The questions that came to my mind as I was reading the comments above were:

    Does the book take into account behavior due to pain meds?
    Is the information new, scientific or profoundly compelling?

    I recall Churchill’s lifelong struggle with headaches and a paraphrased comment along the lines of 90% of work produced by 10% of the people who feel bad. (Though I have been unable to find it on the net today.)

    As a lifelong headache sufferer myself, it seems a normal pathway to treat the pain often found in the public forum as analogous to body pain. Then too, when the pain is gone it’s far easier to be cheerful or even exuberant.

    Churchill said this:

    “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

    Help me out here: I would think that if you have pain you understand pain, ergo, you have empathy. However, what you do with this empathy is another issue and defines your human view. Sadists have empathy, they just use it differently.