Friday Freak Out Reads: Orange Shit Gibbon democratizes “Toxic Stress”

Image result for relax poster vintageGood Morning Sky Dancers!

I remember the days of being part of the Katrina Diaspora. I spent most of it on the sofa of a friend in Omaha watching endless live coverage on CNN wondering if they would ever figure out the difference between the lower and the upper ninth ward and if all this carnage meant my little kathouse was gone. Finally, satellite photos were released and I happily saw the roof of my house and no water any where.

But, six weeks in a place you vowed you would never return to while not knowing when they’d let you go home is not a pleasant experience. At some point, my late great friend Jane introduced me to binging Law and Order episodes plus the various spins offs like Major Crimes, Criminal Intent, and SVU instead of stressing myself with Anderson Cooper daily. Some how it was quite comforting to watch a program where there were good cops and they always caught the really really bad guys no matter what their position in society. I especially love SVU. It was one way I could relax. I later turned to disaster movies and survival series when I got home, but that’s another story.

Lady with the Dog, Relaxing on the Lawn Konstantin Somov

I am back binging SVU and Criminal Intent. This is probably why: “How Trump is democratising toxic stress. The US president will probably leave America considerably less mentally healthy” via the UK Financial Times and Edward Lucas. We all just need to admit that having a person with multiple personality disorders, a godfather mentality and swagger, and a bigoted, hateful agenda has us all feeling like a big huge battered family.

A few days ago a psychologist friend told me something that was at once startling and unsurprising; she is seeing far more patients than before Donald Trump was elected — and they tend to be suffering from deeper anxiety. Some people call this the Trump Anxiety Syndrome (TAD), or Post Trump Stress Syndrome (PTSD). People of a more Trumpian flavour might dismiss it as Liberal Snowflake Disorder (LSD), or old-fashioned anecdotal exaggeration. I concede that there is no definitive data to back it up. Other than rising anti-anxiety Xanax prescriptions and surveys such as this from the American Psychiatric Association, it is hard to find incontrovertible statistics. Moreover, some of the deteriorating social indicators, such as rising suicide rates (which in 2017 hit a post-second world war high), and falling life expectancy, precede Trump’s election, even if they have got worse since he took office.

Blaming everything on Trump is facile. Yet omitting him from the equation would be just as mistaken. My own view is that Trump will leave America considerably less mentally healthy than how he found it. His election was the product of an increasingly anxious society. But we find ourselves collectively far more anxious as a result. Trump is a rocket-booster to our toxic stress. He is a cure worse than the disease.

Medical professionals will tell you that acute stress tends to be self-perpetuating. The more we worry, the less we sleep. The shorter our fuses, the worse our decisions. And so on. That is as true of the body politic as it is at the personal level. Individuals can at least ask their doctor for medication. Unfortunately there is no such thing as Xanax for society as a whole. Liberal democracy cannot consult a doctor. The nearest thing America used to have to help them deal with collective stress was a unifying presidential figure. Whether it was FDR after Pearl Harbor, Reagan after the Challenger shuttle exploded, Clinton after the Oklahoma bombing, or even George W Bush after 9/11, most US presidents at least tried play the role of healers-in-chief. Trump does not even make the pretence. He seeks to profit from divisions by exacerbating them. Where others see fear, Trump smells opportunity. That is his re-election strategy. He is good at it. But it comes at a deep social cost. His strategy depends on keeping people at each other’s throats. It makes all of us, including his critics, less thoughtful and more contemptuous.

Two dancers relaxing (pastel) – Edgar Degas

This is true for every one I know and I hear this all the time. Here’s another take via WAPO and Daniel W. Drenzer; “Donald Trump is stressing out America. Why the economy doesn’t help the president as much as he thinks.”

If the economy is doing well but average Americans aren’t feeling it, that is bad news for Trump. And looking beyond the economy, there is an awful lot of evidence suggesting that Americans are not feeling too well. The polling data is one obvious metric. According to Gallup, in 2018, more Americans were stressed, worried and angry than at any point in the last 12 years. That is extraordinary when you consider that the past dozen years includes the 2008 financial crisis and multiple terrorist attacks. Furthermore, American stress levels are among the highest in the world. Seriously, Americans were as stressed as Iranians and more stressed than citizens of Rwanda, Turkey, and Venezuela. That’s nuts.

Does Trump have anything to do with this? It is difficult to determine causality, but the data is pretty suggestive. Trump inspires a whole host of negative reactions in most Americans. Pew polled Americans in the spring and asked them to describe how Trump’s comments and statements made them feel. The top seven responses, in order: concerned (76 percent), confused (70 percent), embarrassed (69 percent), exhausted (67 percent), angry (65 percent), insulted (62 percent) and frightened (56 percent). I am not a psychologist, but I would reckon that there might be something going on here. If these are the dominant emotions that Trump elicits, and if Trump is everywhere, then hey, it’s going to stress a lot of Americans out!

Even more concrete evidence has come to light in the past week. As my Post colleagues William Wan and Lindsey Bever reported recently, “Researchers have begun to identify correlations between Trump’s election and worsening cardiovascular health, sleep problems, anxiety and stress, especially among Latinos in the United States.” One disturbing JAMA study looked at premature births, an easily quantifiable metric of stress during pregnancy. After analyzing approximately 33 million births between 2009 and 2017 researchers found 3 percent more preterm births than expected among Latina women in the nine months after the election.

It’s not just Latina women who are feeling the stress of America under Trump. The Boston Globe’s Zoe Greenberg reports that psychologists are having to treat a number of anxiety-related maladies among minority clients, including insomnia and hypervigilance. When they dig deeper, the underlying cause becomes apparent:

As Trump doubles down on attacks against the four women of color in Congress known as “The Squad,” which includes Omar and Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, some people of color in the Boston area describe a psychological toll that the episodes, and Trump’s frequent overt hostility, have had on their daily lives — not just this month, but in the many months since the 2016 presidential campaign began.

Some have tried to guard themselves against the everyday tumult coming from the White House; others have become more vocal in politics. Some have found a grim silver lining, because the scourge of racism that some white people recently claimed had disappeared is now impossible to ignore or explain away. Many said it reminds them of other dark moments of personal and national history, when racial hostility and tension reared up….

“We have now 20 years of research that connects racism with just about every mental health issue that has been studied,” said Monnica Williams, a professor and the director of the laboratory for Culture and Mental Health Disparities at the University of Connecticut. The effect of “vicarious racism” — seeing, for example, videos of police shootings of unarmed black men, or hearing chants of “Send her back!” — has not been studied as much, according to Jessica Graham-LoPresti, an assistant professor of psychology at Suffolk University, but social media indicates the experience is certainly on the rise.

“People are being now not only exposed to their own experiences of racism, but they’re being vicariously exposed to everyone’s experience of racism,” she said, adding that patients often exhibit symptoms very similar to those from post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as depression and social anxiety.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby “Predeccessors” detail.

Well, there’s the evidence that it’s true, it’s true. He’s driving us all crazy and making us nervous wrecks to the detriment of our mental, emotional and physical health.. The crazy thing is he can brag all he wants about the economy but it’s not doing as well as he promised or as it appears to people not familiar with the underlying economics.

Trump promised these huge growth rates and he’s failed to deliver. The coverage of downward revision in economic performance for 2018 is from Bloomberg and Rich Miller And, of course he’ll lie about it and scream that some one is cheating, because, well that’s what he does in his daily Gas Light the Nation tweets. These growth rates are pretty average during the peak of a boom. Remember. this boom did not start recently but somewhere during the last recovery and the Obama years.

President Donald Trump failed to achieve his much-ballyhooed 3% target for economic growth in 2018 after all.

Updated government figures show that gross domestic product expanded 2.5% on a fourth-quarter-over-fourth-quarter basis last year. That compares with a previous estimate of 3% and an upwardly revised 2.8% in 2017, the first year of Trump’s presidency.

Behind the 2018 markdown: Slower growth of business investment and exports, along with a greater output in the fourth quarter of 2017 that made the comparison less favorable.

“Relax on the beach ” Edward Henry Pottast

Meanwhile, it appears that Republicans under Trump and McConnell will not be taking any interest in stopping Russian interference in elections. Why should they? It works so well for them.

Today’s NYT outlines Russian interference in the 2016 election in all 50 states. Can we just keep saying the election was stolen from Hillary quite loudly until Trump dies of a massive coronary or something?

The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded Thursday that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia in 2016, an effort more far-reaching than previously acknowledged and one largely undetected by the states and federal officials at the time.

But while the bipartisan report’s warning that the United States remains vulnerable in the next election is clear, its findings were so heavily redacted at the insistence of American intelligence agencies that even some key recommendations for 2020 were blacked out.

The report — the first volume of several to be released from the committee’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference — came 24 hours after the former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III warned that Russia was moving again to interfere “as we sit here.”

While details of many of the hackings directed by Russian intelligence, particularly in Illinois and Arizona, are well known, the committee described “an unprecedented level of activity against state election infrastructure” intended largely to search for vulnerabilities in the security of the election systems.

Noon – Rest from Work (after Millet) Vincent Van Gogh

McConnell has stopped bipartisan legislation to do something more about this (via The Hill). He announced that the Orange Shit Gibbon had done enough already and nothing to see here. I’m not a fan of Joe Scarborough but I do agree with his characterization of “Moscow” MItch. All of this keeps me wondering what exactly did the Russians get when they hacked the RNC?

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Friday lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling him “Moscow Mitch” over his inaction on legislation to address Russian election interference.

Scarborough made the comments about the Kentucky Republican during a segment on “Morning Joe” after McConnell blocked two election security measures. The hashtag #MoscowMitch quickly began trending on Twitter following his comments.

Scarborough, a former GOP lawmaker, called McConnell’s actions “un-American.”

“How can Moscow Mitch so willingly turn a blind eye not only this year to what his Republican chairman of the Intel Committee is saying, to what Robert Mueller is saying, to what the FBI director is saying, to what the DNI [director of national intelligence] is saying, to what the CIA is saying, to what the United States military intel community is saying,” Scarborough asked.

“How can Moscow Mitch keep denying that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin continues to try to subvert American democracy?”

Scarborough accused McConnell of “aiding and abetting Vladimir Putin’s ongoing attempts to subvert American democracy” and said it was “un-American” for McConnell to block the Senate from taking up election security legislation.

#MoscowMitch is trending on Twitter right now.

This is from the Raw Story article cited in the above Twitter.

Reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked two bills aimed at helping to secure America’s election process from Russian interference infuriated Twitter commenters with his action — or inaction — coming right after ex-special counsel Robert Mueller testified that the Kremlin will seek to interfere just as they did in 2016.

The Senate majority leader blocked two election security bills twice this week and commenters were quick to note that the Republican leader also prevented the Obama administration from warning Americans about Russian meddling in 2016.

With the 2020 election right around the corner, McConnell’s decision to look the other way had one Twitter user calling him “Putin’s other puppet” — a reference to a nickname aimed at Donald Trump who was helped in his 2016 presidential run by Vladimir Putin.

Buddha Relaxing Buddha by Artist Renu Thomas

Oh dear, now have to start doing my mantras again while popping Valerian Root. Tomorrow is Saturday and an entire day of SUV. Until then … om mani padme hum … om mani padme hum … now where is one of my comfort furbabies? Temple? Keely? Dinah? om mani padme hum!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?