Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

244497_rgb_1536Tonight Trump and Biden will meet in the second and final debate before the November 3rd election. I plan to watch, at least for a little while, in case Trump spontaneously combusts or strokes out in a rage over his mike being muted. The New York Times has the basics on how to watch

The second and final debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes place on Thursday from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern. Here are some of the many ways you can watch it:

  — The Times will livestream the debate, and our reporters will provide commentary and analysis.

  — The debate will be televised on channels including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, C-SPAN, PBS, Fox News and MSNBC.

  — Many news outlets, including ABCCBSNBCPBSFox News and C-SPAN, will stream the debate on YouTube.

A debate preview from the AP: Face to face: Trump and Biden to meet for final debate.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, are set to square off in their final debate Thursday, one of the last high-profile opportunities for the trailing incumbent to change the trajectory of an increasingly contentious campaign.

244551_rgb_768Worried about losing the White House, some advisers are urging Trump to trade his aggressive demeanor from the first debate for a lower-key style that puts Biden more squarely in the spotlight. But it’s unclear whether the president will listen….

Trump on Tuesday called on Attorney General William Barr to immediately launch an investigation into unverified claims about Biden and his son Hunter, effectively demanding that the Justice Department muddy his political opponent and abandon its historic resistance to getting involved in elections.

The president has promoted an unconfirmed New York Post report published last week that cites an email in which an official from Ukrainian gas company Burisma thanked Hunter Biden, who served on the company’s board, for arranging for him to meet Joe Biden during a 2015 visit to Washington. The Biden campaign has rejected Trump’s assertion of wrongdoing and noted that Biden’s schedule did not show a meeting with the Burisma official.

Trump’s attacks on the Biden family have been relentless, including his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, which led to Trump’s impeachment. It’s part of a determined, yet so-far-unsuccessful effort to drive up his opponent’s negatives, as he did with Hillary Clinton four years ago….

While Biden will defend his own record and his son, aides have said, he hopes to focus on making the case that Trump is unfit for office and let the nation down during a confluence of crises.

As the article notes, Biden has spent the past few days preparing for the debate; Trump has been holding superspreader rallies and raging at Lesley Stahl after she apparently asked him some tough questions in an interview for CBS’s 60 Minutes.

sb101920daprIt must have been really awful for Trump, because he cut the interview short and didn’t return for a scheduled “walk and talk” with Stahl and VP Pence. Right after the interview ended, Trump began attacking Stahl on Twitter. Forbes: Trump Attacks ‘60 Minutes’ Host Lesley Stahl After Reportedly Cutting Interview Short.

Trump tweeted a video of Stahl not wearing a mask while interacting with several people, writing, “Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes not wearing a mask in the White House after her interview with me. Much more to come.”

Trump then threatened to post the interview in advance of its airing so that “everybody can get a glimpse of what a FAKE and BIASED interview is all about,” adding, “Everyone should compare this terrible Electoral Intrusion with the recent interviews of Sleepy Joe Biden!”

Sources familiar with the interview told Forbes the video was taken after the interview with the CBS team, who had all been tested, and that Stahl had a mask on leading into the interview….

The incident comes as Trump and his allies have become increasingly critical of the questioning he receives from the press, with Trump accusing NBC’s Savannah Guthrie of “going totally crazy” in response to her tough line of questioning during a town hall last week.

This morning Trump tweeted:

I cant wait to hear those “magnificently brilliant” responses.

60 Minutes released short clips from the Biden and Trump interviews this morning.

At The Washington Post, Greg Sargent tries to explain Trump’s inexplicable behavior: Why Trump’s endgame is to rage at Lesley Stahl.

Why would Trump squander his final chance to close his big polling gap with Joe Biden on unhinged public fights rather than on winning back voters who’ve been alienated by exactly these sorts of meltdowns?

The fact that this comes after Trump waged a public assault on Anthony S. Fauci, his own leading infectious-disease expert, only seems to compound the folly here, since voters are surely looking to the popular Fauci for advice with the coronavirus again spiking around the country.

But in a very real sense people such as Stahl and Fauci actually are the chief opponents Trump must contend with in the campaign’s final days. They are the figures he perceives to be standing in the way of his effort to conduct this campaign in an entirely invented universe that he’d hoped to manufacture for this very purpose.

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon - tt_c_c201018.tif

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon

Trump unloaded on Stahl at a rally on Tuesday night, showing that he’s still stewing about an interview he did with “60 Minutes,” which is set to air on Sunday but apparently went very badly.

“You have to watch what we do to ‘60 Minutes,’” Trump seethed. “You’ll get such a kick out of it. You’re gonna get a kick out of it. Lesley Stahl is not gonna be happy.”

This appears to be a reference to Trump’s threat to release the full footage of the interview before edited parts air. It’s not clear what that would prove, but Trumpworld is all in: White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows just told Fox News that it would show Stahl “came across more like an opinion journalist than a real reporter.”

Of course the real explanation is that Trump is looney tunes, coo-coo for Cocopuffs, and completely off his rocker.

This is a very good explanatory piece at Psychology Today by Richard E. Cytowic, a professor of Neurology at George Washington University, that addresses Trump’s odd gait, forward-leaning stance, and other behavioral symptoms that many people have noticed.

We Are Entitled to Ask President Trump for His Brain Scan.

President Trump’s pre-COVID halting gait, bent posture, and jerking right arm have caused much speculation on social media. Armchair critics, without any apparent medical background, have freely diagnosed him as having a series of mini-strokes, frontotemporal dementia, or other neurological illness such as the Lewy Body dementia that afflicted comedian and actor Robin Williams….

1_6-MPRi55oBECO6mrZEQfAgTrump’s forward-listing posture—illustrated by nearly every political cartoonist—was initially attributed to the high-heeled elevator shoes readily observed in photographs. But his torso leans so markedly off-center that it suggests the possibility of a neurological problem rather than vanity. In medical terms the Bent Spine Syndrome is called camptocormia, first documented in the 17th century by Francisco de Zurbaran, a Spanish painter. The mean age of onset is 65 years (Trump is 74).

While most frequently observed in Parkinson’s Disease, the bent posture so evident in Trump may also be seen in Alzheimer’s Dementia, movement disorders of the basal ganglia, and as the side effect of certain medications. 

Also noted are the sudden, jerking movements of Trump’s right arm. Since they occur only on one side, the prefix “hemi” is applied, while “ballistic” means sudden or flinging in the manner of a projectile. Trump’s hemiballistic arm movements are evident in news clips from Memorial Day (also here via C-Span) at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as are his uncontrolled swaying and forward tilt. He is seen to grab his wayward arm with the left one in an effort to keep it under control.

It is common for affected individuals to incorporate the flinging into deliberate movements such as scratching or smoothing the hair as if to make them less noticeable.

Sort of like Dr. Strangelove . . .

On Trump’s “Apparent arm weakness, slurred Speech, and odd circular gait” Cytowic writes:

Evaluating gait and muscle strength is always part of the neurological exam because posture and locomotion call on vast swaths of brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. In June 2020, the president spoke at the West Point graduation ceremony. When he paused to take a sip of water, it appeared that his right arm couldn’t lift the glass all the way. As seen in this C–Span clip, he used his left hand to push it up from the bottom until it met his lips. During his address, you hear slurred speech and mispronunciation of well-known historical names such as Ulysses S. Grant and Douglas MacArthur.

When it came time to exit, Trump hesitantly edged down the ramp. He appeared to have difficulty raising his right leg sufficiently to clear it, as video spread of his struggle on the Drudge Report and major news sites. In September, as Trump walks down the White House driveway to meet the press, you see a clear example of the inability to gain adequate clearance for the right foot to swing normally. To compensate, he abducts his thigh and swings the leg in a semicircle: This is the circumducted gait, or spastic hemiparesis, the most common abnormal gait in neurology. Other photos show his right foot turned in, or inverted, which is part of the hemiparetic gait.

The fact that the leg makes a circle is what makes this way of walking distinctive. Stroke patients with weakness on one side (hemiparesis) almost always show it, along with increased muscle tone (spasticity) on the affected side and a turned in (inverted) foot. When mild, loss of the normal arm swing and a slight circumduction of the leg may be the only outwardly visible abnormalities. But Trump exhibited this spastic circumducted gait back in July during his visit to a North Carolina Lab. Exactly when it began is as yet unknown.

Read the whole thing at the link. 

More stories to check out today:

20201020edshe-bRolling Stone: Watch Obama Absolutely Torch Trump During His Debut Campaign Event for Biden.

The Wall Street Journal: Inside the Week That Shook the Trump Campaign

William Saletan at Slate: Trump’s Attack on Fauci Is Unbelievably Idiotic.

The Daily Beast: New Columbia Study Blames the White House for at Least 130,000 ‘Avoidable’ COVID Deaths.

American Independent: Violent threats against Biden and his supporters are getting worse.

Raw Story: Armed guards at Florida polling site say they were sent by the Trump campaign.

News Channel 8 Tampa: Trump spokesperson says armed men outside St. Pete polling place were not hired by campaign.

NPR: Here’s Where The Threat Of Militia Activity Around The Elections Is The Highest.

Politico: Trump is doing worse than it seems — but reporters are afraid to say so.

The New York Times: The Relentless Shrinking of Trump’s Base.

Take care everyone, and please stop by to share your thoughts if you have the time and inclination. 


The LeRoy High School Outbreak: “Conversion Disorder” or Environmental Contaminants?

Aerial view of LeRoy Junior/Senior High School

I know everyone has already heard about the outbreak of tics and verbal outbursts (described in the media as “Tourette’s-like symptoms”) in the small town of LeRoy, New York. I thought I’d pull together some information on the case anyway. I have been skeptical about the diagnoses that have been publicized (“conversion disorder” and “mass hysteria”) since I first heard about it.

The media descriptions of conversion disorder haven’t been particularly accurate or helpful, and now that school and county officials are trying to limit investigations into environmental causes for the outbreak, I’m even more suspicious that these symptoms may be caused by exposure to toxins in the environment.

The LeRoy students began having symptoms in September of last year, meaning they have continued for about four months. Here’s a description of the symptoms from CBS News:

Last fall, 12 teenage girls from LeRoy Junior-Senior High School – located in a town about an hour outside of Buffalo, N.Y. – began to show symptoms similar to those of Tourette’s syndrome, including painful shaking and jerking their necks….

The condition was so bad for at least one of the girls that she has yet to return to school. School and state officials investigated the outbreak and school building for several months, and concluded no known environmental substances or infectious agents were found that could have caused the symptoms in the teens.

Dr. Laszlo Mechtler of the Dent Neurologic Institute in Amherst, NY, has seen a number of the girls and has diagnosed them with “conversion disorder,” which is really just more politically correct name for what Sigmund Freud called hysteria. The term is drawn from the Greek word for “uterus,” and of course mostly females receive the diagnosis. Mechler is claiming the symptoms are a result of stress and the students who are affected may have are unconsciously acting out their anxieties through physical symptoms. He’s calling it “mass hysteria,” because a number of girls reported similar symptoms.

Mechtler said today that the media hype is just making the symptoms worse and that students who have kept to themselves have improved while those who went to the media got worse; and now that the national media is focused on the situation, those who had improved are now having increased symptoms. 

So I guess we should all STFU and leave poor little LeRoy alone, then?

Lots more after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »