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Obama attempted to calm public fears regarding Ebola in his last weekly address. But if Obama perceives there is panic among the uninformed, then he should inform THEM--not whoever it is that listens to weekly presidential addresses.

The most appropriate intervention for a POTUS in this instance is to have the Surgeon General speak to the public about Ebola, like C. Everett Koop did for AIDS in the 1980s. But Obama doesn't have one, because the GOP Congress has held up his Surgeon General nominee for a year because he thinks gun violence is a health issue. (It is, btw.) So I think he should call for a brief primetime address to the nation to dispense the necessary information--some medical facts, an explanation for the lapses that have occurred thus far, and reassurance to the public that we are on this problem. He should then explain why he is doing this himself--and call on the public to persuade Congress to move forward with the nomination NOW, likening it to going to war without a Secretary of Defense.

But Obama doesn't do this sort of thing, evidently because he doesn't want or know how to use his anger to connect with the public. As my mentor Johnny Rotten once observed, "Anger is an energy". Obama doesn't seem to believe that. And I believe this has hampered his ability to connect to a distressed public throughout his presidency--including many of us loyal Democrats.


I saw this Washington Post article early this afternoon, before it was referenced in another diary currently on the Recommended list. I wanted to diary it myself then, but was busy at work with no time to do so. I'm going to the trouble to do so now for two reasons. One is that I am professionally troubled by the implication of the other diary that Bowe Bergdahl was "sick"--but I also feel that significant ideological issues suggested by that article seem to me to have been largely neglected by the community. I believe that the article, if read from beginning to end, gives a compelling picture of a complex young man. It also ironically damns those who have been in the forefront of crucifying him in the court of public opinion. In a very bad news week for the batshit wing of the Republican Party, this may turn out to be their biggest problem of the bunch.

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(Cross-posted at Making Sense of Psychiatry)

Back in 1979, when I was a 3rd year medical student on surgery rotation at the Audie Murphy VA Hospital in San Antonio, I had the experience of working with an elderly man who had suffered a severe stroke of the left middle cerebral artery, causing him to have global aphasia. This unfortunate soul had advanced atherosclerosis manifesting as peripheral vessel disease, with resultant gangrene in his legs. He had already had above-knee amputation of both legs, and was subjected to repeated surgical debridement of his stumps due to advancing gangrene. He was presumed to be demented from his stroke, although it was difficult to determine how much so because of his grossly impaired verbal expression and comprehension. He was functionally nonverbal, unable to express his thoughts and feelings, or to understand others’ words. However he would make it clear to us how miserable he was when he was taken from his hospital bed and transported to the operating room for his near-weekly debridements. Not only was he agitated, but he would curse up a storm: “Shit!! Goddammit!! Oh shit!! Oh shit!! Goddammit!! F**k!!” This was the only kind of speech that I ever heard from him during my three weeks on the rotation.

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I originally posted this as a rather long comment in another thread, and was told by another commenter that I should post it as a standalone diary--which had already crossed my mind, so here I am. I understand people's frustration with how insensitive and stupid some people can be, which has been acutely evident in the wake of the recent Steubenville rape case. Particularly shocking have been the numerous callous statements of insensitivity by the perpetrators and their apologists, many of whom have projected blame on this poor unfortunate woman. I believe that what we've seen that shocks us most is the result of pathological narcissism, a prevalent spectrum of psychological dysfunction that includes Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I feel compelled in this instance to share my own thoughts on this phenomenon so it can be better understood what it is, and what I believe we can and should do about it.  

Men can be narcissistic creatures, more so than women in my clinical experience. Narcissists have a great tendency to be dismissive of other's feelings in deference to their own. And NO demographic group is more narcissistic than young men, from adolescence up until about 30. (I know, I was one of them.) But even narcissists tend to develop relationships with "idealized self-objects", i.e. certain other people to whom they value over and above others in their environment, such as spouses and children. These people are allowed into their circle of narcissistic self-regard.

It is lamentable how prevalent narcissism is not only in this culture, but humanity at large. But no amount of social change is going to get rid of narcissism as a phenomenon--that's wishful thinking to the extreme, one step above achieving world peace. The only way you can get through to sexist/narcissistic lunkheads on this issue is through such memes--to get them to imagine that this unfortunate young lady was somebody they loved. And we NEED to use such exercises in order to change people's hearts, including the lunkheads--if only one instance at a time.  

In my work as a psychiatrist I find every reason to be cynical about humanity--because it's amazing how stubbornly resistant people can be to making changes in their attitudes or lifestyle, even when it is painfully obvious how much their happiness depends on it. But there are also moments when people surprise me, and go through a transformative period of personal growth when I least expect it, even when I've long since given up on them. We use these memes because they work, because they break through people's resistance. Because a sexist/narcissistic asshole of a man can't imagine actually being a woman, but they can usually think of one they adore. It might be the beginning of more substantive change. We don't know until it happens.

We cannot give up on the lunkheads--but neither can we wish them away. We can only try to make them think about things a different way, the best we can. Belle Jar is right in lamenting the state of the world--but this meme is a tool that can be used to change it, one soul at a time.


This was the headline on the front page of the Waterville Morning Sentinel this morning. Not much of a diary, but it seems that most of the commenters here today are focused instead on Marco Rubio's schadenfreude moment. (Not that I blame them--it was pretty diverting!)

I was quite excited to see this interpreted as the central message of Obama's SOTU last night, and I'm hopeful that others will perceive it as well. The prosaic strength and political savvy of Obama's speech was impressive, and IMHO it's the ideal path to take in addressing the current political stalemate. (John Boehner's visible discomfort was enough affirmation for me.) And I can think of no better mantle for Obama to take on going into the 2014 midterm elections than champion of the middle class.


It's been a week since the Denver debate. I remain dedicated to the reelection of Obama and the larger Democratic cause, and although concerned I'm not at all in panic mode. We have three remaining debates, and over three weeks to regain momentum and attain a wave victory--in which we can not only retain the Presidency and the Senate, but possibly regain the House. And three weeks is at least three political lifetimes, as we can have all seen this past week. But still I remain pissed off at Obama--and probably will remain so until I see something very different from this debate performance.

First of all I'm pissed off at the stupidity of their choice of strategy in the first debate. Given Obama's political persona over the past four years--his fantasy of being the Great Conciliator, which has contributed greatly to his image of ineffectuality among many swing voters--it was numbingly predictable that he would prefer to maintain a bland, dignified posture during the debate. To act "presidential", as the team has acknowledged since. In going whole hog with this strategy, with no apparent consideration of another option, they allowed the Romney team to develop an effective counterstrategy--running wild with full-on offense and ad lib lying, daring Obama to deviate from his strategy. Obama, as disciplined as he is, indeed managed to maintain his countenance--but considering that he was doing so while his opponent was egging him on and figuratively spitting in his face, he came off as weak, detached, and lacking the courage of his convictions.

It pisses me off that the Obama team couldn't foresee this, because frankly if I were the Romney team with their backs against the wall, it's not only the strategy I would have chosen--it's about the only one they had to consider. As long as Obama remained locked into "presidential" mold, he was doomed. No flexibility for Obama's approach seems to have been planned. Obama looked much of the time like he was sucking a lemon, not doing what he knew in his heart he wanted to do. If appropriate strategic planning had been done, that could have been a cue to adopt Plan B. But I saw no Plan B evident for the entire span of the debate. They brought a knife to a gun fight. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

But that's not all I'm pissed about. I'm pissed at the deeper implications of this "play it safe" strategy--that all the Obama team had in mind with this debate was to make sure that their candidate came through unscathed with enough support to eke out a win. It smells of the triangulation strategy of the Clinton years--as if all that matters to the team is to retain the Presidency, without regard to the progressive agenda at large, since that would require a wave election to sweep Democrats into the House.

I'm pissed because Obama seemingly continues to see the Republican Party as an organization with good intentions, rather than as many of us see it--as the party clearly representative of the forces of hate and greed in the country today. I long for Obama to see these debates not as opportunities to secure his reelection, but to communicate progressive values to all of the available souls in the audience. He was presented with the opportunity to deliver a knockout punch to the de facto leader of a corrupt, hateful, and deceitful party that stands hell-bent in opposition to the values of community and compassion, and he chose instead to "play it safe". I don't know what it is--cowardice, or self-interest--but there's no dignity in it that I can see.

I long for Obama to find his inner FDR--who so boldly stated that "I welcome the hatred of my enemies!" I want him to be a man who sees himself as the leader of a larger progressive movement, rather than as a POTUS trying to save his political skin. Someone who is fighting for all of us every time he gets the chance to do so, rather than making tactical retreats.

THAT would be change I can believe in.

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Ever since the days of Saint Ronnie, we've been listening to the claims of a "conservative majority" in this country. Whenever reality gets in the way of this argument, conservatives blame their candidates--Dole, Bush I, McCain all lost because they weren't "true conservatives", and/or lousy campaigners (which of course some of them were), but NOT because the values of the rabid conservatives are in fact a minority ideology. Well, I for one am tired of hearing this argument rehashed. It's time to settle this question once and for all, so we can take stock of the national will, and move in that direction. I think that Santorum's nomination offers a way out of this impasse.


Does an Obama/Santorum election offer an opportunity to settle this once and for all?

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Critics of Mitt Romney's overseas investments are incensed at the fact that he is paying less than his share of taxes, and/or avoiding them all together. Certainly this is a valid concern when economic injustice is emerging as the dominant concern of the American electorate. But what's even more remarkable about Romney's financial dealings is the fact that they expose The Big Lie that is the political centerpiece of his whole presidential campaign, as well that of every other Republican candidate--the allegation that wealthy Americans are the "job creators" that will save our economy.

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This old liberal is finding his heart and spirit renewed by the actions of #Occupy Wall Street--so much so that New York City is the destination of choice for my next vacation, just so I can go down there and soak up the hope and fervor.  But I think the movement could further inoculate itself further against the "dirty young hippies" meme trotted out by the right wing and its media lackeys, if it would visibly identify itself with the rich history of economic justice as an American cause.  And I can think of no more powerful or pertinent figure with whom to ally itself than that guy on the dime: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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Fellow Kossacks, we have spent the last few months moaning, groaning, and gnashing our teeth over the progress of healthcare reform, and many still fear that no bill whatsoever will pass.  Those that say that no bill is better than a bad bill are perfectly correct--but in fact the likelihood that we will have no bill is (IMHO) extremely unlikely.  Our worries have resulted from a tendency to perceive this as an isolated political opportunity rather than a genuine political imperative, failing to recognize the heft of the external pressures that will continue to drive healthcare reform.  

Recent statements by Tom Harkin, Jay Rockefeller, and Howard Dean (all detailed here) seem to suggest the outlines of a larger plan that is already in place.  Remembering that poker is Barack Obama's favorite game, it appears likely to me that we have been fooled by a public "bluff"--the Obama Administration's alleged reluctance to pursue reconciliation, for God knows what reason--in a high stakes game of political poker.


What game is Obama playing?

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Juan Cole's Informed Comment has to be one of the most respected blogs around here, for both his consistent erudition, and his unswerving dedication to progressive principles.  In today's post he reflects on a personal encounter with Rick Warren yesterday at a conference for the Muslim Public Affairs Council.  I think many fellow Kossacks will find it enlightening and reassuring.

Thanks to maracatu for pointing out this column in another thread. Given Cole's reputation here, I thought it would be of wider interest.  

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It looks like October will be a very, very ugly month, politically speaking.  McSame's obviously willing to dive into the slime pit, and Obama is fortunately willing to respond forcefully.  I'm certain Obama is going to end up winning this election--but it isn't going to be pretty, and may be downright painful to watch.  But I think the whole process could be short-circuited tomorrow, if Obama will seize the opportunity provided by tomorrow's town hall-style debate.      

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