Videos of antigovernment protests in Tel Aviv

September 12, 2023 • 11:30 am

By now you’ve surely heard of the antigovernment protests in Israel triggered by the Netanyahu administration’s dissatisfaction with the powers of the Supreme Court.  This is a complex issue, and I don’t have a dog in the fight, but I urge those of you who want such a canid to read up on the issues. Here’s one place to start, but it’s just a start.

My only comment is that if Israel had a constitution, which it doesn’t, these protests would be unnecessary, as the constitution would spell out a separation of powers that would settle the issues. However, it’s too late for that: 7 million quarrelsome Jews (and another 2 million non-Jews) could never decide on a constitution now. That’s instantiated by this old Jewish joke:

Yeshiva University wanted to burnish its image, so, taking a lesson from the Ivy League, decided to start a rowing team. But the crew came in last, and by a mile, in its first race. So the Yeshiva coach sent a scout to watch how the other schools trained for the races.

He came back and reported: “Coach, we have it all backwards. It’s supposed to be eight rowers and one coxswain yelling instructions, not eight coxswains and one rower!”

At any rate, I haven’t seen any demonstrations but one of my fellow travelers, Jay Tanzman, went to them on Sunday and took three videos. (There was no violence.) I’ve put them on YouTube with Jay’s permission and have added Jay’s notes (indented):

There was a main stage (not shown) on which bands and speakers appeared. This clip shows one of several screens set up throughout the area that showed what was happening on stage. I couldn’t gain a high vantage point from which to film to show the scale of the demonstration. However, toward the end of this clip there is an overhead shot, presumably taken by a drone I saw above. If you zoom in, you can see how big the crowd was. The media is saying there were 120,000 attendees (I had guessed 100,000).

Protestors marching:

At one point, the band played the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah [“The Hope”], and the crowd instantly stood up and started singing along. It was very moving to watch.

Watching these videos again, I was struck by the plethora of Israeli flags carried by the protestors.  They are parading their Israeli-ness while still protesting the government. I doubt that the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol had that many American flags!

Here’s a more professional but less spontaneous version of Hatikvah, performed at “the 68th Israeli Independence Day Torch Lighting ceremony in Jerusalem, May 2016.” There are English subtitles.

Repaying student loans

August 30, 2023 • 11:40 am

On the news two nights ago, they had a segment about how the Supreme Court overturned Biden’s plan to forgive a substantial amount of student loan debt. They then showed several people kvetching about having to pay their debts back because they now had other priorities. One woman, for example, wanted to open a beauty parlor, but couldn’t afford the down payment because she now had to pay her student loans back.

This kind of griping irritates me, because before Biden’s plan everybody had to pay their students loans back. When you take out such a loan, it’s like taking out a mortgage: you are legally obligated to pay, and if you don’t you lose (the house in a mortgage, or getting your wages garnished if you don’t pay back a student loan).  Forgiving some students but not earlier ones who borrowed seems unfair. The whole program is couched as a “progressive” initiative, but I don’t see the “progressiveness”.

Anyway, after I saw the news, I wrote this to a reader:

 Everybody should repay their student loans. I’m tired of hearing people kvetch about now having to pay.

And I got back this response:

It is infuriating to me – it seems to be celebrated mainly by the elite academics but despised by the working class, most of whom already paid their loans or never attended college.  People take loans knowing about the need to repay.  If they made bad choices, that is their problem.  It is not a taxpayer problem.  Politicians looking for votes do not realize that if they “forgive” once, there will be no end to it (it’s the same with “reparations”, by the way).  They will have to forgive loans every generation and colleges will become ever more predatory, with ever more predatory majors – never failing to attract students since now college becomes just 4 free years to have fun…

Please leave your comments, pro or con, below.


The Authoritarian Left’s obsession with Israel

August 12, 2023 • 9:15 am

I swear, the “Progressive” Democrats are as obsessed with Israel as is the United Nations.  Nellie Bowles, a center-right Democrat, reports on this in her weekly snarky news summary at The Free Press, with the latest edition called “TGIF: Dark Brandon Edition.” One of the many items in her regular column, worth the price of a Free Press subscription alone, is this:

→ Their only issue is Israel: As my Blue Dogs rise, my nemeses, the Justice Dems, continue to fall. This week, a great story details just how little they actually did and how disorganized their members are. Well, disorganized on every issue but one. You’ll never guess which one.

A progressive senior House aide told HuffPost, a sympathetic outlet, that really, Israel was the only thing the Justice Dems talked about: “Other than some Israel bills, we never talked about legislation,” the senior aide said. Progressives have lots of policy ideas, some of which are great! But for the Justice Dems, working to weaken the world’s one Jewish state is the singular priority. That’s the entire platform. Maybe they also want to work on parks and trains and helping poor families thrive? No. Not while there are Jews living freely in the Middle East. For kicks, I checked the Justice Dem podcast; of the four most recent episodes, two are about Israel.

Here they are: Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Raúl Grijalva, Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Greg Casar and Summer Lee.  I guess “progressive” also means “anti-Semitic,”

Trump indicted in third case

August 1, 2023 • 4:54 pm

What a sweet headline! Trump now faces four charges of trying to overthrow the election, making a grand total of 79 charges against him. Will it hurt him? Naah, but it doesn’t make him look good to rational people, either.

This is his second federal indictment, the other being the Mar-a-Lago documents case, and there’s another state indictment in NY about the hush money to Stormy Daniels. And. . . one more liable to be handed down as well: a state indictment in Georgia for interfering in the election. The DA there said she was “ready to go”.

Click to read from the NYT:

An excerpt:

Former President Donald J. Trump was indicted on Tuesday in connection with his widespread efforts to overturn the 2020 election following a sprawling federal investigation into his attempts to cling to power after losing the presidency to Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The indictment was filed by the special counsel Jack Smith in Federal District Court in Washington.

It accuses Mr. Trump of three conspiracies: one to defraud the United States, a second to obstruct an official government proceeding and a third to deprive people of civil rights provided by federal law or the Constitution.

“Each of these conspiracies — which built on the widespread mistrust the defendant was creating through pervasive and destabilizing lies about election fraud — targeted a bedrock function of the United States federal government: the nation’s process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election,” the indictment said.

The indictment said Mr. Trump had six co-conspirators, but it did not name them.

The charges signify an extraordinary moment in United States history: a former president, in the midst of a campaign to return to the White House, being charged over attempts to use the levers of government power to subvert democracy and remain in office against the will of voters.

You can  read the indictment here.

This is an extraordinary moment in American political history. The only thing I can compare it to during my lifetime is the run-up to Richard Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency.


Are Americans as divided as we think?

June 13, 2023 • 12:00 pm

One thing that readers (and I) remark on again and again on this site is the remarkable political polarization among Americans. To me it looks as if the country is more divided at any time during my life, with the possible exception of the divisions about civil rights and the Vietnam War in my youth.  But now it looks as if the division affects almost every issue: gun control, abortions, fealty to political parties, trans issues, censorship and free speech. . . the list is very long.

But at the Substack site Persuasion, Michael Baharaeen, political research director at the research consulting firm Blue Compass Strategies, argues that the divisiveness is more imaginary than real, and gives a lot of data trying to show that Americans are generally in agreement on many issues.  I’m not sure that he makes his case, though we already know that on issues like abortion, American are far more united (in support of the Roe v. Wade principles) than, say, the Supreme Court.

Click to read, and note that he says that much of America’s political divide is an illusion, not all of it.  But his aim is clear: to help us see that we’re not as bad off as we think:

Amid this never-ending doom spiral of division, many of us have become convinced that we have nothing in common with those in the opposing tribe, especially on the toughest moral issues of the day. And when we just know the other side is so extreme and hateful—that the most pugnacious and provocative voices among them must be representative of them all—how is it possible to ever compromise with them or even listen to them with an open mind?

Here’s where I can report some hopeful news: Americans are actually more moderate, more heterodox, and less easily sorted along partisan lines than the media might have us believe.

. . . Political scientists, sociologists, and others have written extensively about how the country can best try to repair itself and alleviate the more destructive effects of our polarization, be it political, cultural, racial, educational, or anything else. Restoring trust and reducing fear between America’s tribal factions is a necessary first step in that project, especially if we are to have any hope of holding our fragile democracy together. Perhaps a good starting place is encouraging Americans to recognize their own complex identities and political outlook. Maybe then they will come to see the same in their fellow citizens.

But of course “complex identities” does not mean “political agreement”. Click to read:

I’ll single out a few of the issues where, Baharaeen says, we’re more in consensus than we think. I’ve indented his statements.

Party affiliation.

Gallup’s annual survey of partisan self-identification has found that independents have constituted a growing plurality of all voters since 2009, a sign that fewer people are making their attachment to one of the two major parties a core part of their identity. Additionally, data from the 2022 midterms showed that just 27 percent of voters identified as either “very” liberal or conservative, while the vast majority (73 percent) either thought of themselves as moderate or only “somewhat” liberal or conservative. The Pew Research Center also periodically releases studies of the two major parties’ coalitions, which demonstrate just how much diversity of thought and life experience exists among voters within each party.

Yes, but when it comes to filling in the circles on your Presidential ballot, diversity of thought and life experience is distilled into one black dot. And the number of those black dots on right and left have been perilously close in number in the last two elections, causing the last one to be followed by an insurrection.  “Somewhat” conservative voters, for example, often voted for Trump, an action that certainly feels divisive to me. For there’s no way in hell that I can see a rational person voting for him over Biden in the last election. (My fears have, of course, been borne out.)

Racial justice

Many Democrats believe that Republicans not only don’t care about racial justice but actively oppose measures to secure equal rights for racial minorities. A study by the group More in Common found that Democrats estimated just half of Republicans even believed racism still existed in America. In reality, that figure was closer to 80 percent. Similarly, a 2021 Gallup survey asking whether voters approved of interracial marriages found that nine in 10 Republican respondents favored them.

Well, the marriage battle was won long ago, in Loving v. Virginia. But it’s still Republican lawmakers who gerrymander states to keep black voters from expressing their will, something so egregious that the Supreme Court just overturned it.  This shows the problem with Baharaeen’s thesis: while average Americans may be more moderate than we think, the people who get into power are not as moderate. Even Biden, I think, is more to the left than many Democrats (and I’m one of them) thought.

Here’s a fairly accurate statement:

On the flip side, many conservatives fear that liberals are so obsessed with race that they are willing to supplant longstanding American support for merit in things like college admissions with race-based considerations. In fact, a majority of Democrats oppose using race and ethnicity as a major factor in college admissions—as do, notably, majorities of black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans.

That has been shown in several surveys. It’s only the extreme Left “progressives” (I put them in quotes because they’re really authoritarian regressives) who are strongly in favor of affirmative action. But those are also the loudest ones. I’m to the left-center on this issue, thinking that we need affirmative action of some sort, but a brand based not on race but on class.

What should be taught in schools.

Americans on the whole do not want public schools to be mills for promoting social justice activism but rather institutions that prepare kids for 21st-century jobs and teach them how to reason and think critically. Republicans, as well as Democrats of color, also agree that schools may not be the best place for teaching more divisive and unsettled concepts like whether gender identity is separable from biological sex.

At the same time, an overwhelming share of the public—including a majority of Republicans—favors teaching students about the history of racism in America. And while there are partisan divides on how best to teach some divisive topics, both Democrats and Republicans broadly oppose banning their teaching altogether. The vast majority of Americans also oppose banning books about controversial topics.

Yes, but this consensus has not stopped states like Florida from banning certain topics like CRT, and states like California from being embroiled in exactly HOW the history of bigotry should be taught.  The problem again is that beliefs may be closer together than we thought, but when it comes to voting or infighting, political extremists hold the field.

Abortion rights. Here’s one where we already know the data; most Americans do not align with the “allow no abortion” states but with the previous law limned in Roe v. Wade.  But again, it’s the courts, political extremists and politicians that enforce the divisiveness,

The country is generally more supportive of abortion rights than not. A healthy majority disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, and even around 40 percent of Republicans think abortion should be legal in “all or most cases.” Many Americans, including the vast majority of Republicans, also believe that there should, at minimum, be exceptions for rape and incest and to protect the life of the mother. At the same time, most of the country favors at least some restrictions. A Harvard/Harris poll conducted just after the Supreme Court’s decision came down last June showed 72 percent of Americans—including 60 percent of Democrats—support restrictions at 15 weeks of pregnancy (or earlier), while just 10 percent favored allowing unrestricted abortion access up to nine months.

Sadly, this hasn’t played out in the law, As we know, the laws of many states now totally repudiate the principles of Roe v. Wade.

Transgender issues.

There is perhaps no topic more closely tied to America’s culture war today than transgender issues. Indeed, there are deep partisan divisions over whether greater acceptance of trans people is “good for society,” and some red and blue states have ironically found consensus on removing trans children from their parents’ custody—though for vastly different reasons. But several recent polls have found that the public holds a mix of conservative and liberal views on these issues.

In some ways, the country is a little more skeptical of left-leaning positions on these issues. For example, they generally oppose allowing trans women to compete in women’s sports, and more than two-thirds believe that schools should either teach that gender is inseparable from one’s biological sex or not talk about it at all (a position held by notably high numbers of black and Hispanic Democrats). Substantial majorities also oppose medical interventions for minors such as puberty blockers and hormone therapies.

However, most Americans are leery of government overreach into transgender people’s lives and believe that this population faces discrimination. As a result, majorities support protections against discrimination in jobs and housing.

I think this is a wee bit misleading, for the controversy is not so much about general rights of transgender people, but about sports and “women’s spaces” like prisons and battered women’s shelters. That (and “drag queen story hour”) is where the battle is joined, and it’s a vicious and persistent battle, with gender extremists labeling everyone who doesn’t adhere to their views (e.g., J. K. Rowling) as “transphobes”. Even the Biden administration appears to hold the view that transgender women should be allowed to compete in sports with biological women. This issue will only get more polarizing as the number of trans people increases, as it’s doing exponentially.

In the end, Baharaeen has a point: if you poll individual Americans, their views (especially on things like abortion) aren’t as polarized as we may think. But remember that it the most extreme people who not only make the most noise, but who are the most eager to vote and, to some extent, go into politics. In a nation where Trump got 46.1% of the popular vote, beating Hillary Clinton, who got 48.2% of the popular vote, in the electoral college; or where in the 2020 election Trump got 46.8% of the popular vote, losing to Biden, who got 51.3% of the popular vote, I can’t say that polarization is overrated.  By then Trump had shown that he was a dangerous and mentally ill autocrat, and yet still nearly half of Americans voted for him. As I said, regardless of your feelings on abortion or trans rights, in the ballot box you have to fill in either the Trump or the Biden circle.  And once that happens, the nature of Donald Trump guarantees a long period of polarization, regardless of who wins.

CODA: Here’s the beginning of Jamelle Bouie’s column in the NYT today, “Republicans have made their choice.”

In the wake of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, Republican officeholders had three choices.

They could stick with and defend Donald Trump and his riotous allies, and if they were members of the House or Senate, they could vote in support of the effort to overturn the results of the election, in a show of loyalty to the president and, in effect, the rioters.

Or they could criticize and condemn the president as conservative dissenters, using their voices in an attempt to put the Republican Party back on a more traditional path.

Or they could leave. They could quit the party and thus show the full extent of their anger and revulsion.

But we know what actually happened. A few Republicans left and a few complained, but most remained loyal to the party and the president with nary a peep to make about the fact that Trump was willing to bring an end to constitutional government in the United States if it meant he could stay in office.

Now THAT is polarization!

h/t: Lee

Can therapists diagnose Trump as mentally ill, and warn people about his potential to promote violence, without examining him?

June 13, 2023 • 9:00 am

I’ve written twice about this subject:  the controversies involving Yale clinical and forensic psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee (no longer at Yale). Lee has been accused of violating the Goldwater rule, which involves giving professional psychiatric opinions about public figures you haven’t examined—in this case Donald Trump. The article below from Mother Jones magazine describes her travails around “diagnosing” Trump and warning of his potential to incite violence. As I wrote in November of 2020:

I agree that Donald Trump is mentally ill, but I’m not a professional, and thus am not bound by the strictures of professional associations to avoid diagnosing someone you haven’t personally examined. And those strictures exist most prominently in the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA’s) “Goldwater rule“, created after a number of psychiatrists pronounced Barry Goldwater unfit for office in 1964. Here’s the rule from the APA’s “Principles of Medical Ethics,” and this rule is still in force:

On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.

There doesn’t seem to be a penalty for psychiatrists who flout this rule, however, as psychiatrists who have diagnosed Trump as ill, or even lobbied Congress to proceed with the Trump Dump, have suffered no penalties.

In general I tend to agree with the Goldwater Rule, even if it’s nonbinding and the APA levies no penalties for flouting it (other people, as you’ll see, can punish violators). Yes, I think Trump is mentally ill, afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder, but I still think, as I did three years ago, that giving a professional diagnosis, whether you be a doctor or a psychiatrist (who are doctors), is pretty close to slander, and has far more potentially deleterious consequences than a statement by average Joes like me. “Professional” statements can be used for impeachment, removal from office, and so on. That said, I don’t see a problem with professionals warning the public about the dangers of someone based on their past behavior, without giving them a professional diagnosis. That’s what Lee claims to have done, and she was fired for it.

But in the past, Lee, who never examined Trump, appears to have come pretty close to diagnosing him. In a debate in Salon, Lee not only pronounced Trump to be mentally ill, but then went on to say the Goldwater Rule is itself harmful. Wikipedia notes this:

Lee then stated in an interview with Salon in May 2017 that Trump suffers from mental health issues that amount to a “state of emergency” and that “our survival as a species may be at stake.” She also discussed her political views, linking what she sees as increasing inequality in the United States to a deterioration in collective mental health.

And she discusses the 2020 debate with Biden.

[Salon]: Trump spent most of the debate heckling and interrupting, mixed with some blatant lying. How would you assess his debate performance?

[Lee]: The huge error was in allowing the debate to happen in the first place. “How was his debate performance?” is the wrong question to start. A debate presupposes mental health. We cannot pretend to have one when management of psychological impairment is what is warranted. The majority of the country may be horrified at what he is doing, but we continue to help the disorder in every way possible by treating his behavior as normal. It applies first to the politicians, then to the media and then to pundits who do not come out and honestly say: “This is beyond anything I have seen and beyond what I can understand — can we consult with experts?” And experts, for a psychological matter, would be mental health experts. Perhaps even specialists of personality disorders or sociopathy would be necessary, given the severity.

To me that comes close to giving a professional opinion, but it’s not 100% clear cut. She does say that he has a mental health disorder, and to me that’s a professional opinion. (After all, one psychiatrist said that “he may just be a jerk.”)  There is, of course, a continuum between jerks and the mentally ill, and where to draw the line is unclear.

Bandy went on to organize a conference of mental-health professionals in April, 2017, that resulted in a collection of essays by various therapists,  The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, a book that became a bestseller. (Note: I haven’t read it.)

Mother Jones reports on the fallout, and on Bandy’s firing from Yale (click on screenshot):

Bandy certainly has the expertise to warn people about potential violence, and that’s what she continued to say about Trump after her book came out: the man has the behavior that tends to lead to violence among his followers, something instantiated in January of 2021.  She has studied criminal gangs and their leaders, and sees their behavior mirrored in Trump’s. She also notes that these leaders lose their influence when they are put in jail. (Bandy also argues that since 1900, violence tends to spike whenever there’s a Republican President.)

At any rate, Bandy continued her warnings about Trump’s likelihood to inspire violence, which of course came true. And she continued to be criticized by the APA.  She appears to have been skirting the Goldwater rule, saying that she didn’t violate it, yet also asserting that the rule doesn’t really apply when there’s another rule that overrides it. This is from her Wikipedia bio:

Lee says that when meeting with lawmakers, she was adhering to the American Psychiatric Association’s guideline, which precedes the Goldwater rule, and which urges psychiatrists “to serve society by advising and consulting with the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of the government.” In an interview she also said, “whenever the Goldwater rule is mentioned, we should also refer to the Declaration of Geneva, established by the World Medical Association 25 years earlier, which mandates physicians to speak up if there are humanitarian reasons to do so. This Declaration was created in response to the experience of Nazism.”

And from the Mother Jones article:

According to Lee, Trump’s extreme dangerousness puts him in a completely different category from previous Republican presidents, who merely endorsed a set of harsh economic policies that are associated with increased violence. In contrast to past presidents with likely personality disorders, she believes, Trump has a psychological profile that is common among violent offenders. “There is typically a developmental arrest caused by early trauma or abandonment,” Lee says. “As adults, they still act like children in the playground; convinced that might makes right, they often can’t stop bullying others. “Trump’s mother, Lee points out, became chronically ill when he turned two, and his father was cruel and emotionally unavailable, repeatedly urging his son to be “a killer.”

. . . Despite the scolding directed her way by influential psychiatrists, Lee contends that she has never broken the Goldwater Rule, which, as she wrote in 2017, “is the norm of ordinary practice I happen to agree with.” In The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, she and her co-authors challenged Trump’s fitness to serve based on his behavior rather than on a diagnosis per se. “The issue that we are raising is not whether Trump is mentally ill,” Gilligan writes in his chapter. “It is whether he is dangerous.” As proof of the psychological peril at hand, the authors point to Trump’s angry tirades and verbal abuse of subordinates, his admiration of authoritarian leaders, conspiratorial fantasies, aversion to facts, and attraction to violence.

You can see the conflict here. In the first paragraph, Lee implies that Trump has a personality disorder, and has a psychological profile—connected with childhood abandonment—that leads to bullying and promoting violence.  That sounds very much like a claim derived from professional psychiatric experience. Yet in the second paragraph she says she’s never broken the Goldwater Rule: she was just warning people about Trump’s propensities given his behavior.  But this is a distinction without a difference: that warning comes from professional experience. (Of course, people like us could also make such prognostications without penalty, but a prediction derived from professional experience comes awfully close to violating the Goldwater rule.)

Well, does it matter? Lee turned out to be right, of course, and Trump was impeached (unsuccessfully) as Democratic members of Congress, like Nancy Pelosi, called him “unhinged.” And then there was January 6, and other calls from Trump for his supporters to beat up people.

In the meantime, Lee was fired from teaching at Yale after 17 years following a Twitter kerfuffle with Alan Dershowitz (she said Dershowitz “had taken on ‘Trump’s symptoms by contagion'”, which again skirts the Goldwater rule). Dershowitz complained to Yale about this “violation,” and Yale dumped Lee.  She’s now suing the University and, as she’s become un-hireable in universities, got a degree from Yale Divinity School. She’s now a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, where she’ll start a violence prevention institute.

So, if Lee turned out to be right, did she still violate the Goldwater rule? This is a close call, but on balance, and based on the fact that her opinions and warning were derived from her professional expertise, I’d say “yes”.

But two questions remain. First, is the Goldwater rule a good one? I’d say “yes,” given the dangers of chilling public discourse by giving quasi-professional medical opinions. It’s for the same reason that administrators of the University of Chicago don’t make pronouncements on public issues, even when speaking for themselves. It’s because even in private speech, their words carry an imprimatur of authority, and that could chill speech in the University. In some cases violations of the Goldwater rule are clear; if Bandy had diagnosed Trump from afar with narcissistic personality disorder, she would be in violation of the APA’s rule—even though she wasn’t a member of the APA.

But there are no professional sanctions that come with violating the rule.

This leads to the third question: should Bandy have been fired by Yale, even if her predictions about Trump were right? Here I say “no.”  She was fired because Dershowitz complained to Yale about her violations of the Goldwater rule. But even if she violated it, Yale didn’t have an obligation to let Bandy go. And given that she claims, with some justification, that she warned about Trump based on his behavior, not a clinical diagnosis, I don’t think she should have been dumped. After all, Yale derailed the career of an accompanlished psychiatrist. Note how Wikipedia begins her bio:

Bandy Xenobia Lee is an American psychiatrist whose scholarly work includes the writing of a comprehensive textbook on violence.  She is a specialist in public health approaches to violence prevention who consulted with the World Health Organization and initiated reforms at New York’s Rikers Island Correctional Facility.  She helped draft the United Nations chapter on “Violence Against Children,”  leads a project group for the World Health Organization’s Violence Prevention Alliance, and has contributed to prison reform in the United States and around the world.  She taught at Yale School of Medicine and Yale Law School from 2003 through 2020.

That is positive accomplishment, which to me argues against her firing.

And had she been wrong about Trump’s incitement of violence, I still don’t think she should have been fired.  And, as I said, there is some justification for what she did even if she did break the Goldwater rule. After all, she didn’t give a formal diagnosis just to criticize the man: she did it to warn people about what he was capable of doing. (Remember, psychiatrists are allowed to break rules about professional confidence if they think their patients are likely to commit crimes of violence.)

As I said, I haven’t read all of Lee’s writings. But based on what I have read, and on the description in Mother Jones,  which of course does lean way Left, I think Lee was acting according to both her training and her conscience.  Although her warnings didn’t have any effect in impeaching Trump or preventing the insurrection he promoted, she didn’t deserve to have her career forced off the rails by Yale.

Bandy Lee (from her Twitter account)

h/t: Fred

TRUMP INDICTED! Orange Man may wear Orange Uniform

June 9, 2023 • 5:49 am

I couldn’t believe it when I heard this news last night, but all signs were that it was impending. Here’s the headline from the NYT. If you click on it, I’ve linked it to the news story that someone archived:

An excerpt:

The Justice Department on Thursday took the legally and politically momentous step of lodging federal criminal charges against former President Donald J. Trump, accusing him of mishandling classified documents he kept upon leaving office and then obstructing the government’s efforts to reclaim them.

Mr. Trump confirmed on his social media platform that he had been indicted. The charges against him include willfully retaining national defense secrets in violation of the Espionage Act, making false statements and a conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department made no comment on the indictment Thursday and did not immediately make the document public.

The indictment, handed up by a grand jury in Federal District Court in Miami, is the first time a former president has faced federal charges. It puts the nation in an extraordinary position, given Mr. Trump’s status not only as a onetime commander in chief but also as the current front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination to face President Biden, whose administration will now be seeking to convict his potential rival of multiple felonies.

Mr. Trump is expected to surrender to the authorities on Tuesday, according to a person close to him and his own post on his social media platform, Truth Social.

“The corrupt Biden Administration has informed my attorneys that I have been indicted,” Mr. Trump wrote, in one of several posts around 7 p.m. after he was notified of the charges.

The former president added that he was scheduled to be arraigned in federal court in Miami at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. In a video he released later on Truth Social, Mr. Trump declared: “I’m an innocent man. I’m an innocent person.”

The Washington Post gives the charges: seven of them:

Trump, who is again seeking the Republican presidential nomination, has been indicted on seven charges, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post, including willful retention of national defense secrets, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

Well, I haven’t had coffee yet, but I have to say that I’m pleased as punch. Not necessarily pleased that he’ll be punished—for that’s up to judges and juries—but chuffed that he’s going to have to publicly face the music, do a PERP WALK, and perhaps appear on the stand (that would be his downfall).

I haven’t read the news analysis, but surely this will affect next year’s Presidential election. It’s hard to believe that being an accused felon can win him votes, but you know the Republicans: they may see him as more of a martyr. Will they still run a candidate who’s under indictment? I bet so, since it’s legal and they won’t care if he may have to leave office if elected. Nothing can deter the GOP’s ardor for this narcissistic primate.

But if he’s convicted, he’s done for—an ex-President, singing with the choir primeval, longing for the pools of Mar-A-Lago. And, perhaps, there may be jail time. No ex-President has ever been indicted of a federal crime (Nixon was pardoned before he was ever charged), so we have an interesting political and legal season coming up.

Given Trump’s penchant for stalling, I doubt he’ll be tried before the November elections next year.

But I think most readers here will have a spring in their step today. I know I do!

Discuss: Trump’s indictment

March 31, 2023 • 10:01 am

I’m trying to make up for the work time I lost by getting more sleep last night (isn’t that pathetic?), so why don’t we just discuss the Trump situation? By now you probably know the details, which raise a number of questions. Readers can weigh in, though of course none of us know how this mess will unfold.

1.) Will he turn himself in or be arrested? I always thought the former, but now I’m wondering if he thinks it would help his image to be dragged away by the cops—”witch hunt” and all.

2.) Will he be charged with misdemeanors or felonies? (There are over two dozen charges.) The DA, you know, has a choice.

3.) Is this whole mess going to help or hurt his Presidential candidacy for the election next year?

4.) Will this trigger any major unrest in the U.S.? So far it doesn’t look like it.

5.) This is of course the least important of the three other investigations involving him—investigations that could also lead to indictments. These are the interference with the voting process in Georgia, Trump’s possible incitement of the January 6 insurrection, and his possession at Mar A Lago of confidential government documents. Which do you think will lead to indictments.

6.) Do you think he will go to prison?

7.) He cannot pardon himself if he gets re-elected, and Biden can (but won’t) pardon him of federal crimes, though the NY case is a state case.

8.) If he’s found guilty, will Republicans in Congress weaken their ties or fealty to him. (Again, it doesn’t seem likely.)

There are many more questions, but I have a book review to write. Stay tuned. I’ve put a photo of Trump below, which leads to another question: every time I see a picture of Trump in the MSM, he has an expression on his face that’s just like Mussolini’s.  Does he always posture that way, or is the press just picking the bad photos to make him look evil?

[File: Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo]

Why science and its journals should remain free of ideology: an example from Nature

March 22, 2023 • 10:30 am

It’s one thing for a newspaper to take political stands, but that’s okay only in the editorial section. So long as the “news” section—the reporting itself—remains untainted by political leanings or obvious bias, people can still trust the news, even if they use editorials to diss entire papers like the NYT as “authoritarian leftist” or the Wall Street Journal as “right wing”. The important thing is to keep the editorial section completely separate from the news.

But it’s another thing entirely for scientific journals to take political stands, and this post should show you why. For when you endorse a candidate that liberals like, like Joe Biden, you’re going to turn off the people who don’t like Joe Biden. That’s okay for newspapers, as their readership probably leans the same way as the paper itself. But writing off a scientific journal as “politically biased” has potentially worse effects than writing off a newspaper, for the former can cause people to distrust the science itself.

This is what happened to Scientific American, which, once free from politics, has under its new leadership decided to repeatedly take woke stands in their editorials, and that has made the whole magazine lose credibility. Can you trust their judgement about what science they choose to publish if their editorials accuse Mendel of racism? (They did that, but of course it’s a lie.) Best to keep political views out of science journals, whose purpose, after all, is not to render political opinions but to convey scientific truth.

But it’s even worse when it happens in a serious journal like Nature, for, unlike Scientific American, Nature publishes new scientific results. By steering clear of ideological stands in the rest of the journal, it can at least be free of the criticism that it’s publishing biased science.

And for years Nature pretty much refrained from politics, probably because it realized that its mission was the dissemination of science, not social engineering. The journal was first published in 1869, and remained fairly unpolitical until 2016, when the journal wrote an op-ed saying “HIllary Clinton will make a fine U.S. President.” It wasn’t exactly an official endorsement, but it came close to it. After that, the endorsements began.

That came in 2020, when, bucking tradition, Nature endorsed Joe Biden for President of the United States, publishing a piece on October 14 called, “Why Nature supports Joe Biden for U.S. President“. Of course I endorsed Joe Biden, too, but I think that scientific journals, like universities, should remain viewpoint neutral—except when their political views are related to the mission of finding scientific truth. Endorsements only hurt the brand, and also make it seem that the mission of science, like that of universities, might be more than just seeking the truth. (After all, do you think cereal brands should put political endorsements on Wheaties boxes?)

And loss of scientific credibility did in fact happen. Nature itself admits this in an article published two days ago, “Political endorsements can affect scientific credibility.” Here’s of the piece, whose supporting data are summarized in Nature’s tweet below:

How did Nature’s endorsement affect people who viewed it? Writing in Nature Human Behaviour, Zhang2 describes an experiment that asks this question, revealing that some who saw the endorsement lost confidence in the journal as a result. This topic is important because, if people believe that political forces might introduce bias or inaccuracy into research claims, they might also think it is riskier for them to trust that research.

There have been efforts to understand how public confidence in science is affected by such concerns (see, and to mitigate any negative effects of this type of politicization3. But there have been fewer studies of how political endorsements that specifically come from inside the scientific community affect science’s credibility. To my knowledge, the current study is the first to test this experimentally.

Zhang’s experiment involved a survey that was completed by more than 4,000 US citizens in the summer of 2021 — about 6 months after Biden took office as president. Early in the survey, participants were asked about their level of support for Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and how likely they thought it was that Nature would have endorsed a candidate in the election. Later, participants were randomly assigned to view either Nature’s endorsement of Biden or an announcement of new visual designs for its website and print articles. They were then asked for their views of Biden, Trump, Nature and US scientists in general, and whether they would choose to obtain scientific information about COVID-19 from Nature or from other sources.

Overall, the study provides little evidence that the endorsement changed participants’ views of the candidates. However, showing the endorsement to people who supported Trump did significantly change their opinion of Nature. When compared with Trump supporters who viewed Nature’s formatting announcement, Trump supporters who viewed the endorsement rated Nature as significantly less well informed when it comes to “providing advice on science-related issues facing the society” (Fig. 1). Those who viewed the endorsement also rated Nature significantly lower as an unbiased source of information on contentious or divisive issues. There was no comparable positive effect for Biden supporters.

So endorsing Biden made Republicans more distrustful of the journal. Is that surprising? The data are summarized in the tweet below, but here’s the full graph with caption. The length of the bars show the percentage of people (Trump and Biden supporters, divided by whether they had viewed or not viewed the endorsement) who rated the journal from “not informed at all” up to “extremely informed.” Note that the pink bars predominate at the lower ratings of credibility, and the blue at higher levels of credibility:

(From Nature): Figure 1 | Exposure to a political endorsement affects how some people view Nature. Zhang conducted a survey to examine how viewing Nature’s endorsement of Joe Biden for US president affected supporters of Donald Trump and Biden in the United States. Participants were asked a range of questions, one of which was ‘In your opinion, how informed are editors of the journal Nature, when it comes to providing advice on science-related issues facing the society?’. Trump supporters who viewed the political endorsement rated Nature as significantly less-well informed than did Trump supporters in a control group. By contrast, the endorsement had little effect on Biden supporters. (Figure adapted from Fig. 2 of ref. 2.)

Nature’s tweet:

The lesson? This (from the same article):

The current study provides evidence that, when a publication whose credibility comes from science decides to politicize its content, it can damage that credibility. If this decreased credibility, in turn, reduces the impact of scientific research published in the journal, people who would have benefited from the research are the worse for it. I read Zhang’s work as signalling that Nature should avoid the temptation to politicize its pages. In doing so, the journal can continue to inform and enlighten as many people as possible.

QED and duhhh. . .

So what does the journal do in light of this conclusion? They go against their own advice! Here’s a piece published two days ago:

Now of course they couch the whole thing in terms of promoting reason, which could be good for science, but you can always say that the candidate you like is more “reasonable” than the other candidate. After all, that’s why you endorse somebody: because you think they listen to reason more than the other candidate. From the new article:

We live in troubling times for research and for societies, and Nature’s endorsement for the November 2020 US election — and for Brazil’s similarly pivotal election last October — should be viewed in that context. Influential political voices are eschewing rigorous evidence and interfering with or undermining the functioning of independent judicial and regulatory bodies that rely on rigorous science and evidence. This has been noticeable in other countries, too, including Brazil, India, Hungary and the United Kingdom. It’s hard to know whether this is a long-term trend or global phenomenon, or something specific to certain places and circumstances. These are questions that researchers are investigating. Scientists are also testing strategies for ways to bridge the political divides, as Nature reported in a Feature earlier this month (Nature615, 26–28; 2023).

Nature doesn’t often make political endorsements, and we carefully weigh up the arguments when considering whether to do so. When individuals seeking office have a track record of causing harm, when they are transparently dismissive of facts and integrity, when they threaten scholarly autonomy, and when they are disdainful of cooperation and consensus, it becomes important to speak up. We use our voice sparingly and always offer evidence to back up what we say. And, when the occasion demands it, we will continue to do so.

You can bet your sweet bippy that Nature is now in the endorsements business, regardless of what they say. And you know that they’ll endorse “progressive” candidates, which will further turn centrists and right-wingers away from science.

Yes, they can justify what they did, but Nature’s endorsement almost surely didn’t have an effect on the election. They admit that above! After all, the majority of American scientists are Democrats and donate to Democrats. It’s likely, then, though not certain, that the journal’s endorsement had a net negative effect: hurting the credibility of the journal (and of science) while not helping the candidate. Despite that, they’re going to keep on endorsing political candidates. They can’t help themselves!

This brings to mind the old quote, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” (This is often attributed to Albert Einstein but really comes from other sources.)

And here’s a snarky but relevant tweet:

h/t: Luana

Maher on political division and national divorce

March 18, 2023 • 1:45 pm

Reader Divy called my attention to this bit from Bill Maher’s latest show, saying, “Great message.  I LOLED at Jesusippii.”

Maher goes on about the divisions within both Democrats and Republicans—divisions that would make it impossible to have coherent new “countries” that secede within the United States. His message: regardless of our messy and fractious country.

“We could just stick with the one [America]—the one where everybody gets to disagree on everything except for one thing: you have to want to stay in the marriage. You can’t call yourself a patriot of the United States and not be for the ‘united’ part.”

Sadly, this message will fall on deaf ears.