Playing the Indian Card

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Donald Trump Is Not a Narcissist

A cartoon narcissist.
Everyone is saying Trump is a narcissist, and I think that is wrong. Trump only plays a narcissist on TV. To say that Trump is exhibiting “public narcissistic behaviour” is quite damaging, because it misleads everyone on what real narcissism is like. And it also, less importantly, misleads everyone on what Trump is about. 

Trump is an exaggerated, cartoon version of a narcissist. Like Jessica Rabbit. But a real narcissist would not be blatant and openly boastful like Trump is. A real narcissist is cunning above all. He will be full of charm in public, just the opposite of Trump’s evident boorishness. The devil is a gentleman.

A real narcissist is entirely concerned with manipulating people, controlling people, pushing people around, and at the same time having people say they are wonderful. Deviousness is key. Openly swaggering like Trump does is an obviously lousy way to manipulate people or get them to praise you. It gets their hackles and their defenses up. A real narcissist “love-bombs,” makes it all about the victim, until the fly is firmly in the web and he has gotten what he wants. Trump did exactly the opposite while campaigning. No true narcissist would do this. 

And a real narcissist wants everyone else to believe they are wonderful, and so usually wears a public mask of political correctness, benevolence, propriety, and social conformity. The abuse is behind closed doors, out of public view. Even Hitler, although not a typical narcissist, is an example of this—his speeches, as William L. Shirer observed, were always expertly tailored to say exactly what that particular audience wanted to hear. Then he did as he liked in secret camps in Poland. 

Trump does the opposite. He tries to be provocative. He seems, despite all the talk about his being “thin-skinned,” to be extraordinarily thick-skinned, saying as he likes almost heedless of what people will think of him or it. He speaks in ways he knows will provoke criticism in many quarters. It is as though he does not care what he looks like in a mirror.

He has also already established a pattern of at least trying to do what he said he would do when campaigning. This is the opposite, again, of a narcissist. A narcissist will promise whatever he thinks the hearer wants, and then do whatever he wants once the deal is made. Trump seems to have done at least as well as the average politician in keeping his promises—so far. You or I might not like his promises, but that is not the issue here.

Trump is also conspicuous for not seeming to hold grudges. Past opponents like Rick Perry, or Kim Jong Un, can be treated like best buddies a few months, or even a few days, later. This is the opposite of narcissistic behaviour. Granted, the subsequent friendliness might all be a sham, meant to manipulate. But narcissists hold grudges. It looks as though, to Trump, it is always “just business; nothing personal.” To a narcissist, everything is personal.

I don’t have any insight into Trump’s psychology, but I say he is not a narcissist. Primarily, I think he is an entertainer; a comic artist. I think of P.T. Barnum.

Barnum at work.

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Storm in Port

A case of hysteria is shown to medical students.

A “progressive Christian” article at Patheos opines on “What the Church Needs to Know about Mental Health.”

A few choice quotes from the article and my responses:

“As medical research continues and our knowledge expands, we are beginning to understand a little more of how our minds work.”

Exactly wrong. Empirical science, while useful for our understanding of the physical world, is of little or no value in understanding non-empirical things like the mind. It is like trying to hammer in a nail with a virtual spaghetti fork, or trying to calculate the number of translucent angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

The advent of “scientism,” science as a comprehensive cosmology and as a substitute for religion, has resulted in us understanding spiritual things less and less. Which means pretty precisely “how our minds work.”

It has probably in large portion caused the current growing epidemic of “mental illness.”

“Until surprisingly recently these same disorders would have resulted in institutionalisation”

Deinstitutionalisation is far worse than institutionalisation. It is far better to keep the mentally ill safe and warm in an asylum however seedy, or better, a well-lit sanatorium in some rural setting, with time and a lack of distractions to work out their problems, than to throw them out to freeze and starve to death on the pavements. This is a large part of the current epidemic of “homelessness”: the emptying out of the mental hospitals. It was and is really a cost-cutting measure by governments, masked as a humane move, and it is appallingly cruel.

“Medical science has identified a wide variety of mental disorders caused by a combination of genetic, biological, physiological and environmental factors, that cause people a great deal of suffering. As with other medical conditions these vary in severity and cause a range of different symptoms.”

There is almost no scientific support for the idea that mental disorders are genetic, biological, or physiological. This is a popular concept largely because it makes them seem more physical, and so more “scientific,” in the scientistic sense of the term. Scientism thinks only physical things are real. And it avoids moral issues. Lots of people prefer to avoid moral issues, usually for the obvious reason that they are aware of behaving immorally.

Literally speaking, medical science has never identified a single mental disorder, unless you count truly physiological conditions like epilepsy. All it has is lists of symptoms—that is what the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) is, and it is from this that psychiatrists work. Whether these relate to any underlying disease is purely hypothetical. Let alone whether a symptom relates to one disease or several or many happening to share the same symptoms, whether this is really a symptom of a disease or some spontaneous treatment for the disease, and what the mechanisms might be that cause the symptoms. Medical science does not know.

“The church has done a lot of damage to people by failing to recognise that mental health is a real thing, and that it needs to be taken as seriously as physical health.”

The church has always, until it yielded this turf to scientism, known what spiritual affliction (i.e., mental illness) was, and certainly understood it as a real thing. It is medicine that does not know, and that often tends not to believe that the mind (i.e., soul) and its concerns are real.

“Once identified, most mental health problems are entirely treatable.”

This is a fudge. “Treatable,” yes, in the sense that, say, a fever is treatable by aspirin, but virtually all of them are now incurable. It used to be largely taken for granted that those who suffered a spiritual affliction could in principle and often would get well. That is how, for example, confession works. And being “born again.”

Besides not themselves curing the condition, there is the issue that simply taking pills as painkillers can distract the patient from working through the problem, helping make it permanent. And then too, is drug addiction such a good thing?

I do not advocate avoiding “psychiatric medications.” Any port in a storm. But we can surely do better, and used to do better.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Fourteen Rules for Life

Obviously inspired by Jordan Peterson.

1. Love God.

3. Love your neighbour as yourself.

4. Seek the true, the good, and the beautiful.

5. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

6. Treat others as an end, never as a means to an end.

7. Judge others only by their demonstrated morality, and by no other factor. Do not be too quick to judge.

8. Say you're sorry. If you do someone wrong, admit fault. Try to make amends.

9. Forgive others on the same basis—that is, if they admit fault and try to make amends. Hold no grudges.

10. Never live in someone else's eyes.

11. Never just ignore evil.

12. Don't waste your life chasing success, money, or fame. Or happiness.

13. Surround yourself daily with religion, art, and people you love.

14. You are not here to save the world. That is just ego wearing a mask. Do what your hands find to do, then let go and let God.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Canada - US Trade War

Now Donald Trump has harsh words for Justin Trudeau. Harsher than the words he is prepared currently to use about Kim Jong-Un. Trump has called Trudeau “dishonest and weak.”

I can sympathize with Trudeau. His actual remarks, which set off the Twitter storm, were pretty much business as usual; they sounded familiar to any Canadian. Canada has been “insulted.” Canada would be “firm.” The US was being “unjust.” Trudeau as Canadian prime minister thought he had free license to poke the US in the eye whenever it seemed to be to his domestic political advantage, and the US, an indulgent big brother, would ignore it, swallow the insult, and look the other way.

The problem is, Trump has never been prepared to simply accept business as usual. As the US media has found out. Trump’s whole appeal is that there is going to be no more “business as usual.”

Canada’s advantage has always been doing a good job of keeping tabs on happenings down in the USA. If Trudeau’s government was really caught by surprise here, it is a stunning bit of incompetence.

It is not just Trump. His advisors Larry Kudlow and Peter Navarro were ready to immediately go on the US networks and use extremely undiplomatic language: “a special place in hell.” “Stabbed us in the back.”

Sure, they had license from above to talk that way. They were instructed to talk that way. But I don’t think they would have been so dramatic, public, and vocal if they did not themselves believe it. Americans are fed up with this sort of stuff. That’s why they elected Trump.

Time for Canada and everyone else to wake up and realize the game is over.

In a press conference, Trump has laid out his case: he is no protectionist. He is for free trade. He wants all tariffs and subsidies gone.

But what we have now is everyone else milking the US, getting free access to the US market, but then getting to set their own tariffs and subsidies. Trump cited a 260% (or something like that) tariff on US milk and dairy products entering Canada.

We all know about that, don’t we? Maxime Bernier ran against those tariffs. Yet Trudeau never mentioned them in his public comments.

If that is the position Trump presented to Trudeau during the talks—and I think we can assume that it was—you can understand his anger. Trudeau is falsifying the issue, and falsifying Trump’s position. It does indeed seem like “bad faith.”

Trudeau’s government can go two ways here: it can get involved in a trade war, with ever higher tariffs. Wrecking the Canadian economy, while possibly also somewhat inconveniencing the US. Or it can agree to cut existing tariffs. To the benefit of both sides, including all Canadian consumers.

Unfortunately, it has officially chosen the worse path.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Disproportional Representation and Doug Ford

Australian ballot

The inevitable laments from the left have begun—Doug Ford was only elected by 40% of the voters! His election is not legitimate!

I myself pointed out when Canadian leftist friends complained about Donald Trump not having a real mandate that he actually got a higher percentage of the vote than almost any Canadian government ever does. He took 47%. Trudeau won a majority government in Canada last time with 39%.

I think this is a feature, not a bug, in the Westminster system. We see proportional representation in countries like Italy. It does not work as well. When you have more than two parties, you will almost never see any one of them win more than 50% of the vote. Since 1921, Canada has elected only four governments with 50% of the vote or more: St. Laurent, Diefenbaker, Mulroney. Without a majority, government is permanently unstable, and nobody gets to implement a coherent program. It is a recipe for stagnation. It is horse trading on every bill, with all possible opportunities for porkbarrelling, earmarking, and not dealing with the important issues or making the tough decisions. Having an election every four years is a severe enough restriction on long-range planning. A permanent minority situation means any unpopular decision could trigger an election at any time. 

New Zealand ballot

The great advantage of democratic representative government is not that it lets the majority have its will. There is nothing magic about the majority. The majority can be wrong, or selfish, or bigoted. The great advantage is that it institutionalizes an orderly transition of power, and introduces an objective check on an overreaching government.

There are ways to juke proportional representation so that it still produces stable governments: the Irish or Australian preferential ballot, the French system of runoffs.

But the issue is fairly trivial. And there are tradeoffs. The Australian or Irish system is complicated, raising the likelihood of voting errors, counting errors, and spoiled ballots. The French system is costly.

Ain’t broke.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Honesty Is the Best Policy

Results are in on the Ontario provincial election.

Before her concession, the polls showed Wynne's Liberals on track to win just one seat.

She finished with seven.

Warren Kinsella is now officially an idiot.

Wynne, Lose, or Draw Poker

Warren Kinsella, the ultimate Liberal backroom eminence, was on TV last night saying how incredibly dumb it was of Kathleen Wynne to concede the upcoming Ontario election. CBC Radio Ontario had a call-in about how dumbfounded Liberals were.

I don’t get it. According to the polls on the day she made the announcement, the Liberals were on track to win one seat.

At worst, then, what did she possibly have to lose by telling the truth?

So, okay, if it was a bad idea, the Liberals come in with no seats at all. They lost exactly one. Not a huge price to pay for being honest with the voters, surely. Is honesty worth so little to Kinsella and other Liberals?

And if they come in with more than one seat, it will have turned out to be a good idea on purely tactical grounds. Leaving aside the trivial matter of actually doing what is right.

We’ll see.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Vote for Me, Because I'm Going to Lose Anyway

Wynne or Lose.

Kathleen Wynne’s new campaign strategy looks brilliant. It may not help, but it is a darned good try.

Conventionally, party leaders always insist they are running to form a government. They generally insist they have a good chance to win.

Wynne has openly conceded the election. Instead, she is arguing that it is safe to vote Liberal, since they are not going to win anyway. So it is a safe place to park your vote if you are scared by either the NDP or the Tories. Vote Liberal to keep either in a minority position, so they can be moderated.

This sales spiel has the great virtue of being disarmingly honest. And it makes sense. You hate the NDP, so you vote Tory to keep them out. But then you may be left with a Tory government that is more radical than you really want. You hate the Tories, so you vote NDP to keep them out. But then you may be left with an NDP government that is more radical than you really want.

So what if you also hate the Liberals? They’re not going to win anyway. It is a way of voting “none of the above.” And a more meaningful way than just voting Green. Because the Liberals really would have a realistic hope of holding either of the other parties to a minority position.

If the polls are right, and agree with common perceptions, there is more mobility between NDP and Liberal support than between Liberal and Tory. In other words, if this appeal gets more votes for the Liberals, they are more likely to come from the NDP. But that’s okay, too—the NDP looks to be leading in the current polls, so Wynne’s argument still looks solid.

Meanwhile, the other two parties are going to be hammering at one another for being too radical. Strengthening Wynne’s argument. Cumulatively, they are both now saying “vote Liberal.”

Whoever in the Liberal war rooms came up with this concept deserves a lot of credit.

And no, I am not urging anyone to vote Liberal here. This is not an endorsement, just an appreciation of a game well played.