Simplifying the DSM

Long ago, people believed mental illness was the result of demonic possession or other “supernatural” forces. Today, mental problems are typically described as resulting from imbalances in neurochemistry, even though there is no such thing as neurochemical balance.

I think it’s time to adopt a more progressive model, which includes exactly three psychiatric states (independent of drug use):
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Who are the real cynics?

Cynical though I may appear, I can’t stand defeatist and vacuous arguments of the form, “Z is inevitable owing to a variety of causes, so there’s no reason to eliminate known cause Y.”

I shared an apartment with six other people my junior year of college, two women and four men. This story is not going anywhere close to where you assholes think it is. We five menfolk were collectively intemperate at times when it came to dousing our minds with liquid and botanical intoxicants, and we were also basically kids. So the downstairs was usually somewhere between messy and post-apocalyptic.

I, the neatnik of the bunch (hey, even Trump has staff members someone somewhere thinks of as bright), was one of the two residents who regularly tried cleaning up the place. (The women were not slobs, but they also never stayed downstairs when they were home, so the indoor landfill may as well have been in a different apartment.) One day, three of my roommates walked in just after I’d spent an hour getting the dishes, beer cans and bottles, plates, boxes, discarded newspapers, and dead rodents (OK, it wasn’t that bad) out of the house or into their proper places. The first thing my roommate Brian did when he noticed was zing a bottle cap across the room with an expert flick of his thumb and forefinger. It landed behind a couch I’d just dug out.
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How dare you call my square a polygon!

Is calling someone “Pocahontas” an ethnic slur? Assume that it’s not. Why are the people insulted that Trump is being accused of racism for his remarks in Hawaii yesterday even bothering? When you defend someone who doesn’t even hide his own fondness for racial discord against allegations of a racial slur, you only add to the barrage of reasons a lot of people you encounter probably think you’re an idiot. Alternatively, you could be deflecting, like this asshole.

Imagine someone who’s been bragging for two decades that his daddy cheats on his income taxes every year bristling at the very suggestion that his dad went through a highway tollbooth this morning without paying.

But it’s worse than this, of course, because I’ve never seen Trump sound more drunk or mentally disabled than he did during that soliloquy, and identifying anything as such is akin to saying you know for sure which Bazooka Joe comic strip is the least funny. I’ve concluded that a startling number of people, in addition to those who simply like the tumult, genuinely do not know that Trump invariably sounds like someone trying to say the words to “Yellow Submarine” backward while failing to remember all but seven of them. When they say that he sounds like an intelligent speaker, they mean it. This has me once again aching for either the immediate construction and grand opening of the U.S.A. DumberDome (inside joke, sort of) or an intense, nationwide campaign of forced sterilization (hyperbole, maybe).

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Americans: security unearned, greatness imagined

fucktardI liken the current crop of Americans — everyone born since, say, the end of WWII — to several generations of mindless trust-fund kids. We act as if we worked to achieve something great, when from an objective perspective this is complete horseshit; all we’ve done is fortuitously “choose” our shared place of birth, with our forebears having done all the work to get us to where we are.

Make no mistake, I feel incredibly lucky to have been born here and to live here. With almost no exceptions, I feel physically comfortable and safe every moment of every day, have never wanted for food or shelter even in lean times, and have never been under the direct threat of harm from the government or any other organized entity.

At the same time, we’re basically like the one kid in the privileged family who, instead of using his station and what he was given to propel himself further forward, still manages to act like a leering moron most of the time. Yeah, he’s got a degree from a good school and makes good money and has a circle of friends, but most people who meet him recognize that he’s a bumbling, spiteful frat-boy with a silver spoon hanging out of his ass and becoming more tarnished by the day.

There is nothing inherently wonderful, wise, or progressive about Americans as a whole. No country similar to the U.S. socioeconomically has a sizable fraction of people eager to embrace incredibly stupid concepts and practices. You won’t find any prosperous nations besides this one where an astonishing percentage of the population believes in, among various other forms of obvious horseshit, biblical creationism. I’m not sure how we rate versus other countries in the areas of anti-vaccination loons, anti-ESCR, and related solecisms, but I’m guessing we’re not far in front of the puttering sag wagon in those races either.
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Charles Foley, underappreciated stalwart: 1927-2017

As soon as my mother told me she’d seen Chuck Foley’s obituary on Monday, I had a couple of immediate thoughts: one, I didn’t realize Mr. Foley was already over 60 when I graduated from CHS, and two, only with the benefit of adult hindsight had I come to understand the composure and skill with which he had handled a couple of things no one could have seen coming. This article in yesterday’s focuses on the latter.

When the police wound up shooting to death a student who had recently dropped out during my first-period sophomore English class (Mr. Fenton, room 201 or 202; I think we were reading Silas Marner at the time, and if not that, Great Expectations) it was a genuinely shocking event. Understand that in 1985, the incidence of kids bringing guns to school, with or without lethal consequences, was practically zero. And it wasn’t the kind of thing that happened in a relatively affluent, low-crime place like Concord.

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The “white” part, sure; the “supremacy” is well-hidden

Consider this idea that KKKers and white supremacists apparently maintain: they are genetically or otherwise superior to Jewish people. This aspect of their belief system is often ignored because they’re so preoccupied with hating black people.

I don’t know about all of your experiences, but I know quite a few Jewish people for someone who doesn’t get out any more than he needs to. I was actually shocked to learn in my mid-twenties that only about 2 percent of the U.S. population is Jewish, given how many Jews I had hung around with, studied under, and lived with by that point.

There aren’t a whole lot of things about the Jewish people I know that qualify as inferior by even the most outlandish measures. My landlord is a retired dentist who at 70 has a second home on a another continent, surfs, rides his bike around like a maniac, and pretty much dominates Match dot com. One of my best friends is a successful runner and accountant who owns a home in Boulder. My supervisor, a woman from Israel, is a math genius but only on the side because of the other things she’s involved in. This sampling barely scratches the surface; I am just talking here about people with whom I interact almost every day. I often forget that they are Jewish because they never mention it and are all approximately as devout as I am, although I may have to fire up an interfaith prayer group for the locals just for kicks.

Contrast this with a typical cross-section of a Klan meeting, as I understand such gatherings from television and the Web. I am going to offer the tentative opinion that these folks are doing a sterling job of keeping under wraps whatever aspects of themselves they believe to be supreme in either relative or absolute terms. Many are struggling with weight and employment issues, and are not among the most well-spoken, even-tempered men of the citizenry. Collectively, they seem to take perverse pride in saying and doing the most misguided things imaginable while cameras are rolling or the screen-shot police are deployed. They seem wondrously oblivious to operating in accordance with pre-Korean War societal norms. A startling number of their vocal churchgoers wind up embroiled in apocalyptically embarrassing sex scandals.

Now I could be accused of selection bias here, and like I said, there aren’t that many Jewish people in all of the United States — around six million. But when was the last time you read about a cadre of drunken Jews getting caught trying to steal the ATM out of a Waffle House with a pickup and a winch? Or observed a potential member of U.S. Congress named Solomon Goldberg rambling on about how evolution is bullshit and the gay agenda is ruining schools? Alternatively, how many fellows named Cletus Jessup or Homer Gantry do you know who are completing neurosurgery residencies or publishing papers in theoretical physics journals?

I mean, it’s one thing to be jealous, if that’s what this is all about. But come on, trying to dress it all up as smugness and superiority? Time for a new strategy.

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25 years ago: Yes, maybe, and nofuckin’ way

Things I could have easily believed about the year 2017 twenty-five years ago, when I graduated from college:
  • People would be using computers to videoconference in real time
  • The notion of “writing letters” would be a quaint memory for most
  • Most entertainment (music, movies) would not be stored on the physical media of the day, but retained digitally in remote places or on tiny devices
Things I could have believed with only minor difficulty:
  • The Red Sox would win three or more World Series
  • I would run a marathon at 5:30 pace
  • I would settle in Colorado
Things I would not have believed under any circumstances:
  • The U.S. President would be both deranged, stupid, and proudly immoral
  • A lot of people would be happy that the POTUS was deranged, stupid, and proudly immoral
  • That POTUS would be Donald Trump
Anyone who thinks I dislike Trump because he’s a Republican is mistaken. I do hate congressional Republicans uniformly and a good many Dems as well, and figure that almost anyone who runs for high office has some kind of obvious flaw inviting a massive and crippling punch to the middle of the face.

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We don’t just resist enlightenment; we like being ripped off

According to another depressing poll from the Pew Research Center, churches and banks earn more trust from Americans than colleges and the media. Not surprisingly, Republicans and right-leaning people are more openly hostile toward reality and more eager to embrace horseshit and ruinous influences than others.
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Say what you will about the media and higher education, but lying to people for the purpose of parting them from their money is almost the sole intent of the people running churches and banks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Donald Trump walks into a hotel room

Donald Trump walks into a hotel room. Vladimir Putin is standing at the foot of the bed with his pants around his ankles, clasping his rigid phallus, which Trump enviously notes is nearly four inches long. Ivanka lies naked on the bed, arms and legs akimbo, a pool of yuck betwixt her meticulously groomed thighs, and even more vacant look than usual on her kewpie-doll features.

“Did you just fuck my daughter?” Trump asks incredulously (and again, with no small amount of envy).

“Of course not,” declares Putin, nonchalantly tucking his rapidly deflating meat-whistle into his goofy pants. “We were just discussing policy.”

“Great!” booms Trump, his familiar ugly rictus of a “smile” quickly polluting his features. “We’re done here — but would you consider naming some good folks to my new U.S. Anti-Extramarital Affairs Council? Send me your best.”

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More hollow appeasement of idiots by most visible idiot on Earth

Donald Trump remains a bloated old shitbag who looks so openly irate and stressed and confused while performing the most basic of tasks, like signing his own name, that it’s impossible to not feel a modicum of pity at the sight of him in addition to the frustration and despair any decent or sane person has to experience when confronted with the fact that we Americans live in a country that elected such a worthless human being president, and therefore live in a country with numerous people whose major function as citizens is taking up space unnecessarily until they blessedly expire and rot into forgotten irrelevance, as Trump himself will do one day erelong.

I’d love to tell him all of this to his face, but the real impact of this executive order, like so many of his preceding ones, is probably minimal. He’s basically telling preachers of the swamp-dwelling Elmer Gantry type that they can officially tell parishioners whom to vote for, which is like giving a teenage boy permission to masturbate vigorously and often. Read the rest of this entry »

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Don’t worry, be happy (or I’ll fuckin’ kill you)

d72bc7759697b04042b588adf44a701bIt seems that the inspirational-quotes genre — and I’m talking about entire Twitter feeds and e-mail lists devoted to the phenomenon, not the posting of a few go-get-’ems here and there — should be self-limiting. Exhortations to ditch negative people and situations in favor of joyful smiles and unconditional love would disappear from circulation if these quotes were actually inspirational in the literal sense, because people the world over would simply put all of these messages to practical use and no longer need to continually receive them.

But of course it doesn’t work this way. The people I know who love posting kum-ba-ya fluff are often inspired to do no more than repeat this exact process every day, and worse, they are usually contemptuous gasbags and founts of banality who blame others for their dismal life choices and attendant poor outcomes. Read the rest of this entry »

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The book — a revelation

I grew up in a nonreligious household in what was even then a notably irreligious part of the country (an hour north of Boston in New Hampshire). Dad had gone to Catholic school in the Midwest but never bought the scheme; Mom had gone to some nondenominational Protestant church as a matter of social course and was told little more than “Don’t wear make-up and short skirts.” There was no Internet, all of my churchgoing friends were Catholic, and discussions of theology among friends and family members were just not a part of my life. I did understand that atheists were a much-tsk-tsked bunch of people, but this was mostly an abstraction. Read the rest of this entry »

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I wrote this post in 23 seconds with my feet, beating my time from 1935

607Do self-deluded people have a finite well of horseshit to draw from, or are there minds capable of just churning out an inexhaustible supply of it?

I’m not talking about unfortunates such as unmedicated schizophrenics who are literally disconnected from reality 24/7; I mean the everyday drones who are, to hear them tell it, one or two steps away from national recognition as an athlete, actor, entrepreneur, socialite, etc.

You often see this sort of circus playing out online: Over here is the yammering lady who’s going to marry Justin Bieber because he tweeted the same article she did, over in that tent is the guy who’s going to make the Olympic Trials in the 400 at age 43 off a 25-year-old PR of 56 seconds, and in that corner is the guy who keeps sending resumes to the Argonne National Laboratory claiming he once got a lawnmower to run for 18 straight hours on a mixture of goat cheese and Gatorade. And yeah, these fuckers are a little nuts too, but folks like this are out there in society and more or less functioning and looking normal as long as they don’t say much or stay outside for too long or look anyone in the face while speaking. If they speak. Read the rest of this entry »

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In case you’ve never been to Goat Scrotum, U.S.A.

Psychological projection is a potent force, and smart people are at least as susceptible to its wiles as anyone else — maybe more so. Even continually and accurately pointing out examples of projection in other people won’t immunize you; only cold, uncomfortable reality can break its spell.

If you’ve been telling yourself, in spite of what mounds of polling data and other metrics of public opinion reveal every day, that “no one” or “hardly anyone” really thinks that a wall along the Mexican border is not only worth the expense but sure to be effective, you are wrong. If you tell yourself that “no one who’s paying any attention” really thinks that Trump plans to repeal the ACA and immediately replace it with a better plan, you are wrong. And it’s not just complete backwoods tunnel-vision ninnies who believe such things, although it’s safe to say virtually all such people believe them. I have spent some time in less urbanized, less economically flourishing parts of the state recently, and it has been an eye-opening, even jarring experience in terms of the dearth of cognition that occurs in an abundance of people between hearing something on the news and ejecting it from the primary hole in their faces. Read the rest of this entry »

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The paradox of the rhetorical circle-jerk

A lot of us are familiar with sort of belligerent online ranters who aren’t afraid to “speak their minds,” “stir the pot,” “put it out there,” and so on — as long as they can control the conversation, that is. On their blogs and social-media profiles, these people grow comfortable talking either into a void or to a (typically small) cadre of equally mindless followers. It is usually evident that their toxic views and flights of ideas are fueled by some combination of glaring intelligence deficits or legitimate mental illness. Their output is blatantly dishonest, repetitive, self-contradictory, and in violation of countless rules of grammar and style.

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Getting unfriended in five joyous steps

I’ve mentioned before that I have more than a few friends who voted for our ever-more-embattled C-i-C, and that they not only don’t take umbrage at the stuff I write about various pertinent goings-on, but also chuckle at a lot of it.

But not everyone has such accommodating people in their online lives. If you have friends or “friends” who disagree with your politics or religious beliefs in a manner you find toxic, don’t worry, you don’t need to take action — soon enough, they will.

This is how it goes: Read the rest of this entry »

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Trump’s first success will be a failure

It’s interesting to imagine what will happen when President Trump first achieves what he honestly believes to be a genuine political victory, and what even some objective observers might view as one. (Insert old metaphor about stopped clocks and twice-a-day correctness.)

Trump will be eager to take full credit for whatever this turns out to be — say, a surge in employment in a given sector or the capturing of an Islamic terrorist on U.S. soil. This is nothing new, since he regularly assigns himself credit for things he had nothing to do with or aren’t even going well, bullshit that the media has been happy to call him on.

Trump is used to being disparaged and mocked in the press, but I suspect that there is a part of him that thinks that he can turn this around by perpetrating some grand or merely grandiose act of presidential shazam. When this doesn’t materialize — and as I think we can all agree, it won’t, as the media is going to keep taunting and baiting him and exploiting his personality disorders for a whole array of good reasons — I think he will be deeply disturbed.

In other words, Trump can take the potshots he’s getting now — not with any amount of grace or equanimity, but without literally collapsing or doing something so egregiously fucked up that some authority greater than him has to intervene. But I don’t think he’ll be able handle the continued jeers and taunts and insults and criticism when he truly believes he’s being a good president and no one seems to notice or care. Because if there is one thing a narcissist despises more than his poor qualities being maligned, it’s his supposedly good ones being ignored.

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Dumb and dumber, and no fucking way

fb_img_1486073038241I need to un-train my mind in certain ways.

I see this sort of thing and continue to think, “How the hell is it that so many people can rally behind anyone, let alone a U.S. president, who both rages away at phantom enemies (and legitimate criticism) like this and is functionally illiterate to boot?”

Then I recall the output of the most vocal Trump fans I’ve crossed online paths with recently, and remind myself of the obvious: People who like Trump unconditionally aren’t disregarding the fact that he thinks and writes like a preteen with severe lead poisoning; they actually don’t even notice this. If anything, they probably assume that Trump is turning out Shakespeare-caliber prose and thundering away perfectly on-point every time he ejaculates this sort of unintelligible, raving nonsense. They can no more appreciate how his words look to normal people than I can follow the logic of someone doing tensor calculus in his head or merely speaking Russian.

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Every conservative is a fat, Christ-addicted gun nut (and here’s a meme that proves it)

Not exactly, but isn’t it fun to think that way? Doesn’t that get your liberal heart beating with real force?

What I’m actually considering here is a doppelganger of sorts of that argument — the persistence of the “liberals want to live on government handouts” myth. It’s an interesting political phenomenon in that no one internal to the idea actually believes it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mental disarray and personal politics, part II

Building on an observation I made yesterday: When people who are clearly mentally unbalanced are at least coherent enough to form political opinions, in any contest they observe between a candidate who goes about things comparatively quietly and one whose chief strategy is inexhaustible high-volume raving about Stuff That Needs Fixing, they invariably go for the shrieking demagogue. Read the rest of this entry »

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