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Defining Insanity

Ages ago back in the sixties when I was in college I took a course on the normal personality. We discused terms like self actualization and normal behavior. We also discussed how to determine whether someone was sane or crazy. The conclusion defined normal as behavior within the norms of society, that one whose behavior was outside the boundaries of what was considered normal was considered crazy.

The quarter ended and I moved on. But I never forgot the discussions and conclusions. That question continued to come up. Later I went to law school and took criminal law. There we dealt with the legal concepts and definition of insanity. The legal term for crazy. Insanity was a better word. It sounded more professional and even scientific. To find someone not guilty by reason of insanity was better than finding someone not guilty by reason of being crazy.

And what was st the bottom of the legal reasoning to reach that conclusion. Most jurisdictions hold that if a person knew right from wrong at the time on the act he was sane. Some juristdictions followed the irresistible impulse theory or other theories. Whether or not those conditions were met were answered by analyzing the person’s behavior.The question was put to a jury to look at the behavior and determine if the person was sane. Twelve people randomly selected from the community. The object was to find someone who could be designated as the authority to make the decision. In medicine it is the doctor. At law, it is the jury. Someone had to decide. No one wants to, but someone has to.
Things have changed since the sixties. Research has identified some genes that appear to be associated with some mental disorders. Brain scans have some that certain parts of the brain light up and appear to be active or not active in individuals with mental disorders. Some individuals with normal behavior have had brain scans that show areas that are not active in the same areas as the scans of serial killers. Scientists know more now about the functions of some of the different parts of the brain. They know if one of these parts is overactive or under active it will cause a difference in the individuals behavior and they know in what way the behavior will change. But that only applies to a few parts in limited ways.

Notwithstanding those advances we are still on many ways where we were in the sixties. We look at the behavior and determine from the behavior whether the person is crazy, insane, suffering from a brain disorder or normal. We base this on our expectations of normal behavior.

The debate goes on. What causes abnormal or deviant behavior and how can it be predicted. The jury is still out.





Personality Development

I spend a lot of my time now reading. I cover a lot of subjects but like to stay with non fiction in the social sciences and humanities. Things like history, sociology, economics, psychology, and anthropology. I also read books on politics and geopolitics. One field tends to blend into another with concepts and overlaps between fields. One subject that keeps popping up somehow in all fields is personality. After readings in psychology and neurology and then turing to history or politics I find myself looking at the personalities of the people involved and wondering about motivation and what influences may have caused the people to have acted the way they did.

Since psychology branched off as a separate field psychologists have been trying to answer the questions of motivation and causes of behavior.  Different theories have been popular over the last hundred years and fifty years or more. Most of the debate has been over have much of our personality is set by our DNA and how much by the environment. They used to call this a debate between nature and nuture. The terms have changed and varied over the years. I like to use the terms DNA and environment. Those terms seem to be more current and up to date, which is where we all want to appear to be. Some studies indicates that we would rather appear to be up to date than be up to date, that we place a high value on our standing and reputation. But that is a dicussion to be left for another day. But back to DNA and environment. In the early 1900’s the environmentalists ruled. We were thought to be born with brains as blank states which could be shaped and formed as we grew so that any of us could become anything depending on our education and other influences. The prevailing view was that our personalities developed as we grew depending on the environment and our choices.  Later on in the century some psychologists and neurologists began to disagree. They felt that genetics and hereditary had more of an influence. As brain research progressed the nature side began to win out. Then as the century went in the nature theory began to lose out and the blank state theories again had more influence. The nature theory became politically incorrect. The argument  that people could be born with different abilities, traits or talents became unacceptable.

A turning point came with identical twin studies. Identical twins are the only people who are born with identical DNA. Studies were done with identical twins opposed to fraternal twins both raised together and raised separately in similar and diverse circumstances. The results of the research and studies were that identical twins were more alike than chance would predict. Neurologists discovered DNA differences by gene and gene mutations could affect development and brain development. Personalities and other traits did show they were inheritable. Not everyone has accepted those studies and their results. So the debate goes on. How much of our personality is set by our DNA and how much is set by our environment.

The current consensus seems to allow for a combination of the two.  The DNA is like a blueprint drawn by an architect to build a building. The blueprint is given to the builders who construct the building. They follow the blueprint but for different reasons may make changes and deviate from the original blueprint.

The above is far from a perfect analogy.  A person is not a building but I believe we can conclude there are flaws in the DNA argument. But the  adult is not necessarily going to be the same as his DNA would have prescribed any more that a completed building will necessarily be as shown on the original blueprint. Identical  twins are not perfectly alike as adults but in the beginning their DNA was the same. They are more alike than would be expected by the blank state theory. The studies have shown that both DNA and environment play roles.

Personalities of most people fall within a what is called a normal range. No two people are just alike but are similar in there behavior and in their emotional states. Some individuals are different are are outside the normal range.  These people are sometimes called eccentric. Psychologists would say they have personality disorders. There are s smaller number further outside the normal range that are said to be mentally ill. The question for debate is what causes those individuals to behave differently, outside the normal bounds of behavior. Researchers have discovered certain gene mutations that appear in many of those individuals. Research also is ongoing on environmental factors that may cause these differences. More study and thought hopefully will bring us a greater understanding of how humans develop and become who they are. Or rather how we develope and become who we are.

Personality Disorders and President Trump

Since Trump became President the question of personality disorders mental health have been topics of concern, or more accurately there has been a lot of discussion of the mental health of the president. I majored in psychology in college and have maintained an interest in the field. It is an interesting field of study. More interesting is how the acceptable concepts in the field of psychology have changed over the years due not to developments in the field itself but due to changes on the political concepts of what is fashionable or acceptable at the time. For a while the trend was toward the thought that our brain growth and behavior was governed by our DNA. That lead to some conflicts with fashionable political thought and political correctness. The prevailing thought was that our behavior was independent of our DNA and was the result of our environment, culture and training. Now the trend is back in the other direction, emphasizing a combination of DNA and environmental factors.

When I was in college in the early sixties very little was known about the workings of the brain. I took a course in brain anatomy and learned the names of the different parts of the brain but not much about what each part did. There was some knowledge but it was limited. Almost sixty years later that has changed to a considerable degree. Most of the additional knowledge is based on brain images and brain scans. We now know much more about the working of different parts of the brain and to a large extent how the degree of functioning of different parts of the brain contribute to our overall behavior.

In my college classes we learned about different types of behaviors of normal personalities and then learned about the behaviors of people with abnormal personalities. We had discussions on definitions of normal personalities versus abnormal personalities. There were divisions and disagreements among psychologists on whether mental illness was a disease or a differential adaptation of behavior. Mental illness was defined as a behavior that deviated from normal behavior as defined by society. People who acted strange or different were considered mentally ill and in those days could be locked up for years in large mental hospitals, sometimes for like with little treatment or expectiom of release.

Sometime shortly after I graduated  the decision was made to close those large hospitals and release the patients back to the local communities where they could get better care and treatment. Unfortunately the local care and treatment was never funded or provided and many people with mental health issues are now homeless or confined in our prisons with the general inmate population and getting little care or treatment. To a large extent prisons function as the asylums did in the past.

Now let’s go back to President Trump. His behavior is certainly outside the boundaries of normal. He has problems with impulse control and anger management. He does not see any reason to be bounds by normal ethical behavior. He does not see the need to tell the truth and instead appears to state facts as he would like them to be rather than what they are. I don’t know if he believes what he is saying or says things as exaggerations that he hopes other people will believe or that they want to hear and believe. He is ruthless in taking revenge on people who have opposed him. He does not recognize the boundaries he normal behavior. That leads me  to wonder what has caused him to behave the way he does. I have read summaries of his behavior and articles about his parents and influences on his development. I wonder if there is something in his DNA that is the problem or if his early interaction with his parents has been the defining influence. Psychologists notwithstanding the advances they have made in the last fifty years still disagree. The latest thought that nears a consensus among psychologists seems to be that we are born with our DNA that acts as a blueprint for brain growth and our behavior development but that as we develop we are affected by factors around us which also influence how our brain grows and thus our behavior develops. The thought now is that a combination of factors lead us to develop into the persons we become.

As to whether he is crazy there is no definition of crazy other than acting in ways that have no apparent basis in reason or rationality. Trump’s behavior fits into those parameters. He does things for no apparent sane reason. That is not to say he is mentally ill or fits into any of the definitions of known mental illness or disorders. Psychologists still have a probem in defining behavior or personality disorders or in understanding their causes. There is still a ways to go in understanding human behavior.



North Georgia Mountains History

When people read about the history of Georgia they usually read that it was founded when James Oglethorpe formed the city of Savannah and grew from there with immigrants from England. North Georgia has an entirely different story. The colony for debtors was strictly in Savannah’s and is only part of their story. At the time when Savannah was formed as a a city and Georgia as a colony North Georgia was occupied by the Cherokee Indians.

Europeans stated moving into North Georgia from the Carolinas before the Revolutionary War. They lived among the Cherokee as farmers and frontiersmen.  Many were single and married Cherokee women. Most of the Europeans were descendants of the early English settlers in Virginia. During the Revoluntary War the European settlers fought with the South Carolina Militia against the British. Most of the large landowners in South Georgia supported the British.

As the Europeans moved in the Cherokee in North Georgia became landowners and farmers and became known as one of the civilized tribes. The Cherokee Nation still owned the land. In 1828 gold was discovered in Cherokee territory and a gold rush began in North Georgia. The Cherokee Nation was dissolved and the land sold by lottery to settlers of European descent.  It was decided to relocate the Cherokee to Indian territory im Oklahoma. Some Cherokee had assumed English last names and passed as Europeans and managed to stay. Others hid and escaped removal. Children of mixed marriages where the father was European were allowed to remain.   Those that remained assimilated. Most families in North Georgia whose ancestors lived there prior to the removal of the Cherokee, or most of the Cherokee have some Cherokee ancestors.

In the civil war North Georgia was split between supporters of the Union and supporters of the Confederacy.  Many of them crossed into Tennessee and joined the Union Army. The Confederacy formed companies called Home Guards that tried to capture Union sympathizers.  Homes and farms were burned. Suspects were executed without trial. Soldiers from both Union and Confederate armies deserted to come home and protect their homes, farms and families. Churches split, separate funeral homes were opened and children and grandchildren were not allowed to play with each for generations.

The who moved into the mountains first were people who wanted to be free and self sufficient. They wanted to live as their fathers in the Carolinas and their grandfathers and great grandfathers in Virginia  and before that in England. They wanted live as sovereigns on their own property. They wanted an society independent of outside influence or governmental control or supervision. They did get land. But the problem for them and their descendants was that it was mountain land. It was not productive enough for them to be anything but subsistence farmers except for the few who got relatively flat land in river valleys and did well.  The next wave of people moving in were Scots-Irish. Since most of the best land was already owned by the earlier families they became sharecroppers, tenant farmers or owners of small farms. Any land they were able to by was farther up in the highlands.  They had fled oppression in the British Isles and wanted liberty and freedom and to be independent. For centuries they had lived relying  on loyalty to family and kinship to hold their society together and they continued to live that way in America. They were fierce as fighters.  To them family and kin were expanded family and kin. The members of the groups looked out for each other they were dependent on each other.  The area got the reputation of being a land of unproductive and poorly educated people and a land of little governmental organization or activity.

With the coming of paved roads and automobiles many families turned to growing corn and making whiskey which they would transport to nearby cities and sell. This greatly increased their income and standard of living. With the invention of refrigeration they learned to raise chickens which could be cut into small frozen pieces and shipped by train or truck to far away markets. North Georgia came to produce more chickens than any place in the US. Incomes rose more and life became better.

More and better roads and better schools have opened up the mountains to a great extent. But the people have not changed. They still retain their beliefs in liberty, independence and self reliance.








Tariffs and Trade Deficits

Tariffs are in the news now. They are not something most of us think about. When we do, we think they are things of the past not used anymore. That is not true. Traffics are alive and well and an important part of our economic policy. Free trade and low prices at first glance may seem like good ideas. But that is not always true. There are some industries and segments of our economy that must be protected to insure and protect our country. The steel and aluminum industries are two important segments to be protected.  One way to protect those industries is through the implementation of tariffs.

We also hear now about trade deficits. When we import more than we export in revenues then we have more dollars going out of the country then we have coming in. Those dollars accumulate in the counties, like China, which send us  more imports than buy from us. The dollars that are outside our country heave several uses. Countries use dollars as a medium of exchange. They use dollars to buy and sell from each other. Dollars also may be invested in U S bonds. We have to pay interest to the holders of those bonds. That becomes a drain on our assets and treasure. We can pay that interest by printing more dollars. That would devalue the dollar, cause inflation as prices would increase and lower of standard of living.  The dollars can also be used to purchase real estate and to invest in businesses. We should ask ourselves if we want our land and business corporations owned and controlled by foreign interests.

One of the ways to reduce our trade deficits and remain in control of our own economy is through the use of tariffs to reduce our trade deficits and to protect segments of our economy which are vital to our national interest and security.

When our country was founded over two hundred years ago the second law passed by Congress was to impose tariffs on manufactured goods. One of the reasons for our revolution was that England would not allow manufacturering in the colonies. In order to start industry tariffs had to be used. The new American industries could not compete in price with products from existing factories in England. Protective tariffs were used into the early parts of the twentieth century to allow American industry to grow. We still have some tariffs in place. So do other countries. Tariffs are necessary for protection against predatory practices of other countries and to protect segments of our economy which are vital to our national interests and security.

Mainstream Media under Attack

The media is under attack now since never before in our lifetime. There have been times in our history shen the media has been criticized and abused but nothing in our lifetime has come close to this.

The media is one of our most important institutions. It used to refer to the press now it’s television and soon will be the internet, if it is not there already. Nothing else has a bigger influence on our lives than the media. Freedom of the press is in the first amendment with the other rights considered the most important that we
have. But now we hear constant complaints from conservatives liberal mainstream media, even saying the media is their enemy and the enemy of the people. Charges have been made that conflict with the media was created and stirred into a frenzy by Trump into order to get himself elected president. I don’t believe that is the case. This is not some new phenomena that happened overnight. Conservatives have for some time felt that the media has been biased in favor of the liberal point of view and away from the conservative point of view. The main stream media has been centered in New York and New England for a long time. Since the coming of television and national news broadcasts originating in the networka headquarters in New York power and influence has grown. The national evening news come from New York and the major markets it serves are located in the Northeast. Their culture and beliefs in the role of government are different than that found within rural areas of the county. The rural areas make up a greater per cent of the populations in the South, Appalachia, the Midwest and the West. The people there were mainly conservative. They believe the news they see and hear from the national media do not reflect their beliefs and values. They doubt the truthfulness and honesty of the media and the doubt has grown into mistrust and anger. They refer to the media as the liberal or even worse as the fake news, and even worse still as the enemy of the people.

A look back on history tells us that Eisenhower, Truman, FDR all got along well with the press. When John Kennedy was elected the Northeastern media was ecstatic. He was a liberal from New England with a degree from Harvard. Then suddenly Kennedy was gone and replaced by a President with a degree from Southwest Texas State Teachers College. Johnson was an outsider to the media from the Northeast and to their cultural center in New York City. They were downcast and felt robbed. The affinity between the media and the Oval Office began to diminish rapidly. The split between the media and the rest of the country expanded. Even though Johnson was a democrat, when he was critized as a crude Southerner and Westerner the conservatives in the South and West took notice. Even though they may not have liked Johnson criticism of him for cultural reasons was seen as a criticism of them and their culture from the Northeast.

After Johnson things got worse. Nixon brought his paranoia which had caused his problems with the media to have problems to the White House. The problems he had with the media did not get any better. There was the Vietnam War and then Watergate. The conservatives tried to defend Nixon, blaming the liberal press for undermining the war effort and for trying to end Nixon’s presidency. But defending Nixon was a lost cause. But they were bitter about the loss.

After Nixon resigned office the media felt empowered. They began to question things that politicians did. Reporters wanted to be the next Woodward and Bernstein and break a big story that would bring down an administration and save the nation. They felt it was their duty to question and judge every action of those in office. Every misstep became a possible coverup or clue to something corrupt, criminal and threatening to the values of freedom and our republic.

The conservatives simmered through each succeeding presidency, the split widening over the years as they saw themselves cut off from the media and with their views written off as unreasonable and their culture written off as backward. According to the conservatives when Carter, Clinton and Obama were in office the media overlooked their faults and mistakes and supported them and their policies, but when Regan, H.W. Bush and W. Bush were in office, the media did nothing but amplify their faults and mistakes and attack them and their policies. And according to the conservatives the attacks were unfair.

Trump started making his
move into politics during the second term of a democratic president. Historically, the odds were great that the next presidential would be a Republican. When Trump started his campaign exploited the conservatives dislike and mistrust of the media. The conservatives liked what they heard. The more the media criticized Trump the more the more they liked Trump. They were for anything the media was against.

Now we have a president who was elected by conservatives who have a history of anger toward the media, or as the conservatives say, the liberal media. I wonder where we will go from here. We see protects and counter protests which threaten violence. The last poll I looked at showed that thirty per cent of the people identify as democrats and twenty six per cent as republicans, with forty per cent claiming to be independent. I keep looking for a consensus to form but the cultural divides look pretty far apart to me. Maybe future generations will do better. Let’s hope there will be future generations.

Trump’s Mental State

I keep reading articles, watching news shows and getting questions from friends about Trump’s mental state. One man I know who is a socialist thinks Trump is completely psychopath with no redeeming features. I read an article by a psychologist who believes that Trump is paranoid, grandiose, pathologically deceitful and shows a lack of empathy. This is from a psychologist who has never met Trump.  The article goes on to say Trump will become increasingly reckless and dangerous as the stress of his office and investigations into his past continue. Other people believe he is a threat to our county at best and a traitor at worst working as an agent for an adversarial country. Even the people I know who voted for him think he is a narcissistic with personality defects. They voted for him anyway because of his stance on abortion, taxes and less regulation. Trump said once he ran as a Republican because they were easier to fool. He learned to do that quickly and well.

I have no idea whether any of those statements are true. And I doubt that anyone can predict someone’s future behavior with a high degree of accuracy. It may be possible to make accurate predictions but in my experience and belief predictions about the future are speculative and risky.

One problem with analyzing public figures, especially political figures is that you only see their public acts. Those acts can be calculated to appeal to certain groups of people and no indication of how the person acts or believes in private. The Cohen tape which was recently released is a recording of Trump in at least two private conversations. One is a telephone call which appears to me to be with a family member and the other is the conversation with Cohen. I have heard comments by people who are not Trump supporters stating that they were surprised at how relaxed Trump was during those conversations and how adept he was at carefully planning the actions to be taken after calmly and reasonably considering his options. This behavior is completely at odds with the irrational behavior he exhibits in his public statements and tweets. That leads to the question of how much of his public behavior is calculated and designed to appeal to voters and to establish a public image. That would be a public image which differs from the private individual. In order words, Trump may have been acting during the campaign and at his rallies and he still may be acting to establish a public image. This applies to his television interviews. I never believed that Trump was dumb enough to believe that Obama was  born anywhere but Hawaii but he constantly appeared on television saying people had doubts about where Obama was born and he was investigating. I believe he was acting to get the publicity and to do harm to Obama’s image.

When a president is elected and takes office he assumes a tremendous amount of power and control which he can use with certain bounds. He is given that power by the people who voted for him. His actions are legally defined and limited by a very vaguely written constitution which says little other that that executive powers are vested in the president. The presidency has grown and been shaped larger by tradition. We expect presidents to act and behave as prior presidents have done, showing among other things presidentual behavior. We now have a president who is deviating from traditional established behavior. The only real controls over his behavior are from the Supreme Court and Congress. Presidents have ignored Supreme Court rulings in the past, as did President Jackson with no adverse results. Congress has the power to impeach and remove from office. It tried to remove Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton but the senate would not vote for their removal from office. There were enough votes in the House and the Senate to impeach and remove Nixon. When made aware of that, Nixon chose to resign rather that go through the process of removal by Congress. We may reach the point where Trump will be impeached and removed from office but are not there yet. His approval ratings remain in the low forties nation wide and above fifty in enough states to still retain sufficient support in the Senate to stay in office. If the polls go down to around thirty per cent support there may be a serious move for removal, but until then removal from office will not have enough support to be successful.

His mental state and how he will continue to hold up under stress remains to be seen. How dangerous he can be also remains to be seen. At this point I believe he is more stable and more in control then Nixson was in his final days in office and more stable than Lyndon Johnson was at the end of his term. I never thought Georgia W. Bush was stable and never thought he had sound judgment the whole time he was in office.

Psychologists and pundits can write and talk about his mental health but without a comprehensive exam that issue will not be decided. There is no provision in the constitution for passing a mental examination as a prerequisite for holding the office. I see Trump as stable but having troubling personality traits. He does not behave in traditional presidential behavior. His actions appear to be bizarre. I believe he has goals which he wants to achieve but he uses very unorthodox methods to advance forward toward his goals. I think those traits are learned behavior. He learned to behave like he does when he was very young. Most people do not break down as long as the behavior works for them and they do not experience high distress, anxiety or failure in their life. The question is how he will hold up under the increasing pressures he is facing and whether his poll numbers will fall in the states where he needs to maintain his support. There is also the question of dementia. His father had it at an early age and Trump may be in the early stages. That is not learned behavior and could very well impair his judgment. That just adds another factor to a complicated issue.