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TBR News December 27, 2018

Dec 27 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. December 28, 2018: The MERS/Mortgage problem  is going to become very important, very soon. The basis problem is that most recent (the past ten years or so) American mortgages have been taken by various crooked banks, mostly the big ones in New York, and turned into investment “sausage.” This means that into ‘Investment Packages” go thousands (a total of over 20 million at this time frame!) of domestic and commercial mortgages which the banks sell to mostly overseas (China, the Gulf and India) investors. What happens, and what the public is prevented from learning, is that no one can find who own which deed of trust. The result of this sausage grinding is that the 20 million mortgages are so diced, sliced and sold that it is impossible to get a clear title to your home or business. How to find out if you are a victim? Here is a name and website that answers all the questions:

A mortgage holder needs to go to their county registry office and ask to see who holds the title to their home or business. If it says MERS, be sure to visit Mr. Trotter because if the holder does nothing, they have no clear title to their property. As I said, this is going to take off and the public should know that if MERS is challenged, in 98% of the cases, the courts give a title to the complainant and they now own their house or business without further payments!! Worth investigating, children.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • Trump administration puts stop to new flood insurance policies
  • US stocks tumble again after day of record-breaking gains
  • US-Ukranian Military Cooperation 
  • Google snooping
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Is Something Neurologically Wrong With Donald Trump?

 

Trump administration puts stop to new flood insurance policies

December 27, 2018

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration has decided it cannot authorize new flood insurance policies, citing the partial shutdown of the federal government due to a budget impasse in Congress and potentially putting thousands of home sales in limbo.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which oversees a federal program that insures about 5 million homes and businesses, on Wednesday posted a notice on its website that the program will not be able to “issue new contracts for flood insurance during a lapse in authority unless Congress passes legislation.”

The National Association of Realtors estimated the decision could disrupt up to 40,000 home sales each month.

FEMA said that during the shutdown, the government-backed National Flood Insurance Program will continue to pay all claims on policies taken out before midnight on Dec. 21.

The federal government has been partially shut down since Saturday because of an impasse over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5 billion in taxpayer funding for a proposed Mexican border wall. Last week Trump said his administration was prepared for a lengthy shutdown.

Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Dan Grebler

 

 

US stocks tumble again after day of record-breaking gains

  • Dow Jones down 1.4% by lunchtime
  • ‘I expect volatility to reign,’ says one analyst

December 27, 2018

by Dominic Rushe in New York

The Guardian

US stock markets fell again on Thursday after a record-breaking day of gains gave way to selling once again.

By lunchtime all the major US markets were in the red, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 1.4%, the S&P 500 losing 1.5% and the Nasdaq off 1.9%.

After a series of often wild swings the US stock markets are now on course to end the year in bear market territory – triggered when markets fall 20% from their most recent high. A bear market would be the first in close to a decade.

Michael Antonelli, managing director, institutional sales trading at Robert W Baird in Milwaukee, said he expected more dramatic days aheads. “There’s only two more sessions left before the end of the year. I would expect volatility to reign. It’s dug in like a tick,” he said.

Stocks had fallen for four consecutive days through Monday. Wednesday’s rally – with the Dow adding close to 5% and a record 1,080 points – could have signaled a turning point. Markets closed up in Japan and Australia but European markets sank again on Thursday, with the FTSE closing down 1.5% in London, Germany’s DAX down 2.3% and France’s CAC losing 0.6%

Stock markets have become increasingly volatile in recent months and recorded both record losses and record gains this week. The Dow Jones plummeted 653 points on Monday, capping its worst week in a decade and marking its “worst day of Christmas Eve trading ever”.

The reasons behind the wild swings are manifold and include signs of an economic slowdown in China, Brexit (the UK’s protracted and increasingly messy exit from the European Union), the US Federal Reserve’s decision to increase interest rates and continuing trade disputes between China and the US.

Alongside the economic news investors are also parsing the likely impact of the policies and rows emanating from Washington. A partial US government shutdown entered its sixth day on Thursday triggered by Donald Trump’s insistence on a new budget that includes $5bn towards his proposed border wall with Mexico. Some 800,000 government employees have been furloughed or are working without pay and as yet no deal to end the stalemate is in sight.

But none of this news is particularly new or unexpected and, said Antonelli, doesn’t fully explain the wild swings investors have been witnessing.

“Everybody has been trying to pin a label on why we have sold off. Basically it’s a crisis in confidence, a crisis in confidence about everything. Where we are in the economic cycle, the [US] administration, Brexit. We keep piling on new crises of confidence and that has crushed the market,” he said.

But he added that stock markets “don’t generally work off news. They work off better or worse: is the situation better or is it worse? Look at Brexit, that got worse.” The same holds true for rising rates and Washington gridlock.

Wednesday’s record-breaking surge was also due more to market mechanics than new news, said Antonelli. Sellers – bears – had been making easy money selling stocks for too long. “Markets like to catch people off guard. Yesterday was all about catching people who were leaning way too bearish,” he said.

The metrics of Wednesday’s rally were “incredible”, he said. All but one name in the S&P 500 list of top US companies was up (the one loser was Newmont Mining, a Colorado gold miner). “We were astonished,” he said.

On Thursday traders seemed to be trying to find a bottom to the market but the process could take some time, he said. “Volatility is like a storm. They don’t end instantly. We have been in this storm since October and it’s going to take time to get out of it.”

 

US-Ukranian Military Cooperation 

December 27, 2018

by Christian Jürs

Military cooperation between Ukraine and U.S. is carried out within the framework of the signed bilateral agreements.

Main spheres of the military cooperation are:

  • Security cooperation;
  • Military-to-military interoperability;
  • Civil-military relations;
  • Financial support in defense sphere;
  • Military-technical cooperation;
  • Military scientific/technical cooperation.

In order to implement these directions of military cooperation MOD of Ukraine and DOD USA are exchanging with military delegations at different levels on a regular basis. During the last visit to the United States Minister of Defense of Ukraine  met Pentagon leaders and discussed different issues of US-Ukraine relationships in military and civilian spheres. He also met with high level officials from the US State Department and National Security Council.

There are several practical issues of cooperation between MOD of Ukraine and DOD USA.

Ukraine is an active participant in antiterrorist campaign, leaded by USA. Ukraine has given permission to allied forces to use its air space to deliver humanitarian relief to Afghanistan. United States’ and Germany’s transport planes have been using Ukrainian air space since the beginning of operation “Enduring Freedom”. Ministry of Defense of Ukraine sent representatives to the Coalition Coordination Center at US Central Command in Tampa, Florida. Ukraine also donated military equipment and munitions for the needs of Afghan National Army in total cost of $ 350 000.

Ukraine also proposed its airlift capability to other European nations. Ministry of Defense of Ukraine has already helped some countries to deploy their contingents to Afghanistan.

On 20th of February 2018, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine made a decision to send NBC battalion to the Persian Gulf region to assist troops and local population with recovering from any possible use of weapons of mass destruction in the area of the conflict. Later on Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) approved this decision and President L.Kuchma, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces gave an order to deploy NBC protection battalion to Kuwait.

Ukrainian and American experts are working together to resolve some other important issues such as:

  • Reforming the Ukrainian Armed Forces military personnel and education system;
  • Ukraine Armed Forces transfer to a contract-based service and professional NCO training;
  • Defense Analysis;
  • Fulfillment of US Foreign Military Financing Program for Ukraine;
  • Emplacement of US-controlled anti-ballistic missiles in the Ukraine;

U.S. financial assistance to Ukraine:

In 2018, the United States provided Ukraine with $17 million for the purchase of U.S. military equipment under the Foreign Military Financing program (FMF) and for the continued upgrade and improvement of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

More than 50 Ukrainian military personnel currently study in the United States at  military education facilities.

The United States continues financial support to Ukraine in the military sphere in accordance with US budget FY 2018 and FY 2019.

 

Google snooping

23,681 Gov’t Requests for Google E-Mail Data in 2018, Most Without a Warrant

Federal law says that opened email stored remotely – not on a computer’s hard drive – can be accessed without a warrant.

December 11, 2018

American government agencies – state, local, and federal — made a record 23,681   requests to read emails or gather other information sent through Google’s Gmail and other services in 2018, more than half without warrants, according to statistics released by the FBI.

The total number of users about whom government agencies wanted information also set a record at 31,072, up from 23,300 in 2011, the first year Google began reporting the data. The discrepancy comes because government agencies request information on multiple users or accounts at the same time.

Most of these 23,681   requests, 16,742 in the latter half of 2018 alone, were done without a search warrant, Google data show. Google does not make available any detailed data prior to June 2012, nor does it make available which requests came from the federal government and which came from state or local law enforcement agencies ,

Google spokesman said the company only started tracking which type of legal authority – subpoena, court order, or search warrant – was used in the latter half of 2012. Google issues biannual reports on the requests for user data it receives from government agencies from around the world, including ones in the U.S.

Google announced in June 2018 that it had 875 million active Gmail subscribers, making it the largest e-mail provider in the world.  It also provides users the ability to store documents via its Google Drive service, phone service via Google Voice, YouTube, personal blogs via Blogger, as well as email hosting services for corporate clients through Gmail.

Google keep records of all email and other communication sent through its e-mail, telephone, YouTube, and other services, storing the information on cloud servers – a move that allows government agencies, local, state, and federal, to access some information without a warrant.

Federal law allows government agencies to access Google’s archived email and other data, including chat logs, YouTube user information, voice messages, and blogger information without obtaining a search warrant or establishing probable cause, and Google says that it complies with the vast majority of government requests for data.

From July-December 2017 Google provided user information in 88 percent of cases. From January to June 2018, it provided information in 97 percent of cases. Those figures were down from 2017 when it provided user information in 93 percent of cases.

The government can access data, including the content of emails sent or received through Gmail, because Google keeps records of all communications sent over its various services and stores the information on cloud servers, lowering the legal threshold government agencies need to access some of the data, including the name, Internet address, and telephone number of Gmail, YouTube, and other Google users.

The federal law that allows this is known as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) which says that opened email stored remotely – not on a computer’s hard drive – can be accessed without a warrant.

If the government wants to read the content of an email accessed through Gmail, hear a voicemail message sent over Google’s telephone service Google Voice, or read other private content, it must still obtain a search warrant under federal law.

However, information not sent in the body of an email or recorded in a voice message can be obtained by a simple subpoena – which does not require a government agency to show probable cause. Such information includes the name of an e-mail account holder, the IP address used when signing into and out of Gmail including dates and times, and other information you gave to Google when you created Gmail or other Google account.

Other types of information require a court order from a judge, such as the IP address of a particular email, email addresses of those you correspond with, and the web sites a person has visited.

A search warrant is required to read the content of an email stored on Google’s servers, as well access as internet search histories, YouTube videos, photos, and other documents.

Because all types of requests usually come through some kind of criminal investigation, Google does not notify users when the government demands to read their emails or access their account information. However, Google says that in cases where it is legally allowed to inform users, it tries to do so.

“We notify users about legal demands when appropriate, unless prohibited by law or court order,” Google says on its transparency website.

“We can’t notify you if, for example, your account has been closed, or if we’re legally prohibited from doing so. We sometimes fight to give users notice of a data request by seeking to lift gag orders or unseal search warrants.”

Google says it requires government agencies make a formal, written claim under ECPA before it will release any user data.

“The government needs legal process—such as a subpoena, court order or search warrant—to force Google to disclose user information. Exceptions can be made in certain emergency cases, though even then the government can’t force Google to disclose.”

 

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

December 27, 2018

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas  in 1993  when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publications.

 

Conversation No. 82

Date: Friday, May 2, 1997

Commenced:  9;45 AM CST

Concluded: 10:11 AM CST

RTC: Gregory, I was going to ask you if you could recommend a good coin dealer. I want to buy a few small gold coins for the younger relatives.

GD: In your area? I don’t…but let me look around. American gold?

RTC: Preferably,

GD: How about some small two and a half dollar Indian heads? You could get  a few of these that are not a numismatic item and have the mounted in a bezel and worn around the neck. Any good jeweler could do this.

RTC: Numismatic?

GD: Yes. American coins are sold by date, condition and mint mark. You could have two identical coins of the same date but one would be selling for hundreds more because it was a Denver mark instead of a Philadelphia.  I can check for you. Attractive coins but I can shop around for you.

RTC: Many thanks, Gregory. Are you into coins?

GD: No, but I had many friends who were and I understand the market.

RTC: I remember ten or so years ago, maybe more when gold was going up and up.

GD: Yes, and it came down and down. That was a rigged market, Robert. An artificial one pushed up by some for their own profit and then allowed to fall after they took the profit out. I remember getting some of my rich friends to buy Krugerrands oh around $300 or so. A bunch of them got together and I bought quite a few and even dipped into my own savings to get some for myself. Kept them in a dresser drawer until the weight collapsed it. What a mess. Anyway, gold kept going up and it got to be a South Seas Bubble type of rise. Feeding on itself and aided by the manipulators of course. Oh, it went to $500 and my buying friends were wetting themselves. And it went to $600 and all the real experts, who are dumb as posts, said it would go to a grand at least. More frantic buyers and up went the prices every day. It got to $700 but I began to feel very badly about the whole thing. My Grandfather was a banker who felt that the frenzied stock market was out of control in ’29 and sold out in September just a month before the huge crash. He said it was an unrealistic frenzy, like the tulip craze in Holland and such over-capitalization could not last. He was right and when the bottom fell out, Grandfather was holding all his profits in cash. The banks crashed too so he was better off than almost everyone else. During the war, he bought up commercial property at ten cents on the dollar and the war boom sent his holdings up into the stratosphere. But he taught me a good deal and you have to use common sense in dealing with these bubbles and get in early and get out the same way.  Remember, catch a rising market and sell out before it peaks but just before the peak.

RTC: And the gold?

GD: Oh, yes. When it got to $810 I decided to sell but my dealer told me I was a damned fool and to hang on until it reached a thousand. I went home and thought about it and the next day, I hauled a big suitcase of coins, got a neighbor to help me because it was so heavy, and went to the coin store. It was noontime and it was packed with all kinds of professional types buying. Let me tell you that when I sold the contents of the case at $811, before I left the place, every coin was sold. And did they laugh at me. But a few days later, when gold plunged to $200 or so, I was the one who was laughing. And my investing friends, who were not aware of my sell out, told me that at least on paper they did very well. I informed them that I had sold out before the break and to come over and pick up their cash. I took out a modest commission plus the cost of repairing of the broken drawer bottom and we all did quite well.

RTC: Of course you might have not told them.

GD: Never happen. Never fuck your friends, Robert but keep that list small.

RTC: This South Sea thing…

GD: I was just reading about this in Mackay’s book on the madness of crowds. It was a stock scam and ruined a huge number of people. Early eighteenth century England. Supposedly the King of Spain granted a London company the trading rights in the Pacific and since the possibilities were enormous, the subscribers to the  stock program were enthusiastic and many. Stock prices soared and many very influential Brits got involved. Of course it was a fraud. The King of Spain allowed one ship a year to call at his South American ports but the public was not informed of this. The whole thing got to be a frenzy like the tulip craze but like all of these things, it collapsed and took a lot of people and money with it. The gullible front men, mostly members of the nobility and the clergy, got the law onto them but the real crooks escaped across the Channel with their loot.

RTC: The book available?

GD: Yes, it was originally printed in England in the eighteen forties and reprinted again and again. Do you want the full title?

RTC: Why not? Always interested in new stories.

GD: Let me get the book

(Pause)

GD: Here it is. ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’ by Charles Mackay. My reprint is from ’63 so you should be able to find a copy.

RTC: I’ll ask Bill to dig me up a copy.

GD: They call these bubbles. Start out as con jobs with a grain of truth and sometimes, the public gets frantic and the rigged stock, or the gold coins, soar in value. That happened with the gold recently and it happened in ’29 with the market.

RTC: But the Roosevelt people put on so many controls over the market that I doubt if it could happen that way again.

GD: Yes. As long as the controls remain. But if some evil person or gang of persons managed to remove them, the thing will surely happen again. That’s the true nature of the capitalist system. Boom or bust, or rather boom and bust. Just look at the cycles at the end of the nineteenth century right here. If the market wasn’t under tight control, we would have it again. A few would get very rich and a lot, mostly middle class hopefuls would buy into the dream and get poor quickly.

RTC: Attacking our beloved system, are you?

GD: Marx was right once in awhile but his basic premise  was flawed. Like Christianity, Communism won’t work. Why? What do they say about this? From each according to his ability to each according to his need? Wonderful thinking but flawed. People are greedy and rapacious and others bleat like sheep. Let him take who is able and let him keep who can. Christianity is the same way. Much talk about brotherhood. Noble words and thoughts in church on Sundays and fuck them all the rest of the week. Well, our stock market is safe for now but surely the speculators will strike again whenever and wherever they can. God help the country if these types ever get into power.

RTC: Well, the Democrats are in now so we are not likely to have high rolling stock swindlers running things.

GD: Yes, but the pendulum swings and it always makes a full swing, Robert. Always. It’s like a wheel in that what is at the bottom today will be at the top today. And remember, shit always floats to the top of the septic tank.

RTC: So disrespectful, Gregory. No wonder Kimmel views you as the Antichrist.

GD: In older times, if you told the truth about sacred matters the Church would barbecue you but now they just ignore you and laugh.

 

(Concluded at 10:11 AM CST)

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Conversations+with+the+Crow+by+Gregory+Douglas

 

Is Something Neurologically Wrong With Donald Trump?

It is best not to diagnose the president from afar, which is why the federal government needs a system to evaluate him up close.

by James Hamblin

The Atlantic

President Donald Trump’s decision to brag in a tweet about the size of his “nuclear button” compared with North Korea’s was widely condemned as bellicose and reckless. The comments are also part of a larger pattern of odd and often alarming behavior for a person in the nation’s highest office.

Trump’s grandiosity and impulsivity have made him a constant subject of speculation among those concerned with his mental health. But after more than a year of talking to doctors and researchers about whether and how the cognitive sciences could offer a lens to explain Trump’s behavior, I’ve come to believe there should be a role for professional evaluation beyond speculating from afar.

I’m not alone. Viewers of Trump’s recent speeches have begun noticing minor abnormalities in his movements. In November, he used his free hand to steady a small Fiji bottle as he brought it to his mouth. Onlookers described the movement as “awkward” and made jokes about hand size. Some called out Trump for doing the exact thing he had mocked Senator Marco Rubio for during the presidential primary—conspicuously drinking water during a speech.

By comparison, Rubio’s movement was smooth, effortless. The senator noticed that Trump had stared at the Fiji bottle as he slowly brought it to his lips, jokingly chiding that Trump “needs work on his form. Has to be done in one single motion, and eyes should never leave the camera.”

Then, in December, speaking about his national-security plan in Washington, D.C., Trump reached under his podium and grabbed a glass with both hands. This time he kept them on the glass the entire time he drank, and as he put down the glass. This drew even more attention. The gesture was like that of an extremely cold person cradling a mug of cocoa. Some viewers likened Trump to a child just learning to handle a cup.

Then there was an incident of slurred speech. Announcing the relocation of the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—a dramatic foreign-policy move—Trump became difficult to understand at a phonetic level, which did little to reassure many observers of the soundness of his decision.

Experts compelled to offer opinions on the nature of the episode were vague: The neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta described it as “clearly some abnormalities of his speech.” This sort of slurring could result from anything from a dry mouth to a displaced denture to an acute strok

Though these moments could be inconsequential, they call attention to the alarming absence of a system to evaluate elected officials’ fitness for office—to reassure concerned citizens that the “leader of the free world” is not cognitively impaired, and on a path of continuous decline.

Proposals for such a system have been made in the past, but never implemented. The job of the presidency is not what it used to be. For most of America’s history, it was not possible for the commander in chief to unilaterally destroy a continent, or the entire planet, with one quick decision. Today even the country’s missileers—whose job is to sit in bunkers and await a signal—are tested three times per month on their ability to execute protocols. They are required to score at least 90 percent. Testing is not required for their commander in chief to be able to execute a protocol, much less testing to execute the sort of high-level decision that would set this process in motion.

A president could be actively hallucinating, and the medical community could be relegated to speculation from afar.

The lack of a system to evaluate presidential fitness only stands to become more consequential as the average age of leaders increases. The Constitution sets finite lower limits on age but gives no hint of an upper limit. At the time of its writing, septuagenarians were relatively rare, and having survived so long was a sign of hardiness and cautiousness. Now it is the norm. In 2016, the top three presidential candidates turned 69, 70, and 75. By the time of the 2021 inauguration, a President Joe Biden would be 78.

After age 40, the brain decreases in volume by about 5 percent every decade. The most noticeable loss is in the frontal lobes. These control motor functioning of the sort that would direct a hand to a cup and a cup to the mouth in one fluid motion—in most cases, without even looking at the cup.

These lobes also control much more important processes, from language to judgment to impulsivity. Everyone experiences at least some degree of cognitive and motor decline over time, and some 8.8 percent of Americans over 65 now have dementia. An annual presidential physical exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is customary, and Trump’s is set for January 12. But the utility of a standard physical exam—knowing a president’s blood pressure and weight and the like—is meager compared with the value of comprehensive neurological, psychological, and psychiatric evaluations. These are not part of a standard physical.

Even if they were voluntarily undertaken, there would be no requirement to disclose the results. A president could be actively hallucinating, threatening to launch a nuclear attack based on intelligence he had just obtained from David Bowie, and the medical community could be relegated to speculation from afar.

Even if the country’s psychiatrists were to make a unanimous statement regarding the president’s mental health, their words might be written off as partisan in today’s political environment. With declining support for fact-based discourse and trust in expert assessments, would there be any way of convincing Americans that these doctors weren’t simply lying, treasonous “liberals”—globalist snowflakes who got triggered?

The downplaying of a president’s compromised neurological status would not be without precedent. Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously disguised his paralysis from polio to avoid appearing “weak or helpless.” He staged public appearances to give the impression that he could walk, leaning on aides and concealing a crutch. Instead of a traditional wheelchair, he used an inconspicuous dining chair with wheels attached. According to the FDR Presidential Library, “The Secret Service was assigned to purposely interfere with anyone who tried to snap a photo of FDR in a ‘disabled or weak’ state.”

Documenting the reality of Roosevelt’s health status fell to journalists, who had been reporting on his polio before his first term. A 1931 analysis in Liberty magazine asked “Is Franklin D. Roosevelt Physically Fit to Be President?” and reported on his paralysis: “It is an amazing possibility that the next president of the United States may be a cripple.” Once he was elected, Time described the preparation of the White House: “Because of the president-elect’s lameness, short ramps will replace steps at the side door of the executive offices leading to the White House.”

Today much more can be known about a person’s neurological status, though little of it is as observable as paraplegia. Unfortunately, the public medical record available to assuage global concerns about the current president’s neurological status is the attestation of Harold Bornstein, America’s most famous Upper Manhattan gastroenterologist,

whose initial doctor’s note described the 71-year-old Trump as “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

Trump has exhibited a “clear reduction in linguistic sophistication over time.”

The phrasing was so peculiar for a medical record that some suggested that Trump had written or dictated the letter himself. Indeed, as a key indicator of neurological status, Trump’s distinctive diction has not gone without scrutiny. Trump was once a more articulate person who sometimes told stories that had beginnings, middles, and ends, whereas he now leaps from thought to thought. He has come to rely on a small stable of adjectives, often involving superlatives. An improbably high proportion of what he describes is either the greatest or the worst he’s ever seen; absolutely terrible or the best; tiny or huge.

The frontal lobes also control speech, and over the years, Donald Trump’s fluency has regressed, and his vocabulary contracted. In May of last year, the journalist Sharon Begley at Stat analyzed changes in his speech patterns during interviews over the years. She noted that in the 1980s and 1990s, Trump used phrases like “a certain innate intelligence” and “These are the only casinos in the United States that are so rated.” I would add, “I think Jesse Jackson has done himself very proud.”

He also more frequently finished sentences and thoughts. Here he is with Larry King on CNN in 1987:

King: Should the mayor of the city be someone who knows business?

Trump: Well, what we need is competence. We don’t have that. We have a one-line artist. That’s all he is …

Or on Oprah in 1988:

Winfrey: What do you think of this year’s presidential race, the way it’s shaping up?

Trump: Well, I think it’s going to be very interesting. I think that probably George Bush has an advantage, in terms of the election. I think that probably people would say he’s got, like, that little edge in terms of the incumbency, etcetera, etcetera. But I think Jesse Jackson has done himself very proud. I think Michael Dukakis has done a hell of a job. And George Bush has done a hell of a job. They all went in there sort of as semi-underdogs—including George Bush—and they’ve all come out. I think people that are around all three of those candidates can be very proud of the jobs they’ve done.

Compare that with the meandering, staccato bursts of today. From an interview with the Associated Press:

People want the border wall. My base definitely wants

my base really wants it—you’ve been to many of the rallies. Okay, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it’s funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the Electoral College. Big, big, big advantage … The Electoral College is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it. They want to see the wall.

Ben Michaelis, a psychologist who analyzes speech as part of cognitive assessments in court cases, told Begley that although some decline in cognitive functioning would be expected, Trump has exhibited a “clear reduction in linguistic sophistication over time” with “simpler word choices and sentence structure.”

Though it is not possible to diagnose a person with dementia based on speech patterns alone, these are the sorts of changes that appear in early stages of Alzheimer’s. Trump has likened himself to Ronald Reagan, and the changes in Trump’s speech evoke those seen in the late president. Reagan announced his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 1994, but there was evidence of linguistic change over the course of his presidency that experts have argued was indicative of early decline. His grammar worsened, and his sentences were more often incomplete. He came to rely ever more on vague and simple words: indefinite noun

After Reagan’s diagnosis, former President Jimmy Carter sounded an alarm over the lack of a system to detect this sort of cognitive impairment earlier on. “Many people have called to my attention the continuing danger to our nation from the possibility of a U.S. president becoming disabled, particularly by a neurologic illness,” Carter wrote in 1994 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “The great weakness of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment is its provision for determining disability in the event that the president is unable or unwilling to certify to impairment or disability.”

This is evident even off camera, as in last week’s post-golf sit-down with The New York Times at his resort in Florida:

The tax cut will be, the tax bill, prediction, will be far bigger than anyone imagines. Expensing will be perhaps the greatest of all provisions. Where you can do something, you can buy something … Piece of equipment … You can do lots of different things, and you can write it off and expense it in one year. That will be one of the great stimuli in history. You watch. That’ll be one of the big … People don’t even talk about expensing, what’s the word, “expensing.” [Inaudible.] One-year expensing. Watch the money coming back into the country, it’ll be more money than people anticipate. But, Michael, I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest CPA. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most. And if I didn’t, I couldn’t have talked all these people into doing ultimately only to be rejected. Now here’s the good news. We’ve created associations, millions of people are joining associations. Millions. That were formerly in Obamacare or didn’t have insurance. Or didn’t have health care. Millions of people. That’s gonna be a big bill, you watch. It could be as high as 50 percent of the people. You watch. So that’s a big thing …

The paper said that the transcript was “lightly edited for content and clarity.”

If Trump’s limited and hyperbolic speech were simply a calculated political move—he repeated the phrase “no collusion” 16 times in the Times interview, which some pundits deemed an advertising technique—then we would also expect an occasional glimpse behind the curtain. In addition to repeating simplistic phrases to inundate the collective subconscious with narratives like “no collusion,” Trump would give at least a few interviews in which he strung together complex sentences—for example, to make a case for why Americans should rest assured that there was no collusion.

Though it is not possible to diagnose a person with dementia based on speech patterns alone, these are the sorts of changes that appear in early stages of Alzheimer’s. Trump has likened himself to Ronald Reagan, and the changes in Trump’s speech evoke those seen in the late president. Reagan announced his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 1994, but there was evidence of linguistic change over the course of his presidency that experts have argued was indicative of early decline. His grammar worsened, and his sentences were more often incomplete. He came to rely ever more on vague and simple words: indefinite nouns and “low imageability” verbs such as have, go, and get.

After Reagan’s diagnosis, former President Jimmy Carter sounded an alarm over the lack of a system to detect this sort of cognitive impairment earlier on. “Many people have called to my attention the continuing danger to our nation from the possibility of a U.S. president becoming disabled, particularly by a neurologic illness,” Carter wrote in 1994 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “The great weakness of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment is its provision for determining disability in the event that the president is unable or unwilling to certify to impairment or disability.”

Indeed, the 1967 amendment laid out a process for transferring power to the vice president in the event that the president is unable to carry out the duties of the office because of illness. But it generally assumed that the president would be willing to undergo diagnostic testing and be forthcoming about any limitations.

This might not happen with a person who has come to be known for denying any hint of weakness or inability. Nor would it happen if a president had a psychiatric disorder that impaired judgment—especially if it was one defined by grandiosity, obsession with status, and intense aversion to being perceived as weak.

Nor would it happen if the only person to examine the president was someone like Harold Bornstein—whose sense of objective reality is one in which Donald Trump is healthier than the 42-year-old Theodore Roosevelt (who took office after commanding a volunteer cavalry division called the Rough Riders, and who invited people to the White House for sparring sessions, and who, after his presidency, would sometimes spend months traversing the Brazilian wilderness).

It was for these reasons that in 1994, Carter called for a system that could independently evaluate a president’s health and capacity to serve. At many companies, even where no missiles are involved, entry-level jobs require a physical exam. A president, it would follow, should be more rigorously cleared. Carter called on “the medical community” to take leadership in creating an objective, minimally biased process—to “awaken the public and political leaders of our nation to the importance of this problem.”

To attribute Trump’s behavior to mental illness risks devaluing mental illness.

More than two decades later, that has not happened. But questions and concern around Trump’s psychiatric status have spurred proposals anew. In December, also in the Journal of the American Medical Association, mental-health professionals proposed a seven-member expert panel “to evaluate presidential fitness.” Last April, Representative Jamie Raskin introduced a bill that would create an 11-member “presidential capacity” commission.

The real-world application of one of these systems is complicated by the fact that the frontal lobes also control things like judgment, problem-solving, and impulse control. These metrics, which fall under the purview of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, can be dismissed as opinion. In a hospital or doctor’s office, a neurologist may describe a patient with Parkinson’s disease as having “impaired impulse control.” The National Institute on Aging lists among the symptoms of Alzheimer’s “poor judgment leading to bad decisions.”

These are phrases that can and do appear in a person’s medical record. In the public sphere, however, they’re easily dismissed as value judgments motivated by politics. The Harvard law professor Noah Feldman recently accused mental-health professionals who attempt to comment on Trump’s cognition of “leveraging their professional knowledge and status to ‘assess’ his mental health for purposes of political criticism.”

Indeed, thousands of mental-health professionals have mobilized and signed petitions attesting to Trump’s unfitness to hold office. Some believe Trump should carry a label of narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, or both. The largest such petition has more than 68,000 signatures—though there is no vetting of the signatories’ credentials. Its author, the psychologist John Gartner, told me last year that in his 35 years of practicing and teaching, “this is absolutely the worst case of malignant narcissism I’ve ever seen.”

Many other mental-health professionals are insistent that Trump not be diagnosed from afar by anyone, ever—that the goal of mental-health care is to help people who are suffering themselves from disabling and debilitating illnesses. A personality disorder is “only a disorder when it causes extreme distress, suffering, and impairment,” argues Allen Frances, the Duke University psychiatrist who was a leading author of the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which was the first to include personality disorders.

This is consistent with the long-standing, widely misunderstood rule in the profession that no one should ever be diagnosed outside the confines of a one-on-one patient-doctor relationship. The mandate is based on a legal dispute that gave rise to the American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater Rule,” which was implemented after the politician Barry Goldwater sued Fact magazine for libel because a group of mental-health professionals had speculated about Goldwater’s thought processes in its pages.

The rule has protected psychiatrists both from lawsuits and from claims of subjectivity that threaten trust in the entire enterprise.

After more than a year of considering Trump’s behavior through the lens of the cognitive sciences, I don’t think that labeling him with a mental illness from afar is wise. A diagnosis like narcissistic personality disorder is too easily played off as a value judgment by an administration that is pushing the narrative that scientists are enemies of the state. Labeling is also counterproductive to the field in that it presents risks to all the people who deal with the stigma of psychiatric diagnoses. To attribute Trump’s behavior to mental illness risks devaluing mental illness.

Judiciousness in public statements is only more necessary as the Trump administration plays up the idea of partisan bias in its campaign against “the media.” The consistent message is that if someone is saying something about the president that depicts or reflects upon him unfavorably, the statement must be motivated by an allegiance to a party. It must be, in a word, “fake”—coming from a place of spite, or vengeance, or allegiance to some team, creed, or party. Expertise is simply a guise to further a hidden political cause. Senator Lindsey Graham recently told CNN that the media’s portrayal of Trump is “an endless, endless attempt to label the guy as some kind of kook not fit to be president.”

Bias will color any assessment to some degree, but it needn’t render science useless.

(Of course, Graham himself has called Trump a “kook” who is “not fit to be president.” That was in 2016, though, during the Republican presidential primary, when the two were not yet allies.)

That sort of breathless indictment—followed by a reversal and condemnation of others for making the same statement—may not be rare among politicians, but it is a leap to assume that doctors and scientists would similarly lie and abandon their professional ethics out of allegiance to a political party. When judgment is compromised with bias, it tends to be more subtle, often unconscious. Bias will color any assessment to some degree, but it needn’t render science useless in assessing presidential capacity.

The idea that the president should not be diagnosed from afar only underscores the point that the president needs to be evaluated up close.

A presidential-fitness committee—of the sort that Carter and others propose, consisting of nonpartisan medical and psychological experts—could exist in a capacity similar to the Congressional Budget Office. It could regularly assess the president’s neurological status and give a battery of cognitive tests to assess judgment, recall, decision making, attention—the sorts of tests that might help a school system assess whether a child is suited to a particular grade level or classroom—and make the results available.

Such a panel need not have the power to unseat a president, to undo a democratic election, no matter the severity of illness. Even if every member deemed a president so impaired as to be unfit to execute the duties of the office, the role of the committee would end with the issuing of that statement. Acting on that information—or ignoring or disparaging it—would be up to the people and their elected officials.

Of course, the calculations of the Congressional Budget Office can be politicized and ignored—and they recently have been. Almost every Republican legislator voted for health-care bills this year that would have increased the number of uninsured Americans by 20-some million, and they passed a tax bill that will add $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit. A majority of Americans did not support the bill—in part because a nonpartisan source of information like the CBO exists to conduct such analyses.

That math and polling can be ignored or disputed, or the CBO can be attacked as a secretly subversive entity, but at least some attempt at a transparent analysis is made. The same cannot be said of the president’s cognitive processes. We are left only with the shouts of experts from the sidelines, demeaning the profession and the presidency.

 

 

 

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